#RedrockAgency – September 5, 2019

Vasquez remained in the gym, talking with Ilyna and Jason until a bored Li joined them and made it clear that it was time to head home. It's obvious that patching things up with Ilyna has taken a weight off her shoulders, and she's remained in a good mood. She's headed over to the rec room kitchenette now, starting to fry up some bacon. Actual bacon, from one of the farms that brought livestock from Earth instead of relying on

more readily available animals like spacecows. A few slices of bread, as well as condiments and vegetables, sit on the counter next to the stove.

Jason seems to be in good spirits as well. The combination of Ilyna and Vasquez working through their issues and just spending some time with two of the most important people in his life has kept a perpetual smile on his face. It's a slightly more drunk smile than the one Vasquez was met with when she first joined them in the gym- owing to empty bottle of expensive wine- but a smile nonetheless. He walked Ilyna and Li down to the

door to say his goodbyes before returning to join Vasquez up in the rec room. The smell of bacon frying on the stove hits him like a ton of bricks the moment he steps through the rec room door. He takes a long whiff as he crosses the room, dumb, lopsided smirk only widening as he levels his gaze on Vasquez, something clearly on his mind.

Vasquez glances over her shoulder as she hears Jason step into the room, a small smile crossing her lips as she meets his gaze for a moment. "Halisi has been on my case about getting enough to eat, so... want a sandwich?" she says with a snicker as she turns back towards the stove, poking the bacon a little with the spatula.

Jason continues towards the stove as he gives a small nod that's mostly lost on Vasquez as she turns her attention back to the stove. "Hell yes I want a sandwich!" he says with a bit more enthusiasm than the situation probably warrants, dumb smirk audible in his voice. When he reaches the island counter behind Vasquez he hops up to take a seat on the edge of it so he can watch, hands placed against the counter as he lazily leans

his weight back.

Vasquez looks a little amused by the excessive enthusiasm, shooting another glance his way as a questioning eyebrow joins her grin. "You alright?" she asks after studying him for a moment, before turning her gaze back to the sizzling pan and poking around in it again.

Jason's smirk widens momentarily as he gives a slightly-drunken little raise of his brow at her question. "You alright?" he turns back around on her, the question loaded with amusement.

Vasquez shakes her head to herself, before furrowing her eyebrows as she genuinely ponders the question for a moment. "...I am." she says with a quiet snort, as if only just now realizing it. She shakes her head again and gives the bacon a few more prods before judging it ready, sliding the pan off the hot plate and shuffling slightly to the side to start constructing some sandwiches.

Jason gives a few shallow nods. "Yeah...?" he asks through his grin. "Because I think you're starting to get soft as you get older..." he asks playfully, shoulders gently raising without lifting his palms from the countertop in a half-assed shrug.

Vasquez shoots Jason an unamused look, although it's half-hearted at best - there's still a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth. It fades into embarrassment as her gaze turns to the food in her hands, and she occupies herself for a moment with continuing the sandwich-making. "I... I was wrong. To treat Ilyna like that. Wasn't fair." she admits with an uncomfortable shrug, avoiding looking Jason's way, choosing to scowl at a

piece of lettuce as she places it on the bread instead.

Jason gives a smug little wink when Vasquez looks his way, but his smirk grows a tad more sincere when she speaks, eyes fixed on her as she works on the sandwiches. He doesn't add on to her words. Doing so would just be dropping more guilt onto her shoulders. Apologizing doesn't come easy for her. No point in punishing her for doing so. Instead, he opts to keep things light. "I'm just wondering what happened to that fiery woman

from Mars I met years ago." he continues to tease instead. "Remember her?" he asks as the call of the bacon becomes more than he can resist, prompting him to hop off the edge of the counter and step up behind Vasquez, watching over her shoulder. "Said all of about three sentences to me before swinging on me?"

Vasquez lets out an exasperated snort, the faint smirk that crosses her lips laced with heavier emotion, gaze remaining a bit distant as she pauses the sandwich preparation to reach back with her left hand, scratching Jason's neck and leaning back a little against him. "Maybe she got tired of being angry at everyone." she says quietly, shrugging slightly against him. It seems she can't quite manage to keep things light like Jason

can. "Maybe she's not too proud of who she was back then..."

Jason leans against Vasquez, arm reaching around her midsection. At least it seems that way until it quickly becomes clear that he's reaching for a slice of bacon. Old habits and a day of drinking results in him tentatively poking the bacon around on the pan a few times as if to make sure it won't burn him before seeming to realize his mistake. Snatching up a strip of bacon, he pops it into his mouth over Vasquez' opposite

shoulder. An evening of good conversation with close friends, booze, and now bacon. Does it get any better? The weight behind Vasquez' words when she speaks causes his smile to grow a bit heavier and he lifts his other arm, but this time the bacon takes a backseat as he wraps it around Vasquez' midsection, giving her a gentle squeeze. For a few moments his only response is the soft crunch of the bacon. "Like I said..." he

eventually offers after wolfing down the food in his mouth, "...I don't think any of us are the same people we were back then..." How could they be? For better or worse, these past few years has changed all of them.

