Spiders in Your Past

February 21, 2017:

With demons in her passenger's past stirring up, Azalea confronts Cindy about the origin of her powers and if it has a link to her other-self's past.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

New York City.

Alias Investigations.

Otherwise known as 'Jessica's halfway house for disadvantaged young women.' Really though, Azalea was just a guest, often on the weekends, often working with Jessica to help along a case or two. Right now she was fixated on a single case, one that had only recently come to her attention, and as she sets her phone down and sinks back into the couch her mind wanders.

Cindy may or may not get that tingle, the one that almost always flares up and steadily dies away when Azalea is in town, The Dark Devil's mind fixated on a place in the far past, even as she thinks about the future.

A finger wraps at her phone, which sits on the arm wrest of the couch, a short nail barely tapping, rapping gently on the pulse of her psyche.

It's 1865 again, and Paris is beautiful. Dr. Harrington had only just stepped off the boat from England a few days prior. A new name. A new identity. He was used to such things ever since the joining. Ever since power became his life, and his research into the human form neared completion. He grew feverish just thinking about it, hands wrist-deep, eyes flitting over the nubile body laid out against cobblestone. No one cared. No one dared stop him.

He could feel himself becoming lost in the web of his own mind, so much so that he had almost forgotten about the state of the girl. How long had he had his hands inside the incision, playing with all the parts of her that made her tick?

How long had it been since he'd forgotten she was still alive?

The sound of heavy footsteps hitting cobblestone tore him from his reverie, and the sight of arms multiplying behind the immaculately dressed Madame Araigne brought a wide-eyed glee to his eyes.

It also brought Azalea snapping back to the present, her eyes wild and fixed on some point beyond, fingers curling into her cargo pants, a shiver running down her spine.

—-

Occasionally, Cindy Moon gets a weird feeling her stuff is getting messed with. Far be it from her to actually say something about it; she has her own problems to deal with and there's more things important than coming in and finding a few of her books pushed over or one of the plush dolls on her bed being knocked on the floor. Sitting with her legs drawn in on her bed, a couple of textbooks are left open while she writes in a notebook, alternating between pencil and pen for work and final answers. Sitting on her lap is one of those weird pokemon plush dolls.

She's also … really, really bored.

It isn't that Cindy's a bad student, but the fact that she remembers way too much of everything combined with super powers and a nagging bit of everything clinging to the back of her mind regarding her life, her family, and what she can even *try* to do as a job… it makes schoolwork feel… insignificant.

But Jessica will skin her alive if she skimps out on finishing all of this, superheroic duties or not.

Still, she needs a break— and the odd tingling at the back of her head gives her a very good reason to set her work aside, the plush doll down, and proceed to the doorway that leads from the bedroom to the main office of Alias Investigations. Squatting on the wall adjacent to the couch, Cindy's in a t-shirt with some 8-bit video game character or another, plain leggings, and bare feet. Her favorite anklet is also, for once, in view and out from under the coverage of footwear or pants or even a super suit.

"Az?" she wonders, looking at the strange, distant look in her eyes. "Hey, Az!"

Hair tied back, elbows on her knees, she squints at the Dark Devil in her strange reverie— and then when Az comes back into focus, her roommate is just /there/, on that wall, looking at her.

"You okay?"

—-

Every instinct says to squash the bug, much like the last time she had encountered a woman who could crawl on walls. Except that /she/ never did. That was someone else. Another life. There's a slow intake of breath, those crystal blues trailing down along Cindy's body, at both unwholesome and scrutinizing, a cluck of her tongue breaking the silence when she finds no extra arms.

Finally she looks back to her phone, as if remembering something, one leg pulling up to tuck under the other. Her tank top and cargo pants are the usual for her, but she seems comfortable enough. Physically, anyway.

"I was talking to Jessica. She's busy working on something. I don't know if you saw or heard, but Zatanna and Constantine are missing. As much as we might want to charge off and help, we need to keep the business running while Jess is out being an expert investigator. So… I have some cases. Just what she has going on now. I'm here in New York looking into some other stuff anyway so I can stick around awhile."

Her expression turns dire, her gaze narrowing on the wall-crawler. "There is a job for you, too."

—-

The way Azalea Kingston looks at her gives Cindy the vague vibe of a cat seeing a bird. Or a cat seeing a laser pointer. Or— just a cat, in general. It's unnerving! And she's seen a lot of cat videos on the internet, especially now that she's got her (new) phone. Cat videos are *amazing*.

Slanting her head upward a little— as per Az's orientation, anyway— the spider-girl's brow scrunches. "Zatanna… I've heard the name before. Spider-Man talked about her. I dunno the other guy, though. Is he important?"

