If The Shoe Fits

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Elle Joyner, Aug 16, 2016.

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      A modern retelling of the beloved classic, Cinderella by @Effervescent and Elle Joyner​

      She woke with a dizzying, anxious feeling - the sensation of her stomach flipping over like a beached fish, her head pounding and a raw metallic taste at the back of her throat. Mind swimming, she tried to remember what had happened, but could only vaguely recall the Gala... the blackout and those few minutes before, when she had been speaking to Ezreal.

      It felt like a dream - a weird, unnerving dream that she hadn't fully come out of. There was a weight on her chest and squinting through the pain in her skull, she glanced down to see a heavy black vest had been secured to her torso. On the vest were several orange squares and a series of wires with attached to what looked to be an alarm clock panel in the center. She didn't need to be any sort of expert to know what it was. And she didn't need that reality to understand she wasn't dreaming.

      There was no rationalizing it, no way of making it appear less than it was. She was strapped to a rather impressively designed explosive device and chances were it wasn't just intended to make a big mess of her - but had a bigger purpose...

      Her eyes glossing over with tears, Ella looked up, looked around the warehouse, "Hello!?" She called out, her throat dry and scratchy, her mouth feeling as though she'd swallowed an entire bag of cotton swabs, some of which were still lodged in her esophagus, "Hello!? Is anyone there??"

      Pinkard. Gabriel Pinkard had been there. She remembered now, seeing his face right before she'd passed out. He had been taking her picture, sending it to someone... to... to who? Why her? It surely went beyond an unsuccessful mugging attempt. Did it have something to do with Lionel? But why wait until now? And surely they didn't imagine they were going to get anything out of her stepfather... Blinking, she shifted, rattled her arms to little avail, against the zipties securing her to the chair, "Somebody help me!"

      Her isolation was deliberate. Her cries for help reached out mutely to the streets surrounding the warehouse. The entire block was quiet at this hour still as night rolled past midnight. Pinkard was still antsy despite no longer being within visual range of the girl strapped to a bomb. He looked to his cohort who pursed his lips in annoyance to Eloise's calls. Ezreal perched himself on the ledge of one of the warehouse's fire exits, his heart pounding in his chest as he heard Ella call out for help.

      Slowly, he inched closer to the nearest window to peer through. Crates were stacked upon each other almost as high as the ceiling. It was difficult to make out exactly where she was being held. But he didn't feel like he had the time to assess the whole situation. The possibility of it being a trap crossed his mind, but did not deter him from taking action. He entered the same way he did the week before. Nothing had changed since then, though there wasn't much of a reason for this group to rearrange the layout based on what he had overheard from the recordings. Guilt wracked his heart as he realized how sloppy he had been. This wasn't meant to get out of hand. He was just trying to rid the corruption that held his family in stasis. And now he threw his only true friend in the fray.

      Just as he rounded the corner, he caught sight of Ella. She was bound by her wrists and ankles upon a chair in the middle of the warehouse. The bulk about her torso didn't register until he began his approach. Was it live? Was his mistake really worth such extremes? The sound of a metal door crashing into the far wall halted Ezreal's steps. He wanted to rush to Ella and wisk her away, but the footsteps grew closer. He instead retreated back behind a container to stay out of view.

      Approaching Ella now was the handsome man from the gala. He no longer carried such a friendly air as he crouched in front of Eloise, his expression cool and thoughtful. "I do apologize for all of this," he said as he motioned to the vest. Within his hand was the detonator held casually in his grasp. "I don't really want you to come to harm. But you see, I need to teach your boyfriend a lesson. And I need to remind his parents who runs this city." He points to himself as he rises to a stand. "So unfortunately, we are here, waiting on his sorry !@#$%^&* to show."

      Ella's eyes brightened a little, at the sight of the man from the gala when he stepped into view. It had seemed so innocent, then, but it made all the sense in the world. Bad guys didn't show up in hockey masks, wielding machetes. They wore suits and smiles and spoke like politicians. They made you feel safe and secure, then they struck when you least expected it, in a way that wasn't cartoonish or over the top, but in a way that was swift and conclusive. She wasn't as surprised then as she'd expected, though there was a level of shock she couldn't quite mask in her pale features. It was a quality of surprised that only intensified as the man opened his mouth to speak.

      A brow quirked and slowly, Ella shook her head, her gaze defiant, if not a little forced, "...You shouldn't apologize for things you aren't sorry for." It wasn't the wisest course of action, she knew, offering sass when there was a good chance he had an itchy finger over the trigger. But the fact of the matter was, she was terrified. Terrified to the point of numbness, and the only possible combatant she could think of to hold herself together was a defense mechanism she'd employed for a good portion of her life. Of course, Lionel had never tried to kill her, and certainly not with such a colorful method.

      There was some satisfaction in knowing that her intuition had been right - it was pretty obvious now that Ezreal was the one who had saved her from Pinkard in the alley, but it was satisfaction swiftly lost when she considered that if he did show... and she was sure they'd made it apparent to him what would happened if he didn't... they weren't going to offer him a medal and the key to the city. Try as she might, no amount of sass or sarcasm could keep the tears from stinging at her eyes, and no matter how many times she blinked at them or bit the inside of her cheek, the burning only worsened. She was sure she wasn't going to win the fight, but she was going to go out swinging.

      "Frankly, sir, whatever you think Ezreal or his parents did, I'm pretty sure you kidnapping me, holding me hostage in a creepy warehouse and trying to blow people up is much worse, so you're gonna have to forgive me if I'm not exactly feeling sorry for your predicament. All Ez did was stop some nutcase from mugging me... but if that bugs you so much, you already have my purse. Keep it... I don't think my lipstick is your shade, though."

      The man produced a pistol from under his jacket, his body still knelt before Ella as he eyed the piece over in his hand. His other hand carried the detonator, his thumb lightly brushing over the cover to the button as he held it more to his side away from view. He shook his head in a thought, his calmness still present as he looked from his weapon to someone standing behind Ella.

