Demon Bear: Exit Interview

December 26, 2017:

Now that Dani Moonstar is free from the demon bear Jessica Jones has a few questions.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Don't look now, but it's starting to look like a real home.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Emery Papsworth, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Spoiler, Thor, Matt Murdock, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Stephen Strange

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Alias Investigations is looking less Spartan by the minute, and it's a little weird.

Not that Moonstar has ever been here to know the cozy additions to the shelves are new. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes. A statue of Athena Ascendant. A framed photograph of the Jones family. A beautiful Tibetan singing bowl.

On the wall between the shelves there is a pushpin map, looking a little ragged, long abandoned, its purpose unclear. Beside that, a punching bag. A beautiful overstuffed couch that looks crazy comfy, with a crazy comfy and not-so-beautiful ragged quilt. The desk, the chairs.

The place is starting to look downright homey. To feel downright lived in. It baffles even its primary inhabitant from time to time, and every now and then she looks around like she doesn't recognize the spot at all.

Still, when Dani Moonstar said she wanted to meet here she did what she could to make it a little more homey, cleaning it up, putting the coffee on. The latter is something she always does for guests, some shred of 'how to be hospitable' training from her parents surviving even today. The coffee smells good, hot, fresh, not-burnt (this bit is also not always 100% certain-sure).

It's toasty in here, the heat is on.

Rather than usher Dani to the desk, she suggests the couch. Offers coffee. And Christmas cookies, too, she somehow ended up with those as well. Dani can rest easy in the knowledge that Jessica Jones did not make them.

"Thanks for agreeing to see me," she says, once the business of getting Dani to the door and welcomed through the door is done, whatever shape or fashion that business takes.

*

There's an element of stir craziness within Danielle Moonstar. A combination from the house arrest, the waiting, and then the thoughts that chase around in her brain like rabid little bunnies.

As such, the black-haired woman finds herself pacing up and down the hallways, or escaping to the outside.

When the call from Jessica Jones came to her, the woman eagerly agreed to meet the other woman at Alias Investigation.

ANd here she is. Seeing the PI's workplace (and home) as one part freedom, one part escape, one part information dropping and one part apology.

When her knock is answered, Dani offers the politest of greetings before she steps inside - after wiping her feet. Once inside the Cheyenne's gaze automatically sweeps the area around the two. Shelves, desk, couch, all of it looked at. Then it's a nod to the couch, as the woman says, "Sure, that's fine And really, I'm pretty sure I should thank you for seeing *me*."

Perhaps the only oddity (beyond her carefully masked expression) is the fact that she isn't wearing a coat. No matter it's snowing outside like crazy.

It's only after the two have sat down (with or without coffee) that Dani immediately says, "First - I want to apologize for what happened." And here that carefully placed mask slips, allowing a glimpse of the guilt to be seen, "The Bear is cruel in its insanity."

*

Jess is fairly indifferent to heat or cold herself; she notes Dani's own indifference but doesn't seem either surprised or put off by it. She's wearing a blue and black flannel shirt over ripped jeans, bare feet. Black tank top. A couple of necklaces which might seem weird. A panther toothed one. A pair of vials with strange wax seals on the other, both with water, but with red flowing through them as if they are lava lamps. The red is the color of blood, but it's not acting much like blood.

Her eyes, light brown and empathetic despite a face which is, quite often, closed off, and which is, in fact, somewhat closed off now— soften a little more as Dani apologizes.

"Getting your brain or soul or whatever hijacked by evil monsters," she says firmly, her voice low and intense, "is basically a pass as far as I'm concerned. You don't owe me anything. Not apologies or anything else."

She says it with conviction that all but rings through the words. "Whatever you did under that thing's influence was not your fault. I didn't know you before, but those who did spoke well of you. Tells me you're a good person who got herself handed a shit situation."

She wants, it seems, to make this opinion of hers clear even before she launches into what surely is a manifold list of questions.

Coffee is served in cups which read:

'Do I Look Like I Rise and Shine?' (For Dani), and 'I Run on Caffeine, Chaos, and Cuss Words' (for Jess). Jess takes hers black, but has plenty of diner packets of cream and sugar should Dani want any of that.

*

Automatically Dani's hands reach for the coffee cup offered to her and while the saying upon both cups causes the faintest curl to her lips, the amusement doesn't necessarily reach her brown eyes.

There's just too much going on inside her head. Which Jessica Jones is probably familiar with.

