|Part 2: Rooftop Revelations|
You climb out the window and on top of the roof of the UR. It's an ordinary roof...although you notice lots of make-shift repair holes spread about in many different places. It slopes down on both sides as would a normal roof, but not to steep, so that you can sit and look out across the great view of the city and even the ocean.
Fading in from the shade, Samantha remains kneeling, her light grip on the maniac reflexively loosened as they began to move. It may be her first moving under his power, but a lifetime's experience being relocated in various ways... well, it all adds up eventually. She does take a moment to glance about, removing her attention from Johnny briefly to cast an initially curious eye over the location. It quickly turns to a glance of wry amusement, and the gentlest of smirks tweaks at her mouth. "Coulda been worse," she notes. She half expected to end up in Hell. The humour is short-lived, pushed aside as she turns back to her friend and sprawls backward, lithely bending her legs up and around one another, straightening her back and resting her elbows against her knees. She shakes her head at NNY's closing question, answering the rhetoric with a shrug, "Weather's... chaotic, like always. I've stopped being surprised when things get worse. Whether this makes me a better person, or a mental wreck, I got no idea. What I do know is that we're not being followed through time an' space. Benedict got his tail kicked just like we reckoned he had. This isn't about him, Johnny, or what he did to you. Coz, when it comes down to it?" She focuses on her friend's eyes, her own wide and frank as she lifts a hand from her lap, jabbing a thumb gently back into her solar plexus. "This is about me. Who I was, who I am, and what I can do. Y'know," she smiles, though it's a sad, lilting expression, "If I'd stopped to think a long time ago, we could've avoided a lot of our problems."
Johnny points his finger into the air and twirls it. "Whooo, and if I had stopped to think before the voices in my head made me realize I needed to I would be back in the City screaming about demons coming up out of my floorboards while I tried in vain to figure out why the grass never grew in my front yard." He lifts his head up enough to gaze at Samantha and figure out where she's sitting. "Look, I don't fucking care if it's about you or me, or whatever. It's tiring." His head falls back with a thump. "Nothing stays dead that should, and the things that do don't seem to matter in the long run. It's like being the center of attention in a story about going to the bathroom. Even though it should be nothing out of the ordinary you suddenly have blood dripping from the walls and your bathtub is speaking to you in French." He sighs loudly before pushing himself up into a sitting position. "I fucking hate those stuck up, French bathtubs. Makes me impulsively want to fill them with Jello or something just to watch them choke to death." Suddenly Tenna makes sense. o_O; "Wait, what are we talking about again?"
A soft snort sounds from the young woman at Johnny's immediate reply. It's true that for such a mismatched pair, one of the traits they do share is the ability to screw up by using - or failing to use - their brains at the wrong moments. It's become harder for Samantha to leaves hers off in recent times, and once more the jury remains out on whether this is an improvement or otherwise. Risk and reward have never stuck to a common pattern... But active brainwaves or not, she manages to drift off a little during the ranting that ends out the maniac's speech. Her ears twitch atop her head as he comes to, her own role in the conversation suddenly re-engaging in a manner most jarring. "Uh... bidets with custard?" She ventures, staring at him for a moment before reaching up to smooth back a mussed lock of ebon hair. Blinking a couple of times, she almost-smoothly shifts back to the subject at hand. "If things stayed dead like they should, I'd've been gone a long time ago. And so would you." Her fingers have kept toying with her hair, spinning it around and tugging it straight. They pause now, a single digit lifting dextrously toward Johnny, "For what it's worth, I'm kinda glad that hasn't happened. You're here, I'm here. Life can suck, but it's a hell of a lot better than eternal damnation." Her nose wrinkles in sudden distaste, "Pun not intended. Anyway," she sighs, mustering back that weary smile, "Benedict. Cassandra. Wanna know a secret?" She doesn't wait for an answer, settling her hands back in her lap and leaning slightly forward, "I spent a lot of time alone, talking to myself. But in some ways, I'm never really alone. I couldn't feel him, but I could feel her. Her life, her mind, her memories..." She tails off, draws and releases a breath, and her expression brightens even as it gains a distinct edge of confidence. "In fact, I'm pretty sure I can still use what she gave me. Have you ever had a revelation about yourself? Realised somethin' you should've realised your whole life?"
