Old Habits, New Complications
Roleplaying Log: Old Habits, New Complications
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

After a six-year separation, Roberto da Costa and Tabitha Smith meet again, now grown adults and following the footsteps of two different men, thus pushing them into a different set of complications than they're used to.

Other Characters Referenced: Professor X, Magneto, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Cannonball, Daredevil, Foggy Nelson, The Dazzler, The Vanisher, The Winter Soldier, Giovanni Zatara, Catwoman, Rictor
IC Date: January 24, 2019
IC Location: New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 03 Feb 2019 05:04
Rating & Warnings: R for (implied) sex and violence
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Those who know her often say that while it was a given that she would either get into or attract some kind of trouble, these chances increase exponentially when she's close to a bar. And in a small alley by the side of Joey Martini's, a popular drinking hole for young wall street types and Columbia law students, she proves the word accurate, nevermind that she was supposed to be playing the part of a mid-year transfer to the law school with absolutely no interest in getting involved at all with the student body.

In a way, something like this was probably inevitable, that she would get into a situation where there would be three men on the ground with her standing over them, her backpack's zipper broken and its contents strewn on the ground. Somewhere behind her is a pretty, wide-eyed brunette, the flush of the cold and inebriation on her cheeks and struggling to get up from where she had been shoved. By all rights, it looks like yet another mugging gone wrong, but those on the ground are wearing clothes too fine for money to be an issue, and somewhere down the narrow, shadowed alley is an expensive Mercedes Benz with a chaffeur, the uniformed man gaping openly at the scene before him.

The culprit looks relatively nonplussed; a slender, young woman with pale gold hair, dressed in a pair of snug, dark-burgundy snakeskin pants, its low waistband secured by a wide belt with a copper buckle, and ankle boots with stiletto heels that added to her height - and, incidentally, her reach. A white lace romper with a wide neckline is adorned with a layered array of necklaces, one of which is a white-gold crucifix, glinting under a loose champagne-colored scarf with crimson embellishments and framed by the stiff collar of a black leather jacket kept warm by its luxurious fur underlay - these days, a girl can't enough of them during the winter months after all. A gloved hand shakes out, her pale expression in a wince as she stoops towards the ground to pick up a pair of aviators and sets it in its proper place against her tousled tresses, today kept free, and somewhat wild at the whims of the winter wind.

"…holy shit," the brunette whispers, staring at her blonde classmate and clutching her purse, stumbling towards her unsteadily. "Where did you learn how to do that? And with those boots?"

"You can say I make a habit of running with a bad crowd," Tabitha Smith drawls faintly, sliding her hands in her pockets and nudging the toe of her boot against the side of one of the fallen men, who's presently gagging and coughing. "You pick up a few things." Her first year Torts textbook is by him, open to the pages discussing the elements of emotional distress.

"You bitch!" hisses one of the men on the ground, already getting on his feet, wiping the bloody streak off his mouth. He pushes a hand back through his hair and attempts to straighten out his coat and blazer. "This has nothing to do with white trash scholarship skanks like you!"

"Yeah, well," the blonde replies, popping her knuckles on one hand, and flips an object within it. "I didn't feel like witnessing a rise in student assault statistics today, Mister…" She squints at the driver's license on the sleeve, open, sardonic amusement on her expression. "John Joseph Carson Wainwright IV? Really?"

"Oh, shit, JC," says one of his friends. "She has your wallet!" At the words, Wainwright's expression turns white with rage.

The wallet is tossed back to him, Tabitha wiggling his identification. "Right, well, my night's ruined," she continues. "And not gonna lie, I'm really tempted to drag a few people down with me, so scram, before I do something I really hate, like call the cops."

Mention of the word has the sick-looking brunette growing pale, inching closer to Tabitha. "Tabitha, wait," she says nervously. "That's not…"

Wainwright suddenly laughs, though he chokes on this with a groan, a hand on his ribs, and takes a step back towards his Benz. "Yeah, go do that," he taunts. "See what they'll believe, sweet-cheeks, we're the ones that look beat up. You'll be lucky if the Dean doesn't throw you out tomorrow with what you just did to us."

"Tabitha," the brunette whispers, slurring a little bit with her words and clutching at the other woman's arm. "Please, I'm on scholarship, too, I can't…"

"You think?" wonders a voice.

The voice, naturally, belongs to a person: A person who, unless they were hanging out by a bar full of Wall Street finance bros and it was the kind of neighbourhood where a Benz with a chauffeur didn't draw all sorts of untoward attention, would be overdressed, in his tailored black suit and his matching black dress shirt, its top two buttons left open. Of course, he's not wearing a tie. Ties are for when you're working, and he's not at work. No, he was out being extremely bored schmoozing with Wall Street finance bros.

It's a thing you have to do sometimes, when you've got a big company to deal with. Or when there was terrible legislation coming into effect that was trying to create a list of people like you.

"Because it seems to me that nobody's really going to believe that a bunch of guys got beat up by one little blonde girl. I mean, three of you? Is she secretly the Devil of Hell's Kitchen or something?" The man, dark-skinned with his perfectly dark hair touseled in just the right style to suggest that he rolled out of bed looking this good. Maybe as much as a half an hour ago. "One of the Avengers? Buffy the Vampire Slayer?" Roberto da Costa rubs his chin thoughtfully. How long has he been observing all of this?

He'll probably never actually say.

"Plus, I mean, just imagine," he adds, holding up his smartphone. "What would people think if John Joseph Carson Wainwright IV got beat up by a girl. Especially once it got all over everywhere. Photoshop memes all over twitter about the scion of the Wainwright family getting a black eye from Taylor Swift's shorter cousin."

The Brazilian billionaire gasps in realisation.

"Oh! We could set it to a song!"

You think?

"Yeah?" The Wainwright scion turns to face Roberto da Costa, gray eyes lit with ire. "You can just fuck o—"

Silence suddenly descends all over the alley.

It's only partially because of the threat and, let's face it, it would be kind of hilarious if TMZ somehow got ahold of the story and mistook Tabitha Smith as one of the most famous pop stars in the current decade, casually beating up the son of John Joseph Carson Wainwright III, managing director of one of the biggest hedge funds in New York. But rather being who they are, in the school they're all enrolled in, hoping to land in certain distinguished careers, they all recognize the man who has decided to interject his opinion in the current proceedings. The three younger men pause, their angry and inebriated expressions becoming visibly wary. The brunette hanging on Tabitha's arm is staring wide-eyed, jaw hanging open, and Tabitha is…

…well, her expression is stunned and wholly indescribable, wide, ice-blue eyes staring at the well-dressed man on the other side of the alley. And unlike the others present in the small thoroughfare between buildings, she knows the newcomer for different reasons entirely.

It lasts for a good two minutes, before Wainwright reanimates, his sneer in place but clearly deflated by the presence of a bigger fish. "This isn't over," he hisses towards the women as he brushes past in the quick, petulant stride of a man brutally chastened by his circumstances. Snapping at the collar of his coat, followed by his posse of two, he says not another word to anyone and barking at irate order at his driver, who quickly closes the doors to the Benz and it drives off down the street.

Really, it can't get away fast enough.

"I didn't think I'd ever watch anyone run away so fast at the mention of Taylor Swift," the blonde finally says, and in spite of her surprise, a small smile pulls up the corners of her mouth. "That's one for the books. How are you, Bobby?"

Her companion seems about to say something, but her eyes grow even wider as she turns to look back at Tabitha. "…you…know Roberto da Costa?" she squeaks. "I…" She clears her throat, turning to look over at Bobby. "…I mean, thank you so much, Mister da Costa. I'm so sorry for the trouble and…everything…"

The look on her pale-haired classmate's face grows slightly more exasperated as the other woman shows signs of being obviously starstruck. Now that the trouble has vanished into the dark streets of New York, Tabitha crouches down on the ground to stuff her belongings back into her backpack. "I think we better put you in a cab soon, Abbie, before you get even more sick."

