It's the evening of December 18th by the time the Redrock shuttle touches down in the hangar. Jasper was a steel trap regarding the Leah and Nathan debacle, having decided it wasn't his place to deliver the news to them. A steel trap! He almost caved when he was hit with a: "How is everything back home?" but he managed to keep it together. "Same ol', same ol'!" he had responded with. The rest of the trip was mostly filled with small talk.
#RedrockAgency – July 23, 2019
Just your standard affair. "How was the trip?" "How was Adrasteia?" "THE COLLECTORS ARE GONE!" The sun has gone down and Litae once again takes her place as the keeper of the sky by the time they arrive back in Freedom Falls. The shuttle doors slide open, revealing its occupants.
Jason is dressed in a pair of simple jeans and a white t-shirt beneath his jacket. Combat boots traded for a pair of casual black boots. It's almost a strange sight to see him dressed so casually. The trip home was a nice chance to decompress. To let it sink in that it's time to go back to work. But, despite the comfort afforded by 'home', there's a sadness that accompanies it, too. It's not often that he and Vasquez get to unwind
and let go of their troubles for any period of time. A week just hasn't seemed long enough. Still, the small smile etched into his features implies he's in a better place than he was when they left. And why wouldn't he be? In only eight days, so much has changed.
Vasquez , much like Jason, is dressed far more casually than usual. Plain boots with none of the weight of her usual military-issue footwear, blue-gray jeans and a winter coat over a gray sweater. There's an undeniable melancholy that comes with the end of their vacation, but it's still obvious that the past week has done wonders for her mental state. Her hand is on Jason's knee as the shuttle doors open, leaned slightly against
him. It's almost hard to recognize her between the relaxed look on her face and the fact that she's left her long black hair down. Only a little after the shuttle comes to a complete stop does she reluctantly sit up straight and start to pull her bag out from under the seat.
Ilyna is standing by the entrance to the hangar as the shuttle sets down, having left her office in a hurry upon hearing the hangar doors open. If Li wasn't with her, Ilyna will have asked Fergus to let her know. "Hey," she says, approaching the shuttle. "Welcome home!" There's a small smile on her face, and for the moment she manages to hide her worries about the recent mission. It's good to see them so relaxed
after everything they've been through, and it makes her feel better about agreeing to keep the aforementioned mission secret. Ilyna is dressed as usual: a long dark modest dress.
Li is holding Ilyna's hand as they approach the shuttle, an all-too-rare genuine, big smile crossing her face upon seeing Jason and Vasquez. She gives them an enthusiastic wave with her free hand.
Jason likewise, seems reluctant to get out of his seat. But as the doors begin to slide open and Ilyna comes into view, his smile widens. "Hey yourself." he offers in return, giving an idle pat to the hand on his knee before shifting to reach for his duffelbag. "Looks like we've still got four walls." he teases with a glance past Ilyna, as if he's assessing the state of the building. That familiar lopsided smirk reappears. It
Jasper steps out of the cockpit with a glance Ilyna's wat before waving for Jason and Vasquez to stand down like a concerned parent. "C'mon now! Ya'll just got back! Lemme take care a' those." he says with a glance to the bags and reaches out to collect them from the pair. It took a moment of consideration. After all, she can't go for the machine gun if her hands are full. But, in the end, he decides on the 'shower them with
Vasquez has just about pulled her duffelbag out from under her seat when Jasper speaks. She hesitates for a moment before relenting with a little sigh, handing the bag his way. "Thank you, Jasper." she says, before getting out of her seat. As her gaze falls on Ilyna a bit of tension enters her face. She may have backed down because she trusts Jason, but there's a lot left unresolved there. Still... she took care of things while
they were gone. She's the reason they were able to take this trip at all. That thought tempers her unease, but it's the sight of Li that dissolves it, and brings the smile back to her face as she gives them both a wave, chuckling slightly.
