There's apologies and understandings, hardly any of it spoken, but Gage and Ines come to an agreement.
Location: Picon Ranch
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 1657
It was already late when Aldrich stumbled over Ines waiting at a window for the safe return of the scouting marines, and he's long since gone off to handle other business. It's no longer merely hushed in the house, now near to silent save for the quiet tread of the occasional patrol passing through en route to other places or the muffled sawing of snoring residents.
She had every intention of remaining awake, convinced she'd be incapable of resting until she had some assurance of the safety of Rhodes and Tomak, but the quiet and warmth of the interior -- and her own continuing failure of health -- conspire against her. By the time they do finally get back to the ranch the needs of her body have won out over the bundle of other needs she has, and she's asleep. It would probably be for the best if she hadn't fallen asleep in a window nook, arms folded over her middle, knees drawn up, back to the inside of the sill, shoulder and head leaned into plate glass that radiates a relentless, bitter cold.
It's far later than they'd planned, by the time they make the ranch. Gage has his arm tended to -- bandaged, but he doesn't bother to clean off the now-dried blood -- too cold for that. He divests himself of his vest, creeping up to Nate's room to lay it down for Ines to claim again -- only she's not there. Nate's sleeping soundly, earning a frowning look from the Tauran. Finally, his exhausted steps take him on a circuit of the house, throughout all the common areas.
He finds her there, sleeping in the window nook, his expression a parade of emotions. There's a long hesitation, before he strides towards her. The Tauran's intent is clearly not to wake her, sliding arms carefully under her knees and back respectively, intending to lift her against him with a soft grunt of exertion.
Little hope of moving her without waking her, for all that his intentions are good. And yet: he's roused her from sleep countless times since they reunited near the site of her crashed fighter, and she's consistently snapped fully awake with the instinctual immediacy of someone with a history that contains the necessity of doing that. Not so, this time. The groggy noise she makes when she's lifted lacks the usual alertness -- which probably arrives as little surprise once he's holding her, because she feels as though she contains embers, too warm for anything but real fever. It's full seconds until she processes that someone's handling her, signaled by sudden tension and a sharply indrawn breath. Hazy eyes snap open, focus long enough for the familiarity to breach the fog of her sleep, and then lid again as the breath leaves her in a long, relieved exhale.
Could be that the infection and fever and drowsiness are wearing down the barricades that usually contain her more sentimental thoughts and feelings -- certainly the encounter with Aldrich is inexplicable, otherwise. Could be because the last time she saw him she walked out on him angrily, too. Regardless of the reason, without any hesitation at all she loops an arm up and over his shoulder and leans into it, as close a thing as she can manage to a hug in the position she's in. "Rhodes?"
Since it's highly unlikely she thinks he's Cate, she's probably asking about whether or not Rhodes is also okay.
"It's me," is what Tomak murmurs, in response to the sudden tension he feels. He's not looking down at her -- deliberately one might guess -- the line of his jaw tensing briefly. He's moving with care, trying not to jostle her as he navigates the rooms, headed towards Nate's.
That stops -- he stops -- when she loops an arm around him in a hug. Almost simultaneously, he exhales a breath. "Fine. She's fine. We had -- it didn't go well." Again, his jaw tightens, tension perhaps felt where she's braced against him.
His, "I'm sorry," is barely audible. It might be the first time she's ever explicitly heard him apologize for anything -- let alone something so out of his control as this. But it's very clear he takes the failure personally, no matter the circumstances.
She's quiescent until the words 'it didn't go well' have her lifting her head again, concern beginning to erode the soft fuzz of sleep still clinging to her thoughts. Her brows stitch together over eyes that begin to do a circuit of what little of him she can see, but the wound in his arm isn't in her field of view.
She also entirely misunderstands what he's apologizing for. A subtle conflict plays out in her expression, though its object remains unclear; her, "Me too," doesn't sound conflicted at all. In the face of those earlier words she seems uninclined to revisit what she believes they're talking about, too preoccupied with the rest, particularly since he doesn't seem injured. "What happened?"
After a few heartbeats, he starts moving again, climbing the stairs in silence. The ranch creaks and groans, never truly silent itself. Nate's door is ajar, and he pushes in backwards, kicking it shut with his boot. It's a measure of his exhaustion, perhaps, that when he kneels down to lower her onto the patch of floor that's been her bed -- at night -- and his more often than not during the day, he lets out a grunt of exertion.
