Those Who Have Been Away

January 31, 2017:

A night of little sleep for Silk and Jessica Jones leads to a heart-to-heart.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, New York

Now new and improved, with furniture and functioning fixtures.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Spider-Man

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The emotional trouble started hours ago, as one Jessica Jones had charged out into the hall in search of what she thought was a domestic abuser.

Then she'd gone to a bar.

She'd been trying. And trying. And try-ing not to drink, and mostly it had worked.

Good news: she's not black out shitfaced. She's not even staggering.

Bad news, one whiskey turned into one and a half, which swiftly became three, before she managed to refocus on the encouragement, the good words that she'd gotten to show her a path towards something better. When she'd finally managed, she'd rubbed her face and she'd come home.

Now she lays on the couch, arm draped over her eyes, wide awake as her emotions churn and shift like the waves of a dark and fearful ocean, sweeping over her by turns, only to be pressed back once more. Arachnid senses speak of someone deeply depressed, not quite despondent, but…certainly with that capacity.

If one didn't have those senses they might think her sound asleep, so still is she. But for someone with them? It's like suddenly being immersed in every Placebo song at once playing in surround sound. If…Placebo wasn't before or after her time.

In a strange bit of timing, Jessica left for the bar, and the girl that is staying in the apartment now needed some air— however, after departing Alias Investigations for a short time, Cindy Moon made it back before last call and spent most of her time on her own bed, clutching one of the last family photographs she had before the bite. What could they be doing? What could be going on?

Rolling to one side, tossing and turning, the photo never quite leaves her sight. She was so happy back then. Maybe one day she could've introduced Hector to her parents properly. Her dad liked him well enough.

Her thoughts are, however, suddenly jarred by the harsh buzz of her danger sense— that tingling in her head— going wild. The covers whip back, and Cindy exits the room in a flurry of movement that lands her in the living room-slash-office, her hands lifted and fingers extended. In an old, worn-out Red Wings t-shirt with a blown-out collar and shorts, she doesn't look too intimidating.

And then she sees Jessica Jones, on the sofa.

"M-Miss Jones? Are you all right?"

Jessica starts, removing her arm from her eyes and lifting both her head and her eyebrows. "Yeah, kiddo," she lies. She sits up and rubs her face, smiling a bit. "What about you?" Despite all the other things she's been doing, she has been working the case. It takes a painstaking long time to call everyone on an Accurant report, and the known associates haven't produced jack shit. She's finally tracked down all the parties involved in the home sale though.

She saw the photo. She'd taken note. She just hadn't said anything about it. "I know this has probably been…" she casts about for a word. Cramped? Weird? "Different. For you."

Everything's okay. Cindy relaxes a bit, scruffing at the back of her head a little bit. "Sorry. … Yeah, I think. Sometimes I just get a feeling something's going wrong. I can't shake it, so I just… react." She's a little careful to not exactly explain that extrasensory ability— maybe 'intuition' is just good enough?

Sitting on the edge of Jessica's desk, she draws up her legs and folds them under herself, tugging a few long strands of dark hair back from her face. "It's different. The city's… louder… than I remember. Hell's Kitchen seems a lot different than a few years ago, too."

She doesn't quite look up at Jessica. Not at first. "I don't mind, though! You and Spider-Man have done a lot for me just by… letting me stay. Helping me out. Thank you for that. I'll try to repay you somehow, when I can."

"Pay it forward," Jessica says with a smile. "Ah, maybe it's nice to have some people around."

But she grimaces. And sighs. She can't gaslight this girl, can't etch away at whatever confidence she has in what she can do. She doesn't know if these feelings are real or not, but…

"Your intuition wasn't wrong," she says at last, standing up to rummage around in the fridge. God, there's no food in here, just all these stupid ingredients! She finally emerges with bananas. Bananas are easy. She offers one to Cindy, trying to think how to explain without revealing too much, without burdening a girl who has enough on her mind.

"Sometimes shit leaves anyone laying awake at night, chasing the crap in their own heads."

Watching Jessica step out of the room and into the kitchen, she stays— not quite sure whether or not to move. Her attention shifts briefly to the hall, then a glance over her shoulder out the window, but then back to the PI as she returns with … a banana. Bananas are good. Bananas never hurt anyone.

