A Real Girl

June 24, 2017:

Grymalkin meets up with Juno and asks how the Smirnov interrogation went, only to realize how little Juno knows of herself.

New York


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Winter Soldier, Jessica Jones


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Daylight is fading slowly, the long days of summer stretching out endlessly before her. It's hot in New York City, in a way that Back There never was, and Juno has had to ditch her long sleeves and pants for lighter shirts and shorts or skirts. The backpack tends to be carried in rain or shine, because she never knows when she might find something interesting that she wants… and Juno likes having certain things handy.

On her way back from visiting Jessica Jones, she's decided to take a winding sort of route back home. Wander down a side street, find an ice cream shop, buy a double scoop (double chocolate and birthday cake), wander back outside. Even if she's still dressed very colorfully, the number and severity of the scars on her limbs seems to be keeping most people from trying to talk to her.

"My. Humid isn't it?"
A familiar voice greets Juno as she emerges from the ice cream parlor. Mismatched feline eyes look upon her with a smug serenity from the nearest little outdoor table in front of the confection shop. A familiar black cat sits on his haunches on the middle of the table, long tail swishing back and forth as he seems to pay little mind to the oppressive heat radiating from the metal table and sidewalk below.
Another patron walks into the shop, passing by Juno. Pausing a moment, wondering if he just heard that cat talk. Shaking his head in disbelief as he continues walking in, figuring he must have overheard someone else nearby.

Juno ignores the uncertainty of the possible witness. Indeed, cats can't talk! How silly.

Instead, Juno's attention rests solely on the mismatched eyes regarding her. At least she's not freaking out or grabbing him this time, right?

Oh no, wait, she's totally grabbing him. If Grym doesn't move or phase or something, she's going to scoop him right up in the arm unburdened by ice cream and keep walking. "It's really humid. I don't know if I like it or not," Juno remarks conversationally, as if being surprised by strange magical creatures is completely normal. Apparently she thinks that if he wants to talk to her, he'll be okay riding around with her while she walks?!

It works for Grymalkin. More than happy to allow the young woman to carry him about like a one-woman palanquin, the cat is easily scooped up and makes himself comfortable in her slung arm. Seating himself and resting against her comfortably, forepaws resting upon the many scars along her arm.

Without missing a beat, the supernal feline continues, "I prefer the desert. A dry heat is far preferable to.. This. The fur aside, I enjoy temperatures higher than you so this is a nice change of pace. For me anyway." Gold/blue eyes watching a street jogger pass by, molten with sweat.

"So! I hear that you had a little run in with a certain Professor. Ah.. What was his name again? Hmm. Miss Jones had a task in mind for you.." His voice trails, waiting for her to fill in the blanks as he croons his head back up towards her, cat ears facing her. It may be his cat expression but his smile seems more pronounced.
There is the small matter of Jessica telling him to not bother the girl, and this would be his second infraction in that arena. However, relations with the rough investigator has improved of late so he thinks little of bending his promise.

See? Cats are easier to interact with then people say. You just pick them up and go!

Juno isn't in any particular hurry to get home, even though the heat is uncomfortable. This, too, is an experience she's never had before. "I've never been to a desert before. They look hard to live in." There's no water, and so much sand, and it's so bright!! Juno doesn't think she'd enjoy it at all.

Taking a bite out of her ice cream, the girl ambles towards home. "It was Smirnov," she notes. "How did you know about that? Are you stalking people again?" There's no accusation in her voice, just honest curiosity. "And why do you want to know?"

Grymalkin is a cat loaf, perched pleasantly in Juno's slung arm. His feline eyes wander ahead as he converses. Every so often a passing pedestrian glances in their direction, double-taking as they try to comprehend a girl talking to a cat.
There's a hundred possible excuses really. Some might think she's a mutant able to talk to cats. Others would call her a witch and her familiar. Maybe this is a new genetic designer cat that talks, isn't that supposed to be out on the market?

The black cat replies, "You get used to it. The lack of water is appealing." His kitty mouth widens in a toothy grin, "I don't like much drinking water, see? Speaking of drinks.. Isn't Smirnov a Vodka? I could have sworn I saw that in a supermarket once. Hn, no matter."

