2238-01-20 - Not Alone

An attempt to extract marines trapped in the blackout zone goes off with only a single hitch. Unfortunately for Ines, she's the hitch...but at least she's not alone.

Date: 2238-01-20

Location: Axios Province, Picon

Related Scenes: 2238-01-21 - Escaping Axios

Plot: None

Scene Number: 1625

Jump to End

It's been near-on a week since the battle in Axios, what was intended as a pre-strike by ground forces into a production facility to clear the way for airstrikes having turned into a trap, leaving most of the squads cut off behind enemy lines. The lack of communication from most of the squads still, presumably, stuck in or near the city -- alive or dead -- is the worst part of it. Large groups of ships, Raptors and Vipers alike, have been sent over the factory to try and pick up anything -- signals, flares, smoke -- in the hopes that some of the remnants of the Wolves have survived.

Captain Maria "Butterfly" Dhaval leads the air wing. "Flight, Butterfly. We're going to do a perimeter sweep outside the factory first to see if any of the squads have made it out. If we pick up nothing, we'll be making a run over the factory itself. It's going to be hot -- so keep your eyes sharp, and ECO's keep your jammers up. I want everyone -- everyone -- looking for any signal from our Wolves down there."

"Let's bring our boys and girls home."

-

Months ago when Ines joined the Wolves, she would've been thrilled with this particular post. The base is practically luxurious, particularly as compared with the Dauntless, and the ability to go into town -- however small and whatever the curfew -- has been the closest thing to having a normal life that she's experienced since the day the Uprising began. She hasn't been well-positioned to take advantage of it, though. A ridiculous injury to one of her ankles kept her from flights for weeks, stuck behind a desk on different schedules than all of the people she knows and likes best. It only took a week and a half of that for her to slide into a depression that left her sleeping for most of the hours she wasn't working. Flight as therapy is a very real phenomenon for Ines.

All of that seemed as though it was in full reverse once she landed back in a cockpit again...

...and then Axios happened. They lost so many people, the confirmed deaths terrible, the MIA somehow worse. So many of her favorite people, all of these new brothers and sisters, gone. The empty rooms on the base all seem as though they've carved out matching hollows in her heart. The silences have been deafening.

They could not have kept her off of this flight.

Gloved fingertips wander the display in front of her, checking and rechecking things she's already rechecked twice anyway. "Kestrel copies."

Ines rolls Perception: Success (7 5 3 1)

Ines rolls Alertness: Good Success (8 7 7 5 5 4 3 2)

The Flight is tense, some chatter on the comms but far less than the usual level of banter common to the Wolves. There's a moment where the normal level-headed Raptor pilot Nails can be heard sounding -- for him -- thrilled -- his ECO having picked up something, but it soon turns out to be a false alarm; just smoke from the wreckage of what looks to have been an explosion, maybe a day old.

"Flight, brace yourselves. Sharp eyes and fingers -- we're heading in over the facility. There's AA, and no way to tell how much the marines managed to smoke before all hell broke loose." As one, the squadron heads in for a fly-over of the production facility. On approach, a missile zooms up from one of the AA batteries, but the ECO's jamming sends it spiralling away harmlessly.

Ines is the first to spot it -- a red streak that climbs from the flat roof of one of the buildings, south-south-west of their position, streaking up into the sky. A flare.

There's an AA battery nearby, but it's in smoking ruins. Someone had some explodey fun.

-

It's a surreal but familiar experience to be doing this.

Early on in her career as a pilot she'd been flying patrol missions near her own destroyed city, monitoring the borders, watching for expansion. They'd never gone into the city, but they'd been close enough for her to stare into it with pale and hopeful eyes, knowing it was pointless to look but being unable to help herself. It had been almost more stress for her than the harrowing experience of learning to fly a Raptor. This is worse. The others feel it, too. She can hear it in Nails' voice over the open line, and she's absolutely sure that every last one of them was holding their breath, and all of them felt their stomachs drop out of them again when it turns out to be nothing.

The missile from one of the batteries is worthy of some concern, but it can't even begin to approach the effect that flare has on her. Ines feels her heart hammer itself up into the top of her chest, ribs creaking with the sudden tension that forks through her like lightning. She actually fumbles with the com, pale eyes wide. "Flight, Kestrel. Flare, south-southwest." Her voice sounds pinched, and is -- it had to fight its way past the knot in her throat. Oh, please, she prays, to a pantheon she doesn't even really believe in. Please.

