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incredibly brave

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When Ray comes in, he is hidden behind large sunglasses and under a straw hat.

“Ray,” Ava nods in greeting. “Going to Aruba again or something?” she asks.

“It’s a dis... oh.” He’s fidgeting with the drawstring on the hat, sliding the clasp up and down so the strap sits tighter, then looser under his chin. He doesn’t take it off.

“We do this every time, Ray,” Ava complains. “You really don’t need to bother.”

“Ava—”

“Look, you’re not in trouble, you know. We do have visiting hours for a reason, and you’re well within your rights to use them. I can’t fault you for checking in on your—“

“She’s not my—”

“I didn’t say she was,” Ava is quick to assure him, “but it would be ok, you know, though. I mean, I’m sure she’s just lovely outside of the supervillainy. You’re, uh, you’re good at that. Seeing the best in people.” Sara likes to tease that Ava’s allergic to emotion, but look at her go now, providing comfort. There, take that, Sara. Oh. “Uh, Ray?”

Oh no.

Ray sniffles. His eyes are red and glassy, now, as he pulls those shaded sunnies off. Ava shifts. Maybe Sara’s right, after all, she decides, now that she’s faced with a crying superhero.

“Do you— you know what? I think I’ll go get Nate.” And with that, Ava disappears into the bowels of the Bureau.

Ray sits cross-legged on cool concrete. When nothing comes in or moves for ten minutes, the air slows with a huff, and lights switch off. He’s stiff when he stands. The soles of his feet prickle.

Well, he could either process here, alone and silent and in the dark, or he could do the same in front of Nora’s cell. (Visiting hours though there may be, the cell’s frosted glass remains just that cruel amount of frosty enough that Nora’d have no idea Ray was visiting unless he spoke. He psychs himself up to say something, every time, and never manages. Every time, his voice sticks, or she seems like she’s sleeping, or she’s in thinking, or...

He knows he’s meant to talk, and he always wants to and intends to, but it seems too invasive and he feels too clumsy.

He doesn’t second-guess much, usually. Usually, he has little cause to, now, living out of time and all. They call the life-changing shots as a team, and Ray’s own few personal choices are trivial or easy to go back on if needed.

With Nora, it’s important and it’s final and he’s scared.

Nora is never scared. He’s heard her cry behind that glass, and still he’s sure of it.

Because Nora handed herself over, smiling gently. Nora sits in that cell every day, and if she complains — though he doubts she does — there’s no one to hear it. She is braver and more brilliant than is at all reasonable, and she has made a beautiful, brave, terrible choice.

“I can see you, Ray,” she croaks. It’s been half an hour or so of sour, buzzing silence. “I can, every time.”

“Nora,” he says. “But... frosted glass?”

“Just your silhouette, then,” she corrects. “A bit fuzzy, and not much colour in it, but I know it’s you. And would the point of visiting hours be if we didn’t know someone was visiting? No, I can see just well enough, and besides, who else would it be?”

A beat of silence.

Then, “You deserve a true redemption,” Ray says. “This is ... This is terrible, Nora. I’m so sorry.”

“I chose this, Ray. Remember?”

“No, Nora—“

“Ray,” she interrupts. He can’t really tell if she’s more happy or sad. “Thank you for visiting. Now, say ‘you’re welcome’.”

“You’re welcome,” he mimics, obedient but hollow.

“There you go. Thank you, Ray. Really.” She hovers her hand to the glass. “We’ll talk again next time, too?”

“Yes, of course, Nora. You’re— you’re just so, incredibly brave. I wish I could do something to really help. I wish I could save you.” He sounds on the verge of tears, and she’s not far behind.

“Talking to you helps me. I’ll be out of here one day. Maybe. And Ray? You’re being brave too.”