Despite only having reached the early hours of the evening, the harsh tendril of darkness had already begun their gradual descent over the narrow streets of Glasshill, concealing the picturesque rows of uniform houses, and obscuring the whole area in a thick black sheet of nothingness; only perforated by the sporadic and gentle glow of the occasional street lamp. It was not particularly late, only about an hour past the closing time of most local businesses, yet already people had begun retreating into their houses, leaving sidewalks only sparsely populated with the occasional passerby; mostly the homeless vagabonds with nowhere else to go. It was quiet, eerily so in fact, though that was not uncommon for a town like this, where outside of the hubbub of Friday night nightlife people mostly kept themselves to themselves. No great call for streetwide camaraderie.
Whilst some might be perturbed by such a muted atmosphere, for others it came as a relief. Few people bothered to look past the surface appearance of their neighbors when passing immediate judgement, and questions were considered a perverse and invasive offense. It was the perfect place for a man to disappear. A feature of design; rather than a bug.
Of the few people outside at this time, Renaud Horace was certainly amongst the most respectable; an upstanding member of the local community who considered himself a great deal above the regular rabble begging upon the streets. He was a Vice Principal at the local high school, a stalwart warrior against the town council when it came to securing funding for extracurricular activities and a thorn in the side of local government, though tonight he appeared only beaten and beleaguered.
About a half hour walk had been required to get all the way from the school grounds back to his Volvo, a byproduct of local delinquency which had seen a few of the cars parked directly outside of school facilities targeted by vandals, and such a strenuous journey had already been preceded by a long afternoon of high-maintenance administrative work. By this point he was merely ready to get back home and call it a night, perhaps picking up something to eat along the way, so that he wouldn’t have to worry about cooking once he arrived. Simple issues.
‘Got any smokes?’
For such a small town, Glasshill’s homeless population had truly grown out of hand over the past few months, a byproduct perhaps of the closing of the large recycling plant a few miles out of town, which had been a significant local employer. Renaud sympathised with their plight, even if he wasn’t overly eager to aid in relieving their suffering in any significant way. He felt their pain nonetheless. He felt a lot of people’s pain.
Too busy to lend a hand. Fucking typical.
A gruff and unfamiliar voice invaded his mind, though as Renaud turned his head a few inches to look back upon the man whom he had just passed it was clear that he hadn’t uttered a single word, the teacher sighing as he reached up a hand to the side of his head in order to gently massage his temples.
By this point, he had managed to arrive outside of his own car, fumbling in his pockets for a few seconds in order to retrieve his keys. Some people really left a sour taste in his mouth, though there was little he could do about such minor infractions. Little he was willing to do at least.
Once he was properly inside of the vehicle, Renaud allowed himself an exasperated moan, a brief second of catharsis before turning the key in the engine. Every day seemed to go on longer than the last, and every day brought with it new challenges and irritations, challenges that should have been so simple to solve, challenges that he only made more difficult for himself.
Where had everything gone wrong?
As soon as he started up the car, the radio kicked in, spewing forth some loud and peppy tune. It certainly wasn’t to his usual tastes, but it still beat driving home in silence, and as Renaud rested a hand upon the wheel, a few fingers tapped gently in line with the beat.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
A few snippets of notions not meant for his ears occasionally interrupted the music as he drove, cutting through either side of the vehicle. Renaud merely turned up the sound in aggressive ignorance.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
The journey home was not a particularly long one, though still more lengthy than he might have liked. and Renaud turned a few corners down into a sidestreet, hoping to cut through the roads surrounding Glasshill Park in order to make quicker progress.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Only a single other car was upon the road, a blue Ford Focus which drove ahead of him, seemingly following a similar route to his own, though with such an empty street, there was certainly enough room for the both of them.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
Suddenly the car in front of him screeched to a halt, and Renaud felt his foot instinctively move towards the break, pressing down hard, though with the abrupt stop of the car in front, he wasn’t able to fully slow down enough in time; his own vehicle grazing harshly into the other.
Renaud honked loudly upon his own horn, and for a few seconds, he could see the eyes of the driver in front, glancing back through the rearview mirror, though it was notable that the other man didn’t look quite so upset.
‘Watch how you fucking drive!’
He could see the other man start to reach towards his own car door, and Renaud watched as the figure approached him, leaving his vehicle to move toward Renaud’s. A few fingers tapped gently upon his car window, and Renaud turned the radio down to a whisper, winding down the window gently.
‘You fucking hit me!’ Renaud called out angrily, though the other man didn’t say a word, merely shaking his head a single time. ‘You wrecked the front of my car.’
At this close proximity, Renaud had started to notice a few more peculiar features about the man.
His face was concealed, the only detail that he could fully make out being the man’s man’s eyes which seemed to cut through a metal sheen that covered his face.
That, and Renaud couldn’t hear him. Not like he heard the others.
‘I hope your insurance covers a whole new hood. I’m a fucking teacher you know, dick.’
