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at the top of the mountain

Chapter Text

Sage closes her eyes, breathing in the humid night air that flows in from the building window. It’s late, yes, but rather quiet outside for a city that’s usually bustling. Shanghai is still recovering from the Radianite skirmish the agents just had. It wasn’t a full blown fight, just rumors of a Radianite source here—unfounded in the end. A fruitless battle, but one they have to take just in case.

People are so greedy. They could use radianite to fix the world, but so many want to keep it for themselves.

Cypher is busy with his new intel in the room he has claimed for himself and the rest of the team has scattered already, Omen and Breach both gone off to do their own things. Now it’s just Sage and Jett in the kitchen.

“You really should be more careful,” Sage says, glancing at Jett.

Sage sits at the dimly lit table, watching Jett clean the Phantom she’s been using at the counter. She feels an odd sense of admiration and worry towards the other agent, one that she can’t quite place.

“Careful?” Jett repeats. Her smirk is as sharp as her blades. She doesn’t wield it with any hostility towards Sage, but Sage winces inwardly anyway. Jett is still high on adrenaline, which makes her presence feel like pulsing radianite. It’s addicting but dangerous, Sage thinks. “We won, mother hen. What’s gotten you so gloomy?”

Sage can sense life, manipulate it, but she can also feel how Jett tiptoes on the brink of death. There are moments when Sage is scared that Jett might jump just to see if she can fly over Death—gloating, victorious, too far for Sage to follow.

“It’s not a game, Jett,” Sage scolds. “You did not wait for my healing before you pushed up. I heard that last Operator shot, if it hit you—”

“What, I’d be dead?” Jett interrupts flippantly. “You could just bring me back. You’ve done it before, in Venice.”

Venice. It was a terrible situation all around, with all the Radianite. Their Venice is now falling apart more than other parts of their world, a piece of their universe shattered. Sage remembers Jett trying to reach the sky but being shot out of it instead.

“Which is still not my fault, by the way,” Jett adds, scrutinizing Sage to see whether she believes her.

“It was not your fault,” Sage agrees, and is a bit sad seeing how much those simple words alleviate the tension in Jett’s locked jaw. Sage sighs. “Bringing people back takes time. Power. It has risks. You know this.”

“Know what?” Jett asks.

“...Nothing comes without risk,” Sage says.

“Right.” Jett raises an eyebrow. “Only thing I know about you is you’re strong, Sage. Don’t you always say you’re like a mountain?”

Indeed, Sage is known for her patience, so she holds back her own frustration and worries, reaching for that soothing power within instead.

Sage supposes all of the Radiants keep their powers fairly secret, save for Jett and to an extent, Phoenix. The elements are the easiest to understand. Fire, wind. Most of them believe healing is straightforward. Viper of course suspects otherwise, having been a medic herself once. Reyna does not care, and Omen… is satisfied by taunting her, his own brand of paranoia that festers even in allies.

The life you give, Sage. Who do you take it from? Do you still pretend to not know?

Sage pushes the unsettling memory away. It is better to focus on the others, not on herself. “My powers do not make you invincible, Jett. But I feel that you already believe you are.”

“Damn. So what. You think I’m gonna be like Reyna someday? Just killing people left and right for fun?” Jett asks, levitating a knife in the air out of nowhere.

The question is so blunt that Sage is taken aback more by the words than by the blade.

Jett laughs. “Your face! I knew you hated her.”

“Don’t exaggerate,” Sage protests. “I do not hate her. She fights for our world, just like us.”

“You sure sound reassuring there.” Jett pretends to wipe away a tear from her eye in amusement. She starts playing with her knife, drawing figures Sage cannot decipher in the air. “Look. I know you got my back. You’ve saved our missions so many times. Our home would have been long wrecked without you.”

“Thank you,” Sage says. “It is an honor to fight alongside you all.”

“Yeah?” Jett hums. “I’ve fought against many Sages already. You are always invaluable in the other worlds.”

“Thank you.”

“And we fight against many Jetts, too…”

“Are you fishing for compliments?” Sage asks, amused.

Jett smirks. “I always see the other Jetts dominate the battlefield, it’s true,” she says. “Flying around, throwing cloudbursts everywhere…”

“Indeed, very impressive,” Sage says, smiling back. “Your aim is unparalleled.”

“I know,” Jett says, grinning at her. “It’s not arrogance if it’s true.”

“But truly, Jett. You fly places I cannot easily follow,” Sage says, more concerned about Jett becoming like Omen. Hollow, unreachable. “Someday, I might be unable to save you.”

Jett’s grin falters. She seems disappointed, which makes Sage almost regret sharing her concern.

“Then don’t, easy as that,” Jett says. She shrugs as she finally clicks her gun case shut. “Flying is all the freedom I have, Sage. You can’t take that away from me.”

That is strangely honest for Jett, though perhaps she doesn’t mean to be.

Sage has always felt a cold disconnect between herself and the others. She is used to building walls, but that is because it’s what she has done her whole life. Is it so easy to think about death for Jett? Or maybe as Jett said, it’s only about freedom for her.

...Only?

Sage thinks about how being Radiant has changed their lives. She wonders what they’d be if they met as normal people, without these powers. She wonders if Jett would even look at her twice.

That thought scares Sage. They have grown closer over this past year when they’ve been assigned to the same mission. They all have to—they are forced to trust each other with their lives. Without this fight unifying them, who would Sage be to Jett? Nobody. Or even worse—Jett would be nobody to her.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to control you,” Sage says, after a brief silence.

Jett’s lips twitch. “Why do you care so much, anyway?”

Sage looks at her. The question makes her uncomfortable because Sage feels the exact opposite. “It’s never enough,” she says. “But I have to keep trying. I cannot give up. I will not give up on you for as long as I can breathe.”

Jett looks at her, expression blank for a moment, before Jett smiles. Not a smirk but a smile, and Sage feels pleased by that rare distinction. “Thanks,” Jett says. “You know, when we first met, I thought you didn’t care so much about us. It was duty this, duty that.”

“Ah…” Sage can see why Jett thought that.

“But I guess it’s easier to care about the duty when you watch so many die in your line of work.”

So straightforward, sometimes rude, but never stupid. “We should get some rest, prepare for tomorrow,” Sage says softly, an obvious dismissal that Jett recognizes. “I’ll go check on Cypher.”

“Oh man, Cypher must be having fun with his camera,” Jett says instead of pushing Sage. Sage is relieved but also a touch disappointed. “I don’t know if it is appropriate to disturb him…”

“Jett!” Sage smiles. “It is not good to tease. The walls have eyes.”

Jett laughs. “I’m just sayin’.”