Author Topic: Super Secret Lair  (Read 105 times)

Derek Reese

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Super Secret Lair
« on: January 31, 2021, 11:58:13 AM »
It was just an unassuming street, in a reasonable neighborhood. The roads were clean and well-maintained; the houses and apartment buildings were in good repair. The people seemed perhaps a little rowdy, but not dangerous in the slightest. And the building Holli lead Derek to did not stand out at all. It was just a storage warehouse, all above board, whose owners didn't have even the faintest idea of what was lying beneath the ground floor of their building.

Walking down a flight of concrete steps to an equally unassuming, yet deceptively normal-looking, metal door, Holli glanced up to make sure no one else was watching before flipping open a hidden keypad. She tapped in a complex code, pressed her thumb to the screen, and turned her head to scan her ear. There was a series of quiet clicks and clonks as the door unlocked, and she opened it up.

"Welcome to my lair."

He hadn't quite believed her when she'd told him about this place, but as they say, seeing is believing. He was starting to realize there was a lot more to Holli Carr than anyone could have guessed, and she was trusting him, of all people, with her secrets. "Maybe I should start calling you Batgirl," he said, in a teasing tone of voice.

She laughed, lowering her voice to a deep baritone.

"I'm Batman," she informed him, ushering him through the door and down another flight of steps to another door.

It was obviously designed as a chokepoint in case of invasion, and this door was definitely reinforced. She reached around him to plant her palm against a disguised plate, listening as the wheel on the other side spun and let the door swing inward. The space beyond felt vast, but was totally pitch black for the time being.

"Just step on in, I'll flip the lights in a sec."

"This isn't your idea of a surprise party, is it?" he asked, though he knew that wasn't the case. "Do you own this place?" he asked, as he stepped into the darkness beyond the door.

"I have the freehold on the land and the building," she confirmed, closing the door behind them and reaching along the wall to flip a switch. Silent LED lights flared into life, revealing an entire basement level equipped very much like the Bat Cave, if he wanted to cling to that analogy. There was a bank of computer and analysis equipment; training equipment; a shooting range; even a bed and a cupboard that looked as though it held a hospital's worth of medical supplies.

It took him a moment to get over his initial shock as he looked around, overwhelmed by the sheer size and complexity of the place, before he whistled in appreciation. "This place is ... amazing," he murmured to himself. Amazing didn't even begin to cover it.

She glanced around, too used to her workspace to notice it as anything out of the ordinary.

"I've been working on it for a while," she conceded, moving past him toward the computers. She started up the monitors, one of which was showing that the decryption it was working on was still at 67%. "Wow. Complex encryption, this had better be juicy stuff."

"Holli, this ..." He turned in place to look at everything around him, clearly stunned by what he was seeing. "This must have cost a fortune."

"My parents left me a lot of money," she said, her tone suggesting it wasn't that big a deal. "I figured I'd put it to use." She straightened up, looking over at him with a faint smile. "Worried you're dating the masked crusader now?"

"Not worried. Just a little shocked," he said. He hadn't really had much time to dig into her life or her past, and even if he had, he would have considered it cheating.

"I've got access to most of the security camera footage across the city from here, and a couple of unseen exits, too," she told him. "I try not to spend too much time here. A lone woman working in a basement tends to draw attention."

"What you need ..." he said, looking around again, "... is a secret entrance. A hidden entryway somewhere." Though he wasn't sure where. Maybe from somewhere above them. Some place where she could come and go unobserved.

"I've got a couple of secret exits," she said thoughtfully, looking around. "I'm not sure where I could place a secret entrance without drawing attention to the work being done. Thoughts?"

"I don't know," he replied. "I'll have to think about it." He wondered if he shouldn't be thinking about the fact that his almost-girlfriend was a kind of superhero with a secret lair. Or at least, that's how it seemed. All of this made his own secrets seem inconsequential by comparison. "I really don't know what to say right now."

"I'm open to ideas," she assured him. She knew this was a bit much to take in - it was one thing to be told that she had a secret lair; quite another to be taken into it. "Feel free to look around. Just don't touch the weapons cabinet - it's trapped."

"The weapons cabinet?" he echoed, turning to see if he could locate that. It definitely was a lot to take in. It was one thing to be told she had a secret alias and quite another to find out she had a secret lair.

She gestured past the punching bag and the salmon ladder to where two glass fronted cabinets stood. One contained what was obviously the Shadow's uniform - hooded in purple so deep it was almost black. The other contained two bows, a selection of knuckle dusters, and several quivers of arrows.

He arched a brow as he passed the punching bag and salmon ladder. Even in the heat of passion, he'd noticed she was fit - soft and curvy where a woman should be, but without a hint of fat anywhere else. Then again, she'd have to be to do the things her alter ego was reputed to do. But what really interested him were the weapons - the bows, in particular. "You shoot?" he asked, though that much seemed obvious. Why else would she have them here but to make use of them?

"I do," she said with a grin. "I don't kill, though. The bow is a good way to frighten people into shutting up and doing what they're told."

Thankfully, his back was toward her, so she couldn't see the worried look on his face. He knew from experience that if she kept on this way, sooner or later, she might not have a choice. "Holli, this isn't a game," he told her, turning slowly to face her.

Derek Reese

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2021, 11:58:29 AM »

"No, it isn't," she said, and her grin was gone. "Which is why I don't take risks with other people's lives. I'm not judge, jury, and executioner, Derek. I'm looking for the evidence that will put them on trial."

"Yes, but you are putting your own life at risk," he argued, though he was sure she already knew that. "All I'm saying is there may come a time when you have no choice. Don't carry a weapon unless you are willing to use it. Your life could depend on it someday."

