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Leo Lambert

"Hit me, I dare you!"

0 · 124 views · located in Atlas

a character in “The Aegis Program”, as played by AbsoluteWhisper

Description

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LEO LAMBERT
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"Don’t ever take kindness for weakness! That being said, be soft, b̵̧̠̫̜͚̪̜̺̝̠͔̏̑́́̓͗͠u̴͚͍̓̋͠ṫ̷̡̠̻͍̭̰̦̱̬̬̟̉̍̇͑̌̾̓̈́́̔͆̀̊ ̵̱͈͔͍̙͖̙̳̆͆̃͜b̴̻̩̳͔̩̲̖̖̖͓̦̮́̊͊̌̚ȩ̸̜̺̤̠̩̻͕̻̰̄̽͛̌̈́͛͌̌̌̔̍̎͆͜͝ ̷̙͙̥͔̈́̇̌̈́̑͌̃͘̚r̶̢͉̲̼̙̦̝̳̜̰̰̱͖̎͗͑̅̍̆͒̍̎̕è̸̜͋͂ä̵̜͚̘̺̱̗͚̥̮̬̳̯̋͊͂͆͂̈̌͐̽̈́͂̈́̕ͅḑ̵͙̜͔͙̱͓̖͓̣̮̮̖͓̒ÿ̵̛̛̗͕̖̥̠̰̈̉̈́̅̑̕͝." -Unknown
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xxxxx|| Legal Name || Leona Lambert
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xxxxx|| Alias || Quantum || Leo
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xxxxx|| Pronouns || They/Them
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xxxxx|| Age || 24
xxxxx|| Sexuality || Pansexualxx
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xxxxx|| Mentor || Paladinxx
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xxxxx|| Birth-place || Lower-City, Atlasxx
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xxxxx|| Hex || #FFD201xx
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xxxxx|| Height || 6’1’’
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xxxxx|| Build || Broad and muscular, like a brick shithouse
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xxxxx|| Description || Leo is big, mostly because their powers dictate they must be. They were lucky enough to sprout like a tree as they were growing, but the sheer mass they possess is all due to hard work. Since learning about how their abilities actually function, they have bulked for years, doing hyper-intensive strength training. Every part of their form is covered in sturdy muscle, but they aren’t overly cut. Their shoulders are broad, their thighs are thick, and their arms are beefy. Usually, that’s the first aspect most would notice about Leo. After that, it's the scars. Their body is littered with them, hundreds, perhaps thousands of different shapes and sizes: bullet holes, slice marks, scratch marks, stab wounds. Practicing with their abilities meant getting the shit kicked out of them over and over, and their marred, mid-toned skin reflects that. For the most part, their face was spared, save for two small cuts over the left of their lips and their right eyebrow.

Despite their lumbering form and large stature, Leo’s face is much more welcoming. Their soft, golden brown eyes are always sparkling, and their full lips are always curled into a smile. If untamed, their hair frizzes out into a big puff ball, but they usually keep it braided down or tied into a tight updo to keep it out of the way. Leo was assigned female at birth, but exclusively identifies as genderqueer, so their appearance may fluctuate greatly. They occasionally bind their chest, sometimes pack in their underwear, and can switch from a masculine style of clothing, to feminine, to something in between depending on how they’re feeling that day. Regardless of how they choose to present themselves, Leo almost always looks well put together. Fancy, expensive clothes in bright colors are common. It's easy to tell when they’re having a really bad day: if they appear even moderately disheveled.
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xxxxx|| Likes || Sweets, Food in general, Cooking, Comedies, Romance movies, Cracking jokes, Making people laugh, Flirting shamelessly, Being complimented, Sparring, Showing off, Drawing, Cats, Pretty girls, Quiet nights, People who can match their energy, Hugs, Cuddling, Physical contact in general, Dancing (they're quite good at it), Singing (they're quite bad at it)
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xxxxx|| Dislikes || Prejudice, Aggression, Action movies, Being interrupted, Cold people, Anti-supers, Country music, Drugs, Death, Losing control, Emotional Immaturity, Sour foods, Being doubted,
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xxxxx|| Quirks || Always carrying high calorie snack bars, Clinging to people on instinct, Stares intently and often, Smirking, Smiling, Grinning, always, Talking while eating
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xxxxx|| Fears || Never finding love, Dying before making a difference, Being unable to do their job anymore, Fire and Lightning in general
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xxxxxAt a glance, Leo appears to be the stereotypical, air-headed jock. Their happy-go-lucky attitude means they’re always cracking jokes, always smiling, always being sweet, and always trying to be friends with everyone. They’re an open book, through and through. If they’re feeling something, everyone will know about it, because they will talk about it. They’re loud, proud, vulgar, have a lot of strong opinions, and they are willing to talk about almost anything with almost anyone. Leo considers themselves confident, in themselves and their actions, but many of their superiors would also call them cocky and arrogant, sometimes to a foolish degree. They know they have flaws, they are aware of their own weaknesses, but they also know just how great they are. Leo doesn’t think they’re better than everyone, they just know they’re strong and good at what they do. They’re fiery and full of passion for the things and people they love, and are well known to start loud arguments about silly things. But most of all, they despise being ordered around and controlled. They’re a hopeless romantic, so the only time they may seem unsure of themselves or how to act is when they’re faced with someone they have a crush on. Which, funnily enough, is quite a lot of people. Leo isn’t very good at reading people and their true intentions, and they’re extremely optimistic to a fault, so they fall in love very quickly with idealized versions of the people they are constantly around. Regardless of who they’re crushing on, Leo is flirtatious to everyone, and a massively clingy bastard. Even if you outwardly hate them, they will spend time with you anyway in hopes of changing your mind. They adore physical contact, even with their friends, so while they may be emotionally clingy, they’re also often physically clingy. They invite friends over to cuddle dates, they like to hold peoples’ hands, and they will tackle you with a hug without hesitation.

Despite perhaps acting like a bit of a blockhead sometimes, Leo is actually quite smart. They might look like they’re all brawn and no brains, but most people don’t know that, to maintain her abilities, Leo has to be intelligent. Every time they throw a punch or block an attack, they are making estimates and crunching numbers. They are book smart, especially in regards to physics, engineering, and most things math related. They’re persuasive and good at interpersonal relationships. They aren’t scared to take the lead and make plans, and aren’t afraid to take responsibility when things go wrong. But, at the end of the day, Leo’s biggest weakness is themselves. They may carry themselves proudly and without doubt, but, in truth, they’re quite insecure. Almost no one knows this, about how they fret over how they look, about them worrying if they’re saying the right thing, and they’d prefer to keep it that way.

On the battlefield, Leo’s true colors fly. Although they may be arrogant, they can back up that arrogance with results. After training their powers for so long, they’ve become borderline invincible. If not for their strong sense of justice, both ingrained and added to by their mentor, Paladin, Leo would be a super to be feared. As fights go on, they grow more and more playful and boastful, often smiling and laughing no matter the circumstances. Paladin once described it succinctly: it's like they’re a predator playing with their prey before dealing the killing blow, and they’ll do it with a devilish grin on their face. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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xxxxx|| Kinetic Energy Absorption and Manipulation || If something has mass, and it is moving, it has kinetic energy. By touching that object in motion, Leo is capable of absorbing and storing that energy. It took years and thousands of hours of practice, but Leo is able to stop the force of any object that comes in contact with their body, including blunt force like punches and kicks, but also sharp, piercing objects like bullets and knives. As long as they are conscious, this means it's almost impossible to land a hit that will do any actual damage to their body. Once that energy is stored with them, they can call upon that energy and release it at will. With that, they can increase the physical strength of their movements and attacks, throw out medium range strikes in the forms of air bursts, and release that energy into small objects, essentially turning anything they want into a bullet. As they take on more and more energy, their eyes start to glow a bright golden-orange color. They are practicing trying to increase the range of their kinetic air strikes, and attempting to perhaps change their form into something sharper.
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xxxxx|| Strengths || Their abilities work best at short ranges, meaning they’re the perfect CQC fighter in almost all instances. Most people assume they aren’t very smart, and so they use this to their advantage often. Their strong leadership capabilities means they’re great under pressure. Even if they don’t possess superhuman strength, their body is in peak human condition, meaning they do have the strength and stamina of the average olympian.
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xxxxx|| Weaknesses || As powerful as their ability is, it comes with rather intense drawbacks. Leo's body has a limit to how much energy it can store. Years of training have increased that limit, but there is a limit. As Leo begins to near their limit, their body starts to heat up. Their body temperature will go higher and higher until reaching the point where they could cause brain damage. Whenever they reach their limit, their body has a safeguard: they pass out instantly, and all the energy around them explodes outward. It's an insanely powerful burst, and has destroyed building foundations. But because Leo’s ability requires a conscious awareness, if they are unconscious, they are no more powerful than a human.

Even if Leo is smart enough to skirt around the edge of their limit, they can’t use their powers consistently and over long periods of time. The act of absorbing, storing, and dispelling energy has a sort of tax on Leo's body. Any time kinetic energy is absorbed, it takes energy within Leo's body. To continue to store it would continue to burn through Leo's energy, like keeping your body tensed for extremely long periods of time. And then dispelling that energy requires more energy. This means that Leo can only ever absorb, store, and dispel energy equal to how many calories they have in their body. And thus Leo must eat large amounts of calories a day, and if they run out of calories that they have recently eaten, their body will start eating away at itself to continue to use these abilities, hence why they try to keep their body as bulky as possible. This entire process is extremely exhausting, meaning Leo can only use their powers in short bursts and then they must rest and binge more calories before using them again.

Because Leo’s abilities come from absorbing energy from objects, something that does damage but does not have mass would be their biggest weakness. They fear fire and electricity because there is nothing they can do to defend against direct attacks using those elements. xx
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Leo, like many others, was born in the Lower-City. Their mother, a kind Haitian woman, and their father, an energetic Dominican man, never really had much but their love for their only child. Leo grew up speaking three different languages, English, French, and Spanish, and working in the small shop their parents owned. It wasn’t a lot, but for Leo, it was enough. They were as happy as one could be. Sure, some nights they went to bed hungry, but at the end of the day, they knew they had people that loved them. For 15 years, this was how Leo lived. Doing small jobs, trying to stay out of trouble, and loving her family. Then, one day, while on a drive with their parents, they were t-boned at an intersection. The car that hit them was testing a new source of alternative energy, and it exploded on impact, killing everybody in both vehicles. Except for Leo, who somehow was completely unharmed.

Leo woke up in a padded room. They had no clue where they were, or what happened to their parents, or what happened to them after the crash. All they knew was that they had apparently displayed some type of special abilities after the crash, and now they were stuck here. For years, Leo was poked and prodded and tested, but as far as they knew, they had survived the crash and been an orphan on the street. Their implanted memories made them believe they were barely scraping by, and then one day they met Paladin during a robbery. But the truth is, they were stuck at that facility for four years, and Paladin herself picked Leo out to work with. Phantom had to make sure Paladin was mentally sound first because the female super had never requested to work with someone specific before. But Leo’s powers seemed to work perfectly with hers, so she got what she wanted.

After the “robbery”, Paladin asked Leo to train with her. At first, Leo couldn’t even handle the force of one of Paladin’s punches because the woman was so strong. But for years, the two trained, with Leo spending upwards of 16 hours a day just practicing. Eating, working out, taking punches, taking bullets, over and over and over, and after almost two full years of nothing but practice, Leo was strong enough to handle more than two dozen of their mentor’s strikes. Their debut was met with widespread acceptance, and they continued to thrive in the spotlight. Paladin and Leo were a perfect team. All Paladin needed to do was hit Leo a few times, and Leo could end up even stronger than her in short bursts. And this partnership worked well for Leo; they learned more than they could have ever asked for. They adopted Paladin’s sense of justice, not to mention her lack of a secret identity, and their matching boisterous attitudes have made them thick as thieves. The two may trade blows in the physical sense often, but they trade blows mentally even more frequently. Most can find them bickering and joking. To Leo, Paladin was the big sister figure they always needed, especially after everything that happened in the past.

Life was nice and all, but Leo found that just doing super work wasn’t enough for them. Paladin suggested looking for a day job, and Leo wasn’t sure what to do. They never figured themselves to be an office type of person, not to mention they didn’t have any degrees in any fields. As a job, Paladin said “maybe that face of yours could find some work”, and Leo took that completely seriously. They advertised themselves as Quantum, the dapper rising hero, and after a few months of shopping their headshots around, someone took a chance on them. They modeled for an androgynous based clothing line, and did so well, they were signed on as a regular faster than anyone ever had before. After about a year of that, they were the figurehead of one of the most popular clothing lines in the world. Why wouldn’t they be? They were attractive, worked well in any type of clothing, and they were a damn superhero! Now, Leo had all the money they could ever want, a fancy penthouse, nice cars, more fame than they thought could exist, and two fulfilling jobs to fill up their free time. Everything was perfect. Right?

Something still felt like it was missing. Leo had all of these things, but what they didn’t have was someone else, someone they could be close to. Someone they could be completely themselves with. So their nights are filled with dates that go nowhere. One night stands with pretty people were easy to come by, but finding someone who could work with their insane schedule and care for them how they truly wanted was not.

But all in all, Leo can’t complain. Their life was busy, but it was manageable. And then Jet-Stream died, and then everything started falling apart.

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cs: phosphene - fc: Amandla Stenberg - hex code: FFD201

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So begins...

Leo Lambert's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emeris Mikaelson Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Lucille Simon Character Portrait: Cameron Jensen Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Ada Forrest Character Portrait: Kieran Gallagher
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The sensation that filled the air was enough to set anyone on edge, at least for those that knew what tonight truly was. But, from an outsider's perspective, it was the annual dinner-party thrown at Atlas' very own Hale Enterprises company building. The guest-list itself was an accomplishment, seeing as how nearly every business owner, CEO, actor, model, and public influencer had been invited. If you were someone of note, chances of you being invited were high. Stereotypical, orchestral music played throughout the main dining hall that the event was being held.

