December 7th. The debrief has come to an end and the participants have long since left the room, and for the most part, the building. Vasquez is still seated at the end of the conference table, head resting in her hand as she stares at the screen of her laptop with a distant, drained gaze. Outside, the sun has gone down with the arrival of the evening.
#RedrockAgency – December 1, 2018
Jason didn't linger long after the others took their leave. He's had more than enough of the Collectors for one lifetime. Instead, he retreated to the gym to put in some time on the treadmill and clear his head. It's not until he finds Vasquez' office empty afterwards that he returns to the conference room. Dressed in a pair of jogging pants, running shoes, and a white tanktop, he remains in the doorway for a moment, quietly
watching Vasquez as he decides whether or not to disturb her work. "Find any answers in there?" he finally asks once his decision has been made, a small, lopsided smirk crossing his lips as he gives a small nod towards the screen before her.
Vasquez blinks, tearing her gaze away from the screen to look in the direction of Jason's voice, her expression making it all to clear that her attention had wandered from the screen a good while ago. "That'd be too easy, wouldn't it?" she says, flashing a brief, half-hearted smile as she studies Jason. She leans back a bit in her chair, letting out a sigh as her gaze wanders to the clock on her laptop.
Jason gives a low snicker. Little more than a snort. Not that there's anything funny about it, but what else can you do? The whole situation is fucked. But if you don't laugh, you cry. "Yeah well I think we've had enough 'hard' lately. So maybe the universe owes us a little 'easy' right now." he jokes. His smile wavers slightly as his gaze follows hers back to the laptop.
Vasquez lets out a quiet snort of her own, once again flashing the same unenthusiastic smile before drawing in a deep breath, closing her eyes and letting out a heavy sigh. "What are we doing, Jason? What the hell are we doing? What's the end-game here?" she suddenly asks, swallowing hard as she stares at him from her chair.
Jason allows his attention to remain fixed to the laptop just so he has something to look at that isn't Vasquez as he considers her question. His kneejerk reaction is to make light of the situation. Crack a joke. Say something stupid. Smile. Laugh. Sweep it all under the rug. He almost manages it, too. That familiar lopsided smirk widens as he goes to speak but the words get caught in his throat and his grin fades away.
"Surviving." he says, forcing himself to meet her gaze as he gives a small shrug of his shoulders. "That's what we're doing. Survival is the end-game. Right?"
Vasquez 's hand curl up where they rest against the table, her gaze falling. "Hmh." A moment passes before she speaks again. "I'm sick of surviving." she says quietly, looking up to scan Jason's face. "That's all I've been doing for years. E-..." there's a brief stop of hesitation as she almost chokes on her own words. "Elysium, The Evening Star, Omega, Niacal. The Barn. I-... I don't-..." she shakes her head, a frustrated smile
crossing her lips as she searches for the right words, pushing her chair back a little to give herself more space. "It's fucking enough already. It was supposed to be different now. But it's-... it's all the same shit. How are we s-... what are we gonna-..." One hand has withdrawn from the table, moving almost unconciously to her belly.
Jason's attention turns to the floor as he listens to his wife's concerns, small nods his only response at first. Once she finishes, he draws in a deep breath and takes a few steps further into the room. "I know..." he says softly, an unspoken 'Me too' implied. It's hard to not feel like tragedy has been hanging over them their entire lives as she goes down her list. Just one fight after another. And it has undoubtedly worn on
them both. Chipped away at them. Mentally and, as the hand he reaches out with to place on Vasquez' shoulder constantly reminds him, physically. But does that mean they should just give up? Throw in the towel? He give her shoulder a soft squeeze. "Unfortunately I don't think it's up to us this time." he continues, forcing that tired smile back into place. "If they're gonna come... They're gonna come. There's nothing you or
I can do to change that. I mean-... maybe the Alliance sends 'em back to whatever hole they crawled out of before it comes to that..." It's pretty clear by the tone of his voice that he's not betting on it, "...But if they don't? We just-... we need to be as ready as we can be." He swallows, his grip on her shoulder tightening slightly as he adds: "...We've been through too much to let this break us, Linda."
Vasquez closes her eyes, reaching up when she feels the gentle pressure of Jason's hand on her shoulder. For just a split second she forgets about the damage she's done to him, and the sudden reminder as her fingers touch the synthetic surface of his hand is enough to elicit a bitter chuckle that she can't suppress. She swallows as her eyes open, and she looks out across the now-empty table. "We're-... we're having a baby,
Jason..." she says quietly, pressing her mouth against the knuckles of her right hand, elbow supported by her armrest as her gaze wanders. "We're bringing a child into-... into this?" She nods to the door to her side with her head. "There's an armory through that door." she states matter-of-factly, doing her best to keep her emotions in check. "There's a memorial in our gym. For fuck's sake, you're covered in bruises and
medigel!" she exclaims with an uneven breath, lifting her head as she gestures aimlessly with her hand, facing him with a look in her eyes that makes it clear just how hopelessly lost she's feeling right now.