      "Did you mug her?" he asked the unseen person. There was a pause followed by the muttering of a no. The man the looked towards Pinkard standing some generous steps away from where the girl sat, his eyes fixated on the man's hand that held the detonator until he realized his eyes were on him. Pinkard pointed to himself and momentarily debated on answering truthfully. But the man seemed to already know, his lips pursing in mild disappointment as he turned away to look back at Ella.

      "It would be him," he said, and then let out a soft gasp. "Oh, where are my manners? I'm Jason, by the way. Jason Kevscoff. I run this city. Well, behind the scenes, really."

      "He's over here!" The voice called out distantly and was followed by the sounds of shuffling feet in a pursuit. Kevscoff's gaze flecked up to the crates stacked behind Ella as the commotion continued. Three shots were fired, but it didn't seem to stop the chase. He sighed and looked over at Ella after a moment.

      "Ezreal's a little predictable, would you agree?" Kevscoff asked rhetorically. He brought the barrel of his pistol up to her hair and used it to push back a lock. Two men entered into view with Ezreal tightly in their grasp, and Kevscoff looked over at the boy expectantly.

      "You've got me," he said. "Just let her go."

      "No," Kevscoff responded flatly. "I need to speak with her."

      He waved them away as Ezreal struggled against them in protest. He clearly did not like the prospects of leaving Kevscoff alone with her. "Ella!" He kept calling her name until a door shut to drown out the silence. Kevscoff took in another breath before speaking again.

      "So, Ella," he began nonchalantly. He spoke as though they were friends just at the midterm of their relationship. "Your father runs that restaurant...what was it... Good food, anyway. Do you have any aspirations? Something beyond being a waitress?"

      The interrogation of his own men was a curious thing, and the knowledge that Pinkard had done what he'd done on his own accord hardly encouraging. It felt like something that could be used to her advantage... a wedge, driven between them, to shake up the crew. Unfortunately, she never got her chance. The man introduced himself, and as Ella opened her mouth to speak, she heard the cry.

      There was no other way to interpret it. And there would be no need - seconds later, Ezreal appeared, carted unceremoniously into the meeting by two unappealing thugs. Heart giving a painful throb, Ella straightened as much as her binds would allow, "Ez!"

      He'd come. He'd come, against all hope that he wouldn't. But then, it had been a fool's hope, hadn't it? Even if all she was was a friend, he wasn't going to let something terrible happen to her, to preserve himself. He was too good a man to do that... Predictable. That was the word for it, and she could've kissed him... if she could get out of her chains, "Oh, Ez..."

      Tears stinging behind her eyes, she shook her head. They would never let her go. Not now... not after she had seen their faces, heard their names. He'd come, but it would do either of them little good, captive as they were. Oh, if he had just stayed away... As quickly as they'd dragged him in, Ez was tugged away and Ella watched, horrified in his wake while Jason turned his attention back to her, his words sounding hollow against the pounding beating in her head, "My... my father's restaurant..." Frowning, she swallowed and with a certain determination not to fall apart, met his gaze, as defiantly as she could manage through the tears, "Stepfather, but Mr. Kevscoff. If you're offering me a job, I think I'll pass. Besides, I don't quite think I have the credentials for common criminal thug."


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      loise Sooȶ✧
      EIGHTEEN || AMERICAN || 5'4" || 110lbs


      Ella is the epitome of selflessness. Having been adopted at an early age, she was raised in a household where one was taught to think only of themselves, and little care was given to those in the world around them... or even in the same house as them. Despite this being her only lesson, Ella, born with a disposition of abject kindness, was certain the logic was flawed and to the utter frustration of her adoptive family, purposed in her heart to be as compassionate and giving as one could be. Because they could think of nothing more to do with her, Ella was put to work.

      Perfectly content to be left alone to her chores, Ella never complained and even found some small delight in the tasks she was assigned to. This, however, further infuriated her step-father, who insisted there was something wrong with the girl and tried on multiple occasions to correct the problem at hand. Despite her mistreatment, Ella managed to maintain every ounce of goodness and gentleness she had been graced with, resigned that if she should be forced to live in her current state she would, to the best of her abilities, make the most of it. She took joy in the little things, pride in her work and strove to only ever see the goodness in the people around her.

      When Ella was very young, her father passed away. What little she knew of the man, she knew without a doubt he was a good man, for she saw how it destroyed her mother to lose him. Still, despite the depth of their love it was not long before Ella's mother remarried. It was a whirlwind romance... the thing of fairytales and for Ella's mother is was an escape from the tragedy... from the heartbreak. It wasn't long before it became evident that Ella, however, did not fit into her new family, the consequence of which manifested more and more as time went on and her two step-sisters grew.

      More staff than valued daughter, Ella nevertheless settled into her home life with a fluid poise, accepting her position with grace and dignity. Things took a turn for the worse when Ella's mother was stricken with a swift acting cancer and passed within a year of diagnosis. Eventually, when she was old enough and it was clear that Ella would not be broken by her mistreatment at home, she was sent to work at The Royal Palace Hotel, managed by her step-father, taking a position as a server in the hotel's restaurant. Contrary to her step-father's intentions, the position was a blessing... Left to her own devices, freed from the ever watchful, ever spiteful eye of her mother, Ella thrived... a beacon of unrepressed light in an otherwise dismal city.

      NINETEEN || AMERICAN || 5'10" || 162lbs


      Ezreal has often been referred to as a charmer of sorts. Most of the time his charm is unintentional, and has often felt when he actually tries to be charming he falls quite short of the definition. He is a courteous man, often putting others before himself. The pressure and fame of his family and fortune weighs upon him, and the stress and pressure of having to keep up a good image has whittled down his self-esteem. A lot of concern goes into preserving his family's reputation, which makes him go through bouts of reclusiveness to insure he doesn't cause a black spot upon his family's name when he feels self-destructive.

