Coming back from her daily routine shower after working a running sweat ever since she woke up, Angélique walked to the mansion’s garage, again. Much like the other days before, the fallen rockstar didn’t feel like staying locked up inside the estate. She’d much rather enjoy the feeling of freedom driving a car around the island gave her. It gave her time to think about what she did, about what happened, about the others.
Siren had no intended destination. She just wanted to get away from it all as much as she wanted to explore. For that reason, Angel had swung at the black sportscar’s backseats a few bags of her own personal belongings: spare clothes, swimsuit, phone, only to name a few. She never knew if she would actually return to the mansion for the night.
Especially not today
of all days. Every year, Angel made it a challenge on herself to throw something special for her birthday. She figured that if today was a special day, she would as well celebrate it with others and let them in onto this happy day. She could remember last year’s birthday, having thrown a party at the Bell Center with hundreds of her fans. She sang, she played, she drank, she had fun.
But this year, it was entirely different. She had no fans to celebrate with. No friends. No family. Only people that she shared a battlefield with, and hateful thoughts to remind her how pathetic she was. Truly, today wasn’t a day worth celebrating at all. If anything else, it was a day to curse what she had become.
Solemnly, Angélique took the driver’s seat inside the Dodge Charger, taking time to readjust her seat and her mirrors.
Zoe hadn't been awake for too long when she decided to take a walk around the estate. For all its extravagance, the place wasn't bad to look at, and it beat sitting around watching TV or whatever.
The whole thing took an interesting turn, of course, when she caught sight of a certain singer wandering around on her own. Not a couple of weeks ago, Zoe would have ignored her classmate - actively avoided, even. But she'd changed, or at least she was starting to try. Not without her fair share of... relapses, so to speak, but trying.
To tell the truth, Zoe didn't care whether she herself lived or died. For now, though, she was alive, and realizing that it wasn't worth running anymore. Ernie, for all his faults, had been right in DC; she did care about the others, like it or not. Even after what Angel had done in DC. It wasn't as though Zoe didn't have blood on her hands, and as much as anything else, she had questions to ask. Had to know what path her friend planned on walking, had to try and help her however she could.
And watching Angel get into the car, it seemed to Zoe like the other young woman was pretty miserable about something or other. So she jogged over before her classmate drove off, tapping on the driver's side window with a friendly smile. "Room for one more?"
It would be a lie to say Angel had been expecting anyone. Lost in thought, she jumped in her seat, startled by the sudden knocking on the window. She did not know whether Zoe wanted to have a talk or simply wanted Angélique to drive Zoe somewhere on her way to wherever she was going. After what happened in Washington, she would have thought no one would actively seek her out. But she was proven wrong, as Brent, Ernest and even Allison had quickly sought her out for answers about what she did in DC. Knowing Zoe, she might have come to her for answers as well.
Whether it was because Angel felt lonelier than ever before on this day that was supposed to be special, needed to talk or simply wanted someone to yell at her for what she did, Angel mustered every bit of self-assurance to smile back and nodded, pressing the doors unlocking button. “Sure, hop in. Got some place you wanted to go to?”
At Angel's agreement, Zoe grinned and walked around the car, hopping into the seat beside her. Part of her wanted to push all the buttons, but a bigger part of her figured that'd be a bad idea. She really had no idea how to drive, and this thing was way fancier than any car she'd ever been in. At Angel's question, she shrugged, sitting back in the seat."Nowhere in particular."
She glanced at the other girl, before shrugging. No point hiding her ulterior motives here. "Wanted to talk to you anyway, and besides, you looked like you were in a bad mood. Even worse than usual."
Lighthearted teasing aside, it was clear that Zoe at least wasn't just
here to interrogate Angelique."Figured you might feel better if you've got a friend around."
It somewhat came to no surprise to Angel hearing what Zoe had to say, although she did got surprised by her last statement. If her face was a window to her soul, then that window sure was thoroughly cleaned. “I’m that easy to figure out, huh? Yeah… today’s not a good day for me…”
Angel let out a sad smile, her gaze returning to the windshield. Zoe did just say “a friend”, right? Was she really okay still hanging around, despite what she did? Deep inside, something sparked, albeit faintly, mostly choked by pessimism and expectations being easily misjudged. “Thanks... I appreciate it.”
