The Pain of War

Black Widow

Twisted Metal
Hellfire Club
Real Name
Haleigh Davidoff
Residence
Hellfire New York
Missions
2,488
Ability
Earth Elemental; Technokinesis; Strength, Resilience, and Immunity due to the TO virus
The Parthenon

Haleigh listened to the exchange between Alexis and Ava. It was somewhat muffled, probably due to being in Ava’s pocket or purse, and it certainly could have been improved by video footage. Overall, however, she was able to understand what was said. In many ways, Alexis was quite wrong. The correlation between Seph’s treatment and Haleigh’s compliance was certainly being misconstrued, as was the motive for Haleigh spending so much time with Alek. Even more misleading was the idea that Haleigh was ever, at any point, flying high at Hellfire. If Haleigh was there, she’d be hard pressed not to correct those mistakes.

And then, there was the other thing, the central connection. The reason that Alexis had any compassion for Ava’s plight at all. Instinctively, Haleigh wanted to be angry about it. She had hated Alexis for so long. She could still remember the feeling of betrayal. And yet... as she reflected on it now, holding on to that old grudge didn’t seem logical. Alexis had been a traitor.

By falling prey to Malice’s manipulations, by joining Hellfire and then attacking Haleigh, Alexis had earned the utmost contempt. But Alexis wasn’t the only one. Haleigh had joined Hellfire, aligned with her mother, done some of the worst things she could imagine being capable of, and if Haleigh could justify doing it herself, if she could defend Ava making the same choices, then how could she continue to fault Alexis?

For fuck’s sake.

She thought as she stood from the window seat. She was losing her mind. She needed to get out of this prison she’d picked for herself. She reappeared silently in a corner chair of the lobby of Liquid Crystal Images. No one even glanced her way, but the elevator doors opened with a ding and a squad of men stepped out. She watched, unsurprised, as they came straight for her. Slowly, she stood, giving them each a glance of greeting as they positioned around her.

“Only four guys? You men must be the best of the best.”

She ventured with a trace of amusement. The leader replied in a tone of indifference that The Director expected her to be cooperative. She smirked as she joined the center of their formation and back to the elevator bay they went, The leader swiped his key, selecting a sub level on the digital pad, as the other men turned to face Haleigh.

One agent opened a plastic case the size of a cellphone. Inside was a small device that he showed to Haleigh, who dropped her head forward as she pulled her hair aside and away from her neck to permit him to stick the device to the nape of her neck. Another agent withdrew a handheld X-ray scanner, and used it to check her for concealed weapons. She calmly allowed the third man to disarm her of all three pistols she was carrying. It was just protocol, they told her apologetically.

“Yes, but when I wrote the protocols, I hoped I’d never experience the discomfort of carrying them out.”

She replied coolly as they escorted her to the Director’s office, interrupting his current meeting.
 
Clara Oswald
Clara Oswald
Awesome

Orion

Ambassador
Birds of Prey
Real Name
Zachary Armani
Missions
632
Ability
Empath
The Jerome Home - Llantrisant, Wales

Zach rode with his bride to the place Zizi was staying, Gabe’s mother’s home. It was about a twenty minute cruise. It would’ve been nice, hanging out with Ash. Her mood was already improving, but Zach was bracing for what he was about to get into. Both Zizi and Gabe’s mother were grieving, and for Zach that would not be easy. He took a deep breath as Ash knocked on the door.

Gabe’s mother answered the door. Zach pushed a nice subtle calm into the air around them as Ash asked about, and then greeted Zizi as she wheeled up to them. She clearly hadn’t expected to see them, but introduced them to Mrs. Jerome. Zach extended his hand, giving the woman a kind smile as he clasped her hand in both of his.

He didn’t say anything, because it wouldn’t matter what he said. She would hear plenty of condolences and other witticisms. He offered silent comfort. He couldn’t make a resurgent emotion like grief go away completely, but he could lessen the pain to a manageable degree.

After a moment, Zizi ushered them into the kitchen. Mrs. Jerome declined food and went off to enjoy her tea in solitude, while Zach and Ash followed Zizi. Zach trailed behind the two girls quietly, trying to clear the lump in his throat and discreetly compose himself. Zizi brought plates over to them as Zach busied himself with unpacking the food bags.

Zizi: "Of course I'm happy to see you both, but what are you guys doing here? Did something happen?"

“Well, nothing happened, persay. But Ashley wanted to make sure you had everything you needed, and that you were remembering to eat. I’m just here for emotional support, you know, the usual.”

He replied with a little shrug of nonchalance. He handed her a burger, fries, and one of the little apple pies.
 