      The life he was forced to live for the past ten years has taken its toll as he nears the end of his teenage years. He has a desire to help others and make others lives better, and feels that no one should be forced to live their entire lives in the same circumstance as they were born. Any charity event his mother hosts, he strives to have an active roll. Instead of taking on work, since he already has enough money provided by his parents, he contributes a lot of his time in volunteer work. Ezreal likes to keep his life as private as possible, and luckily for him his parents respect this wish. While he is out, he will maintain a "golden boy" presence, and appear happy, lively, and social to keep up appearances. Behind the scenes is a very sad and lonely boy of 19. His loneliness is a choice, however. He found it too difficult to maintain his outward appearance and also open up to someone wholly. His sadness stems from wanting more than the material, but feeling that he can never have it.

      Ezreal was born into wealth. His father inherited everything his grandfather founded making Ezreal the next heir to the multibillion dollar enterprise. Almost every major business building in the city is owned by the Aurelius family. Those who know of them by name know how many jobs they have supplied to the locals, and thus it gave his father the edge in his political campaigns throughout the years. Like every wealthy individuals with no real celebrity clout, it is hit or miss as to whether or not people would know their faces. His parents' faces are more well known than his.

      Sometimes this is a saving grace for Ezreal, especially when people don't even know the association between the name Aurelius and the city. Still, there are those who do know he is the son of the mayor, and thus there is a certain level of pressure to keep up a positive appearance to the public. Who knows who is watching and reporting? For the most part, his childhood was a great one. He got everything he ever wanted, elaborate birthday parties, and surrounded himself with friends. It wasn't until high school that the pressure of appearances was formally placed on him by his parents as they expressed their concerns with his school friends. Because he was a child and did not know he could act differently, he began to wean himself slowly from his friends and adorned a mask of happiness.

      Those he pushed away were likely hurt, but it was never enough to taint the Aurelius name. Towards the end of high school, life felt very unfulfilling for the teenager. He longed to be able to help others, but also to be true to himself, and express himself how he wanted to. After overhearing his father in a hushed dispute with his mother about Kevscoff and some vague trouble, he took up the romantic notion of vigilantism, though without the violence. For the most part it was taking to the streets incognito, supplying the police with anonymous tips on any criminal activity he may see while having minimal interference.

      His first case was finding the pickpocket that stole his wallet while he was riding the subway. Since his family owned a large portion of the city, it wasn't too difficult to track the pickpocket through the cameras along the outside of the buildings. After several days of talking with various security guards, bell hops, and personelle, Ezreal eventually tracked down the pickpocket's home and figured out a way to gain entry while he was away by using his minimal clout and supposed charm. Inside the pickpocket's apartment was not only his wallet, emptied, but a few others. He gathered what he found and quietly returned each found wallet to their respective owners. He quickly learned that people assumed he was the pickpocket, and eventually had to return the stolen items in secret as well.

      On occasion, he has found himself interfering with situations before the police arrive, though he has always made sure his face is covered by using a hoodie and bandanna combination. The cliche of his hobby doesn't bother him, though he wishes he could do something more official than vigilantism. But because he is heir to the family fortune, he feels he cannot pursue a career in law to any degree.

    #1 Elle Joyner, Aug 16, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2016
  1. It was quiet once again now that it was just Eloise and Kevscoff. He watched her with narrowed eyes as though in thoughtful judgement, a smirk of amusement fixed in a curl at the edge of his lips that broadened with each word she spoke. He was taking delight in her squeamish demeanor and the way she tried her best to keep her composure. It was a twisted, maniacal sort of power play. This was a man that enjoyed control and manipulation.

    “Cute,” he mused. “I guess I can't really blame you for not really thinking about underlying meanings. My men did strap a live bomb to you.” He took in a sharp breath and exhaled slowly as he shook his head. “That's not meant for you. I would rather it not be set off, you see, as I still need it. But you're safe as long as I am standing near you. So you can dry your tears and we can have a nice little chat while my men teach Ezreal a lesson.”

    He stood and readjusted his tailored jacket and loosened his tie before walking out of view. His shoes tapped lightly against the concrete flooring, and was then accompanied by the sound of a rolling office chair. Kevscoff came back into view and sat down before her, his elbows propped on his knees as he stared Eloise down in a cool expression.

    “How much do you really know about what Ezreal’s been up to?” he asked.

    Try as she might, the flinch came, unbidden. A lesson? She wasn't terribly up to date on 'thug lingo', but she was relatively convinced they didn't plan to teach him how to dance, or a new innovative way to clean cast iron pans... Her strength came, only in knowing that they hadn't killed him. Not immediately anyway, which meant there was still hope for the both of them.

    "We've only been on one date..." She mused, struggling to keep her voice even, "It's not like we're married. But if it's something that's got you all hot and bothered, well... good job, Ez."

    He lofted a brow, his smirk still apparent as she spoke. "You're a bit brazen for the situation you're in," he said before resituating himself in his seat. His hands came together as if to pray, the tips of his fingers lightly pressing against his lips. "Maybe I should explain things a little more plainly. Ezreal is expendable here. But I'll let him live if you cooperate. So. I need to know how much *you* know so that the proper lessons are learned. Do you understand now?"

    And just like that, the newly gained modicum of confidence came crashing down, her expression faltering as she straightening in her seat, eyes wide and alert, frightened, "...I... I don't know anything. Honestly. We went out once... I.... I think maybe he was the one who stopped my mugger a few nights ago. But I'm not sure. I never asked. Please..." Eyes flickering to his, she shook her head, "Please don't hurt him."

    "You don't have control over that," he clarified as he sat straight in his seat. "Just his life. Now, just so I'm clear, what are your plans if you make it out alive? Will you continue your work as a waitress forever? Will you...go to the police about this affair? Anything that comes to mind, and don't lie. You'll find out quickly I'll know."

