When you woke up this morning, full of plans to get your next lead, this is not how you thought this would end up.
You got to happily reuse the incredibly expensive and fancy clothes that you spent half your budget on, the sleek black shirt and white vest, with a white bowtie and black slacks that you originally bought for investigating the Chat Blanc, so this already felt like a step in the right direction. You were covering a charity gala for the new superhero museum that was opening in town, with Rhoda taking notes for a fluff piece and Alethea taking notes for the Red Light case.
The people here left a lot to be desired, but Red Light himself was here, so that was primo opportunity for you. You got halfway through your first question when an explosion rocked the building (you’d find out later that it came from the bathroom: they set charges in a stall and locked the door after them). And that’s when you saw her.
Valkyrie, complete with sightless mask and wicked grin (almost familiar, but you can’t quite place it). “Ladies and gentlemen and germs,” she calls out over the chaos, “now that this gala has robbed you of a minimum 100 dollars entrance fee, I’m going to rob you for everything else!” Everyone went stock still, watching her like the rabid dog she was. “Nice orderly lines please-”
And there went Red Light, charging forward to save the day. You internally groaned and looked around the room. Everyone was flooding the exits, trying to get out of the crossfire. You weren’t interested in that at the time. You found an alcove in the old Stillwater exhibit and watched the fight.
Red Light’s fights were always elaborate games of tag. Or ninja. He would continuously try to touch the opponent and they would try to tire him out or trap him in something else. Valkyrie seemed to be charged up a little already through fighting someone else, so she was just fast enough to lead him on a merry chase through the museum. You took notes feverishly until a hand touched your shoulder.
You spun around, pen encased in your fist as you gave a single wild punch. Black and silver moved from your space and you realized you were looking up at him.
“What are you doing here?” you both asked at once, his voice cracking slightly (so subtle that you’re sure if you didn’t have history with him, you would never have noticed) from a bogeyman routine and your voice a snarl.
“I,” you answered, twirling the pen around your fingers as you stand (he moves, as if burned by your presence. He always did call you wildfire), “am doing my job. I have an article due on Red Light.”
There was a crash and the both of you looked over. Valkyrie had used the “Capes through the Years” display to trap Red Light, for the moment. She looked over. “HARB! Grab the money.”
He moved, like smoke, and your heart clenched as he moved away from you. Your free hand went to the ring, hidden under your shirt. Not the wedding ring (that was kept in a pocket of your purse, for fiddling with when you were nervous), but the ring he gave you for the first birthday that he’d been your boyfriend for.
You were so caught up in watching him — Harbinger, Rafael, Raf — that you didn’t even see Valkyrie sneak up on you and knock you out.
Which brings you to now. With two super-villains arguing over what to do with you.
“Harb, c’mon, it’s not like I picked her on purpose,” Valkyrie replies gesturing wildly as Harbinger stands stock still. “I’m not that kind of a dick!”
“We have to let her go, Valkyrie,” he replies, his voice that eerie calm of his bogeyman routine. Probably because neither of them have realized you’re awake and watching them.
“Oh sure, let’s just let her out the backdoor, so she can tell everyone where the base is!”
“She...she wouldn’t do that.”
“Harb, what’s her motto?”
Harbinger hesitates a moment before answering, “Truth will find a way.”
Valkyrie claps her gloved hands together. “Yeah. Believe me, I’m also kicking myself for picking Rhoda-”
“Why’s that?” you ask and their heads both snap to you. You’re tied up in a chair, so you can’t quite wave, so you shrug and smile sardonically instead. “I didn’t know my fluff pieces at the Triple N caught such illustrious attention.”
“Ugh, I can’t talk to her when she’s like this.”
“What, tied up and helpless?” you ask, your smile shifting into a smirk.
Valkyrie throws her hands into the air and then points at Harbinger. “You handle her. You’re the expert.”
“You...you know I would just let her go, right?”
Valkyrie puts her hands to her face. “I forgot that you two are the worst with each other.” Interesting. Why does she know Harbinger’s — Raf’s — history with you?
“So,” you reply, “let me put forth my proposal that I think at least one of my-” you wiggle against the restraints. Leather. Kinky. “-hospitable captors might care for.”
“What,” the two super-villains say, with immensely different tones.