-

"Nails, get on down there. Kestrel, Juice, escort him down. Flight, keep your eyes sharp for any hostiles." Butterfly's voice is even, only a shade of something that might be relief creeping through her voice. "Nails, roger that." The experienced raptor pilot heads on in, coming in at a sharp angle to touch down on the rooftop.

Each of the marines below sports injuries one would expect after a week of on-and-off battle -- clothes torn and bloodied, cuts and scraps from close calls. Gage sports a dark-colored makeshift bandage around his upper arm -- all the more visible because he's currently hefting PFC Maison in a fireman's carry as he high-tails it towards the raptor. From the limpness of the private's posture, things don't look good. Lance Cpl Ridley is close by, weapon up as he makes for the raptor behind the pair, though he looks to be limping pretty heavily.

For all that intention by the marine squad was clearly to make it a safe a rescue as they could manage, there's no accounting for an on-patrol cylon carrying a rocket around. It streaks up, low and from the west, almost obscured by the setting sun. It streams directly for Ines' viper, in a moment that might feel slow, might feel as though, if she can move fast enough, she just, might, make it...

Seconds later, for just a moment, the world goes white.

And then there's a moment where there's an odd sucking pressure as her cockpit window explodes and exposes her to the outside air. Wind screams through, sirens in the cockpit blare telling her of the extensive damage as her viper spins, spins, in a sickening way that her trained mind tells her is unrecoverable.

Ines rolls Composure: Success (8 6 5 5 5 5 3 1 1)

Adrenaline is a thin thread of molten silver in her veins as she and Juice peel away from the others to flank the Raptor. It takes everything in her to keep her eyes up once she catches sight of those bodies on the roof. Everything. Her heart is beating so fast in her chest that it feels like a hummingbird, the cocktail of chemicals that dump into her system so potent that it leaves her almost light-headed, but sharp. Sharper than usual. They're going to get these soldiers home, and she thinks she saw, she thinks she recognizes-

That zen calm she's so used to, a heavy blanket that keeps her rooted to her seat, is absolutely nowhere to be found, but she sees and feels everything.

Everything but that rocket, until the very last second.

It all happens for her in slow motion, time distending, stretched like taffy. She has time to think complex thoughts in the blink of an eye. The viper twists to the side evasively, but it's not enough. I'm not going to make it, is the first astonished thought. No fear, just surprise. This is actually how I'm going to die. It's wonder more than anything, soft and detached: she always sort of expected that-

(flashback to a beach at the bottom of a cliff, a shared glance of understanding, the words 'yeah, I don't think about it much either')

-but it still manages to surprise her when it happens. And the next thought is quick: I have to get clear so they don't get hit with shrapnel. The last-second alteration of her trajectory is designed to do precisely that, no longer an effort to escape but an attempt to get far enough away that she isn't going to shower the marines with the pieces of her shredded fighter.

Everything after that breaks apart into a stuttering slideshow of moments: nothingness, pieces of canopy pinwheeling in front of her, smoke, the moment her helmet connects with the back of her seat and then the way it's forced over hard to one side by endless spins. Pain somewhere. The threat of blacking out from the G-forces involved. She won't remember doing it later, but she hears her own voice-

"Flight, Kestrel bailing out."

-and isn't sure whether or not she's actually doing that or just imagining that she is. But some pieces of her must be doing their job. Years of training take over, just as they're designed to do. Spinning at this rate it's just as likely she'll wind up dead from ejecting as anything else, but what else is there to do? The unholy din of alarms is replaced suddenly by the shriek and roar of white noise and a confused hope that there aren't more ranged enemies close enough to pick her out of the air.

-

There are voices -- not in her head, but over the wireless -- but they're muted, far away. Her callsign is amongst them, and Nails -- ever calm -- telling the Flight he's taking off, with or without the idiot marine that's insisting on staying behind.

Another streak of something bright screams up from the ground. Butterfly's voice, calling a retreat. She can't see the raptor, can't see whether it gets out safely or not.

