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Stephanie March

The cold-hearted Agent on Gwen's case.

0 · 514 views · located in Present Day

a character in “The Other Kind of Roommate”, as played by Ten

Description

Name: Stephanie March
Age: 27
Gender: Female
Bio: The Agent working on Gwen's case. She has been trained in the use of Gwen's powers and plans to eventually become the one transferred into Gwen's body. A bit obsessive and emotionally unstable.

So begins...

Stephanie March's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

0.00 INK

#, as written by Tartra
((((( By Ten! )))))

Osono could feel the heat of the fire coursing through her, singing it's chaotic song and filling her with life. She loved the flames, felt like she was a part of them, and it's dancing lights shone in her eyes with a crazy brightness. So when the last three guys charged at her, she was not only ready for them, she was filled with a desire to tear into them, to unleash the full masterpiece of the fire. Even through the crackling blaze that filled her ears, she did not miss the sound of gun fire and knew instantly what had occurred as each man fell to the ground around her.

Blinking, tension began to leave her body as she looked around the space and realized there was nothing but civilians left, those few too stupidly scared to run away. And of course, Ben. His praise was an odd thing to hear and she smirked casually, about to offer her own compliments for what she'd seen of his fighting style. But then all at once, he changed and addressed her as if he were disgusted. Victims? Torture? What...? Did he mean the guys who'd been trying to kill her? Was he seriously upset that she'd killed them, or was he mad that she'd burned them alive? Then why the hell had he--?

Oh. That's right. Stacy mentioned that about him. That whole, schizo and antisocial psycho disease, or whatever. As soon as that explanation came up in her head, she no longer felt angry at him for not understanding what the whole fight had been about - afterall, she didn't see anybody still breathing over in his corner of the room. And she was about to turn down the fire on the stairs when he was off shooting at the wall leading to the second floor and climbing up it like a freaking monkey man. Ozzie watched for a few minutes as he painfully dragged himself over the ledge through the busted railing and then she turned to the stairs herself to follow him.

In the minutes since they'd started, the flames hadn't eaten too deeply into the foundations of the wood, but a few steps groaned as she put weight on them, fire quickly growing smaller around her feet. It felt like something was falling asleep inside her. She wasn't getting tired, but it was something else separate from herself that was dwindling and fading away. And just because she was reluctant to let it go completely, she left a few straggling flames burning on the stairs, hissing and breaking through the wood happily. She ignored the charred remains of those who'd been consumed by the fire and also ignored the stench of burning flesh as she stepped over them.

When she got to the second floor, she looked around and just barely caught sight of Ben running down the small niche with the EXIT sign over it. She took a few moments more to look around for Stacy but the girl wasn't here. Maybe she was with Ben and they were running? If Osono was in their place, she'd do the same thing. In fact, that was exactly what she should be doing right now. There was also no sign of Rudy and everybody who was willing to put up a fight had been killed so...she didn't really need them anymore.

With one glance towards the way Ben had gone, Ozzie let out a harsh breath and ran back down the stairs. As she reached the ground floor, she grabbed up her jacket and slipped it over her shoulders and headed for the front doors. Stopping with her hand on the glass, she looked outside to see the fountain out front and the street cluttering with people. Some were from the restaurant - if the way they were dressed was any indication - but a lot of them were just bystanders gathered to see what the commotion was. Ozzie snickered to herself briefly to think of the explanations they'd try to come up with for tonight. The only sobering thought was that she knew some of the guys after her were part of the police force sometimes and they'd probably try and cover the truth.

Quickly, she made her way back upstairs - she'd at least follow Ben and Stacy out the back way and hopefully she'd get out without running into anyone important. Before she made her way to the small hallway he'd left through, she went to the large, shattered windows along the back wall and looked out to make sure no one was there. Gaping in surprise at what she did see, she stood staring for several moments at the scene of carnage.

The fountains and gardens in the back of the restaurant were now littered and accented by death, corpses strewn about on the ground amidst the tables and a lot of them laying limply in shrubbery and dipped in fountains as if they were nothing but discarded dolls. Alone among them stood Ben looking off down the road that swooped in close to the back of the establishment - it looked like it could have been for delivery vehicles or something - murmuring to himself. Stacy was nowhere to be seen.

Ozzie stood for several moments trying to piece together what had happened - obviously some sort of fight had occurred. Had Ben fought and killed all of those men by himself? It really was no surprise from what she'd seen of how he fought, but he couldn't have been down there for more than 10 minutes. Needless to say, she was more than impressed. But Stacy's absence and the way he stood there as if he'd lost something, set a whole new tone to the scene. Something had definitely happened to his girlfriend. Had she been taken or what? And why?

She'd been selfish. All this time that she'd been chased by these nameless people, she'd assumed it had something to do with her gift. Never before, while she encountered them time and time again, had they ever paid any attention to anyone else. She'd just automatically assumed she'd been the one they were after. It never occurred to her that they took regular civilians too. And that made her wonder if it was her fault. Did they take her away because she'd been close to Osono, or was Stacy just somebody important that they were threatened by?

After a little while, Ozzie's attention was drawn back outside the window to watch as Ben crumpled to the ground under his own weight. Her brow furrowed and her mouth hung open in confusion as she watched him helplessly crawl for a few seconds, his leg jerking and convulsing in agony before finally lying still. Jesus... The guy was really broken up about losing Stacy and for the first time in a long while, she felt something akin to sympathy stir within. Along with it came guilt when she once again thought about herself being responsible for Stacy's disappearance.

She would help him find her. Ozzie had no idea how she would even begin to do that as she had no idea who these people even were. But she could do something she'd never done before - next time they showed up to ambush her, or next time she saw Rudy, there would definitely be some interrogating going on. All they needed was one left alive and she had a few ideas already on how to get them to talk. They would find Stacy and they'd get her back from where ever the hell those guys had taken her. Even if it wasn't Osono's fault that she'd been taken... there'd been a connection between them. Osono had latched onto the pair out of desperation and Stacy had reached out to her in return. Nobody had ever done that before.

She was just about to leave the windows to head downstairs and join Ben - drag him up from the sidewalk and slap him around a bit to motivate him - but then he was getting back up, and limping towards the restaurant. Was he coming back up here to get her? That was also new. Those who got out of sight of her usually kept going and never looked back. Then again, Ben had seemed really psyched when he'd found out what she could do...well, at least half of him had.

Waiting by the back windows, she turned to see him trudging from the EXIT and wander to an empty table. Was...was he eating? "Holy shit..." she murmured with the beginnings of a smirk touching her lips.

Walking over, she stood in front of him by the table and folded her arms. "So...they take Stacy right from under you while you're flinging bodies left and right and you...stop for dinner? You're a class act, man," she shook her head and laughed without amusement. She unfolded her arms and leaned them on the table to give him a piercing look.

"Do you have a plan other than stuffing your face and moping about your girlfriend? If so, I want in. Those people were here for me, not you guys and it's my fault they took her." There was no room left for argument in her voice - she wasn't going to let him out of her sight and even if he somehow felt the need to just abandon Stacy to whatever fate they had in store for her, Ozzie was going to drag his ass with her as she searched them out. Hopefully things would go easier than that though.

"Unless you're still butthurt over me putting into practice 'kill-or-be-killed' on the guys who've been chasing and shooting at me for years." Or did he think it was 'cool' again? Only then did she remember that he was suppose to be mental and she wondered if it was really a good idea to sign up for a road trip with the guy who couldn't make up his mind about whether or not he liked or hated her.

***

Of course, Eric had Osono's file right in that file cabinet he called a "pocket". She would have been surprised that he had THAT particular file on him and she would have had the impulse to go over and root around in there to find out what else he had - suspicious pockets were suspicious - if the walls constricting everything that wasn't an objective observation allowed her to entertain such frivolities. As Eric and Benoit once again went off on another semi-related tangent, she left them to it and returned to the nothingness filling her, allowing herself to feel like she was disappearing.

That is until Jason spoke up. Instantly she looked at him, her deadened gaze narrowing at his use of the word "privately". More conspiring against her back? What the hell was he up to now? Luckily, she wasn't going to be left wondering, as the A-1's idea of "private" was a lot less accommodating than everything else about him. Surreptitiously, she leaned until she was on the edge of her seat and listened closely to the whispers traded between the two men.

He... He was resigning from the Stewart case? It was like lightning struck through the top of her body and she sat there, the numbness inside shifting enough to allow her to feel something akin to astonishment. Well, it was really no wonder. After all she'd tried to do during this trip to make him feel useless without that suit and now he wasn't going to be wearing it much longer. Plus, the fact that the case was practically over with Gwen in custody.

Still, there was something about the whole thing ...what was it? Was it disappointment? Anger? Excitement? No. She felt betrayed. How could he do that? He didn't even want to wait to see the case through to it's end - he was that eager to get away from her. And there was something else in what he said, a hint of something in his voice when he mentioned that she could find someone to replace him. Was he pouting about something? She tried to think over what could have possibly spawned this thought process for him...well, other than the fact that he'd been tortured and molested. Had it been the drugs she'd taken despite his advice and snoopy warning? It was just shallow enough for her to believe it was the real cause.

Whatever it was, as he sat down and began to finish filling out the form, she found herself breathing hard as anger started to fill her. It was a slow burning at first, but the more she thought about what he'd just done, the more enraged she became. A fantasy flashed in her mind's eye of her standing up, tearing the seatbelt from his chair and choking him with it while demanding he sign the fucking document. As the vision cleared away, and she looked down at her hands gripping at each armrest, she realized she could not allow this to go without him being punished.

As soon as she had the thought, she'd risen smoothly from her seat and crossed the aisle separating them, leaning upon his arm rest as she bent close to whisper in his ear. "What. The fuck. Do you think you're doing?" she asked as he paused while in the middle of writing. Her voice was soft and yet slowly the monotone was being shaken loose to let in the anger and hate quickly filling her body. "How dare you go above my head like that to request a resignation form. I am the Lead fucking Agent on this case and you need my clearance to even consider such a thing. As it is, I should choke you to death right here and now for disrespecting me in such a manner. And for what? Because you're still sore I didn't let you reprimand me at the airport?"

She was breathing heavily now, her whispered breath cascading on his ear and what little skin showed above the collar of his suit. Her hand reached forward, clawed and slightly trembling as it smacked in the middle of the sheet he'd been given. Her fingers contracted into a fist, pulling the paper with it into a crumpled mess in her palm.

"Even if you get a new one, I'm not signing it," she whispered harshly, her voice biting at him with every word. "You're the tool I picked out from the shed and I'm not tossing you back until I've gotten what I wanted."

The crumpled paper was tossed aside and her hand made it's way to his lap where it groped near his groin, her nails digging in just the tiniest bit. Leaning even closer to him so her nose nuzzled at his ear lobe, her hair falling over her shoulder to brush along his neck, she whispered even lower, "I fucking own you. We're not done until I'm no longer standing here in this form, so buckle up and shut up until the ride is fucking over."

For a few moments longer, she stayed close like that, pinching his inner thigh and breathing deeply of his musky, manly scent. Then she blinked and drew back to look him in the face, her hand leaving his lap. For several minutes longer, she stared him down like that before moving away and drifting back to her own seat. Flippantly, she tossed her hair over her shoulder as if nothing had happened and cleared her throat just the tiniest bit before bending down to pick up the balled up document. She unraveled it and smoothed it out and briefly looked it over. Glancing at Jason, Stephanie's eyes met his and she gave him a small smile as she methodically began to tear it up into small, thin strips.

Amidst all of this, it did not occur to her once that the numbness inside her had faded almost completely. That is until she was in the middle of tearing the page and her hand shook as she gripped the two pieces she was currently ripping apart. Staring at her trembling hand, it suddenly hit her what had just happened and that she was no longer coasting under the influence of the drug. That stupid Jason! It was all his fault! Everything had been blissfully, coldly fine until he'd had the nerve to upset her like that. Now, she could feel the case in her back pocket pulsing at her painfully and she ran a quivering hand through her hair as she once again got up from her seat.

As she passed Jason, she stopped beside his seat once more and looked down at him with a sneer. "You see what you do?" she breathlessly whispered in accusation. The torn paper strips in her hand came forth and she shoved them forcefully in his face, her fist making brief contact with him, covering him in a small blanket of litter before she stalked away to the restroom.

Once she'd locked herself inside she instantly took the small carton from her pocket and opened it before laying it out on the counter by the sink. As she took the appropriate vial from it her eyes drifted up briefly to catch her reflection. Her skin had lost a bit of it's healthy golden cast, dimming and waning with a pale white and her light hair hung half over her face in limp strands. There was the hint of dark circles forming under her eyes and she blinked in astonishment as it took just a split second delay for recognition to set in.

Had she looked like this in the car when she'd adjusted her lipstick? The sun had been setting then and in the dim light she thought she'd looked okay. But then again, she'd been pretty loathe to look at herself at the time. It couldn't be the drugs. She'd just started taking them and although they did eventually wear on a person's body, there was no way they'd have these effects this quickly. Maybe it was the stress her constant emotions were putting her under?

Whatever it was, it was inconsequential, she decided and went back to setting out the things she needed. She wouldn't be in this body much longer. Gwen was on her way to Charlton, nicely packaged and ready for the transfer. Besides, even if it was the drugs, it wasn't like she had a choice now. Her little explosion at Jason was proof of that - if she let up for even a moment, her emotions were waiting, ready to be set free. But she'd taken a full dosage. It shouldn't have worn off that quickly - they'd only been on the jet for 45 minutes or an hour. Whatever. 10 ml was obviously not going to cut it. 20 should help give her that longer boost that she needed so she wasn't left running to the bathroom again before the jet landed.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
The vial was in her hand, upturned with the needle poking through the sponge top, and she let out an uneven breath as she began to withdraw the pump, completely unaware of the scene she'd left behind outside. There was nothing but her and the Atropytamine, closed off from the rest of the world. As the syringe filled with liquid, she caught sight of herself in the mirror again, her reflection directly in her line of sight as she concentrated on the vial. There was the sense of her life slipping away, draining from her just as the drug was being drawn from the vial. Swallowing thickly at that train of thought, she focused once more on the numbers printed on the side of the syringe, the clear, purplish grey liquid slowly consuming them one by one.

Then there was a harsh knock at the door. Despite herself, Stephanie jerked a little and blinked, letting out a shaking breath as she turned to glare at the door to the small room. Through the thin metal barrier - decorated on this side with a few anonymous warnings and instructions with basic illustrations - she could hear Jason's voice come through. It was slightly muffled but there was no doubt about what he said. The little bastard! He'd gotten a new form and he wanted her to sign it? And he just couldn't wait for her to come out of here to kick his fucking ass for daring to ask AGAIN!? Was he fucking mental? Had she not made herself clear before or was he just suicidal now? Had Eric and Benoit said something to him about it - she'd made just as much secret about their conversation as Eric had made his with her partner.

Not only were his current actions completely insane with how their last conversation had gone - and he knew, he fucking KNEW what she was capable of - but it was also radically inappropriate. She was in the fucking restroom! Stephanie hadn't hidden the fact of what she'd come in here to do, but for all he knew, she could be on the freaking toilet and half-naked in here! And there he was, just pounding on the door eager to chat! Taking in a deep breath, she shook her head and returned to what she was doing. From the anger that was swelling within her, she knew she needed the drug in her system before she dealt with Jason again. Otherwise, there was just no telling what she would end up doing.

Finally, the syringe was filled at 20 ml and she set the vial onto the edge of the counter. For a few seconds, she searched the room for something to use to tie off her arm, but feeling the chemicals gnawing at her, she quickly decided it didn't matter. Standing beside the sink, she over turned her left arm, holding the syringe in her other hand and searched for a vein. The thick blue rivers in her forearm could be seen fleeing from her elbow to trickle up her wrist and she smiled a little as she pointed the needle in the middle of one of them at an angle. Something else was going on with the door - a small, mechanical clicking that she didn't understand - but she shoved it away as she willed her hand to stop trembling. No more distractions. She would do this. And whatever was happening outside, she'd be better prepared to deal with it afterward.

The slight tremor in her wrist had just about settled down and Stephanie was getting ready to push the needle point through her flesh when suddenly the door burst open and Jason came inside. The bathroom was a lot classier than those on other airplanes, but there was still only enough room for 3 or 4 people to move about comfortably. As a result, Stephanie took an abrupt step back as the door opened inward and her hip bumped into the counter edge.

The vial that had been resting there teetered before clattering to the floor, but the ground was made of linoleum tile and the glass was thick enough that it didn't break. Stephanie wasn't done moving and she took another step back to give Jason enough room to enter, the sole of her highheel putting her weight on the tiny glass bottle. The sound of it crunching wetly and the harmless, sickly sweet medicinal odor of the Atropytamine, filled the air.

Stephanie gasped harshly before blinking and looking down at what she'd done - what Jason had made her do. The pieces of the vial were somewhat stuck together in a torn mosaic as the label kept the glass together. But the bottle itself was flat and busted open on either end, the metal cap dented and crushed. Purple-grey liquid pooled under her feet.

She felt ill. She felt weak. Oh, God, what have I done? There were still two other vials left in the pack Eric had given her - much stronger drugs than the one she'd selected to start with - and she still had what was in the syringe. But the rest of it was gone. At this particular moment, not having the drug in her system and spiraling wildly out of control, she didn't even consider that she could get replacements in Charlton. All she saw was what had been destroyed, what had been taken from her and as her eyes drifted up to regard the man now sharing the bathroom with her, she saw nothing but red.

The tremor running through her body no longer had anything to do with her needing another dose of the drug but rather with the escalating hate and anger growing within the core of her being. Openly glaring, her eyes widened and turned a bright emerald green as irrationality took over and her emotions overwhelmed her.

"You son of a bitch!!!" she shrieked before flinging the syringe to the side and charging at him.

It didn't take her long to span the distance between them and her fist slammed into his cheek bone, hammering into his skull with one brutal hit and shoving him back into the door violently. Her knuckles were red from the blow as she drew her fist back again and surged into his stomach with another savage hit. Even through his precious suit, he had to have felt that.

"You stupid, fucking moron!" she yelled as she hit him again and again, blind with rage. "You just had to be a problem, didn't you? You can't just follow orders can you!? Because you're an arrogant, lazy, whiny little bastard! What did you think was going to happen with you coming in here and challenging my orders? Huh!? TALK, you fucking pussy!"

She had the front of his suit in two fists now and swung him from the door to slam him into the mirror. For safety reasons, the glass was not of the regular sort and merely buckled when the back of his head collided into it.

"Shut up!" she bellowed, cutting off anything he might have to say to explain himself. She didn't want to hear his stupid whiny voice! She didn't want to see his pathetic, incompetent face anymore! Now more than ever, Stephanie knew she would only be satisfied with this punishment if his blood was shed and his life ended. She would get rid of this problem once and for all. Screw him and his disobedience!

Her hands left his suit, one of them snaking up to grab a fistful of his hair and wrenching his head violently to the side to expose his neck. Her other hand drew back, her fingers together and flat like a knife, fingernails sharp and glistening in the lights above the mirror. She stared at him with a wild look in her eyes, her hair falling over one side of her face and her chest rising and falling rapidly with exertion. Heat flowed through her veins and a kinetic energy surrounded the hand she'd now turned into a weapon - preparing to use it on him in much the same way she'd been about to disable Gwen two days ago. This time, she'd go for the kill and aim to slice into his jugular with one fluid strike.

"There's only ONE way you're getting out of this assignment early..." she whispered hoarsely, grimacing as her hand drew back, ready to spring forth for the final attack.

Stephanie's eyes were fixated on his exposed neck just above his collar and right under his chin. Her focus was so deeply ingrained in this area of his body that she noticed the tremble when he swallowed, the bulge of his veins as they snaked through his throat. That vulnerable flesh... open and unprotected... the lines of muscle stretching elegantly as she twisted his head to the side to expose it... God! It was a beautiful sight...

Inside, the anger continued to boil with unreleased wrath, but something else began to form and flower right on top of it. When her hand should have been moving through the air and cutting through his neck, her mouth found it's way to the target instead. Suddenly, her hand had left his hair to rest flat against the mirror, her arm straight like a pillar blocking him from the doorway, and her body was pressed tightly against him, her hips wedged between his legs.

Feverishly, her lips moved across the flesh of his neck and jawline, teeth nipping with a savage intensity and her tongue whipping out to stroke at each little mark she left. Her breathing was erratic as she reached his lips, enveloping them with her own to continue the bite-and-tongue-lashing dance, her free hand moving up to undo the notches of his suit at his collar. As more of his neck was exposed her mouth moved south again, teeth dragging wantonly along the vein she'd been about to puncture with her fingernails.

"God, you're so fucking bad...!" she murmured in a harsh reprimand, her teeth leaving a trail of red welts on his collar bone and her right hand moving down to grope his ass and press him more firmly against her.It wasn't enough! He just wasn't close enough!

Finally, after several minutes of squeezing and biting/suckling on him, she tossed her head slightly to remove the hair from her face and looked him in the eyes. Hers were clouded with lust, the green brighter than they'd been in years, but even as captivated as she was by her own desires, there was a strength in her features as she looked him over. With her breasts pressed firmly into his chest, Stephanie's hand slithered back to his front, moving up along his side to where his rib cage would be underneath his suit. Watching avidly, her fingernails clawed a jagged path, digging into him, scrapping all along his side under his left arm, and as every twinge of pain flickered over his face, her breathing quickened excitedly.

"Are you going to force me to take what I want," she whispered huskily, a small, seductive smile playing upon her lips. "Or are you going to give it to me, like a good boy?"

There was little doubt that she was asking out of playful spite - there was no choice for him to make. She was already well on her way to getting "it" from him as her hand continued to wander and her body swayed against his rhythmically.

***

Ozzie waited not without a bit of impatience for him to respond to her seriously - she was going to ignore the accusation that she was breathing on his freaking fish; he was lucky. Normally, she'd be just offended enough to get reeeaal close and start obnoxiously hacking and coughing inches from his plate - but when he did, he had a mouthful of food and she couldn't hear him clearly.

"Huh?" she said with a rude sneer. When he cleared his mouth of debris - which watching him talk with his mouth full was nasty, by the way - he was suddenly asking about Rudy and she blinked defensively.

"Well..." it was hard to explain. She'd never wanted to believe that Rudy was anything other than what he seemed, a geeky and annoying, harmless little turd. She'd had her suspicions of course, and she knew something was going on, and everytime she got away by the skin of her teeth she promised herself she'd char his ass to oblivion the next time he showed up. But there was something about the guy. The few times he caught her when she was alone, he followed her like a puppy dog, chatting her ear off about his nauseating interests and annoying everyone within a few feet of him.

Something about his presence brought out the big sister in her and although she fucking hated his guts, and suspected he was the root of all the trouble she'd suffered, it was that feeling that always stayed her hand when ready to blow him up. She didn't understand it at all herself - even now, she was planning different ways to finish the job for next time she met up with him - so she couldn't even begin to explain it to someone else.

But Ben's questions didn't make her feel like explaining, especially not with the way he'd addressed it to her. It made her want to take that fucking fork and shove it so far down his throat it--anyways. It made her bristle defensively. She didn't need to explain herself to him - she'd made a mistake and she'd been humble enough to fucking cop to it, which was something she never did for anyone. He should be grateful she was offering to help him at all!

And then as he continued on, Ozzie found her fists balling at her sides, shaking with the effort it took not to reach across the table and beat the shit out of him. God! Rub it in, why don't ya!? Asshole! Everything about what he said had the effect of making her feel even more guilty and useless than she already did with what had happened. Of course he blamed her! She should have realized he would. Still, she'd thought if she approached him with enough of a contrite heart and at least trying to make up for it, that he'd set his anger aside and allow her to come with him.

Forget it now. She was withdrawing her offer and she wasn't going to trail his stupid ass either. He thought he was soooo freaking macho and epic that he could get Stacy back with his hands tied behind his back. Fine! The jerkface was on his own. He probably had as little information as she did anyways and she could figure out where they'd taken his girlfriend without his help! And he would feel really stupid when he found the two girls together eating at IHOP after the grand rescue. ...Alright maybe not IHOP... Somewhere with a barbecue, maybe.

As he got up from his seat - stumbling awkwardly - she murmured to herself, "Ass," and waited till his back was turned to make faces and gestures at him. She wouldn't hurt the arrogant fucker because Stacy liked him - God only knew why - but she'd let all her frustration out now in the form of a gestured "Fuck you!" and "Smell it!"

When she had it all out of her system, he'd disappeared with that stupid gimpy limp down the small hallway to the exit and she turned away, kicking at an almost whole shard of plate. Alright, so she was on her own. Again, although unwillingly this time, so where did she start in her search? Looking over the area where their table had been she noticed the basket of breadsticks that the waiter had brought them just before all hell had broken loose. Well, he had the right idea anyway - no use searching for Stacy if she let herself go hungry.

Walking over, she crouched down and picked out a few sticks of bread and began to eat. She was busily stuffing the pockets of her jacket with them, with one hanging out between her lips when she noticed under the tablecloth there was a body. Uncovering it, she immediately recognized the guy who'd interrupted their dinner. Stacy had been the one to see him first, and if she hadn't made to hide under the table, Osono would probably not have realized she'd had a gun pointed at her head.

The man was in plain clothes, drab but not cheap, just really unremarkable. His eyes were semi-closed and what little she could see of his eyes they were glazed with unmistakable death. Her steak knife jutted from his chest, and blood had drenched the carpet underneath his body. Tossing the breadstick she was eating away, she began to search through his pockets with as much reservation as she would have if he were just asleep - meaning none at all. There was nothing on him. No wallet, no I.D., no cell phone. The guy didn't even have a pack of chewing gum.

"Dude, what's wrong with you people?" she asked him, shoving the body in frustration. As she did the tablecloth moved even more off of him and revealed the gun he'd had laying by his side. "Hello..." she said pleasantly, picking it up and looking it over. It appeared to mimic a glock with a silencer, but it was of a make and model she'd never seen before. Still, it only took a few minutes of messing with it to figure out how it worked and she checked the clip to make sure it was loaded.

Satisfied with that, she tucked it into the back of her pants and stood with a small grunt and walked away from him. Now what? Well... she'd need money if she was going to go anywhere - after coffee and a bus ride she only had a few dollars left in her pockets - so that was next. She had to find the main office where they usually kept the safe for a neato place like this. Jumping down the stairs three at a time, she went through the kitchen on the ground floor.

The long room was divided into three aisles, counter tops and stove tops in the middle two columns and shelves full of extra food and supplies bordering the walls all around the room. It was empty in here and there was a fire burning what appeared to be some shellfish in a pan on a stove that had been abandoned. The fire roared in greeting and she smiled as the warmth of it tingled inside her breast, but otherwise she ignored it. Walking past one counter, she came upon a pan with a full chicken roast inside it, sitting cold and ready to be stuffed into an oven. Wrenching a raw leg free from it, she continued to walk through to the back as it caught fire in her hand.

Five or ten seconds she let it burn before blowing quick at it and instantly silencing the fire. The chicken was no longer pale and bumpy flesh but charred a nice crispy brown and she took a hearty bite from it as she entered a small hall in the back of the room. The hallway itself led out to a small delivery area and there was a door off to the side before it. Kicking it in with her combat boot and busting the lock in a rain of splinters, she chewed noisily on the chicken as a startled old man yelped from where he was hiding huddled behind his desk.

He was a bit portly and balding with a thin pencil mustache and dressed as if he owned the place. "Wh-who are you?" he asked worriedly, sweat dripping down his face and making his spray-on tan run and stain his collar.

"Grim Reaper," she replied glibly around a mouthful of chicken, only half paying attention to him. "Wanna take a trip? I swear, where I'm going, it's just like the Bahamas."

He looked around warily, licking his lips as if he wasn't sure how to respond and she said, "No? Alright then. Beat it before I decide to take you somewhere less pleasant." He hesitated. It was obvious he didn't believe her story, but he was contemplating whether she was dangerous enough to obey or not. Stepping into the room, she only stopped chewing apart the chicken leg to thrust her hand forth aiming it at a stack of papers on his desk. It took a few minutes for the air to dry up enough but when it did, the top sheets caught fire with small flames crackling happily.

The gentleman exclaimed in horror, shrinking away from the stack and she stamped her foot to get his attention again. "I said MOVE, dumbass! Bells toll and all that shit!"

She didn't need to tell him twice and he whimpered weakly as he moved from around the desk to flee out the door, flinching away from her as he passed. When he was gone, it took an effort of will to get the fire to obey her and like a drug, she was reluctant to let it go. But the barrier she'd made on the stairs - keeping it restrained from spreading and slowing it's consumption of the wood - had taken a lot of energy out of her. All of these little fires were not as much of a drain, but the papers were quickly being eaten away. She didn't want to leave it going because she wasn't sure she could stop it once it got big enough, so she slowly closed her hand into a fist and snuffed them out completely.

Walking around the desk, she began to search through the drawers, keeping an idle hold on the drumstick, and found a key for a safe. Then she heard a loud engine coming to life and revving powerfully. So, either Ben had found a car or someone was being a dick - because they didn't have one. Turning to the safe, she started to search through the ring of keys for a few minutes until she heard someone yelling what sounded like her name.

The honking horn accompanying it made a smirk come to her lips unwillingly and she scrunched her nose up. "Shit! I knew it!" Ha! The dumbass DID want her help finding Stacy. Well, he'd been really mean to her, so she wasn't willing to forgive him just yet, even though she smiled again when she heard him call her name. After a few more minutes fiddling with it, the horn was getting to her and she tossed the keys away in frustration as she turned and ran to the door.

Down the rest of the hallway she went through the delivery room and out the back doors that let out to the street. She stood for just a moment looking around for him, taking one last bite of chicken before tossing it away into the shrubs of the garden. Spotting the car - a fucking sweet ride which she whistled at - she dusted her hands off and jogged to it slipping easily into the passenger seat.

Ozzie barely got her foot inside the car before he was backing up out of the space and driving off and she shot him a hateful glare as she closed her door.

"What made you change your mind?" she asked in her raspy voice, not looking at him but watching the road as he sped away from the restaurant. "Does this mean we're friends now, or are you still gonna be a dick to me? Should I be ready for more verbal attacks - because believe me, you may beat me in a physical fight but you ain't got nothing on me when it comes to verbal abuse. I can dish it."

It was obvious that she was still prickly about what he'd said in the restaurant and she sighed, realizing this wasn't a good way to start - in fact, he was very likely to toss her out on her ass if she didn't behave. "Alright, I'm...sorry, okay?" there was a hesitance before that word, as if it were hard for her to say and when it finally came, it was rushed and terse, as if she were slapping it down in irritation at being made to give it up. "I didn't mean for this to happen and all I want is to get her back safe and sound. I swear, if you really hate me that much, you'll never hear from me again after that."

"As far as traveling together goes, I don't got a problem with not talking and I can provide for myself so you don't got to worry about me. I just want in on where we're going and what I gotta do to help Stacy. You an' me don't need to be friends." Reaching into her coat pocket with one hand, she brought out a half filled pack of cigarettes and took one out with her lips as she rolled down her window a few inches. Turning to Ben, with the cig held loosely between her lips she shrugged and said, "But if you wanna fight the whole time, I ain't got a problem with that either." Without touching it a small spark lit the end of the cigarette, glowing a bright orange and red as she sucked in a breath.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
Control and domination were completely intoxicating, almost as much as his pain and discomfort was, the little flickers of movement upon his face heating her body to the depths. Even as she took charge of the situation and kept herself from being lost completely to the whims of her body, she was still locked within the room with him, lost to the rest of the world. The rest of the plane, the other Agents on it with them and the whole case and mission to Charlton had fallen off the face of the Earth. She was consumed and fixated on her desire and right now, that was to teach her little bad boy a lesson. To torture and toy with him. To make him murmur in delight and squeal in the pain she caused his body to suffer.

Stephanie hadn't truly realized how much she missed it, the old days before she'd become a Lead Agent, before she'd been yoked by responsibility. Jason had let her taste and sample that old version of herself a couple of times in the past few days, but here and now she was living and breathing it and she couldn't get enough. Proudly, she awaited his response, expecting him to be cowed by her authoritative presence like the many who'd come before him. She expected at the very least, she'd have to punch him a few times before he'd finally submit and allow her to get to the good part of this game.

What she got instead however, was something she had not even prepared for in her wildest dreams. The look that came over him caused her to pause and her eyebrows to bounce a half an inch in surprise, even as a buried tremor ran through her. It was followed by a second as his voice cut through the air in a rough whisper, and her eyes narrowed at the negative tone.

Before she could react, he had ahold of her and was propelling her backwards, a small growl leaving her lips as she met the opposite wall. How dare he defy her! At first, she'd taken his denial and following movements as a refusal to participate - which she was more than happy to correct him about - but when his lips crushed into hers, she took it to mean he wanted to dominate her. Did he even know who he was dealing with? Had he gone mental!?

For a few moments, her hands grabbed fistfuls of his suit at his shoulders and sought to push him off when his body once again melded into her. As his tongue stroked at hers however, another tremble fled through her and a hum escaped her throat, her whole body melting against him, her hands no longer clawing at him to push him away but rather to pull him closer. Stephanie couldn't help the new reactions that spiraled within her as his rock, hard muscles pressed against her through his suit, creating an immovable barrier between her and freedom. Her hands clung to shoulders that were a lot broader than she'd realized before, a leg moving up to curl around his backside, and her lips moved with his even as they smashed together in a violent dance.

