Sex, Trauma and the City
Roleplaying Log: Sex, Trauma and the City
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Alison Blaire and Tabitha Smith meet up for brunch and catch up on their lives, and discover that they got kidnapped by the same guy.

Other Characters Referenced: Sunspot, Angel, The Beyonder, Daredevil, Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Jessica Jones, Cannonball
IC Date: February 04, 2019
IC Location: The Little Owl, Greenwich Village, New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 27 Feb 2019 04:05
Rating & Warnings: R for mature subject matter
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

While Tabitha Smith has nurtured a bit of a reputation for being flighty at best, she has not forgotten her promise to meet up with friend and legendary pop icon Alison Blaire sometime after the holidays and after a quick call, the two decided to meet up for a late brunch on Sunday in an effort to circumvent the what promises to be a busy weekend - New York being how it is, these days it was impossible to get reservations for brunch anywhere Saturday and Sunday…unless you were, of course, the Dazzler.

Today's venue is the Little Owl, one of the best brunch places in Greenwich Village, located at the bottom of one of its older buildings, marked out by a fire engine-red frame with sapphire-blue awnings in direct contrast to the structure's pale stucco. It has been a staple in the neighborhood for over a decade, largely boasting Mediterranean-inspired fare in a small, but chic setting - but the important part, at least to the former backup dancer, was the brunch menu that included a plethora of cocktails - including sangrias and mimosas - and fresh beignets served with nutella and the house-made raspberry sauce.

It's just a little bit past one; Tabitha is already there, clad in a turqoise cashmere sweater that dropped off one shoulder, the bright, hot-pink strap of a tanktop visible over the exposed curve. She's got on designer dark blue jeans, knee-high boots, her ever-present aviator sunglasses are perched over her head, and her hair is kept free and left in an artful disarray at the whims of the winter wind. Her large earrings make a small sound at every gesture of her head. Her smartphone is in her hand, but once her friend makes her presence known, she lifts her hand in an easy wave and a grin.

"I hope you're in the mood for mimosas because I just asked the waiter to keep them coming," she says, enthusiasm in every line of her as she hops off her chair to offer Alison a hug. "How are you, babe? Dish the deets!"

Even standing amidst the still-smoking ruins of her career, there are still some perks to being the Dazzler.

Though suchsame perks come at a steep price — one that comes at the very beginning of her conversation with Tabitha, when brunch is suggested: 'You sure you want to brave the public with me?'

There's one thing — sacrificing one's privacy to spend an afternoon with a celebrity who has long thrown anonymity to the wind. There's another — spending an afternoon with a celebrity who is now known as a mutant. Fame has a way, these days, of splashing into unwanted notoriety.

When Alison does arrive, she's in her usual armor — a knit hat that hides much of the length of her blonde hair, and a dark pair of sunglasses that dominate most of her face. To take a glimpse of her, in those brief, undisguised moments where she still thinks she's alone, it is palpable: she's paranoid around the edges, keeping a heightened level of awareness about her, and constantly trying to hide glances at her blind spots into smooth, cursory looks. Truth of the matter is Alison Blaire doesn't really like going out alone these days, not even briefly, and has been doing all she can to mitigate it: Warren Worthington, of his unending chivalry, has been the greatest remedy to that, always a willing escort when work does not take him away.

Still, Alison despises her own fear. She won't hide in her apartment all day; she certainly won't cower at the Institute, either, and envy other mutants who seem to navigate the outside without fear.

So here she is, all those paranoid glances be damned, recognizing Tabby and returning her hug with a relieved squeeze. "Look at you. You look so good," she murmurs, contentment in her voice.

Eventually, she sits, divesting of her winter wear, and after a considering pause, finally removes her sunglasses, taking a bit of care to position herself away from most of the Owl's spacious windows. The Dazzler gets glances, but, fortunately, the restaurant's ambiance doesn't change.

"Oh, god, you're going to kill me," she says, at mention of mimosas. "I'm still hungover — do I look hungover? This foundation I'm running — it's going to be the death of me. The drinking involved. When you sing, you can at least avoid that nonsense to spare your throat. I'm — well, I suppose. Busy? Busy is the best way to be, isn't it? I've lost my mind and on my way toward politics. I don't know what I'm doing anymore. What about you — we never had a chance to talk — with you wearing that nonsense—! Are you still dancing? Who has you now? Don't say Kesha. I'll cry."

You sure you want to brave the public with me?

Was there any doubt?

Tabitha may very well be one of those mutants who navigate the outside world without fear, though nothing could be further from the truth - it's just that she's less morally hampered in using the full destructive force of her abilities than most are, and the question posed to her has her responding, with her effervescent good cheer, that Alison doesn't have to worry and if any trouble breaks out, she'll blow away whoever dares. They shared a good laugh over it, nevermind the fact that deep down, the other blonde had been terribly serious.

Anyway, it's just brunch, and as if oblivious to curious glances tossed towards their direction now and then by the hostess, who took their reservation, she embraces Alison warmly. "So do you," she tells her warmly. "Ugh, even when you're so busy hiding your face, you still look amazing." She can't help the stab of envy - those meant to be on stage certainly do have that je ne sais quois.

"Me? Kill you? Hell no, I intend to revive you. The best cure for a hangover is just to drink more," she says as she takes a seat, ever the devil with an angel's face. "But yeah, I did hear about the new gig…Aegis, right? The Aegis Foundation? Anyway there's an easy way around that. Have one drink, take little sips from it while you move from one end of the room to another chatting up different groups of people and by the time you get to half a glass, you stop drinking it altogether, and if anyone asks, just tell them it's actually your third. Nobody will think about it too hard, trust me."

As always the con artist.

The mention of Alison's move to politics, she laughs. "Just means we have to go to brunch more often while we're still friends," she teases. "Because you have lost your mind. That's okay though, you know me. I like the crazy ones. But yeah! I'm still dancing, if not just to keep up - keep myself limber in case Gwen Stefani decides to gimme a call."

Who has you now?

"Nobody, I promise!" Pause. "…why, is she hiring?"

Another joke and she lifts her hands up to preemptively ward away any anticipated blows, laughter in her eyes.

"Actually, I dunno if I'll have the time to go pro anymore. Part of me still wants to but I meant to tell you I'm in law school now. Can you believe it? Columbia, so I'm still in the city and not very far. I even put in for a clerkship at Nelson and Murdock, so I'm right in there with you in the 'losing my mind' department. You in politics, me in law? What are we doing with our lives, Ali?"

