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#RedrockAgency – August 9, 2016
Vasquez is seated behind the desk in her office, facing the window as she reviews information on a datapad. Both monitors in the desk are active, displaying an active message log and a galactic codex article on Rakhana, the drell homeworld. The door to the office is unlocked.
Jason taps the office door's interface and steps through once it slides open. Dressed in a pair of black cargo pants, black boots and a white long-sleeved t-shirt, he looks as though the events of the day have began to wear on him. In one hand is a cup of black coffee. He slides his other hand through his hair, still-wet from the recent shower. "Long fucking day..." he groans as he
Vasquez spins around as she hears Jason's voice, giving the datapad one last glance before putting it down on the desk and sliding her chair up to the desk. She lets out a sigh, looking him over. "How'd it go?"
Jason gives a shake of his head. "I don't know-..." he sighs, sitting back in his seat as he he brings a hand up to his mouth to cut off the yawn that escapes. "V is safe and sound for now, but they were planning on selling her off. Bunch of fucking scumbags pretending to be a PMC. Gives the rest of us a bad name... Anyway, we weren't able to track down the buyer, but she managed to
send a message our way. Thinly veiled threats and an attempt at strongarming us into doing her dirty work for her." he rolls his eyes with a shake of his head, "I told her to get fucked. I don't think we've got much to worry about considering she clearly doesn't have much going for her if she needed our help in the first place, but I'll keep someone assigned to escort V to work in the
Vasquez nods, glancing at one of her monitors and briefly typing something before closing a window down and looking back at Jason through the screen, a frown forming as she listens to his description of the day's events. "Alright. If you think there's a risk, keep someone on her. Persistent assholes... any idea why she's being targeted?" she asks.
Jason considers it for a moment before furrowing his brow. "Why she's being targeted, or why she was being targeted?" he asks, already looking confused as he attempts to untangle the web in his head. "I think-... I-..." he trails off, glancing through Vasquez silently for a moment, "...Okay, okay. I think-... Yeah. The whole-... car thing?" he glances back at the door then leans
in slightly towards Vasquez, lowering his voice to a whisper, "You know, with Renala?" He stops whispering as he continues, "Well, seems like the rental service works with a third party PMC to collect on any debts. We talked to the rental service, had them call it off so long as we return the car, but apparently that wasn't enough for the PMC since they were expecting a payday. Best as
I can tell, their original intention was to ransom Va'ynna back to Uvena to make a quick buck but it seemed like they found a better offer. Maybe a slaver-..." he frowns and shakes his head, "I don't even want to think about it. I don't see any reason for the buyer to persist, though. And-... well, in a roundabout way this is sort of our fault..." he admits with a sigh, "...So I figure
Vasquez leans back in her chair, rubbing a hand against her temple as she listens, nodding along faintly. "Shit... I thought the damn mess with the car was over. Does T'Iavay even realize how much trouble this has caused us?" she mutters, before nodding again and meeting Jason's gaze once more, her hands dropping back to the desk. "Alright. Put someone on protection. Did you say the... buyer tried to extort us? What do
we know about her? Do you think she's the only threat right now, or do we still need to worry about what's left of those thugs?"
Jason gives a shrug. "We don't know shit about her. All we have is a name. Sala Piros. Renala did some of her nerdy wizardry to track her omni-tool, but when we got there she was already long gone. Was expecting us, too. The long-and-short of it is that she wanted us to handle some business for her and in exchange she'd leave V alone." he says with a sigh. "She wanted us to track down
an asari staying here in Freedom Falls named 'Wenera Leren' and bring her over. No idea why beyond, 'to answer a few questions'." he explains, "I'm not sure what she has to gain from continuing after V, so I'm assuming it was just a last-ditch effort to get some results. There's just nothing to get out of it. Slavers are a dime-a-dozen out here in the Terminus-..." he frowns, "...Unfortunately.
So unless she has a death wish, she'll continue on her merry way and be someone elses problem. I'm putting Renala on stalker-duty to find out who this 'Wenera Leren' is anyway. Figure I could have a talk with her and see what she knows just to cover all our bases." He takes a sip of his coffee before continuing, "As for Avoren Security? I don't think they'll be an issue anymore. Sounded
like Avoren was involved in a few things that even those working for him didn't agree with-... or so they claim." he shrugs once again, "Not so sure I believe them, but once we managed to put down Avoren himself, his second-in-command ordered a surrender from the rest of her team and allowed us access to their terminals to find what we needed. I made it damn clear that she's got no place
here in Freedom Falls and if we saw any sign of them operating out here again, or any indication that they're trying to pull this sort of underhanded shit that we'd bring that whole damn building down on top of them."