All this passion, welling inside him and she'd had no idea. She hadn't seen it, merely tempted by the victimhood and flashes of defiance he'd chosen to show her. Why doesn't he touch me!? she thought wildly, goosebumps covering her where his fingers cradled her head. As strong as he was and powerful his presence had become, there was that duality again. A dignity and respect still imbuing his assault, causing her to grow eager for things to move forward.

She wanted him like this. Strong and controlling, consuming her, owning her while still seeming to await her command and following her lead. Even as she felt that way however, realization and the real world crashed down upon her as she realized the reason for his restraint. He was her subordinate. She was a Lead Agent. And this was a plane. Everything came flooding back, invading her isolated little world and her chest rose and fell rapidly with a bit of nauseous fear to remember that the A-1 was still on the plane with them.

They needed to stop - no, she needed to stop - right now. They probably had a few minutes left before their time in here together became more than obvious in how inappropriate it was. And she could not let this jeopardize everything she'd worked for - GWEN! God, what was she doing!? She was so close and here she was flirting with disaster! She needed that body and after everything she'd done, everything she'd sacrificed to get this far, she could not allow herself to ruin it for a brief moment of bliss with her colleague.

However, as these thoughts ran through her mind, she continued to touch him, her hands running through his soft, curly hair, lightly tugging on the locks and letting him grind his lips against hers, his tongue exploring her inviting mouth. She didn't want to let go, not yet. Not when everything was so...yummy. Even worrying about Eric being on the plane, it only added to the adrenaline coursing through her filling her veins with vibrant life with every touch from the man sharing the small space with her. It had been so long since she'd let these walls down, since she'd breathed and every new lungful brought her Jason's musky scent. It was too new, too precious to just toss it away now. Besides, he didn't seem to be in much of a hurry...

Along with remembrance of Eric and Benoit sharing the plane with them, also came the memory of why Jason had entered this room in the first place. The drugs also came back up but were discarded from thought a moment later.

He'd wanted her to sign that form again. His resignation from the case. With all these realizations coming back to her, it felt like no time had passed, and even with him kissing her forcefully back, it felt like if she stopped them now, nothing would change. He would still want to withdraw. He'd still want to abandon her. Just like Richard had...

Her chest grew tight before she quelled those old emotions, now made more real by her present desire for Jason and the life he filled her with, as she broke the kiss but kept him close. "I need you...!" she gasped against his neck, nuzzling slightly into his thick, muscled shoulder, breathing deeply of his scent, clinging to every last piece of him before she forced herself to let go. "Don't..." her voice was hoarse and she cleared her throat as she drew back to look him stolidly in the eyes. "Don't leave me."

As the words left her mouth, Stephanie knew they sounded pathetic and a small, embarrassed wince rippled across her features, fully bringing her out of the spell her arousal had put her under. God! After all she'd put him through and demanded of him, after everything HE'D lost because of her and the best she could come up with to convince him not to go was 'Daddy, please don't leave me'? Good fucking God, if she were faced with that, she'd leave herself just for being so utterly ridiculous.

Her eyes left him almost immediately after that, and she kept them away as she gently, yet forcefully wriggled out from underneath him, her body growing cold even as she squirmed against his form. Standing apart from him in the middle of the room, she looked into the mirror and began to quickly adjust herself, running a hand through her hair, smoothing down her tank top and wiping her mouth so it didn't look so blatantly like she'd been sucking face with someone. A few times her eyes fell to Jason, only to retreat quickly when she saw him looking back at her. Whatever had been there a moment before between them, was probably completely gone now with her stupid, whiny begging. He must think I'm such a loser...

It didn't even make sense, her wanting him to stay. If anything, she should be gladly signing the papers and helping him on his way. The constant stress he put her through and the nonstop temptation - she could toss the drugs away if she could just get rid of him. But she didn't want to. There was no future with him, not with all the plans she'd laid - at most they'd have two or three days before she left and became someone else and went on to complete her assignment for the Agency. So, logically, she had nothing to offer him, nothing to sway him except that...she wanted him with her. It was so incredibly selfish, he might as well leave.

As an afterthought, she reached onto the counter by the sink and grabbed up the small carton Eric had given her. Closing it up she tucked it into her back pocket with a resigned sigh. Underfoot, the glass of the broken vial crunched and crinkled with the paper of the form he'd brought in with him but they both went ignored as she turned to the door. With her hand on the latch, she stopped and looked back at him, forcing herself to meet his gaze. He must think she was completely insane...

Her eyes fell upon his neck again, drawn there this time by the dark, slightly circular markings peppering his flesh like a frigging leopard. Some of them were red welts but a few were unmistakably hickeys. The fact that their little tryst had left behind identifiable marks made her realize they needed a mutual agreement on the events that had taken place in here, lest they both lose something upon leaving the room.

Stepping forward, she began to reattach the clasps of his collar as she spoke. "You were thoroughly reprimanded," she said softly, her eyes meeting his as the slightly raised, reddened flesh encircling his collar bone in several small patterns, was obscured from sight. "You almost died, but I was able to convince you to withdraw your resignation request without needing to take your life. You now agree that it would be best to just finish the assignment, with only a few days left on the case, so as to not shred your record any further." The last clasp on his collar was fastened and most of the marks were hidden beneath it - one or two peeked above the fabric of the suit, but they were placed just so with the boundary of the suit touching his flesh, that they might escape indepth scrutiny.

Stephanie continued to look him over to make sure everything else fit - his cheekbone was slightly puffing now from the first blow she'd laid upon him, and her own knuckles, red and a bit swollen, would attest to a beating - but a smudge of dark lipstick decorated the corner of his mouth and she reached up to lightly rub it away. As it faded her eyes drifted up to his again and she opened her mouth to say something more - maybe apologize, or explain herself - but with how pitiful she'd been with begging him, she silenced herself. No, there was nothing more she could say that wouldn't compound upon how pathetic she was right now. Best to just leave it and not blur the lines between them anymore than they already were.

Turning once again, she stood for a moment at the door, squared her shoulders, replacing the old, emotionless mask and opened the latch before stepping out, hoping that the practiced explanation she had in mind would be sufficient - but really praying that Eric wouldn't care enough to ask for it. Walking from the room, she resisted the urge to look back inside as the weight came barreling back down upon her shoulders. It was practically on a physical level, suffocating her, as if every foot that brought her out of there was adding a ton to the whole mass she was currently balancing.

At first, she didn't understand the reaction, keeping a firm hold on her mask and not letting it shift for a moment to reveal the panic going through her. But then she recognized it as the sweet, sick smell of Atropytamine. Jason had interrupted her before she'd gotten a chance to redose herself, and now the need came back upon her full force after leaving his presence. She chalked that up to him being an incredible distraction more than any kind of block against the chemical's effects on her body. Because that was absurd.

As soon as the door to the bathroom had opened, the flight attendant had peeked out from the small galley near the front of the plane and Stephanie instantly zeroed in on her, walking with a rigid, robotic grace down the two person wide aisle. Standing at the opening to the small cubby hole, she drew attention to her beat up hand when she ordered, "Get me some wrapped up ice for this. Now." She didn't really need ice as the wounds and swelling barely registered for her with everything else she was currently feeling, but more to draw attention to the fact that her knuckles had been giving a pounding recently. She tried not to think about the way Jason's face and flesh had felt with every blow, despite the comfort it offered.

When the flight attendant started to busy herself fulfilling Stephanie's request, she noticed Jason had left the restroom and she looked at him. For a moment, the mask shifted as she felt that magnetic pull again, but was firmly put back into place as the other woman handed her an ice pack wrapped in a small hand towel. It was too late to go back in there now...

***


Right in the middle of that first exhalation, the cigarette was yanked from between her lips and she blinked in astonishment, a small gasp of irritation leaving her now empty mouth. "What the fuck, man!?" she murmured in annoyance, contemplating dragging out another cigarette and keeping it out of his reach. But she didn't have that many left and she still needed money, so she didn't want to risk losing another one in a similar manner. Besides, everything was still kinda touchy. Even though he'd allowed her to get into the car with him, she got the feeling he would kick her out any minute just as easily. Until she had established a solid rapport with him, she needed to play the game his way and be good.

Osono was eating her words a moment later as the next thing to leave his mouth was the word "rules". Rolling her eyes, she nodded chagrined, hoping that the list wasn't long - she had an unbelievably short fuse tonight after everything that had happened, and she already knew it was not a good idea to beat the shit out of him while he was driving. But the guy just wanted to make it as difficult as possible.

First off, there was the mention of the voice in his head and she rolled her eyes a second time. In the next breath he was threatening to kill her out of the same sense of distrust he'd had for her in the restaurant and she had to bite her lip to keep in the rude retort. He thought it'd be so easy? What? Did she just look like someone who was easily victimized? Or was he just shoving his 'big balls' around now because he had control of the situation? Needless to say, it made her want to punch him and ask for clarification on that part of his "plan" specifically.

Even if she'd wanted to or been able to do so at that moment, she was left blinking at him in confusion as a new name passed from between his lips. Gwen? Who was...Gwen? From the way he phrased the sentence, there was no doubt who he was talking about and Ozzie doubted that he forgot his girlfriend's name. So...Stacy-Gwen had lied to her? Sure it was just a name but it set the stage as an introduction between people. Why would she lie about that unless she were hiding something?

Osono was still stuck on wondering about it as Ben started to go through his list of rules and she refocused on him enough to snort derisively. How long did he think she'd been doing this? She'd been running from these guys for almost 6 years now and she'd never been caught, despite the fact that she frequently started fires - sometimes as a distraction, sometimes as a threat and sometimes on accident just because she was so pissed off about something. She didn't need him to tell her when and how to use them and she instantly shrugged his rule off as inconsequential because of that. Fire was hers and she'd do with it as she saw fit.

But then she was instantly on edge in her seat, frowning at the streetlights out the windshield. He'd...what? There were others like her? And how did he know about them? How did he know that she was running - had she said that??? What had Rudy said to him in the bathroom...? Oh shit... Suddenly everything started to click together and Ozzie found herself glancing at him warily from the corner of her eyes.

It made sense. Rudy was with them and they'd just happened to take Ben's - if that even was his real name - girlfriend. That was probably why Gwen had given her a false name - she must have had powers too! If that was the case, then was Ben HER Rudy? No...that didn't make sense. Not with the way they'd been introduced and definitely not with the looks the two of them had shared. You couldn't fake googly eyes the way Gwen had been making them.

Or maybe...he'd been undercover to get close enough to her, like Rudy had done with Osono. But then why had he been fighting them, if that was the case? God! This was all so confusing! What was going on with these people!?

Her attention was focused back on what he was saying just in time to hear him go into "rule number two" and she bit the inside of her lip worriedly at the word "Agents". Is that what they were called? Or was he just calling them that to give them a name? All this time, Osono had nicknamed the people after her "Them"; there hadn't really been any reason to call them something else and it fit with her perception of them as a secret government organization, 'The Man' trying to keep her down.

She looked at him sharply as his voice grew low and muffled and he spoke into his opposite shoulder. No words could be heard but she guessed right away that was the point. God, what if 'the voice' inside his head were really just part of the ruse? What if he had a microphone or something and was talking to them right now? Rudy seemed to do that too. Uneasily, she shifted in her seat, looking away from him but keeping an eye on him as she watched the road ahead of them. Willing her heart to slow down, she tried to tell herself not to panic - for one thing, it would not help her to start making wild and irrational accusations and for another, she didn't have enough energy to control any 'accidents'. It wasn't his car but she doubted he would enjoy it if she were to start randomly setting fires - especially when he found out she couldn't help it.

Busily breathing in and out deeply through her nose, she looked at him again when he said something about stopping. She tried to find something sinister in the comment but as they approached a large hotel, she relaxed a few notches. It was when he started repeating himself that made her tense up again, mostly because she got the feeling he wasn't speaking to her. And she continued to get that feeling as he murmured under his breath and the drove up to the establishment and parked in a far corner.

As the car came to a stop, for several moments, Osono contemplated just opening the door and disappearing into the night, but that was the panic talking. There were still so many questions running through her mind and the only thing she was absolutely certain of, amidst all the wild suspicions and doubts, was that she no longer trusted Ben. Stacy--Gwen was different, because she'd been such an open and innocent person, so she was still pretty sure that Gwen had been taken by Them, the Agents or whatever. Realizing that Ben was very possibly one of them gave her a rare opportunity that she'd thought she would need to wait a long time for - she needed answers and to find out where Gwen was being kept and here she had someone who knew things.

Stifling the need to run for her life, she watched him leave the car - seemingly in pain because of his leg - and quickly followed suit, keeping a wary eye on him the whole time. A small annoyed "tch" escaped her lips as his bag was shoved at her, but she didn't make any more of a fuss than that as she put the strap over her shoulder. It was something easily accessible that she could search through, possibly when she had him incapacitated.

More muttering to himself - or perhaps whoever was on the little microphone in his ear; which, you'd think They'd get him a better, more discreet way to communicate. Maybe with Gwen being so clumsy, Rudy's phone hadn't been the only one she'd ended up breaking? - before he was turning to her with a hashed together plan involving the restaurant. Osono nodded slightly, giving him a narrowed look, but she said nothing.

The tone he took with her when he ushered her along, provoked a response however and she said in her sandy voice, "Yeah, you know me. Always ready for a roast." The truth was, he didn't know dick about her, but he would soon find out everything that was necessary.

Approaching the doors behind him, she kept silent and looked around warily for any more Agents - maybe this guy was like Rudy and they showed up randomly when he was around? As they entered and walked up to the check-in counter, she forgot to put on her best "afraid for her life" face, but the woman manning the computer seemed to take Osono's agitated watchfulness and Ben's weariness as symptoms of shock. So, when he started spouting that nonsense about them being part of the small crowd fleeing the French restaurant, the woman bought it without suspicion. But not without questions.

"Oh, my God," Peggy said in amazement, her red curly hair done up in a loose but fashionable bun and her big eyes blinking as she shook her head slowly. "We all heard about that on the radio in the break room and then a few people from there started coming in. It sounds absolutely horrific. Do they know what happened yet? We heard some people were fighting."

Before Ben could respond to that, however, Ozzie stepped forward and said in a blunt voice, "Yeah, it was some fucked up shit that went down. I'm feeling pretty traumatized and all, and I need to freaking lie down, so if you could...?" And she made a motion for the woman to finish up the transaction and hand them their key. At first, she didn't blink when Ben ordered the penthouse, that is until she realized why that didn't seem odd to her - Rudy often got that room. Those brief times when they'd been running together in the beginning, he always insisted on staying in the most expensive places he could find and they practically had the penthouse reserved for him, where ever they went. When it occurred to her that Ben had done the same thing, Osono raised one eyebrow at him, but kept her mouth shut, casting another anxious glance around to make sure none of those "Agent" fuckers was hiding anywhere nearby.

The ride on the elevator was excruciating, if only for the fact that they were alone in an enclosed space and she felt like any minute he was going to put the jump on her. Rudy had never attacked her or raised his hand to her, no matter how many times she'd done so to him, but even though Ben copied a few of Rudy's habits, she was acutely aware of him being a completely different person. She had no idea what to expect from him, or if she should even expect anything - Rudy continued to play his undercover game and she had the feeling that he only did so because it still seemed to work on her.

Off of the elevator, there was a long hallway with two double doors spaced a short distance from each other. Upon entering the first, however, it was apparent that the second pair of doors was still a part of the same room, with just a different exit down the hall. It was the only room at this level. Walking into the room, Osono's eyes quickly swept over the luxury and rich furnishings, searching corners and crevices as if every gleaming floor tile and silken drapery were hiding a threat in plain sight.

When she was satisfied that there was no one else here, she proceeded to one of the large tables in the room and unslung the bag on her shoulder, unzipping it and over turning it over the polished tabletop. Quickly, she rifled through his clothes and picked out the passport that had been stuffed in among his things. Opening it up, she made another noise with her lips and pulled the gun from the back of her pants and aimed it at him as she turned.

"Who the fuck is 'Tom Ferguson'? Huh?" she asked acerbically, tossing the passport away in irritation. It was useless - no doubt it wasn't real either. He was just full of lies and she was done being fed stories. She wanted something real and she wanted to find and help Gwen. She was no longer blaming herself for the other woman's capture however.

"She trusted you!" she said through gritted teeth, sneering at him with her finger on the trigger. "Is that what Rudy was suppose to do to me? Get close. Get me to love him and trust him so he could just shove me away in a black van someday? Too fucking bad They don't know my type!"

She stopped yelling for a moment and took a deep breath. "I can't believe I didn't see it before - I mean, it should have been fucking obvious with the way you put your arm around him like you guys were old highschool buddies. Rushing off to the bathroom together to whisper and plan in private. Did you guys just decide to trade targets, or what? Well, what the fuck are you waiting for? I'm right here, asshole!"

Her dark eyes were bright and wild, looking around the room and yet always coming back to him, anger and fear filling every inch of her and all of her muscles tensed with threat. "You almost had me fooled with the way you fought Them - I just thought I was lucky to find a guy who knew freaking Matrix style karate. Now I know! I know it's because you were trained like Them! You're one of Them!"

The air in the room was quickly heating as her panic rose, all the moisture sucked up and everything drying out and growing crisp. Swallowing thickly, she grimaced again and shouted, "I want to know who the fuck you people are and I wanna know NOW! What do you want from me and Gwen!???" She was an inch away from sparking and losing control of the situation and she took a deep breath and said through a barely restrained voice, "If I don't get some answers now, I will blow up this whole fucking room! And you bet your ass, I'll be the only thing walking out of here unscathed."

Explosions were not something she could do without the right ingredients present, even if she had enough energy to create something big enough to fill the whole space. As it was, she was more likely to set something ablaze by accident and she definitely didn't have enough energy to make it go away once it started. She just hoped he wouldn't call her bluff, because a potted plant catching on fire because she was scared was a lot less impressive than the room exploding spontaneously.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
Having been in emotional states like this before, Ozzie knew the thoughts to stay away from - the ones that would absolutely trigger the reaction she was trying to hold off. Mostly it was words like, "ignition" "kindle" "combustion" "spark" and images of fires bursting to life. As she stood high-wired with the gun pointing at his face and listening to him speak, she could feel the warmth in the room reach an apex and a match appeared in her mind's eye. Frantically trying to calm herself down, she imagined it being dunked into a glass of water. It helped.

Not surprisingly, the things "Ben" said did help calm her down as well, but there were still so many things that he did that made her think he was jerking her around. First, even as she was threatening his life and about ready to obviously pop, he still found the frame of mind to mutter to himself. The calming breaths she was taking didn't do jack shit when paranoia creeped up her shoulder blades again. Who did he keep talking to? The voice in his head or the little microphone he was hiding somewhere!? The fact that he couldn't make it any more obvious was like an ineffectual murmur in the back of her head as panic ran with the idea that he was getting pointers on how to "negotiate" with her from someone.

Secondly, he had this way of speaking as if he were searching through a pile of stuff he wasn't supposed to tell her. On the one hand, she understood that with a gun to his head and explosion imminent he'd have to choose his words carefully. But on the other, all it made her think was that he was trying to think of something other than the truth to shut her up and calm her down. That wasn't the kind of response she needed right now, especially not when she was seconds away from doing something that would reveal her hand. Once she'd regained her energy back, she would have no problem setting the whole room ablaze. If she let herself panic now while she was weak, he'd know her setting the draperies on fire was the best she had right now and might take advantage of that weakness.

Other than that, the things he was actually saying got her to start breathing again and thinking somewhat rationally. He was right. He could have taken her down at any time if that had been his intention and at the time, if he was an "Agent", he'd had enough men at his disposal to help him take her into custody or whatever. But instead, he'd left her alone and fought and killed them all single-handedly. She could have left at any time and she hadn't been able to convince him to take her with him - he'd been more than ready to just leave her before making that last minute decision at the car.

All of a sudden, all her suspicions seemed more than wildly crazy, they appeared to be downright idiotic. But in her defense, he HAD been acting strangely all evening without a better explanation given except the one Gwen had offered. And after dealing with Rudy and his stupid little games all these years, an elaborate ruse just to gain her trust seemed highly plausible. What was she suppose to think?

More than his offer that she could leave at any time - and the almost weary acceptance of the fact that she might actually go - what finally got her to lower her gun was his revelations about Gwen. So, her suspicions in that regard had indeed been correct! Gwen was able to talk to people with her mind? Seemed severely limited compared to what Osono herself was able to do, but it wasn't a contest. Suddenly, Ozzie didn't feel so much alone anymore and felt an even stronger connection to the woman she'd just met this evening. Someone else like her. Ben had mentioned there were others before, but now having someone she knew possessing powers like she did, helped solidify the fact for her.

And Ben had stayed with her. From the way he spoke about Them, it seemed like he'd been dealing with these people for a long time. How long had he been running with Gwen? She had to admit, him not being a target did present something almost romantic about his dedication to his girlfriend and protecting her. Again, Osono was assaulted by guilt to realize she'd really screwed things up for the both of them.

As the gun was finally lowered and her shoulders relaxed, she let the heat in the room fade back down to normal temperatures. Not really sure what to say to him and not wanting to apologize for a second time tonight, she turned away from him and headed towards one of the balcony windows. Sliding the glass door open, she rested against the metal frame and let the cool night air flow into the room to help return some of the natural moisture to the room as well.

Looking over at him, she folded her arms, still holding the gun loosely in one hand and sneered a little at him. "You're really weird, you know that?"

It was the closest she would get to an explanation for her behavior or even remotely close to something resembling an apology for threatening him. She wasn't really sure how to talk to him other than that. The truth was, despite feeling considerably more at ease with the current situation, she honestly didn't like Ben. She didn't want to know his real name or anything about him. She didn't want to help him with his foot - whatever the hell was wrong with it - and she didn't really care if he suddenly fell apart because of it.

If she could find Gwen on her own, she would have taken his offer and left him behind. But she couldn't - she didn't even know where to begin and as far as information went, Ben outmatched her by at least 10 miles. As much as she knew about these people, he didn't need her. Hopefully she'd be able to make up for it and be able to contribute in other ways and help fix the situation she'd created.

Looking out the window, she could see La Madeleine's - mostly because of the distant flashing lights of police cars and fire trucks, so she was really guessing that it was the restaurant and not some other fire. There were probably Agents swarming the place because of the fire she'd caused - and no doubt the manager hadn't kept his mouth shut - and they were most likely searching for her trail now. She could now finally agree that possibly Ben was right about that. Setting fires in public wasn't the smartest thing to do. That was when something else he'd said occurred to her.

"Rudy threatened you?" she asked, looking back into the room at him.

In all her time spent with him, Rudy had never indicated that he even knew how to fire a gun let alone the fact that he'd never possess one. There had been times when the little weenie wouldn't shut up about this science fiction show or that freaking comic book and she'd been forced to get physical. She'd done everything from breaking a few of his fingers to pulling his hair and the shrimp had never even raised his voice in anger in response. To hear about him actually having the balls to pull a gun on someone...and kidnap someone... it didn't feel like they could be talking about the same person.

Even though she disliked Ben, she was past not trusting him anymore - at least for now - and she didn't doubt that what he'd said about Quin was true. So, it was out in the open and official now. It was real. Rudy was and had been with Them all along. She wasn't surprised though. Deep down, she'd always known.

"You asked me before why I didn't kill Rudy when I had the chance," she started, lost in thought at first and then looking directly at him. "I guess I could ask you the same thing."

That's as far as that went. She still didn't have an explanation for the way Rudy worked - especially when it had been made more than obvious to her that he'd been involved for years - but she knew it was something akin to pity with a bit of mutual play-acting that always stayed her hand. It was stupid and she was fully responsible for letting Rudy into her life over and over again, so she really wasn't in any place to accuse Ben for not doing what she'd failed to do for almost 6 years.

The room had returned to normal as far as temperature went and with the fading heat also went the rest of her energy, drained from her muscles and bones with the chill of the night air. She'd be lucky if she could create anything right now, and along with the loss of energy came the natural fatigue her body was suffering. Nonchalantly, she reclosed the balcony door, not bothering with the gossamer curtains that got stuck outside.

"Alright, schizo," Ozzie said, tucking the gun back into her pants as she approached where he was sitting on the couch, stopping just a foot away. "If you're going to sleep, can you drag yourself over to bed on your own or do you need me to help you?"

She didn't really want to - in fact the less she had to personally deal with him right now, the better she'd feel - but she was still feeling responsible for everything, even freaking out a moment before and it was the best she could offer by way of amends. Still, she hoped he said "no" and she could leave him to find her own corner of the room - preferably as far from him as possible - to settle down in.

***


"Come on! The way they ended the series was complete genius and should have satisfied all the fans!" a familiar voice said.

She felt stiff and her shoulders ached. Slowly, Gwen found herself sluggishly rising from consciousness and the first thing she became aware of besides the voices in the room, was the aches and pains in her neck and back. She was sitting up in a straight backed wooden chair, the cushions on it barely helping with the way her neck cradled her head against her chest, her hair creating a curtain around her face.

"Nuh-uh, boss," a second voice she'd never heard before said around a mouthful of food. "The whole 'we were dead the whole time' reveal was a total cop-out and the creators need to be euthanized for taking such a lame and unsatisfying direction for the conclusion."

Gwen tried to move slowly, her shoulders and neck screaming in agony, before she realized that her hands were bound together behind the chair with her arms looped through the armrests and her ankles were bound as well. Tugging lightly, and twisting her wrists within the circlets around her forearms, she came to the conclusion that they were cuffs of some kind. Each wrist was encircled by a thin, cable bracelet, but they hooked together in the middle and all her shifting around could not move them. They did not cut into her wrists either but they molded to her skin closely so no matter how she flexed or twisted her arms, the pressure did not shift or move with her but stayed constant. Moving her feet resulted in the same.

"Just-- shut up, Hoskins!" the first voice, which she now identified as Rudy, sputtered in irritation. "You obviously didn't listen to anything Jack's father said in the church and you don't really understand what happened in the Epilogue! Lost was an epic series and as soon as I file the paperwork I'm demoting you for your lack of taste!" He let out a frustrated sigh before continuing. "Look, she's finally waking up."

Blinking and squinting at the light in the room, Gwen opened her eyes and slowly looked around, memory flooding back to her in a rush. Even as she looked around and took in the lavish hotel room - a very modern design, all black, red, grey and white with smooth surfaces and sharply sloping angles with very little design and details - she was frantically reaching out for Alex and Xander. Nothing. They weren't anywhere nearby. Reaching out even further, extending her powers as far as they would go, she still came up with nothing. She did learn however, from eavesdropping on a few others within the mile radius that they were in Hammondsport - how had they gotten here so fast? How long had she been out? And where was Alex?

"Hey, sleepy head," Rudy said in a chipper voice, leaning his elbows on the table to leer at her from his seat. As she looked back at him, she noticed that the blood was gone and he had small adhesive bandages keeping the split in his scalp together. Other than that and the slightly perceptible bruising along one side of his face, centralized around his forehead and cheekbone, he looked no worse for wear. "Surprisingly, I guess you weigh less than Osono, since that pharmaceutical sample I gave you should have knocked you out for much longer." He returned to the lobster on his plate and used it to gesture with as he shrugged. "My own fault really. I totally misconstrued the content of that globular mass on the back of your hips."

Gwen blinked slowly at him. Was....was he calling her fat? Probing his mind she was met once again by that silent wall he'd had up since they'd been on the bus together. But the other man sitting at the table with him - and enjoying a very succulent steak - was an open book. Vince Hoskins was a 25 year old low level Agent, newly recruited to Ozzie's case as an in-field assistant to Rudy. He wasn't exactly sure what had happened to the team that had the case before him since the reports were extremely vague on the matter, but he wasn't exactly the questioning type. So far, Rudy hadn't made a very good impression, besides his friendly tendency to talk a lot, but Vince just wanted to keep his head down and finish this assignment without any trouble. He didn't have a perfect record, but it was all the more reason to not screw anything up if he could help it. Despite Rudy's constant promises to demote those on his team for arguing with him, so far, they seemed superficial threats at best.

"Anyways, since we made such good time on this delivery so far and your ass-face boyfriend seems to have abandoned you as a lost cause," Rudy continued, airily breaking open the bright orangish red claw in his hand. "I decided to stop for the night and have a big meal and a nice warm bed. The car was nice and all, but your phone-crushing ass was hogging the backseat."

Along with the jab about Alex, clarity came to her at that last comment. Okay, so, he was still pissed about her accidentally falling on his cell phone. Jesus, the guy was a bigger baby than Xander. At that thought it made her wonder worriedly if he really had given up on her. Would Alex let him? They didn't have much time left to get Xander into his body. Would he waste time to chase after her? Again, she found herself reaching out for him and felt herself start to choke up a bit to realize she was completely alone with this psycho who had a grudge. And delivery...?

"You hungry, tubby?" he asked while digging out the meat from the shell, pausing in between swallows to address her as if they were friends. "I'm sorry to say you missed the fajitas earlier, but we still have a few more options for you - the room service is excellent here. Since stone-cold Steph is an old friend of mine, I feel obligated to keep you in somewhat nice condition for when I finally hand you over, so it seems only fair after ruining your dinner earlier, that I offer an alternative."

Gwen had been looking around the room and probing the floor they were on for anyone outside who might be of assistance - the most she learned was that they were on the top floor, alone, and they were staying in a modern hotel called the "Quartieri" - but she instantly looked at him with wide eyes when he mentioned Stephanie.

A small smirk appeared on his face as he watched her reaction and he said, "So you know your Agent's name, huh? No surprise there, with what you can supposedly do. I looked into it. She doesn't keep any detailed Agency files on you, but I had a friend of mine hack her personal computer and we found a shit-ton of information." He dipped a long, slender piece of meat into a small bowl of melted butter and slurped it into his mouth. "I knew some of these transfer Agents got obsessed, but Steph takes the cake. File after file of audio of just you breathing. It's some really sick and fucked up shit." He rolled his eyes and then paused as if he thought of something else. "Course, then again, it IS Stephanie. I wouldn't be surprised if she also collected your old clothes and wore them in her private time."

Gwen was barely listening or paying much attention to him anymore as fear started to grip her by the throat. Stephanie. He was taking her to Stephanie! Alex wasn't here to protect her and there was nothing stopping the woman from inserting herself into Gwen's body if she wanted to! She couldn't let that happen! At least not without a fight. Frantically, she started to think of a plan while keeping herself as outwardly calm as she could.

Rudy suddenly snapped his fingers at Vince and pointed to the myriad of covered dishes arrayed on the black shining tabletop. "Feed her," he said to Hoskins, instantly turning back to his own meal and fully expecting his order to be obeyed. For a moment, Vince's face fell and his thin shoulders slumped, but he got up without complaint, only glancing at Gwen once. Looking over the different dishes and uncovering a few, he selected a pasta dish with bow tie noodles and a heavy, meaty sauce.

In the middle of chewing, Rudy shook his head and waved his hand in a canceling gesture. "Dude, that is full of carbs. Give her the chicken. The cow could use something lean in her gut for once." Again, Vince made no complaint as he reached for the lemon garlic chicken, but internally he berated his boss for the choice. Apparently, the chicken had been Hoskins next choice for a meal selection and he was sore for being made to give it to her.

Begrudgingly, Hoskins came around to her side of the table and set the plate down in front of her. Unfurling one of the black, silk napkins, he tucked it into the front of her shirt politely, and began to cut the thick chicken breast into medium bite-sized pieces. Realizing that she was still very hungry, Gwen opened her mouth willingly when he offered the first bite on the end of a fork, seemingly not wanting to get too close to her.

Having finished his lobster, Rudy started to pull Vince's plate over to himself as he asked, "Hey, you done with this? Looks delicious. I'll finish it up for you."

Startled, Hoskins turned to watch as his boss began to systematically finish the steak he'd been savoring, his mouth opening to protest but nothing coming out before it closed again. Angrily, Vince turned back to Gwen and forcefully stabbed the next bite and shoved it in her face. Fuck! And he calls the girl fat! If he weren't an A-3, I'd shoot a hole through his bottomless gut!

Swallowing the piece he'd given her, Gwen jumped on the opportunity and whispered in a low voice that echoed, " You should."

Slowly, Hoskins looked at her, blinking sluggishly as he lowered the fork with the next bite on it and stood from his seat. He was just angry enough that he was following her thought, but when he turned with his weapon pointed at Rudy, he stopped.

Rudy's chewing slowed as his eyes met the barrel of the gun in his face and he quickly looked Hoskins over and then glanced at Gwen. "Dude, relax. I'll get you another one, if you're really that pissy about it."

Hoskins arm trembled a little and sweat started to bead on his forehead. "B-boss..." he murmured anxiously, filled with doubt. Gwen didn't have time to let him change his mind; she needed to get out of here and getting rid of Rudy was the quickest way.

" Do it!" she said loudly, panic filling her even as she mentally shoved him.

It worked to get Hoskins' finger on the trigger and the gun clicked loudly as it loaded, even as Vince nervously gulped. Instantly, Rudy set aside his silverware and held his hands up a little, staring Hoskins straight in the eye.

"I want you to think about what you're doing right now. This isn't something you would normally do, is it? Think about your career and what will happen next after you pull that trigger. Do you honestly think that will be the end of it?" Vince was trembling even more now but he did not lower the weapon, keeping it aimed at Rudy's forehead from a foot away. "Just put it down. It's not your fault, buddy, alright? She's messing with your head right now and you need to regain control of yourself. You're not going to get in trouble for this - I promise - but you need to put it down right now."

