There was the howl of thrusters from overhead the Inn, and out of the sky dropped a familiar silver-and-black armored figure, diving for the ground in a suicide plunge. Mere feet from meeting the earth The Ranger flipped over upright, the howling note reaching a thundering crescendo just in time to slow his descent to a manageable speed just before he landed with a heavy sound in front of the steps of the Inn.
Isuelt DeRomiano was inside the Inn, seated at a booth, staring at a small tablet. This technology thing was a hard curve to mount, but she had come leaps and bounds. However, what she was presently reading had her so embroiled, frustrated and absorbed, she failed to hear the familiar sound outside. Her dark eyes were simply squinting at the tiny screen as her jaw flinched slightly and her brows lowered every once in a while.
He took a step, and as he did the armor seemed to retreat, starting at his extremities and flowing back, up along his limbs, pixelated lines all peeling back towards his left wrist, revealing the Playboy underneath as he walked up the stairs and to the door. By the time he'd pushed it open the armor had reconfigured itself to resemble a wristwatch, the band thicker than usual and the face almost oversized, yet it fit him perfectly.
"Are you kidding me?" Isuelt’s voice was low, but healthier than a whisper. A disgruntled exhale then left her lips as she thumbed at the tablet repeatedly; each time more vehemently than the last. Obviously, something in that tiny screen was not cooperating.
Edward Batten spotted Issy as the door closed behind him, watching her with no small amount of amusement for a moment. It was a good thing he made those tablets to be basically indestructible. "Ya know, hittin' it wit' yer fist might help."
Isuelt’s agitation was palpable as she began at first without looking up, "Yeah, wouldn't you know that I've already tho---" Though as her eyes lifted, her words halted on her tongue. She stared at Batten for a solid ten seconds without a sound, without breath, before she was able to find her voice again. "Oh my God..."
There was a perfectly familiar smirk that found his features as he started her way. "Nah, not quite. Just me."
Hurriedly putting down the tablet, letting the putrid thing fall where it may, she slid out of the booth and stood up, still staring at him. After all, it had been a remarkable amount of time since she had seen him. And their last conversation wasn't exactly promising as he shared information of his almost-certain demise in a literal blaze of glory. "Hi." She could only muster a whisper; and to be frank, she was more than a little surprised at her own reaction to seeing him alive and well.
He couldn't help but grin wider at her reaction as he approached, stopping a little past arm's length and looking down at himself, then back at her. "S'a'matter? Ah spill somet'in' on myself?"
Her features still clinging to an expression somewhere in between shock and gratitude, she sighed and shook her head slowly. "No, you ass," she took a few long-legged steps to close the distance between them and wrap him in a tight hug. "I'm so glad you're not dead."
He chuckled as he returned that embrace. It had been far too long. "Yeah, me too. Turns out Ah had some help wit' dat."
She leaned back and nodded to him, "You did?" It came back to her, "Katt, right?" At least she remembered Katt saying something about it, and it altering her eye color. Another sigh as she smiled at him, then seemingly remembered herself as an employee and let go and took half a step back. Still she didn't even try to mask the absolute relief on her face.
He didn't let her go until she took a step back. Employee or not, they had quite a history between them, and he didn't feel the need to be quite so formal. "Yeah, dat's part of it...well, most of it. Renna played herself a part in dere, too." Granted, it was a painful part, but she had helped in her own way. "And possibly Ah might've accidentally made my own solution. Still waitin' on de jury to get back."
A flicker of a wince crossed Isuelt’s features as he mentioned Renna. But it soon disappeared as Isuelt was just so grateful that he was okay. Wasn't he? "So you're...okay? Right?" Besides, so much had happened to her, Renna-caused or not, that she was determined to put the past behind her and march forward from now on. "Right?" Her brows knitted as she looked at him.
He noted the reaction to Renna's name but let it pass. There was history there, too, more than could be easily overcome. "Well, if by 'okay' ya mean I'm not gonna go nuclear, then yeah. Definitely okay." He smiled, then peered around her at the tablet she had been abusing. "Looks like you're havin' a bit of a hard time, t'ough."
There was a peace that finally settled over her, which was a new accessory, almost as new as the tablet. She pushed her hair behind her ear as she cocked a hip and shifted her weight to look back at the table. "You could say that, yeah."
He chuckled and nodded. "It takes some gettin' used to, if you're not raised to it. Ya shoulda seen what it was like for Katt." He turned towards the bar to get himself a drink. He had changed himself. Aside from the addition of the heavy- looking watch and the absence of his usual trenchcoat, he seemed... lighter, a bit more of a spring to his step as he walked, and more attentiveness to his manner as he looked around.