Vasquez listens in silence, and by the end a faint smirk is briefly seen in the corner of her mouth. "Good. If they're smart they'll stay away. Hopefully something will turn up about Piros' other target then. I want a full report logged. In case this mess isn't over I don't want us getting caught off-guard again."
Jason gives a single nod, "You got it." he says before falling silent for a moment. His gaze falls to his coffee cup and he stares at it in silence for a few seconds before looking back to Vasquez. "What are the news reports saying...?" he finally asks, assuming no context is needed. He gains a look of discomfort as he asks as if saying it out loud suddenly makes the situation more
Vasquez ' expression changes in an instant, her brow furrowing as she looks down at her keyboard. "Most of it has been repeat information... or contradictory reports. The Alliance is saying they could've prevented the attacks if the colonies out here weren't so opposed to them setting up defensive installations." she says with a faint sigh. "Several eye-witnesses have come forward saying they saw Commander Shepard there,
fighting off those... monsters. It's, uh... it's hard to believe, but... it seems like the rumors are actually true..."
Jason nods along distantly as Vasquez speaks. "So Commander Shepard is alive..." he says, a slight smirk tugging at his lips, but it fades away just as quickly as it appeared. "The Alliance knows what's going on, Linda." he says with a sigh, "They know about the artifacts and they're not saying anything about it. And now it turns out Shepard is alive and-..." he trails off, giving
a shake of his head, "What is this all about? Why won't they just come out and tell us what in the hell is going on? How many more secrets are they keeping...?" he asks, the feeling of betrayal seeping into his voice.
Vasquez shakes her head, staring at her screen thoughtfully. "I... I don't know. It has to be serious if they're keeping it quiet. There's-... that's not all though." she says, almost reluctantly, giving Jason a serious look before opening something up with a swipe across the screen in front of her before spinning it around for him to look at. On the display is a blurry picture, seemingly from a security camera, of a human
in N7 armor, on Horizon, fighting off Collectors alongside someone in an outfit clearly emblazoned with a Cerberus logo. She awaits a response in silence, her expression unchanging.
Jason studies the image for a few moments before leaning forward sharply, nearly spilling some of his coffee in the process. "Is-... Is that supposed to be Shepard...?" he asks distantly as he continues to study the blurry picture. He gives a couple of stern shakes of his head in disbelief, "No. There's no way-..." he trails off momentarily, "....Working with Cerberus? The fuck is
Vasquez closes her eyes, leaning back with a heavy sigh. "I... don't know. It could be fake, but I just-... I don't know." She shakes her head again and opens her eyes to look at Jason. "There's something big going on, and I have no idea what... if Cerberus is involved, it could explain why the Alliance is being so quiet... this is spook stuff, sensitive. Might be too risky to go public with what they know..."
Jason continues staring at the photo for a few more moments as Vasquez speaks. His expression turns from confusion to anger by the time she's finished. "So they'd rather just let people like us deal with this shit on our own? Over and over and over and-..." he lets out a frustrated deep breath, "...Friends died because of this shit. We nearly died because of this shit, Linda. And
who knows how many more people have dealt with these things? With absolutely nobody to turn to." He sits back in his seat, shaking his head, "It's not right. And now they might be working with Cerberus? A bunch of psychotic terrorists? This is fucked."
Vasquez ' frown deepens. "Yes it's fucked! Of course it is!" she blurts out. "I've spent all day looking through the news... it's public now. Everyone knows there's a real threat. That has to change something, right?" she asks, going quiet for a while, and running a hand through her hair as she studies the back of the monitor, eventually speaking again. "The Alliance wouldn't work with Cerberus. I don't believe that.
That's not the Alliance I served with. There's more to this. Has to be. I've already started poking around for more information. Somebody has to know more..."
