One Good Deed for the Week

February 25, 2017:

A punchdrunk cybergoth gets a taste of kindness before she throws her lot back in with the Clown Prince of Crime. Nerina's one good deed for the week was more than the flautist bargained for.

Gotham - Bristol


NPCs: None.



Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

To say that she's eyecatching would be an understatement. Even for Gotham's more … 'colorful' element, the white, green and black are eye-grabbing. She's dressed as a cybergoth, which gives her a subtle darkness and menace. Definitely doesn't look like one of the good guys.

Green hair peeks out from underneath black spiked goggled and a black gasmask with Joker decals on either respirator. Green and black dredfalls looks like exaggerated ponytails mingled with translucent hoses and cables. Bright green tights and high gloves are overlaid with ragged looking black fishnets, and flow into black leather boots and gloves, each sporting metal buckles all the way up and down. The boots are topped in mixed neon green and black faux fur, hiding metal knee pads. A black and neon green corset barely contains her, and a black miniskirt with green ruffled edges, cover what's important about the hips.

What skin is exposed is an unhealthy white, pale, chalk white, as if chemically bleached. The only spot of contrasting color are her eyes, which are alien unto themselves, bright orange with slided dual pupils that form an x.

She's wandering aimlessly up the street, staring straight ahead, moving past people and bumping into them if they don't get out of the way, which causes a few concerned and/or dirty looks from others.

It's not a spectacle one sees everyday but Nerina has been around Gotham long enough to see weird. She's watched the news long enough to see even weirder, and neither are quite as captivating to the blonde as the hotdog in her hand. A very basic, primal need grips her heart by way of her stomach and senses. The spicy mustard helps.

The flautist shuts her eyes as a little tingle starts on her tongue and spreads down her body before swallowing the first bite and working on the next. She moans softly around the food and reopens her eyes to look around with a gaze that's a little warmer and little less frayed. Spotting the aimless cybergoth, the flautist raises an eyebrow and rests an arm on her knee, people-watching.

She stumbles a little and bumps into a meat mountain of a man. "Watch where you're goin' freak," he grumbles harshly, glaring down at her. He brushes off his maroon knit turtleneck, hard eyes focused on her under a mop of short black hair. He has the look of a former boxer, his flattened nose and bumpy right ear are telling.

Her head snaps up to stare back at him, and his eyebrows raise (widen?!) in surprise, momentarily taken aback by the shape of her irises.

"… your skull's been broken more than once," the woman observes, lowly, slowly, sounding exhausted. "… you have a lump in the back of your brain."

The voice is too low to carry as far as the nearby blonde's tree but the exchange is easy to spot. Taking another few bites of her hotdog, she tilts her head slightly and watches. A pause is taken to wash it down with whatever's in her thermos.

"What the hell are you talkin' about?!" the man angrily panics, roaring at the smaller woman.

She remains resolute, staring blankly at him, through him. "I said it looks like you might have a cancerous growth in your brain. Headaches? Do you have problems seeing sometimes?" she asks.

Meat Mountain's breathing is now coming in ragged gasps, fear overtaking him. "How'd you— you—!!" he's apoplectic, angry and afraid, his reaction almost a confirmation of her words. Somehow, she's seeing into his body. A crowd of onlookers is starting to gather.

The blonde continues to watch from the side but she sighs out her nose as the forming crowd blocks her view. Swallowing the last of her heaven-sent hot dog, Nerina weighs comfort against curiosity. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a butterfly knife with a little spinning flourish, only to drop it as the blade bites her. Shaking her now bleeding finger, she sticks it in her mouth and suckles the wound while continuing to watch. That motion looked easier when the thug did it.

"I'm not sure it's operable, but maybe with a good surgeon—"

Meat Mountain takes a swing at 'Freak'. "SHADDAP!" he roars, not taking the news well, and believing her every word on face value.

'Freak' suddenly lunges in, immediately, striking 'Meat Mountain' in a rapid, hard-to follow snap of her elbow against the side of her larger assailant's head. Said head turns too quickly to the left, flecks of red spraying from his mouth along with a few molars. His face is an absolute mess. He looks as if he's been struck in the jaw with a twelve pound sledge.

'Meat Mountain' drops with a heavy weight to the ground. Cue the screaming of a few startled and horrified onlookers, followed by a rapid retreat. 'Freak' just… stands there, looking at her bloodied elbow pad, as if not comprehending what just happened.

And just like that the view is clear again, leaving Nerina to piece together the gap between the argument starting and the much larger man on the ground. Too bad she can't see through people.

"Stupido," she murmurs with a shake of her head after popping her digit back out of her mouth. The flautist licks it clean with the fastidiousness of a dog with peanut butter before wiping the saliva on her sweater and reaching for another fry.

'Freak' doesn't appear to be sure why everyone is running. She looks down at the battered head of 'Meat Mountain'. "… No, it's inoperable." She crouches down near his body, and, raising her right fist, punches swiftly down into 'Meat Mountain's' face. The scene only gets more gruesome, and Meat Mountain is unquestionably dead.