"You think I don't know that?" she countered. "I'm not a murderer, Derek, but that doesn't mean I won't shoot in self-defense. But I won't kill unless I have no other choice, and that is not something you will ever change my mind on."

"Well, from now on, you're not going alone anyway," he said, as if that much was already decided. If anyone was going to get blood on their hands, it would be him.

"Really?" Holli turned to look at him, not impressed. "One, how are you going to hide your identity? Two, do you have any idea how to hack complex computer systems? Three, do you know how to use any kind of weapon apart from your fists?"

Instead of getting angry at her challenge, he only smiled. "One, same way you are. Two, that's what I have you for. And Three, yes. What do you think about that, Smarty-Pants?"

She didn't return his smile, only raising her brow as she held his gaze. "Why would you do this?" she asked bluntly.

He exhaled a sigh, his smile fading. "I thought we already talked about this," he said. Hadn't they already agreed to be partners? Then again, he hadn't really told her much about his own secrets.

"That's not what I mean," she said. "Why do you want to partner up with me, specifically? Because if you're about to say I need looking after, I will kick your ass so hard you'll need a cushion strapped to it for a week."

"Well ..." he started, with a shrug of his shoulders. "There is that, but mostly it's because we want the same things. Don't you think we could accomplish more together than apart? Or maybe I just want to play with some of your toys," he teased, that smirk reappearing on his face.

"No, you don't get to turn on your ego and then pretend it was a joke," she informed him sternly. "Straight answers now. You've had a lot from me. Time you gave up some honest responses."

"Do you want to see my resume?" he asked, brows furrowed in irritation, though he supposed he couldn't blame her. "Why'd you bring me here, Holli? Weren't we talking about becoming a team?"

"I have given you so much power over me, it's unreal," she shot back in annoyance of her own. "You know who I am, what I do, and where I work from. And you can't give me a straight answer on why you want to do this with me? Seriously?"

"I don't want power over you," he told her, his voice quiet. "Those computers work?" he asked, with a nod of his head toward the complex arrangement of tech she'd somehow managed to set up in here.

She didn't even glance away. "You do not get access to my computers until you start talking to me," she said firmly. She had adjusted her stance almost unconsciously, prepared to defend her equipment. He was on the verge of losing the trust she had put in him, close to making her truly angry.

"I want to show you something," he told her, though he didn't say what that something was. Whatever it was, it seemed important.

"Tell me what it is," she said, not giving an inch. "I told you my reasons, what set me on this path. The least you can do is give me the same courtesy, Derek."

"That's what I want to show you," he told her. Apparently, she had not yet done any more research on him than he had done on her, or she might have already guessed some of this.

She seemed to relax a little as the tensions calmed. "Are you intending to attach anything to my system?" she asked, and this was all about security now.

"No! Christ, Holli. I thought you trusted me," he said, looking more than a little crestfallen. He'd earned her trust enough for her to bring him here. It was a little too late to change her mind now. "I'm trying to tell you who I am."

She raised a warning hand. "You don't get to throw that at me," she told him. "You just went caveman on me. I don't know what you're capable of, whether you can defend yourself or not, and you tried to demand that you come out on jobs with me to protect me. That is more than a little insulting. So yeah, I'm prickly. But you are not a saint here."

"Caveman?" he echoed, brows arching upwards. "Okay, so maybe I got a little carried away. How do you want me to feel after what just happened between us? You bring me here to this place, tell me you don't kill anyone, just threaten them, and I'm supposed to be okay with that? Did you ever think maybe I might worry about you?"

"Worrying is fine," she said sharply. "Implying that I can't do this without you there to hold my hand, not so much." She sighed, the sound brusque and loud in the large space. "Look, I never said no. But you have to stop assuming that I'm going to die. I've been doing this for two years. Believe it or not, I'm good at it. And you still won't give me a straight answer to a straight question without stalling or asking for access to my systems."

"I never implied that," he countered, which he hadn't. She was obviously very good at what she did, but then so was he. At least, he hadn't been caught on camera. He sighed. "This may take a while."

"So talk to me." She gestured for him to take a seat, moving to sit down herself. "We have all the time in the world, and all the privacy you could ever hope for."

"You have coffee?" he asked, feeling almost as if he was readying himself for an interrogation, when it was really more like a confession.

"Sure." She rose again, moving to a counter with a sink and cabinet, filling an electric kettle. "It's just instant, I'm afraid."

He winced a little, but didn't really care. He just needed something to bolster his courage and give his hands something to do. "I'm not sure where to begin really," he said, as he settled himself in a chair.

Derek Reese

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2021, 11:58:44 AM »
"Just start where it feels most relevant," she said softly. "I'm not asking for every detail. Just ... you know my reasons. I need to know yours."

"That's simple enough, but it's gonna sound kind of ... clichéd. That's why I wanted to show you instead," he replied, clasping his hands together and setting them on the table. He had turned quiet and tense, far different than he'd been just a short time ago.

"It's only a cliché if it's in fiction," she told him quietly. "Trauma is not a cliché when you've lived it." Spooning instant coffee into the cups, she added boiling water, stirring to make sure it was fully dissolved.

It wasn't going to be anywhere near as good as her hot cocoa, but that hardly mattered. "I haven't talked to anyone about this in years," he admitted, needing her to know how difficult this was for him, before he began. Maybe it was easier to just say it and be done with it, but should he begin at the beginning or the end? He drew a deep breath and dove into the story. "I lost my parents when I was a kid. I mean, they died. They were killed. My dad had lost his job and was in debt to the mob. When he couldn't pay his bills ..." He just shrugged, as if that was explanation enough.