And then— the discussion shifts a little further down the road, leading Az to stating that she has… a *job*. The spider-girl's weight settles back from the squat, heels on the wall and elbows on her knees, frowning a little bit. "I don't… have a liscence for this stuff. I'm still working on a G.E.D., remember? I mean Miss Jones gave me a 'P.I. Primer' for my case but I mean, I don't even have the first clue how this works."

—-

When Cindy speaks about Zatanna and the importance of John Constantine, her attention falls away. Is he important? There was a time when she might look upon him with ire, but she knows that is only the desire of her Murdered God, the baggage of a creature who wishes to own, conquer, devour. Whatever Azalea might have felt, she knows it is tainted, and so she doesn't trust her own feelings anymore.

But she trusts Zatanna's.

When her gaze ticks back up she does her best to let the tension out of her voice. "He's important to Zatanna. Important to the world, too, from what I understand. Anyway.. Jessica will take care of that. Once she finds a lead, she may need us both. But for now, there's an important lesson to be learned here about your usefulness."

Azalea reaches into the couch cushions, visions of ghost-arms rising from Cindy's back still plaguing her mind. She comes up with some change, throwing a Penny right at Cindy's head. And then a nickle. They aren't hard throws, and of course she has Spider-Reflexes. In fact, that might be what Az is getting at.

"Anyone can answer a phone and file a cabinet. You're going to be our new secretary. Organize our cases. Fifteen dollars an hour. The business cell is right there on the little table next to you. Staple it to your ass. It goes where you go."

—-

A dude that's Important to the World. Cindy's face draws into a bit of wonder— after all, magic was confirmed to be real-ass real to her and she totally met alien pokemon and ents, so like, someone that is Important to the World should totally not surprise her even the littlest bit. That wonder is then broken because—

— change. Cindy's money reserves go from about $5.85 to $5.91 as she snags both coins out of the air, looking at the change pinched between her two fingers. She's going to be their secretary, now…? *Fifteen dollars* an hour?

"I— wow, uh— are you sure? I mean, does Miss Jones know about this?" Cindy asks, looking at the table and the phone, thinking back upon the state of her phone (at least, as far as she knows it) somewhere at the bottom of the East River. She picks it up, fumbling with the buttons on the side— she still isn't used to the new phone strapped around her wrist (courtesy Tony Stark), let alone her former smartphone.

Cindy stands up, walking a few steps down the wall and back onto the floor, walking toward the desk. The shadows play across the back of her shirt while her back is turned: Are they extra arms?! Extra legs?! Just shadows!? "I mean, I don't mind helping out, I just don't want to, like, cause any problems."

—-

Madame Araigne screamed. It was the first time since the battle had pitched, since the knife had come out and her impressive strength had been brought to bear. But he was just as strong. The secret of his power was that he did not use it until he needed, smarter than the ones who had come before, her many arms and superb agility did not stop him from turning her weakness against her: She cared. She cared about her girls. Her workers. Her surrogate daughters.

Kneeling on her back, hands under her jaw, he pulled. He pulled in a way that forced her to the surface, the thing that had taken the body beneath him and made it a home. Not unlike Xiuhnel had done with the good Doctor. Her scream echoed as her skulls separated from her spine, and if he had not been reveling so very much in her destruction, he would have noticed her hand taking hold of his victim's. Would have noticed the girl's eyes go black. Would have noticed her body dissolve into a swarm of spiders to scurry away, immune to the fury of a man, of a God, that could not be everywhere at once.

Azalea's breath quickens again, and her teeth grit as she stares at those shifting shadows. What can she trust about her mind anymore, but the memories? Can she even trust those? There's a hard swallow, and she curls her fingers against the armrest beside her.

"You remind me of someone. I've seen Spider-People before. At least the one. But not like you. You smell like history." That gaze cuts back. The cat again. But Cindy isn't a laser pointer or a bird. She's what she's always been.

A spider.

She does not address Cindy's concern about Jess. It was the investigator's idea, after all, but right now her mind is on other things. "How did you get your power?"

—-

Setting the phone on the desk, Cindy taps one foot against the floor while she pokes at the phone and considers popping it open to check the address book or any other pertinent information. She actually introduced herself as a secretary once, to Trish— but it was a quick, convienent excuse to keep the radio host from asking too many questions about why there may or may not have been a girl sitting on the wall reading files when she walked in.

That brings a quirk of a grin to the corners of her mouth, a much-needed sort of smile in times like this, hiking up the back of her shirt to scratch at fresh, healing skin that was burned by proximity to techno-weird blasts days ago. Is there something under there, on her back? Could there be?

