Regent's exclamation of shock was only the start of an outpouring of noise from the Undersiders, Teeth, and Ambassadors present in the room. The noise mixed with the noise of the television to create a hubbub that made it hard to hear myself think. After a few seconds, I decided that I had had enough. I clapped my hands with superstrength, the report of flesh against flesh echoing sharply off of the marble floors and walls of Regent's lair. The noise stopped, and everyone turned to look at me.
"Okay, people. Let's all take a step back here and relax. Obviously, this means a lot of changes are going to be coming in the future, but we're going to need time to figure out what all of those are." I paused for a second, letting Alexandria's doublespeak and platitudes fill up the space in between my words. "Tattletale? How's your head?"
Lisa grimaced. "Better than the past few days, but I really would have preferred it if the Protectorate had put this off until the weekend."
"Right." I said it decisively, in my 'giving orders' voice, and I could see the minute changes in people's body language as I did so. "It's official. We'd have to be suicidal to operate in the open while the entire Protectorate is in town, and Tattletale has confirmed that the Triumvirate isn't going to be busting down our door anytime soon, so it's time to sit down and relax for a change. We've been pushing hard to capitalize on the unexpected gains we got by killing the Butcher, but it's time to change gears and consolidate rather than to continue to push past the point of exhaustion." As I spoke, I noticed grateful looks not just from Tattletale but from the people that I brought with me to Boston. I winced inwardly. Rhinohide's durability seemed like it would be one of the least problematic of the Butcher's powers to deal with, but I would have to remember that just because I was immune to fatigue didn't mean that anyone else was. "Tattletale? Do you want us to take things to another room so that you can focus on the speech?"
Tattletale nodded with a distracted expression on her face, so I turned to Alec. "Regent? Is there someplace more comfortable that you could take us?"
I did my best not to get frustrated as Alec took his time standing and stretching before he finally turned to the group. "Come along, ducklings. Mi casa es su casa."
As people slowly - and with some reluctance - tore themselves away from the television screen, I walked over to Brian. "Grue? Mind holding back for a moment?"
"Sure. What's up?" He asked, his voice sounding hollow behind the helmet and the wisps of darkness leaking out from behind it.
I jerked my head towards the doorway that Regent had just lead all of our guests through. "Flechette. What's going on?"
I couldn't see the smirk from behind the mask, but I could hear it in his voice. "She and Parian are an item. Apparently when she heard that you turned into the Butcher she came to check if Sabah was okay, and one thing lead to another..."
"Where another was her defecting to the Undersiders?" I paused for a second, thrown off balance. "Huh." Another pause, to gather my thoughts. "Did Tat-"
"Tattletale verified her," Brian said, and he put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me.
I froze. Lancet's power seethed like barbed wires under my skin, ready to reach out and rip the blood from Brian's body out through the pores in his hand. Mongrel's animal instincts longed to snap at the unexpected touch, like an abused stray that suddenly found itself being petted. As Brian felt my body tense up he jerked back and tried to pull his hand away but I reached up and grabbed his arm before he could. "No! No, you're -" I took a deep breath and made my body relax, trying to replicate whatever it was that Regent had done to my muscles to make me calm down the other night. "- You're fine." I felt a little bit ashamed of myself - not even a week ago I had basically said goodbye to Grue, firmly intent upon turning myself in to the Protectorate. Now I could barely hold myself back from leaning into his touch.
When a few wisps of darkness began to involuntarily leak from his hand on my shoulder, I did let him go. When he stepped back this time, it was with less panic or hurry, and I took solace in the small victory. "We should catch up to the others," he said, and I nodded my assent.
I probably shouldn't have been surprised, but Regent's idea of 'someplace more comfortable' was to take us to a room that looked like a cross between a rec room and a seraglio. The room was full of low couches and floor pillows, and there were more than a few cupboards and cabinets around the area that I was fairly certain I did not want to open. Despite its newness, the room already had faint odors of sex, sweat, alcohol, pot, and flavored tobacco. I couldn't help but wrinkle my nose beneath my mask. Regent's eyes flickered up to mine, and he smirked. "Welcome to my parlor," he said, getting a cackle from Imp and a few nervous chuckles from Bonnet and Wicker Man.
Despite myself I smirked. "That's something you new guys are going to have to get used to," I said, looking at the new recruits. "Insect jokes almost never go out of style around here." Again, there was a bit of nervous laughter, and I sighed inwardly before reaching up and taking off my mask. "Regent, you have anything to eat around here? I'm starving." I wasn't, not really, but hopefully giving people some food and a chance to take off their masks would help move things in the right direction.
Regent nodded, and waved his hand airily. "Wasn't expecting to feed this many people, but there should be some frozen stuff, maybe stuff for sandwiches..."
Imp elbowed him in the side. "Don't just sit there, lazy ass, you have guests. Come on, I'll help you get it."
"I am." He said, and I noticed the far-off look in his eyes. "Reaver and Vex have it covered."
I heard a snort of amusement, and turned to see Bonnet rolling her eyes at Regent - hiding her discomfort, perhaps? "Just make sure Reaver washes his hands first."
"Right," I said, motioning to Bonnet. "Introductions. On our trip to Boston, we picked up a few million dollars, a few dozen assault rifles, and a few new members. These are Bonnet and Wicker Man, better known as Nicole and Blake, basically decent people who were in a bad situation. Michael and Jennifer, otherwise known as Reaver and Vex, have joined Shatterbird in the illustrious ranks of 'acceptable targets for Regent's power', while the remainder of the Teeth have been turned into state custody. Nicole, Blake, this is Grue -"
"Brian", he said, removing his helmet to reveal his cornrowed hair.
"- Parian -"
"Sabah." She said reluctantly, removing her mask.
"- and... Flechette, formerly of the Brockton Bay Wards."
Flechette looked around the room, seemingly hesitant, before Sabah put her hand on her back to reassure her. When she removed the mask it revealed a young woman, Japanese-American, with a slightly angular face. "Lily. And... it's Foil now. I'm not really sure how much longer I'm going to be able to keep a tinkertech crossbow working."
"One of the Butchers had a Tinker power related to wires and pullies," I offered, "and Butcher Fourteen was able to use it to build a bow that worked with super strength. I'd be happy to take a look at your bow for you if you'd like."
At that, Lily gave me the first genuine smile that I had seen from her since I walked into the room close to half an hour ago. "I'd like that," she said. "So... you're really...?"
"Yes and no," I said with a shrug. "Yes to the powers, no to the crazy bits, at least so far." I tilted my head at her questioningly. "Speaking of which... you're from Boston, aren't you? Butcher's memories are telling me that we've fought before."
She scowled at me. "Yeah. You - she - whoever, used your pain power on me."
"... Because killing a Ward wasn't worth the hassle, right, I can see the memory now." I grimace. "I almost feel like I should apologize, except that on one hand it wasn't me, and the few parts of me that it was don't really feel bad about it so... we're on the same side now, it won't happen again?"
Slowly, the corner of Lily's mouth drew up into a smile. "Yeah, okay. Sure, I guess." She dropped the smile, looking at me hard. "What you were saying, before. A truce between the Protectorate and the Undersiders. You're still doing that, right? I'm ready to help Parian, to help you, but ... the Wards are still friends, you know? I don't want to have to fight them."
"Assuming everything works out, yes." I anwered. "Part of that will depend on how we handle Director Tagg, but ideally I'd like to have all of us focused on the real problems. Did you and Miss Militia talk about the idea at all with anyone else?"
Lily nodded, slowly. "Yeah, but that was before you went Butcher, and before I disappeared to join Parian. I don't know what they're thinking now."