She frowned, empathetic sympathy painted in her eyes and expression as she brought the coffee over to him, creamer and sugar in her other hand. "You don't have to go into detail," she assured him. "What happened to you?"

He murmured his thanks as she brought him the coffee, preferring to drink it black, wincing just a little at the bitter taste of it. Coffee tasted so much better brewed than freeze-dried, but beggars couldn't be choosers, and he needed the boost of courage the caffeine offered. "What happened to me?" he echoed. "I was lucky really. My uncle took me in. My mother's brother. Took care of me, raised me. He was like a second father to me really. He was a cop - detective. He swore he wouldn't rest until he brought my parents' killers to justice, but ... Well, you can imagine how that turned out."

"God." She breathed out, shocked by the sheer weight of tragedy he had endured. "Derek ... I don't know what to say. You're lucky you turned out the way you have."

"I'm not sure luck had anything to do with it," he said, pausing a moment to take another sip of his coffee. "Anyway, your story isn't that much different than mine, is it?" he asked. Though she had not told him all of it, she'd told him enough.

"I was older," she pointed out gently. "And I'm guessing I was in a much better place financially than you were. I had it easy, I think, compared with a lot of people who experience things like that."

"No one who loses their family has it easy, Holli," he said, sympathizing with her as much as she did him. "I guess it made me stronger anyway," he added with a shrug.

She sighed, easing down into the other chair. "What got you set on this path?" she asked, as gently as she could. "I would have thought you'd go after the mob."

That got a bit of a smile from him. "I am," he assured her. "I'm just taking a different approach." He took another sip of his coffee. "But it's not just the mob. This whole town is corrupt."

"The people in power are," she corrected him quietly. "The average person on the street, the people who do all the work? They're no more corrupt than you or I."

"That's what I meant,"  he said in agreement. "Maybe other cities are corrupt, too. Hell, maybe the whole country is corrupt, but this is my city. Our city. If we don't try to clean it up, who will?"

"No one," she agreed. "It's up to those of who can work outside the system to get the system up and working again. There are good people in the system, but all they can do is try to mitigate some of the damage being dealt."

"Right, so that's my story," he said. Of course, that wasn't all of it, but she'd wanted to know his reasons and now she had them.

"All right." She nodded, accepting what he was prepared to say without pushing for more. "So I have one more question. How do you know you can handle yourself as an active partner in my practical missions?"

"That's what I wanted to show you," he told her, with the barest hint of a smirk on his face, though this was no laughing matter. "I think we've been doing the same thing without knowing it."

She frowned curiously, raising a brow. "All right. Show me." She nodded toward the keyboard closest to him. "That one is open access."

He rolled his chair over to the keyboard and set his coffee on the table, close at hand. "I can't show you everything," he explained, his fingers tapping the keyboard to access the internet. "But I can show you this," he said, pulling up a news story about a recent break-in - not at Logicorp - but at the office of a local government official by the name of Max Holland.

The story, which was being reported by none other than Derek Reese himself, told of a break-in by someone going by the name of Archer, who had not only threatened the Senator, but had turned over evidence implicating the man's connection to the mob.

She scanned the story, putting two and two together fast. "That was you?" she asked, impressed. "I scouted that office after I heard about the break in on the scanner. Very neat."

He shrugged a shoulder. "I learned from the best." Who better to learn his craft from than a police detective? Of course, he hadn't learned everything from his uncle, but she didn't need to know all that.

"So you're the Archer, huh?" she asked, looking at him thoughtfully. It made sense; his muscles were well honed, as she now knew intimately, but they were also very specifically honed. "Where do you keep your gear?"

"That is a problem," he said, with a worried expression and a glance around at their surroundings. "I don't have your resources, but so long as no one rips my apartment apart, I should be okay." For now, anyway.

"Well, you're bringing it here, then," Holli informed him with a faint smile. "I can add you to the security system easily enough, and you'll have somewhere secure to stow your gear that won't immediately put you in danger should the cops decide to investigate the reporter who keeps getting these scoops."

Derek Reese

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2021, 11:58:58 AM »
"You're sure?" he asked, needing to know she wouldn't regret her decision. They hadn't known each other very long, but he thought if there was anyone he could trust, it was her. After all, they seemed to want the same things.

"I wouldn't offer if I wasn't," she told him, her smile deepening. "Right now, you're one slip away from being destroyed by the corrupt system. All they need is one little suspicion to pin everything they like on you. So let's nip that in the bud, shall we?"

"I'd be an idiot to say no," he said, smiling again. "Look, I-I didn't mean to insult you before. I just have a bad habit of trying to protect the people I care about." And there weren't very many of them.

Holli let the sting from before slide away. "I know the feeling," she said in a low voice. "But you gotta trust that the people you work with can do what needs to be done. That's how a partnership works, right?"

"Right," he replied, though he had never really had a partner - not like this, anyway. "Trust has never come easy for me, but I trust you," he told her, hoping she believed him.

"I can relate." She offered him her hand. "We're in this together, right?"

He smiled and took her hand. "All for one and one for all?" he asked, with a smirk on his face.

She squeezed his hand before shaking it, sealing their partnership with that gesture. "If I go down, you take them down with me, and I'll do the same for you," she agreed.

"Agreed," he said, giving her hand a squeeze and small shake in return. "Wouldn't you rather seal it with a kiss?" he teased.

She snorted with laughter. "I am very interested in that," she admitted, rising to her feet to stretch. "I need to work out a little, though."

"There are those who say sex is the best exercise there is," he teased, though he was curious just what she had in mind.

Holli looked down at him, her entire demeanor back to the sweet, smiling woman she'd been when she'd run into him just two days ago. "Are you offering?"

