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#RedrockAgency – March 7, 2018
Vasquez nods, her expression remains, far from truly reassured. She sees how heavy his smile is. How it takes more and more effort to prop it back up each time. How he keeps doing it regardless. And it gets to her. Her arms uncross, moving to Jason's shoulders, thumbs brushing against his neck as she studies him. "We will." she repeats, sucking her upper lip briefly as she studies him, thinking. "Together. We're-...
we're a team, yeah?" Her head tilts slightly down, her eyes closing for a moment as she sighs. "You look like you're carrying the world on your shoulder, Jason." she says quietly as she lifts her gaze again, a faint, sad smile briefly crossing her lips. Her left hand goes a little higher, the knuckle of her index finger brushing along the edge of his ear as she studies him in silence for a moment, gaze darting from
feature to feature on his face. "Doesn't have to be like that." Her voice is still quiet, slow. Almost whispering. "I don't-..." She swallows, blinking back the wetness in her eyes again. "I don't want some invincible soldier. I want the man I married. Troubles and all, okay? So-... so yeah..." A few small nods to herself, hand going back down to her shoulder and her head turning away briefly as she takes a deep
breath. "If you need space. Time, I-... I get that. You know I get that." she says as she looks back at him again, blinking repeatedly as it becomes clear her battle against the tears are a losing one. "But don't hide from me. Please. That's-... that's not how this works."
Jason leans against Vasquez' touch, giving a small, simple: "Of course." in response to her first question. His hand slides back to her side, but the more she speaks, the more his hollow smile slips away. Slapped aside by her insistence to keep pushing. He looks tired. Downright exhausted. Days of exhaustion stacked atop years of fatigue. Despite their win, he looks like a defeated man no matter how hard he tries to hide it. By
the time she has finished speaking, his gaze has fallen once again. 'Invincible soldier'. People keep dying and he keeps marching on. "I don't-... What do you want me to say, Linda...?" he asks, brow furrowed as he finally looks to her face again. "Huh? I'm trying here, okay? I'm-..." he bites down, doing his best to keep his composure as that frustration surfaces once again. His hands fall away from Vasquez' sides. "...Do
you want me to tell you I'm scared? Is that what you want to hear? How about how I watched a man-... A good man by all accounts-... lift his wife off the ground by her fucking throat while she pleaded with him to just-... just snap out of it?" His eyes instantly grow glassy as he recounts Lucy's encounter with her husband, but the more he talks, the more he just seems to rile himself up. "How I saw nothing behind his
eyes as he damn near choked his wife to death? Would have if we hadn't put him down. How about how I-...." he trails off, eyes flashing towards the ground briefly before mustering up the ability to continue, "...How the first thing I thought after seeing his lifeless body- wife a weeping mess- was-.... I'm glad that's them and not us." No sooner that he admits it do a few tears break free, running down his cheeks.
Vasquez tries to cut in with an "I don't w-... I know you are..." as Jason questions what she wants from him, but as he continues and his frustration grows her hands slip away. Her gaze breaks away from him as he recounts what happened to James and Lucy. Soon enough they close entirely to keep tears of her own in. A heavy sigh as he finishes, and she looks back to him. It's not hard to see his words have rattled her.
Nothing she could say would make things better. That wasn't how it worked either. A few faint nods, and a hand brought up to her mouth. "I-... shit..." she sighs as she rubs it back and forth, studying him. "I didn't-... I'm sorry." Her hand drops to grasp his, squeezing the synthetic appendage tightly and remaining close to him as she falls into silence.
Jason though tears run down his cheeks, is under no threat of becoming a weeping mess. It's not sadness for Lucy's loss, though there's plenty of that. It's not guilt over the relief he felt as he watched Lucy shed tears because he knew Vasquez was safe and sound back home, though he has enough of that to go around as well. It's anger. Anger over even being in such a position. Anger over what those things did to James. To Lucy.
To everyone on that ship. To the colonists of which Jason mowed down far too many to count, but that's alright, plenty of room in his nightmares for new faces. Anger over what they did to Li. To Oxaris. To the entire galaxy. As Vasquez reaches for his hand, he doesn't pull away. Despite perhaps having misdirected a little bit of that frustration her way, none of it is her fault. "We said we were gonna stop." he finally says
after a long period of silence, "We were gonna leave this in the hands of the Alliance. Let them take care of things from now on. It's their fight, now, not ours." he says, the emotion drained from his voice. He gives a small shake of his head as he studies his wife, not shying away from looking her in the eyes. "That's not happening, Linda. Whether we like it or not, this is our fight. And it's only a matter of time
before they come for us. So we better make damn sure we're ready for it when they do. Because I'm-... I'm getting real tired of putting good people in the ground."