Forty-Six, large circular tables were aligned, as eight chairs were seated with each that outlined the center of the room that held what could be considered a dancing floor, with an orchestra band stationed at the stage that ran alongside the large staircase that led to the room. Anyone who made their way upstairs, would be able to look down the old stone railing, looking down would see what would be notable as an indoor courtyard, of sorts. And down below, all of the tables and guests could be seen with little to no issue. It was a perfect placement for watchmen. And of course, this wouldn't be one of Xavier Hale's own parties, if personal guardsmen weren't spotted along the room. All in pristine, black suit and ties, accompanied with a hearing ear piece in their right or left ear.

The night was a buzz with energy, as guests had made their way inside already. Whether sitting at one of the many tables, speaking with other pristine guests, or sitting at a table. Waiters had made their way out of the ground-floor's kitchen, all with trays carrying an assortment of champayne, wine, and of course the finest samples of snacks that would be present all throughout the night. To the common eye, or well, Upper-City celebraties, were concerned, it was one of the finer parties anyone could and would attend. Whether to hear the latest gossip, and trade secrets, to being the first ones to hear whatever news Xavier Hale himself would reveal before the general public got word.

But tonight, it was anything but casual affairs. The Upper-Class party was simply a facade to help cover what was truly going on this night. Aegis had been alerted that a few of the pristine guests that would be invited tonight, could very possibly have some tie-ins with members of who they called The Order, and Aegis wanted whatever answers they could get from them. Assuming they'd be successful of course. At least tonight they couldn't accept failure...

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Unsurprisingly, one of the many faces that would be present alongside Xavier Hale, would be one of his interns, Mikey Santo. She had become a notable face amongst the company and many other notable faces amongst Atlas. People's opinions on her had always been mixed, but people knew well enough to never speak ill of her when in the presence of those who belonged to Hale Enterprises, especially considering the blatant favoritism Xavier had shown towards her. She was someone many considered his right hand; wherever he was, she was right next to him. And this night was no different. Mikey had arrived to the party hours ahead of time. Helping reinforce security measures, keeping tabs of who was security, etc. As well as her focal duties of the night, which entailed making sure some of the bigger industry members ended up making deals with Hale Enterprises.

At least that was her role for the night on the outside. While in reality, Mikey was head of security, in plane sight. She would report to Xavier immediately if anything was out of the ordinary. And act on her role as a hero secondarily. As much as she wanted to play Hero tonight, she had her normal responsibilities to attend to tonight. Which is exactly why a team of Aegis members were also in attendance this evening. As more faces made their presence known, Mikey was able to spot a few in the crowd from where she was up on the balcony to the right that alongside the large staircase in the main room.

Bella was down below, keeping her eyes scoped out on the main floor. Leo and Paladin were somewhere else keeping watch. It didn't exactly take long for Mikey to spot the two Titans in the crowd. Looking over a few more, she could make out the all too distinguishable red hair of a tall and slim woman, with a male who stood by her side. He had darker but short hair, and rather clean shaven. They were both dressed up to the nines, brandishing some of the higher tech and jewelry Atlas had to offer. Their was no mistaking who these two individuals were. Iliana and Conroy Mikaelson. Two of the bigger names of notable faces in Atlas. As well as the very parents of Emeris Mikaelson, who was the bar-owner of Envy, as well as former hookup of Mikey. Those were two people she didn't want to see this evening, but not shocking that they'd be there tonight, all things considered. One face she was surprised she didn't see in the crowd, was Emeris themself. But she assumed they had better things to do than attend a party like this, even though they were invited, for all too obvious reasons. Even their own siblings, Sarah and Saoirse were around as well. Chatting with some A-List actors. Mikey gave a small sigh, and one last proper scan over the room, and Mikey had turned on her heels and began to make her way out of the main room, excusing herself before the main event of the night would would begin.

She raised her right hand to her ear, activating the cloaked ear piece by her ear, "Everything's looking good on the ground floor. How's out-side lookin'?" she questioned. A few short moments later another voice spoke up in the comms that were connected to all of those who belonged to Aegis, "All clear out here, boss. Will keep you up to date if-" the familiar voice of Shiloh crackled through the mic. Mikey raised her eyebrow, "Say that again? Your comm acted up-" silence fell over the comms for a moment. "I said I'd update you if we saw anything?" Shiloh repeated herself.

Mikey nodded to herself, "Alright, and make sure you check in with Sparky later. Your comms' fucked again." the blond retorted before making her way up a staircase off to the side. There was an exit door to the left, quickly punching in the six digit code, Mikey made her way through the door. It closing with an air-lock whoosh behind her as she stepped out into the cold air. Mikey's eyes trailed alongside the metal railing that kept anyone from falling off the edge, before turning to look ahead of her as she made her way alongside the outer perimeter. It was part of the route she needed to scout every few hours, just on the off chance anything happened. Xavier was being a paranoid bastard, she thought to herself. That was until she stopped walking for a moment, listened and then continued on ahead. Mikey can't believe she had been so careless, just in time as she turned on her heel and moved to the right, completely side stepping out of the way as someone's fist had been aimed right for her head.

Turning on her heel once more, Mikey saw a figure standing opposite her. They were wearing attire made entirely of black, that itself wasn't the odd part. What stood out, was the mask they wore. Half of it was black, the other was a dark orange. Mikey had only ever seen this figure once before, and it sent a shiver down her spine. The two locked eyes for just a moment, before they charged at her, and she was able to just barely step aside and out of the way. Pushing herself up against the cold stone of the wall. Her skin practically sticking to it, due to how far up they were, it was next to freezing. Her breath came out in deep puffs of white as she looked at the masked individual. Mikey cocked her head to the side, and the figure did the same.

With barely a moment's notice, the figure lurched forward once more, knocking Mikey nearly over the railing, but she was able to catch herself. "Could really use some help up here-" she was cut off mid sentence as the figure grabbed her forcefully by the side of her head, managing to take the comm by her ear and crushed it in their hand with all too much ease. "You fucker-" the figure took a few steps backwards, the railing stopping them for a moment. Mikey raised her eyebrow once more, only to see the figure look behind them once then back at Mikey, before raising their hand and retrieving two small daggers from their back. Just as another figure, dressed exactly the same way joined them by their side. Unsheathing their own weapons as well.

Mikey let out a defeated sigh, "So much for Plan A." she muttered to herself. Not only was Mikey now on her own, but outnumbered and without a way of communicating with the rest of her team. She just hoped they got the message in time...


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Meanwhile across the otherside of Upper-City Atlas, the energy that filled the air was entirely in stark contrast. The air was silent and filled with tension as figures were spread out in various locations, hidden amongst the shadows that cascaded over the museum like a blanket. Aegis had been alerted of a supposed plan that would take place tonight. The goal? A group of individuals would be attempting to steal countless variables and artifacts. For what purpose? The heads of Aegis weren't exactly sure yet, but whatever it was, they weren't going to risk it. Alerting the police would have done nothing but cause even more tension and possibly alert the would be thieves if they so much as got wind of the police involvement.

But tonight, it just so happened that a famous artist was showing off some of their most recent and famous artwork at the local gallery that the museum had allowed new and upcoming artists to show off their work, as well as hold an auction afterwards for the art-pieces. It was a perfect occasion for a potentially robbery, but even more so, it allowed undercover Aegis members to sneak in. Whether posing as faux security, or even event attendees. It was all too perfect. Amongst the people attending the auction, there were notable faces in the crowd, from actors, public infuencers, and even some politicians that were interested in the art-show.

Throughout the rooftop of the Museum, there were three figures that were all in line of each other's sight. Two of them were stationed across the rooftop, making eye-contact with the one figure who was hidden off by themself in a perched position. They would have been entirely undetectable, if it hadn't been for the slight glint of the moonlight that bounced off of the jet-black metal of the sniper rifle in their hands, balanced perfectly behind a small border. The figure had been looking through the scope of the gun, the sight aimed through the glass pain window that filtered moonlight through into the ceiling. As the figure moved their head back from the rifle, they lifted up their right hand in a hand gun gesture, and silently motioned as if they made a shot. The lights of the LED mask lit up with a content expression as they did so.

"Isimir, quit fuckin' around and fuckin' focus." a deep and gruff voice crackled through the comms. The figure gave an over dramatic shrug across the way before speaking up, "Well someone is grumpy today, now huh? And for your information, I am focusing, Reaper. So well in fact, I know exactly what they're doin' down there!" the masked hero retorted back in return. The semi-robotic voice coming through the comms.

Reaper simply shook his head as he brought a hand up to face palm the skull painted mask, which was partially obstructed by the hood of his cloak. "Then what are they doing down there, if you're so damn cocky?" he questioned back.

Silence filled both the air and the comms for a moment, before static crackled to life throughout the comms before a voice spoke up, "Well, if you must know, my dear friend! They're currently laughing with an obnoxious, clearly fake laugh as they drink some stupid champayne with their rich friends. What else do rich people do anyways? Except counting coins and being selfish assholes?" Isimir retorted sarcastically.

A rough sounding scoff was returned for a moment, "Got me there, kid." Reaper responded before continuing:

"Well, if you see anything out of the ordinary, you know what to do-"

"What do you mean by that? Why are you sounding like you're leaving-"

"Well if you'd just-"

"You know how ansty I get whenever you leave me alone, especially when you leave me alone with him!" gesturing at Drake. Who clearly didn't look pleased with that comment.

"Well if you'd just shut the fuck up, you'd know why." Reaper grunted with an annoyed tone.

"Well don't need to sound so upset. But please go on. I like to hear your thoughts-"

An annoyed and tired sigh could be heard in response over the comms before it went entirely silent for a full minute before crackling back to life. "I'm going to go in and personally scope things out."

Silence filled the air before a small chuckle could be heard, "Oh I bet you are-" was all that was said before it was clear that Reaper shut his comm off.

Isimir just looked across the way at Drake who was still in the shadows and gave another dramatic shrug in his direction. Looking back through the scope of the rifle they had in their hands, "Oh sweet jesus fuckin' christ, fuck me uuppp-" Isimir mumbled into their comm that was built into the headset that was inside their mask.

"Drakey...I think you're gonna wanna take a look at this..." Isimir started back on the comms again, peering through the scope once more, "Mommy...Sorry...Mommy...Sorry, I mean Mommy, sorry-" they continued mumbling, as their eyes locked on to one figure in specific.

It was a tall, slender and curvy woman with an entirely black dress. It hung snuggly to her body as she walked with a sense of purpose, effortlessly making her way through the doors and into the main room where the art exhibit was taking place. Isimir tracked the female with the use of the scope on the rifle, watching as the woman marched her way over to another woman before coming to a stop. Isimir couldn't tell what they were saying from this distance, but they were smart enough to have put the pieces together. "Oh fuck me..."

"What now???" Reaper's voice broke through the comms once more.

"Uh...Daddy-I mean Reaper...You've got company-" An annoyed groan escaped Reaper.

"Be more specific." he demanded. Entirely ignoring what he was called seconds prior.

"I mean two very sexy and badass women to your left, less than a hundred feet away from you. Way too sexy to be simple party goers..." Isimir answered. Even with the distortion affect on their mic, the sign of clear worry could be detected in the tone they used.

"...Do you mean-"

"Femme Fetale? Yes! That is exactly what I mean, Reaper. Plus...I'd notice those asses anywhere from chasing them all over the god damn city...We got trouble, my good bitches."

A heavy sigh came from Reaper's end of the comms once more. Realizing just how serious his young side kick was being, in their weird, Isimir way, of course. "Everyone got that? We're not alone here. And if Isimir is correct...We got more problems than we initially thought. Keep your eyes out for them. The first sign of anything at play? We light them up. Minimal citizen casualties, as always. Fan out and keep your eyes peeled. Shit goes down, we go dark."


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Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo
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• Leo Lambert • Quantum •
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“Remind me stop letting you drag me to these stupid things,” Paladin grumbled into the ice of her dwindling glass of water. Steely cold eyes brimming with irritation followed a pair of young women as they retreated from the brief but praise-filled conversation. They were what would now be the sixth and seventh pair of eyes to fall on the two heroes, and upon seeing them, approached to fill the air with more mindless chatter. Leo, of course, ate all of this up in stride, while Aisling on the other hand wasn’t one to participate in formalities such as these. They weren’t far from the main commotion in the center of the room; a few ways away to the side so they could survey their surroundings easily. In fact, Leo spotted some familiar faces among the crowd. They would get to greeting them afterwards; right now they were enjoying soaking in the limelight, per usual.

Leo’s gaze was locked on the same targets, though flitting up and down occasionally to take in more of the two women than they should. The exchange had been a touch flirty, but with the way Leo looks, it's not a revelation to anyone. Of course, Switchblade fitted them out nicely, with a mahogany colored suit, the star of which being the patterned jacket. It was well fitted, but perhaps a bit too much, making mobility more difficult, but it looked damn good. For the night, they assumed it would be suitable. Their eyes lingered as they opened their mouth to speak, “I didn’t make you do anything, you were invited by Xavier personally just like I was. Don’t put this one on me.” They raised their own glass to their lips, but the contents of said glass was nothing short of the finest champagne available.

Aisling’s scowl was ever present, even though she knew she was wrong. “Aren’t we supposed to be security? Should you be drinking?”

The response was noted by Leo; Aisling likes deferring to a different subject when she’s wrong. Their usual smile was starting to grow. “Please. I could drink two bottles of this stuff and feel nothing,” As if to punctuate their statement, they finished the rest of their drink in one swift chug. “Second of all, you were invited for security. I was invited because I’m an influencer,” They put a little extra annunciation on the final word, and the smile shifted into more of a grin.

“Whoever taught you that word should be drawn and quartered,” Despite their exchange of words, Aisling didn’t feel the need to turn to Leo. Although the two were bickering, there was comfortable air between them at all times.