Jason falls silent. As he listens to Vasquez, his mind wanders back to his conversation with Ilyna. About Li growing up in a wolf's den. That same fate awaits their child. A life amongst mercenaries. Killers and soldiers. Surrounded by fighting. Death. Loss. Will their child be explosed to the same horrors that Li has? Will their child grow up wondering if each and every time he or Vasquez go out on a job it might be the last time
they see them? Hell, with everything going on it might be wishful thinking to assume he lives long enough to even meet his child. It's a thought that has weighed on him ever since Vasquez delivered the news and it causes his chest to constrict just thinking about it. He presses his tongue against the inside of his lip, gaze growing distant. Several moments pass in silence. "So-..." he begins, his voice sounding far quieter
than he had intended, causing him to clear his throat and start from the beginning. "...So then we call it quits." he says. He allows that to linger in the air for a few moments before he's able to follow up on it. "We-... We get through-... through all this Collector bullshit and we-... and that's it for us, Linda." he says. Just saying it out loud causes a pit to form in his stomach. Anxiety. So much so that he keeps
talking just to stop himself from focusing on it. "I mean, maybe we do a few more jobs to refill the bank account but-... but then? Then we make a clean break. Stick to security. Strictly security. No more putting ourselves in the line of fire. No more getting shot at. No more-... just no more, okay?" he asks, blinking at the wetness forming in his eyes as he looks down at his wife. "And-.. and you and me? We keep our
asses right here. Run things from the office." It's a stream of words spilling forth, as if he's worried if he doesn't just spit it out now he won't be able to force himself to later.
Vasquez seems torn between a hesitant smile and a sigh as she listens. When his stream of words comes to an end she's quick to nod several times, blinking back tears of her own now before they threaten to escape. She places a hand on his side, studying him for just a moment before standing up and wrapping him up in a hug. She ignores the parts of her mind that won't stop thinking about Gage, or about the fact that their baby's
grandmother is a terrorist and they live on a world with more militias than schools and how that doesn't even cover a fraction of how messed up their lives are because right now she wants to believe so badly that it's possible. That they can have a real life. Not just exist. Survive. In fear and uncertainty.
Jason just stands there as Vasquez' arms come around him. It takes a moment for his brain to catch up to his mouth before he wraps his arms around her in turn. Guilt settles in at the fear and uncertainty tugging at him. At the thought that he just might be more comfortable with the idea of running towards gunfire than sitting behind a desk. Just how broken are they? He loves what he does. It's not something to be proud of, but
it's how he has defined himself for so many years. But at the end of the day? He loves the woman in his arms more. He tries to push those thoughts- those nagging fears and concerns- to the back of his mind for now and staves off the emotions settling in with a deep sniffle. "I figure I've been trying to die for other people's causes for long enough, right?" he jokes, giving a low snicker as he holds her close. "...So-..
Vasquez presses part of her face against the side of Jason's neck as she lingers in the hug, trying to force herself to ignore the new thoughts that join the old in her mind. Doubts. Dread. How is she supposed to be a mother? She's not ignorant of what the people around her think of her, and are they even wrong? Is she going to end up no better than her own? Jason's words help her turn her thoughts away from that path, and a
drained snicker sounds before she nods against his shoulder, tightening the hug for a moment before pulling back to look at him, keeping her arms around him. "We've earned it, haven't we?" she says softly. There's a hint of wetness under her eyes from rogue tears narrowly escaped during their embrace.
Jason doubles his efforts in propping his smirk back up once Vasquez pulls back enough to make eye contact, as if worried she might see through him. Spot his worries. "We have." he says confidently. He brings one hand up, pressing a palm gently against her cheek to wipe at her tears with his thumb. His focus turns, if only briefly, from her eyes to his hand. The cold, unfeeling cybernetic. Even if they somehow manage to get
through all of this in one piece, they're a souvenir that will follow him around for the rest of his life. And what else would follow them? They've made more than their fair share of enemies. It's not the sort of life you just 'give up'. And what are they without it? What is he without it? Just another one of those drunks down at the Respite? Drinking his nights away until he's forgotten? That smirk of his just seems to
get heavier, but he doesn't drop it. "Come on. You've been in here long enough. Let's get some food in you."
Vasquez lets out a half-chuckle, willing herself, if just for a moment, to believe that it's all going to work out. "That... sounds like a good idea." she agrees, the mention of food enough to make her stomach growl. Halisi's repeated reminders aren't always enough on a busy day like this and she's already paying for it with another headache. She keeps one arm around Jason as she shifts to his side, closing the laptop and leaving
Jason shifts one arm over Vasquez' shoulder as they turn side-by-side, pulling her in close for a brief, playful sidehug. "You're eating for two now!" he reminds through his heavy smirk. He pushes through his thoughts as they start towards the door. Shouldering the weight of his worries and adding them to the baggage he carries that has gotten so heavy it threatens to pull him under. But they're his burden to deal with. Not hers.
That's what he tells himself. "Gotta get you fed." he continues to tease, giving Vasquez a bump with his hip.