...there's just the wind. Compared to the alarms it's perhaps merciful. But it's also nerve-wracking, floating down through the sky, unable to fall faster, a target for any cylon that wants to take a pot shot. She can hear, distantly, the scream of engines -- familiar, raptors and vipers both -- overhead, maybe see the glint of them reflecting in the setting sun above. The rooftop where the raptor was looks to be empty as she falls. It's probably not going to be a safe place to land -- but there are safe places, such that might provide the cover she needs as she gets close to the ground, if she can land it neatly between buildings.

Beneath, one large building over, the fiery wreck of her viper has left a smoking hole in the roof. Smoke billows upwards.

The whine of friendly engines sound distant, and then at some point, maybe it's only her imagination.

-

It's remarkable how well the system works. How well the training works. One doesn't fully appreciate how deeply the grooves of it all are worn into the psyche until they form the rails that allow a soldier to avoid certain death essentially on autopilot. It's not until her head stops violently spinning that Ines is even capable of being grateful for that, and even then it's through the fuzz of having just been blown out of the sky.

She can't hear much from the outside, but she can hear her own fast breathing in her ringing ears and it helps to ground her back in the moment. She draws her legs up, begins to twist her head to look around her and gasps at the sharp pain of something she pulled in her neck. Searches beneath her, anyway, because she has no choice; her eyes water but a strained neck is vastly to be preferred over getting dead. The gouts of flame and debris field of the viper she was flying reflect in pale eyes, irises merely bands around blown-wide pupils. On another roof, though. A different one. She reaches up with nerveless, gloved fingers and drags at the lines on her chute, angling to land between the two buildings. Wide eyes track what she's able to see of the connecting streets through the faceplate of her helmet. That was a lot of noise. That smoke is like a signal flare all its own. She needs to get down and then clear out.

The moment she hits the ground she's clawing her harness buckles undone to detach from the seat with its packed-in supplies. Her first attempt to stand up ends with her pitched forward on hands and knees, and the thought is: what the frak did I do to myself? A glance down and back provides the answer: a hole punched in the side of her suit's thigh, just above the knee. Fantastique. Something to add to the jar.

She rolls over onto her ass and scoots backward until she can begin stripping things from the seat that she's going to need: pistol, medical kit, rations. It would be easier if her hands weren't shaking.

She hasn't had time to think about how this is her worst nightmare.

Ines rolls Stealth: Good Success (8 7 6 4 4)

The ground thunders underneath -- the sound of cylons moving in packs, inexorably drawn towards the crashed viper. One such pack passes by the buildings she's in between, one with a light machine gun, and two with long metal pipes. Fortunately, they don't even look Ines way, more focused on the muted sounds of things popping and exploding within her viper.

That side -- where the cylons passed by -- looks to be a main thoroughfare of sorts, wide enough for trucks to move and carry the heavy ordinance this facility produces. The other way, there's not much to speak of, a cluster of smaller buildings -- maybe storage sheds?

It's quickly growing dark and, down here, the buildings have already settled into darkness.

-

It has been a long, long time since Ines Correa heard the sound of Cylons passing by as she sat, vulnerable, in shadows between deserted buildings in the gutted remains of a city.

Not long enough.

The sound of metal feet moving over cracked pavement rimes her insides over with ice. Frozen, unbreathing, her hands cease the work they're doing to kit herself out. She doesn't even dare to turn her head, eyes slowly sliding to one side to watch the end of the side street she's on, where light rills like water over familiar, metal chassis-

For just one terrifying moment she's sure she's going to scream, and then they're going to kill her.

They pass. Her eyes squeeze shut. Frantic, animal fear tries to convince her that running is the best choice. It feels like hours until the sound of them dwindles enough that she trusts herself to begin moving again, during which all she can do is sit in a venomous swirl of traumatic memories. Pistol strapped to one thigh, rations and medical supplies over her shoulders, she gingerly finds her feet. Heat rolls down her leg on one side once she's vertical, but she'll have to deal with that later; she'd love to take her helmet off, but it's the only protection she's wearing, really.

Nowhere looks safe, but the small buildings to one side are the only choice. She cleaves close to the wall of the building the airlift took place on to take advantage of the lee of its shadow, and edges toward its corner as soundlessly as she's able. Pieces of her are beginning to report aches and pains. None of them are worse distractions than the dizzying vertigo of old horrors dredged up out of the depths of her history.

She swallows tightly as she edges up to the corner, and leans to peek.