Johnny listens quietly, nodding his head and smirking at the comment about being glad death hasn't come yet. Her final question leaves him thinking however as the maniac glances around at the landscape surrounding them, "Yeah. I can say I have. More than once, and I know ALL about sitting alone for waaaay too long. I think you'd like my cave back on Chronos." He sighs realizing he's straying from the conversation again. "But yeah… um… so what have you realized? Aside from the ability to stop me from destroying a city…" His voice lowers and a grin stretches across his mouth, "…which was actually pretty damn cool until you stopped me," Johnny's voice returns to normal, "…what else? Maybe you realised that you have the worst taste in friends and want to use me to experiment God-fearing power on?" Pausing, he tugs at his jacket collar. "I'm game for that. Won't be the worst thing I've done this year."
Samantha tips her head and breathes a laugh in acknowledgement to that. It probably isn't the worst thing the maniac has done, though she tries not to linger too heavily on what exactly his new duties entail. It's hard to treat such a thing lightly given the last seeming-eternity. Her sapphire blue eyes flash momentarily, and her tail slaps once against the rooftop, a gesture expressing something between impatience and playful annoyance. "Firstly, I thought the /way I stopped you/ was pretty cool. Which, incidentally, does have something to do with what I'm about to tell you. Secondly?" She flashes a grin, "Don't you dare badmouth my friends. Prince of Hell or not, I c'n still take you down. Which, incidentally..." She lets that blank fill itself with her earlier words, rolling her gaze off to one side during the pregnant pause. Looking back to Johnny with a toss of her head, she lifts one hand, betraying no other sign of effort as a searing white blaze encompasses her pale fingertips. A shiver does run up her body as she allows the power to spread; tremulous, near-transparent ripples echoing up and down her arm. The myriad of cuts marring her flesh begin to close seamlessly, skin growing to replace that which was lost. Bloody stains remain, but the injuries are otherwise gone when the display ends. "I always thought I had a birthright," she rejoins in a slightly husky voice, tone somewhat distance for a second or two before it returns to normal, "But it turns out I got somethin' neither of my folks had. When I think about what I've done in the past, it makes a lot of sense. What I just did," she nods at her hand, rolling it around idly in the air, "That was her, but only because she left a little bit of herself behind. What I realised is, I'm pretty sure I can manipulate energy." There's a beat as it dawns on her; that sounds obvious. With a laugh, she elaborates, "/Any/ energy. You saw me do it again just now. I'm not saying it doesn't take practice, but..." Her shoulders lift in a shrug that is far from careless. "Neat, huh?"
Johnny headtilts at the display. Honestly he expected her to be attacking him and a slight wave of disappointment washes over him as the confusion sets in as to what's just happened. Even still he nods his head in agreement and hops back to his feet, standing over her as he ponders. "Huh…. That's kinda…" He trails off, crossing his arms and shaking his head, "I sorta wanna ask if that statement goes for the shit that old dagger draws in, but after what happened last time I handed you one? No thanks." The maniac scratches the back of his head and turns his back to the girl, looking off at a random direction. "Damnit, why do you have to be so good at getting my curiosity up? Y'know, I think that's half our problem right there." It's true. How many times has something bad happened because Samantha wanted to show off some new ability? "Hmmm…" Yeah, that's it. He has nothing more to add yet.
