|Summary:||Joey almost gets away without being a snack for Marcus.|
The jogging steps from behind her have Joey turning around immediately, eyes a little wider. At his words, she shakes her head once, at x-men, to indicate she doesn't understand, and then again, at 'sister' and 'cousin,' her brow knitting once more at the word cousin, given Laura and Octavia's similar discussion, and finally again, her head shakes at 'niece.' "I don't have family," she says firmly.
"Who wants to be smooth when you can be -effective-?" As Laura and Octavia make their ways away, Marcus draws up directly alongside Joey. "Don't play coy, itty bitty. You know you got a bit of the Mother in you. Up here." He reaches up and - if Joey doesn't make to avoid it - will tap Joey on the temple. "Smells like ozone and raw meat. More appetizing than it sounds, promise."
She doesn't let him tap her but pulls back and to the side, one hand coming up a little as if she might smack his away, but she checks that instinct, maybe because he's like twice (or seemingly so!) her size. She stops suddenly where she is, perhaps because it's far enough away from any alleys that she can be dragged into, or his car, without half the tourists in the city to see. "Don't fuck with me," she almost growls, shoulders hunching a little, her hands balled up in the pockets of her leather jacket. "I will make a fucking scene."
"Oooh. A scene." He slips in closer, now, taking a step toward her. She'll have to step back if she doesn't want to come chest to chest with him, near enough. "I like scenes, lil' bit." He leans forward, pitches his voice lower. "I know what you are. But you don't know what I am, do you? Or what I could -do-, if you made a scene. I just got one question that matters. You on the List? If you've Signed the list, well. You're safe as houses, ain't you? If you haven't...or if you're -lying- when you say you have...well. That's different, ain't it?"
She does step back, into another person who swears at her and spills alcohol from one of those plastic atrocities on both of them, but Joey manages to get a little bit of space. Not much, and she finds herself backed up against a wall. "I don't know what you're talking about," she says, a small quaver breaking the last word, belying her bravado. "Whatever you're taking, it'll wear off soon. I'm nobody," she murmurs, her voice even lower than before. So much for scenes.
He follows. One arm comes up, braces his palm against the wall beside her shoulder. He leaves her other side unblocked, all the room in the world to cut and run. "If you're not on the list, lil' bit, you might be food. I just gotta find out if you -taste- right." He leans in. -Closer-, still. Close enough that he can take a literal breath inward of her scent. "I want you to tell me something. A secret. I want to know the worst thing you've ever done, tiny. Tell me that? And I'll let you go. Just, whoosh," he says, making a flying-away motion with the hand not boxing her in on one side. "You skitter off into the night."
Her eyes narrow as she looks up at him, before her gaze slides past him, watching the various tourists move through the street, paying no mind to them other than maybe a curious glance or two that seem to think it's all par for the course. Her eyes lock back on his and for a moment, it might look like she's going to do as he asks, before she shakes her head. "Screw you," she says, then attempts to dart out that unblocked path.
When Joey moves to dart away, he lets his hand brush against her shoulder. "You can't get away, lil' bit," he shouts. "Not until you've answered my question!" He doesn't chase after her. At least, not at any speed. He doesn't -need- to. He's the minotaur - and she's in his maze, now. All the streets look the same. The people's faces blur and she can't focus on them, the people look similar. The street signs are unreadable, and the streets themselves stretch into infinity. No matter which way she looks...there seems no right choice for -where- to go.
She shakes her head as if she can't hear or understand him. After a few minutes, when she realizes she's lost, she turns around, slowly, trying to get her bearings. This is her city, the only one she's lived in, the one she's never left more than a day. Her heart begins to pound harder in her chest, and though it's cool (for NOLA), her forehead grows damp with sweat. The nervous tic of shoving her hand through her thick hair becomes more frequent until she walks with her fingers curled at her temples, holding her hair off of her face. Her head in her hands.
Maybe she realizes she's hallucinating, maybe she doesn't. What she defintitely doesn't realize is that she's stumbling through a graveyard. That in her efforts to find her way home, she's managed to stumble upon and open the graveyard's Gate. When the visions finally clear, she isn't in the streets of the French Quarter at all. She's in some kind of tunnel, a tunnel that glows with bioluminescent lichen clinging to the walls. Somewhere, far off, someone - or something - screams. A person or an animal in tremendous, soul-crushing pain.
