"I suppose you're all wondering why I called you here this evening," Ansley said as she entered the living room of her apartment, drinks for Cat and herself in hand.
"Because you like to party hard and it's about time we celebrated," Cat said, taking her cup.
"What are we celebrating?" Midge asked from where she was perched on a kitchen chair that Ansley had brought into the living room. Cat was stretched out on the couch while Jaz was curled up in one of the recliners.
"The one year anniversary of Kitty wearing leather pants," Jaz said slyly into the drink Ansley had brought her earlier. Midge had abstained from taking Ansley's fruity alcohol mix and instead had a cup of water sitting on the coffee table in front of her.
"Okay, that," Cat said. "We're done with that. This is it. After today, you never get to talk about that moment ever again. Never again."
"Dream on," Ansley said, taking a seat next to Cat on the couch.
"Yes, darling, it does seem rather short sighted of you to believe that you wouldn't be facing that one for the rest of your life," Jaz said. Cat stuck her tongue out at the thief.
Ansley lifted her drink in the air. "To Cat's leather pants. May they forever remain just a little too tight for that high kick."
Cat grabbed a pillow off the couch and threw it at Ansley. The mass manipulator used her powers to stop the pillow in midair right before it hit her. She cheerfully plucked it out of the air and tucked it behind her back. Grumbling, Cat fell back into her pillow-less side of the couch.
"More seriously," Ansley continued. "To the Protectorate. May they never show their face in Boston again because I am done looking at the Smasher's ugly mug."
"To the Protectorate," Cat said, clinking her glass against Ansleys as Jaz raised hers in salute. Midge didn't seem to be paying any attention.
"To the Guangzhou Operation," Ansley said. "May the Air Force's efforts finally have put the nail in the coffin of alien slave trade on earth especially where the Protectorate and the Ceteelt are concerned."
"To the ELH, for doing the Air Force's job when some bureaucratic ass chickened out," Cat said.
"To the Air Force, for giving Cat the honorable discharge she didn't deserve to cover their ass so that we supers could have her full time," Ansley said. "And to Cat, for finally- finally- taking on the superhero mantle and joining the team. It's been a long time coming, but these past few months have proven it was well worth the wait. Teammate."
Cat smiled as she clinked her glass against Ansley's and downed half of it. "To Ansley. For pulling this team together despite the odds. And for holding this team together despite our penchant for driving her to drink."
"To Jaz. For the absolutely ludicrous plan to steal the Ceteelt communication crystal," Ansley said. "And for pulling it off."
"To Jaz," Cat continued. "For then stealing the crystal from her teammates and leaving us to die."
"To you two," Jaz said. "For managing to get the crystal back. Even if physical threats are cheating."
"To Midge for destroying the crystal," Ansley said.
"And our only chance of doing any real damage to the Protectorate," Jaz sighed.
"Stealing the crystal was real damage," Cat said. "What more would you have wanted to do? Blackmail the Protectorate? You got a death wish or something?"
"We almost died as it was, Jaz," Ansley said.
"We being me and Ansley," Cat said. "You wouldn't remember anything about that because you left us to die."
"But we did live to fight another day," Ansley said. "And that's what I called you all here to discuss." That caught Cat's attention and she shifted on the couch to face Ansley, giving the mass manipulator her full attention.
"We work well together," Ansley said. "The four of us have worked well together for a really long time. And I thought it might be a good idea to make this an official thing. That we become a full time team."
You could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed Ansley's announcement. Cat was speechless and she assumed the same was true for Jaz. Maybe Midge too if she was paying attention. That was debatable.
"How would this work, darling?" Jaz asked.
"Yeah, Jaz is a thief," Cat said.
"And Kitty doesn't play well with others," Jaz shot back.
"We all live in different places," Midge added. Cat started, surprised. So the scientist had been listening.
"I've thought it all through and it won't be without sacrifices for everyone," Ansley said. "Jaz, no stealing from good guys. Cat, you'll have to work a bit on that free spirit. Midge, it will probably mean leaving DC and I know that's where you've always wanted to be. But think of what we'll gain. Friendship, support, a team... Midge, I know the equipment Ray supplies for you is subpar. Think about what you could do with Cat funding you. Jaz, I know you love stealing, but you also enjoy doing good. You've come to us with more cons to hurt supervillains than not. Aren't you tired of running? And Cat-"
"You don't need to sell it to me, Ansley," Cat said. "I'm in."
