3/11 Instance: Breaking Apart

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Title: Damn Not Given
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3/11 Instance: Breaking Apart

Post by Slarti » Sat Mar 12, 2016 1:05 am

Timelined after The Dead Zone.

<Shaw> Restless, Sebastian stared into his tumbler of scotch, rolling his wrist and watching the liquid move.

<Jessica> Jess was attempting to read but she was still annoyed and so really she was just staring at the words in front of her with a frown creasing her brow. Downstairs in the nursery, she could hear Meggan chattering away to Miriam while she changed her. What a nightmare of a first day...

<Shaw> The updates Jarvis offered on the situation were brief, and he hadn't been able to cajole the artificial intelligence into sharing more.

<Jessica> Eventually giving up with the pretense of reading her book, Jess tossed it onto the sofa and got up to make some tea instead.

<Shaw> Sebastian watched her, tossing back a gulp of scotch and savoring the burn. To say she was still displeased that Hope had a gun, which was now on the top shelf in their bedroom closet, beside his, was an understatement.

<Jessica> Jess made her tea with careful methodical movements. Her hands were shaking and she was worried she was going to drop the sugar, the tea and the milk all over the floor.

<Shaw> He heard a curious tinkling from the kitchen and dragged himself to his feet to join her. Love?

<Jessica> The voice in her head made her pause on the way back to the fridge, Yes?

<Shaw> Are you quite alright? Once in the kitchen, he watched her.

<Jessica> I'm fine. She glanced up at him as she slid the milk back into its home in the fridge.

<Shaw> Liar. He and his scotch went to the counter beside her tea, waiting.

<Jessica> I think we have enough to deal with without my crap on top, don't we? She returned to her tea and stirred it carefully.

<Shaw> Your crap is what I would prefer to deal with, actually. He set down his drink and slid his arm around her hip. What's troubling you?

<Jessica> You know already... She sighed and leaned against him, It's hardly been two months... I'm still not okay... and now today we come home to this...

<Shaw> I know. He was quiet for a moment, holding her closer, then smiled when he heard a happy baby squeal from the nursery and feminine laughter. At least something seems to have gone well today, yes? That's one step.

<Jessica> Yeah... and, God, that was good timing... Honestly I don't want to think what could have happened if she hadn't been here... She closed her eyes and turned toward him, hiding her face against his shoulder.

<Shaw> Frankly, he didn't either. Things like this do tend to make one realize the importance of the places people hold in life...

<Jessica> Could make you start to believe in a higher power too, if you were so inclined. She cuddled into him. She was not so inclined.

<Shaw> Amen, he agreed with a smirk. Perhaps he would ask Paige to light a candle, however.

<Jessica> For summer.... can we please go on a vacation with no cellphones? If he didn't agree to this she was so going to use pheromones.

<Shaw> I told you, we can go back to Hawaii, and I'm certain we can manage to lose our phones. He required no special coercion  for this, and chuckled quietly.

<Jessica> I love you. She lifted her head and smiled at him then leaned to give him a kiss.

<Hope> As their own street came into view, Hope's anxiety rose through the roof. She sank back into the passenger seat of Obi's car, wondering if she could convince him to go somewhere else. Anywhere else.

<Shinobi> The link informed him of her shift in mood and Obi took his hand from the gear shift to find hers, giving her a side glance and a smile. "It'll be fine."

<Hope> Her hand gripped his tightly, and she swallowed hard. Would it? "I'm not so sure."

<Shinobi> "There's no real reason it wouldn't be." He squeezed her hand and brought it to his thigh, giving it a pat before he had to shift gears.

<Hope> She pressed his thigh, swallowing again. Riiiight. Because Jess needed another reason to hate her. "Sure," she relented.

<Shinobi> "It was all a misunderstanding, and I forgave you.” His lips twitched. Twice.

<Hope> Her face flushed, a smirk on it immediately. "Okay... okay," she relented.

<Shinobi> I'll forgive you again. Later. He parked the car and flashed her a grin.

<Hope> Promise? she asked him, looking up at him again.

<Jarvis> The robot made its way into the kitchen, going to the freezer and removing the small carton of peppermint ice cream. "Mr. Shark, Miss Stark has returned."

<Jessica> Jess blinked at the robot then looked at Sebastian. She decided not to pick up her tea.

<Shaw> Sebastian rolled his eyes at the robot and did pick up his scotch, taking a drink.