"I'm fine!" Abbie replies, almost too quickly as she gawks at Roberto. "Really! I'm— " And then, she groans. "…okay, you're probably right, the world's starting to go like this…" She makes little circles with her pointer finger.

"Ah, to be young and dumb again," says Roberto da Costa, age 25. "Thank goodness they were too drunk to do the math." Because there's no way he actually had video of them getting clobbered by Tabitha, right? He wouldn't have just stood around and recorded it on his phone and not interjected himself into the situation until a dramatically interesting moment… Right?

Right??

"Hm?" he wonders, brows lifting as he turns away from the departing Benz and towards the blonde before matching her small smile with one of his own. "Oh, well, I can't complain. I mean, I'm not the one who's got a bunch of '80s movie bullies as my nemeses, now." Assuming they remember Tabitha and her friend the next day, anyway, and have the werewithal to ensure that this is, in fact, not over.

With a faint shrug of his shoulders, the dark-skinned man walks closer, with a curious look at what most people would probably immediately assume to be the brunette's backpack, waving off said young woman's apology with an easy grin, his teeth all the more brilliant in contrast with his skintone.

"Tabby and me go way back," he says. "Although this is an alarming coincidence, I thought she preferred her bars with less guys with numbers in their names. In a few months it'll be nothing but polo shirts in there, you know, a whiff of Axe and yachting in the air."

Since he already has his phone out, the New Mutant figures he ought to be the one to call for a cab. Maybe he has some secret rich guy cab number that'll get one there sooner.

"Tabby and Abbie, though, that's cute," Roberto muses.

I'm not the one who's got a bunch of '80s movie bullies as my nemeses now.

"Awesome. I knew saving my old Karate Kid soundtrack would come in handy one day," Tabitha replies, wrinkling her nose when she fishes out her Torts textbook from the ground now that her backpack is zipped back up, eyeing the bit of blood staining the cover, before shaking her head once and tucking it under her arm when she rises. She slings it over her shoulder, her hands sliding in an easy fashion into her fur-and-leather jacket.

Abbie, however, listens to what Roberto tells her with overt interest. "I didn't know that," she confesses. "Truthfully the first year class at Columbia Law's just starting to get to know her, being a mid-year transfer and all. You more of a dive bar type then, Tabitha?"

"You can say that," she replies to her classmate in a non-committal fashion, angling her head over to the brunette, her smile as easy as her posture. "Better music."

Tabby and Abbie, though, that's cute.

Abbie flushes, and the blonde gestures between the two. "Bobby, Abigail Thorsen, my classmate."

"I'm pleased to meet you," Abbie gushes, holding out a hand for the CEO of da Costa International to shake. "And really, I'm so so so so sorry about the mess…"

Light conversation passes over the next few minutes before the familiar yellow of a New York taxi catches them with a brush of its headlights. It doesn't take long at all; the city is teeming with enough cabs that despite the hour and the fact that it is a Thursday night, there's no difficulty finding transportation for a young woman who's had too much to drink. After another round of grateful words for Tabitha and her super-(in?)famous billionaire friend with whom she goes way back - a development which will probably end up as fodder for campus gossip the next day - Abigail Thorsen is piled into the vehicle, and the driver is taking her safely home.

"Ugh, this town, sometimes," Tabitha mutters, watching the cab drive off. "You know that I don't even know her? I was invited in the last minute by a group of classmates and…" She gestures breezily on one side. "You'd think grad school would be a completely different animal socially from middle school, high school, maybe even college…but nope. It's the same in all levels, everywhere."

She talks; she's good at it, as Bobby would know - it's how she managed to break through his anger and hostility back in the days when the Fallen Angels kept him as a guest. The words carry enough of her usual, cheerful air that if she feels any apprehension or guilt, she doesn't show it. Her insides could be a mangled mess - at the moment, it feels like they are - and chances are she'd look exactly how she is, blonde, blue-eyed trouble who's almost always quick with a smile.

"…so…" She pivots to face him fully, meeting his eyes. "When did you get back to New York?"

First year class at Columbia Law, she says.

Fortunately, Roberto da Costa is quite practiced at hiding his surprise, otherwise he'd probably be turning to stare right at the blonde. Also fortunately, he's an old hand at these sorts of introductions, even in an alleyway after three guys got the crap kicked out of them - he went to a weird highschool - and so he's smooth as silk when it comes to dealing with the gushing and tipsy Abbie. The pleasure is all his, of course. He's glad to see Tabby is making friends. All that sort of thing that seems to say a lot while meaning almost nothing.

And eventually, the poor girl is safely on her way home.

"I don't know, she seems like she could use a little of the Boomer Experience," he muses, glancing sidelong at the blonde. "Help keep her worldly instead of winding up like those other friends you made earlier. What happened with the Mean Boys, anyway?" Bobby muses, now turning to face Tabitha completely. He was taller than the last time they'd seen each other. More sure of himself, more relaxed in his own skin. And she'd grown too, for all that she'd probably try to play it off, to keep herself the poster child for the very concept that Blondes Have More Fun. "A few well-placed calls could get them in enough hot water that they think twice about cornering innocent young maidens in an alleyway."

Well, maybe not, he knows the type: Consequences roll off of them like water off a duck's back. He'd never been quite so fortunate, himself.

It's not hard to guess what the difference there is.

And then she's turning to face him fully in turn, an uncharcteristic, almost imperceptible hesitation from the normally devil-may-care blonde.

"Oh… Just a few weeks, now," he says. "I could be somewhere tropical, you know. Instead, here I am in the big frozen apple, because of course this is where everything's happening, these days."

He might hide it well, but his surprise is palpable - and Tabitha does her level best not to look at him when Abbie outs her in all of her good-naturedness while she attempts to hide her belongings with her backpack. She can't help her inward sigh.

His quip is enough to drain the growing anxiety and the growing morass of guilt within herself, and it doesn't help that all of it wars with her appreciation of the way he looks and the easy confidence he exudes. Six years is a long time - enough time for people to change and become something more than their volatile selves. It's absurdly true in Roberto's case, especially when he often makes it in the pages of the Forbes, Wall Street Journal and the society pages everywhere, anger giving way to the demands of experience. More likely, now, to pick up a phone to solve a problem than use his fists in the way he had when he was tempestuous and twenty.

What happened with the Mean Boys, anyway?

"Abigail's pretty," is her simple reply, gloved fingers lifting to toss a few pale-gold tresses back with her old flourish that causes one of her signature earrings to sway at the gesture; a habit he would find familiar, proof enough that there are some things about her that remain constant. "And principled enough to say no despite liking the taste of Manhattans a little too much on a school night." She digs into the pockets of her jacket, producing her own smartphone and showing him the indicator screen that suggests that her voice memo function had been active, at least for a little bit. There appears to be a five-minute recording on it now.

The devil returns, lighting up those pale blue eyes. She purses her lips and blows on the top of it, mimicking what an outlaw would do a smoking gun, before stowing it away again.

"As you know, I grew up with the concept of insurance hanging over my head." Years of being in and out of hospitals. "…but it took my pretty reckless teen years for me to discover that they can take different forms. Still, I wouldn't be opposed to Bobby da Costa coming to my rescue."

He's right there - he could be somewhere tropical. "Yeah, because you're just that enamored of cold weather," she tells him, that slight smile teasing further into that usual impish bent. "Not like that isn't expected. New York, one of the biggest financial hubs in the world. So I take it everything panned out?" She searches his features then, with those clever, incisive eyes.

"…for you, I mean. You're doing good?"