Vasquez gives a series of shallow nods, a sighed "Yeah..." following. "Looks like it is..." she says quietly, nodding again. She seems far from enthused by the prospect. She just wanted it to be over. For them to be left alone. To live their lives without that fear hanging over them. But it wasn't up to them, was it? They'd been targeted, and from the sound of things they could well be again. "So... we pick ourselves back
up. Sort through what happened. Prepare. We look for more intel. Make sure we're never caught off-guard again. We-... we use what we have. Might make a difference in the right hands... maybe it is our fight, but it's not just our fight." From the look on her face she suspects Jason has already thought along the same lines. Unease, fear, frustration is all there in her voice, but so is determination. "We'll figure
Jason's expression only seems to further harden as Vasquez speaks and he bites back at the frustration. She should be relaxing, stress-free, preparing to be a mother. Instead she's preparing for a war. This is their life. A never-ending cycle. One fight leads to another. He brings his free hand up, wiping at his eyes with his thumb and index finger as he looks off to the side and pulls in a deep breath. "I already sent a message
out to Captain Riley." he says softly as he looks back to Vasquez. "And, I'm gonna give the others a couple days to recover, but I want to get everyone together." he continues before correcting himself, "Everyone that's faced the Collectors with us. We need to get all hands on deck and-... and come up with something... Make sure we haven't overlooked anything." It's not much, but talking about seems to at least temper him
somewhat and take the edge off. It's taking action. Planning. Doing something rather than just waiting for the Collectors to come for them. He reorients his hand to intertwine his synthetic fingers with Vasquez'. "We'll figure it out..." he repeats again softly, almost to himself, as if reciting a mantra.
Vasquez nods in agreement as Jason speaks, seeming onboard with what he's saying. As he repeats her words again she brings her free hand up to wipe with her thumb at some lingering wetness beneath his eyes. "We will." she agrees with another nod, forcing a small smile into place. "That's what we do." she adds as she lowers her hand to his shoulder, giving it a squeeze before removing it from him entirely, nodding to
herself as she pulls back and takes a few steps across the gym. "I-... I think everyone could use a few days. And it'll give me some time to review what we have. I'll look over the cam footage, reports, get an idea of what we've got." She turns, walking back past Jason as she thinks aloud. "It's-... replacing our gear might be a little tricky right now. I'll need to do an inventory of what we're lacking, but...
I'll figure out the logistics. I'm gonna take another shot at poking some old contacts too. I did after Horizon, but... maybe now it'll be easier to dig up some more information." she continues, lack of sleep perhaps contributing to her almost-rambling as her mind shifts towards pratical matters.
Jason gives a few nods of his own as he listens to Vasquez. There's still so much she doesn't know. Still so much that nags at him. The loss of control over his cybernetics, for starters. But he just... nods along. This is her in her element. Making a plan. Thinking things through. Examining their options. Leading. And, for the moment, it's better than the alternative. Better than walking her through the ordeal step-by-step.
Better than recounting each and every horror they faced out there. Better than letting her worry. He can do enough of that for both of them. As she continues to ramble, his gaze shifts back to the wall of plaques for a moment. Nearly every loss up there ties back to the Collectors in some way. It's like a web that they're unable to get out of. "...Sounds like a plan." he says, not having actually heard the entirety of what
she said, but he got the jist of it. "But-... I think for right now-..." he gives a long, drawn out sigh as he glances back to Vasquez, "...I just want to lay in my own bed."
Vasquez stops as Jason speaks up, turning her attention back to him. It takes her a moment to switch gears. A very faint smile crosses briefly across her lips before she purses her lips, nodding, moving closer to him and placing a hand on his side, brushing her thumb back and forth as she nods again. "Yeah..." she says softly, a deep sigh following as she does her best to calm all the thoughts racing through her head, with
Jason once again props that tired, lopsided smirk up, nodding a couple of times to her. "Yeah. You go ahead, I'll be right behind you." he says.
Vasquez frowns slightly as she looks at him. She seems about to protest, but she stops herself, swallowing hard and nodding slightly. "Yeah... okay." she says quietly, her hand withdrawing as she makes her way towards the door, frown lingering as she leaves the gym, heading back towards their bedroom.
