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Snippet #2823709

located in Atlas, a part of The Aegis Program, one of the many universes on RPG.

Atlas

None

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Lucille Simon Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Morgana Ishida Character Portrait: Kit Cassidy
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luci simon.
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outfit. raphael. #8C2FF7.
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bella clayton.
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outfit. sentinel. #772222.
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Singing for so long is exhausting in its own right, but it's a specific type of exhaustion. Sure, Luci was tired from standing and pacing and waving and spinning, but even with the occasional time to down some water, her throat and chest were getting tired. And having to use her abilities at the same time for such an extended period? She was glad that she was given a couple of 30 minute breaks for the night. One was approaching, thankfully, she just had one more song. Xavier’s song choice was decent, but a part of the deal was letting Luci pick a handful herself. Admittedly, she may have had a grouchy little witch on her mind when choosing several of them, including this one. And, at the moment, that same grouchy little witch remained in her thoughts as she sang it, “Love is all that I can give to youuu. Love is more than just a game for twooo.” It likely wasn’t a healthy habit, but distracting herself and getting lost in her thoughts was a common practice when Luci is on stage. It helped keep her calm, although distracting herself by recalling the feeling of soft, sweet lips against her own and even softer, sweeter words from one of the softest, sweetest women she’d ever met… It may be a little too distracting.

All of the audience blurred into a blob, only sudden movements returned her eyes to focus, but for the most part, Luci was in her own world, singing, standing, pacing, waving, and spinning for dozens of party guests. It was as if she was on autopilot, but nobody would be able to tell. Her grace and poise was flowing, natural. “Two in love can make it, take my heart and please don't break it! Love was made for me and youuu,” As if on cue, once Luci had hit that note, a bit of movement caught her attention. A face, one that she had spent years trying to avoid, for nothing short of a dozen painful reasons, appeared, clear as day, right next to the stage. Luci’s eyes darted between Bella and the crowd, and the blonde paled just a touch. Her smile became more forced, but her voice continued to flow like it always did; she had an image to uphold, a show to continue. “L is for the way you look at meee! O is for the only one I seeee!” She had to. The show must go on, she couldn’t ruin her public image, even as the pleasant thoughts of Morgana morphed and mutated into something else, something agonizing and guilt-ridden, something that reminded her of greedy, unyielding hands leaving marks across her body.

Bella disappeared back into the crowd and headed away from the stage, but her absence didn’t remove the thoughts from Luci’s head, nor did it sate the worry that bubbled to the surface when she saw the look on Bella’s face. She appeared ill and distressed in a physical way, not likely something that could have been caused just by seeing Luci, no matter how difficult that was. Once the last few lines of the song had been sung, Luci gave the crowd a polite wave and stepped off stage. Now out of the watchful eye of the public, Luci released a deep breath from her chest, and a frown turned the corners of her lips downward. She didn’t want to think about it, about how horribly she had treated Bella and how she didn’t deserve Bella’s forgiveness. Luci didn’t want to remember the brutality of the violation she endured, the smell of his breath, the roughness of his fingers around her throat, the feeling of vileness and disgust she had with herself that she still hasn’t been able to completely shake. But the moment one tries not to think about something on purpose, they can’t help but continue to think about it. Especially when all Luci could picture was Bella’s facial expression, troubled and strained, just before she disappeared back into the crowd. No matter how awful Luci felt, she couldn’t ignore somebody in need. So she grabbed a water bottle, glanced at the clock, and stepped out from backstage and into the crowd herself.