Ines rolls Alertness: Great Success (8 7 7 6 6 4 3 2)

There's still noise, but distant, back towards where her crashed viper is -- nothing human, though. No cries for help or shouts of her name. Just the metallic clanging of metal feet on pavement, the whir of mechanics, and a tremendous thud as what sounds like the remainder of the roof of that building collapses.

Dusk has firmly settled over the area, which might provide some cover, except... Cylons can see in the dark, right? It's definitely far from comforting, as beyond, she can see a pair of cylons: one carrying a shotgun, the other with an arm replaced by a length of pipe. They're moving an even pace, coming from the direction of the rescue rooftop, clearly sweeping for survivors.

It leaves her with a very small window. There's a real chance she'll be spotted, but if she stays here... well, there's no where really to retreat to, except into the arms of yet more cylons.

Ines rolls Composure: Success (6 6 5 5 5 5 5 2 1)

It isn't that the sight of an approaching patrol doesn't terrify her -- it does. It lances her through with a bitter spike of ice that threatens to pin her to the spot she's standing on until they close in and put her down like some sort of livestock.

It's just not up to her, whether she tries or not. Whatever it is in her that got her through a month of this with no training whatsoever hasn't abandoned her, and in spite of the nauseous lurch in her stomach there was never really any question as to whether or not she'd make the attempt. She grits her teeth against the inevitable and unavoidable pain her leg, leans low, and breaks free of the side street at a clip that walks the line between speed and stealth. Once she's far enough from cover it places the patrol on a backward angle to her, but she doesn't turn her head to look. There's no point. If they see her-

She just doesn't look.

Gage rolls 1: Success (8 6 2)

She doesn't need to look. Footsteps stop, abruptly, a gunshot sounds -- pinging all-too-close to her. Cylons, alert to her presence, behind her.

Shadowy buildings ahead. Uncertainty, but less of one than then the known danger behind her. Except... movement. Something in the shadow of the small cluster of buildings ahead. A burst of rifle shots clatter past her -- sounding different, since they're angled away from her, towards the cylons. And a voice, so familarly terse.

"Move your ass, Correa!"

-

Ines isn't a marine. She had training on rifles, yeah! ...Years ago. If she were asked to describe how long she's gone without hearing one fired in open air near her she probably wouldn't be able to remember well enough to say.

Which is to say: she hears shots fired and hits the deck, Cylons or no Cylons. "Don't shoot, I'm-"

-friendly.

The word sticks in her throat like a barbed hook. So does the little sound she wouldn't know what to call, when she realizes she recognizes that voice. White-hot pain rips up the length of her leg when she does it, but she plants her hands on the pavement and pushes off of it like a sprinter. Does sprint, now. The time for stealth has passed, and in any event she's hustling for more than just herself, now. Every stride takes an icepick to her thigh, but she's still alive and Gage is still alive and, more than anything else, now she isn't alone. For those last few meters, she barely even feels the pain at all.

-

More fire. To an untrained ear it's deafening, but Gage fires sparsely -- enough to provide cover. It works, since the cylon is now firing in his direction, rather than Ines' as she sprints towards him.

The Tauran marine glances her as she nears; assesses her, her leg, how heavily she's breathing. Also, too, is something interminably warm; as much as she's been alone since she crashed, he, they have been just as alone, for far longer. His left hand stretches out to squeeze her arm, for just a moment. And then: "Can you run? We need to move," he says, gaze focusing back on the approaching cylons. "There's a place we can get to, but we're going to have to lose these guys first."

A thud of metal hitting the side of the building suggests that yes, the cylons are still very coming coming after them.

-

The flight suits are impermeable to gas and liquid, so of course, aside from the little hole in the side of the leg she was favoring before she started to sprint, there's no way to tell what's going on with that. She's breathing hard and fast, but it's adrenaline-fueled rather than labored.

That small squeeze to the arm turns the knot in Ines' throat into a choke-hold and probably takes her closer to the brink of tears than she's been in a long, long time. Not over the edge, mercifully, not least because there's no time. It passes through her expression like an ache, subtle behind reflections on the faceplate of her helmet.

"Show me," is all she trusts herself to say, just before the building spews pieces of cement and spits a cloud of dust into the air, and leaves her flinching away, shoulders hunched tightly up and inward.