'Freak' stares at his chest for a few seconds. "Better this way, though I suppose you can't hear me now. All of your energy is fading, drifting. Remains: I did not intend your death, but better this way than slowly." Yes, she's talking to a corpse.

Nerina finds somewhere else to look when the blow lands and tries to enjoy the rest of her fries. Glancing down at her wristwatch she notes the time. The flautist won't be the one to call them but she knows how long it takes Gotham PD to respond to a call.

'Freak' looks at the slaughtered man, trembling, kneeing near him. She reaches into his pockets, searching for a wallet; when she finds it, she opens it, tracing fingers over the identification. Her whole body is shaking, breath ragged through the click-pop of the respirator in operation.

Her pupils open wide, diamond-star shaped, and whatever it is she sees elicits a desperate howling scream.

Nerina's gaze flit back to the freak and the corpse before averting itself again, too bad her ears can't do the same. The flautist grips her arm and squeezes her shoulders together as the sound sends a chill down her spine. She closes her eyes until it ends, and takes a long breath that trembles a little as it exits her mouth.

Biting nervously on a finger, she picks her knife back up with her free hand and folds it back in her pocket before taking her lunch bag and standing up. The flautist walks the short distance through the park to reach the street beside the freak's… altercation.

"… I don't know what I'm doing anymore. I don't know who I am. I… I can't sleep. I'm so tired." 'Freak' sits next to the corpse, letting the wallet slip from her hands. She hugs her knees and continues to tremble. If there are cops coming, she 's not coherent enough to register that as a problem.

A young but weathered hand gently touches her bare, bedsheet-white shoulder, bumping against a strand of green hair and bringing with it the faint smell of the bay… and spicy mustard. Nerina looks down, half-crouched, with sea blue eyes peeking out from between the shadow of her hood and the scarf that's back over her face. They're filled with concern.

"You need to leave, presto," she cautions with an Italian lilt that for a moment collapses into the language itself. The passing breeze plays with a loose strand of golden hair as she speaks. "Five blocks to your left then three blocks left, on the second floor of the motel. I'll let you in."

'Freak' is so tired she isn't paying attention to details that normally would have been indelibly stamped on her memory. She just… gets up. The words are coming down a tunnel to her. "…five blocks," she murmurs, shaking her head. Her eyes are watering.

Nerina nudges the young woman in the right direction, then frowns as her watch buzzes. "Dimenticalo," she grumbles as she pushes more firmly and stands as well, intent on leading the way. "You and me are running now, si?"

'Freak' squints out of habit and rubs her eyes. She's -trying-. "Okay, okay! Just… Just trying to get my head together." She's smeared blood across her face from what was left on her glove. "Just start running, I'll follow. I can't lose you."

And just like that, the flautist takes off. Running down the sidewalk, she glances back to make sure 'Freak' is following before leading what's not an entirely straight path as she criss-crosses the city streets. Police sirens begin to echo off the building walls in the distance but they're approaching from behind not in front. Slipping through alleyways as she goes, Nerina's backpack and bagged lunch bounce along in front.

'Freak' follows Nerina without question. She's too tired to care. Forty-eight hours without sleep is enough to render anyone half mad, but when you combine seeing things man was not meant to see, well, it's surprising this one isn't just catatonic. Despite the setback of being near to collapse, 'Freak' is following along and moving with the sort of grace that comes from muscle memory. Her steps are light, on the balls of her feet rather than her heels, and she turns easily. Her eyes shimmer in the dark, glowing with an eerie green sheen as she passes light sources, animal eyes in the dark.

If she could pay attention enough, 'Freak' might notice the winding path doesn't match Nerina's instructions, but the passing of a moment later for her half-conscious mind brings the sight of the blonde turning a key and guiding the green-haired woman inside.

Old yellow wall lights illuminate the room; small, single-bed, and holding the mild sterile smell of a hasty cleaning. Moisture is caked upon the windowsill peeking out from the blackout curtains drawn shut and as Nerina closes the door behind her - and locks it - time of day seems to almost disappear.

The flautist leans back against the door and pants to catch her breath. "Meno male che non ho finito il pranzo…" she murmurs in her native tongue, putting a hand on her stomach.

It's enough. 'Freak's' mind can only take so much without rest. She takes one shakey step over the threshhold of the apartment and immediately collapses onto the floor.


Nerina sits back in the room's only chair with her bare feet propped on the edge of the bed. She's still dressed in her grey-on-grey but the fabric hangs looser on her small body than it did in the morning. Without as much need for insulation, she's stripped off most of her inner layers and piled them out of sight. The warm, reassuring whirr of the wall-mounted heater drones in the corner and serves as a steady bass line for quiet flute music. The flautist is performing a small, wandering piece that meanders through a sad key, dour but airy, and fugal in its long repetitions of a stanza that's grown and grown as the blonde has played. With her hood down, a river of fine hair is left to cascade down the back of the seat, almost reaching the floor. It's frayed on the edges and uneven at the bottom, but there sure is a lot of it.

