Sometime after [Instance]Search Party.
<Carol> Carol was getting fairly profficient at hiding. She had constructed a sort of nest in the basement with blankets (because it was freezing down there) and alcohol (because alcohol was awesome). Her cell reception was terrible in the basement at the best of times but considering her phone was somewhat melted now, this would have been an unlikely issue anyway.
<Carol> She had brought some work down with her, well sort of work. Having retrieved the file from Sebastian, she was going through it systematically and drinking when she felt overwhelmed by the information. Which was often.
<Cessily> "Carol?" Cessily's voice echoed through the empty hallways. Having searched all the places she could think of, she had begun looking in any spot she came across. When she hadn't been able to find Carol anywhere in the main buildings, she had taken to the basement.
<Cessily> "Are you down here?" She still sounded slightly hopeful.
<Carol> Carol startled at the voice and knocked over an empty bottle. She tried to catch it but it rolled all the way out into the hall and hit the opposite wall. She cursed under her breath and hid under her blankets.
<Cessily> There was no response, but an empty bottle rolled out into the far end of the hallway and came to rest at the wall. "Carol?" Cessily asked again, this time sounding slightly wary. "Is that you?"
<Cessily> The young teacher cautiously proceeded towards the open door. "Please be no ghost," she muttered quietly to herself.
<Carol> She couldn't deal with this right now, not on top of everything else. The guilt came rushing back like a tidal wave and a hastily stifled sob echoed into the corridors.
<Cessily> Cessily quickened her step when she heard the soft cry, breathing a sigh of relief as she leaned around the corner. "Carol?" she asked again, speaking softly, as if fearing to scare off a shy animal.
<Carol> "I'm fine," she answered the unspoken question but her tone of voice didn't match her response. She sniffed, gathering the file pages together and hiding them under the blankets with her.
<Cessily> Cessily approached her with small steps, crouching down by Carol's side. She didn't say anything. Only her hand moved to rest lightly on her girlfriend's back.
<Carol> Carol turned her head toward her a little, "Have you been looking for me for long?"
<Cessily> "Only from five this morning to... whatever time we now have." She smiled a small smile. "I think classes are over by now."
<Carol> "Really? Damn..." she dug in her pockets, "My phone melted..." she held it up to show her, "Sort of lost track of the time..." she sniffed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand.
<Cessily> Cessily slid her hand up to Carol's shoulders and squeezed gently. "It's okay. I've found you now." Her smile contrasted the look of concern in her eyes. "Why didn't you come to me?" Her tone was not accusatory.
<Carol> Carol shook her head, "Couldn't..." Her chest tightened as the guilt stabbed at her again.
<Cessily> She bit her lip and swallowed her sigh, before leaning forward to rest her forehead against Carol's temple. "It's okay," she whispered. "I'm here for you." Any anger she may have felt for her girlfriend's reckless, self-destructive behaviour vanished when she sensed her pain.
<Carol> She sighed, bowing her head, "I did something..."
<Cessily> "What do you mean?" She searched for the Carol's gaze. It took her a moment to make the connection. "Are you..." She looked perplexed. "This is not because of what happened with Chris."
<Carol> "He told you?" She turned her head to look at her, in vague disbelief. She felt a little betrayed. "Awesome..." she hid her face behind her hands.
<Cessily> Cessily bit her lip. "I was asking him if he had seen you and he simply blurted it out." She put her hands on Carol's shoulders. "That is why you're hiding down here from me? A drunken kiss?"
<Carol> Carol shook her head, "No... not completely...."
<Cessily> For a moment, Cessily resembled a motionless, silver mannequin. "What do you mean?" she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
<Carol> "There's been some..." she sighed, "This..." she pushed the file out from under the blanket.
<Cessily> She looked down at the folder in Carol's hand. "What is this?" she asked, kneeling by her girlfriend's side, so she could get a better look at what she was holding. "Is it-" How to ask without sounding insensitive? "May I have a look?"
<Carol> Carol nodded, pulling the blanket further up over herself. "Go ahead..."
<Cessily> Cessily took the folder from Carol and rested it on her lap. She hesitated before opening it, wary of what she might find inside. Whatever it was, it had reduced her girlfriend to a sobbing mess hiding in the basement. Biting her lip and taking a breath, she dared to look inside.
<Cessily> Something in her chest tightened when she read the first lines, and her lips were pressed into a thin line. "Carol..." She tore her eyes away from the contents of the file and looked up at the other woman. "Where did you get this from? I mean... is this real?"
<Carol> Carol nodded, swallowing over the lump in her throat, "I requested it... the whole thing was redacted... so I asked Sebastian for a favour..."