Jason slugs back a large swig of his black coffee and looks off to the side, eyes burrowing a hole in the wall as he bites his lower lip. "I want to believe that." he says, "I do. But I gave them years of my life, too, Linda. And after the-..." he stammers, not particularly wanting to bring up her time under Cerberus control, "...After the Cerberus base? When the Alliance picked us
up, they treated me like a common criminal. Practically threatened to arrest me despite the fact that we've been hopping around the fuc-..." he sucks a deep breath in through his nose to calm himself as he feels the frustration amp up again. Once his emotions are reigned back in, he continues, his voice quieter, "..Despite the fact that we've been hopping around the galaxy cleaning up
a mess for a fight that we have no business even being involved in. And they just so happened to swoop in right after we grabbed that artifact out of the Cerberus base? That doesn't sound a little too coincidental to you, Linda? I mean, fuck, we may have just handed the damn thing right back over to Cerberus for all we know..."
Vasquez seems genuinely caught off-guard, her shoulders dropping as she meets Jason's gaze. "Jason..." she says softly, her expression changing to one of concern. "...you don't actually believe that, do you? I..." she shifts uncomfortably, her gaze falling to the desk. "I know what Cerberus is capable of. I experienced it first hand. Why in the hell would the Alliance work with those monsters? That's insane." she says as
Jason 's frown deepens momentarily before falling away entirely, a deep, frustrated sigh close behind it. "I don't know what to believe right now, Linda..." he says, "...I'm sorry. I just-... We've been looking for answers to this nightmare for years, and to suddenly find out that they're probably know the entire time what's going on is like a knife in the back..." he says softly.
Vasquez nods faintly, remaining silent for a moment before standing up, locking her terminal before stepping around the desk. She stops by Jason, and puts a hand on his shoulder, nodding at the door. "Come on, I need to get out of this office..."
Jason wordlessly stands from his seat and begins to follow her lead. "I'm sorry, Linda..." he repeats softly, "I'm just-.... It's been a long day and this whole thing is just frustrating." he says.
Vasquez exits the office and immediately starts heading up the stairs, sighing as he speaks. "That's a hell of an understatement..." she mumbles as they reach the second floor, and she moves on down the corridor. She says nothing until they've entered their living space. As soon as they're inside she turns around. "Jason... I'm just as worried as you are about all this, but... I won't-... I can't let it consume me. Not
now. You know why?" she asks, reaching for one of his mechanical hands, and unusually soft expression on her face as she studies his face.
Jason 's gaze lowers to her hand as his own is taken in hers which inevitably draws his attention to his synthetic limb. Just another reminder of everything that has been lost. He simply shakes his head as he rubs a metallic thumb across her hand. He lifts his gaze to make eye contact, the sensation of their hands touching replaced by a dull, numb pressure that he does his damndest to
Vasquez 's expression briefly leans towards sadness as she studies the arm, but as she lifts her gaze back to his a faint smile forms. "You were right. Earlier today. This isn't our fight. Not anymore. The galaxy knows now. We've lost enough. We have to focus on our own lives... on what's happening here. I'm still going to look for more information, but we can't let it be all we think about. Especially not now. Because
for once, I actually have something to look forward to, and I am sure as hell not letting that go to waste." she says, turning her free hand over and glancing down at the ring as her smile grows a little.
Jason remains silent as she speaks, but slowly a smile begins to form on his lips. When she finishes speaking, he leans in and presses a soft kiss against her forhead before following her gaze back down to her hand. In the back of his mind, the gnawing feeling that it will always be their fight creeps up, but he pushes it back down as he gives a brief, hesitant nod. "You're right,
Linda..." he agrees, locking eyes with her once again, "It's about time we put all of this in the past and start focusing on us." he nods once more, this time more confidently, "We deserve at least that much..."
Vasquez slips her arms around Jason's back, moving closer and leaning slightly against him, her chin resting against his shoulder. She lets out a sigh, and remains like this, just enjoying his presence after a long day. Not until she pulls away does she finally speak: "I'm glad to hear it. Because I finally got a response from Markus. We can set a date." Her faint smile returns as she speaks, and she remains close,
Jason wraps his arms around Vasquez' waist. As she pulls away and relays the news, his smile widens. "So how quickly can he get his ass out here?" he asks enthusiastically. "Let me make a few calls and we can be hitched by noon tomorrow." he teases, "Leaves us with more than enough time to hit the Respite and get plastered in celebration of finally chaining you down!" He gives her a
Vasquez rolls her eyes, not even bothering to comment. "He's free in mid-November. Could be here as early as the 7th. But we'll need to give enough advance notice for... your guests."