"The offer is always on the table," he replied, though he wasn't going to push the matter. They had only met a few days ago, but they'd already crossed the line between friendship and something deeper.

"Hmm." She made a point of looking around the space with a smirk. "I don't think I have any clear tables in here. Would you accept a counter offer of a floor or wall?"

He chuckled. "Maybe we should install a bed," he remarked, not really answering her question. He wasn't opposed to a floor or a wall, if the mood struck.

"Well, there is a bed," she conceded, gesturing toward it against the back wall. "It just has a tendency to, you know, slam folded up at inconvenient moments."

He laughed. "We'll just have to do something about that," he said, moving to his feet and taking a step closer. Not now though. Later. He had other things on his mind right now. He tipped her chin up to meet this kiss he intended to plant on her lips.

There was certainly no objection in her to being kissed. His lips found her smile as her arms opened to him, curling about his neck and shoulders, answering that kiss with her own. Perhaps she was being too hasty, perhaps not. The deal was done now.

He had never been the impulsive type, but there was something about her that made him trust her. Whatever it was, he knew he was slowly falling for her, but for once in his life, he didn't want to fight it. He knew it was dangerous, not only to share his secrets, but to open his heart, but if he didn't do it now, he might never have the opportunity again. And so, he wrapped her in his embrace and he kissed her, sealing the deal with more than just words but with something deeper.

Who said love had to develop slowly, over time? Why couldn't it hit you in a flash, and deepen as time went on? Holli had never been one for conventionality, prepared to take her heart and life in her hands and leap in the hope of being caught. Derek seemed like a safe pair of hands to trust when it came to stopping her from destroying everything she had.

He certainly seemed more than willing to catch her; hopefully, she would do the same for him, both in love and this new partnership of theirs. He momentarily broke from the kiss, a little out of breath. "You wouldn't happen to have any champagne. This kind of calls for a celebration, don't you think?"

Anything would be better than the instant coffee she'd given him. He was going to have to do something about that. Get a Kurig or something.

She laughed softly. "Sorry, I don't keep booze in my sooper sekrit lair," she told him. "Disappointing, I know."

He chuckled. "We might have to do something about that. Your sooper sekrit coffee sucks," he teased, before kissing her again.

He smothered her laugh with that kiss; she wasn't arguing there! "Are you going to turn the lair into a sooper sekrit restaurant hotel for just the two of us, then?"

"Ohhh, that's a brilliant idea!" he exclaimed with a grin, though that wasn't really his intention. "Your hospitality does need a little improvement."

"Never thought I'd be offering hospitality!" she defended herself in amusement. "Sounds like you've got a woman's touch when it comes to decorating."

"I just like a few creature comforts," he replied. Even his office at the TV station had more creature comforts than this. He didn't think adding a better bed and maybe a coffee maker and microwave was so much to ask. "Besides, if we're going to be spending a lot of time here, we should at least have a better coffee maker," he reasoned, not letting her out of his arms just yet.

Derek Reese

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2021, 11:59:13 AM »
"I guess you're right," she conceded. "I didn't pay much attention to making the place comfortable when I put it all together. Want me to put up a Christmas tree, too?"

He smirked at her suggestion. "No, I don't think we need to go that far," he said, though he had no idea what her plans were for the holidays.

Her smile softened as she looked up at him. "Want to spend Christmas with me?" she asked very quietly, almost afraid to ask in case the answer was no. She hadn't had company at this time for year for a very long time.

"I can't think of anything I'd like better," he replied, breaking off to kiss her again. If they kept going like this, they were going to need that bed.

Just the way she softened in his arms should have been enough to tell him how much his agreement to spend the festive days in her company meant to her. Holli seemed to warm and melt in his arms, her kisses not purely driven by lust or even attraction, but that deeper spark they would likely be dancing around for a while to come.

He knew he'd probably get a few invitations from well-meaning friends and colleagues who knew he had no family to celebrate with, but there was really no one he wanted to spend more time with than her. Derek wasn't stingy with his kisses, each one a little deeper than the last, a little more passionate. "Is there anything else you want to show me?" he asked, between breaths.

"Later," was her whispered answer, hands gripping his lapels to pull him away from the bank of computers, blindly heading backwards across the wide space in the hope of finding a surface that wouldn't give either of them bruises or piles.

He murmured an incoherent response as she practically dragged him away from the computers and deeper into her lair. It seemed neither of them much cared in the heat of the moment whether there was a bed or not. So long as they were alone, that was all that mattered. She wanted him as much as he wanted her, so why fight it? He was only too happy to let their libidos take over for a while.

And he hadn't been wrong when he'd likened it to a work out. Some of it was practically lessons in contortionism, but the ache afterward was worth it. By the time they finally made it to the bed, the discard trail of their clothing painted a picture of the journey they had taken to get there.

"You're sure no one knows about this place but us?" he asked, not really wanting to be interrupted by a well-meaning friend or even a cleaning lady. He had good reason to be concerned, considering they were both sprawled out naked on the bed, limbs still tangled together in a lovers' embrace.

She smiled, leaning over him in languid comfort. "Just me," she promised. "I do all my own cleaning, believe it or not. There's a mop in that cupboard over there and everything."

"I'm not sure I signed on for that," he told her with a smirk, his fingers idly tracing circles against her bare back. "How is it no one knows about this place?"

"A lot of double-blind agents and indirect payments," she told him. "I'm good at covering my tracks. We're good here, I promise."

He had to admit, the place didn't look like much from the outside. Few would ever be able to imagine what was hidden behind those closed doors. "You're an amazing woman, Holli Carr," he told her, lifting a hand to caress her cheek.