<Shinobi> Obi jumped out of the car and moved quickly to open her door. Oh, I promise.

<Hope> Hope let him open her door, holding out her hands for his once it was. Okay, she agreed.

<Jarvis> The robot puttered off to meet Hope at the door.

<Shinobi> He took both of her hands and placed them on his shoulders, giving her a quick hug.

<Shaw> "Thank you, Jarvis. That was exceptionally helpful."

<Hope> Hope squeezed Obi tightly, breathing him in and trying to calm her nerves.

<Jessica> "... Does the new robot understand sarcasm?"

<Shaw> "He was made by a Stark," he said, raising an eyebrow at his wife.

<Jessica> She frowned after the robot, "If it chats back to me I'm going to break it."

<Shaw> "Well, I haven't broken it." He flashed teeth. "Yet."

<Shinobi> Obi interlaced their fingers and led her to the door. He paused when he saw Jarvis was already there. "Well, you're prompt."

<Hope> "He listens well," Hope told him, grinning and taking her ice cream. She peeled the little spoon off the top and handed the wrapper and carton top back to Jarvis to dispose of.

<Jessica> "I suppose we should go downstairs? Or shall we just wait for them to come up?" She was considering ducking into the nursery on the way down and hiding in there with Meggan and Miriam.

<Shaw> "Mmm. I have scotch to finish." He leaned against the counter, listening downstairs. "They have to at least come through on the way to their room."

<Shinobi> "Obviously." He leaned in and turned on the eyes, casting meaningful glances between the carton and her face. "Just because I was frozen earlier doesn't mean I don't want a bite."

<Hope> Smirking, Hope prepared a spoonful and offered it up to him.

<Jessica> Jess pulled a face as Michael's voice floated up the stairs to her sensitive ears. How could he be so dismissive of the fact she'd almost got him killed just a few hours ago?

<Shinobi> Obi enjoyed the ice cream, just a bit too much, specifically for her benefit.

<Shaw> "Well, well," he said into his glass. "It sounds like all is forgiven."

<Jessica> "It does." And she couldn't imagine why.

<Hope> All smiles, Hope nudged him just a little and headed for the stairs.

<Shinobi> At least she seemed calmer, he decided, starting up ahead of her.

<Hope> She was calmer... but each step brought more and more anxiety. Hope shoved another spoonful of ice cream into her mouth.

<Shaw> Sebastian listened to their footsteps and knocked back the rest of the tumbler.

<Jessica> Jess couldn't stand being glued to the floor in one spot anymore and started moving around the kitchen, tidying cupboards that didn't need to be tidied.

<Hope> She paused at the landing, taking another bite.

<Shinobi> Obi stopped and circled back to wait for her, his hand resting at the small of her back. "It's okay," he said quietly.

<Hope> A doubtful look met Obi, but she didn't bolt. "Maybe."

<Shinobi> He kissed her temple. "Should be."

<Shaw> "They're stalling," he observed, staying in his position and running his finger around the rim of his glass idly.

<Hope> This time, Hope took his hand tightly. I'll follow you.

<Jessica> "Then go and do your tactless thing and get it over with..." she sighed, eyeing her tea and wishing it was alcoholic and that she could get drunk.

<Shaw> "I thought I wasn't supposed to do that anymore?" He blinked at her, all innocence. "At least not to family, at any rate."

<Shinobi> Obi squeezed her fingers and started back up the stairs.

<Jessica> Jess merely gave him a look. He knew how she felt about Hope at this moment.

<Shaw> Sebastian put his glass down with a sigh and pushed himself off the counter, slowly heading for the stairs.

<Hope> Still anxious, Hope kept a firm hold on Obi, ice cream forgotten for the moment.

<Jessica> Jess continued her efforts to tidy the already tidy kitchen.

<Shaw> Since he heard them round the corner to start up the stairs to the kitchen, he didn't bother descending and instead crossed his arms to lean against the wall and wait.

<Shinobi> When Obi looked up, he didn't see anything, but he heard movement. There were light footsteps in the kitchen. "Jess?"

<Hope> Hope winced at the noise. Were they laying in wait?

<Jessica> Jess didn't answer Michael as she was still moving things around in the kitchen and she wasn't sure he'd hear her from where he was.

<Shinobi> He frowned a little and slowed his pace. "Hello?" Now Hope's nervousness was bleeding over.