Jason lets out a deep breath as Vasquez leaves the room. That was where the fear came from. Sure, the Collectors themselves terrified him. Anyone who says they're not afraid of them is either stupid or ignorant. They have an army. Technology that he can't even begin to understand. Ships the size of cities. The power to make an entire colony disappear without a trace overnight. But that's a fear he can deal with. He's a
soldier, he's practically lived his whole life facing down a barrel aimed his way by people that wanted him dead. It's a fear he can understand, he can fight back against, he can overcome. But it's what they can take from him that has him nearly in a cold sweat the moment Vasquez leaves his side. What they can take him from. How ironic that he met Vasquez while out in the ass-end of the galaxy just looking for any excuse to
throw his life away, yet now he'd do anything to ensure he has just a little more time. He blinks back the tears already threatening to escape as his mind wanders and he finds himself unintentionally looking right back to the plaques on the wall. 'Because we survive, Jason. That's what we do. Again and again.' she had said. But the odds just keep stacking against them more each and every day. How long before he made a
mistake? How long before his name was right there next to Justus'? How long before he left his child fatherless? Like father like son. His eyes flutter at the thought and he has to draw in a deep breath to keep his emotions from overwhelming him. He reaches back for the comfort afforded by the presence of the Phalanx tucked into the back of his pants and loosely raps his knuckles against the grip just to make sure it's still
there. If the Revelator is coming for him, then he sure as hell isn't going to make it easy for him-... for it. He remains in place for a few minutes longer, studying the plaque dedicated to his old friend before finally starting back towards their bedroom.
Vasquez goes to get ready for bed while she waits for Jason, her mind distant in his absence. Going back to what he said. To what's happened. To what's to come. She stares at her reflection as she brushes her teeth. It's a tired face that stares back at her. Tired, and with worries etched deep. This wasn't exactly where she'd planned to be right now. The wedding wasn't a week away yet. They were supposed to be celebrating.
Enjoying some peace and quiet, some time to themselves, without looming fears, for once in their lives. So much for that. Seeing Jason's state was a rude awakening. It had worn him down just as much as her over the years. Of course it had. It was easy to forget. Easy to just... accept the lie as he props that smile into place. She had before. But that wasn't fair. She needed to do better. She'd promised to do
better. Even if she's not sure how. It's not long before she's heading over to the bed. Boots and pants go off, and she extracts her bra from under the tanktop before crawling into bed. She waits in silent thought for Jason, back against the head of the bed as she tries to will herself not to think about the work to come in the next days. Back into the neverending fight.
Jason enters the room with only a small glance Vasquez' way, doing his best to push that fear aside once again for her sake. His exposed upper body is a painful-looking canvas of purples and browns that feels every bit as bad as it looks, evident by the occasionaly pained grunt as he steps out of his boots when he reaches their bed. He kicks them lazily to the side before working on his pants. A small smile, tired smile returns to
his face as he looks down to Vasquez and their comfortable bed. "Yeah..." he nods to himself, wincing briefly as his sore body protests at the movement required to get his pants off, "...I'll take this over a cot in a cargo hold any day."
Vasquez ' gaze lingers on Jason's bruised and battered body as he makes his way to the side of the bed, a faint frown on her face, but when he speaks she mirrors his small smile, pulling the covers aside for him. "I should hope so." she says softly, her smile growing slightly before fading away. She doesn't say anything else, just waiting for him to join her.
Jason gives a weak snicker in response as he removes the Phalanx from the back of his pants and folds it up. He sets it back in the spot it sits every night: In the night stand right beside his bed. After turning off the lights, he takes a seat at the edge of the bed before joining Vasquez under the covers. Back home, in his own bed, beside his wife. It causes his smile to grow a bit more genuine. A much-needed break from the
shitstorm that is their lives. "Get over here." he says softly as he reaches out with one arm, aiming to lay it across Vasquez' shoulders and urge her closer.
Vasquez is quick to scoot closer, mindful of his injuries as she leans very lightly against him, keeping most of her weight on the headboard. Her smile returns as she places her far hand on his abdomen, knuckles brushing gently across his bruised skin, her gaze following. "Missed you..." she says with a quiet, emotional chuckle, her voice breaking a little. It's a major understatement. Having him there next to her, feeling
his pulse, hearing his voice instead of just the silence of the empty bedroom, even smelling him, makes all the difference in the world to her. Just... knowing he's really back. She lets her head come to rest against his shoulder, slipping her hand further around him and giving him a soft hug.
Jason adjusts his arm once Vasquez has scooted over, bringing it down to rest his hand on her side opposite of him. Her emotional admission causes him to pull in a deep breath and give her a squeeze. "...Yeah." he says softly, leaning his head to rest against the top of hers, "I missed you, too." he says simply. Honestly. The pain in his joints as a result of her hug only causes him to hold her closer. It's a good pain. A pain
Vasquez goes quiet, just enjoying Jason's soothing presence as she allows her tired mind some respite. She adjusts her position slightly to press closer to him, turning a bit more to her side. Her arm remains wrapped around him, holding him close as her eyes shut. Her body starts to relax as she settles in. Sleep may take time to arrive, but she's content to just sit there with him. There's a whole lot to talk about. A lot