This time he got a response, though it was not quite the one he might have expected. A grating chuckle that soon grew into a full-on laugh, increasing in volume as it echoed off of whatever strange metal contraption the man wore over his face.
‘Am I missing something? What’s so funny? Are you drunk?'
Then the car door came off.
It all happened in an instant, too quick for Renaud to properly comprehend what was happening. The man reached out his hands, gripping onto either side of the open window before pulling the whole door off of its hinges and tossing it to the side.
‘What the fuck?’
But even as he marvelled at the sight in front of him, Renaud felt those same hands reach out for himself, the teacher attempting to push up against the other side of the car to make an escape, though the grip was too strong, as meaty fingers held firm against the lapel of his jacket.
It was the first time which the man had spoken, his voice dominant and grating, a commanding presence as he pulled Renaud fully out of the side of the car.
‘That’s not me. That’s not my name.’ The teacher attempted to put up a fight, struggling as he made an attempt to kick off his attacker, but it was no use. He’d never been the most physically gifted combatant, and his figure seemed impervious to his true skills. ‘Get off of me!’
He felt himself dragged out to the front of his own vehicle, chest pressed against the now cracked bonnet of his car as he was pinned down by the assailant.
‘I’ve done nothing wrong… You can’t...’
But those words were only followed by another round of laughter, and Renaud felt a hand grip hard onto the back of his head, pulling his face back, before ramming him harshly into the metal hood.
‘Get off of me!’ He repeated. ‘Get…’ But with every second that passed, the hand pushed Renaud more harshly into the front of the car. It was getting hard to think.
Renaud coughed, barely able to notice the trickle of his own blood leaving his mouth as it began to stain the front of the car.
‘Ugh… Ah…’ By now it was impossible for him to string together any full sentences, throat clogging heavily.
‘Wha… What do you wan…?’
There was no reply, and even if there were, it was unlikely that Renaud would have been able to make it out through the ringing in his ears, a gentle buzzing which was only broken through by the loud cracking of what Renaud could only assume was his own skull.
The last sound that he would ever hear.
Renaud Horace had always said that he wanted an open casket; to be seen one final time by all those that he held dear, and to be recognised for the man that he was: both the good and the bad on full display for all to see.
Had he seen his own state upon his passing, he might have agreed that there was a silent dignity in concealment.
Rumours had circulated that the body was a ghastly sight, a bloody mess beaten half to a pulp by whatever brutal monster had been vile enough to commit such an abhorrent act; it had been plastered all over the news, the biggest story that Glasshill had seen in at least half a century, and even the arrival of fancy big-city detectives from Denver had not been enough to solve the case of who might wish such a hideous fate upon a man who had been nothing but a staple of the local community. A paragon of virtue.
That was what the papers were calling him, though to those that knew him well, such an epithet seemed almost uniquely bizarre.
If only they all knew the true face of the man to whom they offered such lofty praise.
It would have been humorous if not for the sombre nature of the proceedings.
Nursing a glass between stiff fingers, Quentin Kimberly couldn’t bring himself to look at casket before him; as disturbed by this wooden box, as he would have been by the gruesome sight within. He was no stranger to death; a friend of it perhaps, though never before had he experienced such a heavy heart at the loss of someone whom he held dear. The loss of a friend.
Sadness was only part of it, a bitter mourning that ate away at him from the inside, though it was a hard task to grieve when other more aggressive emotions were so quick to bubble to the surface.
Doctor Disaster didn’t deserve this.
It was almost pathetic.
For as long as Kim had known Renaud, he had been a fighter, strong in spirit and in resolve. The two of them had met whilst they were still young, possessing the bravery of youth that they had never since been able to reclaim, carrying out daring heists and schemes that had helped put the pair of them on the map in regards to their particular line of work. Life risking adventures.
That was how Renaud deserved to die: blown to pieces by a bomb of his own creation, cast into a fiery inferno after one of his schemes had gone awry, heart ripped out by the vengeful child of one of his many quarries.
Not killed by some stranger after driving home from his nine-to-five.
It was pathetic. Not a death that suited a man of his calibre.
Kim would see his glass start to shake in his hands. A wishful nostalgia.
There were so few of them left nowadays: men like Renaud that knew what it was like, that remembered the thrill. Sure, there were others that had been in the same situation, a lot of them had even come here to pay their respects to this man of their past, but they had all moved on. They had all started afresh.
Forgotten in a way that Kim knew that he would never be able to.
He took a large swig of his drink.
With Renaud soon to be six-feet-under, there was no one left to preach moderation. No one to stop him drinking himself to an early grave.
An even more pathetic death than the one his friend had so unfortunately experienced.
Renaud had gotten him his job here in town, a teacher at the local high school, sure, he hated it, but at least it was enough to pay the bills. Renaud had introduced him to his wife; a woman he despised, yes, but at least he didn’t have to sleep alone. Renaud had brought him into the Sentinels in the first place; brought him here to Glasshill when times got tough, looked out for him when no one else was willing to. Not even himself.
Now Renaud was dead.
He was going to need a stronger drink.