“Hey, you can only blame yourself for this one. You’re the person who introduced me to this life,” Leo tossed a light tease as they waved down one of the many waiters in hopes of filling up their glass.

Another scoff. “You know, your voice gets deeper when you talk to pretty girls,” Aisling’s retort was hardly scathing to the younger super, and it was yet another subject change. One more point for Leo. She paused as she heard a buzzing in her ear. Were the comms acting up? It ended shortly after, so she figured nothing of it. Hundreds of years of technology, and nobody could get wireless data transmission to work perfectly.

“Is that so?” Leo’s tone displayed their lack of offense or surprise. They swallowed before continuing, this time pitch shifting their voice even lower than before by pulling from a deeper register in their chest, “That’s not the lowest I can go, you know.”

Aisling’s shock was apparent, though only for a moment, because she hid her emotions shortly after. Back to being indifferent. “You are too much, honestly,” She shook her head.

Another point to me. Leo left the conversation there because a rather cute waiter was approaching with another unopened bottle of champagne. Their excitement bubbled over as they swayed in their spot: maybe he would let them unseal it? Popping open a new bottle of champagne was too much fun. But, before he could take the final steps to reach them, the two women who they had spoken to just minutes before pushed their way through the crowd to make it back. Leo’s friendly, warm smile returned as they greeted them again, “Ladies, welcome back! Did you want to talk about something else?”

The both of them appeared frightened, and Leo’s brow furrowed in concern. “There’s something going on on one of the balconies. Maybe a fight or something? We heard shouting over there. We weren’t sure, we wanted to get someone more qualified to take care of it,” Their apparent distress wasn’t enough to keep another subtle compliment from leaking through, even as they gestured in the direction of the noises.

“Oh boy,” Leo sighed. “Probably some drunk suits arguing about stocks again. I’ll take care of it, Aisling.” They rolled their shoulders, allowing their suit jacket to fall off. “Watch this for me? It costs more than Switchblade was willing to admit, be a shame if I dirtied it before the party’s even started.” They held the garment out, and Paladin accepted it, though not without a roll of their eyes.

“Sure you can handle it?” Aisling asked, but she knew the answer she would receive already.

“Of course.” The white undershirt and vest hugged their form, but at least their shoulders weren’t restricted anymore. “Juice me a little, just in case.”

The older super quirked a brow. “For what? If they’re just drunk idiots, what do you need it for?”

“They could be drunk super idiots. I just wanna be prepared,” Leo held out their hand. In a setting like this, it would be a bit strange to see someone start punching someone else. So Leo and Aisling have a “secret handshake” that consists of several slides and bumps between their fists. If Leo did this to a normal human, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. But with Aisling, by the end of it, Leo had enough power worth a few of her punches. And they thought it was pretty cool too.

Aisling agreed, they did their little handshake, and Leo turned to leave. “Call me if you need anything. And hey, maybe grab some more of the bubbly. That usually smooths things over.”

Leo nodded in agreement and approached the cute waiter who they had seen earlier. And sure enough, he still had that unopened bottle of wine in his hand. It didn’t take much coaxing to get it from him; a few smiles, kind words, and his eyes were wide as he stared up at the charming super before him. Alcohol in hand, Leo set off in the direction the women had pointed to, and after a few minutes of listening, they heard exactly what was described. Shouting, the sounds of combat, but nothing slurred implying intoxication, growing louder as they climbed some steps. Leo’s hair started to stand on end. Although they were joking about it earlier, the presence of Paladin and Quantum were meant to be additional protection. Sense of duty in tow, they typed in the temporary code they were given, and sure enough, the doors popped open.

It was cold. The wind bit at their cheeks as their pace quickened, but they ignored it. Now wasn’t the time to whine about being cold. The energy bouncing around in their body would keep them warm enough for now. And before long, Leo spotted what the “commotion” was. They recognized Mikey in an instant; the two had met quite a few times before, earlier in the night included. (and it's not like Leo could forget her after what happened between her and Ris). She was being attacked by some masked men, and although she was holding her own, it was clear she was losing.

“Hey!” Leo shouted, pulling all the attention off of Mikey to them. It wasn’t a particularly difficult task, considering they were a lumbering beast in size with glowing eyes approaching from the darkness. “What in the world is going on here?” They asked, but they weren’t looking for an answer. They wanted time, time to get closer, and with each step, the assailants grew more prepared. Not like it mattered. “Don’t you know there’s a party inside?” Leo was close now, less than 10 feet. “Look, I even brought some champagne for us to share!” That was it. They were too close now, too close to not be considered a threat. One of the masked figures charged them, blades drawn. Leo’s grip shifted to the neck of the bottle, and before the attacker’s daggers could even strike Leo, they swung the bottle upwards. It shattered underneath the assailant’s chin, and with the extra force behind it, sent him flying both upwards and backwards. Leo side-stepped as quick as they could, but a bit of the alcohol got on their pants, which fouled their mood in an instant.

“I quite liked this outfit, you-” Before their complaint could be fully realized, the other attacker stepped over the unconscious body of their ally to run towards Leo as well. Leo humored them, allowing their blades to swing, but they were caught in their hands all too easily, no blood drawn. They couldn’t risk messing up their suit any more. The assailant let go of the blades, now tight in the grasp of Leo’s hands, to throw a punch at their head. Their fist simply bounced off of Leo’s face; they even heard a cry of pain underneath that mask as they clutched it to their chest and stumbled away, trying to escape. It was the only sound they’d heard these guys make, and they found that strange. The blades were tossed behind their back, out of arm’s reach of both of them. “You hit like a bitch!” Leo took a step, but rather than place their foot on the ground, they exploded forward. They released some force from their feet, allowing them to catch up with the masked individual easily. The two came crashing onto the ground of the balcony with Leo on top, and the attacker on their stomach. “I think it's time you take a little nap like your buddy. See you in the morning!” One of their thick arms wrapped around the assailant’s neck, and with a little upward force for a minute, they were limp beneath them.

Leo stood, surveying their handiwork, before remembering Mikey. With ease, they dragged the second attacker over to the first, lying them next to each other. Now that they were within eyesight (and punching distance in case they woke up), Leo could tend to Mikey. “Are you alright?” They asked first, the playfulness from their fight fading into genuine worry. “I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner, comms are all over the place right now. Can you stand?” They asked, but held out their arm regardless, just in case. “Who in the world are these guys? How did they even get up here?” Now that the danger was gone, Leo couldn’t help but wonder what the identity of these attackers was, and what their motives could possibly be. This just seemed so… sloppy. Surely they must have known there would be supers at this party?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emeris Mikaelson Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Kieran Gallagher
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bella clayton.
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outfit. sentinel. #772222.
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xxx the sun's starting to light up
xxx when we're walking home
xxx tired little laugh, gold lie promises
xxx we'll always win at this

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This was Bella's first event without Page; both for Hale Enterprises and for Aegis. She'd been given time to recover from both, but the world had to stay moving, and now it was time for her to re-enter the world. She kept going to search out her mentor to make some smart comment about Dave from Admin or to offer to set her up with whatever handsome waiter handed them champagne. And every time, she would start to move, and then remember.

She tried to throw herself into work to distract herself from it. Officially, she was there to manage social media content for the event. Unofficially, she was also there as part of the undercover security team; although she had to question how feasible that would be in her dress and heels. She felt naked without any weapons. When Shiloh and Mikey said something in her earpiece about earpieces acting up, it just made her nervous. She'd barely been able to hear their voices. So instead, she focused on her cover.

"Can you send me a few photos to go up on our instagram? Preferably from when people were arriving? And can you also send me your instagram handle so I can tag you in them? Gotta get you that credit, right?" She said. The photographer grinned at her.
"Tell you what. Give me your number, and I'll text them to you," he said. Bella's smile became a little more forced, although it didn't change externally.
"Sorry, man. It's all gotta go through my work email, or else my boss will get mad at me. You know what it's like." She scribbled her work email down on a napkin and handed it to the photographer, who was shrugged a little.
"Shame. I'll send them on to you now," he said. He left the conversation at that, and Bella sighed with relief as she turned around.

It was as she turned around that her earpiece began to buzz, and she caught a strangled cry of Mikey's voice. That wasn't good. She turned around, scanning the room for a disturbance. She couldn't see anything, so she began to head for the door to see if she could get her comms to reconnect once she was outside. Then she heard someone whispering about some drunks having a fight up on the balcony. That seemed like a good spot to start. She calmly and coolly glided out of the room, before breaking into a run once she was out of sight.

The fight was over by the time she got there, and Leo had bet her to it. She sighed with relief at the presence of another hero there. "Mikey, the fuck is up with your comms? I barely knew it was you and I only got like half a word before the signal died altogether." She sighed, before turning to look at Leo. "Hello, Leo. You look amazing, as always."




kieran gallagher.
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outfit. mask. charon. #757576.
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xxx these are the eyes
xxx and the lies of the taken
xxx these are their hearts
xxx but their hearts don't beat like ours

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The gods were apparently not willing to help Kieran out today. Somehow, he'd been one of the ones to end up inside the museum. He'd specifically requested he was kept out of the museum if possible, but instead, here he was, staring at a sword and being able to hear its final owner bitching about that "foul villain who hath slain" him, all while crouching in the shadows of a balcony overlooking the party. The noise of the ghosts, not just the knight standing beside him and striding up and down the corridor while swearing revenge, was significant, and he could feel a headache starting.

But even the noise of the ghosts wasn't enough to drown out the fact that Ris was on top form in his earpiece. He was having to resist the temptation to either take out his earpiece for five minutes of peace or tell them where to shove it. When they swore, he wasn't sure whether or not to wonder if they'd just seen a particularly attractive woman, or if there was something wrong. And then the hair stood up on the back of his neck, and his attention was drawn, as if by magnetism, towards a woman in a clingy black dress. She was stunning, her dress clinging in all the right places, but that wasn't why she caught Kieran's attention. To him, she positively reeked of death. It seemed that this time, it was both a hot woman and something wrong.

"My eleven o clock. Black, clingy dress. Just entered. Taking to equally hot woman. They're our targets?" Kieran confirmed, speaking into the mic built into his sleeve.
"Copy that and confirm. Good news is, we know she hasn't gotten any hidden weapons," Maelstrom murmured in response. The smirk was evident in his voice. Kieran scanned the room, before spotting the familiar mop of blue hair. He was on the other side of the room, but had a direct line of sight to her.
"You're probably the only person here who thought that, you realise that, Mael?"
"That's why you get a gay to be your lookout."


Kieran slowly crept along the balcony, careful to make sure he was still cloaked in shadow. "Confirm direct visual on her from my position."
"That woman... her attire... what woman would wear such a thing? She... she is a witch!"
"Thanks for that, Sir Percival,"
he mumbled, rolling his eyes.
"Give me my sword and I will slay her, for the good of the country!"
"No. You don't get your sword until we know she's going to attack."
"You would sabotage me, young page?"
"... yes. Now be quiet."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Emeris Mikaelson Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Cameron Jensen Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Ada Forrest Character Portrait: Kieran Gallagher
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xxxxxADAxxFORREST
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Outfit The Druid Hex:#b54ea2


Ada slipped her phone back into her bag and rocked back and forth on her heels. Fancy dinners had never really been her thing, but this was Aegis. She couldn’t really say no, especially not when her parents were on the invite list as well. Ada took a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and took a sip. As much as she wanted to enjoy the night, she had to be alert. The Order had already come too close and now they were closing in even more. She released a sigh.

“Relax.” Ada nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard Kye behind her.

“Jesus Christ Kye, can you not?”

The smile faded from Kye’s face for a moment. “What’s up with you?”

Her tongue felt heavy. Telling him would be the easiest thing in the world, but she couldn’t. Not with Xander making his views on supers so well known. She couldn’t dump that on Kye. “Just nervous I guess.”

She pretended to not see the glance down to her leg before Kye put his arm around her shoulder and swiped a canape with the other hand. “You’ll be fine.” He took a bite. “These things always play out the same. People schmooze and make golf plans or whatever, a few people have too much champagne and then split off to whichever White Castle has the smallest drive-thru queue because there wasn’t enough food.”

“White Castle? Really?”

“What’s wrong with White Castle?”

Ada shook her head. “Nothing. You’ve just absolutely destroyed the image I had of you in my head. You know, the one where you have taste?” Her jaw tensed when she heard the electric buzz in her ear. She wasn’t exactly a tech expert, but she knew that it wasn’t good. The voices coming through were garbled like they were filtered through water. She looked around the room. Through the pockets of people, she saw Leo weaving through to the exit. Ok, ok, that’s gonna be fine. “I’ll just be a minute,” she said to Kye and excused herself from the room. She might have perked up a few of the flower arrangements on her way, no one can prove anything.

Ada locked the bathroom door behind her and slid her earpiece out. The casing wasn’t cracked, she couldn’t see any loose wire hanging out. It looked the same as it always did. Maybe a storm was rolling in, the electricity in the air interfering with the signal. She rolled the earpiece between her hands and slid it back in place. She quickly checked beneath the door. No one else was here. Good. “Guys, what’s going on?” She still kept her voice low. You could never be too careful. “My comms are acting up.”





xxxCAMERONxxJENSEN
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Outfit Variant Hex:#1a7572


At any given moment, Cameron could be in a hundred different places. Well, maybe not a hundred. He’d tried that once and the memory rush at the end had left him with a migraine lasting for nearly two weeks. The point is, pinning him down can be difficult. At this moment in time, Cameron is collecting a delivery for the Word Exchange. He’s also tuning a receiver to tap into police broadcasts. He’s also trying to not be distracted by the suit Charon is wearing. But we digress.