Glancing towards the alarm clock on the opposite side of the bed then letting her eyes drift in, Nerina's gaze lands on the sleeping pale form under the bedsheets. The young woman's boots are stacked side-by-side by the door, her corset's been loosened, and the whole of her mask and goggles are dangling off a knob of the dresser, but otherwise she's been left alone.

'Freak' suddenly starts awake, jerking up out of bed. She doesn't know where she is, and she immediately checks herself over. Everything important is in place - she puts her hands to her face. The rebreather. It was important. She remembered that much.

She quickly leans out of bed to fumble for it, long jade green hair tangled around her neck and shoulders. Nearly falling out of bed, she grabs it and quickly affixes it to her face, coughing lightly, before taking deep breaths. Click-pop.

"…. where am I?" she asks out loud, still trying to come to her senses. Her head is killing her, and she rubs her temples.

The flute music trails off as 'Freak''s sleep-deprived coma comes to an abrupt end. Nerina raises an eyebrow and she lowers the flute from her mouth. "Safe," she assures, answering in the same lyrical tone as hours before. "In a motel room." The flautist smiles a little and gestures to the thermos on the adjacent nightstand. "Drink some water."

'Freak' stands up and looks at herself in the mirror on the wall, near the dresser.

She yelps in shock and falls backwards, scrambling away.

Nerina's feet come off the bed and she tucks her flute into her hoodie as she looks down. "…Are you insano?" She asks, perhaps too bluntly.

"I don't know!" 'Freak' wails. She curls up into a ball, hugging her legs. "I don't know anymore. I was at a party, I was going to school, then the mist hit…" She trails off, rocking a little.

Nerina sighs heavily and grimaces as she looks down at the pitiful green-haired punk. She rocks out of her chair and drops to the floor crosslegged beside her, resting a bare hand on the 'Freak's' shoulder. Like her boots, her arm-warmers are piled elsewhere.

The flautist looks over with conflicted emotion in her eyes but no words come out. She's something to lean on right now.

"Something happened to me. I came out of a cocoon like… like this. I see through things, I see -everything-. I must have… I must have passed out. I haven't slept in days. I can't sleep when I can see through my own eyelids," 'Freak' explains as she strangles further emotional outburst, making her words terse, choked. She takes deep, calming breaths. Focus, center. Remember your training. "… Everything's gone now. My life is gone now. I can't go back."

Nerina smiles dryly at the summary and gently rubs her shoulder. "Drink some water," she repeats more softly. "You slept a long time, it will help."

'Freak' finally takes the glass, pulling down her respirator, drinking. She stops after a swallow, making a face. "Tastes bitter," she comments. "I've never tasted that in water before." There's a glance over at Nerina, the 'did you put something in this'? kind of glance.

Nerina looks back just as oddly. "It wasn't bitter this morning. Maybe your taste is broken." Turning her head aside, the flautist pauses to cover a yawn and her baggy eyes crease.

'Freak' looks back at the water. "… Maybe it is. My eyes certainly are. My lungs are. My skin is, my hair is. I look like—"


"…. Joker."

Nerina tilts her head. "Were you not one of his pagliacci before? One of his men?"

She shakes her head vigorously. "No! I was a student at NYC, I was writing my final doctoral thesis!" 'Freak' protests. "I finally gave in and went with Lina to the rave … that's … that's when that mist hit me. Everything's gone after that, up until I fell out of this cocoon…"

Nerina sneers darkly as she puts two and two together, perhaps faster than the Inhuman's mind is willing to. Her temper breaks and the flautist rubs the bridge of her nose with an aggravated sigh. "** humans. I am getting very tired of hearing this story…"

'Freak' is too broken to notice Nerina's anger. "… my life is just gone. I…. oh god I killed someone. I killed more than someone, I killed someONES. That's it. My life is over. It's all over."

Nerina gives the young woman a few seconds to churn in silence before pulling out her off-white plastic recorder and asking, "Do you know how to play a flute?"

She shakes her head. "No." Despite the taste, she drinks the entire glass of water, wiping her mouth with her hand and pulling her respirator back up.

"Che peccato," Nerina murmurs morosely as she puts the instrument away. Standing back up, she takes the empty bottle and walks into the suite's small bathroom to refill it - pausing this time to take a quick taste herself. A thoughtful silence lapses against the backdrop of running water as the room's heater clicks off. It's nice and toasty in the bedroom again. "How do you feel about mutanti e telepati?"

'Freak' watches Nerina walk over and out, and listens to her. Okay, this woman is speaking in some other language. She guesses a romance by the word choice and inflection. Probably… Latin? Italian? "I… mutant telepath? Is that what you asked? I don't know. I suppose I never really thought about it much."