Gwen could feel Rudy's empathetic tone starting to click inside Vince's head as he took big gasping lungfuls of air. " Shoot him!" she yelled in desperation, shaking her cuffs, her voice reverberating against the walls before fading. But it was no use, he was already lowering his gun, letting it fall from limp fingers. Helplessly, Gwen whimpered as she saw the charged light on the top of the gun slowly fade.

Standing fluidly, Rudy came up to Hoskins and put his hand on the man's shoulder as he profusely began to stutter an apology. "Boss...I'm so sorry... I don't know what happened... I swear, I would never...!"

Then the air crackled and burned with energy as a discharge was emitted from the gun Rudy had used before and Vince fell in a lifeless heap on the ground by the table. "Yeah, yeah, yeah-pffft!" he said, sticking out his tongue and making a small noise at the corpse.

Gwen was busy staring at the body of the fallen man - the man she'd basically gotten killed - so she wasn't paying attention to Rudy until he was standing right in front of her, carelessly kicking the body out of his way. When she looked up though, her vision exploded in black and white stars and her head whipped violently to the side when his fist slammed into her face. Her head reeled for several moments as pain filled her cheek, but she was gasping in fright a moment later as Rudy surged forward and grabbed her face, turning her to look at him.

"I want to explain something to you, since it might not be clear to your simple mind. I assume following logic is not in your skill set, so I know it's hard but let's do it together - that's what she said," he smiled cheerfully but from the tension in his body and filling the fingers that dug into her cheeks, it was more than obvious he was ready to snap her neck. "I hate you. The only reason you're alive right now, is because I need to use you to help clean up a little mess I made with some of my Agency friends. Believe me when I say, I didn't plan for you and I certainly don't have a plan for being without you. But as you can see, I have no trouble scrapping ideas that just don't seem to work at any given moment. I'm kinda a bit ADD like that."

He got closer to her and she shrunk back defensively, flinching at the cold look in his eyes. "Do not think for a minute that you're not disposable. Despite the attention the Agency has given you up to this point, you are NOT somebody special. You are NOT somebody important. You're nothing but a potential guinea pig - a plaything for people with the means and desire to manipulate the flesh and lives of others. Your death will be as much a loss as if one were to melt a plastic toy soldier in a kit of thousands. No one is going to save you. No one is going to help you - as you can see, I'm not afraid to destroy the lives of innocents that get in my way or pose a threat. If you want to live to see Stephanie, then I suggest you do the smart thing and mimic an actual mail package. Anything less than that, and I'll fill you with bullets and walk away to find something new to do."

With a harsh jerk, he released her and stood back up, seeming to regain his earlier demeanor within a few seconds. Glancing at Hoskins' body he looked back at her and said, "I also hope you know that this," he indicated the corpse. "Means you won't be eating for the rest of the trip, since I can't be arsed to hand-feed you." He looked her up and down tied as she was to her chair before continuing. "But from the looks of it, you could stand to lose a few pounds, eh, Jabba?"

After that, he returned to his seat and continued to eat while Gwen fought the urge to cry. God, where the hell was Alex? She couldn't do this on her own...

***


Stephanie moved over to her seat as she let Jason handle the explanations, keeping her newly acquired ice pack on her knuckles and occasionally checking the swelling. She would have said something in addition to Jason's words, especially with the small quips Benoit kept making, but decided the smartest thing to do was to keep her mouth shut. It would look too much like she was being defensive if she decided to add anything. So, even as Benoit drunkenly murmured about "love" being between her and Jason, she kept her stony expression and ignored him.

Besides, she had enough problems already without adding to the suspicions the two other men already had. For one thing, even with just one dose of the Atropytamine, she could feel the familiar withdrawal gnawing at her. She'd dealt with this before, so she knew what to expect - mostly, it would just feel like gravity had added 100 pounds to her body for a couple of hours and she might end up becoming a bit emotional - but it didn't make the rest of the plane ride any more fun. Mostly, she was willing to suffer through it, because the withdrawal itself made her realize that Jason had been right. She remembered what the drugs were like and what they could do and it was not smart to tie herself down with them, no matter how much it would help to erase her emotions that way. Especially not when the only drugs she had left right now were of a much higher strength than she'd ever tried before. She'd just have to let herself ween off the Atropytamine and by the time they landed in Charlton, she'd be free of it. Hopefully.

And for another thing, she was worried about how Jason was reacting to what had happened. He didn't say much and she wasn't sure if he was putting on an act looking all pouty to throw off suspicion, but it made her nervous nonetheless. She'd basically admitted everything to him - bore her soul in not so many words. Did he feel rejected because she wasn't willing to ruin her carrier just to become involved with him? Or possibly it was what she'd said afterward that had made him feel like she was caging him in? Stephanie didn't understand it and everything was too complicated for her to work through it without speaking to him again.

When Eric offered her a drink, she shook her head slowly, still lost in thought. No, that was definitely something she didn't need right now, not when her impulses were already so loose. She needed to focus on the case on getting Gwen and fulfilling her destiny. When the stewardess walked by, Stephanie stopped her and softly inquired about anything sweet she might have to snack on. When the woman brought her some thin, shortbread cookies, Stephanie opened the bag on her lap and began to lightly chew on one.

Even with her firm belief in this case and love of the Agency and what it stood for, at this particular moment, she was just emotionally fragile enough to let her mind wander. Maybe she'd been mistaken about Jason's responses to her in the bathroom. It had been years since she'd been with anyone and she was a little rusty on what the different reactions meant. It was strange, especially since at one point, she'd been so well-versed in seduction and manipulation.

Thinking about Jason made her remember why she'd taken the Gwen Stewart case and why she'd applied for body transfer in the first place: her life sucked. Not only was she a horrible person who could do nothing but get enjoyment out of hurting others, but she was incapable of connecting with others. Gwen not only wrote about the hope that love could bring and the healing itr caused between two souls, but she lived it everyday of her life. Even after the incident with the stalker, Gwen still finished her last book in the Nightshade series and it was the perfect happily ever after anyone could ask for.

Stephanie wanted that. Not just the fluffy romantic love in the words that Gwen wrote, but the unshakable optimism that lived in the other woman's heart. Gwen had no trouble finding others who were willing to love her, and she never held back her own emotions from them. Something Stephanie had thought she'd been capable of at one point... and recently had tricked herself into thinking once again...

Glancing at Jason, she thought back over what had happened in the restroom and how he was acting now and she knew that even if things were okay..they could never be together. He'd never want her. Nobody would.

Suddenly, without warning, a sorrowful gasp left her throat and tears began to stream down her face. Setting her cookies aside, she held a hand up to her mouth as she started to weep openly, turning her face away from the others on the plane towards the window. For several moments, her shoulders continued to shake as she silently cried, and the flight attendant, concerned, tapped her shoulder briefly, offering her a small plastic wrapped stack of tissues.

Defensively angry, Stephanie jerked them out of the other woman's hands and glared at her through her tears. "Beat it, wench!" she said through an emotional voice. The flight attendant took a moment to flinch before scurrying away, and Stephanie began to unwrap the tissues, sniffling as she dabbed them at her eyes and cleaned her face off. This couldn't get any worse, and she couldn't look any more pathetic.

After the tears finally stopped, she began to feel restless and gently kicked off her high heels, letting her bare feet rub against the smooth carpeting. Grabbing up her bag of cookies, she left her seat to sit Indian style on the floor in front of Benoit. She didn't say anything about her little emotional outburst and tried not to look at Jason as she offered Benoit some of her cookies before taking another for herself.

"When Quin finally delivers Gwen, I hope you'll understand if I leave you to do whatever with Alexander," she said, returning to her usual monotone. "I want to start setting her up for the body transfer as soon as possible." She did look at Jason then, but quickly discarded him from thought a moment later. It did not help anything to dwell on the things she could not have. She needed to focus on the future already laid out for her, lest she lose everything.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
Oh, good! That was a relief! Not only did she not need to haul his cripple ass up and tuck him in, she got the bed too! And Osono didn't even pause to think of the pain she'd seen him display both here and at the restaurant and how he probably needed the bed more than she did right now. If he didn't want it - whether out of some chivalrous notion because she was a woman or because he was too pathetic to limp from one space to the next - she wasn't going to play some stupid social game of "No, you go ahead, I insist!" just to convince him he was wrong. In her mind, if you offered, then you expected it to be taken - just as she had when asking if he needed the help in the first place. Not her fault if he wanted to screw around and play "nice guy" games without knowing she didn't participate in bullshit.

So, she was understandably eager to get to it - not only to explore the kind of crib this place housed, and to get the hell away from his creepy ass but also because she was incredibly tired herself - and ground her teeth together as he stopped her to continue talking. But she paused as it sounded like he was actually grateful for her involvement back at the restaurant. And here she'd been under the impression that she'd done nothing but screwed his whole freaking life up and thoroughly disgusted him with how she'd dealt with the Agents on her end. She waited for him to get touchy-feely about it, but he didn't and kept it pretty low-key and distant while still allowing her some amount of praise in her efforts. It almost made her want to insist he take the bed. Almost.

Then he said something about needing one of the Agents alive and she assumed it was for the same reason she'd planned on finding one of them before he'd let her join him. So that was a bit disheartening. Apparently he wasn't so chock full of information as she'd originally thought and these Agent-people still had something more that he needed. She didn't know why but she'd been hoping when he'd said he had a "plan" back there, that he actually knew where he was going and what he was suppose to be doing. Maybe she'd get to set her public fire afterall.

Ozzie tapped her booted foot lightly for a few moments, waiting for him to say something in conclusion when her eyes drew back up to watch him spaz out a little with his hand. She raised a curious eyebrow that instantly vanished as he did something that REALLY sent a shiver up her spine - the jerk freaking smiled at her. Needless to say, the moment was incredibly awkward and Ozzie couldn't help the slight curl to her lip and narrowed gaze she gave him in return - who the fuck are you smiling at?

And then he was uttering the magic words and she quickly turned from him, not even waiting to see him wave dumbly at her. If he never pulled that kind of facial expression with her ever again, it would be too soon. And even though it had been extremely awkward, as she was walking away from him towards the part of the room that was sectioned off for the bedroom, she did actually appreciate him saying what he did. She could have guessed from him allowing her to come with him that he appreciated her help on some level...but it was still kinda nice to hear it.

That got her to remember the reason they were even together - this was for Gwen. He'd made no secret that he blamed her for what had happened and although it had just occurred when he'd told her off at the restaurant and could be blamed on trauma and stress or whatever, it was more than clear that he didn't like her. And from her own behavior back, he would have to be a dense idiot not to realize the feeling was mutual. But if he was willing to set that aside enough to make the situation better for the goal they were both striving for, then she was too. For Gwen. But she curled her lip again as she closed the dark wood doors separating this part of the room from the other, silently praying that he didn't expect her to get mushy or soft or anything stupid like that. She didn't usually like people and Rudy put up with a lot of abuse - to the point where it almost seemed like he liked it sometimes. She'd need to get used to traveling with someone and not being a bitch constantly. Hopefully they'd find Gwen quick.

Turning to look into the room, Osono stopped sneering instantly, her face blossoming in her own version of a smile as she regarded the bed she'd get all to herself.

***

As the wine-glass was placed in her hand, Stephanie politely took it from Benoit, pleased on some level to be sharing "snacks" with him, but she did not drink from it and just let the glass rest on her folded thigh as the conversation continued. She understood what he meant and a part of her agreed, but another part of her was still worried about her loss of control of the EDP. And already, she was feeling the weight of the Atropytamine starting to press more and more on her shoulders. It was a contest to keep focused on the conversation while still keeping her back straight and stop herself from slouching. Alcohol might help relax the effects but it would also loosen other things about her that really didn't need any more loosening as it was.

When Jason voiced his concerns about Quin, Stephanie wasn't really sure what to say at the moment. When she'd been in training to become an Agent, Rudy had been a part of the same group as she was and under the same supervisor. Back then, she'd been involved with doing her own thing and enjoying life before she needed to buckle down and get serious. But from what little she remembered of the other Agent was from the times he made a spectacle of himself during training and the intimate affair they'd had.

He'd been into the scene and willingly became one of her toys at the time, but he was not a true submissive personality. Although he gained a certain amount of pleasure from being forced to do things by an authority figure, there was always something under the surface with him, some private part of himself held in reserve that never gave in. And he was a manipulative little bastard. She wasn't sure what he had planned as far as bringing Gwen to her, but she knew there was going to be a string attached to the gift. But another thing she remembered about Quin was that he had a tendency to half-plan, so she was depending on that for whatever ace he thought he had up his sleeve.

While Eric had been on the phone, Stephanie had been paying only slight attention, nibbling on her cookies and listening to Benoit slur at Jason in their little back and forth. But when the phone clicked shut, her focus fell on the A-1 and she felt her eyes get wide and her gaze hard as he mentioned taking Gwen to Elmira for the transfer. Everything seemed to fall away from her then and for several seconds she struggled with the urge to scream. No! She'd planned for Charlton! All she needed to do was hold on until Charlton! This flip-flopping around would take longer and keep her from her goals for an even longer time! She didn't want to! She wouldn't!

As always, her partner anticipated the appropriate questions to ask and voiced them - as far as observations and gathering information together, he still had that skill regardless of whether the suit was helping him or not. Eric's elaborated explanation got her to understand and calm down about it, but she didn't like it any more than she had before. Of course it made sense and she knew Alex would jeopardize everything if he were present while she was trying to get what was rightfully hers, but still! The delay seemed to add another weight onto her shoulders and it was becoming harder and harder to bear.

Letting out a stressed breath, and without pausing to think about it, she took up the glass Benoit had given her and quickly emptied it with several gulps. She'd never been a very big wine drinker, but from as far as she could tell, it was fairly decent and a certain numbness descended in her shoulders where the current pressure had been building. Silently, she tipped the glass at Benoit and he willingly poured her another from his bottle. In the middle of her third glass was when she finally decided to slow down, the weight in her shoulders mellowing out until she couldn't even feel it any more.

Lounging back on the floor and holding herself up with one stiff arm, she unfurled her legs and let her bare feet rub into the carpet, tipping her head back to regard the lights in the cabin. She could wait until Elmira. Everything was finally coming together and the road ahead seemed to twist and swerve perilously, but the goal was in sight and within reach. And this thing with Jason, whatever it was anymore, she wouldn't let it get in her way.

That thought made her think of how he'd been in the restroom with her, the pressure of his hands on her shoulders as he'd pushed her back into the wall. She'd wanted to break him, to uncover his hidden self, to find out what made him tick. She'd only been playing for most of the trip, without any regard for things actually going anywhere. He'd been an idle distraction and something to occupy her time while she pursued her target. A toy to play with and then toss away when it was time to get down to business.

But what had happened in there had been serious. She'd let herself become excited by the prospect of owning him, willing for at least 10 whole minutes to throw away everything she'd planned for in pursuit of him. And then the way he'd reacted... She wanted that. It wasn't possible and it wasn't ever going to be possible, but she couldn't deny the fact that she greatly desired to be his. For the first time since she'd become a Lead Agent, she found herself torn between her desire to continue with her mission and her desire to stay as she was. For the first time...she actually had the desire to stay.

They sat brooding in silence for almost an hour before she started to feel uncomfortable sitting on the floor. With a soft, breathy groan, she rose from the ground and stretched slightly, taking her still half-full glass with her as she wandered over to Jason's seat. Gently, she nudged his arm out of the way with her hip as she perched upon his armrest and clung to the back part of his chair to keep herself sitting and balancing there, half-leaning into his personal space.

"As soon as I heard about it, I was smitten by the idea of the body transfer," she said softly. It had been a while since Eric had said anything, and although she didn't want to disturb him and kept her voice low, she was at a point where she didn't really care. "Not just the glamorous allure of gaining someone's powers and being able to wield them as my own - although that is certainly nice, it wasn't what really hooked me about the process. It was more the process itself - sucking your mind and consciousness out of your body and placing it into someone else's. The ultimate domination of someone's life from the inside out. To become someone else..." To not be me.

"It was with that in mind that I've prepared all these years. I gathered as much as I could know about her - everything, right down to the last detail, until the cadences of her life were so ingrained within me, it was like I already was her. Grooming myself for the final transformation." She adjusted her position slightly on the armrest, allowing her body to brush close to him for a moment and practically sitting in his lap. "I knew exactly when her powers were meant to awaken, predicted everything accurately about what we were to expect from her."

For a moment or two she fell silent, her leg curling under his to rub the top of her bare foot against the back of his calf and ankle in a small, hidden gesture. She didn't know why she was confiding in him. It wasn't like it would change anything. But for some reason at that particular moment, she wanted him to know these things and she didn't see a point in stopping once she'd started. It occurred to her that Benoit and Eric were still within ear-shot, but that didn't seem to matter either. "By the time I finally gave the order for her capture, I didn't even really consider myself as me anymore, but a shadow of her. Do you know what it's like to suddenly wake up and not recognize yourself? It's both beautiful and terrifying."

Glancing out the window beside him, dawn was quickly approaching in just a few hours more, the black-blue of the sky already chasing away some of the stars. She drained her glass and looked at the emptiness within the belly of the cup. "Don't worry about Rudy," she said, her voice returning to the icy monotone and her tattered mask fitting back in place. "From the conversation I had with him, he seemed to be under the impression that he was in some sort of trouble - which being responsible for the death of Eric's men at the restaurant, he is. And he seems to be under the delusion that he has something with which to bargain. I have a few ideas of what it might be, because of our history together, but it's nothing to worry about. Like with everything, he underestimates everyone involved, especially me. If he knew any better, he'd understand that when it comes to her, I'm not fucking around with bullshit and nothing will stand in my way."

Having said what she'd wanted to get across, she stood from her perch and left his side to sit back in her seat with a small sigh. Watching out her window, she waited for the sun, sleep not finding her despite the fatigue that seemed to drag within her bones.

***

In the night, Osono had opened all the curtains in her secluded room, so when the sun started to peek over the horizon, she could feel the distant ball of fire making it's ascent into the sky. It was like being awakened by a song as the light cascaded onto her face, the chill of the night rushing into the far corners to hide in the still clinging shadows. Dreams escaped her as she squinted with a half-smile and stretched at the just barely lightened sky, the rays of light filling her with a distant energy that was more a comforting presence than any actual physical boost.

The bed had been glorious, as they usually were in these high-class places, and she tossed the covers off before venturing to step lightly on the chilled carpeting in her bare feet. Still dressed in her tank top and black pants, she rushed to the bathroom and quickly got herself cleaned up before slipping her boots and heavy army jacket back on. Peeking into the other room before she entered, she saw that Ben was still here and on the couch where she'd left him. Remembering yesterday, she felt a bit of distaste fill her at the prospect of being with him again - he seemed so much nicer like this; couldn't she just lug him around in a state of constant sleep? - but she was eager to get moving.

The sun had barely made it above the horizon fully as she walked into the room to open the curtains in here and open the balcony door. Reaching into her pocket she dug out her cigarettes and lit one up, letting out a long, drawn out sigh of smoke through the open door. Letting the cigarette hang from her lips, she approached the couch and tapped him lightly, yet insistently on the cheek. "Hey...Hey you..." she said softly, trying to be non-obtrusive.

Then she quirked her lips and slapped him with the flat of her palm to leave a nice stinging sensation across the right side of his face. "Hey schizo! Time to hit the road! Get yer lazy ass up!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
Naturally, considering the current prickly status of their relationship, Osono expected Ben to be somewhat upset from being woken up in the particular way she'd chosen to do so. And she was prepared with a proud smirk on her face and a laugh as he sputtered angrily and gave her the most offended look she ever did see. What she did not expect, however, was for the dude to freaking smack himself in the face, twice. And despite how utterly bizarre it was to see the surprised/annoyed expression doubled each time it happened, she couldn't help the snickers that erupted from her chest in response. God, Ben was such a freak! But at least he was entertaining as hell.

The night had erased most of the bad feelings and tension that had built between them, but all of it had returned when she'd entered this room again. Watching him kick his own ass and get upset about it was just the thing she needed to erase that tension again and it worked wonders. She still hated him, but she was no longer loathe to be around him. What a great way to start the day!

Then he was hurrying off to the bathroom and she stayed put as instructed. But not without finding something with which to entertain herself while he was gone. The first thing she looked at was a hotel notepad he left behind on the couch, but she quickly lost interest in it when she saw nothing but dots. Nice doodle, freaking psycho, she thought to herself as she tossed it back where she'd found it.

She shook her head at her own thoughts, when something caught her eye. The other bag he'd been carrying, shoved against the foot of the couch discreetly. Checking to see if he was coming back yet, she crouched down next to it and started to gingerly go through it. There were a few women's clothes inside, but also what appeared to be Gwen's purse and she immediately picked it up and unzipped it.

Other than a conservative amount of junk she might need when going out, there wasn't much by way of personal effects. There was a wallet that had what she'd expect to see - no cash money, but a few membership cards for a clothing store or two and a bookstore, and identification cards which told her Gwen's last name - and a key ring with 4 different keys on it, and a small golden key chain of the word "LOVE" as decoration. Also amidst everything else, small things that gave her a little more insight into who Gwen was, there was a crumpled piece of paper as well.

She only had time to pick it up before she could hear Alex's footsteps shuffling in his odd limp back towards the room. Roughly, she shoved the purse back in the bag and stood while stuffing her hand into her pocket and attempting to stand where she'd been when he'd left. Her cigarette had been left unattended, stuck between her lips this whole time and a half an inch of ash had collected on the end of it. Carelessly, she flicked it onto the carpet and gave Ben an innocent look when he re-entered the room.

He came back over to the couch and started to inspect the little notepad he'd left in his spot and she started to relax again when he didn't seem to notice that she'd left Gwen's bag open. Even when he started to hum and murmur to himself again, she found she was starting to get used to it and waited for him to finish doing whatever - he appeared to be going back over his notes or something. As she watched him however, her eyes zeroed in on the odd little drawing on his neck and she was smirking quietly to herself again as smoke drifted from between her lips. She didn't understand his mental illness, but she was growing more and more fond of it by the minute - whatever made him do the shit that he kept doing to himself, it was keeping her in light spirits to say the least.

For the time being, she waited patiently and had her smoke, letting the nicotine fill her with it's bitter warmth, heating her lungs with every inhalation, but she let out a small sigh and stamped her foot in irritation as he once again left the room. Didn't he say they were leaving early or something?

"Why don't we ring up the room service and charge a few pay-per-view's, while we're at it?"

She was trying really hard not to be paranoid about him seemingly dragging his feet and she trying to be understanding, but there was an urgency in her bones that she could not explain. Mostly, she figured it had to do with a general ignorance of what they were even dealing with. All these years, Ozzie had only ever really dealt with these people on the outside and in public situations - usually in the form of a confrontation ending with several dead and her free as a bird. But...what happened when they caught someone? What were they doing to Gwen? Ben hadn't really explained what exactly the goals there Agent folks had except that they were after people with powers.

By the time he came back into the room, she'd finished her cigarette and had Gwen's bag slung over her shoulder. Ben could carry his own shit - she couldn't believe he'd made her do it last night! She would have been angrier at the time and tossed it back in his face if she hadn't suspected him of being a traitor. She didn't really know why, but holding Gwen's stuff made her feel better. These were things that were important to Gwen, stuff that even while running for her life, she'd hung onto. She would want them back when they found her and Ozzie was going to make sure she got it.

At the almost friendly tone Ben addressed her with, Ozzie quirked an eyebrow at him, but her eyes widened when he mentioned blowing stuff up. "Hell yeah!" she said with a sudden smile, her hand of it's own accord moving to make the sign of the horns as she grew excited at the prospect. "That's what I'm talkin' about! And Starbucks - it figures you'd have a few redeeming qualities, I suppose, but I wouldn't take you for one with good taste."

She was happy that he finally seemed ready to leave, but his mention of blowing things up made her pause. He meant her, didn't he? It wasn't something she could just do with a snap of her fingers and she didn't want to get there and be expected to perform the act and possibly screw things up because she couldn't. It was no longer hard admitting what her weaknesses, because she did trust him, but it wasn't something she normally talked about.

So, she waited until they'd proceeded to the elevator before she decided to speak up, playing idly with the strap of Gwen's bag. "One thing, before we go running into this. I...can't really blow things up. I mean I can, but the right stuff has to be present - I'm just a spark." She wasn't going to apologize for misleading him last night - at the time, she'd been fully entitled to bluff since he had been "the enemy", and besides, she thought it was kind of funny now.

She glanced at him as she stood beside him in the small space, and fiddled with the bag strap some more, her raspy voice slightly mumbled and forced when it came. "Sometimes...I'm attracted to chemicals and materials that are flammable and I can feel it when something is fire-resistant - like the suits worn by the guys who always come after me. Like...I love silk but I hate nylon and wool... I can smell things like lacquer, turpentine and phosphorous a mile away - not really a mile, but I kinda know when they're around... I can blow things up and have done so before - like, most recently, a gas station a few cities south of here - but I can't do it unless there's the right combustibles present. Mostly...I can just make and control fire..."

Ozzie shrugged. It was a bit uncomfortable having to explain it aloud to someone. She'd never told Rudy any of this and certainly none of the other random strangers she'd picked up along the way of running from place to place and the rest of the time...she was always alone. It was like telling him her bra size or something weird like that.

They were a few floors away from the ground level and she found herself once again wondering about whether or not Gwen was safe and when she spoke up again, her tone had become somber. "Are they going to hurt her? I mean...what do they do once they've caught someone...? What do they really want with people like her and I?" Her hand tightly grasped the strap of the bag on her shoulder, almost clinging to it as she waited for him to respond.

***

She hadn't slept for the whole rest of the plane ride. Not a wink. Mostly, she'd spent her time thinking about Gwen and trying to imagine what it would be like to finally get her hands on her - what would she say to her target after this long-distance and emotional dance they'd both endured? She almost wanted to congratulate her on keeping ahead for this long and making a problem where there hadn't previously been one, but that felt a little misplaced with Alexander's involvement.

Stephanie just knew she was going to cry when it finally happened, when she finally strapped her down. She would try her best to remain professional, but there was so much invested in this case, she knew she was going to get emotional about their reunion. Hopefully, things would be at a point where everyone would understand and forgive her for her sentimentality.

She also spent a bit of time thinking about Jason, even watched him sleep for a little while, secretly adoring the way he held his wine bottle loose in one hand and almost let it tip over and over, his wrist jerking it upright subconsciously when he felt the weight of it pulling down. But without him conscious, it was like a light had gone out and the feelings she'd been grappling with for most of the plane ride seemed to subside with his "absence".

When Eric stopped at the airport, as soon as she ascertained that they weren't in Charlton, she'd settled back in her seat and continued to quietly brood. Normally, she would have gotten mad and a bit impatient, maybe even put up a fuss about the stop, but it was tempered by the fact that Rudy would most likely not be in Charlton yet, and also she'd have to wait even more for the trip to Elmira. So, even though she abhorred doing so, since there wasn't a point in getting upset about it, she let it slide by without comment or protest.

Finally, when everyone was waking up in the cabin, Stephanie felt herself get wired again by the resurgence of consciousness that took over the atmosphere. But what really did it was Eric's sudden praise for her "private" talk with Jason. All at once, she felt herself bolstered anew by the A-1's attention. Especially when he mentioned "love". She supposed in a way that the way she felt about Gwen and the case itself could be classified as love, but in her mind, she'd assumed she was no longer capable of the emotion. All it took was to see a situation from someone else's perspective.

"I won't let the Agency down," she said duly before he was once again opening up his phone and talking away. Again a feeling of well-being and confidence filled her to hear what he said and she almost smiled a little bit to hear that Eric was so invested in Rudy's fate. Despite what she'd told Jason, a part of her had been worried about what the little twerp was planning - whatever it was, likely wouldn't turn out the way he wanted or even in a way that would benefit him, but it could still screw things up for her. She didn't have a lot of things to hide and she wasn't scared of her past coming to light, but mostly, she was worried that Rudy would do something stupid like bargain with her target's life in exchange for a free pass. The fact that Eric was stepping forward to personally deal with the guy, made her feel protected in a way.

An odd sound made her turn towards Jason before she realized it was the sound of him laughing - it was low and restrained but still it caught her attention and she stared openly for several long minutes waiting to see if he'd do it again. It had been a brief, yet beautiful sound and she was almost remorseful that she hadn't seen the smile that had probably gone along with it before it had disappeared from his face. Why did he have to torment her so?

Forget it. Focus. Gwen, remember Gwen. Just a little while longer. She was busy saying such over and over in her head when suddenly nausea hit her like someone grabbing her guts and wrenching them violently within her body. Quickly, without a word, she hurried to the restroom and shut the door behind her, barely making it to double over the appropriate receptacle before emptying the contents of her stomach. There wasn't much inside her except the short-bread cookies and the wine, and as the illness faded, she immediately blamed the alcohol for causing the reaction.

Standing at the sink and rinsing out her mouth, she tried not to look at the mirror which still buckled in the upper right hand corner from when Jason had been thrown against it. It was fine. She was fine. Splashing water over her face and dabbing it dry with a paper towel, she eventually let her eyes trail up to her reflection and surmised that she definitely looked worse than before. But she knew everything that was the cause - the obvious dark circles under eyes were a result of not sleeping, as was the slightly wearied look to her cheeks, and the new paleness was because she'd just violently lost her snack from a few hours ago. Even having an explanation for everything didn't make her feel better about the way she looked.

It was alright. She'd find the time to take a shower in Charlton and she'd just stay away from drinking from now on - no matter what Benoit or anybody else put in her hand. Having regained her composure and cleaned up, she proceeded back out and walked up to the galley where she knew the stewardess was hiding. Quietly, she demanded gum of some kind, and when she was handed a packet, she once again took her seat. She stoically chewed a few pieces of her newly acquired cinnamon flavored gum, the spicy sweetness burning her tongue and erasing the awful taste of bile.

***

On the road again and behind the wheel, Rudy whistled lightly to himself the dungeon songs from Super Mario World and tapped out the bass beat on the steering wheel with his hands. A new red and swelling bruise adorned his left cheek and after a few moments, he pulled out a small stopper made of tissue from his left nostril, sniffling experimentally to make sure the bleeding had stopped before tossing it away.

Gwen laid on her stomach in the backseat, practically hog-tied with her restraints and with a few new bruises and blood stains of her own. Duct tape was pulled over her mouth, almost wrapped all the way around to the back of her neck, and she rested her sore cheek against the leather seats, trying not to think about where they were going.

"That was completely unfair getting that biker involved," Rudy said in a disappointed tone of voice, sitting up in his seat to look at her in the rearview mirror. "Not that I was scared of him or anything. Also, I hope you realize that you totally got those guys killed trying to get them to help you. Not my fault. I explained all this to you last night - I have no problem with killing innocent people. If you put them in my way, you KNOW without a doubt now what will happen."

The scowl that had appeared on her face when he'd started speaking again, faded somewhat as she remembered what had happened at the hotel before they'd left. She'd tried to escape again. Rudy had drugged her while he'd slept for a few hours, but had allowed her to wake up this morning when the breakfast he'd ordered had arrived. Seeming to grow soft, he'd fed her a few things that he had been willing to share and even helped her drink orange juice when she got thirsty. And all the while, she'd frantically tried to think of a way to escape.

The idea hadn't come to her until he was busy lugging her forcibly down to the car, waiting until there was no one around before moving her through the lobby - which was more a section of hallways all converging at the front desk. In the parking garage, Gwen had been panicking trying to reach out to anyone who might help and lucky for her, there had been some rough looking guys who'd noticed Rudy toting her around like a sack of potatoes. At first, it seemed like none of them knew what to do until she called out to them with her special voice and spurred them into action. A struggle had resulted, and it seemed at first like the burly men had the upper hand, but it ended quickly with Rudy standing alone and holding the electric gun he was fond of using.

Even as disoriented as he was, they were still alone at that point so Rudy took a moment to "reprimand" her before taping her mouth shut and driving off. She'd lost her "speaking privileges" he'd said, as if he'd allowed her to speak at all before. Still, she felt incredibly guilty about getting those people killed. But she didn't know what else to do and desperation had taken over. Every moment she had to think about it, she remembered the visions in Nathan's head and she felt that deep, all-consuming hunger that had been inside Stephanie. She didn't want to die and she knew she was going to if she didn't do something.

"And after I gave you muffins," he said with a shake of his head and slapping the steering wheel.

Gwen was slumping into the leather once more not bothering to even reach out when she felt the phone in his pocket ring a few seconds before she heard the tone.

"Y'ello?" he said in his normal, cheerful, dorky tone as he opened the cell and put it up to his ear. "Oh? ...I bet he does. Yeah, yeah." Even without hearing the other side of the conversation, Gwen knew he'd hung up on the other person before they'd finished speaking. Keeping an eye on the road, Rudy dialed a number and put it up to his ear again and this time Gwen roused herself enough to listen in.

As soon as someone picked up, Rudy immediately started speaking, his voice running quick without losing his coherence and keeping his laid-back cool demeanor. "Hey, this is Quin. Now, I should have contacted you sooner than this about the recent turn of events, and it's probably not helping my case any, but believe me that I'm serious when I say, I've been a bit preoccupied lately. I know, I know, I've probably got an axe over my head right now, but just hear me out.

