Cindy Has Ice Cream For Dinner!

October 29, 2017:

Sneaking into Alias Investigations to leave Jessica Jones a thank-you card, Red Robin instead happens upon one of the PI's young wards, the sensational Silk! Then, his compulsion to recruit young heroes kicks in.

Alias Investigations

The workplace and residence of one Jessica Jones, P.I.. Apparently nobody uses the door anymore.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman, Daredevil, Zatanna, Constantine

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

In the last few months, life has run a pretty straight line for Cindy Moon.

It's a taper-down effect of sorts; the case of the missing Moon family has started to run short of leads, with both the detective of Alias Invesitgations as well as the spectacular spider-girl's own digging only getting either one of them so far. She's done well for herself in times since— getting her GED, her time learning the ins and outs of the PI's trade at Alias, and being another one of those friendly neighborhood… well, you know.

At the end of her patrols on this chilly autumn evening, she's chosen to swing back early and take a crack at some outstanding paperwork, Silk checking around before and after slipping into the window for anyone watching. The consistent low-level buzz of her Silk-sense is little more than a dull noise in her head, a fair indication that things aren't that bad tonight— relatively speaking, of course.

Striding through the apartment along the ceiling, she steps over the doorframe while on her way into the kitchen, the crimson mask woven into her costume pulled down partway over her chin while tapping through her Starktech wrist-band phone and checking messages.

Pay attention? Nah. It's not like anyone's in the office at this hour that shouldn't be there.

Of all the varied and colourful neighbourhoods of New York City, the one that reminds Red Robin most of home is Hell's Kitchen.

It's not as bad as the worst parts of Gotham… But it can still be pretty bad. It's not the sort of place that you'd want to walk around after dark by yourself, certainly. It also has its own designated protector, he knows, an individual who has chosen to shoulder the responsibility of it by himself. When you're a vigilante, there are certain rules you try to abide by, and since the Devil of Hell's Kitchen is the type who would rather not have others hunting in his territory, a student of the Batman (who, let's face it, takes pretty much the same attitude as the Daredevil but extends it to the entirety of America's largest city) like the former Boy Wonder is inclined to respect that.

But, sometimes he needs to go there anyway.

A winged shape cuts through that crisp autumnal night air, the inertrite wings of Red Robin's Titans outfit fully extended, until he's nearly where he needs to be. At a neural impulse, the wings fold in tightly, and he drops, like a hunting bird diving at its prey, the thrusters on his pack cutting out. It's a silent fall, one that only breaks when he catches the railing of the fire escape at the top floor, pushing off of that in an easy backflip down a level, and again, until he reaches the floor on which Alias Investigations is situated, because of course in his past visits he's been as likely to come through the window as to knock on the door like a normal person. The wings release their tension, becoming a series of strips of cloth that reel into his suit's flight pack, eyes narrowing behind his domino mask's white lenses as he sees that the window is open. Probably not that weird, right? Besides, it means he doesn't need to knock.

And so, as Silk walks around on the ceiling, not expecting anyone to be around, she might be surprised when someone speaks to her from the windowsill.

"I know it's a couple days early, but trick or treat?" says Red Robin, sitting there quite casually.

With dim lighting in the kitchen and the glow of the fridge's light to give her enough to see and work with, Cindy reaches inside to grab a large bottle of water with her name written across the label in marker, then nabbing a pint of ice cream from the freezer. Padding back to her room with snack, drink, and spoon in hand, she flicks through messages.

The pint and bottle are dropped on the bed while she lifts her hands closer to her shoulders, webbing starting to form up at the tips of her fingers. She gives the email on the holo-display a second glance, then—

'Trick or treat?'

Historially, Cindy Moon's version of the Spider-sense has been of questionable reliability on it's best days, a crippling roar in the back of her mind at the worst; like a key dragged across piano wire connected to an amplifier. The empathic sense fires wildly only after she realizes that someone is there; the spider-girl whipping around while quickly giving the mask a sharp pull to head back up over her nose and hide her face.