Making sure her seatbelt was buckled up and everything was in order, Angélique started the car’s engine and drove the beast away from the mansion. Already, as their temporary home disappeared behind, relief was soon showing up on her face as she lowered the door’s window, letting a fresh breeze enter the car and sending her obsidian hair flutter in the wind. For the semblance of freedom it brought her, she welcomed it with open arms.
Zoe smiled slightly as Angelique appeared to relax. Her own window was open as well, though the wind didn't have nearly as dramatic an effect on Zoe's appearance. Chuckling slightly, she leaned forward to mess with the radio as she spoke. "You know, I'm not sure how you deal with having that much hair. I mean mine's enough of a pain to deal with. After the first fight, I seriously considered cutting it all off."
Realizing she wasn't completely sure how to actually work the radio, Zoe sat back as soon as she reached a station that didn't seem to be the news, paying almost no attention to the music that was playing. Whatever it was, it would be better than sitting there listening to regulars discuss them all for the hundredth time.
Angélique chuckled slightly at Zoe’s remark, her mood slightly shifting for the better at these attempts of small talk. Something that she was looking forward more than the impending discussion about the whole DC incident.“I hear you. Drying and combing that mass after a bath is a pain but…”
Angel paused, looking a bit thoughtful, “I love the style. It’s like when people ask me about how inconvenient my clothing is. But really, I’ve just grown used to it. Needed to have the looks that went with my job. Eventually, I just grew fond of looking extravagant.”
There was a hint of bitterness as she remembered about her previous life. It probably would’ve been easier if she just decided to change her looks to help her transition to her new Mage life. But deep inside, is changing appearance going to make it any better? Had she really given up on who she was before becoming a Subnatural.
This scene felt oddly nostalgic to Angélique. The sound of pop music playing in the background while she was having small talk with her passenger, it was a scene that she was very familiar with, from her time spent of the road. It was easy to guess Angel was no stranger to being behind the steering wheel, just by how smooth her driving was. “I think it’d be a shame if you were to cut it off. The fiery badass look really suits you, honestly. If it still annoys you, there is always a way to make it more manageable. I tend to tie my hair into a tail or a bun if I fear it would catch into something.”"Nah, I think it'll be fine like this. I dealt with the stomach acid - it won't get much worse than that, hopefully. Besides, it's short enough. Nice to hear it suits me, though."
Zoe smiled at the compliment, before shrugging. "Whatever works, right? Don't always have to be preparing for battle or we'd never enjoy anything."
Smiling, she looked at Angelique, lost in thought. A realization she'd only come to recently, but that didn't make it wrong. Just different. Although saying that, there was something to be said for efficiency as well.
Blinking, Zoe realized that she'd spaced out a little."Sorry. Just kinda tired."
And her training routine had perhaps been a little too rigorous since getting here. You couldn't keep reopening old wounds without a little fatigue setting in, but she didn't really seem to make the connection. Almost unconsciously, she picked at the bandages that were wrapped around her hands as she glanced away from the black-haired woman with a hint of slightly embarrassed laughter. "For what it's worth, I can't really imagine you changing your style that much. It's kinda your look at this point. Figured I may as well ask, though."“It’s alright. To be honest, I did thought to change style when I went shopping a few times at Crimen. But then again, I couldn’t decide what I could possibly wear. Like you said, it sort of became how I look.”
Angélique grew silent, her eyes drifting away from the empty road for only a second, curious as to what Zoe was fidgeting with. “I hope those aren’t the signs of someone who been too brutally beaten up.”
She joked lightly, tinged with a slightness of worry. She didn’t know if Zoe had been injured back in Washington, or if it was something that happened here. Hopefully it was nothing too serious. Angel hadn't been around the mansion enough to actually know everything that was happening with the others while she was gone.
Zoe's eyes widened with surprise as she stopped fidgeting. Okay, she probably should've paid more attention to what she was actually doing there. Still, she raised an eyebrow at Angel's statement, glancing down at herself and then to the singer. "Come on, you think anyone around here would be able to beat me up?"