Isimir’s voice crackled through on the comms from their highpoint somewhere above. "Drakey...I think you're gonna wanna take a look at this..." There was static for a moment before Isimir’s voice came back. "Mommy…Sorry...Mommy...Sorry, I mean Mommy, sorry-"

Cameron bit the inside of his cheek to suppress a laugh. “Think Drakey’s spoken for Isimir, you trying to get him in trouble?” He leaned back against the wall, looking down to the lower floor. There was a stone bench a few paces away. He could sit down, but knowing his luck it would be a modern art installation and alarms would start blaring as soon as he looked at it. His survival plan at this point was ‘Don’t Get Chewed By Reaper’ and it was working pretty well. Setting off an alarm during a stakeout would end that perfect streak.

It wasn’t often that Cam felt like the new kid that he very much was on the team, but when they started talking about being on eleven and fours, he got lost. Why couldn’t they just say ‘heading towards X exhibit’? Would that be so hard? He rolled his neck and slipped away from himself. Variant pulled his mask into place and headed back over himself. “Copy, Variant One in position. There was a second and then Cameron heard himself over the comms. “Variant Two, I’m heading to the security hub.

Variant cracked his fingers one by one as he slipped away to the back of the art gallery. The forced laughter from the party faded. The neon street signs lit the world outside. He normally wasn’t one for the Upper City. It was too loud, too bright, and it got dialed all the way up when you were seeing it from six different points of view. Stay on task Cam… Variant slowed as he approached the security door. He prodded the door with his toe and it swung open and back again. Clearly whoever was in there had been sloppy. Variant opened the door and slid inside, making sure to close it behind him properly.

Finally, the security guard noticed him. “Who the hell are you?”

Variant rocked onto his toes and swung his arms awkwardly. “You probably don’t believe that I got lost looking for the bathroom, do you?”

“No.”

“No...didn’t think you would. I don’t suppose you could just step aside and let me use the cameras? Would be a lot easier for both of us.”

Very carefully, the guard began to reach under his desk. Panic button? A gun? Either way, Variant didn’t want to know for certain. A second Variant lunged forward and pulled the guard’s hand back, spinning him around and into his clone’s fist. They hauled the guard up and slammed him headfirst into the wall, just for good measure. Variant high-fived himself and then there was only one. A shiver went down his spine as he remembered the fight from another point of view. He ducked down and searched the space the guard had reached for. There was an assortment of candy wrappers and a taser thrown in haphazardly, and a panic button attached to the underside. Variant pocketed the taser and took the guard's seat.

He looked over the screens, tracking the people inside, and followed the path to the two women they were targeting. “Oh…shit...” He tapped his comm. “Variant Two, security hub is secured. I have a taser, a panic button, and visual on the targets and would also like to note that Charon’s hair is looking especially good today.”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Ada Forrest Character Portrait: Kit Cassidy
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Imagex
xxxxxx[ The Monkey Dork ]
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xxxxxx[ Name x/ /x Kit Cassidy ]
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xxxxxx[ Code Name x/ /x Spark-Plug ]
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xxxxxx[ Outfit x/ /x X
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xxxxxx[ Music x/ /x X ]
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xxxxxx[ Hex x/ /x #698B69
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Organized chaos. Kit zipped around his lab frantically but at the same time his calm aura made it appear completely controlled. Hence why he would be best described as in a constant state of organized chaos whenever it pertained to him in his lab. Truthfully, he should be attending the party and making small talk with investors about his latest creations but why would he ever want to waste his time on something like that? Socializing was already nerve wracking enough but it seemed like such a waste of his time. He’s much more useful in his lab after all.

Currently he is finishing up the prototype models of a new communications system he wanted the team to use. He figured it’d be more beneficial to the archaic system Aegis had them using tonight. During this time, he was also flipping through security cameras at the party and listening into conversations. Seemed like a better way to know what happened without the pain of human interaction. He stopped for a moment for a couple of bong rips because why not while he was here.

It was at this moment he became fully distracted when the camera landed on Bella. And it continued to be panned on Bella for far too long as Kit neglected what he was working on and just stared at his screen with the worlds goofiest look one could come up with. Wow, she looks so incredible. I should go down and talk to her. He zoomed the camera in a bit further before he rested his cheek into his palm and continued being the world's biggest creep. As much as he wanted to go down and talk to her. There’s no way he could. What would he even say? He can barely speak a cohesive sentence to people he despises. With her it’s even worse. He attempts but instead ends up running away if they aren’t sparring or that one time she snuck into his car but that was completely different circumstances.

Suddenly the screens tuned into the cameras started to act strangely. He’d barely heard Mikey’s comms go down but it wasn’t like he was entirely paying attention to where she even was given his current distraction. Instead it was seeing Bella leave in a panic that sent him on high alert and scanning the screens to find everyone’s locations before every screen of his that was connected to the security camera suddenly went blank in unison. Well that’s not good…

Just then, a hand came crashing down to the back of his head as a slap deserving of being on one of the anime’s he had queued up on one of his many screens. “Stop being a stalker, nerd.” Seven…

“Stop being such a jerk, jerk.” Kit retorted back as he rubbed the back of his head. Seven simply laughed at him. “Good one.” God she was so annoying. Why did he get stuck with her as a mentor again anyway?

“Comms are down. Not sure if you noticed while you were drooling all over your monitors. But somethings up and Mikey’s disappeared.”

“Thank you captain obvious. I had no idea.”

“Didn’t seem like it from where I was standing.”

“Whatever. Just hand me that screwdriver and quit wasting my time.” Kit rolled his eyes as he stuck out his hand. Seven complied but not without more added sass to give. “Not sure how building toys solves the missing team member issue...”

“Neither does arguing with someone old enough to be your child.” The fact that Seven didn’t slap him was more surprising than the fact that he even had the balls to make a comment on her age. Must be the weed. “Done. You go grab Ada from the party and anyone else if they turn up. I know where Mikey is and I need to get this to her. If this much of our system crashes I'm gonna need to get communications up fast before I can figure out who got into our system.”

Seven saluted him while he rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say ‘oh fearless leader’. I never realized how handsome you can be when you’re not an annoying ball of anxiety.” With that, she was gone and heading straight for Ada to clue her in on everything that was happening. She may not want to admit that Kit was right to be worried but why should she worry when she has luck on her side?

Kit b-lined it to Mikey’s location. He came running down with his favored bo staff in hand and his new invention tucked into his jacket. When he made it to the door he decided it would be a genius idea to use his bio electric powers to help him bust open the door and send it flying (if anyone is behind that door... he’s sorry) before jumping through the entrance twirling his no staff around and yelling out, “There’s no need to fear! Spark-Plug is here!” And grinning like the childish idiot he probably is. He looked at everyone and then came to the realization that Bella was right there and now any bit of confidence he may have had in that moment has now sunk down to the depths of hell where they belong. “I-I uh made this thing. It-It’s to boost your tel-t-telepathy p-powers so we ca-can all be mind l-linked.” His gaze met his feet as he presented her the silver band and then handed the ear pieces to everyone else. God I’m so stupid…

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Clarence Lawless Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Kit Cassidy
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0.25 INK

“Clarence, you will be assigned to Team Skaði.”

The words had been music to his ears: a symphony of validation after years of trials, tribulations, and most importantly, training. Everything before had been either a simulation or errands of no true consequence. Whether it was rescuing cats from trees, returning lost goods, or helping kids find their way home none of it affected the big picture and nearly all of it involved the supervision of a random security guard or cop. There was no excitement or impact. None of these were things only he could do.

Blending into the party was easy, especially when half of the team was employed by Hale Enterprises or part of Atlas’s elite. Clarence however, was neither. Having slipped through the cracks and into Aegis’ lap he was a nobody and therefore, perfect for the role of the waiter. Per their instructions he was to be a fly on the wall, listening for suspicious activity and providing backup should something happen.

“Yes, Athereum is on the up and up these days,” a bespectacled man mused, “I might pick up a few thousand myself.”

“You can’t be serious Rembrandt. Money stored through the Internet? How will anyone verify its value?” his partner, a brunette woman asked.

“We already pay through cards and wire everything online. Athereum is the way of the future!” he exclaimed before downing the rest of his champagne.

God, this is so boring, Clarence held back an eyeroll as the two continued debating ecommerce. Was this what rich people talked about these days?

Before Clarence could walk away however, Rembrandt set his empty glass on the hero’s tray.

“Young man, please bring us another round of drinks,” the man said.

“Oh, and more of those lovely tapenade crostinis!”

Nodding silently, Clarence walked away from the couple and towards the back of the venue. Behind two hallways and a pair of black doors was the kitchen where the staff was having a celebration of their own (at least as much as one could while still serving the upper crust of Atlas). Empty champagne bottles, cigarette butts, and plates were all piled in the sink while a tray of stuffed mushrooms thawed on the counter top. Of the ten staff members working tonight four were in the ballroom, two of them called off and as it seemed, the rest were back here. One of the waiters had their feet kicked up on the table, the chef was missing, and the janitor was swirling a glass of red wine.

“We need more champagne and that olive paste,” Clarence announced, setting the empty glasses in the sink.

“Mmm, that’s a Kelsey problem, not a me problem,” one of the waiters yawned.

“Okay so where is she?” he asked.

“Smoke break,” the other staff member answered before pouring himself another glass.

Great. If there was one thing that people loved hearing, it was that something wasn’t available to them.

“But then... what do I tell them?” Clarence asked.

“Don’t tell them anything. Just wait for them to forget,” he shrugged, “we’re getting paid by the hour, not the plate.”

Strictly speaking, Clarence wasn’t getting paid at all.

Aside from the free food, he had no incentive to be on this specific mission. He would have been fine anywhere and if not today, he would have been happy to accept his first mission tomorrow. But being here, having this opportunity was more than just coincidence. He had no interest in bumping elbows with celebrities or learning to serve the rich. He only cared about one attendee: Alexa Lawrence. Outside of a cursory patrol around the ballroom, he had spent the last hour following behind her and her date, his plate a hodgepodge of drinks and Hors d'oeuvres he pilfered from other servers.

He wanted to say something, anything, but each time he opened his mouth he could only manage a whisper. Would she explain how she abandoned him so easily? Would she apologize? Would she even recognize him? Though they shared eyes and cheekbones, one wouldn’t have known they were related at first glance. As a child, she’d told him that he always looked more like his grandfather and given that she never met his father, it was hard to say that Clarence received anything from him.

He certainly didn’t step in, when Clarence was tossed out the door.

"Hey."

Glancing to his left, he saw the janitor gesturing for him to grab a glass.

"Come have a drink."

Nodding gratefully, Clarence put down his tray and walked over before downing the wine.

“Thank-"cough"-you."

"Easy there, the party's still going on for another two hours," the janitor chuckled.

"Either way you look like you've seen a ghost," the waiter commented.

Well he was half right.

Before he could interject, a garbled noise buzzed through his earpiece.

"Say that again? Your comm acted up-"

“Hello? Mike-Skaoi? Skaoi?”

More garbled noise followed through before cutting out entirely.

“Dude, who are you talking to?” the waiter asked, knitting his brow.

“I-Uhh...”

Shit. Shit. Shit. He was not supposed to use their real names or code names...or talk out loud for that matter. Was this guy going to find out that Mikey was Skaoi? Would Aegis have to kill him? Would he?

”Are you okay? You’re getting pale. Like even more than normal,” the waiter frowned.

I’ll be right back!” Clarence announced before tossing his glass (and missing) into the sink.

“What about your tapenade?” the waiter asked.

“Tell them I’m on a smoke break!”

Bolting out the back door, Clarence circled around the premises looking for signs of a brawl. He could feel his heart beating with anticipation, ears burning at the thought of bursting onto the scene with a superhero landing. Wildman would save the day with his patented "Serenity Inducement", lulling the villains into a false sense of security before taking them out with the one-two punch.

So naturally, the moment he finally arrived, all of the thugs were unconscious and the rest of his team (Ada aside) were wrapping up their discussion.

“Aw man, you took them all down without me?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Morgana Ishida Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Clarence Lawless Character Portrait: Lucille Simon Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Ada Forrest
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• Lucille Simon • Raphael •
Image

~Two Hours Before The Party~

Luci was positively beside herself. For the first few hours, all she could do was pace. But now, with her legs tired, she sat on the edge of her bed, wishing she could bite her perfectly manicured nails. She couldn’t, no, she musn’t. They were for the party. Occasionally, her eyes would dart to her bathroom door; behind it hung the dress she was to wear tonight. Xavier insisted on taking care of it since Luci was essentially working for him this evening. And after one long fitting session, she was given a dress, the likes of which she had never seen before. She couldn’t handle it! The man had designed a dress without consulting her at all, but, being who she is, Luci couldn’t say no when he insisted on handling all of it. That was just the kind of man Xavier was.

A knock at her door sent Luci flying. Well, metaphorically. She scrambled across her apartment until she reached the entrance. After a deep breath and flattening out the ruffles in the robe she had on, she opened the door. What she was greeted with was her resident titan of a friend, one arm propped on the door frame rather dramatically. “Hey pretty lady,” Leo greeted the blonde, a usual phrase that always caused Luci’s cheeks to heat up. Before Luci could scold them for teasing her at a time like this, they continued, “Heard there was some kind of an emergency. Figured you could use a hero,” The playful and obviously exaggerated deepness of their voice pulled a scoff from Luci.

“Shut up!” Luci snapped back. The usually composed and coordinated woman was clearly ruffled, and she even reached forward, grabbing Leo’s wrist to pull them into her apartment. After shutting the door behind her and ignoring the pleased laugh from Leo, Luci turned to look their friend up and down again. They were dressed to the absolute nines, with a gorgeous auburn and maroon suit. “Wow, you look… Amazing,” She tossed out that compliment, clearly dazzled by the quality of the outfit.

“Thanks babes,” Leo replied as they walked further into Luci’s apartment. It was clear they were familiar with the layout. “I better look nice. The fitting took almost six fuckin’ hours.”