"…Mutants and telepaths, yes," Nerina corrects, apparently using Italian by choices more than need at times. The flautist reappears through the doorway with a long blonde trail waving behind her. Yup, that's a lot of hair when she's standing too.

Setting the thermos back on the nightstand, she takes a seat on the bed. "You should leave Gotham," she suggests solemnly. "It seems che Joker likes you and that is bad. There is a place in New York for people like you, Mutant City, but safer maybe…" Nerina trails off for a moment and twirls a finger through her hair, preoccupied with it. "There is a school there for young mutanti, and they are a shelter for old ones." The flautist's eyes turn back to the orange X's again as she offers the idea. "If you do not mind other mutanti e people who can read your mind, you may be safe there."

"I came out of a cocoon. Mutants don't come out of cocoons," 'Freak' explains. She looks at the floor. "Besides, they aren't going to want someone with a fresh murder rap attached to them, and I don't want to be around someone who can just read my mind." The Joker's warning comes to mind. 'They'll cut you open if they find you'. He may be a criminal… but he's right on that one. 'Freak' is not stupid. "No, that's it. I can't go back to my parents. I can't go back to university. I can't go back to the MMA ring. I'm… " She looks up at the mirror. 'Freak' knows what she is. It's bleached into her skin.

The flautist laughs quietly despite the somber topic. "You're like me then. They told me to come, 'free warm bed and food even if you're not a mutant'. Pfft, idioti. The first person I met there was un telepate - a telepath. She read my mind and everything."

"None of this is private anymore," Nerina admits as she grabs the collar of her hoodie and fans it, then lets go and taps her temple. "But this is still mine."

"You should still go away," she suggests again.

"I don't blame you for wanting me out," 'Freak' says. "Just… just give me time to get dressed." She stands up, and begins gathering her clothing.

Nerina reaches out and grabs the young woman's shoulder. "From the city, sciocco," she corrects with a touch of exasperated concern, like a parent trying to guide an inattentive child. "Stay here, rest. We have this room until tomorrow."

"… I can't leave the city," 'Freak' replies, half a dejected murmur. "Not looking like this. Not with the way I am. There's no place for me out there." She stops where she stands, looking back over at Nerina. "It's … nice of you to care. I wish I could repay you for what you've done."

"The sound you made when you killed that man was… unpleasant," Nerina explains, hesitating for a moment on her words. She doesn't yet release the young woman's shoulder but at least softens her grip a little, supporting her once again. A crooked smile forms on her lips and she laughs dryly. "You only say that because you have never been homeless. Skin is easy to hide, and hair… Or do you want to go back to the man who did all of this to you and just make it all worse, for fun? Do you think you will sleep like that, or just do this and fall apart sometimes?" There's a cloud hanging over the vagabond's face by the time she finishes, the unforgiving shadow of years that don't belong there yet. She's seen this before.

"I just don't know where to go or what to do," 'Freak' explains, exasperated. "I know I keep saying my life is over - but that's because it is. I've become a killer now. There's no going back from that. I don't know what else is lurking under this skin, behind this eyes. I don't know what I'm capable of, and I can't burden other people with my problems."

She slips on the boots, snapping down and adjusting the multiple buckles. "He was kind to me at least. Helped me. I guess in a way… he's my new family. Just like being born all over again. You don't get to chose your parents."

Nerina frowns openly and stands up, stepping beside the young woman and leaning her hand against the door as she looks down. The same quiver of concern as before is betrayed by her eyes despite the set of her lips. "Idiota, you have parents, real parents. And you think Joker, /Joker/ did any of this to your body except for himself?!"

"I've met killers…" She continues, the sea-foam crash of her temper breaking and ebbing back beneath the surface as memories haunt the girl's mind. "They've tried to kill me, beat me, rob me, rape me… you're just una donna— a woman who needs more sleep and a better color."

"My parents are cops. Do you think I can go back to them looking like this? This isn't paint. This doesn't wash off!" 'Freak' protests. "It's better that they think I died. They can grieve and go on. They won't have to suffer for the rest of their lives knowing what I've become."

'Freak' just remains stubbornly steadfast, not rising to Nerina's temper or tone. She speaks quietly. "I can't sleep. Not when I can see through my own eyelids. The lights never go away. It's like trying to sleep staring at the sun."

Nerina exhales a tense breath out her nose as she shuts her eyes in exhaustion, creasing the haggard lines of her face. "stop, Stop, Stop!" She half-snaps and half-pleads. The girl's back sags under the weight of fatigue and her bangs escape to the front, draping their golden strands across green dreadlocks and bone-white skin.

"Inquieta," she addresses tiredly, gently, fondly… "If you will do one thing to repay me, do not go out that door to Joker." Her eyes reopen but the blue waters inside them are choppy, quivering weakly. The flautist is running out of strength to offer someone at least half a decade her senior.

