December 19th. It's early afternoon when Nathan recieves a message telling him to meet Jason at the Respite. It's a relatively tame winter day. A little windy, but not all that cold. Jason is stood beside his and Vasquez' car that's parked outside of the Respite. A six pack of beer is sat atop it less the one in his hand. In an attempt at killing two birds with one stone, he was hoping to catch Va'ynna at the Respite. But, in what must be
#Miner'sRespite – August 1, 2019
a one-in-a-hundred shot, it seems he chose the one time when she wasn't around and the turian just doesn't prepare his drinks the same way. Without the asari to pester and undecided as to whether or not he was going to brain Nathan upside the head with a bottle the moment he saw him, he decided it might be in the best interest of the other Respite patrons if he waited outside.
Nathan had a plan. See, when he was going to inevitably receive a message from Jason or, god forbid, Vasquez... he was going to run. Stow Sofia into the nearest suitcase, launch her into a shuttle, hop in and travel back to Earth where he would become a sanitation worker deep in the urban heart of one of the many cities of Earth. Hidden, forgotten, completely off the grid. But, within about ten seconds of concocting
this plan, he realised just how terrible it really was. His next plan was a little more realistic. He'd answer the message, go to wherever they needed him to go with his head held high, receive whatever punishment was deemed fit... then likely be beaten half to death either by his incredibly terrifying boss or Jason. Luckily for him, it was Jason who sent the message. So, after about ten minutes of psyching
himself up, he made his way to the Respite. Dressed in his jacket, shirt, jeans and boots, he trudged his way towards the car parked outside of the Respite. He spared a quick glance to the six pack of beer besides Jason and briefly toyed with the idea of asking if he could down them before Jason begun his talk, as a way of numbing the oncoming pain. But, instead, he merely pulled to a halt a few steps away and
offered a small smile and nod in greeting. "Jason," he said, before falling to a brief moment of awkward silence. He wasn't sure whether he should ask about the trip or not as a way to perhaps soften his mood up a little or if he should just shut up and let the talk commence. He decided on the former. "Uh... how was your week off?"
Jason shoots a glance Nathan's way as he begins to approach, looking none too amused. Nathan's question doesn't seem to land well considering the deadpan look he gets in response and a plethora of snarky responses enter his mind, but he instead settles on silence. He shifts in place against the car, turning his attention away from Nathan and taking a long pull from his drink to finish it off. He sets the bottle atop the car and
reaches for another with a deep sigh. He gives a slow wind-up so Nathan can prepare before underhanding the bottle to him.
Nathan internally grimaces. Shit, wrong decision to ask. He catches the bottle and eyes it for a moment. He chews on his cheek as he pops the top off and takes a hearty swig. Might as well get started early, right? He lowers the bottle and lets it dangle loosely in his hand by his side, the other hand shooting into his pocket. "Alright... suppose you want some explanations, right?"
Jason busies himself by reaching for a fresh beer for himself and wiping the cap off against the bottom of his winter jacket, giving no immediate response to Nathan's question. He holds the beer low and pops the cap off, holding it between his fingers and studying it for a few moments before crushing the thin metal cap in the palm of his hand and tossing it into the road where it plops in some wet, slushy snow. "Did you do it
because you thought it was the right thing to do or did you do it for her?" he asks flatly, brow furrowed as he watches the folded over bottlecap sink into the snow.
Nathan furrows his brow faintly at the question, following the arc of the bottlecap before it sinks beneath the snow. He stares at the spot where it landed, the fog from his breathing being caught in the light wind that blows through Freedom Falls. He wasn't sure how to answer the question really. He knew that he did it because it was the right thing to do. Hell, he's done somewhat similar things in the past, albeit
not to as grand a scale as what Leah and he just did. Would he have done it still even if Leah and him didn't have the... relationship that they have? Still yes. But the bit that makes him hesitate is the fact that, in a way, he did it for himself. As some backwards way of trying to erase the guilt of not being able to save Jasmine, her family or his squad. As some way of trying to fix that. Now the question
is does he tell Jason that? "...I did it... because a young woman was being hunted down like she was some... fucking animal. To be treated like some prized possession, to be displayed as a trophy." He takes a swig of the beer, letting it dangle by his side once more. "...I did it because it offered her a chance at something better. A chance at a normal life, a chance that has been lost for others." He now
Jason continues to study the bottle cap as Nathan speaks. When the man finishes, he draws a long, deep breath of cold air into his lungs and lets it out slowly through his nose. His shoulders seem to slacken, if only slightly, and he casts a glance Nathan's way. He's no stranger to the cruelty of slavers. Whether or not what they did was right isn't in question. As far as he's concerned, one less scumbag in the galaxy. It's the
how and why that muddies it all up. "What happened to our talk, Ten?" he asks, a bit of exasperation slipping into his tone. "Rakhana?" he clarifies with a small shake of his head, as if confused by the prospect that Nathan may have forgotten. "What happened to you not running off on your own?" he asks, gesturing idly to the side with his beer bottle, unable to shake the similarities between both situations.
