A good end to a weird day. Which might also be weird? ...Yeah, they have no idea either. Just go with it.
Location: Argentum Bay
Related Scenes: 2237-11-13 - Courting Disaster
Scene Number: 1574
It takes a bit of questioning the locals along the boardwalk to find a good spot. Not a spot -- the first people they talk to direct them to a tourist desination, but Gage doesn't seem interested in that, waving a dismissive hand and moving on. Finally, he finds a seedy looking older man that tells them about a locals spot, a bit more obscure and requiring a vehicle to get to... which he's willing to do, for cubits. Gage, naturally, looks at Ines. Because, obviously, she's the rich one. Comparative to him, anyway. He gestures towards her before settling hands on hips as if to say, your decision.
The look he gets is flat, exasperated. "Sure, I'll pay for your ride out. I sure hope I have enough cubits left to pay for your chute, though."
There's a pitstop to make, though. They have to swing by the base, stop into the Dauntless. Tomak is going to need actual shoes; nobody is jumping off of anything wearing flip-flops. On this point, Ines is unyielding. It means there's another twenty minutes of daylight they have to burn in the process, but it lets her put on pants instead of short-shorts and swap her tote for a backpack, anyway.
With that done, they pile into the sketchy vehicle driven by the oily man toward a shady spot that is either a fantastic locale known to the locals, off of the beaten path of the tourist mill in the Bay -- or a murder hole. It might be a murder hole, also. Who knows?
It's an open-top outdoor model sort of vehicle, and at some point Ines pulls the now-infamous instant camera out of her backpack and stands up on the back seat, turning around to lean into the rollcage bar and take a picture of something they just drove past.
If anything, Gage seems amused by the observation. "Chute, who needs a chute?" Typical marine. He grumbles about not needing "real shoes" but goes along with it because Ines seems determined, and daylight is burning, along with the time left in their shore leave, by all accounts. He settles for cargos and boots, but leaves t-shirt and sunglasses firmly in place.
Their maybe-murder-buddy drives them up a tight, winding path, more a trail than an actual road, but they are heading upwards, so that's a good sign. The jungle canopy presses all around, occasionally slapping against the vehicle. Gage looks relaxed, one arm dangling out of the vehicle as they progress. It's almost peaceful. It probably helps that they aren't talking.
The vehicle slows, and stops -- in the middle of the road, because there's jungle to either side. The driver grins at them, and points, "Just head up that path," path, what path? It's barely a faint wearing in the underbrush, "And it'll come out into an open space. I'll come pick you up." He slaps the outside of the vehicle, as if to encourage them to get out. Apparently, if it's a murder hole, they have to find their own way to it.
Ines blinks as she feels the truck slow, grabbing hold of the roll-cage bar to keep from spilling backward into the front seat. She twists around to look at the driver, then to look at the 'path,' and then looks down at Gage for a moment. There's some vague skepticism in her expression, shared for just a beat before she turns to drop her camera into her backpack and zip it up. <<Thanks,>> she tells the driver in Scorpian. <<See you at the landing site!>>
Hands on the bar, she picks her feet up and swings out through the gap where the window ought to be. Once outside, she turns to lean back in and haul her backpack out, swinging it behind her and up onto her shoulders. She had her hair in a ponytail, but the closeness of the greenery, the humidity, the heat of the day trapped beneath the canopy -- it's frakking hot. While she waits for Tomak to join her, she twists her ponytail up into a high bun instead.
<<The worst kind of murder holes are the ones you have to work to get to,>> she says in Tauran, apropos of nothing.
The driver looks momentarily surprised, then pleased at her use of Scorpian. With a jerk of chin towards Tomak, he says, <<Watch that one. He looks like the murdering sort.>> Then he's laughing, as he takes off. Gage, dusting off his pants as he swings his backpack over his shoulder, scowls briefly, but it fades soon enough as he takes a deep breath and looks around. After the roar of the engine fades, it's silent -- apart from the usual noises of a jungle, the wind rustling greenery, the scurrying of creatures in the undergrowth, and the sounds of chittering birds.
<<That's pretty much every mission ever with the Wolves,>> Gage replies, after a moment, with a snort. <<Especially on Sag. Fuck that place.>> But it's more rote observation than heated words, brushing aside some of the foliage so he can sight the path, before he starts walking.
Ines glances up at the driver just as he peels away, cackling about his parting words. Her expression is torn, caught between amused and surprised. <<He thinks you're going to murder me in the jungle,>> she says offhandedly as she turns, tightening her backpack straps and falling in behind him. Usually it would rankle her to be bringing up the rear, but the path is slightly overgrown, and the truth of the matter is that Tomak doing the work of pushing through it first makes infinitely more sense.