After a brief glance to the floor, she looked up and watched Batten. She did then notice his more casual demeanor. "You look good Ed." She smirked. "You know, for a guy that's supposed to be dead." She folded her arms over her shirt. A button-down blouse and a pair of jeans were the norm now. (And she did have to admit that they were much more comfortable than her usual Scathachian garb.)
That got a laugh as he rounded the bar and raised his stash for a bottle of Dalmore and snagged a couple glasses. "Ah guess dere's somet'in' to be said for not bein' a smokin' crater." He looked her over as he came back around the bar, noting the changes. "Ya don't look too bad yourself. Didn't t'ink Ah'd ever see ya in somet'in' dat wasn't made outta leat'er."
She grinned and shrugged, "Guess I'll leave the leather to the fetishist from now on." Watching what he grabbed, she turned back and sat down at the booth. "Guess I owe you a whopper of a story, eh boss?" She flicked a smirk to him.
He grinned as he walked back over to her booth and took the seat across from her, seeing both glasses down and cracking the seal on the bottle. "Ah expect we bot' got tales to tell, cher." He poured a few fingers of the single malt into each glass and nudged once towards her. "But Ah expect yours is probably more interesting dan mine."
"Well, I don't know. I didn't come back from the brink of death..." She cleared her throat and eyed the glass, beginning before she actually needed it. "I uh...well maybe I'll start backwards." Her gaze shifted to him, "Your sister is a goddamned saint. She gave me a job. So, I now work for....you. Well, her. Both of you." She knew that she answered to Katt, after all. "I mostly work in the Tower, so I had heard a rumor that you were back. But, you know how rumors go..." She smiled and looked down briefly. "Your sister saved me from myself." Nodding, "She found me and...well, picked me up out of the literal gutter." Maybe she too had come back from death?
He picked up his glass, swirling the liquid within slowly. "Ah keep tellin' her dat, but she don't believe me." He took a swallow and smiled, savoring the scotch a moment. "Sounds like she kinda did de same for de bot' of us. Alt'ough in my case she pulled me out of a livin' hell." His features clouded with remembered pain as he said it. "Ah heard dat de Sisters let ya go."
She steadied herself with a sigh and looked up at him briefly, using his gaze to settle her. "Yeah. Court martial." It was really a very simple few words to say and at this point, she was still more numb about it than resentful. "I was found guilty of," here she paused for a deep breath, her fingers wrapping around the glass carefully. "Guilty of crimes against the Scathachian Nation. So...yes, they let me go." Her fingertips ran along the smooth lip of the glass absently.
That got a surprised blink from the Playboy. He hadn't been privy to the details. "Ah'm sorry, Iss. Ah know how much dat meant to ya." He couldn't imagine, really, except maybe marginally. She'd been a part of that her whole life... his own experiences didn't really compare.
She sighed lightly and looked up from the rim of her glass. "Yeah, well.....yeah." He was right, after all. It was her whole life. It was everything to her. It was *her*. She sighed again and shrugged, "The actual charges were more bullshit than anything. I'd say more negligence and pride than vehemence." Lifting her eyes once again, she measured his expression.
He frowned slightly. Pride he could see, but....negligence? That didn't sound like her. "If...ya don't mind me askin', what exactly did dey accuse you of? Ah was...kinda outta town when it all went down."
Softly smiling to him at that, she knew that his world was changed as well since they had last spoken. She suddenly felt selfish, but at the same time she had needed this catharsis. He had been her confidant and her confessor for more years than she could count. "I needed you. But I know that you were dealing with life and death." She paused knowing that anything more she would tell him would require a careful selection of words.
He shrugged lightly at that, looking at his glass, though the casual gesture gave lie to the depths that it had affected him. "S'funny, yanno...Ah'd been doin' de Ranger t'ing since b'fore Ah came to Rhy'din. And Ah knew de dangers, de risks involved, but...until de whole fracas wit' Renna dis last time, Ah'd never really entertained de t'ought dat Ah might actually die 'cause of it. Not even when Ah knew what was happenin' to me...Ah kept workin' de problem, not really convinced Ah was gonna buy de farm." He paused a moment himself, eyes shifting to regard her. "Wait. Did...you gettin' t'rown out...did dat have somet'in' to do wit' what happened?"
Her elbows were now on the table, one hand cupping her chin with its fingers over her mouth. She regarded him carefully for a long moment before she gave in. Her fingers left her face and she picked up the drink and swallowed all of it in two tries. Replacing the empty glass on the table, her voice spoke through a sheath of warm alcohol, "In a manner of speaking." At least Renna had a large part to do with it.