"I'm stubborn, mostly," she countered with a low chuckle, her cheek tilting into his touch, unconsciously encouraging and seeking his affection.

"Being stubborn alone doesn't account for all of this," he said, with a faint nod of his head to their surroundings. "I still can't figure out how you managed it," he said.

"It took a long time," she admitted. "I've been active for two years, yes. But I was putting all this together for four years before that, covering all my tracks, moving slowly, getting everything set up. It felt like an eternity."

"And you did it all on your own," he said, in obvious awe. "But you don't have to anymore. I'm here to help," he said, though it seemed she had her lair already laid out to her liking. Except for that coffee maker.

She considered him for a moment, a half-smile gracing her face. "We'll have to get you kitted out in style," she mused, gently tweaking his chin affectionately.

"Kitted out?" he echoed, chuckling to himself when he realized what she meant. "Oh, you mean you want to make me a superhero costume?" he teased.

"Hell yeah," she said, eyes lighting up with enthusiasm. "We have to protect your identity properly, you know."

"I've been dressing in black and wearing a mask and a hoodie," he told her. Come to think of it, he looked more like a hoodlum than a hero in that get-up.

"Black shows up more in shadows than a dark green or grey does," she told him cheerfully. "I'll get you sorted, don't you worry. You can be Robin."

"Robin?" he echoed with a snort. "A, I'm a little too old to be Robin, and B, I'm not your sidekick," he said, only partly teasing. "Besides, I already have an alias. They've dubbed me Archer, remember?"

Holli laughed. "Okay, you can be my Catwoman, then," she informed him with sweet, cheeky innocence. "Skin tight leather and sexy neutrality."

"Do I look female to you?" he said, with a smirk. "If either of us is going to be Catwoman, it should definitely be you." After all, she had the curves for it.

"I'm not ambiguous or flirty enough," she said, glossing over the fact that she was naked in the arms of a man she had only met barely more than 30 hours ago.

This time he couldn't help but laugh out loud. "You, not flirty?" he said, sounding unconvinced. "This from the woman who spilled her coffee on me so she could get a date." Okay, maybe not, but he couldn't help but tease her about it.

"I didn't do that on purpose," she protested laughingly. "Besides, I came out of that collision a lot wetter than you. Wait, that didn't come out right ..."

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2021, 11:59:29 AM »
He chuckled again. "Keep talking. You are digging yourself a deeper ditch." So to speak anyway. "You're lucky you're cute," he said, giving her nose a playful tweak.

"I'm only cute, huh?" She raised a brow. "I guess I'll have to make more of an effort to be elegantly sexy sometime, then."

"Do you want a list of adjectives?" he asked, unable to hide the smirk from his face, despite his efforts to keep a straight face. "How about smart, sexy, dangerous, daring, and cute?" At least, for starters.

"That's better," she conceded with a grin. "I like smart and dangerous, that's fantastic. Can I put it on my business cards?"

"What business cards are those? The ones for your day job or your night job?" he teased. "You never did say who you work for," he said, not that it mattered. He assumed it wasn't Logitech.

"Tarrant Tech," she told him. "They're on my list as well, but I took the job to get an insiders' view of the security. I've got a decent scoop on them right now."

"I've heard of them," he said, though he didn't think they were on his list - at least, not yet. "Who else is on your list?"

"Logitech, Tarrant Tech, MaxCorp, Solan Industries," she said, rattling off the list by rote. "And mainly the highest of the management and directors in there. They are the ones working together. I particularly want to destroy Solan Industries - Thomas Solan was supposedly my dad's best friend."

"What happened?" he asked, pulling her down beside him and tugging the covers up over them both, not so much for modesty as for warmth.

She sighed, curling close against him as he covered them over. "I don't know all the details," she admitted. "What I've found out is that my dad was one of the big five - you know, the five company CEOs that ran Horizon? Only he was using his profits and influence to look after his employees and encourage them to unionize and everything." She sighed again, frowning into space. "Apparently he had a plan to get the other CEOs to pool resources and fund a few shelters, set up some more schools in deprived areas, that kind of thing. I don't have the proof yet, but it looks like they decided he was too dangerous to have around, and deliberately tanked Carr Industries. Thomas Solan was there when my dad was murdered, too."

"They killed your father because he wanted to help people?" he asked, brows arching upwards. It was hard to believe there was such evil in the world, and yet, this was exactly what he had vowed to fight against.

"Because he was making them look bad, is more likely," she said, her voice tense. "He had loyal employees, who loved working for him. He was a part of the workforce, not just the rich guy at the top."

"Still not a reason to kill someone," he said. "Thomas Solan is the head of Solan Industries," he murmured. He knew that much. "And you think he had your dad killed?"

"I think, if he didn't do it, then he stood by and let it happen," she said, her voice now very quiet. "He betrayed a man who treated him like one of the family."

"That's pretty much the same thing," Derek remarked with a frown. Whether Solan did the deed or not, he was just as guilty. "We should probably compare lists, but not tonight," he said, rolling onto his side and sliding his arms around her.

She nodded, cuddling into his arms comfortably. "We should probably get lunch at some point soon," she murmured. It hadn't been that long since they had rolled out of her bed this morning.

"I thought you were lunch," he teased, that smirk back on his face again. He was grateful to be talking about almost anything other than their hit lists.

"Man cannot live on love alone," she pointed out cheekily, booping the end of his nose with her own. "And I do not recommend sleeping down here unless you have to - it gets really frikkin' cold."

"Okay, so what do you suggest, Miss Shadow?" he asked, either of lunch or of what she wanted to do next. It was still early enough that they had plenty of time to kill.