'You remind me of someone.' Cindy looks back over her shoulder, curious. "I'm not sure how history smells. Is that like my webbing? I'm pretty sure it doesn't have a scent when I'm making clothes and stuff?" For emphasis, the spider-girl sniffs at her forearm and fingers.

'How did you get your powers?'

Fidgeting with the phone before setting it off to one side, her arms spread a little while her head bows, leaning against the desk. "It's not— I can't talk about it… it's complicated; something happened to me, I got these powers, and then I was locked up. That's pretty much all there is to it."

—-

Somewhere while Cindy was fidgeting, Azalea is standing. Closer. Silent. Even her warning system will fail her, but that's because Azalea doesn't intend to hurt her. She's to focused on where she's scratching. To focused on the past, and how good it felt to kill something… and how bad it felt to realize how meaningless that death was.

She was like /him/. Ananasi. How many times did they meet through the years? Does this girl harbor that power? How many did not even know they carried her?

Cindy will feel it then, a sniffing at the beck of her neck, just before Az brushes past in a stalk, fingers curled at her sides.

"Can't talk about it. Or /won't/? It's important to me. You remind me of someone. Someone dangerous. You don't smell like her. But there's something there."

Not that she has some power to smell mystical creatures on people. Xiuhnel does, but she has not found a way to tap it. Instinct calls her to try, and she fails. When she turns she crosses her arms, that stern consideration washing over the Spiderling once more. "Please."

—-

Air on the back of her neck. Cindy's eyes lift from the desk, her posture tightening— hackles raising, as it were— at the sudden presence of the Dark Devil directly behind her. She continues to move, and bringing Silk to straighten herself up and turn a short ways toward her vigilante roommate. The spider-girl's brow scrunches, and her mouth curves in a frown. She's going to keep pushing this, isn't she?

"Both. It's *complicated*, like I said."

Shifting, nervous about the sudden change in Azalea's demeanor, the bunker escapee hesitates briefly; she sucks in a breath between her teeth, closing her eyes and shaking her head. "It's not just my secret. So I can't, and I won't, talk about it. I don't know what I remind you of and I'm sorry if I do, but I can't— talk about it."

—-

"I remember a creature that lives in the bodies of articulate, beautiful women. Like my passenger enjoys the bodies of powerful, vile men." The Dark Devil smirks, and some of her intensity drains away, her current present situation apparently an exception to Xiuhnel's usual rule about where it lives. "I killed her. Brutally. I reveled in it. Or rather, he did. I remember it like I did it myself. I remember that we met again, and again. I'd hurt her. Force myself on her in any way I could. I began to understand she was taunting me. She'd get away every time…"

Azalea begins moving again, that slow circle, pacing like The Devil without a single soul to collect. "…breaking herself into thousands of little spiders. I.. he.. wasn't a planner. Never had the presence of mind to trap them all. To see what of her power remained. I assume she reformed, somehow. But there's no way /all/ of those little spiders made it back. I often wonder what happens to them. Do they go on living normal spider lives? Do they simply die?"

Finally she turns again, and though Xiuhnel is not a planner, or a plotter, Azalea has learned to become one. This will tell her how much of Cindy's story is linked to Ananasi.

"Maybe you could tell me that much, at least. If you know."

—-

As Azalea begins to circle around her, Cindy starts to feel more and more like a cornered animal; the story that she's being told, the implications of it— it leaves her feeling a little less safe and secure in the thought of sharing a *room* with the Dark Devil. She looks… a little scared, but all things being equal, Az *is* being pretty creepy right now.

"Az, you're scaring me."

Stepping back, keeping her fingers open while trying to keep track of her roommate's pacing, the spider-girl continues. "I don't know about *any* of this stuff. I didn't even know magic was *real* until a few days after Spider-Man got me out of that bunker. I've never heard of this stuff before. I just— I don't know. Whatever problems that you have with that thing inside you, I don't have anything to do with it."

—-

Of all the things she's certain of, she's certain she can smell fear, if not magic. The thrill of it usually comes from battle, from taking her violent urges to criminals and worse. Her gaze grows distant again, and as Cindy tells her how afraid she is, she looks away. There is a hallowing, a harrowed shell over a dangerous entity that pushes out from the inside, and when she blinks, her lashes come away wet.

"I'm sorry."

Slowly she reaches up, fingers finding the moisture on her cheek, and she stares at it with a detachment that pulls at her soul.