It took a couple minutes for Luci to figure out where Bella went, mostly because damn near every step she took, she was interrupted by a partygoer wanting to compliment her singing. Thankfully, she could accept their praise quickly and shuffle away from the conversations without being rude; something she’d practiced over many years of avoidance. But eventually, Luci turned a corner, not too far from the main hall, and found Bella, appearing just as troubled as she had been earlier. Luci thought Bella looked gorgeous in that dress, but the thought was fast, fading away again to be overpowered by those other thoughts, the self-hatred and the pain that she saw every time she took in Bella’s appearance. For Luci, Bella was tied to that night, that horrible night, and it was another reason why Luci avoided her. But she couldn’t avoid her now; Bella needed help. “Bella…?”Luci spoke softly as she approached, but the clicking of her stiletto heels gave her away first. She felt so silly, talking in this borderline gaudy dress, covered in sparkles, but she didn’t have much of a choice. “Are you alright? You don’t l-look so good.” She drew nearer until she was only a foot or two away. Bella seemed like she might keel over; Luci wanted to be close enough to catch her if she needed to. However, it was clear that Luci was struggling to maintain eye contact with Bella, more so than usual, given how her eyes darted up and down between the floor and Bella’s face. It was difficult not to flinch or tense up every time she looked at Bella. Every time, Bella’s face was overshadowed by another, one with a toothy grin and scratchy stubble and alcohol on his breath. “I.. I brought you some water,” She held the bottle out for Bella, and Luci’s hand was shaking visibly. There was so much she wanted to say, so much she was too scared to say, but now didn’t feel right. And it was difficult, so, so difficult.

Even now, as far away as she could physically get from the crowd, the noise was overwhelming. By now, the thought that taking the headband off might help was long gone. Bella could hardly think at all. Her head felt like it was about to burst as it was, leaving no room for her own thoughts. Her skull surely had to be about to crack open and let the thoughts fly back to their original owners instead of rattling around her head. Or maybe she would vomit them out instead. Her vision was fine one second and blurry the next, and then fine again, adding to the awfulness of the whole situation. She wasn’t sure that she would be able to focus on her phone for long enough to text somebody for help. She thought that it might be worth a try, and then remembered her phone was in her bag, abandoned somewhere on a table in the crowd. Nope, that wasn’t happening.

The thoughts of the person approaching her hit her before the actual reality of their presence did. Images of violence, a man’s face, the stench of cheap alcohol trying to be expensive… they were images that were hard for her to hear, even before she heard the voice that accompanied them.

Luci. Bella had to fight back a groan. Of all people, it had to be Luci. Bella had spent a not insignificant portion of the past two years attempting to move on from, or at least ignore, all of the hurt and pain from that fateful evening. She wasn’t so sure she’d be capable of that right then. She accepted the bottle of water but didn’t open it, just instead stared down at it and her hands. She’d barely even heard Luci’s question, and it took her a few seconds to even begin to process an answer. She opened her mouth to say, ‘I’m fine’, but it seemed like the noise and the thoughts and everything else spiked, overwhelming her system entirely. And so instead of a lie, something like a sob escaped through her mouth. She clamped her hand over her mouth, but it was too late. The violence flashing through her mind now was the final straw. Why had it only started when Luci had come over to her? She was in a room with plenty of heroes; they’d all seen awful things, why was this sticking out so much now? And why did it affect her more than anything else? Everything was too much. Her fist pressed to her mouth, she wasn’t even sure if she was making any noise any more. She took a deep, shuddering gasp as she tried and failed to compose herself. “I’m sorry,” she forced out.

Luci’s heart was already throbbing in her chest the moment she spotted Bella, but seeing her like this? Once that choked sob squeezed out of Bella’s throat, Luci thought she was going to cry herself. She wanted to dart forward, hug Bella, hold her close, cry with her, and maybe try to explain why she had done what she did that day. But Luci was not bold, she wasn’t confident like many of her friends, and in that moment, she thought she was pathetic, useless. Did Luci make things worse by approaching Bella? She just wanted to help, but she felt like she was doing the opposite. Bella didn’t even try to drink the water, she seemed too pained to even try. And all the while, Luci was fighting her mind tooth and nail, trying to continue to suppress the memories she’d been suppressing for nearly two years, but it was a losing battle.

Once Luci heard Bella’s apology, her chest tightened. Bella wasn’t the one who should be apologizing, but Luci still didn’t think it was the right time. Not now, when Bella was already falling apart. What can I do? She wanted to ask, but she had a feeling Bella wouldn’t have been able to form a coherent answer in this state. Luci had to find a way to try and calm her down, ease some of that tension, and she only knew one way how. It’s the only thing you’re good for. Luci swallowed, and her eyes lifted to stare forward. She reached deep into her mind and her heart, and one specific song traveled to the tip of her tongue. Perhaps an odd choice to many, but Luci’s mother used to sing it to her. And after everything that happened, the lyrics took on a new meaning for Luci. “Well I've heard there was a sacred chord, David played and it pleased the Lord.” Singing was one of the only times when Luci feels moderately self-assured, so she managed to maintain eye contact as she did it. “But you don't really care for music, do you?” It was as if Luci was speaking to Bella directly, and as the sweet, soft notes danced towards the brunette, Luci even smiled just as sweetly and softly. “Well it goes like this: The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift. The baffled king composing Hallelujah.”

