|Buck Rogers|| The flight back from Siberia touched down only a short while ago-- during the trip, the myriad broken ribs Buck suffered from the depradations of the almighty Nemesis knit themselves back together, torn flesh and shattered bone regenerating with inhuman speed. Such was his vigor that when he rolled right on down the plane's steps, he was already burning through the sedatative impact of the nerve gas circulating through his system. Between the adrenaline rush of combat, the high of cellular regeneration, and the weariness-inducing gas, he was riding a rollercoaster of stamina.
Wisely, perhaps, Buck opted to avoid strenuous activity. He drew out a phone. He had Trixie's number from Celeste, most like.
"Hey, beautiful. Yeah, you know that joint FBC-BSAA mission? Yeah, that-- look, we touched back down, come meet me at the Notre Dame. If Celeste's with you, bring her; got a busy signal when I called her."
Now, late at night, Buck sits at the front of a grand cathedral, leaning against a dark wooden pew, legs and arms spread to claim his territory. Majestic painted windows, arches lined with stone carvings and the faces of saints, and countless holy imagery stare down at him. If there's any place in the world God might hear you, this isn't a bad guess.
|Trixie||Trixie is dressing for duty when she gets the call from Buck. The little mostly-outdated flip-phone is snatched up and opened. "Yes? Buck? Um, yeah... we just got taken off high alert. Ummm... 'Kay... I'll be there as soon as I can. I'm really glad you're okay. Take care." She thumbs the disconnect and closes the phone, sighing wearily. "I get the feeling I'm not gonna like this," she murmurs, and resumes her dressing.
Hours later, a LSSV Tahoe in FBC markings and emergency lights rolls to a stop near Notre Dame, disgorging a single red-haired FBC trooper wearing embarrasingly new black sergeant's stripes. Trixie makes her way inside the massive and ancient cathedral, locating Buck within moments. "I'm so glad you're safe," she says, hugging him instinctively.
|Buck Rogers|| With an easy smile, Buck wraps one giant arm around the smaller girl, patting her shoulder with his hand. "Sit down," he instructs, releasing her and leaning back-- she can drop on his lap or the bench next to him that he spreads across like a sated lion. "You're looking good, gorgeous. A little ol' nymph dancing out the woods." A languid air clings to him with all the manifest potency of the sweat-and-blood smell; he hasn't yet showered, and she can see upon him the signs of battle. The dried blood, the ash of charred hair on his face and neck, faint ribbons of flesh here and there. Even a few bits of metal that seem stuck in pockets.
Just what was he doing?
"You're not gonna like what I tell you, sweetheart. Think you and Isabel both had that crush, didn't you? Mm.. I'll be the one to track her down, too, I bet." He takes a deep breath and turns to face her. For all his weary calmness, there's a light in those sharp blues, an overbearing hyper-focus. Even relaxed, he's predatory. "Chris and Jill died."
|Trixie||Trixie releases Buck and takes a good look at him. "Ohmigawd... what /happened/ to you? How are you even on your feet?" she asks, touching his cheek with a tenderness he likely seldom sees from her toward him, instantly concerned at the sight of the wounds and the charred hair and flesh. "You look like hell warmed over. You really should sit down... Oh. Thank you..." She moves to take a seat next to him, aware that they are, in fact, in a church. A very large and very famous church, but no less a church for all the tourists.
"I had a bad feeling when I got your call," she adds softly, but it doesn't soften the blow when he tells her the worst of the bad news. "Chris... is /dead/? Jill Valentine is dead? Chris... and Jill..?" she says, eyes huge, her mouth working helplessly, unable to speak except for little sobbing sounds. Two of her heroes from S.T.A.R.S., dead in one fell swoop. Tears flood her eyes. "Oh, God, no..." she sobs breathily, pressing her sleeve to her face as she dissolves into helpless tears. At least a church audience won't judge you when you're grieving.
|Buck Rogers|| "We raided the facility on short notice so that Umbrella didn't have time to pick the bones clean," he says when she questions him. The ticklish touch of her fingers on his face startles him-- there's a brief widening of his eyes that settles quick, and his lips, pressed into a grim straight arrow, quirk at the corner. The skin beneath her fingers is warm, and when her fingers slip toward the hairs of his beard, a few of them crumble like they had been exposed to great heat. "A joint assembly of BSAA, FBC, and local Spetsnaz arrived on scene about fifteen hours ago. A hundred of us took the above-ground facility. But they were already under attack internally-- there'd been an outbreak, and we found zombies. Put 'em all down, seized control, and breached the underground sections."