"It was an accident. I was in pursuit of my target and everything was fine - I was in the process of springing a trap on her, which under normal circumstances should have worked with how many men my partner tossed my way. But like she tends to do, Ozzie attached herself to some people and I had no freaking clue who they were. One minute, we were having dinner with this loser and his fat girlfriend and the next, they both start whipping out powers, like, 'Holy shit!'

"Have you read issue #234 of Teen Titans? When Terra becomes a part of the team and everything's cool until they find out she's working for Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke and it's like 'Oh, my God! No way!'? Anyways, it was kinda like that. And the dude freaking pulled a 'Batman' on me while I was trying to take a pee. I'm fairly discomfited about the homosexual overtones of the experience and I may or may not need counseling.

"And now I've been babysitting Bettsy, the empathic whale, and she tries to kill me every chance she gets - you'd think she doesn't want to be Agency property or something. It's weird. My assistant is fish food, I've got a freaking fractured skull, and I can't find my Magic cards anywhere - I was so sure they were in the glove box, but Hoskins probably moved them, the cheeky bastard, God rest his soul..."

Finally, Rudy took a breath to laugh and shrugged helplessly before saying in humored tones, "I gotta tell you, Sir. It's been a shitty fucking week."

Despite the defensive content of his conversation, Rudy was the perfect picture of calm, almost confident to the point of arrogance. Gwen still couldn't read any of his thoughts but when she reached through the phone to read who he was talking to, her body stiffened in alarm. Whoever was on the other line had as much of a mental "signature" as Vince Hoskins did this morning and his mind was a hole so much deeper than Stephanie had ever been able to conjure up.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
Rudy didn't get easily rattled. It just wasn't something that came naturally to him and he had a wide, emotional buffer zone that kept him from even acknowledging such when it did happen. But as the man on the other line finally began to speak, Quin lost the cool grace that he normally had and felt himself swallow thickly as his breakfast threatened to make the trip back up his throat.

The original plan for this phone call was to exude confidence and familiarity and hope that the unexpected conduct would earn him some points with whoever he'd upset - he hadn't even been paying attention really when everybody kept saying he'd fucked up, so he'd kinda walked into a dark room with his eyes closed as far as knowing who he was talking to. He assumed whoever was in charge would understand the mistake and appreciate his honesty and that they'd be laughing together about it after a few minutes. Well, he was definitely paying attention now and scrambling frantically to come up with "plan B". And nobody was laughing.

A-1! A fucking A-1! Jesus! And oh, fucking God! Had he used a TT reference to describe the unexpected incident at the restaurant?? He was somewhat surprised that he hadn't been killed through the phone yet and prayed it was by the grace of whatever omnipotent being had his back enough to allow him a second chance to correct himself and not an elaborate ruse to draw out his torment.

His maddening pursuit of figuring out what to say next was abruptly halted as he felt an unfamiliar pressure within his skull, like a soft tugging on his brain. It was like someone watching and leering at him, making him paranoid except inside his head and immediately he stamped on the brakes, Gwen's body lunging forward and rolling off the seats to the floor in the back. As she landed with a hollow "umf!", whatever had been in his head instantly disappeared and he glared at her in the rearview mirror as he continued driving, reasserting the mental control he knew had kept her out until a second ago.

The phone was still up to his ear and he was startled as Eric prodded him for a response. "My bad--I mean..." he started hoarsely, pausing and shaking his head to clear it and taking a deep breath before continuing in a slower and much more wary tone, walking on eggshells as he frantically tried to think of a way to turn these events to his benefit. Or at least lead things to a conclusion that didn't end with him dead.

"Hello, Mr. Patten," he started again, almost saying the words as if he were asking a question - the questioning tone itself was more in the vein of searching for approval than anything else; was that right? Did he say it the way he was suppose to? - and the rest of the words that followed were hinted at with the same stops and starts as if waiting for some signal from Eric to show he liked what he was hearing before Rudy would move on to the next thing.

He figured it was safest to stay away from anything that hinted at familiarity - despite the tone of the superior Agent's questions - and he also decided to be as thorough as possible but keep it brief. "I caught up with my target in Elmira after following a trail of leads, where she was found boarding a bus to leave the city. By the time I came up to her, however, she was already with Gwen and Alexander, although at the time, I was not aware of who they were and they did not know I was an Agent - they used different names and there was no reason for me to believe that they possessed powers or were involved with the Agency in any way...

"Osono stayed with them, even when they got off the bus at Terreston, and seemed to make enough of a connection with them to accept an invitation to dinner. I tagged along of course, still undercover, but I lost contact with my partner almost as soon as we got off the bus. Luckily, I was able to send a signal to her when we reached the restaurant - a fancy French place that Alexander selected, called La Madeliene. Noel appropriated a small team of your men, without my prior knowledge, in hopes that the added levels of expertise would bolster the chances of success...

"It is not usual for Osono to make friends and she seemed to be warming up to both targets. I was worried that they might make trouble, so I sought to control the problem before it began and confronted Alexander in private with the plan to eliminate him. Right around that time, Noel's team of Agents arrived and began to engage Osono and Gwen back at the table. Also, not being prepared for it and not even realizing who Alexander was at the time - I've since been informed as much as I can be by Noel's personal knowledge of Agency lore - so I'm sorry to say I was overpowered and left for dead...

"Alexander joined the fray and along with Ozzie--I mean, Osono, they whittled down the numbers fairly quickly. There was a fire blocking them off and when I emerged from the washroom, Gwen was the only one I had access to. I became aware of her powers and decided to try and salvage what I could from the situation and took her with me when I left... "

Finally, the report came to a stop and Rudy waited nervously, briefly peering into the back to make sure Gwen was still alive - despite landing unceremoniously and swallowing her heart when she'd fallen, she was fine - and flip-flopped with hoping that he hadn't drawn out the report too long and worrying that he hadn't been thorough enough with the details of what had happened. Licking his lips rapidly, and realizing that the blackmail plot he'd had in store for Stephanie was no longer going to work - there wasn't going to be any jerking this guy around and casting any blame on anyone else right now would probably fall into the category of "words that would make a tear fall from his mother’s eye" - Rudy decided it wouldn't hurt to grovel and beg a little bit.

"I...had no clue at the time that I was even responsible for any Agents other than my own, even when Alexander's powers became apparent to me... It was just a mistake... I'm... I'm sorry, Mr. Patten... If I had known they were your men I would have taken the right precautions to make sure that nothing went wrong... As it is... it was a loss of communication and bad luck to encounter Alexander that was responsible for what occurred... it could have happened to anyone..." He paused. "Please...sir...Mr. Patten...have mercy..."

As she listened to the back and forth from her new position on the floor, Gwen blinked at the soft, pleading tone that had entered Rudy's voice near the end. The dynamic between the different ranks in the Agency was intriguing to watch - and "A-1"? What was that? Like, "President" or something? - and she didn't know whether to enjoy watching Rudy squirm or to worry herself about the man who was not a man on the other line. Even just hearing his voice, she didn't need to delve any deeper to know that Rudy asking for "mercy" was a lost cause. But she also knew that if she were in his place, she'd probably do and say anything to better her chances, especially if Eric Patten had the authority to make good on all his threats.

Even though the Agency car Rudy was driving was classier than most, the floor was still uncomfortable and the carpeting was not only stiff, with tightly packed fibers, but thin as well. Adjusting her position slightly, she contemplated reaching out for help with the other drivers on the road - even though her mouth was taped, she knew from her encounter with Osono that she didn't need to use her voice to put a suggestion in someone's head. But as soon as the thought occurred to her, she tossed it away with a sad wince, the images of the men from the hotel dying, flashing before her eyes. She'd forced her will upon innocent strangers to get them to blindly dive into a situation where they were severely impaired even compared with Rudy and she'd gotten them killed. It made her double guess the merits of even using it again. Without Alex and Xander here, though...it made her extremely vulnerable to just sit and wait...

***

Back in her seat, busily chewing away to distract herself from the emptiness and residual sickness that swayed in her stomach, Stephanie barely looked up when Eric's phone rang yet again. She did however glance in Jason's direction when he spoke up, obviously about to inquire after her well-being. She wasn't really sure how to feel about that... There was nothing particularly concerned about him asking her and normally, she would be irritated about him thinking her weak enough that he even needed to ask. And maybe it was because of their time together on this flight that was affecting the way she was feeling but...she read more into the almost asked question than was probably there.

Stephanie would have taken the moment to berate herself for her foolish flights of fancy, but luckily, Benoit cut the whole situation short and drew attention to Eric who still hadn't answered his phone. Remembering what he'd said about demoting Rudy a rank for every minute he didn't get in touch with him, she assumed he was doing it on purpose to get the guy to sweat a little. Or maybe he was just looking for an excuse to demote him? That seemed unlikely, considering his own rank; he didn't need more of a reason than what he already had to punish Rudy. So it was probably the former reason of getting Quin frantic before finally answering the phone.

Silence reigned for the next few minutes after that and she found herself internally rolling her eyes. Oh, yes...she remembered that about him. Rudy really liked to hear himself talk, often ranting and prating on about the most nonsensical crap, taking forever to get to the point. She'd been lucky in her conversation with him that he hadn't gone on forever, but despite herself, she sat tensely watching what Eric would say in response. For normal situations with those on his level, Rudy could get away with being an idiot who didn't know when to shut up. But as the silence wore on longer, she couldn't believe he'd be so foolish to do so with Eric.

As the A-1 Agent introduced himself in those low tones that made her strain to grasp onto, she knew right away that Rudy had indeed screwed up. The idiot probably hadn't even known who he'd been speaking to. The rest of Eric's conversation had her perched politely on the edge of her seat to even hear, but from what she could generally glean from the whole thing was that he was probably the most fantastic and utterly beautiful person she'd ever met.

Not beautiful in the traditional sense, but she wasn't even the object of his scorn or the threats he dealt with cold ease and it sent a shiver down her spine. That familiarity with violence and the power rippling off of him in waves was very magnetic and she enjoyed very much watching him work tearing someone down before smoothly shifting modes to a more relaxed state. The fact that Rudy was the target was just an added bonus that made her feel giddy and threatened to make her swoon in admiration.

Still...a small frown appeared on her lips to wonder what Rudy might have said to Eric and what he would say or do in what was probably now desperation. She worried about Gwen first and foremost. Would he hurt her? Had he hurt her already? Ever since her own phone conversation with Rudy and his mention of drugging Gwen, she'd imagined her target lying in a constant state of unconsciousness all the way to Charlton. It would be the most convenient plan of action to keep the target in such a state while transporting her. But Rudy wasn't a smart person...

Buckling her seatbelt, she prepared for their landing while still focusing intently on the conversation and anything that might be said about Gwen. Although another reason to physically hurt Rudy when he arrived in Charlton would be nice, the fact that Gwen was already so much a part of her made her anxious that he'd mistreated her in some way.

***

Was he fucking serious? Seriously? Just because she had powers didn't mean she was fucking invincible! And just because she felt obligated to share with him that she wasn't a bomb-factory didn't mean in any way that she had doubts about her involvement or that she didn't want to help! Well, screw him if she ever told him anything about herself ever again! You know what? Fine! She'd fucking deal with the problem - he didn't have to be burdened any further about what she did or didn't need!

Ozzie had to resist the urge to heat the room again, clenching her fist and grinding her teeth as he finished gathering his stuff, and helped the warmth threatening to overtake her subside by counting to ten. Do not burn Ben. Do not burn Ben. Do not consume Ben in a blaze of firey death... She could not comprehend what Gwen saw in this guy if he couldn't get over himself for even a few seconds.

She didn't really have anything to say to him - and if she did talk, she knew she was just going to start swearing and getting angrier and angrier until he ended up with his hair on fire - so she was silently following him into the hallway right on his heels and unperturbed that he didn't seem to want to wait for her. Adjusting Gwen's bag on her shoulder helped her stop imagining different ways to barbecue him though.

Ignoring his incomprehensible murmuring to himself kept getting harder and whatever conversation he was having was growing more intense by the minute. No longer did she find this cute or funny, so she tensed defensively when he finally addressed her enough to answer her question. She'd practically forgotten she'd even asked about that, with how mad he kept making her. They were like Body Snatchers then? ...She tried not to get unsettled when she realized the reason she even knew of that movie was because Rudy had told her about it - hmmm, maybe he'd been trying to hint at something...?

And Ben's quick little explanation for his bad behavior made her sneer at him. She'd fucking offered the bed to him and he'd said 'no' and now she was suppose to be understanding when he took it out on her? And "Do not expect him to apologize"??? Do. Not. Burn. Ben...

By the time they were on the elevator, she'd fully euthanized her murderous urges and had retreated back into a surly silence. Like she'd said before, they didn't need to be friends to do this - but damn it all if they couldn't be civil! It wouldn't bother her so much if she didn't own most of the guilt, so instead of letting his bad attitude roll off her back, she felt defensive with the way he kept treating her.

As he spoke up and explained further about these Agent people, she felt herself grow cold and a different tension enter her body. Not out of fear for herself, but for Gwen. So they were like Body Snatchers! Why wasn't he more worried? These people had Gwen and that meant they were probably putting someone in her head right now! Maybe he was worried... maybe that was why he was being such an asshole. It wasn't the bed or his foot that had him talking down to her every time he said something or kept him murmuring agitatedly to himself. It was because he was scared.

All at once, as they made it to the ground floor, even with her own worries about Gwen being in current danger, she found enough strength in her new realizations to not want to brutally kill Gwen's boyfriend anymore. Of course, he was stressed about whether they would even find her let alone make it in time to save her, and Ozzie was a convenient target to take it out on. Although she understood and it did make her feel better about things, she still thought he was being a super, big fat baby for dealing with his feelings in that way. Then again...considering how she'd been dealing with her own guilt by lashing back out at him, she wasn't much better in that regard.

Following him to the check-out counter, she waited nearby, watching as he first selected a car - an Audi! Sweet baby Jesus! - and passed his credit card across the counter without blinking an eye about the price. When he turned to her wearily with that offer of information, she smirked slightly.

"Me? Get mad you? Now you're really just making up stories, Penis-Neck," and despite herself, she actually laughed about that again. That new nickname was definitely a keeper. She could get through the rest of this without a problem and all she had to do was call him that and remind herself of the irreverent doodle he'd put on himself.

When she'd finally calmed down enough to speak clearly again, she clapped him heavily on the back in a rough gesture of camaraderie. "I don't know... If there's anything more indepth I need to know about Them that will help us deal with Them then fine, but the rest, I don't really wanna hear about it. Mostly, I just want to know where we're going and what the plan is for getting her out before a Body Snatcher takes her over."

She wasn't going to bring up the doubts she had about making it in time. No. They were going to get her back and she would be Gwen, the real Gwen. That was all there was to it. "Other than that... I guess I'd like to know your name. When I keep calling you 'Ben' it makes me feel like a dumbass." Not that she was likely to call him by it as much, when there were so many much more entertaining things to address him by.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
To say that Rudy felt some of the threat and overall malevolence from the man connected ear to ear with him, would be an understatement. It practically oozed through the phone dripping into his skull and had Quin sitting on pins and needles even while he tried to concentrate on the road he was still driving on. So, when Eric finally responded back to Rudy's long spiel and soul venting, the chipper tone in the other man's voice and abrupt disconnection felt like he'd crashed into a brick wall at 80 mph. Thoughts were swarming through his mind surrounding the man's last words to him and he couldn't believe the conversation was over. It was as much a relief as it was not.

"A-5? Waitaminute--Sir? Sir?" his voice was bordering on disrespectful as he shouted into the echo of the dial-tone. "FUCK!" And then the phone was no longer against his ear but flung out to clatter violently against the windshield where it stayed nestled on the dashboard quietly. "I fucking called you as soon as I could! It wasn't my fault! It was stupid, fucking Alexander!!!"

There was no question who Eric had been referring to when talking about an "adorable A-5" and what the implications were. The pompous ass! There hadn't been more than a minute between when he'd gotten the call from some "Lyddie" chick warning him about his time limit and when he'd phoned the guy. Although Eric had taken forever to answer, at the time, Rudy had let it roll off his back with the confidence that his conversation skills would smooth any and all threats over.

For almost 4 or 5 years, Rudy had been the Lead on Osono's case and an A-3 level Agent. And with how troublesome the pyromaniac metalhead was, it hadn't been easy to keep his position, let alone what it had taken to actually secure the spot for himself in the first place. Whereas others moved up the ranks in the Agency through hard-work and ingenuity, Rudy had done so by seducing the previous Lead on the case. His relationship with Noel went as far back as his first assignment as a lowly A-6 on her team, and ever since then, she'd done everything from covering his constant mistakes to pumping up his stats to justify an overly speedy promotion.

The most effort Rudy had ever put into keeping his position was allowing Noel to play "top" whenever she wanted to and whipping out the sexual contexts of their relationship whenever she was angry or stressed about his latest failure. Other than that, it had all been her doing. Never having filed a report for the case, Rudy was still the only living member of the team who had any idea what really happened on all the missions he'd led to take Osono down. And Noel was so dedicated to keeping her little boy toy, she willingly made up stories to fill in the blanks on records that would otherwise be damning and illuminate Quin as the incompetent fool that he was.

Even though there hadn't been a lot of effort involved, his position in the Agency had allowed him a certain amount of freedom, resources and power that he had grown well-accustomed to. Getting Osono was a side-option to be completed at the last minute, but the rest of the time, he enjoyed himself while still putting forth as little or as much effort to make it look like he was doing his job. He knew about Ozzie's hate-filled crush on him and that it would continue to keep her from killing him so long as he played the fool, so it was a win-win as far as staying on top went - and Noel had never questioned why Rudy remained the only constant, in fact growing jealous when she heard about Osono's deep-rooted feelings.

After the initial shock of his demotion passed, Rudy finally calmed down and let out a long, deep breath as he gripped the steering wheel. It was alright. It was going to be alright, he was still alive and could work his way back up again. At least that was the worst of his troubles now. Afterall, Mr. Patten had forgiven him for the mistake. Thinking positively once again, the usual haughty and geeky smile spread across his features and he laughed quietly to himself thinking that he'd gotten away pretty much Scott free once again. Well, almost...but he'd seriously thought the A-1 was going to kill him for a few seconds, so it was like he'd dodged a bullet "Matrix-style" in his opinion.

He glanced at the discarded phone and contemplated calling Noel for several minutes, but he suspected that she'd known all along who had his neck in a noose and had not told him - he'd fucking asked the bitch who she'd gotten the men from. And for that reason, he'd already thrown her away. It wouldn't be too hard to continue to manipulate her until he'd regained some semblance of control and then throw her under the bus later. He'd come up with something nice and crippling, just for her, and then take her position as the supervisor on Osono's case. When he was in charge, nobody could say "boo" to him. Ha!

Oh... that reminded him of the other thing Mr. Patten had said. He was suppose to "keep Gwen safe". Hm, maybe the little psychotic psychic was important to somebody afterall. Sitting up in his seat, Rudy peered into the rearview but couldn't see her. He had to glance back several times to get a good look at where she lay on the floor of the backseat.

"Hey, Porky," he said over his shoulder, while watching the road. "Did I shake ya up good? Funny little mind trick you tried to pull while I was talking to the bossman. Don't ever do it again."

This whole time, Gwen had been lying on the carpet trying to think while keeping an ear out for Rudy's reactions to the phone call he'd gotten. The other Agent's last words had not been what she'd expected from somebody like him - was "cupcakes and sugar" codeword for something or was Eric Patten just the gayest guy in the Agency, in addition to being a leader of some kind? - and she had no idea what A-5 or A-1 even meant. Alex might know. Xander would most definitely have an idea. At the thought of him, she once again stretched out as far as she could, straining her focus to find his mental signature, looking for that familiar pulse. It was like sitting in a boat out in the water and trying to see crabs walking on the seabed several hundred feet below. There were hints of things moving about but the actual ocean floor and the things on it were not even visible. He was too far away... She couldn't do it...

When Rudy addressed her, making another unnecessary jab at her weight - how long would he keep that up? Until he ran out of fat related names? - she turned slightly, on her side, to peer between the front seats to look in his general direction. He glanced back at her and saw fully for the first time what he'd done to her face and felt a sudden trickle of sweat coat the middle of his back through his shirt. He hadn't really thought about his abuse too hard when it had just been Stephanie he'd been delivering Gwen to - hell, he'd kinda let loose a little bit the two times Gwen had pissed him off, just to see the look on the woman's face when he finally dropped off her precious target. But now...the A-1 Agent was involved and he'd specifically asked for Rudy to keep her safe. Trying to predict Mr. Patten's reactions, he assumed he also meant keeping her safe from himself and he knew he couldn't deliver her looking like she was a hostage kept in somebody's basement for 3 days. That would be highly unprofessional and not fit into the 'working hard' criteria.

"Hey...how about we clean you up, huh?" he said, keeping an eye on the road but speaking loud enough so she knew he was addressing her. "If you promise not to make any other innocent people beat the shit out of me, forcing me to kill them, maybe we'll stop somewhere nice for lunch and get you in some new clothes or something."

Gwen blinked at that and shifted her lips under the duct tape that was starting to itch on her face. Was...was he being nice? She didn't know his reasons and she didn't want to know - although she suspected it had something to do with that phone call from his superior - but it was another opportunity. She knew that Rudy was currently going speeds that was bringing them closer to Charlton and that they'd probably make it there by late afternoon. Knowing what was waiting for her there, she had this one last chance to escape from his clutches. So far, her escape plans had been fueled by panic and desperation and they'd both failed. This time, she needed to be smart about it and ensure that if she was going to make another suggestion and enlist someone's help, that the risk to their life was smaller than the chance of success. But she also could not afford to wait until the opportunity passed her by. There was a fine line and she had to be sure the moment and the persons were right, otherwise, they'd be like flies on a windshield and more blood on her hands.

When he glanced back at her for an answer, she nodded and mumbled in agreement. Yes, she would be a good girl...

***

Taking the small piece of gum from her mouth, Stephanie very daintily placed the chewed chunk of rubber in it's wrapper and rolled it up neatly. The flavor had gotten bland and the tastelessness of it had been bothering her. But at least the taste it had been intended to cover up was completely gone now and every trace of her previous momentary illness was gone by the time Eric finally hung up on Rudy. At his statements, she almost snorted. Rudy? Cute and admirable? Only Eric, who saw everyone from such a high, cold perch could use terms like that and have it apply to the person he was talking about. Even when she'd sort of liked Rudy back in training, she still wouldn't have called him cute.

Airily, she listened to the current flow of conversation, making note of Benoit actually standing up to the A-1 for once, but her attention was fixated firmly in place at Jason's question. She had to hold back a long drawn out "aww" that threatened to escape her lips at not only the question itself but also her partner's reactions to Eric's response. Now THAT was cute! So innocent! Stephanie had never been the type of person to fawn or cuddle, but the urge to snatch him up and squeeze him tight was very real. He brought out the strangest emotions within her...

Truthfully, Stephanie did not consider things in such strict terms. In her personal opinion, Eric wasn't "evil", no matter what he said, but rather a man who saw what he wanted and had nothing holding him back from getting it. She had to admit, that as far as morals and decency went, there were very few things that Stephanie flinched at anymore and she'd tried just about everything. But there were still some things that tickled the emotional fiber within her and kept her restrained from action. These ideas and feelings held her back, whereas Eric had achieved true freedom from everything that would turn even the most hardcore Agent's stomachs. For that reason, she truly admired him, not only as a Leader and authority figure but also as a person. He was everything she'd, at one time in her life, hoped to be. Now she sought to achieve freedom in other ways...

As the plane shifted around her, she felt a burst of excitement fill her and a small smile came unbidden to her lips. It had less to do with the adrenaline of the plane's descent and more to do with their arrival in Charlton, what had become like a "Promised Land" for her. Even with needing to wait until Elmira to do her transfer and even with what Benoit was now saying they'd need to wait even longer while he got his shit together dealing with Alexander - none of it mattered. Charlton was where Gwen and her paths would converge and their destinies would twine inseparably together. Nothing could ruin her good mood barring Rudy showing up with nothing in hand.

As the plane touched down, she let out a conservative "Whoo!" and giggled a little, bouncing in her seat while watching the jet rush along the runway, progressively slowing down before coming to a complete stop. The Charlton airport was a tremendous relief to finally see and she cast a bright smile around to the others with her while unbuckling her seat belt.

"I'll be waiting eagerly for your signal, Benoit," she said, calmly but with an undercurrent of zealous energy. "You've been nothing but cooperative with my team on this case and I thank you greatly for everything. I also trust your judgment and agree, it would be best to wait until Alexander is no longer a threat before starting the transfer. The Devil knows, I don't want it to screw up either. And I'm almost certain, with Eric's help, you'll finally succeed in neutralizing your target."

She waited patiently, humming lightly to herself for first Eric and then Benoit to rise and proceed to the door of the plane before getting up as well and following them out, with Jason behind her. Standing at the top of the stairs that were pushed in front of the doorway, she breathed in deeply and let out a long sigh as a gentle morning breeze tossed a few strands of her light, golden hair about her face.

Turning back to look at Jason, she gave him a smile, her green eyes shining an emerald hue in the light of day and said excitedly, "She's almost here! I cannot wait!"

Near the bottom of the steps a limousine waited for them and a stony faced chauffeur dressed in black waited beside the rear door. At the bottom of the mobile stairwell, while Benoit and Eric proceeded to the car, Stephanie stopped suddenly and turned to Jason once again, her joy now dampened by a concerned look. Blocking his way down, she seemed to have forgotten the car and Gwen for the moment, fixated on this new worry. Seeing the car made her remember the promises and threats that had been made in the other vehicle.

Touching his arm gently, she looked over the suit he was wearing - sexy and slimming, she was just now realizing - and asked, "Are you going to be alright? The suit..."

This wasn't the time nor the place, she suddenly realized, once again becoming aware of the other two who were with them entering the car. Giving Jason one last, piercing green look, she turned and followed after the others, bending at the waist to slide into the stretched vehicle. There were two large seats in the back that faced forward, and a long three or four person seat along the one side, all covered in plush black leather, the car filled with the overpowering smell of it. Taking one of the seats along the side, Stephanie turned to Eric, suddenly intent.

"Are you still planning to kill Rudolph Quin?" she asked. "I do not mean to seem morbid or as if I'm overstepping personal boundaries, Sir, but... If you are, I would very much appreciate being there for it - if not an active participant in his leaving this world, then at least present to watch. If it's alright with you, Master."

Almost as soon as the word left her mouth, she knew it was wrong and a sharp blush filled her cheeks as she looked away. Oh fuck! Why would she call him that!? She hadn't called anyone that in years! Why now!? Gently, she smoothed a hand over her lap and cleared her throat, willing the heat to leave her face and trying to think of something to say in place of that to cover up her blunder - maybe he wouldn't notice? She could only hope that he wouldn't bring it up. God! She was such a moron!

"I'm sorry, if I seem a little scatter-brained at the moment..." she said hiding in her safe and secure monotone, keeping her eyes trained on the floor and then on her hands in her lap and then the windows. "I've been chasing Gwen for three days when I had originally expected to have her in my clutches within 5 hours of ordering her capture. When Rudy brings her... This will be the first time I've had real, face-to-face contact with her without needing to subdue her. I'm just a little excited..."

There, that was an explanation... sort of.

***

Osono didn't really expect him to take this long answering the questions she'd asked, but she supposed it might have to do with him not having all the chinks in the plan figured out yet. That was fine, she was willing to wait for his mind to work through it. Meanwhile, however, she had to think of herself. With only a few dollars left in her wallet, she needed to figure out a way to provide for herself so she wasn't stuck leeching off of the schizo. He may have had a cushy wallet, but she didn't want to add to the reasons why she wasn't an asset.

So, as they left the counter and proceeded towards the garage, Ozzie was busy looking over the few people they passed while still in the lobby, searching for a good mark. She found him when they entered the first hallways, a portly man in a business suit with a long overcoat with hems that dangled just over the ground. He glanced at Alex as he passed him first, but did not even seem to see Ozzie until she bumped heavily into the right side of his chest.

"Oh! sorry, dude! Ya alright?" she asked as he shook himself slightly and carried on as he'd been going, barely nodding in answer to her question and eager to leave her presence.

She watched him for a few seconds more before hurrying after Alex, just in time to hear him start detailing what the plan was. Find an Agent, huh? Seemed simple enough and she knew he'd wanted to find one before, but now she knew why. Of course, these guys were high-tech and classified enough to keep their "head quarters" locked up tight. Rubbing her hands together, she became eager to get started, now that she knew what they were suppose to be doing and that they had a definite place where they were supposed to be going.

As he elaborated even more, she started to search her memory for anything she knew about Charlton. Nope. Didn't ring any bells and she didn't think she'd ever been there before. Which was probably better for them, going someplace where she hadn't left behind a trail. Agents weren't likely to be the only ones to remember her in the cities she'd passed through.

When he warned her not to touch him or punch him anymore, she smiled and took her pack of cigarettes from her pocket. "Sure, thing, pussy," she said with a cig between her lips, quickly casting a glance around before starting an ember on the end of it just as they passed through the doors to the rental lot. Following him to the car when he found it, she blinked happily at the vehicle and ran a hand over the door before opening it and sliding in.

"Freaking Metal," she murmured around her cigarette as she petted the dashboard and felt at the seats before closing the door behind herself. The divider between the seats was complex and interesting and she spent a few moments opening it up and looking around in the small, empty compartments. Satisfied with her inspection, she turned and rolled down the window with a push of a button and flicked the ash off her cigarette outside before returning it to her mouth.

Ozzie waited until they'd left the lot behind before she dug into the wide sleeve of her army jacket and pulled out a tan leather pocket book. The wallet itself was long and rectangular, with a golden clasp on the front which she flipped open carelessly. Inside the long pocket for cash, she murmured appreciatively to find several high-marked bills. Quickly, she removed them and counted it out to be about $800, stacking them together straight in her hand before folding them and tucking them away in her pants pocket. Then she proceeded to look over the rest of the wallet, taking a moment to show Alex the photo of the guy fishing and muttering, "What a square. Nice shorts though, eh?"

The cards that lined the inner pocket were useless to her - a few bankcards that she didn't have the PINs for and several club and exclusive membership credit cards that they would never send the average Joe in the mail. When she grew bored with it, she tossed it flippantly out the window and blew a stream of smoke after it.

"So, 'Alex', huh?" she said with a smirk and crinkling her nose at him. "You couldn't come up with something more girly? Fine, whatever. If that's what you wanna be called. So long as you answer to it. As much as I'd like to scream 'dipshit' from across a room to get yer attention, I kinda have that reserved for generally everybody." She flicked her cigarette again and smiled meanly at him. "But 'Penis-Neck' is just special for you, I promise."

With that out of the way, she was now paying attention to the commands he'd been giving to the GPS and asked, "So, these places we're going to... What are they? Like...office buildings...headquarters? What? And sure, creating scenes. I got ya covered in that area." She could just start a really big fire and let it run loose and it was bound to grab somebody's attention. "Oh! But, I'll try not to melt anybody, since I know it hurts your feelings." She laughed lightly at that and turned on the radio, instantly searching out a heavy metal station and turning the volume up on a particularly brutal song.

"These speakers are the shit!" she yelled to him through the noise, bobbing her head lightly.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
When Eric spoke, Stephanie's eyes unwillingly drifted back up to focus upon him. It seemed disrespectful to look away from him while he was addressing her, as if she weren't giving him her full attention, and there was suddenly a very strong urge to give him every measure of reverence and obedience she could muster that hadn't been present when they'd been on the jet. She didn't understand it and the feeling was familiar, but at this particular moment, she was beyond the point of introspection and allowed her green eyes to latch back onto his face, giving him the appropriate amount of eye contact while he beamed gloriously at her.

There was a note of understanding in his voice that immediately set her at ease, melting away the mortification she'd suffered mere seconds before, but what really had her filled with comforting butterflies was his praise. She hadn't realized until that moment that his approval was something she had been looking for, but she definitely noticed it now. Again, the feeling was familiar, but she did not examine it closely, preferring to let it wash over her and striving to hear more praise for her coming from his lips. She wanted to be included in everything he thought was important.

Her eyes were shining so much at the prospect of being promoted and rewarded for achieving her long sought after goals, that she neither noticed the look that crossed Benoit's face, nor even considered the very real potential for her target to escape again once she had her hands on her. In her mind, right now, all that was running through the realm of possibilities was that this was it, the final leg of her arduous journey coming to a close with a new door waiting for her and ready to open at the end of the tunnel.

Stephanie wasn't too heavily invested in watching Rudy die, although it was something she knew without a doubt would bring her a great deal of pleasure. But mostly it was the combination of the identity of the victim and the fact that Eric would be the executioner that had her eager to witness it. The man was like a God when it came to dealing in death and the dreamy look in her green eyes deepened as he once again elaborated on his constant escape from the Fate that held the rest of them chained down to this Earth. And also, a small blush dusted her cheeks appreciatively when he mentioned "bending the rules" to allow her to be present to watch him deal Quin his last breath.

"Nothing will ever stop you..." her voice held just the tiniest bit of awe and it was reflected heavily in her expression as she looked at him. The moment passed quickly and with a blink her face closed again, but the look remained in a much more restrained form as she continued on. "I thank you for granting the opportunity to watch you work; just one more thing to look forward to today. As for...'Xander', is it? I must admit that I've been consumed and fixated on my own target through this to the exclusion of almost everything else." Almost. "With all the talk about him when I'd only heard rumors before entering the field, I am intrigued about the man who stole my little Gwendolyn's heart."

