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A Friendly Luncheon [IC]


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Ace waited patiently at The Grill, trendy midtown eatery catering to the next generation of Wading Way bigwigs. It was a nice place good food, and more importantly buisness casual attire and not so busy that they'd be rushed out of their table.

He was glad Stesha had agreed to meet him she had clearly been distraught over Moiras disapearnace, and Ace wanted to make sure she was doing ok. The meeting the previous day had seemed to do more harm than good in that regard and despite the closeness they aparently shared Ace could not imagine Dark Star being particularly warm and comforting on such an issue.

Though truth be told he also had concerns about her relationship with Jack, it certainly seemed he was unsavory and while that was all well and good when you knew what you were getting into Taylor did not seem the type to go for that.

So Ace waited for his young friends arrival with much on his mind.

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She had to run two blocks to do it, but Stesha arrived at the restaurant right when she'd said she would for once. One nice thing about the superheroing gig was that it was really starting to get her into shape. It had been a busy morning, but her boss had been more than happy to scoot her off early for lunch in order to talk to a very lucrative potential client. Stesha wasn't quite so sure she was ready to talk to Ace again, but putting it off probably wasn't going to make it any better. Besides, he might have information about Moira, and she wasn't going to risk missing it.

The maitre d' led her to the table where Ace was waiting and pulled out her chair for her. She thanked him and sat down. Today Stesha was wearing the same sort of professional clothes she'd worn on her first visit to his home, but today she was wearing a little more makeup and the small roses in her green hair were looking a bit droopy. "Hello, Ace," she told him, giving him a polite smile. "I hope I didn't make you wait."

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"You're well worth waiting for my dear." Ace had made sure to be early so she would not have to wait knowing such surroundings might be uncomfortable for her alone. His smile was warm and his demeanor calm.

"I'm glad you could make it at all." he said welcomingly. He spoke briefly to the waiter ordering wine and apetizers, "I suggest the duck," He said then consideringly for a moment, "the Vegetarian quiche is also good if thats more your speed."

"So how are you holding up? You seemed pretty rattled yesterday." He inquired kindly.

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"Ah, the duck sounds fine, thank you," she told the waiter, unfolding her napkin and putting it in her lap. She was still unused to sitting down and being served in places like this, rather than delivering arrangements for parties, but good manners never went out of style, as her mother said. "I'm all right," she told Ace, mustering up more of a smile than she felt. "I'm worried about Moira, but at least I feel like we're doing something for her. I know it's going to take time, I just can't help wondering if she's all right. I've been... I spent some time last night studying Greek mythology. It didn't make me feel much better," she admitted. "Have you been able to find anything out?"

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Ace let the little lie pass for the time being, "I was able to contact my associate, She is looking into the matter but it may take a bit. She would have a different name amongst them that would need to be invoked."

He paused a moment examining Stesha, "We will find a way to bring her back if thats her desire. If not, well I think you have more friends of quality than you giver yourself credit for." He offerd her a small smile and pointed to himself breifly, "Even if for some the quality is rather dubious."

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Stesha's face fell, making her reach for her water glass to take a sip and make sure she was going to keep it together. "I know she wants to come back," she told him. "She told me she couldn't live without her mortal family here. Me, Angel, and you too, she mentioned. I know it means something to her, even with whatever they're trying to do to her. I worry that they'll try to make her forget, so she won't know why she didn't want to go in the first place. They're not good people, gods, whatever. And I really do appreciate you and everyone else for dropping everything and coming to help yesterday. I know you're doing everything anyone could possibly do, and that I couldn't ask for anyone better. But it's still hard not to worry."

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Ace sighed, "She has some very good reasons to come back. I have little doubt that she does want to eventually. The question is whether or not they manage to convince her that she can come back later." He explained then waved off the rather depressing thought.

"Gods have great power but not unlimmited. Free will and choice are throughout every religion something that the gods can not touch. That is from my understanding largely due to the pact. They may try to twist her but in the end all they have is words." Ace smiled a wicked grin, "And I happen to be very good at words."

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"They made her believe them once," Stesha said worriedly, twisting her glass in her fingers. "They made her believe she didn't have any choice but to go to them, and that no one could help her. That's why she didn't tell anyone ahead of time, I think, because she didn't want us to worry about what she didn't think we could do anything about. Maybe if we can talk to her, we can convince her that's not true. If anyone can do it, you can," she said, something that was simple fact more than flattery. "But the Greek pantheon is so tricky. I don't think they'll let us talk to her if they can help it at all."

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"The Olympians are tricky this is true, however they are also fractious and spitefull." Ace said with a grin. "It woudln't take much to get them fighting amoungst themselves as to where she belongs."