Ilyna chuckles at Jason's mock surprise about the building's state, but Vasquez unease does dampen her laugh. While it's not lost on her, right now she is more worried information about yesterday's mission could have reached her. When Vasquez' tension fades, the asari's smile comes back. "I don't think I need to ask, because I can see that it has done you a lot a good already," she says, "but how was your
Jason passes his bag Jasper's way with a nod of appreciation and steps down out of the shuttle. "Thanks Jasper. Besides-..." he continues with a glance up to Vasquez, "There's other luggage I need to attend to." His smirk widens and he leans in and slips an arm around her lower leg, making as if he's about to pull her into a fireman's carry. Thankfully he seems to know better. It'd only end with a swat upside the head and after
giving Vasquez a quick jostle he lets her go with a snicker. There's a lightness to him. A playfulness that's been absent for far too long in the wake of so much disaster that has seemed to follow them wherever they've went over the past year. "Good!" he's quick to shoot back to Ilyna as he stands up and looks her way. "I'll tell ya this much... Cross might be a long-haired weirdo, but he's a long-haired weirdo with a
helluva lot of credits! That hotel-..." he casts a glance back up to Vasquez as if she's sure to be in agreement with him before turning back towards the asari. "...was insane."
Jasper takes the bags- one in each hand- and begins to slip out of the shuttle. The chatter causes a smile to cross his lips. "Glad ya'll had a good time." he chimes in. "You sure deserved it."
Vasquez ' eyes widen as it seeems for a moment like Jason's going to sweep her up. As he withdraws she gives him a light shove, snickering slightly. As Jason talks about the hotel she wraps an arm around him, thumb brushing idly back and forth across his far side as her attention turns to Ilyna. The description prompts another chuckle and a nod. "The hotel suite was... ridiculous." she agrees. "A week there probably costs more
Ilyna grins as she stifles laughter as Jason plays with fire right before her eyes. Hearing about Cross' generousity doesn't surprise her in the slightest. "He sure does," she says. "We got to spend a night at his hotel during the Tanner job, and I can see why it probably costs that much." She looses her grip on Li's hand a little.
Jason gives a few small nods and a quick, "...That's right..." when Ilyna reminds him of the Tanner job. "So how about you, shortstack?" he asks with a glance down to Li. "How has your week been? Been working hard to keep everything running smoothly around here?" he continues through his smirk, as if she's the one he needs to check in with rather than Ilyna.
Jasper continues on towards the door. "I'm jus' gon' set yer things right outside yer room." he announces.
Vasquez smirks slightly as Jason addresses Li, looking off towards Jasper to give him a quick nod to confirm that she heard him.
Li stands straight as Jason addresses her, nodding confidently. As far as she's concerned she's been the boss, sitting in Ilyna's lap while she answers work mail, and keeping a close, only occasionally distracted by cartoons, eye on the security cameras.
Ilyna looks down at Li as she answers Jason's question, mostly hiding her heart sinking at the slight chance Li might talk about the chaos. A grin quickly show up as the answer is only a confident nod, and she looks back at Jason. "I can attest to that," she says.
Jason gives a stern nod of his own in response to Li, Ilyna's addition causing him to glance her way. "I expected nothing less." he says, that smirk beginning to slip through again. He shifts in place for a moment and gives a small roll of his shoulders, the lower temperature of the hangar seeming to get his attention. It's far from freezing in the hangar, but definitely colder than the rest of the base and the shuttle they just
Jasper shoots a glance Ilyna's way as he passes her, widening his eyes slightly as a silent 'good luck' as he continues through the door.
Vasquez nods in agreement with Jason's suggestion, her attention turning to Ilyna as they start to get moving. "Quiet week, aside from the... obvious?" she asks, the thought of the Collector news breaking bringing a small smile to her lips.
Ilyna tilts her head at 'obvious', and her heart sinks. For a moment she thinks that they know about what happened, but on the other hand, there's no way they'd be this relaxed were that they case. She walks ahead of them in the hallway to have more than enough room for Li to walk beside her, so the look on her face is obscured from view. The time it takes her to answer, however, does give away that the answer
is a little more complex than just 'yes'. She decides that lying here is likely going to do more harm than good, even if neither option is particularly appealing. "There has been one incident," she says, putting it lightly. "It's taken care of, so there is no harm in leaving that for tomorrow." Ilyna is assuming that the rec room is the warmer place they seek.
Jasper begins to pick up his pace when it's clear the conversation is heading 'that' way, seemingly wanting to be out of sight for it. The sound of old boots slapping against the floor ahead of them quickens and he struts down the hallway in a hurry before sharply disappearing out of sight around the corner.
