AN/ Seeing how few fics there are in this otherwise wonderful little fandom, I thought I would add my own humble attempt to the pile. I have no idea whether this was meant to be slash or not, being quite undecided about it (but really Joe is better with anyone who isn't Polly =]), which probably wont last long, as I'm usually quick to slash canonical characters. So if you like Joe/Dex, you can read it that way, and if you don't, it can just be read as a post-film friendship fic.
Summary: Tomorrow is another day, when things are to be patched up and rebuilt, but right now Dex and Joe can drink to how things could have turned out so differently. Friendship/Pre-slash
The Remains of Today
The hangar bay is still in the process of being rebuilt, and it shows. Most of the destroyed partitions of the building have been removed out of the way by many hands and labour, but that's really only the larger pieces, and the floor is littered with the debris that is left, what hasn't yet been picked up and cleared away; ashes and dust and smaller calamities in the overall disaster of broken tables and chairs, lamps thrown on their sides. The fire died down not long after it rose up, the rescue procedure going on with a smooth transition from workers and mechanics scrambling out of the collapsing frame of their operations base to the swift and efficient assembling of forces returning with the correct equipment to tackle the blaze. All without the presence of the Flying Legion's errant leader of Sky Captain – off saving the world from Totenkopf, the man who dared attack his base and steal his friends. But while he shot off to tackle the big important matters, the rest of the men on the ground were faced with trying to return to some semblance of order.
To Dex, the place still looks as broken down as it had when he had been taken away. In the light of day, without the distraction of giant mecha and the whole place crashing down on him, the building looks smaller with so many people ferrying to and fro with personal errands to run; the fly-boys of the Flying Legion wingless and grounded to aid the efforts of the mechanics and technicians with clean-up. Dex isn't the most physically imposing of men, nor does he have great strength of muscle to be of much use to those who are gathering in groups to lift the large pieces of roof with their combined strength, but he diligently helps none the less in his own way; coordinates where the rubble should be taken, crawls into tight spaces constricted by fallen beams still not moved to reach power couplings that have been damaged. It takes a long time to fix all that has been knocked out by the assault, squirming and wriggling about in enclosed spaces and a fair bit of muttered cursing, so much dust and dirt clinging to his uniform that it comes off in drifts when he brushes it off with a distracted hand, but with a bit of jiggery-pokery and with the aid of having a certain mechanical-genius working on the issue, by the time the sky outside begins to darken, light has been partially restored to whatever the electrics are still connected. Some overhead lights have been knocked from their moorings, sent down to the ground for workmen to crush the glass of the broken bulb into powder underfoot, but it's as much as Dex could have hoped for.
It's hard work, but Dex has always relished a challenge. So he works on well into the night, passing on orders to teams that have joined themselves for greater effectiveness instead of sparse individuals all trying to do each job by themselves. There are no clocks in the room for them to tell the time, but luckily Dex is still in possession of a working watch that he found into the rubble, slipping it onto his wrist. Maybe when they've got everything else sorted, he'll set about finding its owner, but for the moment he allows it to serve out a useful purpose.
At ten, he calls a halt to the proceedings, taking in how the replacement structures to the roof have already been manoeuvred in place and the iron ridge of the roofing has already started to patch up the holes that have been left. He tells everyone to take a break, and he watches as some of them smile in relief at those words, lean back to stretch out ligaments in their back from the hours they've spent hunched over, and he congratulates them in his own quiet way that comes from not being a very good public speaker, ordering them with a reassuring expression to all to go home and to come back tomorrow. He knows if they work any longer, tiredness will begin to impede progress, that the work load will get to them if he pushes too hard. At the moment they're all doing well at focusing on the jobs that need done, taking each one as they come, not thinking and worrying about the shear amount to accomplish overall. Dex seems to be in command here, and although he isn't good at communicating as such, having little real authority in his voice. The rest of them probably only listen to him because he looks like he might know what's going on. It's Dex, they'll think, good boy Dex. He'll know what's happening. And although he has little experience in command, he had to learn fast in Totenkopf's Shangri-La; rallying together a number of tired and frightened scientists all well into their elder years, unwilling to try for escape or simply too scared to. It had been hard work convincing them all; he being in their eyes an impulsive and reckless yank with little experience due to his younger age, and it had taken a few days quietly conversing with each in turn (and considering between the eight of them; six spoke purely German, two French and the other two thankfully bilingual in English and German.) to convince them all that they could make it out of there.