Ace had already in fact begun a studdy of likely candidates to stand against her staying, after all any power she gained was taken form some one else and these days there just wasn't much to go around.

"So worries aside, are you doing ok?" His tone was kindly and surprisingly open, "You were clearly very upset about many things. Felling better?"

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Stesha hesitated a moment, but it was hard not to open up to Ace, at least a little. She made a seesawing motion with her free hand, smiling a little ruefully. "I won't say it's been a great day, but I'm doing all right. I shouldn't have called Jack in on things yesterday. You were right that we didn't make a very good showing of ourselves. But it's easier to deal with that sort of thing with distance and perspective and not actually having to talk to the person you don't like."

She sighed. "And he did come when I asked, I have to give him that much. I have a lot bigger things to worry about right now. I think I owe you an apology for dragging that whole thing out when I didn't have to. I think I was madder at him than I realized. But if he can help get Moira back, maybe that evens things out, at least a little. Seeing him with Taylor makes me worry, but I don't know if it's any of my business. And if we're trying to get gods to squabble, we can't be doing too much of it amongst ourselves, I guess."

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"Well far be it from me to comment on others lifestyles but I will say that regardless of what has come before you comported yourself with far more dignity than he managed." Ace said while laying a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"Frankly the man thinks hes a far better liar than he is and its goign to catch up with him one of these days." He confided materof factly. "As for Taylor you should warn her at least for your own sake. Even if she doesn't listen. You'll feel much worse if something bad does come of it and you didn't at least try." Ace shrugged as he fell silent leaving it to Stesha to decide if she needed to talk further about that.

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"I've been thinking about that," Stesha admitted, studying the ice in her glass. "It's just one more thing to worry about, I guess. I probably will call her and talk to her, because I owe her an apology too. I know it made her upset, and she was already upset. I don't even know if I understand why," she admitted. "I mean, I know she's a guardian of dimensions, but Moira's not a criminal, and she wasn't doing anything wrong. She's a hero, she helps save people! And she was taken out of this dimension, against her will. I don't see why Taylor would get in trouble for helping us get Moira back, just because she gets her powers from having birth parents who happen to be gods, rather than all the different ways the rest of us get into it."

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"Well hopefully that question at least wil be answered when Taylor finishes her reasearch." Ace said simply.

He was uncertain of wether or not to bring up details but figured Stesha already knew far more damning things about Taylor/Phantom.

"Its not an easy job she has and its not so much cop as INS agent." He explained, "Hopefully Taylor will be able to ascertain how and why Moira was allowed to be here in the first place. From there we can find the justifacation for bringing her back in such a way that she'll actually stick around."

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"But other heroes come from other dimensions," Stesha protested. "That's what everyone says about the Centurion, that he came here from another dimension and that's why he had the powers he did. They can't all get sent back. She has to find a way to bend the rules. It's like you were saying the other week, Freedom City needs all the heroes it can get. I don't think Mount Olympus needs one more goddess who's really mostly human anyway." She sighed and fell silent as their wine and appetizers were served, then picked at her food with her fork. "It just doesn't seem fair. There are enough bad guys trying to get into this world to keep Taylor busy all the time. You'd think no one would mine a good guy living here."

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"I don't claim a perfect understanding of Taylors duties but from what I have gathered I think there is a sumbstantial difference between parralel dimensions, like where centurion came from, and the realms of gods and demons." Ace said with a shrug.

"The pact was forged by man to keep the meddling of the gods from wreaking havok on humanity, it certainly isn't perfect but on a metaphysical level we can't pick and choose." Ace explained. He looked thoughtfull for a moment, "The pact however isn't enforced by Taylor alone, there are others who ensure that its rules are followed, and there are parts of it that literally can not be violated."

"The gods direct entry to this realm is one of those rules, which means that the Moira you know and love is allowed to be here." Ace said with a gentle smile, "The real question is if we can undo whatever changed that, and to a degree if she'll want us too."

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"I guess it really is pointless to just keep worrying and worrying about it now," Stesha agreed. "We're doing everything we can, and Moira is strong-willed enough that if there's any way she can help from her side, I'm sure she's doing it." She managed a smile that, though it was small, was more genuine than the others she'd had that day. "I'm really glad you're here and helping," she told Ace. "You can cut through all the other stuff, and make it easier to see what I actually should be focused on. And I think you must know everybody in the city, even more than Moira does."

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"I've had a bit more time to make friends." Ace replied with a sly grin. "I'm happy to help Stesha, I'll admit I didn't know Moira well, but she certainly seems to have at least one good reason to come back, that might well be enough." He said looking into Steshas eyes. "You're a good friend Stesha, and I'm glad to be able to call you one."