"Hmm," Roberto muses, tilting his head slightly as Tabitha explains what was happening, while also demonstrating what she did in the hopes that ensuring it would never happen again. There's a faint sound of amusement from the dark-skinned Brazilian, before he gives his head a rueful shake. Well, it doesn't seem like she needs him to insert himself any further into the situation. Naturally, the blonde would do things her own way, even if that meant becoming a kind of guardian angel for her new unlikely friend from school.

"Oh, no," he says, at the idea of Bobby da Costa coming to her rescue. "It's 2019, Tabitha, and I strive to be as woke as any handsome billionaire can be. I'd never step on a woman's toes when she's able to rescue herself."

It's playful, of course, but in its own way it's fairly close to true. Besides, he knew full well how much the blonde valued her independence, her ability to do things for herself. Far be it from him to stifle that.

So I take it everything panned out? she wonders, those big blue eyes searching his face.

You're doing good?

"Mm… Well, I just spent my evening in a bar full of finance bros, so I can't give you an unqualified yes on that," Roberto muses. "But what about you, chica? Columbia law school, seems like you're doing pretty good, yourself. I'm proud of you."

Yes, he's assuming she's made good, clawed her way out of a life of crime and poverty with nothing but her wits and her will.

"Woke?" Tabitha repeats, brows lifting upwards to her hairline. That glimmer of amusement, while brief, is rather visible though as she inclines her head.

He can be playful, still, some of it coming through when he says the words, and at the quip of just how he spent his time an hour ago or so, there's a faint laugh. "I'd say you didn't have to spend any time with them," she says, moving so she could start walking - it was winter still, and the cold is easily felt when one is standing still. "But you know that's what I always say when there are forces trying to tell you what to do when you want to do something else. You could have easily ditched them, if you wanted." There's a sideways glance at his profile. "Or did you think stopping what looked like a mugging was a more exciting way to spend your time?"

And then he asks about Columbia Law.

To her credit, she tries her level best to stifle a groan, and hold onto the part of her that would never get past her teens - the part of her that is intent on remaining the wild child that she has always been. Her colorful, outlandish imagination entertains visions of her weeping exaggeratedly in the snow while a cartoon Roberto da Costa walks away, saying something about how she's gotten boring and unattractive now that she's fallen into a respectable career. Somehow, this is probably true, even as he flashes her with that brilliant smile and tells her that he's proud of her. Four words that she has never been told her entire life.

Oh, Jesus Christ, kill me.

"So does this mean that you'll be totally dissapointed if I told you a couple of friends convinced me to go for it because having insider information will enable me to get away with even more of my evil ways?" she wonders, with an air of such sugary, pristine innocence that if she wasn't so good at talking her way out of trouble, judges everywhere would be convicting her on the spot.

"I'm interviewing at Nelson & Murdock tomorrow, too, for a clerkship, so I mean, I'm setting myself up to learn from even bigger con artists than myself. How else were they able to get the Winter Soldier off after…how many confirmed kills?" She flashes him a wink at that.

With Tabitha walking, Bobby falls into step beside her, apparently not too worried at this stage about whoever he was with previously. He is, after all, 'I do what I want' rich.

And honestly he was kind of like that before he was that rich, anyway.

"Definitely a more exciting way to spend my time. Plus think about the good press I could've drummed up if you'd been more helpless. 'Handsome, dashing CEO saves innocent law students.' You can't buy that kind of PR." Given the dubious nature of the founding of Da Costa International, well, it's likely that he knows that from firsthand experience. As such, he wasn't really expecting the stifled groan from the blonde as he brings up her new studies, nor the way she seems less than enthused by the fact that someone has actually told her they were proud of her.

So when she says what she says about the why she's studying law, his brows lift again, her sugary innocence working about as well on him as one might expect, which is to say not at all. Hopefully she gets better at that before she actually has to do any lawyering. What if she ends up working a trial??

"That seems like an awful lot of actual work for you to pretend to be a legal clerk," the Brazilian notes, for all that Tabitha is referring to the two hotshot young lawyers as bigger con artists than herself, and winking at him when she does it. "You got my hopes up, too, my imagination was alight with the idea of you in a tightly tailored skirt suit and five inch heels as you take over a courtroom. Still, you never know, you might wind up liking it. Find yourself a legal crusader, huh?" He doesn't say for what she'd be crusading. They both know, and there's no need to wave the M-word around.

"And here you are out partying when you've got an interview tomorrow," Roberto continues, a playful, mock chiding tone in his voice. "How you getting home, girl? You need a ride?"

"I don't know if they'd actually put the 'handsome' and 'dashing' part in the headlines of the more respectable publications that still try to pretend they're not biased in any way," Tabitha quips. "But if it makes you feel any better, both those adjectives are objectively true." The Brazilian stereotype is a stereotype for a reason - on top of phenomenal cosmic powers and the billions of dollars, Roberto da Costa has also managed to climb out of the miraculous gene pool that generates the likes of Adriana Lima, Hideo Muraoka and Morena Baccarin. Seriously, some people have all the luck.

That seems like an awful lot of actual work for you to pretend to be a legal clerk.

"Hah, well. You're probably right."

And then he goes into detail about what kindled his imagination, and she manages to laugh, that brilliant grin turned unapologetically his way, her entire face leaning hard into it. "Oh, no, don't tell me the exciting world of legitimate business killed the parts of you that were a little gangster back in the day." She can't help but rib him a little. "I still have my rock band tank tops and the ripped jean shorts. But yeah, I guess we'll see. You know me, I like to dress for the occasion." No matter what it is.

Find yourself a legal crusader, huh?

"Well…" There's a hint of a smirk on that candy apple-red mouth. "…you know how I cope with conflict." Abuse, really. "I either run or I fight." Like tonight's earlier demonstration. "And something tells me that there's really no running from this one." A slender shoulder lifts in a shrug.

But when he chides her about partying when she's got an interview tomorrow, that grin broadens even more, her brows quirking over at him. "If I said yes, what'll it be tonight?" she wonders. "The Maserati, or Da Costa Air?"

"What would people say if I was seen with a young woman in a tank top and ripped jean shorts?" Bobby retorts, with a completely false air of shocked innocence. "Why, they'd think I was up to all sorts of scandalous behaviours, Tabitha." This is, admittedly, pretty much what everyone would expect of him anyway, judging by his appearances in the gossip pages. As a businessman, he generally seemed to be passable at best - he was no corporate genius, ruthlessly expanding on his father's empire, at least so far as anyone could tell - but when it came to being a rich playboy, well, he did as well as any guy in his mid-20s who was too good looking for his own good might.

You know me, I like to dress for the occasion.

"Hah, that's true. But you know me, chica, I've got eclectic tastes."

It wasn't like their parting had been bad by any means. It had been sad, sure, but it wasn't like some explosive fight had driven them apart. The fact that she hadn't been there when he'd tried to carry out his promise to come back for her didn't seem to be actively gouging out his heart any - but it had been years, and perhaps he had dealt with it. Gotten over it. The young were resilient, after all.

"So long as you know when's the time to do which, hey?" he says, on the subject of running or fighting. Entirely too much practical experience for her young age had no doubt given Tabitha a good sense for it, anyway. Besides… He still has a lingering suspicion it'll be good for her, whatever her motives. Or maybe it's hope, masquerading as a suspicion.

She grins when he chides her and asks about how she's getting home, and her question in response draws a laugh out of him. "Well, I brought my Bugatti," Roberto says. "It's not very gangster, I know…"

Why, they'd think I was up to all sorts of scandalous behaviours, Tabitha.