-

With that simple, two word assurance, Gage has them moving. He's not bothering to fire anymore, but holds the rifle tight against his leg, his left hand reaching for Ines'. It's quickly growing dark, and he doesn't want to risk losing her. He leads them at a good pace -- not a full run, since there's lots of twisting left-and-right around the densely packed buildings, all in aid of hopefully losing their pursuers.

Beyond the cluster of buildings, there's a low, squat building behind what looks to be a fenced off area. The fence -- which angles inward, as if to stop whoever was there getting out -- currently sits open, though. Gage puts on some speed, glancing sidelong to make sure Ines is keeping pace, checking on her much the same way he does in their runs -- pushing her to, but not beyond, her limits.

The doors to the building sit ajar, and the Tauran slips inside, holding his breath for a moment as he takes a few steps in. With a brief nod to Ines, he starts moving slowly. The room is full of bunk beds, messy and haphazard -- blanket and pillows strewn on the floor like whoever was there was in a hurry. Clearly, this was one of the places they were holding the POW's who were providing slave labor for the cylons. Gage barely looks left and right, instead heading for a small bathroom towards the back. It requires some athletics to get through -- climbing between the bunks that have been shoved up against it -- but inside is a little nest, with a few food rations and medical supplies.

Ironic, perhaps, that the place Gage and what was left of his squad choose to hole up in was the place they were trying to break people out of.

-

Funnily enough, if the big Tauran marine hadn't agreed to let the little Leonese pilot tag along for some part of his usual grueling runs, all of this would have been more difficult. She'd have been slower, weaker, and understood less clearly how to read him so that he doesn't have to drag her along by the hand. With the benefit of adrenaline and a deep-seated desire to survive keeping the furnace of her determination stoked, she runs like someone without any injuries at all, though the inside of her helmet's faceplate is fogging by the time they get inside the building.

With one last glance behind her in the direction from which they've come, she begins the increasingly laborious process of climbing through the tangles of forgotten furniture.

Once she's inside, she rips her helmet off, dragging a deep and unrestricted breath into her lungs, and turns on him, flush-faced, with fire in her eyes. Lurches at him on a stiffening leg, pushing at him as though she wants a fight, all of which is ridiculous. She's absolutely incapable of moving him if he doesn't want to be moved. Not even an inch. He probably can't feel the thump she gives his chest with the heel of her fist, either. But she is enthusiastic, as only Leonese can be.

This is probably not the greeting he was expecting.

"You...frakking asshole!" She's still breathless and now she's hoarse, what threadbare tones of her voice make it into the words wrought with furious emotion. "Why- are you here? You could have been-" SHOVE "-on that bus-" SHOVE "-with everyone else!"

-

There are things, habits, that are well drilled into the Tauran marine that means that, after shutting the door securely, Gage ejects his clip and takes a note of how many rounds his has left. The expression on his face does not paint the situation well at all, slamming home the clip again and setting the rifle down.

Reaching for the buckles on his tactical vest, he slows, and stop, staring at Ines when she pushes at him. His hands go out to his sides, feigning defensivenss. He doesn't wince when she thumbs a fist into his vest, but neither does he seem worried about her reaction. "It's just the adrenaline, Correa, take a breath--" at least, that's how he starts, before she starts berating him about not getting on the raptor.

Now, his expression is incredulous. He takes a step back to avoid the shoving -- not that it does much since there's not much space and he's soon up against the door. Scowling back at her now, he growls, "Aint gonna leave no one behind. Even jackass viper jocks who don't seem to know how to say 'thanks'."

-

The anger is real; embers of it smolder in eyes the color of worn-down sea glass. The adrenaline feeds it, all of the anxiety, the shock, all of those old ghosts drummed up into fresh hauntings, but it has deep roots. She meets the standard-issue Gage scowl with that furious, wild look of her own -- it's made considerably more wild by the fact that all the pins in her hair to keep it secure in her helmet are now half-torn down -- for another three, four seconds of silence that echoes only with the sound of her breathing...

...and then she folds.

Eyes close, brows knit. She bows her head to occlude the tremble in the shape of her mouth and lifts a hand to press her gloved into one shuttered eye, hard. Tilting her crown toward his chest, she reaches for a hug that isn't so much a concession as an exhausted acceptance.