Footsteps approach, echoing. Thumping. The sound of heavy boots on solid stone. And then, around the corner, appears - Marcus. In his hoodie. "You done got yourself -well- and lost, small fry. I don't think I've ever seen -anyone- get this lost. Not without trying harder than you."
She's trembling even before she hears those steps behind her. She jumps when he appears in front of her and backs up -- again hitting wall behind herself. She shakes her head at his words, though at what, it's unclear. She is lost. Maybe that she didn't try to do it to herself.
"Where are we?" she whispers, the words softer than the pounding drumming of her heart against her chest. A threat of tears glitters in her whiskey-brown eyes, but not enough to fall. Not over this.
"You ever seen a ghost, lil' bit? Well, when ghosts are bad, and fuck up, and someone exorcises them? They come here. If they get too old and there's nothing left connecting them to the world upstairs? They come here." He draws closer and closer again, heading toward her with slow, purposeful steps. "You decided you were too good to answer a simple question, kiddo. You decided you were going to ignore a simple, polite request that you answer a question, in exchange for safe passage. It was more than I -had- to offer you. But the offer still stands. You answer that question for me? And I'll take you home. It's one of my gifts. I can open all the doorways. Even the one -you- bumbled through to get you down here." If she doesn't run this time, he'll come in close enough to touch, again. "If you're -nice-, if you learned your lesson? I'll shield you from the fire and the horror of the way back. If you make me chase you? If you refuse my question? I'll let you feel the heat and the terror and I'll feed on the righteous punishment you brought on yourself. Now. Tell me. -No one- is innocent. What's your deep, dark secret, my single serving friend? The worst thing locked up in your head."
Joey's words are so quiet, they might go unheard, at his first question. "I only hear them." Her gaze is averted, on the ground to her right. She doesn't move when he approaches, but stays statue-still, but for her trembling. But when he speaks again, she shakes her head. "I'm not good." The words are still so quiet, just the slightest breath giving them any sound at all above a mere mouthing. Her expression crumples at his question, and she looks the other way -- the floor to the left this time, avoiding his gaze at all costs.
"I've... I did things for money. When I was younger. I was homeless," she finally manages to say, and then the tears wet her lashes, before she can blink them away.
"You did -what-, for money?" He reaches up, now. He takes hold of her chin, and his grip is -strong-, so strong. He draws her face up to look him in the eye. "You're going to tell me -what- you did for money, nugget. You're going to look me in the eye and you're going to tell me that secret. And then I'm going to give you a choice."
Her eyes meet his, but then she drops them again. Her cheeks flush, her skin in his hand warming a degree. "Why are you doing this?" she whispers, one hand coming up to push her hair back out of her face again. Suddenly, though, she looks him in the eye, the anger taking over the fear. "Sex. I let people fuck me for money. You want all my fucked up stories, or is that one enough? I'm a thief, too, and I've done drugs, and I lost a guinea pig when I was five so I probably killed him. I think I called my third grader teacher a cunt once, and I steal shit from assholes who don't need it and sell it, because I can't stand working a normal job. You want more?"
"Was it one time? When you whored yourself. One time, or many times?" The question is given as if there's a purpose in the answer.
Her face twists at the question, as if it pains her physically< and she looks away again. "Two... three. Three." Her words are flat. She closes her eyes, a shuddery sigh escaping parted lips. "Over how long? Spread out, across years? Three times in a week, in a month?" His eyes are intent on hers, flicking back and forth focusing on them. When she lets out that shuddery sigh, he reaches out with his left hand, too, and takes hold of her waist, as if to steady her.
She shakes her head at the first question, sucking in a breath through her teeth. "A couple of months." She shakes her head again, as if to clear the memories. "I don't do that now." In case he wasn't clear on that. Her eyes well up again, but she glances up ward, blinking, to keep them from spilling over. "Do you want to -keep- those months, then? Or do you want me to...take them?" He takes hold of her chin more firmly, turns her face one direction, then the other. Looking at her. "If I could wipe those two months clean, would it make -you- clean? Would it make you...good?"