Jason 's smile persists, unphased by her eye roll. "I'll put out a few calls tomorrow and see what everyone's schedule is looking like. Hell, so long as people are free I'm ready to pull the trigger the week of the 7th. What about you? Fill out your guest list and all that shit? We still need to figure out what we're wearing and-..." he furrows his brow, "...We've got a lot of work to
do. I mean I'm good with rolling out of bed and taking care of business in a bathrobe, but my uncle will kill us if we don't make a big deal out of this."
Vasquez shifts slightly, giving a shrug. "Yeah, I... as long as Markus is there, I'm good. I... might invite a few more people, I guess." She glances off to the side and then slips out of Jason's grasp, walking over to the couch and taking a seat. "I-... how "big" of a deal are we talking about here? Who are you inviting?"
Jason gives a shrug of his own as he follows her over to the couch. "I don't know.... Just, like, you know.... Redrock and then maybe two or three more people...?" he says hesitantly, opting to sit on the arm of the couch beside Vasquez. "......Or fifteen.... or twenty...." he mutters. "Come on! It's a big deal!" he says, goofy lopsided grin crossing his features as he begins to
Vasquez gains a skeptical expression as she looks up at Jason. "Yeah, for us, but that doesn't mean we have to invite a bunch of people that couldn't care less..."
Jason gives her another nudge. "Oh come on! It's gonna be fun!" he says. After a moment, he takes a deep breath. It is her day, too, after all. "Look, I'll reign it in. Just family and close friends, alright? Handful of people... Six or seven. Just my uncle, a few people from my old squad.... Jen and the kids." he says. "We'll keep it small. Lower-end of a mid-sized ordeal, tops!"
Vasquez lets out a grunt, studying him for a moment before relenting. "Yeah, alright... think you can convince them to come all the way out here?" she says with a small grin, reaching back to untie her ponytail, spreading her hair out before leaning her head back against the couch, looking up at the ceiling and letting out a sigh as she starts to relax.
Jason furrows his brow, looking almost offended as he narrows his eyes on Vasquez. "Wha-... are you kidding me? I don't know if you've noticed, but people fucking love me." he says confidently. He sniffs at the air and looks towards the wall, adjusting the collar of his shirt, "I'm adorable." His goofy grin soon returns, "They'll be here."
Vasquez ' grin widens and she reaches up with her right hand, patting his back blindly. "Mmm, you got me there." she says with a brief glance his way, letting her arm come to rest on his back as she looks back up at the ceiling before closing her eyes. "I've got a new mission lined up for Redrock, so preparations might have to take a back seat for a while longer..."
Jason shifts a bit on the arm of the couch, nearly falling off for a brief moment but he recovers and attempts to play it off by crossing his arms over his chest and continuing to shift awkwardly for a moment. "A new job?" he asks, "What are the details?"
Vasquez remains blissfully unware of Jason's fumbling, her eyes still closed. "Another off-world job. Estimated to take about a week, with transport. Recovering Prothean artifacts, primarily a disc, from Rakhana."
Jason 's grin finally fades away. "Greeeeat. More artifacts...." he groans, "....How many guns are we providing? Have you pinned everything down yet?"
Vasquez lifts her head, brushing away the hair falling in her face as she does. She looks at him with a frown, clearly taking the comment badly. "Jason... don't joke about that. They're Prothean artifacts. Very valuable. Not... you know." She sighs after trailing off, choosing to answer the question: "We'll be providing security for a small expedition. The whole thing is being funded by a hanar billionaire. Getting a
permit to land on Rakhana is difficult, and very expensive. The client has taken care of that, and it's very important that this goes well since this'll be the only shot at it." she explains, seemingly not realizing he might not know what Rakhana is.
Jason realizes that she doesn't realizes that he doesn't realizes what Rakhana is. Although her wording narrows things down a bit. 'Not a person', he makes a mental note. Though his grin returns as his mind runs through the possibility that Rakhana still is a person! A person that you need a permit to land on! A strangely out-of-place snicker escapes him but he quickly regains his
composure. "Well, that's something!" he exclaims, "Permit to land on Rakhana and everything, huh?" He whistles as if impressed, nodding along. "And a billionaire to boot?" He shifts a bit more, rotating slightly to face Vasquez, "So whaddya think of Rakhana...?" he asks, furrowing his brow as he studies Vasquez as if trying to assess his own opinion of a place he knows nothing about.