Yeah, probably, but that didn't stop her bravado.
Her smile faded slightly as she experimentally opened and closed a fist, wincing at the slight pain that came with the motion. Problem with having cuts on somewhere that moved so much, she supposed. "It's a training thing. No need to worry about me, I've done it plenty of times before. You get used to it."
Her scars said as much.
She wasn't sure why it felt like she was admitting to doing something wrong. "Think we should stop soon? Don't wanna go too far in case the security get pissed."
Hoping that her answer would have satisfied her teammate's curiosity, she looked back out of the window.“I meant the poor bastards on the receiving end of those fists.”
Angel replied with a chuckle. She found it quite silly for her red-haired friend to continue putting up this tough-girl attitude. Still, she could somewhat understand where she was coming from. However, Zoe’s answer only made the raven-haired young woman’s brows furrow in response. She heard about bruises and small injuries that came with training, but the bandages around Zoe’s hands suggested she really did a number onto her fist. “Yeah sure we practice different fighting methods, but I don’t think training to the point of getting injuries like that is quite healthy.”
But it was quite apparent Zoe had her mind set upon the whole deal. If that was her way of doing things, Angel doubted trying to talk about healthy training habits would be acknowledged. Instead, she dropped the matter, her focus returning to the road before Zoe brought up a point. “Don’t worry, I’ve been asking around about my itineraries. Was told as long as I don’t leave the island, I’d be fine. Not that we can cross the ocean with this thing anyway. What, got ants crawling up your legs already?”
Angel was probably right about her training methods, but 'healthy' wasn't Zoe's priority. The more likely it was to break her down, the better. As for the travel, she knew they hadn't been going for that long, but... "I don't really sit around that much. My mind wanders. So to speak."
And the murder fantasies weren't good. Well, they were. But she didn't want them to be. It didn't help that she considered Angel a friend.
Despite wishing otherwise, a hint of something hungry seemed to cross Zoe's expression, blue eyes fixing on Angelique. Only for a second, though, as her eyes widened and she spoke apologetically. "You don't have to worry. It's not gonna be an issue today, I just--"
She sighed. "Told you before, right? Gets worse around people I like. Can't really help it."
There was that, and the fact that she didn't want to ask any painful questions while Angel was driving. "If you wanna keep going for a while, I think I'm gonna take a nap. So long's that's okay with you."
Assuming Angel wouldn't protest, Zoe sat back in her chair and closed her eyes. It didn't take long for her to nod off, her expression relaxing - more peaceful than any she'd wear when awake.
Angélique only nodded to Zoe’s reminder. But with everything that was happening, the newly appointed Siren could not tell if she was desperate enough for a talk to dismiss the looming danger Zoe represented, or if it was genuine suicidal thoughts. For now, the possibility of vanishing from the Black God’s touch didn’t faze the raven-haired Aberration.
Nodding slowly to a sleepy Zoe, Angélique turned the volume of the radio slightly down, as to make some peace and quiet for the red-haired Mage to relax and take a nap undisturbed. While the pale Aberration driver felt for Zoe’s more physically-active self, Angel felt like driving a bit longer, going further away from the mansion. She wanted to feel that sense of freedom a bit more.
Eventually, the car reached the northern end of the island, sitting high atop the cliffs that overlooked the ocean from above. The sun was high in the sky, suggesting it was a bit later after noon. Having reached her destination, Angélique however did not wake Zoe immediately after shutting the car’s engine. Instead, she gazed upon the redhead’s resting face. She looked so serene, so peaceful right now. Watching this softened expression that Angel never seemed to have seen in Zoe’s traits, a longing smile crept on the singer’s lips.
Deciding that Zoe might need the rest after all that happened, the Voice Mage reached for the rear seats, grabbing a cooler she had taken from the mansion just before leaving. Inside, she retrieved what seemed to be ingredients for making sandwiches.
If Angelique was listening, she'd hear Zoe beginning to mutter something. It wasn't the clearest thing in the world, but it would be easy enough for the musician to hear - the redhead was quite obviously talking in her sleep.