Sitting there beside her for a moment, he starts unlacing his boots. His voice is quiet, in deference to Nate: "The dogs came at us. Weren't interested in meat -- they came right for us, knocked Rhodes down. We had to shoot." He aims for neutrality, but his tirednessness means he doesn't quite get there: a raw kind of frustration evident in his voice. "Cylons heard the shooting, came after us. We couldn't make it to the hospital."
The way she moves one leg when he reaches the stairs suggests an expectation that he's going to set her down. That he does not produces a bright note of surprise in her otherwise indolent expression, and then something else more complicated than that, bound up around a sharp, quiet cramp in her chest. All the way upstairs, to the nest of blankets -- minus one -- that they've been sleeping in on rotating schedules, until he sets her down.
She doesn't recline, but she does blindly draw one of the blankets up and over her shoulders, tugged down in front of her chest, with her eyes locked onto him, watching the work of his hands and the careful expression on his face. The bandage, too.
She frowns, and it might be because of any one of those things. Hearing about the danger they were in after the fact does little to take the edge off of the tension those thoughts inspire in her. "The important thing is that you made it back."
Gage's expression changes at those words: hardens. "With nothing to show for it," is growled, perhaps too emphatically, since Nate stirs, forcing him to silence for moments.
After levering his boots off, the Tauran finally glances down at her. He reaches down to pull the edge of the blanket fully over her feet and, after a moment, stretches out on the floor beside her. His bends his good arm underneath his head as a makeshift pillow. Despite his exhaustion, there's nothing about his posture that suggests he's on the verge of sleep: he usually never has a problem doing so under any circumstances, but he instead stares at the ceiling.
Pale eyes follow his tucking-in of her feet, a gesture that nicks a shadow between her brows again for reasons she fails to articulate. Silence descends, a buffer around the sound of Nate moving -- she's never quite as good at that as Tomak is, not especially attuned to children, never having had any of her own -- and in it she stares at the bloody bandage around his arm until the kid's breathing regulates again. She tilts carefully and silently over onto her hip with one hand braced on the floor, the other holding the blanket closed in front of her from the inside -- the better to look down at him. Roughly at him, anyway: less his face than the rest of him.
<<You should let me clean that up,>> she says eventually in Tauran, words so quiet they barely contain voice at all, nodding her head at his arm once. And, after a pause: <<I found some cans of spraypaint in the garage. Cleaned the nozzles up, so they work now. You'll need to mark the outside of the raider while King and I try to get it working. It would make for a really dumb end to this story if we got shot down by friendlies on approach to the base.>>
While he's aware of his gaze, he keeps his on the ceiling -- a long slow exhale trying to ease that tension that's all too visible on his expression, and largely failing. For once, he doesn't fight her. <<In the morning,>> he allows, a bare mumble.
He's silent while she gives her take on the plan, but the words, finally, draw his gaze, a brief twitch of lips given that doesn't quite mute the intensity of his gaze. <<What do you want it to say? Don't shoot me down? Idiots on board? Wolves for life?>>
The tilt of her mouth suggests she's not entirely thrilled with the idea of waiting -- she can probably be forgiven for that sentiment, given her present state is the consequence of unclean injuries -- but she doesn't insist. They've been at loggerheads enough for one twenty-four hour window, and between Aldrich's moderating perspective and her relief, infused retroactively with the knowledge of just how dangerous the marines' outing really was, it's a fight she doesn't want to pick.
...which leaves room for her to quirk a wry half-smile over his suggested slogans, gaze finally ticking up to meet his. It even carries up into her eyes. <<Are we idiots?>> Rhetorical. Shadow puddles in the hollow of her throat in time with some laugh she doesn't actually give voice to. <<Whatever you want. As long as it's visible from a distance, the message matters less than the defacement, probably. 'Will destroy cylons for hot shower?'>>
<<Undoubtedly,>> comes Tomak's immediate response. <<Wouldn't be in the Wolves if we weren't, a little. Could be living out our lives in a shack on some beach somewhere, spending our days climbing mountains and jumping off cliffs.>> You know, the dream.
Her words draw a smile, though it might be difficult to discern in the dark under that unkempt beard, but it's audible in his voice, just barely: <<For a cigarette,>> he corrects her latter suggestion.
He's silent for a time, then: <<We can do this. You can do this.>> Hard to say if he's trying to convince her, himself, or both.
He describes the dream, and Ines sits there in lip-parted silence, sage-green eyes wandering the side of his face. Tripped up over something about the sentiment he expressed, it's a long moment before she manages to tuck that look away behind another wry smile, tugging her attention off onto another angle, slant over and past him, toward the darkness underneath Nate's bed.
A wry crinkle of her nose expresses her feelings about cigarettes, but she has enough tact not to be vocal about her judgement.
