Respite
written by: kaz miller

"I promised your general that I would protect his troops, and I keep my word."

"Understood, Captain. Tasha! Let's go! Come on!"

Tasha was obviously not in a state to command her men, so Gage took immediate responsibility as they gathered up what was left of the Lazurian Army.

"I…I still can't…"

"No time for dawdling, Tasha! Captain Brenner's already given the orders. We're moving out!"

"But…why is he helping us? Just because General Forsythe asked? A…and Forsythe, he…"

"Tasha!"

"I…it's just—" She had no time to think. The troops were freezing. They only had six hours. Growing weary and impatient at Tasha's turmoil, Gage yanked her from where she was standing. They had no time.

"I can't stand this!" Tasha exclaimed, holding her head. "That man is simply toying with us! He can just bide his time until we surrender Isabella to him!"

"Commander?" Lin sighed impatiently. "What are we going to do?"

"Isabella stays with us. We aren't going to abandon anyone," Will stated matter-of-factly, stern eyes rivaling that of the headquarter's sniper.

"Perhaps you think it is noble to die for your principles, but I disagree," Gage spoke strictly, turning heads.

"Gage!" Tasha exclaimed in disbelief, and turned to him, her eyes wide.

"I am not going to lead my people on a suicide mission. The life of one girl against the lives of all of us seems an easy choice," he concluded coolly.

"What's wrong with you, Gage? How can you think of handing her over to that monster?" she objected, mouth still agape.

"General Forsythe asked that we protect the lives of his troops. That is our only duty." Tasha was about to object, yet again. "Or has your newfound love of Rubinelle clouded your judgment?" Gage retorted icily.

Tasha was too tired to explode. As much as that comment lit the familiar fire of her temper, she just couldn't yell at him. If anything, it hurt. "You're a jerk. You know that? Did you forget what happened to General Forsythe? He surrendered with honor and got a bullet in the back for his troubles!" She slammed the table. "Caulder isn't going to keep to his promise, Gage!"

All eyes darted to Will's as Lin summoned him once more. Tasha knew, at least, he would say the right thing. And to her heart's satisfaction, he did.

"I made my decision. She stays. We all stay. Things looked bleak before, and yet we managed to come around. Right? As long as there is life, there's hope," Will concluded.

Tasha would normally acknowledge Gage when he entered their room. This time, she huffed at his presence, and turned away as she lay on her pillow.

"No need to act childish, Tasha."

"How about you shut up, Gage?" Tasha snarled through gritted teeth. She buried her head into her pillow in order to avoid his perpetually unchanging gaze. "I can't believe what you said out there! That's incredibly low, even for you," she muffled into the pillow.

"I suppose then, you value the life of an individual more than you do the whole of your Lazurian people," he replied gravely. "With that mentality, it's easy to see why your brother's death was your sole driving force."

As much as Tasha suppressed her rage since Captain Brenner's death, this, she could not let slide by. She immediately jumped up out of her makeshift bed. "How dare you!" she howled, making her way towards him. He scoffed, and prepared himself to lay down on his own.

"I'm going to slee—unghk!"

Without hesitation, she managed to brutally constrict her hands around his neck as he grabbed her thinner wrists in retaliation, inflicting painful amounts of pressure. However, that pain did not compare to the hurt he inflicted on her with his words.

"H…how…could you…" She growled in a low shaky voice, as tears blurred her vision. Gage said nothing as her grip began to loosen. Hot tears fell on his arms, and he released his own pressure, inhaling sharply. She finally let go. "You…" she broke into sobs, as her shoulders began to slump.

"I…I h-hate you s…sometimes," she hiccupped, and she collapsed at his feet, head buried in her hands. "I can't take it anymore, I—" she took in a breath, "I don't know what do, what to believe…"

Despite his cold façade, Gage did feel a little remorse for what he said. Rubbing his bruised throat, he kneeled down in front of her.

"Tasha."

"Leave me alone, y-you big lout," she sobbed, not caring how weak she looked right now. She lost so many people in a matter of days, and this was the first time in a long time she could let it all out. Her brother, John, was not spared when those "Rubinelle" mercilessly attacked the Lazurians, and she promised that she would exact revenge!

But things took a turn for the worst…she was siding with the very people that killed him…and yet, she truly felt that this seeming contradiction was correct—like everything she fought for in the past was a lie! This realization made her sob harder, and Gage caught her before she hit the floor. All of this coupled with the previous shock of their coming execution, Will's undying devotion to their troops, Brenner's death, and Gage's harsh words just piled up and made her cry harder.

"Tasha…" Consolation was not Gage's strong point. And he had no need to apologize. However, Tasha needed backup at this very moment; this time, not as a soldier, but as a human being. He could almost see where Will's infinite ideals came from.

He wrapped his arms around her limp sobbing figure as she cried out into his soldier. To the both of them, nothing mattered more at that moment than to live. She promised herself that this would be the last time she let her emotions get the better of her—and what better way than to let them all out? It was sad, but it was a war, after all. All Gage could do was hold her as she cried for what seemed like hours until she calmed down. A few tears of his own escaped as she screamed about the injustice of it all, the inhumanity…but he could never let her see those if he was going to be her iron support.

All of his life, he only knew how to be a soldier…because being human was such a painful, arbitrary ordeal. It had been forever since he let his guard down like this. The pain was unbearable. He could not understand how Tasha could deal with it every single day. She certainly was his exact opposite in every way. But, perhaps…it was precisely why he needed her, too.