    Frowning, she shrugged, "I mean, I hope not? Eventually I'd like to... to move on to something better. As for the police? I... I don't know. I've never... it's not exactly a situation I'm familiar with. Probably? But I don't think it'll do any good. Who's gonna take me seriously?"

    Kevscoff nodded his head. "Exactly," he said calmly. "No one is going to believe this. Because why would anyone kidnap the stepchild of a restaurant owner and threaten her life? We live in a world of dismissal, especially when it comes to women. Crazy, fanatic women vying for their fifteen minutes of fame. Who better to try for that fame than to claim having been with the Prince Charming? I'm glad you can see reason, Miss Ella. We are coming upon some pretty important dates and I can't have kids messing up all I've worked for. Are we at an understanding?"

    Breathing out, she turned her eyes up to his again, nodding, "...And.... and you'll let him go? Ez...? He and I, we walk out of here...?"

    He rose from his seat, the chair slightly rolling away from him in the motion. "As long as you agree to keep him in line," he said, "we should have no issues. If you'll excuse me, I have some business with *Ez* before your ride gets here."

    He rose and the sound of the chair rolling back was only just loud enough to mask the whimper as she watched him. Business... Again, not quite subtle enough that she could mistake the true meaning, and struggle as she did, there was no way out of the chair... no way to help Ezreal...

    She was trapped, and she could think of no worse position to be in.

    There was the distant sound of a door opening accompanied by muffled conversation. The door closed, and a different pair of footsteps made their way back towards Ella. It was one of the other men dressed in a dark suit. He never bothered to look her way, but in his hand was a pistol resting loosely at his side. Only a moment passed before a loud whirring echoed through the warehouse. Behind the stacks of freight containers, the garage door opened, and bright headlights filtered into the building to herald the entrance of an unseen car. The car kept running, and the man didn't move to check. It wasn't until the door opened once again minutes later that anything happened. Kevscoff came back into view and gently removed and eased off the vest from her form.

    “Your ride is here,” he said. “Ezreal will be along shortly. Don't forget to thank the driver.”

    She was left now to her freedom, no longer confined to the chair and bound by her hands and feet. Ezreal still wasn't in sight, but rounding the corner was a simple grey Honda, behind the wheel of which was a very concerned Duke. The man rushed out of the driver’s seat to open the door for Ella, his hand out to her to beckon her over.

    “Lord, you look like you've had the life drained from you,” he said. “Come on, get in. I’ve got some blankets in the back if you want any. My little girl likes them when she starts to feel anxious. Says they comfort her.”

  2. It couldn't have been more than a few minutes, seconds even, before Kevscoff returned and the vest was pulled away, but those few minutes had been utter agony. She couldn't hear much more than muttered words through a closed door, but with every passing moment she anticipated the sound of a gunshot, of a tortured scream, of an explosion. Would she even hear it? If the set off the bomb strapped to her chest? Would she know it went off before the end? No doubt the sadistic creep would set a delay just long enough that she would know it had been detonated.

    She was safe so long as he was there with her, chatting with here as if they were old friends, but the moment he'd walked away, the moment he had excused himself, she had been certain her life was forfeit. Her life and Ezreal's. For all her courage, she wasn't prepared... she wasn't entirely positive there was a way -to- prepare for such a horrible fate...

    But it made sense. She had seen their faces, knew their names... and whatever she'd said about going to the police - about how they might not believe her, there seemed to be little chance she'd actually be released, and so when the man finally appeared to release her, it was with no small sense of wariness that Ella watched him, looking for the tell... waiting for the indication that she was being lied to. The bullet in her back. But for a second time, she was surprised to find her expectations proven wrong, and as the Honda came into view and she approached it cautiously, she caught sight of the driver and felt a wave of confusion wash over her... felt her stomach twist into a knot at the familiar face.

    He climbed out and opened the door, but Ella did not jump in. Instead, she rushed to the man, to the stranger and she threw her arms around his narrow waist with a sob, "They have him! They have him and they won't let him go..."
  3. Duke wrapped his arms around the girl, a complete stranger, but the father in him kicked into gear. Were it his own daughter he would do just that and give her the comfort needed to pull through. Ella only had him, and it broke the butler's heart. He looked up at Kevscoff sternly, and then to the door beyond the casual crime lord. His lips closed to a purse tightly as a torrent of emotions rushed through him.

    "Come on out, Ezreal," Kevscoff called as he lit a cigarette. A moment passed, and then another. Kevscoff took a drag of his cigarette, eventually looking back over at the doorway and to the thug by the door questioningly. Duke fought back the tears in his eyes.

    "Did he pass out again?" Kevscoff asked the thug in a quiet tone.

    "You bastard!" Duke interjected. "What is wrong with you praying on these kids? This business isn't with them."

    "These kids made it our business," Kevscoff responded calmly, and then motioned towards the thug near the door. The man disappeared into the room, eventually emerging with Ezreal in tow. He was conscious, his body visibly battered and bloody from the unseen beating, but he was able to move on his own, albeit sluggish.

    As soon as Ezreal saw Ella and Duke, he pushed away the thug and walked on his own. He didn't want to waste another second in that warehouse. His hand gently brushed Ella's arm giving her a slight push for the car door. "Did they hurt you?" he asked. "Are you okay?"
  4. She had cautioned herself against optimism. From the moment she'd awoken from the chloroform, she'd known the likelihood of escape was slim, and when Ezreal had shown up, the odds had seemed even worse. They wouldn't make it out unscathed. They couldn't possibly. And she had tried to prepare herself for what that meant, but at the end of the day, she was still just a waitress, barely a legal adult, and up until that point the most danger she had been in involved taking a cab downtown.