<<Yeah, fuck that place.>> It's easy to agree with that. She's quiet for a while after that, checking out the landscape, listening to the wildlife, focused on her footing, but she must still be thinking of campaigns because when next she speaks it's to say, <<Aquaria sounds like it's going to be intense.>>
It's undoubtedly not chivalry so much as practicality that has Tomak breaking the trail. It's easy going at first, but the longer they walk, the more overgrown the path is, in places just stamped down by others' feet, or vines pushed aside. Gage grunts at her sharing of the driver's wisdom. <<Too frakking lazy to come all the way out here for that. Besides, you're paying him,>> the Tauran points out with a dry look over his shoulder.
<<Everywhere the Wolves go is. Thought Picon was the worst until we went to Sag.>> Although his expression isn't visible, there's some tension in his posture as he continues moving along the faint path ahead of her. His, <<Didn't sign up to kill the locals,>> is muttered under his breath, if fervently.
<<Boarding actions and nuclear bombs, though.>> She says the words thoughtfully, gaze angled downward and slightly ahead of her, watching now for roots, vines, pits of sudden mud, and other things that might cause her to take an ungainly spill into greenery containing who knows what kind of poisonous or biting things. <<Maybe that's old news for you, but we didn't do things like that in my old wing. Someone probably did, but not my squadron.>>
She must not hear the comment about the locals, or elects not to say anything about it, because there's nothing from her on that point.
Gage stops, abruptly, glancing back at her. There's a sheen of sweat across his face, and his arms -- where they're not covered by the t-shirt, have little scratches where the greenery has caught. <<Aint ever going to be normal in the Wolves, Correa. Aint got that much edge over the toasters, if any. We're meant to be the crack to try and burst the dam.>> He seems comfortable with that, lifting an edge of his t-shirt to run it across his face like a makeshift towel.
He's silent a moment more. Maybe resting, maybe contemplating. Maybe both, because he says, <<You'll do fine,>> the gruff reassurance apparently about as nice as he can manage, since he soon turns to start moving up the path again.
It's more than she would have expected if someone had asked her, that quiet, stone-faced remark -- just like the one he gave her at the firing range, actually. She's no less sweaty, though the white fabric of her t-shirt does a fair job of making it difficult to tell, even if her skin has that luminous shine. In the silence that follows she just breathes -- not hard, but harder than usual, anyway -- and when he turns around and continues onward she holds that silence just a little longer. The next thing she says is...not tentative, exactly. She's too careful about trying to make it sound indifferent for that. The indifference is probably telling, though.
<<Sometimes I wonder if we're going to end up where I grew up. Montseny is still occupied. We never took it back.>>
He doesn't turn back around, just keeps forging ahead. Maybe giving her her privacy, maybe taking his own. The heat, the insects, the climb. It's hard work, but no harder than basic, and Gage doesn't set a particularly tough pace, though the day's light is beginning to wane a little through the foliage. His voice, in contrast to hers, is far from indifferent; fervent, determined: <<Don't matter, none. Taurans know better than any that it doesn't matter how futile it is. Better to fight, to hold the line, any line, then be yoked under someone else. That aint a life worth living.>>
It's getting steeper the further in they go, like some sort of ham-handed analogy, and so the long silences between exchanges could be necessary for her to catch her breath. Probably not, though. <<I'm not sure if I->>
Whatever she'd been about to say causes a shadow to pass through her expression, then something reluctant, then determined stubbornness, like a course-correction. As distraction tactics go, she figures there's no better way to pacify him than telling him he's right.
<<Yeah, of course. I told you. I'm going to destroy every last sentient machine in the colonies.>>
The sun is getting more angled, shining down behind Gage when he stops and turns to regard her. His eyes are covered by sunglasses, though the pinch of his skin might hint at his narrow-eyed look all the same. He just kind of stares at her for a weighted moment. <<I aint your superior. Don't have to agree with me or ass kiss.>>
He doesn't keep moving. Just waiting. Looking at her.
Such a freighted pause in that moment. There are worlds of things she's not saying, behind the stubborn look. Whatever is behind it is heavily defended territory. It's a long, coasting silence Ines ends with a feline smirk, saucy, playful beneath an arch brow. She even starts walking again, palm up in anticipation of turning him to the side, like she's going to slide past him and ford the last of the trail in front. <<Oh, now you tell me? After all of this docile agreeing I've been doing with you since we met! Now, if only I can shed my shy and submissive nature and learn to live another, better way...>>
The moment, whatever it was, passes. Gage grunts and, as she slides past him, scowls. He seems fine with letting her take the lead, settling in behind her once she starts moving. There's probably a roll of eyes skyward, though no sharp retort forthcoming from the marine this time.
