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Five Siren Senses

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The first time Angel laid eyes on the new batch of Vault Hunters, she found herself very glad that her connection with their Echoes did not include an option for scent sampling. She was doubly glad when she saw Salvador and Krieg for the first time.

Naturally, it didn’t stop her from wondering what the world outside of her bunker smelled like. Anything beat antiseptic and the intermittent hot and cold smell of machinery or the occasional whiff of her fath– Jack’s cologne. Her first attempt at getting a taste of the world outside gave her the pungent aroma of slag. Needless to say, she was very pleased she didn’t have to smell the crap that was being pumped into her veins.

After that failed trial, she decided to content herself by learning all she could about aroma and the multitudes of ways to describe them. She soon developed her own odor profile for each of the six itinerant Vault Hunters.

They would all have traces of the coppery scent of blood on them as well as the sulfuric scent of gun powder. Decidedly, Salvador would reek of testosterone, cheap cologne, and even cheaper cigars. Zero would smell of burned circuits and fresh vinyl– but just the faintest of whiffs that would be gone before the scent truly registered in ones nostrils.

Krieg would smell of blood, slag, and madness (which apparently had a variety of smells; Angel favored him having a mix of most, but mostly an odd, almost sweet goat-like smell). Axton would smell of musk and of military grade soap– a scent so light it was barely there, like an anti-soap.

Maya’s scent would be old books and soft spices (Angel was likely biased since Maya was also a siren). As for Gaige, she would most likely smell of oil, the tinny scent of electricity, and those scents would largely be drowned out by some cloying soap undoubtedly labelled Anarchy.

Angel got to test her hypothesis sooner than she expected when she led the six to her bunker. The burn of gunpowder tickled her nose. Acrid smoke rose from the loaderbots, causing her eyes to water. She realized that she didn’t take the older four Vault Hunters into consideration before making her profiles.

Her mind compiled a list, but she never had the chance to review it. Her knees gave out from underneath her and she relished in her escape from the slag-filled devices pumping eridium through her veins.

“Dad, you’re an asshole.”

Those words were liberating, almost as freeing as if she had walked through the bunker doors on her own two feet.

Before she sank into darkness (long before she’d awaken elsewhere), she caught a whiff of motor oil, tin, and a sickeningly sweet soap. That was a little freeing, too.

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Angel hadn’t heard much about the unexplored country, but as far as she knew it was supposed to be quiet. She never heard much about there being noises in the afterlife. Let alone noises that sounded like a large group of people were going about life. Boots thudded down concrete stairs, tech beeped at odd hours, there was the occasional grunt of effort, plenty of cursing, and a lot of laughter. Over time, she realized she recognized the source of the noise and started attaching names to each individual voice. If she was in fact a ghost, she was living perhaps the lamest afterlife ever.

Eventually the sounds of chatter and laughter were replaced by the whine of a bone saw or a drill. Sometimes there was a steady beeping like from a heart monitor or the occasional hiss of escaping gas. Every now and then there was a heated, but quiet argument somewhere near her. It took her a while to realize that the sound was coming from above her. Definitely not something she expected to come from the land of the dead. The buzzing whine of the saw grew deafening, which was ultimately what led her to realize that she wasn’t dead.

Once the saws stopped, she allowed herself to listen to the world around her, picking out the noises made by the occupants of the building. The usual grunts of effort that came every morning were Brick as he worked out. Tannis mumbled to herself nearly constantly. Mordecai drunkenly slurred his words and stumbled every time he entered the building. Tannis usually yelled at him for leaving the door open. Lilith was one of the building’s loudest occupants. When she laughed it carried through the Crimson Raiders HQ.

Whenever Axton was downstairs, he crooned to his turret. His low, rumbly voice carried well. Without fail, Krieg would yell and be scolded by one of the other Vault Hunters. His yelling got toned down to a slightly softer shout. The only way you could tell Maya was in the building was by either Krieg’s babbling or the sound of pages turning. Zer0 was even harder to track down. Except for the occasional haiku. Salvador easily trumped the rest of the Vault Hunters in his noisiness. Angel could usually place him by the sound of a belch. (Definitely gross.)

Then there was Gaige. She hummed, made loud guitar solo noises, ran though HQ like a dust devil, and argued frequently with Tannis. But she grew quieter any time she approached Angel.