His tail lashes her upper arm as she questions him, "Ah, very astute of you. An assassin must be skeptical at all times. .. Rather like a scientist. Huh." He tilts his head back up towards her, "As it so happens I was the one who suggested to Miss Jones to use you to question Smirnov. You were ideal for it, after all." He chuckles, flicking an ear, "Why? My dear I wanted to know if you killed him or not. Or at least stabbed a few times perhaps."

Who knows why a girl would talk to a cat? Who could ever guess why the cat would bother talking back??

"No wonder you're a cat, if you don't like water. Or maybe you don't like water just because you're a cat." Either way, it doesn't bother her much! Some things just aren't important enough to question, after all. "It's a really common last name. Like… like Smith, I think? There are a lot of Smiths." Juno isn't too uncomfortable to hitch a ride with, at least - her arm is steady and she doesn't pull his fur by accident. She makes it to the bottom of the chocolate scoop with an appreciative hum when he reveals just who put that idea in Jessica's head, eyelashes lowering a little bit. "He was my teacher. One of them," she amends, licking a stray dribble of melted ice cream from her thumb.

She does look down at him a little curiously, skipping over a curb to take a shortcut down an alley. The shade is nice, though the smell of a garbage can isn't. "I didn't. I just scared him a lot, with Jessica's help." Juno is fairly proud of just how terrified the man was by the time Jessica 'heroically' kicked down the door to rescue the poor guy. "I wasn't supposed to kill him. Just frighten him." Duh, she doesn't need to add. "Why did you want him terrified though? What did he do?" Besides everything he did at Kindergarten, but that was a long time ago. Like actual years!

Grymalkin squints a moment as she makes a circular point about cats and water. It takes him a moment to realize as he hehs! "A good point actually."

He is patient as she finishes her ice cream, perfectly content to simply be walked along the New York street and people watch. As she admits the man was her 'teacher' he answers, "Mmhrmm. Miss Jones inferred as much."

The scent of garbage forces a slight sniff of disdain but he doesn't audibly complain. Disappointed to be in the shade, the cat rises on his feet and paces about on her arm with uncanny balance. Resettling in a new position the cat sits, a moment from licking the back of his paw until she questions him about why he wants the man scared.

Grymalkin's ears flick a moment as he looks stunned. The moment passes and he simply starts to laugh, cat muzzle lifting in human laughter.
After a moment he then furthers, "They did such a great job on you. You don't even realize everything they took from you." Eyes close as he tilts his head back amusedly, "I knew you would accomplish the job to help save Bucky. But even I thought you might be a little torn. Heh!" He ventures then with a sly look up to her, "Have you ever wondered why you're different than the other girls you've seen?"

Juno lets him wander around as he wants, crunching the cone between her teeth as she walks. "Well, I sort-of know. Because Jessica needed his testimony to help Bukiy in court. And to get him to cooperate with her, she needed him to be desperate to make her happy so he didn't have to die." It was all a game though, because she was never going to kill him!

Her steps slow as he laughs, and phrases what ought to sound like a compliment into something that, well… doesn't. "Like what?" Juno asks, picking him up to look him in his mismatched eyes. Again, that blank, doll-like cheerful curiosity. Like he could never answer, and it wouldn't bother her one bit. "Of course I would do anything to help him. He was nice to me, and he's more than me." He's even human, underneath the titles and the legends and the red star. Why would she be torn about terrorizing Smirnov? She never had any real fondness for him… just the need to please.

She tucks the cat back against her side. "Not really. They're real people, and I'm not. Of course we're different! Just like you're different from a regular cat. I'm different from regular girls." What a weird question! "Why? Did you not know, even after all the things you knew about already?" She exits the alley and turns right, nearing a row of brownstones. "You're weird, you know."

Grymalkin listens as he's tucked against her side. Shifting slightly for comfort but is otherwise allowed to be held. His paw resting on the back of her arm as his tail waves back and forth from under her elbow. He chuckles under breath here and there but otherwise listens intently. Only speaking up once she declares him weird.
"Really? Heh! Jones or Barnes never told you the truth then. My, I thought they would be more assertive than that." Meeting her gaze as he calmly tells her, "Why, you were a regular person once. You were a real person. And! You can be that again." Eyeing her with a smirk as he glances ahead, "I figured you would have at least been curious by now. How you were born. Why you were made to be different than everyone you've seen. After.. What.. months now? Of immersion in New York you would have begun to suspect."

