#Traveler'sGorge – October 6, 2021

Paige and Rafe's escapades ended just as one might expect. With Paige eventually giving up on catching Rafe and attempting to go over the chair at him, resulting in the whole chair flipping over and nearly spitting her out on the floor in the process. Thankfully, Rafe is far less drunk than Paige and managed to scoop her up before she flopped to the ground, albeit perhaps less-than-gracefully. To show her appreciation, another drunken

giggle-fit spilling out of her, Paige gave Rafe a solid slap across the face for his transgressions now that he was in striking distance. He takes it in stride. He did spend the past year secretly tormenting her, after all. Fair is fair.

The group continues to whittle away at the beer stockpile as stories are passed around and laughter surrounds the small campfire. Wood is added to the fire to help it keep the cold at bay for a little longer, a task that's assisted by the healthy amount of alcohol coursing through the veins, and the night continues. At some point, as more drinks are being handed out, Paige's beer turns to soda, an executive decision made silently by Kirill when

it was his turn to collect the next round of drinks.

For a while, the conversation teeters back towards talk of Earth, the inquisitive group having plenty of questions for Yan Sun. Gaz, especially. Once she tore herself away from the table, she became much more involved in the conversation. Curious and with what seems to be a laundry list of- what might seem to Yan Sun, someone from a large, densely populated city- ridiculous questions for their guest, she's far more talkative than she seemed

when she was tucked away, elbow deep in her project. Jessica remains tucked up against Yan Sun, growing far more cuddly and touchy-feely the drunker she gets.

The conversation eventually turns to the Collectors. None of that really touched the people at the Gorge. While colonies were disappearing across the galaxy, they had their own issues, far more pressing and closer to home to worry about. Keeping food on the table. Water pumping through the pipes. Vehicles running. But as disconnected from that as they were they're, none the less, relieved to see the threat that was posed by the Collectors put

in the rearview mirror. Jessica is noticeably quiet. There's no bragging of her heroics on the Collector ship. No talk of the horror's she faced. She doesn't even bring it up. Nobody would believe her anyway, but that's never stopped her before. The truth is, it's still far too fresh in her mind. Something that keeps her up just a little longer each night and haunts the edges of her vision first thing every morning. The smells. The taste of

blood and bile in the back of her throat as they fought for every inch to get off of that floating nightmare. And that viscous, yellow fluid that filled her lungs as she drifted off into a slumber that she wasn't sure she'd ever wake from. No, this is a conversation she'd rather stay out of. So she does, silently emptying another beer as the others discuss things they know nothing about. Things she'll never forget. But, thankfully, the topic

doesn't linger and, amongst friends, laughter, and booze, quickly fades from Jessica's troubles.

Unfortunately, the night can't last forever and Kirill has dropped plenty less-than-subtle hints that they should start to pack things up. Like reminders of the long ride ahead of them in the morning. Jessica whittled him down into agreeing to let them sleep in and wait until mid-day to hit the road but, eventually, she gives in and calls it a night. Goodbyes are short and friendly, including an unprovoked hug thrust upon Yan Sun by Gaz, with

promises that everyone will see them again before they leave tomorrow.

Jessica sniffs at the cold air as she stands beside the bench, passing a hazy, drunken glance across the others around the fire with a small dip of her head. One hand is wrapped around the neck of a fresh beer- unwilling to leave empty handed- and the other tucked lazily into the back pocket of her pants. She seems a bit reluctant to leave. Probably obvious given how much she's fought off Kirill's attempts to kill the party for the last

hour or so. "Goodnight." she offers quietly as she slips her hand from her pocket, extending it in a low effort at a wave in Paige's direction. The others return the sentiment, a few snickers slipping out as Jessica swats Yan Sun on the ass with an uttering of, "Come on, slut." as she playfully bumps past her and starts on her way.