The mimosas arrive; to his credit, the waiter doesn't even gawk at Alison. She reaches out for her glass. "At least it's not without its share of eyecandy. I mean…Matt Murdock around the office." Sly eyes lift towards Alison's over her glass. "Warren Worthington in your boardrooms. I mean, the guy is hot enough to pull off the 'disheveled suit, unbuttoned shirt, sprawled indolently on the table' thing."

"You're sweet," Alison says to that compliment, with a little loosening of the reserve that comes with those things — in her world, compliments are common, dangerous things. They come at a constant deluge, and are always at a price, expecting something in return to be reassured she's still the fairest of them all.

Roman Nekobah was one of the few who didn't compliment her… made her work for her kinder, softer words, so that when he ever gave them, they felt like a drug. Alison ruminates on a memory of Warren at the back of her head: he's right, it is a vile culture.

But here, now, there is no price, no expectation — just the comfort of a friend who just wants to spend some time together. Alison's guard is already down, and her smile is on; a crooked thing she barely ever gives the professional photographers.

"You're going to turn my liver into foie gras," she complains aloud, but with a laugh, and very deliberately does not fight Tabitha's mimosa order. Alison Blaire resigns herself to her fate. Two-day hangover, here we come.

Settling into her chair, she responds to mention of Aegis with an appreciative lift of her eyebrows. "You've been following the news," Alison declares, impressed, and just a bit touched. "Any opinions on the foundation? I'd love to hear how it sounds to everyone else. I get swept up in the minutiae so fast; feedback is fantastic when I can get it." She listens, with deepening amusement, as Tabby offers a very stealthy advice on How To Drink with big-wigs.

It's honestly advice Alison needs. Singing was her get-out-of-jail-free card, back in the day, and a musician could excuse herself from all sorts of vices out of the excuse of sparing her multimillion-dollar voice. Not even the pushiest of producers would persist to ruin the merchandise. But now? "Clever. I'm going to do that. I don't even — Friday is a fog. It's been years since I got that drunk. Ugh."

With questions now aimed Tabby's way, Alison waits with unerring patience to hear the answers. "Good," she says, to hear she's still dancing. "You're talented. It'd be a waste. Though — don't you dare!"

Biting back a grin, she punishes that Kesha thing with a kick of her toe at Tabitha's boot. "Cross me, and I'll sell you to Beiber."

The mimosas come, and Alison long-sufferingly snags the other glass, her eyes still bright with amusement as she reaches to chime their drinks in a pre-emptive cheers. "Well, I'm glad you're —" she begins, about to drink — but Tabby isn't finished.

Alison coughs a little at the news. "Wait — law school?! You?! You're in — law school! You. Since when! Tabitha Smith, I call bullshit. You couldn't sit still a five-minute choreograph without getting sassy — now you're reading McCulloch vs. Maryland?" The laughter comes out now, strong enough she's getting looks — and in this moment, the ex-Dazzler doesn't seem to notice. She's laughing too hard, pleased in every last, little bone in her body. "You are a little shit. I can't believe you. I'm proud of you, but I can't believe you." And Murdock's firm?! "Are you — we're going to be working together again. You've made my hangover with this."

Still chortling, she drinks. Or tries to, because Tabby's bringing up dishevelled Warren Worthingtons in the same breath.

Alison coughs a little, red in the way someone shouldn't be, discussing cavalier eye candy over brunch booze. "Don't ever say that in front of him, for the love of God. He'd do it."

You've been following the news.

"I kinda have to these days," Tabitha tells her, taking a sip of her mimosa. "You know me, Ali. Off the stage, I kind of like just doing my own thing, you know? But it's largely how I manage to keep tabs on you and Bobby these days without being too much of a bother." She never calls, except but to do this on occasion, never the kind of girl friend who would drunk dial past midnight and sob about a boy, keeping her messier problems away from a sphere comprised of good company. It keeps her absent most of the time, but coming from a place she occupies - a trailer trash kid who has been told she was no good all of her life - she can't help but find the distance necessary so as not to weigh them down.

Opinions on the foundation has her grinning faintly. "Sounds boring," she tells her, and that's expected too, for one prone to chase copious amounts of self-destructive excitement on a regular basis. "But absolutely necessary…though honestly the closer the city gets to the March deadline, I'm pretty sure it'll get more exciting around your neck of the woods. What happened Friday, though? Foundation party? Who all went? I promise I won't talk to TMZ."

Her lifted hands don't do much to ward off the toe against her boot, and it only causes her to laugh all the more - it's bright, like her other expressions, leaning hard into the emotion. She has never done anything by the halves, even in this.

"Oh nooooo, not Justin!"

Her news brings forth the deluge she has been looking for, and the sound of Alison's own laughter inspires the imp in her. There's the dramatic sigh, the boneless slump against her seat. "Talk about boring, right? But I mean, I'd rather do law than the Beeb. I'm still taking classes and keeping up, but honestly, a couple of friends put the idea in my head that maybe I should try it, so I'm trying it, and I'm sitting there being all fidgety and shit in the classroom and you know they do this Socratic Method nonsense or whatever when they just call people randomly to make sure you do the reading, right? So the first time I get called in Torts, I decide to be…you know. Me. Just to see if I'd get kicked out by ranting about vicarious liability in the context of a sperm bank robbery because the homework fact pattern reminded me of this crazy story I heard about some dude who hit a bunch down in Mississippi…and the man tells me it's brilliant and gives everyone else a small speech about out of the box arguments and now my entire class hates me. I dunno, Ali, I'm scared. People can't start legitimizing my craziness, now, this is how cities die!"

But her friend repeats she can't believe it and Tabitha's woe-is-me expression is even more amplified as she slides Ali something flat and plastic across the table. It's her Columbia Law student ID. It's real, and she's making a face in it that makes her look like a blonde beaver in designer couture, with exaggeratedly big eyes and her teeth visible.

"But yes, if I get the clerkship, we will be? Apparently I might get seconded to any outfit that retains Nelson & Murdock. Anyway yeah, the secret's out. This little shit is actually stalking you," Tabitha says solemnly. "I keep your latest appearances in scrapbooks and stare at you in every interview while listening to 'Hungry Eyes' from my playlist."

There's a bird-like tilt of her head when Alison coughs and grows red at the mention of Warren Worthington, though when she says 'don't', she will, of course, make it worse. "What, really? I didn't think he was the type! Could you do me a favor and mention I said that?" she wonders, hopefully. "And if he does it, can you take a picture? If you can get him to do it with Bobby da Costa, you'll officially be my new best friend."'

She pauses, however, as if catching up on something else. She leans over the table to better peer at Alison's face.