Whatever dream the girl was having, it was vivid. And not exactly pleasant. Not every word was said clearly enough to be audible, but it was probably enough for Angelique to get the idea. "...n't want... alone. I know... Should've been me... stronger. I'm sorry, just..."
There was a hint of desperation, her brow furrowed in distress. Fear, perhaps, that she refused to let show when she was awake. "Don't leave again."
It was also quickly becoming apparent that Zoe likely had no idea she did this - there was no way the girl would've fallen asleep near anyone, friend or not, if she knew how much vulnerability was showing right now.
As Angélique finished preparing her meal, she quickly turned to the mutterings of her sleeping friend. Paying no heed to her food, the raven-haired musician listened intently to the dreaming Aberration, her every words, her every expressions. It was tough to watch, mainly because everything that Angel was struggling within herself, it sort of reflected itself into the red-haired girl’s sleeping form.
It was said that, when sleeping, one’s subconscious was free to express itself. If that was the case, then Angélique figured that the muttering Zoe in front of her was probably the real Zoe, deep down inside, hidden under a layer of hardened and cold façade. This sudden revelation gripped Angel’s heart. Just how hard was Zoe on herself? How heavy were her burdens?
Angélique was so used to seeing a strong-willed and harsh Zoe, it came as a shock to witness that side of her. And yet, there was some strange sense to relief, happiness crawling through this scene. It showed that Zoe, despite her claims, cared just about as much as anyone, but wasn’t willing to show it. Finally, it confirmed Zoe wasn’t a complete monster.
After a while, the jet-black-haired Aberration couldn’t bear seeing her friend in that state. But she didn’t want to shake the girl off from her sleep just like that, fearing it might do more harm than good. Instead, Angel thought of something that eased her mind when she was young and distressed. Like a mother to her child, Angélique’s golden voice began filling the air. Loud enough to be heard, yet peaceful notes that would soothe tumultuous minds. Not exactly a lullaby, more drifting towards a ballade.
The melody seemed to at least calm Zoe slightly, a little of the previous tranquility returning to her expression, though her murmurs didn't quite cease. Her frown and fearful expression were at least less severe, eventually fading to a small, relaxed smile.
After a few minutes more peaceful slumber, however, she finally began to stir, sitting up and blinking sleep out of her eyes. Looking around with more than a little confusion, her eyes rested on Angelique. Her expression was slightly less guarded than usual, but certainly not to the level it had been while she was unconscious. Trying to shake off the last of the dreams that had distressed her. Though it wasn't as bad as usual."Angel?"
She was curious as to why the other girl would be singing, shooting her an amused grin. Blissfully unaware of what she'd just been doing, that much was obvious. Opening the door, she stepped out of the car to join Angelique, giving her a small if somewhat confused, smile. "You're... singing."
It sounded as though Zoe wanted to ask why, but wasn't sure if it was worth it. Maybe it was just a musician thing. She figured she'd seen a whole lot stranger.”Well, you knew I was a singer before, right? Even if there is no crowd, that doesn’t stop me from singing to myself from time to time.”
Angel mustered a half-assed smile while her eyes lowered to the lunch she was preparing. It was simply too embarrassing to tell Zoe that this corny singing was to help her waking up from her bad dreaming, even though Zoe had already figured Angel was a bleeding-heart type. Too embarrassing, and she didn’t know how well Zoe would take that.
Instead, Angélique kept her innocent smile and turned to Zoe, offering her the sandwich she was working on. “Are you hungry? I’ve made a lunch for the both of us. You’ve been napping for a few hours now.”"Uh, kind of. Thanks. Didn't realize I'd be out so long."
Accepting the sandwich, Zoe appeared to take Angel's explanation at face value. Yeah, must've been a musician thing. Looking around them, Zoe sighed. The view was pretty spectacular, and although being surrounded by ocean wasn't her favorite thing, being so far up made it far more bearable. Overall, it wasn't bad. "Here I thought I was the one looking out for you by coming along, and I've just been sleeping the whole time. Sorry about that. Guess you've had better company, huh?"
She chuckled, looking around the landscape. "If we're gonna wait around here for a while, may as well go find somewhere to sit. Or, I dunno, walk or something."