Kim pressed his hands upon the side of his chair, wheeling himself around so that he was no longer facing the remains of his once closest friend. Soon they would start the proceedings, some priest would start reading a passage of the bible and preaching about what a great and holy man that Renaud had been in life, and how he was surely with the angels now. All of it a lie.
If any man deserved to go to hell, it was Doctor Disaster. Kim knew that very well, since one day, he would be there to join him.
He wasn’t sure whether he would stick around for the whole thing, sure he wanted to show his respect, but he also didn’t think that he could take much more of this.
His own personal weaknesses shining through, but he knew that he couldn't see that coffin lowered into the ground.
It was so final.
The end of Renaud and the end of that chapter of his life.
Cedar Lothian wasn't usually one for funerals. When he told people that, they usually made up their own reasons why. 'Oh, you want to remember what they were like in life, how you last saw them, not a body in a casket.' 'Oh, they are quite sad, aren't they?' 'Yeah, me either. Too stuffy for my taste.' 'I get it. You barely even liked the person anyway, didn't you?'
They were all wrong, of course. Quite simply, Cedar didn't really see the point. When lives around him were but a flicker and everyone seemed like a ghost already in his eyes, there was just... very little point in a funeral. It was inevitable, anyways, that they'd die, and Cedar would forget them in a moment, regardless.
Sometimes there were exceptions, however. Doctor Disaster was an exception.
It had been Disaster, after all, who had once plucked him from the path of his own self-destruction. Who had given him allies and structure at a time in his life when both had been absent. And while Cedar had always known it would be foolish to get attached to a man who could be dead at any moment, here he was, attending a funeral when he had never done so before. Eyeing the casket, he hummed to himself.
'þone ametendlic,' he thought, and something like a smile pulled up the corner of his lips. No matter how many years passed, his internal dialogue had always remained in his native tongue. Disaster had always hated that, hadn't he? Mind reader or no, the wrong language was the wrong language. Cedar wondered how long it would be before he forgot about that.
Of course, he wasn't the only one here that had come to pay respects not to Renaud, but to Disaster. It was probably the largest gathering that the Sentinels'd had in years, wasn't it? Glancing around, he could see the others. The survivors. All of them looked so morose, like this was so terrible, a bookend to their lives. Perhaps it was, for them. They'd be gone in a minute, wouldn't they? Still...
A familiar wheelchair-bound figure was making his way towards the bar, and Cedar exhaled through his nose. Predictable. It took him only a moment to cross the room and grab hold of the wheelchair's handles, dragging Kim to a halt. "You really should quit while you're ahead," he said, leaning down to mutter the words in the man's ear. "That's what he would have said, isn't it?"
Artemesia swore under her breath when she looked down at the watch on her wrist. You would think that someone who can teleport to Fiji and back in less than a minute would have no problem being on time anywhere.
Nana was sat out in the living room watching reruns of an old show she used to love when Artemesia came stumbling out to say goodbye. Nana looked her up and down and sighed when Artemesia placed one long peck on her cheek. Nana patter her shoulder and looked at her with tired but empathetic eyes, "I am sorry my darling girl..." She sighed. Artemesia took her Nana's hands in her own and returned them back to the old woman's lap.
"I am fine Nana, I am just running late is all..." The words came out of her lips without a hitch but she still felt that hollow pang in the cavern of her chest when she thought of Renaud. She was no stranger to loss, and if any other Sentinel thought of her they probably would not be surprised by her nonchalant attitude towards death; that's just how she was. She didn't want anyone to see her pain or the hurt she felt over the death of one of her closest friends.
Artemesia tugged at the hem of her black lace dress and said one last goodbye to her Nana before she dematerialized. When she appeared once more it was in the restroom of the funeral home; she would have just teleported right into the service itself but she knew that not all attending would be former Sentinels. Slipping out of the restroom, Artemesia hurriedly stalked to the service room. People were already speaking and the sound of sorrow wafted throughout the space. Artemesia slipped into the room with none the wiser and looked over to the closed casket.
Her heart thumped unevenly in her chest when she saw the lid closed tightly. Everyone knew that Renaud wanted an open casket, but from what Artemesia had been told his death had left him in a state of gruesome disrepair. She sucked on her lower lip, crossing her arms over her chest as the rest of the service progressed. At its conclusion, she felt a surge of conflicting emotions spill through her entire being.
The feelings of sorrow and emptiness that she felt were nothing new, perhaps even unwelcomed friends that she was all too familiar with. What Artemesia was not ready for, however, was the strong heat of anger that was building up inside of her. She ground her teeth together and as the service concluded and everyone began to shift and split into smaller groups - all reminiscing on Disaster - Artemesia approached the casket. Her thin, pale fingers skittered gently over the beautiful wood and she closed her eyes.
"You left us too soon, old friend..." She whispered, feeling silly. She wondered what Renaud would think if he could see them all now. Artemesia wondered if anyone had stayed close after the war...Because she sure as hell had not tried very hard to maintain connections. "I'll miss you." With those words, Artemesia turned away from the casket unable to bear that sight of it any longer.
