She hadn’t said a word since they got in the car.
Normally Sasha would appreciate the quiet time, but after the mission they’d just been on, he was really hoping she would perk up now that they were finished. This had been only their third mission as a duo, after all, and so far her talkative exuberance had been consistent post-adventure.
Instead, she was practically hugging herself and staring wistfully out the window. He was worried, not just because of this, but she’d been individually attacked by their psychic opponent earlier in the day and seemed very shaken afterwards.
Milla screamed as a surge of psychic energy was aimed directly at her head, sending her to her knees.
Sasha didn’t know what to do as he was caught between their target trying to escape and his partner knocked to the floor with a powerful blast. She seemed physically unharmed, but the look on her face showed that she must’ve been in a significant amount of shock.
“I-I’m fine,” she said suddenly, cradling her head in one hand. “Go after him!”
He hesitated for a half-second before nodding and giving chase, taking out the man with a TK’d rock to the head. Not his most elegant solution, but he wanted to get back to Agent Vodello and make sure she was really alright.
He tapped his fingers lightly against the steering wheel and took a breath. “...Milla.”
“Hmm?” she mumbled softly.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” Being such a new partnership, he wasn’t sure how to approach certain questions. She was very talkative, sure, but she didn’t talk about herself so much. She’d talk about other people, about events going on in the world, about how nice the weather was. But he’d never seen her looking so low and it was making him unsure of what he could say.
Milla didn’t answer for a moment, opting instead to lean back further into the passenger seat. “I’m fine. Just...it’s fine.”
As a man of science, he really couldn’t bring himself to just shy away from the obvious. “You’re not your usual...peppy self. If you have any lingering issues from that attack, I could-”
“ Sasha. ” Milla didn’t turn to look at him, but closed her eyes and squeezed her head with the hand she’d been leaning into. “I just need to rest. You do not need to do anything.”
Line crossed. Alright. His mouth formed a straight line of disapproval while he decided to stay silent the rest of the drive. Clearly something was wrong, but if she didn’t want to discuss it, then who was he to argue? She probably had a family member or a friend she could call to talk to - someone she was closer with.
Their uncomfortable silence continued out of the car and up the elevator to their hotel rooms. Sasha wasn’t sure what to do. If he asked her again, she’d probably get even angrier with him and it might ruin their professional relationship - which would be a shame, since they worked well together and he enjoyed their partnership (for the most part). But for the moment they were still partners and he had a duty to try and help her.
As they reached their individual doors, he paused before grabbing his room key. “If you want to talk, I’m going to leave our shared door unlocked.”
Milla looked up at him finally, and Sasha was shocked to see that she had red rings around her eyes as if she’d been crying. She looked empty and miserable. “Agent Nein-”
“I’ll be up most of the night.” He gave her a quick nod and headed into his room.
She sighed and stared at the doorknob in front of her, not even considering his offer. She just felt like Hell and needed to lay down for a few moments. Or a few hours.
“Why did you let us die…?”
Milla blinked and realized she was already in the room, laying on her bed. Dissociating (even briefly) was extremely dangerous for a Psychonaut. What she needed to do was focus and clear her head. She glanced around the room to try and find something that could help.
The minibar called out to her and she scratched a nonexistent itch on the front of her neck. The minibar door slowly opened up (all by itself, definitely not with telekinesis) and she knew this was going to have to be her solution for the moment.
Sasha didn't have any expectation of Milla coming to talk to him. He was true to his word and kept the door unlocked, but he hadn't heard anything from her room besides some shuffling and creaking. Not even footsteps since she liked to float everywhere she went.
He sighed and looked down at the report in front of him. He was almost to the part where Agent Vodello was hit with that blast. Then he'd have to describe how she'd been acting since, and his subsequent attempts to get her to tell him what was wrong. Cruller would probably be impressed by the amount of effort he'd put into trying.
But it was still very frustrating. He wanted to write all this down, but had a pull on the back of his mind that knew this night wasn't over quite yet. He didn't have any prescience abilities, but Sasha had a strong feeling that he would find out why she was acting so strange.
At that thought, he heard a loud noise followed by an audible “ Merda! ” Sasha leaned to the side and frowned.
“It’s fine! Fine! Just...knocked the lamp over!”
Sasha frowned more. Knocked the lamp over? Besides the obvious psychic ability and reflexes to catch it, why would she have bumped into a lamp to begin with? Her strange behavior just kept getting stranger, and he was getting more and more concerned. If this continued and she still wouldn’t speak to him, he might have to bring it to their Psychic Health Department back at headquarters.
