Hidden 9 mos ago Post by LuckyBlackCat
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Jessamyn "Jess" Bailey


At the suggestion, Roxy gave off a mix of emotions - rising panic from the mention of being in a car, as well as something more positive. That hint of hope. Maybe this was the best thing to do, Jess thought, as long as she did nothing to contribute to the anchor's anxiety.

"You'll do just fine," her mom said, pulling her into a hug. The bones in the arms around her hadn't been this prominent five years ago, Jess was sure of it. "I know you will."

Jess looked up at her with a slight smile. "Thanks, Mom. And... Thanks for this."

Once the empath had checked all belongings brought over were packed, and everyone had said their goodbyes, Jess dragged her suitcase to the car. Already she could feel that growing trepidation from Roxy. Jess took one more look at the window and waved at her mother, recalling the encouragement. Maybe if she got back to normal or as close to it as possible, so would her mom. And the more independence she gained, the fewer problems she'd cause Roxy.

Breathing deeply, she placed her suitcase in the back and climbed into the driver's seat.
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Roxy wished that she was better at making small talk. She needed something to distract herself with. She felt her breath catch when Jess shut the door. "There shouldn't be much traffic so you shouldn't have to worry about too many traffic rules but if you're not sure how to do something ask." She didn't know what else to say but she hoped that this would at least reassure the other woman that she didn't mind being asked questions even if she wasn't exactly comfortable with being in the car.
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Jess nodded, the movement somewhat tense from Roxy's nerves as well as her own. "Thanks. Uh, please let me know if I do anything I'm not meant to." She'd kept her driving knowledge as sharp as possible, having studied general rules and road signs during her time in isolation. Now to see if she could put theory into practice.

Hunching over the steering wheel, she pressed her foot on the accelerator, slowly turning the car out from the parking space and onto the road. Her ribs clenched. The thought of driving had been daunting enough, but actually being out on the road was another matter. There was very little traffic, she reminded herself, the weather was fine, it'd be ok... She gasped as she narrowly avoided hitting the curb. It took her a few tries to drive in a straight line, and even once she managed, she kept her white-knuckled grip on the wheel. "Sorry about that," she muttered. So much for avoiding giving Roxy any extra stress.

Despite the panic threatening to take over Jess' reason, the feeling that she was going to lose control of the vehicle and crash at any moment, the rest of the journey went by with no major mishaps. A few times, she had to ask the anchor for guidance, her mind blank from anxiety. If Roxy could drive just fine while experiencing all this firsthand, she should be able to, Jess scolded herself, nonetheless relieved as the garage came into view. Thankful for the spacious parking area behind the garage, she slowed and stopped the car.

Her muscles unclenched as she climbed out, probably because the open door had the same effect on Roxy. "I'll try to remember more next time," she said, taking her bag from the back, "but thanks for helping."

She made her way towards the building that had become her home. For now, it was back to the routine Roxy liked, or as close to it as possible, given the ever-present threat in the background.
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The drive home seemed to take twice as long as the drive out had. Maybe it was because she wasn't in control. Roxy had never been good at giving up control. Her life had always been a battle to get and keep control.

She could tell Jess was nervous. Roxy just didn't know if it was her claustrophobia, Jess' lack of experience driving, or both. It didn't matter. Knowing wouldn't change anything. At least not at this moment when it needed to be changed.

Roxy breathed a sigh of relief when the shop came into view. While the garage wasn't exactly a safe place it was her place. It was the one place she felt relatively safe. Getting out of the car helped even more. She had no idea how she would deal with the car until Jess was able to be further from her. All she could really do was push through it.

"You did fine. I hope you had a good weekend. Let me know when you want to do it again." It hadn't been that bad. Uncomfortable and lonely but she had experience worse things so she wasn't going to complain.
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"Yeah... And thanks." Carrying her bag, Jess let out a slight breathless laugh. "Next time, I'll try not to blow things out of proportion again. All things considered, it went pretty well."

Next time... The mixed feelings came back, and not just because of her empathic nature. As great as it had been to see her mom, Roxy's uneasiness had been there in the background the entire time. With it came guilt on Jess' part. Maybe they could both think of a way to make things easier for the next visit. Maybe they'd have some good advice on how to do so.

"Roxy..." Jess inhaled deeply, looking the anchor in the eye, and spoke. Her voice, while still soft, didn't hold as much as a nervous tremor as it had throughout the first few days. "I'm sorry if I came across badly at first. This counselling service... I know it won't fix everything, but maybe it'll make things easier. For both of us."

