"Are you sure you want to come?" Perry asked Orla for at least the sixth time. "You feel well enough?"
"Yeah I do," replied Orla firmly, keeping her leg outstretched so that Apollo could wind a new bandage around her ankle. "But even if I didn't, there's no way I'm going to miss out on giving Dove the beatdown she deserves."
Perry couldn't suppress a snicker. "A lot of people want to give her a beatdown."
"Well, tell them to get in line behind me. She abused me and used me as a slave for five years and probably killed my mother. I know Phoenix wants to avenge Kestrel, but I think I have the right to beat her up first."
Perry snickered again. "I'll keep that in mind."
Orla winced slightly as Apollo finished bandaging the wound. As he went back to Kestrel's bed, Orla hopped off the examination table and half-limped with Perry out of the infirmary.
"Who else is going on this mission?" Orla asked.
"Me, you, Jackie, Ohio, Peter, Terry, Pinky, Mavis, and Phoenix," said Perry. "We still need to go over the plan, but is it okay if you're put where there's not much action? I know you can take care of yourself," he added quickly, seeing Orla's facial expression change immediately. "I'm just worried about your injuries, that's all."
Orla grumbled something inaudible under her breath. "As long as I do something important, put me wherever you like."
Perry grimaced at the clear bitter undertone in her voice. "I'm really sorry, Orla."
"I can still fight, Perry," Orla insisted. "With or without injuries, I can still fight. Even if you put me with...I don't know...Jackie, and assign us to fight Dove. I want to do something important and I want to be where the action is."
"Why?" Perry inquired. "Why is action so important to you? It can't just be because you enjoy fighting. There's something else, isn't there?" When Orla didn't reply, he added, "Is it because of your mother?"
Orla flinched. "N-No."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes." Orla scowled at the ground. "Can we drop this, please?"
"Not if we're going to continue butting heads over the issue of what you're going to do on this mission," Perry argued. "What's so important about being in the thick of the action? Why can't you just take a role behind the scenes? It'd be just as important."
"Stop!" Orla snapped suddenly, slamming her fist against the wall. "STOP!"
"Orla?!" yelped Perry in alarm.
"I can't take this anymore!" Orla wailed, tears beginning to fill her eyes. "I can't take all this anger and self-hatred anymore!"
"Self-hatred…?" Perry blinked in shock. "What are you talking about?"
"I killed my sister!" Orla buried her face in her paws and slid down the wall until she hit the floor. "We went out on one of Dove's missions together. It was one where we needed to attack this OWCA agent and steal something from him. I assigned my sister to attack him from the front while I watched from behind for an opportunity to steal the thing from him because I was a stupid coward and I was too afraid of attacking him directly." Orla's voice cracked. "But she attacked too soon, and the agent took advantage of his training to defeat her and then murder her in cold blood before I could even jump out of my hiding place."
Perry gazed down at his girlfriend in shock, horror, and sympathy. "Oh my God…"
Orla sniffled, trying to stifle a sob.
"You…" Perry cleared his throat. "You never told me you had a sister."
"That's because it's too painful to even think about her." Orla swallowed, then looked up at her boyfriend with tearful eyes. "If I hadn't been such a massive coward, Una would still be here. I can't make the same mistake again."
Perry chewed the inside of his beak, gazing at her with soft eyes. "How old were you when this happened?"
"I-I…" Orla cleared her throat. "About five."
"We're both more than twice that age now, Orla," Perry said reassuringly. "Una only had half her strength and she was going up against a fully-trained OWCA agent. You're nine now, right?"
"So am I. Orla, it's not going to happen again. Everyone going on this mission-with the exception of Phoenix-is a highly trained OWCA agent. No matter who you'd be put with, what happened to Una would not happen to them. Do you understand?"
Orla stared down at the ground and didn't reply.
Perry slowly sat down next to her. "I know what happened to Una was bad, and I completely understand how painful that must be for you, even if I can't empathise. But this isn't like that. Dove is evenly matched with pretty much every agent here, and we're heading out there right now to attack her with six animal agents and one human agent. Heck, even Mavis ALONE could take Dove down!"
Orla slowly wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. "R-Really?"
"She's OWCA's top human agent and second top overall. And currently, she's only seventeen years old. I'm certain she'll overtake me before she's eighteen. And I could take Dove on alone."
His girlfriend leant back and closed her eyes. "My head hurts."
"My point is that you don't need to be right at the forefront to be useful," Perry summarised. "Trust me, Orla. But how about we just go and hear the original plan first before we make any decisions about your role?"
After a brief hesitation, Orla inhaled deeply and then let the breath out. "Yeah. You're right."
Inwardly sighing in relief, Perry got to his feet and offered his hand to Orla, who took it and let Perry help her up. She took a few seconds to compose herself. "Th-Thanks, Perry. Sorry for...that."
Perry dismissed her apology with a shake of his head. "I'm glad you told me, Orla. If you ever get such strong feelings of self-hatred again, just tell me, okay?"
Orla nodded shakily. "Th-Thank you." She glanced down at the ground, her expression clouding over.
"You okay?" Perry asked her softly.
"Yeah, I just...I've never had someone to care about me like that," Orla admitted. "My mother went missing just a few days after Una died, so I've been on my own for four years, but even before she went missing, she was never the most...compassionate mother. Her training me and forcing me to learn how to survive make up ninety-five percent of the memories I have of her. While it IS true that without her teachings, I probably would have died not long after she disappeared, but…" She sighed slowly. "I just wish I had more nice memories of her."
"I understand," Perry said. "My own mother was very similar."
"What happened to her?" Orla asked curiously.
As Perry was opening his bill to reply, Jackie rounded the corner and stopped when she saw them, putting her hands on her hips. "THERE you two are! We've been WAITING for you."
"Sorry, Jackie," Perry said meekly. "We're just coming."
Jackie huffed and turned away. Exchanging a half-amused half-sheepish look, Perry and Orla followed.