"You're such a frakking asshole, Tomak." But it sounds like 'thank you.'

-

The scowl fades into a grimace, and then into something more neutral as Gage wraps his arms around Ines. There's something interminably human, and vulnerable about the contact.

...It might be ruined by the fact that Gage clearly hasn't bathed in a week. But he's not complaining, his face dropping into the top of her head. She smells way better by comparison, his response muffled as he mumbles into her hair, "Yeah. But right now is exactly when you need a frakking asshole. Because he's the one that's going to get you out of here, okay?"

-

Just about anything would smell better by comparison.

It's still a familiar smell. Partly because there are things in it that are just uniquely his (and frankly the Dauntless isn't exactly a rose garden even at the best of times) and partly because one never quite forgets the way a furtive, post-apocalypse humanity smells.

The whole reality of what they're facing comes rolling in, then, the weight of it like a knee pressing into her chest. Not a new reality for him, though, is it? And after a week of this, he still stayed behind when one of the flight went down. Fingertips curl into the unyielding surface of that dirty vest. All of her words are husked by the endless tightness in her throat. "Okay. ...okay."

The sniff that follows it is precarious, and it's a very long moment before she lifts her head again, blinking rapidly. Her eyes are maybe just a little bit too bright, but there aren't any tears. Still, rather than chance a look up at him, she tilts her focus off to one side, sweeping it over the space they're in for the first time. Taking stock. "Do you think it's still safe here?"

-

Gage watches her closely, and when she glances up at him, there's a twitch of lips, very brief, but like everything else it's familiar and perhaps as much a reassurance as anything. "Not for long. But for now."

When she looks away, he exhales, an edge of weariness in the gesture. "We couldn't move far, because Maison was in such a bad way. Managed to get some antibiotics for him, but not sure if he'll make it." He's scowling again, as if remembering the helpless of watching a fellow marine slowly degenerate and being able to do nothing about it. After a moment's silence, he says, "I figure, we get a couple of hours rest, and when it's full dark, we'll try and make it out of the facility. Need to get some distance between us and this hellhole -- the brass aint gonna risk a second rescue. How's your leg?"

-

Not going to risk a second rescue, he says. Tension strings through her, enough to stand up the tendons in her neck and hollow out her collarbones -- enough that he'd be able to feel it. He's right, but she hadn't been thinking that far ahead yet. Not thinking much at all yet, in fact. Her eyes go a little distant as she processes that, and then turn rueful. "They'll want to," she says, quiet. There's grief in the way she says it, but it's subtle. "They'll all want to." She knows: she's been there more than once, climbing out of her viper after a flight and thinking only about the people they had to leave behind.

"Rest." She actually laughs, though it's a watery, barely-there imitation of the real thing. The thought of closing her eyes and getting any kind of sleep seems to her like the height of insanity, all of her nerves frayed and sparking like fireworks. "Gods." Whatever her skepticism, it's not an objection; they may tussle on the regular, but when it comes to this she doesn't question his judgement at all. The nod she gives him is proof.

His question about her leg finally has her reluctantly shifting away from the comfort of contact so that she can strip her field kit off of her back and lower it to the ground. She reaches to plant a hand on the wall after that, cautiously beginning to lower herself to sit. "Honestly? I don't know. I guess we should find out. If there are things you're out of, things you need, you should-" She lifts her chin toward the things she's just set down.

-

"They'll want to," he echoes, briefly, but adds, "For you," with a nod of acknowledgement.

Her laugh, brief as it is, earns somewhat of a shade from Gage in echo. "You're going to want it. Going to push you worse than that first time we ran together. Bet you a dozen cartons of cigarettes you'll be cursing me by the time we get free of this place," he gives a low, brief chuckle.

When she starts to lower herself, he reaches out a hand to steady her, making sure she's settled before he reaches for the medkit. He exhales an obvious relief as he plies through it. Bandages, painkillers, antiseptic, needle and sutures. The basics, but more, clearly, than what they had to hand, to judge by his own makeshift bandage around his upper left arm. He crouches beside her legs, setting the kit on his lap, then watches keenly for her to bare her leg (not like that, nope!).

-

Even hurt, Ines looks as though she might tell him she doesn't need the help, the slight knit of her brows managing vague irritation at the prospect. She doesn't exactly shake it off, though. "That's a sucker's bet. I already cursed you."