If Luci could just establish a strong enough link, she could help urge Bella’s mind and body to relax. Bella was always someone that Luci had a hard time establishing a link with, so she knew she would need to pull out every trick in the book. The first verse wasn’t enough, neither were the soft Hallelujahs that followed. She needed more, but she was dreading singing the next part, and she cursed her mind for only being able to think of this song out of the millions of others. “Well your faith was strong but you needed proof. You saw her bathing on the roof. Her beauty in the moonlight overthrew you.” It was impossible not to think of Bella as she sang, how beautiful she had looked on that sunny weekend where they spent hours laughing and having fun. The link was still too weak; Luci needed more. Tentatively at first, Luci reached for Bella’s clenched fist; she forced her own trembling fingers to still. She didn’t have time to be nervous. Bella was suffering. Making a physical connection was the easiest way to help establish a link faster. Luci unfurled Bella’s fist, cradling her hand between her own.

However, her throat tightened as she sang the next lyrics. “And he tied you to your kitchen chair. He broke your throne, he cut your hair, and from your lips he drew the Hallelujah…” It happened again, those tender, joyful memories rotted, and they were replaced with flashes of rough, demanding hands and a vicious, hungry mouth that covered her body in marks that took weeks to heal. But it was working, the link had formed well enough, and Luci mentally urged Bella’s mind and body: Relax. Breathe. You will be alright. Relax. Breathe. But the toll on Luci was obvious, her shoulders quaked slightly, and she swallowed again to try and keep herself from crying. She hadn’t thought about these things in so long. Of course she’d sometimes still have nightmares, and she would talk to her therapist about it on occasion, but it had been months since she’d seen these memories so vividly.

At some point, Luci and Bella had discovered that Luci’s abilities didn’t work as easily or as well on Bella as it did on most other people. Apparently the lack of sexual attraction was something of a barrier; a fact that Bella had always found ironic considering the feelings she’d hidden for Luci for so long. But the fact that the magic didn’t work on Bella didn’t stop Luci’s voice from being automatically soothing to her. Her voice was so soft and clear and sad, but it was what Bella needed. Instinctively, she closed her eyes. The feeling of Luci’s hands around hers made her tense a little at first, before she relaxed again.

When the abilities finally began to kick in, the noise became a little less noisy and a little less overwhelming. Bella’s own emotions calmed somewhat. It was then that she became aware of a few things. There were the words that Luci was singing; soft and clear and with a touch of power that hadn’t been there seconds before. And the thoughts that came with them- of Bella herself, two years younger, two years more innocent, in a light that Bella had seldom seen herself. Those thoughts, those images of Bella… they didn’t fit with the way that Bella had presumed Luci felt about her.

And then came those images of violence. But now, with the link between them a little clearer, Bella’s head a touch quieter and most importantly calmer, Bella was able to make a bit more sense of them. Even still, it took her a few moments to piece the whole thing together. When she realised what she was seeing, her whole body went cold; but not from being overwhelmed or unwell, but from the awful horror of what Luci had experienced. She didn’t even fully think about what she did next. She threw her arms around Luci, pulling her into the tightest hug she could manage. “You didn’t deserve that,” was all she could manage to say. She couldn’t verbalise her thoughts any further than that, so she just repeated it. “You didn’t deserve that awful thing.”

Luci watched as some of the tension melted off of Bella’s shoulders, and relief flooded her system. Being able to see even a little bit of the pain fade away was exactly what Luci wanted. Once Bella had relaxed, Luci almost excused herself. She wanted to offer leaving, getting someone who would actually be able to help Bella. However, before she could, Bella lurched forward and wrapped her arms around Luci in a tight, firm hug. Luci froze, her whole body taut for a few seconds as she listened to what Bella said. Could this really be happening? Luci thought Bella hated her, and Bella had every right to after what Luci had done. She had been so foolish, selfish; she only thought about herself, her own feelings that day as she ran away from them and from Bella. And then she left Bella in the dark for nearly two years. Luci didn’t think she deserved this. She didn’t deserve a hug, she didn’t deserve those kind words, and yet she was given them anyway.