Luci gawked at Leo as she followed behind them. “Six hours? What in the world…”

“I know right?!” Leo replied quickly, the excitement evident in their tone. “But hey, it totally paid off. Look!” They turned to the side before twisting their upper torso, a move that flexed the majority of the lower half of their body. “These slacks make my ass look great! Look!” They commanded again.

Whatever blush Luci had from her garish friend’s earlier comments was reinforced as she turned a deep shade of crimson. Of course, with Leo gesturing and all, she couldn’t help but glance down before swiftly looking away. “I didn’t invite you here for you to show me your butt!” Her hands clenched at her sides, a habitual action that she performed when embarrassed.

Leo just laughed and stopped their flexing to face Luci completely. “Alright alright, you can look now. So what’s this emergency all about?”

Finally, with the correct topic at hand, Luci could do her best to vent her frustrations and anxiety. But, despite the fact that it took several minutes for Leo to get there, she hadn’t figured out exactly how to explain why she was freaking out so much. She hatched a plan as fast as she could. Just as she had done moments before, Luci grabbed Leo’s wrist and pulled them to her bedroom. “Sit on the bed. Keep your eyes shut until I tell you to open them,” Luci’s orders were soft, with her nerves causing her voice to shake.

With a smirk, Leo did as they were told. “Yes ma’am, I’ll do whatever you command-”

“Leo!” She barked, and the giggle from their now blinded friend only made her more furious. Luci disappeared into her bathroom, nudging the door mostly shut behind her. From the deep-rooted anxiety, Luci had practiced putting on the complex dress several times by this point, only to grow too flustered at the thought of wearing it out and taking it off again. With it now on securely, she inched her way out of the bathroom until she was standing directly in front of Leo.

All that they heard was the soft sound of rustling fabric and… clinking noises? The urge to open their eyes was strong, but Leo wouldn’t betray Luci’s trust like that. The blonde took one deep breath, counting the seconds as she felt her chest fill, and then let out a staid exhale. “Alright, you can open your eyes…”

Once their eyes were open, it took less than two seconds for Leo’s jaw to grow slack. If they thought their suit was nice, Luci’s dress was positively opulent. Even in the dim light of the room, the thousands of crystals that covered the dress sparkled and shined, but not in any way that was remotely blinding. It appeared as if the entire dress was made from said crystals, but with so many of them so close together, it instead looked as if she was draped in liquid sparkles. It fell all the way to the floor, where it collected only a touch at Luci’s feet, implying it was meant to be worn with heels. The dress was form fitting and solid all the way up to her chest, where it was promptly cut off entirely, leaving her sternum and the curve of her bust exposed, along with her shoulders and arms. Their piercing gaze traced every curve and inch of Luci, something that caused Luci’s blush to spread to her neck. “Oh my god…” They could finally mumble. They hadn’t even blinked yet, they were so entranced.

Luci was rooted to her spot, practically shaking due to how tense she was. She couldn’t wear something like this. “I… I don’t know what to do! I can’t wear this, I simply can’t-

“Whoa whoa whoa, what are you on about? Its well beyond fucking gorgeous!” Leo complimented with such intensity, Luci couldn’t help but purse her lips.

“I feel… I feel like a damn disco ball!” Luci groaned, both of her hands flying to her face.

“Lulu, if you’re a disco ball, you are the hottest damn disco ball I have ever seen,” Leo replied and a chuckle followed. They still hadn’t blinked. “Come on, give me a little spin!”

Luci remained still as a statue. “I…” Her voice wavered. Her heart was hammering in her chest. “I-I can’t…”

Leo’s face expressed their confusion as their eyebrows pinched together. “Why not?”

“That’s… That’s the worst part about this dress. Look..” With the conclusion of her sentence, Luci took a sheepish step forward.

The dress pooled between her legs like liquid, away from one that had just shifted, to reveal a dangerously long slit in the side of the garment that stopped only a few inches below her waist. It was clear that, with every step, almost the entirety of Luci’s legs would be exposed up to the top of her thigh. Leo’s hand flew to their mouth. “Oh. My. God.” Leo repeated themselves. “Luci… People will see your legs… I need to call the police-” The sarcasm in their tone only added to the blonde’s vexation.

“Stop teasing! I don’t know what to do!” There was a desperation in her tone; she truly had no idea how to deal with this. “I can’t wear this! I simply can’t!” Luci also repeated herself, but this time, that soft Yorkshire accent bled through which caused an uproarious laughter to explode out of Leo.

“I’m going to need you to take some deep breaths because I can’t handle you when you sound like you just stepped off the Mayflower-” Leo huffed and puffed between breaths, their intense laugh causing themselves to wheeze.

Luci’s irritation turned to rage, and she grabbed one of the pillows that sat next to the hero. “Stop laughing! You..!” She went to thwack Leo over the head with it, but they were too fast for her, and caught it in their hands. This only created another wave of laughter from them.

“Easy, I just got my hair done! Ok, ok, ok, give me a second, Christ I can’t breathe-” Leo did their best to stop, but it was quite difficult. With Luci so flustered, she was as red as a tomato, and it made for a comical sight. But after some more deep breaths, Leo composed themselves. “Ok, alright. I’m sorry Luci but I don’t understand what the problem is. The dress is gorgeous.”

How could she possibly explain this to Leo? Someone whose job it was to wear exuberant and sumptuous clothing, someone who’s worn garments that were far more revealing than hers. “I.. I can’t wear something as fancy as this. And so revealing… Everyone will be looking at me,” She fretted. As she spoke, she pressed her palms to her warm cheeks in an attempt to cool them, but not really succeeding because all of her body felt so hot.

“Luci, you’re going to be on stage. Everyone will be watching you anyway, why not look killer while doing it?” Leo offered. They leaned back on their palms, mostly so they could get a better look at the blonde. It was hard for their gaze to settle on one place; the dress’ design prompted them to keep exploring rather than sitting still.

Luci frowned. She was already nervous enough about needing to perform on stage. Live music really wasn’t her thing, but considering the fact that Xavier all but begged her to do it, she had to agree. His points were valid; with her voice, she could ensure the party goers would be calm and happy all night, and perhaps a bit more open to business dealings as well. “I.. I don’t know. I don’t think I look good and-... a-and what if my mother sees me wearing this…” Her eyes drifted away from Leo as her mind wandered. She purposefully avoided telling her mother about Xavier’s offer to give her a dress, specifically because Ruth would want to either pry or influence his design. But, at this point, she wondered if she had perhaps chosen incorrectly. If her mother had any hand in the design, the garment would be much more modest…

“Who cares what the wicked witch thinks?” Leo’s rhetorical question would remain unanswered, mostly because Leo already knew how Luci would reply. “Didn’t you say she probably wasn’t going to go anyways?”

Luci released another tense sigh before continuing, “She said she wasn’t feeling very well so she might not go, but she’s used that excuse to make a fancy late entrance before…” Her voice dropped to a grumble as the sentence progressed.

Leo blinked a few times before narrowing their eyes. “She what now? I swear to the gods, rich people-” They shook their head and rolled their eyes. Before Luci could even say anything more, Leo stood. Now on their feet, they towered over Luci, and firm but gentle hands landed on her shoulders. “Lulu, you look radiant. In fact, the word doesn’t even cover how stunning you are in that dress,” Leo laid the praise on thick, and although it did embarrass Luci, it also filled her chest with warmth. “Everyone will think you are gorgeous. And you’re going to wow them with that equally gorgeous voice of yours. Everything is going to go great! I promise.” Everything about Leo was just so kind and warm, Luci couldn’t help but relax, even if it was just a little bit.

“I… I did already commit to this, I can’t back out now,” She relented with a sigh, but her mind was still wracked with anxiety. All she could think about are all the eyes, everyone staring at her. And she had no clue who was even going to attend the party! She knew Mikey and Leo would be there, but so would Bella… And Morgana’s family had influence, surely she would be there too… The thought of her current crush seeing her in this dress made her stomach fill with butterflies. “Ughhh…” She groaned and covered her eyes. Without even thinking about it, her wings extended and curled around her, as if trying to hide herself away. Then, she remembered something. The main reason why she needed Leo here, other than the emotional support of course. “Oh, there’s one more thing. Xavier also gave me some… accessories to go with the dress.” Luci walked carefully in the gown, making sure not to trip, and grabbed a medium sized box. Upon opening it, she began to place all of the objects on her bed. First, a masquerade style mask designed with the same crystals that lined her dress, a pair of matching stilettos, and then a satin pouch about the size of Leo’s fist.

“You’ll even be wearing a mask! That’ll help with the nervousness, I’m sure.” Leo continued to do their best to comfort their friend, but most of it fell on deaf ears. “Honestly, I’m surprised Xavier even offered the mask. He’s hiding your beauty!”

“Oh, stop with the compliments. I’ve had enough of you already,” Luci scolded her friend, although it was gentle. “I think it's because Xavier asked me to perform as Raphael, not as Lucille Simon. So… The mask fits, I suppose.” She was thankful that at least some of her cheeks would be covered. But the mask wouldn’t be able to do much for the lower half of her face and neck, which she was sure would turn just as crimson as her cheeks. “The mask isn’t what matters. I need your help with these.” Luci picked up the pouch, her movements as delicate as her fingers, and pulled open the draw strings. Then, she poured only a small fraction of the contents into her palm, and Leo’s eyes widened for perhaps the tenth time in the past few minutes. In her hand sat even more crystals, all a teardrop shape, with little clips on the end. “I’m assuming he wants me to put these on my wings, and I can’t do that myself...” It was clear what Luci was requesting, but her tone was just as sheepish as it always was.

Leo nodded, perhaps a bit too excitedly knowing they would be able to help, as they got to their feet. “I get what you mean! I just need to clip them to your wings, right?” They plucked one of the crystals from Luci’s hand and walked behind her. From there, they could see how the back of the dress worked, and they were utterly perplexed by the witchcraft at play keeping the garment secure. The entirety of Luci’s back was exposed, obviously due to her wings, with the covering only starting at the bottom of the small of her back.

The hesitation on Leo’s part only reinforced Luci’s embarrassment. She could feel the waves of heat in her face. “Eyes up here, Leo!”

“Sorry, sorry! You just look… Really really nice,” Leo shook their head, as if to break themselves from a haze, before returning to the task at hand. They took their free hand and pressed it to Luci’s wing, an action that made the short woman tense, but they were just searching for a nice long feather. After finding a suitable one, they clipped the crystal to the top of it, hoping that the “christmas tree” method of hanging them would work. And so far, it was going well, it looked secure. Leo even batted at it once to see if it would slip off, and it held fast. “Perfect! Alright, I know what I gotta do.”

Meanwhile, Luci had to fight to sit still. She wasn’t used to people poking around in her wings, so it was an odd feeling. It almost tickled, but mostly it just made her shiver. “Ok. I’ve got my hair mostly done, but I still need to do my make-up. Can we relocate in front of a mirror?” Luci glanced back at Leo as she asked, and an exuberant thumbs up from the taller hero was all the answer she needed. She shambled over to a vanity she had in her room, and she took care to tuck her dress under her as she sat on the stool. “Alright, attach away. We don’t have much time left.”

Luci really thought she could do it. At first, it wasn’t too bad. Leo started closer to the tips of her wings, where she was much less sensitive. But her nerves coupled with the tingling on her skin from Leo’s touch was making her hand shake. She was growing more and more frustrated by the second. They didn’t have time for this! She had to keep trying. She managed to get a layer of foundation, but now it came time to add the highlights, and she was struggling. And these were supposed to be the easy parts! How in the world would she do her eyeliner like this? “Fuck, I can’t do this!” She exclaimed suddenly, and it made Leo jump. Mostly because Luci so rarely cursed, they knew something was horribly wrong. But before they could even ask, Luci was explaining, “I-I can’t do my makeup, my hands keep shaking… Can you do it for me Leo? I know I’m asking so much of you..”

Leo walked around Luci so they could talk to her face to face. “Lulu, you’re not asking me for that much, and I would love to. Problem is… I am dreadful with makeup. You do not want me doing it. It would come out better if you did it during an earthquake.” As much as Leo possessed skill in many areas, makeup was not one of them. They had people who would do it for them for that reason.

The stress was starting to get to Luci; she was beginning to feel sick to her stomach. The tightness in her chest shifted up her throat, and a quiet sniff caught Leo’s attention. “I don't know what to do…” Her voice dropped to a whisper as she fought the urge to cry. It was all just so overwhelming.

“Oh, please don’t cry! We’ll figure this out, I swear. Let me just… Hmm… Oh! Let me make a call.” Leo dug into their pocket to pull out their phone. In seconds, they had a number dialed. They didn’t put it on speaker, but considering there were no other sounds in the room, Luci could hear the ringer going off. She wasn’t sure who her friend was calling, but she couldn’t help but grow tense as she waited. But eventually the recipient picked up. Leo’s chipper voice rang out first, “Hey cutie!”

A semi-familiar voice replied. “Hey Leo! I was just grabbing my suit from the cleaners, what’s up?”

“I need a favor. But first, I have a question.”

“Hit me!”

“Do you know how to do makeup?” Leo asked, and Luci’s brows furrowed. She realized who it was. That was Harold, Leo’s personal assistant. Why would they call him? Surely he doesn’t know how to-

“Of course I do! What kind of question is that?” Harold’s reply clearly stunned Luci, and she blinked a few times in surprise. “Do you need me to do your makeup for the party?”

“Not me. I need you to do Luci’s. She’s having trouble because she’s so nervous about performing.”

“Oh, sure! Luci… She’s Raphael right? The pretty blonde one?” Harold’s compliment made Luci blush.

“Yeah, I’ll send you the address! She’s not too far from my place,” Leo pulled the device away from their face to type in her address.

There was a pause, one that Luci assumed was Harold reading the address and punching it into a GPS. “That’s not far at all. I’ll be there in 10!”

“Thanks, you’re the best. I owe you one.”

Harold laughed. “I’ll add it to the list.”