"…oh my god, you're fucking him. You are, aren't you? You are!" She points a finger. "Now who's the little shit?! I should've known the moment I found myself in a bus full of crying women!"

…in the universe's defense, the bus stop was close to a cemetery and it was probably just a coincidence, but that isn't the point.

"…Mr. Worthington?"

The voice is exasperated. Over the past few years, its owner has had to do this an aggravating number of times.

At the head of the boardroom table, wings jerk as Warren Kenneth Worthington III — scion of one of America's oldest of old money families, chairman of the board of Worthington Industries, and frequent selection for Sexiest Man Alive lists — starts back to attention from a sudden and nigh-irresistible urge to start preening. A single small down feather pops loose and drifts to the floor.

"The Finance Committee is about to report on the restructurings you asked for, regarding our European subsidiaries," says the aggrieved secretary of the board.

"Oh," says Warren, taking his eyes away from the window, and shaking off that smug sense that somewhere, somehow, he is being Admired. "Oh, yes. Carry on."

The mimosa goes down like melted sugar. Alison double-takes silently at her drink; she can barely taste the alcohol. This thing is danger in a glass, and she knows it.

And far more calories she absolutely doesn't need. Treadmill and pilates for three hours tonight, Blaire — no takebacks.

"You've never been a bother, Tabby," she feels free to remind, with a familiar patient; Alison always had reams of it for her crew. It seemed to give her an added sense of semblance to mother hen a mess of young women while on the road — instill in them a bit of routine and control she was having trouble maintaining in her own life. "And especially now — you know if you ever need help, or anything, I'm a call away."

Sounds boring, assesses Tabitha of foundation work, and that elicits a sharp laugh from Alison. "It really is. Except, sometimes — it isn't? I —" miss music, she almost hears herself admitting, but draws that short. A bit too heavy over mimosas, and a lot too loaded for what the ex-Dazzler is even prepared to bring to words, or even a quiet confession. She can't listen to her old albums, and she sure can't find the heart to compose anything, not after everything, and it's over for her, a closed chapter, a dead career without reclamation, so it's a fool's wish to miss something that will never be.

"I actually find myself enjoying it, strangely enough," admits Alison instead. "Convincing people. Promoting ideas. It's addictive. And it's doing something. Or, I hope. At this stage, it all feels like I'm dreaming aloud at people drunk enough to listen." The additional questions quirk one of her patient smiles. "Friday was entertaining some spoiled hedge fund managers. Trying to woo them to consider funding some local mutant entrepreneurs that decided to go public. That was just Warren and myself. And whatever dimension he brings along to store all the alcohol he can put away. It's not normal!"

And speaking of not normal, conversation segues into Tabitha Smith: up and coming legal eagle. Alison, who by habit keeps her public profile as quiet, pulled-in, and inoffensive as ever, laughs so loudly she shocks a few nearby tables, and covers her mouth moments-too-late to snuff the sound.

It doesn't help when she sees Tabby's ID photo. Alison's eyes soften at the picture, after her initial chortle. "I get to keep this," she declares, handing it back, "when you're done with it."

"My —" father would love you, Alison wants to say, in an undressed moment of pure delight. A second aborted sentence, especially when the thought makes her insides twist up. It nearly annoys her — can she not let herself have one second of anything fun without reality ready to sober her back up? She laughs on instead, unwilling to bleaken her own mood, "I'm so proud of you. I swear it. I'm not even going to warn Murdock about you. He's going to get to figure that out all on his own. But — you're right about that. You get that as your boss? He's adorable and he's idealistic."

And much less a dangerous topic than Warren Worthington.

Speculated as not that type, Alison snorts through her next mouthful of mimosa. "Don't let him fool you. It's how he gets you, lures you into a — Roberto da Costa? That's the Bobby you talk about? Seriously?" She pauses a beat. WORLDS ARE COLLIDING—

Not that Alison gets to ruminate on it long, because she goes beet-red under Tabitha's sudden declaration. "Shhh!! Sh — TAB — shhh!" is the eloquent rebuttal to that, only broken up when she slaps a hand over her own mouth, as if those DAMNING WORDS were coming out of her.

"I'm — it was —" now the great, mysterious, international pop sensation Dazzler is babbling. "We — maybe! Maybe just that — few — times!"

I'm a call away.

"I know," Tabitha says - the shift is so subtle it would be easily missed by someone less perceptive than Alison, hangover and all, expression for the time being adopting a gentleness that could be described as uncharacteristic of the bombastic blonde who would rather change the subject than get into thornier topics. But there are exceptions to her many rules there, the handful few, identities so rare that she could count them on one hand. "You're great, Ali. Of course, I will."

She can read between the lines also, when Ali talks about foundation work, though it's less of the lawyer in her (or the things that potentially make her a good one) and more of the con artist and thief in her that is able to pinpoint the exact minute when Alison nearly admits that she misses music - that inherent ability to home in on a person's secret desires and strike when she has to. The latter function isn't present, but the former is always on, and that pale face softens even more. For a while, she says nothing, quietly ruminating on what that's like - of dreams and platinum-minted talents, artistry she could only wish she could have or steal, suddenly left to languish unvoiced and unheard because nobody wants it anymore, and all because of a biological trait.

It's infuriating.

But she respects the divergence, and follows the flow of conversation seamlessly, her smile returning. "Well, whatever gets the job done, right? It's a tried and true method, people have been throwing parties for the purposes of changing hearts and minds since…I dunno, probably at some point after humans discovered fire to cook food with and grape juice is even more awesome when kept in a cellar long enough." Though she does laugh at how the Dazzler describes her billionaire foundation partner. "Maybe he had tons of practice. Was he in a frat in…what Ivy did he go to?" Because obviously. "Yale? Princeton?"

Look, she's a New Yorker. She's not about to default to anything that comes from Boston and thereabouts.

"Still, I'm…really glad you're out there again, and doing something that you like, or starting to like. I'm glad you're doing good, too."

About the ID, she laughs. "Deal. I'll let you bury the evidence of this ridiculous attempt at adulting." Though she does pocket it back in her pants.

"Maybe, I'm in the middle of being background checked, so you're right. Even if you don't warn him about me, I'm sure he'll figure it out after he siccs his P.I. on me. Jessica Jones, or something…but thanks, Ali. It means a lot…I mean, better this than drifting, yeah? Have you ever heard of her, by the way? Jess Jones, I mean. I have an appointment with her sometime next week."

She falls quiet when the waiter drifts by again to refill their mimosas, and take their orders. Tabitha requests a plate of the homemade beignets to share, and some egg dish. "Cheers to three hours on the ballet barre," she says, lifting her glass to Alison's.