“So, when do you think she’s gonna wake?”

“We will be lucky if she wakes after the hack job you and that quack did.”

“Uh, Tannis, you helped.”

“Well, my parts will work. I have my doubts about yours.”

“And we’re just gonna sit here and hope she decides to wake up?”

“I couldn’t blame her with you cretins running around all the time.”

Tannis stalked off to her corner of the bottom floor (Angel would soon learn that it was actually most of the room).

“It’s okay, Angel. You take your time. We’ll be waiting.”

Some time later, she felt her body. It felt distant and heavy. Twitching a toe felt like trying to move a broken down Bul Loader by hand. She didn’t get much past the tiniest of twitches. But it was a start.

Chapter Text

Angel slowly regained her strength. It started with slight twitches. In time she was able to curl her fingers nearly to her palm in a weak fist. Her toes twitched somewhere beneath the blankets. She could feel cramps pinching at her limbs. Her stomach started to growl at one point. Opening her eyes proved to be the hardest task to accomplish. That took several attempts. The pressure from underneath her eyelids was daunting. She managed a weak groan. Someone moved toward her.

"Well, hey there. Take it easy, kid."

Lower female voice. Probably one of the other sirens. Angel was still having difficulty telling who was who. Tears streamed freely from her eyes as she attempted to look out at the world. A strong but gentle arm slid under her shoulders, easing her into a semi-seated position.

"This isn't much, but it should help you get some strength back."

Whatever it was, it was cold and tart. It definitely tasted better than anything she had eaten in the Control Core.

"Whoa, whoa, easy. Lil and Gaige will kill me if I let you drown."

Whatever the concoction was, it went down easy. Angel's eye sight slowly cleared until she could just make out blue hair. A damp cloth brushed against her face, making her flinch. That proved to be a bit too much for her. Maya eased her down to the cot brushing hair out of the younger siren's face.

"Don't worry, you'll be good as new soon. Once you're on solids I'll buy you some pizza. But you've gotta keep working on getting better. Deal?"

Angel made another weak groan in response. She wanted to smile at her companion, but she couldn't find the strength.

It was a few weeks before she was able to sit up on her own. The effort left her paler than ever and shaky, but she was slowly growing stronger. She got more visitors once she started showing signs of life. Stringing together words was a struggle, getting them to sound like real words was nearly impossible. The first word she managed was 'pizza'. And then a weak 'thank you' to the gathered Vault Hunters. They kept plying her with the tart concoction, which turned out to be a drake fruit cocktail from Moxxi's-- minus the alcohol. She was given several others to try, but she almost always settled on the drake fruit. It wasn't pizza, but it would do.

As she grew stronger, Angel was switched to Dahl or the occasional Atlas MRE. They were bland. Lilith tended to burn them, giving them a charred and nearly chemical taste. Brick almost never prepared them right. Maya tried to make them edible; other times she and Gaige would sneak Angel soft junk foods. (It later turned out that the other Vault Hunters had held off on the flavoring in fear of making her ill.) Angel was talking more those days. She even managed to laugh on occasion. One day she made a promise that the first day she could walk completely on her own, she was marching to Moxxi's for pizza. Lilith caught that conversation and glared at Maya. The blue haired siren shrugged, grinning and pointing at Angel's progress.

She learned how to use a wheelchair. After a few weeks, she could wheel freely around the Crimson Raider's HQ unassisted (much to Tannis' chagrin). Her arms were stronger, slowly gaining muscle. She wasn't looking as frail as when they brought her to Sanctuary.

Crutches proved to be a bigger challenge. It took her all of a day to figure out how to stand up, let alone how to hold the pair of cobbled together aids. They were painted Hyperion yellow with little splotches of color. Obviously Gaige's handiwork. Her progress slowed again. Angel spent her nights moping and picking at her MRE. Gaige sat with her on those nights, chatting with her, checking that the changes to her eridium pump were working. Occasionally, her fingers would stray to where Angel's head ports were. Soft stubble surrounded the scar tissue, a good sign.

"Just think, in a few more weeks Maya and I will get to walk you to Moxxi's. It'll be freakin' awesome."

Angel couldn't help but smile at her even when she felt discouraged by how weak her legs were. Watching the others casually stroll around unaided only made her more determined to walk on her own.