    Seeing Ezreal lumber out of the room, aided by the monsters that had tormented him, she felt her breath catch in her throat, felt her stomach tighten and with a soft whimper, she clung tighter to the butler, who seemed to have inadvertently made a lifeline of himself. Slowly, Ezreal neared and when he spotted them, he brushed off the guards. Ella almost called for him to stop, to let them help, but she imagined there was a great relief in being shot of the thugs and the expression of determination in his eyes was, at least, a tiny bit encouraging.

    He was a mess. He was a mess, and seeing him, it washed her with guilt, poured over her in a cascade. She had done this. Somehow, she had done this, and he had suffered for it. Tears burned at her eyes, and as he spoke she shook her head, willed her legs to move until she had sunk back into the car, "I'm fine..." As he settled beside her, she took in a shaky breath and looking him over, she reached out a hand, laying it gently against his cheek, "Oh Ez... You shouldn't have come. They... they could have killed you."
  5. Never in his life had Ezreal felt this amount of pain. He broke his wrist once when he was eight after falling off his bike going too fast down a hill, and that was the closest sensation he had to what was currently afflicting his body. There was a metallic taste in his mouth from the blood that came from the cut on his lip and the blood from his nose. His face had swollen bruises on his cheeks and his broken nose that flared out like a purple butterfly. Each breath flared in a sharp pain across his chest. The beating he took was surely punishment just for planting bugs. That was all he did, and it wasn't like he even got any information of worth from the conversations he recorded. It was likely they found his bugs from the start.

    It didn't feel great sitting in the car, and it hurt to even stoop down into the sedan without hitting his head. "Don't be silly," he said as he rested his head back onto the seat. He looked her over for any signs of physical harm, and he saw the guilt etched in her features. His hand reached up to her cheek slowly, his thumb brushing against the skin as if to try and wipe the emotion from her features. "I'm sorry. It's my fault... It's my fault he put you through that... That he strapped that vest to you. I did a stupid thing, Ella."

    "Damn right, it was stupid," Duke chimed in as he sat himself in the driver's seat. He drove out of the warehouse, his jaw clenched in the onslaught of emotions he still felt well within him and fought back his anger in the boy. But as he continued to speak to the two, his frustrations were apparent in his tone. "What you did was completely irresponsible and selfish, Ezreal. You put Miss Soot right smack in the middle of your mess, and for what?"

    "I didn't think it would-"

    "You didn't THINK it would?" Duke cut off, and then paused to regain his composure. His eyes moved from the road to the occasional glance up into the rear view mirror to look at the two in the back of the car. "Eloise," he said more calmly, "I've got to take Ezreal to the hospital-"

    "But then-"

    "I have to take him to the hospital!" he said over Ezreal's protest. Ezreal groaned like a child, and Duke continued back in his more calmer tone. "I can take you home afterwards. Or you can use my cell phone to call your stepfather to have him pick you up if you'd like."
  6. "No!" Sitting up a little straighter, Ella shook her head vehemently, "No, Duke. You... you can't. They... they'll ask questions. They might talk to the police!" She didn't know how it worked, really. She knew that things like gunshots were reported, but would a beating like his? It was possible, and that possibility, it made her chest tight with anxiety. He was the son of the mayor... Of course the police would get involved, if for nothing else than out of fear of a lawsuit or dismissal, "Please..." She continued, a little softer, "...They... they'll kill him, Duke... if the police get involved. They'll kill him."

    Keep him in line. She didn't need to be a genius, nor did she need to be schooled in the mental workings of organized criminals to know what those words meant. She hadn't been forbidden from going to the police, but they had all but insinuated what would happen if she or either of them, for that matter, did. The best way to handle this was keeping it as close to the chest as she could, even if that meant an uncomfortable night for Ezreal.

    A tear slid the length of her cheek and stubbornly, she brushed it away, reaching with her free hand to take Ezreal's, "I'll take care of him. Just... please. No hospitals, no police. Not... not until we can figure out a way to keep this from getting worse." Whoever's fault it was, and she wasn't entirely convinced it was hers or his, as much as it was Kevscoff's... there could be no more brash, half-conscious, half-baked ideas. They needed a plan. A real plan.
  7. "We don't know the extent of his injuries," Duke fought back. He was an adamant man for the proper care, and it sounded to him like she was overreacting due to the trauma of it all. He hadn't seen the bomb strapped to her, nor was he at all aware of what Kevscoff had told either of them. But what stuck out, and what caused the butler to stop his side of the argument was the concept of questions being asked. Mayor Aurelius had told him to keep it quiet, because if anyone were to find out and ask questions it would likely point fingers at Ezreal's tabloid lifestyle. For once the man wasn't concerned so much about himself as he was his own son, but it still felt as detached as it always had been. Her he was, the family butler picking up a kid that was not his own knowing full well of the mistreatment rather than his own father.

    "I'll call in a favor," Duke finally said, "but if this favor says he needs a hospital, we're going to the hospital. We'll make something up. No one's going to die."

    He changed his course to head back to Ezreal's apartment. Due to his family's wealth, it made it easy for them to slip in through the parking deck unnoticed, a back entrance leading straight to his private elevator. "Are you going to get in trouble with your stepfather?" Ezreal asked Ella as he eased himself onto the couch. Duke was in the kitchen quietly talking on the phone with whom was likely the favor, his tone still carrying traces of frustration. Ezreal couldn't really find a position he was comfortable in. Every way he sat somehow pinched a nerve one way or the other, and trying to adjust it was just as relentless. His eyes looked over to the open spaces of the kitchen and watched as Duke roamed behind the wall. He could hear cabinets opening and closing. Once he determined his butler was distracted, he looked back to Eloise.