Oracle

The Eye in the Sky
The Six
Real Name
Elizabeth York
Missions
359
Ability
Genius, Hacker
The Jerome Home - Llantrisant, Wales

Zizi put on her brave "around other people" face, and brought plates and silverware to the kitchen table, asking if something had happened to bring Zach and Ashley to Gabe's house.

Zach: “Well, nothing happened, per se. But Ashley wanted to make sure you had everything you needed, and that you were remembering to eat.

Ash: "AND that you weren't forgetting us."

Zach: "I’m just here for emotional support, you know, the usual.”

"That's very kind of you both, thank you. But I'm fine."

Zizi pushed back from the table a little too abruptly. She crossed to the refrigerator and pulled open the door, before pausing to speak.

"There's just so much to do here, to help Mrs. Jerome with. It's the least I can do...considering..."

She took out a bottle of ketchup and brought it back to the table with her.

Ash: "There's ketchup packets right here, Ziz. The good kind."

Zizi set the bottle down on the table.

"Oh, yes. Yes of course there is."

Zizi looked down at her plate, then began focusing intently on squirting several little packets of ketchup onto it.

Ash: "So...is Alexis here with you?"

That made Zizi look up, confused.

"Wha- why would Alexis be here?"

Ash: "Since you're friends now and all?"

Ashley looked angry, and Zizi couldn't work out why.

"I helped her because she helped us and was injured...that doesn't make us friends exactly."

Zizi looked blankly from Ashley then to Zach.

Ash: "But you want her on the team."

Zizi made a half shrugging motion.

"She could be very useful but I don't think-"

Ash: "Aha! "You're giving her my room, aren't you?!"

Zizi shook her head, suddenly very tired.

"What are you talking about?"

She set her fork down on her plate, with a french fry still dangling from it.

"The only thing I've been thinking about since I came here is Gabe...Alexis hasn't even entered my mind."
 

Valkyrie

War
Birds of Prey
Real Name
Ashley Oldenburg
Missions
584
Ability
Ability to instill self-doubt, turmoil and intimidation
The Jerome Home - Llantrisant, Wales

Ashley told Zizi excitedly that they had brought her two sodas to equal one Big Gulp.

Zizi: "How thoughtful."

Ashley beamed. What a good idea this had been!

Zizi: "These are friends from New York, Ashley and Zach. And this is Margaret Jerome, Gabe's mother."

Zach shook the woman's hand. Ashley studied her face a moment before speaking.

"He was a brave man. He faced death without fear."

She said it matter-of-factly, as if an observation rather than in an attempt to provide comfort. Maggie simply nodded, stoically, but Ashley had already turned her attention back to Zizi.

Zizi: "Why don't we take this into the kitchen."

Ashley grabbed a handful of fries out of the bag while Zach was unpacking the food onto the table. Zizi was getting plates out of a cupboard, as if McDonald's needed plates. I mean, that was another bonus point for it, that you could just eat it right there, wherever you were, with your fingers. Forks were definitely overrated.

Zizi: "Of course I'm happy to see you both, but what are you guys doing here? Did something happen?"

Zach: “Well, nothing happened, per se. But Ashley wanted to make sure you had everything you needed, and that you were remembering to eat. "

"AND that you weren't forgetting us."

Zach: "I’m just here for emotional support, you know, the usual.”

Zizi: "That's very kind of you both, thank you. But I'm fine."

Ashley's eyes widened a bit as Zizi almost tipped her chair over pushing back from the table to apparently go and fetch ketchup.

Zizi: "There's just so much to do here, to help Mrs. Jerome with. It's the least I can do...considering..."

"There's ketchup packets right here, Ziz. The good kind."

Why would you use bottled ketchup when they gave you ketchup in the bag?

Ashley made a show of looking around her.

"So...is Alexis here with you? Since you're friends now and all?"

Ashley took a giant bit of pie and crossed her arms over her chest.

Zizi: "I helped her because she helped us and was injured...that doesn't make us friends exactly."

"But you want her on the team."

Zizi: "She could be very useful but I don't think-"

"Aha!"

She knew it. Zizi was replacing her with Alexis. She was probably going to have her move in to the Clocktower. Probably wouldn't even wait for Ashley to move out before-

"You're giving her my room, aren't you?!"

Zizi: "What are you talking about? The only thing I've been thinking about since I came here is Gabe...Alexis hasn't even entered my mind."

Ashley swallowed the pie in her mouth.

"Well...good."

She reached for another handful of fries uncomfortably, then looked down at the hamburger wrapper in front of her.

"Cause we've missed you. Since you've been away."
 