With that, the call ended, and Leo returned their attention to Luci. “You get all that?” Leo asked, a pleased smile on their face. Luci could only nod. It was all so much, she was practically too stunned to speak. “Alright, I’m going to keep attaching these things, just sit tight and focus on keeping calm.”

The minutes that ticked by felt like hours. In that time, Luci had to come to grips with the fact that the second person to see her wear this dress would be Harold, and she worried over what his reaction would be. What if he thought it was too much and made fun of her? She chewed on her bottom lip as she watched the clock, twitching occasionally as Leo touched her wings. When her doorbell finally buzzed, Luci thought she was going to jump out of her skin. She went to stand, but Leo beat her to the door and let Harold in. He was dressed rather casually, but he held a hanger with a long cover on it. She assumed it was his suit and couldn’t help but feel bad. She was inconveniencing him, surely.

But if Harold felt inconvenienced in any way, he sure wasn’t showing it. There was a broad smile on his face, one that was so similar to the one on Leo, it was almost comical. However, the moment Harold’s eyes landed on Luci, his smile faded away and was replaced with something else: awe. “Oh my god, you look… Incredible,” He spoke in an almost hushed tone, accurately expressing his amazement.

Luci flushed and averted her gaze; she was already feeling the heat in her body that came with being the center of someone’s attention. “Th… Thanks..”

Leo thwacked Harold on the back of the head. “Now is not the time for ogling! We’re running out of time, let’s go,” They had already returned to their task by the time they finished speaking. They weren’t even halfway done yet, and they only really had an hour or so left.

“Alright, alright. So Luci, what kinda look are you going for?” He stepped closer, his eyes inspecting both her face and the wide variety of makeup sitting next to her.

“Ah… Nothing too crazy. I have some… some silver eyeshadow to go with the dress. Mostly just.. A subtle look, I suppose?” Luci has never needed to explain her makeup to someone else; she’s always done it for herself. So it was hard to not be vague.

“Ok, you got it!” But her vagueness did not dissuade Harold. He already knew what he needed to do. There was no hesitance as his fingers cupped Luci’s chin to tilt her head up further. “Just hold as still as you can.”

Luci did as she was told; it's not as if that was the first time she had been given a command like that before. It was a difficult task, but she did as best as she could. Any soft orders from Harold were compiled with immediately, things like, “close your eyes”, “tilt your head up more”, etc. Before anything else, Luci’s mother raised an obedient woman. And it's not as if she had the wherewithal right now to resist. Her mind was a whirlwind. Her heart had been racing for so long, she was already exhausted and the night hadn't even begun. At least now, she didn’t have to think too much about what was happening. Harold worked quickly, but perfection can’t be rushed. The minutes ticked by, and they were getting so close to their time limit. Finally, Harold took a step back to survey his work. “Almost done! All that’s left is your lipstick. What color were you going to go with? Red?” He asked, already reaching for the crimson red colored tube.

“Well, red seems like a lot, doesn’t it? I was thinking something a bit more subtle, a nude color-”

“I don’t know. The red would complete the look so well! Trust me on this,” His smile was just so genuine, it was hard for Luci to resist. After a short pause, she relented, giving him a nod in response. Skilled hands applied the gloss to her lips. It was a bright red, with a shine to it, and it popped in comparison to all of the silver she was wearing. “All done! And we’ve got just enough time to spare. I can drive you guys there if you want. Let me just get changed really quick.” Harold took his suit and disappeared into the nearby bathroom, leaving Luci and Leo alone.

“You really do look gorgeous, Lulu. Here, let me get your mask on.” Leo picked up the delicate, fancy accessory and fastened it to Luci’s face. Once that was done, it was clear Luci was on autopilot. She stepped into her heels and stood straight and tall instinctively. Even with the stilettos, she was several inches shorter than Leo. Leo paused. Luci could tell there was something on their mind, but she didn’t have the energy to ask them to spill. It's not like Leo would keep it to themselves anyways: being quiet wasn’t in their nature. “You should look at yourself in the mirror so you can see just how beautiful you are.”

“... No, I.. I don’t…” Luci was losing strength, and unbeknownst to the people in her apartment, she was spiraling. She was glad that Leo and Harold couldn’t hear the sound of her heart. She thought it was going to explode. While he had been doing her makeup, she didn’t even bother taking in her own appearance.

Leo pursed their lips. Without saying anything to her, they turned and marched to the other side of the room and into Luci’s walk-in closet. When they reappeared, they had a full length mirror in their hands. Before she could be embarrassed over Leo knowing about said mirror, they plopped it in front of her. “Look, Luci! If looks could kill… I would be dead on the floor right now,” Their words may have been a bit silly, but Leo said them with so much seriousness it only added to the ridiculousness.

Luci’s eyes drifted to the mirror, not lazily, more numb. But upon seeing herself, she was taken aback. With everything on her, she looked… Wow. She couldn’t help but turn, her gaze holding on the mirror. She shined and sparkled with every move, and Luci couldn’t help but feel like a little bit of a princess. However, something was bugging her. She knew what it was, but it was as if she couldn’t accept it. Luci paused, only to glance at her friend, who had such a big, soft smile on their face, she couldn’t help but feel braver, if only a little bit. There was no hesitation as she reached around the back of her head and untied the mask from her face. “I think… I think I look better without it,” She said, and for once, she didn’t look to someone else for their opinion. Now, with her blonde locks down and teased into wavy curls, her outfit was complete. She was as ready as she would ever be.

Harold emerged from the bathroom, smoothing down his rather sharp but classic black suit. When he lifted his head, he spotted Luci, and for the second time, he was stunned in place. For a few seconds, they were both frozen in place, blushes painting their cheeks. “Wow…”

“Alright you two, we’ve got 20 minutes, and the party is 15 minutes away. Get your asses in gear!” Leo, yet again, whacked Harold over the head. He nodded, silently making his way to the exit. Now, mostly alone, Luci went to grab her clutch, but Leo lingered. “Hey, I wasn’t joking earlier. Everything is going to go great, I promise. You’re going to kill it,” Their words were so sincere, Luci couldn’t help but believe them, even though it was so difficult.

“I hope so.”

The drive to the party wasn’t silent. Being silent around Leo was next to impossible. So, for the most part, Leo and Harold were talking back and forth, but Luci was too distracted to participate. As soon as they stepped into the venue, Luci was whisked away by the stagehands. She barely got to say goodbye to Leo before she disappeared, but they gave her two thumbs up and another smile, and that would have to be enough. While the mic was being attached to her ear, Luci had to remind herself to keep breathing. She recited the songlist over and over again. Even though she memorized it weeks ago, she found comfort in repeating it. Without even realizing how much time had passed, she was being pushed onto the stage as someone announced her name. This was it. All these preparations, all of that anxiety, all of it would amount to right now.

And Luci killed it. She walked, no, she strutted onto that stage, one foot after the other. She ignored the heat that exploded in her face as each step caused her dress to reveal the skin of her thighs. She ignored how much of her body was screaming to run away. She ignored the fact that her nervousness had now turned to nausea. Instead, Luci walked to the center, and she smiled, perfectly warm and radiant, no matter how fake it was. Her eyes scanned the crowd, and in it she spotted some familiar faces. Leo, Harold, and Aisling stood together, with Leo waving and using their free hand to force Aisling to wave with them. Bella was there, taking pictures for the social media pages. Clarence was off to the side, dressed as some waitstaff, but her powerful eyes found him nonetheless. Mikey was somewhere high up, keeping a close eye on everything. A familiar head of red hair belonged to Ada. Other than them, there must have been almost two hundred faces, many of them Luci recognized. And yet, there was one in particular that Luci was searching for. Even after surveying everybody, she couldn’t find the short, raven-haired woman who had been occupying much of her thoughts lately. A disappointment washed over her, but she couldn’t show it. No, she was in the spotlight now, shimmering and shining as much as her dress. Now, she couldn’t be anything less than perfect.

As time passed, people went about their party-going tasks: conversing with elites, tasting the fanciest of alcohol and hors d'oeuvres, putting up fronts and closing deals. Some still lingered by the stage, just to watch Luci sing. Xavier picked the majority of the songs, some older, jazzy classics, and Luci didn’t mind. Now that it had been some time, she could feel all of the links. Her hold had long since wrapped around the majority of the guests; even those resistant to her Siren Song would feel its effects due to the extended amount of exposure. She urged everyone to be calm, open, and relaxed, and it was working.

Luci’s mind was on autopilot. “When she walks she's like a samba that swings so cool and sways so gentle, that when she passes, each one she passes goes ooh…” She sang the Frank Sintra song, a few metered steps across the stage on beat accompanying her. Luci had always loved this one. It was so sad and tender, and she adored the lyrics. “But I watch her so sadly…” And now, reciting the lyrics, she couldn’t help but relate to them in a new way. “How can I tell her I love her?” That line came out a bit too strong. Luci saw more than half of the men in the room suddenly turn to look at her. Whoops… With a wave of her wrist, they all blinked, as if they had been snapped from a sort of trance. “Yes, I would give my heart gladly. But each day when she walks to the sea, she looks straight ahead not at me..”

It was all going well enough, but Luci noticed that, one by one, all of her friends were disappearing before her very eyes. Her eyebrows knit with concern before she shook that away. She couldn’t; she was on stage. Her expression returned to the listful, pleasant one she had earlier. If there was an emergency, her comms would go off. She had to assume that everything was alright. But at that moment, Luci couldn’t help but feel utterly alone. Her friends were all gone, her mother hadn’t even shown up… And she was trapped. There were more than a hundred people in this room, and she was lonely. She was lonely and stuck, forced there by responsibility and social expectations. And still, she smiled, and sang, “Tall and tan and young and lovely. The girl from Ipanema goes walking…”

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Clarence Lawless Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Kit Cassidy
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bella clayton.
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outfit. #772222.
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kit cassidy.
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outfit. #698B69.
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Instinctively, Bella jumped as the door burst open, finding herself in a fighting stance. But as Kit burst through it, twirling his staff around, and sending Mikey flying, Bella instead burst into laughter. “Now, that’s what I call an entrance!” She cheered. She raised her eyebrows as he held a silver band out to her, before her eyes got big with excitement as he explained what it was. “Ooooh! I can’t wait to try this!” She said, putting it on. Even if the others didn’t have their earpieces yet, she could already hear their thoughts much clearer than usual. The voices weren’t overly loud or overwhelming either. “Kit, I love this! It works so well! You’re a genius!” She gushed. “It’s gonna be so helpful!” She looked up and waved at Clarence as he arrived. “Clarence! Look at this really cool gadget Kit made for me! It’s to boost my telepathy to help us communicate! Isn’t that cool?”

So much just happened at once for Kit. He just sent Mikey flying. He was pretty sure she was going to kill him for that one. At least he impressed Bella? Except now that presented a whole new set of problems for him. She liked his entrance. Was it because he embarrassed himself? Oh god, what if she thought he was a complete loser now? He really needed to stop screwing up his chances to impress her. But then she loved his device. Kit’s face started to burn while his heart started racing again. He couldn’t believe that she actually liked it and was showing it off. He kept looking down at his feet while he spoke. “It’s nothing that impressive… I–Uh–Umm… I’m glad you like it.” He put in his own earpiece not entirely sure what she was going to hear. His face was still flushed while he looked up slightly. Still unable to maintain eye contact while he chose her left shoulder as the spot his gaze fixated on. It was a nice shoulder. “Umm-I–I’m Sorry I–I couldn’t test it until now. I–I don’t know if it works on me yet.” Even if she could read his mind right now, all she’d be hearing is him calling himself an idiot on repeat after that failed attempt to talk to her.

Bella raised an eyebrow as Kit said it wasn’t that impressive. “No, this is really cool!” She said as she started trying to hone in on people’s thoughts. It took her a few minutes before she could actually focus on anyone’s thoughts properly, and when she finally could, she found that it was Kit’s that she could hear. His thoughts were swirling but she could see that he was annoyed with himself. “Kit! You’re not an idiot! You’re brilliant!” She gushed, holding out her fist to him for a fist bump. “This works so so well!”

Kit’s cheeks started burning thanks to the knots in his stomach over Bella praising him. He didn’t know how to wrap his mind around her like his invention. Sure, it happened to be perfect timing considering their comms had just gone down but still. How was anything he did impressive in comparison to everyone else. Like Bella. She’s just absolutely amazing in every way Kit could think of. Her smile, the way she always bested him when they sparred, how awesome her powers were. He loved the fact that she wasn’t scared to go out into the field and actually be a hero. He didn’t really think he could call himself a hero with how often he chose to hide in his lab instead. He was just tech support compared to them.

It took a few minutes before Kit got the answer to her being able to read his thoughts for the first time. Oh god she can now hear everything. She’s gonna really know how much of a nervous idiot I am now. He wanted to stop thinking at that moment but his nerves were screaming inside. Mostly to try and not think about Bella. Which in hindsight, would mean his head was screaming with thoughts about Bella. He needed to change the topic quickly or else he was screwed. His brain really needed to shut up. The mission! Right! He needed to get back on the mission. That was the smartest way to not make himself look anymore like a blubbering dork with the world’s biggest crush on a girl way out of his league. “Thank you.” He acknowledged her praise again softly. “So, um, what are we supposed to do now?”

Once Bella had determined that she could, in fact, hear Kit’s thoughts, she immediately decided to try it on some of the others. It worked for everyone and made it much easier for her to hone in on them. She guessed that that also meant that it was working for everyone else. Kit was brilliant enough and smart enough that she didn’t doubt for a second that it was the case. She was constantly amazed by how smart he was and how he’d been able to build something like this. It worked perfectly for what they needed it to do, but without being uncomfortable or making things too loud for her. She could barely work some of the especially complicated photocopiers in work, but he’d been able to build something like this, and so easily. And his enthusiasm about it had been so cute, as had been his embarrassment. He was really just so cute-

Wait. Could the others hear her thoughts as well? Shit, shit, shit. If Mikey had heard any of that, Bella would never live it down. She nodded at his thanks and tried to look as professional as possible as he asked what they were supposed to do. “Well, by the looks of it, Leo and Mikey dealt with the bad guys. So, glorious leader, do we go back to the party or do we get to kick a bit more ass?” Bella asked, looking at Mikey.