Never told her the truth?

Had she really been a real person once? Hadn't she wondered about that, now and then, when she was much smaller - where the children in Kindergarten came from? She remembers being hungry. Her footsteps slow to a stop.

Juno vaguely remembers being hungry and afraid in a new place, but… It was so long ago. Like it happened to another person. She blinks once, slowly, gazing off into the pinkening sky. "It was because someone had to. Someone had to do it and we were the someones." She feels like she heard that a long, long time ago, the kind of phrase that gets repeated until it loses all meaning. "Because we were needed." Yes, she remembers being told that.

"I don't remember," Juno mumbles, still staring off at the sky. "I don't remember being real."

What if she was once? What if she was, and forgot, and if she can be real again what does that mean? "But, why would I be curious about that? It's what I'm supposed to be. Not like them, I mean." She feels disjointed somehow, like there's a fracture somewhere that she can't find. "I'm different from them because I'm supposed to be different," she repeats herself, and blinks some of the dazed expression out of her eyes.

Juno hesitates on the first step, but starts walking again.

Grymalkin watches Juno's face carefully as she hesitates and slows. He listens with tilted head as she explores her memories and what little she was told. His own expression as mysterious as a cat's can be, tail slowly waving back and forth.

"Of course you don't. You were too young. And, more importantly, they did not want you to remember." A pause before adding, "Smirnov and men like him, that is." He hehs once, glancing out, "They needed you to hurt and be hurt. Kill and ultimately be killed. They told you you were needed. They took away everything from you so they could use you."

At her rebuttal of what she was 'supposed' to be he chortles once, correcting, "You were supposed to be a normal girl. They made you something different because they didn't care about you." Offering a bit of comparison he holds his paw out briefly in a stretch, "Consider Miss Jones and Sergeant Barnes. They want you to make you a normal girl again because they -do- care about you." Grinning again as he looks up to her once more.
"Why do you think they're so nice and kind? Yet everyone in Russia was so cruel to you. Your friends here want you to remember what it was to be normal. The Russians did everything they could to make you forget."

There are things that she can pick up and hold on to. Hurt and be hurt. Kill and be killed. And she has been hurt, hasn't she. All the wounds, all the broken bones, all the surgeries. She had cried sometimes, until she didn't anymore. Until she had no tears left. Juno walks slowly, one foot in front of the other, and tries to remember.

It feels strange. Why had she not thought about it before now? She hadn't wanted to, and nobody had forced her to. Even Bukiy had only said one thing about it, and then hadn't brought it up again. Jessica always seems to be consciously avoiding a topic. And Juno had let it be, because… because…

Because what if the cat is right?

What does that mean for her? For Pearce and Miss Elena too?

Outwardly, her face is completely blank, muscles lax. Juno goes on autopilot because she can, feet taking her toward home. "I don't…" she trails off. She doesn't even know how she feels. It isn't sadness, or anger, or… anything. She doesn't look down at Grymalkin. "They hurt me so I could be something. I hurt others so I could be something." Her feet take them up the front steps of a brownstone, a key inserted into the lock without thought. The air inside the apartment is blessedly cool for someone from such a cold climate as Juno, though to the cat it will doubtlessly be too chilly.

"But if… Even if you're telling the truth," she says, finally looking down at him with a bit of her 'self' showing again in her eyes, "What does it matter?"

Grymalkin watches the oncoming brownstone with some curiosity. So this is where the ghost girl holds up?
Thinking nothing of being taken to her home, Grymalkin continues watching the evolution of emotions on the girl's face. Emotions that so rarely come to the surface. He himself remains inscrutable, however he continues pressing the point as she echoes the sentiment they drilled into her, "But you did not have to be hurt or hurt others. They lied to you because they wanted to use you. They only wanted you to be a tool and then simply throw you away." Cruel realities flowing from feline lips.

His eyes meet her own as she questions him one more time. A quiet moment as he 'hehs' once more, replying simply, "That, my dear, is entirely up to you."

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