Roxie groaned slightly as she collapsed on the bench next to Mako the next morning, shooting glares at the grinning triplets across from her as she gripped her head. Though she couldn’t completely blame them. She had only stayed an hour and hadn’t had that much to drink. It was the dreams that had kept her up the rest of the night and had her in a foul mood - not a hangover.
She hadn’t had this many dreams and nightmares about her past in a few years. Back then she had drunk herself into oblivion to block them out, but she didn’t want to go back to those days. Not with everything it had taken her to get to this far. Not to mention, Pentecost would personally throttle her with his own two hands if she relapsed, if Jin or Mako didn’t first.
“No more nights like that,” she said firmly, still glaring at the triplets. “We need to be focused from here out.”
“Sure…” Cheung said, still smiling. Roxie rolled her eyes and reached for a steaming mug of coffee.
“What would the Marshal say if he found three of his pilots hungover?” she asked, still look at them sternly.
“He won’t,” Jin said lightly.
“Bloody triplets and their bloody no hangovers,” she grumbled, causing Mako to chuckle.
“Roxie! There you are! Was hoping you could show us where the gym in this place is,” Herc boomed and he and Chuck walked up to her. Roxie grimaced slightly as her head started pounding from the lack of sleep. She smiled up at him and nodded.
“Of course,” she said, standing. She grabbed her coffee mug, taking it with her. “Follow me.”
“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you’re nursing a bit of a hangover there,” he said with a chuckle.
“Bloody triplets,” she muttered as Chuck caught up to them, bring the dog with him. She’d much rather Herc think that was the reason why she wasn’t feeling well than get into the real reason. It was bad enough she had the others worried about her.
“As I recall, you used to be better at handling hangovers,” Herc commented. Roxie just shook her head.
“You’ve no idea,” she replied. “The triplets will be the death of me someday. Even though I don’t allow them to talk me into it that often.”
“I seem to remember you being just as rambunctious once,” Herc said, glancing down at her.
“I wasn’t that bad,” Roxie said, frowning slightly as he gave her a look. “You know Jamie egged me on most the time.”
“Said the same thing back then, as I recall,” he said.
“Did not!” Roxie found herself saying defensively as he chuckled.
“Absolutely did too. How many times did I get after you for it?” he asked. “And how many times were you and Jamie in cleaning out the toilets because of whatever trouble you got into?”
“Bloody Jamie didn’t understand how not to get caught,” Roxie said as she scowled.
“More like you couldn’t talk you’re way out of trouble nearly as good as you thought you could,” Herc said with a chuckle.
“Worked sometimes,” Roxie muttered. “And still passed all our tests and drills with flying colors. Not to mention, how many of our records are still unbroken?” A bit of her old fire flared up in her eyes as she looked at her former mentor.
“You could always focus when you needed to,” Herc replied. “I always admired that about you – in the middle of chaos and you never lost your cool.” Roxie looked down at the floor, feeling her cheeks heat up slightly. Even after all the years, she still couldn’t help but crave Herc’s praise.
But then thinking about being in the conn-pod again ultimately led to thinking about other things. Things that were far more painful. Roxie quickly pushed those memories aside.
“Well, I definitely don’t make a habit of it now, save for special occasions,” she stated, returning to all business. “Need to set a good example for the cadets.”
“Of course,” Herc said, glancing at her, a slightly odd look on his face. She brushed it off as she put her ID card against a reader and the door slid open.
“As you can see, we have a good set-up. We’ve got about anything you could need,” she said boredly after they walked in, obviously having made this speech before. She turned to face the father and son. “Showers and locker rooms are that back that way. Bring your own towel.”
“Thanks, Rox,” Hercules said, smiling. She smiled tensely and then nodded.
“If you need anything, I’ll be in my room for a bit and then I’ve to oversee training with the cadets and got a few counseling sessions this afternoon,” she said before walking out of the gym.
“Can’t seem to figure her out… For a bit, it’s like the old Roxie and then she just... shuts down,” Chuck said, watching her go. She stopped just out of the gym, obviously having heard someone shout her name. She stood in profile, waiting for another officer to walk up to her and show her something on a table. She bent over it, tucking a strand of red hair behind her ear.
“Suppose everyone changes when you go through something like what she’s been through,” Herc said. Chuck looked at him.
“She gets a bit defensive with that,” he replied. “Whenever Jamie or the accident is brought up.” Herc sighed and shook his head.
“He was her twin, Chuck. More than just losing a co-pilot. What’s more, she still blames herself for it,” he replied, looking over to see Roxie walk off. Chuck stared at his dad a moment.
“What do you mean blames herself? It was an accident, wasn’t it?” he asked. “I’ve seen the videos and I thought she was bloody brilliant despite the hit they took.” Herc shook his head. Of course, Chuck would jump to Roxie’s defense. Though, she had been rather creative when they had been backed into a corner.
However, he could still clearly see her that day in his mind’s eye. Roxie had vacillated between wailing inconsolably and staring silently into space, all the while insisting that it was all her fault. Even if it wasn’t, she wouldn’t listen to anyone.