Using a little more strength than the norm, she snaps the stem between two knuckles and peels it open. "I believe it. When I was gone, I… had a lot of nights I couldn't sleep. I finally got used to it," Cindy says, taking a bite of the banana. She mulls on the thought while chewing, finally shaking her head. "I convinced myself I got used to it. Now I'm … I don't know. I just… I don't know anymore."

The young spider-girl lifts her eyes from the fruit to her host. "You had to go 'away' before too, huh?"

Jessica contemplates the question. It's…not exactly how she would describe it. But…it's still an apt description. She spends a moment chewing a piece of her banana before she answers, but when she does, she says, "Yeah, I guess I sure did. Not for as long as you did."

She takes another bite. It's helping her think, helping to blunt the burn of the booze churning around in her stomach. Finally: "You know, right, that your parent's disappearance probably has almost everything to do with going 'away'? I'm gonna go talk to this realtor because I think it's important no matter what, but…a sudden cessation of all digital and public footprints within the year of the date you gave me is…"

Cindy's expression turns a little sour. "It's suspicious. I know how it sounds. … I'm pretty sure it's exactly why they had to…"

She doesn't quite want to say the word 'disappear' right now. It has a pretty awful context, and for a good reason. And, Cindy knows Jessica isn't stupid— without a doubt she knows there's a link with her and Spider-Man. Still, her secrets are his secrets, and it's tough to want to talk about them without coming dangerously close to spilling the beans about 'Bug.'

"It's my fault. I know it is. It has to do with me, and… what I can do," she still says. "But I… I had to go away. I had to."

'I had to go away.' Did she have to convince herself of that, too? Or was it just Sims being that good of a salesman? It sure sounds like she has to convince herself of it— especially after what Spider-Man said. Taking another bite of the banana, she looks up after the chew and swallow.

It had to have meaning. It couldn't have just been for /nothing/. Her eyes shift back down to the floor.

"I want to tell you, but it's… hard. I don't know if you'd get it."

"I know how that is," Jessica says, the corner of her mouth lifting in a faint, sad smile. "Not knowing if people will get it. Don't I just."

She crosses back to the kitchen garbage. Tosses the peel. Again, as so often with this girl who spent four years somewhere she has a feeling no girl had any business being, she chooses her words carefully.

"It probably is not your fault," she says. "You were what, fourteen? That alone relieves you of any fault or responsibility; it was on the adults around you to be adults, and if they made decisions that hurt you, that hurt them? Those are their mistakes to live with. You had to live with the consequences, perhaps, but it's not fault. And if it had something to do with you getting powers, well, most who have them don't seek them out, do they? One or two, perhaps, for their own reasons, but…I somehow doubt you set out to become the girl who hangs out on ceilings. It's probable you don't have the whole story, the whole picture, but I can tell you this. Those decisions tanked your life. Not theirs. They robbed you of your diploma, your driver's license, your senior prom. Your mistakes from the day you got out, going forward? Yours to make…but not the ones that came before. I can tell you that without knowing another damn thing about it, cause that's how this works."

Another bite. Jessica speaks, and Cindy definitely hears the words— she just doesn't seem to react for a little while. Chewing over the banana, eating makes her feel more full, less… empty. Not just in the physical sense, either.

"I made the decision to go. It wasn't them. I thought I was doing the right thing. We talked it over, and I made the decision to go. I thought I was going to be safe, so… I went. Mom and Dad weren't … it wasn't like they were bad parents. We were all just scared. We thought this would be the best thing for me."

Was it Sims, then? Zeke taught her a lot about her abilities, more than he probably should have known considering the circumstances. He taught her how to fight, how to survive, and how to channel her powers. He left those tapes for her to watch, but… he also left her tapes set up specifically to dissuade her from leaving.

Cindy rubs at her eyes a little, trying to pretend they aren't wet. "So I went away. I was alone, for years. I'd probably still be there if Spider-Man hadn't found me."

"Cindy. You were fourteen. You weren't the one that was supposed to be making decisions."

Jessica plops down on the couch, though even with that ungraceful movement it doesn't creak or shudder or give hints that she could do the same and break it again if she wished (she surely does not wish; the sink is finally installed once more, for God's sake). "I don't doubt that you were willing to sacrifice yourself for your parents, and I'm not saying they were bad parents. You made a choice, but you were a minor. They made a choice to let you make that choice. They made a choice to let fear make a decision for you all. Sure, good people might be inclined."