"Yeah…I guess I should be a little more specific, there's probably like, a thousand Bobbys in the world. Him and I met a while back when we were both kids. Both runaways, if you could believe it." She offers this small glimpse of Roberto's life and how it intersected with her own. "I told him he had too much promise to squander it with the likes of the crowd I was running with at the time, so I put him on a train to take him back to his school for specials." Her smile remains; there's a hint and one that tastes like melancholy, and while it wasn't love, it was something - but it is difficult to describe the state of two young broken people with jagged edges that happened to fit just right.

"I ran into him again a week ago or so, after six years of reading about him in the papers."

Alison's frantic shushing after that has Tabitha gamely clapping her hands over her mouth, choking back another gale of laughter, though she would see it - eyes with the color of frozen lightning brimming with mischief and as wide as dinner plates. 'You are. YOU ARE' she finally mouths, silently, once she's dropped her fingers.

"What do you mean maybe?" she says. "I mean, it'd be kinda hard to miss him diving in! So when you mean a few times, what do you mean by a few? Every couple of weeks? Every week? Like…five times a week?" She pauses, and gawks. "…five times a day?" …what kind of world does she live in where five times a day was a few?!

"Harvard, I believe," Alison says of Warren's too-expensive academia. She has a bear-trap memory for detail, even the passing things — at the time, he was probably passingly making fun for her degree at NYU. She pauses, then continues, speaking around a growing smile: "Though, if you ever want to irritate him, definitely call him a Princeton man. He might die inside."

The well-wish about the Aegis Foundation, and Alison's work within it — she answers Tabitha with a brief, wan smile, but one that climbs up to touch the corners of her eyes. Not the kind of smiles she used to give the magazine covers. "For all your grousing, it seems you enjoy the law just as much. Don't attempt to convince me otherwise; you're absolutely transparent. Here's to us, growing up a little, but not too much?"

Toasting that with more mimosa, Alison sadly drinks an entire meal's calories down — pausing only at a familiar name. Jessica Jones? "I think so. I'm certain I've heard that somewhere — Jessica. I swear Warren mentioned a visit from an investigator — hmm." She interrupts her own thought, her eyebrows lifting. The idea is transparent on her face, and amusing her; did Matt Murdock also send some for-hire PI to sniff out Warren? Might be the case. Shrewd lawyer, if true.

Alison lets that entertaining thought go. "Either way, I don't recall he had anything negative to say about the ordeal. It should be fine. Unless you've got something to hide."

There's a look from Alison Blaire, shotgunned over her glass. Her eyes aim directly on Tabitha Smith, watchful, piercing, unrelenting — cool as prairie blue eyes. Does the singer know something? Something about the Brotherhood? Something about the murderous Maximoff twins? Something about Magneto, the world's most bloodsoaked terrorist?

A beat passes, and Alison can't pretend interrogation for a moment more, and breaks away with a laugh. "Keep her away from me, if you're smart. I'll totally tell her about that story in Paris with you, me, a certain Mr. Gosling, and that unconscious sheep."

Already feeling the warmth off that mimosa — it's as deadly as Alison feared, but there's no helping it now — she murmurs plaintive defeat at the order of eggs and beignets. "Tabby, you're killing my keto," she groans, though with good-humour — that gentles as her friend goes on to tell the story of their mutual acquaintance — a one Mr. da Costa.

It makes sense, with what Alison knows of him — and it's not considerable, past the teammate basics, and she's already been MIA many years too many — but the facts line up. What could have been, and what ifs coming so close — Tabitha came within a breath of knowing the Institute. "Now that is romantic. Like — despairingly, cripplingly romantic. The only incongruity, Tabitha, is how you can relate that story and sound so blase about the whole thing."

Alison pauses. "Unless he wore the rest of it out of you. Coincidentially. One week ago—"

The implication looms on the horizon. Fortunately, clever creature she is, Tabby gets there first. And hits the destruct button on all of the ex-Dazzler's practised composure.

"I don't know maybe!!" she blurts back. Her blue eyes plead for mercy. "Maybe- maybe! Oh my god! All right, fine, yes!"

AND SHE'S NOT STOPPING THERE. QUESTIONS ABOUT FREQUENCY.

"These are not questions you ask your ex-boss!" moans Alison through her fingers, face buried into her palms. A beat. She peeks out. "Wait, how did you know! The five times was only that — wait! Stop! Nope, no more! Oh god, don't tell him I said this! Tabby, I swear to god, if you — I will get you!"

The Princeton quip earns Alison a laugh, grinning faintly over her side of the table. "I'll keep that in mind."

…growing up a little, but not too much?

"Ugh," Tabitha groans as she taps glasses with the Dazzler. "Bye bye Neverland." And takes a sip. "Anyway I'll never admit it, even if I do end up enjoying it. I'm very much in the 'feel it out' phase of…whatever it is I'm doing with my life. Strangely enough, everyone I know seems to be really encouraging of the fact. You, Bobby…you know he even offered to drive me to the interview the next day? He wanted to make sure that I didn't 'accidentally' miss it, and when I said no it's fine, but maybe we could have dinner after or something, he made it a lock, and when he picked me up he asked me what I wanted to eat, to 'celebrate' a job that I'm not even sure I got, because the da Costa confidence applies to even that. So….'tapas', I said. He goes 'okay' and steers his brand new 2019 Bugatti Divo to the airport where his fuckin' Concorde was waiting for us and I'm like 'Bobby what are we doing in the airport?' and he's like 'you said you wanted tapas' and I was like 'wait, are we going to Spain? Why are we going to Spain?' and he turns his head, looks me right in the eye and goes '…what, where else would we get tapas?' and not even in a super innocent tone like what I do when I want you to know I'm up to no good, but the kind of tone you hear from people who do that kind of thing on the regular. I mean, is this his life now? 'Oh I want sushi, so I guess I'll just hop on my super fast private jet to Tokyo.' I was thinking Broadway Avenue or something!"

The tangent, while clearly not a complaint, is illustrative of her awe and lingering incredulity of the things that happen to her while remaining in the orbits of people much more famous and influential than she is. The luster might have faded for those who are accustomed to a different and more privileged life, but for a girl raised in a trailer in rural Virginia?

"And it never gets old, do you remember the times your tour took us outside of the United States like…yeah, yeah, the Paris thing! God, the rest of the troupe must think I'm totally provincial, being all goggle-eyed every time I have to use my passport." She grins faintly. "Anyway, if Jessica ever looks you up as a reference, feel free to tell her all of that. I did tell Mister Murdock my life has been weird the moment I ran away. I told him a lot - the running away, the running with the rough crowds, the juvenile delinquency…even my kidnapping to space. I have no idea how Miss Jones is gonna corroborate all of that and I'm not about to call the Beyonder and ask him to come down here just so he can tell a private investigator I wasn't kidding about all of that."

