Part 2: Thus with a Kiss

From the Story Arc: O True Apothecary

Previous Story in the Arc: Part 1: Thy Drugs Are Quick by Krasniy Oktyabr (Wednesday, January 25, 2006)

Next Story in the Arc: Part 3: To New-Found Methods by Nova Requiem (Wednesday, January 25, 2006)

(posted Wednesday, January 25, 2006)

The sun was setting once more as a group of heroes wearily and gladly exited one of the countless nondescript warehouses in Skyway City. Their fight against the Carnival of Shadows within had been long and fierce, sapping even the mightiest of them of their stamina.

Marrita Red Bear and Pania Alow said their farewells and headed out into the city, along with the hero Downdraft. Russian Battler bowed out as well, wishing a good evening to Belladonna Aura and his "nemnoga sestra" Nova Requiem.

Bella waved at the departing, and looked down at the Russian girl beside her.

"I have to say I am awfully glad that you and your uncle are in good shape and back with us again," said Bella.

Nova Requiem hugged herself against the brisk breeze, watching the heroes go their separate ways.

"I could not have done it with out all of you," replied the young mutant, "Is good to have comrades...and

friends...that care."

Bella smiled and asked, "That's what it's all about, isn't it? I mean, why we're even here."

"I am learning this," answered Nova with a nod.

Belladonna Aura sighed and gazed off into the distance.

"I used to think there was nothing more important than getting rid of the Rikti," she said.

For being so new to the life in which she had found herself, Nova Requiem understood this sort of driving passion and how dangerous it could be for body, mind and soul.

"For good while, I cared only about myself," said the girl, shivering not just from the cold, "At first, it was matter of survival. Then it became decadence."

Bella frowned slightly and said, "Well, in my case...I went down when my mutation destabilized, And...funny..."

Bella paused for a moment, a far-away look coming over her face.

Nova Requiem, losing herself within her own thoughts, said in the silence, "I feel much that same unsteadiness. I am

starting to draw power even without trying. My bursts of speed, giving to others of my gifts, it is like release valve."

Belladonna Aura nodded, understanding the trials of the body that many mutants went through.

Bella shook her head quickly with a smile and said, "Okay, you know, hanging out with an angel does things to you...I know about half of the comrades don't believe in anything they can't see but...I was about half a step from brain-dead, and pretty close to real dead. And I swear to you, I-I saw all my friends, and even people I didn't know considered themselves to be my friends...and all of them were out there busting their butts trying to find ways to help me. It's pretty humbling."

"Da, I felt something of that," said Nova, looking up at Bella, "Especially in John."

Belladonna Aura nodded and said, "Special people, those two."

Nova Requiem averted her gaze back down and quietly said, "What he kindness I can never feel to be


Bella pursed her lips slightly. Nataliya was a good kid, anyone could see that. She had the support and

encouragement of not only her comrades of the CCCP, but also the Congress. And yet the girl was still very much in

her shell, unsure of herself and her place in the world. But how much comfort can you give someone still

physically isolated from any that care?

How much comfort--John had offered that comfort, when he himself was dying, he had offered her that comfort, the

shoulder she could weep on, so they could cry together.

KC had offered that comfort. He'd scarcely known her, and yet he had offered that comfort, and Paladin had made it

possible, shielding KC with his force fields...

And Saviour....

That had been the bravest of all really. Nat had given her the comfort of one bare hand in hers, to her

sestra, at a time when the Commissar had herself been angriest with what Bella had said.

You had to be brave. You had to offer that comfort somehow, find a way, even when you were afraid, when it was risky. Because sometimes what mattered was that you offered it at all.

And sometimes it mattered that you found a way.

Hmm. Force fields. That might bear looking into....

Bella put on her best stern-yet-compassionate expression and replied, "Well, that's just it. You can't pay back. You can only pay forward, helping the next guy."

Nova Requiem nodded absently and looked up at Bella once more. Even though the young mutant's headgear hid almost

half of her face, the lines around her eyes were more than enough to see that she was smiling.

Bella returned it in kind and said, "I think we've all had enough 'fun' today. I'm gonna find a great big net and go

Bestial Boy hunting."

Nova giggled and blushed. Suddenly, she remembered something that she wanted to bring to the medic's attention.

"Oh Bella, before you go..." said the girl, fishing around her combat uniform for the correct pocket.

"Hmm?" Bella muttered with an altogether different far-away look.

Nova Requiem located the pocket she was searching for and said, "I mentioned that uncle Sasha has been acting

strangely... I found this in his room."

Nova held out an empty glass ampoule, surprised that is had survived the long day of fighting the Carnival, green

residue clinging to the inside. Belladonna Aura took the ampoule and gave it a cursory glance with a frown.

"I don't know what it could be," said Nova. "Perhaps you could analyze for me? worried."

Bella nodded and answered, "I can and I will." With a grimace, she added, "I wish people wouldn't self-medicate.

Whatever it is, we'll find a better alternative for him."

"Well, give my best to Commissar Zachary," said Nova, "I will not keep you from him."

Belladonna Aura shook her head and said, "Well, I'll drop by the base first and run tests on this. You don't put something like this off. Besides, he'd have my ass in a vice if he thought I'd left this on the bench to go chase him around the living room."

Nova Requiem let out another giggle despite the seriousness of the situation. Bella couldn't help grinning,


Belladonna Aura cleared her throat and said. "Look, Nova, a drug habit is a bad thing. But there's worse. And at least a drug habit can be cured. Shoot, Social can clean him out if need be."

"Drugs..." muttered Nova with a shiver, "I hope this is not the case. But I will try to talk to him."

Belladonna shook her head and said, "Might want to let me handle it. There are things you wouldn't want to tell you

niece that you might not mind telling your doc."

Nova Requiem nodded and agreed, "You are the medic. I will not be with him much longer anyway. I start University in

couple weeks."

Belladonna Aura nodded, smiling once again. Good news was always a welcome thing. The two exchanged light banter for a while longer as the sun set over the city, talking of matters academic and possibilities for the future.

And in that moment of bonding, Nova Requiem felt a rare spark inside of her, that of a future worth looking forward to.