Her brows draw together with confusion at his words. "Take them?" she echoes, but the other questions make her scowl a little more. "No one's clean," she murmurs. "Would I like to forget them? Yeah. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about it. But it's part of who I am, yeah? If you could take those two months out, there'd be something hollow there instead. You can't just take out parts of people that aren't as good as others and still have a person, can you?" She seems to think they're speaking hypothetically. Despite all the weirdness that's surrounded this little trip down a rabbit hole. He nods. "You aren't leaving me much to -eat-, fun-size." He takes a half-step back, lets go of her chin. "But I told you I'd give you a ride home. And I will. We have to go through the Labyrinth. But it's okay. I'm the best guide there is." He reaches out, offering her his hand. "Don't let go, even if things get...weird." Weirder, you know, than a taxi cab driver getting her so lost she wound up in the Underworld.
"I don't understand," Joey says. "This whole night, I feel like there's some weird cosmic joke at my expense and I don't fucking get it." Still, she takes his hand, hers small and a little cold and clammy, thanks to all of her trauma. Payback's a bitch.
"Okay, half-pint. I formally invite you into my home. I grant you safe passage. No fire shall burn you. No poisonous fume will assault you. No maze will befuddle you. I grant you shelter from the terrors that lie within." He keeps hold of her hand tightly, and as he concentrates for a moment, he lets the twisting confines of the Underworld's tunnels resonate with the labyrinth that is his Lair. He draws through himself the connection that all mazes hold to the minotaur's labryinth, and brings forth the -rest- of what makes his Lair his. Fire. Brimstone. The tunnels around them are engulfed in a sudden, sulfurous conflagration that doesn't burn her - and doesn't smell in the least unpleasant, despite her -knowing- the heat is searing, and that the smell is sulfur. The tunnel shifts, -changes-, and they are two places at once. Underground...and on the surface, a dark, empty city full of twisting streets that look somehow familiar and alien all at once. It lasts only a few seconds before the fire dies down, the fumes are gone. With them go the underworld...and with them go Marcus. In his place is a seven foot tall Horror - a minotaur with bronze skin and fire in his eyes and his nostrils. "Where do you live?"
As he begins his little ritual of inviting her in, she stares at him like he might just be the craziest person she knows -- despite all that she's already gone through, already seen, those stubborn mortal parts of her mind keep telling her there's a logical explanation. But then there can't be, not for what she sees next. She manages to keep holding his hand through all that fire and labyrinthian streets. But when he reveals himself to her, it's too much. She screams, pulling back away from him.
When she pulls away, he drops down to all fours. He walks something like a gorilla, now, on his knuckles as he moves to circle her. His voice is deep, thrumming, like a steel drum. "I said," the Horror intones, quietly, "Not to let go. You've disobeyed me. In my own home. Are you going to -run-, short stack? Where. The moment I rescind my invitation, I can close these streets to you. I can engulf you in fire. Or I could simply hunt you down and feed on your fear. On the punishment for straying from my instruction."
"I can't-" she begins, dropping down to her knees and cowering from him as he paces around her, "I'm sorry," she whispers, hands shaking as they curl inward, protectively. Defensively. "Please," she adds, but what it is she's pleading for isn't totally clear. She remembers the question asked before her transgression, and murmurs an address in response. Where she lives. A bad part of town but the rent is cheap -- and the landlords take cash.He moves toward her, and as she drops onto her knees, he reaches out and seizes her by the hair. "Because you failed to heed my instruction? I -rescind your invitation-." A sense of alien dread creeps over her, insinuating itself into every inch of her body. It creeps into her -mind-. She's somewhere wrong. Somewhere hostile. This place is the worst place. This is where she comes in her nightmares, the -bad- ones, the ones where something is hunting her and she can't get away and she's small and helpless and weak and she's going to die, and it's all her fault for failing. The full, intense -gravity- of that hits her. Of where she is, and that she's not wanted. He hauls her up to her feet. "You did this to -yourself-," he bellows, and throws her, bodily, toward a wall of an empty building. As he does, the Lair blurs, warps, -overlays-. Instead of hitting a wall, she hits her own mattress, thumping into it as though she'd fallen four or five feet onto its surface. The minotaur is gone, and so is his Lair. She's alone.