Lost in her own thoughts, sorting through the muddle of conflicting things and open questions inspired by his toss-off remark about shacks (no: a shack, singular) on the beach, she's slow to reorient on his assurance, but she does. It gets a matching silence from her, and then a rustling of cloth as she shifts, one hand on his upper arm, pressing it away from his ribs gently. Creating space. <<It was done before. It's possible.>> This is a half-truth, but she speaks it with assurance.
It takes him a few moments to realize what she's doing. He moves his arm, drawing her in close and settling his arm back around her as if it was natural, something they did always. There's a mute kind of comfort in the contact, whatever remaining tension easing by measures from him.
It's some moments later -- gathering his thoughts -- maybe getting his thoughts back on track -- before he ventures, <<Just like riding a bike, if the bike was an alien that wanted to kill you.>> It's halfhearted; clear he's no longer thinking about that moment that's coming up on them, all too soon.
<<When we get back,>> not if -- he doesn't use that language -- <<They'll probably give us time off. Gonna find a place, somewhere far away. Maybe a shack,>> he says. <<If you wanted to come,>> he begins, haltingly, stopping a moment later. Then: <<I guess I could put up with you.>>
The cold, clinging winter he carried in with him can't survive proximity to her. She radiates heat like a small furnace, though it's not a humid heat, not yet feverish to the point of perspiring. It takes her a moment to stretch out into a long line next to him, managing various aches and mindful of what hurts he may have, but in the end none of the intervening years without practice seem to matter: it's easy enough to find the places she fits best, settle the blanket over top of them haphazardly and go boneless there, chills quieted by shared warmth. It may not be long before it's all too much heat for someone who isn't in some way sick, but her eyes lid immediately, lashes drawn low over distant eyes.
They still spark with mirth twice. A little, first, over his fanciful description; more after that, for his follow-up. The short, threadbare laugh that follows is one he'll feel more than hear, given she's trying to stay quiet, but enough of it escapes to make Nate restless again. <<You've had a lot of practice,>> she agrees, words mellowing, but silver-plated with amusement. One of her brows edges upward, and her head turns in its spot between his shoulder and chest, though she doesn't go so far as to lift it. Curious: <<Where will it be?>>
She feels more than hears the noise in his chest -- his reaction to her heat -- the sudden concern it brings in a brief tensing. There's nothing he can do. He already knows this, but there's still a moment where he thinks, hopes -- and then he lets it go. His arm tightens around her wordlessly.
<<Plenty,>> he agrees, amusement faint, if just in deference to Nate's restless stirring. <<I think Picon has tried to kill us too many times,>> he says, with a grimace. <<Argentum Bay has nice cliffs, beaches.>> A beat, then, <<Does Leonis have decent beaches?>>
The silence that greets that question is longer than necessary -- certainly she must know whether or not Leonis has beaches worthy of visiting.
She does eventually answer, though, subdued. <<Beautiful beaches, in some places. Not...not near where I lived. No, there were- there were beaches. Cliffs. Beautiful. But the water was very cold, not good for swimming. Not the right kind of beaches.>> Pause. <<Not that it matters, I think. It's impossible to get close now.>> Another pause. <<In the south, though, the->>
This time she breaks off abruptly, and suddenly begins to shake. She makes no sound, so it may initially be difficult to tell why. She even turns her face, presses it into him to muffle whatever those sounds are. Maybe she's bursting into tears, thinking about home...!
Seconds later, though, she lifts it again and is clearly struggling not to burst out laughing. It's the first time she's really laughed since she crashed. The effort of staying silent brings a rind of tears to the lower ledge of her lids, and her strangled speech is broken apart by fresh bouts of shaking amusement. <<Actually there's a- there's a nice little seaside town. Sisplau. I've never been, it's small, nowhere. Pastoral. We should go. We->> It takes her a moment to recover from this round of hiccuped laughter. <<We should definitely go.>>
Her subdued, thoughtful words mutating into a shaking leads Gage to a definite conclusion, confusion and surprise registering at her tears. Well, and her not tears, when it becomes apparent moments later that she's laughing. He looks, frankly baffled.
It probably doesn't help that she's laughing while suggesting they go. Clearly unsure how to react to that, he stews in silence for a moment.
The silence has to go on long enough for her to notice that it's unusual, at which point she does finally lift her head, the arm angled into the floor sliding under his shoulder to brace her on an elbow so that she can look at him. The other one sweeps away the glint of moisture underneath one eye. The way she looks at his pensively baffled expression for some silent moments is wry, though she presses her lips into a thin line, trying to crush out the blooming of another smile. It defeats her in the end, too loopy with fever to put up any kind of solemnity that isn't real, even in jest.