Some of that latent concern for others rather than himself has lingered even though he is out of danger, and in charge he finds himself worrying over the men he's working with, considering their emotional states and deciding it's something he needs to keep a weather eye on. They've all been through some roller-coaster in the last few days, and he imagines that a few of them will still be getting over the shock of their base nearly collapsing around them.
They appear grateful at his gesture of sending them home, and they all trickle out of the building slowly with a thankful wave or acknowledgement in his direction; the family men first, eager to see their wives and children after such a long day, some technicians straying to finish what they've been doing before Dex's prompting has them also making their way out, shoulders slumped lower with the hours they've worked but smiling as they envisage the beds waiting at home for them.
And Dexter Dearborn is left alone again to his own devices.
He doesn't have a family to return to, and sees no need to finish up the day even when he's already sent everyone else home. It's just his way, the first one in at the beginning of the day, and the last to shut the lights off when the sun has long submitted to a pale risen moon.
Popping a new piece of Double Bubble in his mouth, scrunching the wrapper up and returning it back to his pocket, he carries on. Dragging out a broom that seems to have appeared on site, starting on the dust and debris that stain the floor grey. After a while he's managed to clean up a sizeable patch, clustering it all in an ashen pile that he'll dispose of at some point. His actions are on automatic, unthinking and precise. Clearing the floor in squares of clearance and moving onto another defined area. Systematic, something tangible in the contingent world he has inhabited of late.
He comes to the area where his desk would usually stand, and stops his ministrations to right it, picking it up off the floor. One of the legs has snapped, the lower end hanging forlornly on a hinge of remaining wood, so he takes pity on it and snaps the whole leg from its moorings, leaving it unsteady with only three supports. Dex's not much of a craftsman when it comes to wood, but he manages to find another intact length of wood lying around near where a joiner has brought materials to patch up the beams and roofing with, the size of which he fixes with a saw that has been left lying around in a metal carry-box of assorted tools. With a hammer and a few nails affixing it into place, the new leg still looks odd and out of place, but for the moment, it is practical at least. Getting a new desk will have to wait until the Flying Legion is completely back in operations again. The world doesn't stop just because they hit a spot of bother, and there is always need for the help of Sky Captain and his boys in some sort of crisis or another. The sooner the place is workable again, the better.
There are still the structural issues to be completed, but for the moment, Dexter focuses on the minutiae, allowing himself to be a little selfish in clearing up his own space – or what remains of it. The lamp he returns to its position on his desk, and with that follows the speaker which was thrown to the floor when the beam came tumbling down and trapped Dex's leg. His comic books he finds in a scattered spread on the ground, and although he laments the issues that have not survived, the heat of the fire and the general destructive too much for their fallible pages to withstand, many he manages to salvage, brushing the dust off their covers to again see the face of the hero of the stories proudly displayed in some death-defying pose. They are returned to a pile on his desk, along with maps and papers that he hunts down, including the map in which a hole over Nepal has been torn; the clue he left for Cap before he was taken.
It's probably moved on into the early hours of the next day when he stops, his gum long having lost any hint of flavour, and he pulls himself up to full height and stretches, cracking his back – a bad habit he's never quite been able to give up. His body is telling himself he's tired, and he's in a good mind to listen to those signals for once. Going home sounds like an intelligent plan tonight. It's rare he ever does take that option and grace his small rented room with his presence for a few short hours, but as long as he continually pays the fees the landlady sets, it's still there waiting for him whenever he needs some rest-bite away from work.
He notices that there is still a light on above in another area of the base, and it's no surprise that when he goes to investigate, it's the office of Sky Captain Joseph Sullivan that the light illuminates from. Taking the time to deposit his gum back into its packet and wrapping it back up with the intention of throwing it into the nearest bin he finds, he pushes open the unlocked door to find the man himself, reading some official document or other, eyes getting tired and beginning to squint at the small printed words. When he sees Dex however, he smiles widely with that open grin of his, and Dex is compelled to smile back.
"Dex!" Joe sounds his name like he hasn't seen the man for a long time, like he missed him. The two haven't really seen much of each other since the clean-up began, Cap off sorting official things, filing reports and mass-organising the higher ups into returning the animals from the rocket ark back to their homelands and the scientists back to their families, with Dex dealing with more on-the-ground stuff. In fact, Dex hasn't really gotten the chance to talk to his friend in a long while, not since he was kidnapped, not even when the two of them were reunited at Totenkopf's fortress. A proper talk, the one full of joking banter and familiar chat, and so thinking about it, they haven't really talked properly since Polly Perkins turned up demanding information from them. "Sit yourself down. Want a drink?"
