#RedrockAgency – September 5, 2018

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Ilyna looks down briefly when a hand is placed on her knee, and she lets out another sigh. Of course there was nothing he could do about it, there wasn't even anything she could do now that all leads are cold and there still haven't been any word of her. The question to Li makes her raise an eyebrow. She had just sat down to be with Li. "I'll be right back," Ilyna says and squeezes Li's shoulder gently, though

she doesn't know how much time this will actually take.

Jason passes a brief glance Ilyna's way before standing from the couch. As much as he tries to hide it, it's not difficult to see that he's still in plenty of pain. And after pushing himself through his morning workout routine, even this small amount of exertion causes a visible wince and a low pained grunt to unwillingly escape him. He leads the way out of the rec room, coming to a stop just out in the hallway.

Ilyna is right behind him. "Are you okay, Jason?" she asks when they're almost out of the room. "We could go somewhere you can sit down instead."

Jason gives a shake of his head, waving off Ilyna's offer. "I'm fine." he says dismissively, never one to take comfort in others' concern over him. Once out in the hallway, he takes a few steps closer to the stairs before turning to face the asari. "But how about you?" he asks, folding his arms across his chest. "How are you holding up after-... after everything." he says, a small sigh escaping at the magnitude of shit that

'everything' encompasses.

Ilyna sighs at the dismissal, but doesn't contest it. It's not without feeling guilt, though, as she has remarkably few qualms leaning on him for support. And when he asks a question like that, it's probably going to happen again. "Not well, Jason, not at all," she says. "I already had too much to worry about, and now Ehanis ran away without so much as a message." She takes a deep breath, though it trembles

slightly as she tries to manage her emotions.

Jason's gaze lowers briefly, a few nods accompanying Ilyna's response. "Yeah..." he says softly. "But we have no reason to believe she's in any danger. She did tell Linda she needed some time, right? So it's not like she just disappeared. It-..." a small sigh escapes him as he trails off. "Look, I know that probably doesn't make dealing with all of this any easier, but maybe the right move is giving her some space right now

and letting her work through whatever she needs to work through. Sure as hell can't blame her for needing a breather after this past week, right?"

Ilyna frowns, tilting her head slightly. "If we are to believe that she attacked Mian on her way out, then I... I don't know if she should be alone wherever she is," she says, her voice getting more and more affected by the feelings she's holding back. "Or maybe that's what she needs, but... but... I just... I don't like the thought of not knowing how she is, or if something has happened to her." Ilyna takes a

few steps towards the stairs. "Could we speak in my office instead?"

Jason draws in a deep breath, falling silent as he listens to Ilyna. He doesn't respond right away but, as she suggests moving the conversation, he gives a small nod and follows her downstairs without a word.

Ilyna nods in turn and heads downstairs and to her office door. She unlocks and opens the door before stepping inside. The office is tidy, but hasn't been properly cleaned in the last week or so. She kicks aside a short cable on the floor as she enters and steps aside to allow Jason to enter. Ilyna doesn't say anything.

Jason enters the room after Ilyna, taking a few steps in before turning to face her. "...I'm not telling you not to be worried, Ilyna. She's your sister." he says after a few moments of consideration. "I'm just saying-..." another sigh escapes him and he gives a dejected shrug of his shoulders, "What can we do?" He's quick to put a hand up defensively as he realizes that may have come out harsher than intended, "I mean that

sincerely, Ilyna. What can we do? Ehanis is in a rough place and wants to be left alone. I have to believe that if she's in any danger or-... or needs us for anything, she sure as shit knows that she can ask for help after the lengths we just went through to bring everyone home. But we can't just force her to be here if she doesn't want to be. So-..." he draws in a deep breath, holding it for a moment before letting it out

through his nose and repeating his previous sentiment, "...What can we do?"

Ilyna lets the door close behind her before looking at him. She listens to what he has to say without interruption, but her breath is trembling more and more. "I wish I knew even half the answers to my questions," she says, and lowers her head to look away. "I... have to do something, Jason. I can't let Mian find her before me, that... that would make things worse. She's angry at Ehanis, and she's... not subtle

about it. But I can't drop everything I have to go after her. It's on me to make sure that Li... she makes it through this. And... and..." She closes her eyes in frustration and takes a deep, uneven breath. "Goddess," she sighs, and looks up at Jason. "I wish it at least looked like I knew what I was doing."

Jason reaches out to place a hand on the asari's shoulder, a bit of discomfort showing through at being unable to say or do much to put his old friend at ease. "You really think Mian is gonna hold that kind of grudge?" he asks. "You said it yourself: They've been friends a long time, right? Sometimes friends fight. Besides, Mian might not be the brightest bulb in the bakery-..." don't think about it too much, "...but she has to

know that if she goes after Ehanis then she has the rest of us to worry about, too." His features harden for just the briefest of moments at the prospect of it coming to that.

Ilyna sighs. "I don't know what to think of her anymore," she says. "When I lived with her, she was rude, lewd, and just... unpleasant to be around especially when she has had too much to drink. For her to ambush me, I... I didn't expect that." She shifts closer to Jason, but averts eye contact. "I just don't know," she says, and pauses for a moment as she considers last part of what he said. The weird phrase

preceding it seem to be given much thought, if any at all. "I... if I have to get between them to save my sister, I-I won't hesitate." There's little in the way of conviction in her voice, or anything other than sadness and frustration.