Vasquez seems a little confused, but soon answers regardless. "It's no wonder the hanar wants a solid security team, it's hard to know what's down there. Shouldn't be anything we can't handle though. Air traffic is prohibited, so we'll be taking a ground route to the target, and.... you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
Jason leans back slightly as he studies Vasquez. "Wha-... Of course I-..." he pauses and begins to shake his head, "Not a fucking clue I'm so sorry." he spits out all at once followed by a sigh.
Vasquez rubs her temple, letting out an exasperated sigh. "The drell homeworld. Make sure to ask Fergus give you a summary if you need more information. Point is, it's bound to be unsafe, so that's where we come in."
Jason gives a quick nod, "Oh, right! Yeah, of course. Drell homeworld." he says, as if it lodged something in his memory, "I'll have Fergus bring me up to speed," he agrees, "but I gotta warn you: I'm not exactly the strongest swimmer."
Vasquez blinks. Dumfounded, it takes her a moment to respond. Without a word she takes out her omni-tool and starts to type. After a moment a picture is projected, showing barren, cracked earth and the lifeless husks of long-dead plants. She scrolls on to the next - a mostly dried ocean, the rusting hulks of massive ships mixing with small pools of toxic sludge. One final scroll reveals a picture of massive sand dunes in
Jason stares at the images, barely blinking as she flips through them. By the time she reaches the final image, it's quite obvious he's embarassed. "Oh-... heh..... Welp, problem solved, huh?" he says dismissively. He looks away from Vasquez towards the TV, studying the blank screen as if it were actually on. After a moment he clears his throat and looks back to Vasquez. "...What?" he
asks with a shrug, "Oh come on! Like you know the homeworld of every single race!" he frowns, staring her down for a moment before challenging her, "Salarians?"
Vasquez raises an eyebrow. "Sur'Kesh..." she says with a shake of her head. "Point is, it's a restricted planet, and a dangerous place. We have about a week to prepare. I'm still working out some of the details with the client, and we'll need to decide who to send."
Jason scowls. "Of course it's Sur'Kesh.... Everyone knows that one..." he mutters under his breath, still quite obviously embarassed over the whole ordeal. After a moment a small sigh escapes him and he nods, "Well, so long as they're not going to give me a quiz before allowing us to land, I'm ready whenever..."
Vasquez nods. "I was hoping you'd lead the team... you and Ilyna are the only ones I trust to handle something like this. But... it wasn't even a week ago since you had to go off-world. If you'd rather stay..."
Jason shrugs his shoulders before reaching out a hand and placing it on Vasquez' shoulder. "Ilyna has the small fry to take care of. Sending her away for another week just wouldn't be right. It'll be fine. Besides, I wouldn't feel right sending a team off-world without me with them."
Vasquez places her own hand over Jason's, and for reasons unknown a look of guilt briefly crosses her face as she glances at the blank TV screen. "Okay. We'll pick out the team in the next couple of days."
Jason studies her expression for a moment, furrowing his brow. "Hey, what's wrong?" he asks as he gives her shoulder a light squeeze, "I know you're gonna miss me and all, but I won't be gone long..." he jokes, propping his lopsided grin back up in an attempt at cheering her up from whatever is obviously bothering her.
Vasquez leans forward, wringing her hands for a moment, looking at Jason through the reflection in the screen. "I'm... I'm not sure I want to go back out. In the field." she says suddenly.
Jason continues to stare at Vasquez silently for a few more moments before turning his attention to the screen as well, nodding slowly. "And.... you feel bad about that for some reason...?" he asks. "Linda, listen-..." he continues, turning his entire body to face Vasquez. He scoots forward, draping his legs across her lap and resting his boots on the other side of her, looking her
dead in the eyes as he speaks, "I told you already. I just want you to be happy. Hell, if I'm being entirely honest? I don't want you to go back out in the field." he admits. "I just-... I worry. Don't get me wrong, you're the best soldier I've ever seen-..." he playfully leans in and whispers, "You know, other than myself." into her ear as if it's a secret, trying to keep the conversation
light to prevent Vasquez from being uncomfortable. "But, fuck if it doesn't terrify me everytime you're out there. I'd never ask you to make that sort of sacrifice, but if it's what you want? I'm onboard. You can- you know- keep everything running smoothly around here. That's the hard job anyway-..." he continues with a shrug, "...I just point my weapon around and pull a trigger."