Dex can't bring himself to stay no, tiredness pushed to the back of his mind in favour of spending time with Cap. He looks like he could use the company, and to be honest, Dex doesn't really relish going home and spending the night alone just yet. He spent too many nights alone in a singular cell when he was ushered out of the laboratories, forced to work long hours on the rocket by Totenkopf's machines, all the scientists separated outside of working hours so as to reduce the chances of them launching an escape, and quietly Dex craves a bit of downtime with someone he trusts to get his head around the last few days.
"Go on then" he replies, and Cap – no, it's Joe now, Joe his friend when it's just the two of them, Cap when he has taken on the persona of the man has everyone else is expecting him to be, the person people rely on for instructions and command – gives another easy smile, pleased Dex picked up on the offer, and from the draw in his desk he pulls out a bottle of something Dex knows will be alcohol, bringing up with it two small glasses. This scene is a well-known one, and many nights when they've been working late Dex retires to Joe's office to share a drink and just talk. They talk about a lot of things, and over the years very little hasn't been said between them. They're close, and Joe knows Dex as well as Dex knows Joe, recognises his mannerisms and thought-processes, when not to say anything or when to intervene. It's based on instinct now, and sometimes what is needed is merely a joke about what is on at the picture house, or it's something that's been bothering Joe that Dex can pick up on and coax into the light. Rarely does Dex bring his own issues into the forum, and that's just his way, but Joe can read them too sometimes when the mechanic is obvious enough about it, and through this process of guessing and intuition, they've mulled over many topics with the aid of alcohol to loosen their tongues.
"What shall we drink to?" Dex asks as a measure is poured for him, watching the volume of amber liquid grow inside the cup, taking the glass as Joe moves to pour his own.
Joe thinks for a moment, a frown creasing his forehead before fading as it comes to him. Dex notices he hasn't removed his brown leather bomber jacket yet and smirks fondly, knowing that he never remembers to take it off, even when he's back safely at base. "Being alive" he states resolutely as an answer, and Dex clinks his glass against the Captain's to those words. They seem as good a sentiment as any, considering everything.
"So, why are you still up?" Dex enquires, taking a sip – he's not a big fan of alcohol but he can appreciate it at certain times, and whatever he's drinking isn't that bad, Cap always having the good stuff– and leaning back in his seat.
Joe holds up the folder of papers he was perusing upon Dex's entry with an affected sigh, waving the offending article "Paperwork. I managed to ignore it all while everything was going on, but... it catches up with you once real life sets in again."
Dex laughs, "Joe, you've never done paperwork" He comments with knowledge that comes from many years experience, and at Dex's reaction Joe laughs back, humour seeping into his eyes.
"You're right. Hate the stuff. S'why I usually give it all to you, you're the one whose better at dealing with these bureaucratic official types..." he trails off like some thing's caught his mind, made him stop, staring to a point past Dex's head as though he's seeing something there in the blank patch of wall. There is an awkward pause, then;
"Franky says hi"
Dex raises an eyebrow, giving him a look that tells him he doesn't believe it. Franky is a close personal friend of his, and the two worked well together when they were designing her beloved mobile airstrip. He learned a lot from her, and when his contract was up with her, she had offered him a permanent place on board; as both an technical advisor and a mechanic, surrounded by fascinating new machinery and the chance to create and experiment with new ideas. She had promised him that she would never consider consigning him to a desk job, not when he clearly had a talent for inventing. But despite the fact that it appealed to him greatly, he had declined the job with a polite thank you, telling her that his place was with the Flying Legion. With Joe, went his unspoken reply and Franky had understood his loyalties with a smirk curving up her lips as she wished him the best. But however well they get on with each other, Franky isn't the sort of person to offer hello's to those she hasn't heard from in a while. When Dex needs her assistance, she'll be there for him, but other than that there is not much contact between the two of them.
"OK..." Joe recognises the glance Dex is shooting him and he gives a short laugh guilty, caught out "Well, I'm sure she would have passed on hellos if we weren't too busy getting shot at" Another pause, and then something delivered in an altogether quieter tone of voice, constrained, tentative almost ; "I'm glad you're back Dex"
"You weren't worried were you?" Dex says it aloud as a joke, envisaging the great Sky Captain being worried about anything as small and unimportant as the safety of a mere mechanic but the expression on Joe's face is far from humorous.