Jason follows behind Ilyna and Li at Vasquez' side. The long bout of silence that Vasquez' question is met with is enough to draw his smirk back. "Ilyna...?" he asks before she finally speaks up. Her response causes a long, drawn out sigh to escape him. "Of course there was..." he mutters, moreso to himself than to anyone else. So much for a quiet few days to get back into the groove of things. What was that? Two minutes? Yeah,
that seems about right. "What kind of an 'incident' are talking ab-... was anyone hurt?" he settles on, deciding it's the only pressing question that really matters. He shoots a worried glance to the woman at his side. In their line of work, 'incidents' rarely exclude violence.
Vasquez raises an eyebrow at Ilyna's vague answer, still following behind her and Li as they head upstairs, arm around Jason. She tenses up a little, seeming about to interject when Jason asks his question, quieting her for the moment as she awaits the asari's reply with furrowed eyebrows.
Ilyna sighs. "I'm sorry, I tried my best to keep it from you for tonight," she says. "With good reasons, because I think it'll ruin your evening. We didn't lose anyone, but Mendez, Tennhausen, Mercier and Nordström sustained injuries. Halisi patched them up and they're all sent home to recover." She walks into the rec room and waits for the others to come in. "I'll have T'Iavay give you access to the reports if
she hasn't already, but please, it's really over. It won't do any harm if we wait until tomorrow to go through the details."
Vasquez practically stops mid-step, blinking in confusion. "...what?" When Ilyna steps into the rec room she slips away from Jason, stomping after her in a hurry, hand on the doorframe as she looks in at the asari with disbelief on her face, an empty half-laugh slips out as if she's almost expecting it to be some kind of joke. A week. They were gone for a week! "Wh-... how? We-... there were no field ops planned this week.
Jason pulls a breath in through his nose as Ilyna speaks. When Vasquez breaks away, he glances down the hall in time to catch Jasper at the end, using a boot to push their bags against the wall to make sure nobody trips over them.
Jasper's attention is firmly on Jason, Vasquez, and Ilyna as he shuffles the pair's things out of the way, eavesdropping to try and get a feel for how the bad news is going over. When he catches Jason looking his way he freezes like a deer in the headlights. A couple of moments of awkward eye contact passes and then the older man promptly stands up, stabs his hands into the pockets of his dirty old overalls, and rigidly walks
down the hall. Unfortunately with Jason and Vasquez in his way, his only option is to head the other way. Showers or gym. Showers. Or. Gym. He chooses the latter, deciding he can probably hunker down in a stall for a bit until it all blows over. The woosh of sliding doors signals his departure.
Jason blinks a couple of times as the old mechanic retreats, brow furrowing before turning his attention back to the others as Vasquez verbalizes her confusion. He takes a position behind her as she blocks his entry into the rec room, concern in his features. "How bad?" he adds to Vasquez' flurry of questions, seemingly in response to Ilyna's mention of injuries.
Li blinks as the mood in the room changes, listening in in silence from the couch, having already been on the way there when the shift in the conversation happened.
Ilyna casts an apologetic glance down at Li before looking at Vasquez. "And you'd be correct," she says. "I wanted them to be here in person to tell you this themselves, but since the'yre not...." Ilyna takes a deep breath, answers flooding into her mind as she struggles to find out where to even start. "They did not go on a hunting trip to Linissa like they said they would. It was a personal mission to deal
with the slavers that were after the girl that Mercier was looking after." She pauses for a moment. Even if the truth is finally out, it does not bring the asari any sense of relief. "I learned of it when Halisi came her the day after in a rush ready to receive the injured. The two behind the mission stayed behind for another day to cover their tracks and look out for reinforcements." She looks at Jason.
"Mendez was severely hurt, and Halisi had to work hard to save him," she says. For a second it looks like she is going to leave it at that, but no, there's more, and she returns her attention to Vasquez. "They brought back some slaves that had survived the fight, and we housed them here with security present all day and night until Nathan's old employer came by to bring them to Citadel space for
rehabilitiation." She lets out a frustrated sigh as she watches their faces. "I know that doesn't even begin to cover it," Ilyna says, "but there are written reports and they are well aware you want to talk to them."
Vasquez just stares at Ilyna, stunned. She removes her right hand from the doorframe, reaching up to cover her face as she leans her shoulder against it instead. Her thumb and middle finger rub at her temples and she draws in a long, slow breath as she processes the sudden shift from 'relaxing vacation' to 'unauthorized mission with multiple injured', rendered temporarily speechless.