It seemed asking for help was something both she and Roxy needed to learn to do.
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Roxy shrugged. "You did fine. You have been outside society. I don't expect you to slide back in like nothing has changed when everything has." She assured the other woman. She didn't know how she was going to handle the counseling sessions. She had only agreed because she thought a counselor would have a better chance at helping Jess adjust than she did. She made her way up to the apartment. Tomorrow would be a busy day. She would need to make up for the time she lost.

She was up early the next day. She showered and dressed as quietly as possible. Jess probably felt her wake up, which annoyed her, but she tried to let the other woman sleep as long as possible. She worked out while she waited. Once Jess was up she planned to go down to the shop and get started on getting caught up. Hopefully they wouldn't have any unwanted visitors today.
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Jess gave a little smile, one that came easily to her this time. Things had changed in ways she hadn't expected since she and Roxy had started living together, but one positive change was that they seemed to understand each other better, even if she knew little about what went on in secret. Whatever it was, it explained Roxy's initial hostility. Now the walls between them were starting to come down, sharing the same space may be easier... but as time went on, would getting closer be such a good thing? Roxy had kept her at a distance for a reason, after all.

"Yeah," she replied. "It really has, for me and for you."

The rest of the afternoon was quiet, both of them knowing they'd have to be well rested for the busy day ahead of them. It still took Jess a while to doze off, but since the shock of the shady goings-on had lessened and Roxy could sleep better, so could she. Of course, she woke just as light started to stream through the curtains, instantly knowing the anchor was up and that was what had pulled her from her slumber. She didn't blame Roxy, these things couldn't be helped, but as she wouldn't get back to sleep easily, she might as well get ready for the day too.

Sitting up, she took her phone from the bedside table and looked up the counselling service, scrolling through the reviews. She trusted her mother's judgement, although the positive ratings and comments still brought relief, confirming the service's effectiveness. Presumably for those who could talk one hundred per cent openly, in any case. Which she and Roxy couldn't.

Better than nothing, she thought as she left the room to shower. Once she'd dressed, she headed to the main area, where Roxy practiced her martial arts techniques. "Hey," she greeted her, before going to switch the kettle on. As she waited, she turned. "So... This counselling service. Want me to see if I can book an appointment?"
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Roxy shrugged. "Nothing has really changed in my life. Except I have to run my plans by you. Luckily I don't have many plans." She assured Jess. Things had changed when she had been assigned the empath, but she didn't blame just for that. Her father had been looking for a way to bring her into the family business since she had left how at sixteen. He would have found a way eventually. Jess just gave him an opening. One she hoped to find a way to close eventually.

"Yea you can make the appointment. Hopefully it will help you adjust." Roxy told her as she continued to practice. Practicing helped her felt some of her frustrations. Since she couldn't talk to anyone about her problems it had been her form of therapy. She liked to imagine that the bag was her father or one of his men. Beating them up made her feel better even if she could never do for real.
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Jess grabbed her phone from her pocket, only realising how tight her grip was when she saw her knuckles turn white. Breathing deeply, she unclenched her muscles, but relaxing wasn't easy. It wasn't nervousness this time. With every punch Roxy threw at the bag came a wave of anger, then satisfaction, as if she were fighting and winning against a hated enemy rather than training. As the pent-up frustration began to ease away, Jess dialled the number. Maybe if the crack in the shield were fixed, the situation would be that little bit easier to deal with, or at least one source of stress would be gone.

The kindly voice on the other end helped calm her. Keeping her tone even, Jess explained the situation. At one question, she paused. "Uh... I'll just quickly check," she said, lowering the phone and turning her head towards Roxy. "Which day of the week would be best?"
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Roxy stopped to look at Jess. "There isn't a day or time that works best. I will have to shut down the shop for a couple of hours no matter when we do it. So just pick a day and time. I will make sure we can get there." While she appreciated the empath asking her if there was a good time to schedule the appointment there really wasn't a time that wouldn't cause issues. No matter when the appointment was she would have to work around it.
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Jess winced at a twinge of discomfort from Roxy. No matter how she went about this, she'd be inconveniencing her. Again. Was this really worth it? Wasn't it up to her to just pull herself together, like many in her situation did? Approaching Roxy, she held the phone further away and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Are you sure you're ok with this? I mean, there are other ways, and I'll be fine given enough time."