And as much as she wanted to just enjoy the moment, Zoe knew she'd have to speak to Angel properly soon.“Oh, don’t worry about that. You know, my grandfather used to tell me that if someone is sleeping in your car while you drive, then that means they trust you enough to entrust their safety to you.”
Angélique giggled playfully, trying to tease some sort of softness out of Zoe with that reminder. But in reality, she was thankful for Zoe’s words. It felt good to know that, despite what happened and the incoming talk they will be having, that Zoe was out here to look out after her. Perhaps that was the one thing that made this day bearable.
With a nod, Angel closed the sportscar’ trunk after grabbing two more sandwiches. There were plenty of rocks to sit onto, but ultimately Angel decided for the both of them to go walking. Zoe did mention earlier that she wasn’t good at sitting for too long. Might as well do things her way after Zoe gracefully indulged Angel’s driving fantasy. “But really, thank you for being here today. I… don’t know what I would be doing right now if you didn’t ask to join me earlier.”"You don't need to thank me for it."
Zoe wasn't sure what else to say to that. There were a few seconds of silence before she slowly shook her head. It wasn't any trouble for her to come along. And the statement on trust was... odd. Possibly because it felt true, even when many people would have had their trust broken by the singer's previous actions. But on some level, it made sense."You've given me plenty of second chances yourself. Least I can do is try and return the favour. Besides, we are friends, aren't we? Can't just have you sitting around miserable."
Just enough to make it clear Zoe wasn't unaware of what had happened in DC. But that didn't change that Angel had been at least partly responsible for getting her to stop driving the others away. "This morning - you said it wasn't a good day. There any reason for that, or is it just... what happened before?"
Testing the waters, though it appeared that Zoe was coming from a place of concern rather than anger. She knew as well as anyone what it was like to hate yourself for the things you'd done.
Even though Angélique knew exactly
what was wrong with her today, and knew eventually that question would come around, Angel still wasn’t prepared to actually answer this question. The silence somewhat explained a lot about how she felt, but it was only half of it. Did she really need to reveal to Zoe about the meaning of today? She didn’t want to bother the girl with something like that.
And yet, Zoe’s words struck true again at the mention of them being actual friends. Being a classmate was one thing, but hearing out the word ‘friend’ was a whole another matter. Probably something she heard a few people actually say. That in itself incited Angel to open her heart to Zoe. “It’s… complicated."
Angel finally managed to say, breaking her silence. She took a deep breath, obviously trying to gather all the courage in her heart to reveal the darkness that was plaguing her. “Truth is, yes. I still feel like I did a mistake back in Washington, no matter how hard I try to convince myself and the others what I did was for their own good.”
Another dead silence, her mouth quivering, her voice growing shaky “A-and today… it’s… it’s my birthday."
She felt like she could cry, but instead she tried to remain firm, strong, like Zoe had always showed her whenever she spoke. “I’ve never felt this lonely ever before.”
Zoe was surprised to see how shaken Angel was by all of this. Even more surprised to hear that it was her birthday. But as she saw how close the singer was to crying, what she felt was something familiar. Protectiveness, almost, a certainty that she didn't want to watch this girl destroy herself. Fuck, it was so familiar
. So, perhaps unexpectedly considering her usual aversion to physical contact, she drew Angel into a hug."Hey. You don't have to be strong right now."
Speaking softly, Zoe couldn't help but see herself in the older girl. Loneliness, fearfulness, a terrible blood-soaked mistake. They really were similar, weren't they? Similar, but not quite the same. Angelique hadn't crossed that line, not yet. The pain wasn't a part of her. "I promise you I have an idea of what you're going through. I know what it's like to think that everyone hates you. You're not a monster. You don't have to be, unless you choose to.""Angel, I don't want to watch you turn into me. And I'm not gonna stand by and let that happen."
She smiled, loosening her grip and taking a step back to try and meet the singer's eyes. There was fire in her gaze, a simple, steadfast determination. Her tone was firm, but remained gentle as she continued. "But you need to choose which path you're taking, 'cause I don't want to watch you tear yourself apart."