"I know, it would be such a shock," Tabitha says, her return fire as quick as it is sweet, posed in that lilting, sing-song voice as her pale blue stare falls on his profile once more. "Nevermind that I'm pretty sure said scandalous behaviours are keeping the tabloids and TMZ liquid in the last five fiscal years." Nobody would be surprised, not really, but the banter is easy - as if six years hadn't gone by since they last spoke. "But I am, of course, operating from a small wealth of insider information, so even if you could fool the rest of the world…"

The guilt remains, along with the sadness that she remembers. For a young girl so thoroughly convinced that it was a thing worth doing, it had been particularly devastating, to let go of a thing that she somehow knew she would never have again, especially after discovering the 'X' symbol in the calling card he left in her pocket. She knows, in that surprisingly insightful way of hers - the aspect of her that can manage to cut as much bullshit away as she spins it out of thin air - that she was cursed to live a life with just as many regrets as there are triumphs…but if he asked her if she ever regretted what she had done, of seeing him off at the train station so many years ago, pushing him to return to where he belongs…

…well, look at him now.

In the end, it might be the best thing she has ever done, for anyone.

So long as you know when's the time to do which, hey?

"Well," she says with a laugh. "Hopefully I've grown up enough to learn the difference."

And then he tells her that he brought his Bugatti, and her expression says it all well enough. Of course, every fine, expressive line of her seems to say.

"Definitely not very gangster…" she says, looking up at his taller form. Really, she should say no. He was doing fine, now - better than fine. He had a good future ahead of him and whatever baggage weighed him down during his days with her small crew seems to have been lifted. Now definitely wasn't the time to reinsert herself in his life, or him in hers.

…but that poor impulse control hasn't gone away either.

It was just a ride home.

"…but I'll allow it."

She might not regret what had happened those years ago, but Roberto did, after a fashion - he regrets that Tabitha hadn't come with him, hadn't let herself take advantage of what he offered her. Regrets that he hadn't argued harder, hadn't figured out the right combination of words to convince her.

But maybe if she's going to Columbia for law school now, even if it's as part of some kind of a scheme, things went well for her in a way too.

But you know, she was never meant to be in a cage, anyway. Tabitha Smith was too much of a free spirit, no matter how much life had tried to beat it out of her.

He gives her a lopsided grin when she laughs, when she hopes that she's grown up enough to tell the difference, to know when she should run or fight.

"Well, I wasn't going to say anything," Bobby says, about as innocently as someone like him can manage. "But you've definitely grown up a lot, Tabitha."

So, he offers her a ride home; so, he tells her that he brought his Bugatti, and as she looks up at him with those big blue eyes of hers she agrees that it's not very gangster - although maybe a six million dollar supercar is extremely gangster? - but isn't that musing just a cover for her own thought process? The debate inside whether she should say no or not, whether she should run or fight?

But it was just a ride home, right?

"Don't worry," the Brazilian assures her, offering a dark hand to her. "I'll drive slow and safe."

His other hand sketches a crossmark over his heart.

The Bugatti proves to be parked not too far away, a royal blue 2019 Divo, right off of the production line. He probably just got it. He moves around to the passenger side, politely opening the door for the blonde, letting her and her bookbag into the sleek interior like something out of a spaceship. By the time she sits down, the black leather seat is already pleasantly warm.

"So, what do you think?" he wonders, as he settles into the driver's seat afterwards. "It's not too much, hey?"

You've definitely grown up a lot.

"I see I'm gonna have a lot of fun proving you wrong, Roberto da Costa," Tabitha remarks, her expressive face indicative of her amusement, her grin unabated in the slightest. And then he extends a hand, which she doesn't even hesitate in taking.

I'll drive slow and safe.

"You better not. You gotta go hard with that kind of monster."

It doesn't take long for her to find the royal blue 2019 Divo, and true to form when she sees it, Tabitha doesn't get in right away, gushing over the car's lines and even asking to look under the hood. American classics have always been her preference as far as cars go, but she would have to be dead not to appreciate a top-of-the-line Bugatti and by the time she's done with her inspections, her cheeks are faintly flushed. It's really a gorgeous car.

The warm leather she slides into once Bobby, ever the gentleman, opens the car door for her, is a treat also, setting her book bag on the floor.

So, what do you think? It's not too much, hey?

She can't help but laugh, flashing him a look. "I feel like out of anybody else I know, only you would ask that about an eight million dollar car," she says, leaning back against the sunken seat and letting out a contented sigh. "Anyway, I'm withholding any judgment until I see how fast it runs." She leans closer to him, dropping the next words directly in his ear.

"So punch it."

The address, when she gives it, is somewhere south of the city's trendy, and commercial, Meatpacking District, where a few industrial buildings have been converted into modern-day loft housing for its citizens. Rent is expensive everywhere in the city that never sleeps - and since Tabitha isn't a billionaire like a few other people she could name, and has no magic to bend reality to make it so like a certain Scarlet Witch, it would be a mistake to believe that it would be some luxurious space that someone like the CEO of da Costa International would be hanging around in.

When they finally arrive, through an old elevator that still squeaks when it takes people up the highest floors, the space is small, but for a single young woman living on her own, it's definitely a lot of space, and given that it's loft style, the wide open living area makes it look even bigger. Three of its four walls are exposed brick, the wooden hardwood somewhat antiquated, but pristine, with large, arched windows fitted with stained glass borders that overlook the city. There's a flight of stairs that lead up to the bedroom and her numerous closets, a breakfast counter and a kitchen area, but tucked into the eastern alcove are shelves devoted to her extensive vinyl collection and second hand books - despite her grousing, education is not something that she has taken for granted, as usual having had to take for herself what her abusive parents never bothered to give her.

Despite the humble space, her personality is splashed on every nook and cranny, from the haphazard way colorful throws and pillows have been tossed on the worn leather couch in front of a small fireplace, to the colorful Christmas lights she has strung up on the lower beams before they give way to the high ceilings. There are posters, of course - concerts she's seen and been to, old movie prints and some on stage - dance competitions and performances, one for Dazzler and one of the Great Zatara, though there are a few art pieces here and there, one of a lovingly detailed portrait of Tabitha in the midst of bright lights done in the style reminiscent of old Renaissance masters…whoever had painted her on canvas that way did so lovingly.

There is also a photograph standing next to her record player, where Alison Blaire figures prominently in the middle, surrounded by a group of simply gorgeous people, no matter how overshadowed by the famous pop icon. Tabitha is one of these, close to her left.

One would think she doesn't keep in shape, but a wide, vacant space where a boxing sandbag hangs would prove that wrong, as well as a stand with a yoga mat, mirrors and a ballet barre hammered and welded securely on the western wall. There are floor-lengthed mirrors there, too, but currently draped from view by bamboo screens with Asiatic designs - all signs of a young woman absolutely serious about dance.

Under the hood falls prey to the nature of modern cars, especially modern performance cars: It's all but incomprehensible, with closed-off 'black box' parts and the like, the reason modern mechanics have to be computer experts on top of everything else. No rebuilding the engine as project here, unless you were some kind of super genius with the training and resources to build and maintain a supercar all on your own, as well as a habit for not sleeping much.

But who would ever do that?

Once they're in the car, though, Bobby is acutely aware of the blonde leaning in close, whispering her instructions to him in that low, whiskey voice of hers.

And really, how could he say no to any of that?

Still, even at night there's only so much punching it one can do in NYC. At least they aren't in Manhattan itself, where they'd be slowed to a crawl; maybe out of the city entirely they could really put the Bugatti through its paces, but…

Eventually, he brings her home. She had an important interview the next day, after all. The real shock turns out to be that she invites him up at all.

The sensible thing, the reasonable thing, would be to demurr, to go back to whatever it was billionaire playboys do on a Thursday night. Instead, he joins Tabby in her loft.