She has plenty to hide, but by the way she talks to Alison - enthusiastic, fully engaged, and excited at what life is about to bring her next - there doesn't seem to be, for the most part looking non-plussed at the quiet, perceptive look her former boss and friend levies in her direction. Confidence games have long since been part and parcel of her diverse skillset and its requirements are right on the tin - the moment that confidence cracks is the moment when the game unravels.

Though something else shows through the stitches when the Dazzler calls her history with Bobby da Costa despairingly and cripplingly romantic. "Messy," she tells Alison, instead. "A few years later, I ended up dating a guy who happened to be his best friend, and I didn't know they were BFFs for an entire year. By that point I was already flying away from Sam…he was almost too good you know? I couldn't handle it. We didn't fit. Not in the way…"

She pauses, and clears her throat. "Eh, ancient history."

The only incongruity, *Tabitha*, is how you can relate that story and sound so blase about the whole thing.

Alison's fellow blonde laughs, rubbing the back of her neck as her frozen lightning eyes drift up to the ceiling. Slender shoulders lift in a helpless shrug. "Defense mechanism, maybe. He's got a roster of the most beautiful women in the world right in his smartphone, and six years is a very long time." The rest, she doesn't say. What could he ever want from someone like me? The mischievous look returns, to bury those thoughts deep, looking at Alison over her eggs. "And I'm no Dazzler."

But then, her former boss prods again. Her lips part in a perfect 'o', her expression very much emphatic with the how dare you she doesn't utter. She does, however, point a fork at the famous pop star. "Vile slander!" she gasps. "The day Bobby da Costa wears me out is the day I stop worshipping Madonna. It's never gonna happen." She pauses. "…then again, I cheat." She winks at Ali at that. "You know me, I'm an unrepentant night owl and he's yet to catch me during the day, when he's king."

The break in the Dazzler's composure is one that has her leaning forward eagerly from her side of the table, laughter implied on the line of her mouth. She points again. "Holy shit! That was just a guess! Wow, Ali. I mean…good for you! Seriously, you could do a lot worse. A lot worse. Not like you'd ever let any worse touch you, but…oh my god! I…"

She falls silent. She leans closer to her friend and asks, very, very softly:

"…so like…what does that mean? Are you two…" She twists her index and middle fingers together. "Have you guys talked about it? Or are you in the 'feel it out' phase?" The devil dances in her eyes. "And does it feel like a peanut, a hot dog, or an eggplant?"

And all through that story, Alison listens — never interrupting, and following its path with the slow hiking-up of her eyebrows. She finds she can't suppress a smile — even if she wanted to.

"He's a keeper… Just sayin'," she declares sagely, at the end of it. "Not anyone would offer to drive you around New York. Hell, I love you, but I'd leave you at Penn, laughing all the way back downtown at the thought of using a car, are you serious."

Still, there's something achingly familiar about that whole Tapas in Spain spiel — "Unless he just wants to show off his toys to you. And — my darling, buckle up, because it's going to get worse. I wined and dined you well, didn't I? Back on tour? I made sure it was an experience, for all the work everyone put in. That was luxury. And — barely over a month of Worthington…"

She exhales soundly. "They are on another level. I really thought I knew all about rich men doing their damndest to impress me. They were ants. Taking crumbs from the dinner table. It's unbelievable."

Nursing her brunch, trying so, so, so very hard to just keep her mouthfuls relegated to egg whites — Alison has to put in a token effort, damnit — she lets go an amused, mid-bite sniff at talk of Jessica Jones. "It's commendable to be honest. Both of them are more than welcome to call me if —"

Space?

The Beyonder?

Alison Blaire holds out her fork, but forgets the next bite of brunch. She just freezes on the spot, eyes on Tabitha, the overwarm-restaurant flush draining out of her cheeks as she pales on the spot.

Did she hear that right? She didn't just say that — that name. That name. That man.

She's so thrown, she doesn't quite hear what comes next in conversation — it's a trickle of ambiance as she struggles to work through that hitch, and finally finish the egg white off her fork. It tastes like confusion and too much anxiety.

All-in-all, it lasts a moment, before Alison breathes against the up-tempo of her heart, and folds that reaction away. She smoothes back into a delayed, but genuine normalcy, doing all she can to push back memories of that man, to instead return talk on far better subjects. Far easier subjects.

Well, almost.

"Ha! Save the lies for the courtroom. The baby lawyer — " she eventually returns, with quickly-fitting wryness, "doth protest way too much. He's going to close a diamond necklace box on your hand any day now, and you'll be done for." Alison's smile is quick, and shit-eating. "Seriously. I like him. And I adore you. Go for it." And, in worse evidence, Tabby inserts a sly mention about Bobby's reigning kingship of the day. Alison's mouth quirks. "So you know. I rest my case."

Of course, the tables get turned. And Alison Blaire, for all her years of her untouchable Dazzler mystique, positively crumbles under this medieval torture by booty call counting. And it gets worse.

"I don't know," she bemoans, feeling like she's thirteen again, sighing at her JGL poster right beside her unicorn collage. "Maybe? I think so? We have — he has. I'm awful at it." Alison finishes her mimosa, because God knows, she needs this. "Like, on paper, it's the worst idea. It's the cardinal sin, right? We're working together, and we work so well together, too. I don't — ugh. I really like him. It's… nice."

And does it feel like —

"It's going to feel like my Choo up your ass," sputters back Alison, laughing helplessly, "if you say one more word —"

She laughs a few helpless seconds more, until she isn't, because she's stopped — mentally pulled-over, as a question lurches back into her face that Alison cannot hold back a moment more. Her voice is low, soft, and lethal, and it demands to know: "…Did he hurt you?"

Only one guess who He is.

A keeper.

There's a melancholy twist to Tabitha's smile - revealing, without saying, that she knows. That she knew even then, but had to let him go anyway so he could move on to bigger and better things; the rare moment in which she put aside her inherent selfishness to let someone go and thrive, be a better person than she could be. She drains her mimosa at the thought of it, setting it aside for the waiter to refill once he comes back for another round.

"You certainly have," she affirms, to Alison's wining and dining - there is a tendency of those in showbiz to treat their people like little more than servants, but Alison was one of the few who took great pains to let those who supported her know that she recognized that she achieved great heights with their help. Nobody ever felt marginalized or used in her company. But to hear someone like Alison describe men like Warren and Roberto as another level is positively jarring, if not just because it's coming from the Dazzler. Curiosity flares in her eyes, her head canting faintly, light catching on one of her Swarovski crystal earrings.