Scanning the room her heavy gaze fell on the two familiar faces. As Cedar grabbed the handlebars of Quentin's chair she felt a small smile tug at the edge of her lips. Peaking around quickly, Artemesia took the chance when everyone else was distracted by conversation to teleport next to Cedar, hoping to spook him. "Well aren't you two just the cutest thing," Artemesia mused, a drink in hand...She had made a quick stop at the bar before materializing next to the two men. She took a small sip and looked the two of them over. "Cedar, old age really seems to be treating you well...I swear you look the same as the day I met you..." She joked, but the words didn't hold the same spice that they usually did. Her gaze turned to Quentin. "I don't know if I can say the same about you Kim," She laughed but the sound was cold and hollow.
Cedar's shoulders jumped up towards his ears at the voice that suddenly appeared beside him, having to shift his whole body to look at the woman that had materialized at his side. Oh, how he prided himself on stoicism, but when unexpected things came at him, especially from the left side... well, it was a victory for Artemesia, wasn't it? Cedar never handled surprises well. And the gall she had at using her powers in so public a place! Not everyone here was a Sentinel, and those that weren't had thought the villains were dead for years. If someone caught her warping around the place with no concern whatsoever for who saw... well, that could spell trouble for all of them. After all, if there was one villain here, it wasn't too much of a leap to make for those around them to realize that there might be more than one. And where would eyes turn to, then? To the people the woman took the time to speak with, of course. It had Cedar immediately on the defensive, and he couldn't help but look around the room, turning his head more than necessary for someone who appeared to have two perfectly functioning eyes.
"You should be careful with that," Cedar said, a sharper edge to his voice as he released Kim's wheelchair to cross his arms. "You don't know what might happen if the wrong people take notice. And you're putting more than yourself at risk, dýrling," he scolded in a hiss, sounding very much like the grumpy old man he was on the inside than the youth of twenty that he looked. All the same, the jibe about him having aged well did seem to loosen his mood a bit, the shadow of a smile passing over his features as his arms returned to his sides. He had long ago lost any sensitivity that he'd once had about such comments. Really, they were quite expected at this point, especially from those who knew the secret behind his unaging nature. Every once in a while he ran across someone that he'd met under a past pseudonym who said something similar. Several times he'd had to pretend to be his own son or grandson, which was helped by the fact that he usually couldn't remember names of those he encountered. The Sentinels, though, he still remembered. After all, it had only seemed like the blink of an eye since they were running around causing chaos for one another. Still, better safe than sorry. "What do you go by, now?" he asked the woman standing before him. "Still Artemis?"
Despite how long he had now been constrained to this chair, Kim had never quite grown accustomed to maintaining a fluid form of movement, the exact intricacies of full motion managing to elude him even after all of this time. It was a frustration, especially for someone so used to maintaining stringent control over all things, even down to the very form and physiology of his own body, though in the end, mobility had been but one of many things that he had been forced to concede control over, since moving to Glasshill all those years ago. Time had not helped to heal the sting of such a restraint.
Even before he could see the man behind him, he felt a grip pulling upon the back of his chair, his own hands tugging uselessly upon the seat’s wheels for a few pointless seconds before he was forced to acknowledge the futility of the endeavour. Kim shifted his gaze, turning to witness the face of whoever had so callously thought to keep him in place, and just about managing to suppress the desire to curse loudly. It did not seem appropriate given the surroundings.
‘Your Lordship. It’s been a while.’ A familiar face, if not an overly friendly one. It was a testament to the networking prowess of Renaud Horace that he had managed to draw such a crowd to his own funeral, be it the town officials who thought of him as little more than a local administrator, or an immortal Thane from the era of a heptarchy. He had truly lived a remarkable life, one cut far too short by horrible circumstance.
‘I’m sure Remy might have said a lot of things; but Doctor was more a moniker than any real indication of medical expertise. He doesn’t always know what’s best.’ A low and guttural laugh, one not meant entirely to offend, even if it was a mild attempt to make light of a situation that was otherwise remarkably bleak.
‘He was a Master’s Student, when I met him, you know. Never did finish his PhD, got busy with other business. I suppose Disaster, MSc sounded markedly less impressive.’ That was what you were supposed to do at funerals, wasn’t it? Tell tales of the deceased, to celebrate the lives that they had lived, though in truth, Renaud’s greatest accomplishment were not the sorts of things that should be brought up amongst the given company. Not all of them would appreciate his specific artform.
‘Though I suppose I don’t need to talk to you about the busywork of college.’ He was being facetious, perhaps an attempt to distract from the growing issue that he still felt the desperate cravings for a drink, and didn’t much want to talk about it. In truth, he had a certain begrudging respect for the immortal, or at least a professional fascination. To live so long in such a youthful form certainly brought with it an ethereal worldliness, though why he would bother wasting away his time playing pretend as a college student would always confound him. Kim supposed that Cedar merely had the time to waste performing frivolous activities like that. Not like the rest of them. Clearly not like Renaud.
