The Time We Had
rating: +38+x

Sasha sighed and rubbed her temples. Sitting in the Site-64 cafeteria, she seemed to have only made a small dent in the paperwork before her. MTF Tau-51 had been on quite a few missions, and it was her turn to handle the after-action reports. Opening her eyes, she looked at her watch.

1:15 AM

"Late night?"

Sasha turned her head. Across the cafeteria, a wiry man with glasses and stubble was topping off an oversized mug from the coffee pot. He gave her a sympathetic smile before taking a sip.

"Nah, this is just my novel," she replied, letting out a tired chuckle as she gestured to the mounds of print before her. "Next Pulitzer prize, right here. What about you?"

"Oh, I'm always here this late this time of year," he said with a shrug. "Busy season."

"And what is it you do?"

"You are in the presence of a genuine Foundation accountant," he said with a grin.

"No shit?" Sasha returned his smile. "They don't just have computers for that?"

"I mean, they do." As he spoke, he approached the table, taking a quick glance at form before her. "But I'm on standby in case it goes rogue. Those sneaky excel files will get you."

"A regular John Connor." Sasha rolled her eyes. "Thanks for staying so vigilant."

"Truly, we are the unsung heroes of the Foundation," he snickered and then began to walk away. "Anyway, I didn't mean to distract you. I'll let you get back to it."

"Nah, you're fine. I was spinning my wheels anyway," Sasha replied, stretching in her chair. "But yeah, I should probably get back to work."

"Godspeed," he called back and ducked out into the hallway.

Jessie Merlo looked out the passenger window, watching the Pacific Ocean through the sparse coastal tree line. Her husband, Desmond, drove in the seat next to her, his eyes firmly ahead. In the back, their twin sons slept quietly. A thin mist covered the road as they traveled, canvassing the world in a light gray.

"Any word from Clarissa?"

Desmond's voice snatched Jessie from her thoughts. The two made eye contact through the rearview mirror.

"Yeah, she's there already," Jessie said softly, looking back over her recent texts.

"And how are things looking?"

"Things are quiet."

Desmond sighed and responded with a nod.

"And how are you holding up?" he asked.

Jessie remained silent and turned her attention back to the passing coastline.

"I don't know yet," she eventually replied.

The Secret Crest Pub, located in Portland's Pearl District, had become a bit of an R&R location for Site-64 staff during their sparse downtime. Being owned by one of the former directors of the site, it was a relatively quiet place, where the stress and troubles of maintaining the veil were just slightly further away. It was here that Sasha found herself on a Tuesday night, waiting for a few members of her task force to join her. They were not due back to Site-64 until Thursday.

As she scanned the bar, she saw a familiar face, the accountant from a few days prior, at a back table distracted by a wall mounted television. A smile crept upon her lips as she approached.

"Buy me a drink, sailor?"

The accountant snapped his attention away from the screen. A small grin formed as he recognized her.

"Hey, it's you," he said. "Didn't think I'd see you again."

"Really?" Sasha raised an eyebrow. "It's not exactly the largest site."

"I've been working there for about five years now. I count all the times I've interacted with agents on one hand," he said with a chuckle. "Hate to break it to you, but our corner of RAISA is not really a hotbed of espionage."

"Fair enough." Sasha shrugged. "I never did catch your name, by the way."

"Gabe Merlo," he said, offering a handshake. "I never got yours either."

"Sasha Grimmer." She gestured at the seat across from him. Gabe gave her a small nod and she sat down. "So how exactly does one end up a Foundation accountant?"

"Pure charisma," he replied. "I also may have worked for one of the off-site businesses we use and just ended up being promoted once they figured out I was competent and not going to run. How'd you end up here?"

"I used to work for a certain branch of the FBI," Sasha shrugged.

"And… what? That gig wasn't covert enough?"

"Well now that you mention it, I sure do love getting shot at," she replied, rolling her eyes as she shook her head. "Nah, Holman recruited me."

"Ah, that would do it, wouldn't it?" Gabe nodded. "Actually, that's kind of impressive. Well done."

"I try," she smiled. It was then that she noticed her fellow agents had arrived. Quietly she grabbed a nearby napkin and quickly scribbled a quick message. "My crew's here, but I'd love to continue this conversation another time."

She then slid the note across the table and stood.

"You take care, Gabe. See you around the site."

As she walked away, she looked over her shoulder, noticing a smile come to Gabe's lips as he read the message.


They had arrived at the cottage in the late afternoon, the mist persisting the whole time. As they pulled up the driveway, Clarissa Shaw stepped out of the house, her blond hair heavily streaked with gray as the years had passed.

"I really wish there was a happier occasion for this meeting," she said and pulled Jessie into a tight hug as soon as she had gotten out of the car.

"I do too," Jessie replied. "Thank you for making the trip out."

"Anything for the Merlos," Clarissa said with a sad chuckle. She then turned and looked at the cottage behind her. "He's on the back porch, Jess. Been there all day, just watching the surf. I can't get him to come inside. You might have better luck."

Jessie nodded and looked towards Desmond.

"Go on," he said. "Director Shaw and I got the kids."

Without another word, Jessie passed through the house, and onto the back patio overlooking the ocean. There, a thin, gray-haired man stood motionless, his eyes locked onto the surf crashing into the rocks beyond the mist.

Jessie watched him in silence for several moments, and eventually cleared her throat, approaching the railing by his side.

"Dad," she said.

He turned to look at her, his eyes red.

"Hey sweetie," he said with a sad smile and put an arm around her, his attention going back to the sea. She felt him jerk as he suppressed a sob. "I can't believe she's gone."