Kit may be a genius, but he somehow managed to also not be the smartest in the room when it came to social intelligence.While he was worrying so much over Bella hearing his embarrassing thoughts he’d completely forgotten that the entire point of this was for everyone to be able to mentally communicate with each other. Meaning his thoughts were a beacon to everyone else unfortunate enough to be linked to our two clueless geniuses with very obvious crushes on each other. Bella just happened to be the first person everything would pass through as she was the ‘home base’ for their mental link.

He distracted himself with his wristwatch. Another special invention of his as it projected small holographic images for him to interact with. He pulled up a scan of the entire building and everyone in it and made the projection larger for the group to see. “Who do we grab first and how many more goons do you guys think there are?” Kit spoke calmly finally. It was easy when talking about this kind of stuff. He understood how to talk about missions and plans and of course anything science related. He kept staring at the projection trying to think about what the most practical solution could be. Maybe he could find the answer and be useful. He could be a better help to Mikey than the dork who ran her over with a door.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Clarence Lawless Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Kit Cassidy
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Leo Lambert
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Quantum | Hero | #FFD201
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Mikey Santo
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Skadi | Hero | #197b5b
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Mikey didn't know how long it had been since she made that desperate call for help on the comms, hoping to someone that one of her teammates had gotten it and were on their way. As much as she despised relying on others to come and help, especially as she was playing Head of Security for this event, she had more than enough reasons to want to be able to do this on her own. Hell, she should have brought something else that wasn't just the knives hidden along her right thigh, that she had covered with her dress. But here she was, one hell of a long fall if she went over the railing. Dodging and weaving out of attacks from the two masked figures that stood opposite of her. Normally she wouldn't have an issue, but there were multiple reasons she was having difficulty. One, it had been a stupidly unexpected ambush. Mikey should have known better. Yet here she was. Xavier wouldn't let her live this down, and that made her feel even worse. Second, she was wearing an all too form fitting dress, that alone made combat even more difficult, and of course lastly, the weather.

From up this high, and the current time of year, it was absurdly cold. Which made every movement even worse as the wind would pick up every few seconds, before dying down. Truth be told, Mikey didn't know how much longer she could keep it up in these conditions, when something unexpected happened. She heard another voice speak up. At first, dread filled her as she was prepared to have to fight a third, but after a few seconds, it hit her. She knew who that voice belonged to. And with a quick side-eye glance, a wave of relief washed over her as she saw it was none other than Leo, or well, Quantum.

Everything that happened next, happened too fast. Somehow her senses were dwindling faster than she'd like to admit, and Mikey even felt a bit sick. However, with the masked figures' attention now on Leo, Mikey knew it'd be fine. And sure enough, Quantum was able to take care of them all too quickly. And the ordeal was over in a matter of seconds. Both of the unconscious forms of the attackers were slumped over by the time that Mikey looked back over at Leo, Mikey had been partially leaning against the freezing, metal railing. Trying to recompose herself once again. After a few moments, Mikey gave Leo a small, kurt nod to their question of if she was alright.

At the mention of being late and the comms not working, Mikey gave a small shrug, before looking up at the Titan, giving a feign smirk. "It's fine. I knew someone would arrive soon enough anyway, not surprising that it was you. All things considered. Everyone else was probably too busy to come help anyway." she said with a somewhat bitter tone. Carefully taking Leo's arm as they offered it for support. Mikey's grip was a bit tighter than she had meant for it to be, but at this point, she could barely feel her hands. I need to get inside, she thought to herself. It was only when Leo asked who were the two attackers and how they managed to get in, once more she gave a shrug, "Hell if I know. Nor do I care. But what I do know? Is that they knew full well people would be here, they didn't come here expecting normal security...Which isn't what's sitting right with me..." her voice dipped for a moment.

As Mikey gripped Leo’s arm, they placed one of their hands over hers to keep a good grip on her; they noticed just how cold she was. The energy bouncing around inside them helped stave off the cold, but clearly Mikey didn’t have anything like that. Their eyes watched her every move, ready to catch her if she fell again. Leo nodded as they listened to what Mikey said. Why were those guys here? Obviously, they had some ulterior motive. Even those not in Xavier’s inner circle knew the event was being held. So surely they must have known that security would be tight. Leo’s attention traveled back to the figures on the ground. “Yeah, something isn’t right… There have to be more somewhere,” Leo mumbled as if deep in thought.

Movement caught Leo’s attention. They tensed, as if preparing for more enemies, but instead, Leo’s eyes lit up. Bella approached them, looking absolutely stunning in that dress. Whatever she said to Mikey went right over Leo’s head. Instead, when Bella greeted them, Leo released their grip on Mikey to wave at Bella. “Hi Bells!” They chirped over to her, a big, dumb smile on their face. The compliment from Bella warmed their skin and made their chest feel all fuzzy. “Thanks! That dress is gorgeous! Not as gorgeous as you though,” They complimented her right back. If it was possible for a human being to have heart eyes, Leo had them at that moment. It was only then that they realized they had essentially dropped Mikey. “Ah, oops, sorry Mikey,” They leaned back down and hooked their hands under Mikey’s arms. With their eyes bouncing between Mikey and Bella, it was obvious their attention was struggling to find a place to rest. Leo hoisted Mikey off the ground and placed her back on her feet.

It was only when the door opened that Mikey's attention was drawn away from Leo for the first time since she laid her eyes on them. A small, awkward grimace was on her face as Bella questioned her on what was going on. "Like I told Quantum here, I don't fucking know what's going on. Some assholes got the better of me, Quantum showed up, and now we're here. My guess is that these bastards fucked with our comms all together. Shiloh's comms were acting weird moments before I even came out here to survey the floor and well...Now we're here." Mikey shook her head, gently pinching the bridge of her nose before she grimaced. Taking her hand away as pain shot through the arch of her nose and into her head. She assumed one of the attackers got a good hit in and did enough damage to warrant some pain. God damn bastard.

She looked up when Leo had extended their hands to help Mikey back to her feet. Awkwardly taking their hand as she got to her feet. [/b]"Thanks, Leo."[/b] she said with a small nod, before looking away from the giant of a superhero. Things were still a bit awkward between the two of them, and she doubted it would change anytime soon. But now wasn't the time for that.

Mikey turned her attention back towards the door, where she began to lead the others as they talked. At least, that was what happened until suddenly, Mikey felt something slam into her and once again felt herself hitting the cold hard ground. "I swear to fucking god, if one more rat bastard hurts me again, I swear I will-" Mikey began one of her long winded tangents once again, before looking up. Her eyes landed on what had hit her, or more precisely, who. Or even more so, who caused what to hit her. Her eyes narrowed on Kit who was rambling on about something about a new gadget to Bella by this point. Her head now throbbing by the door having slammed into her, and knocked her off her feet. "Could you be any less careful?" she grumbled, not even bothering to get up off the ground this time.

It took her a few moments of sitting on the ground to piece everything back together again, looking around at the group that had formed by this point. Kit, Bella, Leo, and now Clarence. Mikey blinked a few more times, before slowly getting back to her feet, warily looking around incase anything else planned on knocking her down again. With an arched eyebrow, she gave a small shrug, "Well, I doubt that's the last we'll see of them, nor are they the only ones. No one would only send barely a handful to a party like this." she practically mumbled to herself, fingers resting under her chin as she thought.

It was only then that a pit formed in her stomach, looking over her shoulder to the ledge where Mikey and Leo had last piled up the goons.

"Uhm...where the fuck did they go?" she cursed, pushing past the others, sure enough the goons Mikey and Leo had taken care of earlier were nowhere in sight. "Xavier is gonna kill me."

The events that transpired soon after were so fast, Leo had to pay attention to keep up. Although, by now, it was apparent their eyes were struggling to find a place to settle. They bounced to Mikey to make sure she was ok, then back over the Bella to marvel in the beauty of her formal outfit, then to Kit who was looking so adorable all flustered like that, they just wanted to pinch his cheeks, and then to Clarence, who was almost more adorable in his little waiter outfit. There was so much going on, so much Leo wanted to say, and with that remaining energy bouncing around inside them, it was getting difficult to stand still. But it was clear to everyone around them, Kit and Bella were having a bit of a moment, and Leo couldn’t help but sit by and watch. They’re both so cute, they mused, a pleased smile on their face. But they’re sooooo oblivious. They obviously like each other. They should say something to one another! Leo couldn’t help but wonder, with so little introspection it was practically baffling.

Bella was just praising Kit’s newest invention when Mikey caught Leo’s attention again. They turned to glance at her, a touch of confusion causing them to tilt their head to the side. But as soon as they heard what Mikey said, their eyes widened. They turned fully to peer behind her, and sure enough, the goons they had dropped were gone, as if they had vanished into thin air. “What the…? How…?!” Their head whipped around as they searched the walkway, as if there was anything the goons could have been hiding behind anyways. They darted to the edge, fearlessly leaning over it, perhaps a bit farther than they should have, before standing back up straight, unbothered. “They’re just… gone!? That’s not a good sign,” Leo reapproached the group before peering over at Kit’s map. “Are there even any more?” They asked.

Mikey couldn't help but raise an eyebrow, really not that bright, huh?, she couldn't help but think for a moment. Looking around for a moment at the others before returning to look at Leo, "My best guess? Thicker skulls than we thought, and knowing how to play dead real well." Mikey folded her arms before looking back at Kit as Leo has asked him a question, "I'd assume so, no one would only send barely a handful to scoutout a place like this, knowing full Supes, like you guys, would be mixed in with regular security." Mikey had chosen her words rather carefully, her dual-sided identity wasn't exactly primarily known, even amongst the others. And she'd prefer to keep it that way.

With a small, exasperated sigh, "And if there is, wherever they are…No longer my problem. I think my bruises have bruises now, no thanks to someone." she shot a pointed glare in Kit's direction, before turning on her heel. Not being able to fully ignore the slight blur of vision she experienced for a moment, "I think I need a drink…Or two."

Leo observed, the concern in their expression multiplying by the second. Why would anybody attack a party like this? They glanced over their shoulder again, as if making sure the two goonies had actually disappeared. Once their attention returned to Mikey, they could detect the slightest sway in her movements. Leo blinked, as if considering their options. However, as much as they would have loved to stay and drool over Bella for a little longer, her and Kit were having… a moment. There was still an undeniable discomfort between Leo and Mikey, but they did their best to ignore it at all times. They weren’t necessarily friends, but they were professional with one another. And now wouldn’t be any different. “Alright, Bella, Kit, Clarence, keep your eyes peeled. We have no clue if more goons like this are going to show up, but we have to be ready if they do. Now we can communicate faster if something happens. Brain page me if you need me, I’m going to help grumpy pants to the infirmary,” Leo flashed them one last smile before saluting and darting after Mikey.

“I think what you actually need is to get checked out. By a doctor. If… that wasn’t clear,” Leo added that bit at the end as they kept pace with Mikey. They facepalmed mentally. Hopefully Bella didn’t feel it. Nice one, dumbass. This definitely isn’t awkward enough. They sighed and put their hand on Mikey’s shoulder; the touch was their attempt at being comforting while also implying that she could lean on them if she needed to. “Seriously. I don’t have anywhere I need to be, let me help you,” They offered, their voice soft, displaying how much they did actually care.

Mikey had all but in her own thoughts when she managed to catch the last few parts of Leo's first comment as she felt their hand on her shoulder. Initially causing her to freeze and flinch momentarily. Taking a moment to take a deep breath, before turning to look at the other, who was only an inch or two taller than herself. Even when Mikey wore heels, Leo still managed to be ever so slightly taller than her. Annoying, but she'd get over it. Simply giving a small shrug, "Please, no one within the whole span of the city would be in their right mind. I think I'm good there." she attempted at a joke,"But yeah…Maybe taking a bit to sit and chill for a bit would be fine. Last thing I need is Xavier getting on my ass about this…I really didn't need to fail this badly as head of security. Or well…At least try to make a point of it, I guess."

She took a few steps, before instinctively reaching for Leo's hand on her shoulder as she could feel herself wabble again, "...Maybe it would be a good idea to get checked out after all…Just uh…Need to figure out how to not get spotted by the others." she took a moment to think, before glancing at Leo for a moment as the two continued to walk, "Thanks though, for uhm…not giving me a hard time about this? Or well…everything. So…Thanks, Leo." she said with a half smile, seeing as that was about as much as she could muster in the moment.

At Mikey’s attempt at a joke, Leo chuckled. It was pretty funny, but they also did want to try and move past the awkwardness of their own statement. They were usually so eloquent… Mmm, well, that’s not entirely true. So they would take all of the help they could get right now. However, they were glad that Mikey wasn’t protesting about getting checked out. They had dealt with a hardheaded, stubborn certain someone for so long who was always refusing help, so it was a breath of fresh air. However, Leo hadn’t expected what Mikey said at the end, and their stomach twisted a little bit. Leo was horrible at holding grudges; they can’t stand the way they make Leo feel. Mikey may have broken their best friend’s heart, but she was still human. Leo would never treat her as anything less than such. So, their gaze softened, and they smiled a little bit, especially at the use of their actual name instead of their codename.

Once Mikey leaned on them more, Leo hooked their arm through Mikey’s, so they were walking linking together. From there, Leo could rest a hand on Mikey’s forearm, to make sure she would maintain balance. Plus, to an onlooker, they just appeared to be strolling around together. “I could always carry you, but… Perhaps if we walk like this, throw in a random, exaggerated laugh or two, people will assume we’re just two friends with one being a little more tipsy than the other,” Leo offered, but their tone revealed that they were joking, if only a touch. “Of course I wouldn’t give you a hard time about it… Or anything else,” Leo spoke rather matter-of-factly, as if this was common knowledge. “That’s what heroes are for, right? To help?” Now Leo was laying it on thick, a broad smirk on their face.