"Yeah, I was." His eyes aren't focused on Dex now, but again are staring beyond, like looking into a bleak world wherein he failed his mission and his friend, a future he shies away from being reminded of how possible it was "When we saw the hangar from above, I..." He gives a sigh, remembering how he came over the ridge and saw the smoke from the building, then takes a chug from his glass to calm himself "I thought you were dead. And then when it turned out Totenkopf's people had taken you, I worried I wouldn't be able to get you back"
"I never lost faith in you" Dex gives a quick smile. And he means it. Cap is his friend, and he trusts him, trusts him with his life. It's a thing to trust someone with, a life, especially his own considering how attached he is to it, but he would trust Joe with it if needs be. "I knew you'd do something, if not for me, then to save the rest of humanity"
"Of course it would have been for you" Joe appears insulted that Dex hadn't imagined that would be the case. That Dex would even think that something would be more important than the rescue of a friend. There is another lull in speech in which Dex stares at his glass and the liquid within , and Joe is uncharacteristically quiet for a few moments before speaking again.
"You mean a lot to me, Dex. How long have we been friends, what eight years?"
"Nine" Dex swills the drink in his glass, a ghost of a smile playing on his lips. Cap's never been good with dates. "You forgot about those those couple of months on that mission in Taiwan."
Joe appears thoughtful, and Dex wonders whether Joe has been drinking from that bottle even before he came in and joined him. The Cap's not big on feelings and talking about them; partly from being the sort of man who doesn't talk about stuff like that with other men, and partly because it's just his way and always has been. It's taken all those years working together to build up what they have today; the jesting humour and praises of 'Good Boy Dex', a wayward joking comment once made for reasons that now Dex can't bring to mind which has become Cap's catchphrase to Dex.
"Long time" Joe finally says, and Dex nods in agreement. Then he breaks himself out of his reverie, drawing himself out from thoughts he doesn't want to dwell on and returns to the Sky Captain – the Joe that Dex knows, the carefree smiling one who throws himself into dogfights with unmatched aerial skill, who flashes the mechanic a grin, all trace of upset disappeared from his face; "Just don't do that to me again, Dex? I don't want to chase half-way around the world to drag your sorry behind back to base"
"I will endeavour to do so, Captain" Dex responds with all the sarcasm required, and Joe seems to appreciate it, appreciates how normal things are returning to from the unreality of Totenkopf and Shangri-La and a land of mutated creatures of unnatural making. Despite the fact that the whole world was nearly destroyed, burned away as a by-product of Totenkopf's dream of a World of Tomorrow, despite the bombing of their base and the ornithopter chases through the concrete-laden heights of Gotham, despite the fact that Joseph Sullivan had to fly to Nepal to rescue his closest friend because he was not going to give up on him that easily.
A drink between friends is about as normal as things can get, and Joe doesn't want to break the moment just yet.
"Another glass?" he offers, "I want to know how you and your scientist friends got out of there. And don't spare any detail mind, I want the full nail-biting adventure. Complete with murderous robots, derring-do from the great Dexter Dearborn, and of course any beautiful ladies you seduced along the way"
Dex rolls his eyes, but despite his tiredness, he's tempted. Joe obviously wants some closure on the whole thing; and Dex knows him enough to know he's probably creating all sorts of horrible ideas in his mind about how Dex was treated on that island – regardless of the fact that robots turn out to be less malicious than real people as far as Dex's experience of the two go, and made sure all the scientists were all fed and left in a relatively comfortable working environment (there was the small fact of the threat of death should they not work on Totenkopf's project, but Dex would rather not dwell very much on that). Joe's always been the one to stick up for Dex, to believe in the shorter slightly geeky man who prefers his machines to socialising with real people when no-one else does, and there is an edge of protectiveness there in wanting to know what happened. Joe wants to talk, and Dex will most likely find himself more comfortable in spending the night here, maybe camping on the couch later for an early start tomorrow, than going home alone and counting away the seconds in the silence.
Because he missed Joe too. Worried about him in his own introverted way every day he was in that place.
Because that's just how he does things.
"Go on then," he proffers his glass out for another measure, shooting Joe a fond expression "just one more"