Before they could exchange any other words, a shape quite literally materialised beside, a sight that might have been alarming if it had not grown so commonplace. At least, it had been commonplace a decade prior, nowadays less so, though it seemed that more than just the immortal were crawling out of the woodworks to say their final goodbyes. At least Renaud’s death had achieved that much, Kim would have thought that most of them were content to never breach the subject of this chapter of their lives ever again.
‘Artie.’ He greeted her simply, only giving a quick glance to her sudden appearance. He didn’t much comment on her snide little jab regarding the poor hand of fate that time had dealt to him. It wasn’t something that concerned him. Kim was a shapechanger, if it was something which he so desired, he could have aged as gracefully as the immortal, though it was quite ironically his own vanity that prevented such cosmetic enhancement. Nothing he did could change his aging innards, so why should the surface not reflect that.
Kim scowled. 'I suppose it's good of you to join us.'
It probably meant something about her that funerals were easy to dress for. The all too familiar schkliink sound of hangars being pulled across a metal bar was the only noise coming from the simple little house down a quiet lane. Another few scrapes of noise, then a clink of selection before the world went back to silence.
Tabitha Crane stood fully, looking at the mirror while holding a simple black blouse and grey skirt combination up to her lanky body. Fairly satisfied with the ensemble, she chanced a glance back to her closet. If anyone else ever saw it, they’d probably ask her how someone could organize sadness so well, all of her garments neatly put away and dauntingly greyscale. She didn’t like to wear colors, she really couldn’t anyways even if it wasn’t for a funeral.
Setting down her choice of outfit, she contemplated the morbidity of trying to look good at a funeral. There was a little guilt in it, but like most people in Glasshill, any extra guilt would be like spilling water into an ocean. And what an ocean did Tabitha have. There was a flash of noise and color, a memory of carnage that vanished as she refused to engage with her own memories, instead opting to stare at herself for a moment longer in the mirror.
Time was being kind to her, despite being thirty there was little sign of her age. Skin still tight and clear, free of blemishes or wrinkles. She didn’t even have any grey hairs yet, the chin length mess of raven black hair atop her head needing brushing. She’d had this cut forever, since she broke free. Her hands clench, tightening into fists before releasing. Why end a good thing? It garnered an appropriate amount of attention, not too much not too little but somehow never the kind she actually wanted.
Turning and staring at the chosen outfit laying out on her bed, she lines her shadow up with the clothes. The tall outline falling neatly into place. All put together nicely until she moved and the shadow seemed to stretch and grow past the confines of her outfit. Tabitha quickly moved from the light, scowling as the shadow vanished. She had to stop playing around, there was another body she had to go look at.
A few hours later, Tabitha watches the flowers she bought fall beside the casket of a man who in reality had made her current life possible and she’d repaid him by showing up at his funeral service. Another cup a guilt tossed into the sea.
The flowers hadn’t been cheap at least, as if that assuaged her guilt at all. He would have liked them. For someone calling themselves Doctor Disaster, Renaud always seemed so put together and in control. After the last battle, when Sykke died, she’d lost it and gone berserk. Titan never fell but was driven off to the sea. Nobody wanted to look for her, nobody wanted to see a force of destruction again so she wandered. Hiding in state parks and in unincorporated land, unable to shrink back to a normal size so she could think about what to do. Renaud found her, talked her down and got her on the path that she found herself walking today. A path that ended in her walking away from his corpse in a box a few feet away.
Tears were forming in the tall woman’s eyes, hidden behind sunglasses, they were welling up slowly but surely. Tabitha angry with herself for breaking her facade of strength. Striding away from the others paying respect, she soon found herself with in a short distance of a trio, one popping into existence, one transcending existence and the other in a wheel chair and looking crushed by existence. She didn’t say anything wondering if they recognized her, she hadn’t spoken to anyone besides Renaud since the last battle of the Sentinels.
Tabitha stares for a moment, slowly turning away in attempt to hide her face.
The day of the funeral, Alyx enjoyed the usual amenities of having a live-in Bryony. A prepared breakfast, one of half a dozen she'd learned he'd eat consistently. Along with...more. A lot more. He was likely aware that she'd spent much of yesterday on food preparation. This morning, it looked like she was getting organized for putting together sandwich trays. A selection of deviled eggs chilled in the fridge and a series of ziti dishes were queued up to bake in the oven.
This Bry was always redheaded and she smiled at the sight of the artist-in-house. "Good morning. I picked up your suit from the dry-cleaners yesterday, it's hanging up in your closet. Your flower arrangement's ready for pickup at the florist. Would you care to pick it up yourself on the way or have one of me meet you with it at the funeral home?" No need to provide directions; Glasshill was small enough, there was really only a need for one such facility.
Traces of a smile lingered on her usually-smiling face but the sobering reality of the day robbed Bry's expression of its usual animation. Instead, she looked...composed. Focused on the details, probably to avoid dealing with her feelings. Between his ability and the therapy he'd experienced, Alyx was doubtlessly a pro sizing up people and he'd had years to learn Bry's ins-and-outs. This was her work mode, with all her focus deliberately bent on tasks. When she stopped long enough to really think and feel, she usually had a hell of a time getting her composure back.