Orion

Ambassador
Birds of Prey
Real Name
Zachary Armani
Missions
632
Ability
Empath
The Jerome Home - Llantrisant, Wales

Zizi was at first surprised, then mostly reticent. Zach understood and reined in his immediate instincts to draw her into a long hug. There would be time for that after eating. Zach passed out the food, explaining to Zizi why they were here. Zizi thanked them and then assured them she was fine.

Ohhkay. ‘Fine’.

He thought as Zizi abruptly shoved back from the table to get ketchup that they didn’t actually need. Ashley aggressively pursued a line of questioning with regards to Alexis, while Zach scraped the onions and mayo off his burger. Zizi appeared to be attempting to get every molecule of ketchup from each of the several packets Ashley had pushed in her direction.

He had tried to reassure Ash earlier but clearly this was an issue only Zizi would be able to settle. So while Zach agreed that Alexis would be a valuable addition to the roster, that wasn’t the actual discussion Ash was trying to have. Zach quietly ate a couple of fries, refraining from interrupting the exchange. Ash would arrive at the words she needed to express her feelings when she was ready.

Zizi, heavy with emotion, eventually just directly asked what Ash was talking about. Then admitted she’d only been thinking about Gabe since coming here and that Alexis hadn’t crossed her mind. Ashley finally admitted that she’d missed Zizi, and Zach reflexively comforted her. There was a pause, uncomfortable for only a moment. Zach cleared his throat quietly.

“Yeah, you know we love you, right? And.... You don’t have to have it all figured out, Ziz. I mean, you aren’t expected to be..... fine. Or anything else. There’s no right way to be handling this.”

He said gently, pushing another pie in her direction.

“Also, I’m available if you need to delegate some errand or something. I’ll even take out the trash, if that helps. Anything you want, really.”
 

Black Widow

Twisted Metal
Hellfire Club
Real Name
Haleigh Davidoff
Residence
Hellfire New York
Missions
2,488
Ability
Earth Elemental; Technokinesis; Strength, Resilience, and Immunity due to the TO virus
Clandestine Intelligence — Commander’s Office

Specter stood from his chair behind the desk, as the agent he was meeting with turned in his chair. Haleigh smiled at Specter, not yet glancing at the the lower agent.

Specter: “Ah, finally, Operation Daybreak. I’ll call the board together.”

“Not yet, I’d say astronomical twilight at best.”

Specter: “Copy, first light. It’s good to see you, at least.”

Haleigh nodded as she returned the sentiment, and then Griffin gestured to the man next to her.

Specter: “Right, well I suspect you’ll recognize Lynceus.”

Haleigh glanced to her left at the red headed man who was sitting there smirking at her. He had a lean, wiry build, and was heavily tattooed. She made a little noise of amused surprise, because she did recognize him, but she hadn’t known he was one of her own until this moment. The blackjack dealer in the White Drawing Room. The man tipped his head in greeting and introduced himself as Owen Merrick. Haleigh automatically downloaded his social media activity and criminal history. Deep, well constructed cover story. He had been at Hellfire for over a decade,

“Fuck me. How badly did you want to reveal yourself when I threatened to make you eat broken glass?”

Owen: “The temptation was wicked strong, to be sure.”

“No doubt. I’m glad you made it out. What about the rest of our people?”

She asked, directing the question more at Griffin, since she knew their various operatives in Hellfire wouldn’t be in contact with each other so that they couldn’t implicate each other. Griffin reported that almost all had gotten out and checked back in, though there were a couple of agents still MIA. He suggested that they might be laying low somewhere still. Haleigh’s sigh suggested she suspected the worst, as she lowered herself into the chair next to Owen. Griffin turned his attention to Owen, thanking him for the report and granting him a couple of weeks off before requesting Owen excused them.

“Enjoy your vacation.”

Haleigh said, and then she waited for Owen to see himself out before turning back to Griffin.
 
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Valkyrie

War
Birds of Prey
Real Name
Ashley Oldenburg
Missions
584
Ability
Ability to instill self-doubt, turmoil and intimidation
The Jerome Home - Llantrisant, Wales

Ashley sank her teeth into another Big Mac. It really was so so good...she wondered absentmindedly if witches or something were involved in making it so delicious but then her thoughts snapped back to Zizi. She was at least safe for now, it seemed. Zizi hadn't had time to really think about Alexis, and hadn't offered to let her move in or join the team. That was some relief.

Zach: “Yeah, you know we love you, right? And.... You don’t have to have it all figured out, Ziz. I mean, you aren’t expected to be..... fine. Or anything else. There’s no right way to be handling this.”