"Wait so…it's not just the bedroom games, then?" she wonders. "He's spoiling you too? Well, you can't leave me hanging now - dish on the deets, I said. Do I need to ply you with more mimosas?" She's already craning her neck over her shoulder, lifting her hand to wave at the waiter. "Garcon, s'il vous plait."

She doesn't think she's said anything too controversial, but mention of a specific individual in her past has her pausing, taking in the look on Alison's face, her heightened color from her earlier laughter suddenly gone.

It's new, a germ of a suspicion forming in the back of her mind, waiting until Alison returns into the tracks of their present revelry, though not completely - mention of the Beyonder had utterly derailed her. She follows it, of course, sharing the other woman's reluctance to dampen this - they haven't talked in so long, and sitting with her now, she can't help but acknowledge, if only privately, as to how much she missed this. Missed—

"Oh god, I don't know," she groans, attempting to picture it - Bobby presenting her with something glittering and expensive on a field of black velvet underneath the aura of candlelights, the sounds of silverware and crystal tickling her ears - places she could only dream of seeing, much less sitting in, as a girl. A hand comes up reflexively to twist on the white gold crucifix dangling off the array of other charms threaded around her throat. "He said he tried looking for me after he left and after running into him and…everything else, he asked me if I was gonna run from him again. I…" She lowers her voice, as if imparting a deep, dark, embarrassing secret. "…I made him breakfast, Ali. And not shit like…throwing Lucky Charms in a bowl, pouring the milk in and handing it to him. I mean eggs, and bacon. Pancakes. And on top of this law school crap? What's happening to me?!"

The shit-eating grin Alison flashed her earlier finds its mirror when she turns the tables. Right on cue, the waiter refills their mimosa glasses and squawks when Tabitha practically shoos him away so her friend can talk. And she does.

It's a cardinal sin, right?

"Ohhhh shit, Angel's got a bit of a devil in him, doesn't he?" she teases, propping her chin on one hand as she regards her friend with those wicked eyes. "Not that I could blame him in the least. I mean, you said it yourself, men like Warren and Bobby are on another level, they're not the sort who ask for anything, not really." A fact that Roberto pointed out rather succinctly a week ago. "But if he fits, he fits, and if you like him…and judging by your face, you really like him a lot, I think you should follow your own advice. I mean, take it from someone who's perennially stupid about this kind of thing and has made many, many, many mistakes in that arena…don't let go if you don't have to."

She laughs when Alison threatens to introduce her to the business end of a Jimmy Choo, but at that last question, she drags her manicure lightly against the crystalline stem of her glass.

"…I was sixteeen," she tells her friend quietly. "I was on my way upstate, to enroll in the Xavier School, on a train, and he just came tearing in from the sky. He took me, because he felt he needed companionship. Apparently space makes people very lonely." Something more sardonic slips into her easy tone. "He called me his only friend, but he treated me more like a prop than anything. An accessory to be dragged around, to watch him as he beat on and killed other powerful entities to scare the sass out of me. And whenever he thought I was unhappy, he would address it in the weirdest ways. He told me he could make me look like anything - older, younger, prettier, uglier. And he did, like I was nothing…like I was some kind of plaything to mold into whatever he wanted to see at the time. I was just a kid, what could I do against that? I played along, because I didn't want to die out in space…but I was terrified the entire time."

Her eyes lift. "Ali…did you know him? Why did you ask me that? Did he…?"

"No more mimosas," Alison pleads, though with a long-suffering laugh. "I'm supposed to be already hungover, remember? I had to abstain from this stuff for my entire adulthood. My flesh is weak."

She colours a little at talk of spoiling. "Fine," she concedes, "but this stays with you! He — tries. A bit. As much as I let him! He practically found and secured my apartment for me. It never gets old, on some level — you and I had to work to get whatever we wanted. It's the way. Men like Warren, like Hot Bobby —" a pause. "Ah, sorry. His nickname among my circle. We've got a proliferation of Bobbys. But they make a single phone call, and —"

She snaps the fingers on one hand. "Boom. Months, years of work for the average person, fixed in seconds. And, to make it even more frustrating — it's not deliberate. Not that I can feel. It's not showing off, or trying to — press a power imbalance. In Warren's case, he's just finding solutions to problems. He's — sharing aspects of what's normal to him. It's benign, and — well. You hit it off with Hot Bobby, and you'll know."

Alison pauses. Looks at Tabby from beneath her lashes. "If you don't, already. And then, soon, will come to day you find yourself admitting you like it."

It's a wry little shot: the barest insinuation that independent, shot-caller, and notoriously untethered Tabitha Smith will let herself be tamed by a few Ferraris. An act of war!!

It isn't long, however, for two women like them to last long in careless recollection and catching-up — and someone spoken off Tabby's lips casts a long and terrifying specter across the conversation. Alison cannot disguise her initial shock, before she catches herself and smoothes it down — reticent, in her own way, to have someone like the Beyonder come back and dominate her thoughts.

She promised herself to leave that particular trauma in the past.

It takes some effort, but she seems to gentle back to something unconcerned, and digs around a moment to recaptue and return that comfortable-brunch smile back to her face. "Breakfast!" she echoes, surprised and delighted — the word spoken aloud to better calcify it into the collective unconscious forever. Tabby Smith made breakfast for a boy. Commence with the end of times.

"I'll tell you what's happening," Alison replies, matter-of-fact. "Take it from me. I'm almost thirty — that's venerable, isn't it? Old and wisened. You're making roots. It's natural. The untouchable transience thing is well and good, but it's exhausting. You won't lose your edge, I promise. You'll get your jimmies off litigating, and you'll be too tired from all the sex — and anchored by whatever rock ends up on your hand, to go back on the road. This is all a good thing, and it couldn't have happened to a better person. Now drink your mimosa before your metabolism slows. Any minute now, it'll start —"

Her sass only finds a momentary pause, because Tabitha can't go long with the church-style confessional without turning it back, and Warren Worthington accused of being the devil brings some colour back to her face. "They — really don't ask," she agrees, voice a little detached, as one of her hands plays absently with the scarf wound around her throat. She pauses, and shyly averts her eyes, unable to exorcise the flicker of a smile haunting her mouth. "I don't want to let go," she admits. "I've never had… it's nice."

Though they are few words, Alison seems to bask in them, softened to a quiet wistfulness. In the end, however, it doesn't last. Something keeps bothering her. The past come to linger, unwanted, over any promise of the future — a past that links her in a new way to Tabby. She can't hold it back. Right now, she needs to know.