“Just… best to not bring it up with her,” he said starting towards the door. “It’s still a sore spot.” Chuck stood a few moments, watching his father’s back as he walked away. Of course, he would walk away right now. The old man was never that great at communicating, despite the fact that Chuck would see everything in the drift. He had seen his father’s memories and knew that he was close to the Williams twins. Chuck had always been a bit jealous of the close relationships he had with the other pilots that he never seemed to have with him.
Truthfully, that was another reason he had idolized Jamie Williams. He had hoped that if he someday became as good or better than Jamie and Roxie, then perhaps he’d finally have a close bond with his father. Here he was at 21, broken a fair amount of records, and still there was a wall between them. And there was now one surrounding Roxie as well.
Max woofed softly, getting Chuck’s attention. He sighed as he looked down at him.
“Come on, Max. Let’s go get some air.”
“Why are you all mopey?” Jamie asked, shoving Roxie’s shoulder as he sat next to her. She glanced at him and returned to picking at her food, not speaking. “You’re not still sore about training today, are you?”
“Herc really laid into me,” she said, staring at her plate.
“Come on, it wasn’t that bad,” he said.
“He yelled at me in front of everyone!” she nearly shouted. “I’m fairly certain that they heard him on the other side of the shutterdome.”
“Well… He did have a point…” Jamie started to say. Roxie cut him off with an icy glare.
“What’s that? That I was being reckless? It worked out, didn’t it?” she spat. “Bloody got the kill in the end.” Jamie sighed and rubbed his face. Roxie always had a bit more of a temper than he did. And while he tended to get them into a fair amount of trouble out of the conn-pod, she was always the first to jump into something without thinking it through properly in combat. While most of the time she was quick on her feet and a brilliant strategist, she did have a record of attempting maneuvers in training that would likely get both of them killed in the real world.
Case in point, the ruse she had pulled off in the simulator today. If they had really been in the British Rose, she probably would have destroyed several city blocks in the attempt to take down the kaiju. Even Jamie was starting to get a bit annoyed with her.
“Sometimes it helps to stop and think things through a bit more,” he said cautiously. “It’s easy to do that sort of thing in the simulator, but you know when we’re out there, it’s different.”
“We’ve taken down how many kaiju now, Jamie? You know my instincts are good,” she retorted, returning to staring daggers at her food.
“Yea, and I also know you sometimes take risks we don’t need to take,” he said. “And yes, we. I’m in there too, and I’m in your head.”
“Not like you haven’t let me forget that,” she muttered. Jamie rolled his eyes.
“Rox. I’m on your side. You know that. But you’ve got to listen to me more,” he said. “I’m usually game to go with your crazier plots, but today… we could have seriously gotten hurt if that were the real thing.”
Roxie was silent, still pushing her food around her plate. She knew he was making sense - of anyone, Jamie always understood her best. And she had been a bit more reckless than she had intended to be. But she had only attempted it so that she could prove herself to Herc and the others (she was currently the only woman ranger, as it was). The humiliation of Herc’s admonishment was still too fresh and painful.
“Talk to me, Roxie,” Jamie said softly, getting her attention. She took a deep breath and slowly let it out.
“I just…” tears started pricking at her eyes. “I’m sorry, it’s just… I know what I’m doing out there. It’d be nice if you could stand up for your own bloody sister every so often, you know?”
“I know you do. I’m in your head, you git. But sometimes you take it too far,” he said gently. Roxie glared at him.
“You’re supposed to be on my side!” she shouted as she stood. “And you didn’t do anything to stand up for be in there!” Roxie began storming off.
“Roxie, stop. Let’s talk about this,” Jamie said, spinning around in his chair and then standing to follow her.
“No. Just leave me alone, Jamie,” she shouted as she stomped away.
Roxie shot up in her bed, the sheets tangled around her legs as she looked around frantically. Her breathing was haggard, and her hair stuck to her sweaty forehead and neck. She threw the sheets off and stood, looking over at the clock. It was about 4:30 a.m. Sighing heavily, her thoughts returned to that last argument with Jamie and she could feel the tears starting to well up, though she struggled to fight them off. She shut her eyes as she began rubbing her temples, willing the shouting to leave her head. Opening her eyes, she started pacing around the room.
She knew there was no way she’d get anymore sleep. And Roxie desperately needed to quiet the voices in her head, so she quickly changed into her workout gear and headed to the gym. A few hours in there should settle her mind enough that she could focus on the day’s work ahead of her.
Once in the gym, she hopped on the treadmill and started running, gradually increasing the speed until she felt like her lungs were going to burst and her legs started aching. But at the same time, the memories began to fade as the shouting disappeared, and her mind started to settle.
Operation Pitfall was the most important mission they had ever had, though it certainly wasn’t the first time they had tried to bomb the breech. But if they succeeded, they would close the breech once and for all. Regardless of how it went, it was the last mission Roxie intended to work. With the jaeger program discontinued, there would be no need for her. She had already told Pentecost of her intention to finally leave the corps and go back to England. After all the years away, she felt like she was finally ready to return even though Jamie wouldn’t be there. Her family was already ecstatic to have her back.