It was sudden; the tension leaving Luci’s body too. She nearly collapsed into Bella, and in an instant, tears were flowing from her eyes. After nearly two years, this is exactly what she’d dream of: a chance to reconnect with Bella, to explain herself. And even if all of that wasn’t happening at this exact moment, Luci knew in her heart that this was the first step in the right direction. She relented and wrapped her arms around Bella too, buried her face in her shoulder, and she cried. Covered from head to toe in sparkles, with far too much make-up on her face, she cried, not caring that it would start running or how a woman should never make a mess of herself at an event like this. She cried and she cried, all of those pent up emotions finally escaping through her tears, and she trembled against Bella as she did. “I’m sorry…” Luci managed to squeeze out between sobs. “I’m so, so sorry… Bella…” She hadn’t said Bella’s name in so long, it sounded almost strange in her voice. “I’m sorry you.. you h-had to see that, those things.” Luci knew Bella likely saw what she had been thinking about, all those horrific images. “I… I have so much I-I want to.. To explain, to apologize for, but now…” Luci pulled back from the hug, and she hurriedly wiped at her running mascara as she sniffled. “Now isn’t.. Isn’t the best time, really,” She almost laughed at the end.

Perhaps it was a bold move, but Luci was running out of time. She had to be back on stage soon, and she now needed to factor in time to fix her make-up and try to find someone that could really help Bella. “I… I w-want… Could we maybe… get together and talk, sometime?” Luci asked, though her eyes remained rooted to the floor. She expected rejection, so she moved past it quickly.

Bella had just about managed to stop crying. And then Luci pressed her face to her neck and began to do so, and Bella began to cry all over again. She cried over the things that had happened and the things that hadn’t, over the pounding headache she still had, the grief that had made a permanent home in her chest, over the swirling noise that still deafened most of her own thoughts. And in some strange way, it was what she needed right then. She just clung to Luci and let Luci cling to her, and they both sobbed.

Luci’s words felt like the first steps towards bridging the chasm that had grown between them in the past few years. Bella just listened, shaking her head as Luci apologised for the images she had seen. It hadn’t been pleasant for Bella to see them, but it must have been so much worse for Luci to live them, and so she didn’t think an apology was needed. When Luci pulled back, Bella let her, wiping her own cheeks with the back of her hand.

When Luci asked if they could find time to actually talk, Bella nodded without even really having to think about it. “Yeah, that sounds good,” she said, her voice still trembling somewhat. “Sometime when we’re both not…” she gestured between the two of them and laughed a little. “I still feel like I might throw up so definitely not right now, but… sometime soon?” She offered. Instinctively, she went to check her phone to see when she was free, then remembered it was buried in the throng of people, somewhere she still couldn’t bring herself to go back to. “My phone is… in there somewhere…” she said, still unable to even really remember where as she stared blankly at the crowd. “I also need to find Kit. He made me this,” she said, gesturing at the headband. “It’s really cool and is a really cool idea, but… it works too well and I have a killer migraine and… feel a little like I might pass out. I bet he can fix it though, he made it himself. It’s really cool, right?” She rambled.

It was as if a weight had been lifted off of Luci. The horrific images faded from her mind, and a pleasant warmth took their place. It was still overwhelming with all of these repressed emotions coming to a head, and a part of her couldn’t believe what was happening. She certainly didn’t think she deserved it, but she was glad nonetheless. She laughed at Bella’s response, a genuine, pleased laugh. “Yes, some other time, when we are both more able. Soon sounds good to me.” She was proud of how well she managed to get through that sentence without stuttering. Truly, once she is more comfortable, speaking comes easier.