"You are?" Ansley asked.
"What about your beau, Kitty?" Jaz asked. "I thought things were just starting to heat up."
"If it's worth continuing, we'll figure it out," Cat said. "But Ansley is right. We've done a damn good job whenever we've teamed up. Ray wants DC all for his own and I'm... interested in being on more even footing with all my teammates."
"Well, I'm out," Jaz said, getting to her feet
"What?" Cat asked.
"Oh, Jaz," Ansley sighed.
"Look, No. 2," Jaz said. "I appreciate the chance to be the white hat, but I'm just not feeling it. I've got things to do... people to steal from. And quite frankly I'm not ready to give that up just yet. Check back in a couple years."
"What's up with you?" Ansley asked. Jaz looked away from her. "I may not be able to read people like an open book, Jaz, but I know you. Something's up with you. Out with it."
Before Jaz could answer, Cat's phone buzzed. She jumped to pull the phone out of her pocket and looked over the message. It was from Brody and read 'turn on the TV and suit up'.
"Cat, come on," Ansley said as Jaz moved to turn on the TV. "Can't Mr. Cabell wait a couple minutes while we figure this out?"
"It's Brody," Cat said, shifting her attention to the news, glad that Jaz had been able to read that off of her. The thief didn't even need to flip through the channels to find what Brody wanted them to see. There was a special report on. A bomb threat at the Federal Reserve Bank. Several hundred hostages. The newscaster didn't know who was involved, but a commander center from Superhuman Command had just been teleported in.
"We need to go," Ansley said. Cat nodded in agreement. She turned to get her bag out of Ansley's spare bedroom and ran into Jaz. The thief's eyes were glued to the TV and she looked like she had just figured out how to put together the world's most complicated puzzle.
"Jaz?" Cat asked. "You got something for us?"
The thief started and shook her head. "No. No. I just started thinking about something unrelated." She turned and smiled at Cat. "Have fun with your superheroing, darlings. But this town just got a little too hot for me. I'm out."
"Oh, come on Jaz," Ansley said. "It's a bomb threat. We may need your help reading whoever is behind this or defusing the bomb."
"That may be, darling," Jaz said. "But-"
"You're a lover, not a fighter," Cat said dryly.
"Precisely," Jaz said before disappearing out the door. Cat turned and gave Ansley a disgusted look, although she really didn't know who she was disgusted with. After being left to die within the Protectorate's Sanctuary, Cat figured she should know better than to expect any form of selflessness from Jaz. And yet she was always surprised when the thief showed just how selfish she really was.
"Forget it," Ansley said. "Go suit up."
Ten minutes later, Second Law landed in between the dueling FBI and Air Force Command centers and both Bengal and Midge stepped away from her once their feet were safely on the ground. Bengal looked back and forth at the two RV's. Brody hadn't told her they were walking into a territory dispute.
"We should check in with the feds first," Second Law said.
"Air Force called us in," Bengal said.
"If the city's supers side with the Air Force over the local FBI office, you will turn this mess into a tinderbox just waiting for a spark," Second Law said.
"Well, I'm not local and if I side with the feds over Superhuman Command, that will spark your tinderbox," Bengal said.
"Fine. You and Midge go to the Air Force and I'll take the Feds," Second Law said, turning towards the FBI command center. Bengal took Midge by the arm and together they headed to the Air Force's command center.
"She's a good leader," Midge said.
"You think about taking her up on her offer?" Bengal asked.
Midge shrugged. "Thinking about it... sure. What about you?"
"I said I was in," Bengal said. "But it's hard to imagine pulling this off without you."
A shy smile crept onto Midge's face as they reached the door of the Air Force's RV. The door opened before Bengal could reach out the handle and Lieutenant Brody Monroe stepped out. Before the door slammed shut behind him, Cat was just able to catch sight of Captain Heaven Morgan, dressed in her fatigues, talking to a man in a suit.
"Lieutenant," Bengal said.
"Bengal, Dr. Cratty," Brody said with a nod. "Where's Second Law and Jazlyn Yap? You were coming up here to... meet with them, right?"
"Second Law decided to be diplomatic and talk to the feds first," Bengal said. "And Jaz bailed. Why?"