It was somewhat the truth. With everything else that had been occupying her attention through this pursuit of Stewart, a certain curiosity about Alexander had developed, especially with how fondly Eric and even Benoit seemed to talk about him. But even from the first moment she'd heard Gwen had left with him, she'd wanted to know why.

"I can reason it out and analyze her actions because of my personal knowledge about her - it makes the most sense that the trauma of her situation would push her closer to him, especially with his obvious familiarity in dealing with what she's going through. But from everything that has been said and has happened, I cannot help coming to the conclusion that there is something very specific and special about him in particular."

A soft smile came to her lips and she glanced at Benoit. "I am especially eager for the moment when you give me the call in Elmira. Not just for the obvious reason of allowing me to proceed to the next phase of this case, but also for the opportunity the event itself presents. The complete and utter collapse of the hope he is coming to save her, will be both heartbreaking and satisfying to watch as it finally descends upon her. Like the cherry on the top of a sundae, it will be a delicious start to the entire process."

Taking a break from fawning over Eric, she relaxed back in her seat then and glanced in Jason's direction. With the open nature of the inside of the car, there wasn't a lot she could get away with as far as physical contact. But her eyes wandered over him unabashedly, the green orbs filled with a sense of hunger and her lashes fluttering as she undressed him with a sweeping gaze, practically licking her lips as she did so. For several minutes, she silently entertained a fantasy of what it would be like to take him down in the luxurious vehicle, but eventually her vision cleared and she turned back to Eric.

Frowning briefly at Benoit, she looked fixedly at the superior Agent and said, "I agree. I'm very eager to get started. There's no need for further delays." The slight defensive and almost eager tone in her voice was like a rapidly moving undercurrent to the words themselves. Benoit was not going to win the award for being the most industrious, and although it sounded, with the offer he'd made, as if Eric wanted to stop for food, the positive connotations of the other option - them being a 'straight to work' crowd - was more emphasized with the way he'd said it.

The wine hadn't been very nice to her on the plane and her stomach seemed to still be in a temperamental mood, but logically, she knew stopping to get something to eat even when she didn't feel like doing so, was the smartest decision to keep herself working at optimal levels. However, the thought that Benoit, even growling disrespectfully as he had, would seem better and even more efficient than her made it impossible for her to back down. At this particular moment, impressing Eric was the most important thing in the world, and she'd cut off her own hand if it would put her in his favor.

***

Ozzie had of course, expected the music to go almost as soon as she'd started playing with the radio. She'd merely been pushing buttons and checking things out, enjoying the car in her own experimental way anyways. So, she didn't protest when Alex turned it off, and instead turned to open the glove compartment which was empty, as expected. She was somewhat distracted continuing to inspect what the other buttons did - she didn't touch the GPS for obvious reasons - but her attention zoomed back onto him when he mentioned turning her in.

That hadn't been something she'd thought about. The threat from Alex was no big deal and she didn't care what he'd try to do to exact control over her - she was much stronger than him in every way, especially with his gimpy foot - except when it regarded actually staying with him. She'd do the bare minimum to keep him happy and obey his "rules" just so she could continue to use his help in rescuing Gwen. She'd done just fine keeping ahead of Them and everyone else all these years, to the point where she considered the menacing group to be a bunch of idiots - in her mind, They'd gotten "lucky" stealing Gwen away just because there hadn't been anyone there to protect the other woman - and in his current condition, Alex would need her help as well. So, she wasn't too scared about him suddenly turning the tables on her. She'd deal with the problem just like she did every other thing - set them all on fucking fire.

Nodding at his instruction to keep an eye out for Agents, she nodded silently and exited the car, taking several deep sucking puffs on her dwindling cigarette, before regretfully tossing it to the pavement and crushing it underfoot. However, by the time they were in the queue from Hell, she'd forgotten all about that in place of focusing on the snot-faced demon-spawn that stood between them and coffee.

Osono didn't endorse conformity, and the past several years living out of motels and gas stations, taking what she needed from others, was certainly proof of that. But Starbucks was different, she reasoned. On a whim a few years ago, back when she'd been a normal member of society with an apartment and a job, she'd tried the place out, after going through a phase of active rebellion against it. Ever since then, she'd fallen in love with the place, and it was the only time she willingly followed the enmass zombified crowd that lurched into line every day without feeling like a sell-out.

A deep sneer curled her lip as she watched the little hellions run around, particularly focused on a pair that wrestled at her feet, and her fist tightened on the strap of Gwen's bag still slung over her shoulder. The only thing keeping her from heating the place up or starting any fires was the fact that it would be a violation of the heavenly place to fill it with the smell of burning flesh. She just couldn't allow that, so instead suffered in silence, glaring at the wild bunch of little psychos while alternatively casting murderous glances at the woman in charge of them.

She was only distracted from them when Alex turned to her with his questions and she glanced at him before thinking it over. "Goal? What do you want me to say? That in the back of my head, there was a distant hope that he'd turn out to be alright one day and that it'd be over, I'd be free and we could settled down, possibly start a goofy folk band together?" She shook her head and gave him a crooked grin that wasn't happy.

"I don't know. There wasn't a goal. Everytime he left, I swore, the next time I saw him, I'd just be done with it and cut off his head - and yes, alright? I knew he was connected with them constantly showing up, but I wasn't sure if he preceded them or if he called them to me and I didn't want to risk losing him as a possible 'alarm system'."

That wasn't much of an excuse and with the possibility of him actually being responsible for all of the attacks on her, it would have been much easier to just kill him, just in case. "I can't kill him." Ozzie didn't look at him while she said it, preferring to return to glaring at the still fighting brats on the floor. It was a hard thing to admit and she didn't know how to explain it - this was her life they were talking about and she'd basically shot herself in the foot over and over with this one, unexplainable weakness.

"I just can't. There hasn't been anyone but me to look after in years and other than the occasional company Rudy provided, I've been basically alone. No, there wasn't a plan or a 'goal' and there still isn't. After we save Gwen, I'll leave you guys to live happily ever after or what-the-fuck-ever and go back to what was happening before. Being on my own and worrying only about me."

While she'd been speaking, she seemed to grow more and more agitated, but it wasn't the conversation that was doing it to her. Suddenly, she turned her dark eyes to him and whispered in a harsh voice, "I'm sorry, I just can't fucking take this bullshit anymore. These little bastards are ruining my Starbucks experience!"

Turning from Alex, she stepped forward and turned the woman ahead of them around forcibly by the shoulder. "Hey, lady! If you don't wake the hell up and control your brood, I'm going to do it for you!"

"Excuse me?" the woman asked in obvious defensive irritation.

"You're not excused! You need to round these little shit heads up and quiet them down or get the hell out of here. I doubt the fuckers NEED anything they have on the menu here, at least not anymore than what you've already given them."

The woman snorted and rolled her eyes, already discarding Osono from thought. "You need to mind your own business, alright?"

As she started to turn away from her, Osono gritted her teeth and grabbed her by the shirt, turning her back to face her. "And you need to fucking listen to me before I get fucking serious. I'm not playing around."

"Are you threatening me?"

Ozzie wanted to slap the woman but she held back and gave her a restrained response. "Does the term 'deep fried kidlet' mean anything to you?"

***

When Rudy had said they'd stop at someplace "nice" for lunch, Gwen hadn't thought of the truck stop diner that he ended up pulling into. This particular side of the highway they'd been on was filled with large semis hauling their wares across the country, and they were the majority of the vehicles situated in the parking lot. Since it was around noonish, the truck stop was particularly busy and Rudy had needed to get aggressive while driving to secure them a spot near the side of the establishment. As a result, he hadn't made any friends with his fellow drivers, but just as he'd seemed oblivious to Osono's hatred of him, he whistled happily to himself and ignored the enraged gestures and horns blared in his direction.

Parking near the bathrooms along the side of the long building - which was both a diner and a gas station mini mart combo - he forcibly dragged Gwen into the unisex bathroom, locking the door from the outside before leaving her. Lying helplessly tied and gagged on the dirty floor, Gwen only had to wait a few minutes before he returned with a new shirt he'd bought from the mart. The red one she was wearing and had gotten while with Alex was torn and stained with droplets of blood from a nice little nosebleed Rudy had given her earlier that morning.

At first, Gwen was scared that he was going to dress her - and as a result, touch her while she would be half-naked - but, he took off the bracelets locking her arms around her back and tossed the shirt at her. "Change," he said simply, standing back and keeping an eye on her as she did so. Despite being somewhat shy under his eyes, he seemed completely incapable of seeing her as a sexual object and watched her with the minimal amount of interest and wariness that he'd probably give a man.

Several minutes later, Gwen sat across from him in a booth in the diner, wearing a cotton candy pink shirt that barely fit, with "Flirt" scrawled in glittered lettering across her breasts. Her face was cleaned up and her hair was brushed as much as could be expected, but even without the duct tape on her mouth anymore, there were still vague red lines from where it had been stuck to her face. The bruises on her left eye and right cheek bone were growing black and blue but she no longer drew attention, rather exacting the opposite reaction. It was obvious from the marks that she and Rudy both wore that they were in some sort of trouble and nobody around here wanted to get involved in any way. It would make escaping this time particularly difficult if she couldn't find anyone already willing to engage Rudy.

"So what do you want?" Rudy asked, scrutinizing the menu and idly playing with the salt shaker. "The home fries sound good as a side, and this 'biscuits and bits' thing sounds yummy. I always have such trouble deciding with these things and usually end up getting everything on the menu..." He definitely sounded like he was having a hard time of it and Gwen rolled her eyes at him.

Beyond him, at the front doors within her sights, Gwen watched as some truckers entered and approached the bar that bordered the one side of the room. There were a group of three of them and although one of them was skinnier than the other two, he was particularly tall with broad shoulders, making them all look like a heavy set group. The one that settled on the stool nearest them had the name "Earl" etched into his gold belt buckle that barely kept in his overhanging gut, and a baseball cap for some oil company adorned his head. Glancing in their direction, recognition blossomed in his face as he looked at Rudy, and he tapped the guy sitting next to him to motion at the Agent. Probing his thoughts, Gwen realized, Earl had been one of those that Rudy had cut off while driving into the truck stop, causing Earl and a few other truckers to be locked together in the parking lot for at least 10 minutes straight before anyone could move forward.

"Don't," even with the absent-minded tone in his voice, Gwen jumped when Rudy spoke. He wasn't done looking over the menu, but he glanced up at her warningly. "You promised, remember?" Yeah. Sure. She'd "promised". Was he seriously expecting her to keep her word about anything when he was basically threatening her life?

They stared at each other silently for several minutes before he sighed and set the menu down on the table, lifting his left hand to show it to her. Around his palm was a thin band of technology made of smooth grey metal and even as she looked at it and then him, she silently sent a pulse to the still angered truckers. "You remember my little friend, right? All it takes is one minor movement of my wrist and I'll have it out and firing in half a second. So don't you dare try any--"

As the large, bear-like fist closed around the hand he still held up, obscuring both the band and most of Rudy's hand, his voice cut off and he looked at the thick sausage-like fingers in confusion. He barely had enough time to drag his eyes upward to look at the face owning the fingers before a heavy fist slammed into his nose, breaking it. The next few seconds went by like a blur as Earl hauled Rudy out of his seat and threw him against a table, letting him fall to the ground amidst the napkin divider and condiments.

Blinking anxiously, Quin frantically looked around, blood gushing in a flowing stream down over his lips and searched for Gwen. Her spot in the booth was empty and he cursed under his breath while grinding his teeth, swallowing his heart and yelping as Earl grabbed him again and dragged him up from the floor. In the spot where he'd landed, the phone he'd returned to his pocket was left behind and forgotten as the men took their new punching bag outside to finish 'teaching him a lesson'.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
When Eric once again pressed about food, Stephanie cursed herself for making the wrong decision. So he was hungry! Stupid Frenchman! Still, she didn't dedicate too much thought to berating the other Lead for derailing her intent to warm up to the boss - even though she was hungry too and it would have been lovely to share a meal with him as a pre-celebration to everything they were going to accomplish within the next 24-48 hours - at least now, Eric thought that she was dedicated above and beyond bodily needs to Agency work. She left the thought behind with plans to find or make him something once they got to the lab - she could always use the pretext that she'd been hungry herself and that it hadn't been too much trouble to make enough for two... She only worried briefly about whether she would find anything and if it would end up being something he liked. And for some odd reason, that made her glance at Jason - was he hungry too?

When Eric went on to praise the current form he was in, Stephanie was suddenly struck by the humorous description he tacked onto it and laughter bubbled up from her throat as if the joke were funnier than it actually was. But there was nothing put on about the soft rush of giggles, articulating a genuine hilarity at the statements he made. This was the second time on this case that she'd broken into laughter and whereas the first had been a bout of cruel and haughty chuckles resulting from the realization that her target had reached yet another level of development; this was lighter and actually expressing joy for once. Her voice, fluttering up and over the rise and dips of laughter was rich and beautiful and her face lit up for the few seconds that the moment lasted before being chased away by a very un-embarrassed blush.

As Benoit went on to further explain about Xander, ending with the implication that Gwen should have fallen for his original target, she smiled at Eric's energetic cheer for her to have chosen the ex-Agent. "No, that sounds about right," she said nodding her head and thinking for a moment. "I've already explained her daddy issues and how badly most of her adult relationships have gone. Xander may not be the most romantic in an ideal sense, but in this particular situation it's more than just him taking her out to dinner or the movies. It's hard always being forced to be the strong one, especially with desires like hers to share the burden of control in a relationship." Her eyes moved to quickly glance at Jason then, when it occurred to her that the statement also applied to herself.

"But in this unfamiliar and frightening situation, she's looking for guidance and something upon which to ground herself. All he'd have to do is save her life once and the attachment would be formed with him fitting into a "protector" and "daddy" role. Then after that, a little flirting, a few small nice gestures, would indicate a level of 'returned interest' solidifying him as a prospective sexual partner. Not to say she's easy in any way, but the circumstances of being on the run and dealing with new, frightening powers, tends to exaggerate everything to these simplified interactions.

"In fact, I think I know the moment it probably started. In the apartment building, when I fought her, he interrupted and whisked her away, starting this whole crazy thing. She was worn out then and didn't know how to cope with the EDP - I would have had her if he hadn't interfered. Which, by the way, those are some very interesting powers he possesses. Benoit, you basically gave me nothing by which to prepare myself for such an encounter, so I was very surprised when he not only blocked my final blow, but hit me with that mind numbing stare."

Of it's own accord, her hand slithered off her lap to quietly insert itself within Jason's, squeezing him gently in a comforting gesture. "It's not a fun thing to be on the receiving end of," she said with an unperturbed smile, her eyes turning onto her partner. "Right, Jason?"

There wasn't anything hidden within her words - mostly, she was just making idle conversation to keep herself from excited giggling fits while thinking about arriving at the Charlton base - and as she looked at him, her eyes stayed longer than they should have, her gaze drifting down to look at his lips. The hunger drifted back into the emerald glow again, and her smile faded just the tiniest bit to a more thoughtful expression, her gaze fixated on his mouth - she thought she could still detect a small discoloration from when she'd bitten him in Elmira. Stephanie's gaze grew clouded with fantasy, suddenly alone in the car with him, and he with his suit opened down to mid-chest, leaning in close with those gorgeous lips and assaulting her bare neck. With half-hearted and cooed protest, she imagined being pulled close to him and allowing him to lay her down on these plush seats...

Blinking, the vision dissolved and she took in a deep breath through her nose as her eyes cleared and she refocused on him with a blush. God, he was being so sexy right now... even though he wasn't doing anything... Maybe it was the thick smell of leather that was causing her to feel amorous? It did bring back a lot of memories from her training days... Whatever it was did not endure any more indepth scrutiny before she turned back to Eric, her attention focused back on reality with barely a ripple within her psyche.

"So, Master, I have a question about something you said last night," she started, leaving her fingers curled within Jason's on the seat between them and seeming to have forgotten all about it. This time when the odd title passed her lips, she did not notice it, having let it slip out as if it were his name and not realizing she hadn't said "Eric". "I'm not sure if I understood correctly about your abilities - and forgive me, Sir, if I'm being too nosey; you're just a very interesting person." That last was said with a bit of humble concern and then followed up by a coquettish smile.

"But when you... transfer into the corpse of someone with abilities and then they die or you leave them for whatever reason, do you keep their powers? I'm not sure why but I got the impression from the way you described it that you seemed to 'collect' powers? Or am I mistaken?"

***

Ozzie hadn't really had a plan when she'd stepped forward to confront the woman. She just knew she couldn't take it anymore and sought to end it before she started rationalizing more drastic and violent measures to cure the problem - if everyone in line was suddenly ash, then that meant they couldn't order coffee, didn't it? Problem solved.

So, she certainly hadn't possessed enough foresight to predict that touching the "mother" would only exasperate the problem. But it was not like Osono to regret a decision once it'd been made on gut instinct like this had and she glared around at the bright and now very loud faces gathered in a small crowd around her and "Mrs. Janet". At first, a headache started to pulse within her skull and for a few seconds, instead of seeing children she saw a bunch of human sized matches standing around her. Then it hit her as she glared at one of the closer ones, seeing a small light within his eyes that she recognized.

It was not fear but excitement and a desire to play and it reminded her of a time long long ago when she'd had people to look after...

Releasing the women from her grasp, Ozzie turned to face the kids and inserted her fingers between her lips and blew, a sharp and high pitched whistle piercing the air. It cut through the cries and a few of them even cringed and cupped their hands over their ears, before it fell silent and they were left gaping at her.

"You all are a bunch of no good, dirty rotten scoundrels!" she yelled, her raspy voice deepening a few tonal notches and gaining a bit of gruff weight. "Line up against the wall, you filthy bilgerats! NOW, before I fuckin' keelhaul the lot of ya!"

There was no mistaking the threat in her voice and posture but there was also an undercurrent of something playful that they seemed to pick up on and reacted to. Eagerly, as if she were promising a game of some kind, they scrabbled to the nearest wall shoving and pushing one another as they squirmed to line up with their backs against it, a few dancing excitedly in place as she approached with her hands clasped behind her back like a general.

Walking up and down the line of them, turning on her heel, she looked them over once and said in the same tone of voice, "My name is Captain Ozzie van der Wallace, but if any of you turds call me anything other than 'Cap'n', I'll slit your throats from ear to ear and then make you swab the decks in motherfuckin' Hell!" It seemed an exciting prospect to a few of them - or rather her cursing had them giggling for whatever reason. Ozzie stood with a straight back and seemed to flow into the role she'd appropriated for herself, filled with an energy that hadn't been present before but was blended into her with a practiced familiarity. Even the nickname she'd given herself seemed like one she'd used before and was used to saying.

"You have got to be the most sorry-ass excuse for a pirate crew I have ever seen! Hardly deserving of the title 'pirates' at all! Well, lucky for you, I showed up just in time to fuckin' whip your sniveling carcasses into shape before you end up putting a stain on our good name. And I just happen to be in a good mood," she sneered in a very ugly manner at each of them, "that I'd be willing to take time out of my rape and pillaging schedule to learn you guys a few fuckin' manners.

"But first things first, I need to see if you guys even HAVE what it takes to be pirates. When you first board a vessel of potential hostages, do you know what the most important thing is? Intimidation. If normal people aren't scared of you, then you're not fuckin' doin' it right! So every pirate needs a good scowl and a growl to send fear trembling through his enemies and make all the little sissy Navy wimps piss their fuckin' pants when they see us comin'! Come on and give it to me! I wanna hear you scalawags say 'ARGH!'"

Her speech had done the trick to rile them up in her fantasy so when she asked for it, they gave it to her, all of them yelling as one a very loud "Arrrrrrrrrrgggh!"

"Oh, geez..." she complained mockingly. "What are ya trying to do? Ask me to marry ya?" There was a unanimous 'NO' and she winked. "Scare the shit out of me!"

As they tried again, "Mrs. Janet" had inched closer to where Alex was, seeming to recognize that he'd been with Ozzie before all of this started. "I didn't realize she worked with children... Do you know what camp she works for?" She had out a pad of paper and pen ready to take down anything Alex said.

"Very nice!" Osono said with a sandy laugh, obviously pleased with the results they'd given her. "Keep up the good work and practice it! Remember: If you don't see a shit stain down their backsides then--"

"You're not fuckin' doin' it right!" was the echoed response and she laughed again.

Turning to where Alex was, the animation in her face disappeared returning her features to normal before she said, "Are you done? Can we get out of here, please?" Even though she tried to make it seem like she was eager to leave, she couldn't hide the fact that she'd been having just as much fun as the kids had

***

.Landing on the asphalt face first opened the split in Rudy's scalp - that Xander had so lovingly given to him - so when he rolled over to meet his attackers, blood actively drizzled down the side of his face again, coating the impromptu tape he'd used to "stitch" the wound closed. I'm going to fucking kill that cow, he thought just before Earl's booted foot came swinging to catch him under the ribs. Even now, out in the parking lot, curled on his side, he still could not bring himself to admit that taking her restraints off and bringing her to a public place had been a bad idea, rather going for the 'easier' route and blaming the whole incident on Gwen instead.

After everything I've done trying to be a nice guy in this very un-nice situation! Unappreciative skank! And she'd promised! Now I know never to believe her about anything! Oof!

As soon as the first blow had landed in Rudy's face, Gwen had slipped from the booth and ran. Panic fed her limbs as she rushed out the front doors, blindly racing out into the lot and almost getting hit by a car pulling in. She had no clue where she was - it was just an exit outside of a sleepy rural town called Montrose; a place she'd never even heard of - and she had no idea what she was going to do, but just knew that she had to get away. She wasn't going to Charlton with Rudy - she couldn't! And even though she felt bad about getting more people involved in her defense - Earl had a wife and two little girls at home, Jessica and Sarah; all three of them were his 'Ladies' he always said - she knew they were strong enough and angry enough to keep Rudy busy long enough for her to get away. Also, she was somewhat hoping that Rudy wouldn't want to make too much of a scene and kill people in public and broad daylight.

Entering the maze of trucks, casting towering shadows in the morning light, Gwen frantically thought up a plan to hide from Rudy until he gave up or she could find an easy way out of here. Running through the rows, she made it to a spot where she felt far enough and safe enough that she stopped and sat crouched down beside the door of one of the semi-trucks. Panting heavily, she looked in both directions anxiously and tried to catch her breath while trying to find Rudy's foggy signature and making sure he wasn't near her.

"Get back! Stay the fuck away from me!" Rudy shouted, his voice cracking like a pubescent teenager as he wildly swayed on his feet, aiming the Aurora gun at the truckers who'd been assaulting him. Immediately, Earl and the other two took several steps back warily, instantly understanding that the contraption of complex technology knotting around Rudy's hand was a weapon of some kind. There was a wild, enraged look in Rudy's eyes as he pointed the gun at each of the men in turn, trying to keep them all in sight. "What the fuck, man!? What the hell is wrong with you!?"

Earl paused and seemed to think hard for a few brief moments before lamely shrugging and responding. "You...you cut me off..."

In truth, he didn't know why he'd decided to hit the guy over it, even though it had really pissed him off that the rich little snob had acted like he owned the road and could have caused a serious accident. And Rudy could see it in the guy's eyes. Gwen. That bitch. Even after skimming the indepth files Stephanie had hidden away about her and understanding how her powers worked, it still had Rudy cursing silently and biting the inside of his lip in irritation. He should have been able to predict this, but Stephanie's files had also said something about the girl being "nice". Yeah. Right. Nice like a trip to the emergency room.

It was clear that whatever had possessed the truckers to attack him was gone now so he lowered his gun with an exhausted slump of his arm and let out a worn out sigh. A few other patrons stood by the doors to the diner just a few feet away and watched silently, Quin finally noticing them as he was gingerly wiping his nose with the back of his hand. "What the fuck are you looking at?" Quin screamed defensively, causing a few of the more skittish in the crowd to flinch. "Fucking vultures..." There was a very significant nasally tone to his voice now and he glared hatefully at Earl as he grabbed his nose and twisted it back into place with a pained groan.

His beautiful, charming face... He was going to kill her. There was no doubt about it. The psychic had no problem with making attempts on his life, so he would return the favor, zealously and bless the whole fucking world with her absence. Turning to survey his surroundings, he watched for a few moments as cars came and went in and out of the off ramp. Nothing was out there except highway and he could see from here that she wasn't out there walking by the road. She couldn't have gotten a ride from someone this quickly, could she? Finally he decided no, that she probably hadn't, and turned to look at the area behind the rest stop - nothing back there except a rocky ravine that went below the ground level of the property.

By this time, he was alone again, Earl and the other truckers having drifted away back to the restaurant to puzzle over the experience, and Rudy turned with his back to the front of the establishment again. If she were running from there, she'd most likely stay facing this direction rather than risk running into him coming out by turning around. Off to the left was the gas pumps, lined up neatly together and on the right was...the parking lot. At least several dozen semis sat sleeping together in neat rows, fenders, grills and bumpers shining chrome in the sunlight. Smiling to himself through rivers of gore from his nose and thinking about his proficiency for cheating in hide-and-seek in younger years, Rudy proceeded in that direction, holding the Aurora up and ready.

Gwen sensed when everyone drifted back inside but Rudy's thoughts were still hidden from her. She'd felt his pain when he'd gotten up and a burst of satisfaction had filled her then - served him right! She'd also been very relieved when she realized the men she'd made suggestions to were still living enough to go back into the diner, but panic took over as Rudy the shark disappeared under the murky water of thought again, obviously still hunting her. Where was he? Her brunette curls whipped this way and that as she turned her head quickly to peer down both sides of the row she was in, but she couldn't see him. The urge to run filled her bones and she struggled with it for several moments because she didn't want to risk running straight into him. But as the minutes wore on, she became more and more frantic, to the point where she began to silently cry in fear at his eventual approach.

Occasionally, Rudy's pain showed up like a flickering light and she clung to it as much as she could whenever it showed. But it always disappeared without a trace after a few seconds, popping up again several feet away from where it had last shown up. Gwen started to relax a little bit as she followed his trail and it seemed he'd gotten lost and turned around somehow - or maybe he'd given up? - because he was heading in the opposite direction. It was for this reason that she wasn't particularly worried when he disappeared altogether, thinking to herself that he'd probably keep going in that direction and limp away to collect himself in his failure - possibly to crawl back to Mr. A-1 with his tail between his legs to get himself sweetly chewed out again.

However, this did not appear to be the case when he suddenly showed up at one end of the row she was in, his eyes brightening as they laid upon her. The gun was up and he was pointing it at her, and with a small cry, Gwen shot out from her spot down the other end as the beam of light left the nozzle of the gun to disappear into the door of the truck that she'd been crouched against. The metal of the vehicle reacted strangely to the beam and buckled with a screeching moan on impact, blue electric veins crawling along the length of the vehicle to disappear into the nose and the back where the trailer was hitched. Gwen didn't need to be a genius to figure out that if she touched the metal while the beam was still being absorbed, that it would affect her as if she'd been hit by it directly, the metal humming with an almost physical static as she ran alongside the truck.

Shying away from the buzzing metal of the semi, Gwen hunched low and fled around the corner down another row, Rudy following after her from his end, between the vehicles. In the next aisle, Rudy shot at her when she was halfway between the two ends and she flattened herself down to crawl underneath one of them. Apparently, either Rudy didn't know about the way the gun's beam reacted to metal or he was deliberately ignoring the fact for whatever reason, because he rushed after her, flattening himself to shoot under the truck, hitting the wheel instead as she emerged out the other side.

There was nothing going through Gwen's mind except the desire to escape, her heart pounding in her ears and her breathing coming in quick, harsh gasps. Thoughts and plans were abandoned in favor of the primal urge of fight or flight, and right now it was undeniably latched onto the "flight" response.

Rudy appeared again a few aisles down and Gwen once more flattened herself to the ground to crawl under the trailer of the next semi. However Rudy was closer this time, so by the time she was squirming on her stomach under the truck, Rudy had reached her and was reaching under to grab her by the hair and pulling her back out. She let out a loud scream, her fingers clawing at the cracked asphalt and her heart slamming into her ribs with terror.

ALEX!!! she internally wailed, reaching out in feverish panic for his distant signature and making contact that lasted for the few seconds it took for Rudy to pull her completely out and haul her to her feet.

All other cries for help, both verbal and psychic were instantly cut off by Rudy pressing the gun against the underside of her chin, the familiar warmth warning her that it was charged and ready to fire. The both of them were exhausted, panting as they stood, he restraining her and she standing stiffly in his hold, but when his voice came back he smiled hatefully, adopting a biting and sardonic tone.

"That was a lot of fun! No, really, I had a fucking blast through all of that and got a nice workout as well!" he shook his head and laughed weakly. "The Agency is having the semi-annual triathlon in two months; maybe you could help me train!? Oh, waitasecond! You can't because you're gonna DIE TODAY!"

Roughly, he threw her to the ground where she scraped her elbows on the blacktop, looking up at him fearfully as the gun was pointed straight at her. "Please...you can't blame me! You know what she's going to do me!"

"I can't blame you!? Like hell! Look what you did to my FACE!"

While the nozzle of the gun grew brighter, Gwen shielded herself as much as she could with her arms and whimpered. "Rudy...Please..."

At the sound of his name, his eyes widened suddenly and memory came rushing back to him. In his head, he heard the way Eric had said his name, drawing each syllable and letter out painfully, like a tiger purring and batting at a mouse it planned to make it's meal. Shit! What was he doing!? He couldn't kill her - for surely it was his own death sentence if he did. The gun stopped charging but he kept it pointed at her as reality descended once more upon him.

"Fuckit..." he said lamely and rolled his eyes. "Let's just get back to the car."

At the end of the row of semis they were in a man appeared and called out, "Hey, what's going on here? Everything alright?"

Rudy did not say anything but shot the man where he stood causing Gwen to flinch defensively. When he turned back to her, he gave her an impatient look and motioned with the gun for her to get up. "Come on!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
She couldn't get enough of this man. Of course, it helped that his personality was incredibly engaging and magnetic, but the sheer depths of his magnificence was in his experience and long standing dedication to the work he did. It wasn't just about the hours he'd sacrificed or the effort he put into it, but also the fact he was good at it and seemed to enjoy his job immensely. It was very interesting to learn that even at his high-rank, there were certain levels to things that he still had to march through, just like everyone else. But even with that, he still went through with it all, paving the way for others and venturing ever further into the future of the Agency. Now, more than ever, she found herself idolizing him.

And Stephanie didn't mind sharing his attention with Jason actually enjoying the fact that she wasn't the only one interested in him. The direction of the conversation took a curious turn however, and she cast an odd look at her partner when he pressed further into Master's relationship with death. The thought of a world where Eric no longer existed made her feel scared and sad, like a wound she could not bear considering having. So when he ended the line of questioning telling Jason to "drop it", she was more than relieved to leave such thoughts and considerations behind. But glancing at her partner, she could see that he wasn't and her gaze narrowed to wonder what was going through that curly head of his.

Her attention was diverted however, when Master indicated out the window and she excitedly peered out as they drove alongside the base. It never ceased to amaze her how the Agency seemed to scout out the perfect locations in which to place their different offices of operations. Elmira had been a bit of an eyesore, but wielded a heavy amount of menace towering over the city from it's perch on the hill. The Charlton base was no different as far as the amount of subtle threat it exuded, except they'd found the perfect place in the city itself to put it.

Remembering why they were here, a beautiful and energetic smile spread across Stephanie's plush lips and her eyes shined excitedly as they passed the large building. Gwen... Again, she lost herself in fantasy while Benoit and Eric talked briefly about..whatever, imagining what it would be like to see her target captured and ready to be strapped down. What would she say to her? What would Gwen say, if anything? She had to have some idea by now what Stephanie wanted her for. Would she beg Stephanie for her life? Would she cry? She knew if it came to that, Stephanie would hold her and comfort her up until the very moment she drilled through little Gwendolyn's skull and shoved herself inside.

She blinked when Benoit addressed her, looking at him fully before realizing what he said followed a moment later by Jason's body falling over into her lap.

"Jason!" her exclamation held the weight of concern as she caught his bulk and kept him from rolling to the floor, her eyes looking over him frantically.

At first, she didn't realize what had happened and for several minutes she sat panicking that he'd suddenly, inexplicably died on her. With his head cushioned in her lap, she quickly undid the notches of his collar all the way down to his collar bone before pressing two fingers against the artery in his neck, not seeming to mind the still visible markings she'd left on him mere hours before. His pulse was going a mile a minute, but she sighed in relief that it was there, especially when she pressed her hand to his chest and felt it rise and fall with his uneven breath. Right. He'd just passed out... because that's what the word 'fainted' meant. Duh.

Still, the concern did not leave her as she stroked the side of his face urgently. "Jason, can you hear me?" she asked him worriedly, searching his features but finding no response.

God, what had she done...? All this time, she'd been so busy worshiping Master and fantasizing about her meeting with Gwen, she'd completely forgotten about what awaited him here. She should have taken the time at the airport to hear what he'd had to say and now she couldn't help regretting that she'd failed him as his supervisor on this case to make sure that he was alright.And now this had happened and she knew, from what he'd said about his relationship with the suit, that things would only get worse for him.