He exhales, reaching a hand to his chest. There's a little tenderness from the healed-over blows that snapped too many of his ribs to count. "Underground, we set off some sort of trap. Some holographic little girl fried our tech-head by overloading a computer console, we barely got away with the weapons' research we recovered. The facility began a self-destruct. A B.O.W. was released to suppress our escape-- you might recognize him from Raccoon. Nemesis. But this time, twelve feet tall, all done up as a cyborg, and mutating every ten steps like some evolution of the species video on fast-forward. It pursued, opened fire. Decided to buy everyone some time; we were sitting ducks mowing down the undead and trying to avoid that minigun in a long stretch of straight hallway. I stopped running."
He pauses in the story to let her cry, reaching over to rest his hand atop her head.
|Trixie||Trixie keeps him waiting. It's several minutes before her sobbing slows and begins to die away into sniffles and occasional hiccups. "An outbreak... I... totally saw that... coming..." she murmurs, between sniffles, dabbing at her eyes with the end of her sleeve. "I... only heard about... the thing in... Raccoon. Never... saw it. Hearing was... bad enough. It shot down... evac helos... full of refugees... I hope... that it's dead." Her dainty fists clench, white-knuckled. "And that it... died in agony..." Even through the tears, her blue eyes are hard and blazing, remnants of her helpless rage and grief from many months before, when she'd heard about the attack on the evacuation birds.
She is quiet for a long moment. "Is that how you... got so hurt? Did they die then?" she asks, softly, on the verge of more tears.
|Buck Rogers|| Sensitivity is not a skill most assume Buck has; they see the irreverence, the arrogance, the bloodthirst, and think the monster has lost all of the man. But outside of battle, there's a deepness of thought and feeling in the brute, and however many minutes Trixie takes to compose herself, he sits there quiet with a soothing touch. At times like this, he's practically paternal-- a pat on her head, a little mussing of her hair, a reassuring weight on her shoulder. When at last she's collected, he lifts her chin, brushes her tears away with his thumb, and smiles with a flash of sharp teeth.
"There you go, sweetheart, let it all out," he says, another pat-pat on her head. "Ain't nothing that makes a man happier when he's gone than knowing a girl cried for him back home." A silence falls upon him again in the wake of her question. "The labs started flooding with gas to disable us. The hallways were getting smoked out. The rest of the team put some bullets in him, Jill had a grenade launcher-- hell of a shot with that thing. When it was dazed, I ripped into it. Taunted it as it evolved. There was an electrical malfunction ahead, but Nemesis couldn't get to them without going through me, so everyone made it through-- worse for the wear, but alive. It got faster, stronger, sleeker. Ever seen that movie Aliens? Bit more like that. It charged me, hit like a fucking truck; I managed to gouge a few chunks of it out and force it into another one of those evolution comas.. but then I was flying through the air, numbed from nerve gas, smashing into one of the sparking panels. Broke most of my ribs, got electrocuted. Chris was pretty hurt, too, though he'd been putting lead in the big bastard."
Another pause in the story to breathe and think and let it sink in. All the good storytellers need to let the audience reflect.
|Trixie||Trixie manages a tiny smile at the comment, wincing slightly at the pat-pat that shakes her head like a too-low doorjamb. The smile dies away within seconds as he begins to answer the terrible questions she's put to him, but despite the previous tears and that girly-girl talk of hers, she's a trooper deep down. Even if she has to bite her lip a time or three, she manages not to cry as he tells the story. She keeps eye contact, nodding every once in a while to show that she's still listening.|
|Buck Rogers|| "With how much we'd hurt the thing, and how it kept evolving to counter us, delaying it, we managed to reach an emergency lift back to the upper levels. But there was a problem-- we got so far ahead that it opened fire again, before the mutations overtook it and it lost the ability to shoot. Jill was playin' hero, and took a bullet for someone."