He's going to be sorry he let her do that. For whatever it's worth, so is she: now she has to move at a pace that isn't likely to get on his nerves, and being substantially shorter and less strong, that means she has to work very hard. This being Ines, there's no way in hell she's going to admit it's difficult, so she forges on and tries to make it look as though it isn't giving her any trouble. She fights vines. She keeps to a steady clip. Thorns grab her jeans and her arms and her hair, which is one thing Tomak did not have to worry about, and her lungs are on fire and her legs are on fire and she's going to die, she's pretty sure, but as a silver lining it takes her thoughts away from the vulnerable territory they'd almost wandered into. Plus: they're making good time. It probably can't be long before they get to where they're going.
If Gage is aware of her misery, he's mercifully not drawing attention to it. The only reminders of his presence now are the occasional breath, more frequent grunt, and the annoyed slap of hand to catch some insect trying to feast on him.
She's definitely going to die, it's never going to end, it just keeps going... until it doesn't. The jungle thins out into rocky landscape as they reach the top. It's not a very large space, and it's uneven, leading to an abrupt, near-sheer drop off the cliff on one side, undoubtedly as the result of some earthquake in the long-distant past. Far below, there's the scent of sea and beach, birds visibly wheeling overhead. The sun is beginning to set, throwing light directly at them now. It's pretty, beautiful, even, but dangerous.
Gage grunts, unshouldering his backpack and dropping to the uneven ground, hands resting on his knees as he gazes at the view. Maybe he's appreciating the view, or maybe he legitimately just needs to rest a moment. Certainly no way he's being chivalrous.
Everything changes the moment they reach the top. Not just the view, though there's obviously that, but everything about Ines. She's still breathing hard enough that there's no way she can play it off at this point and she's practically drenched -- when she shrugs her backpack off, the outline of it is printed on her white t-shirt in a slightly darker shade of white, including the straps over her shoulders -- but what was moments ago uncomfortable toil becomes bottomless energy.
"Oh," she breathes.
With a sniff, she bends and unzips her backpack to get her camera, but there's no way that pitiful lens can take in a vista like this one. She snaps one picture anyway, then concedes she won't get anything better and just looks, for probably close to a full minute, turning in place.
Drops the camera into the bag abruptly, tucks the photo away more carefully, and a minute and a half later it's whizzing its way down toward the rind of sand some distance away on an angle, cutting in front of the jungle, hooked to a rope that she prays won't snap under the weight. There for a reason, because no doubt the locals come up here with beer, and it'd be a mess of crushed cans and broken glass if they had no way to pack everything out.
"If that gets stolen while we're up here I'm going to wind up in the brig," she informs him.
Gage's face is half-turned away from the light -- it's pretty bright up here, not to mention hot. He tries to wave away a few determined insects, before he runs his t-shirt over his face again, then after a moment's contemplation, just pulls it up over his head. Reaching into his backpack, he uncaps a bottle of water and gulps down the majority of it, stuffing both it and the t-shirt back inside a moment later.
He seems to be half watching her, snorting with amusement at her latter words, as he grunts and pushes himself to his feet. "I promise to come and laugh, then bail you out." He's at least honest about that as he bends down to collect his backpack, hooking it onto the same rope as hers and swinging it out, albeit with less concern about where it lands up.
And then he gestures towards the edge of the cliff, grinning. "Ladies first?"
The luxury of being a man: shirts are optional. Ines keeps hers on because bikini tops are not traditionally very secure during a high-velocity impact with the water, and co-ed Dauntless showers are one thing while random toplessness out in The Real World is wholly another. She does look at him for a moment with transparent envy, though, feeling desperately sticky and gross. At least she won't be that way for long.
They've been squabbling, things have been periodically weird throughout the day, but the grin he gets her receives a flashfire smile in response, wide and high-wattage. There's a light in her eyes that he may have seen once, just as they prepared to race off -- but maybe they didn't know one another so well back then. Some of her wingmates may have seen it after intense flights, but Tomak is never on the landing deck. Her pulse is visibly ticking quickly along the side of her throat and her breaths aren't heavy now but shallow, quicker: that's adrenaline, so surely there's some nervousness, or maybe even outright fear. It doesn't make her hesitant, though. It makes her this. Whatever this is. Being alive.
She turns and edges up to the crumbling brink, the toes of her sneakers up to the very line, and leans slightly to look down. Checking for rocks, maybe.