<Shaw> "We're up here, Michael," Sebastian finally responded, glancing over at Jessica.

<Hope> Nauseous. Hope was nauseous. She took a step backward.

<Jessica> Jess was now scrubbing the already gleaming countertops.

<Shinobi> Obi held on to her hand. It's okay!

<Hope> It took several breaths before she could speak. "Dad?"

<Jessica> Jess paused in her scrubbing to grip the counter, her temper boiling again.

<Shaw> After another glance at his wife, he started down the stairs himself to meet them. "Hello, little Stark."

<Hope> She started up the stairs to him, only letting go of Obi so she could wrap her arms around Sebastian.

<Shaw> "How are you feeling?" He asked, embracing her and holding his son's eyes over the top of Hope's head.

<Shinobi> Obi's mouth twitched, but he hid the better part of his reaction.

<Jessica> Jess' scrubbing continued in an effort to control her temper.

<Hope> "I..." Hope shook her head, reaching for Obi's hand again. "Like... somebody spun me on the merry go round too many times."

<Shinobi> "It's no wonder, since somebody is messing with your mind." He moved in to take her hand back and was surprised when Sebastian wordlessly grabbed him and pulled him in as well.

<Hope> Hope nestled into Obi's chest, feeling very at ease with the two of them right there.

<Shinobi> Obi would not describe it as ease.

<Shaw> He closed his eyes and allowed himself to enjoy having them both here and safe. "Tony needs to be doing a better job about tracing those videos... lest I take it over for him."

<Hope> "Please take it over," she begged him.

<Shaw> "I will then, if you wish it. We certainly need to better screen your social media." He tilted his head and looked down at her. "Or, alternatively, you could simply eschew social media for a time. We can't have another incident like this."

<Hope> She started to protest, but one look at Obi's face silenced her. Wasn't he more important than twitter? She swallowed and nodded. "Okay. Both. I won't take it down, so you can try to trace it. But I won't be posting. Or reading. Or accessing the app."

<Jessica> Jess decided to stop cleaning because her hands were suffering and, instead, crossed the hall to drop down into their bedroom from the living room and cross the hall behind Hope and Michael into the nursery.

<Shinobi> Obi couldn't help but feel a surge of relief. "I think that's a great idea," he admitted, squirming just a bit away from Sebastian.

<Shaw> With a smirk at his son, he them both go, then looked over his shoulder when he heard the movement upstairs. Love?

<Jessica> Are you going to tell her we've confiscated her gun? She opened the door to the nursery and smiled at Meggan with Miriam.

<Hope> Hope moved to wrap both her arms around Obi, pressing her face against his chest. She was mindful of the ice cream still in one of her hands, and careful to not get it on him.

<Shaw> He watched the children and took a deep breath. I'm not certain confiscated is the right word for it, love.

<Jessica> Well she's not getting it back so you use whatever word you like to make that clear. "Hiiiii baby," she lifted Miriam from Meggan's arms and cuddled her close.

<Shinobi> Now he heard Jess behind them and twisted to look over his shoulder, smiling at her faintly.

<Shaw> His eyebrow ticked up and he watched his wife.

<Jessica> Jess turned to face the others, smiling at Michael, You know my feelings on guns in the house... or in general. Jesus, even Viper knows not to bring them here.

<Meggan> From behind Jessica, Meggan gave a small wave to the member of the family she had yet to meet.

<Hope> Hope had yet to see Meggan or Jess due to her position, but she did give Sebastian a bit of an odd look. Am I missing something?

<Shinobi> Obi nodded at Meggan, then looked back down at Hope. I don't know? The new nanny is right behind us though...

<Hope> Hope shuddered a bit, keeping her hold on Obi. Super. She had no escape route.

<Jessica> "I was going to start dinner but I wasn't sure how many..." she attempted to keep her tone normal.

<Shinobi> "We'll be home," he started, giving Hope a squeeze. "Right?"

<Shaw> "Excellent." Sebastian gave a decisive nod. I don't believe now it the time for this, koibito.

<Hope> She nodded, swallowing hard. "I'm not hungry," she whispered.

<Jessica> Then tell her later. She frowned at Hope whispering like she wouldn't hear her and turned to go into the nursery.

<Meggan> Meggan looked between them all and seemed to shrink in height a little.

