|Quiddity Comes to Queens|
|What: Anya wants to get some groceries, Quiddity is already in Queens to target her. Sam has to come sweeping in to pull her out of the mob that ensues. Part of The Outsiders Quiddity Plot.|
Early on Saturday morning, there's some kind of 10k race going on near Anya's place. Cars clog the side streets, the nearest park is crammed with people. Too-skinny long distance runners and comfortable-looking grannies mingle on the sidewalks. Apparently there's a 5k walk at the same time. It's all in aid of the community's drop-in center. Good turn out.
People stop to glance at the weird fliers posted on nearly every available surface then, almost instinctively, shake their heads and step away. They went up some time in the night because they weren't there yesterday. Unnoticed, a thin figure slips in and out of the crowd, handing out a few more of her missives. Each page is crammed with tight writing and it's mostly gibberish, unless one is looking for specific words. Liars. Outsiders. Hidden. Hateful. Stop. Look. Fear. But no one pays her much mind, not directly, as though the papers appeared in their hands out of nowhere only to be discarded or crumpled into a pocket or bag.
Anya's been watching the race from her apartment window a few stories up. She likes to people watch -- it gives her something to do while she has her breakfast, and it's /almost/ like being outside if she has the window open, right? Totally. This doesn't even count as being a hermit.
Eventually, though, her food is done and the window gets closed. Anya ventures out of the building a few minutes later, hitching her backpack up onto her shoulders with a wince. As nice as sleepovers are... she and the girls eat a /lot/. Must replenish supplies. So she sets off for the street, pausing just outside the building to eye on of the flyers taped to the entry. The eff is this.
The minute most people read the fliers, a tiny shard of fear and paranoia wedges in their minds. The fliers are actually uncomfortable to look at, the words are so tight in places that they're nearly crawling over each other. On the sidewalk, a man Anya's seen a dozen times just in the last month has a flier in his hand and he's looking from it to her and back again.
|"But do you really know him? Who is he when you're not looking?"| The words are there on the flier, crammed into the spaces around the word "evil".
Anya's brow furrows slightly as she lets her attention slide from the flier to the man watching her. She knows him. Where does she know him from? Maybe he lives around here... yes. Yes, that must be it. If he were, like, a Beekeeper, he'd have way worse fashion sense. Obviously.
Anya cracks a brief, uneasy smile and turns to start walking towards the store, gripping the straps on her backpack. She has no reason to be concerned about the guy, or so she keeps telling herself. It's nothing. So why won't it stop nagging at her?
Anya's not the only one with that feeling, obviously. People are just -weird- today. As she walks toward the store, she can sense the mood shift even further to something darker. She doesn't have Spidey-senses but you don't need those to tell that people are stepping out on their stoops and giving you the evil eye.
|"They can tell."|
Anya can't see her because she's so hard to notice, but there's that thin girl at the end of the street. She's walked down to where she can see all the way to Anya.
You're being stupid, Corazon. They can /not/ tell. Anya hunches her shoulders up just a little bit and walks a little faster, though she's not aware of it. There's no way any of them can tell. She's always been so careful when coming home and she's never taken the mask off before she's out of sight.
"No, they can't," Anya mumbles under her breath, the words coming in Spanish. Just get to the store, buy the food, and go home. This should not be difficult.
|"Liar."| It sounds as though it comes from an old woman standing out on her porch. |"Two-faced."| That's a young man standing on the street corner. He'd been alone not moments before and now there's got to be eight guys right there with them. The crowd from the park has somehow surged up the street, engulfing the thin girl and moving toward Anya.
...okay. Maybe they /can/ tell. Anya decides to go to the store another time; instead, she sets her jaw, takes a wide step to the side and into the street, and she does what the rest of the people filling the street are doing:
Anya doesn't have a particular destination in mind aside from 'out of sight' -- if she sees an alley that looks empty, she'll bolt for it. She doesn't know /why/ these people are zeroed in on her or why she feels like it's a Bad Thing, but hell, she's gonna trust her gut on this one. Get out of sight, get onto a roof, reevaluate the day's plans.
As Anya rabbits out of there, she takes an alleyway but bolting out the other side only reveals a smaller crowd coming around from both ends of the street she's on. The alley behind her is full.
These people aren't just chasing her now. They're shrieking at her. She's a liar, a hypocrite, a devil. She's evil. She's hiding something. Some of them are literally foaming at the mouth, shoving others aside to race at her.
The air -tastes- like fear, like stale onions and mildew and sweat all together, toxic and terrible.
Anya's hand dives into her pocket to grab at her phone and she hurriedly starts typing out a text with shaking fingers, her eyes darting from one end of the alley to the other as she backs herself up against the wall. No mask. She's not wearing a mask. She can't just bolt because she has NO MASK.