Her voice is soft, but Alison's blue eyes are lethally serious. There is little mistaking who she means; always sharp, Tabitha knows immediately. And she tells her story.

For her part, Alison listens without interrupting. She keeps eerily silent, save for the way her mouth tics against the word 'companionship' — and she clamps down on whatever feeling wants to coil up, because this story only gets worse, and she needs to hear it all.

Tabitha, abducted from this world and anything she knew, pulled along by the machinations of a man who viewed humanity little more than motes of dust — all alone, vulnerable, away from anything familiar, and terrified.

Something snaps. Light burns briefly from Alison's right hand, tightened into a trembling fist. She realizes her error, and quickly covers it with the other. Where did that come from? That fury? She couldn't even think.

"Son of a bitch," she hisses, voice low and dark. "I should have — he's a monster. He did that to you." Alison's jaw tightens, and her eyes flicker up to Tabitha's question. Her face says everything in all an instant, anger, shame, horror, revulsion. "He —" she struggles with the words, unable how even to say them. Trying seems to exhaust her. "Made my life hell. A while ago. I'm so sorry he did that to you."

There is a reason why, despite the fame and the spotlight fixed on Alison Blaire in the height of her career, that she and Tabitha got along, having recognized in the other blonde the same acknowledgment and recognition that the two of them would have to fight to get what they wanted in this life because nobody else was going to do it for them. And certainly, neither of them can count on their fathers' support. There's an emphatic nod from the former backup dancer when she hears this from the pop star, only for her grin to return when she hears that Warren Worthington tries. There's an enlargening of her eyes when she hears about the apartment - in a city notorious for impossible real estate rates - and…

"…Hot Bobby?" She nearly chokes on her mimosa, throwing her head back and laughing. "Oh my god, he probably loves that."

She's not wrong about the phone call and she grins. "Yeah, I mean…it's hard not to feel that little kick in the Independence Crotch whenever they do make the phone call," she tells her, flashing back to what happened in the alley and Bobby's offer to call Columbia Law and make sure certain law students stay out of her orbit. "Though I'm really glad you don't feel like Warren's trying to do that deliberately and that for all intents and purposes, he's just genuinely trying to take care of you— "

And then, soon, will come to day you find yourself admitting you like it.

That is an act of war, the first shot fired from the opposite gun line. Tabitha gasps, because how dare. She points from her side of the table. "If I ever start to," she says, a stubborn look appearing on her face. "I hope you're ready to receive the only drunk phone call I'll ever make in my entire life, because that's when I know I'm in trouble!"

And that isn't all, the venerable Alison Blaire starts explaining to her what is happening. Roots. Planting roots. Settling down and truly calling this city her home, no more being able to blow up a bolt hole and escaping in the dead of night like how she's ended a few international escapades as one of the Brotherhood's many agents. Forging an actual, legitimate career, no matter how shady the underlying motivations are, and the prospect of being exhausted from all the sex. Her face grows visibly pale when she imagines Bobby simply kidnapping her off her balcony, or off her sidewalk after lying in wait for her in his Bugatti, and flying them both away to a place where the sun never sets - like Alaska during the summer - tossing her in bed and—

For some reason, the pink Energizer bunny bangs his way across her colorful imagination, laughing maniacally (What the fuck? WHY IS IT LAUGHING?! It doesn't say shit in the commercials!). "Oh god," she moans. "I'm going to die."

And then she does drink her mimosa. All of it in one go.

Despite the inner landscape of her preemptively crying about the fate of her woman parts, the comedic segue is all worth it when she sees that shy expression on Alison's face, the way she angles her head away, the smile so imperceptable it's like a mirage, the quiet voice and the awe within it, of managing to find something she's never had before.

"I'm happy for you, Ali," she tells her sincerely. "Really, I mean, if he can get you to smile like that, I'm behind it."

Her enjoyment of talking about two similar, but ultimately different men is one that she is reluctant to let go of, but considering the flash of light burning in Alison's fingers after recounting bits of her past in outer space, her expression eases into something more serious. There's a faint fidget, she was never comfortable divulging parts of her past, kernels of knowledge that she only imparts to people who have earned it. But Alison looks so serious, and so angry…

And seriously? The fact that he's done what he did to her to someone else she knows is a startling enough reveal that she forgets her food and drink entirely. "I didn't know…he did that with someone else," she says. She hasn't thought of the Beyonder for a long time. "…did he take you, too? To space? What did you mean he made your life hell?" She can think of plenty of worst case scenarios, and horror and fury twists at her insides. "Ali, what did he do to you?"

"He is undeniably, aggravatingly genuine," answers Alison, a note of wistfulness loosening up her voice. Or maybe that's just the mimosas. "That's what makes it worse. They are the rarest breed of men you'll ever find yourself meeting, and unlike the barracudas you remember from the business. They have nothing to prove. Anything they do, it's because they can, and because they want to."

The tips of her fingers play on the stem of her glass, thoughtful, the gesture rhyming with the pensive hood of her eyes. The only sunbreak to the expression comes in her slowly-creeping smile, answering Tabitha's theatrics about knowing when she's in trouble.

Alison answers that with a low, restrained laugh. "No worthy love in your life comes without trouble. When it's too easy, it means you're not trying." A smile flickers at her mouth. Her prose has to ventilate itself out, one supposes, any way it can, now that the Dazzler is no longer composing music. Let all those unwritten lyrics now be served for drunken brunch girltalks.

She finishes her mimosa, only finding trouble with the last swig — nearly choking at Tabitha's last, earnest entreaty: that she, brazen, proud, indepdendent nexus of mischief, is GOING TO DIE. Alison playfully footsies her friend's ankle in an amused tap. "Worse, my poor darling. You're going to live. It will creep up on you like a poison: you'll first find yourself content in the routine, miss less the edge you've lost, and the security you've gained — oh, and you'll gain ten, fifteen pounds. I'm sorry, but you will. It will be fine. I'll take you to spin class. These are all good things — adult things — and you must take the time to remind yourself that you are both worthy, and deserving of, all its fruits. You've worked hard. You have every right to be happy."

Even now, there are old habits hard to let go: Alison Blaire, content in her position as the employer, ever-watchful and protective of the woman she had under her wing. She liked to give them the sort of advice she wished a mother had once been able to give to her — the sort of advice she neglected to follow, in her own, doubtful lapses of hypocrisy. Simple rules for one to live by: be true, keep those worthy of you, never let anyone take your happiness away.