<Shinobi> Obi saw Jess' expression and frowned in response, his eye catching the new nanny's for a moment as well. No, this wasn't awkward at all. "Well, maybe we can eat later..."

<Shaw> Shall I call for take-out then? He crossed his arms, noticing a fleck of something on his sleeve and rubbing at it. Why was it wet?

<Jessica> I guess so. She sighed and sank into the rocking chair, trying to contain her stress and protect Miriam.

<Hope> Shuddering a bit at all the tension and talking around her, Hope glanced up at Obi. Can we go now?

<Shaw> Sebastian looked up from his contemplation of the mystery stain. "I'm uncertain why everyone is acting so damned strange. Aren't we all by now accustomed to such things?"

<Shinobi> Obi blinked up at Sebastian.

<Meggan> Meggan tentatively raised her hand, "Um... I'm not..."

<Shaw> "Thank you, Meggan, dear." He nodded, acceding her point.

<Hope> A glance at Sebastian made Hope tighten her grip on Obi. It wasn't every day she nearly killed him, after all.

<Meggan> She gave Sebastian a slightly awkward smile, "So... do you want me to stay or shall I go back to my hotel and start properly after your security thingies...?"

<Shaw> "Mmmm. Perhaps, considering the state of affairs, that would be best." His eyes swept over the children, then back to the new nanny. "We need to complete her secret service background check, for Hope's sake."

<Shinobi> Feeling Hope's anxiety, he made a soothing sound and kissed the top of her head. "What security thingies?"

<Meggan> "Um..." Meggan wasn't sure to which thing Sebastian was referring but wasn't sure she should ask. "I'm sure there's nothing they'd object to... I just don't want to break any rules..."

<Hope> Rules? What rules were there? Oh. Maybe they applied to other people. Hope pulled her ice cream back out and took another bite. "Ready to go on up?"

<Shaw> He heard Hope and smirked to himself. "You'll find your room in a better state than you left it. That is mostly thanks to Meggan." Passing them on the stairs, he went to the new nanny and took her hand. "Meggan, allow me to introduce you to Hope Stark."

<Meggan> "Uh, hi..." she waved her free hand and offered Hope a small smile. "I'm Miriam's new nanny..."

<Hope> "Um... hi. Thanks?" she offered, not really sure what that state was in or what it had been when she left. "Welcome."

<Meggan> "Thanks... and you're welcome... it wasn't any trouble." Her smile brightened.

<Shinobi> He felt Hope's confusion and cleared his throat. "The ice..."

<Hope> "Could have melted it myself..." she pointed out, muttering.

<Jessica> "Well you weren't here, were you?" Jess voice erupted from the nursery.

<Hope> "I am now," she pointed out, shifting uncomfortably.

<Shinobi> Obi winced at the sudden voice. "You know why, Jess. It's okay."

<Jessica> "It's not okay!" She handed off the baby, who was starting to wail, and stepped into the hall. "You nearly died! If we hadn't brought Meggan home with us you very well could have! Has that even registered with anyone?!"

<Meggan> Feeling the tension rise again and Miriam starting to stress out, Meggan ducked back into the nursery.

<Shinobi> "Yeah, it has registered, Jess." He tried to turn and put himself between Hope and Jess.

<Shaw> "Jessica... as I already said, I don't believe this is the time."

<Jessica> "There is never going to be a time!" Jess rounded on Sebastian, "Because no one ever wants to say anything to upset Hope! But it's perfectly okay for her to be a brat and upset everyone else and we're supposed to accept it and move on like it's okay?! It's not! I'm not! But no one ever fucking asks because it's all about Hope!"

<Hope> The yelling, the words. It was never about her. Her head spun as her hand gripped the railing on the stairway. Air. She needed air. She couldn't breathe. Her arm tugged at the railing, trying to pull the rest of her up toward the roof. But something was stopping her. Obi. Of course.

<Jessica> Hope's attempt at escape didn't go unnoticed, "Oh fine, go on. Run away. It's not like we won't all still be here waiting for you when you decided to creep back and not apologise."

<Shinobi> He felt her struggling, but frankly he was terrified if he let her go she would go and vanish. Possibly forever. "She apologized to me! Isn't that what matters? Haven't we all done crazy fucking things? I know I sure as fuck have, and some of it was because I was manipulated, some of it wasn't even me but I know I still did them and I still had to deal with the consequences and she is!"