Vasquez lets out a quiet snort as Jason snatches a strip of bacon from the pan. His words cause her to nod, her only response a quiet hum of agreement as she scoops up the rest of the bacon with the spatula and distributes it to the sandwiches before Jason can eat it all. "Halisi really tore into me." she comments after a bit of silence, a little amused by that fact judging by the faint snicker that follows her words.

Jason gives a snort of his own. "Been there! Halisi just-..." he stops himself with a small shake of his head as his bacon-snatching hand joins his other across Vasquez' midsection. He has, indeed, had his own fair share of earfuls from the doctor during his recovery. It was well-meaning of course, but that didn't make him feel any less like a child being scolded by their parent. In his slightly inebriated state more than a couple

of unflattering ways to end that sentence come to him. But even in his current state he knows that's not fair. "...She just cares." he settles on before adding, "Maybe a little too much sometimes..." Tilting his head he presses a lazy kiss against the side of Vasquez' head. "But-..." he gives a deep sigh as if it pains him to admit, "...she's usually right."

Vasquez finishes up the sandwiches, letting out a breath and gaining a faint smirk as she nods. "Yeah..." she agrees in a quiet sigh, grabbing both sandwiches and handing one to Jason as she turns around. She leans in for a quick kiss before slipping from his grasp, putting the condiments away, grabbing a soda from the fridge and then heading for the door. She's more comfortable in the privacy of their room. The rec room feels too

much like a public space even when they're alone in the base, and for a moment she can't help but think how nice it would be to have their own place, separate from all this. "Still a lot of stuff to figure out for Christmas." she says as she walks, glancing back towards Jason. "With Ilyna and Li joining us, we have to do it right, yeah?"

Jason props his smirk back up when Vasquez plants a quick kiss. He grabs a beer from the fridge before following behind Vasquez. "I mean, it's gonna be Li's first Christmas." he says, as if that should be answer enough. "You only get a first Christmas once, right? We gotta make sure it's a good one."

Vasquez nods a couple of times, already munching on her sandwich as they head for their room. "I, uh... I still need to talk with her, but... Cyn hasn't said anything about going home yet, so... I figure I'll ask her to join us...?" she says, the fact that she's surprised Cynthia doesn't seem to be heading home in time for Christmas coloring her voice. She opens the door to their room, taking another bite as she heads inside and

then dropping into the couch.

Jason likewise, has already begun to work on his sandwich as he follows Vasquez down the hall. Her suggestion garners a furrow of his brow. "Uhh-... yeah." he says, curiosity coloring his tone. He gives a shake of his head as he follows Vasquez inside, realizing his response may have come off as insincere amidst his surprise. "No, yeah, of course! I just-... I guess I figured she'd be spending the holidays with family, you know?

But-..." he says with a shrug to clarify that he has no issue with her joining them, "...hell, you know I like Cyn. We're not about to let her spend Christmas alone. The more the merrier, right?" he concludes, smirk resurfacing momentarily as he settles into the couch beside Vasquez.

Vasquez nods in response to his approval, but there's an obvious bit of confusion, or maybe concern, on her end too. She doesn't have an answer. Fact is Cynthia has been around for quite a while now. Something she's grateful for, but it'd be a lie to say she hadn't started wondering if something was wrong. She shakes the thought from her mind with a sip from her soda - she should talk to her friend instead of speculating blindly.

"More the merrier." she agrees with a brief flash of a smirk and a glance Jason's way before taking another bite of her sandwich.

Jason gives a few small nods. He doesn't know Cynthia all that well, so whether or not this is cause for concern is lost on him and, soon enough, his curiosity is easily set aside in the face of a delicious sandwich. Something to sop up the expensive wine swirling around in his stomach. He takes a quick sip of his beer and sets it on the table as he turns on the TV just to have some background sound. The news channel it defaulted

to is going on about the same shit its been covering all week. Collectors defeat. Details about Cerberus. Alliance incompetence. Analysts. Experts. People with reputations that are supposed to make them important. Nobodies. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone wants to say their piece. But Jason was on that ship. He saw first-hand what they're capable of. He's lived with the nightmare of the Evening Star for years. He's watched

the footage. The interviews. Listened to the experts. To the hearsay. To the rumors. But- when it boils right down to it- the how, the why, and the who just don't matter that much. Not in the grand scheme of things. Because the galaxy is a better place than it was a week ago. And right now he just wants to bask in that fact for a little longer. So with a tap of the remote, a man with an expensive haircut that's defending the

Alliance to an asari news anchor is replaced by Asajura highlights. Jason settles back in his seat with a pleased sigh and takes another bite from his sandwich. "You good with-...?" he seems to consider as an afterthought, turning his gaze Vasquez' way and gesturing towards the TV as if to see if she has a better suggestion.