"This is for the reception," she said, gesturing somewhat unnecessarily to the food overflowing the kitchen. "Hope you don't mind me using the kitchen for it but vice principals in a small town usually get a big turnout. I need every kitchen I can lay my hands on."
Then Bry looked at Alyx, bent her head and sighed. "Would you like me to drive you? Not that you can't get there alone, just...if you need the company. On the way over, I mean..." Her cheeks colored faintly as she took another step closer, reached up and cupped his cheek, callused palms brushing his beard. "I'll always be here for you, Alyx. In any way you need me."
Before the funeral service began, Bryony arrived early to introduce herself to the funeral director as a friend of the family who'd been asked to keep an eye out in case a certain disruptive individual from Renaud's past turned up, someone she had mutual history with and could handle without raising a fuss. Being personable and entirely too practiced at talking her way into things, this Bryony took up a position at the entrance to the memorial service and reception hall.
Anyone who entered the funeral through the main doors saw this Bryony, smiling at each Glasshill citizen who'd chosen to come to the vice principal's funeral. Smiling while discreetly scrutinizing every attendee for any telltale signs of arms or armor, or for the far more telling signs of anxiety, adrenaline, and the kind of tension that came upon almost all men before they planned to go into battle.
To each Sentinel she recognized, she gave only a cursory nod before refocusing her attention on other arrivals. Any Sentinel with the training and inclination to notice could likely spot the telltale weight of her black purse. This Bryony was armed and presumably intending to keep an eye out in case of party-crashers.
Bryony opted to arrive at the funeral dressed in a woman's suit jacket over a white blouse tucked into matching black slacks. Dark eyeliner and makeup mostly covered up the blotchiness and red rims to her eyes that came from too many tears shed, with too many tears still to shed. Her face had the cold composure of a statue because it was the only way she knew to hold herself together. Although she was peripherally aware of a few scattered Sentinels among the civilian populace, Bryony didn't have the capacity for processing that or them. Instead, she mumbled pleasantries to people who insisted on talking to her as she methodically made her way towards the casket.
It was closed, of course. She'd been told it was better that way. It didn't feel better. What was the price of a nightmare when weighed against a persistent lack of closure? But forcing the coffin open would probably trade one pain for another and it'd be terribly indiscreet in this crowd. There was already another Bryony here; she couldn't afford to be conspicuous enough to draw attention if she could avoid it.
So Bryony took her turn, got her moment alone at the casket, and unashamedly cried as her hand touched the wood surface separating her from the man she'd loved.
"You changed my life, Renaud," she choked out. "I would not be the woman I am today without you. And I don't know how I'm going to keep going without you." Each word burned in her throat, torn from somewhere deep inside, each syllable leaving her mouth feeling hot and thick and bloody with their passage. She leaned against the railing, strove to recapture her composure and managed it by a thread.
Then she walked away, yielding her turn to the next and swayed slightly as she gathered her bearings. The temptation to flee to the restrooms itched in her but Bryony thought better of it. She was a Sentinel. She had a reputation to preserve, even if it was only for a handful, even if they didn't care anymore.
Bryony's gaze drifted over Kim at the bar in his wheelchair and the sight of it pained her, as it had every time she saw it. At least he had company. Questionable company, perhaps. Her lips quirked at the sight of Cedar who had doubtlessly attended so many of these in his long life that this would be little more than a calendar entry eventually forgotten. The combination of men couldn't possibly be good; Cedar's disillusionment with mortality could only drag the resigned, cynical Quentin Kimberly down and Lord knows he didn't need to go any further down. But at least Artemesia was with them. What was she now, a journalist? Bry made a mental note to have another Bry look into her articles to see what she wrote about and what those subjects might reveal about the teleporter.
At last, Bryony's gaze landed on Tabitha. It wasn't too difficult to spot her, even with sunglasses. Bry had spent a million hours looking at video footage, conducting surveillance and was an expert in spotting disguises. The passage of a few years and a pair of shades weren't enough to render her unrecognizeable. Especially with the open grief she wore on her complexion, grief that resonated with the yawning void within Bry.
So she took the unsteady steps needed to cross the distance between the two women. Upon reaching Tabitha, Bry then gave the other woman the opportunity to notice and recognize her visitor. At which point the blonde woman spread her arms wide in an unmistakable invitation to hug. The wetness welling at the edges of her not-quite-immaculate madeup eyes suggested the offer of a hug was for herself as much as it was for her old teammate.
And so the day had come. The day where a column of a time long gone was laid to rest. The thought of it was always in the back of Emir's mind; that so many people who left a mark in the world itself would eventually become nothing more than a distant memory, left as a shell of who they once were until they're finally discarded. But despite constantly reminding himself it was inevitable, he was still unprepared to face the grim reality. Not even a peaceful death of old age, but felled at the hands of another.