Jason merely blinks as Ilyna unleashes a swathe of information their way. "Tara..." he says softly when Ilyna makes mention of the girl Leah is looking after. He steps into the space in the doorway made by Vasquez when she leans to the side. "Shi-..." manages to slip out before his eyes snap to Li's head popping up over the back of the couch, causing him to draw the word out as he attempts to substitute it with something more
PG13, "...iiiiiiiiaaaundra..." he pivots to. Whatever that means. He takes another deep breath as his attention shifts to Vasquez and he studies her. "Alright." he says simply. What else can be said? She specified Mendez. He must've gotten the worst of it. Whatever it entails... He nods to himself a few times, gaze lowering. "How is he?" he asks, eyes snapping towards Ilyna. "Mendez." he clarifies. "Is he-... gonna
recover?" he asks. The rest can wait. The well being of their people takes top priority. "And the others...?" There's numerous other questions swirling around in his mind, but he starts there.
Ilyna frowns as they process what she just said, considering if theres anything else worth adding right now. Jason's question grabs her attention, and she nods to him. "Yes, he'll be fine," she says. "Halisi even let him go home after a few days, and I think Mercier is going to stay with him for a while."
Vasquez hasn't said a word, exhaling and drawing in another long breath, face hidden by her hand. She abruptly lowers her hand, smacking it against the doorway as her gaze snaps to Ilyna. "Why the hell didn't you notify us?!" she snarls, seemingly far less concerned about cursing in front of Li. She grits her teeth as her gaze darts to Jason. "One week. One goddamn week!" Her right hand clenches into a fist as her gaze falls
sharply to the floor, but she catches herself, hand opening and running it through her hair as frustration continues to fill her face, mind spinning. "Fff-..." She steps away without warning, back into the corridor, looking around. "Jasper! Get the shuttle ready!" she barks.
Jason lets out a breath in relief when Ilyna informs him that Mendez will be okay, that information seeming to subdue the most pressing concerns of his for the moment and resulting in a few small nods. Vasquez' sudden outburst causes him to wince. "Linda-..." he manages in an attempt at calming her down. When she storms off, he swings out into the corridor after her, one hand grasping the frame of the door. "Linda! Where are
The muffled voice of an old mechanic sounds out from around the corner, dampened by the closed door his ear was pressed up against. "On my way, Chief!" he calls back, knowing better than to argue right now.
Ilyna walks towards the entrance. "Why do you think?" she says, raising her voice. "You needed the time off. Badly. And I know this would have you running back home. So, we decided that for as long as this was under control, we would let you two enjoy your vacation."
Vasquez is already heading towards the stairs. "I'm gonna find out which of those idiots are still standing and I'm gonna fucking kill them!" she snarls, gesturing without bothering to look back. "Fergus! Send the reports to my pad!"
Ilyna frowns, but she knows that her words don't carry much weight with Vasquez. Especially not after their confrontation 13 days ago. "I'm sorry," she says to Jason as she stops in the doorway.
Jason draws in a sharp breath, offering Ilyna's words little more than an understanding tilt of his head. "You're not gonna-..." she begins before seemingly feeling the need to play damage control to the others and shoots a glance back into the room, gaze shooting from Li to Ilyna. "She's not gonna-... uhh-... kill anyone." he assures with a wince before hopping back into the hall to give chase. "...You're not really planning
on killing anyone...?" he asks as if there's some cause for concern, taking a few steps after her. "...Right?"
Jasper comes shuffling down the hall, his body every bit as rigid as previously. He shoots a glance into the rec room, making contact with Ilyna as he passes by. Eyes wide, he gives a couple slow shakes of his head before carrying on after Vasquez.
Li flinches at Vasquez outburst, hiding behind the couch backrest, tip of her head peeking out as she watches with wide eyes as the angry woman storms off.
Vasquez draws in a sharp breath through her nose as she heads down the stairs. "Ask me after I've read the reports..." she mutters as she continues on her way.