"WH— Oh. It's you. … Don't tell me there's more crazy snake people running around the city again, that was *ridiculous* last time," Silk says, brow scrunching up.

Her thumb pulls toward the office. "Jessica's out right now. … Not that I would know that. I mean I don't live here, at all, right, 'cause that'd be nuts. I mean, uh… right. I mean we're friends so it's OK for me to be here." the upside-down girl adds, looking downward— then reaching down slowly to rotate the water bottle and hide the 'CINDY' label.

She's totally awesome at this.

It's a different costume than he'd been wearing then, when they'd fought that weird snake-themed gang in the abandoned amusement park… But he'd been on the news in this current outfit, when the Titans had been the subject of a number of viral videos during the incident at the Central Park Zoo, and it's not like there's any other Red Robins around, right?

(There is, actually, but he's a bad guy and only uses the identity part time anyway.)

"That's why I don't do the mask over the lower part of my face thing," the vigilante notes, with the weight of years of experience. "Cowl or domino mask, it's way easier to eat without accidentally revealing your identity." Spoiler did do the hood-and-lower-face-mask look for a bit, of course, and then there was the Batgirl who wore a completely covering mask that didn't even have the decency to have obvious eyes on it like Spider-Man's, or Spider-Woman's. But generally, with the Bat Family, visible mouths.

"But yeah, I just wanted to give Miss Jones a thank-you note from the Titans for the cake she brought us," the vigilante says, because if he didn't write a thank-you note for that he would bring the wrath of Alfred Pennyworth down on his head, and nobody wants to deal with that. Of course, he also had other things he wanted to talk to the PI about, things he couldn't talk to her about when she visited the Tower the other day, because of his reflex towards compartmentalising information. "She's a real marshmallow, bringing people cakes and letting you definitely not live with her."

He's not so crass as to comment on the name written on the bottle, of course. Besides, it could be someone else's, and Silk just went and took it. You know how those spider-types are.

"Though I never got the chance to thank you, either. With the information we got from the leader of that snake gang, we were able to save Miss Zatara and Constantine. We couldn't have done it without you."

Maybe they could've: Silk wasn't mentioned in the reading he got, he's pretty sure. But it would be pretty rude to claim otherwise.

"This mask is fine! I just don't usually get visitors from the window," Cindy replies almost indignantly. "You might as well come in, too."

Oh right, new threads.

The spider-girl paces across the ceiling, walking down the wall before stepping down onto the floor in a manner that is far too casual for her own good, feet selectively adhering to each surface through the spun silk of her suit. "Or I cut a slit in it."

No mention as to how many masks she goes through in a day.

Uttering a sigh, Cindy paces to the closet and swings the door open, rustling through for a few moments before pulling a massive sweatshirt on over the super-suit. When she spins back around, there's a weathered Grumpy Cat branded across the chest— a shirt that undoubtedly came straight out of five years ago's internet meme collection. "Yeah, Jessica's pretty awesome. I wouldn't call her that to her face, though. I mean, she's like a badass aunt that can bench press two refridgerators."

As for her part? "Psh, it was nothing. I mean, I got to tangle up a giant-ass snake in a busted-up carousel. And the Devil of Hell's Kitchen was pretty awesome."

"Anyway, uh… I can tell her you stopped by, if you want? Or you can wait. Or I can call her and see where she is!"

It's still impressive, watching someone with those abilities move over ceilings and walls like that. Though Red Robin is pretty sure he understands the mechanism by which they do it, and has replicated it technologically, there's still a world of difference between that and seeing it happen naturally. It's akin to the difference between his own acrobatic abilities and those of Nightwing, who despite being a perfectly normal human being could pull off some gymnastic tricks that might even give Spider-Man pause.