Emir turned into the funeral, clad in hastily put together black clothing, dirtied so much that the black-color was lightened to a powdery-gray. Approaching the casket, he blocked out the surrounding cacophony of cries and conversation. "Arre yaar, a man like you deserved a far better end than this, old friend," he muttered, running his hand over the cover. "You must've looked just as fierce as my crew believed you were, down to your last breath..." He ran his hand over his face, glaring up with a sigh.
The funerals he and his crew held out at sea were one of vigor and energy. They held the victims in high regard, thanking them for their devotion and sacrifice for the crew, cheering for their beloved zealousness for the goal of the Maelstrom: "To destroy the powers that sought to keep us down and show them that we are the masters of our own fate!" The cadavers were always just as fierce as they were when they died. Those decade-old scenes were a stark contrast to the gloomy atmosphere of the funeral here. The casket was closed; the corpse desecrated beyond remembrance. The attacker ensured that Renaud would not appear as powerful as he once was when death struck. Nobody was happy or proud, all shedding tears at the abrupt loss. Before Emir knew it, he'd fallen prey to grief, hurriedly patting his eyes with a handkerchief.
"My crew saw you a hero just as they did me. I pray you find them not too bothersome..." Finally, Emir redirected his attention to everything around the casket. In his prime the only things he knew of some Sentinels were their aliases and faces through brief glances through the papers or through info-sources. But after spending the better half of a decade with some of them in Glasshill, he'd learned much more. He cast his gaze on the two women beside him, hugging each other for comfort. He recognized them as Tabitha and Bry, to which he knew the latter to more of an extent.
Once they had their moment, Emir greeted them with a quiet "Namaste." He reached into his pocket, now holding out a spare handkerchief.
It was the smell of breakfast and the sound of his stomach growling that finally pulled him away from his work - his after hours masterpiece. He’d been painting through the night and hadn’t caught more than an hour or two of shut-eye. Already, so many things were threatening to throw him off the deep-end today, and admittedly, he’d added fuel to the fire by not sleeping. But there was nothing like a hot breakfast made by a beautiful friend in your kitchen, a Bry at that, to send you off with some semblance of normalcy.
…and there was nothing like the funeral of a mentor to throw you all the way off again. The news of Renaud’s death had rocked Alyx at his core, though he was trying his hardest to keep it together. It didn’t help that absolute everyone in Glasshill was talking about it. Having Bry in the house helped, but it was just weird to think that the Doc, a pillar in the Sentinels, wouldn’t be around anymore. When Alyx first got hurt, it was Renaud who agreed to help him work on getting his powers back under control. He taught him a few telepathic exercises and recommended Alyx start seeing a therapist. And ever-so-often, Renaud would check in on him to make sure he was making moves in the right direction. Even with all of the things in their past, in Alyx’s eyes, the man had been a saint - a haloed legend.
Thus, ‘Tread lightly’ was today’s motto, because Alyx felt like he was destined to break at any time. He hadn’t made it known to Bry, but he was still trying to make up in his mind whether or not he should even attend the service. He wasn’t so sure he could handle it. There’d been an episode of sorts last night, and the one thing he didn’t need was to breakdown and lose control of his powers at a funeral… none of the Sentinels in Glasshill needed that.
After a wide yawn, he took a minute to stretch before carefully putting down his brushes and walking towards the kitchen. He'd been in the same grey sweatshirt and white jeans, rolled up at the cuffs, for two days now. But everyday he found himself covered with a fresh layer of dried acrylics, in a rainbow assortment. It was in parts of his hair and speckled his bare feet. A good shower and a change of clothes was probably in order. He didn’t want to offend Bry. Besides the paint, he probably had a good 'man stank' working up by now.
“I don’t know how you do it,” he greeted her with a tired, gritty voice as he entered the kitchen. Clearing his throat, he put his hands on his hips and shook his head in awe. An amazing amount of delicious looking food was scattered about. Bry had been at it since yesterday. He picked up the plate that held his breakfast and marveled at all she’d baked and broiled and assembled for the funeral’s reception. Bryony was a remarkable being. It wasn't just her ability to multiply, but her work ethic, focus, and attention to detail astounded him on a regular basis.
Snatching a fork from a nearby drawer, he found a small corner of space on a counter top and leaned against it, taking to the scrambled eggs briskly. If he wanted to get a quick shower in, he needed to keep it moving. Prior to the funeral, he still had one thing he needed to do.
She greeted him with a ‘good morning’, then immediately went to rattling off a list of things she’d already taken care of for him today. The suit, that he hated being in, had been picked up from the dry-cleaners and hung up in his closet. There was a flower arrangement ready at the florist for him or one of her ‘others’ to grab and meet him at the funeral with.
The funeral. He didn’t feel like talking about it, but he wondered if he should let Bry know that he was struggling with the decision to go. She had a lot on her mind as well, and he didn't want to worry her.