“Come here often?” a voice asked. Roxie powered down the treadmill and looked over, seeing Herc walk in. She smiled slightly, still breathing heavily as her old mentor walked over.
“Couldn’t sleep,” she said. He nodded and walked over to a weight bench, patting it. Roxie walked over and sat next to him, leaning over on her knees as she continued to try and get her heart rate back down.
“Has it been bad?” he asked softly, frowning slightly. “The nightmares?”
Roxie was silent a few moments, not sure she wanted to get into this conversation. But then again, this was Herc. She sighed and rubbed her face.
“A bit,” she admitted. “The past few days, weeks, I… I just keep seeing him. Jamie. Reliving the same argument over and over again… and then seeing that day…”
“I’m sorry about that… Suspect my being here dredges some of up those. I don’t want to make things harder for you,” Herc said. Roxie smiled slightly and shook her head.
“It’s not your fault. Just, this mission… It’s the last one. I’m leaving after this, you know,” she said. “I think it’s just the fact that I’m finally gonna walk away from it. And this mission... it’s dangerous… reckless, almost. And it brings so many memories back.”
“To be honest, I’m surprised that you stayed this long. Being around rangers and jaegers. Can’t be easy,” he replied. She swallowed hard and stared at the floor.
“I didn’t want to at first. Thought it would be too hard, but Pentecost convinced me that there was still more I could do… that I shouldn’t forget what Jamie said to me just before…” she stopped and shook her head. “This is why I can never step foot in a jaeger again. I can barely control my memories now, how am I supposed to push them aside in combat?”
“He told you to not to give up. From what I can see, you haven’t,” Herc said, placing a comforting hand on her back. She looked over at him and smiled.
“Almost did a few times. Wanted to,” she said. “It was my fault, after all…”
“But it wasn’t, Rox,” he said sternly. Roxie laughed haggardly.
“It was. You yelled at me just the day before for being reckless. He and I had our largest fight ever just before that damn mission, and I was… I was trying to prove myself and, and… it was my fault,” she said. “I let my selfish desire to prove you all wrong get in the way of being smart…” Herc reached over and pulled her close to him as he saw a fresh sheen of tears in her eyes.
“It wasn’t your fault. You had good instincts. You were a good ranger. He was too. You both knew the risks and what happened… it could have happened to anyone,” Herc said as he rubbed her arm.
“But it happened to Jamie… I’ll never forgive myself for it,” Roxie whispered.
“You’ve got to stop this, Roxie. You’ll never move on if you don’t let it go. If you don’t forgive yourself,” he said softly.
“What right do I have to move on? What right? He died, Herc! And I lived! I have no right to be here when it was my stupid decision that got us in that situation to begin with! Or to be happy with the fact I’m still alive. I should have died with him!” she shouted, pushing him away as she stood and started pacing. Herc just watched her walk back and forth, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“We’ve lost a lot of good pilots, Roxie. A lot. Fighting kaiju is not something just anyone can do. You were a good pilot. You can’t let what I said to you then make you think that you messed up or made a mistake or that you weren’t good enough,” he said. Roxie stopped and stared at him.
“But you were right,” she said softly. “God... I never should never become a ranger. Then maybe Jamie would still be here.” Herc sighed heavily. He shook his head.
“I’m going to say it again - it’s not your fault, Roxie. If it’s anyone’s, it might as well have been mine,” he said, looking up at her. “I was leading that mission. There's blame to go around.” She shook her head.
“You gave me a direct order that I ignored. I should have listened,” she said. Herc stood and walked towards her.
“Stop blaming yourself, Roxie. If it was your fault, why would Pentecost ask you to come back? Give you this job? What you do is important and you’re good at it. You help keep these pilots alive,” he said.
“Because I have to make up for losing Jamie,” she said softly. Herc just stared at her. Roxie shook her head. “I’ve got to go.”
Before he could respond, she ran out of the gym. He didn’t know where she was going, but just sighed and shook his head. It wasn’t her fault, but he could see why she would blame herself.
“What was that about?” Chuck asked as he stepped into the gym, obviously having just ran into Roxie. “Nearly plowed over me and then snapped my head off.”
“Survivor’s guilt,” Herc said with a heavy sigh. Chuck frowned slightly. “Jamie forced her into the escape pod, knowing that his was damaged and he wouldn’t be able to get out himself.”
“I don’t remember that in the video or the reports,” Chuck said.
“Comms were damaged. I only caught the end of the conversation and then Roxie was shouting obscenities at Jamie,” Herc said. “She won’t forgive herself, when honestly… I’ve gone over and over that mission, and there’s nothing they could have done differently.” Herc shook his head. “I thought maybe by coming here, we could finally make amends or something…”
Without speaking further, Herc sighed heavily and left the gym. Chuck just shook his head as he watched his father go, a tiny prick of bitterness in his chest. Still seemed his father was more interested in repairing his relationship with one of his mentees than his own son.