"Nice place," he says, honestly, as he looks around, as his dark brown eyes trace over all the things that say Tabitha Smith Was Here, that make for external signs of the rich internal life a girl like her rarely shows to much of anyone at all. He remembers the last time he'd been in her room, six years ago and what might seem like a world away; in much the same way Tabby could be seen as having grown from the sapling that was that girl, her space now reminds him of her space then, but more grown. More full of evidence of a life lived. He gravitates towards these, towards the portrait painted of her, towards the picture of her as one of Dazzler's dancers, of all things. "Is it weird that I kind of imagined you living hidden in the back of an abandoned church?" he asks, with another one of those lazy, dangerous grins. "No roommates?" Bobby wonders, glancing around. "No boyfriend? Just you and poor old Fernando?"

Maybe she shouldn't have, but there's that poor impulse control again, exacerbated by loneliness that she could never admit to. For all of her closeness with the Maximoff twins, there are plenty of reasons why she occasionally feels like a third wheel in their presence. Pietro and Wanda completed each other, their weaknesses complementing their strengths. Together, they functioned as a single, perfect unit and despite the strangeness of their relationship, she couldn't help but envy them a little bit. No matter what their father had done to them, at least they had each other…in that sense, at least, she is relieved that their circumstances weren't as lonely as her own.

Tabitha watches him as he circles around her loft curiously, taking in the aspects that made this space hers, and much like how he takes in these glimpses of her rich and shuttered internal life, she absorbs the changes the last six years have impressed upon him; taller now, stronger in a way that is felt rather than seen, the open wounds that she had detected in him somewhat healed over, or covered up better - in more mature designer wear than the street chic he favored back when they were much younger. But his hair remains the same, the perfect mess that is longer on the top but cropped short everywhere else.

He'd find her books - though considering their secondhand nature, it's impossible to tell whether she actually reads them or simply keeps them for show, but a copy of Guns, Germs and Steel sitting near her record player would prove that it's more the former than the latter with the presence of a Sanrio bookmark in the shape of a cartoon red panda clutching a karaoke mic. Fernando the Fern maintains his place of honor by one of those colorful windows, looking over New York's sprawling cityscape.

Nice place.

"Probably nothing like whatever penthouse bachelor pad you keep in New York these days," she tells him with a grin, shaking off her jacket and hanging it up, along with the scarf around her neck and shifting them away from the intricate details of her white lace romper and layered necklaces, the white-gold crucifix pressed against her clavicle. Her tall boots click on the wood, towards the open kitchen where she opens up a cupboard and selects a couple of tumblers and a bottle of whiskey.

"You know I actually thought about that? Finding an abandoned church and secretly renovating its interior…but with dance and school and everything, I didn't want to have to deal with squatters. I mean, there's only so much responsibility I can stand before I try to jump off a building somewhere." She pours the whiskey in the crystalline receptacles, moving over to hand one to him.

Roommates? Boyfriend?

"Launchpad," she tells him. "He's a bit of a freeloader though. Just flies off whenever he wants, comes back when he needs to eat or sleep. What really annoys me is when he comes tapping at my window at like…six in the morning, quacking his head off because he wants in well before I get up in the morning. But he really likes popcorn, and for some reason, old re-runs of Drag Race."

Launchpad? Is totally a duck.

She takes a sip of her whiskey. "As for boyfriends, nah…nobody since Sam. I think that entire thing was an eye-opener in the sense that there really is no changing me. Did you know that he took me back to Kentucky to meet his family, once? It was weird and I was uncomfortable the entire time. Huge, close loving family…I don't think I'm built for that kind of…normalcy." Her eyes lift from the rim of her tumbler. "Took a year to find out that you and he were close, though, but by that point, I was ready to fly away."

After watching him for a moment, she continues. "How about you, Bobby? What about your life outside of the papers and the tabloids?"

He doesn't seem the type to quietly, quickly size up a place, but that's exactly the sort of person Roberto da Costa has learned to be over the years. He doesn't do it the way Tabitha might - casing a joint, or sizing up a mark - but it's the same cause, anyway: Survival. The predators in board rooms and glitzy casinos and what-have-you might be better dressed, but they'd go for the throat as quickly as any goon in an alleyway.

But, well, Tabby had seen that firsthand too, not too long ago.

As she talks, as she answers his questions, Bobby gravitates slowly, inevitably towards the blonde, where she's found her kitchen and her whiskey, pouring each of them a drink.

It's kind of nostalgic, in a way. He remembers when she'd brought him that whiskey years ago, both of them too young to be drinking it. But he'd been angrier then, wounded in his heart and his body, and she'd been a bared blade, just waiting for something to cut. Now, she was telling him about the duck that shows up at her apartment and eats her popcorn. And about her time with Sam.

I was ready to fly away.

Well, she was never one to be cooped up or put in a cage. Anyone could know that just to talk to her. There would probably always be that bit of her ready to rabbit, sooner or later.

He listens, he sips at his whiskey. He settles in close to her, without even really thinking about it. He does know what she means, having spent time at the Guthrie home… It's not that he begrudged them their closeness, or even like he was envious of it, it was just…

"Me? Oh, nothing exciting. Dad's gone, so I'm technically in charge of Da Costa International now, though I leave a lot of that to the professionals. So I try and fail horribly to keep my nose clean, while trying to make the world a bit better for people like you and me. With the help of my friends from school."

He slugs back the rest of his tumbler of whiskey in one go.

"Not gangster at all."

There will always be a part of her that is predatory, in a way - the kind to seize an opportunity the moment it is presented to her, the sort of woman who, without fail, reached out with both hands to grab what she wants because she learned all too early, and all too quick, that nobody was going to do that for her. It was the way she lived her life, the way she tackled most of her relationships, but there was always an exception to the rule - that rare, selfless moment when she let go of something she wanted so that he could flourish. Watching him gravitate closer to her orbit, in an easy lean next to her against her kitchen counter, there's a part of her that's both exhilarated and horrified as to just how easy it is to be around him again.

Oh, nothing exciting.

"I'm sorry," Tabitha tells him, and she is surprised that she means it. "That you lost him, I mean." Going by the outdated portrait Bobby had given her about Emmanuel da Costa several years ago, there probably would have been a time when she would have said something callous and unfeeling. But experience, loss and longing have found her revisiting those memories more often than she would like, without the projection of her own personal pain over his history. His father was harsh, occasionally vicious, ruthless even…but upon those reflections, she has reached the understanding that his relationship with his father is not as straightforward as hers - that there were layers, there.

She doesn't press, and she doesn't pry, when he tells her about his friends and the things he does to make the world a little bit better for people like them. She doesn't for many good reasons, but not because she isn't interested. The curious light is in her eyes, the way she turns her body so she could look at him directly, hungry for the details of his life…perhaps in an effort to reassure herself that what she had done six years ago was right, and good in a way that she could never be for anyone.

She wants to ask, wants to know. But she doesn't, breaking her personal rules for him once again.

Not gangster at all.

She can't help but laugh, taking another pull from her whiskey. "Just as well, it's not like you could afford to be with so many lenses pointed at your direction all the time, and when you have to, you're gonna have to be more sneaky about it. I thought about it, you know, while I was with Sam…trying to go straight. But I think on some level, I'm always gonna be bad….or at the very least somewhat crooked." Her pinky hooks into the white gold crucifix chain, winking at him. "The kind of bad that keeps wearing stolen property anyway."

Eyebrows lift when he slugs the entire drink down in one swallow. She reaches for the bottle to top him off. "Should I be flattered?" she wonders, her easy lilt edged with something a touch more sly, watching him sidelong. "Or worried? It's just me, Bobby."

I'm sorry. That you lost him, I mean.

It's an unexpected thing to hear from Tabitha, because of what he knows about her own home life, and because of what he knows she knows about his. He's silent about that for a long moment, though he leans close to gently nudge her shoulder with his, leaning his dark head closer to her pale.