The door opened before Brody could answer and the sharply dressed FBI agent stepped out of the RV. Morgan came behind him and stopped on the last step of the RV. She gave Bengal a look and even after all the years she and Morgan had worked together- going back to their vigilante days- Bengal couldn't even begin to decipher what that look meant. It was a strange mixture of fear, sadness and pride.
"I thought you said you could get ahold of all four, Lieutenant," the agent said.
"Three of four," Brody said. "Ms. Yap was always the wild card."
"Three?" the agent asked. "I don't see-"
"Agent Crosly," Second Law said as she descended from a jump and landed on the ground next to Bengal.
"-Second Law," the agent finished, nodding to the mass manipulating. "We need to stop meeting like this." Bengal did not miss the bright smile that spread over the mass manipulator's face.
"We need to brief them," Morgan said sharply, going back into the RV.
"'We need to stop meeting like this?'" Bengal whispered to Second Law as Agent Crosly went after Morgan. "Is there something you want to tell me?"
"He's just my contact in the FBI," Second Law said. "Don't read too much into the banter."
"I'm reading way more into the smile you gave him," Bengal said as she and Second Law brought up the rear in entering the command center.
"You're making something out of nothing," Second Law said.
"Oh, come on. He's super cute. You're the one who had better be making something out of nothing."
Second Law looked over her shoulder to give Bengal a coy smile. That smile fell a moment later when they both caught sight of the TV monitors that lined one side of the RV. Someone had already managed to hack into the security cameras at the Federal Reserve bank and most of the monitors were showing varying angles of the main lobby. The Xeno's Smasher was waiting patiently in the very center of the lobby, arms crossed over his chest. He large and height and girth commanded the entirety of the lobby, making the large open space seem smaller and darker.
"Smasher," Bengal whispered as Second Law reached out and took her hand. She looked at Brody. "The Protectorate is behind this?"
"We're not sure yet," Agent Crosly said. "It doesn't fit their profile."
"No, no, no. You can't profile the Protectorate," the bald man sitting on front of the computers said.
"Oh no," Midge whispered and both Second Law and Bengal shifted as if to protect her from a fight.
"Dr. Crofton," Morgan warned as Superhuman Command's super genius scientist Dr. Neo Crofton turned in his chair to face Agent Crosly.
"They're a cult dedicated to the worship of an alien race," Crofton continued. "The Ceteelt don't think like us. They don't act like us. What may seem strange and out of character based on what we understand to be predictable human behavior may be predictable and make sense to them. That's why, and try not to take offense at this, agent, you're out of your league."
"Dr. Crofton," Morgan said, more firmly this time. She twirled her finger in a circle.
"No offense, Captain, but my skills are wasted under your command," Crofton said.
"Now, doctor," Morgan said, resting a hand on her gun. Crofton turned back to look at the security cameras.
"Is there an actual bomb threat or is the Smasher just camped out in the lobby making everyone nervous?" Second Law asked.
"There's an actual bomb threat," Crofton said. "Scanners pick up twenty-five scattered throughout the building."
"But we don't know if there on a trigger or a timer," Morgan said. "Nor have we had a chance to evacuate the building because he won't let anyone in or out."
"Well, you called us here," Bengal said, looking at Brody. "What do you want us to do?"
"Smasher's asking for you," Brody said and Bengal's eyes widened behind her mask. She heard Second Law draw in a breath. "The three of you and Jazlyn Yap."
"Who decided not to show," Agent Crosly said. "I don't know what we're going to do. How are we going to save all those people and keep the Protectorate from blowing up that building?"
"We use one of our ships," Crofton said. "Fly it on low and have it beam out all the bombs and the Smasher."
"Taking a member of the Protectorate aboard one of our ships constitutes an act of war," Morgan said.
"Assuming we can get our ship in that close without Smasher blowing the building," Brody added.
"We can if we cloak it," Crofton said. "And who cares about an act of war. The Protectorate has already performed an act of war by planting bombs on American soil. That's not even getting into them trying to blow up a building that houses the Federal Reserve and two Consul General offices."
"We don't know for certain that the Protectorate planted the bombs," Morgan said. "And per are treaty with the Ceteelt, if the Protectorate only has bombs planted, it's not an act of war."
"You ready?" Second Law asked Bengal.
"Yeah," Bengal said, turning to follow her out.