<Shaw> "Koibito..." he started. It might be best to just get it out in the open, but he wasn't entirely sure. Why did no one listen to him about the importance of timing?

<Hope> Hope stilled at Obi's words, listening to them. He was yelling at Jess for her. She bit her lower lip, tears already streaming down her face.

<Jessica> Her anger flashed over her link with Sebastian, "She brought a gun into this house! Where a baby sleeps! And didn't think it would be fair to let the baby's parents know! This is our house! Some fucking respect is not too much to ask! I don't think I'm being entirely unreasonable. I've put up with a lot of shit. But this is where I draw the line."

<Shinobi> Obi closed his eyes and tried to turn Hope to press her face against his chest and shield her. If you're going, I'm going. Please.

<Shaw> He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "You know I have the gun now, and it isn't as if her guards are not armed. If not with traditional weapons, then with those of their own mutations. In that sense, we're all deadly weapons."

<Hope> Hope levitated the ice cream to the stairs behind her and clung to Obi desperately. I told you! I told you she hates me!

<Jessica> Really? He was going to defend her again? "Don't you dare try to make out like this isn't a big deal!"

<Shinobi> She doesn't hate you... He was distracted by Sebastian's outburst, surprised.

<Shaw> He lost his tenuous grip on his temper when he felt Jessica's flare in his direction. "I most certainly am not, but the point still remains!" He pounded his own chest with a fist. "He is my son now, and he nearly died in my arms!"

<Hope> Hope shrank even smaller, trying to hide entirely behind Obi and disappear. I can't do this. All this fighting is my fault.

<Jessica> "Yes he did! In our house! Because there was a gun hiding upstairs!" Jess glared at him.

<Shinobi> Yell back. It might make you feel better? After all, he was the one who found the gun, so the argument could be made it was his fault.

<Shaw> "Why is this suddenly my fault?" He threw up his hands.

<Jessica> "It's not! But I'm sick to death of you defending her every action like it makes a fucking ounce of sense!" She turned to look at Hope, "You are supposed to be a genius! USE YOUR DAMNED BRAIN!"

<Hope> Hope moved enough to see all of them again. "It would have happened with or without the gun," she finally said, softly. "Somebody is fucking with my brain, or did you not catch that part? So I'll use that brain." She picked up her ice cream and moved for the stairs again. "I'm moving out."

<Jessica> Jess made a sound of frustration and strode across the hall to hers and Sebastian's bedroom, slamming the door behind her. "True to form!"

<Shinobi> "Out?" He watched Hope, wondering when his stomach had descended to his kneecaps.

<Shaw> Sebastian looked at Hope, startled into silence, head whipping when his wife departed, dramatically.

<Hope> She paused to gesture towards that bedroom, tears threatening again. "She fucking hates me. You all see it. Nobody will admit it. It's fine. Maybe with me gone you all can have some peace and quiet." She licked her lips, shaking her head a little. "I've known for awhile. In Japan... she was there for Obi. Not me. It's never me. I just had my brains scrambled like eggs and it's my fault. So I'm going. Before there's not a family left here."

<Shaw> Sebastian heard Jessica's tears start in their bedroom and swallowed. "Hope, love, you have had a terrible, trying day. Now is not the time to make snap decisions."

<Hope> "Dad... I can't. I just... I can't. And neither can she. She hates me." And at the moment, she didn't blame her. Her face flushed, swallowing hard to push that emotion down too.

<Shaw> "Oh, little Stark..." He moved in and embraced her.

<Jessica> Hope's words reached her easily and she curled up on the bed, I don't hate her. I know telling her won't do any good... but it might be better for both of us if she does move out.

<Hope> Hope held onto her daddy, finally losing it and sobbing into him. "I'm sorry..."

<Shinobi> Obi sat down heavily on the step, turning his head to stare at her melting ice cream instead of Hope and Sebastian.

<Shaw> Perhaps, perhaps not, but you might try telling her! Sebastian held her, rubbing her back carefully. "What happened, and your reaction, is not your fault."

<Jessica> She's not going to listen to me, Sebastian! His mental state toward her stung more than a little and she rolled onto her front to muffle a sob with the pillows.

<Hope> "But it is to her. And if it isn't, it doesn't matter. She didn't even ask if I was okay. She doesn't care. She cares if Obi's okay... which is great. I care if he's okay. But... I don't... I don't matter." Hope moved to sit beside Obi, resting her head against him as she shook slightly.