There was no easy answer. Her mom had suggested this for a reason, and backing out would cause her worry. Yet the purpose of the counselling, at least as far as Jess was concerned, was that she'd cause fewer problems to Roxy, not more. Would the benefits of weekly sessions really outweigh the drawbacks?
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Roxy glared at Jess. "Stop asking me that Jess. How many times do I have to agree to do this?" She wanted to storm off but couldn't. Frustration and anger built inside her. She didn't shove it away the way she normally did but let it sit there. She was so tired of having little to no control over her life. "You need this. I can't help you coop this the regular world much less my fucked up world. You need someone else's help. While it isn't ideal to shut down the garage once a week I am willing to do it. Maybe it will help or maybe it won't I don't know. I don't have a fucking better idea so we are going to try this. Let me know when you are ready to head down."

She stormed into her bedroom and slammed the door. It wasn't as satisfying as storming downstairs would have been but it was the best she could do. She was as pissed at herself as she was Jess. It wasn't Jess's fault that they had been matched. Fate was being cruel to the empath for some reason.
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As Roxy stomped away, Jess had an uncharacteristic urge to shout back. She refrained, knowing full well that it was Roxy's secondhand anger she felt, that she'd make things worse by adding fuel to the fire. It seemed she really did need this counselling.

After breathing steadily and counting to ten in her head, Jess raised the phone to her ear. "Sorry about the wait. Uh... Any day would be fine, when is there a free slot?" Listening to the options, she made her mind up. None seemed better or worse than the others, and she didn't want to dither, so it was a matter of picking at random.

Once she'd finished arranging the session, she approached Roxy's door. The closer she drew, the more her hands clenched. The anchor's frustration clouded the air like thick smog. "Well, that's that done," Jess announced, trying to keep her tone calm and assertive, but a strained note crept in. "We're booked in for Wednesday at eleven in the morning." She held back from asking yet again if that was ok. Nothing was ok about the situation, and they needed all the help they could get, even though it would only do so much if anything at all.
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"Fine." Roxy snapped. Part of her was relieved. She was no longer completely responsible for Jess' well being. Even though the counselor was to help them both the burden of helping the empath adjust had been more than she had expected. She considered gerself a strong person. She had survived a lot of shot. But she had never had to help someone. She had no idea how to do it. Her whole life had focused on independence.

"Put it on the calendar." Wednesday was a decent day. It gave her time to prepare and to catch up. The shop was open almost every day. She had nothing else to fill her life so she only closed when she had to. If she was too sick to work. Which had only been a handful of times since she had inherited the shop. She wanted to repay Zed for giving her a chance. She knew if he hadn't she would still be working for her father.

"Let me know when you're done eating." She pushed the thought of her father out of her mind. She didn't want to think about that. She had a new life now. Sort of. He was trying to sneak back in and she had no idea how to stop it. Jess had given him an opening and there was no changing that. All she could do now was limit the damage as much as possible.
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That wave of relief from Roxy made the snapping easier for Jess to cope with. At least she'd taken one burden off of the anchor, even if she'd given her another. "I was thinking," the empath said as she jotted down the appointment time on a wall calendar, "mornings would be easiest. That way the shop can open back up in the afternoons." Best to have the garage open at the busiest times, for Roxy anyway. For her, it would mean facing customer after customer while in a fragile state from the sessions. Then again, that amount of work might help take her mind off things. Who knows, she tried to convince herself, it could suit both of us.

Once she'd had a bowl of cereal and cup of coffee, she headed back to the workout area. "So, uh... I'm ready if you are," she told Roxy, moving towards the stairs and hoping for no sketchy customers. That was one thing there was no talking to a counsellor about.
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Roxy came out of her room when Jess said that she was ready to headed down. If she had know that the empath was worried about their unsavory visitor Roxy would have taken the time to warn her that it was very likely he would show up sometime today. They had been away a few days and the king of creeps hadn't been allowed to leave town. There was little doubt that he would use that as a reason to stop by. Even though the watchers had reported on them the whole time they were out of time.

One they were downstairs Roxy headed to the doors. She unlocked the glass door that lead to the waiting room first. She turned over the sign and propped open the door. It was nice enough to have the door open for awhile. Then she moved over to the heavier bay doors. She had barely gotten them up when Howard stepped into the shop. Roxy glared at him. "You could have waited." She growled knowing he wouldn't have. "We aren't talking here." She told him as she headed towards the bathroom. "If anyone comes by I won't be long."
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Following Roxy into the shop, Jess flinched back as an all-too-familiar figure strode through the door. She'd had a gut-churning suspicion this man would be a regular visitor, and it seemed she was right. "Ok, if we get any customers I'll let them know," she called, trying her best to sound calm and professional as the anchor stomped away after him. Not that it would do much good around this creep.