"You sure you're up for this, Angel?"

"Yes. I've only been waiting forever."

"Gaige, you need to stop hanging around her so much." Maya was trying to hide her smile, but the effort failed.

She and Gaige had an arm draped around Angel, subtly helping her stand. Angel was able to walk on her own, but not incredibly far. She was dead-set on going to the bar and refused to back down until the two gave in and helped her. They staggered together, laughing the entire way to Moxxi's. Maya had let go just to watch the pair struggle together. Angel was in high spirits and Gaige had a serious case of the giggles. The older woman's grin wasn't going to leave her face at any time in the near future. Not when she knew what was waiting for Angel in the bar.

The normal din of Moxxi's was drowned out by the Vault Hunters talking over each other. They grew quiet only when the trio staggered into the bar, laughing at how they nearly fell over a step on the way in. Maya and Gaige let go of Angel and watched as she carefully tottered up to the massive table that was made up of all the loose tables in the bar. There was a burst of cheering. Angel couldn't remember ever smiling so much before in her life.

Lilith passed her a slice of pizza. After one greasy, cheesy bite, Angel knew exactly why she had been pushing herself. Well, other than the grinning mechromancer and her other companions.

Eventually, she could make the walk to Moxxi's solo. She did it often, if only to get out of Tannis' way or to keep herself occupied while the older Vault Hunters discussed tactics. She formed a fast friendship of sorts with Moxxi, who was only happy to try out new bar snacks on her newest customer. Some days she sat at the bar, taking in the gossip. Others she chatted with Moxxi or Hammerlock. And on occasion, she sat with Gaige at a booth, not talking much at all or talking until they were both hoarse.

On one of the quiet evenings, Gaige led her out of the bar, over to one of the spots where they could watch Pandora drifting by below them. The Highlands looked like a diorama from the floating city. Angel had never noticed how often the redhead held her hand. At first it was to help her when she walked, in case she lost her strength. But now that she could walk all the way across the city on her own, she was surprised to find a warm palm wrapped around her hand. Gaige hesitated before leaning in. Angel could taste pizza on her lips as well as a splotch of motor oil that the mechromancer forgot to wipe off of her face. The siren realized she didn't really care, even when Salvador catcalled them.

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At some point in her life, Angel came to realize that she had almost never been touched. Sure, as a child her mother would play with her hair. Sometimes her father would ruffle her dark locks. But then everything changed. Once she was locked in the chair at the center of the Control Core, her father seldom visited. He went from being Dad to Jack. Every now and then, Hyperion scientists would come in and adjust her head ports or how the eridium pumps attached to her body. It was a clinical process. They never comforted her, never said a word. Just did their jobs and then returned to world outside the bunker. Even when Jack visited, he remained a good distance away, admiring her like she was some kind of prized possession, something for display.

That all changed when she woke in Sanctuary. Doctor Zed and Tannis worked very carefully around her cybernetics, making sure to hurt her as little as possible. Of course, their hands were almost always like ice, but she had come to accept that of medical help. Gaige's adjustments to her new spinal implants never hurt and Gaige was careful to make sure her probing was gentle, even if it meant re-calibrating the system to meet her newer, lower eridium intake took forever. Her makeshift medical team went out of their way to keep her comfortable with any work they had to do.

And then there were the Vault Hunters themselves. Angel was blown away by how gentle Brick was whenever he worked with her. His fist bumps normally knocked over the other Vault Hunters, but he took care to do only the lightest of taps on her tiny fist. On occasion, Lilith would drop by the little tech-filled alcove they had set up for Angel and tapped her on the shoulder. Some days they'd bump fists, others Lilith would pass by and ruffle her hair. Mordecai for the most part ignored her. But there was one night where she and Gaige ended up dragging the drunken sniper home from Moxxi's. He leaned heavily on the siren, slurring emphatically, his hot, alcohol reeking breath wafting in her face. When she and Gaige dropped him onto his cot, he patted her arm, calling her a good kid before passing out.