"It goes for everything." She actually states that with a fair certainty, though her eyes do append the silent qualifier - that this is only a theory for now. "I mean, even on my pop's world there were precious few people whose chi manifested in more than one way. I've always been able to structure it however I wanted to. Magic's a little different, so far, but that might only be the way I've been approaching it. This completely changes the way I think about myself - I used to think I pushed my own limits. If I can contain an' manipulate /anything/ then I might not have even come close." Shaking her head again, she moves to stand up, doing so without aid from her hands - a flex of the legs carrying her to her feet with a satisfied sigh. A few straying steps take her to the edge of the rooftop, and she glances down across Twisted before turning back toward Johnny, watching him past a fine, silky curtain as a dull wind catches her hair, "I'm glad you're curious, coz there's a few things I wanna try. Whatever happened downstairs a few minutes ago, I feel like I'm in control of this power," she indicates the closed gash at her abdomen, resting a gloved palm upon it, "It's strong, and getting even close to that point has been a struggle, but I've got the ability if I can keep my head straight. The thing is, the way I understand any form of energy, it all links back to something else. It has to." She tips her head to one side, lifting a hand to her brow to keep the hair from her eyes, "If I've kept a shade of Cassandra, I could have a piece of every source I've ever channelled. My body, or my spirit could remember even if my mind doesn't. Everybody I've fought or been healed by, and every world I've been to. If I can harness all of that... what /can't/ I do?"
Johnny shrugs his shoulders at the question, his eyes implying he's not paying as much attention as he should be. "I dunno… you can't make a very good burrito. I let you try once and the damn thing was frozen in the middle." Wait, when did that happen? "So what if your right? What if everything you said was true. I thought this talk was something more substantial than this. From the way I saw it some very heavy, dark shit just went down and your telling me it's nothing to worry about. You tell me we need to talk and I get it all psyched in my head that some other serious fucking shit is about to go down, and here you are making me think that it's just a minor side effect of all the shit you've been through. Y'know, maybe it is. Maybe it was." He turns away from her again, pacing around the rooftop as he rants. "Maybe it's not enough, y'know? It's like I expect to get in a fight whenever I see you again, even though I've spent the last 65-something billion years LITERALLY waiting for you in that goddamned cave!!" He pauses long enough to see her expression before continuing, "I wrote you off, do you know that? I tried to convince myself that none of that back in Metropolis ever happened. It ALMOST worked too, at least until you just show up out of nowhere and I get stuck having to see myself KILLING you… AGAIN. Three times now? Seriously?!?" He stops pacing and sighs, crossing his arms again. "Remember when we used to only fight ourselves and the rest of the time we hung out in the UR making fun of ourselves for it?" Johnny forces a smirk, "I miss those days..."
Samantha listens quietly at first, her own question hanging in the air over her head. It wasn't as rhetorical as it sounded - if pushed, she would have to admit that she came out with this seeking approval. Asking that her revelation be accepted, in spite of what has occurred, and what still might if she presumes to tap into forces she would never have previously believed herself capable of understanding. Ambition can be a dangerous thing. It also makes her heated, draws a flush to her pale cheeks as Johnny begins to frantically stalk the roof. She opens her mouth with a gasped, "I-", the sentence cut off before it can begin. By her, by him; either way, she goes speechless. Her mouth remains open as that incredible admission comes. It cuts her reaction in half, leaving only the eyelids to bat as that statement attempts to sink into a flustered awareness. They only do so three, maybe four times, before she simply stares at her friend, as equally incapable of calculating the accompanying rush of emotion as she is at preventing it. Devastating and heartwarming, touching and horrifying... her heart quickens in her breast even as her raised hand slumps from her brow, a numb shudder dispelled with the weak tightening of a fist. She misses the second statistic, and is still stuck in a silent stammer when Johnny's note of reminiscence serves to bring her staggering forward into the present. She turns suddenly on the spot, heels shrieking a high protest on the roof's surface as she turns away to look to the horizon, hiding the tears that spring into her eyes. "I remember..." It's a breath on the wind. With a tight swallow she forces her voice to raise, but is unable to look back over her shoulder as she echoes his earlier words with a painful, desperate attempt at consolidating reality. "Did you really spend that long caring about me? I..." She tries to laugh, but succeeds only in making an unattractive choking sound. "You're makin' that up, right?"