“Uhm… I can just grab the flowers from one of you at the service, “ he replied before taking his last bite of eggs and moving on to the Avocado wheat toast with barely a breath. He caught a lack of usual luster in her usual smile before she threw herself back into what she was doing. No wonder she was throwin' down in the kitchen. She was avoiding it like he was. Everybody had their own ways of dealing with this mess. He could only imagine how the other Sentinels were doing.
“Hope you don't mind me using the kitchen for it but vice principals in a small town usually get a big turnout. I need every kitchen I can lay my hands on,” She said.
“No, you’re good. No qualms about it here. I like the way it makes the house smell,” he let out a small chuckle and flashed her a half smile. His heart just wasn’t into showing a whole one, and he figured she understood.
It was silent for a few moments. Then some of the thoughts of what today held began to cycle through his mind.
He wondered if Bry had heard him in his room last night, seemingly talking to the walls… She was probably used to him and his occasional hallucinations by now, but that didn’t make it any less embarrassing.
He let out a deep sigh and ran a hand through his hair.
Bry asked him if he wanted her to keep him company on the drive to the funeral. Before he could answer, she walked over and put a sincere hand on his face, letting him know she’d always be there for him. He put his hand on top of hers and gave another weak smile. She’d proven to be incredibly loyal, and he appreciated that stability. He only hoped he could be that sort of friend to her. Most times he felt like he was taking way more than he had the ability to give.
After a moment, Alyx grabbed the hand on his cheek and held it between them, patting it for emphasis as he spoke, “You are amazing. You know that right?” He let her go and spun over to grab the last bit of toast on his plate. He took a bite. “I think I’m good. I’m gonna just leave a little early and walk down there - get some fresh air.” The truth, but not the entire truth. “I’ll meet up with you at the service,” and a truth he was unsure about. With that he sped off to try and get in the shower, knowing that if he kept talking he’d be sharing more than he wanted to share right now.
Vera had only intended to show up to the funeral mainly out of respect for the former leader. Oddly enough, Vera had never attended a funeral before this. When her parents died, there was no time for burial or to mourn as she and her sister escaped war-torn Nepal. Every death she's seen throughout her life afterward weighed nothing on her conscious. With her line of work, death came naturally, rather, it was expected. Yet there was something unshakable about Renaud's passing. Perhaps it was more curiosity than sorrow. It was the fact that one of their own died in such a gruesome way in a town that was supposed to represent a new life for many of them.
Her first thoughts turned to the possibility of someone hunting down former sentinels. Vera wondered what it meant for her if she was caught up in the mess. The past 4 years were the only time her life ever felt some sort of stability. Her being around family and the townspeople gave her more insight into what she really wanted in life rather than wandering around and killing aimlessly. Her time working as a bartender for the local watering hole reconnected her with some of her former teammates. It caught her by surprise to find that many of them settled into this town. For Vera, there wasn't much time spent on reminiscing about the past, instead, she focused on trying to preserve the newfound peace that she had.
When she entered the building, Vera got into her habit of scanning the room, surveying her surroundings, the best routes of escape, and the people in attendance. There was someone that caught her eye, even though they were trying to not be recognized. Yet in a small community like this, it's hard not to stand out. Titan formerly, now just Tabitha. Vera assumed her disappearance was a permanent situation. Now that she sees Tabitha, she is reminded of her actions that took place a decade ago. Vera decided against speaking to the other woman, she watched for a moment as Bryony approached Tabitha in comfort. Vera then made her way to where Cedar, Artemesia, and Kim were. She shot an eyebrow towards the drink in Kim's hand,
"If I knew we were allowed alcohol during service, I would've brought a whole bottle for us." By the atmosphere, Vera could tell not everyone wanted to be here, or stick around for much longer. "I suppose everyone here will need a drink or five."
What did people expect from her? A warm heartfelt reunion of sympathy? She was still processing the loss of the person who brought her back from the edge, gave her a chance at a normal life when others seemingly were already crawling out of the woodwork to dump their emotions on her. It was frustrating and making the whole shitty situation worse than ever. She ran a hand under her sunglasses, wiping and trying to stem the flow of any tears as the past decided to make things physical.
Bryony had her arms out, approaching with tears and sorrow just pouring off her. Her face, this face, one of her faces, was so upset. Tears ruining the edges of her makeup. Somehow this display just drained Tabitha, her own sadness drying up with her tears as she awkwardly shambled into the hug. Part of her vaguely wondered which Bryony this was, mostly because Bryony scared her. It was another head of the Hydra, another dozen waiting to stab her in the back. The embrace starting to grow stale, Tabitha began pulling away when another voice decided to interject itself in her reality.
"Namaste." The voice of the storm was currently soft. The pirate offering a hankie which she politely rejected, deciding to stand there silently. She didn't have much to say and wouldn't have been much of a change from back when she was a Sentinel. Sykke did the talking, Tabitha did the listening. He'd have been much better in this situation, especially in dealing with former teammates. His oratory skills and honeyed words made every conversation memorable. But, she supposed she had to say something.
"Sorry" she nods to the coffin " About all this. Didn't want to be here again"