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Things Not in the Manual

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Vasquez loiters outside of the MedLab, and only a fool – or maybe a newly minted, by the books lieutenant – would think the almost casual way she carries herself and her weapon means anything but aptitude and finesse at handling it.  For a split second, Gorman is foolish enough to think it’s on his account, but the private’s candidly intrigued expression vanishes after Ripley turns the corner lugging an M41A.  Ripley gone, Vasquez meets his gaze square, and her stare turns cold.

Past his shoulder, Burke gives him a look as if to say, I’m going, and then goes on without him.  And that’s fine.  Gorman knows that if he follows, Vasquez isn’t going to be here when he gets back.  Given their situation, he’s not sure he’ll have another chance.

Vasquez holds her ground, regarding him as he steps towards her.  Neither looking away, nor even sizing him up as a threat.  It’s only when he opens his mouth that he realizes he doesn’t know what to say, or how to begin saying it.

Whatever stupidly trite thing it is, she saves him from it.

“Shove it.”

Gorman can’t help but think he deserves worse.  The way she’s staring at him – defiant, resigned, combat-hardened, ready and waiting for more – makes it hard for him to breathe, and he doesn’t want worse, he wants...

 

Vasquez doesn’t know what he wants, but the way his gaze drops to his feet, she can gauge what he’s feeling.  She’s still not sure if she’ll ever like him much, but he’s not the enemy and there’s little to be gained from going at him over it.

Not the way things currently stood, anyway. 

“Look at it this way, man,” she drawls.  “Way things are, not like you can fuck up much worse.”

There’s a noise in his throat, like a broken word that’s trying to escape, but he’s smarter now, at least, than to argue with her.  Instead, Gorman nods – once hesitantly, then once more assuredly – and steadies his gaze on her.

He lifts his hand to touch her shoulder, and seems to think better of it, but his hesitation and indecision leaves his palm hovering awkward close to her face.  He clears his throat and retreats, scratching the back of his wrist instead, and it leaves Vasquez wondering how much of this song and dance she can attribute to his getting knocked cold before shit gets weird.

Without so much preamble, she gives him a friendly enough slap to the shoulder, nudging him towards where their base of operations was set up.

“You oughta check in with Hicks.  I’ll let Hudson know you’re up and walking around so he don’t mistake you for one of those things out there and blast your ass.”

That seems to sink through to him, and he nods again before heading in that direction.

“Hey,” she calls after him, and he pauses to look back.  “When the shooting starts, stay behind me, got it?”

 

...and what he wants, Gorman realizes, is a second chance.  He wants to do better, for Vasquez, for Ripley, for all of them.