Falling to one knee beside her, Nerina's sweater brushes against the Inhuman's back as she holds her far shoulder again and gently overlaps the hand buckling her boots. The Inhuman's is thicker and no doubt healthier. "Take your boots back off. Don't throw away…" The flautist hesitates and bites her cheek, too committed to take back the words. "…what I wish I still had… at least not like this."

Her breath still smells like spicy mustard.

"He said that I was what he'd been waiting for, his present," 'Freak' explains calmly, evenly. "Do you think that if I walk away, he'll just let me go?"

"Speak your peace, I'll listen, but words may not change the outcome of my fate. The avalanche has already started. It's too late for the pebbles to vote."

Nerina hangs her head and shakes it dourly as she tries to guide the Inhuman's hand through the motions of loosening her boots. "Earlier you could not follow five words in a row and now you talk like he is some kind of god," she murmurs before gathering enough strength to meet those X-shaped eyes again. "You looked like you were going to cry when you looked in a mirror and, idiota, you are a worse killer than even the housecats in this city."

"All your talking is nonsense," she admonishes lightly as enough conviction returns to the blonde's face to firm its edges with vigor. "Un brutto scherzo, a bad joke. Venire, come, I can fix your color or the polizia will find you before even Joker can. Then I have something to help you sleep." Nodding her head back towards the rest of the suite, Nerina begins to stand from her crouch and tries to guide the Inhuman with her - away from the door.

'Freak' sighs heavily and gives in. She's still tired, still groggy and disoriented, though more coherent of memory than she had been in the last 36 hours. She lets Nerina lead her wherever the younger woman wants to go. She's still half in one boot, half in socks, giving her a comically staggered gait. Bad joke indeed.

"Good, here we go…" the flautist coos.

It's not far. Leading the taller woman back to the bed, Nerina sits her down by the nightstand and reaches under her waistband to fish something from an inner pocket. What pops back out is a small dropper bottle of night-black liquid, which the blonde shakes with a sly wink. "This will fix your Joker look. If you *must* leave tonight, it will make you harder to see, but I think you should stay and rest more." The flautist adds a dry smile at the humor that comes from shared suffering and adds, "You still look tired."

'Freak' stares at the bottle, a questioning look on her face. "What is that, and what is it going to do to me? I'm not certain dyes or chemicals are a good idea right now. I don't know how my biochemical make-up has changed. I need to do some blood work, some tests, find out what the hell happened to me in that cocoon first." She's still babbling a little, wearily, as she's made to sit down. "… brain's probably full of toxins by now. Need to flush them…"

"Just a food dye. It's safe to eat, you can even drink it," Nerina reassures. "But it also stains skin and hair. I'll add it to a hot bath for you," she suggests, but hangs for just a moment. "If you are like the others, you went in a cocoon, then came out with powers like a mutant. It's all in the news."

"I must have missed it, but that explains my eyes. I wasn't born this way, that's for sure," 'Freak' replies. She considers the dye, and then shakes her head, refusing politely. "No. I can't risk it. If it's hard to breathe without this mask, and if plain water tastes like I'm drinking acid, God only knows what a dye might due to me. Like I said, my biochemistry is all messed up. I'd be afraid to take an aspirin right now."

The flautist frowns again as she takes a knee before the Inhuman. "If your body is that sensitive then you will die of thirst, then die of hunger, then die from no sleep and all be dead in a week," she deadpans. "There is no help for that from the Joker."

The blonde closes her eyes again, needing a moment to think in peace - a luxury lost to the woman before her. They take a little longer to reopen than they should as the sandman pulls at Nerina's hair. "Try it, just a small touch first. Will that make you feel better?"

"If I'm going to be dead in a week, why are you wasting resource you obviously need for yourself on me?" 'Freak' asks plainly. Blunt, meet equally blunt.

"Because I think you aren't that sensitive. But if you are, more reason to find a hospital far away, not the Joker," Nerina replies. "And if you think you're that expensive - in the future pay me back." Her eyes hold the Inhuman's more solidly. It's a promise, if she doesn't back away.

"A hospital isn't going to help me, and I have no means to pay you back except by theft. Do you get it now? No matter where I go, where I turn, what I do, my hand's already cast. If I go to a hospital, I'll be arrested, or worse - detailed in some black ops facility for study. There's no job openings for me to earn a living. Even your dye would only delay the inevitable. You said it yourself, I'm a terrible killer, and if I can't manage that, how am I going to manage continually hiding from the police? What kind of life is running from the law?"

Orange eyes fix on Nerina, pupils dilating slightly, wider exes. "What you've done - bless your kindness - is only a stay of execution. You're delaying the inevitable, and you can't do it forever. Don't think I can't see how thin you are, you're in no position to help me, you seem to be only barely able to help yourself."

Softer, 'Freak' adds, "You can't project your lost opportunities on others in hopes that their successes will feel good by proxy. We all have to play the hand we're dealt. Mine's just a bad hand."