"Wait, where are you going?" Brody asked.
"To go ask the Smasher what he wants," Second Law said.
"You can't go in there," Agent Crosly said.
"Why not?" Bengal asked. "You said that the Smasher wanted to see us."
"He wanted to see four of you," Crosly said. "We don't know what he'll do when only three of you show up."
"My guess is he'll settle for two," Second Law said.
"Two?" Midge asked, eyes darting towards where Crofton was working. "You can't-"
"You can't come with us, Midge," Bengal said. "We may be stuck once we get in there and we can't risk you being stuck with us."
"I know. I get it," Bengal said, her eyes also going to where Crofton was. "But you can't come with us, Midge. It's too dangerous. So, please. Just stay here."
Midge sighed and nodded.
Morgan stopped behind the scientist and held out a pair of communicators to Bengal and Second Law. "I don't know if the Smasher will let you get away with these, but if he lets you defuse the bombs or evacuate the building, you'll need our help. We can direct you to the bombs and to the hostages."
"Thanks, Captain," Bengal said, taking the communicators and passing one to Second Law. She glanced at Crofton and Crosly and then decided she didn't care. "Heaven-"
"It's fine," Morgan said. "I know... Bengal. Now go take care of this."
Bengal nodded and then she and Second Law were out the door. Second Law wrapped one arm around the Bengal's waist and launched them both into the air. They came down right in front of the doors of the Federal Reserve Bank. Bengal went first, opening the door and entering the lobby where the Smasher waited.
"Ms. Sans-Presance," the Smasher said when he saw them. "And Ms. Durant. I'm so pleased you were able to accept my invitation."
"Oh, we wouldn't dream of missing it," Bengal said. "We're just sorry we were the only ones who were able to make it."
"I'm not," the Smasher said.
"So what's the game?" Second Law asked.
"The game is simple," Smasher said. "You have one hour to either find and diffuse all the bombs. Or evacuate the building. Or both. Do whatever the two of you are able. I don't much care. But you two are the only ones allowed to work inside the building." The Smasher started forward and both Bengal and Second Law darted to opposite sides of the building to give him a wide berth. "I'll be leaving now, but that doesn't mean we won't be watching. If anyone else tries to enter the building- and that includes Dr. Cratty and Ms. Yap, we will blow it up. Best of luck."
The two heroes could only watch the Smasher in disbelief as he left the building. Then they sprang into action, both running towards the elevator.
"Brody!" Bengal yelled over the intercom in her ear.
"Bengal, what's going on?" Brody asked. "Why did the Smasher leave?"
"We've got one hour to clear out the bombs and the people or this place will blow. And it has to be us, Brody. Nobody else can enter the building."
"We need directions to the people and the bombs if we're going to get this done in time," Second Law added.
"Get up the schematics of the building!" Brody yelled.
Bengal and Second Law slid to a stop in front of the elevator. Second Law pressed the button and it dinged open. As the mass manipulator jumped up into the elevator to open the top hatch, Bengal leaned around to the buttons to flip the stop switch.
"Brody, what's the possibility of doing a rooftop extraction?" Bengal asked.
"Easy. Lieutenant Demir is with us," Brody said. "He can teleport out from the roof. Do you think that will conflict with the Smasher's terms?"
"We're going to find out, aren't we," Bengal muttered. "Get Demir in position."
"I'll take high, you take low. Meet in the middle," Second Law told Bengal before launching herself through the elevator hatch and into the shaft.
"Brody?" Bengal asked.
"Next level is where you'll find your first bomb and hostages," Brody said.
Bengal darted to the stairs and raced up the first flight. She let Brody direct her through the building. In the background she could hear Morgan shouting out directions to Second Law. That she couldn't hear the mass manipulator or the Captain directly meant that their com frequency had been switched.
Bengal found the hostages first. They were huddled on the floor of a board room with as many as possible trying to fit underneath the long table that took up most of the room. They were scared, but their relief at her appearance was tangible. Many were on their feet before she was through the doorway.
"Is anyone hurt?" Bengal asked, surveying their faces. Heads shook. "Okay, I need you all to calmly get to your feet and walk—don't run—to the stairwell," Bengal said. "From there make your way to the main entrance. Rescue teams will meet you out on the plaza."
"Will you come with us?" an older man asked.