<Cessily> Cessily covered her mouth with her hand when she came upon the more detailed descriptions. It was a small relief when she didn't come upon any pictures of the autopsy. The written report was graphic enough, but the thought of Carol having had to see something like that was unimaginable to her.
<Cessily> "Oh God, Carol," she said, her voice thick with emotion. "I'm... I'm so sorry." She reached out and pulled the other woman into her arms.
<Carol> "Don't-" she tried to resist but gave up and collapsed against her, finding herself crying yet again. "It wasn't just him..."
<Cessily> Cessily stroked her hand through Carol's hair, letting her rest her head against her shoulder. "What do you mean?" she asked, seeking the other woman's eyes with her own.
<Carol> Carol lifted her head to look into Cessily's face, "A Sentinel destroyed his entire unit."
<Cessily> Cessily swallowed. It didn't happen often she had to rein back her anger, but this was one of these rare moments. She had to recall the same techniques she used to teach her students during their counselling sessions and took a deep, slow breath. She would be no help to Carol if she couldn't remain calm herself.
<Cessily> "Are... are you sure of this?" she asked, her voice trembling like her fingers as she looked back at the report in her lap and flipped through the rest of the pages. "Was it... was it Osborn?"
<Carol> "The more I read, the more it looks that way... and the more it looks like a cover up on a massive scale."
<Cessily> The silver counsellor cursed under her breath. "I would be lying if I said this surprises me," she said. "After everything these people have done only to develop their terrible weapons." She sighed and shook her head. "I feel they are capable of anything."
<Carol> "Right now... there's nothing we can even do about it... so I'm learning everything I can... and, when we have enough, we'll go to someone who will do something about it."
<Cessily> Cessily took Carol's hands in hers and gave them a squeeze. "And I will help you," she said, less an offer than a statement. "You should have come to me, Carol. There is no need why you had to put yourself through all of this alone. I'm here for you."
<Carol> "I didn't want to put this on you... I didn't want this to blow up in my face if someone found out I was looking... I'd never forgive myself..."
<Cessily> She couldn't help but give her girlfriend a pained little smile. "You always have to be on the first line of defence, don't you?" Cessily touched her forehead to Carol's. "I can't blame you for wanting to protect us - to protect me, because I know I am just like you when it comes to doing the stupid right thing."
<Cessily> "But you scared me a little when I couldn't find you anywhere." Her fingers gave another light squeeze. "I don't want to be worried about you all the time."
<Carol> Carol nodded, looking down at her hands, "I wish I could tell you you didn't have to be..."
<Cessily> "I know," Cessily replied, a small smile curling the corners of her mouth. "And I know why you can't do that. After all, I knew what I was getting myself into when I hooked up with a military girl."
<Carol> "Yeah..." she sighed, lifting the corners of the blanket and folding Cessily into it with her. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you... I just... I didn't really have anything..."
<Cessily> Cessily snuggled up to Carol and wrapped her arms around her underneath the blanket. "It's okay," she said. "Maybe... just try to leave me a note before you disappear to do something stupid the next time, okay? I was worried you really tried to take on a driving truck while drunk."
<Carol> "Just because I'm drinking, it doesn't mean I'm suddenly suicidal... even if my liver would disagree."
<Cessily> Cessily chuckled. "Remind me to ask Broo how close he is to cloning new organs, just in case." She kissed Carol's temple. "And don't worry about the thing with Chris, okay?"
<Carol> She nodded, "Okay... I don't even know why I did that...."
<Cessily> "You were drunk and he was there?" Cessily supplied with a wry smile. "I know how these things just happen sometimes."
<Carol> "I guess so..." She gave Cess a squeeze, "But... if it's all the same to you, I think I'm gonna carry on avoiding stuff for a while..."
<Cessily> "That's fine by me," she assured Carol. "If you ever feel like talking, I'll be there to listen."
<Carol> "Thanks... I appreciate it..." She nuzzled Cessily's hair, "How about we get some dinner? I guess I skipped two meals already today...."
<Cessily> Cessily smiled. "That's a great idea," she said. "I don't feel like cooking. What do you say about you and I heading to town and looking for the greasiest, grubbiest fast food shack we can find?"
<Carol> "I am all for this." She withdrew her arms from around Cessily and removed the cuff from her wrist, the lights flickered while her powers compensated for the alcohol in her system.
<Cessily> "Good." Cessily slipped out from underneath the blanket and got to her feet, then extended her hand to Carol. "And later we can look over this together." She nodded towards the file. "And see how we can bring whoever is responsible for what happened to your brother and his unit to justice."
<Carol> "I already have a plan... we can discuss it over dinner." She offered Cessily a small smile as she closed the file over and picked it up, then accepted the help to get up.
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