"Is there something on my face, soldier?"

"Rita," says Cage, and it comes out desperate, breathless, like a blessing. Her stare is cold and hard and it drills into him, but all he can think about is her limp upper half swinging like a ragdoll from the alpha's gaping jaws.

"Who are you? Who said you could talk to me?"

This is her first time meeting him, just as it always is. After everything that's happened, the realization that she's never seen him before, that of course she's never seen him before, strikes him hardest, like a bullet to the chest, like a blow from which he will not awaken.

He swallows hard, all laughter gone. Suddenly his fingers are crushing the edge of his cap, and he holds it like a shield.

"Cage," he says, hoarsely, too hoarsely. "I'm Major William Cage. I'm– I was– I'm you at Verdun. We just won the war together."

As it always does, as it always has, this gives Rita pause. She steps forward, tilting her head in that way of hers, and studies him intently. For a moment confusion flits across her features, furrowing her brow; then she inclines her head, awareness blooming.

"The energy surge this morning. That was you?"

"Both of us," he says firmly. He can't make her remember, but maybe he can make her see how much he owes to her. "When I started looping, you found– find– found me on the battlefield and told me what happened to you. We found the Omega, you and Carter and I. We killed it, died killing it, and I guess before it went, it reset one last time."

She sinks back on her heels, expelling a heavy breath that is not quite laughter and not quite a sigh.

"Then Carter was right. Good, that's good. And I suppose I owe you my thanks, Major." She offers him a Mylar-plated palm, formal, so formal. He swallows his sigh and all of his wishes, and shakes her hand firmly, like a soldier to a soldier.

When their fingers touch, the world shatters. A shock, a concussion, a sudden short silence — and then there is water in his lungs and darkness in his eyes, the taste of Rita's blood upon his lips; concrete crumbles in reverse and fire rakes across the night, and he dies and lives a thousand times while gunfire rattles all around him—

They stagger apart, gasping. There are others watching now from the edge of Bay Three, but they don't dare come close, don't dare try and matter when Cage and Vrataski are the only two people in the world.

They stare at each other, frozen, for a fraction of a second or for a hundred years; then Rita's arms are digging into his ribs and she's laughing into his chest, sharp and breathless and hysterical, and he clutches her to him like he's still drowning, still drowning.

"Gerlinde," she says. "My middle name's Gerlinde."

There's a pause, and then he looks down at her, eyebrows raised. "You ever hear the story about the boy who cried wolf?"

"I think I've heard of it. Guess you'll just have to keep wondering." She disengages herself firmly and gives him a stern look, as if to scold him for tricking her into showing emotion in public. "We should probably get you to Dr. Carter before you do that to someone else," she says, suddenly all business. "I suppose you couldn't help the Omega bleeding on you, but we've no idea what other ramifications it'll have. We should get it sorted before someone else does."

"Dissections," says Cage, remembering. "Right."

Rita beckons, and he follows — just as he always has, just as he always will, for as long as he can.


{ Notes:
If I have to haul a fandom for this movie up from the ground by my fingertips, I swear, I will do it. It is at LEAST as good as Pacific Rim, and WB needs a big summer film this year. The only thing I didn't get was the ending — if the Omega is dead, how did it reset? Either (a) it's not dead, in which case, FUCK; or, (b), it is definitely dead, and the reset was because of Cage getting all glowified. This assumes the latter option, and takes some liberties with the film's canon. Oops.

Also, sketchy pseudoreligious nutjob or not, Tom Cruise is really frickin cute. I mean god dAMN SIR THAT IS A NICE FACE YOU HAVE.

EDIT 25 OCTOBER: Guys. This is a one-shot - the rest was always supposed to be left up to you. I'm incredibly grateful that you all love it so much! Really! But I don't want you to be disappointed, so I'm just letting you know. }