Jessica gives a nod as she looks over the stuff one last time, seemingly not trusting Yan Sun to get it right. Once satisfied, she puts her back to Yan Sun and steps around to the rear of the truck to meet Kirill.
#FreedomFalls – January 9, 2022
Kirill lets out a cold breath that instantly turns to steam in the frigid air as Jessica approaches, the smile hidden behind his beard tempering back into something softer.
Jessica kicks the toe of her boot against the frozen ground as she looks up at Kirill. "Is late. If you want you can-..." she nods back towards the Respite, cocking a thumb that way briefly, "...sleep on the floor again."
Kirill glances past Jessica, smile widening momentarily in appreciation before dismissing the offer with a shake of his head. "Headlights should be enough to see me home." he says, clearly more confident with driving at night than Jessica was. "Besides, I really should be gettin' back." There's a bit of regret in his response but, as much as he'd like to have another morning to say his goodbyes, there's people back at the Gorge that need
Jessica lets a small sigh slip, but nods. Seems that her offer was more than just politeness. When is she ever worried about being polite, after all? "Then-... I guess this is goodbye, mmm...?" she says as she meets the older man's gaze, tone uncharacteristically somber.
Kirill gives a few more nods. "Suppose it is..." he offers quietly, a gentle sigh escaping as he picks through the many things that he suddenly wishes he would have said during the ride, when Jessica couldn't just storm off if she didn't want to hear them. But that just isn't his way. Unlike some people, he respects boundaries and wasn't about to ambush her when there was nothing she could do about it. Doesn't matter now anyway, that ship
has sailed. Now he's back in the minefield. One wrong step- one wrong word. And he's likely to push her buttons in a way that leads to him never hearing from her again. As the seconds linger, his gaze briefly turns out to the street, one arm coming to rest on the tailgate. "Listen, Jessie, I-... uhh-... I know we don't talk about this. I know-... I know you don't want to talk about it. So how about we make a deal? I talk. You
listen." he levels his tired, weary eyes back on her, worried that he might already be losing her. Surprisingly, when he seeks out her gaze, she's still right there, looking right back at him. A familiar, exasperated expression on her face, sure. And his request is met only with a heavy silence as she folds her arms across herself somewhat defensively, eyes dipping towards the ground. But she remains where she is nonetheless. When it
sinks in that she's not about to turn her back on him, he seems to take her silence as compliance, nodding softly to himself."I know what you're goin' through. Where you're at. Where you've been. A lot of people are gonna try to pretend they understand it. They don't." he says flatly, a small shake of his head accompanying his words as he cuts through the bullshit. "Not until they've been where we have. They're gonna tell you it gets
better. Easier with time. They're right, but they won't understand why. Won't understanding how-... how hearing that?" he shakes his head again, this time firmer, carried on the back of personal experience. "It doesn't mean a damn thing until you get there. Right now? You're worried that who you were when they were alive is gone. And you're wonderin' if this is all that's left. All you'll ever be. A-... ball of anger and hate that
burns so hot you feel like you might set the whole damn world on fire." he continues, a hint of emotion entering his usually-even tone as he slows down just enough for his own past to catch up to him. "Just a-... pile of broken memories that are always gonna make you a little sadder than they should. But-..." his voice catches slightly and his gaze slips off to the side briefly, blinking away the emotion that sits just at the edge of
Kirill his comfort zone before looking back to her with a shake of his head, "...I need you to know you're more than that, Jessie. There's a whole lot of people back home who are better off because you came into their lives and-..." His mouth opens to say more, but he stumbles over his words as what he's really trying to say gets caught on the tip of his tongue. "My life is better because you were in it."
Jessica's back to Yan Sun obscures her reaction, but a heavy breath sounds out as she shifts in discomfort, gaze remaining low as one hand briefly lifts to her face.
Kirill draws in a breath as he tries and fails to fend off the emotion in his chest. "So... if this is supposed to be a fresh start and you feel like you need to wipe the slate clean in order to find happiness-... to find some peace again? I ain't gonna pretend that I'm happy about it. But I'll understand." he offers softly, seemingly having already assumed that the moment he drives off, he- and the rest of the Gorge- will probably be as
good as dead to the aloof woman before him. "I just-... I've already lost one daughter, Jessie." he shrugs, his own limited defenses falling away as he bares his own demons openly. He blinks as a few stray tears finally slip free, quickly lost amidst his bushy beard. "...I ain't ready to be blindsided by that again so-... so just tell me straight this time. Okay?"
Jessica draws in a heavy, hitched breath, silence once more taking hold when a response is expected from her. Seconds pass as plenty of competing thoughts bounce around in her head. Plenty that she'd like to voice herself, but her mouth just won't form the words. Eventually she speaks up, her voice far quieter than intended and colored by the emotions she just won't acknowledge. "Call me when you get home?"
Kirill sucks in his lips, nodding a few times as he searches Jessica's face to make sure she's alright with that. It might just be a small gesture, but he knows how big that is for her. One step at a time. "...Yeah?" he asks. The nod he gets in return draws a soft, relieved smile from him that tugs at his beard as he leans down to wrap the much smaller woman up in a hug, one that she's slow to return, but return it she does.
Yan Sun remains where she is, watching as Kirill does his damndest to navigate the minefield that is Jessica. Part of her feels like she shouldn't be here for this as he bares his heart, but she can't exactly walk off either. She crosses her arms against the cold and looks out across the street, but she can't help but turn her attention back to the two of them as she hears Kirill's final plea, eyes glistening. She swallows hard, gaze
settling on Jessica's back as she waits for her response with a tense frown. The words, and the hug that follows draw out a big smile and a faint, relieved sigh, one hand going up to her eye to wipe at an escaping tear.