Buck doesn't actually know all their names. He shrugs a little. "It blew right through her leg, damn near took it off. But folks didn't notice in the rush-- just thought she'd be there keeping up. By the time we noticed she wasn't on the lift with us, we were in the final countdown. Lickers swarming in from an adjoining hall, Nemesis bearing down. Chris, bless his heart, didn't waste a beat; he leaps off the lift and runs to her to help her."
Buck finally breaks eye contact. His fingers white-knuckle the rim of the pews, and he tilts his wounded head back, staring up at the high, high ceiling. The Notre Dame is beautiful; chandeliers and rosey glass, gentle lights and the pure sanctity of the church. It's a shame his story isn't that lovely.
"Dumb, dumb move. There was no time for it. They always had a crush on each other, but with her leg.. they couldn't make it back. The facility was already falling apart, before the waves of fire came. Nemesis, he lit up like a Christmas tree, and so did the lickers. It was so fast you could blink and miss it." The unspoken implication, of course, being that Chris and Jill likewise had a relatively fast, painless death.
"We made it back to the surface as the place was going down around us. We barely made it off grounds before the explosions rocked the ice, and the whole fucking chunk of it fell into the surrounding ocean. Massive foundations of ice and steel bobbin' in the cold like apples."
|Trixie||Trixie gasps softly as Jill's sacrifice is told, hastily biting her lip against a sob, but she can't hide the tears trying to flood her eyes. Blinking hard several times to clear them, she looks back into Buck's face as best she can, though it's clear her composure is crumbling. "The PD brass hated her after Arklay, but... I always knew she was /the best/," she whispers. No explanation is forthcoming about her choice of words. Between two former S.T.A.R.S., none should be needed.
She squeezes her eyes shut tight as he tells of Chris's return to pull Jill out, and her fists clench as it is made clear that there was no time for them to escape. "Not dumb... selfless," she whisper, with effort, as the tears threaten to overcome her again. "Even if he couldn't save her... he wouldn't let her die alone. He loved her that much... I'd never want any of my team to die, but... I guess I'd hope someone would do that for me, if it came to it." She presses her face into her hands as the tears finally break through, barely registering the rest of the story.
|Buck Rogers||"Yeah," the giant rumbles, that earthquake voice assuming an iron aspect-- hardening, sharpening; the country boy manners might forbid him from speaking ill of the dead, but there's a sister without a brother, now. "He took care of his woman. Can't say I don't understand-- if it came down to you or Celeste, or Isabel, or Lil..." He pauses as he says that last name. He does not finish it. ".. well, I'd go out with a smile, makin' sure you girls were okay." He leans in, wraps his arm around her shoulders, and with a flex pulls her toward him. As she cries, he just sits there and remains silent, serving as an anchoring rock, his breath and heartbeat a steady chorus to her tears. "You're a good girl," is all he says.|
|Trixie||"You're... a good man..." Trixie whispers, impulsively twisting in her seat and hugging him as he draws her in close, pressing her face to his chest as she continues to cry helplessly. "I'm sorry I... ever thought... you weren't..." For a long moment she just clings to him, as if he were a rock in the perilous sea and she a drowning swimmer.
"Claire... ohmigawd, poor little Claire..!" she moans, as if the young woman weren't three years her senior. "We've got to find her... help her get through this..."
|Buck Rogers|| There's a certain male stoicism that's aroused by a woman's vulnerability, at least in old-fashioned types like Buck; where he might normally crack a joke or flirt, instead he absorbs her grief as readily as the damaged chest of his jacket absorbs her tears. His other hand rises and threads thick fingers through her hair that curl and scratch along the back of her scalp and the nape of her neck. "I'm not so bad," is his sole concession to humor, a lightening of the mood; his mouth quirks.
"I haven't spoken to Claire in a long time," he confesses to the stone-faced saints high above, on the glass and stone. "But Emma might know what she's up to. The news said she got roped in with that TerraSave business Claire was always focused on." A thoughtful hmm. "Celeste's part of it, too; she might have some information. I'll find her, sweetheart, don't worry. There's gonna be a whole mess'a folks feeling the hurt from this."
That thought elicits a knife of bitterness in Buck's stomach.