There was also a certain measure of guilt that filled her to remember that this was her fault in the first place. Even though Eric had specifically said that he wasn't going to share any information about Nathan, she hadn't liked the idea that he might have deliberately compromised her case by using the boy to do it in some way. And in the end, all asking him about it had done was to bring further pain to Jason. Master hadn't even known what the hell she'd been talking about.

When the car came to a stop, she finally drew her gaze from her partner and looked to first Benoit and then Eric. Stephanie knew what they probably thought of her at that particular moment, cradling Jason to her as she was, but she found herself more bothered by the fact that him passing out made him look unprofessional.

"It's the suit..." she explained with the hint of defensiveness in her voice. "My partner hasn't taken any of the drugs that are suppose to go with it, so it's just a little hard on him right now since he's going to lose it." God...did that make him sound weak? She didn't want that either.

"Just give him a few minutes to collect himself," she said, firmly, her usual monotone hinting at the emotions she was feeling underneath. "We'll catch up to you promptly, Master." Surreptitiously, the hand that cradled his head ran lightly through his short curls and her breasts hovered above him, practically shielding him with her body.

She wasn't going to let anyone carry him inside. Not only did she not want to move him - especially not into the building which made him freak out at the sight of it - but she also did not want to degrade his dignity even further by having him toted around like an invalid or something. He'd just passed out from an obvious panic attack. It was no big deal and he'd be back on his feet in a matter of minutes and be able to proceed into the base on his own two feet. She hoped.

It was an alien feeling being so protective of him and seeing him so weak and helpless like this. But even though his pain was something she normally delighted in, she could not shake the new desire to help him. She'd seen and felt the passion and strength within him; he'd shown it to her on the plane. Seeing him reduced to this and knowing that he was going to continue to suffer because of her, made her scared that she wouldn't see that side of him again. Even though she'd spent most of this trip playfully tormenting and abusing him...it was no longer her favorite part...

***

He was talking to himself again. And guzzling down coffee as if it were nectar from heaven. Ozzie did smile brightly when he said she could drive though - and she'd make sure to hold him to that, the freaking car hog - but he seemed to be stuck with his hip at the counter for the moment so she sighed and turned back to her newly acquired crew. She wasn't even sure why the pirate thing had occurred to her, except that from her experience, kids of this rowdy and untamed sort tended to like them, and the whole thing was intended to diffuse a bad situation from getting worse.

The little rascals were busy chattering amongst themselves, practicing their pirate growls on each other and sharing their newly learned vocabulary that she'd given them license to use - the sound of a child swearing always made her smile for some odd reason. For the first time in a long time, she felt like things were back to normal for her. But instead of making her feel good, there was a pain in her chest when she realized all the reasons why she couldn't go back to that. And she wanted to leave. Now.

Turning back towards Alex to see if he was ready yet, she froze and stared as he addressed the woman sitting at one of the tables. As she watched, she began to convulse in her chair, slowly sliding to the ground in a frothing mess and Alex...snatched up her coffee. That alone made her think he was somehow responsible for what happened, in addition to the fact that there was a connection to his close proximity and the timing of it. But still...she didn't know how to fucking react to that.

Glancing around she checked to see if anyone else had seen what she had and a few seconds later, he was there with his arm around her, ushering her towards the door. Ozzie didn't say anything to him but when they got to the doors she glanced back and saw that there was a man who'd suffered the same fate. What the fuck was that? What had he done?

Back at the Audi, Osono gave Alex a wide berth and looked at him with a narrowed gaze, trying to piece together the strange event. Slipping into the driver's seat, she was pulling away from the Starbucks and looking back before the gravity of what had happened started to take hold.

"Do you mind telling me what the fuck that was back there?" she asked in her raspy voice, pausing for a few minutes to take a turn, looking into the rearview mirror to continue looking at the establishment for a few moments more. "Did you... I mean that lady... she was having a fit or something... and you just...took her coffee... What is going on? Is it epilepsy day at Starbucks or did you do something to those people?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
Stephanie blinked as the small box was tossed beside her on the seat, looking at it as if she didn't know what it was for a few minutes. She heard what Master said about the drugs and on a certain level which required her to be logical and professional about this - it seemed like such a distant feeling now - she understood and knew he was right. But she could not help but feel reluctant to even consider it an option. Not only had it been Jason's expressed wish to not use them, but...she wondered what they would end up doing to him.

Stephanie had done her own experimentation with Agency drugs before and even her most recent use of them allowed her some knowledge of the different things the Agency had their hands on as far as chemicals went. And she hadn't done her research on Jason's suit, merely awed by the efficiency of his record so she hadn't known about the drugs until Benoit and Jean had brought it up.

Even before Benoit left, telling her where to meet them, she knew she'd already decided that she wasn't going to be giving Jason anything. She wanted him back to normal, but without any knowledge of what she was working with...and the fact that the drugs themselves would force him to go through a measure of withdrawal... it didn't seem like it made sense to substitute one addiction for another.

She was gravely rethinking this point, however when Jason began to rouse and his body trembled painfully across her lap. What had she done? Maybe it would be better for him to take the drugs? If it would stop his suffering now, then she was all for it. She didn't like seeing him this way, weak as a kitten, and he still had the suit on - which she didn't want to think about what it'd be like for him after he was forced to finally take it off. It made her feel even more guilty, running her hand through sweaty and clumped dark hair and she just wanted to take whatever he was feeling and make it go away.

Then he was talking and she almost laughed at the obvious statement, some of her relief coming back that he was alright enough to speak. And then he was apologizing to her - what for? She'd done this to him and everything had been her fault from the beginning. She'd been very selfish as far as guarding the secrets of her case and if she'd taken the time to be more personal with her team, information wouldn't have gotten lost and there wouldn't have been all this confusion. Maybe she was taking more than her fair share of the burden - maybe her sympathy for Jason was the cause of her feeling overly guilty - but her lapse of judgment that had allowed this to happen to him made her question and doubt everything else that had happened, all the decisions she'd been making.

And then he was asking about that. Glancing at the small box beside her, she picked it up and held it in her lap, looking it over thoughtfully. It would probably be best to answer the easy stuff first. "Benoit and Master are inside waiting for us. They haven't been gone for too long. And there's no need for you to apologize for anything, Jason. I didn't understand what happened with Nathan back in Elmira - I still don't - but I believe that you wouldn't just let them go without a reason... So, really, this whole thing is my fault."

She ran a gentle fingertip along one edge of the box silently for a moment, just looking the small carton over. "All I ever do is hurt you. If you understood... if you knew how beautiful your pain was, you wouldn't blame me... But now I see that it wasn't really what I wanted."

Finally she looked up at him, her green eyes regarding him calmly, but the color vibrant as ever. Holding up the box in two fingers in front of herself she said, "Master gave this to me to help you, but since I haven't been making the safest decisions when it comes to your well-being, I want to leave the choice up to you. Whatever you need me to do... However I can help you through this so that you don't fall apart on me before this is done...I'll do it. If you want to take them or feel you need them, I'll give them to you... but I can't bring myself to force you if it's something you don't want."

All through this, she'd been wearing her mask, flimsy as it was, emotion coming through her monotone and slipping through the cracks in her features. Suddenly, as she fell silent and held the small box out for him to take it, she was suddenly overwhelmed by it all and her face broke enough for her to pout sorrowfully at him. "I didn't sign the resignation because I wanted you to be there...with me when I finish this... Just tell me what you want me to do..."

She didn't know why she was crying again, but she hated feeling this way. Stephanie was on the verge of getting everything she wanted and she was not happy...

***

Alright, she was fine with him continuing to mutter to himself - so long as he eventually answered her, and she fully expected him to, it didn't matter what he did. And she was more than fine to start driving to where ever the hell they were going first. She really didn't want to stay in the Starbucks parking lot any longer than she had to, especially not if anyone had been watching what she'd been watching - which was unlikely because of her being the center of attention at the time.

But what Ozzie was not okay with was the bullshit he pulled a few minutes later: he changed the subject. And no, she didn't fucking remember seeing his crazy ass in Elmira. Already driving away from Starbucks, Ozzie abruptly stamped on the breaks coming to a halt in the middle of the street and glared at him, not caring about the cars that she forced to stop behind her.

"HEY! I'm fucking talking to you, asshole!" she yelled at him angrily, ignoring the honking horns behind them for now. "And I would appreciate you not treating me like a fucking two-year old when I ask you a fucking question! Just be straight with me, Alex: do you have powers or not? It's a really simple question and it's not a big deal - I just don't want you to freaking jerk me around as if I didn't just see you electrocute two people while stealing coffee from them - what? Did you run out of money? Were they Agents or something? I don't give a fuck why, I just wanted to know what happened. It's not something you need to talk over with your imaginary friend about.

"And who the fuck do you keep talking to by yourself? Is it Gwen? Has she been in contact with you this whole time? Is that how you know where to go to find her?" The guy behind her leaned on his horn heavily and finally Ozzie dropped out of her feverish rant long enough to flip him off so he could see it out the back window. Then she took several breaths to calm down and started driving again, shaking her head and silently steaming.

"And yes, I wanted fucking coffee, jerkwad!" she finally said, smacking the steering wheel. "Otherwise I wouldn't have been standing in the freaking line with you, now would I? No! Actually, I just wanted to smell roasting beans and babysit a bunch of snot-nosed bastards because I've got all the time in the world to just piss away!"

***

He wasn't going to stop for anything. No matter what, he was not going to pull this car over for anything. He was just going to haul ass straight to Charlton and drop this crazy broad off and wash his hands of this whole horrible nightmare. Rudy's stomach blurbed angrily at him, hollow from his missed lunch and knowing that to avoid any other mishaps, he wasn't going to stop for dinner. Already, he'd been delayed enough that he wasn't going to make it to Charlton until nightfall and he cursed himself for the mistakes he'd made.

Well, the only mistake he'd made, in his eyes was trusting the bitch; the rest of it was HER fault and he was just an innocent victim. At that thought, he cringed and sniffled at the pain in his face, the sticky blood repainting the left side now drying, in addition to the bitterness that still seeped from his broken nose. God, he fucking hated her and he'd been so close to killing her back there. The thought made him excited to stick the gun in her face again and finish the job, while at the same time nausea hit him to think of Mr. Patten's reaction when he showed up with a corpse. Rudy might as well take the gun to his own head right after if he decided to do that.

Snorting long and heavily, Rudy abruptly turned his head out the window to hock and spit a congealed mass of gunk that had been forming a knot in his throat and wiped his chin on the back of his hand before turning to glare at her. Gwen sat in the front passenger seat, bound hand and foot but ungagged, worn and torn but better than she had been before they'd stopped. She felt him look at her but she didn't return it, staring ahead and trying once again to reach out to Alex. She'd felt something back there... She'd touched him, she knew she did. She wasn't exactly sure the reason yet because he had not shown up on her radar as being anywhere close, so she was assuming for now that contact had been made under duress. Now...she just had to concentrate and recreate it without the panic.

On a side note, she felt absolutely no remorse for what had happened to Rudy, but was now even more hesitant than before to use her powers anymore on this trip. She was definitely starting to get the hang of it and understood that the suggestions she put into people's heads were not her controlling them but digging out already present wishes and hopes from deep inside them. That was why it generally worked better when she latched onto people who were already willing to hurt Rudy. And the actual mechanics of it were easy enough, inserting herself deep enough inside that they didn't recognize her implanted thoughts as not their own.

But there was an even bigger price to her enlisting the help of random people, other than the fact that it put their lives at risk. The effect the constant abuse was having on Rudy was making him even less stable than he'd been to begin with and it was no joke: he really did hate her. The only thing that kept him from killing her was some blind attachment to his job and a tenuous fear of his boss. Compared to the very real and growing rage he had for Gwen, it was becoming an even flimsier thread than it had started out as. She wasn't sure how much more abuse he could take from her without finally cracking and deciding in the spur of the moment that it would be better to suffer the A-1's wrath rather than to continue to deal with her.

Which was why she was trying to contact Alex again. Running from Rudy had completely worn her out physically and now she was back in the restraints which made her physically incapable of going anywhere. Instead of hoping that he'd be stupid enough to take them off a second time, the best she could hope for now was that Alex was still going to Charlton and that he'd meet her there and hopefully...be able to do something before it was too late.

So far, however, the more she sat trying to reach out to him, the more helpless and hopeless she began to feel. At first, she tried to concentrate on him, thinking deeply of his mental signature and trying to feel it. But she was soon frustrated by this when she couldn't focus on a location for him. Then she tried latching onto the feeling of the connection she'd had but that too seemed a wasted effort. Like when she'd first tried to talk to Alex psychically, it didn't matter how focused she was, her voice just echoed back at her inside her own head, making her feel even more alone.

"Shit..." Rudy murmured under his breath, causing Gwen to shake loose from the trance she'd been in. Looking up she saw that Rudy was being followed by a police cruiser and was forced to slow down on the side of the road.

Reaching out curiously, Gwen was able to discover that the man who'd owned the diner back there near Montrose had called the police. The cop currently pulling them over had not been specifically called but was a Trooper watching for speeders on the side of the road and had heard the call and description on his radio.

Rudy's hand whipped out to grab her by the hair at her neck and pulled her close to whisper hatefully in her ear. "Haven't learned your lesson? Making another attempt? I swear to fucking God, if you don't stop this shit right now--!"

"It wasn't me!" Gwen gasped hoarsely, her heart beating fast in her throat. "Y-your car fits the profile of the guy who was seen waving a gun around back at the diner!" The police officer hadn't left his car yet but was busy calling it in and waiting for orders on how to proceed. "And...I think some people might have seen you put me in the car..."

"...Oh." He glanced into the rearview but did not let go of her. "Make him go away or I'll kill him." It was obvious from the threat itself that Rudy didn't want to do that for some reason, probably because of the attention and obvious trail of bodies he was leaving.

Gwen didn't want the police officer to die either and her thoughts kept running through how to best proceed. From the way Rudy was cirrently holding onto her however, she knew that "snapping thread" was a very real possibility if she didn't try and dissolve the situation. Probing into the officer's mind, she saw that he was a good man albeit a little arrogant with a tendency to push his weight around on the highway - when he wasn't busy taking naps, that is. But as soon as he'd gotten the call about the "black Lincoln" and a beat up guy who was seen with a weapon at the truckers stop, and then seen the vehicle pass by a few seconds later, he instantly hopped onto this opportunity to be a hero.

Taking a calming breath, Gwen tried to nudge into his head and force the thought 'Let them go. You have the wrong car.' but other than a minor moment of doubt, he shook her off and finished up his radio call. She was about to try again when Rudy suddenly shook her.

"Well!? He's still getting out of his car! What did you say to him!?"

"Nothing! He's too strong! He won't listen to me!" not only was she worried about Rudy would do, but she knew he probably wouldn't believe her, even though it was true.

"Bullshit! You could get my own assistant to fucking shoot at me and you can't get some pansy cop to drive away?"

"I couldn't get him to pull the trigger, remember?" she cringed and waited while he mulled that over and watched as the officer approached the car.

"Good point. I'll deal with it," he finally said, letting her go and turning to give the cop his brightest smile as he walked up to Rudy's window. "What can I do for you, officer?"

Despite the pleasant tone to Rudy's voice, the cop took one look at Rudy's beaten and torn face, his eyes sweeping over to Gwen with her hands in the circlet cuffs in her lap and pulled his gun out. "Sir, I'm going to have to ask you to please step out of your vehicle, nice and slow, with your hands where I can see them."

"Fuck me..." Rudy groaned in a low voice, staring at the barrel of the gun in dismay.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

0.00 INK

#, as written by Ten
What was wrong with today? Why did everything seem like it was going from bad to worse the closer he got to his destination? Even with as troublesome and violent as Osono had been, he'd never gone through this much Hell while pursuing her. Then again, there was that little crush she had on him that kept her from hurting him too much, and there had always been a wide buffer of bodies between him and her that allowed her to take out her violent tendencies without coming close to touching him. And of course, Ozzie still didn't know he was an Agent.

Maybe that was it. He was operating out in the open now not hiding who he was and it suddenly made him a target for every bad thing that could ever happen to a person. Thinking back, there really hadn't been a moment for him to switch gears and suddenly become "Not-Agent" and it was certainly too late to play that card now. But fuck, if he just wanted some peace... There was no sense crying about it now, especially with a gun in his face. Alright, the best way to deal with this was like everything else: make the guy think he was a harmless idiot and then stab him when his back was turned. Well, shoot him, anyways.

"You know...this vaguely reminds me of that one Stephen King movie," Rudy started, glancing from Gwen and back to the cop, but not making a move to leave the car. "You know, the one miniseries where the cop is pulling over people on that highway and takes them to that town to kill them. And you kind of look a little like Ron Perlman--"

"Sir, do not make me ask again. Get out of your car now."

Gwen looked from the cop to Rudy and back again, and having an internal look inside the officer's head, she realized that whatever game Rudy was playing was not going to work on this guy. Again, she tried to nudge the thought that he should let them go, but it was past that point now. Even if Rudy wasn't the guy the report was about, there was enough probable cause for the officer to be suspicious that something was going on and he'd already seen Gwen in restraints.

"Look, I know it may seem weird, but we're into a little sadomasochism and bondage," Rudy said, trying again, holding up his hand a little to try and calm the cop down. "See, she just got done givin' it to me good and now we've switched places and it's her turn--"

"Get out of the car now," Officer Frewer was no longer waiting for Rudy to listen to him, but reaching forward and opening Rudy's door, the gun still fixed on the Agent.

"Alright...alright..." Rudy said in defeat, slowly stepping from the open door with his hands raised. Outwardly, he was fearful and seemed eager to please the man with the gun trained on him, but inwardly, he was cool and collected as ever, waiting for the right opportunity. Forced to his knees and then face-down on the pavement, Rudy did as he was told and laid there as the police officer stepped forward to address Gwen.

"Miss, are you alright? Are you injured?" Officer Frewer asked her through the still open driver's side door, giving her a quick glance but keeping his eyes and gun fixated on Rudy. When she didn't answer him, he looked at her and realized she'd been shaking her head "no" that she wasn't hurt. Probably in too much shock to answer him verbally.

And truthfully, Gwen was in shock. Was this it? Was it over? Had Rudy finally been defeated? Was she free? It was hard to tell because she couldn't feel anything from Rudy except his physical senses - which was mainly a lot of bruising and sharp pain in his face - so he was still probably willing to fight...but she didn't see how this could go wrong. She knew Rudy had put the gun he carried back into his pocket before they'd left the diner, but with him splayed out on the ground, if he made one move for it, the cop would not stop to ask what he was doing before shooting him. It was okay, although she was a little worried that the officer wasn't searching Rudy or cuffing him, she reasoned that he probably didn't want to get too close while he was still alone. And she knew he'd already called for backup.

"It's alright, miss. Everything's going to be okay now. Help is on the way. Can you get out of the car?" It was somewhat a relief to be around someone from the real-world again, a cop asking her normal questions and seeking after her well-being. It felt a bit odd that someone who had no clue about the Agents or people with abilities was trying to calm her down. It was even stranger that the worst was practically stopped in it's tracks by this untrained nobody.

But a little too late she started to get nervous about him continuing to look at her. He was just doing his job and she supposed she should have answered him, instead of gaping like a fish, because now he was trying to make eye contact to reassure her and make her feel safe. She could feel Rudy reaching into his pocket in the seconds while Frewer was addressing her and her eyes went wide sending him a sharp signal inside his head.

He has a GUN!

Officer Frewer did not wait for the thought to set in, his heart already jumping back up to rapid speeds as he turned to look back at Rudy. Quin was just rolling over onto his side, a technological mass of metal bits and pieces enveloping his hand and pointing up at the officer before Frewer pulled the trigger, automatically aiming for the chest area. Because of the angle that Rudy was lying on the ground, the bullet went straight through his right shoulder causing him to grunt harshly at the impact. Then in the seconds waiting for the impact to tremble through his shoulder and arm, Rudy pulled his own trigger.

Gwen cried out in surprise as Officer Frewer flew back against the car door violently in a flash of light that was becoming all too familiar to her, his body slamming into the metal like a limp rag doll. Then he slumped against it, eyes blank and arm with pistol still attached to his wrist hanging at an odd angle inside the car, the smell of gunpowder hanging crisp in the air.

For the longest time, Gwen sat frozen watching the opening between the car door and Officer Frewer's corpse, unable to move and unable to look away. Even though he was only a few feet from her, Rudy had gone off of her radar again and she couldn't tell if it was because he was dead or if he was just hiding like he'd done before. It was several minutes later when she heard the distant sound of sirens, that she was able to finally shake herself out of it and started to try and move in her seat.

A second later a sharp scream left her lips as Rudy's bloodied hand and body appeared in the doorway, dragging himself up to a kneeling position beside Officer Frewer's body. Pulling at the corpse until it fell over, Rudy shoved it away in irritation before pulling himself back up into his seat, cringing and hissing in pain as his right arm moved to help his ascent weakly. Probing his body, she could feel that the gun wound went all the way through his shoulder, but it didn't seem like it had hit anything major. Still, it was bleeding a lot and she wondered if it would be safe for him to drive like that. But he seemed to ignore the wound in favor of looking out the back window to see how close the cop's "backup" was before turning to close his door and start the engine back up.

As they peeled away from the shoulder of the road, still no sign of the cop's friends but hearing their distant wails, Rudy kept an eye on the rearview and let out a labored sigh. "Well, that went a lot better than I hoped," he said somewhat pleasantly. When Gwen gave him an incredulous look, he glanced at her and said defensively, "No, I mean, in that movie, that cop killed a lot of people before the main guys could get away. We got off pretty easy with what I was worried about. Which reminds me; you don't feel 'possessed' do you?" When she gave him an annoyed look, he grinned before looking into the rearview again. "Just checking."

***

Ozzie was sitting tensely waiting for a response from him, still ignoring the chaos she was creating in the street around her. She wasn't going to move a foot further until he'd given her some sort of explanation. Rudy liked to play that stupid "change the subject" game and although she'd dealt with it differently then, now that she knew what was going on with Quin, she really wasn't in the mood to let anybody else jerk her around like that. Least of all Alex whom she still didn't like very much.

When he opened his mouth she found herself caught off guard briefly when he went off on a brief tangent about how she'd been with the kids. It made her blush a little to remember how it'd felt to be in charge of those brats - kids she didn't even know, but it felt the same as it always had. And what he said about having a daycare center reminded her even more of a conversation she'd had with someone long ago about that very thing. So, for a few moments instead of jumping on his case about changing the subject again, she sat trying to collect herself enough to still be angry about it. By the time she was ready to explode on his stupid ass again, he was talking and the words coming out of his mouth were exactly what she wanted to hear.

One thing she immediately zeroed in on was the whole change in Alex's demeanor, becoming almost melancholy and somber as he spoke, thoughtful and stepping over his words carefully. It no longer felt like he was trying to hide something from her though, but as if he were grappling with information that was painful to part with. That grabbed her attention immediately, more than the actual words themselves and she found her own anger dissolving on a cloud as he continued.

Osono quickly found her mental image of Gwen shifting and evolving as Alex spoke. Remembering that sweet young woman who'd almost been timid in response to Ozzie's teasing, but at the same time strong and passionate when talking with Alex. After Gwen had been taken, Ozzie had started to see her as a victim, as a sort of damsel in distress and had included herself as one of the metaphorical 'knights' on a quest to rescue her. But now...with what Alex was saying about Gwen's powers, although Gwen still seemed vulnerable, she'd raised herself up to an almost 'Jesus' and 'warrior' status herself.

Sacrificing herself, even when she knew she was in danger just so that Alex wouldn't get hurt. And apparently, she was still sacrificing her power to help keep him safe. The romance between these two would almost be vomit worthy if..it wasn't so real and passionate. Here he was, uninvolved in the big picture except with his association with his girlfriend. Nobody after him, nobody threatening him and he was risking everything to help get her free. And then there was Gwen, who probably knew, even now where ever she was, that he wouldn't give up and would keep putting himself in danger and she weakened herself deliberately to protect him, when she probably could use that power for herself more than he could. The situation was all sorts of fucked up but a beautiful romance, even she had to admit. And she normally hated this mushy bullshit.

And then he further explained about Gwen making a copy of herself and putting it in his head and Ozzie relaxed even more, even though that bit of it confused her just a little. It was extremely complicated but it seemed too out there to not be true. And she did make a mental note of him practically destroying his coffee cup all while talking about this and she took it along with his words to mean he was going through some sort of emotional turmoil discussing these things. And Ozzie had to admit, these were the first other people who knew about the Agency that she'd met, so she really didn't know what the rules were as far as who had powers and how they worked. But Alex's explanation of things seemed to work and she couldn't ignore that emotion. It was his version of Gwen's googly eyes and you just couldn't fake that.

When he ushered her to start driving again, she did so without a fuss, waiting for another car to make it's pass around her before being able to move forward. As she pulled out and continued down the street, with a small shake of her head she murmured, "You two are so freaking Metal, I swear."

Other than that, she didn't really know what to say. He was dealing with whatever in his own way and she didn't feel comfortable putting her hand on his shoulder and telling him 'everything's gonna be a'ight.' But she wasn't feeling like her normal self enough to just slap him and tell him 'suck it up, pussy!' So, she left it at 'Metal' and that's all she wanted to say about that. She'd gotten what she wanted and she was happy not to hate him so much anymore. Right now, at least.

Driving along, she tried to keep silent but really she couldn't help returning to the things he'd said. Especially when he'd basically told her she could leave if she wanted to, but that saving Gwen was something he had to do. "You love her a lot, huh?" she asked with a wry twist of her lips. "If it's NOT love with everything you've got to lose, not being involved or anything, it doesn't make sense for you to keep risking it all just to save her when you know they'll be crawling up your ass the day after it's done. You said so yourself, they won't stop throwing guys at you until something breaks.

"And thanks for your permission and all, and don't get me wrong, I'm sure your Gwen power-up is as awesome as it sounds - and if the woman at Starbucks is any indication of how badass it is. But I have my doubts about how far you'll get without me, Sir Limpsalot. No offense or nothing." She cast him a grin and looked down at his leg but said nothing about it as she continued driving.

"And I'm not just feeling guilty - I don't know if you noticed or anything but I don't form attachments to people very good. I hurt everybody Alex, and I burn everything I touch. Not only that but I like doing it. I'm not a very good person and most everybody I come into contact with can either sense it or they feel sick from Rudy when he comes trudging up with his 'lost puppy' thing. Gwen didn't. Or maybe she did but she saw something in me I don't normally show.

"But... this is gonna sound stupid, because I only just met her yesterday and we were only together for a little while and I know it sounds crazy... but she's my friend. I don't know... maybe she's affected me too, but I don't want to give up on her now. The one person who didn't immediately flinch when I put my arm around her and who in the midst of everything that was going wrong said my name like she wanted to save my life or something. That guy in the restaurant shot at us and as soon as he was dead, she thought of me. I don't have that with anybody else...and I haven't in a really...really long time. I'm gonna see this to the end and I'm not stopping until she's safe and back in your arms. I'll burn every-fucking-body if I have to."

Despite the serious tone of her conversation, Ozzie tried to brush it off and put on the tough-girl act. She figured, if he could take a moment to be all sentimental then she could do it too but she wasn't going to get mopey or emo about it. They were nearing the destination and she took out her pack of cigarette's before realizing it was empty, then crushing and tossing it out the window, letting out a harsh breath through her lips.

"So, this place, it's just an office building right? And you don't know if there's going to be Agents or anything? Do you...want me to drive around the block first or should I just pull right up front?" Her hands tapped lightly on the steering wheel and the car filled with a crisping heat as she got ready for battle. It was nowhere near as intense as it had been in the hotel room and she had more than enough control right now that it was not possible for any fire to be around without her expressed permission. But her excitement to start something could clearly be felt pulsing heavily in the air, even as her body tensed energetically.

***

The tears started to clear up the more he spoke, his voice deep and soothing to her, grounding her back into reality. She especially almost laughed when he called her "boss" again, reminding her once more who was suppose to be in charge here. But she thanked him for not rubbing her face in it or making her feel stupid for her momentary weaknesses and the fact that he was so strong right now only made her feel that attraction for him grow. Even when she could hear it in his voice and see it in his face as he struggled to sit upright with his feet planted on the floor of the limo, he was trying to be the levelheaded one and she was extremely grateful.

Stephanie felt like such a mess as she became more and more aware of the situation she'd placed herself in. He wasn't going to die and he wasn't going to leave her - she'd already made that decision for him on the plane - so really her crying about whether he should take the drugs or not seemed all of a sudden really pathetic. But she could not deny the way it had felt just then... the weight on her heart to hold him in her lap and wondering blindly what she was expected to do. The thought of continuing this mission without him - whether because he was going to leave or fall dead on her - scared her. And that had been mostly what she'd been crying about. If she forced the drugs on him, he might hate her for ruining everything he'd created in himself, but if she didn't...she didn't know what the suit would do to him in it's sudden absence.

She was done crying about it now though, since she knew that wasn't what he needed to help him. She needed to stay strong and levelheaded if not for him then at least for her case - which, she'd almost completely forgotten about yet again, with her focus completely turned onto him. From now on, she'd just make sure to make herself available to him, something she hadn't been before, in place of playing and pulling at him like a toy.

And she understood and respected him about his decision regarding the drugs. But she would decide when she felt he'd had enough. From the way he was looking now, and the toll withdrawal took on a body, she was not going to wait for him to lie writhing on the floor in a mess before she stepped in to help him. She couldn't and it would be a failing in her duty as his superior. Other Lead Agents were willing to throw away the men and women on their team as mere numbers when it came to their cases. Jason was all she had left and she couldn't just break herself off emotionally like that. Not from him.

The last things he said to her as he sat on the seat trying to gather himself really hit everything home for her and when their eyes met hers shined with a vibrant inner light. So forceful... there was a hint of that passion deep inside and she could see it there. He may have hesitated to make any physical contact with her but she needed to touch him then. She needed to feel that strength pulsing within him and to let herself know he was going to be alright.

Sidling close to him on the seat, her arm reached around his back to tuck into his waist, pulling him flush against her with their sides touching and laid her head on his shoulder, golden locks falling over his upper arm. "Unorthodox is a good way to describe it and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm glad I chose you and I know no matter what happens, I will not regret the decision I made in signing you on."

She tossed her hair out of the way to look up at him, nuzzling close to his still bared neck. "I only hope that I can be something you won't regret..." her voice took on the hint of a sultry tone as she brushed her lips against all the skin she could touch.

Finally, having had her fill, Stephanie drew back to look him over, and her hand drifted up to touch the marks on his neck, a smile of pride forming on her lips. "Those look really good on you," she said fondly. Feeling the sudden urge to do so, she leaned forward and licked up his neck to just under his chin, delighting in the small shiver it produced in him.

Then she was pulling away and standing, half-bent over to open the side door of the limo. "Benoit is probably having a fit right now, being alone with the Master for this long. Are you alright to go or do you want to sit for a little longer?" The obvious suggestion in her flirtatious glance over her shoulder was that she'd "keep him company" while he did.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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It was still difficult for him, she could tell, but she let him have his space as he searched out and found the elevator, proceeding towards it ahead of him so he wouldn't feel emasculated by her constant vigilance. But Stephanie was definitely more aware of him now - if that was even possible - even as the taste of his sweat lingered on her tongue, the rest of her senses were wide open to him, listening and watching when she could while appearing not to be focused on him. Her attention was a funny thing however and control was hard to pinpoint lately. As a result, even stuck in the small space with him, her body threatening to make the space even smaller for them both, she found herself drifting away from that the further up they went.

Gwen. Gwen was coming here. Just a few more hours stood between her and her precious target, the woman who'd dominated her every thought, every dream, and every breath for four years. And there would be nothing stopping her from having exactly what she wanted from her now, hand delivered and completely defenseless to Stephanie's will. The excitement of this glorious reunion trembled through her as the doors opened and Jason was shoved to the back of her mind as she took a deep breath and stepped forward. As she glanced around the hallway, her eyes sweeping over everything quickly, she chided herself silently when she realized she was already looking for her. It was only after Jason approached one of the first forms laying on the ground that she even became aware that there were corpses in the room. Silently, she stood by and allowed him to do his job, surveying the rest of the lobby in what little light filtered in through the windows, and searching for the Master and Benoit.

When Jason finally spoke, she nodded in agreement and let her gaze sweep carelessly back over the bodies. She would have figured that if Benoit didn't survive then at least Master, even if he hadn't been wearing that massive form, would have had no trouble dealing with a few adversaries. But the question remained, why had they been attacked? Weren't they being expected here? And with Master in their group, it seemed a bit contradictory that there would be any Agents foolish enough to set men on them like this if they even knew who he was.

The sound of Master's voice burst the contemplative bubble she was in and she looked up at his direction, a small, shy smile tugging at the edges of her lips to see that glorious face again. And he was unperturbed as ever - she took that as a good sign, although she found it hard to imagine that smile leaving his face other than to be replaced by an even colder, deadlier grin. The small vision she had of what it would look like made her shiver in brief delight.

Proceeding up the stairs with Jason, she watched with a small giggle of amusement as he slipped on the blood that had been left as a welcome mat, but tried to hide the expression behind a daintily held up hand. Goodness, he was so adorable. With the smell of blood in the air, she was practically feeling amorous and would have struggled to resist jumping him right then, if it weren't for the distracting conversation coming from above. Particularly the sound of another female voice pricked her ears up and her face grew serious as she walked the rest of the way up.

