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Aftermath, Ashes, Bandy, and Brownies (IC) (Solo)


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Early January 16th, 2012

Carson Keefe's Southside Apartment

Carson sighed as he rested his head against the back of his couch. Any other January night (or morning, he supposed), he'd have been rushing to chose the balcony door. Tonight, he actually appreciated the chill. Despite lacking a coat, socks, or shoes, he was enjoying something to cool him off. It didn't happen often, but every so often he'd find himself feeling flushed and overheated after long stretches of using his powers. It seemed less something specific to his nature, and more "you worked really really hard and your body is overexerted".

He was standing to go close the door (finally getting a chill across his arms) when his cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket as he walked over, at first tensing for another call from the Freedom League. It was Sonya, which meant his life wasn't about to be in danger.


He hit the answer button and spoke up just as he slid the door shut.

"Hello, Sonya."

"Are you still in one piece, Carson?"

"It says something that that's literally the first thing out of your mouth, darling. Yes, I'm fine. No major injuries, all the minors already treated. I'm mostly just....exhausted. It's..."

"A terrible day?"

"Three words that carry so much truth....yes. That...well, I wouldn't say it "sums it up", but it's a start. You know part of the story, but...perhaps you should come over for a bit. Explaining in person would be more...relaxing."

"I'm already on my way."

"Typical Russian."

He hung up with a smile and a slightly hysterical giggle before she could protest further.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It wasn't more than half an hour later that there was a knock at his apartment door, and Carson got up to answer. A brief check with both his ears and his eyes (the former by virtue of his natural abilities, the latter by virtue of his peephole) confirmed it was his long-time girlfriend. He unlocked and opened the door, greeting her with a tired smile and a slight bow.


"Please, do come in, my dear lady."


"If you start singing from that movie with a British accent, I might just smack you, you silly Irishman."


As the door closed behind her, his voice lifted in a thicker-than-normal Irish accent.


"With a Little Bit O' Luck by
Alfred The Lord above gave man an arm of iron
So he could do his job and never shirk.
The Lord gave man an arm of iron-but
With a little bit of luck, With a little bit of luck,
Someone else'll do the blinkin' work! The three
With a little bit...with a little bit...
With a little bit of luck you'll never work!


Sonya blinked. While Carson was often "ornery", especially when tired, something seemed...off.


"Carson, are you alright?"


Carson made a dismissive wave of his hand as he walked over to the coffee machine in his kitchen area.


"Told you. I'm in one piece, good guys have won the day, everything's fine. I'm tired and wired, that's all. Do you want some coffee?"


"Yes, but I wasn't talking about your physical health, or how the day went. Are you alright emotionally?"


"Why wouldn't I be?"


"You're shivering slightly. Your breath is slightly ragged. And this."


She slowly reached over and wiped a single tear from the left side of his face.




Carson shakily stepped back from the coffee machine...and collapsed to the floor, silent tears running down his face. Sonya calmly got a softer dish towel from one of the drawers and sat down next to him, wrapping one arm around his shoulders. She said nothing, simply giving him time to think and vent.

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It took Carson 10 minutes to get to the point he was truly responsive and able to steadily respond. Sonya used the towel to pat his face dry and poured them both mugs of coffee. They sat at his small dining room table, Carson staring down, Sonya calmly looking at him with just a touch of expectation. Finally, he spoke.


"Today was...very tough. I mean, sure, I'm tired, but I've been in big scraps before. Though...a whole prison of hardened criminals, all out for blood and revenge, most of them with powers...It was hard. Scary. I think there were at least a half-dozen times I was near-positive I'd be dead. Sometimes I just was better in the end, and a couple times the guards saved my skin. I think their casualties were absurdly light, all told. But that wasn't the worst.


The worst was that moment before the EMP when I thought a man I consider a friend had killed 3 men in cold blood, was about to kill the whole island, and I was going to have to take his life just to stop him. I didn't really think about it at that moment, when I was striking him with my spear, but now I can't shake that moment of...just despair. And then it turns out it was a bloody robot, and the real Steve isn't bad or dead, and he's off somewhere else. But I had to spend critical moments thinking all of that...And there wasn't really much I could do. Miss Americana's the one that stopped him. It. But she was..."


He stopped, sipping his coffee to cover his hesitation in how to express this.


"Injured. I had to get her to a safe spot, fight the prison, then finish getting her off the island. I...well, suffice to say, I can't exactly talk much about that. Not my place to, anyways. I just...You know, my heart breaks for her now. She's lonely, I think. Even with the people she has in her life. But there's nothing I can do to help. Not right now. Maybe one day."


He sipped, and Sonya sat back and pondered.

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"What about the, how did you say it, "American Bravado" from a couple of hours ago?"


Carson snorted, smiling just a bit. It seemed speaking his reasons for his feelings helped him come to grips with them better.