Johnny blinks. His face showing genuine confusion. "Huh? Making what up?" The fun thing about the maniac is that he genuinely doesn't listen to himself. So no matter how anyone else just took the speech he gave just seconds before, he didn't take it that way. "Um… your… my friend? I made a promise to your father…" His eyes shift nervously from side to side trying to grasp whatever point he's just missed. "…hell, I've been dead how long? I didn't even notice the time passing by. That's why I kept making paintings and sculptures… Plus, I guess it was kinda neat watching the world go by around you." His eyes narrow now as he tries to reroute his tired brain back on track, "…but yeah. I… I waited for you. That bitch of a Goddess said you where going to be there and I didn't want anything to happen to you. I guess after awhile I got smart and gave up, which is when I ended up here. Clearly that was the smart thing to do since you showed up -here- after that." He runs a hand through his hair, wondering about the logic and/or sanity involved in his decision making process. "…I guess that's why I was okay making Tabitha, even if I was just trying to get to Sun somehow at the time. It felt nice having someone like you around again, but it was more me than you so I guess that doesn't count…" He frowns again. There was a point he was making with this somewhere. "Shit. Y'know in hindsight I'm a fucking idiot. I used to kill people for acting like this."
Sixty five billion years. Never mind the extraneous 'something', it's not a period of time the young woman can properly comprehend. Compounding the shock of the revelation is the implication that her own mental state was produced over a similar tenure served in the depths of Hades. Was it so long? Did she think of Johnny for that long? Of anybody? It's impossible to rationalise her memories over so long. But not to feel guilt for the fact. She recognises the impulse as a nonsense, and tries to suppress it, but this leaves only the touching fact that this former murderer, this man with everything to regret in his own life, has obsessed over her... for an age. She draws back the threat of tears, and watches him with a spreading smile, drawing up her chin as she keeps her gaze on him, listening intently. His frustration could make no more sense to her now. "Acting like what?" She echoes his last, voice soft though not subdued, "Like somebody who cares for their friends? Someone who feels deeply? Emotion's nothin' to be ashamed of, Johnny..." She turns back to face him properly, dropping her arms about her midriff and leaning back into the soothing wind whipping up off the edge of the roof. "I'd say I'm sorry, but I know you'd ask me why. I couldn't answer that. So," she nods slowly, the edges of her mouth curling back up in grateful pleasure, "I'll say 'thank you' instead. I told ya what I thought of Tabitha before, and I guess I can't deny it makes me feel pretty wretched - but I believe you acted outta something real and beautiful. Whatever harm you meant to Sun," she notably does not append the -chan honorific, and her voice does not tremor in the slightest, "Y'know what? I believe she might've deserved it." "But," she hesitates, momentarily sucking in her lower lip, "No, it doesn't matter. Look, while you waited for me, I wasn't always dead. Cassandra told you I'd be there? Then maybe I /was/." She cants her head to one side, peering curiously at Johnny, her sapphire eyes shining, "I... I was reborn, placed somewhere else as someBODY else. My name was Lee Truart, an' though I started out as a wanderer I picked up a job as a mercenary. Working for a nation called Porre. I don't remember if the world had a name, I don't think I cared where I was - I was a killer, plain and simple. But I remember fighting Guardia. I remember a band of heroes led by a man named Crono. Does any o' that sound familiar?"
Johnny's head simply turns to the side in a show of further confusion. It's okay, he's used to being confused. Bringing the subject back around to times past puts a grin on his face that grows wider with each additional familiar name. "That's it!! That's it exactly!! Emi an' me made that world!!" He actually giggles a little. "There was a cliff in North Zenan overlooking the canyon they built the Guardia Fairgrounds in. That's where my cave was!!" 3, 2, 1… click. The rest of the conversation clicks in his mind and the moment is ruined. His face falls as the maniac dead-pans. "Wait… so you WHERE there." Reaching into his pockets a moment forces him to frown. "SHIT!! NOOO!! ARRRRRAAAAH!!! I lost the ring Cale gave me to find you with!!" Well, not so much 'lost' as 'threw it away as he stepped onto Twisted'. With a heavy sigh he moans, "…I never got to see what it did when you where around… maybe I read it wrong the whole time." Wow, he's really upset. Frightening.