"Hmmm ... I'm kinda comfy right here," she admitted. "But we should get dressed and leave, I guess. Grab lunch somewhere, find somewhere more comfortable to get naked next time."

"Somewhere like your apartment?" he asked. "Or maybe we should bring my gear here," he added, thinking it would probably be safer here than stuffed in the back of his closet behind a fake panel.

"We should get your gear secure as soon as we can," she agreed, nodding. "In this town, it doesn't take much for someone to turn a suspicion into action."

"True," he admitted. It was only a matter of time before people put two and two together and wondered why he got some many scoops on the so-called Archer before anyone else. "So long as you give me access to this place anyway."

"That'll only take a couple of minutes," she assured him. "I just need your palm print and a scan of your ear to input into the system, and I'll give you the codes."

"Why my ear and not my eye?" he asked curiously, fingers calloused from the bow tracing lazy circles against her bare flesh again.

"Eye scans can be replicated too easily these days," she said, unconsciously shifting in enjoyment of his touch. "The whorls of your ear are as unique to you as your fingerprints."

"So long as someone doesn't hack off your ear," he murmured more to himself than to her. He wasn't finding a flaw in her plan; he just didn't like the thought of possibly losing an ear.

"The scanner looks like a thumb scanner," she pointed out. "I deliberately disguised it to confuse anyone trying to get in."

"Good thinking," he said, touching a kiss to her bare shoulder. "We should get dressed. I'm hungry," he told her, playfully swatting her rear.

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2021, 11:59:43 AM »
She snorted with laughter, jerking into him as he tapped her backside. "Gentle with the goods, Robin," she teased, brushing a kiss to his lips before beginning to disentangle herself.

"If you wanted a teenage sidekick, you should have looked me up years ago," he teased, as he was well past his teens.

"Chris O'Donnell was definitely not in his teens when Val Kilmer picked him up," she pointed out with a grin, easing up from the bed to move in search of her clothing.

"But he is in the comics," he pointed out, chuckling a little at the ridiculousness of their debate. Instead of following her to his feet, he rolled onto his side and watched her go about it instead. "So, is that your favorite version then?" Of Batman, he meant.

"I'm not really that fond of Batman or any superhero, really," she admitted, apparently heedless of his watching eyes as she drew her underwear back into place. "I mean, I like the campy silliness of Batman Returns, but it's not a movie I would go out of my way to watch."

"And yet, that's not the first time you've mentioned Robin. Do you have a thing for younger men?" he asked, teasing her again, content to watch her get dressed for the moment and admire the view.

"Maybe I like the idea of getting you into tights," she countered laughingly, turning back to the bed as she hooked her bra into place. She laughed at the sight of him watching her. "Enjoying the view, huh?"

"It's like watching a striptease in reverse," he remarked with a grin. "And you are not getting me into tights, so you can just forget all about that idea," he said, rolling off the bed finally to look for his clothes.

"Never say never," she said with a wicked little grin, catching up her sweater from the cabinet where it had landed to pull it over his head.

"I will where tights are concerned," he replied, as he followed the trail of clothes around the room, collecting his own in his arms.

She patted his rear end as she passed, hopping into her jeans in the process. "Where's the ambition, huh?"

"Ambition?" he echoed, furrowing his brows in confusion. "I'm not following," he told her, unsure what ambition had to do with wearing tights, unless she wanted to make a superhero out of him.

"I'm teasing you, grumpy dude," she pointed out cheerfully, sitting on a step to pull on socks and boots. "Are you a man who gets hangry when he hasn't eaten in a while?"

"I'm not grumpy or hangry," he insisted as he started to get dressed, underwear first for obvious reasons. Boxers, to be precise. Okay, maybe he was a little bit hangry, but not much.

She chuckled quietly, watching him dress with interested eyes. "You kind of are," she pointed out in amusement. "It's kinda cute. Just lets me know I have to keep snacks on hand."

"That reminds me," he said as he climbed into his jeans. "We are getting a coffee pot. And maybe a microwave and a mini-fridge, too." Because if they were going to spend much time here, he was going to need those things to keep him going.

"You're going to Queer Eye my lair, huh?" she teased, pausing as she put her foot back to the ground to run her fingers through the tangles of her hair. "Will you do pseudo-therapy for my tortured soul, too?"

"I'm not asking you to redecorate.  Just get some decent coffee," he explained as he tugged his shirt over his head. He wasn't sure how anyone could actually drink the instant stuff - it tasted terrible.

Holli was giggling as he emerged from his shirt. "I'm good with a coffee pot," she assured him. "The instant is disgusting, but it's a fast caffeine hit."

"Holli, Coke is a fast caffeine hit. Instant coffee is an insult to, well, coffee!" he said, with a faint chuckle.

"Coke isn't hot, though!" she protested in amusement. "I'm down for a coffee pot and a fridge. Why do we need a microwave down here, though?"

"Tea would be better than the instant stuff," he argued, but he definitely preferred his caffeine in the form of strong, hot coffee. "So we can make popcorn?" he said, with a teasing grin.

"What, you want a TV now, too?" she asked laughingly. "Sekrit lair, not a movie theater!" Rising to her feet, she picked up a strange contraption from the desk beside her before moving over to him. "Hold still a sec while I scan your ear."

He chuckled at her remark. "I just thought it might come in handy if we're here a while and want a quick bite. I assume you don't accept deliveries," he teased further. He gave the contraption a skeptical look. "Don't blame me if you find earwax."

"It's just a scan," she told him, rolling her eyes at him. "You literally watched me do this to get in. Now hold still." She held his chin so she had a good angle, carefully scanning the whorls of his ear and inputting the data to her system. "When you're ready, we'll do your palm."