Ilyna looks at Jasper apologetically. "I'll let them know," she says with a lowered voice. She casts one glance behind her before stepping into the corridor, heading to the walkways overlooking the hangar with brisk steps
Jason winces again, glancing back to Ilyna with a shake of his head. "She's not gonna-..." he attempts to repeat, but doesn't seem quite sure enough to commit. "Shhhhhhaundra!" he exclaims, catching himself once more for Li's sake. "Good idea." he says to Ilyna, stepping the opposite way as if to give chase to Vasquez, "I'll put some messages out, too." He reaches into his jacket pocket for his omni-tool as he follows after
Vasquez doesn't stop. "Fine." she says with a dismissive gesture, all soft, cozy thoughts of an evening relaxing with Jason before getting back to work forgotten. She's pulled her datapad out of her pocket, starting to read as she continues down the corridor.
Ilyna stops just before the corner, and quickly begins tapping away on her omni-tool. She does cast a few glances towards the rec room door while typing in case Li comes looking for her.
Jason begins frantically poking at his omni-tool as he follows behind Jasper, nearly tripping on the stairs when he reaches them. He manages to catch the handrail as he begins taking the steps two at a time to catch up. "This is a bad idea, Linda! We should just-... wait until tomorrow! We don't even know what's going on!"
Vasquez actually stops when Jason calls out, turning around. "Tomorrow?!" she says, eyebrows shooting up questioningly before she lets out a snort. "You think this isn't a big deal? Is that it?" she snaps. "Who knows what kind of trouble they've brought our way? They didn't-..." She bites down, hands closing as she draws in a breath. "They ran an op with us completely in the dark. They-... they waited until we were on vacation!
That's-... that's fucking unacceptable!" she exclaims, bringing a hand to her forehead as she stares at Jason, squinting against the mounting headache. "People are injured, I-..." she shakes her head with a frustrated half-laugh, the anger in her way having given way to an exhausted disappointment. So much for thinking they could go just a little while without any fires to put out. "One FUCKING week..." she says,
gesturing around herself. "Was that too much to ask for?!" She runs a hand down her face and looks off down the corridor with another shake of her head. "Should've known! Should've known I couldn't take any damn time off! Of course not!" she calls out into the corridor, arms spread in a wide gesture as she stomps off.
Ilyna lets her omni-tool projection fade out, and walks over to watch the hangar below. She can hear Vasquez loud and clear, and if Jason can't talk her out of it, then there's nothing she can do.
Jasper does not. Only his eyes track Vasquez while his head remains pointed entirely straight ahead as he marches right past her towards the hangar.
Jason's eyes dart from Vasquez to Jasper and then back. "I think this is a huge fucking deal!" he agrees. "But-..." he scoffs, seemingly no more happy about any of this than she is, "...The fuck is it gonna do for you to go get into a shouting match with them right now?! Whatever happened? It already happened!" He pauses, searching her eyes for some sort of reaction. "Right?!" He tries to calm himself down, energy running due to
sheer panic at this point. "Ilyna said it was taken care of. So we take the night. Get settled in. Read the reports. Then we talk to them tomorrow-..." his gaze hardens as he repeats himself. "Talk." he emphasizes. "We don't go-..." he gestures in the general direction of the hangar, "...storming off to scream at them. No shouting. No punching. No killing." he continues, the inflection in his voice making it clear that
the last bit shouldn't even be in the cards. "We talk to them and figure out just what in the fuck they were thinking." He draws a breath in through his nose as he focuses on her. "And, if it turns out that they just brought a whole world of pain our way?" he continues with an exasperated sigh accompanied by a small shrug of his shoulders. "Well, then you have my full permission to kill them." His gaze darts off to the
side briefly, nostrils flaring as he considers the situation. "...Hell, I'll even put Ten in a headlock myself while you do the dirty work." he offers in a mutter, though it should be clear that despite his frustration, it's probably not a serious offer. Probably.
Vasquez doesn't turn towards the hangar, continuing down the corridor and turning around, pacing back towards Jason as she listens to him. She crosses her arms, staring him down with a conflicted grimace on her face. After a couple of tense seconds she lets out a heavy sigh and nods a couple of times, looking off down the corridor towards the hangar briefly before returning her gaze to Jason. "I-... fine. Fine. Tomorrow." she
reluctantly agrees with another nod, her expression a mix of a frustrated scowl and just... sheer disappointment, remaining in place, arms crossed as she chews on the inside of her scarred cheek. Her eyes are a little glassy from the frustration and the jarring feeling of being rudely yanked out of honeymoon mode.