Kirill presses a quick kiss against the top of Jessica's new hat before he finally pulls back. A bit of embarrassment crops up as he finds Yan Sun watching them. It's not the open acknowledgement of his feelings. It isn't even the glimpses into his painful past. He'll gladly share either with anyone he feels might benefit from hearing it, free from the burdens of pride and ego that so often hinder others. It's the emotion. He's supposed to
be unflappable. The foundation of the Gorge. A rock. The one that others come to when they need a shoulder to cry on. To be seen like this by someone who he has only known for such a short time causes him to quickly avert his gaze towards the ground. But it doesn't linger. Another sniffle escapes him as he blinks away the lingering wetness. With a sigh he turns to fully face the onlooker. "Now don't you go thinking that you're just
gonna walk away without sayin' goodbye." he warns, a semblance of a heavy smile beneath his beard as he opens his arms for another hug.
Jessica buries her face against Kirill as the hug lingers for, admittedly, longer than she feels comfortable with. But, to her credit, she doesn't try to break away. When he finally does release her, she's quick to reach up and wipe at her cheek before turning back to Yan Sun, but it doesn't do much good, the redness in her eye giving her away. The smile on her face is soft, shaded by a mix of sadness and exhaustion. It's been a taxing
couple of weeks. Both physically and emotionally. She glances Yan Sun's way, but her gaze quickly bounces back to the ground in front of her as she starts towards their pile of luggage.
Yan Sun brushes the back of her hand against Jessica's as she passes, aiming a soft smile her way before Kirill draws her attention again. She lets out a quiet, slightly awkward chuckle, hesitating for a moment before stepping into the hug. "Thanks. For the truck, and-... and everything." she says quietly. For being there for Jessica when she needed it. For not shutting her out after what she did. For giving her a chance to leave on good
Kirill wraps Yan Sun up in a hug, far gentler with her than he was with Jessica. "Don't mention it. You two take care of each other." he says quietly, offering her a soft squeeze before relinquishing her, pulling back until all that remains is a hand on her shoulder and he can look her in the eye. "And I meant what I said before, Yan. You two need anything, all you need to do is call. Alright?" he continues, deciding that sort of reminder
Jessica begins to slowly gather their things while the pair bid their farewells, slinging a bag over her shoulder and gripping the handle of her gear crate. Earth suddenly feels so much closer than it had just a few weeks ago. Maybe a part of her never thought it would get this far. Perhaps, deep down, assumed that Yan Sun would eventually get sick of her shit. Realize that bringing Jessica back to Earth with her was a bad idea and
they'd go their separate ways. Both just a brief, fun chapter in one another's lives. But now? Tying up loose ends? Saying her goodbyes? It feels very real. She didn't expect it to leave such a deep pit in her stomach. As she allows her lungs to fill with cold air, she passes a quick glance Litae's way, the clouds having parted just enough to give her a good look and causing her to wonder, if only briefly, if she's going to miss
Yan Sun is, surprisingly, a little slower to let go than Kirill. When she realizes he's already let go she pulls back, looking a little embarrassed, but she swallows that and nods in response to Kirill's reminder. "I know." she assures with a small smile. Jessica's words makes her let out an exasperated snort and hang her head, but it makes her smile widen. "Coming!" she calls back, taking a step backwards toward the luggage. "We'll be in
touch." she says, reaffirming the previous promise. "And feel free to give Jeannie my info if anything's unclear with the notes I left."
Kirill gives a little exasperated eyeroll of his own at Jessica's exclamation, but there's a fondness beneath it. He gives a small dip of his head in confirmation as Yan Sun mentions the notes she left. "Appreciated." he says simply.
Jessica is quick to nudge the remaining bags with her boot and giving an expectant glance Yan Sun's way as she nears.
Yan Sun nods again, taking another step back before spinning around to grab the remainder of the bags. Her gaze darts Jessica's way as she shoulders the last one, trying to get a read on how she's doing.
Jessica looks a bit distant, taking a moment to even realize that Yan Sun is ready to head inside. She gives a small raise of her brow as she catches Yan Sun's eyes on her in an attempt at covering whatever is bouncing around inside her head and gives a playful- if lacking in energy- little bump into Yan Sun with her hip as she dips her head down a bit and starts towards the Respite door, shrugging the bag a little more firmly onto her
Yan Sun glances back and offers Kirill one last little wave before following Jessica towards the Respite.
Kirill gives a simple lift of a mitten-clad hand, dipping his head one last time to bid the pair farewell before turning back towards the truck.
Jessica is just about at the Respite door when she lets out a sharp, deep breath, mind still swimming. Cluttered with thoughts left unvoiced. Something she's no stranger to. At least with Kirill she got to say goodbye. It all happened so fast with her family... The things that remained unsaid echo in her head, haunting her. Things she should have said. You never know when it's going to be too late until... well, until it is. A small
sound escapes her that borders on frustration before she pauses, pivoting slightly on one foot to glance back. "Kirill." she calls out. He's already started rounding the back of the truck towards the driver's side when his attention is pulled back to the pair and he rests his forearms against the truck, his height allowing him to see them over the top of the truck's bed. "My life is better because you are in it." she says.
It's said without much fanfare and she doesn't linger in the moment. She just briefly watches to ensure he heard her before turning back and continuing on her way, head down, careful to avoid Yan Sun's gaze.
Kirill remains where he is, forearms perched atop the side of the truck's bed, brows furrowing as the simple phrase- his own words turned back on him- sets in. He manages to keep his emotions in check this time, but only just barely as he watches Jessica disappear through the Respite doors.
Yan Sun 's eyes follow Jessica as they head inside, the look on her face the sort of soft, almost proud one that she would no doubt find insufferable.