<Jessica> Jess rolled onto her back and covered her face with her hands, trying to calm down enough to actually speak.

<Shinobi> He still didn't know what to say, but he put his arm around Hope, swallowing harshly.

<Shaw> "We knew you were... Jarvis..." Sebastian let her go and felt Jessica's turmoil, fighting to stay calm for both of them. This is just a stressful situation for all of us, love. "Everyone is highly emotional right now."

<Jessica> I know! And she knew he mostly meant Hope. She sat up and crossed the room to the door, opening it a little way, "Hope..." her voice cracked but she was determined to finish, "You do matter. I wasn't the one that that pushed our friendship away. I never stopped worrying about you. I just... have different priorities now."

<Hope> "Those priorities don't include me. At all. Ever." Hope informed her, nestling into Obi. "You may not have pushed first, but you are the one who keeps pushing away now."

<Shinobi> "I don't... want to be in the middle of this," he said, studying the floor. "You were friends before I was dropped on your doorstep."

<Shaw> Sebastian had sense enough to stay quiet.

<Jessica> She turned to go back into the bedroom, "You don't respect me. You don't care that this is my house. You don't care that I worry about all of you. And you don't care that I try to ignore all of that."

<Jessica> "Because you make it so damn difficult, Hope." She covered her face with her hands. "Even now, when I'm trying, you look for something to turn on me for. You know how bad I was when we got back from Japan, you know how it affected me when I found Michael's blood upstairs. So imagine what today did. Of course I'm angry. Of course I'm going to be upset that it's all swept under the carpet again."

<Jessica> She sighed and looked at Michael, "We haven't been friends since humans started eating mutants for kicks because I freaked out and no one was okay with that."

<Hope> "You can make excuses all day long. Your actions speak for themselves. Why would I respect someone who doesn't care about me and displays that at all possible opportunities? I have tried so hard to make amends. And I'm not allowed to. You say that you care, but you act otherwise. You didn't even care enough to see if I was okay today. You care about me as far as it concerns Obi and his well-being."

<Hope> She took Obi's hand and gave it a kiss. This isn't your fault.

<Jessica> "That's the problem, Hope. They're not excuses. They're actual feelings. I didn't need to know if you were okay today because you always are. You have so many people looking out for you, Hope. People are paid even to look after you. You have no idea what it's like to be outside that bubble looking in. To have to compete with that every day to have your own husband look your way."

<Jessica> She decided to give up and went back into the bedroom, closing the door behind her and leaning against it. Maybe I should leave.

<Shinobi> Obi squeezed her hand lightly, but didn't otherwise respond. What could he say? It may not have originally been his fault, but now it was.

<Shaw> He blinked. That was entirely preposterous. She was jealous? He watched, too surprised to respond, and then her thought made his head jerk toward the door. What? No.

<Hope> "I'll have my stuff packed by tomorrow," she told Sebastian without looking up.

<Jessica> For a few days... She slid down to the floor, hugging her knees to her chest. If she goes, Michael will go too... and you can't fix this while I'm here. Maybe not at all now.

<Shaw> He ran his hands through his hair and pitched his voice to carry. "No one is going anywhere! Not today, not at all if everyone would simply take the time to calm down before jerking into a ridiculous action!"

<Hope> That got fresh tears out of Hope, pressing her hands into her face.

<Jessica> One of us needs to give the other space... and she listens to you so you should both be in the same place. She sniffed, swallowing another sob as she pushed herself to her feet and crossed the room to pack a small bag. I'll just go to a hotel or something.

<Shinobi> Obi put both arms around Hope, protectively, glaring up at his father. "Yeah because yelling about this shit always helps."

<Shaw> Sebastian gave the children a pained look, a flash of annoyance crossing his face at Michael's sass. No. This is your home!

<Hope> Too tired to fight anymore, Hope just slumped against Obi and held onto him as he held her close. "Can we please stop fighting?"

<Jessica> It's theirs too... and you know I'm right. If I go away, she'll calm down and you can do what you always do and talk some sense into her... I'll just get in the way. She was in the bathroom now, collecting her toothbrush and other supplies, and she paused to lean on the sink.

<Shaw> What about Miriam? Again, he ruffled his hair, beyond caring how it looked.

<Jessica> There's plenty of food in the fridge for her... Let Meggan take care of her if you can't manage. That's why we hired her. She gripped the edge of the sink and rubbed her damp cheek against her shoulder.