"Then there's whomever looked at your family and said, hey, Cindy should go away. I assume they didn't just come up with this out of the blue, after all. That person has some things to answer for."

"Not even prisoners are supposed to be alone for four years. Abandoning someone, neglecting them, leaving them alone? That's abuse."

Jessica leans forward, intent. "And you know what abusers are great at? They're great at making you blame yourself for what they did. They use tricks. They manipulate. They delight in it, not just when they can hurt you, but when they can get you to hurt yourself. They may even think it's justified, somewhere in their twisted skulls. But it is not justified. Ever. Your parents being missing? Not your fault. What I'm hearing is nothing but you trying to protect your family and doing the best you could with that, with the information you had. That's heroic, Cindy. You're heroic. So chin up. Head high. You did something brave. And you endured something. Not everybody can say that. Most can't."

Months of stories about the Inheritors. Months of stories about mystical stuff, and her fate, and her future. It's slowly starting to look— and feel like— Ezekiel was full of it. Maybe he really was…? She can't know for sure, now, with him missing, with Sims Tower abandoned, with no leads as to where the odd man with deep, deep pockets may even be in the world right now. Time will tell.

Cindy's chin cocks to one side as she takes a few breaths, even getting a shudder to her shoulders and doing her best to hold together. Being called heroic certainly helps shake some of those feelings loose, though she's just as angry as she is upset about all this. He trained her— he even took a bit of a shitbeating from her the day the door to the bunker was sealed and the code set. Was it all just a ruse?

Clearing her throat, she shakes her head a bit. "Thank you, Miss Jones. I— Sorry, I… um." The spider-girl inhales again, a little deeper, then lets it out with a heavy sigh. Her social skills kind of suck right now… but she does lift her head to look Jessica Jones square in the eyes.

"I just … I-I don't really know what to say. Thank you. I want to help, too. I mean, in my own way. Not just find my parents— I mean, like. Out there, doing the hero thing. Maybe I can find a lead on where they went, too, if I'm lucky."

A talking raccoon and tree already spurred her on to think about her attire when she heads out to swing.

Fortunately the woman she's staying with doesn't have high expectations for social skills, nor a particularly wonderful set of them herself.

"Luck has everything to do with it. Finding out more about the people who steered you into this course of action. Following the money helps too, almost always," Jessica says. She lies back down on the couch, but turns her head to look at Cindy. "If you and Spider-Man decide you're more comfortable digging into this alone, well, you both have the skill set to protect yourselves. If you need me to take a step back, just coach you on what to look for and where to start, make some tools available for you…I can do that for you, so you can preserve your secrets. I'm here to help, no more, no less. Speaking of which…you desperately need a GED. Let's get you signed up for that tomorrow."

She tucks a pillow under her head and adds, "Because I want to prepare you for something else. Stuff like this? Getting answers can take months. Years. You might get half an answer, or a third of one, and that may be all you get. You may only ever be left with questions and speculations."

It's brutal reality, but she will not sugar coat it.

"So…it's best you divide your time. Spend at least as much time working towards a future you'd like to see yourself live in as the past. Don't ever give up, but…don't devote everything you have to this. Someone's stolen enough of your time."

Finding out more about the people. Follow the money. Both are things Cindy immediately takes note of in the back of her mind, though the biggest sticking points right now are that she'll need help— such as from Alias Investigations— and… yes, the GED will definitely help her out. "I don't think it'll be too bad. I was always a good student. Mom had me tested for an eidetic memory."

So she remembers it all… good /and/ bad.

The idea of it all taking months and years is something that bothers her, too, but Cindy takes the statement like donning her first suit of armor, preparing her for what comes next. Jessica is blunt, straightforward, and honest, and she needs that right now. Don't give up, work toward the future. "Find balance," Cindy concludes.

Slipping off the edge of the desk, the young woman tugs at the stretched collar of the shirt, clutching the last end of the banana. "I'm gonna try to get some sleep, Miss Jones. I hope you do too. I know I… I keep saying it, but thank you again. I don't know what I'd do otherwise right now. Good night."

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