Sasha sat at the kitchen table in Gabe's apartment, the nearby clock on the stove signifying it was half past late. Before her, a now cold cup of chamomile tea reflected her tired expression back at her. With a heavy sigh, she pushed the beverage away.

"Can't sleep?"

She looked up to see Gabe wander in from the hall. He rubbed his eyes briefly then took the seat across from her.

"Yeah," she said with a sigh. "Happens sometimes."

"Understood," Gabe replied. He gestured to her cup of tea. "Want me to make you a fresh one?"

"You don't have to stay up," she said with a tired laugh. "No use in both of us being tired."

"I'll be fine," he replied with a grin. "I don't need that much sleep anyway."

"You're an awful liar." Sasha shook her head.

"I really am," Gabe agreed, taking a seat as the electric kettle hummed to life. He reached across the table to hold her hand. A warm smile found its way onto his face.

She squeezed his fingers gently and returned the expression.

The service proved to be a small one. People who had spent their lives in the shadows made few friends. It was true for Edgar Holman, and now it was true for Sasha Merlo. To rub an additional dose of salt into the wound, at this point, most of Gabe and Sasha's colleagues from Site-64 had also passed. Shaw, Ferro, Thorne, Spencer, Campbell, Ross, and Creed made up the sparse crowd. Eyes turned to Gabe as he got up to speak. For several moments he simply scanned the crowd without managing to make eye contact with a single person.

"…" Gabe opened his mouth, but nothing came out.

He sighed and looked beside him. There, a picture of Sasha stood, a sly smile on her face. He nodded to himself and found the words.

"Are you serious?" Sasha asked.

They had managed to squeeze in a summer afternoon hike through Forest Park on their day off and stopped for a quick break at a spot overlooking the Willamette River. Despite the heat, a breeze had picked up, shaking the canopy lightly and filling the air with an earthy scent. It was at this time, after some idle conversation, that Gabe had gone down on one knee, and pulled a ring from his pocket.

"I mean, it would be a really mean joke if I wasn't…" Gabe said with an awkward smile. "Is that yes or…"

"Of course it's a yes, you idiot!" Sasha laughed. "I'm just… You caught me off guard."

"Oh, come on. I have not been subtle about this at all," Gabe replied, watching intently as she placed the ring on her finger. "Some investigator you are."

"Yeah, well, now you're stuck with me," Sasha said, pulling the accountant up to his feet and into a tight hug. "You really sure you want to do this? MTF agents don't exactly have a long shelf life."

"I mean, what's the worst that can happen?" he chuckled. "I'm willing to take the risk."

"Some gambler you are."

The trails of Forest Park were rain drenched in the winter, the canopy doing little to stem the flow of the northwest rains. Even in the thirty minutes Gabe and Jessie had spent trudging along the trails, a thin coat of condensation had built up on their rain jackets.

"You sure you don't want to wait for a nicer season?" Jessie said as they stopped at a small spot overlooking the Willamette River. "I don't mind making the trip out again."

Gabe shook his head.

"I need to do this now," he replied.

Jessie nodded, and from her backpack removed a simple silver urn, gingerly handing it to her father.

"It's heavier than I thought it would be," Gabe remarked, looking at the receptacle pensively. "Thank you for carrying it all this way."

"Don't mention it," Jessie said with a sad smile. "How do you want to do this?"

Gabe didn't reply. His eyes remained locked on the metal urn.

"Dad?" Jessie tugged on his sleeve.

"Hmmmm?" Gabe said, finally looking away from his wife's remains.

"How do you want to do this?" she repeated. "I brought a small spade if you want. Or are we scattering onto the forest floor?"

"I don't think I want people walking on your mother, dear," he chuckled. "Did I ever tell you this is where I proposed?"

"You didn't," Jessie chuckled in kind and looked around. "I sure hope that it was better weather then."

"There could have been an earthquake, and I'm sure your mom would have said yes," Gabe replied. He then opened the urn, and emptied it with a small arc, watching as the ashes disappeared into the ferns and washed away in the rain.

A sad smile came to both Jessie and Gabe's face as once again he placed an arm around her. The two stood silent, the only audible sound the patter of rain on the flora.

"Let's get back to the car," Gabe eventually said. "Your mom will kill me if you catch a cold."

Jessie nodded and offered to take the urn, frowning as she noticed a small amount of ash remained.

"Plan to keep this?" she asked.

"No," he said, handing her the lid. "I've got one more stop in mind."

"Where are we going?"

"I'd actually prefer to go there alone."

"I do," Gabe replied with an ear to ear grin. He was dressed in a light gray tux, standing across from him, Sasha wore a simple wedding gown.

The two stood on a secluded beach on the central Oregon coast. It was a small ceremony. Aside from a few friends from Site-64 and family, it was just the two of them. Working for the Foundation, they didn't really have anyone else. They didn't need anyone else.

Tears welled in both their eyes as they anticipated the next part of the ceremony.

"Then, by the power vested in me," Edgar Holman said with a smile. "I now pronounce you husband and wife."

Gabe Merlo walked along the secluded beach alone. A pair of shoes dangled in his hand. His bare feet left a single trail of tracks in the wet sand. In his other hand, he tightly gripped a large bag. A familiar spot came into view, and a melancholy smile crept upon his face as he looked around.

A mist had already rolled in. It had taken him much longer to get there from the trailhead than he would have preferred. Still, there was something quite peaceful about the place, even in the rain.

He got down onto one knee and made a small hole near the tideline. Gingerly, he removed an urn from his bag and deposited its contents into the hole before covering them up again..

"Thank you for the time we had," he said to the air. "I only hope I made you even half as happy as you made me."

Without another word, he walked back to the tree line and looked out at the rising tide. In silence, he waited for the waves to come to the mound he had left, and wash it away.

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