"It was the American Poster Boy Hero, Victory. He's a good man, gone through some terrible times to be a great hero. But every once in a while, he can kind of show his stripes, as it were. He had barreled up on me, demanding we "walk and talk" so he knew what happened. I think perhaps he was annoyed he wasn't able to be there. I would have appreciated the backup, but...I think it's best he wasn't. That EMP would have left him in terrible shape. I gave him the short version. I think I was annoyed that he didn't seem to care about what shape I was in, and instead just wanted to know how things "went down"."


"You know how AEGIS can get with their officers."


"That's why I wasn't more annoyed."


They fell into silence for a couple of minutes, the two of them clearly letting the stress just fade from their minds and bodies. 


"Thank you. For being here. Listening. Not laughing."


"You forget I'm a combat medic sometimes. I've seen plenty worse than a crying Irishman. Though it's certainly a sight I won't soon forget."


"Now see, some men might take exception to a remark like that."


"But you're not some men, are you?"


"Not really, I suppose."


She left not long after, and Carson was shortly asleep in his own bed. While later nights would see him revisit the terrible events of the island on the Day Of Wrath, this night he slept deeply and in peace. 

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Tuesday Evening, February 12th, 2013
Carson Keefe's Southside Apartment


Originally, Carson was going to be spending his meal tonight out on the town with Sonya, or at least going out to a nice restaurant. But she'd been called out on an emergency somewhere down South, and while it wasn't something that required Gabriel's presence ("Putting aside how bloody suspicious that would be, I can do just fine on my own you thick-skulled Irishman."). She'd be busy until evening Mass tomorrow. So he'd settled for delivered Chinese food. 


He'd finished what he felt like for the moment, and was currently gazing out the window while he contemplated having dessert. 


'Hm. Not usually one for thinking about "heathen Americans" like some of my kin, but I do sometimes wonder if they realize just what their Mardi Gras is really supposed to lead into...Still. Their loss. I'd have given up more this year, but between how many calories I need for my powers, and my occasional "need" to get fast food because of work and patrols building up...'


After all, alcohol was extremely common to be set aside during Lent, chocolate wasn't quite enough of a staple, and pork wasn't kosher (though he didn't really follow kosher), on top of being the meat he ate the least of anyways. He'd tried a more thorough fast last year, and it had given him trouble because he seemed to constantly be hungry.


'I guess it's good that my mind's calm enough that I can worry about what I'm fasting from. Part of me can hardly believe it's only been a month since the Day. Another part wishes it was years ago to make it fainter in my mind...The important part is that Steve, and the others who were taken, are all safe. I wish I could have gone, but it sounds like they wouldn't have needed me there...Not much sound out in space.'


He smirked at the thought. 


"One of the few places my gifted voice won't work, I suppose..."

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Wednesday Morning, February 13th, 2013

Catholic Church in Southside  


It wasn't quite time for the morning Ash Wednesday ritual, but Carson was already in the church. While he'd been confident the night before, his sleep had been plagued by nightmares and doubts and worry. He'd come here try and sort through it all before other people came and the service began. He didn't have class until mid-afternoon today, anyways. 


He was seated on one of the front pews when he heard and felt someone sit down next to him. Before he could look, the person spoke.


"You seem...troubled...my son."


It was the parish priest, and older gentleman who, oddly enough, sported an eyepatch and a cane (along with a pronounced limp even with the cane's help). His one good eye was curious.


"Just...bad dreams, Father. Doubts. About the future. About the past. What I'm doing. Where I'm going."


"Well. I don't think you're the first person through the door with those, or the last. And today's something of a day of reflection already, isn't it? But it's a season of both contemplation and rebirth."


"I know, it's just...No, I'm sorry. It's not really something I can just...talk about."


"What, that you're one of the heroes in the city?"


Carson blinked in shock as the priest grinned a bit.


"I didn't get the eyepatch from slipping on a banana peel, son. I wasn't always a minister. There was a time the Church had to help stand against some dark, dark things in the world. I met a few men and women who stepped out into the world as champions. After a while, you gt to where you can at least guess at that in someone. Your reaction sealed the deal. Don't worry, I don't know any specifics, and I won't pry any further. Your secret's safe with me, though you might want to work on your poker face."


"I, uh, never was any good at the game. Terrible luck."


"I suppose if you're going to have poor chances at anything, poker's better than other things."


"Um. Yes. I guess so. Just...Why did you approach me?"


"You're angsting all over my chapel, son. I all but heard it from my office. Why do you think there's no one else in here right now? You're lucky it's a while until service, or I might have to just rap you upside the head. Instead you get to talk things out."


"I wasn't angsting-okay, fine, I was. I apologize. Just...I don't know. Yesterday, everything seemed right and good and on track. But...I keep flashing back to a month ago. Regrets for not noticing some things, and not being fast enough to stop other things. It could have been worse, so much worse. But even still, part of me wonders if I'm losing my edge."


"That mess caught every hero in the city by surprise. Since I feel safe assuming you are neither God, nor one of His angels, you being unable to know everything at once is pretty much par for the course. It doesn't sound like you didn't do your part. You save lives every day, yes? Then unless you're genuinely slacking off, you need to stop feeling sorry for yourself. It's a disservice to you, and a disservice to the Lord. He's the one who put you here to do what you do, m'boy. Stop moping so much, unless that's your super-power."


