PANTHEON, PUBLIC RELATIONS: LONGITUDE AND LATITUDE

They are in a small town in Belgium or maybe Holland. She 'ported into Brussels early this morning. Brian picked her up, then drove for an hour or so, while she dozed in the back. He doesn't want her shadowslipping on British soil, says that it fucks up the ley lines or whatever. She hates commercial flights and so their compromise is mostly France, sometimes the Netherlands, Belgium or Holland.

Ley lines. Betsy isn't sure she believes in them anymore. It sounds like an excuse to keep her away from Braddock Manor and Meggan. But she doesn't want to know, so she drops it, every time.

Brian unlocks the doors and lets her out of the car before pulling up the top again. Betsy glances at the comm unit on her arm, to confirm Warren's position and movements. He's in Caracas today and tomorrow, currently travelling in the motorcade to the presidential palace.

All was clear last she checked, but to make sure, she tunes into the security channel and the bone mike implant in her temple crackles to life. Jan is talking to Vera, sounding alert but unhurried. Everything is on schedule and if there's trouble, Betsy can be there in seconds. She turns down the volume and Vera's reply fades into static.

The streets are paved with cobblestone. At the first crossing, Brian takes her arm, which is unnecessary but rather nice. They end up at the town square, in front of a monstrosity of architechture. It's white and huge and every inch of it is carved into a weeping child or worse. Betsy stares at it in horror. Brian shrugs, turns away.

"I thought it would amuse you," he says. "Let's get some coffee."

==

Brian orders for them both, coffee macchiato and croissants with cheese and cherry jam. Betsy wraps her hands around the coffee cup, trying to absorb some of its warmth. She is supposed to be in Caracas, too.

"I want out," she says.

She meant to ask about Meggan and about the part of Braddock Industries and Enterprises that Warren still doesn't have complete control over. She didn't mean to say this and not to him, this brother who has grown distant over the years, this brother whom she forced into financial marriage with the man _she_ married. Thinking about it makes her angry and ashamed; she knows she has done nothing to earn Brian's compassion.

"May I ask why?" Brian's voice is even, measured.

An honest answer might jeopardize international trade treaties and commercial relations, not to mention the all-precious North American economy. WEI is Warren first, herself second. She is his Chief of Security and his Chief of Staff, his most trusted advisor and by far his best PR resource.

"Because I was wrong about him," she says instead. That's the wife and mother speaking and even that is giving away too much information to someone who isn't quite her friend at the moment.

Brian sighs, takes another bite of his croissant. Cherry jam oozes out on the sides.

"I can't say I'm surprised to hear it," he says. "He's treated you like shit for years. But why are you telling me this?"

Betsy blinks. She doesn't really think Warren has treated her like shit, certainly not for years, and she knows she isn't easy to live with either. As for Brian's question, she has to think about it. The X-Family is still hers and there isn't one of them who wouldn't understand and welcome her back if she left Warren to his own devices. They would blame Warren, since that's the easy and obvious thing to do. But Brian sees things differently.

"Because," she says, "you've always been the one to blame me, not him."

Brian sighs again. There are fine lines around his eyes and Captain Britain or not, he should lose some weight. He looks tired.

"That what you came here for?" he asks.

She nods yes. It's as close to truth as she can get.

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you," he says sharply. "I blame Warren as much as anyone else. You, only for staying with him."

"Brian..."

"No. No, I don't want to hear it. You're my sister; don't you dare defend him to me."

She almost laughs.

"I wasn't going to." Her voice wobbles and she has to stop. "Just...when it's all over, can I come home? With Will?"

As she says it, she is almost overcome with longing for the green hills, the apple orchards and the sunset behind the maple grove. She remembers Nanny walking her through the hallways of the Manor and how she'd sit on the kitchen counter, legs dangling, as Cook fed her tidbits of dessert before dinner.

If any of this shows in her face, Brian fails to respond. Rain taps gently against the window. Like many other things, she cannot recall when it started.

"I'll ask Meggan," Brian says, reaching for his coat. "If she agrees, I don't see why not. Are we done?"

Betsy stares down at the plate where her croissant lies untouched. It's my home, too, she wants to say. The hills belong to me as much as to you.

"We're done," she says and in an effort to be gracious: "Thank you, Brian."

"You're quite welcome," he says and holds the door for her as she steps out into the rain.

FIN