    "Kevscoff is blackmailing my father," Ezreal said in a hushed tone, nearly a whisper. "He said he had to make sure my father kept going up the ladder. He's a patsy. He's being used... I don't know why, but..." He paused, catching himself in the growing conspiracy theory in his mind as he put himself back in the present. Ella had been kidnapped. She had a bomb strapped to her as a means to get to him. And he was used as a means to keep his father in line. Ezreal had made so many things worse for a lot of people, and he was spouting off his findings as if it made everything okay. "Ella... I'm so sorry this happened to you. I only thought any repercussions would ever fall on me. I planted listening devices in his warehouse after I suspected his connection with my father. That night... Our date, remember my phone being blasted with texts? My mom sent a picture of us at the restaurant and told me to come home. Someone was following me then and that's how they knew about you... about us."
  8. Despite her exhaustion, despite her fears, Ella had been fully prepared to argue the point. She was grateful for the man, that he had shown up at all, and she would be as respectful as the circumstances allowed, but Ezreal's like was in danger... all of their lives were, and she wasn't going to risk it until she was absolutely sure they had a plan, a way out, in case...

    But it wasn't necessary. Because something she'd said had sparked something in the man and with a grunt he offered another solution to which she agreed without question. It was time that they desperately needed, time to think and prepare and that was all she could hope for in that moment. It was possible that she was being overdramatic, but if she wasn't? If there was any chance at all that Kevscoff might come after them, she was going to be cautious... more cautious than necessary.

    It was a quick trip, but it seemed to take ages and every moment she was sure would be the moment Duke announced the brakes were cut, or the car would explode, or a tractor trailer would come barreling through an intersection. But they arrived as unscathed as possible and sliding out of the car, she worked with Duke to get Ezreal upstairs to the apartment.

    He sank down onto the couch and sitting across from him, studying him for a moment, she breathed out and shook her head, "I don't know. I... I seriously doubt he'll even realize I'm gone. At least until it comes time for me to take the family laundry to the basement. Then, no doubt, he'll raise hell." Rubbing her wrists, she frowned at the marks where her binds had cut into her skin. It wasn't likely to leave a scar, but it was certainly going to be difficult to explain to the girls at the restaurant. Though at the moment the idea of returning... the idea of doing anything ordinary felt so impossible. Outside of immediate danger, the adrenaline wearing off, her hands shook, and tensing them into fists, she tucked them under her knees.

    "It's not your fault..." She continued, glancing up at him again, "He's a terrible man, Ez... who does terrible things, and you? You were trying to do the right thing. Me getting involved? That was just dumb, bad luck. But Ez, he... he does scare me. The things that he's capable of. The things he's willing to do? I just... I don't know how to deal with all of this." Leaning back against the chair, she closed her eyes, rubbing her forehead, "This is one of those moments where people say they need a drink..."
  9. He'd be lying if he said he didn't hurt. All he could do was lay across his couch at this point and wait. They sat within what could be considered the TV room, though there was no TV in sight. Instead, a projector was mounted behind the couch inlaid into the wall partitioning the kitchen, and the screen was hidden within the ceiling just in front of the large window. The window spanned the length and height of the room and made it look entirely open to the city surrounding them.

    Outside, the night was winding down with minimal traffic making the bright display of lights and screens the only buzzing activity. Downtown carried its prized display spanning the length of Parker 400 that constantly aired the news. Already, reports of what the news caster was dubbing as a "terrorist attack" at the gala was streaming with footage both from phone cameras and of Mayor Aurelius.

    "There's some vodka under my bed," Ezreal said as he stared up at the ceiling. There was a hitch in his breathing each time he inhaled. His tongue rolled over his teeth thoughtfully as he checked whether or not any were loose. "You're welcome to it. Just don't let Duke see you with it. What did he... Did he say anything to you?" He looked back over at Ella with concern, his left eye bloodshot from the beating. "Did he try to...do anything?"
  10. She laughed, softly and with very little actual humor, and shaking her head as she considered his words. She'd never been the rebellious sort, and it didn't seem the time to start now, even if a shot or two of vodka might help her get through the rest of the night. Ez needed her, and as shaken as she was, as difficult as it was to grasp exactly what had happened, exactly what could have happened, she needed to tune her focus to him, to help him through it, too. It was almost funny how clarifying fear was... How what started as a simple crush, a nice date night seemed so much more important, so much more consequential, after what they had endured.

    "I think it's probably safer if I just... sit for now. Adrenaline is wearing off and I'm afraid if I stand up I'm just gonna crash." Her legs had felt shaky just walking into the apartment. The idea of moving was hardly idyllic. It felt a little like a twisted dream, one that she was all too eager to wake up from, but she knew well enough how real it was, and despite the fact that it was over, she knew it wouldn't be easy to get over. The fact was, it hadn't entirely hit yet, how the whole mess had gone down. Her attention was so focused on Ezreal, but she was sure it was going to catch up to her, and she was terrified for when it did.

    The topic turned back to Kevscoff and Ella felt her stomach plummet as she shook her head, "Mostly, he just talked about you. He asked what I knew about... about what you've been doing. I told him all I knew what that you..." Biting her lip, she lowered her gaze, "Was that you had saved me from Pinkard. Honestly, I kind of thought that's what all of this was about." Rubbing her wrists, she glanced up again, "But apart from the bomb, he didn't do anything. Not really. He... he didn't have to, I was so scared."
  11. Ezreal nodded his head in response as Duke walked into the room. He had rubbing alcohol and cotton swabs collected in his hands, his brow still lowly furrowed in his inner frustrations. Ezreal laid in silence as he weighed the repercussions of his actions. It all started with that very night in the alley. What started out as a means to get his lost burner phone back resulted in a crush. Kevscoff figured out his budding feelings towards Ella and used her as an exploit.

    The sting of the alcohol was expected, and steered Ezreal's thoughts back to the present. Duke was washing off the dried blood around his nose and cheek, and despite the obvious frustrations he was feeling, his pressure remained gentle. Ezreal tried his best not to look over at Ella. Thoughts of her tied down and strapped to a bomb came back to him, the weight of her life resting on his compliance causing his stomach to churn.

    "My cousin is a doctor," Duke explained. "Works at the family clinic down on Fifth and Juniper. Damn good at her job. And she's trustworthy. She won't talk. Didn't even ask questions. But I do owe her a pork roast and pumpkin pie."