"It's not, unless you ask my girlfriend sometimes."


Carson seemed less stressed now, and cracked a smile at his own joke. 


"Yes, well, that's another matter between you, her, and the Lord. I'm not stepping into that minefield, no sir."


"There are days I kind of think the same, Father. And...thank you. That's what I needed to hear."


"Sounds like I've done my duty for the day, then! Oh, wait, we have service today, don't we. Ah well, the burdens of life continue."


With a smile, the priest stood up (with a bit of help from Carson) and headed back toward his office. The young Irish hero, meanwhile, went outside to get a few breaths of fresh air before taking part in the day's ritual. 


All in all, it was a good Wednesday so far. 

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Evening, February 21st, 2013

Southside, Freedom City


It had been a fairly calm month and change; it seemed like the Day of Wrath had a lot of the city walking on eggshells. Even with Gabriel's own personal efforts to aid the Freedom League in getting the word out and clarifying what had happened (which is to say "evil robot impersonators killed people, not heroes gone bad"), more than a few people were nervous, and the criminal world was still trying to figure out what it could and couldn't manage.


Tonight a small gang was trying its luck in the "territory" of the city's white-clad sound-flinging hero; a group of maybe 10 people were simultaneously robbing 3 different local stores on one of Southside's streets, and the police were critical minutes away. Thankfully for the sake of those businesses, help was considerably closer.


"It's honestly getting hilarious how many of you small-time gangs think you'll somehow slip beneath the notice of any and all heroes in this part of town. I'm just one of like a dozen who stick to this area half time, kids."


The nearest group of gang members turned...and all dropped their guns, abject terror written on their faces. Considering Gabriel was just floating there, arms crossed over his chest, that was an accomplishment. He blinked in surprise at the reaction.


Of course, one of the other gang members took that moment to shoot him, hitting him square in the chest...where the bullet promptly deformed against his silver armor, not even giving him a bruise.


"Are some of you new in town or something?"


When the last group somehow pulled out a laser rifle to point right at his head, he sighed.


"Never mind."


A few sonic blasts later, all the armed robbers were laying on the ground out cold (or nearly so), and the others were huddled against the closest wall as if to run away from him. The angelic hero was visibly perplexed. When even the shop-keepers seemed nervous, he actuall grew a little sad.


"Why are you all afraid? You know me! I mean, for saint's sake I wasn't even replaced with a robot!"


Part of him wanted to cry when just that slight show of frustration had the shop-keepers stepping back.


"We only have your word on that, really, Mr. Gabriel."


"I would say my actions, both on the Day Of Wrath and right here, are testimony enough. I'm sorry it's not enough for you.."


"We...it's been barely more than a month, Mr. Gabriel. Some of us lost people that day, unlike you heroes who lost no one."


That struck him silent, shock, sadness, and even a bit of anger warriing across his face. Just ast the police pulled up, he took a couple steps and sped off into the sky...

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Sunday Morning, February 24th, 2013

Abbey of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, Sanctuary


Carson had been sequestered in the spartan room set aside for him in the monastery for a couple of days now. He'd been shaken ever since he'd seen regular shopkeepers, not just criminals, flinching in fear at his mere presence, voicing doubts about his identity and intentions. He'd made it through the rest of the week, but had barely patrolled. He'd checked with the League and the police, and there were no real complaints or concerns there.


Still he wrestled with himself. He questions his methods, his voice, his posture, his attire, searching for some valid reason for the people to fear him. To act as if he might strike them down. Nothing came to mind. He shed tears, he prayed, he paced. And still he was haunted.


Finally, one of the senior monks quietly came into his room. His long beard was grey bleaching into white from the son, and his hands were rough from working the gardens and the fields most of his life. He sat down in the second wooden chair in the room, on the other side of the desk from the "contemplative" Carson.


"You are moping. You should go outside. Perhaps speak with the Russian woman who actually has sense in her head."




"You mope for no reason. People fear you because of something you never did and still do not do. You take all care to not be the thing they fear. If they still fear or revile you, it is there business."


Carson opened his mouth.


"We are monks in the Catholic church. You think such sentiments are foreign to us? You dishonor God's calling in your life by expressing such doubt. You cannot help it if some people are stupid and panicky creatures. That is their business, not yours. Go, Fly. Get some air."


"Part of me wonders the wisdom of some of you knowing who I am."


"We love this land and these people. None of us intend to leave here, barring something very unusual. We are discrete, and I've talked more in here than I have in weeks. Your secret is safe from those you wish it safe from. You need a place to be you, not either of the fronts you have built for yourself."


Carson went to speak, and the monk made a "zip it" gesture with a smile and twinkle in his eyes. A "shoo" gesture had the redheaded man up and out the door, and in the air soon after.


Three hours later, he decided Brother Carville had been right, and that the fresh air really did help.

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