"I can't," Bengal said. "This is a big building and there are a lot of people still in need of help. So you need to take care of each other. Don't you dare leave anyone behind."
With that she stepped aside and allowed the hostages to filter through the door. They moved slowly, like she had asked, and several of the more abled bodied members paired up with the less able bodied members. Bengal allowed herself one quick moment of pride for the mask she wore. Only a superhero could have inspired that sort of selflessness.
"I found a bomb," Second Law said over the communicator. Bengal brought a hand to her ear and turned so she could hear this. "It's some sort of weird… star shape, I guess. Thirteen points."
"Technogrenade," Midge said.
"Oh, that loser!" Crofton scoffed.
"That OCD bomber the Patriot had so much trouble with?" Bengal asked.
"How anyone could have trouble with this guy is beyond me," Crofton said. "His bombs are ridiculously easy to diffuse. Just carefully remove it from its location, flip it over and cut the wires underneath."
"There should be thirteen wires," Midge added. "Make sure you count before you cut them. If all thirteen wires aren't cut at the same time, the bomb will go off."
So this test wouldn't be difficult, just time consuming. And that was where the difficulty lay.
"Okay, first bomb is diffused," Second Law said after a pause.
"And the first group of hostages are on their way out," Bengal said. She could hear Morgan talking in the background again, which mean she and Second Law were once again on the different frequencies. "Brody—"
"Continue down the hall," Brody said. "The next bomb shouldn't be far."
"I want time updates every five minutes," Bengal said as she raced down the hall.
Every second that ticked by felt like a weight added to Bengal's shoulders, but there was nothing more she could do. Diffuse a bomb, order people out. Every time Brody announced that another five minutes were up, Bengal couldn't help but despair at how little work she had gotten done since the last time check.
Fifteen minutes, gone. Three floors done. Too slow. She would never get this done in time and she could only be grateful for Second Law's strategy of working toward the middle. By the end of the hour, the majority of the escape routes would be safe, if nothing else.
Half hour, gone. Six more floors done. She was moving faster now. The hostages were more willing to move and the bombs were becoming easier and easier to diffuse. Between her and Second Law, most of the building had to be clear by now. That meant less damage caused when the bombs went off, fewer hostages to rescue when they did and more open escape routes if it came to that.
Forty-five minutes gone. Five more floors done. She was starting to hope that they could do this. Most of the building had to be cleared by now. She would run into Second Law within the next floor or two. Even if they missed a bomb, the damage would be minimal and any of the remaining hostages would be unlikely to suffer any sort of critical injury unless they were in the same room as one of the bombs. Which, Brody told her, wasn't the case.
Fifty-five minutes gone. Up to the seventeenth floor where she met Second Law on the stairway.
"All clear down there?" Second Law asked.
"All the hostages are out and thirteen bombs are diffused," Bengal said.
"Eleven bombs for me," Second Law said.
"Well done, ladies," Morgan said over the communicator. "Just one bomb left."
"And hostages?" Bengal asked.
"This floor is clear," Morgan said.
"Wait, what's that?" Midge asked over the com.
"That's nothing," Crofton said. "Heater or something."
"That looks like a person," Midge said.
"So among your other failures as a scientist, you also can't even read a simple thermal scan," Crofton said. "Charming. Why are you still here?"
"Midge?" Bengal asked. "Midge, we're running out of time. If there's a person here, we need to know."
"There's no person!" Crofton insisted. "Look, there's one more bomb left."
"No, that's not right either," Bengal heard Midge say softly, almost to herself.
"And you lot are standing around debating a nonperson when you should be diffusing that bomb!" Crofton shouted.
"Midge, where are they?" Second Law yelled.
"Down the hall, second right, third door on the left," Midge said quickly.
Second Law wrapped an arm around Bengal's waist. Weightlessness overtook her immediately and Bengal's feet lifted off the ground right before Second Law propelled them forward and sent them flying down the hallway. As they neared the second right, Bengal twisted in Second Law's arms so her legs hit that wall at an angle. She let her legs bend and then pushed off the wall, sending them to their right and down the hallway. As the neared the door, Bengal twisted out of Second Law's arms with enough force to send the mass manipulator into the wall across from door. Bengal's feet hit the ground and she kicked the door open. Then she spun aside so Second Law could push herself into the room.