    He looked over his shoulder at Ella as he continued to clean off blood from Ezreal's battered body. "Do you want anything to drink or to eat?" he asked. "Anything you need I can get for you in a jiffy."
  12. Ella was grateful when Duke returned, and the conversation shifted away from the topic of the warehouse. So long as she could avoid thinking about it, she wouldn't need to come to grips with it. Maybe dealing with it would be healthier in the end, but avoidance seemed reasonable enough for the time being.

    Traumatic experiences weren’t exactly common among waitresses, and even then, she was fairly certain being tied to a chair with a bomb strapped to your chest wasn’t common for anyone. And that wasn’t even the worst of it. Knowing what could have happened… the number of scenarios running through her mind, it was enough to make her stomach twist into knots. The less she thought about it, the better…

    Even those few minutes were enough to set her hands trembling, her heart pounding, and she was in desperate need of a distraction. Of any distraction. Maybe that drink wouldn't have been such a terrible idea...

    “Thanks, Duke.” She murmured, when the older man offered his aid, “And just so you're aware, I make a pretty incredible pumpkin pie. If you need any help, let me know. I… I appreciate you coming to the warehouse. I imagine that probably goes above and beyond your usual duties. Although…” Her eyes moved to Ezreal and she smiled delicately, “Maybe not…”
    #13 Elle Joyner, Aug 25, 2016
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2016
  13. All Duke could do is nod. His job didn't start out the way it did before the Aurelius family took interest in politics. They had a large mansion out in the suburbs and could afford hired help for generations. Duke took up his position when the economy was at its lowest point. He had lost his job, and his pride nearly caused him to pass on the opportunity. Admittedly, it was the pay that brought him in, and eventually it was Ezreal that caused him to stay.

    His cousin eventually made it, albeit disgruntled by the secrecy. She barely said a word as she stitched what cuts needed to be closed and bandaged what needed to be bandaged. She never asked questions, and didn't even introduce herself. Forty minutes later, she grabbed Duke for a private conversation, and by the looks of it, the talk would be heated. Her thin brows were set low to match her scowl, and just as Duke closed the door they could hear her tell him he was an idiot.

    Ezreal pushed himself up from the couch, grunting from the stiff pain as he awkwardly began to remove his bloodied shirt with one hand. "Well," he began as he shuffled towards his bedroom, "I could use the drink. You sure you don't want any?"
  14. Ella was quiet during the exchange, watching as the woman worked with a sense of caution. She didn't seem happy, and Ella could hardly blame her, brought in to some clandestine operation, asked to keep quiet about it. Ella could see how Ezreal looked and it was a miracle the woman managed to hold her tongue as long as she did, considering her purpose in life was to aid those in need. After she and Duke left the room, Ezreal shifted, fumbling with his shirt as he rose from the couch to make his way to his room.

    A soft sigh escaped and she followed after him, leaning against the doorframe with as casual an expression as she could muster, which eventually folded into a frown. Stepping forward, she reached out to help him with his shirt, hands gentle, cautious of the bruised, marred skin, "Here... Let me. You'll pop a stitch that way, and I'm not sure Duke's cousin'll be able to take it."

    With the shirt successfully removed, she tossed it in a hamper in the corner, turning back at his question before bowing her head in a small nod, "...Yeah, I guess it couldn't hurt."

    It was something to do, something else to think about, at least, and that, she needed desperately. Every moment that passed, the longer she had to contemplate all that had happened the more she could feel control slipping through her fingertips. She was afraid, afraid to let it sink in, afraid to really consider it... and even if she wasn't exactly an established drinker, having something, anything to do besides dwell was a blessing.

    Sinking down on the edge of his bed, she raked her fingers through her hair, frowning as they snagged on a tangle, "You think she's gonna keep her word and not tell anyone? She seemed really mad..."
  15. Ezreal disappeared into his closet. The room was large and completely enclosed. It had no windows making the room feel smaller than it really was. At the far end was his king sized bed, unmade, with his lenins in a heap of monochromatic greys. "I don't think she'll talk," he said to her as he slipped on a fresh tee. Another slight wince escaped him as he cautiously maneuvered the fabric around his injuries. "But I mean, I get her frustration a little."

    He emerged from the closet fully clothed once again and went straight for the underside of his bed. Now flat on his stomach, he stuck his hand under the bed to feel around for the bottle of vodka. "Internal bleeding can be deadly and all," he continued. "But I can walk around just fine. No concussion or anything." His fingers brushed up against glass causing a hollow jingle as he grabbed the bottle and pulled it out. It was a marker of a problem, the hidden bottle. He was under aged and his face was recognizable, and he clearly knew he wasn't supposed to have it based on its location. But he was no stranger to it all, and he held the high end vodka out to Ella for the first sip.

    "Now that I've had some time to think, I want to hit them back." He looked over Ella thoughtfully, taking in her current state. "For what they did. And what they are planning to do. Think about it. They had a bomb on a vest and they have weapons and connections. It all stinks. Something bad is going to happen."
  16. "Is... is that what she thinks you have? Internal bleeding?" She was no doctor, but Ella knew a thing or two about reality, and one thing that was never a good thing was internal bleeding. She knew they'd made the right decision, keeping him out of the hospital if only because the questions were sure to raise the wrong eyebrows, but if he were genuinely hurt... beyond just scrapes and bruises.

    He brushed it off, but his nonchalance hardly encouraged and as he handed her the bottle she didn't hesitate before putting it to her lips, taking what was probably too deep a swig. The clear liquid burned down the back of her throat, threatening to choke her, but she swallowed and grimacing, held the bottle out to him. It didn't make her feel any better, not that she'd expected it to, but it was a distraction and she needed one, desperately...