Krieg had patted her on the head once, the blow from his heavy hand nearly drove her knees out from under her. The only other person in the room at the time, Maya, had glanced over at her and they both stared in mild amazement as he walked past. A few minutes later her bellowed something about cockatiels and the world returned to normal. Zer0 avoided contact with Angel. They occasionally exchanged nods or haikus. Angel was nowhere near as adept at it as the mysterious Vault Hunter. The others were soon convinced Zer0 was an android. (Angel begged to differ. Zer0 refused to answer.) Salvador patted her on the back any time that his hands weren't completely slathered in gore (it was definitely more of a slap and almost always made her stagger). Axton had carried her home from Moxxi's one night when her legs didn't want to cooperate. He had also carried her to her cot when she had been trying to hack the Echonet well after hours. When she protested, he shook his head, gently setting her down and pulling the blanket over her. After the third time being caught, she gave in. Axton was a better dad than Jack was. (He even made the stupid jokes.)

Then of course, there was Maya. She had gotten heavily involved with getting Angel up to strength, occasionally carrying her when the younger siren couldn't go on. Nearly every morning, she got a squeeze on the shoulder from the older siren. At least the mornings where Maya wasn't distracted by Lilith. She had once gotten between a drunk Lilith and Maya and had ended up giggling when they both leaned in and kissed her temples. A short while later, they had fallen asleep with their heads on the youngest siren's shoulders. Everyone else laughed and left her trapped. She didn't mind until Lilith drooled on her shoulder. Eventually Brick pulled her out of the siren sandwich, chuckling to himself as he deposited her on a different bench. That was definitely a weird night.

Gaige was an entirely different matter. There were days where Gaige tackle hugged her, pressing the siren to her and laughing the entire time. Other days the mechromancer was gentler, like when she had to tap into the cybernetic spine implants to adjust some setting or another. She kept her metal hand away from Angel's back as much as she could. There were times where the touches from her flesh and blood hand lingered along the metal columns that stuck out of the skin. Tannis said that the skin would stretch over them and hide implants, but it would take time. And then there was the matter of the kisses. Gaige tried to hide it. There just wasn't any way to keep a secret in Sanctuary for long. Not with Lilith around.

After a few weeks of light teasing, it got better. There were some nights where Angel could curl up on one of the tiny cots with Gaige's heavy arm around her, sleeping peacefully. Other nights, she heard Lilith snicker as she walked past. At least until Maya hushed her. Angel would snuggle closer to Gaige, ignoring the other sirens. After all, they weren't the only two members of the Crimson Raiders who were dating. Gaige eventually got revenge on Lilith. Eventually. Angel didn't care. She was happy with how things were in Sanctuary. Happy with her new life and the prospects of an eridium free future. And of course, happy with her girlfriend and their makeshift, crazy family.

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There were so many things to see in Sanctuary. So many hidden nooks, so many colorful characters. And depending on where Sanctuary floated, she could see different parts of Pandora. The verdant hills of the Highlands, the reddish sand of the Dust, the ice and snow of the Tundra Express, and of course everything in between. Every new sight staggered the siren. Her world had been that control core. The same metal walls, the same grey and black structures. The purple of eridium the few times it was visible through the pumps. And sometimes, when she was tapped into the EchoNet, the Vault Hunters and the world around them. Angel had longed to see the world. She didn't care that Jack and others called it the armpit of the universe, Pandora called to her.

She had spent days exploring everything Sanctuary had to offer. Even if she did get into a few awkward situations and a few nasty arguments about who her father was. Any time one of the Vault Hunters left Sanctuary, she'd accompany them to the Pierce Station to watch them disappear in a blur of digistruct data. She thought about hacking the controls, but held off. Leaving Sanctuary terrified her. Angel had to content herself by tapping into the war room's terminals and getting a camera feed of any location that caught her eye. Pirates fought off sand worms in Wurm Water. Biker gangs waged a turf war with one another in the Badass Crater of Badassitude. (She had to stifle a laugh any time she saw the name.) She watched a few drifters lazily amble past an old Hyperion surveyor camera. It was one thing to watch the world go by on a video feed and another to go out and see it.

It took her a few weeks to gain the courage to tell the Vault Hunters what she wanted. She was terrified that they would tell her that she should stay safe in Sanctuary; that she wasn't strong enough to venture outside. She was completely blown away when Lilith gave her permission to go; so long as she she had a few Vault Hunters acting as her personal guard. It was a little embarrassing at times, but she wouldn't complain. She was finally seeing the world.