Mikey gave a small nod of agreement, at least if anyone managed to find them, they'd be none the wiser. At least not anyone connected to Aegis. "So, pretend to be stuck up rich people? Sounds easy enough." she quipped as the pair continued along. At the mention of being a hero, Mikey snorted. "Please. There are plenty of other things a Hero like yourself could be doing right now, that doesn't involve helping me not get spotted by my boss." Mikey spoke softly as the two continued walking down one of the many hallways, before taking a turn down another corridor.

"How about this, I pay you back sometime for being so charitable? And not because you're a Hero. But because you are a much too kind person, that I happened to inconvenience. Sounds fair?" she asked with one raised eyebrow as she looked up to her companion, which happened to be the most unlikely person, if she was to be honest with herself.

Leo laughed and shook their head. It took a lot of effort not to roll their eyes too. “Please. I’m here to help. As far as I’m concerned, helping is helping, so there isn’t anything else I’d rather be doing,” They beamed down at Mikey, their voice and smile as sincere as always. “Plus, Xavier loves me! There’s no way he could be that mad when I’m the one with you,”[b] Leo added in hopes that they could dissuade Mikey’s anxiety a little. And they weren’t lying either; their relationship with the famous Xavier Hale was quite positive.

However, at the offer of repayment, Leo’s surprise was obvious. Mikey wasn’t really the charitable type, at least they hadn’t pegged her as such from the pair’s previous interactions. The compliment did make their smile broaden though. [b]“You don’t have to, Mikey. I told you, it's my job to help people.”
It was true. Leo didn’t see themselves as kind; they just believed that everyone should be willing to help someone when they’re in need. Their eyes followed the corridors as they traversed, allowing Mikey to lead them in the proper direction.

Mikey had patiently listened as Leo spoke, nodding along. Unable to hold back the small snort at the comment of Xavier liking Leo. Xavier was a man of many things, and knowing how to well 'people' was simply one of them. So knowing how to properly make outside of Aegis connections weren't too farfetched, nor was it that Mikey knew exactly who Xavier was. But that wasn't for here.

Turning to face Leo once again at their last statement, she gave a small nod. "Ya know…I'm probably not thinking straight anyway. I probably won't even remember this conversation, as I bet I got knocked around pretty badly so…fair enough, I suppose." she said with a small shrug.

Leo was surprised by how quickly Mikey relented; it seemed as if Mikey was going to continue to surprise them tonight. Although, they couldn’t help themselves with their next statement, “It's us you’re talking about. Are we ever thinking straight?” The joke could have landed horribly, and Leo still wouldn’t have been able to stop their own laugh that followed. Once their giggling had died down, Leo squeezed Mikey’s arm softly. “If you wanna do me a favor, you can do this for me: take it easy, and take care of yourself. And try to steer clear of any big steel doors for a little while, god knows who could come barreling through one of those,” They had to force their final joke out through their ever-growing grin.

Mikey couldn't stop the following comment by the time it had already left her, "Huh, Bash told me otherwise, I do believe-" a clearly playful tone was laced in. Soon followed by a small nod, "But sure, I will stay away from all big doors for the rest of the night. You can count on that much from me." Mikey said as she rubbed the back of her head, "Gonna hurt like a bitch tomorrow, I can tell that much though…" she groaned, as if she needed any other reasons to have a headache.

Leo laughed instantly, and they shook their head. “Hey, I’m genderqueer. As far I’m concerned, anything and anyone I’m involved with is at least a little bit gay,” They joked with that same broad smile. “And I topped the shit out of Bash anyways,” They added that last bit with a smirk. Once Mikey replied, Leo nodded. They were glad that she would at least try to take it easy, though they weren’t sure what that even meant to someone like Mikey. “That’s why we’re headed to the infirmary! Hopefully there they’ll give you something that will make it hurt a little less,” Leo’s tone remained just as excited and positive as it always was. “Speaking of, we should be there soon…”

Mikey couldn't help the small scoff and roll of her eyes, she didn't need to know that information, "Unlike a certain someone-" she muttered under her breath. Only giving a small nod at first, but soon regretted it as the motion caused the pain in her head to worsen, "I sure as shit hope so, infact, I hope it makes me forget this whole night all together." she grumbled as the two continued to walk down the various hallways.

"It should be one of the next few doors, actually. If I remember correctly that is." Mikey sighed, before turning one last time to look at Leo. Giving them the smallest of genuine smiles that she could muster,"Really though, thank you. After...everything, it's nice to know that at least someone doesn't still hold things over my head.."

After they had made it to the door, Leo only released their grip on Mikey once they were sure she wasn’t going to topple over. Even then, they kept a watchful eye on her. Leo had to fight to keep their smile from faltering a bit. What happened between Ris and Mikey… Leo hadn’t been there for that. They knew that Mikey left Ris heartbroken, and although Ris is Leo’s best friend… Leo isn’t the type to hold grudges. They would never let something like that impact how Leo treats people. But it was still an awkward situation that required some delicate handling. “Hey, I told you not to worry about it. That’s what heroes are for! And if you need me for anything else, let me know.” Leo smiled at her again, hoping she wouldn’t notice that they had specifically avoided talking about what happened between her and Ris.

Mikey was only able to give a small nod, clearly able to discern that even Leo was dancing around the subject. Mentally kicking herself for even bringing up the topic in the first place. Maybe she really did just need some alcohol, a blanket, and some movies. That way she could shut the fuck up and not make already awkward enough situations, that much more awkward.

Letting out a soft sigh, Mikey looked down at the floor, before looking back up at Leo, "Noted. Guess you really were my hero tonight after all, huh?" she mused for a moment. Before pausing, finally remembering what had been bothering her this entire time, "I am a complete idiot." she started, looking back at Leo once again, "Your suit. Back there...Any and all damages to your outfit tonight will be paid for personally by me. And I will not take no for an answer, got it?"

There was something so satisfying about being called a hero; for Leo, it never gets old. So when Mikey repeated the sentiment, Leo felt that usual warmth from praise heat up their skin. In truth, that would have been repayment enough, but Mikey continued, and Leo couldn’t help but playfully roll their eyes. “Oh please. You can try if you want, but I don’t even own the damn thing. This is all Switchblade company property. It’s nice though, right?” Leo held their hands out and did a little spin. “You should see the jacket, it's the best part. At least I had the foresight to keep that from getting wrecked. Come find me once you’re done here, I can show it to you,” Leo beamed, their genuine excitement not hidden in the slightest.

Mikey gave a resignated and final nod, Leo had won this round apparently. "Fine, Mr. Fancy-Pants." which came out as more of a grumble than she had anticipated. Mikey watched as Leo gave a small spin before continuing to explain, and offer to meet back up after everything was said and done. "I'll let you know what the dire results are afterwards, then." she said with one last look before she took a few steps away towards the door. "And uh, try not to get too drunk tonight, yeah? You Heroes still have a mission tonight."

Leo was glad this had gone well. Or, as well as they could have gone, at least. They nodded in reply, excited about the prospects in the future. However, at the remark about them drinking, Leo laughed. “You don’t have to worry about me. I promise I’ll lay off the strong stuff, but I will keep sipping bubbly for the rest of the night. Luckily that stuff is practically apple juice to me.” Leo smiled at Mikey one last time before beginning to make their way back down the hall. “I’ll see you later!” They waved just before turning a corner.

Mikey simply gave Leo a small smile and nod, watching as they not too long after turned and left. She waited a few moments, before looking down both sides of the hallway, and ducked into another room, softly closing the door behind her. She took out her earpiece once more, once ensuring that the voice modulator that Phantom had installed was activated, "Skadi once again ensuring all agents are in position? We got a mission at play, folks. Let's not fuck it up, yeah?" her voice was a few octaves lower whenever she was in her hero persona, a precaution she had learned from Phantom and a few other Heroes that wished for their identities to remain hidden. Besides, it was okay if Mikey had disappeared few a hours, Skadi had to at least make some sort of appearance tonight, even if she remained in the shadows, watching from afar.




Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Morgana Ishida Character Portrait: Emeris Mikaelson Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Mikey Santo Character Portrait: Clarence Lawless Character Portrait: Lucille Simon Character Portrait: Cameron Jensen Character Portrait: Bella Clayton Character Portrait: Ada Forrest Character Portrait: Kit Cassidy Character Portrait: Kieran Gallagher Character Portrait: Bastien Delacourt
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bella clayton.
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outfit. sentinel. #772222.
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xxx the sun's starting to light up
xxx when we're walking home
xxx tired little laugh, gold lie promises
xxx we'll always win at this

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Mikey didn’t exactly tell them to go back to their stations, but Bella presumed that’s what they were supposed to do. So she made her way back down to the party, marvelling as she found herself still able to tap into the other’s thoughts over the increased distance. Mikey’s were still a little slow and groggy after the fight. Leo was… well, Bella had learned the hard way before not to try and listen to Leo’s thoughts for too long. And then there was Kit, being as brilliant as ever. His invention really was great. When Mikey spoke over her comms to ask the heroes to get back in position, Bella decided to try out the device a little more. Instead of speaking aloud, she telepathically replied, “You got it, boss!”

She meant to ask if it had worked, even though she had complete faith that it would have done. And then she got to the main party, and the noise there wiped out all of her own thoughts. She could hear everybody. Not just the heroes wearing the matching earpieces. Everybody. And the noise was… overwhelming. Immediately, Bella felt like she was going to throw up. She couldn’t abandon the mission though. She had to persevere. It would get easier once she got used to it, she told herself. She tried and failed to force a smile onto her face, and instead settled for just not looking like she was about to throw up and then pass out. Pain was beginning to seep into her temples, but she just snagged a glass of water from a passing waiter and downed it in the hope that might help.

It didn’t help. She found herself drifting aimlessly around the room, trying to find a spot that was less loud than others. She found herself too close to the stage at one point; the worst mistake she’d made so far that night. Luci’s thoughts were as clear as Kit’s had been. One name kept cropping up, along with a face that Luci was looking for, and neither belonged to Bella. The pain in her head threatened to seep into her chest, and so she made a beeline for the far side of the room. She wanted to leave, but wouldn’t. She wouldn’t let her team down. If more bad guys showed up and she wasn’t there to help, she’d never forgive herself. She hadn’t been able to help Page, she wouldn’t let herself be unable to help everyone else.

She tucked herself into a quiet corner, somewhere where things weren’t quite as loud, and glanced at her phone. It was going to be a long night, she knew it already.




kieran gallagher.
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outfit. mask charon. #757576.
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xxx the sun's starting to light up
xxx when we're walking home
xxx tired little laugh, gold lie promises
xxx we'll always win at this

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Hearing Cameron’s voice over the comms was a welcome sound. His comment about Kieran’s hair looking good just made him smile. “I would like to add for the record that I would bet my apartment on the fact that Variant is also looking damn fine today,” he replied. But before anyone else could berate them for using their comms to flirt, black-clad figures filled the room below them. Kieran swore, ducking behind the statue he was hiding behind as gunshots broke out. Chills ran down his spine as the stench of death filled the air. Why couldn’t he have just been assigned to the other party?

“Hey! Sir Percival!” He hissed.
“Young knight!”
“You wanna go slay some witches?” He asked. The ghost’s face positively lit up with delight. “Go slay some witches!” The ghost solidified into something resembling a human, a sword like the one in the case beside Kieran appearing in his hands. Sir Percival raised the sword and leaped from the balcony, running one of the black-clad figures through. He apparently did not consider Kieran himself a witch then, something that Kieran had taken a gamble on. None of his ghosts had tried to kill him yet, but he felt like it was a matter of time. He shot one more glance at the sword in the case beside him, decided it wasn’t worth a complaint from museum security, and instead just drew his knife. He glanced over the balcony and at the scene below, briefly considered his options, and decided to take the stairs. He, regretfully, wasn’t as indestructible as Ris or Bash.

He made a sprint for the side stairs, digging down deep as he did so. Ghosts were the better option here, he figured. But before he could actually summon any of them, he needed to get to safety. Somewhere nearby, but with good cover. But as he got to the bottom of the stairs, he was met with a barrel of a gun, aimed squarely at his chest. But something solid, fast, and familiar collided with Kieran and dragged him out of harm’s way as the bullet shattered the air where Kieran had been moments ago. Maelstrom dropped Kieran behind a pillar, looked him up and down, nodded to make sure he was okay, then dashed off again. Kieran exhaled, his back pressed against the pillar he was hiding behind. He wasn’t of use in a situation like this; why the hell did Aegis keep sending him into them? They kept sending him into gunfights with nothing more than a knife and his abilities. He wasn’t even sure there was bulletproof protection built into his suit. Not to mention, being in an active fight made him feel like he was about to die himself, with the amount of death reeking around the place, no thanks to Ris and Bash. He had to do something. He dug deep and felt all of the ghosts in the building. They were restless. They wanted to help. Good. It would make this easier.

“I’m about to summon a shit ton of ghosts to come help you guys out, but I’m going to need some cover,” He said into his comms. Summoning this many ghosts would leave him vulnerable for far too long, and he didn’t trust this pillar to shelter him that long. “See you all on the other side.” He closed his eyes, and pulled every ghost he could reach into the material world. There was a second where he thought it hadn’t worked; and then the visions came crashing in, lives and deaths and everything in between. The crash was so significant that he could vaguely feel his legs buckle and his back collide with the pillar, but he wasn’t able to stop it. He just had to ride it out and hope that the ghosts were at least helpful.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Morgana Ishida Character Portrait: Leo Lambert Character Portrait: Lucille Simon Character Portrait: Bella Clayton 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…”