Immediately upon leaving the walkway, Stephanie's eyes zoomed in on the other woman and it took her a few seconds to collect herself. First off, the woman was absolutely gorgeous in that threatening, cold and domineering way that Stephanie herself had tried to achieve - even before she'd gone through a few days of personal hygiene neglect, the woman made her look incredibly soft and fluffy in comparison. She worked those suit pants a lot better than Stephanie did her own and even with the top she was wearing, Stephanie felt it achieved that sophisticated and seductive power that she was probably going for - the untouchable femme fatale.

Even though she was a few years older than Stephanie, she still owned her womanly assets and wielded them with expert experience that made her presence magnetic. Under normal circumstances, Stephanie would have been completely turned off by the shrill note in the woman's voice, but instead it had the opposite effect. To be fair though, it was a tad annoying for her to constantly yell while speaking, but seeing the effect it had on others - whether getting Master to barely hold back his loathing for her, or to reduce Benoit to trying to placate her - it was a very powerful display. Not one Stephanie would have used, personally, preferring to utilize the power of a 'softly spoken word', but for this Madeline person, it worked.

As soon as Master introduced Madeline, stating her rank and name, Stephanie instantly set her shoulders back in a efficient manner and smoothed over her features with what was left of her emotionless mask. There was the air of trying to appear professional in front of this other woman in hopes of impressing her on some level, but she didn't even seem to notice Stephanie or Jason, in favor of chewing Master out. That was the one thing Stephanie was not fond of, along with the sound of her screaming; the blatant disrespect for her idol and the one man in the room who outranked them all, but it did not diminish Madeline's powerful allure.

Apparently, Stephanie and Jason weren't as transparent as she'd assumed, because a second later, Madeline was indicating each of them and issuing orders. At first, Stephanie half-scowled when the A-2 ordered her partner to do anything - despite understanding on a reasonable level that Madeline's authority extended farther than hers, Stephanie still didn't like it - but her expression cleared and she blinked in embarrassment as her own orders were...to bathe. She quickly glanced around at the others but nobody noticed how on the spot she suddenly felt and she resisted the urge to inspect herself to see how bad things had gotten.

It was most certainly something she needed, as she'd made a note of on the plane, her hair falling limp on her shoulders, but she stayed stiff until Madeline had turned to leave, before tucking a few strands that had fallen into her face and been ignored, behind her ears. Great, she'd wanted to make a good impression on the higher ranked and more fashionable woman and here she was looking like a sleaze-ball. The men probably hadn't noticed or cared, but women were aware of these things and they filed it away as a label for the other person. And labels generally stuck once they were made. Hopefully, when she had a chance to clean up a bit, she'd be given a second chance to not look like a completely incompetent slob in front of the other female Agent.

And all too quickly, she felt put on the spot again as the Master addressed her, inviting her to join him for a look at the body tanks. As Jason took his leave however, her attention divided itself for a few moments more to watch him go, concern filling her eyes. He would be okay, she knew, but she couldn't help worrying with him leaving her presence right now. It couldn't be helped; orders had been given by two higher level Agents. And even if she'd wanted to order him to stay by her side, there wasn't a valid reason for it.

Looking back at the Master, a bright blush filled her cheeks when she realized this would be the first time she'd ever been alone with him. There had been a private moment at the airport before they'd gotten on the jet, but they hadn't really been alone then. Besides that, she felt like something along the line had changed. Certainly, from the first moment she'd met him and learned who he was, she'd been affected by his presence, but lately it had grown to an overpowering level that she couldn't deny. Her heart fluttered nervously and her expression softened to one of a barely restrained awestruck worship as she nodded her head in respect.

"Yes, Master. I would be delighted," she cleared her throat and tucked her hair again, looking away from him when she realized her tone had been a bit more 'swooning' than she'd intended. It didn't seem to be something she could help, however, because when she spoke again, stepping forward to politely follow him, it was a tone she could not shake from her voice. "I would be thrilled with anything you'd like to show me." The tiny smile touching her lips spoke volumes, but even so, when she came up beside him she made absolutely certain to keep her distance. She was not so far gone that she thought she could touch God, afterall...

***

She laughed slightly, her raspy voice catching a little in her throat as the nicotine urge pulled at her. "Yeah, yeah, I remember. Gotta keep one of 'em alive to get the codes and blahblahblah. But the rest of 'em can burn though, right?" She smirked playfully and then whooped in triumph as the GPS spoke up.

To say that Ozzie was disappointed would be an understatement. As she pulled up to the curb in front of the charred and abandoned building, her shoulders slumped and the heat that had been buzzing and crackling in the air of the car instantly evaporated as she pouted at the scene. Crap! What a fuckin' waste! And not even a scrap of paper left that would be worth the trouble to set ablaze.

For a few minutes, Alex had a lovely mumbled conversation with himself, which she rolled her eyes at and ignored, but she did pay attention when he made to leave the car. The place was gone, couldn't he see that? There was no use inspecting it for clues that had probably been eaten completely away - and she could feel it. The place was what she called "dead ground". Ozzie had only ever melted rock and metal twice and that had been under extreme circumstances. But other than that, there was nothing here to catch fire, thus, nothing important left to find.

He changed his mind about it however, climbing back into the car to punch in the code for the "next" location. Grinding her teeth silently, the steering wheel squeaked in protest as she gripped it tightly. They were wasting time with this crap! She understood the need for an Agent to get into the place they were keeping Gwen, but this was taking too long! And Alex didn't seem to have any idea of what these places were going to be like before she was driving up to their doorsteps. She didn't know where he'd gotten the addresses from but she couldn't help feeling like it was a wild goose chase taking them away from what they really needed to be doing.

On her own, Osono had caught the attention of Agents much quicker than this. It wasn't exactly something to boast about, especially most of the time it was because she'd lost her temper or lost control, but still, it felt pathetic to hop from one place to the other just to find nobody was home and hadn't been home in ages. Especially when she could get them hopping on their tail within 20 minutes. One time, she'd set a guy's mustache on fire in a tobacco shop in the middle of nowhere and 10 minutes later, Rudy had popped up as if he'd been in the neighborhood.

So, when Alex said that once again, he didn't know if this new place was going to be flammable or not, she smacked the wheel forcefully and glared at him. "Look, twinkle-toes! I don't got all day to fuckin' screw around playing scavenger hunt! And I'm sure Gwen doesn't have all the time in the world either! I'll tell you what we're gonna fuckin' do, Mister Pussy-Footer! IF this next place ain't the place, we're gonna toss your shitty 'playing detective' plan and we're gonna get Agents attention MY way, understand? I'm tired of this bullshit and I may not know where all their burned down fuckin' hideouts are, but you better believe I can get 'em comin' within 5 minutes flat! And don't think I'm fuckin' scared of a mob, Prancer! Skin is flammable too!"

After that, she pressed down hard on the gas pedal and glared out the front window as she sped towards the next destination, fuming again and ready to set fires just for the heck of having something to burn.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace

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#, as written by Ten
Stephanie was drawn along by Master's presence, practically floating beside him on a cloud as he led her through the halls of the base. Even when they first arrived to the room he'd mentioned, her eyes left him to widen and take in the four balefully red jars, but her attention was still completely focused on him. The world had vanished beneath her feet and she felt fragile and vulnerable, on pins and needles waiting to bend to his word. She didn't care where he took her or what he said. The honor of being in his presence had her hovering above the ground on invisible wings, giddy and yet calmly content to be with him, basking in his glow.

That changed the instant his voice filled the air with it's vibrant tone that echoed into and all around her carrying weight and slamming it down upon her body. It was like she landed on her feet again, the magic that had been filling her suddenly gone, replaced by a more realistic sense of worship. As he began speaking, not only did his voice chill her to her depths, drawing her focus to him like a bee to honey, but it was hauntingly soothing at the same time. As each of the four were indicated and their story told, she looked at them in turn with a gaze filled with wondering curiosity. What had possessed these people, once successful Agents, to turn their backs completely on the Agency? After all that dedication, she couldn't fathom it, especially not when they'd achieved what she sought so desperately. Just to turn around and throw it away like that...

Stephanie could tell right away that this was privileged information and even before he'd reached the end of Jillian's tale, she could feel where this was going. It was a warning. Master was imparting a lesson to her. What he was telling her hit home even more stolidly than before once she came to that realization and she let her teacher's words wash over her, allowing the conclusion to reach it's end.

When Charlotte's turn came up and Stephanie watched the changes come over his form, the flimsy emotion of jealousy came and went like a fluttering butterfly. There was so much to envy in the other woman, now held away from death but not living, but there was a lot to be condemned as well. Even the relationship and the past Master hinted at was not enough to rile Stephanie's jealousy. It would have felt like combating a ghost for his attention.

As he came to the meat of the story describing Charlotte's rebel group she wondered why she'd never heard of the "Anit-Agents" before. It was interesting information, to say the least, and she wondered what he was trying to say. Did he want to redirect her attention from her case onto this rebellion? Was he trying to make a comparison between her personal struggles and his own fight with those in the Anti Agent group? Or...was he just confiding in her? The last seemed unlikely. Master had too many well-crafted walls to choose to let them down in front of someone like her. No, whatever peek he was giving her into his private history and the conflict with this group, there was a reason for it.

When he finally turned to her and the cloud lifted from the room, she blinked and blushed at the last things he said. If you won’t, you won’t, but if you do, I’ll find you. It hit her core like a cord being struck, even coupled with that beautiful, mesmerizing grin of his. It was suddenly very clear why he'd told her about all of this but she wasn't sure if he was just threatening her in general or if she'd done something to give him the impression that she would fall for a pursuit so hopeless. Of course, she loved control and she felt that connection with Charlotte who'd had hundreds at her command. But Stephanie had been a submissive and she knew the power and threat of the Agency. No matter what, it would always win and she would never put herself higher on the food chain than where they directly placed her. She knew where she belonged.

The trouble now was struggling not to be offended. He had every right to give her this warning - whether it was a personal message to her or not - and his precaution was enough to make her admire him again, even as it made her withdraw woundedly. "I understand, Sir," she said levelly, her tone gathering together as much stone as it could and her crumbling emotionless mask fitting into place, emotions rippling underneath, half-seen and glimpsed even in the darkened room. "I may not have reached the level you have as far as abandoning the moral fiber I've been chained with and there are still a few things that hold me back in that regard. But the Agency has become a part of me. It raised me up from the sloppy, wild thing I stumbled in as, to what I am today. Everything I have sacrificed and worked so hard to gain would be for naught if I turned my back on this. And it would be a betrayal of everything I am and have worked so hard to become.

"I will not and do not ever plan on disgracing myself in such a manner and I would rather take my own life than betray the Agency or you. I...know my place, Sir... You may have noticed, Master, that I admire you greatly. Your excellence blinds me and every time you speak you take my breath away. And yet when I look into your eyes, there is nothing there. How will I ever achieve that level of hollowness if I stopped my progress and fell back to Earth to wallow with the vermin? THIS is the way to the top. THIS is the way to achieve the blissful death of every last inch of my humanity. And I want that more than anything else and I'm consumed by my need for it."

Her voice faded as she looked at the jars again, a thought occurring to her. One of the things currently holding her back: Jason. Stephanie had a moment of clarity with all this talk with Master, but it did not erase the still present feelings she had for her partner, even though she did not understand why she cared so much about him. Master had helped her put things into perspective and helped her remember why she'd joined the Agency and how her first years of training had been. She'd been ruthless and domineering, her desire for control turning everyone around her into a victim, consumed by her lusts and bent to her will. She still felt that way - vigorously - even towards Jason. But there was something else that was present and she didn't understand her sudden instinct to protect him from harm - when putting him in pain and agony got her so frigging hot in the first place. It was becoming too much and she was afraid she might lose him when he was forced to give up his suit. And if he fell...she knew she would fall with him. It didn't make sense to her, but her concern for Jason was just as much about him as it was about self-preservation.

Now that she finally had the Master alone, she felt it was the best time to bring this up and hopefully make things better and not worse for the only remaining member of her team. When she turned back to him, the mask flickered and she looked uncertainly up at him for a few moments before smoothing it back into place. "Master... I need to speak to you about Jason and...and what's going to happen to him." Her voice stopped shaking and grew more powerful as she took a deep breath and went on.

"I want to take responsibility for what happened in Elmira. I know what Jason said happened but I understand it more clearly now. Because of previous mistakes I made regarding this case, his equipment was damaged and he was not in the best state of mind at the time." It was partly true. She did feel responsible for the mistake about the apartments being mixed up. If she'd been less worried about counting all the eggs in her basket and preparing for the body transfer, than actually being an active part in Gwen's capture from the beginning, none of this would have ever happened. But the mystery of Nathan had yet to be uncovered, more questions than answers coming up every time Master mentioned the boy. "I fully admit that I'm not as experienced as a Leader as I should be and with the prize in sight, I was arrogant at first. But I've learned from my mistakes, I assure you.

"He's a good Agent," she said genuinely through the dull tone she only half-possessed. "I just ask that you give him another chance to prove himself or at least allow him to keep the suit until I've completed my mission. We're so close to the end but still so many things could go wrong. Having him feeble or wired on drugs is not something I want to have to worry about. Bringing in a replacement at this point will complicate things...

"I know it is inappropriate to ask you for favors...but I would be in your debt forever. And Master, I'll--" she briefly choked on her words but quickly recovered, the monotone shaking slightly. "I'll do anything."

Hopefully from what she'd previously said, he would assume she was talking about her case and getting emotional about wanting to achieve her goals with Gwen, rather than the truth which was that Jason was important to her beyond his usefulness. Still, it felt a bit like she was sticking her neck out further than she would have liked with just asking him for this period. She almost expected to get reprimanded for her weakness or be forced to pay a price she could not afford. Gwen. He wouldn't take her away from her, would he? It hardly seemed like he would even show her mercy that he had not yet displayed towards anyone. But if he did - and there was that hope - it felt a bit like what Stephanie imagined making a deal with the Devil would be like. It didn't matter. If it got her Jason AND Gwen, she would sign anything and pledge her loyalties to anyone.

***

Osono fully expected a retort from him. In fact, she was still so fired up from her rant that she freaking welcomed it. Anything to take out her frustration right now and get her pumped up again to do whatever they were going to need to do. But she stopped, driving the car on autopilot, and blinking in shock at what he actually ended up saying.

Rationally, she could agree with him. His foot was a pain in the ass and with Rudy preoccupied, there was a very good chance whatever she did to get attention wouldn't work as quickly as she wanted it to. But it was the way he said it... She'd pretty much told him in the coffee shop how she felt about Rudy, if not directly then heavily implied it. And it was clear from his lash back at her that he'd understood perfectly and he used this personal information, that she'd felt comfortable enough to share with him, as a weapon against her. It hit her right where it hurt.

She hated Rudy. She fucking HATED the little bastard and she was constantly thinking and daydreaming of ways to kill him. But...she liked him too. In the back of her mind, she'd always hoped and kidded herself that there was some sort of relationship between them. Even when he showed up and she was actively looking out for Agents to show up...it was nice to have someone around who at least made a good show of pretending to like being with her. Even in her old life before she'd met Rudy, her personal relationships had suffered from things she'd done in her past. So, when he came along, he seemed a necessary and even tolerable evil. Most of the time she tricked herself into believing she was too dangerous to love and that it was better for her and for everyone if they just all stayed away. Rudy was the only one who didn't seem to care if she burned him alive.

Now that she'd found out the truth, the official truth without a doubt that Rudy was only interested in capturing her and selling her out...she'd still held onto a vague hope that he'd come back and things would be different. Or maybe they could at least go back to the way things were. But ever since she heard that he'd been the one directly responsible for capturing Gwen, there had been a doubt that he would have gotten what he wanted and she'd never see him again. And Alex just harpooned that fucking weak spot. And for what? Because she didn't want to clown around, dragging ass to fifty locations!? He really was a jerkwad.

Ozzie was fully willing to shut up after that - she hadn't meant to get personal with him in the first place, but she realized she'd gotten used to being around him and had been too honest; so she decided no more fucking talking from her and he would get nothing else to wound from now on - but the asshole kept talking. It didn't matter that he was trying to console her or at least trying to correct his error - in the most crass way possible, she might add. It was the touchy subject that he just kept poking at and poking at as if he knew anything about it. Although, she hadn't known Rudy had killed anyone, and it was a bit astonishing to know that he'd shot an innocent bystander, as soon as Alex said "Rudy" she gritted her teeth and gripped the wheel even tighter.

By the time they were at their location and Alex told her to stop, she was practically seething with bottled rage. She could feel it swelling inside her like molten lava inside a volcano, ready to burst from her top. And she barely acknowledged his murmured plan to torch the lawn - probably because he was a fucking pussy. As she parked at the curb and felt the engine die down, warmth spread around her in a cloud as her rage continued to build. Slipping Gwen's bag over her head and setting it on the divider between the seats, she also removed her jacket and checked the gun she'd stolen from the Agent. It was loaded. Leaving the car, she met Alex on the sidewalk and as he proceeded towards the building, she let the top blow.

Ozzie was walking right behind him when she moved into action, charging into him hard enough to knock him off his feet with a loud roar. When he fell to the ground and rolled onto his back giving her a look like he wanted to start pissing and moaning again, she stood firmly over him and a halo of fire appeared over her hands. Her dark chocolate brown eyes which could grow amber in sunlight had turned pitch black, shining in the light from her balled up fists as she glared murderously down at him. Then she pouted and gave him a quick, small kick to his good leg.

"You ass! I don't fucking need Rudy to do this and I don't need you! You can sit this one out an' rest your widdle weak ankles and just sit there and mouth off, Pretty boy! Next time you wanna give me relationship advice, try and stifle the urge by tongue fucking the mental clone of your girlfriend some more!" Her clothes caught on fire then, but through the hazy whisps of red, yellow and orange, they appeared to stay untouched by the flames that hovered over them. "I'll get you your stupid Agents and your stupid codes AND I'll do it without killing anybody! How's that Jimminy fucking Cricket!?" She kicked him again as the nickname blurted between her lips and her hair ignited in a halo of golden and shining flames.

It wasn't long before everything, even her skin was covered in fire, licking over her limbs and her face and obscuring her eyes but leaving her features half-visible. She loved the feel of the flames on her body and they roared over her with a mutual delight, turning her into a wraith of flame. She made an aggressive move towards him but stopped short and snorted when she caught him blinking in a half-flinch, before moving past him towards the building. As she walked over the lawn, her footsteps left charred and crackling imprints but they didn't stay lit for very long. He'd said something about setting it on fire and she did so with a wave of her hand, releasing the fire that burst to life and letting it roam free. But the great bulk of it consumed the short and well-groomed grass quickly and died with lamenting crackles.

That wouldn't do. She needed more fuel. There were shrubs outside by the doors and they instantly went up, allowed to burn freely, but it still wasn't enough. Ozzie was itching to do some damage. Unsnapping a button on a pocket against her upper thigh, she pulled out a small metal flask and unscrewed it. The slight burn of whiskey filled her mouth and she let it collect in her cheeks, before turning to the front of the building and spraying it in a stream of fire against the outside, charring it and setting a few small fires sticking outside. Not enough. She needed more. Rage still burned in her gut and the fires covering her body filled her with their hunger, even as they imbued her with their heated life.

Stepping towards the doors which were glass top to bottom, she glanced back to where Alex was before stepping through a hole that melted in the glass. Like a curtain parting for her and welcoming her home. Maybe there would be something she could make an explosion with, inside.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rudy Quin Character Portrait: Gwendolyn Stewart Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace Character Portrait: Brie

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#, as written by Ten
"Where the fuck is my phone!? Shit!" a distraught Rudy exclaimed, smashing his fist angrily at the dashboard as he cursed again.

Gwen flinched with the violent movement and tried to shy away from him just in case he decided to take his anger out on her, doing her best to become a part of her seat. It had been at least a half an hour since they'd encountered Officer Frewer and still, there was no sign of the reinforcements he'd called and the distant sirens had died back the way they'd come. In the meantime, Rudy had become more and more distressed, muttering openly to himself and cursing anxiously, his dialogue punctuated by these little bursts of anger that made everything, within reach in the car, a target for his frustration and rage.

"Dammit! Now I can't call in for a change of cars - and you KNOW that asshole wrote down my license plate number. I need to get rid of this car soon," he said, looking warily out at the other drivers sharing the road with him, before wiping the sweat off his forehead with his forearm.

That was another thing. In addition to the paranoid and almost frantic look in his eyes, Rudy had begun to sweat, even though she felt his body shivering occasionally. And Gwen knew it was his newly acquired wound that was the problem. The only thing he'd done so far to deal with the hole going through his shoulder, had been to stuff a bunch of napkins - handily kept in the glove box - inside his shirt. His seat and clothes were soaked in his blood and she was growing more and more worried about the very real possibility of him passing out.

"And oh fuck! What if Patten calls and I don't answer!? Another few thousand demotions, I just know it!" he ran a trembling hand through his hair and cast a wild look around that included another desperate glance in the rearview mirror. "Which sucks, because I just got done programming his ringtone as the Imperial March..." He glanced at Gwen and held her gaze for several moments before muttering, "Fucking epic, right?"

Gwen took that as his including her in a conversation and decided to voice her concerns. She didn't care if Rudy crashed and died, but with her tied defenseless in the car with him, it was another story - did this car even have a passenger seat air bag? "Rudy," she said hesitantly, pausing and licking her lips to wet them before continuing. "I think you need to stop. You're going into shock and you're losing a lot of blood--"

"OH! Thank you, Dr. Gwen, freaking medicine woman! When I want your diagnosis - which I don't and I won't - then you'll hear me...I don't know... I guess ask you or something..." He paused and thought it over. "Just shut the fuck up, alright!? God..." he moaned breathlessly as another sharp pain lanced through his tense body, leaning his head on the steering wheel and watching the road through the open sections on the leather wheel itself. "My whole fucking body hurts...heh..." As he leaned back up, a small uneven and breathy laugh left his lips and he glanced at her, his eyes sweeping over her with a thick glaze.

This was not good. She'd thought he'd been unstable before but this... What she'd hoped would be her moment of salvation had turned out to be the worst possible thing for her and was probably going to end up with them driving off the edge of the road into a hilltop ravine somewhere. Thinking that his weakened state would hopefully make him more susceptible to her powers, Gwen probed into his mind and nearly broke into a smile to realize he had let his guard down. As soon as she started to probe further into him however, she gasped as his hand whipped out to strike her quickly on the cheek, knocking her head back against her chair.

"Not right now!" he screamed at her, his voice cracking insanely. "NOT. RIGHT. NOW!!!"

She couldn't take this! She had to do something! But more and more, it was looking like all the room she had to move around in was just to get herself comfy in her seat and await her fate. Yet again, she tried to press the distance between her and Alex, pushed not by panic but desperation now, not really sure what she wanted to say to him but just wanting to make some sort of contact with him before her impending death in a car crash.

I...don't know if you can hear me... she said, her internal voice echoing with emotion as she began to cry softly. But where ever you are...

Gwen stopped and wept, uncertain if that foggy signature was really him or if she was just making it up inside her head to comfort herself before Rudy would decide to turn their car into a fast-moving weapon. She thought about all she'd been through with Alex and Xander both, and how she felt towards each of them and treated this as if it were her last conversation with them. She remembered her life before them, holed up in her apartment, distant yet friendly with everyone and not connecting with anyone. She'd been lonely but content, comforted by her routine and almost hermetic lifestyle, focusing on small things that she could control, like her books and the characters in her writing.

It had been that stalker who'd messed things up for her. John Tagman. A fan who'd shown up at a few of her book signings last year, gushing over her series, he'd been a bit awkward but enthusiastic, leading from a discussion of her character Elynsynos - one of the main male characters that he'd felt a connection to - into asking her on a date. She'd felt flattered by his almost boyish awkwardness, as if she were someone great and he was nervous about talking to, but had declined respectfully trying not to wound his feelings at the same time. He'd been fine with that, seemingly understanding of her decision, even playfully so and he'd left without getting weird or emotional. He'd just been a nice, quirky fella who liked her books - when the target audience was highschool girls and women, it was always a little funny to her to get the occasional man who liked her novels as well.

After that, she'd forgotten about Tagman and went on with her life. A few weeks later she received the first of what would be many packages, on her doorstep. It had been a simple rose with a love poem attached, the tone of which hinted at a personal relationship with her but the language used was of a general yearning. She hadn't thought anything of it but kept it nonetheless. A few more packages later, each getting more intimate than the last - the notes discussing things like lunch she'd had with her mother, her current relationship with an artist named Mickey and how the author of the note could tell he didn't love her and things weren't going to work out, discussing her favorite foods, favorite shows, wanting to curl up in bed with her at night, etc. - and the packages themselves had become more disturbing in nature. One of them had been a dead cat that looked like someone had tried to skin it with a lawnmower left in a box on her doorstep. Having read the note that said something to the effect of "When your boyfriend fucks you this is how I feel/what I feel like doing to you..." she'd fucking called the police.

It hadn't been hard for the cops to find him - apparently Tagman had a little bit of a record - and soon after that, they let her know that the situation had been handled and that she wouldn't be bothered again. And she hadn't been. The scar had been left however and the residue of that feeling of being intimately watched stayed with her until she didn't like going out in public anymore. She broke up with her boyfriend and spent the next year staying away from people, trying to move on with her life and finding consolation in writing the rest of her 5th and final novel in the Nightshade series. By the time Alex had come along, she'd begun to feel normal again, the trauma fading and she was even a bit lonely, her mundane life and the cage she'd locked herself in starting to feel less like home and more like a prison. He'd rescued her from more than just Agents.

I just want you to know... she started again, the tears clearing up and a calm descending upon her. That no matter what happens when I get to Charlton, I had the best time of my life being on this adventure with you and I don't regret a moment of it--

The flimsy contact she'd had was broken abruptly as she noticed Rudy turning off of the highway into another rural town. Gwen hadn't been paying attention to his ranting up until now, so she missed out on the cause of this detour, but was quickly filled in as he continued to murmur to himself. He was still looking to abandon the car and find a replacement. Maybe he would pass out while they were stationary afterall? It would definitely be better than while driving a moving car. So, even though she doubted the police were even close to finding them, she kept quiet as he drove through town, waiting and hoping that he'd fall asleep soon and she could get away from him.

At one point, they passed a large church with the parking lot filled and he slowed down beside it, looking at the cars. Probing inside the building, Gwen sensed that there was a wedding going on this beautiful Saturday morning. From the images in the different guests minds, she thought it was a very lovely event. Why was Rudy interested? Obviously the cars had something to do with it and she shook her head in disapproval.

"You're going to hijack a car from a wedding?"

"Are you sure it's not a funeral? I woulda liked to drive a hearse." He ignored or didn't see the abhorred look on her face. She had no doubt he wouldn't have any qualms about stealing such a vehicle, especially if it had the coffin and body inside it!

Driving past the church, he found a secluded lot on the other side of a small hardware store and parked in the shade of several ash trees. While he leaned across the seats to dig around in the back for something, Gwen reached out and probed the surrounding area for any allies. Maybe this was it. Another chance to escape. If she could just find someone willing to take an axe to Rudy's skull...

Then Quin had what he'd been digging for, a small folded fabric binder that she instantly recognized from her stay at the hotel.

"Rudy...please... please don't... I promise, I'll stop trying to hurt you! I promise I won't interfere!"

From out of the case he brought out a vial of clear liquid and a syringe and began to fill it with a very sizable dose. "Heh, yeah and we both know how good your word is, don't we? In fact, it's something I feel in my nose." Finally he turned to her, wielding the small needle in one hand and grabbing at her with the other as she whimpered in protest. She squirmed agitatedly as it stuck into the side of her neck, but she couldn't shake him loose before her movements became too sluggish and consciousness faded from her.

"There we go," he said pleasantly, tossing the syringe aside and casting a paranoid look out the car windows.

***

Through a haze of fire, Osono regarded the dimly lit space, the light of her body and sunlight coming through the front doors and windows illuminating everything to her shining eyes. The anger that swelled within her helped feed the core of the flames as the fire she now wore filled her with a sense of euphoria to be bonded with it so closely. As a result, she let herself forget for the time being why she was in here, mowing a path of destruction with every step, her heart pounding with the beat of chaos.

Fuel. She needed it in order to bask in the growth and life of the flames, and she searched the first rooms and entry hall for something to set on fire. Briefly, she waved her hand at the walls and a few potted plants setting them alight, but she didn't let the fires that burst into being stay. As much as setting the whole place on fire would give her that boost and strength she needed, it was dangerous to do so before she was ready to leave. Naturally, the fires that sprang up would never hurt her or touch her with more than a warm embrace, and with everything covered wall-to-wall in burning glory, she could walk out the front doors without a scratch. But in her experience, burning buildings tended to fall apart and with how eagerly the fires moved to consume everything with her around, she'd pose a danger to herself burning everything on her way in.

Other than a few accent plants, there was a large desk in front of the doors, but it was thick metal and would take more energy to burn; expelling large amounts of energy was not what she needed at the moment, but rather a big fire done quickly with little effort. An explosion would feel good right about now. Ozzie wasn't very well-versed in what an office building held - suits and desks were for squares - but it was a big enough place that she automatically assumed there would be a large and complex heating system involved to keep the building from freezing in the winter. Usually a room housing that equipment would either be on the ground floor or in the basement, so with that in mind, she made her way quickly, searching for it. She didn't have a map, but held onto the hope that her instincts would kick in when she sensed there was "food" nearby.

Even with her attention focused on finding something flammable, Ozzie let her rage build thinking back over the things Alex had said. He was such a jerk! He'd already mentioned it and she'd even said it herself - she didn't need to come along to help him as she was barely involved. Here he was limping along on a leg that was obviously damaged in a way that wasn't going to get better from running around on it and he was expecting to charge blindly into where ever they had stuffed his girlfriend away and not get himself killed. She'd seen him fight of course, and he could more than hold his own against these assholes who'd failed to even touch her with her "training" being nothing more than biker club hand-me down tips. And that boost Gwen had given him would definitely help to electrocute anybody who came too close with the intent to harm him.

But having her along would definitely even the odds if he were to be overwhelmed. It more than assured their victory in any fight and she was here on her own willing to help him, out of the kindness of her fucking heart because she knew he couldn't do it without her. So why he kept acting like she was just following him around for his damn company... And telling her not to kill anybody? Was he fucking mental? They were in a war with these people! And she knew They had a habit of mimicking regular people as well - that is, up until the moment they tried to jump you. So everybody was a possible threat and expendable. Not that she went around actively killing anyone who looked at her wrong, but if she needed to blow up a building or a gas station to get away and save herself from being overwhelmed, she wasn't going to wait and try and evacuate everybody before setting the "match." It was her or them and she was done looking out for the general public.

In her old life, having a "standard" hadn't helped her one bit and Ozzie was frustrated that Alex was trying to fit her into that restrictive mold again. And then there was Rudy... Clenching her fists tighter and grinding her teeth, the fires around her body flared up even brighter as rage pulsed through her again. She would show him. She would show all of those Agent fuckers. Next time she saw Rudy, she was going to bathe in his blood, no matter what Alex's conscience said. Redemption and moderation were not in her vocabulary.

She'd gone quite a ways within the maze of hallways, still looking for her new fuel source when Alex called out behind her. Turning, she sneered at him through the fire, feeling the heat of their argument blazing through her body all over again at the sight of him.

"What are you doing in here, scumbag?" Osono asked in her raspy voice, cutting through the air with her caustic tone. "Got a death wish? Or have you come to check up on me? I TOLD you I'm not gonna kill anybody, you pompous ass! I don't need you to babysit me! I'VE GOT IT UNDER CONTROL!" It did not occur to her the incongruity of screaming that statement.

God! Why didn't he just stay the fuck outside? Not only did having him around and hearing him speak remind her of how much she hated his guts, but the fact that he was here trying to prove something by reiterating exactly what she said she wasn't going to do! True, there was the whole explosion thing still calling to her, but she wasn't at a point where she could think rationally about this. He was trying to say that she was like a wildfire that couldn't be controlled, that he needed to be here to protect people from her! She hated him so fucking much!

As these thoughts bubbled up inside her, the flames on her hair and shoulders climbed higher until they licked at the ceiling, wraith-like tendrils of bright orange light snaking along the foam grid panels. A few sprinklers that had been sitting balefully quiet this whole time, eventually gave into the urge and heat of her and burst to liquid life, spitting rain frantically down upon them accompanied by a shrill alarm. The flames around Osono's body quickly went down as she was drenched until she was left looking down at her hands and blinking wetly at herself. Nothing had happened except now it would be harder for her to maintain a fire with the constant wetness soaking everything. She hadn't been thinking clearly but hadn't meant to get that upset.

Slowly, she looked up at Alex, obviously bereft from the absence of her fire and shrugged at him in the dim hallway. "Oops..." Then her eyes caught sight of something just a little ways from him, a short distance between them. There was a spot on the floor where the raining water didn't land like it did everywhere else. Alarmed, Osono pointed at it, "Alex! What is that?" Not having ever encountered an invisible person before, she honestly didn't know what to make of the weird spot on the ground - maybe there was something he could see from his end?