The sudden hug and soft tone in Zoe’s voice was all it took for Angel to lower her already-weakened guard. As she returned the barely taller girl’s embrace, her face buried itself on her shoulder, wet droplets of tears starting to wet her eyes. It was clear she tried holding herself back from sobbing her heart out, but she couldn’t hide the emotional liquid from reaching her cheeks. “I… need to be strong. I have to be strong.”
Angel muttered as Zoe pulled her out from their hug, wiping her tears away from her face. “I don’t know what I want, Zoe.”
Angélique paused, unsure how to exactly explain what was going on in her mind. “Back in Washington, all I wanted was to stop the Regulars from stoning us. I knew I had the powers to disable these people without killing them. Even if the world would come to hate me for attacking them, I wanted to protect the others.” “I was ready to shoulder that responsibility… even if I knew that would definitively fuel that reputation of a murderer I got from Montréal. I felt like if I had to become the monster they would fear, then the Regulars would not get in our way the next time we try to save people. But then… the leaked videos came in… and I was portrayed as a hero, instead of showing the disaster that made me a monster only a moment earlier. It… crushed my resolve. How can I live with what we’ve done back there while we are applauded as heroes? How can I be the person to pull the trigger when I’m supposed to be seen as someone good? I don’t want to hurt anyone… but I have to if I want to protect the others from the cruel injustice we are facing every day.”"Take it from the person that got the bad publicity, being condemned by the world doesn't help anyone. You think any regulars'll chill out when I'm around?"
Zoe sighed, struggling to find the words she needed. Angel wasn't the only one who'd screwed up before, she knew that all too well. "In Wisford. I just wanted to end the fight, just didn't want anyone else to get hurt. But I fucked up, hard. No-one died, but I caused more hurt than I had to. You did too. It wasn't necessary, not really.""I could lie to you and say it'll all be okay. But it won't. People have long memories, and some of them won't understand what you did. There was probably a better way. I get it, pulling the trigger, taking responsibility. This one's on you. But you've got a second chance, and that's a pretty rare thing. If you really want to pull the trigger... that's your choice. If you feel like have to do it for the others, then screw your reputation."
But for what it was worth, she was putting her faith in Angelique. "What you're supposed to be doesn't mean shit compared to keeping the others alive.""For now, if the world won't hold you responsible, then do it yourself. If you want someone to remind you what you've done, then remind yourself. You want a reason to fight, then you make one for yourself."
A pessimistic view of the world, but at the end of the day, you were the only person that would always be around. "I've got your back, for as long as you're here. And if the chance is there, I'll happily pull the trigger in your place."
After all, Zoe knew she was already seen by the world as a monster.
Angel remained silent as Zoe explained the path that was lying ahead of what Angélique was considering to take. A thankless existence, full of self-imposed burdens and hardships. Was that what Zoe had been carrying with her ever since she came into USARILN, perhaps before then even? Angel was a soul that was ready to accept sacrifice as a part of her life, if it came to protect her loved ones, but was she really ready to dismiss her humanity and be left to herself until she died, with only Zoe as her partner in crime and fellow monster? Was there any other way to be both?
A sentence the Aberration kept repeating in her head. She wanted to be there for the others, pull the triggers when others wouldn’t in order to make sure everyone stayed alive. But she yearned to be seen as someone reliable, someone heroic, someone that could change the world for a better one. She wanted Czernobog’s determination, Proteus’ strength, Gleipnir’s sound judgement, Time Scar’s optimism, and the people’s good grace. She wanted to rise as an Archangel and right her wrongs. “Isn’t there any other way to be both?”
Angel found herself wishfully repeating that aloud, even if she knew it probably wasn’t possible, as her eyes met Zoe’s. "I wish we wouldn't hurt ourselves like this, that you wouldn't torment yourself until driven mad by the burdens. I... don't want to see us wallowing in despair and end up...""Don't worry about me. I don't know if there's a way to be both, but..."
Zoe smiled sympathetically, but she didn't know how to walk that line. After a long moment of silence, she spoke again, quietly at first. "Just try not to be a monster, alright? I don't want that for you. Being like that, all you get is fear. Anger. Disgust."
A small, bitter smile."That's what people feel once they know what you really are."