She trudged through the ice and snow covering the ground in the Southern Shelf and the Tundra Express. Occasionally she'd be lifted out of deep snow drifts by one of her companions. She felt the blistering winds of the Dust on her skin and watched as the sand slowly eroded cliffs that housed Bandit camps. The Caustic Caverns mystified her even as the ground spat acid at her and Vault Hunters. In the Highlands, she ran through the grass and plunged feet-first into a shallow creek, splashing Gaige in the process. Her eyes stung with tears the first time she saw the Eridium Blight and the destruction brought on by Jack. She refused to go anywhere near the Arrid Nexus.

Angel travelled all of Pandora that the Vault Hunters were willing to take her. Every night she'd lay in her cot and dream of all the things she had seen; the creatures, the people, the landscapes. She always regretted that her last sight every night was the inside of her eyelids.

It took her all the courage she could muster to ask to see the Control Core one last time. Naturally, she was granted a team of companions that were more than willing to supply some dynamite and bullets to erase all evidence of her metal and glass cage. One last look at the place where she had been imprisoned. One last glance at the mechanisms that had ruined her life.

Angel stared, open mouthed at the small decorative waterfall that once housed her guardian. There was bluish glass as far as the eye could see, creating barriers that wound along the area surrounding access to the core. She had purposely bypassed the entrance of her old prison just to see what would have been outside those doors. There were shrubbery, small trees. A view of Thousand Cuts some several thousand feet below. In the distance, she could see Sanctuary, floating through the atmosphere with ease. The glisten of glass and water burned her eyes, but she couldn't tear them away from the bunker.

"We can always go back, you know." Maya ventured as Gaige kicked the remains of an autoturret. She was smiling, but her eyes were brimming with concern.

"No. There are parts that we can use to make Sanctuary better. One last time won't hurt, will it?"

"Dunno, that depends on you."

Brick hoisted Tiny Tina out of one of the pools that formed at the base of the waterfall, shaking her up and down in an attempt to dry her off. The girl squealed with laughter, scolding her 'big brudder'. Gaige caught back up with Angel, sliding her hand into her girlfriend's.

"I guess Maya already asked about if you wanna do this. You ready?"

Angel bit her lower lip and nodded, directing them to the entrance to the core. Her little entourage gathered at the voice activated door. The younger siren shut her eyes as her tattoos started to glow.

"Executing Phaseshift."

"Bio-signature confirmed. He--" The digital voice cut off and there was the distinct smell of burning circuits.

"Um, oops?"

Fitting the small group on the lift proved to be a hassle. If largely because Brick was noticeably larger than the other Vault Hunters. Tiny Tina ended up on Brick's shoulders if only to keep her from trying to run around what little space they had. He kept Angel close in case there were still Hyperion stooges trapped in the control core. The elevator crept down the shaft. Angel found herself clinging to Brick's forearm, her nails digging into his thick skin. Her knuckles blanched as they drew closer and closer to her chambers. A cluster of memories broke through her mind, through the defenses she had built up with help from her friends in Sanctuary. Her breathing quickened.

"Say hello to your new home, darling. You're like a little princess, and this is your throne!" He towered over her, gesturing to the so-called throne.

"I want mommy. Where's mommy?"

"She's not coming back, Angel. Now get in the freaking chair." He was so much bigger than her, his huge hands pressing down on her shoulders as she struggled and squirmed. The lights were glaringly bright, they burned to look at.

"I don't want to--"

"Get-- there we go-- in the chair."

She didn't even want to remotely think of the hours of screaming she endured. How many times he lashed out because the original Vault Hunters weren't working toward the Vault fast enough. At first it had been easy. It was just a script. Only bad guys and bandits were being hurt. But then the claptraps had been killed. The entire line. And her fa-- Jack, grew rich off of Eridium. How he claimed to be a hero. How he started his plan to find the Warrior and unleash it onto Pandora.

She flinched at the thought of being strapped down into the chair. The first few injections of eridium. How they burned in her veins. Her screams that shredded her throat, the hot tears that streamed down her face. A few years later, the first of the large injectors was installed. Not long after that the other two. And then the defenses. The cybernetic implants. How her father had his scientists drill into her skull to install two ports.

"It'll make phaseshifting easier! All the access to the network, Angel. How cool is that?" He said this even as the medical team loomed over her, holding their glistening tools.