It's there on her, both Alison Blaire, and within her, the remnants of the Queen of Positivity, herself, the Dazzler —

Until conversation shifts, and with it, goes all that optimism. It takes just one mention of the Beyonder for Alison Blaire to lose every last bit of her calm, candid ease, and forget everything around them — forget even the drink, still clenched, in her too-tight right hand.

Tabitha's story is met with an indescribable look: Alison, always so gentle, looks like she could kill. Looks like she wished she had, when the opportunity was available to her — wished she ended that monster, and saved Tabitha from all the humiliation and debasement Alison knows he would have subjected her. Isolating her from everything familiar, comfortable, normal. Playing with her to satisfy his existential boredom. Her hand lights until she clenches it, and snuffs the momentarily glow. Her expression plays with fury, indignation, disbelief, pain, and —

Ali, what did he do to you?

Alison goes very still. Her skin blanches whiter than bone. Her lips move, like she should speak, like she wants to, but she cannot quite force the words. But what she cannot say, she also cannot disguise from her face. It weighs her, haunts her, hollows her out. Shame. Revulsion. And worse than both of those: traumatized.

She seems to remember she's still out in public, surrounded by people, and she draws in, taking in a brief, shallow breath to compose herself back to something — bearable. "I've never told anyone," Alison confesses instead, her voice brittle. "I try to pretend, most of the time, it didn't happen. It was — bad." She goes quiet, then looks away, her eyes distant, hard. "He thought he loved me."

It's all she says. All she needs to say.

He is undeniably, aggravatingly genuine….they have nothing to prove. Anything they do, it's because they can, and because they want to.

Tabitha toys with her glass at that, silent - as if boring her stare into the surface would miraculously draw out the answers she needs, or worse, whether Alison Blaire had left the music industry because she figured she would make a better living as a prophet. Would that really be something that's actually possible for her? That kind of stability, that kind of happiness? Sure, she was lonely - and for other reasons of his own, and reasons that she doesn't have much context over, so was Roberto - the tragedy of Juliana Sandoval is something that she has not discovered yet.

"Well, you know me, Ali," she says with a laugh, and finishing her glass. "I tend not to stick around when something's not driving me crazy. At least on that end, I don't have to worry about anything." She points the tines of her fork in her fellow blonde's direction. "Just so you know, though? I'm taking you up on that spin class offer. Could you imagine me gaining fifteen pounds? I might have a meltdown if I stretch out any of my dancing stuff."

Jokes and banter aside, her lips lift at the corners, something like affection hinted at the line of them. The former pop star's nudge gets one in turn, the toe of her boot pushing against her.

The fury Alison displays later, after she asks that worried and quietly urgent question, is one that is met with a genuinely concerned one in kind; it's rare for Tabitha to demonstrate those emotions plainly on her pale mien but whenever it manages to break through her cheerful, sardonic facade, the subject is guaranteed to be a dangerous one. But the moment color drains from her friend's face, her eyes narrow into slits of frozen lightning. She is absolutely not immune to thinking the worst - and when given so little by way of details, her mind can't help but fill in the blanks, and with everything the young woman has been through, she can fill in plenty of them.

"…I won't say anything." And this is a promise she intends to keep.

He thought he loved me.

Her jaw sets, hard and downright immovable.

"Do you want me to set shit up so he can get beat up by a superhero group again?" she asks. It is not a joke, she is serious. And by the look on her face, she is confident that she can make it happen.

Alison Blaire does not consider herself a reckless, valiant creature: she plays it conservative, careful, and cautious. She has her fair share of fears in this world, and all its countless unknowns.

And, even then, any of those fears seem to pale in comparison to the mark the Beyonder made on her; whatever he did, that she confesses in short, vague words, has left her terrified.

Terrified enough that she meets Tabitha's seriousness with an even deadlier seriousness. "No," Alison clips back, severe and final. "He's too dangerous. And I don't want you ever near anything that has to do with him, if it's ever within your control. Promise me." Her eyes search that of her friend's. "He's — the less we engage him, the better. Whatever keeps him away from… here. From us."

That is as much as she believes; if there was anything relatably human about the Beyonder, it was his loneliness. The rest knew nothing than to spend eternity trying to soothe that void… and when one lacks the capacity of a soul, or social boundaries, or basic empathy, and all his power did was stunt him to remain some cosmic-level Id: there was no helping that than to hope to avoid it forever.

Leaning back in her chair with an exhale, rubbing a hand over her face, Alison tries to reclaim her lost bearings. She checks her own nerves, and forces herself to calm; her eyes pinch with a bit of guilt, silently apologizing to Tabby for her own, previous tone. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to — that caught me one. I'm glad you're all right, Tabby. And if you ever want to talk about any — of that. I'll always be here to listen."

She pauses. "But," Alison adds, with a gentling of her blue eyes, "I don't want that son of a bitch to cast a shadow on the rest of our afternoon. Far better things worthy of our conversation. I'm happy to have you back on my life, here and ready to make Hot Bobby off-balance. God knows he's a little too composed."

Alison's vehement response to the offer has Tabitha pursing her lips; and for a moment, there's the inkling to argue with her - the Avengers had beaten him back before, injected some humility in the absurdly powerful being. But whatever she sees in her friend's eyes wounds the urge - not enough to kill it, perhaps, but for today, at least, she will follow her friend's wishes and let things be. Still, she looks discomfitted, putting images to what the other woman refuses to say in words.

"I promise," she says, finally, with a hint of reluctance.

It might be for the best.

Pale fingers lift, that pale-tressed head shaking once. "No, you have nothing to be sorry for - I'd be an idiot if I didn't expect a strong reaction from what you were saying earlier," she remarks. "It was…what are the odds, right?" That the two of them would be kidnapped by the same cosmic entity, enduring his games. Both young, both blonde. Maybe he has a type?

She can't help but feel the icy tickle that runs down her back, and shudders visibly.

"I know," she says, her tone gentling to a more audibly sympathetic bent. "And same with you, Ali, okay? If you need to talk about it with anyone who's been there." She had managed to pry herself out of that situation with some of that streetwise cunning, exploiting the Beyonder's inability to understand human personalities and emotions. With Alison, she isn't sure - but by the way she was reacting by just the mention of him, it might not have been the case with her. At the same time…it's a delicate issue, and one that shouldn't be pried into in public.

And with Alison's invitation, she moves on, managing to plant the smile back in her face. "Well, with you going into politics, and with me going into law, it might've been inevitable - New York City's a small one. But I'm honestly glad that we get to do this." She grins faintly. "And hopefully much more often. We've got a couple of years to catch up on after all."

With that, she lifts her glass in a toast, to clink gently against Alison's.

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