"Grumpy Cat, very retro," is the vigilante's comment on Silk's oversized sweater, because five years ago is basically… Well, a quarter of his life, and he's pretty sure Silk is roundabout the same age. It's easier to make those assessments with her than with, say, Spider-Woman, since she keeps her features completely obscured, but…

"It's fine, I can just leave her the note. It'll be a nice surprise for her the next time she's at her desk." In his experience, most of the surprises Jessica Jones gets aren't very nice, so it'd be a change of pace.

But since he's out of the window, standing around in his costume as though it were the natural way of the world, he stands there considering something. All these individuals with similar, or even virtually identical, abilities to Spider-Man's… He'd made a joke about the planet of the spider-people before, and then learned something of the truth about the webslinger in white and pink, but…

"So are you from an alternate reality?" he asks Silk, seemingly apopos of nothing.

Silk's eyes drift down to the shirt, then to Red Robin, letting out a defeated sound. "R-Retro," she repeats in a murmur, somewhere between utter disbelief or ready to cry. "This used to be cool…"

"Uh— yeah, that's probably fine. I'll make sure she gets it, of course."

Pacing to the bed, the dark-haired spider-girl sits down with a leg slung onto it, twisting off the water bottle's cap and bringing a finger up to her lips. Splitting the fibers just enough— *how* isn't quite clear yet— she takes a drink. Her jaw slants, and the question of being of another dimension is one that causes her to groan— even if *just* slightly.

"No. From this one. From this city, even… Though I know about that kind of thing. I mean, … kind of. I had the whole concept explained to me, though it's kind of a wild idea. Wait, so— have you met another one of us? Not Spider-Man, though. She's got a really cool hoodie?"

Cindy even pantomimes a hood, because damn. It was COOL. "I hope she's okay," the girl adds, frowning hard behind the mask. "We didn't exactly … hit it off, when we first met."

Retro is good, maybe! It's not like he said it was uncool!

It's difficult to say just what Red Robin thinks of the revelation that Silk isn't yet another alternate dimension spider-person, because he's quite good at keeping his reactions to things subtle even without a full cowl, and also because it was mostly just an idle speculation. Maybe there was some sort of strange 'crisis' that required all sorts of different spider-powered individuals, from different realities, to join forces.

But… Nah, that would be silly.

"Spider-Woman, yes," the vigilante says. Although he's pretty sure there's another Spider-Woman who is completely unrelated… Not that he's in any position to talk about different people using the same heroic codename. "I'm not sure she hits it off with pretty much anyone, she seems… Difficult. Not that I can really blame her, being stranded in another reality would be stressful."

Particularly if, as he suspects, one were stranded in a reality where they were supposed to be dead.

"I was just curious, usually when people have such similar metahuman abilities there's some kind of connection… Long-lost siblings? A shared connection to the Spider Force? No, no," Red Robin interjects, cutting off further speculation. "I shouldn't go around prying like that. It's a habit I'm trying to get past."

For whatever stories that Spider-Man may have told about Silk, no matter how dopey or off-kilter she may have seemed while dragging a giant man-snake around, she actually seems fairly melancholy for the moment. "Yeah, well… being alone sucks. … a lot. I wanted to help her, but… not much I could do about it. I mean— she ran off, so… ugh."

The primordial connection to the /Spider-Force/. Silk seems to freeze briefly; memories of the bunker and the stories from Ezekiel whispering around in the back of her mind. The memories that she wish she could forget— but that perfect recall is just a pain in her ass at moments like this.

"It's all right," she says, twisting the cap back and forth on the bottle. "There's a lot to it. … I can't talk about it, though. There's … there's a lot of elements at play." Secrets that aren't just the ones that belong to Cindy Moon— but also Peter Parker.

Her head lifts. She glances toward the wall— toward the direction of Spider-Man, their innate connection a perpetual reminder of where he is. Back to the bottlecap, as though she were looking for answers while she wrings on the plastic.

"We're all in it together, though. Helping each other out. It's not so bad, and I kind of like it."