As Jessica speaks, Dani's expression twists again, going towards something that's both sardonic and wry. "Pretty sure some of those people shifted their view of me." Mutters the woman, though those words might be swallowed by the cup as it lifts up to her mouth for a quick sip. Once it's settled upon her knee (with one hand still around it), Dani says a bit louder, "Thank you for accepting my apology." There's a formality to her tone and words there, "I am in your debt."

One that she'll repay. Somehow.

And while Dani's gaze flicks to the oddity of the necklaces around Jess' neck, the woman doesn't ask about them. Instead Dani says with a grim sort of finality, "What questions can I answer."

*

"Well, that's because a lot of people are assholes," Jessica says, matter-of-factly, on the matter of shifted opinions. "They also don't know what it's fucking like, do they? People wanna believe nothing could ever twist them, nothing could ever make them do things they don't believe they're capable of. It's too fucking scary for them to believe it. Fucks with their self-concept too much. Easier for them to be mad at you. For them to think it's your goddamn fault. For them to assume you wanted it or whatever. Don't listen to them."

But. Grim finality. Questions.

Jessica leans back, gives Dani some space, and starts trying to organize them.

For once they are questions that are more felt than intellectually laid out in organized fashion in her mind, and that makes it difficult.

At last: "Is it still even a bear? It looked a lot like Bucky and Jane got us to kill the thing so they could steal its power." That's as good a place to start as any. Maybe Dani doesn't know, but in lieu of a better way to organize her questions starting with the thing that's bugging her the most will do.

*

Those matter-of-fact words from Jessica earns another more in-depth look from Danielle Moonstar.

A question held in that dark gaze of her, a question and perhaps something else, something more.

She wasn't yet part of the Bear when Jessica Jones was held within its shadows, but Dani has seen enough to know what sort of things the Bear often portrayed.

People's deepest fears. Which brings the vaguest twist to her lips; the irony not missed.

"Thank you." The Cheyenne says again, to those first words of Jessica, understanding that there's something there beyond just consoling.

Then when that space is given Dani takes it. She takes another sip from the coffee and waits. Shoring up her own emotional walls against whatever might be asked. The mask that briefly broke returns, as Dani watches the Private Investigator.

That first question earns a nod from the woman. A good place to start. "It was never a bear." She admits, "It was a man. A man who's family was cursed - think of it as a werewolf, only with a Bear. The soul of that man still resides in the Bear, along with the others. As for your friends -" And she looks back to the woman, "They didn't kill it. They're controlling it now. I don't know what for though, the last thing I felt from the Bear and them was them leashing the Bear." A vaguely pained expression flashes across her features, "That usurp of power is what allowed my soul to be pushed out. Or what helped free it."

*

"Yeah well, the damn thing bit off more than it could chew when it decided to slurp those two up. And I mean, however you got out, you getting out is a good thing, okay? Now we just gotta figure out how to free everyone else."

The tone of these grim words hovers between two incompatible emotions: a weird mix between worry and pride. It's not a good thing that Jane and Bucky are now soulless bear-leashers, but on the other hand, yeah, screw you, were-Bear, for trying to hold her friends captive.

"And that werebear— is that your ancestor? Steven Strange said you were hunting it, it's how I got your name at all. Is that family curse your family curse? Or did it just suck you up because you came after it? Are you the first one who has ever been freed this way? Has that ever been managed for anyone else?"

*

Free everyone else. That's enough to cause Dani to grimace.

Her expression only worsens as Jess continues to talk. A crack in that facade again.

Her fingers tighten around the mug of half-drunk coffee, and while Dani is strong, she's thankfully not super-strong so the mug stays quite whole.

"No, it's not part of my lineage and not my curse. Not in the sense you mean." And here Dani's gaze shifts, though not because she's lying, it moves away from Jess simply because of the emotions that well up in them, with her next words.

"My parents were sent after the Bear to banish it. That's how it knew of me. It has the souls of my parents inside itself."

And while those words of hers might be shocking to some, Dani ruthlessly pushes onward, "So, I'm going to say that yes, I'm probably the first one who's been freed that way. It was a combination of Emery calling my soul, my parents pushing my soul and the Bear losing control that allowed me to be freed. Though that doesn't mean we can't save your friends - we can - we just have to be smarter about it."

"Thankfully, it seems like between the two of us we've a few friends in the magical community."