"That means a lot," he whispers to her, as though speaking the words more loudly would draw some terrible attention down upon them. It was true, though, his relationship with his father had been… Complicated, at the best of times. But the man had still been a tyrant who had driven Roberto's mother off, who had nearly disowned him when he went off to America to learn to use his mutant abilities.

But the man had still been his father, who had tried to prepare him for life in the only way he knew how, after his own harsh upbringing in the favela.

Complicated.

"You're right though, chica. There's always some eyes or another on me, these days. I gotta say I perform better with an audience to show off for, but it can be exhausting." He watches, his dark brown eyes drawn by the motion of the blonde's hand as she hooks her pinky finger into the chain of the stolen crucifix she still wears after all these years. He gives her a slow smile as his attention wanders back up to her face, as she winks at him, as she names herself bad.

"You are bad," he agrees, as she pours him more whiskey. His free hand reaches for the chain of that crucifix now, fingers curling around it. She watches him sidelong as she questions him again, something sly creeping into her voice.

"You were never 'just' anything, Tabitha Smith."

That means a lot.

The gentle nudge and the way his shadow curls over her own has her pausing from her pour into his glass, her eyes somewhere in the midpoint between the counter and the bottle. There's a hint of a rueful smile at the corner of her mouth, visible in the porcelain profile of her and even moreso to him when he moves, the distance between them dwindling by the inch.

"It should…I don't get this way with just anyone," Tabitha quips, with all of that youthful, tempestuous confidence - she doesn't mean to do it, an instinctive defense mechanism when things or people get too close to the bladed edges of her, though these are perimeters that Bobby has brushed against and cut himself into in their more youthful years; like her, danger never seemed to discourage him either. To lighten the tension, to ease the burden, but her shoulder shifts to nudge him him back, corking the bottle again.

"Ah, well, there was always a showman in you anyway. If it helps, you can always view it as life putting you in a position of playing to your strengths," she continues. And it's true, isn't it? His own ambitions, one way or another, keep putting him in the spotlight - perhaps it was his ability, his good looks, his heritage, or all of the above that keeps him wrestling with that kind of attention, for good or ill.

Her pinky slips from the chain, but he reaches for it now, his fingers coiling over it, drawn faintly taut against her skin and glittering in between their closely-situated shadows. It was well taken care of, somehow as pristine as the day she lifted it off his neck, back then only a fledgling thief. She has only gotten better since then - she's no Cat of Gotham, but the years have taught her that the long game pays more, enough to afford living by herself in the big city in a trendy loft apartment.

Her palm rests on the counter, sliding along the edge, her arm extended somewhere behind him that he'd feel the point of her elbow against his back. It keeps her facing him, no matter how opposite their postures are, him facing away from her counter and her facing towards it. It enables her to tilt her face over her shoulder to look at him as he plays with the white gold chain around her neck, watching the flicker of his expressions under the illumination of her Christmas lights.

You were never 'just' anything, Tabitha Smith.

"I guess that's objectively true," she murmurs. Dancer, con artist, thief, demolitionist…lawyer, soon enough, if all goes well. Eyes dipping to the chain in his grasp, that rueful tilt to her mouth returns. "But I was always good at stealing. Enough that I've never had to return anything I took, unless you intended to change that tonight."

Her eyes lift to meet his, the crucifix glinting suspended under the light. "Were you gonna ask me for your soul back?" she quietly wonders.

It was obvious that the crucifix had meant something to her - more, perhaps, than it had ever meant to Roberto himself. That she had kept it in good repair, in good condition over the years since she'd taken it from him in a moment of youthful daring, the very act a challenge to him back when they'd first met. He wondered if she wore it often, or if this was just a coincidence. Did it bring her good luck, would she wear it tomorrow when she went for her interview with those hotshot lawyers?

She affirms his statement by listing off things she was, things she could do. But that wasn't just it, either. He knew that she kept her care and her loyalty to a small number of people, a natural defense for someone so often hurt, so nearly shattered and broken by the things she'd endured. But he also knew that she'd gone out of her way to help a classmate she barely knew, earlier.

He knew that as bad as she described herself as being, there was something good, something pure, still left inside of her.

Even if she was going to become a lawyer.

Were you gonna ask me for your soul back?

She did look like an angel, even with her big blue eyes darkly ringed with makeup, even with her lips painted the devil's own red. But that was the thing about temptation, wasn't it? So often, the devil came in the guise of an angel. So often the wolf dressed itself as a sheep. His hand slips from the necklace, brushing over her as he shifts away from the counter, as he finishes off his second glass of whiskey in one go, so both his hands can settle on her waist as he turns her too, as he lifts her up and settles her on her kitchen counter.

"Do I seem like the sort of guy who asks for anything?" he wonders, voice a little raw from the whiskey.

Did she wear it often? It wouldn't be obvious; she was always fashion forward, even as a young girl. Her every day style changed as often as her moods and whims, but surely it must mean something when she's so notoriously easy to bore, that she has kept something she has had since she was a teenager.

And as so often happens with her, the direction of the wind changes quickly when he drains another shot of whiskey and shifts her until she's facing him, pulled in his arms briefly until he settles her on her own kitchen counter. Situated higher than he is, now, her knees part to accommodate him, framing narrow hips, fingers spanning the breadth of broad boxer's shoulders. His sudden movement, the way the space between them dwindles inevitably until they're loosely intertwined, shouldn't be a surprise to her but it is. It has been six years since their days in the Fallen Angels. Six years since she put him on a train, clutching onto the hope it was what was best for him.

Do I seem like the sort of guy who asks for anything?

His baritone is low and raw, the sound of it - so close, so frayed, and weighted with everything else that he doesn't say - ratchets up the pace of her heartbeats and fills her veins with adrenaline, her eyes left staring down into his. For a while, Tabitha says nothing, her hand lifting to drag her fingertips across the ebony locks tossed over his brow, following the contour of the side of his face with a drifting, barely there touch that traces the defined lines and angles of him until her knuckle curls gently against the hollow of his cheek.

She waits for it, the urge to send him home. To remind him of her interview in the morning and how she should prepare for it. The instinct to rabbit and tell him that they were older now, and hopefully wiser, and they shouldn't go back because she let him go for a reason. But her conscience is silent, as always when confronted by something she wants.

Her thumb finds the shape of his lower lip, the apple-red curve of its nail roaming over it. Her face lowers towards his, close enough for their noses to touch and for her lashes to lower.

"It's probably a good thing that you were never the type," Tabitha murmurs, her mouth brushing lightly over his, tasting whiskey and breath upon it. "But I'm not giving it back."

It was all I had left of you.

There's all sorts of good, practical reasons. It's been six years, they're both surely different people by now… People who should've moved on from that fling, from that whatever it was that they had, the sharp edges of two broken people somehow managing to fit together just right. To make it not hurt anymore. She had an important interview on the morrow, he probably had a bunch of important things he was supposed to be doing. And of course, that unspoken thing that hung between them, had hung between them even back then.

That they were committed to two different courses, to walking in the footsteps of two very different men. Because before her there had been a school that had given him a place to belong and a way to focus himself; because before him there had been people who had picked Tabitha up when the world told her she was nothing, and told her she could change the world. That she deserved to change the world.

But instead of listening to any of those things, he picks her up, he sits her on her own kitchen counter, and there he presses close. His hands stayed on her waist while hers found his shoulders, through the layers of his suit jacket and that black dress shirt underneath, his outfit monochrome in a way that only a man of his dark complexion could pull off without looking like he was headed to a funeral.

She doesn't answer him, not right away, instead gently touching him with her fingertips. The intervening years, their hardships and training, had sloughed off whatever baby fat had remained on him, leaving Roberto lean and well-formed.