Samantha is a little taken aback by the ferocity of feeling where Cale's ring is concerned. Her expression practically screams; 'hey, er, you found me? Right here?' though she says nothing for a few moments, merely letting out a soft snicker and a playful wrinkle of her nose. She doesn't appear to be perturbed by this discovery, overall, so much as enthused. Her expression is practically growing, removing some of the years from her face. Realising this isn't too helpful to Johnny, she draws and releases a breath, rolling her shoulders as she gives a consolitary shrug. "Maybe it didn't find me because it /couldn't/ find me. I wasn't myself any more. For one thing, I was human, and for another..." she gives a small shudder, "I was /horrible/. Like all the worst parts of myself took over; the bloodlust, the hatred, all the stuff that's normally tempered by guilt and balanced by every positive emotion there is. About the only thing I could say to recommend Lee Truart was that she had a sense of humour." She pauses, and laughs, "A dark, dark sense of humour. Man, I could tell ya some stories... but maybe another time, huh? It's not exactly reunion-quality stuff. I've been learnin' to take my alcohol, so maybe we can go out sometime and trade legends of our dark and grim pasts." Flamboyance has crept into her tone, with a chirpy edge much like the Sammy of old. She can't deny it feels good to know her life - her lives - all weave together so intricately, whether or not it's the doing of a meddlesome deity. The fact remains that every other coincidence, each parallel line, has been part of the mere fabric of life. No matter Cassandra's opinion of herself, even she must play by the same principles. "Hm." Something dawns on the catgirl, her tail suddenly lashing behind her, ears flicking downward. She looks at the rooftop, and then back up to Johnny with a curved eyebrow, "Maybe now's not the time to ask, but shouldn't we have unfinished business? I've met with your boss a couple of times, an' I don't think he's exactly happy that I'm runnin' around. We sort of had a deal, once, and... well. The fact is, I still oughtta be down /there/." She jabs a thumb down toward the ground, driving her intent a lot deeper and expressing this with the harsh enunciation of the syllable. It's obvious what she means. "I didn't wanna pile on the bad news here, but I'm guessin' you're always on-duty...?"
One of Johnny's eyes go wide while the other narrows. He looks up at the sky, down at the ground and hmmm's. Suddenly the sky is blotted out as the shadows raise up from the ground. The skyline of Twisted is literally twisted into a nightmarish landscape full of demons and the sounds of people suffering. Behind them rises up a large throne seemingly made of bone, but warm to stand beside as if it was somehow alive. Johnny seems to fall into his own shadow, rising up again from the seat of the throne from which he pulls out a heavy bound tome and starts flipping through pages. Behind Samantha a group of armored demons begin to gather, preventing her from leaving the courtyard of the city of Dis. One will try to come up to her directly, placing a heavy set of chains on her wrists as Johnny produces a pair of goggles and pulls them over his eyes. "You'll have to forgive me, this way was fastest." He doesn't even bother looking up as he continues to flip through the book, his tongue hanging out in the process as he concentrates.
A weight settles upon Samantha's shoulders as the landscape changes. She can almost smell the suffering; and there's no denying a return to the dominion of Hell causes her hackles to rise. The last time she was here, she had fought life and limb for weeks upon end, falling in the 'day' to endless hordes only to crawl away, recover and resume the battle. It's a hazy memory, and indeed how much is real and what she has created is up for dispute. But therein lies the essence of the realm; it is not what is, but what could be. The true vision does not matter when the mind's eye and the spirit's dreaming can paint a much more vivid picture. Still, one does not walk through the valleys of suffering without learning how to cope. Though she is wide-eyed and off-guard initially, the dawn of realisation brings a surge of inner strength, and the young woman is ready for the shackles that fall about her wrists. They burn, and strive to drag her down, but she surges against them, allowing the bolts to seal before she enters an agile, sudden flip heavenward. Her captor may boast near twice her height, but her strong thighs settle about his shoulders in an instant, and she wrenches herself into a seated position, drawing the thick chain about his black, corded neck. The expected snap does not come - but sapphire eyes meet dead, buglike ones as his roll back to stare levelly at her. Daring her, cajoling her to act. "Forgiven!" She chimes through gritted teeth to the maniac, her arms rippling with toned muscle as she tightens her grip, watching her peripherals for an approach from the other creatures before settling her gaze upon Johnny. "I gave you the right to judge me. Do what you gotta do, an' I'll do the same. Though y'know, maybe, secretly," she grins, wide and feral, "I missed fighting /you/ too."