"It's going to either take us pulling their souls out via spell, or with the use of a magical weapon, or destroying the Bear itself to free them."

*

"How many is it holding? Do you know?"

And Jessica lets her get that space. Indeed, something flickers over her face that looks sorry. She knows asking these questions is painful. She knows she's not exactly got a gentle bedside manner, to make it any easier. She just knows she has to ask them. She has total confidence that Moonstar is strong enough to handle that, but that doesn't make her less sorry.

She frowns, tilts her head. "What was it about your parents that made them the right person to be sent after the bear to banish it?"

She finally stands up and gets a legal pad. She has to jot all this down. "What kind of magical weapon would work?"

She looks up and grimaces again. She decides to at least try to mitigate this.

"I'm sorry. I know this sucks ass. You've just got information nobody else has, and if we're gonna solve this…"

*

"Six." Dani replies instantly, "Six souls. It wants more too. Or it did, at least, when it was under its own control."

Now Dani isn't quite sure what it wants.

Shaking her head, the black-haired woman waves aside Jess' apology. "Don't be sorry - I do have the knowledge, it's good. If I were in your shoes I'd be asking the same sort of questions. All good." She adds one last time, before she considers the previous question of Jess'.

"I believe a sword my friend has could be the key here. I think it can help cut the connection between Bear and host, and bring the person's soul back." And while she could say more, she doesn't. The soulsword isn't necessarily hers to talk about. "If that doesn't work I've a sacred arrow - a thunder arrow - that was created to handle creatures like the Bear. If we can destroy the manifestation of the Bear the souls should be set free."

"it's a lot of ifs -" Continues the woman, her mouth twitching to something sardonic, "But magic is always like that."

"Before we attempt any of our attacks, however, we'll need to be prepared for whatever it throws at us. Before I'd have said it would just attack via its shadows and its crows, and with its heralds, but now -" With Jane and Bucky in control, Dani isn't quite so sure. "I think we're in for some surprises."

*

The detective looks up from her note taking and gives Dani a quick smile when she says it's all good. A smile of respect, mostly. Then? She drops her head and scribbles note after note.

"Six is better than 90. For some reason I thought you were going to say 90. So. Bucky, Jane, your parents, Emery's nanny and…the orginal bear guy?"

On the matter of these magical objects…Two shots. Well, two shots are better than zero. "What are the properties of the thunder arrow?" Jessica asks. Because that might open up more options if the first two fail.

Her mouth also twists. "I take it, then, that you don't have the slightest idea what they're planning. What about that jawbone thing? Why was it important to go get that thing? Was that the only magical artifact you guys swiped?" Sure, she's got Spoiler running all sorts of crazy data searches, but she might be able to narrow the playing field, just a bit, by getting that information now, rather than on some sort of crazy data mine.

*

"If it had ninety." Murmurs Dani, before she shakes her head, "It's good it doesn't have that many, and yes, my parents, your two friends, the Nanny and the original man who started this all."

The question of the thunder arrow's properties earns another one of those sarcastic looks, though not for the question asked, but for the answer she gives. "It was created by the Gods -" She only hesitates there a bit, "- and lost within the spirit world many years ago. When we found it we bound it to an arrow of this world. So, if you have something similar I'd say let's bring it to the real world too. Better to have a stockpile of potential weapons than not."

And while that answer of hers might sound crazy (because it does!) it easily allows her to roll into answering that last question of Jess'. "The Bear wanted the artifact for safe keeping. It held the power of light, whereas the Bear is a thing of shadows. Light destroys its shadows. I can say that was the first truly powerful artifact we went after, but now?" She shrugs, "I can't say whether they have or not. While the three of us were linked it was more for the Bear's benefit than our own. For it to call us, versus the other way around - though, I do hold a vague connection to it still. A familial bond that connects me to it."

*

"Well. I mean. I know Thor. I could probably call him up and say 'I need you to smack the shit out of something with your enormous magical hammer.' He loves smacking the shit out of things with his enormous magical hammer, he'd totally do it. The question is more whether there'd be anything to salvage after he was done. He takes 'blunt instrument' up to 11."

Jessica doesn't appear to be joking. Indeed, she says it almost absently. She does not in fact have something similar, but she can make phone calls, man. So many phone calls. It's a relatively new feature of her life, still, but she has somehow developed contacts for days.

So apparently not that crazy?