- the_spider_girl: DM smashbrother: I need help right now just follow my com beacon and PLEASE MAKE WITH THE QUICKNESS
Sam would save her. He's good for that, Anya can trust Sam. He's always been in time before. So she'll be fine.
Sam rolls out of bed when his phone goes off with Anya's alert. Thank goodness for custom ring tones and all that. He sees her message and is out his window as fast as he can dress. Once he's airborne he can send her a message.
- smashbrother: DM the_spider_girl: BRT.
The mob is closing in, throwing things. Anya can't go up the wall, but there is a dumpster, and a fire escape, if she thinks she can make it past the half dozen guys blocking her way.
Anya breathes a sigh of relief when the return message pops up and shoves her phone back into her pocket. Sam is coming. She just needs to get where he can /see/ her. She quickly looks around before her eyes find the fire escape and she bites her lip. Well. Better than the alternatives.
Anya takes a deep breath before she goes sprinting for the men blocking her way, trying to take advantage of her size by staying low. Why in the world she's still concerned about preserving her secret, she's not sure -- they OBVIOUSLY ALL KNOW -- but she doesn't want to hurt any of these people if she doesn't have to. So she pushes through the mob as carefully-but-quickly as she can, trying to ignore the grabbing hands and angry shouts, and makes a desperate grab for the ladder to try and haul herself up.
Which would have gone much better if one of the mob hadn't latched their hand onto her injured shoulder. Right over the stitches. Anya lets out a pained shriek laced with more than a little panic.
If Sam had the time to note how fast he gets to Queens, he'd stun himself. He comes in so low and so fast that he literally blows the mob aside with his wake. It's not any more damaging than what they're doing to themselves, just a wash of air that sweeps people away. Sam doesn't say anything, he just scoops Anya up in one arm, gives in to the need to deliver a punch in the head to the guy hanging off her bad shoulder, and takes off.
Under any other circumstances, it might be comical, the way Anya /latches/ onto Sam. She's practically climbing up his side despite his perfectly solid grip when he takes back off, more like a helpless little kid being descended upon by a ravenous pack of wolves than an actual superhero being descended upon by a pack of civilians. The fresh bloodstain slowly soaking through the shoulder of her shirt and the hoodie over it probably aren't helping.
"Theyknewtheyknewtheyknew," Anya babbles, clinging to Sam's neck and on the verge of hysterics. "I've been so careful, HOW DID THEY KNOW?"
Fortunately for Anya, Sam's already seen this. "They don't, they don't," he says gently. It takes them all of two minutes to reach the Den. Sam drops them down to sit on the roof and cuddles Anya against his chest. "It's some crazy telepathic thing going, I saw it yesterday." He's good at comforting distraught children, a hysterical Anya can't be that much different.
When he goes to pat her back, his fingers come away wet with blood. It's not much, so he files it away to fix once the rest of this is past. "Just breathe. You're safe here, we're at our Den. No one knows about you. I promise. And even if they do know somehow, we'll find a way to fix it."
Sam may be the only hero left who carries a handkerchief in his inner pocket. He pulls it out and offers it to Anya. "You're not alone. I'm going to take care of you. So's Laura. And Zen. All of us."
Anya has precisely /zero complaints/ about being comforted. She all but crawls into Sam's lap to huddle up against his chest, making herself smaller. She takes the handkerchief when it's offered and nods jerkily, not quite to the point where she trusts things enough to close her eyes, but she forces herself to take some deep breaths anyway while she dabs at her face.
"There was a-- a race, on my street," Anya says quickly, trying to think through the haze of slowly-subsiding panic. "Lots of people. Where did you see this?"
"Columbus Park. I took Bobby down to Chinatown - thought we'd finally get a date in and we did. After some mob nearly took some guy out and we had to intervene." Sam strokes Anya's hair gently. "None of us knows what happened. People just came out of the park and stores... they got hurt, too. Crushed themselves on my shields. We just have so much crap going on at... at work. I honestly just put it out of my head, I couldn't think about it."
"They came out of nowhere," Anya confirms, nodding against Sam's chest. She's so busy trying to puzzle all of this out and get her head back in order that she doesn't even think to ask who Bobby is. "They even got ahead of me, I was trying to lose them, but they knew... I-I guess a telepath would make sense, but..." Why? Why them? Why NOW?
"We'll go back and look - I will, and Laura. Maybe take Zen. We'll search the area," Sam says, still soothing. "We'll check out everything. Laura and Zen will see anything I miss. Maybe some of the others will come, too." He wraps his arms around Anya and lets her hide.