    "...You think they've got something bigger planned?" She asked after a moment of silence, hooking her ankles and leaning back on her elbows, "Something worse? I mean, I kind of figured myself, considering that isn't exactly something you keep lying around, even for torture's sake, but the guy seemed pretty set on being top dog in the city, not blowing it up."
  17. Ezreal took back the bottle and shrugged for the answer to Ella's inquiry about internal bleeding. All he knew was that he hurt to the point where every movement caused some sort of stiff ache or sharp pain. He could only really sit hunched over on the edge of the bed to feel the least amount of pressure on his abdomen. Holding the bottle to his lips, he took a quick swig of the clear liquid and tensed up as the vodka reached the cuts on his lips. A wince escaped him, and he laughed, holding the bottle between them as he dabbed his lower lip cautiously with his fingers.

    "That's what I don't get," he said. "Maybe he is planning some sort of scare tactic? I don't know how it'll help him. I guess unless he's planning to make himself look like a hero?" A sigh escaped him. "That doesn't make sense either. He said to me he doesn't need to be the face of the city." He took another sip in thought, a grimace contorting his face as the liquid burned throughout the entire process. Giving it all more in depth thought brought back the sinking feeling in his stomach, the wrenching sensation souring his investigative desires. It was what brought the two in their current situation to begin with. Ezreal now knew his meddling was sloppy and got both his only real friend and himself hurt. And as much as he hated what happened and wanted to get back at Kevscoff for it all, it still happened, and any sort of revenge could potentially cause a repeat.

    "Whatever it is, Ella," Ezreal continued, "I can't let it happen. I think they're going to kill innocent people to get what they want. They would. He said... He said he would kill you or even me if it upped his chances. He doesn't care what it takes. I can't let this go, but... I can't let you go either. You're a great friend. Probably the best I've had in a long time. I don't know what to do. I've never had to think about anyone but myself before."
  18. Sitting up a little, Ella took the bottle, but she only held it in her hands for a moment or two, without drinking. It wasn't helping. Not really. She hadn't expected it to. She wasn't inclined to drink her worries away on a natural basis, and she was too embarrassed by the concept of inebriation to get drunk, even now. And that was the only benefit she could see to the vile liquid that made it work chugging down her throat.

    Ezreal was floundering. He was at a loss, and she couldn't really blame him. This was so far above what either of them should ever have been held responsible for. They were barely adults, barely able to take care of themselves. They weren't superheroes or cops or secret agents, and dealing with this? Especially on their own. It was too much for anyone to ask...

    But how did they just... ignore it? Even without Ezreal, Ella had too powerful a conscience to pretend she didn't know what was happening... to brush it under the rug and forget about it. There was a very real chance people could die - and that wasn't something that would ever sit well with her. No matter her limitations, she needed to find a way to do something...

    But what? What could she do. She felt powerless...

    Bringing the bottle to her lips, she took a sip afterall, then handed the bottle back and without a word, she reached for Ezreal's hand, clutched it gently, "...I'm not going anywhere, Ez. I can't. Even if... even if I didn't care so much about you, I care too much about what's happening to pretend it isn't. To look the other way. That creep... he strapped a bomb to me... and threatened me and this city. And I'm not okay with that. I... I'm not okay..." Drawing her hand back, she raked her fingers through her hair. She could feel it... the crawling dread, the weight of anxiety crashing down.

    She'd said it outloud. What had happened. She'd said it, and hearing it, she couldn't help the feeling that wound it's way through her very core. She would shake herself apart if she didn't do something... anything else.

    "You... I'm... I'm gonna get you some ice." She swallowed, around the lump in her throat and without waiting for his response, she made her way out of the room. How she found her way to, let alone around the kitchen in the unfamiliar apartment, she wasn't sure, but she found herself standing in front of the sink with a handful of ice wrapped in a towel, and staring down at the cubes, she could almost physically feel the snap...

    The tears came without warning, like a wave, crashering over her and overwhelmed by the emotions, she dropped the ice and rag into the sink and leaned forward, curling into herself as she bit back a sob, bit hard on her cheek to keep from making a sound.
  19. The muffled voices of Duke and his cousin rose and fell behind closed doors. It wasn't heated, at least at this time, but even without being able to discern the words being said it was apparent the doctor carried her tone tersely. Ezreal could barely hear them from where he sat on his bed, hunched and in pain and full of crowding thoughts. He was just a kid; a nobody. They both were. Yet now they both felt the burden of knowing what they know. Sinister things were happening in the city, and he wondered just how many had experienced what they had.

    Ella's demeanor stung like a hot iron pressed to his skin. He now knew what that felt like. The wound pulled painfully with each movement of his arm where they had stuck it to his back. Ella felt like that wound in this moment; a constant reminder that with each move the pain will come. He rose from his bedside with considerable effort. It seemed like the longer he sat idle, the more stiff he became. Ezreal winced and momentarily doubled over as he tried to straighten out his stance to no avail. Everything hurt, and the everyday pain medicine just wasn't cutting it. He leaned against the wall and tipped back the bottle of vodka for a drink to stave off what the Tylenol could not.

    Where was Ella? He hadn't heard her leave through the front door, and panic began to well inside him. Luckily, she was in the first place he thought to look, and her state did not help the sudden wrench in his stomach. His feet carried him towards her, concern taking over hesitancy and pushing it all aside.

    "Ella?" he said quietly. It was as if Ezreal was attempting to coax her out of her tears through calling her name. His arms wrapped around her apologetically and with the intent of providing comfort. But could he achieve such a feat towards a girl that hardly knew him? He felt a flutter at the touch, empathetic and tender that gave him an overwhelming sensation that for once he cared about someone else. Ella's well being mattered to him. He didn't want to see her cry or hurt, and he wanted to show that he would be there for her. That she didn't have to hide in the kitchen and cry silently into the sink after all she had been through. This friendship, despite how new and the sudden trials it had been through, was important. To him, it merited defiance to social norms allowing him to feel as though he could, in a platonic and physical sense, provide her with some form of solace in her termoil.
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