Vasquez ' gaze lingers on the TV, her expression turning thoughtful, mind quickly drifting. It doesn't go to the horrors they've faced, or the pain they've suffered for once, at least not for long. Instead it goes to all the unanswered questions that linger in her head. The babbling is little more than background noise to her, and as Jason switches to Asajura she glances his way, nodding to the question and scooting closer. She

sets her food down before reaching down to undo her boots, tugging them off and pulling her feet up into the couch. She grabs her sandwich again, leaning a little against Jason as she watches the highlights idly. She doesn't particularly give a damn about Asajura, but she doesn't mind, it's a pleasant enough distraction. Soon enough her left hand comes to rest on his neck, thumb stroking gently back and forth. "Do you know

what's going on with them?" she asks out of the blue after finishing a bite from her sandwich. "Ilyna and Halisi." she clarifies after realizing that might be needed.

Jason shifts in place to accomidate Vasquez changing positions. As if her actions reminding him, he leans down to quickly tug at the laces on his boots in a haphazard manner to undo them before huddling closer to Vasquez and wrapping his free arm around her. Her question catches him mid-sandwich-bite, the confused look on his face is quickly wiped away when she clarifies. There's a slight hesitation as he finishes off his bite of

food, smirk re-emerging as a snicker escapes him. "I don't know." he says, his tone making it clear that he has a few ideas as he begins to lazily kick his own boots off. "I think there might be a bit of-... bow-chicka-bow-wow going on." he suggests, humming out a cliche porn bassline and tilting his gaze Vasquez' way with a small raise of his brow as in a silent, 'Eh?! Eh?!'. In his current state, subtlety isn't a strong

suit, though, and he quickly verbalizes it. "If you know what I'm saying." Something occurs to him, however, and he gains a crease in his brow. "Uhh-... I guess without much of the-... the-... uhh-... bow-wow part...?" The look that crosses his face seems to imply he may have confused himself. "Is the bow-wow part sex...? Or...? Or maybe the-... bow-chicka-...?" he trails off in a mutter. His confusion only seems to grow

as he finds himself suddenly under siege by a number of questions he hadn't considered, but he quickly gives up with an exasperated shake of his head, "...I don't fucking know."

Vasquez glances Jason's way with a tired look, face contorting as if wondering if maybe, just maybe he's having a seizure. She brings a hand up to rub her temples as she lets out an exasperated sigh, but the final comment elicits an amused snort and a shake of her head. "Seemed like there might be... something." she says with a grunt and a faint shrug, glancing off towards the TV as her hand reaches for her sandwich again. "Didn't

really wanna ask, not with-... I-... I'm not-... I'm not trying to-..." she sighs uncomfortably, going silent for a moment as she watches the TV. "They're both smart people, I just... hope they're careful." she says, struggling to express her worry without coming off like she's distrusting Ilyna. It's hard not to worry when she knows just how dangerous a single slip-up, a single moment of weakness could be. Of course, she

also knows that that's no doubt on Ilyna's mind every single day.

Jason's gaze lingers on Vasquez as she works through her thoughts in a transparent attempt at not coming across as suspicious of Ilyna, dumb grin widening momentarily before growing into a more genuine smile, leaving him merely studying her in silence for a few moments. Sensitivity isn't exactly her strong suit. Truthfully, talking about their feelings isn't exactly either of their strongsuits. She avoids, he deflects with humor.

But tonight? With Ilyna? She's did her damndest to make things right. And that counts for something. Of course she'd probably prefer that it went unmentioned. "...Thank you, by the way." he offers, doing his best not to make a big deal of it for both of their sakes. "Uhh-... with Ilyna, I mean." he clarifies in a stammer, "...I know that wasn't easy for you but-..." he nods, giving her a slight squeeze, "...it-... it meant

a lot to me so-... so thanks."

Vasquez ' gaze remains on the TV, looking a little uncomfortable under Jason's scrutiny. At first wondering if she's being judged for worrying, and then growing embarrassed when she realizes what it's actually about. She lets out a quiet grunt, shoving the remainder of the sandwich into her mouth to avoid answering right away. As her chewing starts to come to a stop she nods a couple of times, still looking at the TV. "I-...

yeah..." she mumbles, gaze falling down to their knees. "You... you were right. She doesn't deserve to be judged for-... for her condition. It doesn't... define her." she says, her voice turning distant as she gets closer than she intended to letting slip just what Halisi said to her.

Jason gives a few small nods as Vasquez speaks, turning his gaze back to the television as he listens, taking his turn to inhale his sandwich. He watches but pays little mind to what must be an incredible play during a game earlier in the week that is slowed down and shown from many different angles. "Yeah..." he agrees softly. He certainly doesn't need any convincing. Obviously. There's few people more dependable than Ilyna.

She's been there when they've needed her on more occasions than he can count. Hell, Vasuqez might not be here right now if she hadn't been there with him in the Barn. A thought that he doesn't even want to consider. But it's still nice to hear her say it. Leaning over, he presses a brief kiss against Vasquez' head. He lingers for a moment, letting out a deep sigh. "See?" he asks, a restrained smirk returning to his face,

"You are getting soft."

Vasquez lets out a snort, somewhere halfway between annoyed and a little flustered. "Not too soft to kick your ass if you keep that up..." she mutters, her words a little undercut by the fact that she proceeds to shift her position and lean her head against Jason's shoulder.

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Linda Vasquez
Jason Wolfe

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