"Yes, ma'am," he told her obediently, holding as still as he could, but unable to stop himself from reaching around to pinch her rear before she was done.

She squeaked at the pinch, snorting with laughter at her reaction. "You seem pretty attached to that end of me," she commented, tapping something into the keypad on the back of the scanner.

"What if I said I'm attached to all of you?" he countered, leaning over to take a curious peek at the scanner. "Did I pass the test?" he asked, with another smirk.

"Congratulations - you, like the rest of the population, have a unique ear," she told him, chuckling as she showed him the scanner. The readout was all in binary.

"Well, that's good, I guess," he murmured as he glanced at the scanner. He wasn't stupid but it was all Russian to him. "You're good at this tech stuff, huh?" he asked as he got started on his socks and shoes.

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2021, 11:59:58 AM »

"I have to be," she said, shrugging with one shoulder as she returned to the computers. "Everything is encrypted or centrally controlled these days. Gotta be able to hack if you want to get hold of anything juicy."

"Not necessarily," he murmured further. "So, where are you taking me for lunch?" he asked, changing the subject.

"McDonalds?" she teased, bending over the desk to input his details. "Come over here and put your palm on this plate for a minute, please." She tapped a plain rectangle of smooth metal on the desk beside her.

"Oh, big spender," he teased back, moving over to do as she said. "And you're scanning my hand because?" he asked curiously.

"Because the inner door needs your palm print before it'll unlock the keypad for your to use," she explained. "You'll need to memorise this month's codes, too - one eight digit for the outer door, and one fourteen digit for the inner door."

"If I can't remember it, can I write it on my hand?" he asked with a sarcastic smirk on his face. Of course, he wasn't serious. That smirk never seemed to quite leave his face.

"Write it on the inside of your eyelids, maybe," she drawled back to him. Under his palm, the metal scanner grew warm and just soft enough to mould to his palm and fingers, scanning every unique groove into the computer.

"Why do I feel like I'm being violated?" he asked, obviously teasing again. He'd had no complaints a little while ago when they were busy violating each other.

"If that's your kink, I could probably rig you up a fleshlight that moans when you use it," was her counter-tease, offered over her shoulder as she worked. "There are the codes, on that second monitor. You can have your hand back now."

"Why, thank you!" he said, glancing at the monitor to memorize the codes. It was a good thing he had an eidetic memory, but she didn't have to know that.

Holli rolled her eyes above her smile, fingers tapping quickly across the keys in front of her to add him securely to her system so he could have access in and out. "Is your phone encrypted?" she asked as she worked.

"Encrypted?" he echoed. Was that even possible? Again, tech wasn't his thing so he wasn't too sure. He slid his phone out of his pocket and handed it over. "You tell me."

She straightened, taking his phone from his hand. If it was password protected, then it didn't seem to matter - she was into his apps and data within a couple of minutes. "That would be a no," she said with a gentle smile. "I'll sort that out later."

"You're the boss," he said with a shrug and a smile. Or at least, that was what he was going to let her think.

"I thought we were partners," she said, shrugging back into her jacket. "So where do you want to eat lunch, hmm?"

"Oh, you weren't serious about McDonald's then?" he said. He was obviously teasing again, just as he had been when he'd called her the boss.

"Hey, I'm down for a Big Mac if you are," she said with a gentle laugh, shaking her hair out of her coat. "Ready to go, handsome?"

"I was born ready, Beautiful," he told her, grabbing his jacket and tossing it over his shoulders. It was a clichéd kind of thing to say, but he had a slightly corny sense of humor.

She reached for his hand, drawing him back toward the reinforced door. On this side, it was locked with a wheel mechanism; she spun it, and the heavy deadbolts slid back, allowing them to open it up and get into the interior stairwell. "Hit the lights on your way out!"

"This place is locked up tighter than Fort Knox!" he remarked as he followed her out, flicking the lights off on his way out. "So, how much time do you spend here?" he asked out of curiosity.

"I try not to spend too much time down here," she admitted, leading the way up the steps toward the outer door. "I visit at least once a week - when I've got a mission planned, probably once every two or three days."

"And no one notices you coming and going or wonders what you've got going on down here?" he asked, lowering his voice so it didn't echo through the stairwell.

"I don't usually come here in the daytime," she pointed out with a faint smile. "And it's a good neighborhood - rough as all hell, but the people are good people. I've helped out enough of the businesses around here that they tend to turn a blind eye."

"I see," he murmured, with a slight frown she couldn't see, since he was behind her. She might notice that he'd turned quiet again for some reason though.

She glanced over her shoulder, spinning the wheel on the second door to let them both out into the bottom of the concrete stairwell and the chilly winter air. "You okay there?"

"Yeah, just thinking," he said, though he didn't bother to say what he was thinking for some reason or other.

"Uh-huh." She pulled the door closed, listening for a moment as it locked automatically in their wake. "Well, c'mon, then. You still didn't decide where I'm taking you for lunch."

"I thought we were going to McDonald's and I thought it was your choice," he pointed out, clearly remembering asking her where she was taking him, before she twisted it back around on him.

"I'm paying, so I decided you're choosing," she said impishly, curling her arm into his as they reached street level. "You have already experienced my problem with making decisions."

"Well, what do you feel like eating?" he asked. Though he wasn't opposed to a big sloppy burger, there were better places to get one than McDonald's.

"Ever been to Trudi's?" she asked, tilting her head toward him. "Not a huge menu, but it's all amazingly good. And very unhealthy, which just makes it better in my opinion."