"I'm losing my mind. What's left of it. The job. I wanted to talk to you about the job. Just.. answer the phone. It would help us. A lot." Her voice is soft, no longer the ire-filled thing it was just a moment ago, all semblance of demand or arrogance gone. It takes concentration, to push it back. To not take the answers from her, if that would even be possible. She remembers what it used to be to be, to have sympathy, to understand how to empathize with someone and know how they feel. Now she only knows what someone's body is going to do, a creature tuned in on physical disposition and all the bad emotions that come with the language of violence.

"I should have asked you to tell me about yourself, like a normal person. Instead of some monster with a vendetta. I'm sorry." Her second apology comes with annotation, and when she looks to the floor it's with the weight of her shame.

—-

And that, finally, seems to be what does it— Azalea stops. She's coming to her senses, so it seems, and it gives the spider-girl enough room to catch her breath and start evaluating the situation: She's crying. She's upset.

She's apologizing.

Unless she freaks out about it, there will suddenly be hands on Az's shoulders as Cindy is standing there in front of her, tilting her head to look at the god-possessed young woman's face, at her eyes, looking for /Azalea/. "I spent five years locked in a bunker, completely alone. I had nothing but tapes and videos and some books to keep me company in there. I turned back from leaving for the millionth time and was about to go back in from the main door and go back to it and every stupid inch of that place and never come out before I felt Spider-Man's presence, and he let me out."

She comes to her point quickly: "Nothing about us is normal, Az. And that's okay, just as long as we work together. I don't know how all of this, like, magic … spells… spirit … stuff… like, even remotely works, but you've got me and Miss Jones and I'm betting a ton of other people to help you out with it."

Sure, she's still a bit unnerved, but… she can push past it. She can try, anyway. Cindy's head tilts toward the phone. "I can handle the desk, and the files, so don't worry about it, okay?"

—-

There's a hard swallow when she feels her hands, because contact can be dangerous. She didn't tell Cindy how she knew about Bucky's plight. Certainly, she's told no one about touching Peggy Carter's mind. A few slow breathes, and Azalea lets Cindy say her piece, finally slipping away from her before the monster inside her does something uncouth.

Eventually she flops on the couch again, covering her eyes with her hand, digesting everything Cindy told her. "Maybe. Maybe they'll help. I see around me people who are extraordinary. Gods in their own right. I have a murdered one inside me, but they're here. Alive. Breathing. And most of them can't even take me for what I am as this thing eats me alive. I don't blame them. We're all.. well. Most of us, are human. Anyway. I appreciate it. That you… you know. Can forgive my bullshit. And I'm sorry about your books. I didn't realize why it felt so good to knock over your stuff. I guess that's what the thing inside me has been doing to Ananasi, that spider woman, forever. Except, with more blood."

The most childish version of reinacting a bullying rivalry, played out in Jessica's apartment over weeks. If Azalea had realized what she was doing then, she might have asked to be committed. As it stands, her only chance out of this nightmare short of a bullet is wrapped up in a missing persons case. Zee and John are gone.

She can't afford to slip away now.

"Let's watch some TV. Just forget about all of this for the night. You can pick what to watch."

—-

Perhaps she should count her lucky stars, there! Cindy doesn't want to start just yet, though— she does say her bit, Az thereafter slipping out of her grasp and returning to the couch. Turning her head to follow her all the way there with her eyes, the spider-girl moves to the couch and flops down at the opposite end— not sitting on the walls or standing on the ceiling, but just dropping into that seat like someone a whole lot more normal, pulling her right leg up onto the cushions.

She has to wonder if Jessica washed the East River smell out of the cushions just yet.

'I appreciate it. That you … you know. Can forgive my bullshit…' and so on. Her shoulders rise and fall with a shrug. "I always figured you were bumping it when you were coming in. It's— look, it's… it's fine." Annoying, but 'fine.' "I appreciate you not making it more bloody, for sure. I already got beat up pretty bad last week."

Then, her head lifts. Az says she can pick what to watch.

Scooping up the remote, staring at it as though she just drew Excalibur from the stone, her mouth opens and a brief moment of realization and clarity hits her.

"Oh my god I can /totally/ watch a R-movie. Like all of those ones I couldn't from when I was a kid. Like, I was *so* excited to see 21 Jump Street, but it came out… after I went in. So I totally missed it. Oh but that means — I can see a whole lot more, too!! I mean, I have to make a whole *list*. You can do that now, right? I mean, I remember when Netflix was just, like, you had to send the DVDs back in the mail."

—-

The remote leaves her hand almost as soon as she begins to go on about 21 Jump Street. VETO.

"We're watching John Wick."

R rated is what she wanted. R rated is what she gets.

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