But she wasn't listening to those very good reasons why not either, was she? Not the way she made his bottom lip tingle with the pad of her thumb, or the way she leaned in close so that her nose brushed against his, so he could watch her thick dark lashes lower, hooding those blue eyes. She wasn't giving it back, she says, though there was always a certain impression that she meant more than one thing there, both the literal object of the crucifix, and the rather more ephemeral concept of his soul.

"It's yours, baby girl," he tells her, breathing the endearment as though the past six years hadn't happened. "It always was."

It wasn't love, not really. It hadn't been those years ago among the Fallen Angels, as though love were some magical state that would instantly fix all their problems, instantly heal all of Tabby's hurts. It wasn't love, but it was something. Something that had endured beyond that train station farewell.

He kisses her hard, claiming those red lips with his darker own, the taste of her mingling with the whiskey, with him.

It wasn't love, but it was…

She was never the sort to go back, or take back anything she has ever said, ever done, ever stolen. She remembers the years when she prayed and begged for a better life, some way to escape the torments inflicted on her by her parents and the judgment that came with living the trailer trash life all through her childhood until she was left with no other recourse than to believe the idea that it was her fault all along - she was born no good, to herself or anyone. That she would never amount to anything, and so she ought to apologize for being put on this planet, for being who and what she is. And she would have kept believing that, if it hadn't been for Pietro and Wanda.

Tabitha had met Bobby in a time when she was slowly rebuilding that shattered image of herself, though she would never reclaim a few of the pieces that she had lost along the way - a childhood of abuse, before being spirited off by a cosmic entity, shown horrors beyond their world and making her feel smaller than she already was in his selfish quest to have someone understand him would do that to a young girl - she had retrieved enough thanks to the twins' efforts and the man's confidence and certainty that she was somehow more. There are days, still, when she wakes up in the morning fighting the instinct to think otherwise, but in the six years since their separation, she has learned, at the very least, to stop saying sorry for who and what she is.

In the end, maybe that is the reason why she could never fully move on from them, why her other relationships with Rictor and Sam never made it past a certain point, and perhaps never will. Whoever could, in the face of those who had been there, helping her pick up the pieces? It might not be love, from any of them, Pietro, Wanda or Bobby, but it was something. And for a young woman who has never experienced such a thing, maybe it doesn't matter that it isn't when something is infinitely better than nothing, so long as it lasts. So long as it fits.

After six years, this has endured, also. After six years, his mouth still fits seamlessly against her own.

It's yours, baby girl.

Her grip on him tightens.

It always was.

Somehow the way he says it, that glaring, unfettered truth, puts more power and sentiment in those three words than any other three-word phrases that most others would consider more significant. They twist over the relentless, beating engine of her, driven deep within the nest of the thorns and brambles of her circumstances, wringing the breath out of her lungs, and her response to his hard, heated kiss is downright ferocious in her efforts to bleed off the pain, to share it with the rare soul who has bothered to understand. It feels like another life, the image of their two younger selves sitting side by side on her bed, blood on his knuckles as she urged him to go back to where he belongs, because he deserved that - he belonged to a better place, far away from the likes of her.

She doesn't know about his efforts to find her, and bring her back. All she knows is that Fate has once again thrown them together in a strange way, and she doesn't know how long this will last - it could all end tomorrow, so there was no reason at all to hold back.

Is there?

Sunlight starts creeping over the horizon in a burning, scarlet sliver when they finally stop. As the first lances of light touch the eastern corner of her bed, slipping through the drapes she keeps over the nearest window, they glint off her candy apple-red pedicure, and like the nocturnal creature that she is, her leg draws up by the knee to avoid its heat. She has all the warmth she needs at present, tucked against his side, her cheek pressed on the solid wall of his chest - all the more defined now, hammered upon the anvil of his James Bond lifestyle. Pale gold hair tangles into his shoulder, curled in a hopeless, matted mess across her pillows. She's so exhausted that she's barely conscious, but she simply can't stop touching him, pale, deft fingers dancing slowly down his defined center line.

The bed is ruined, bedding pulled and twisted this way and that, their limbs tangled hopelessly into the top sheets. She's barely covered herself, the winter chill held at bay by his dark form and the way he radiates heat. Even in a position of rest, she's twisted up against him, neither of them able to let go of the other.

She says nothing for a while, a part of her somewhat afraid of being in his arms again - not because he scared her, she can be just as intense as he is. But she had enough difficulty letting go of him when he was determined to leave the Fallen Angels. What would she do if he decided to stick around, in the same city, now that he knows where she lives?

"I've run away from people all my life," she murmurs, turning her face to press against the side of his throat. "But in all that time, I think you're the only one who bothered to try and and come after me." Her passion-glazed eyes lifting to watch his dark ones, finding her tired, sated expression within them, as reflective as volcanic glass. "It's not because you think you owe me anything, is it? Because you don't."

After everything, being under the covers would surely be intolerable anyway, with all that heat they'd trapped in the loft with their exertions, over the course of hours and hours.

Indeed, it would probably be cooler if they weren't cleaved so closely together. But that wasn't going to happen.

With her twisted up against him, with that lovely blonde head resting against his shoulder, Roberto had an arm curled underneath and around Tabitha, strong dark muscle keeping her in place, his other arm curled back under his head. Their legs tangle as she draws up her knee to keep the morning light from falling on her pale skin and gleaming red pedicure, her toes drawing against his calf and making him murmur, unable or unwilling to fail to respond to the sensation. Despite his general manner, none of it was just for show. Between his father's training and his early interest in sports and his even more intense training with the X-Men, Roberto da Costa had been beaten into something stronger and faster than the general run of men.

And that was without even using his powers.

She's quiet, and he doesn't disturb her. For all he knows, she's lapsed into a well-earned sleep, something he found creeping ever closer for himself as well. Indeed, he was almost there, nearly about to surrender to his body's demands for rest, when he hears her speak again.

It's difficult to quite focus on her words, at first, but then her face lifts, and his turns towards hers, meeting her gaze.

It's not because you think you owe me anything, is it?

It was part of the way she saw the world, he knew. How could she not, growing up the way she had? Under other circumstances, she could've had the same kind of support network he had, and briefly fled from - people that she could've trusted, maybe. People she wouldn't have needed to run from. People who didn't view the world so transactionally as thieves do.

Because you don't.

"I like being around you, Tabitha Smith," he answers her. "It's not complicated. And it's not just this, girl, as incredible as that is. It's you. And yeah, I wanted to help you, I wanted to help you find something better than being a petty thief working for a loser like the Vanisher. But now you're gonna be a lawyer, so I guess that worked out."

It might be part of a scheme, but she was still doing it. Giving herself opportunities by accident.

"So what now?" Bobby wonders. "Are you gonna run from me again?"

Are you gonna run from me again?

It's hard not to feel guilty when he puts it that way, and the emotion on its own is rare. Tabitha was never one to show her softer underbelly to anyone, not unless forced. But he looks her right in the eye when he says it, and her own can't help but drift downward to where she can detect his pulse, ticking faintly on the side of his neck.

"If I did, would you chase me?" she wonders, faintly teasing, the devil in her poking and needling at him despite their present circumstances. But the question is largely rhetorical, anyway. It's something to keep the tension from stringing taut between them - though at the moment, it's hard to do so when they're both just too tired to do much else.

After a moment, she sighs and watches her pale finger as it absently traces a pattern over those hard, defined pectorals - drifting, swirling movements where the pad of it barely touches his skin, the tip of that nail touching him just enough to keep nerve endings alive and stimulated, but only just.