This wasn't really advice; if anything it sounded far closer to a warning. "You'll never get a happy ending. Never be able to hope for redemption. Anyone that doesn't leave gets dragged down with you, and soon enough you'll find refuge in the pain. The smell of blood, the sound of screaming: They're sweet perfume and beautiful music."
And that was
monstrous, no matter how you looked at it."Because the battlefield is the only place that people like you are any good to have around, and you'll never have a place in peace. Not when the only thing you can do is hurt. People you care about as well as ones you don't."
At some point this had stopped being hypothetical, and she'd started describing herself. Calmly, as though it didn't bother her to think about what she was, who she'd become. As she spoke, she unwrapped the bandages from one hand, revealing her sliced-open knuckles."Even then it still won't be good enough to save everyone. Throwing away everything you are, everything you have the potential to be, won't mean you can always be there. So just-- think it through, Angel. That's all I'm asking."
There was pain in the look Zoe directed at Angel, both pain at voicing what she was and genuine hurt at the idea of being followed down that path. "If there is a way to do both, then I'll do my best to help you find it. You don't deserve to end up alone."Not like me.
But the last part went unspoken beyond a flicker of loneliness in her expression.
It was hard to listen to what Angel could only assume as Zoe describing her inner turmoil. While those were burdens she had started to fear carrying around, seeing the other Aberration's pain was exactly what had set the Voice Mage onto this path. She couldn't bear watching someone close to her fall down deeper into this abyss.
Zoe was strong, to still be standing in front of Angel and counsel her despite all she was putting herself through. She had the opportunity of not being alone into this, but yet tried so hard to convince her friend to not go through with this plan. Angelique had realized that, despite all the bad things Zoe did, she could only sympathize for the redhead, even start to admire her. But it was clear that Zoe didn't want this for her, and Angel didn't know if she wanted to hurt her friend by going against her wishes. "I... I promise I will. I just wish... that I could find my resolve back as easily as yours, and still find a way to become a better person."
Angel fell silent her eyes drifting between Zoe and the ocean. She had felt alone, but it had now dissipated when Zoe made it clear that she was there for Angel. But hearing her talk, the red-haired Aberration made it sound as if she had nobody to rely on herself. Angel wished to be at least that one person Zoe could find the comfort of not being alone. "Zoe... I don't want you to be alone as well. I know that you already chose what you'd become and that you deserve it, but please, you don't have to be lonely. If you don't want me to follow you, then at least let me stand by you and watch your back. I want you to know that I'd be there if no one would."
Akin to Zoe before, Angel reached for the younger red-haired young woman and wrapped her arms around her for a warm hug. Thinking back to the words Zoe muttered in her sleep, Angelique found in herself some resolve to provide her friend a small shelter against the consuming darkness, or at least try to assuage it. "If I can ease your fears and your pain, or at least just brush off this loneliness, I'll be there for you, just like how you are here for me. It's the least you deserve. It's the least I can do to prevent you from completely falling." "...Thank you."
Zoe had instinctively tensed up a little at being hugged without warning, listening to Angelique's words with a hint of doubt. To keep her from falling? I think it might be too late for that.
Nonetheless, after a moment's thought, she relaxed and returned the hug. There couldn't be too much harm in letting someone care for now. Maybe it would be fine to have someone that knew a little what she was actually dealing with. Even if it was only what Zoe had just old her. That, and she wasn't sure how many people would have Angel's back right now either.
And at least Angel hadn't tried to pretend Zoe was wrong. Knew that she'd made her choices, that she'd resolved herself to them, that she wasn't undeserving of the burdens she carried. It was hard to believe that the other aberration had offered to help anyway, that she wouldn't turn her back. And maybe, deep down, Zoe had needed to know someone would be there when they saw what she really was."Second chances, right?"
For both of them. A small smile, feeling closer to losing her composure than she had been in a long while. It was hard to remember the last time someone had offered to look out for her, not without trying to change who she was. And Zoe knew, deep down, that Angel's task would be just as - if not more painful than hers. But in that moment, Zoe felt like they might be okay, if only for a little while. There were a lot of things she could have said. But it wasn't the time for them anymore.
After a moment, she chuckled affectionately. "Happy birthday, rockstar."