That wasn't exactly an answer, and yet very nearly confirmation at the same time, coming from Issy. He took the last swallow from his glass and placed it on the table himself, sighing softly. "Ah might've known. But...none o'dat was yer fault. Hell, if dey wanted to put de blame on anyone, it shoulda been me."
Cradling the side of her face, she eyed Batten and finally scoffed lightly as she smiled. "No, they would never. Well, I would never let them." She nearly rolled her eyes. "It was all me. And it...it wasn't so much what I did, as what I didn't do." She sniffed and ran a hand through her hair. "You see, there were three counts that were brought against me." She cleared her throat and shifted in the seat. This was the first time she was speaking truthfully about this while she was sober. "The first count was..." she stalled and paced herself, "...was that I neglected to report to the High Circle that there was an increase in activity of Bhaalites in Rhydin. Under the city. You remember all that obsession I had about looking underground?"
He nodded. It was something he'd heard Renna going on about as well, though she seemed to side with the fanatics. He only knew a little of them, though they had quite the history here and with the Scathachians. "But we never really managed to find anyt'in' much out 'bout dat, if Ah remember."
"I did," her quiet admittance felt like another pang of guilt. She sighed and glanced toward the center of the Inn, still mostly empty. "The second charge was that I neglected to report that the newest recruit of Temple Bhaal was none other than Renna." She refused to look at him just yet. "She was my greatest foe, it feels like we've been sparring forever. The information that she would share with the Bhaalites... She knows everything about me. Knows my every weakness." Her gaze snapped to Batten.
There was no surprise on his features. He'd heard Renna ranting about Bhaal once, though the details were a little hazy. "But still...what'd dey, t'ink ya left 'em outta de loop on purpose? Ah know ya, Iss. Ya might've missed a report, but ya were probably busy worryin' 'bout what to do rat'er dan dealin' wit' red tape."
She smiled at him. He was always in her corner, just like his sister. "The third crime was probably the worst. And, looking back, probably the one that really did me in. The first two were just pretty window dressing." Her fingertip stroked the table top in one spot over and over for about half a minute before she said anything. "When I was sick...when Renna infected me. When I was with you," she looked up finally, "she was in my head. I mean she was *really, really* in my head. In fact," she paused to gauge the truth of the matter, "I still feel her in there, rooting around sometimes." She suppressed a shudder, trying to disguise it as she sat up straighter and shifted in her seat. Her voice continued in a whisper, "I would bet my life on it that she knows the location of the Island of Shadow and I never said a word." While there may not have been actual shame in her other two 'offensive" deeds, this one was tinged with regret. "I had a premonition that she led Temple Bhaal right to the Island and slaughtered them all. She inhaled smoothly and lifted her dark gaze to him, "And I never said a goddamned word."
He remembered. That had been a rather stressful time, nearly a month of tests, analysis, and work on a disease manufactured by Renna that had defeated all of his attempts to remove it. In the end, only Renna herself had been able to take care of it. But... "What if she doesn't know? What if...yer premonition, as ya call it...was just a bad dream? Ah mean...even if she does know...Ah may not know de woman as well as you do, but dat sorta t'ing ain't really her style. Wit' rare exceptions, Renna don't usually work wit' anyone, unless she's gettin' somet'in' from it, an' she ain't big on givin' back to 'em." He reached for the bottle to refill his glasss, then hers. "Ah don' know, Iss. Sounds like ya got hung out t'dry for some pretty flimsy reasons. How'd your Council find out 'bout all dis?"
She had her arms folded on the table and she watched him refill the glasses. "I confessed." She reached for her glass, knowing full-well that she promised Katt no more drinking. But this was more medicinal. Wasn't it? She held the glass in her hands, admiring the warm, amber hue. "It was a bad dream. A particularly bad dream, Ed." It wasn't all that common for her to use his given name. "But I know. I know deep down that she knows. I can't explain it. It's like...I'm her, knowing that she has this secret about me..." It didn't make any sense coming out of her mouth as it did. "I think some part of her is always going to be a part of me now. I saw things, things that..." She shook her head remembering pieces of Renna's life that seemed more nightmare than anything. "You plucked me out of that, but I don't think she's ever going to leave me." She lifted the glass to her lips and finished it off. "It's like feeling that she's right behind me...all the time...looking over my shoulder. Seeing what I see. Feeling what I feel." She shook her head, disgusted by it all.
He was silent for a time, absorbing this. There was a great deal more to Renna than most people knew. He'd seen it himself. Maybe she wasn't ever going to be *good*, but there was a part of her that craved acceptance, that wanted to...belong. "For what it's wort'...as odd as it sounds...she'd probably almost t'ink of ya like a sister 'cause of dat." He picked up his own drink, swirling it around a moment before taking a swallow from it. "Ah...kinda got a good look into her head while she had me. Wasn't de most pleasant experience, but...Ah feel like Ah get her. At least, as far as anyone can."