Silence and stillness, for five seconds.
Then it's four long steps backward -- as much room as there even is -- and a sudden explosion of forward movement, bursting into a long-legged sprint to plant her foot on the edge and vault out into the open air with a sharp sound that is the distillation of the look that was on her face.
Throughout this, Gage continues to watch her, brows going upwards in response to her reaction. The sunglasses aren't going to survive the fall, but he's loathe to give them up with the sun facing them. It's probably not so much surprise in his expression as genuine pleasure at her delight, his weight shifting with mute impatience as he waits for her to make her assessment, to make her run up, to leap.
He should watch. He should move to the edge and watch her fall, make sure she's safely down before he is... but frak it. He's already at the furthest point -- he covers the distance in three steps, then he pushes up off after her.
Halfway down, his glasses go flying. But it doesn't matter -- he's yelling with delight, his voice echoing off the rocks as he falls towards the water below.
The fall always lasts longer than she thinks it's going to. Long enough for her to have to take and hold a second breath just before she hits the water, tucking her body into a tighter curl that sends up a serious splash for someone of her modest size. Oppressive heat and blazing light become in a shocking instant a gasp of icy darkness, the sting and itch of thorns and mosquito bites salved with brine. In the sudden silence several meters down she hangs in temporary stillness, nerves and senses all afire: feeling bubbles course upward over the knot of her form in little silvery streamers, and the knocking of her racing heart against the cage of bones that contains it. She stays there as long as she can, but the need for air eventually unravels her tuck so that she can kick upward toward the surface, which she breaches with a sharp inhale, splash, and giddy laugh. It takes her a moment to wipe seawater out of her eyes so that she can tread water and turn, looking for him.
Tomak goes in at an angle, but mostly vertical, hands first, somewhere off to her left. The contrast from hot-to-cold is a welcome, if sharp distinction, cooling heated, irritated skin. He doesn't take nearly as much time as Ines to contemplate the briny depths -- instead, he kicks, still underwater, for her location.
He's not coming up. He's not visible.
And then she feels a hand on her ankle, trying to yank her underneath.
He's not visible. Assuming he didn't jump yet, she swipes at rivulets of stinging saltwater that want to run out of her hair into her eyes, blinking twice, and looks upward -- squints, droplets in her lashes catching the glare of the sun -- at the cliff.
"Hey! I'm cl-"
The word evolves into a sudden shriek, abruptly choked off into silence as her head disappears under the surface. The spike of chemicals in her bloodstream seems to set her veins on fire, or freeze them, or both at the same time. It doesn't take more than a second for her to assume it's him, but for that single second her reptile brain makes a lot of survival-oriented assumptions, and there's a single, strong kick. Mercifully, it doesn't connect with any part of him. She ducks underneath and makes the sacrifice of opening her eyes underwater so that she can see him. The brine hurts terribly and it's going to leave her eyes red and irritated later, but it's worth it so that she can palm his face and push in reprisal.
It's hard to tell underwater, but it wouldn't be far-fetched to assume the look on Gage's face is probably smugness as he releases her ankle. The kick misses -- just barely -- but she gets a palm into his face, pushing him back. Or, more accurately, flinching back, since his black eye -- all too visible since he lost his glasses -- is particularly sensitive. It means that it takes him a moment longer to break the surface and finally, gasp a breath of air into burning lungs. He rests there a moment, treading water.
She'd usually feel bad about that, but he was totally asking for it.
Jeans and shoes are now a soggy weight that needs disposing of. She kept her suit on, at least, so after some awkward one-armed water-treading and general fidgeting she disposes of both, then keeps them in one hand, kicking her feet and holding her breath enough to float with less work, tilted over onto her back to look upward. The jungle is, from a distance, a beautiful thing -- it's almost easy to forget how hostile it is when you're trying to wade through it.
She can't stay that way long. She's still crackling with energy, like an overcharged battery, and starts to kick for the shore, breathless.
"Hey Tomak!" She raises her voice to be heard. "What do you miss most about cilivian life?"
Everything, one way or another, becomes a competition. Gage doesn't bother to kick off his shoes, so that probably gives her an edge, on top of her head start, when he finally stops floating and starts swimming for the shore in her wake. It takes him a bit to respond, long enough that maybe it seems like he hasn't heard or is choosing to ignore it.
Finally, <<Moments like this. Moments of being alone.>> Not alone, just the isolation, presumably, since she's here with him -- but he's not so good at conveying that nuance and doesn't bother to try.