Once she's sitting she's dragging at the zipper on her flight suit and impatiently rolling-shoving-pushing it down into a crinkled bunch around her calves. She's wearing regulation thermal tights underneath, though the one side is split along the seam for six or so inches where it wound up punctured and the stretchy material retreated from the hole. There's a glint of metal buried in her right thigh. In the side, some three or four inches above the knee. The hole isn't large, but it's deep and there's already a grotesquely black spread of bruising beneath the skin.

She squints, leaned forward, head tilted. One of the twists of her hair pulls uncomfortably in its sagging pinning, and she strips it impatiently out, soon followed by the rest as she sits up again. "All things considered, it's not so bad." Her gaze lingers on that tell-tale gleam, then lifts, sets on him. "Can you pull it?" Her inflection makes it clear she's asking more about his ability than his willingness. In all this time, she's never had to worry about what Gage Tomak did or did not know about triage.

-

Gage gives a grunt that is as much amusement as it is response to her comment. His expression quickly turns into a grimace, however, when she bares the wound. Reaching for the knife on his belt, he carefully cuts away the material of her thermal tights from the wound. Quick, precise cuts, but even those probably sting, given the edges were caught where the metal penetrated her skin.

He slides the knife away, and leans close to examine the wound. "Could," he allows, "But I don't know that you'd--" and then he goes and pulls the metal from her leg, all unwarned. Like the ass that he is.

Still, like all marines he's trained well enough for such things, pressing a bandage over the wound with one hand, as he reaches for the needle and thread. "Painkillers might be best saved for when we're moving," he says, but he quirks a look up at her, all the same. It's her call.

-

Asses get punched. She's established that as fact already and it proves out in the very moment he pulls that sliver of steel out of her, nailing his shoulder with one well-thrown but terribly unimpressive fist. "GODS. You- did you think I would change my mind? Or cry? That was- that was so unnecessary!" Most of this is the equivalent of steam being let out of a pressure valve. There's another flush of adrenaline and numberless other stress hormones in her that leaves her fingers trembling, but the way she tilts her head back into the wall and exhales a long sigh suggests there's just as much relief to have it over with.

When she lifts her head again, she reaches out with her hand cupped, expectant. "Give it to me. The piece."

Leery eyes watch him assemble the suture materials, but she looks appropriately resigned. The query written in his gaze as he glances up at her wings her brow upward. Internal stocktaking happens as her eyes go distant, finishing in a slow shake of the head. "Yeah. When we're moving."

As he focuses on what he's doing, she looks at him, finally, lapsing into quiet, eyes lidding. The obvious bandage on his arm, but the rest of him, too. "How bad is it?" Pause. "Not me. You."

-

Gage is entirely unrepentant, even chuckling a little despite her punch to his shoulder, flashing her a grin. "Aint no use working yourself up over a countdown." He looks briefly surprised when she asks for the metal, but just hands it over without comment. He doesn't bother to clean it, so her blood still coats the part that was buried in her leg.

Bending his head, Gage is silent for a moment as he begins carefully sewing up the wound. His stitches aren't the smallest, but they're relatively neat and they'll hold for the purposes of getting the frak out of here, which is clearly his intent. "Nothing I haven't endured before." It's matter of fact, rather than boasting, spoken absently as he focuses. "Aint had a cigarette in five days," seems to be his worst complaint. The unlit cigarette that usually sits behind his ear during missions is absent. It'd probably mean something to those used to seeing him smoke it only when the raptor's on its way to pick them up.

-

Ines quiets, lifting the still-warm jag of metal up. It glints white and red as it shivers in the light, her fingers still not steady, but she doesn't attempt to wipe it clean. Her eyes tighten every time that needle nicks through the edge of that wound, but she doesn't seem especially interested in fussing over his work, contemplating the thing she's holding, instead.

It eventually goes into the small pocket in the waistband of her thermal tights, tucked away for safekeeping.

"Sorry, Tomak. You know I don't." Smoke, that is. After a pause, she bows a semi-hopeful, semi-wry smile that looks almost normal, save that her expression is too pale. Not from blood loss -- there's shockingly little of that, actually, most of it came after he yanked the shrapnel out of her. "Maybe this is the running start you need to quit?"