Being her old self again sounded like a pretty right way to Ashley, but for once she didn't say exactly what was on her mind.

"We just want you to feel better."

And come home.

Zach: “Also, I’m available if you need to delegate some errand or something. I’ll even take out the trash, if that helps. Anything you want, really.”

Zizi: "Oh, you don't need to do that."

Zizi lowered her voice.

Zizi: "The Security for Gabe's mom is more than I could ask for, Zach honey. Really, thank you for that. Maggie just wouldn't understand why she needs to worry...and I didn't want to make it...make his death worse for her than it already is."

Zizi opened the pie Zach had offered her and nibbled at a corner. The mention of the manner of Gabe's death perked Ashley's ears up.

"If that bitch Helena decides to come out from under her rock and tries anything with you? She's dead. I might have missed her once, but not again. When I find her I'll cut her into pieces so small even the Neptune's won't eat her. I'll-"

That Helena had escaped made Ashley's blood boil. She noticed she risen half way to standing and had crushed the hamburger in her hand as it had reflexively made a fist. Damn.

Zizi: "We underestimated her. We can't do that again."

Zizi spoke quietly, not her usual bubbly self at all. Ashley looked at her cross-eyed, wishing she would snap out of it. Ashley brushed the chunks of burger back down onto the paper. Then popped one of the larger ones into her mouth and sat back down.

"John and Andrew are flying in tonight with Viv. I think Andrew's been crying since you left, he misses you so much. He'll probably tackle you with a bear hug when he sees you."

Ashley smiled, watching Zizi for signs of her perking up. Ashley looked down at her half-eaten apple pie.

"You can have the rest of my pie, if you want."
 

Oracle

The Eye in the Sky
The Six
Real Name
Elizabeth York
Missions
359
Ability
Genius, Hacker
The Jerome Home - Llantrisant, Wales

Ashley kept talking about Alexis Quartermaine, which was odd, but Zizi just chalked it up to Ashley being Ashley. She seemed satisfied when Zizi told her she hadn't been giving Alexis much thought since she'd been in Wales.

Ashley: "Well...good. Cause we've missed you. Since you've been away."

Zizi tucked her hair behind her ear.

"It's only been a few days, really."

Zizi felt even guiltier, because for her, it had been a relief to be away.

Zach: “Yeah, you know we love you, right? And.... You don’t have to have it all figured out, Ziz. I mean, you aren’t expected to be..... fine. Or anything else. There’s no right way to be handling this."

There it was. The pity. Which only made it harder to forget just why she was here, what had happened. That Gabe wasn't in the next room teasing his mother and balancing her tea cups on his head to make her laugh.

Ashley: "We just want you to feel better."

But there was no feeling better. There was only sadness or numbness.

Zach: "Also, I’m available if you need to delegate some errand or something. I’ll even take out the trash, if that helps. Anything you want, really.”

And the lump in the pit of her stomach grew. Because they were being so nice.

"Oh, you don't need to do that."

She glanced in the direction of the parlor where Maggie was before lowering her voice.

"The Security for Gabe's mom is more than I could ask for, Zach honey. Really, thank you for that. Maggie just wouldn't understand why she needs to worry...and I didn't want to make it...make his death worse for her than it already is."

She quickly stuck the pie Zach had pushed her way into her mouth to stop herself from crying.

Ashley: "If that bitch Helena decides to come out from under her rock and tries anything with you? She's dead. I might have missed her once, but not again. When I find her I'll cut her into pieces so small even the Neptune's won't eat her. I'll-"

Zizi spoke very slowly. She felt like she was in a fog. All the voices sounded so loud.

"We underestimated her. We can't do that again."

She sighed.

"There's still been no sign of her."

Ashley: "John and Andrew are flying in tonight with Viv. I think Andrew's been crying since you left, he misses you so much. He'll probably tackle you with a bear hug when he sees you."

"How is his leg?"

Ashley: "Oh, he's fine. You can have the rest of my pie, if you want."

Zizi looked at her across the table, feeling tears at the corners of her eyes. She breathed out deeply.

"Thank you."

Her eyes moved to Zach, and rested on him for a moment, communicating the sentiment to him as well. They really were good friends, and were only trying to help. But the truth was, there was nothing they could do to help this. She looked back at Ashley.

"You should have the pie. I'm full."

She gave Ashley a warm smile and held it. Then she hooked a thumb towards the hallway.

"I really should get back. I don't like to leave Maggie alone for too long. But thank you for coming, and for all this."

She motioned at the food wrappers. Then she picked up a soda and took a long drag on the straw.

"I'll see you tomorrow, yeah?"
 
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