Vasquez leans back a bit as Jason's legs cross her lap, and meets his gaze while he speaks. She lets out a sigh, looking down at his knee, where she places her hand, stroking back and forth as she thinks. "It just... doesn't feel right. Sending you out there. While I sit around in the office. I..." her gaze darts back at him for a moment. "...I worry every time you're away... I think... I should have gone instead, or I
should be there to help... but... I just-... maybe at some point I have to just trust that you know what you're doing. You've been handling most of the field leadership for a long time... and I'm not sure I trust myself out there anymore."
Jason blinks a few times. "I-... uhh-.... thanks....? Wait, wait, wait... Are you saying you don't trust that I know what I'm doing?" he asks with a tone of mock offense, though he doesn't give her a chance to respond. "You're not just sitting around in the office, Linda. You're running this entire company. And you're good at it. You don't have anything to feel bad about,
seriously." he assures, although a look of guilt begins to form in his own expression. "And-... I know me saying this isn't going to change anything, but: you don't have to worry about me. Seriously. Regardless of where I go or what happens when I'm in the field, I promise you I'll find my way home. I've got way too much going for me to die now." he offers, hoping to provide some comfort
although he immediately regrets his choice of words. He swallows hard and lowers his gaze somewhat. "And I'm sorry, Linda..." he offers, shutting his eyes as he speaks, "Sorry our lives are so-... Just-... sorry you have to worry at all. And I wish I could look at you right now and tell you that it's going to change, but I don't want to lie to you..." he admits, re-establishing eye
contact as he speaks earnestly. "I wish I could give you a normal life where my day-to-day workload doesn't include possibly being shot at, but I'm a fuck up." he says plainly with a shrug. "I have roughly zero life skills, give-or-take, aside from what I do. It's who I am. It's probably who I'll always be.. And-... and that terrifies me, if I'm being honest..." he continues with a
Vasquez ' gaze wanders across Jason's face as he speaks, and for a moment it looks like she's going to smile, but then a frown takes shape. "Jason... you have nothing to apologize for. Don't even try to give me that shit. I know this is your life. It was mine too. That's changing, but... I still understand. One day though, one day Redrock is going to be big enough that you don't need to go out there anymore... and then,
I'm not letting you out of my sight. Understood?" she asks, prodding him in the side as a small grin forms. "For now... I know you'll come back. You always do." she adds, attempting to soften her earlier admission of worrying.
Jason lets out a weak snicker as he's prodded in the side, twisting his body in a failed attempt at getting away from the poke. Once the moment passes he falls silent as he considers it for a short while, simply staring distantly at his knees. A life where he no longer has to fight. "I talked to my uncle the other day..." he finally says, offering no context at first. "You know me and
him never really got along too well but-..." he shrugs, "...family is family, right? When you were-.... gone... I was a bit of a mess." he continues, "Let's just say I woke him up with more than a few late-night drunk calls. So he calls the other day asking about you. How you're doing after everything, just shit like that. We got on the subject of-... well, of everything, you know?"
he asks, turning his gaze towards Vasquez briefly before resting his attention right back on his knees. "Just talking about how our lives got to this point. And he asked me why I keep doing what I do. And I couldn't even answer him right away. There was a time when it was simple, you know? I was an Alliance soldier and I was making the galaxy a safer place. A better place. I knew
what I stood for. I knew dad would've been proud." he nods sternly, "....But when Chris asked, I just went silent. Made a joke-... think the word 'superstar' might've been used, "he continues, giving an embarassed chuckle as he brings his hand up to scratch at the back of his neck, still avoiding any prolonged eye contact. "But it got me thinking. Why do I keep doing it? People around
me keep dying. I'm just out there putting my life at risk for jobs that rarely amount to more than a paycheck and for what? And it's-... it's like I said. I'm fucking terrified. So much shit has happened and I just keep getting knocked on my ass over and over. And each time it's that much harder to get back up. But I can't stop. I just have to get back up, as soon as I can, and keep
doing what I do. I tell myself I'm helping people, but at this point it's just a comfort blanket if I'm being honest. And I don't want to stop." he finally looks to Vasquez. "What does that say about me? And what happens when the day comes that I just can't lift myself back up? Are you sure that this is the future you want, Linda? Spending the rest of your life with some sad, washed-up
Vasquez ' grin quickly fades, and she turns quiet as he speaks. It's easy to tell that some of what he says is a surprise to her, while some is far less so. She seems caught off guard at first, and it takes a while for her response to form, a heavy sigh sounding before she speaks. "Jason... I-..." she trails off. Second try. "Two years ago I didn't see any future for myself. Not one that mattered anyway. Work was all I