He didn’t hear anymore crashes or swearing, so Sasha went back to writing his report in the hopes that Milla had just gone to sleep. Maybe in the morning she’d be back to normal. Maybe he shouldn’t even mention her behavior in the report just in case it was temporary.
Ten more minutes passed and then he heard another noise. It was just a quiet bump but it was followed by a very angry “MERDA! ” and Sasha stood up from his chair.
There was a harsh silence and a sniff before she responded. “Stubbed my toe on the bed!”
Sasha was completely unsatisfied with that response. How the hell was an expert levitator going to stub her toe? What was she doing? He tapped his fingers rhythmically on the desk for a minute before deciding he was checking on her.
He grabbed the doorknob of their shared door, but hesitated. Maybe she was just very tired and he was overreacting. Maybe he-
There was another loud noise and Sasha immediately opened the door. He probably should’ve taken note of what that noise was , however, since upon opening the door he was greeted by Milla with her ass in the air as she was leaning down to dig through the minibar in her room. And she was wearing the tiniest shorts he’d ever seen - pajamas, probably? - and overall he was just embarrassed. He put a hand over his mouth and turned away from her as she turned towards him.
“ Sasha! I told...I told you I’m fine!”
Her voice broke the slightest bit as she spoke, and Sasha ignored his embarrassment to look at her again. Her face was red and flushed, her hair was a mess, she was clearly crying, and when he took a look around...there were six empty mini bottles of vodka on the desk.
“...are you drunk?! ” Never in his life did Sasha think he’d be asking a coworker that while still on a mission! They were still on the clock! What was going on ?!
“No!!” Milla looked over at the pile of bottles on the desk and levitated over, shoving them off the desk and into the trash can below with an obnoxiously loud crash. “I just needed to clear my head is all! Don’t try to...try to lecture me!”
He walked closer to her cautiously. “Milla...let me help you. If there’s something wrong, just let me go in your head and find it.”
She groaned and squeezed her head again before shaking it rapidly. “I don’t need your help, I’m...it’s under control!”
“It’s obviously not.” Another step closer. “Let me help you.”
Milla glared at him for a moment before pausing to think about what he said. She blinked a few times and looked up and down his body, then slapped a hand to her cheek and pouted. “I...know how you can help me.”
Sasha felt immediately better. “Alright, good. I’ll go get my psycho-portal and-”
The better feeling went away as Milla grabbed his shoulders and shoved him down onto the bed. He quickly sat up as she brought her right knee onto the bed next to him and started straddling his lap.
“M-! A- Agent Vodello , this is not-!” Sasha could barely get words out while her arms snaked their way around his neck and she pushed her body up against his.
She brought her face closer to his - their noses just an inch apart. “Please, I...I don’t know what else I can try. I thought I had it under control, but...but something must have come loose in the fight...”
His shaky hands came up to rest on her hips. “Milla…”
She started grinding her hips against his crotch and sighed. “I need to be out of my head, Sasha...”
The smell of vodka on her breath was staggering. Sasha wouldn’t have even considered doing this had she been sober, but at the moment her suggestion was downright painful to hear. He squeezed her hips to stop her from grinding against him and used his telekinesis to pick her up.
Milla looked confused and hurt by his rejection, and a little part of Sasha wondered if this was more than just a desperate attempt to feel better. He got up, walked closer, grabbed the sides of her head and quickly used sleep inducement on her before she could try anything else. She immediately collapsed into his arms and he dragged her back onto her bed.
Sasha walked back to his room and grabbed his psycho-portal, knowing full well that he shouldn’t use it on his partner without her consent. But this was definitely one of those special circumstances that needed him to just do something. He took a long look at the scrunched up expression on her sleeping face before gently placing his portal on her head and launching himself inside.
He’d been inside her head before. Her “dance party”, as she liked to call it, was loud and bright and definitely not his style.
At the beginning of their partnership, they traveled inside each other’s minds as an exercise to fully understand one another and make sure there weren’t any lingering doubts about their success potential. They even allowed each other to look at a memory vault. She learned that his mother died when he was a baby. He learned about her being harassed by racist bullies in her younger years.