That what was, frankly, a joke on Red Robin's part hits weirdly close to home isn't something the vigilante entirely misses - he can't help but spot that curious hesitation, the way she freezes up when he says it; observation of details, analysis of what happens around him is too deeply ingrained into the Dark Knight's detective protege. He files it away, in that vast construct of memory inside of his mind: His own alarming abilities of memory and recall aren't some natural quirk, but something that was honed through training that most people would probably consider at least bordering on torture.

Batman was not an easy guy to learn from.

"I'm trying to help her, too," the vigilante says, a bit belatedly, on the topic of Spider-Woman. "That's what the Titans are for, you know? Being in it together. Helping young people who need it. I offered to help her find a way home, and some kind of support structure if she wants it, but…" He shrugs a little, a rueful grin on his face. "Well, we'll see if she takes me up on it. What about you, though? Believe me, I know all about stuff you can't talk about. But Spider-Man is a Titan, so if there's problems that affect the two of you… Well, we're always there to help."

Years of solitary confinement, of being locked in a box, alone, with eidietic memory may as well be torture of it's own. Being forced to eat everything out of cans and out of a microwave likewise was pretty much torture.

Cindy's jaw sets, glancing off to one side. He wants to help her. She wanted to help the Spider-Woman, too. Peter as well, though they haven't had a Spider Club meeting in a little while to discuss the status of the other-worldly, other-dimensionly young woman and her weird cultural customs.

Silk's eyes shift from melancholy and sadness to that of curiosity— that driving desire to know more. "Spider-Man's there too, huh? Lucky him, and her, and— wait. … Waitwaitwaitwait wait wait wait," Cindy says, hands lifting up.

"You wanna help me, too? I mean, just like that? I mean you don't even know me. … Unless Spider-Man was telling you about me." Shifting to the edge of the bed, she looks grave— like she's afraid that Peter may have dumped some of her secrets on the Titans, like 'she listens to 5 year old music' and the horrific status of her pop culture knowledge.

"… He didn't tell you stuff, right? I mean I *totally* knew about Youtube on your phone."

Honestly, Red Robin can't help but wonder if that sort of melancholy wasn't part of the whole spider power set.

Sort of like how being trained by Batman makes you prone to brooding and hanging out on gargoyles.

You wanna help me, too?

His head tilts slightly, at that question. His expression is hard to read, with the jaggedly designed domino mask hiding his eyes, but there's something about him that seems surprised she'd ask.

I mean, just like that?

"He… Didn't tell me anything about you," the vigilante assures Silk. "Especially not anything about Youtube." Maybe she's lying about not being from this reality, and this is like Spider-Woman's think about Blockbuster Video? What is it with all these people from alternate realities, anyway? The last thing he needs right now is for the fabric of spacetime to start coming apart or something. "The only one who's told me much about you at all was Miss Jones, who said that you were very intelligent." And suggested that she could set him up with her, which he politely declined.

"Look… My job is to help people. I restarted the Titans because I knew there were exceptional young people who needed the group. I don't need to know anything except that someone needs help, and it's not like we're going to leave you on the side of the road because we've got a one-spider limit."

"Oh. Good," the spider-girl says. "… 'cause I knew about all of that stuff."

She looks very serious. At least this is a step up from melancholy.

The realization that Jessica talked her up a bit brings a bit of red to her face— and not just from her mask. Shifting her attention to the pint of ice cream, she takes container and spoon and lets it sit on her lap while her head tilts. "She's exaggerating a bit. I mean I'm totally a C-student, at best. And totally a D-ister hero."

Silk looks conflicted for a moment. The Titans might be able to help, if they've got the resources. … depending on who bankrolls them, too, it might pay pretty well. It might give her some of the help she needs, if she can get fresh eyes on her case. "I might be interested. I'll have to talk to Jessica, too. … I mean I doubt that's a problem, right?"

I'm totally a C-student, at best.

Red Robin frowns.