Whatever life was still held in the vagabond's face falls away like rain down a pane of glass. Nerina rocks back and collapses onto her rear like a puppet with her strings cut, landing haphazardly with one arm propped on her knee and the other leg draped across the carpet. She blinks her eyes hard, feeling them wet and bone dry at the same time, and bows her head to rub them with her fingers. The heartbeat in her chest has quickened but it's erratic; the flautist is mired in a mental trench.

"Go off and die then." Her hanging hand flicks weakly away. Her head doesn't rise. Her eyes don't lift from her fingers.

Sucking up a deep breath, Nerina lets out a heavy sigh. The air that comes out isn't completely steady. "I was going to outlive you anyway. For your information I just won the lottery; I can pay for a warm bed, hot food… I—" Nerina's shoulders hitch and she abruptly stops talking. Her lips seal shut and her knee pulls in a little closer to her chest.

'Freak' stands up again, and then crouches near Nerina. "I may not be a killer," she says softly, "but I -am- a fighter."

"I can't burden you this way. You don't deserve to be caught up in what's birthed me, you have your life ahead of you, you have a kind heart, and you have a foothold on better days. Live them. I'm a stranger, a shadow gone at noon. You'll forget me soon enough, and be better off for it."

The flautist's watery blue eyes peek up when she hears the Inhuman's voice from close by. She blinks them a couple times and stares into her white face. There's a glimpse of the ocean in them as she lifts her head enough to expose a cracked smile that's spider-webbed across her face. She swallows before trying to speak.

"Idiota," she murmurs, not daring to speak more loudly. "You're lying and you don't know it." An arm reaches out and bumps a fist affectionately against the Inhuman's shoulder. "And you made me care… You and that stupido scream…"

"I'm sure there will be more screams like that." 'Freak' gives a half-hearted smile in return. "I'm sorry to have made you care. I was just in a moment of weakness. It won't happen again."

"It should," the youth defends as her smile falters in a moment of sternness. "It's more wrong to stop screaming for that then to have white skin or eyes like exes." Nerina reaches into one of her inner pockets again and produces a butterfly knife that's coolly flipped open in her hand. She looks down at the gleaming edge of the well-sharpened blade and aims it not towards the Inhuman but across the edge of her own palm. An intake of breath is all that accompanies the cut and then the knife is put back where it belongs as the vagabond watches her hand bleed, transfixed for a moment on the sight and sensation.

The Inhuman stares at the injury that the other woman has just inflicted on herself. "Is there any particular reason you've just needlessly injured yourself? I'd suggest you clean that wound immediately. Infection isn't something you want to try to handle in your present state," she suggests. She doesn't say anything about the prior line of conversation. As far as 'Freak' is concerned, her fate is set, and the only option left to her is deciding how she'll end.

Nerina's eyes stay down to watch as the thin line on her palm reddens with each pump of her heart and begins to spill down the side of her hand. Lifting it up to her mouth, her tongue stretches out to scrape up the draining blood, painting its pink flesh with dashes of crimson. Her eyes come back up as she seals her lips around the wound and light suction stretches the skin even tighter across her cheekbones. In another life, her face was probably round and warm, still sprinkled with a girlish vibrance. Now only tatters of that remain.

'Freak's mouth draws into an unimpressed flat line. "And you call me an idiot," she mutters. Looking down, she sees herself in one tight and one boot. Wiggling the free toes in the 'toxic green' tights and overlaid fishnet, she gets up to go get her other boot. The girl can cut herself and drink her blood to her heart's content. It doesn't make sense at all.

The hand pops back out of Nerina's mouth as the Inhuman moves away to gather her boot, wet with saliva and smeared a little with leftovers. The vagabond rises as well and glances towards the door. "What I'm doing is a lot safer than what you're doing," she notes. The water in her eyes has receded somewhat, still lapping at the edges of her lashes but too meager to break. "If you won't try to change your skin, at least try to sleep."

Nerina reaches under her sweatpants again. Apparently she has a cure for this too.

'Freak' walks over her missing boot, and sits on the floor, pulling it up over her unbooted foot. "Have you ever played chess?" she asks the other woman.

Nerina drops onto her butt again, more than happy it seems to stay where she is. "I have," she nods, producing an unmarked pill bottle. Her eyes turn distant as she looks down at it for a moment, losing herself in a memory. But it only last a moment then she snaps the top open and shakes a few pills into her hand. "I used to play a lot…"

"Here. You do have pockets in there, right?" The flautist smiles just a little crookedly as she looks down at the cyberpunk's outfit.

"A couple in the skirt, actually. Hidden. Makes it easy to carry small items without people swiping them," 'Freak admits. She finishes buckling up her boots.

"I'm just a pawn now. But if I keep moving, keep watch over the King, eventually, I'll be queened. At that point, the board is wide open."