"It's where the author lives," she admits, finally. "The one- the romance author. You know. Cage Lowjack." Her ribs tremble against his with another compressed laugh. "You're probably very popular there. I bet they comp us a room. But it might be dangerous, I might be- it's possible I could be assaulted by jealous admirers. You'd have to protect me."
It's clear the answer is entirely unexpected, and it takes Gage a moment or two to react. Bafflement turns to wary suspicion, and as she continues to laugh, to grudging reluctance. "I thought you only made a few copies for the Dauntless. People actually read that?" There was that cheque, of course. The one he never cashed.
The idea of him, a nobody, being known in some obscure Leonese town has a kind of absurdity to it. His, "Frak me," is loud enough that Nate mumbles something, an incomprehensible query. Gage's, "It's fine, go back to sleep," has a practiced quality to it, and he's forced to silence for some time after.
Finally, some time later, faint: "We could go there," with a kind of hesitance, like he's really not sure if she's being serious or not.
"I only had a few copies for the Dauntless, but no. She's a real author. I told you I didn't write-"
Frak me, he says, and that -- plus the mumbling from Nate -- is enough that she has to press her cupped hand over her mouth and put her head down on his chest, crown-first, brows knit in the effort required not to make any noise. Inevitably the need to muffle her laughter makes her want to laugh that much harder -- that, and the relief, and giddiness, of having something to laugh about after a grim and dire month only grimmer for the way in which she's genuinely not sure she's going to survive to go on this vacation with him at all.
The silence helps. Eventually her shaking quiets to fits and starts, and then stillness again. She takes her cues from him, quiet until he's not anymore. His kid-sense is infinitely better than her own.
The way he says what he says is funny to her all over again, but the fact that he still offers is enough to keep her from indulging herself in the temptation to laugh: something painfully sweet about it. There's a twist in her ribs that helps ground her from all of that dizzy amusement, and after a beat she stretches her arm across his chest and upward, until warm fingertips find the side of his face, skirting high enough that her thumb can trace the line of his cheekbone.
<<It doesn't matter to me where we go, Gage. Anywhere. All I want is to go.>> Her hesitation is so long that it likely seems she's finished speaking. She may even believe that she is. But Aldrich has tilted the balance of things, and so has the fever, and the quiet, and his reluctance, so she chooses bravery, and confesses, quiet as a breath: <<With you.>>
He's aware of her mirth now -- that it's not suppressed tears -- and his posture remains relaxed throughout the silence, perhaps even earning a twitch of a lips from the marine in turn, though unseen.
Her reach for his cheek makes him lift his head, to better see her. She can feel the long exhale, and his rumbled, <<We'll go then. Somewhere.>> The where doesn't really matter, to judge by his tone -- the relief, the faint thread of anticipation he allows.
And then she adds that last. It was implied of course. Assumed. But she says it so directly, in the way that they almost never do. He absorbs that in silence, a lengthy one by any measure given the weight of the words. His, <<Okay,>> might be anticlimactic by comparison, but it has a wealth of meaning in it, a verbalized acceptance as his arm tightens around her.
She knows he's looking, feels it when he lifts his head, but she doesn't answer that look with one of her own. Her still-lowered head tilts, her arm shifts, and she sinks back into the space next to him. They've crossed a seemingly endless distance in such a short period of time, but some things remain difficult, and may always be -- anything the least bit vulnerable topping the list. There's nothing quite like facing down one's own mortality for weeks on end to inspire greater willingness to take those risks than usual, and there's a curious, almost reckless relief in it -- unburdening herself of things she would almost never under other circumstances say, because the risk of never having the opportunity to do it if she doesn't do it now feels altogether too real -- but it still makes her uneasy. It's just easier not to look at him.
By the time he responds to her choice to do that her hand has already fallen away from the side of his face, and the single word earns little more than a twitch of her fingertips against his shoulder.
Not because she's underwhelmed, but because she's asleep.
And now its his turn -- a laugh rumbles in his chest, threatens to burst forth. But he stifles it, because he'd be waking both Nate and Ines now. Instead, Gage's gaze focuses on what he can see of her -- the top of her head, the spill of her hair against his chest, the loose curl of her fingers at his shoulder. Another moment in time to be captured.
She's a distracting, burning heat against him. It's enough to keep him from dropping off entirely to sleep. Enough to keep that edge of worry, even though he's helpless to do anything about it. Maybe he'll stay awake, and it'll mean something, make a difference somehow...
He doesn't. Soon enough he's asleep too.