Ilyna raises her brows, and brings up her omni-tool again to issue a correction to her too hasty announcement. She does hold off on sending it, in case Vasquez changes her mind again.
Jason lets out a deep breath as if a crisis was just averted, gaze momentarily shifting upward- well aware that Ilyna isn't too far above them- as if shooting her a look of relief. "Tomorrow." he agrees sternly as his eyes meet Vasquez' again and he steps forward. He forces a small, exasperated, crooked smile as he brings his hands to her sides and looks down at her. He feels no more happy about the situation than she does. But
what can they do about it right now? Yelling at those involved won't undo whatever damage may have been done. "Sure feels good to be home, huh?" he asks in a small attempt at adding some levity to the situation.
Ilyna hits 'send' and shuts her omni-tool off. She walks back to the rec room with careful steps. After entering, Ilyna takes a seat next ot Li with a deep sigh, and a tired whisper of "I'm sorry."
Vasquez lets out an exasperated half-sigh, half-snort, leaning her forehead against Jason's chest as she takes a moment to compose herself. To deal with the insistent pressure in her head.
Jason brings his arms a bit further around Vasquez' waist when she leans into him. He adds his own snicker. The sound of the shuttle starting up causes him to tilt his head slightly and raise his voice. "You can shut her down, Jasper! Disaster averted!" he calls out. He tilts his chin down, bottom half of his face pressing against the top of Vasquez' head. "How about we go get unpacked and dig into this report?" he asks.
Vasquez ' shoulders drop as the tension slowly fades from them, and she nods against Jason's chest, letting out another, longer sigh before lifting her head. "Yeah, I-... yeah..." she agrees, forcing a small smile into place. None of this is Jason's fault. "I'll get some coffee going and let's just... go over it in our room. I'm not touching that office today." she says.
Ilyna puts an arm over her shoulder. "The people that left yesterday," she begins. "Nathan and Leah didn't tell us they were going to save them, and Vasquez is right to be angry at them. Not... this angry, though, and I'm glad Jason convinced her to talk to them tomorrow instead."
Jason gives a few nods of his own. "Sounds like a plan." he says through a tired smile. "I'm just gonna-..." he gestures upwards with a small nod of his head. "Check in with Ilyna first." After a moment's consideration, he adds, "How about I handle the coffee? You just-... go get settled in. I'll catch up to you."
Ilyna looks up at the screen and sighs, letting the topic go. "We should go home," she says. "And now that they are back, I can ask if I can not come to work some days and we can do something together."
Vasquez ' faint smile becomes a bit more genuine at the offer, nodding slightly. She uncrosses her arms, bringing her hands to Jason's arms before leaning in to press a soft kiss against his lips. A quiet sigh slips out as she pulls away, nodding again. She brings a hand up to the side of her face, rubbing her temple in silence for a moment before grimacing. "Sorry. I-..." she trails off and shakes her head slightly. "Make sure
Jason tilts his head down to meet the kiss. He gives a small shake of his head to Vasquez' apology as soon as she begins to trail off. "Don't-... It's fine, Linda. I get it." he assures, seeming exasperated over the whole ordeal already. Her request gets a small nod, a restrained smile returning to his face. "Of course." He studies her in silence for a few moments. There's that familiar stress. Yep, it's official. They're home.
Out of the frying pan and right back into the fire. "Come on." he says with a gesture towards the stairs. Once they reach the rec room, he presses a hand against her lower back before breaking off from her. "I'll be there in a few minutes." he says before stepping through the rec room door.
Vasquez accompanies Jason upstairs, offering a small nod in response to his final words before he breaks off to the rec room and she continues to the bedroom with a heavy sigh. Time to crawl into bed and catch up on just what the hell happened while they were gone.
Jason just waits in the doorway until he hears the sound of the door to their private quarters closing. He sends a glance Ilyna's way, brows rising as he lets out an exaggerated deep breath as if they just avoided a cataclysmic event. "Well, not quite the homecoming I was expecting..." he sighs as he starts across the room. "You-... uhh-... mind giving me a hand with this?" he asks with a nod towards the coffee maker, the briefest
hint of embarassment slipping into his features. "Always ends up tasting like dirt when I try..." he adds, licking at the roof of his mouth in disgust as he thinks about it.