Not a second later after being revealed, the spot was suddenly moving and wet footsteps could be heard pounding towards her in a charge. Surprised by the sudden unseen attack being launched upon her, Osono stood there gaping with her fists half-raised before the imprint of a fist smashed into her face and knocked her off her feet. Landing with a grunt onto her side in the puddle that was forming on the floor tiles, she shook her head and grimaced before moving her legs in a swift sweep along the ground where the attack had originated. She wasn't quick enough to catch whoever it was and they'd moved before she had. What was worse, she was barely rising from the ground when a second hit took her in the gut, stunning her with the force of it.

What was this? Invisible Agents? Even with the movements of the "ghost" being half-discerned by the droplets they stopped from falling, she couldn't fixate on their body mass enough to land a blow and they moved too quickly for her to focus on them. On hands and knees and sensing that another blow was coming soon, she murmured, "Sorry, Alex," before she lit the match in her mind's eye and lashed out towards the moving target.

Flames burst instantly to life on the fabric of her foe's leg, despite the liquid covering everything in heavy layers, her will pushing the fire to consume more of him, letting it spread on his knee and calf, even as keeping it lit against the sprinklers ate away at her energy. Even so, the new fire filled her with strength and disoriented him enough to stay any other attacks, leaving an opening - and also identifying his location - for her to move forward and cram her fist into his stomach. One thing she became immediately aware of after that brief contact with the front of his body and the two mounds on his chest, was that her adversary was not a man but actually a woman and she was wearing some kind of slick, thin outfit.

The fire on the Agent's leg only gave her a brief advantage and the other woman didn't seem to care about it even when the smell of burning flesh filled the air, continuing to launch an invisible assault to subdue Ozzie. Luckily for her, the new fire eating away at her "friend" filled her limbs and muscles with a surge of power that ignored her fastly depleting energy stores, and the blows that were landed by the other hit their mark as if Osono were wearing armor herself. She'd definitely feel the blows later, though; this bitch could throw a punch!

***

So. He knew. It was the first thing that occurred to her as soon as Master began to speak again, the implication heavy even in those first words and then implied even more later on. Well, it was no great loss. If he'd known all this time and had failed to say anything until she'd brought it up, then it must not have been as important to him as she'd originally worried about. It was a bit of a relief, even as she was mortified with the realization of how she'd touched Jason while in the Master's presence. How foolish she'd been to think that his back being turned had meant anything!

When Master got down to the deal he wanted to make with her, Stephanie's heart flew for a few seconds before crashing back down to earth. Of course. Why would she even think that she'd get to have her cake and eat it too? Especially after basically revealing to her boss, the intricacies of her one weakness on this case. And the choice he presented was not one she wanted to make - she'd be losing something both ways. Then she chided herself for even thinking that. This was for Jason's benefit, to help him. It was why she'd even gotten enough courage to ask Master about it in the first place. And she even reasoned, that the warning he gave was a lot less serious than it felt. Mostly, she was interested in what her partner would get out of this rather than what she could possibly lose by keeping him around.

What would Jason want her to do? He'd wanted to leave before, to the point where he risked bodily harm to get it from her. But in the car, he'd said... But with the chance to get everything he'd lost - minus the suit - back, it changed things drastically. And everything Master said, made sense and hit home as things she'd considered and discarded because of her selfish desire to keep her plaything turned companion by her side. It made her realize that if she really did feel anything for him other than pleasure at his torment, she needed to stop putting him through this. Maybe Master was right. Everything was basically a done deal, and she'd be far enough away from Alexander to make the transfer go through without a hitch. She could do it on her own...

And then her body stiffened at the sound of Jason's voice suddenly filling the air and she blinked in surprise at the door as he stepped forward into the room. How...how long had he been there? Had Master known? Oh, God! How much had he heard? Everything? Even what she'd said? In place of worrying about that, however, she was suddenly more interested in what Jason was saying now about his goggles. A possible answer to the problem he'd faced in Elmira! She had to admit, she was very interested as well, hoping to find some sort of explanation for what had occurred with Nathan.

Watching the feed - well, more listening to it; so, Jason hadn't jumped to repair his equipment when he'd gotten them back - she tried to focus on what the "boy" had said before it suddenly went blank. It was like watching a suspenseful television show and having it cut out in the middle of the climax, and she felt the urge to shake the "T.V." Then it was back a moment later, as if nothing had happened and she heard the sounds of the Elmira elevator platform coming to a stop. As Jason lamented to Eric about the loss of the important part of the recording, Stephanie found her attention still fixed on what was happening in the recording.

She'd arrived and had demanded in her dead, monotone voice that he give her a detailed report on what had occurred in her absence. She remembered that and how she'd felt back then. There had been a burst of excitement inside her at the sight of Jason and the urge to physically hurt him had come over her. As they were left alone, she could hear it more clearly, the sound of her close to him, half-seen by the dangling goggles as he was grabbed by the hair and pulled violently towards her. She remembered the way that his hair had felt, the delight coursing through her fingers to feel the skin of his scalp shiver in a held-in, silent agony that she'd created.

When Jason turned it off, she blinked rapidly and took in a deep breath, blushing when she realized that had been a bit like watching porn for her. Looking at him, she wanted to hurt him like that again, her fingers itching with the desire to tug and pull at his hair--and it wasn't more than a second when she had that thought that she found her fingers smoothing through his curly locks, cradling the back of his neck gently as she latched onto his lips. Master and the whole discussion that'd been had, left her completely as her mouth melded with his, her senses suddenly overwhelmed by him.

For several moments, the room was filled with nothing but the small wet clicks and smacks of her lips moving passionately over his, before finally they stopped. She did not draw back right away however, keeping close enough to run her tongue along his upper lip, tracing it lightly, her fingers curling and recurling over his strands of hair. Finally, she seemed to remember personal space and moved back enough to talk to him.

"In that case, maybe it'd be better for you if I took his offer, then?" she asked in a slight whisper, responding to what he'd said in regards to something not wanting him to stay. Wrapping her arms around his shoulders, she nuzzled into his neck as if she could hide herself from the world just by being closer to him. "I don't know what I want anymore... There's Gwen... There's you... I...just want to stop hurting you so much. And it sounds crazy, I know, but I cannot help it and I cannot find the will to care what they'd think.

"I couldn't get him to give you your suit back... I don't know why I thought I could. Even now, Master's offer feels like he's playing games with me...testing me, trying to make me stronger... I don't want to give into it, but there's too much for you to gain - you could start over, wipe the slate clean. You could erase me and what I and this case have done to you. You could be perfect again..." She trembled slightly against him and took a deep breath through her nose, smelling him, calming herself.

"I know what you must think of me... that I'm some type of monster out to get you, and in the beginning, I did play that way. I just wanted you to look at me. I wanted to be your terror and your horror, to consume you like I do everything else and toss away your empty shell when I was done. But things are different...and I realize..I love you too much to destroy you completely..." She hugged him tighter then, her body molding with his for a few moments. Love? Did she mean that? It wasn't something she was aware she even knew how to say anymore. But it felt good to say it to him...

"I know the important thing is the transfer and the case. It always has been. But I just...couldn't help but feel like I wanted you there...by my side...to watch me become better than I am... I suppose it's silly to think it's a moment worth sharing..."

Letting him go, she stood back from him and ran a hand through her hair that had grown a bit stringy these past few days and she looked everywhere but at him. "I'll get the necessary paperwork and I'll fill them out - you won't need to worry about it. I haven't really given much thought about post-transfer, except to hope that I might become an A-2 and look after a base of my own or something. Maybe Master is right... Maybe after the transfer, it'd be better...for us."

There she went assuming things again. Formal. He liked things formal and here she was getting weepy over losing him and saying things that didn't matter in regards to her case. It couldn't be helped. Sure, she might not care what the higher-ups thought of her - so long as they got results, they didn't care as much about her sex life as she'd been led to believe. But it would not be good for him to continue to be dragged around on her leash just because she was lonely. Not when he could have everything back with the snap of an A-1's fingers. She had to make sacrifices somewhere and as long as it let her keep Gwen, she would do anything for him. Why did everything have to be so complicated?

Trying not to look into his face, she held out her hand stiffly as if she wanted him to shake it. This was a proper goodbye. Distanced. Generic. He would appreciate that, as opposed to the kisses she'd given him that he hadn't asked for and probably didn't want. Kisses she'd stolen from him. As she waited for his hand to join hers, she felt the sickness that had assaulted her on the plane start to rise up in her stomach. The weight that she'd originally associated with the Atropytamine withdrawal came as well, bearing down heavily on her shoulders as if gravity was intent on crushing her. A headache lanced through her skull as she internally chanted to herself that she could do this on her own, and she wondered if goodbye was supposed to always feel like dying...

***

Walking along the street, back the way he'd driven, Rudy whistled lightly to himself and glanced around warily while at the same time trying to appear as if he belonged here. A jacket covered up the wound in his shoulder but his right arm still hung limply by his side, swaying painfully as he walked back to the church. It wasn't too far and he'd hidden the car enough to escape a cursory notice, so he was more just worried about setting off anybody's red flags.

The pain in his nose had dulled to a dim ache that made the whole center of his face feel like a numb hole, so he'd forgotten about the broken nose. And he'd run out of things on which to wipe his blood to clean himself off, so he was pretty much stuck looking like this until he got to Charlton. Walking through the parking lot, he made his way through the aisles of cars, looking for one to use as his getaway. He didn't have his lock picking set with him, so he was really just praying someone would be stupid enough to leave the door open and even more, that they'd have left their keys behind.

Eventually, he neared the front of the church and noticed two guys standing around an idling car, almost as if they were waiting for someone. Rudy's eyes swept over the vehicle, not noticing the white drawings of smiley faces and hearts with signs like "Love" and "Forever" on the windows. He especially didn't notice the "Just Married" sign on the back window either. All he saw was an operational car and a quick and easy escape. As he approached, he glanced around to make sure there were no other witnesses at the moment and pleased with the empty street, he put on a smile and walked up to the two men in suits.

"Hey there," Rudy said pleasantly. "Special day, huh?"

The guy's stopped talking as soon as he came within ear shot and both stopped lounging on the car to look warily at him. "Man...are you okay? Do you need to be taken to a hospital or something?"

"Probably, heh," he said, nodding his head in an amused fashion before pulling his gun from his pocket. Both men fell in two flashes of light.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace Character Portrait: Brie

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#, as written by Ten
Standing there, barely a foot away from him with her hand held out stupidly between them, Stephanie trembled slightly and a cold sweat had started to collect at her temples and neck. She didn't understand what was wrong with her but there wasn't much room for conscious thought as her breathing became labored and she struggled not to hyperventilate. When Jason spoke and started to laugh, it drew her hazy attention and the feeling of nausea that had been threatening her stomach abated cleanly to hear that melodious sound coming from his lips.

In her semi-confused state, Stephanie almost wanted to laugh with him - what was going on? - but then all hilarity fled as he started speaking again, and she could not tear her gaze away from the tone he took with her. There had been a few things she'd expected from him in regards to what she'd said, and what she was offering, but the most probable in her mind had been that he would have been happy. Happy to get his life back and happy to be rid of her. But of course, he was angry at her after dragging him through the mud and hitting a few hidden rocks to get to this point. And the suit that she could--Oh, my God!!! Did he just say that!??? He DID! Her name! Not 'boss', not 'Miss Agent' - no, wait, that was Benoit - but Stephanie! Her partner had called her by name! Although the way he'd said it was hinting at an almost acerbic barb, it was even more delightful than his genuine, boyish laughter had been. And for several moments she struggled to hang onto the rest of what he was saying, purely and unalterably floating in the clouds that Jason had said her name - and she knew right then and there that she wanted to hear him say it again. Maybe not exactly like that though...

But no...he was angry with her, as he had every right to be with the explanation he gave her. Even as guilt started to eat away at her again, feeling incredibly sorry for confusing him so much and using him the way she had through all of this, at the same time...she felt her heart start to heat up and the feelings of illness and aching pain were subsiding completely. He was...angry with her...and she was growing inexplicably fond of the sensation being the focus of his emotions. Through most of this trip he'd been fairly restrained as far as emotion went. There had been bursts of anger and desperate rage when fighting with Jean and going through his withdrawal early on, but never had he faced her with that heated look in his eyes. And that tone of voice! She was his superior! Was he really speaking to her this way? It was like a dream come true...

Not only that but the things he was now saying... What did he mean he didn't care? Then the flippant disrespect of Master - which barely got a ripple on her emotional radar as she waited for him to make his point - and trying not to think of what a good idea it'd be for him to get naked right now. God, why did he even have to mention that? Now she couldn't stop thinking about it! Although skin tight, there were some things his suit left to the imagination and she cursed the Agency designers for their "clean" taste.

She stopped internally giggling over that and blinked wide-eyed at him as he continued on, stating his reasons that the suit no longer mattered to him. A ruby blush dusted her cheeks in two bright blossoming flowers and her head swam as she struggled with the urge to cry. She really was a monster... But it was true! The way she felt about him... The way he messed with her head constantly too! She'd never cared about anyone in years and now here she was at a point of giving back almost everything she'd taken from him not because it would remove the "weakened limb" as Master had said, but because she wanted to do something for him. And it really wasn't fair bringing up the bathroom incident in that way. She had responsibilities and pressures too and at the time she'd been in a very emotional state!

Stephanie just wanted him to leave now... She didn't care about the obvious implications in his words but rather focused on the fact that he blamed her for everything just like she blamed herself. Wasn't it enough that she was trying now? That she was trying to be helpful? And that pesky feeling of arousal would not leave her even as she choked down a knot of tears. So much force... So much anger... She loved and hated it and it made her feel all sorts of terrible and yet incredibly sexy. Which was why he had to...

And then he was there, grabbing ahold of her, his lips finding hers and taking her breath away even as the new inhalation opening her lungs, was filled with him. For the first few minutes, riding on the shock of it, her body tensed and she flexed her arms defensively in his hold. But when she felt the unyielding strength and power rippling through his limbs and muscles and their bodies met in a just as eager and forceful "kiss", she was melting in his grip and her curves were molding to his muscled form. God, yes! Just like this! Oh--Mmmmm! She wanted him. Just. Like. Thiiiiissss...!

Here was everything about his anger that she loved, the passion and hunger she felt pulsing in her own chest reflected back at her tenfold in his lips and his touch. The power in his breast and body as he seemed to tower over her without even trying, every little frenzied swipe of his tongue forcing her to cling closer to him so she wouldn't fall to the ground in a puddle at his feet. And then his grip left her only for his hands to start wandering... He was hurting her. Not a lot, his hold forceful and pressing, pulling at her and fingernails vaguely digging in through his gloves and she was just about going crazy because of it! OH FREAKING GOD! MORE! She needed more of this--it was definitely time to make good on his promise to get naked earlier!

And amidst all of this, she knew she couldn't let him go - his hands were wandering further!!! - she couldn't let him go anywhere now, no matter what she'd felt or what Master hinted at. There was no way in freaking hell she could stop or give this up! She couldn't remember the last time her heart had beat this fast. Even eagerly awaiting Gwen's arrival or getting ready to engage the target in battle could not compare to the excitement and breaths of life filling her right now. And Jason was in every vein, moving her pounding heart with every stroke of his tongue on her skin--

A very unfamiliar voice broke everything before Jason suddenly vanished to teleport several feet from her. Stephanie wobbled on her feet as she stood on her own once more, her head filled with a dizzy high, not even noticing the intruder before Jason addressed the other man in angered tones. Even then, the intoxicated state he'd left her in kept her from focusing on any details and she couldn't find it in her heart to be mad at the intrusion. Jason had called her by name. Jason had fucking yelled at her. And Jason had just kissed her so hard she was still trying to mentally get to her feet.

As her vision cleared and she took the chubby man in, shaking her head slightly to clear the thick cloud of sex-filled fog Jason had left behind, she realized what he was saying and what was going on. Oh, Alexander's body... How late was it? Briefly she wondered if Rudy was here yet too and got momentarily excited about that, but then Jason was leaving, uttering hurried explanations as he made his way to the door. Her mind still cluttered with him, she merely muttered "Oh...um...hm..." raising her hand just a little as if to ask him to stay before her body refused to obey any more commands. Alright...well...he could go, she supposed. For now, while she was still filled with his scent and his taste, her skin tingling from his rough-handed touch. But later... well, the suit had to come off some time, didn't it? And she would most definitely help then.

A small, breathless, girlish giggle bubbled from between her lips as she licked at her teeth and blushed again in the empty, darkened room. Goodness, she really was bad!

***

Alright. Osono was freaking done with this fight. Not only could she not see this Agency bitch who was wearing some sort of cloaking device and thus every hit she landed seemed to come out of fucking nowhere and was impossible to block - and there wasn't a wasted movement, every fist in Ozzie's gut slamming home with incredible force. But also this chick was impossible to pin down. Sure, the fire on her leg helped identify where the lower half of her body was, but whenever Ozzie threw a punch for her face or stomach, the woman blocked her or dodged out of the way. It was incredibly frustrating, notwithstanding the fact that the crippling fire seemed to have little or no effect on the woman's abilities, and besides the added bonus of strength that Ozzie felt filling her muscles and bones, the whole fight was starting to get on her nerves.

She wasn't even really aware of Alex or where he was, too focused on trying not to just kill the bitch she was fighting and be done with it - Ha! I win, Agent whore! - so when he passed behind her, even as he fled into her sphere of awareness, she ignored him. She'd deal with him later. For now, it was time to end this and get to the part where she wasn't actively fighting the urge to kill someone while she was fighting them and getting the shit beat out of her.

Looking to surprise the woman, Osono sloshed down in the ankle deep puddle at their feet and swept her leg underneath the other woman. As expected, the fire on her leg lifted several inches off the ground as the Agent jumped over Ozzie's legs. Before her feet had landed again, however, Osono was up, half-bent over, her foot whipping out to pound into the woman's gut. Since she still had air, there was no chance for her to catch her balance and she careened back into the opposite wall of the hallway. Ozzie was there, shoving the Agent's face into the wall and holding her still with her body. A fist poked into Ozzie's ribs, causing her to grunt, but she didn't let go, picking the woman's head up and shoving it forcefully back into the wall, before grabbing her by the top of her head and her neck and throwing her to the ground.

Then she was there, straddling the woman on the ground, pulling the gun still nestled in the waistband of her soaking wet pants, before pointing it where the woman's head should be. The invisible lady beneath her bucked and once or twice tried to use her legs to swoop up and wrap around Osono's neck, but Ozzie hit her in the face with the gun and the struggles stopped. Even when the woman regained her sense of balance, Ozzie had the gun cocked and pressing firmly into the woman's forehead and she didn't move.

"Let's...try this...again, yeah?" Ozzie said breathlessly. "If you don't tell me who the fuck you are right now, I'm gonna burn you alive and then shoot your brains out. In that order." Osono paused to move her short, blonde bangs that had fallen into her face and were dripping long streams of water down her brow ridge, out of the way before continuing.

"I'll start," she said, grabbing the top of the woman's head with her other hand and pulling off the mask that was covering her, revealing a harsh looking brunette scowling up at her. "You have something I need, and I'll be generous and ONLY blow your brains out, if you give it to me when I ask you for the first time. Codes. You have them - no, don't fucking argue. You have them. I need them. Give them to me now. Did I mention I'm on a bit of a time crunch? You have 3 seconds before I decide to just say Fuck it."

***

It took Stephanie only a few minutes before Jason's warmth and smell faded from her body and then the room, leaving her with only the sweet memories of the sensations. After that, she didn't really feel like being in that room alone anymore and left it, casting reluctant looks back over her shoulder and shivering and swooning all over again to remember how he'd stood there holding her.

Turning into the hallway, as she began walking back the way she and Master had come upon arriving at the room, there was a new bounce to her step, a gentle rolling of her hips and lightly she hummed a pretty tune under her breath. Now to figure things out. She'd already decided that she couldn't let Jason go - and with everything he'd said and done, apparently he was in the same boat as she was in just not caring about fighting it anymore. And she had to be prepared for people to ask questions about something that was none of any of their business. Briefly, she thought about coming up with an elaborate lie about loyalty and how she needed to keep him with her because he knew the most about her case than anyone, but everyone would most likely see through that, just as Master had.

Eventually, she found herself struggling to even stay focused on the current problem as a fantasy of Jason tying her down entered her head, filling her body with delightful warmth. Then she started thinking that was a little like what he'd done with her arms in there and how she would have liked if he'd had his hands free to do other things while still restraining her. Maybe next time if there was rope around? Would it seem too obvious or scare him off if she provided him with necessary rope? Maybe she could say it was so he wouldn't slip and fall on the bloody stairs again and hope he'd just use it on her when the time came again. Would he take it as a jab to his masculinity and possibly get angry with her if she implied he had no balance? God she hoped so...

Any further thinking about it was cut short as she saw the man who'd shown up before come walking down the hallway from the opposite direction than the one she was headed towards. That made a new set of fresh memories pop up inside her head. That man! He'd come to the room and interrupted them and he knew Jason by name. The way they had spoken to each other had been very friendly and familiar and she suddenly had the jealous urge to pick the man's brain.

"You! Puppy," she called out to him, turning around to face him. Snapping her fingers severely and then pointing to the ground at her feet, she commanded, "Here. Now." waiting with a rigid grace for him to huff and puff up to the spot she indicated.

"State your name, your rank and current position in the Agency," she said forcefully, her voice only mimicking the cold deadpan she usually possessed, but more just sounding angry than anything else. "Oh, and also, what is your relationship with my partner, Jason? You are friends? I want to know about him - and not anything that I would find in his file, which I've already read. What foods does he like to snack on? What's his favorite color? Are there any particular scents that he is fond of? What's his favorite song?"

While asking her questions a small smile and dreamy, far-off look had crossed her face and abruptly it vanished as she scowled at him impatiently. "Speak, Pup!" she demanded, smacking him twice, quickly on the chest. She didn't know why she was calling him "pup", since he was at least a few years older than her, but the whole doughy demeanor got her to thinking that he was on a lower level than herself.

"I would caution you to think hard about your answers," she said smoothly, in a voice that mimicked the sultry tone of a viper. "Because I will not accept incorrect information. It is alright if you 'do not know', but for every one of those responses I get from you, I will break off one of your fingers and then stick them in my pocket to keep as trophies." She made no move to grab him or make good on her threat, but there was a depth to her voice that left no doubt - she would do what she promised. "I do not think it is necessary to detail to you what will happen if any information you give me ends up being false."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Stephanie March Character Portrait: Osono "Ozzie" Wallace Character Portrait: Brie

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#, as written by Ten
Almost immediately, she started to lament over the fact that apparently she'd hooked herself an idiot. Most of the time, threats worked to get the desired results, but occasionally, there'd be that one or two people who couldn't seem to handle the mental pressure and stress the additional promise of physical violence put upon them. It was rarely something Stephanie encountered in the Agency, but it never failed to make her instantly desire to give them an early retirement from their job. This was no exception. Especially considering the Puppy's seemingly close relationship with her partner and the fact that his imbecilic brain was keeping her from the more intimate information she desired to have about Jason.

She could see it in his face as he grappled with the tongue occupying the fleshy cheeks on his face and Stephanie gritted her teeth while she waited for the right buttons and gears to start functioning. But they didn't. More nonsense came out from between pudgy lips, bordered by dark blonde facial hair above and below and she struggled with the urge to reach in and detach it from the rest of his body. He KNEW things that she didn't and she wanted what he had! It wasn't fair! Did he think he could be closer to Jason and compete with her!? The fool! She would unlock those answers and more, even if she was forced to crack his skull open and pour out the goop he called a brain to find them.

As she made to reach for his ear, she stopped as someone flew by them and she paused to give him a puzzled look at his questions. Yes, she'd seen something but don't change the subject, Pup-- Then the thought instantly disappeared as Madeline approached them, deathly beautiful as ever, seeming to weigh their part of the hallway down with an overwhelming shadow that was both delightful and terrifying to behold. As much as Stephanie imagined how lovely it would be to spend an afternoon with this woman, just hanging out, shopping and torturing people, she was immediately struck by the fact that Madeline Bergmann was not a "hanging out" type of person. And it became even clearer when she spoke, in that same loud, practically shouting tone of voice. And her eyes swept over Stephanie in the dismissive look that a superior gave to someone below them who did not matter. Stephanie simply did not exist on Madeline's radar and as much as it personally hurt, it made her feel even more enamored with the ice cold A-2.

One of the first things that she became aware of in the brief orders issued by Madeline was that she'd lost something - or rather someone; another one of those things that Stephanie could just feel about her, was it was very unlikely that Madeline was an "animal" person to any degree and that "cat" was a nickname for a person - and another was the reminder of what had brought the Pup to interrupt her and Jason earlier. The "body" was here. The main instrumental part of the plan to capture Alexander was being fulfilled and practically made ready.

The fact that she was being ordered to take care of it made a burst of annoyance fill Stephanie and even though she greatly respected Madeline, she couldn't help saying aloud after the woman was gone, "Tch! Where's Benoit? It's his package, not mine." She scowled a bit longer as she watched the Agent's back swiftly recede down the hallway, but the irritation immediately cleared up when the Puppy started talking in complete sentences.

Her expression calmed to a more pleasant look as she turned back to him - although a vague storm cloud passed before her eyes to see him twist his two fingers together in a description of his relationship with Jason - and a small smile appeared on her lips and only grew the more he went on. She even ignored the minor bumbling stops and starts as he tried to think of his answers, ecstasy filling her heart with each new revelation giving her the urge to squeal and giggle like a schoolgirl. Cookies, eh? Instantly, she mentally marked down the specific detail of the snack and made a note to herself that she would do all in her power to get said treat for him. And immediately after that, she found herself completely smitten by the color blue and the thought of him wearing it, struggling not to emit a sigh as the image passed within her mind. Blue was now her favorite color too! Screw red or whatever the hell it had been before!

Hm, smells were definitely something she'd have to experiment with to find something that he would feel drawn to - maybe something soft at first, like vanilla or some mellow type of fruit, like strawberries. If those didn't get a response, then she'd increase the intensity to the more flowery and perfumey scents. She didn't even mind that basically that answer had been an "I don't know"; it was still VERY useful information! Especially considering that Stephanie was very fond of seafood, particularly shellfish - she was always willing to try flounder at restaurants that offered it, but shrimp got her particularly weak in the knees. Given the option to add it to pasta, she usually did and would pay extra to have the noodle/shrimp ratio to be about 50/50 in her bowl. Now, however, she found herself suddenly loathing fish and swore to herself to never let it touch her plate again.

And then the last question answered DID get a squeal from her, a hand going up to touch her blushing cheek while a giggle escaped from her throat. Seriously? Bon Jovi? How delightfully hard rock! And the mere thought of Jason singing made her leg muscles threaten to turn into pudding. Even the thought of a DRUNK Jason...! Immediately, she added "something alcoholic" to her mental shopping list. He'd drunk quite a bit of wine on the plane but apparently it hadn't been the right kind because it had put him to sleep rather than got him singing to her. At this point, it did not occur to her that there would be something wrong with her getting her colleague drunk. In fact... the time restraints they were on and the case period did not even have a fighting chance of entering her head.

Ecstatic with all this new information, Stephanie was smiling brightly with small giggles erupting from between her lips as she quickly enveloped the Pup in a squeezing hug. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders and neck and she pulled him close, crushing him against her full, and round breasts while murmuring excitedly, "Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! You're marvelous!" Another giggle and she released him, looking him over with shining eyes, no longer seeing the idiot from before but something much more valuable. This guy was a gold mine!

Finally, the real world seem to remember itself around her as she cast a glance at the hallway and she realized once again that Madeline had given her orders. For a moment longer, she slumped and let out a heavy breath - why couldn't Benoit do it? Where was that smoking weasel hiding? It was his case and she would have expected him to be all over it - especially considering she'd have to leave the subject of Jason and Jason's friend behind, to tend to her responsibilities. Then she found herself perking back up when she actually started to think of what had arrived on their doorstep - the body of the Agent/target that had been keeping Gwen from her clutches this whole time. The man who'd given Benoit so much trouble all these years and who had Master practically squirming in fanboy delight to talk about him. Not to mention the fact that it was a body in stasis right now and she adored seeing them like that - she might get a peek right now if she wanted!

Glancing again at the chubby man before her, the considering smile on her face spread out in a seductive grin as she reached forward and slipped her fingers into his, to hold his hand in an unyielding grip. "How would you like to come with me to pick up the body of Alexander-the-guest, Puppy?" She paused and seemed lost in thought for a moment. "Hm... I don't even know his real name." Then she shook her head lightly and was once again smiling at him, the thought disappearing like mist in her scattered attention span. "And on the way there, you can tell me everything you know about Jason and possibly help me figure out where I can find some of those cookies he likes."

Then she was dragging him with her by his hand, pinching him with her sharp nails and smiling wickedly to herself as she stalked down the hall towards the front of the building and the stairs that led back to the first floor.

***

She prided herself on being a good Agent, particularly when it came to remaining undetected. So, when Brie found herself lying on her back, pinned beneath an untrained, clumsy, crazy woman, her pride was just a little bit more than hurt. More than that, she couldn't help but feel like she'd screwed everything up by being so quickly identified, let alone the fact that the other woman had taken her down in 15 minutes. She'd been prepared for the fire thing, especially with the state of the building when they'd entered, but she certainly hadn't expected the bitch to use it on her! Even so, the drugs pumping through her body that kept her chemically balanced and focused, helped turn the burns all up her right leg into nothing more than a discomfort than actually painful.

"I'm waiting," Osono said with a raised eyebrow, the gun pressing more firmly into the Agent woman's head. She'd become fully visible now, so Ozzie got a clearer look at the form-fitting "cat-suit" she wore and the thin athletic body underneath it. The woman's face wasn't particularly remarkable. Pretty, but with a strong chin and dark eyebrows, her expression blank despite the gun in her face and the threatening tone in Ozzie's voice. And her brown bob haircut floated in a small halo in the ankle-deep water.

This was aggravating and not something Ozzie had ever encountered before. Course, then again, she'd never really needed to interact with people this way before either, so she was at a bit of a loss for what to do with the emotionless "doll" that lay beneath her. And the strength had already seeped from her by this point, now that the fire was gone - having been instantly put out when the Agent had been thrown to the water covered ground. Everything was so wet in here, it would take a bit more effort to create a fire right now and she really didn't want to unless she absolutely had to.

Outwardly, Brie revealed nothing, her training fitting in automatically to shield her emotionally and physically from anything in the real world. Meanwhile, she thought wildly, her mind working a mile a minute to try and come up with a solution to the current problem. She knew what she was here to do, but there was no way she was going to make it easy and she certainly wasn't going to be overpowered by this trailer trash who fought like a toddler throwing a tantrum. If they wanted something from her, this lowly scum was going to have to drag it out of her on her last breath.

Where was Six, the bastard who'd been assigned on this mission with her? Any time now would be great for him to get involved - unless the other had gotten rid of him somehow? Unlikely. Six had done even better than she had on his assigned missions. No, he was waiting for something. Didn't matter. Even though they were a team, they both operated as separately working units and she could not waste time depending on him. She'd figure something out.

Then she was suddenly tensing as the gun in Osono's hand came flying out and smacked her in the face again, no reaction passing on her face as a dull pain filled her jaw and cheek bone. Then the gun barrel was grinding into her temple as Osono hissed, "You've got five seconds, Agent bitch! One. Two--Hey! I'm fucking talking to you!"

While Osono started counting, Brie's eyes had drifted to look at a distant point just over the other woman's shoulder, her vision clouded and unresponsive. Ozzie was about to hit her with the gun again, when Alex was suddenly leaving her to --what??? He was going to talk to Gwen NOW? Seriously, what a big fucking pussy! Couldn't he do anything without consulting that internal image of his girlfriend first? And she thought he said it wasn't even a real connection to her; what was the big deal???

So, she hesitated and gave him a scowling look, before saying, "Oh, yeah, I'll just wait here, ass--!"

As soon as Osono's eyes left her opponent, Brie took the moment to make her move reaching up for the hand that held the gun. For several moments, the two women were locked in a struggle once more as they both pushed and pulled at the weapon, each struggling to get it pointed at the other. Finally Brie wrenched it from Ozzie's grasp but it was knocked away a second later, disappearing under the five inches of water a few feet away. Brie's fist lashed out to punch Ozzie's chin, slamming home with a grunt from the fire woman, knocking her head back and stunning her enough to flip them both over and reverse their positions on the floor.

Unlike the Agent, however, Osono squirmed enough underneath her to flip onto her stomach with Brie straddling her back. An arm wrapped around and locked on Ozzie's neck, pulling tightly as both women panted heavily. Osono's hand reached up to pull at the Agent's arm, grimacing against a bloodied lip before whipping her head back and smacking Brie in the face with the back of her skull. Brie did not let go, but it gave Ozzie enough leverage to move them both so that the Agent lay on her back once more in the water, Ozzie's back pressing into her chest. The arm around her neck started to tighten, holding Ozzie close to her as she gasped for air, Brie's legs moving to wrap around her waist from behind. Then the two squirmed like fish in the puddle, clothes and hair slick and wet with liquid and breathing coming in laborious grunts and gasps.

Osono reached up to pull viciously at the woman's hair, and bucked violently in her full-body hold, trying to make her let go, all the while hoping and praying that Alex wasn't too much of a pussy to get involved. Otherwise, the bitch was going to be fucking barbecue - codes or no codes! Afterall, Ozzie had already done everything in trying to be "nice" about it. Enough was enough!