"Oh, god!" Second Law said. Bengal stepped into the room and her breath hitched when she saw the person they had come to save.
"Help me," the woman on the floor groaned. She was naked, which only highlighted what the Smasher had done to her. The blue color around her lips coupled with her low heat signature on the thermal scanner suggested hypothermia. But Bengal didn't know if the Smasher had done something to her to cause that or if it was a side effect to his visible work. After all, what happened to a person when their legs were fused together and their arms were fused into their chest?
"We will," Ansley promised, kneeling down next to the woman and running a hand carefully through her hair. "I promise."
"Okay, you get her out and I'll go for the bomb," Bengal said.
"No, no," Second Law said. "I have the better chance of getting to that bomb in time."
"And you also have the better chance of getting her away from here before that bomb goes off," Bengal said. "And getting her to the paramedics with minimal stress."
"If that bomb goes off while you're with its..." Second Law shook her head. "I can manipulate it so I only get hit by a minimal blast."
"We don't have time for this!" Bengal snapped. "Do you want to save her life or not?" Second Law nodded. "Then you know what we need to do."
"Fine, go," Second Law ordered.
Bengal turned and raced down the hallway, relying on Brody to give her directions to the bomb. She found it about as far away from the stairwell as a person could get. Like all the others, it was on the ceiling next to the smoke detector. Bengal stacked a couple chairs precariously on top of each other so she could reach the ceiling. The climb was a dangerous one and her makeshift ladder tumbled right as Bengal reached for the ceiling. She made a wild swing at the bomb and a victory yell escaped her as her fingers closed around it. Landing on her feet, Bengal flipped the bomb over and used her claws to cut through all thirteen wires. She dropped to her knees when the bomb didn't explode in her hand.
"Alright, that's twenty-five," Bengal said, getting to her feet.
"Nice one," Second Law said as there were cheers from inside the Air Force's command center. Beneath the cheers Bengal just thought she was able to hear Midge say 'that's wrong' again, but she didn't have a chance to ask the scientist what she was talking about.
"Captain, I'm coming out hot with a woman in critical condition," Second Law said. "I need paramedics on the plaza."
"Sending them now, Second Law," Morgan said.
By that point, Benga was back at the elevator. She loosened her grappling hook from her utility belt and used that to free fall down the elevator shaft. She landed on the elevator car, pulled her grappling hook loose and started to roll it up as she squatted down to jump through the elevator hatch.
"And that is one hour," Brody said.
And then an explosion rocked the building.
Bengal fell on her butt as the elevator shaft reverberated from the blast. Cursing, Bengal sat up and pulled her communicator from her ear. The explosion echoed through the communicator and was followed by static. Whatever had just happened, it had knocked out the com system.
Bengal jumped through the elevator hatch and raced towards the entrance of the Federal Reserve Bank. The lobby was a mess with debris, ash and smoke everywhere. Bengal pressed a hand over her mouth started forward, trying to see the damage. The worst of it seemed to be right in front of the main entrance where part of the structure had collapsed.
Firefighters were already at work, blasting the remaining flames with water. Bengal could make out Morgan just within the building, barking out orders and while waving her hand at the broken pile of concrete. Lieutenant Demir was already on the pile, teleporting pieces out. Agent Crosly was with him- doing what he could to ruin his nice black suit. Outside the paramedics were waiting with an empty stretcher between them. Midge was there as well, her arms crossed over her chest and tears streaming down her cheeks.
Midge had kept saying something was wrong. Technogrenade. Technogrenade had planted the bombs. Technogrenade was OCD- obsessed with the number thirteen.
Technogrenade would never have just planted twenty-five bombs. His compulsion would have demanded twenty-six. Their scans had missed one.
"Cat! Cat!" Brody yelled, running over to her. He wrapped his arms around her shoulder and held her close. "Are you alright? Are you hurt?"
"No, no. I'm fine," Bengal said, her eyes going back to the empty stretcher. And then to the pile of concrete the rescue team was working so diligently to move despite the heat and smoke and bits still falling. "Brody..."
"We've got them! We've got them!" Demir yelled, waving his hand. "Bring the paramedics! Bring the-" He stopped as Crosly stumbled off the concrete blocks, dropped to the ground and heaved. Demir looked up at Morgan and shook his head.
Bengal collapsed against Brody and started sobbing into his chest.