Nerina ruminates on the analogy then shakes her head. She understands, but it's not her way. "No, no… a normal game of chess is over before any pawn gets queened. And you don't need a king to queen yourself; you're only going towards danger."

She reaches her hand out, offering the pills. "When you get over your fear of medicine, these will help you sleep. I can get you more if you need them - but you'll have to find me." The flautist winks.

"This isn't a normal game of chess." 'Freak' goes to get the rest of her accoutrements, and pauses, looking at the offered pills. "I need to do bloodwork first. I may not look like it, but I know medicine. I know medicine on a level that would make most emergency room doctors look like a hunchback with a bucket of leeches."

The blonde's head tilts to one side, spilling a few strands from her bangs. "You will still need the pills," she reasons simply. "And pawns don't get to see the whole board, they just move forward when the king says." The flautist can do metaphors too. "Smart people like to make the stupidest mistakes because you think you know something."

"What are the pills?" 'Freak' asks.

"Sleeping pills - ra-mel-te-on?" Nerina supplies, unsure of her pronunciation more than anything else.

"I'll take them, but I -am- going to do bloodwork first," 'Freak' says. She finally smiles. "Thank you. I do appreciate your kindness. I know you don't approve of what I'm doing, but I have a plan."

With the medicine dolled out, Nerina closes the pill bottle again and it disappears under her waistband. "You say that, but every woman who has told me that is dead, or much worse than she was. You can get much worse," she notes, sweeping the full length of the Inhuman's body with her eyes. When the flautist's vision gets back up, she smiles crookedly again. "Do you have any last will and testament to leave behind?"

"No. I have nothing but the clothes on my back anyways. I'm sure I'll be buried or burned in it," 'Freak' grins. "I'm going to leave now. If I see you again, we'll catch up on my plans. Otherwise, it was nice knowing you. Don't mourn me."

"Not even to tell your parents the truth if you die?" Nerina asks.

"No. Let them already think I'm dead," 'Freak' says calmly.

Nerina frowns lightly. "You shouldn't make them suffer, but okay…"

'Freak' explains calmly, "They'll suffer more knowing what's been done to me. I'd be a burden to them, financially, emotionally, mentally. Yes, they'll hurt attending a funeral with an empty casket, but that hurt will eventually heal. There's degrees of pain no matter the choice, but my 'death' by the hands of the Joker is much less painful than making them wade through a lifetime of destroyed potential, of lingering on like a braindead body that refuses to die."

The blonde vagabond shakes her head solemnly and silently crouches down to pull a thick coat out from under the bed, then starts squirming her puffy sweater sleeves inside. They bunch up terribly at first.

"And what would you have me do?" 'Freak' asks Nerina, curious.

"Nothing. You go die how you want to," the flautist dismisses with a note of bitterness tainting her voice as she straightens the sleeves out and zips up the front. The sheer fluffiness of the combination makes her look several sizes larger - normal even. "But if I were you… I would paint my skin, buy something baggy, and take the first bus out of state. Then find a pay phone and call them."

"And then what?" Punchline asks. "I want to hear your line of reasoning. What do I do after I paint my skin - if that doesn't create a reaction that causes me irritation at best and death at worst? What do I tell my parents?"

"Just clothes then," Nerina snips in irritation. "Tell them the *truth*, they're your parents."

"And then what do I do with the rest of my life?" 'Freak' calmly asks. "I tell my parents, they want me to come home. The Joker finds them, and kills them to make certain I stay within his power. If I contact them at all, I risk him finding out, because at the moment, I am entertaining."

"The Joker could find them anyway," the blonde disputes. She sits heavily on the corner of the bed and pulls out her flute, twirling it in one hand as something to fidget with. "After that, non mi interessa, find a way. If you are that scared he will find you, try the nice mind-reading mutanti in New York." The flautist's face lights up with inspiration and she pats down her pockets until she finds something.

"And I may know one or two people who could help protect you — not telepaths. If Joker were looking for me, I would call one of them… or move far, far away if I could not change my skin."

"My situation would not change, except that I would have no control over it. I would be dependant on others to protect me - and I have no desire to have my mind read - or I would spend the rest of my life running. And then what? What life can I start looking as I do? If I use my identity, I can be tracked down yet again. All it takes is one doxxing," 'Freak' points out.

"Then make a new one," Nerina answers with an animated wave of her free hand, more of her Italian roots bleeding through as the haggard blonde gets wound up. "What do you think life will be with Joker, cookies and kisses? Or do you want to steal for him, attack people, be dependent on *him* when he's not playing with your body? If you're so strong you could move bags of flour for the Mexicans in a kitchen, no one gets hurt."

"I think it will be pain and suffering, but I will not come under anyone's protection. The moment I come begging for help, I'm the slave of my protector. I'm, reduced to being a child, told where to go and what to do," 'Freak' states simply. "I have a plan. I will have to build a new life."