Her brows ticked upwards as she watched him and barely nodded. If there was one place she would never wish on her worst enemy it was to be in Renna's head. "There's a part of me that thinks that she's waiting for the perfect time to use this information. The perfect time to utterly destroy them...and me." Her eyes narrowed slightly as she pondered this and sat back, folding her arms over her chest. "But, one could argue that she's already done that, no? Undone me?" She inclined her head to Batten. “Everything I ever was was taken from me and I had to start over from scratch.”
He arched an eyebrow at that, his eyes steady on her. "Ya know, she did somet'in' like dat to me. Destroyed what Ah had, took de one t'ing in my life dat made me what I am. Or...so Ah t'ought. And ya know what Ah learned? Everyt'ing we are, what makes us...*us*..." He leaned towards her, reaching out to tap her head once, lightly, then the middle of her chest "...it's all here, and here." He leaned back, lifting up his glass and draining it and setting it on the table, pausing a moment before he spoke again. "Besides...ya weren't her target, Iss. Ah was. You were just...collateral damage."
The brunette smiled at that. His words seemed to set her at ease, almost as much as the position in his company had. "Batten, you’re acting like you're a genius or something."
He managed a mildly amused sort of offended expression. "Since when would dat be an act, mon ami?"
Smothered in a tight fitting leather catsuit, Renna’s arrival to this planar was with a sudden crack within the immaterium and the material plane. She stepped from the SCHISM portal, sighing as her dark boots clicked onto the porch's wooden surface, her long dark hair left to freely flow about her figure as her fingers idly tapped at the sides of her hips. Strapped to her hip was a holster holding an odd looking pistol-like weapon and strapped to her back, sheathed was an too familiar blade, pulsing with a menacing aura of magical energies and, well, technological origin. She stepped into the Inn after looking to the sky, noting Khaw circling the Inn. She smirked her thanks silently to her oldest friend, and paused mid-step in through the door at the two lonely occupants. "Well, well, well!" She beamed a fanged smile. "My two favourite people."
Renna's voice was in an instant like a razor blade across her brain; it broke her smile to Batten. Her gaze darted to the door then quickly back to Ed. She was completely and totally unsure how this was going to proceed.
Batten was about to reach for the bottle when the portal opened and Renna stepped through it, looking...decidedly different from the last time he'd seen her. And armed, never really a good sign. "Well, hello dere, mon chere. Come for a drink wit' us?"
...that was probably not what Isuelt was expecting from Batten. Her eyes widened momentarily at him from across the table.
Swirling magmas looked to both as Renna approached them. "Well, I came because a little bird---or rather a big one, saw you here. And... well," She looked to Issy as she stepped before them, slipping a smirk to the woman. "Hello, Isuelt. Long time no see! Miss me?" She slowly offered a fleshed hand out towards the woman. She did look to Edward then. "Don't worry about the toys I've brought. Actually, that's part of the reason why I am here."
It was akin to laying prone and having a creature slowly eating away at you, while you lay unable to move. Isuelt looked to Renna, not actually having faced her since her disgrace. "Renna...You'll forgive me if I don't." Her eyes glanced to Renna's outstretched hand.
Batten came with his own toys, but that was hardly a secret. He watched the two women warily. That relationship was...well, calling it 'rocky' would be perhaps too polite.
"So aggressive... it's nice to see you have not changed much. Granted, your eyes tell me enough." Renna curled her hand away. "That's fine. That much is expected. After all, I've done a lot to you." She moved around the bar, fixing herself a glass of vodka. "You look well, at least."
Isuelt’s eyes flickered once more to Batten before she answered Renna. A deep, but measured sigh proceeded her words. "Yes, I do look well."
"Eeessh, cold much?" Renna turned, grinning. "Come on, old friend. Loosen up." She took a sip. Then, she looked between the two. "Did I... interrupt something?" She flashed a glance of jealousy to Ed. It was momentary.
He caught the flicker of jealousy in that glance, but simply smiled at Renna and shrugged. "Catchin' up on de past couple years. Issy was just tellin' me what happened after Ah took my lil...extended vacation. We hadn't gotten to my part of it yet."
Renna smirked. "I heard Negzarcurgis is good this time of year..." She slipped up to seat herself upon the bar, cross legged. "I am sorry, please continue. Pretend I am not here."
Isuelt couldn't help the smirk that slid onto her lips. Renna really was comical, maybe for the wrong reasons, but at least Isuelt was trying to find the best in the situation as she looked with raised brows back to Batten.
Renna mused over her drink, "I see a smile..."
No matter how horrific the storm, the skies will always clear eventually.
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