Yan Sun seems happy to answer more questions about Earth, Amy once again joining Gaz in leading the charge there. A couple more beers are downed as they talk, and one arm remains ever wrapped around Jessica. She too goes a little quiet when the subject changes to the Collectors, the footage Jessica brought back fresh in her mind. As is the way she acted when she came back. The arm around the woman next to her tightens a bit, pulling her

closer. She doesn't mention any of it when she realizes that Jessica isn't going to, joining the others in speculating a little instead, particularly about their abrupt demise, and what it might mean. Cerberus. One of those boogeymen that you hear all sorts of rumors about in certain parts of the extranet. She's reluctant to get up when the time comes to leave, cozily cuddled up to Jessica, but once she's left alone on the bench she

has little choice. There's a brief, surprised noise at Gaz' hug, but she's quick to return it, all smiles as she pulls back and nods in response to the groups promises. "See you then guys. Goodniiight!" A wave accompanies the words, and she seems like she might add something else, but Jessica's interruption cuts that short as she jumps a little in place, casting a flustered look around the fire before turning and giving Jessica a

shove as she starts to follow her. "Jerk."

Jessica stutter steps sluggishly when she's shoved before rubberbanding right back into Yan Sun lightly with her shoulder. A soft snicker accompanies the playful gesture, but there's a heaviness behind it that a night of heavy booze can't quite hide. Gaze on the ground in front of her, she slips her free arm around Yan Sun's, hand quietly seeking hers out. The drunken smile on her face tempers back into something softer as she meanders

forward without any real agency, leaving little more than a slight tug at the corner of her mouth.

Yan Sun gives Jessica's hand a squeeze, a smile on her lips as she looks her way. As they leave the warmth of the fire behind she shifts closer with an alcohol-fueled hum of laughter, arm wrapping around Jessica and her head coming to rest on her shoulder. Not the fastest way of walking, but they're in no rush.

Jessica doesn't seem to mind the closeness as they slowly make their way away from the firepit. But they don't even manage to get outside of the reach of the fire's light before a heavy sigh slips out of Jessica. There's a slight moment of apprehension, signalled by the tensing of her hand, before she pivots on one heel. The chatter around the fire is already starting back up when Jessica turns back to them, the gesture going unnoticed

until she speaks. "I-..." she starts, then stops, a frustrated sound escaping her as she shifts her weight from one foot to the other. It's enough to draw the attention of the others back onto the departing pair. "I am a-... a fuck, okay? Is-... I should not have-... of-... leaved." she nearly spits out, a night of drinking doing little for her English. The admission sounds as if someone had to pry it out of her with a crowbar

and leaves something of a sour look on her face as her gaze scans across the others from the edge of the fire's reach. "Is-... I-..." she tries, but trails off, culminating in a soft shrug of her shoulders.

There's a short period of silence. A few looks are passed around the fire as the mood shifts, the laughter that had picked back up quieting out just as quickly. It looks like everyone has thoughts. Things they'd like to say. But nobody wants to be the first to speak up. It's no surprise when Kirill takes it upon himself to break the silence.

Kirill has to crane his neck a little to meet the younger woman's gaze from his seat. Despite the harsh features of his face- wild bushy beard, unkempt hair, leathery weather beaten skin- there's a certain softness with which he studies Jessica. Sure, it might not be a perfect apology. It might not be an apology at all, if one were to get technical about it. But that doesn't make it any less meaningful. He knows better than to make a big

deal out of it, so he merely returns her shrug with one of his own. "You came home, Jessie. That's all that matters." It's a simple response, but there's a weight behind it. A reminder that she does have a home here, and it's unconditional.

Paige hasn't been all that animated the past hour, merely huddled up in her chair, heels of her boots perched at the edge of it and a big blanket from the supply tent strewn overtop her. But, even in her incredibly drunken state, Jessica's words cause her to suck in her lips, gaze turning to Kirill as he speaks. She doesn't speak up despite having plenty on her mind. But none of that really matters right now. Instead, she lifts her hands,

making a small heart with her fingers that causes a goofy smile to cross her face. At least it's probably supposed to be a heart. Given her current state, it ends up pretty lopsided. But it's the thought that counts, right?

Yan Sun is surprised as Jessica turns around before they've gotten anywhere, a confused "Hm...?" slipping out as she lifts her head and pulls back a little. She goes silent as she joins her in looking back at the fire, unsure if this is a 'good stop' or a 'bad stop'. When Jessica starts to speak, an odd, soft, almost proud smile spreads across her lips as she watches the side of her face while listening to the uncomfortable confession. Her

hand rests on Jessica's back, a reassuring gesture. As silence falls her attention shifts to the others, a little tense on Jessica's behalf. Kirill's words and, even more so Paige's drunken gesture, brings out a smile, and she shifts closer to Jessica, standing partway behind her as her arm slips around her midsection and gives her an encouraging jostle. She plants a quick kiss against her cheek before looking over Jessica's shoulder

at the others.