<Shinobi> Obi knew he was talking, probably to Jess, since Hope wasn't in any state for it, and knew it must be bad when he saw the color drain from Sebastian's face.

<Hope> Sebastian still hadn't answered her... and neither had Obi. It caught her attention enough to look up. "What?"

<Shaw> "Michael... you are the best equipped to care for your Stark... I need to speak to my wife." His voice was low, and the hand he pushed through his hair again was shaking.

<Hope> Hope started to go to Sebastian, but she stopped herself. I'm so sorry, she sent to Sebastian, looking to Obi. What now?

<Jessica> Jess left the bathroom and sat down on the end of the bed, dropping the items she'd collected from the bathroom into the small bag on top of everything else.

<Shinobi> "Okay?" Confused, he looked between the two of them, still holding on to Hope's hand.

<Shaw> Sebastian could only nod at Hope, then swallowed and went to the bedroom. He opened the door quietly and went inside, closing it behind him and taking in the sight at the end of the bed. Koibito, please...

<Jessica> What do you want from me, Sebastian? You know it makes sense for me to go right now. She lifted her head to look at him.

<Hope> Wordlessly, Hope got to her feet, keeping Obi's hand as she looked down at him.

<Shaw> In what universe does it make sense for you to leave your home and your family when we need you? Sebastian walked slowly to the bed.

<Shinobi> What's going on? He stood as well, scooping up her melting ice cream and staring at the closed bedroom door.

<Hope> I don't know... I'm sure it's my fault thought. Hope admitted, taking the ice cream back from him.

<Jessica> No one needs me here right now. I can take Miriam with me, if you'd prefer... She watched him come closer, reaching up absently to wipe her cheeks.

<Shaw> I want you and Miriam right here, where you belong. He knelt at the foot of the bed and covered one of her hands with his own.

<Shinobi> He snorted, head snapping back to Hope. The one really at fault here is the fucker who sent you those videos.

<Hope> She caught his gaze and stayed there. Now that we can agree on.

<Jessica> And what about Hope? She withdrew her hand and ran it through her hair, You want her to leave instead?

<Shaw> "I don't want anyone to leave." His hand fell to her knee. In the hall, he heard Hope and Michael on the stairs, heading up, not down. That was a problem for later.

<Jessica> "I need to take a step back from this, Sebastian... I can't do that in the same place as her. You see what happens when I try to be honest...." she gestured to the hallway. "So I keep it all in... and I don't have anyone I can talk to about any of it."

<Shaw> "You can always talk to me, love..." He rubbed her leg through the fabric of her trousers.

<Jessica> She shook her head, "No I can't. I can't talk to you about how much I want to shake her sometimes... because you don't see her like that and you never will. You defend her... and that's perfectly okay... but it's not helpful.... and I have no friends."

<Shaw> "Oh, trust me, love, I wish to shake her more often than not," he said with a mirthless snort. "What happened today, however, wasn't truly her fault. Nor is it mine, or yours, or Michael's. We were all victims of circumstance."

<Jessica> "You don't understand..." She got up and crossed the room to the window, "You have a parental relationship with her... she loves you and she respects you... she's never going to respect me, Sebastian... She probably will never even be my friend again... so I can't be here right now. I need to go somewhere I can think and not feel guilty for thinking bad things because someone can listen in."

<Shaw> His hands fell to his lap and he rocked back on his heels, watching her. "What is this really about, Jessica?"

<Jessica> She turned her head to look at him. Had she not been clear? "I told you. I need breathing room."

<Shaw> Sebastian looked down to his lap, eyes darting to his wedding band.

<Jessica> "I just need a couple of days..." she turned back to the window, "A couple of days where I can be angry and not feel guilty about it." Resting her head against the glass, she sighed.

<Shaw> "A couple of days," he echoed. Sebastian was carefully shielding his reaction in their link, wondering if he should offer to sever it for her.

<Jessica> "Use the time to get Hope back to normal..." She scrubbed her face with her hands, "And I'll try to find a way to be okay with all of this... again."

<Shaw> "Koibito..." He looked up at her, swallowing. "I need you."

<Jessica> "Not like this you don't..." she shook her head, "You need space too... and you need to talk to Hope... promise her whatever you do that makes her stop being crazy..."

<Shaw> "When have I ever truly stopped her?" He got up and went to her, sliding his arms around her from behind.