Nathan pulls his hand from his pocket to rub the back of his neck. Rakhana. Now that was a shit show he really didn't want to relive. He's pretty damn sure the whole encounter gave him Ophidiophobia, for crying out loud. But, he can see why Jason bought it up. "I know, I know. But... this was a little more complicated. That shit on Rakhana was some game of survival that the galaxy just dumped on us and a deluded
sense of thinking that talking with a maniac was the right thing to do, our best chance of survival. This was... was...". He falls silent for a moment before muttering under his breath, "This was something personal. For every single one of us who went on that mission, it was because we had a stake in it. For Tara. For friends. For... for those we couldn't save before." He looks straight at Jason, the bags
beneath his eyes and the tiredness in his eyes adding years to his age. "I know you would've helped. All of you. Leah knows that too. Fuck, you probably would've picked up your gun and been straight onto that shuttle before I had a chance to finish. And that's why we didn't come to you. You've just gotten married. You're going to be a dad. You don't have the goddamn luxury of dying out there." He didn't
realise he had raised his hand to point at Jason's chest and he finds himself quickly snapping it back to his side.
Jason opens his mouth to interject, fire in his eyes, when Nathan finishes talking about it having been personal for them, his entire body shifting towards him. As if it wouldn't have been for him. As if ensuring that they all get home safely wouldn't have been 'personal'. As if Tara's safety and freedom wouldn't have been 'personal'. He spent some of the best years of his life floating through space on a ship full of marines
making sure that people like Tara had a future and that people like Fasha, well, didn't. But when Nathan continues, some of that fire drains before he has the chance to speak up, leaving behind only frustration. He leans back into his previous position, back against the car and turns his gaze out towards the road once more. He takes a long, aggressive swig from his beer, tilting the bottom of the bottle skyward. A few
moments of silence pass once Nathan finishes, jaw clenched as he sifts through his thoughts. But nothing immediately comes. He came out here to yell at Nathan. To do Linda proud. But what do you say to that? "You can bet your fucking ass I would've been on that shuttle." he confirms quietly as if to dispel any lingering doubt there may have been with a brief glance Nathan's way, a single finger outstretched towards him on
Nathan braces himself for the blow that never came. But instead, it's merely a finger jabbed towards him. He relaxes, just a smidgen, before he nods. "I know." It's his turn now to take a hefty swig, downing a large portion of the beer in one swoop. "...I am sorry. That we went behind your backs, that we created that shit-storm for everyone else." He takes a few steps back to lean against the nearby wall, snow
crunching beneath his feet as he finishes off the last of the bottle. "I'll take whatever punishment you deem fit. Fuck, fire me if you have to. I wouldn't blame you. But make sure it's just me, alright? Leah's been through the grinder enough, she can't keep getting knocked down."
Jason draws in another deep breath, allowing the cold air to fill his lungs. Is this how Vasquez feels? Having to constantly put up with all of the stupid, reckless shit he's done? Nathan's request causes him to scoff and snap off a sharp, "I don't want to fire you!" and throws his arms out to his sides. It's laced moreso with frustration more than anger. "I don't want to fire anyone." he adds a bit quieter, feeling woefully out
of his element here. This isn't exactly in his wheelhouse. Vasquez is the one who does the shouting. Not him. Hell, it's usually him she's shouting at. He tilts his head back, letting a breath out that turns to steam in the air above him. "But-... fuck, you gotta stop this shit." he continues with a small shake of his head as he looks back to Nathan. "Because if you pull another stunt like this and I don't fire you? I'm
pretty damn sure Linda is gonna kill me. And I'm not planning on being choked to death by a pissed off, pregnant marine because you can't seem to stop digging that hole you're in!"
Nathan perks an eyebrow up at the mental image of that. Yeah that's... that's quite fucking scary to be fair. He lets the bottle clank against the wall a few times before nodding to Jason, unable to really present anything more in his defence. Hell, he doesn't need to. He isn't getting fired again, this is more than enough of a second chance. Or... third in this case. Fourth? "Yeah, alright. Message received, Jase."
Jason lets his head hang for a moment and just stands against the car, holding his half empty bottle by the neck. He lifts it to his lips, taking another heavy pull from it. "We can't keep doing this, Ten..." he says softly, and there's a distinct impression that he's talking about more than Nathan's insubordination.
Nathan takes the bottle and walks over to Jason's car, setting it on the roof of the vehicle. He draws another one from the pack, pops the top and starts swigging at it with a hearty gusto. "You're telling me...". He pivots and leans against the car, holding the drink in both hands. "Feel like I've aged thirty years." He gives a side eyed look at Jason and, with a little bit of injected mirth, says, "You look like
Jason shifts over a step to give Nathan room to grab a fresh beer. The comment gets a humorless snort from Jason and a shake of his head. "You're telling me..." he mutters, "Fuck." He lifts his bottle up, examining the bit that remains at the bottom and gives it a little swirl before finishing it off. For a while he just watches the road until the rare vehicle comes lurching by, snow sputtering from beneath its tires as it does.