Brick patted her hand with his free hand before moving his massive palm to rest along her back to steady her. She staggered forward a few steps. The lights weren't on, but she could still feel them burning her eyes. The central spotlight still felt like it was on her, blinding her.

"Why isn't this working, Angel?"

"I don't--"

"I've pumped every freakin' ounce of Eridium I've got into you, but the stupid key isn't working. WHY?!" His hands moved wildly as he spoke.

"I'm sorry. I don't know."

He had grabbed her at that point, shaking her shoulders, his masked face not contorting as well as human flesh as he raged, making it all the eerier.

"You're a SIREN! You're one-of-a-kind, now make it work! I want that freakin Warrior, Angel. I want him awake, okay? I want him under my control, now-- I want him now! Not later! Now!"

Her knees hit the floor a few steps away from the elevator. She wrapped her hands around the top of her head, wincing at the memories. A warm hand brushed her back and she jerked away.

"Angel. Hey, Angel. It's me. Gaige. I'm not gonna hurt you. Let's get you out of here, huh? Blow this place to hell."

"No." Angel croaked. She took a few shaky breaths. It took her a few attempts to find her feet, but she rose, glaring at her pedestal.

She stared defiantly at her so-called throne; at the broken down injectors and the husks of the tech used to defend her. She was no longer a prized possession. She wasn't a treasure sequestered in a antiseptic smelling hell. When a bundle of dynamite was placed in her hand, she more than happily placed it on the chair that had held her captive for so long. She even fired off a full clip from a slag Bandit SMG into it. As she took out years of frustration and rage on the hated throne, Gaige gathered bits of salvageable tech. Tina, Brick, and Maya set up sticks of dynamite throughout the structure, rigging up far more than the building would call for.

Angel placed the gun back into Gaige's unresisting hands when she ran out of ammo. For the first time since they entered the Control Core, the young siren seemed serene. Gaige followed her girlfriend's gaze to the center of the room. Slag bubbled up from what remained of the holding center. There wasn't much left to that part of the room. The rest of their makeshift demolition crew joined with them to admire their handiwork.

"You ready to blow this popsicle stand?"

"In more ways that one."

The small group was in good spirits as they headed toward No Man's Land to watch the fireworks. Tina was skipping, Brick was chasing after her. Maya was trying to fight back peals of laughter, a huge grin spread over her face. It wasn't long before Gaige was grinning too. Angel couldn't help but stare at the green eyed girl.

"Mai, you shoulda seen Angel with that smig! I looked over at her and blamblamblamblam!" Here she made a gesture like someone hammering a trigger of a gun while jerking with recoil.

Angel was trying her hardest not to laugh at the look of concentration on Gaige's face.

"Oh come on, I didn't look like that."

"You totally did!"

"So it is the cute, quiet ones we have to worry about after all. I told you, Brick."

"I thought Gaige would be trouble." He rumbled.


The joking continued until they reached the platform housing the turret. Brick knocked the turret to the ground with a well-aimed punch, clearing the way for the five of them. Gaige fumbled in her pockets until she found a small box. She passed it to Angel once everyone was settled.

"What's this?"

"The button that will make that place go away; Tina and I made a remote detonator. We thought you'd like to do the honors."

Angel studied the faces of her companions, feeling the corners of her lips twitch into a smile. She studied the box in her hand. The button in question was big and red, just as she had imagined it would be. In script were the words 'the button that'll make the jackass go away'. Underneath it was a picture of a rabbit strapped to a rocket. The script was in rainbow colors. She took Gaige's hand in hers before jamming down the button. The explosion rattled the entire area, dismantling one of the ramshackle bandit lodgings closer to the mountain. The bunker collapsed, a cascade of rubble coursed down the mountain's face until it got caught up in the Hyperion barrier. The barrier gave out under the strain of the rubble, collapsing into itself. When they glanced up at the top of the hill, there was no sign of the Hyperion structures. No sign of the cage that held Angel for so long. The young siren released a breath she didn't realize she was holding. She was finally free.

She was going to remember the dust cloud and burst of flames for as long as she lived. It was sight she could have only dreamed of. She was glad she was there to witness it. And even happier for the people that watched with her. The ones that clapped her back when it was all over, the one that kissed her cheek, and of course, all the others that had helped her through to that point. She had a family. And that is all she could have asked for.