Ines is like a fish. She's lighter than he is, sleeker than he is and yeah: no shoes. She makes decent time getting to the shore, and doesn't ask again; when she gets to the point she can touch down with eher feet on the bottom she spends her time stripping the tie out of her hair and goes under again to try to undo the inevitable tangles. She's ascended the slope to the point the water's down to her knees by the time he does answer, and there's no surprise in it, really. It's not a strange thing to miss.
<<I hardly remember what it's like,>> she admits, gathering the fabric of her shirt near her ribs and twisting it to wring out some of the water. <<I miss being able to choose when I get to do things like this. I mean -- I didn't do things like this, before the war. But if I weren't a soldier, I would probably do them as much as possible now.>> Talkative, suddenly. Probably for the same reason she turns around and kicks water in his direction with a half-smile.
There might be a grumbling resignation at the fact that Ines beats him, though Gage tries not to show it as he makes the shallows. Moving from them -- where the waves hit the back of his calves -- towards the beach is slow going in sodden, soaked shoes, and he scowls when she scores a perfect hit of water all over him. He lifts a foot and stamps it down, leaning forward like he's going to lunge at her, but doesn't follow through -- probably because the heaviness of his soaked shoes just means it's a proposition he'd lose -- instead plodding for the beach.
He grunts, expression closed, though it seems to be agreement, though he waits until he's largely even with her before he responds, gaze flickering up the beach. <<I'd probably find an empty patch of beach. Build a place in the shade. Go swimming when I want. Sleep when I want.>> You know, the dream.
It's a feint, but she still dodges sideways and lifts her arms to that side, fully prepared for things to escalate. When it doesn't she still spends the next few moments watching him warily, like he's luring her into a false sense of security.
What dismantles her guard is what he says after that, something Ines takes in with a brow slightly arched, grey-green eyes on him rather than the place he's building in his mind's eye, some distance away on the strand. Slim fingers continue to work at the tangles in her hair, though absently -- until he mentions sleep, anyway, at which point her expression crumples into theater, alongside a pretend sob. Her head drops back. <<I miss sleep so much!>> It's almost a wail, finished off with a heaved sigh as she sloshes the rest of the way up onto the said, looking for the landing spot their gear must be in. When she finds it she starts that way, and ultimately decides, <<It's a good plan. You should do it, when this is all over.>>
On dry land, Gage stops to tug his shoes off, rolling the ends of his cargo pants upwards. Barefoot, he follows her through the sand to where their backpacks have landed. Her plaintive plea for sleep earns a low-throated chuckle of agreement. <<Could become a grunt. Then at least you'd get to sleep while you're being ferried back and forth from missions.>> He eyes her with a brief amusement, before he bends to pick up his backpack, then straightens, scanning the beach. No sight of their ride, and he's frowning. Or maybe he's frowning at her latter words. <<Maybe,>> is all he says, non-committal.
There's some repacking to do. She shoves her clothes into the bottom of her backpack, puts the camera in a case she doesn't usually use, and then sets it carefully on top. The shoes she ties together by the laces, dangling them from the bottom of one of her backpack's straps, and slinging the whole of everything over one shoulder glances at him in time to see that frown. One beat later she shifts her gaze away and the corner of her mouth turns upward, but it's a rueful, even understanding thing, not amused in the least.
<<Yeah,>> she says. <<I don't think about it much either.>> Then she starts to walk, pace unhurried. "Come on. Maybe he's waiting for us further up the beach."
While her Tauran words earn a brief, sidelong look -- a moment of shared understanding -- from the marine, he doesn't respond. Instead, he grunts, nodding assent to her suggestion, picking his path carefully in his bare feet, content apparently in the silence.
Up on the dirt strip alongside the beach is the familiar open vehicle of their seedy, but apparently trustworthy local guide. He's fast asleep in the backseat, a hat pulled over his head.
Gage grins, abruptly. <<You want to drive, Correa?>>
True to character and vocation, Tomak then decides the thing to do is arm a bomb and gently lob it into the stillness by asking that question.
Ines doesn't even respond at first. Not in word or any sort of expression: she just continues to look at the driver. So trusting. So vulnerable. Somewhere inside a little internal script is running, calculating...something. Her restraint, or something. When it finishes, she slow-turns her head to look up at him, and he'll see it in her eyes before the smile even begins to unfurl, close-lipped and cheshire.
It's the best possible souvenir, actually, she'll probably say later when asked. It was already going to be a day on which the good outweighed the bad and the weird, and then on top of it she gets a comprehensive education in swearing in Scorpian when their driver -- passenger -- wakes up to the sudden crunch of tires spinning out on dirt track.