"I didn't run for me," she tells him quietly. "I wanted you to soar as high as you possibly can, and I would have only weighed you down. I don't think that just because of where I come from, but because I also know how I'm like. I've been called worthless all my life - these days, I'm better at not feeling that way, but there are mornings when it's really hard." And that is understandable also - sixteen years of being hurt physically, abused emotionally. The fact that she's getting better at dealing with all of it speaks to the depths of her resilience and how hard and intensely her spirit actually burns. "You didn't need to be dealing with all of that when you were dealing with a lot, also."

Her lips tilt, to press faintly against his chest. "It's hard for me not to think that letting you go was probably the most decent thing I've ever done for the world at large. I think some part will always be crooked…kind of like that scorpion and the frog story I heard when I was a kid, sabotaging myself and everyone else because somehow it's in my nature. But at least when I look at you, I know that I'm capable of making that kind of sacrifice…that kind of deviation against every part of me that's selfish. Maybe I'm not entirely hopeless after all."

Her finger drifts, to draw a slow ring over his skin. "I'm glad it worked out for you," she murmurs softly. "Your life…all those newspapers let me follow you, at least." That was a double-edged blade, too, moving through over half a decade in the outermost fringes of his life. Years after she had let him go, she was still following, unable to help it.

If I did, would you chase me?

He can tell that she's teasing, at least partially; that the question is rhetorical, at least mostly. But it's still kind of an important question, in its own way. Albeit one whose answer she should already know.

"Me, I love a good chase," Bobby replies, trying to be a collaborator, trying to keep the tension from growing too tight along with her. "Though if you're wearing heels like tonight's when you do, I dunno that you'll get very far."

But after a moment, she sighs. After a moment, she speaks again, her blue eyes fixed on the way her fingertip traces over his dark skin, a ghost of a touch, barely felt.

It's serious, in a bittersweet way. Admitting the reality of the situation with a clarity few women of twenty could manage - much less girls of sixteen, as she was when she first came to that conclusion. Perhaps despite her outward frivolity, there was a hard-earned maturity that had come with the cruelty visited upon her. That part of her spirit aged prematurely with every broken bone and cruel word, with the thoughtless, accidental abuse of her friend from beyond the stars.

Roberto doesn't interrupt her as she speaks. She needs to get it out, he can tell: If he stops her, she might never get started with those thoughts again.

Instead, he listens. Listens as she touches him while she talks, with her fingertips, with the faint press of her lips.

"You've never been hopeless, Tabitha," Roberto breathes quietly. They say that self-sacrifice was the surest evidence of love, the kind that was selfless rather than selfish. Something rare in the flawed hearts of humankind. But he can't say she was wrong, at least about him having to deal with her baggage while also dealing with his own. But…

But…

"But you deserve the chance to soar too, you know? You're worth a lot."

You've never been hopeless.

Tabitha laughs softly at that, tilting her head back again so she could meet his eyes. "Typical, right?" she wonders, clearly amused despite her exhaustion. "I've been told I was constantly, so I try to be the opposite if not just out of spite."

She leans forward, to press her lips warmly on his cheek.

"Maybe I do deserve that," she tells him simply, her hand lifting so she could trace her index lightly down the curve of his cheek. "But the way I am, maybe I don't want to. Maybe I'm meant to stay on the ground so I could watch you fly. Besides…" Mischief lights up those bottled-lightning eyes again. "…if I could fly on my own, I wouldn't have an excuse to have you carry me around while you do."

It feels like another lifetime ago, remembering scattered stars and the lights down below, New York City reduced to a shower of diamonds and shadow. It had been winter then, much like the climes outside, the chill stinging her cheeks, flushing those pale arches and pulling at her blonde hair as she coaxed him in his solar form to go faster, and faster, and faster, weaving through buildings so quickly that their details were reduced to a whirlwind of riotous color…

…and the moment they arched over the skies and dove, with clothes on, right into Sebastian Shaw's penthouse pool while he had been out, and the rest of the building was dark.

"What about you?" she wonders at last. "So what now, with Roberto da Costa?"

Exhausted though she might be, it seemed that Tabitha never really ran out of mischief. It was one of those endless resources, a bottomless well that spelled trouble for pretty much everyone.

Though who would ever want her to be any other way?

"I see how it is," Roberto says, nodding his head slowly. "You just like me around for my fancy cars and the fact that I can fly."

And probably other things, given some of the words that have slipped past her lips over the past several hours. But, you know, he's being teasing. Not presumptuous.

Yet for all her mischief and his teasing, that idea doesn't sit quite right to him. The idea that some were meant to just sit back and watch others succeed was one that was anathema to Bobby and the way he'd been raised. For all that his father could be abusive, for all that he could be a tyrant, he as at least a self-made tyrant, a man who believed that people should take charge of their own destiny lest they prove themselves weak and vulnerable, meat for the predators of the world.

Those were the sort of instincts that got worked into the bones of a child, and never really went away, no matter how much healthier the environments they found themselves in later in life might be. Although given some of the things the X-Men get up to, that might be debatable anyway.

So what now, with Roberto da Costa?

"Well… In the short term I was thinking about sleeping, and then probably a very late breakfast. Hm… Making sure you got to your interview and didn't 'accidentally' miss it… Otherwise? Well, you know how it is. My name on a big fancy company, which I try to use to make the world a little bit better, a little bit nicer. And all the superhero stuff."

She saw the logo on the card he gave her. She saw the address, knew where he'd tried to invite her to. The X-Men weren't a secret by any means, especially not since the Chitauri attack on New York.

"There any good places around here for late breakfast?" he wonders. "Or am I gonna be rooting around in your kitchen in a few hours and seeing if you have more than mustard and whiskey in the cupboard?"

"What, are you suggesting you drive me to Nelson & Murdock in your fancy Bugatti?" Tabitha wonders drowsily, though he can sense her grin, at the prospect of making sure that she didn't miss her interview. Not like she could, but for reasons that she absolutely cannot tell him. "You don't have to, I can just take the train…besides, you're busy and important now, your phone's probably gonna ring nonstop in the next few hours with people all over the world wondering where you are. But you can pick me up after and maybe we can have dinner or something."

They didn't really do much talking in the night after all, catching up in more desperate and physical ways in the hours before.

And all the superhero stuff.

"Yeah? What do they call you now, with said superhero stuff, or are you still going by Solar?"

Breakfast is the furthest thing from her mind at the moment, but when asked about what's around here, lashes lower and her head finds his shoulder again. "There's a diner across the street, that goes twenty-four seven, believe it or not, but if you're really good, I'll do something I've never done before and make breakfast for someone other than myself. Bacon and eggs…toast…pancakes, if you want them." A single eye cracks open to look at him. "…unless you magically became one of those avocado toast people in the years we haven't seen each other."

"Dinner it is, then," Bobby says, making it a done deal. "We'll celebrate your new job."

He seems pretty certain that she's going to get it, doesn't he? Not for any nefarious reasons, of course. He's just showing some faith in the blonde, even if it was part of some kind of possibly evil scheme, and even if she never actually wanted to be a lawyer or have any sort of real job or responsibility.

She'd have to be careful or she might wind up catching some respectability from all of this.

When she asks what he's 'going by' when it comes to the superhero stuff, he can't help but grin as she brings up the oh-so-creative pseudonym he'd used during his brief time with the Fallen Angels.

"Nah," he replies. "Sunspot."

That, at least, wasn't his idea. The Professor was a lot better at coming up with codenames than he had been clearly.

The talk of breakfast is accompanied by closing eyes, as both of them drift generally towards the realm of sleep… Although the blonde does open one eye a bit to look at him critically, even while she suggests he might've developed a fondness for avocado toast. Which, admittedly, he wouldn't say no to.

"Bacon and eggs, toast, pancakes," he says fuzzily, his grip on her tightening as he drifts off to a much-needed sleep. "You promised."

She did no such thing.

But she's stuck now.

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