<Jessica> "You know what I mean... you talk sense into her... she listens to you. But you can't be in two places at once... you can only be there for one of us at a time... she just... I don't know... needs you more..."

<Shaw> "And you?" He paused, swallowing, suppressing, and feeling more vulnerable than he'd care to admit. "Do you need me?"

<Jessica> "Of course I do..." she leaned against him, turning her head a little toward him, "But I also need someone to talk to that isn't connected to Hope..."

<Shaw> Sebastian closed his eyes and nuzzled her ear. "I should let Tony deal with her. It's not worth losing you."

<Jessica> "Tony can't drop everything and come here to clean up this mess..." she frowned then, "What do you mean losing me?"

<Shaw> "That is how it feels, koibito. I can't help that." He closed his eyes.

<Jessica> "Why do you feel like that?" She turned toward him then and reached up to touch his cheek, "I'm not going anywhere... not forever..."

<Shaw> "I know it was hard to see Michael like that today..." He leaned into her touch.

<Jessica> "It wasn't just hard, Sebastian... it was paralysing... I can't keep living like this. I'm always waiting for the next horrible thing to happen and I hate it because there's nothing I can do about it or even prepare for it... It's stressing me out..."

<Shaw> Sebastian swallowed. "You're right. It wasn't so long ago I didn't want him here. I would have used him just as others had. But now, things are different." He couldn't stop himself from picturing the boy, rimed in ice and still. "He could have died today, and if he had, I don't know what I would have done."

<Jessica> "I know I would have fallen apart..." she wasn't sure that she still wouldn't. "Since Japan, I've hardly gone a night where I don't dream about losing one or all of you...”

<Shaw> He gave her a curious look. "Oh?" That explained a tremendous amount. He was accustomed to her low-level anxiety, but... "I'm so sorry, love."

<Jessica> "It's not your fault... and it's not your fault I didn't say anything... There's just... this was my point in the hall... there's never a good time..."

<Shaw> Sebastian nodded, silently, considering her words, and the weight of his own thoughts.

<Jessica> "I don't mind prioritising everyone else's stuff over my own... I don't... but sometimes it's just.... it's hard... and I want to say all these things... but then something happens so I just put a lid on it and ignore it... and then this happens... and I don't have anyone I can talk to... I don't even know where Viper is right now and she's not answering my messages so I'm worried about her too..."

<Shaw> "I understand, to a point... but I don't want you to feel you can't speak to me." Her comments about competing for attention were bothering him. "If..." Sebastian swallowed, forcing the words out. "If you feel you must do this, then do it, but we need to be able to discuss things."

<Jessica> "I can talk to you about almost anything... but I don't want to put you in an awkward position." She slid her arms around his waist, "I don't want you to feel like you have to pick a side... and it's like that with everyone I know because everyone I know is friends with Hope... there's literally no one left to talk to..." it hit her then how cut off she was without a job or school to go to. Her world was so small now.

<Shaw> "It's not that awkward. I can see her flaws, love." He pulled her closer and closed his eyes, inching their link open just a bit to try to send her reassurance.

<Jessica> "I know you can... but I put you in a bad position and it's not fair... just accept that I'm trying to do the right thing here... It doesn't matter what you say, you're always going to defend her, frustrated or not. It's okay, I'm not mad about it...." she sighed and turned her face toward his chest, "I'm just tired."

<Shaw> He frowned. There was more they needed to discuss, but perhaps it wasn't the right time.

<Jessica> "So... will you let me go for a couple of days? While you talk her out of doing something else stupid?" she lifted her head to look at his face, "It'll be better for everyone..."

<Shaw> Sebastian met her eyes in a long, surveying study. "I'm not entirely convinced of that, but if that is what you truly wish, I must accept it."

<Jessica> "You know it'll just get worse if I'm here... everything'll be all tense until one of us blows up again or she'll just leave and take Michael with her... and I know that's not a good idea, even if it feels easier..." She gently stroked his cheek with the backs of her fingers, "I'm coming back."

<Shaw> "Please," he said, snaking his hand around hers and pressing her fingers against his cheek.

<Jessica> "Of course I'm coming back... how could you think I wouldn't? This is my home... my husband and my baby live here - I'll always come home." She smiled at him.

<Shaw> Nodding, once, he returned the smile and leaned in to kiss her softly.

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