"I take it a really powerful flashlight isn't enough, but…I mean. Zatanna has this bitching 'let there be light' spell…"

She tap taps her fingers against her knee.

"What makes it pick a soul? Emery's nanny seems like a real random choice. But it didn't take John's, or mine, or Daredevil's, or quite a few others it had a shot at. Why not? Not that I'm complaining, because I'm seriously not, but I'm just wondering if there's a pattern there."

*

While the mention of Thor does garner a look of surprise from Dani it also pulls a laugh from her. "Ironically I'm a death-bearer for his people, so … small world?" She jokes, before considering that next question of Jess'. Well, next several questions.

"I wish I had a concrete answer for you -" She admits, which causes her to flash her teeth in irritation, "For me it was from my parents, for the others desperation in some sense and for Emery's babysitter -" Which does cause her to wince," - revenge. It hates Emery. Their powers are too similar in nature and it sees him as some sort of rival." The mention of patterns causes Dani to lean back slightly, her expression thoughtful, "I, for one, didn't see a pattern. It was like a leaf caught within a storm of madness, but that was when it was in 'control'."

"It no longer is. Now it's in the control of your two friends. Who aren't necessarily mad or insane from decades of being trapped within the Bear's shadows."

Well, that Dani knows of, at least.

Leaning forward now, the Cheyenne says, "Think of it this way - the empathy that you typically feel for people? Gone. Completely gone. Your morals are gone too. So things that you'd normally say 'I'd never do that' are no longer restricted by the notion of right versus wrong."

*

Death bearer for Thor's people? That gets a look of surprise from Jessica, but she takes it in stride. "Right," she murmurs. "Pegasus, got it."

She looks Moonstar in the eyes as Dani explains this bit about the empathy. Gone. Morals. Gone.

Her eyes are troubled. Really troubled.

The dichotomy between giving people a pass when they're under the influence of a monster and what it now looks like to have them in control of that same monster without being cured or healed by any stretch has been a hard thing for Jessica to reconcile. It butts up against her trust issues. She wants to give them utter faith and trust this is all something they can't help, and yet they flipped the script in a way that looks and feels like betrayal.

She's dealt with it mostly by not dealing with it; after all those desperate attempts to reach her friends she just has shut down and is refusing to think about any of this on any kind of an emotional level. She isn't even full of conviction that she'll get her friends back. It's just…dealing with the situation now, and then seeing what the situation looks like after it's dealt with, and then dealing with that some more. She's not John, who just feels fully betrayed and is ready to end them. But neither is it, entirely, the free pass she gives every other mind control victim, or soulless victim, Dani included. It's a very strange, very difficult mental place, confided only to Matt Murdock and the inside of her own skull. And she hates it, hates that she can't just give them that fucking pass; it makes her hate herself a little bit. She'd given the faith, the pass, and given it, kept her heart wide open… and then they revealed they'd basically used her and all their friends at the Math Museum so they could take control. It had hurt.

Which is why she's back to not dealing with it 30 seconds later.

Instead, her mouth twists, and she says, "Desperation. From Jane and Bucky? Can you explain that? I'm sorry, I hope I don't sound dense, I just…want to understand."

*

Dani can see the trouble within Jess' eyes and the Cheyenne looks away.

She understands some of what Jess' is feeling, not all, but definitely some.

And much like Jess did for her, Dani is quiet until the next question is asked.

Desperation. That brings her gaze back around and Moonstar nods. "It's not a stupid question. For years this Bear hunted me - since I was fourteen, in fact - and no matter how many times it came close to getting me, it never could. When I was joined with it I got the sense that it saw your two friends as an untried avenue - something so different that surely it'd work."

Her eyes close as she focuses on the elusive grasps of memories from the Bear, "And even if it didn't the Bear would be more powerful with another soul, or two, within itself. Powerful enough to stop me, that's for certain. I only avoided its claws for so many years by luck and a few prayers." Her eyes open again, "Now I wonder if it regrets taking them."

"I know I speak of the Bear separately of the man, but they're two different entities. It's the madness of the Bear that controlled the man, but the souls themselves also had some sway. Similar to lucid dreaming - the souls could push some of their own thoughts, their own wants, upon the Bear."

*

"That makes sense," Jessica murmurs. "Bucky and Jane had to have used that ability to set up the scenario the way they wanted. Hunted since 14…did anyone else know? I mean did you get help from anyone? Or did you just— were you afraid to pull people in, figuring it was your responsibility and yours alone?"