had. Then I met you. Bit by bit, you changed that... and now...?" she looks down at the ring for a moment before meeting his gaze again. "I see a great future for us. And I have to believe somewhere you see that too, because you gave me this... we're both soldiers, Jason. That doesn't mean we can't be more. We've been through hell together. Nothing's stopping me from having that future that I see. I don't have it
in me to go out there anymore... but if you need to, I understand that. I've been there too, Jason. And Redrock does good work. We're building something here. Don't lose sight of that. You do help people. You care about people. That's one of the reasons I love you. And... maybe one day, you'll find you don't want to go out there anymore. That you don't want to get knocked down. That you'd be content just... being
here with me. Until then you'd better pick yourself back up, or I'll come out there and drag you up on your feet. I just-..." she pauses, blinking to hold back tears as she looks away. "Is that really all you see in our future? Fighting? Death? Misery? That's-... I don't believe you. I don't believe that. You know we have a future. Don't you fucking try to scare me away now. We'll figure this out. And... if it's
what you need to do, I'll deal with that. We're both fucked up. So what? We'll find a way. We always do." she insists as she meets Jason's gaze once more, a determined frown on her face.
Jason remains silent as Vasquez speaks, but at numerous points his mouth opens and he has to nearly bite his tongue to keep from interrupting her. By the time she finishes, his eyes are beginning to look a bit glassy. "Don't you for one second think this has anything to do with you, Linda." he says, holding eye contact with no intention of looking away. "I'm crazy about you. Hell,
you're the only piece of my life that inspires me to keep getting up. It's just-... it's everything else. There's something broken up here-..." he taps the fingertips of his right hand against the side of his head, "...and it's been that way for a long time. There's not a doubt in my mind that I want to spend the rest of my life-... however long that is. However wonderful, miserable,
peaceful, violent-... whatever it is-... I want it to be with you. But-... Look at everyone who has been hurt- who have died- just because of their ties to me." he continues, emotion beginning to seep into his voice, "I nearly lost you. We could have stayed on Earth, Linda. I could have kept working my shitty little construction job and none of that would have happened. But I
just-..." he slows down, giving a quick shake of his head, "...I just don't want that day to come when I drag you down with me. And I don't want twenty years to pass where you begin to look at that-..." his hand drops over hers, his thumb running across her ring, "...as a chain." He bites his lower lip silently for a moment as he studies her face, embarassment staining his tone as his
Vasquez places her hand on Jason's chest, spreading her fingers as she studies the ring. She meets his gaze with a dead serious expression. "That's never going to happen. There's nothing I want more than spending the rest of my life with you. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, Jason. And you know just as well as I do neither of us would've been content on Earth. We belong out here. I may not want to strap
on the armor and go out there myself anymore, but I still care about what we're building here. Something we could never do back on Earth." Her voice goes quiet, her eyes going back to the ring as she continues. "Maybe we're both broken. But we can heal. You've shown me that. It's been... a long, long time since I felt so... hopeful. I'm still a mess. I know that. Maybe you think you are too. But you've never given
up on me, and you can be damn sure I'm not giving up on you, ever. No matter what life we have, it's going to be together. And in twenty years? If you're still getting yourself knocked down... I'll just have to pick you up myself, right?" she says, looking back at Jason as her hand runs up over his shoulder and to his neck, pulling him in for a brief kiss, a few lingering tears escaping as her eyes close.
Jason 's gaze moves down to Vasquez' hand over his chest and remains there as she speaks. He closes his eyes briefly as he's pulled into the kiss, pressing his forehead against hers and remaining there long after the kiss ends. His hand moves up to her cheek, thumb wiping away at the stray tears trailing down her cheek, but he has little to say. The rumbling in his gut slows to a stop
and his nerves settle down as her reassuring words hit their mark. After a few moments he presses another peck against her lips and lets out a sigh, "If you're settling in for a lifetime of picking me back up, then I suppose I should try and do my part..." he says, his eyes studying each individual feature of her face before coming to rest at her lips, "...I'll go easy on the donuts from
now on. Promise." he teases, still willing to be a moron despite the serious nature of the topic. His dumb, lopsided grin crosses his lips as he presses into a kiss once more.