Jessica chews on the inside of her cheek, an odd look of discomfort on her face as Kirill speaks. The sentiment offered brings with it a wealth of complicated emotions. Guilt leads the charge. These are people that gave her a chance. A place to lay her head when she had nowhere to go. Food. They trusted her. And what did she give them in return? She turned her back on them without a second thought... No, that's not true. Whether she can

admit it or not, she thought about them plenty. The breath she draws in is a bit ragged, hitching up in her chest a little as she sniffs at the winter air, hoping it flies under the radar as little more than a reaction to the cold. But she doesn't protest. She doesn't deflect the sentiment with some smart ass remark. She just nods, offering a soft, whispered, "...Okay..." in response to his words that hangs in the silence for a

moment. Paige's gesture brings a small, heavy smile back to her face, helping to mask the emotions behind it as she gives a roll of her glassy eye. Without another word and ever eager to make sure this doesn't turn into a 'thing', she turns around in Yan Sun's arms, her free hand coming to Yan Sun's side as she begins urging her backwards.

Yan Sun gives the others a little wave behind Jessica's back, taking a couple of steps backwards before turning around to make another attempt at leaving with Jessica.

Kirill's gaze remains fixed to the pair, even as Jessica turns away, soft smile buried beneath his bushy beard. Yan Sun's wave is met in kind by the others, and Kirill gives a small lift of his beer as he watches them disappear into the darkness.

Jessica wraps her arms around Yan Sun's midsection once she turns back around, nuzzling her chin atop Yan Sun's shoulder. It makes the walk back quite slow and sluggish. More of a 'waddle back', really, Jessica having to adopt a wide stance to keep from stepping on the back of her partner's boots. The cold is quick to make its presence felt as they escape the warm reach of the fire. Jessica falls quiet as they move between the beacons

of light cast by the lanterns that line the dirt road at regular intervals.

Yan Sun seems in no more of a rush now than before, eyes wandering the dark settlement, and the canyon walls rising around them. One of her hands rests on Jessica's arms, while the other is hooked over her shoulder as they slowly make their way from lantern to lantern down the simple road. She considers saying something about what just transpired, but she ends up giving Jessica the respite of silence, at least for a while.

Jessica continues to steer Yan Sun down the road, arms tightly wound around her midsection, beer bouncing a bit against her partner's leg with each step. She tilts her head just enough to press a lazy kiss against the side of Yan Sun's head. The chatter by the fire fades into the distance, eventually drifting from the pair's ears entirely. Replaced by a peaceful silence that's only occasionally broken when the wind jostles a distant

chime or carries an inaudible murmur from the tent town in the distance. Thoughts presently occupied, it's a silence that Jessica doesn't seem to be in any hurry to break. It's not until their awkward waddle takes them through the door of the guest house that Jessica finally speaks up. Using the leverage afforded to her by the arm around Yan Sun's midsection, she urges her right back against the length of wall that the door is

set into as soon as they step inside. Despite being quite drunk, it's a fluid and effortless motion and she quickly steps right up against the smaller woman, her hand rising to loosely clasp over Yan Sun's mouth. "We are-... needing to talk." she says, her words colored by plenty of alcohol. It's a bit aggressive for just wanting to talk. But, then again, Jessica is a bit aggressive. She positions one leg between Yan Sun's, as

if to help keep her pinned against the wall with her knee. "I am-..." she corrects, "...needing to talk. You... are going to shut the fuck up and listen, mmm?" she hums, seemingly looking for a response despite her hand being over the woman's mouth.

Yan Sun lets out a surprised noise as she's pressed up against the wall, caught entirely off-guard in her relaxed, drunkish state. She's about say something when the hand goes over her mouth, the gesture making her eyebrows rise instead, half questioning and half amused. She doesn't seem quite sure what to make of the situation, but Jessica's words bring a bit of concern to her face, mismatched eyes flitting from point to point as she

searches her expression for clues. That same concern colors the muffled chuckle and "Omkhay..." that she offers in response.