-

If Gage finds it odd that Ines wants to keep the metal, he doesn't comment -- if he even notices. He grunts by way of disagreement to her observation about quitting. "Gonna pack more emergency smokes, more like." He straightens, regarding his handiwork briefly, then, "All done."

He pushes to his feet after closing and setting the medical kit to one side. His fingers fumble at the buckles of his tactical vest, but even tired, he's done this action often enough for it to be second nature, finally lifting the thing over his head and shoving it towards her. "Put that on. It'll be a bit big, but we'll have to make do."

-

Ines makes a soft tss sound. "Your poor lungs."

She tilts her head over to one side, playing her eyes over the wound. It's going to swell, but the sutures look like they'll allow for it, provided she doesn't wind up with sepsis or something equally charming. "Thanks." She's experimentally flexing and bending her knee by a handful of degrees when she hears those buckles pop, and looks up at him with already large eyes, made almost absurd with how wide they get. They tick from the vest to the man and back again, her mouth opening, then closing.

"What? ...No!" There's alarm in her expression, and it seems genuine. "What are you going to wear? You're the one with the rifle!" She pauses, converting some of her incredulity over into a wan note of laughter, brows slowly knitting. "Unless you're planning to turn me into a pistol-wielding pilot commando?"

-

"You're... just wear it," Whatever explanation Gage had in mind is quickly shed in favor of his usual route of brute force and determination. Which might not work so well against the equally-stubborn Ines, but he's going to try. "No arguments, Correa." He paces the few steps to the other side of the room and back, rubbing at his eyes. "Get some rest. I'll keep watch, wake you when it's time to move."

-

Her eyes narrow. Because obviously they do. It's like a week was long enough for him to forget what she's like.

"I'm what?" She reaches out and puts a hand on the heavy thing he's shoved in her direction, fingers curled over one edge of it, even drags it over a little, scuffing loud in the bouncing acoustics of the bathroom, but she doesn't make any attempt to put it on yet. She might even dig her heels in -- and she actually feels she has good reason to, given she's depending on him to help her fight her way to a place they could theoretically be extracted from -- if he didn't look so...

And if he hadn't stayed behind.

So instead, she compromises. She negotiates. "You tell me and I'll put it on."

-

He scowls at her, not unexpectedly. And when that does little, he grimaces, rolling his shoulders. Reluctance bleeds off his very posture -- reluctance and anger, too -- that she forces the abortive words better left unvoiced.

"You're more important."

There. Happy now? Gage certainly isn't, pacing off to the other side of the small room, to hunker down, back against the wall, glancing at his watch. "One hour, thirty minutes."

-

Fact: what Ines was expecting him to say was 'you're more likely to do something stupid and wind up getting shot,' or 'you're less likely to notice someone sneaking up on you,' or any one of countless other marines-to-pilots remarks that, in fairness, are probably also true.

It is, without a doubt, the nicest thing he's ever said to her, if one tallies only the sum total of things he's been willing to say with any directness at all. He's uncomfortable, she looks momentarily at a lip-parted loss -- for a moment it occurs to her to wonder if this isn't all some fever dream -- but at least it seems to satisfy her request, because after those first floating moments of stunned silence she begins to make her way through putting the vest on. She does it with more competence than one might expect of a pilot, but it still takes her some time, examining the buckles, to ensure it goes on the right way. As predicted, it's absolutely gigantic.

She drags her trapped hair out from underneath the back of it, and in the stillness side-eyes him, because it's easier than looking at him directly. Even then, her gaze ticks from his shoulder to his knee to the toe of his boot.

"Not to me."

But it's a protest she lodges as token only. She cut the deal, and now she has to stick to it.

The weight of the vest makes arranging herself on the floor difficult and clumsy at best, but she manages, curling an arm underneath her head. He gets her back, as much for his sake as for hers, really. "I think it's going to be impossible to sleep," she says, quiet. Eventually, though, she does.

-

A line tightens along Gage's jaw at those words, but he doesn't speak. Not even when she voices difficulty sleeping. He just doesn't trust himself to say anything, and brooding silence being his natural state, effortlessly slides into it.

There might be a grunt of satisfaction when she puts on the vest, sparing her back the briefest of glances. He doesn't try and sleep, not now. Just the silence, and his thoughts as outside, the factory turns into full night, full of cylons that don't sleep, either.


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