So it took him by surprise when he returned to her dance party only to find the place looking...not at all like a party. Or somewhere a person could dance. It looked like something had ripped the entire place to shreds - burning curtains, scratching up furniture, leaving a fiery ash in its wake. Suddenly he understood what was wrong with his partner - there was only one thing that could leave destruction like this: nightmares.
That explained a lot.
Whatever nightmare was in her mind must have been strengthened by the blast from earlier. If she was fighting against this the entire night, it was no wonder she was making such...questionable decisions.
Sasha adjusted his sunglasses and headed in the direction of the wreckage. Milla was so deeply sleeping that she didn't even acknowledge his presence in her head, so he’d have to find his own way around.
It wasn’t hard to find the first of the nightmares - he assumed from the amount of damage in her head that there were multiple skulking around. This nightmare looked as he was used to, but the terrifying glow of its eyes were brighter than he’d ever seen before. And as he started to attack the creature, Sasha could hear a faint voice hoarsely whispering around him.
“Why did you let us die?”
He didn’t let it distract him from his assault...and the music that was still playing all around his partner’s head was distracting enough by itself.
He tossed a bomb into the demon’s gaping mouth and took cover before the rest of them exploded. Nightmares weren’t particularly difficult to destroy, but he knew from experience that taking down your own nightmares was exceptionally hard. Milla was probably trying to fight them during their car ride back to the hotel, but whoever the creature was quoting was probably traumatizing enough to disturb her concentration.
Sasha walked up to the half-destroyed corpse of the nightmare and gave it a quick, angry kick - turning it to dust. Nothing seemed to change, there must’ve been more somewhere.
Five minutes of levitating and fighting off censors brought him to a confrontation with a nightmare that was significantly weaker than the previous. The room was tall and normally had floating pads with loud dancers hanging around on them, but in this moment there was only one pad and the nightmare had been working on destroying it when he arrived.
He took it down and ignored the harsh whispers it let out during the fight. Initially he’d thought their target from earlier had blasted these nightmares into her head, but the words they were saying were so personal that Sasha was beginning to suspect that his partner had some inner demons she’d been avoiding.
As he considered his next route, Sasha noticed a dim room off to the side - hidden from the main path of her mind. He floated down towards it, pushing aside the beaded curtain to find what looked to be a sad nursery. It was dark besides a light coming from a toy chest in the corner of the room.
Sasha approached the chest and as he reached towards it, a memory vault rushed out from behind it and ran to the other corner of the room.
He frowned. At this point, there was no reason not to open it...
And so he did.
He’d been prepared, to an extent. The whispers from her nightmares and the room the vault had been hiding in made certain elements of her past obvious. But he couldn’t have anticipated everything - particularly her psychic powers awakening in that moment..the screams and cries of two dozen orphaned children rushing into her head all at once while she was unable to save them.
Sasha closed the vault and sighed. There was no doubt that Cruller knew about this, so it wasn’t like he needed to recommend his partner for a psychological evaluation. But this was absolutely something she should’ve told him about. As partners, they needed to be able to trust each other with their minds.
The chest behind him rattled and groaned and Sasha stared back at it. He glared and adjusted his sunglasses again before climbing in to hopefully get to the end of this terrible trial.
When Milla woke up, she felt a powerful flood of different sensations.
First of all: pain. She had a huge, throbbing headache. Usually her post-mission headaches were more of a dull ache from overuse, so this was pretty obviously from her failed attempt at self-medication the night before.
Secondly: embarrassment. As the memories of the night came back to her, all the blood in her body rushed to Milla’s cheeks and she felt like she could die. If she was lucky, she was just remembering what happened wrong because of how drunk she was. But more likely...she basically threw herself at Mr. Handsome-With-A-Cute-Accent-But-Serious-Work-Business-Mission Man. And was not just rejected, but knocked out. Great.
And third: a combination of confusion and relief. Despite the embarrassment weighing heavily on her shoulders, Milla soon realized she wasn’t hearing their voices anymore. When she closed her eyes and concentrated hard enough into her mind, she could see that the party had been cleared and cleaned up. It’d need some fixing up again, of course, but nothing was on fire at least.
She quickly sat up and scanned the room. She was in bed, under the covers. It seemed to be early morning - the sun was just starting to rise.
And there was Sasha - asleep in the desk chair, chin in the palm of his right hand and snoring softly - as the sun’s rays started sparkling over him. He looked very tired and very heroic. Milla felt herself blush as the embarrassment flooded over her again. But this really wasn’t the time to focus on that when instead she could think about what he’d done for her.