Johnny grins at Samantha's words even as his annoyance at the book grows from a certain name seemingly missing. "Y'know what? Fuck it." The book is literally flung over his shoulder as the maniac grips the arms of the chair and leans forwards to look down at his friend. "SAMANTHA LI-BOGARD!" He blinks, "Whoa. Li-Bogard? Like, not a middle name but a hyphen? Nifty!" A common side effect of being on the council is the ability to call people's names off the top of his head. The maniac shakes his head. "As Lord of the Demon Cities, Judge of Retributions and one seventh-Council, I hereby sentence and condemn you to an evolving punishment of my own choice, to be altered as I see fit from this day further and you shall henceforth be placed under my supervision until such time as I deem your punishment has been served." His eyes go wide and he glances around the courtyard expectantly. No lightning? No one trying to argue his judgment? He smiles moronically, his tongue falling free of his lips once again. "…and may whatever Gods we believe in have mercy on our souls…" The shackles fall from her wrists, the demons step back. Johnny cautiously hops down from the throne and watches them carefully, expecting something horrible to happen. Trying to keep his cool about himself he walks up to his friend, gripping her wrist should she let him. "O-okay then… off we go…" The landscape melts away, returning to the rooftop of the Usual Restaurant once more. Johnny lets out a HUGE sigh of relief and grins. "I didn't actually expect that to work!" Maybe it still hasn't… time will have to decide upon that one.
And just like that, her grip slackens, along with her jaw. The demon gives an uncaring grunt and makes a cursory attempt to dislodge Samantha; and though she has the presence of mind to maintain a hold with her legs, she is otherwise preoccupied with staring moronically at her old friend. However, somewhere along the line her expression moves from dumbfounded amazement to a dizzyingly heady amusement, and when the demon shrugs again, attempting to flick off the (admittedly potentially lethal) pest and get back to his friends, she leaps off with a peal of exuberant laughter. "Did you just...?" The question dies as she allows her wrists to be seized, the marks of the shackles already fading as the image around them ripples and shifts. The noted 'maybe' hangs in the air, and lingers at the back of her own mind, but it goes unheeded for the moment as the catgirl laughs again, and actually throws her arms about Johnny - before having the presence of mind to push herself away with a sheepish throwback of both hands. "Sorry! But I had no idea you could /do/ that." She stares at him a moment, mouth halfway open and hands clapping to her hips, before she adds, "What I was gonna suggest was that you help me get outta this place and lie low for a while, but on the other hand..." She lifts one hand from it's perch, cracking her knuckles with the vigorous clenching of a fist, peeling off a devil-may-care half-grin. "What I said down there wasn't entirely wrong. I'm kinda curious to know how good y'can get in sixty five billion years, or whether all this age and power has made you rusty. Building worlds? Ruling Hell? That's one thing. But you've still never beaten me fair an' square in a straight fight. Wanna blow this place off and show me your moves?"
Johnny cackles manically. "One way or the other I think I'm gonna have to pay for that one day!" The maniac takes a step back and runs his hands through his hair. "I think I may have to take up you up that challenge, but first I gotta say… remember back when the two of us ended up laying on the street and you asked me to 'judge' you?" The word still sounds like a rotten piece of meat caught in his mouth after all these years. "I meant what I said that night. It's the only reason I held on this long." He shrugs, "You an' me are either going to go down in a blaze of glory or slowly walk off into nothingness when the time comes, and God-damn anyone else who believes otherwise. Until then, like Hell am I going to sit back and not do what I can to fuck the system over if someone tries to make us do something else." He pauses to take out his old dagger and twirl it at his side. "And with that said, you lead the way this time. Every time I end up as the leader we end up lost somewhere or one of us ends up crying. I'm not in the mood to be emo today."