She drains her coffee, tosses her legal pad aside, stands, goes to top hers off. She hefts the pot in silent question, offering to top Dani's off. The frown has settled in now, lines deep in her forehead and around her eyes, around her mouth.

"It's kind of good the Bear is a separate entity, if destroying the Bear is one of our only options. Man, we've gotta just get…everyone involved into one room. We gotta come up with a plan. They've leashed the Bear, but can it still be summoned? If someone is holding a big enough dog on a big enough leash and it starts running they tend to get pulled behind, right? Maybe we can— " Jessica's head shifts from side to side; she's trying to come up with some sort of plan, but she's falling short.

*

Did anyone else know. Again it brings a brittle expression to her features. "A few, though I never asked for help. Responsibility, like you said." She states, before she waves aside the offer of coffee.

Like Jess, Dani's expression is similarly edged with a frown, though the expression shifts slightly to sadness at the woman's last words.

"We'll need to plan yes, but I think in the end if we can destroy the Bear, which is the focus here, the souls will be free to return to their bodies. Or they'll move onward into the after-life, where they'll have some measure of peace, hopefully."

"I would assume if they can control the Bear they can call it. Whether they can control it forever, though?" She shrugs, "I don't know and I don't think we can wait for them to make a mistake with the Bear. The sooner we can free the souls the better."

*

"No I meant maybe we could call it, even though they've got control of it, try to create some sort of … trap." Jessica comes and sits back down, then frowns. "Sadly I'm a detective, not a strategist. I find answers and solve cases, I don't necessarily have a lot of talent at figuring out exactly how to wrap this shit up and get it taken care of. But…I don't think we wanna wait around to find out what the Deadly Duo want to do with their new pet, either."

She exhales, putting her coffee down untouched and picking her notebook up again. "We're so fucked."

She looks down at her notes, trying to figure out what else to ask. "The Bear— is it the original Great Bear of the stories? How did it end up bound to Original Dude in the first place? Is he a Mockwamosa or is it just like a Mockwamosa? And like I know, I know, nobody wants to talk about either one but seriously."

Trying to close the loop on that original research.

*

"A trap." States Dani, a grim look upon her features, "I'll say yes, we can call it to some extent, or find it through me, so we could lay a trap. I'll be bait. It's the least I can do."

The mention of how precarious their situation really is earns a quick laugh from Dani, though it's not really filled with too much humor. "We're definitely something, though we have powerful artifacts and people. Hopefully it won't be that bad." But even to Dani's ears the worry can be heard.

"He is a Mockwamosa." She agrees, with some surprise when Jess states the name of that particular curse, "Or was. Then something changed. It holds an energy that isn't originally part of itself - which is ironic, right? Since it's holding so many souls hostage. Whether that's part of the Great Bear is hard to say, but it has a hint of something celestial to it, sure. I can sense that much, Brightwind similar."

"And you're right on one thing - we shouldn't wait too long to bring the Bear down, but hopefully shortly we'll be ready to take it down."

*

Jessica sees the surprise and gives Dani a sheepish smile. "I've been useless for fighting this thing, but asking questions, research? I can do. Like I said, I solve cases. I've been all over trying to find out about this bear since it first went running around after Jane. When did it get that energy? Has it had it as long as you've dealt with it? Did it have it way back when your parents did?"

A frown. "Are there any places that matter to it in particular? Do you know the name of the original dude? Maybe…"

Well, maybe not, but in all of Jessica's attempts to help magical people finding out little details like that has sometimes mattered a lot, so she keeps barelling right back to what (sometimes) works.

*

"Fighting isn't all about actual fighting." States Dani, "Research is part of it too. You can't fight something you know nothing about." She finishes with, before she considers those questions. "The energy was there for as long as I was. I can't say whether it had it from when my parents fought it - I'd hazard to say yes, but that's just a guess."

The question of the man's name earns a headshake, "No, not a name that would make it easy for you to track down. It just called itself Bear. Thought of itself that way too."

"The Bear itself still likes the forest, but that's the Bear. Perhaps the better question is where your friends like to stay? It's not about the Bear, per se now, but about who controls it."

*

Where would Bucky and Jane like to stay, if not home?

Jessica stands up, paces around, frowns. Now it's Dani's turn to ask a fantastic, salient question, and she gives it the thought it deserves.