Either he wasn’t as asleep as he seemed or he was the lightest sleeper ever because he immediately woke up, almost losing his balance as his hand slipped out from under him.
“Ah...um, good morning,” he said while clearing his throat. “How are you feeling?”
Milla felt her eyes start to water. How could he be so casual with her after how she’d acted? She jumped up out of the bed and launched herself at him with a tight hug around his neck. He didn’t respond at all, and she immediately let go of him and floated back to the bed.
“I am so sorry, I probably shouldn’t, um, touch you after….that.” Her face was bright red again, she could feel it.
But, as she peeked up to see his reaction, Milla was a little relieved to see that he was blushing, too. At least he wasn’t pissed.
“...it’s alright. You weren’t exactly in the right state of mind.”
“I’m sorry about that, too!” she squeaked out. “Please I-! Please don’t mention that in the report. I have never been so embarrassed at myself. It was just...I’m not sure what happened, but-”
Sasha picked up a piece of paper from the desk behind him and interrupted her by reading from it. “At 2130, Agents Nein and Vodello cornered Suspect in an alley off of Fornix Boulevard. After roughly five minutes of battling with repeated PSI-blasts, Suspect aimed a particularly strong attack directly at Agent Vodello.” He shuffled to find another page. “After close analysis of the state of Agent Vodello’s mind while under attack from several rogue Nightmares, Agent Nein concluded that the blast from Suspect knocked loose the lock in Agent Vodello’s excellently designed Nightmare Prison, thus releasing several Nightmares that Agent Vodello was not prepared to deal with on her own. Agent Nein destroyed several Nightmares before finding his way to the Prison where he then fixed the locks and reinforced the walls to ensure proper entrapment for the Nightmares once more.”
He nervously looked up at her, not sure how she’d react to what he’d done. Milla stayed still for a few moments before a long stream of tears flowed down her cheeks and she quickly shook her head and wiped at them with her long fingers. “Sasha, I...I am so grateful to you. I was only able to get them under control the first time with Cruller’s help, so I thought I could just...handle it until we returned to headquarters.”
Sasha put the papers back down and walked over to sit next to Milla on the bed. “Milla, I want you to be able to trust me.”
“I do! ” Milla said quickly, a little louder than she intended. “I swear, I do! I just didn’t think this would ever become a problem...especially not so soon.”
He sighed. “I want to be a resource for you. If something like this happens again, you should feel like you can talk to me about it.”
“Of course, Darling, of course,” she mumbled, placing her hands on top of one of his.
Sasha blushed at the pet name and the contact, using his free hand to adjust his sunglasses again. “And...I did not mention last night in my report. Not the details. But I would like you to talk to Cruller at some point and make sure he’s updated on your status. Those nightmares are dangerous, Milla.”
She nodded quickly and couldn’t stop herself from throwing her arms around his neck again, squeezing him tight. “Thank you, Sasha, thank you so much!”
He exhaled loudly through his nose before slowly reaching his arms around her and hugging back. He wasn’t used to so much physical contact. The contact from last night was something entirely new, but even just these brief hugs were unfamiliar. But...in a good way.
Milla pulled back again and tugged some hair behind her ear. “I do not think there’s any way I could apologize enough for last night,” she mumbled through her embarrassment. “But if you think of any way I could pay you back for this, I’ll do it. I can’t thank you enough.”
Sasha smiled at her and shrugged. “It’s alright. I trust that you would do the same for me if our situations were reversed.”
She smiled back at him and hugged him again - having barely even let go after the last one. She sighed and squeezed him tight, feeling like she never wanted to let go. She pulled away and looked at him with a heartful gaze.
Her heart started to beat faster and she quickly looked away from his eyes.
“I...I should take a shower,” Milla said suddenly. “And you should probably get some more sleep.”
Sasha shrugged. “I had an adequate amount of sleep already.”
She stood up and twiddled her fingers together. “Well...hmm…” Milla debated her next move before leaning forward and pressing a brief kiss to her partner’s cheek. “Thank you again!” And then she rushed off to the bathroom before he could respond.
His response was to turn bright red and slowly raise his hand to the spot where her lips had just been. The last time he’d been kissed was...at least a decade earlier. Perhaps longer. His cheek tingled and he wondered if all these kisses and hugs were normal for Milla Vodello or if he was special.
Sasha stared at the closed bathroom door and listened to the water rushing in the shower. Somehow he could already tell this partnership was going to last much longer than his last two.