It was true, of all of them it was really only Stesha who was doing any of this just for Moira.

He glanced up as their lunch arrived, and thanked the waiter as he set it on the table before them.

"So," He began to ask, "How are things between you and Dark Star? He's not upset with your past I hope, paragons of morality can be a bit unforgiving of us regular folks." Moving the topic easily to what he was fairly certain was happier ground.

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Her face fell again at that, though she tried to hide it by concentrating on her food for a minute. It really was delicious, even if her stomach felt even less like eating than usual. "He's fine, I think," she finally said. "I haven't talked to him since yesterday, but... I don't know, he didn't seem to care at all. And it's not like there's any past to judge," she added hastily, "at least not between Jack and I. We never did anything for even a paragon of morality to be upset about. Jack just put it crudely to try and derail the conversation, I think. I don't think Dark Star is angry... I'm not sure he even noticed."

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Aces face softened at her obvious discomfort, "I see, I'm sorry I misinterpretted Jacks words, I'm sure that didn't help anything." he tried once more to catch her eyes as he spoke.

"I don't mean to bring up a tender subject, I had hoped your relationship there was a happier topic, though if not I'm happy to offer advice." His tone was gentle and not at all pushy.

"Contrary to my behavior I do know a thing or two about relationships." He added with a smile. "You looked very happy together, well as well as I could read him at least."

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"I am happy," Stesha assured him softly. "Just kind of confused, I guess. It's probably stupid to wonder why your boyfriend isn't pissed off about a nasty lie someone told about you, but it sort of worries me. It makes me wonder if he's a little more different from everyday people than I thought. We have to talk about it, but I wanted to get my thoughts in order first. Because he really does make me happy." Admitting that much was a little embarrassing, but Stesha was getting used to having friends who could always make her say more than she'd planned. "It's just a little bump, I'm sure. How is your garden doing?"

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Ace laughed softly, "Its doing quite well, the gardener thinks he's stumbled upon a miracle fertalizer after your little boost."

He however moved back on topic quickly, "I'm glad he makes you happy you deserve that." He offered with a quiet pat on the shoulder.

"Well if it concerns you, you should talk about it but consider this, it may just be that he really doesn't care, he just cares for you that much." Ace explained with a small laugh. "I admit I don't know Dark Star well but he strikes me as a man who hasn't a duplicitous bone in his body. Which in a way is very different from most of us, but not a bad thing."

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"That's what I want to think," Stesha told Ace sincerely, "that the things Jack says just don't matter because he knows they aren't true, so they just don't even bother him. But I don't know if I can really believe that until I talk to him. And I didn't want to talk to him yesterday," she admitted, "because I was so upset about everything, I wouldn't have been able to sort it out. But I should talk to him, and to Taylor, and make sure that we all understand each other. It's too important not too, for a lot of reasons." Coming to that conclusion seemed to make her feel a little better, and she started eating again. "You were right," she told him. "This is very good."

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"Give him three years and the chef here will be running Pharos." Ace said laughing lightly. It was likely true, Ace always kept an eye out for the up and comers.

"If you don't mind one more piece of unsolicited advice," Ace said not quite as a question, "Let the past with Jack go, warn Taylor and move on, your much better off as you are with Dark Star. He's good for you, and you might just be able to help ground our favorite cosmic entity."

Her happiness with her relationship with Dark Star was as obvious as her distaste for Jack, but the fact was she would likely have to see and even work with Jack again.

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"I'm trying," Stesha promised with a rueful smile. "I keep thinking I'm totally done with him, but then we meet and everything just starts over. Not the relationship or anything," she added hastily. "I'm way over any good feelings I ever had for him. Just being really mad at him. That, and thinking that he's going to hurt Taylor, when Taylor is my friend, makes it hard to deal with him at all. But it's a pretty small world in Freedom City, like you've said."

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"Its a small world overall." was Aces quick reply, "Too small to let the past get in the way of the future."

"Taylors a big girl and can take care of herself." He said with a smile, "And if he hurts her she'll leave him unconcious somewhere and we'll make sure he learns the error of his ways. After all what are friends for?"

He smiled at Stesha, she was so gentle and in some ways naive he couldn't say why but there was somethign about her that you just wanted to take care of her.

"In the end he did you a favor as now you have Dark Star and are far happier than you ever would have been with some one like Jack, he may be more Taylors speed." He said with a wink. "Though he may impede her speed at other tasks, I'm not really one to throw stones in that regard." Convincing a disciple of Dionysis to help had been enjoyable but time consuming the night before.

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