"You're okay, though. We'll take care of it," he says again. "I promise."
"Laura might be a bad idea," Anya admits, leaning back enough to give Sam a very serious look. Her face is still red and tear-streaked, but she's finding her bearings. "Even with you and Zen there, if this... if they got into her head like that? She'd kill people, Sam. And if she had to, she'd try to go through you to do it."
"I can handle Laura if she comes at me. But I see your point. We'll take whoever's here who thinks they can deal with it." Sam brushes a stray tear off of Anya's cheek. Good to have her telling him what's what again this fast. "We'll be careful. I don't want anyone coming after you, either."
"If I'd been suited up, it would have been okay," Anya grumbles, reaching up to finger the barely-noticable black fabric just under her collar. "But I couldn't mask up without them seeing me. Maybe I should keep my old goggles on me," she murmurs thoughtfully. Yes. If she's able to hide all the time, it will obviously be better.
"I have your old goggles. Remember?" They're pushed up on Sam's head right now. He takes them off and offers them to her. "I'm always trying to work out a way I don't have to wear them. Someday." That's his dream.
Anya snickers as she takes them back. "You could buy your own damned goggles?" she suggests lightly, pulling them back on with a pause to adjust the strap. He's got a bigger head than she does. "Or just stop giving a shit. I know how big a hypocrite I am to even suggest that, you don't have to tell me."
"I can't. I already put people in danger just doing anything out in public. Where I live, and teach, it needs protecting. The kids do. It's one reason I'm thinking I might move here full-time." Sam taps a lens of the goggles. "I didn't buy my own because I like wearing yours. Reminds me why I need to put them on. And not just because you'll web me inna face. But because I can't really hang out with you both ways if I don't wear them."
Anya goes a bit crosseyed at the tap. "That's... kind of sweet, actually. Okay, fine," she says with a forced sigh, plucking the goggles back off to tuck them back onto his head. "You can keep them. Even if they look kind of silly on you."
Anya is quiet for a moment, her mouth very slowly curving into a frown. "Maybe I should, too," she says quietly, leaning back into Sam's chest. "I mean, there's room, I can finish classes online if I can't get into the city every morning..."
"I look like a dumbass in 'em." Even Ma would agree with Sam. "But it's something, and it's for a good cause."
Sam rests his cheek on Anya's hair and hmms thoughtfully. "If you don't feel safe back where you are, or whatever, you can always live here. We'll do you up a room, move your gear."
"But then I'd have to keep the mask on /all the time/," Anya notes, fidgeting with her sleeve. She's finally realized her shoulder is bleeding again, but she's trying to ignore it. Busy agonizing over other things right now. "And I'd have to put dad's things into storage or something, they couldn't be here."
"Would you, really? Is there someone you don't trust here? Because I don't want you to wear the mask all the time, Anya." Sam tries to get her to look at him with a gentle touch on her chin. "I get it if you need to, but you... I don't think of you as two people. I like knowing all of you. You should get to be all of you in some places, at least - and your home should be one of those places. If this is your home, we do what we need to do."
"I barely know Jynn," Anya replies promptly, shifting to tick names off on her fingers even as Sam turns her face up towards him. "Remy is... he's nice, but he's kind of shifty. And I still call Spoiler 'purple' half the time instead of her name." She waggles her three extended fingers at him. SEE? SEE?
Of course, the more Anya thinks about it... her fingers slowly droop. "I wore it to keep dad safe," she says quietly. "So I guess it doesn't really matter anymore, anyway."
"I'm sorry, Anya," Sam says gently. "Maybe that's why it's so hard to imagine taking it off for anyone. Because it means you don't have that reason anymore. There are good reasons to keep it separate. Like your dad. Like being on your own with no backup. You have backup now. But it's up to you. I'm just saying - I want to try and keep this a place where you don't have to wear it. Where none of us do."
Anya lets her head thump dully against Sam's shoulder. "I'll think about it," she promises... but after a moment, she straightens up enough to tug her mask up from under her collar and over her face. "We should go inside and fix this," she grumbles, gesturing at her shoulder.
"I thought you'd never ask." Sam winks at her, then pushes off the roof with her in his arms. Once he's standing on the porch, he sets her down. "Let's get you patched up, then, pancakes? The kitchen downstairs is working and I kind of missed breakfast... for some reason." The reason he's barely put together properly and completely uncaffeinated. What reason could that be? Must have been a good one.
"Because you're a very nice man who bailed me out in my time of need?" Anya suggests, shrugging out of her backpack so she can start awkwardly pulling her civvies off and reveal the costume underneath. Bloody clothes stuffed into her backpack instead of the intended groceries? NOT THE FIRST TIME.