"Somewhere tactical," she murmurs. "Defensible. From magic too. Because they know Zee, John, can find them with magic otherwise. So it would have some sort of natural warding, or be steeped in some sort of evil and darkness that makes it hard to distinguish them and it from any other evil and darkness. Shakes off scrying. But also somewhere that you can't approach without being seen for miles. Somewhere with good sniper positions so they can blow your head off. I'm not sure if they'd stay in the city or not; I guess there's advantages of disadvantages to either. It depends on what their goals are too."

A frown. "I know where Bucky favored when we were working together, here in the city, but it lacks the magical warding. But if they can make the bear do that for them? Then yeah. I know at least one place worth checking. But Bucky wouldn't choose exactly the same place, cause he knows I know about it. But I think if they're here they're in the underground. If they're not? If they're in Westchester County? They might choose an abandoned fort or military installation of some kind."

Another pace. "If they're still going after artifacts infused with Light we might be able to know where they'll be. I've got a friend of mine running a serious data analytics project trying to pinpoint other potential projects just in case."

She chews on her lower lip. "A consciousless Bucky and Jane might still go after Hydra. They hate Hydra. Which I mean, no shedding tears for those asshats, but…the problem is collateral damage doesn't matter to them now…"

Her hands rise and fall. "Damn it. This is futile. Bucky is going to be almost impossible to predict, is the thing. He is a grandmaster at not being found if he doesn't want to be. I could sit here and list out every last characteristic of a place he might choose and it won't help. Because there are 105 places like it within five blocks of here, right? And without knowing their goals, what they actually want here…"

*

Now it's Dani's turn to play the role of listener and while she was never the best at it when she was young, it's a different story currently.

And while she nods at several points Jess has to say, the Cheyenne does offer a few points, "They don't need to stay on Earth, you know. Or in this physical plane, I suppose is a better way to put it."

Her eyes focus elsewhere for a second, "All Wolf and Bird need to do is stay in the Bear's shadow. It's another dimension all together." Then realizing what she said, Dani shakes her head, "But they can't stay there forever, not when there are things that could hurt them out here, which they're somewhat aware of. In that we can possibly anticipate something. Look for those artifacts that they might try and steal and follow the leads that are plausible. Whether they pan out or not isn't the end all or be all here, it's just something we can check off so we know for certain they're not there."

"I can't say what their goals are, but clearly they have them and even though we don't know them we can't let that stop us. I'm afraid to think of what will happen if we can't pull them free from the creature."

*

"Yeah, being afraid is a good instinct," Jessica says grimly. "Piss-your-pants afraid is a great instinct where they're concerned. They are not people anyone wants to fuck with, and that was true when they had empathy and a conscience. Piss-your-pants-twice is a fantastic instinct when they don't." She rubs at the back of her neck, then exhales. Kicking her own furniture is NOT going to help here.

"I'll let you know what my buddy comes up with on that data mine," she says. "I suggest when we go to make a move we bring…literally…everyone and everything that could help. Because otherwise?"

Her smile is grim and has no humor whatsoever.

"Otherwise we're all gonna get our asses handed to us on a silver platter."

*

Dani listens to all of what Jess has to say and she nods in agreement. "I agree." She adds verbally, even as she rises to her feet, that half drunk coffee still in her hand.

"I'm hoping some mutant help along with the magical will help even the playing fields. If not then perhaps Brightwind will be taking all of our souls to Valhalla." Which is said in a similar grim tone that Jess employed.

"Drop me a line when your friend gets back to you. As soon as I hear anything I'll do the same for you. When the go comes I want to make sure we're all ready for it."

*

All them to Valhalla. Her, probably, straight to Hell, but Jess doesn't say that.

"You got it," she says instead.

A pause. A long one. Jessica looks up. Looks down. Frowns. Then takes a deep breath.

"Don't hate yourself," she counsels. "Call me if you need an ear."

And she leaves it at that. Because she doesn't know Dani well enough to delve any deeper, but at the same time?

She knows enough to be sure she doesn't want to leave Moonstar just hanging out there, to grapple with the after-effects of Bearification by herself.

*

Once the cup is out of her hands Dani readies to leave. It's only with those last words of Jessica's that the Cheyenne stops.

She turns to look at the woman and while a flippant remark was right there. Ready to be used. Ready to be said even! It never makes it past her lips.

It sticks there in her throat and so Moonstar just nods.

Only after a minute does she finally add, "Thanks. I'm sure we'll be talking soon."

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