Once Bella started to talk about Kit, the warmth in Luci’s chest spread even further. The soft smile on her face was almost relieved; she was glad that Bella was able to find happiness with someone else, just as Luci had. “It is rather cool, I agree. He’s always been… been good at that, making cool stuff,” Luci agreed with a nod. “Would you like me to find your phone, or… or someone to find Kit? I would go searching for him myself but I’ve got…” She glanced around, leaning to peer into the hall and take in a clock. “Blast… 10 minutes, and I’ve got to fix m-my… I’m sorry. Would that be ok? Leo always sticks out like a mountain, I’m sure I could find them quickly.” Luci’s eyes were apologetic again. She had to be back on stage soon, and she was worried she would run out of time. Those nerves were returning, and her heart was starting to pound.

At the mention of Leo, Bella’s first instinct was to ask Luci to go get them. They were such a ray of positivity that it felt like they could have been exactly the person she needed right then. And then she remembered the few times she’d had to tap into their thoughts during training or a mission and just how loud and overwhelming they could be on a good day. “Um… if you can find my phone for me, I think I should be able to manage to text Kit to come find me,” she said. “If you can’t find it though, don’t worry, I’ll be okay. You’ve got to get back on stage and stay wowing the audience with your gorgeous voice, you hear me?” As the words left Bella’s mouth, she realised exactly what she had said, colour rushing to her cheeks. She’d said it without thinking, and had meant it as nothing more than a friend, but she didn’t know if Luci knew she meant it that way. “It’s a shame Morgana isn’t here to hear it,” she added softly. It was an impulse response, really, the only way she could think of letting Luci know that she didn’t mind, not really. Mentioning anything that she’d heard in someone’s thoughts was always uncomfortable for her, especially something as personal as this. But given what she’d already seen, perhaps this wasn’t such a violation of privacy. She just managed a soft, somewhat awkward smile and hoped that Luci knew she had meant it in nothing but kindness.

As Luci was given her little task from Bella, she nodded, perhaps a bit too excitedly. She was glad she could just be helpful. However, Bella continued, and she complimented Luci’s singing. There was an explosion of warmth in Luci’s face, and a flood of color accompanied it. Her eyes immediately dropped to the ground, a sheepish action, one she could not resist due to the fuzziness in her chest. After nearly two years, Luci expected Bella to hate her and her voice. Hearing her compliment her and it instead brought a sense of relief that Luci didn’t even know she needed. The inclusion of Morgana shifted her feelings away from relief into something more akin to embarrassment; this meant Bella had seen Morgana in Luci’s head when she was singing those love songs. The blush on her cheeks shifted up to the tips of Luci’s ears, and the mere mention of the witch reminded Luci of the softness of her lips, the playful verbal teasing that always left her stumbling and stuttering, and the softness of smooth, silky black hair between her fingers. “Y-yes, it r-really is a shame.” Although Luci was embarrassed, there was a new tenderness in both her voice and her eyes as they drifted away in thought, denoting just how much she felt for Morgana. “P-perhaps she and some others will show up later. I wonder what she would… think of this… this gaudy dress,” She added the last bit with a laugh and a shake of her head, and that helped remind her of her task at hand: helping Bella. “I’ll find your phone, don’t worry. Be back in a jiff.”

After one more nod, Luci walked back into the main hall. As soon as she entered, she spotted a familiar face, one that was nearly a foot taller than her. “Hey Luce!” Leo approached Luci quickly, but they paused once she saw the state of her runny make-up. “Oh no, did something happen? Are you ok?” Leo asked her, a deep layer of concern furrowing their brows.

“I’m fine, Leo, I promise. It was… It was a good cry, one that I needed.” She smiled up at Leo, a full, genuine smile, and it made Leo relax a touch. “But I will also need help fixing my make-up. Can you find Harold for me and meet me backstage in five minutes? I’m running out of time, my break is almost over.”

“Yes, you got it!” Leo jumped to action in an instant, disappearing into the crowd to go search for their friend.

With a shaky breath, Luci searched for Bella’s phone. The hall wasn’t too large luckily, and her sharp eyes scanned between the many moving bodies. Any conversationalists this time were promptly and politely declined, and with a couple minutes to spare, Luci spotted a clutch that looked similar to Bella’s dress. She saw a phone on top of it, one in a case covered in familiar stickers. The last time Luci had seen them was years ago, and they were much more faded and worn than before. There was a tug in Luci’s chest, but she squashed it quickly. Things would be better now. She picked up the clutch and the phone and darted back over to Bella. She wished she could be moving faster, but any longer strides meant more of her legs would be revealed due to those dangerously high slits in the fabric.