He folds his arms across his chest, watching the young woman with the spidery powers consideringly, weighingly. Of course, he wouldn't ask her to do anything that might compromise her secret identity, since she's obviously electing to keep one. She was clearly concerned by the possibility that Spider-Man himself had told the leader of the Titans something that might've given her away. That might make it more difficult for him to help her get that average up, and he's already just about singlehandedly keeping Zatanna afloat in her university courses (after committing a bit of light fraud to keep her from getting expelled when she missed weeks of classes due to being in Actual Hell) but after everything he'd already said about helping…

"There's no rush, Silk, and no pressure. Go ahead and talk to Miss Jones. You might want to talk to Spider-Man about it, too. Get a feel for how things are." He'd already expended a lot of social capital manipulating Spider-Man into agreeing to help Spider-Woman… Who knows if his feelings about Silk are similarly complicated?

"We're pretty easy to find, after all. Not a lot of T-shaped buildings in the East River."

Unfortunately for Red Robin, the Spider Club is pretty complicated. And the relationships are all pretty complicated. And the histories are all… well, you know. With any luck on her side, aspects of Silk's own life won't come crashing into the forefront of any of the others. Sure, alternate dimensions are kind of a Thing, but … she can hope. She has hope.

Silk just nods. "Jessica's easy enough to find. But I'll have to track down Spider-Man and get his take on it." She leaves out certain aspects of their lives, especially there: She tries to ignore it most days, but the presence of Spider-Man is almost always felt like a blip on radar.

"Thank you," the spider says. "I'll come track you down at the tower when I've made up my mind. I mean— I have a few things to deal with here, anyway, so… urgh."

Silk looks up to the masked vigilante and says in that ever-so knowing way, the way that Spider-Man once used with him, "It's complicated."

A curious thing happens, when Silk describes the situation as 'complicated'.

Where he was frowning consideringly before, that little two-word sentence actually makes him laugh, a short chuff of mirth escaping the figure in red and black.

"Sorry, sorry," the vigilante says, shaking his head. "It's just… Well, I know a lot about things being 'complicated', don't worry." If there's anything in his life that isn't complicated, he's not really sure what it is… Of course, his personal response for when people ask him something that he doesn't want to get into is the similar 'it's a long story'.

It pretty much always is, too.

"Just take your time. And don't worry, you don't have to sign any contracts or swear a blood oath or anything. We're not the Avengers," he jokes. He's pretty sure the Avengers don't make you do any of that, but he hasn't really investigated too deeply. Apparently that would be 'rude' and 'snooping' since his ex-girlfriend was on the team.

"And don't eat that whole thing of ice cream, it's not good for you," the vigilante adds, heading towards the office so he can, indeed, leave the thank-you note for the cake on Jessica's desk. It was the whole reason he came here in the first place!

For a long, long moment, she considers it: She considers that Red Robin is dead serious, and that the Avengers actually make you sign a blood oath to join their ranks. Is that something Tony had to do? Would he actually go through with something like that, or would he make like, a blood robot that spritzes it onto the page? He wouldn't put it past him— but then the ludicrousness of such a concept starts to set in on her.

Especially since she learned a lot of things in the last year, like 'hell dimensions are real.'

A spoonful of ice cream in her mouth later, long enough for her to take pause and consider even just a *few* of the implications of her decisions, and then she's chided for her snacking habits. "Sugars and proteins are good for me! … I mean, it's— like. It's not like—"

"/Ugh/, it's a long story. 'Cause of course it is."

Silk's voice lifts a touch, pacing out toward the office in order to add, "I'll catch up with you soon, though, I promise!"

By the time Silk reaches the office, though, she would notice that it is now empty, Red Robin having disappeared somewhere between his remark about her eating too much ice cream, and the webslinger's subsequent promise. There is, however, an envelope sitting on the desk, with 'Miss Jones' written on it in simple, straightforward pen.

Damn ninjas.

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