She busied herself with the few trivial tasks she could right now, starting up the computer, checking and re-checking appointments. All the while, she couldn't help imagining what this guy must want, no matter how much she hated to think of the possibilities. The sparks of anger she could still feel from Roxy made her teeth clench. A jerk working for a rich guy, the anchor had said... Jess remembered the phone call that had started all this, the muffled conversation, Roxy hissing a word that had sounded like "father". If only she had some idea what was going on, and more importantly, some way to help...

"Oh! Hi there." Jess swivelled round on the chair as a tattooed man with a leather jacket stepped into the garage. Someone who looked more like one of the usual customers, to her relief. "I'm afraid our mechanic isn't here right now, but she'll only be a few minutes," she explained as if everything were perfectly normal, hoping she wasn't making it obvious it was anything but.
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[color=]"What the hell do you want?"[/color] Roxy asked as Howard closed the bathroom door. She glared at him but knew that her options for lashing out at him were limited. She had to put protecting Jess before her own comfort which meant she couldn't kill the asshole in front of her no matter how much she wanted to.

He reached out and touched her. His eyes danced with excitement. She didn't pull away or back off. She might not be able to kill him but she could still hurt him. Her world was all about being strong. One had to be strong to survive and she had survived this shit a long time. "Take your hands off me or I will cut it off."

"Your father wants to see you." He back off but only because he knew she would cut him if he pushed her too far. "He says it's only far after you spend the weekend with Jessamyn mother."

As much as she didn't want to she couldn't argue that. In a normal empath/anchor relationships they would spend time with both families. Roxy had no doubt that Jess was curious about her family. It was the last thing she wanted but she knew it was also wasn't something that she could avoid. "Fine I will talk to Jess about it. Tell him it will be a couple of weeks. She needs a break from emotions."

Howard opened the door and headed to the door clearly proud of himself. Roxy took a minute to try to calm down. Once she got her breathing under control she stepped out of the bathroom. She cursed when she saw that they had a customer.

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Panic and anger bubbled through Jess' professional facade like water boiling over. She clenched her fists behind the desk, ribs tightening as she struggled not to hyperventilate. What had this creep asked of Roxy for her to react like this?

The customer frowned in concern. "Is everything ok?" he asked, his manner polite and gentle despite his intimidating appearance.

Jess nodded. "Yeah, it's..." She trailed off as the man in the suit strode past. Only now did she realise part of the shivery sensation running through her body was excitement, not just fear. The thought made her want to throw up. "It's nothing." She nearly gasped at the sound of her own words, spat like venom. "I-I'm sorry! I didn't mean for it to sound like that," she blurted as the leather-clad man's eyes widened. She tried to inhale deeply, only for the air to rush back out. "What I meant was, there's no need to worry."

Just then, Roxy reappeared, cursing under her breath. The anchor was in no fit state to deal with a customer right now, as Jess knew all too well. If that just now had only been a fraction of what Roxy had experienced, just how bad had things gotten, and how bad were things going to get?

"Ah, hey," Jess called, attempting to act normal again, even though her efforts had already gone out of the window. Trying to force her expression into a mask of composure, she turned back to the customer. "Thank you for your patience," she said, not just referring to how long he'd waited, as she reached for the notebook and pen. "So, what is it you need doing?"

As he spoke, she scribbled down notes and details. Full motorcycle service. Her stomach sank all over again. It wasn't the customer's fault, but a complex task wasn't likely to help matters right now, unless Roxy viewed it as a distraction.
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Roxy was partly glad that there was a customer. She needed a distraction. A full service was exactly what she needed. "I'll have it done in two hours." She told him. The job usually took longer depending on the model of the bike but the mood she was in she would zip right through it. It would burn some of her frustrations which would help. The customer nodded. He left his number with Jess as she moved his bike into the bay.

She put the bike into a rack to keep it upright as she worked. She didn't talk to Jess. She had no idea what she could say. Howard was right. They had to spend time with her father. Even though that hadn't been the point of their trip. She had met Jess' family it was only fair that the empath met her family.

She wasn't looking forward to it. Roxy could only imagine what the empath would think. He father was one of those people who seemed to be able to charm everyone. No one saw his darker side. Few knew what he was capable of. With the crack in their shield Jess would be able to feel something but Roxy wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing. But she did know that it would be very dangerous. And she had no idea how to warn Jess without sending the other woman into a panic.
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