“You both know I’m a reporter,” you answer, “what you don’t know is that I do articles for two newspapers. So, a proper introduction.” You tap your feet on the ground for a drum-roll. “Rhoda Argyris in the streets and...well, Alethea Hunt also in the streets, I don’t really do much with sheets these days.”
“You’re Alethea Hunt?” Valkyrie asks. “I love your articles!”
You blink. “You what.”
“You dig in so deep, it’s refreshing!” Valkyrie replies. “Hold on.” She exits the room, leaving you with him (he’s refusing to look at you and that hurts).
“What are you doing?” he asks.
You hum. “When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade,” you answer. “This is an unorthodox, but...a good opportunity for me.” You add quickly, “And my career.” You snort softly. “Can’t you just look into my past and figure it out from there?”
“...you’ve always been off-limits,” Harbinger answers and you blink. “I never...I don’t look into your past. Or your future. Only times I did were emergencies.”
You feel something inside your chest melt a little and you have to remind yourself that you’re angry with him. “Well, that’s one question I never thought would be answered answered,” you reply.
You can’t read his face, otherwise he’d be an open book to you, but his body language turns a little like he’s going to say something, but then Valkyrie comes back into the room with a cork-board.
“You went after Georgia Martin!” she says in an excited exhale, gloved hand pointing to one of the pinned articles. You squint, but can’t quite make it out. Your glasses are somewhere else. “The exotic pet farm!”
“OH!” You blink. “The lady with all the illegal hybrid animals?”
“Yeah!” You never saw Valkyrie as the type for having a soft-spot for animals, but here she was. “I really hated her, she set that dragon-looking thing on me and that was just NOT my favorite experience in the world, y’know?”
“I can imagine,” you reply, not knowing what to do with this information. At all. It was like talking to Lucy, back in college, but somehow more. “They’re being rehabilitated now, so less being set on people and more being gently studied by zoologists.”
“I know and that makes me so happy!” She sets the cork-board against the wall of the room, on the floor by the wall. “And you wanna offer us an article?”
“Mmmmhmmm,” you hum and nod. “Have you offered me for ransom yet?”
Harbinger answers, “We don’t do that-”
“Excellent,” you reply. “So, here’s my deal: not a lot of people will notice I’m gone. My boss will, maybe a coworker, probably not my landlord, and maybe the nice waitress in the cafe a couple streets from my apartment, but she’ll only probably notice because I’m not there biting the heads off of idiots trying to run a con.”
“That’s...that’s kinda sad, Rhoda,” Valkyrie replies.
You shrug, masking the surreal feeling of a super-villain showing sympathy. “It’s been a long four years.” Harbinger, to his credit, doesn’t flinch. “So, my plan depends on a few variables,” you state, “do you two have access to any kind of hench people? I dunno if either of you are the hench type.”
The two of them look at each other. Then back to you.
“Well, not us personally,” Valkyrie replies, “but we do know some people we could ask favors from.”
“Why?” Harbinger asks.
You smile, nice and pretty in the way you do when you’re sweet-talking a security guard to let you into a building. You say, fluttering your eyelashes, “I’m going to pass some notes like a girl in a high school class.”
It takes a long time to fully explain your plan in a way that makes sense to the both of them (Valkyrie is on board, not from the word go, but from the word or two after go. Harbinger is the main opponent against all of this). Your plan is a simple way for all parties to win: you get any message they want to a newspaper as long as you get to tell Finn to make a huge bluster about you being the reporter who has the best lead on Red Light’s identity. The two of them could swap you into a throwaway safe-house for this and check in on you now and then. You’d get Red Light’s attention and they’d get a free red herring from anything they were actually up to.
You’re pretty smug when you’re all shaking hands like business associates.
You’re blindfolded and taken to another location (this one appears to be a nice warehouse with a surprising amount of modification to house a person).
You stand, looking at yourself in the mirror. You look okay in the sleep clothes you’d been given (an over-sized t-shirt and some flannel pants) and there’s too much color for your liking (you’ve spent the last four years only wearing black, white, and grey — this is blue and red and green), but it’s surprisingly comfortable. The bags under your eyes are so heavily contrasted by your pale, heavily freckled skin that you wonder if Harbinger (Raf, your mind traitorously corrects) agreed only as a way to give you a vacation of sorts.
You put your hands on your hips, asking your reflection, “What the hell are you looking at?”