Jessica frowns as Yan Sun chuckles. The dim room makes it hard to read her expression, the only source of light a small lamp across the room that they left on when they left the tent earlier. "I know what are you thinking." she says. She doesn't have much respect for personal space in the most sober of times, so right now she's practically pressed against Yan Sun, her warm breath felt as she speaks. "I am remembering the way that you

look for-... at me. In Freedom Falls? When we are in the club? You think-... you think that maybe I do not give a fuck about you, kitty cat." she continues, a slight slur to her words that grow quieter as she reaches the end of her sentence.

Yan Sun 's eyebrows furrow, still just watching Jessica silently. She could probably make herself understood through the hand, but she doesn't try. Her breaths are short and fast against Jessica's palm, tension an inevitable result of being pinned against a wall.

Jessica's frown lingers as she studies Yan Sun through an unfocused eye. "I-..." she starts but cuts herself off. The hand clasped over Yan Sun's mouth- her right hand- loosens, slipping to Yan Sun's cheek instead. The rough, scarred flesh can be felt as her thumb gently traces the edge of her lower lip. Her gaze lowers from Yan Sun's face for a moment as she sorts through the thoughts clouding her mind, jumbled and drunken as they may

be, all clashing against once another. "I want you to-... to understand..." she mutters. There's a short pause before she urges: "Close your eyes."

Yan Sun 's own frown is a soft, sympathetic thing as Jessica struggles. She leans a little against the hand, her skin soft against coarse scars. She almost offers a gently teasing quip in response to Jessica's muttering, but the final instruction makes her reconsider. "O-... okay...?" There's a bit of confusion on her face, but she does as asked none the less, the light of her left eye disappearing as she closes them both. She's not sure

what's going on, but she'll play along if it makes things easier for Jessica. "Eyes closed." she confirms with a brief tug at the corner of her mouth, trying to add a bit of lightness.

Jessica can be felt shuffling as she crouches down and a hollow thump follows as she sets her fresh, unopened beer on the floor. When she stands back up, she brings her right hand to Yan Sun's waist and her left arm up, forearm resting on the wall above Yan Sun's head so she can better support herself as she leans against the smaller woman. It would certainly be more comfortable to just sit on one of the beds as they talk, but the

thought doesn't seem to cross her drunken mind. She nuzzles up close, lips against Yan Sun's right ear. "You are-... in the middle of fucking nowhere." she begins in a whisper, breath once again felt against Yan Sun's skin, a sharp contrast to the chill that has penetrated the makeshift shelter in the absence of the heater. "All by yourself. But-... but back at your home? Is your fuckface father. And your asshole mother. They

are thinking about you. Thinking-... what you are doing right now. And-... your city. Hong Kong?" she corrects, voice so quiet that if she were to pull away, Yan Sun would probably be unable to hear her. "Is filled with people that you are knowing. Your best friend that you grow up with. That you-... you get in trouble with soooo much your parents don't want you to see them anymore." The small grin that crosses her lips

and causes her cheeks to widen can be felt, but it doesn't linger. "The first girl that you ever like is there. Boyfriends. Girlfriends. Maybe they are fucks, but they are there, too. The place you are eated-... eating at all of the times. All of your memories... Mmm. Maybe-... maybe they are not all so good. But they are yours. People you hate are there. People you love. People that know you. The people that make you

important. That-... that will never forget you and that you will never forget." As she tilts her head downward, her forehead presses against the side of Yan Sun's head, her words hushed by an abrupt silence as she seems to linger on her own words. A few seconds pass before she speaks again, just as quietly as before. "...Now burn it all."

Yan Sun listens in oddly intense silence as Jessica whispers, remaining unmoving. The final set of words make her swallow hard. A soft, quiet "Jessica..." slips out, her name acting as filler as she struggles with what to say.

Jessica draws in a breath, the shakiness heard in it probably giving away the emotions bubbling up in her chest. "...They are all gone." she continues quietly, a soft shrug punctuating the tears that silently escape. "And you are still here. In the-... the middle of fucking nowhere. All by yourself."

Yan Sun 's eyes open at the sounds of the tremble in Jessica's breath, and she's met with the dimly lit interior of the tent. She turns her head a little, a bit of wetness ending up on her cheek after it brushes against Jessica's. It makes her freeze for a moment, and then she shifts to rest her forehead against Jessica's, left hand rising to her neck. A faintly glowing thumb brushes along the edge of the burns on her cheek, eyes trying to

find her good one, despite really being too close to do so. "You're not alone." she murmurs, quietly but firmly.

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