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2021, 12:00:12 PM »

"I don't think so," he said. At least, it didn't sound familiar, but there were a lot of restaurants in the city and he couldn't be blamed for not trying all of them.

"Then we're going to Trudi's," Holli told him cheerfully. "See, I made a decision! Aren't you proud of me?"

"What makes you think you can't make decisions? You didn't hesitate when I asked you out and look how that turned out?" he pointed out helpfully.

"Maybe it's that I'm not really impulsive, then," she mused. "I rarely do anything I haven't thoroughly thought through, and I like to keep my options open. Saying yes to you was a calculated risk."

"Calculated in what way?" he asked, a serious look on his face. "I could have been a total asshole," he pointed out, wondering what it was about him that made her say yes.

"That's the risk," she pointed out with a smile. "It's a calculation everyone makes in a situation like that. You were polite, and kind, and it doesn't hurt that you're sexy as all hell. But if you'd been rude about my walking into you and then asked me out? Not a chance."

He couldn't help but smile at her initial assessment of him. "I hope I don't disappoint you," he said, knowing he wasn't perfect and had his fair share of faults.

"You haven't so far," she assured him. "Besides, you must have made the same calculated risk asking me out. You didn't know I'd be cute, smart, and dangerous. Just clumsy."

"Well, I already knew you were cute," he said. He had noticed that right away, but it had taken a short time to realize the rest. "I'm not so sure about the dangerous part yet," he teased.

"Hey!" Her protest came with a laugh as they reached his car. "You're the one who said I was dangerous, no backsies!"

"Anyone who spills hot coffee on themselves is more of a danger to themselves than anyone else though," he teased further.

She rolled her eyes. "Oooh, you and me are going to spar soon," she warned. "I am going to kick your pert little butt for that one."

He chuckled at that. "We'll see," he said, touching a kiss to her lips before reaching around her to unlock her door.

"Mmm, we certainly will," she promised, catching him by the belt loops to pull him in for another kiss. She ignored the group of teenagers who whooped teasingly from the other side of the street to do it, too.

Derek smirked as she insisted on another kiss, forgetting about the door for now. Behind her back, he gave the teens a thumbs up while indulging her kiss.

With the boys' laughter filling the street, Holli giggled as she drew back from that kiss. "Shall we?" she suggested sweetly. "Trudi's is on Fourth and Main."

"Yes, ma'am," he replied, pulling away just enough so that he could bop her nose before moving to unlock her door. "So, what do you like to do for fun?" he asked. "Besides spilling your coffee on handsome strangers and chasing bad guys?"

"Cavort with sexy superheroes in secret lairs?" she suggested. She genuinely didn't have an answer to that question, only what she had told him before - that before her parents' deaths, she had enjoyed dancing.

"We're going to have to do better than that," he told her, though he wasn't sure how just yet. She had said she liked dancing, so that was an option, but there was no rush.

"So, what are you doing for Christmas?" he asked, though the holiday was a few weeks away yet.

She sobered, sliding down into the passenger seat. "You're welcome to spend it with me," she offered again. "I won't be doing anything special. If I'm on my own, I'll probably be breaking into Solan's home office while he's away at his Christmas Eve party."

"Best offer I've had," he said, smirking again before he darted around the car to unlock the driver's side door and climb in. "Maybe we should add breaking and entering to your list of fun things."

She snorted with laughter, rolling her eyes. "Yeah, I wouldn't class it as fun, but ... it sure beats sitting around alone at home."

Maybe he shouldn't take her literally, but he found himself blurting. "You don't have to be alone anymore, Holli." At least, not so long as he was around.

She smiled, turning a soft gaze onto him in answer. "That's a good dream," she murmured hopefully. "I should have spilled coffee on you years ago."

"You didn't know me years ago," he reminded her, his grin softening with what might be taken for affection. "Anyway, better late than never, right?"

"Right." Her agreement was warm and vehement, accompanied by a teasing pat of her hand against his thigh. "At least this year I have a pretty good chance of guessing what I'm going to find in my stockings."

He arched a curious brow her way at that comment. "What's that? Condoms?" he teased, though he thought that was more his responsibility than hers.

Holli let out a cheerful laugh, rolling her eyes. "Honey, we already went through at least one pack," she pointed out. "We should probably just get tested so you don't need to worry about them anymore."

This time, he raised both brows, a slightly perplexed look on his face. "Uh, I was more worried about birth control than VD," he told her, confident he was clean.

"I'm covered," she assured him. "It doesn't just deal with stopping pregnancy, you know." Mind you, most men didn't know that.

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Re: Super Secret Lair
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2021, 12:07:45 PM »
"Last time I checked, I got a clean bill of health, but if you want to be sure, I can verify that," he said, perhaps taking her a little too seriously.

"Believe it or not, I trust you," she told him, though that should have been blatantly obvious by now. She had shared more with him in two days than she had with people who had known her for years.

"So ..." he started, stopping in mid-stride to turn and face her. "Where do you think we should go from here?" he asked, that too-serious look on his face again that told her he wasn't asking for directions to the burger joint.

"So ..." he started, turning his head to face her as he turned the key in the ignition.  "Where do you think we should go from here?" he asked, that too-serious look on his face again that told her he wasn't asking for directions to the burger joint.

She considered her answer, smiling at his serious expression as he looked at her. "I guess it's a little soon to propose, right?" she asked, half-teasing, half-serious herself. "I live in hope for a shared future."

"I suppose we'll just have to take it one day at a time," he said, his expression softening into a smile as he put the car in drive and pulled out of the parking lot. One day at a time with her was better than being alone, and for the first time in a long time, he was feeling hopeful about the future.

For the first time in a long time ... there was a future.