"Collectors are gone." he says matter-of-factly, assuming the news has reached Nathan's ears by now. Hell, it would be hard for anyone with an omni-tool or access to a working television to miss it. "This is our chance to-..." he shakes his head with a sigh, giving a small shrug of his shoulders, "...to be smart and get out."
Nathan watches the odd car shoot by, idly playing with the bottle between his hands. He nods, fully aware of the Collector's defeat. The moment Leah read the news out, the pain and fear on her face when she saw Cerberus' name plastered across the headline. "Yup. Go low, go quiet. Raise your family, run Redrock from behind a desk or just pass it off to Ilyna." Another swig, another bitter swallow. "No one would blame
Jason gives a sniff at the air, small smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth as he examines the empty bottle in his hands. He fights at the guilt in his chest that somehow that scares him more. That somehow spending the rest of his days sounds more terrifying than continuing to throw himself in the fire. "We keep doing this and it only ends one way for us." he explains, shooting a glance Nathan's way. "You do know that,
right...? It's only a matter of time before-... what's her name?" he asks with a furrow of his brow, "...Sofia? Only a matter of time before Sofia is putting you in the ground. Only a matter of time before Linda is putting me in the ground or me, her." He swallows as he turns his attention back to his beer, turning it over in his synthetic hands, a symbol of things already lost. He gives a low sigh as he turns to face the
car and set his beer atop it. "Might not be tomorrow. Hell, we might even be the lucky sons of bitches who live long enough to see a whole bunch of other good people go before us. But one day it will catch up to us, Ten... I don't want that for you. I don't want it for any of us." he muses aloud, almost sounding as if he's talking to himself just as much as to Nathan as he pulls another beer free from the holder.
Nathan hums, a grim chuckle rumbling from his throat. Jason had a point. With the rate that they keep marching into hell and back, it's only a matter of time before they don't return. "You and me both. Which, ironically, is why I keep doing this. Shit, probably why you keep doing it too. Because if we don't, no one else will. And a whole lotta good people will suffer because of it. Damned if you do, damned if you
don't, right?" Another sip. "But you're going to be a dad, Jase, and Linda a mum. You gotta be there for that kid. You have to make yourself that lucky son of a bitch who makes it to the end. And that means, at some point, you have to make that decision on whether you keep going on out there... or settle down."
Jason rests the bottle at the edge of the car's roof as he listens to Nathan, giving little more than a soft nod as he speaks. When Nathan has finished, Jason pops the top off and drops the cap into one of the empty spots on the holder. A few moments pass as he seems to consider whether or not to talk to Nathan about what he and Vasquez discussed. A sort of fear rises in his chest, as if sharing the plans with someone else makes
it official and there'll be no turning back. His thumb makes a small, rhythmic clanking as he taps it against the neck of the bottle. "That's why we're gonna be making some changes." he says, doing his best to maintain his composure as he glances Nathan's way. To hide just how much the thought terrifies him. He swings back around to lean against the side of the car once more, resting his fresh beer in the crook of his arm.
Nathan peers at Jason, a small perk of his brow arching up in silent question to his statement. For once, it seems he hasn't got anything to say, not barbs or quips. Just silence. He sets the bottle on the hood of the car and twists to face Jason fully.
Jason gives a small shrug of his shoulders at the silence that takes over when he finishes speaking. "Me and Linda were talking and-... Like I said, the Collectors are gone." he repeats with another glance Nathan's way, allowing that a moment to sink in. "And I'd say we sure as shit did our part." He doesn't give any more context but, while Nathan may not have been around long enough to have experienced the full berth of what
that entails first hand, he's confident that Nathan has heard enough- both from himself and from the others- to get the jist of it. Nevermind the small slice of horror Nathan experienced alongside them. "So..." his gaze turns back out to the road ahead of him, "...it's time for us to take a step back. We're gonna take the next year to build up a nice nest egg in case Redrock hits shaky ground and then-..." he draws in a
sharp breath, shoulders rising as he pulls it in and lowering as he exhales, "...that's it. No more freelance work. No more putting our necks on the line for some other asshole's fight." He shoots a glance Nathan's way as if to gauge his reaction. "Contract work only. Security. Local gigs. Just-... protecting people, you know? Making sure they're safe. No more of this-... this-..." he merely trails off with a shake of his
head. "Hell. We've already got the Siren out there-..." he peers skyward through his brow, gesturing about the stars with an extended index finger, "...doing cargo runs. Figure we can lean into that a bit more, too. Diversify or-... or whatever it is people say..." he ends in a mutter.