“Here,” Luci said as soon as she turned the corner. She held out the phone and the small purse, and her eyes darted up to take in Bella’s face again. This time, what she felt wasn’t guilt or sadness. Although small shreds of those emotions remained, Luci was close to content. “Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” She asked one more time, and her tone was just as sincere as she continued, “I could stay with you for a little while longer or try and find Kit for you. The singing can wait if it must. It’s not more important than your health.”

Bella’s first instinct was to compliment Luci’s dress and to say it wasn’t gaudy at all. But before she could, Luci had dashed off in search of Bella’s phone. Her calming presence gone, the noise began to creep back in, Bella beginning to realise that her headache hadn’t disappeared at all; rather she just hadn’t been paying attention to it for a bit. Hopefully Kit would be able to fix the headband to make it less loud.

When she spotted Luci weaving her way back over to her, she exhaled a little with relief. She managed a grateful smile as Luci handed the bag and the phone to her. There were messages on her phone, but they weren’t important now. She shook her head as Luci offered to stay with her. “No, I’ll be fine. Really. Go do your thing and blow the crowd away, okay?” She said, smiling at Luci. She managed to unlock her phone and open up her texts, scrolling until she found Kit. The message she sent was brief, but she hoped he’d get the point.

To: kit
SOS, gadget not working right

“I’ve texted him, he’s on his way now,” Bella said, looking back up at Luci. “So seriously, go do your thing. I’ll be listening.”

A part of Luci wished Bella had asked her today. This had been going so well, and she was remembering that, otherwise, she was going to be cemented on stage again. On stage, away from her friends, and under the watchful eye of every single person in the hall. But somebody had to be up there, entertaining everybody. Luci was locked into that role, whether she liked it or not. Bella’s soft encouragement was helpful, and Luci couldn’t stop the sheepish smile that creased her lips. Her hands fiddled with some of the crystals on her dress as she tried to figure out what to say. There was so much she had to say, so much she wanted to say, but they didn’t have the time. Luci wasn’t like Leo or any of her other friends; she couldn’t say “Damn your rules” like so many of them did. She was a good girl who did as she was told, even if it left a sour taste in her mouth. “Thank you, Bella… Thank you, f-for… everything. I’ll sing the next one for you.” She gave Bella one last bow of her head and took a few steps towards the exit. Although, she paused just to say, “I.. I hope you feel better soon. And… that dress looks lovely on you.” Admittedly, the last bit may have come out rather quick, and Luci practically ran away after it, but she had gathered the courage to say it nonetheless.

Now it was a race against time. She darted backstage only to see Leo and a rather fretful looking Harold standing beside them. “Hey Luce! I found him for you.”

“Thank you, Leo. Good job,” Luci praised, but it was clear her nerves were starting to return in full force. Leo didn’t mind though; even praise as minor as that warmed their skin.

Luci turned to Harold, who was holding a pretty basic kit for make-up. “One of the assistants had some make-up in her purse. It’s not much, and it’s not nearly as good as the stuff you had at home-”

It was clear Harold was prepared to ramble on, but Luci didn’t have time for this. “It’s fine, Harold! Thank you for all the help, but… Less talk, more applying.” She grimaced as soon as she had said it, immediately feeling bad. “Ah, s-sorry, that was kinda-”

Harold blinked a few times, a redness dusting his cheeks. “Yes ma’am,” was all he said, with a hint of teasing in his tone. A teasing that caused Luci’s own face to flush, but she tilted it up towards Harold regardless.

With less than 60 seconds to spare, Luci made her way back on stage. Her reappearance was greeted with a polite applause, but she hadn’t noticed. Her eyes were set to scanning the crowd again, searching for faces she would never be able to find. Her mother still hadn’t shown up, and a certain short, goth, raven-haired witch hadn’t either. So she smiled, waved to the crowd, and started singing her next song: a Dean Martin classic. “You're nobody 'til somebody loves youuu…” She finished the line with a sweep of her arm, and her wing copied the movement. Every crystal attached to her sparked and shined. “You're nobody 'til somebody cares…”