She steps closer to Nerina, and looks down. "But you have my curiosity. Why do you care what happens to me? What am I, to you?"

Nerina's flute twirls between her fingers until it comes to rest in her grip. The blonde squeezes as a frown comes across her again and she looks straight up at those orange x-shaped eyes. "An idiota who wants to do the stupidest thing because she knows nothing and thinks she knows everything," she grumbles bitterly before turning away from the InHuman's gaze with a huff. "Wrong. You will be his slave and worse. Maybe you pass out again and he thinks he can improve you more, so you wake up on a table after he has had his hands in you - or maybe you do not wake up at all. Or he tells you 'kill this man or I will not feed you'. Or the police find you both and shoot you dead." As she talks, Nerina rises from the bed and begins pacing towards the wall, flinging her hands out to her sides in gestures as she talks. She turns around and looks back at the green-haired woman's body, not her face.

"Or the police find your blood, test it, and learn who you are." A sardonic smile crosses her face as the young vagabond finishes and her eyes find the 'Freak's'. "Your parents would be *so proud* then."

"And if they think I'm dead, how is it worse? You don't know my parents. You don't know me. You don't know what I'm capable of. Are you simply projecting?" 'Freak' asks. "What about you? Your parents? Would they be proud of you here, like this? Looking like you survived Auschwitz, barely? You're a long way from home, has that solved your problems?"

Any sarcastic mirth in the blonde's face drains away and unconsciously, her eyes jump down to her flute. The girl grits her teeth and sets her jaw firmly as she casts the InHuman a glare. "They would be more proud I live like this than as a warm body for Joker," she spits, then turns away. A thin hand comes up to rub the bridge of her nose as the weight of emotional exertion suddenly falls upon her shoulders. Nerina sighs heavily out her nose and walks over to her thermos.

"I know what you're not capable of," she murmurs, energy drained from her once again. "You screamed like someone who doesn't want to help Joker. If not I would not have bothered with you," the blonde dismisses, giving the InHuman a less than complimentary look. Not a fan of corsets perhaps. "If you are so stupid you think any good will come from going to him, then I was wrong. Go die how you want, but I thought - maybe - you were better than killing people and attacking the homeless… or are you so selfish you do not want to even try living on your own?"

Her piece said, Nerina opens her thermos and takes deep, needful gulps.

"I've lost everything. I'm free to do anything," 'Freak' replies. She doesn't appear to be swayed by looks or tone of voice, and Nerina's verbal barbs don't seem to be finding any perchase in the pseudo-clown's thick mental skin. "If a chance at happiness still hung on for me, it died with that man I slaughtered. That's years in prison, if not life entirely. You heard my death wail." She looks at the window. "You say you know what I am. You don't. You have no idea. The joke ends when the punchline's delivered."

*Glug, glug, glug…* "Haaaah…" Nerina sets the thermos back down and seals it, taking her time in getting back to the conversation as she catches her breath. When she looks back at the cybergoth, her eyes fall to the thick black buckled boots, then climb back up the miniskirt, the corset, and land again on the glaringly white face. "I thought you were a good person, or at least a fighter," she replies mutedly, handing the clown's words back at her. Emotion has drained from the young blonde's voice, defeat has brought on fatigue. All that's left is disappointment and a note of sorrow she can't push away.

"You killed a man, so now you want to give your body to Joker so you can kill more men, do worse, and… Cosa fai tutto questo per?" Nerina's speech collapses completely into Italian and she glances aside, pursing her lips to find words in the right language again. "And why? So you can blame him for everything bad you do? Is that your fantasy?"

'Freak' headshakes. "No. You really don't understand at all." She goes to slip on her gloves, tighten her corset, get what little she has.

"Then what do you think you're going to do, bake him lasagna?" Nerina retorts. "Do you think he would queen you without enough blood on your hands to bathe in?"

'Freak' doesn't answer. She can't. Her world is her own, and she can no longer share it… with anyone. Bringing Nerina further in will only put her danger, and she has no intentions of making this an instance of ships crossing in the night. It's easier to turn off inside. Let the words roll off you like rain off a rooftop. When you see everything, your perspective naturally changes.

The flautist frowns a little as she gets the silent treatment. She stares at the InHuman as if trying to suck an answer from the skin of her face. Then something deep within the wells of her eyes cracks. It's subtle at first - the stare relaxes, her frown softens and curls like a dry leaf into a bitter, crooked smile… "Idiota," she admonishes again. "I have done a bad deed today by helping you, si? It would have been better to let the polizia have you. You're going from here to the Joker, and he is going to do bad things to you, and you are going to do bad things to other people."


"I'm just the Punchline."

'Freak' lets Nerina think about it. She might get it. Maybe. 'Freak' — Punchline — heads for the door.

There's no flash of realization across the girl's face but Nerina does walk around the bed after the self-proclaimed Punchline. She's following her out.

"You're a bad joke," she adds.

"I know," Punchline agrees.

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