Jason studies Ilyna as she speaks. Her concern and frustration certainly isn't lost on him. "And I'll be right there with you." he assures without hesitation, giving her shoulder a gentle squeeze. "Hopefully that goes without saying by this point." he adds, a tired snicker accompanying his words.

Ilyna gives a weak nod at that; it does go without saying. Her expression hardens for a moment as her thoughts are brought back to yesterday's conversation. "But Ehanis won't know that," she mutters, the bitterness from yesterday seeping into her voice. "Vasquez doesn't want to pay her for the job, which is... a terrible message to send."

Jason draws in a deep breath, gaze dropping to the floor. "So that's what the argument was about." he says with a sigh before looking to Ilyna apologetically. "...Li-... uhh-... she said you and Linda-..." he trails off. He bites at his lip for a moment before meeting Ilyna's gaze. "You know how gets sometimes, Ilyna. And, to be honest? I can't really blame her for being a bit on edge. Hell, our wedding was barely in the rearview

mirror when I hopped on a ship without any idea of where we were going or when we would be back." His features soften as he gives a shrug of his shoulders. "But she does understand. She's just-..." he stammers before correcting himself, "...we're all going through a lot right now. But Ehanis is gonna get paid. I'll make sure of it and-... I don't know... Shoot her a message and let her know her job is still waiting for

her when she gets back." He forces a small smile as he removes his hand from Ilyna's shoulder. "Alright?"

((you know how she gets sometimes*))

Ilyna softens her expression as they listen, but it's not only the prior emotions that return; there is also guilt. Vasquez may have been on edge, but Ilyna pushed her over it yesterday. "It's... not the whole story," she says, her voice cracking. "I... it's my fault that we argued. I said something stupid, she got angry, and I said... I said... something that don't bear repeating." She takes another shaking

breath. "I apologized, but... I wouldn't blame her for not forgiving me." She moves a hand up to wipe away a tear forming under her eyes. "I'm supposed to be calm under pressure, someone that... is strong, and... everything Li needs me to be," she says, her voice interrupted by sobs. "I'm sure... she knows that I'm not by this point."

Jason furrows his brow as he listens to Ilyna. After recent events, it shouldn't be surprising to see it wearing on her so heavily, but it still seems to hit him hard to see his friend in such a bad way. "Hey, come on. You are exactly what Li needs. You've given her a shot at a normal life, Ilyna. I mean, shit, none of us are perfect, but you walked through fire to make sure that girl was safe. And she knows that so I don't

think you have anything to prove to her." he assures, offering a familiar lopsided smirk. But as his mind drifts to Vasquez, it slips away. "As for Linda, I wouldn't worry about it too much. You've known each other a long time. She can be-... difficult..." he says, choosing his words carefully, "...but she cares about you. Knows everything you've done for her. For us." His gaze lowers briefly as his mind wanders back to

the Barn. Once again, Ilyna was right there with him. As she always is when he needs her. "At this point, whether any of us like it or not? We're family." he continues, a tired, worn out snicker escaping, "...A dysfunctional, fucked up family, maybe. But family nonetheless. You've got our back. We've got your back. Just the way it is." he gives a dismissive shrug, as if it's just a fact she's going to need to accept at this

point, "It's gonna take more than an argument to change that."

Ilyna listens to every word he says while trying to hold back tears, but the defense eventually gives way and she's crying. "I-I... I need to be better," she says. "So... Li can-can feel like she can... can talk to... to-to me." She takes another deep breath, but she cannot compose herself for long enough to continue speaking to address his point about Vasquez. Instead, she steps towards Jason and wraps her arms

around him without much warning. "I-I... I know," Ilyna mumbles, though her frustrations about Ehanis may have led her to doubt it more than once.

Jason is a little caught off guard by the sudden hug but, despite the pain that shoots through his bruised body, he's quick to return the gesture by wrapping his arms around Ilyna, synthetic hand giving her a pat on the back. He swallows at the lump forming in his throat due to the state she's in. "Better? You are the best of us, Ilyna." he says, sincerity clear in his voice. "You're caring. Compassionate. Loyal. Dependable." he

lists off, tearing his gaze away from the far wall over Ilyna's shoulder to look to her as best as he can. "You can't be so hard on yourself." he continues, the irony of him giving this sort of advice entirely lost on him.

Ilyna fails to notice that he's in pain, or recall his earlier difficulties, and so she continues to hold onto the hug. That she's the best of them evokes a doubtful hum from her, but she doesn't elaborate on it. "It's... it's... not about being... hard on myself," she murmurs between sobs. "I... I don't want to fail Li, I... I-I need to expect better." She lays her head on his synthetic shoulder.

Jason remains silent. As much as he'd like to point out all of the lengths she has went to for Li- to point out that she fought tooth and nail through a Collector ship for her- he realizes it's not going to help. It's not going to ease her concerns. So he settles on merely providing comfort for the moment and giving her a gentle squeeze. "You're not alone in all this." he eventually says, breaking the silence that has settled in.

"...I hope you know that."

Ilyna gives an affirmative hum at first. "You are... what's... kept me sane," she says and follows up with a weak snort and a correction, "Mostly sane." She takes a deep breath to try to compose herself, though it's going to take another few minutes at least. However, beneath all the heavy emotions there is some relief in that she finally got the chance to just let it out, to let it be known just how much she

struggles.

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