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all you've ever done is been a noose to hang on to

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Silco still has not managed to convince Jinx to eat regularly.

He understands. Once upon a time, he had been the same. Whether it be from the physical form being unaccustomed to such regular feeding, or from mental blocks, there are few in the undercity untouched by hunger even if you are able to achieve a modicum of higher living. He himself is still thinner than he likely would have been if he had grown up elsewhere. 

Jinx is tiny. 

Thin and shaky arms that logically should not be able to hold her up. Hollow cheeks, thin skin. She does not have any weight or muscle to lose by continuing to deny meals.

“Jinx,” he tries again. “Come. You have to eat something.”

She’s not the thinnest he’s ever seen, not by far. But she is little more than literal skin and bone, and it is damaging her. It confuses him, to a degree. Yes, food is obviously scarce oftentimes. Especially clean or healthy food. However, he cannot remember anyone in her family being underfed. Vander, and the other child, Vi, had been strong, sturdy. You are not able to gain such healthy muscle without a steady diet. 

Jinx does not seem to have been actively restricted of food (Silco would have brought Vander back himself, to kill again and again until he had been satisfied, if he thought it so). She doesn’t hoard it, that he has noticed. She does not seem to get sick after eating, though she does often retreat from his sight afterwards. It is not the choices in food or quality, though he had never truly suspected that. She’s from the fissures. 

She simply does not eat much.

But then, nothing about that is so simple, is it. 

The girl says nothing, but she does listen. She drops on slightly unstable legs from a rafter, walking tense and stiff to the table. Silco sits besides her. Places bowls of at-least-somewhat-healthy food in front of each of them. 

“Thank you,” he says to her, because they are still working on getting comfortable with each other, with speaking unprompted. Jinx far too often begins to speak only to clam up in fear or panic or something akin. She hums something vaguely affirmatory. She does not pick up her fork.

“Will you eat?” he asks. The words could sound prodding, passive-aggressive. They do not.

She shrugs.

Silco lets out a slow breath. “Okay,” he murmurs, because Jinx had come to the table, had sat down. She eats four bites before retreating again.

It is progress.

-

Silco is not opposed to tactile contact.

He knows he does not act it, that he always stills when Jinx, seemingly clingy, reaches out. 

There are times where it is not uncommon for Jinx to reach out. 

At the start- Silco is nearly certain that the first lunge had been a blindly panicked attack. Still, after a beat, she had reached out. Slid arms around him in what might have been an attempt at a hug but more likely just habit. Looking back, Jinx is far too smart and paranoid to have ever accepted such contact from a stranger, from someone who was just involved in the death of most of her family, without being in such tremendous grief. For her family, for herself. But Silco undeniably tugs her closer, wraps careful arms around her. Cradles her in his arms in the midst of a battlezone until she passes out and raging fire starts to lick at his feet.

After that, there is nothing for a time.

He does not reach out, either. She twists away when they pass by other people, is careful to not come too close to him. He does not think it would be welcome.

But, then.

Then, Jinx goes missing.

She is almost always missing. This is not unusual. However, approximately ninety percent of the time, he can find her in the first location he checks. He knows her well enough, knows her moods and safe locations. This time, he checks four of her usual hideouts throughout the nearby buildings and alleys; her workshop, every nook and cranny that he can access in the ravine, below the propellers she had recently found; the roofs. He walks the alleys again in a barely restrained panic that does not show on his face. 

It is only when it is beginning to darken, when the sun is setting, that he returns to their home in hope of somehow having missed her return. No luck. Sevika can not entirely hide the worry in her grimace when she tells him this.

He checks all of the ceilings, again, stalking through the halls.

He pulls his door open harshly, intending on grabbing his coat, getting his injection, and heading back out again. A tiny sound stops him dead in his tracks.

Just a whimper.

Just… a tiny little restrained sound, muffled and weak. Fearful. Young. 

“Jinx?” He breathes, already searching his room up and down.

  Thud.

Silco glances down, wondering if he had accidentally kicked something.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

“Jinx, child. Where are you?”

Something is… wrong. 

For one, she has never entered his bedroom. Not once in the weeks since coexisting here with him. She’ll barely stand in his office with him, much less follow him to his own quarters. Secondly, she has never disappeared for so long. And then, that sound-

Thud.

Silco stills , then takes a swift step backwards until he can collapse to his knees. He pulls the covers of his bed up.

Thud.

He lets out a slow, displeased breath.

“Jinx,” he tries again, thoroughly unsuccessful at gaining her attention.

Thud.

There, huddled in the far corner under his bed, she is. With one hand clamped so tightly over his mouth that he is sure her fingers will press bruises into her cheeks tomorrow. The other is clenched white-knuckled, forcefully swinging into the side of her head.

Thud.

For all his slightness, Silco does not fit under his bed. He is actually somewhat surprised that Jinx fits under there. His arms are not long enough to reach her. She is not hearing him, and she is hurting herself.

Thud.

It is a calculated risk that he is unsure to take, when he opens his mouth and says, very deliberately, “Powder.”

She whines, a high and shaky keen from behind her hand. But, her eyes open. She looks at him, and it takes a moment but she recognizes him. She freezes mid-swing. 

“Jinx,” he quickly repeats. He’s unsure, still, if it is just his imagination and worry, or actual observation, if she is having trouble with lucidity. She hasn’t opened up, has barely said a word, has barely been around him. He suspects he is correct in his assumptions, and it is not a risk he is willing to take. Gaining her attention will have been worth nothing if she thinks she is somewhere else, someone else.

“Jinx, look at me. Look at me.” She does, she is, but she is trembling so harshly that she is rocking back into the wall, and her eyes are alight in a terrified frenzy. Slowly, with little force, her fist comes to finish its movement, rests against her red forehead.

“Do you know where you are?”

After a pause, she jerkily shakes her head.

Okay, he considers with a tight grip on his own worry. Okay, he can work with that. At least she was honest.

“That’s okay. I’m here with you, okay? It’s just you and me.”

“Just you and me?” Jinx asks, voice thready and broken. The hand that had been covering her mouth moves to grip her hair tightly.

“Just us,” he reaffirms. “We’re here, at home. You’re with me, in my bedroom.”

“...Silco?”

“Yes, child.”

“Are-” her eyes are looking off to the side, at something he cannot see no matter how hard he tries. “...we’re alone?”

“Yes. It’s just us, Jinx. It’s only you and me, here.”

Unexpectedly, so much like how they had met, she bolts forward. Her tiny body knocks him off of his heels onto the floor, a child cradled in his arms. Her fingers grasp at his shirt.

As quickly as he dares, he wraps around her, settles a hand around the curve of her skull, around her narrow back. He tugs her close, hoping that by keeping her close he can keep her grounded. She shakes.

“Silco?” She asks again, sounding so very young. She has not even hit double digits yet, he recalls with horrible grief. 

“Yes, Jinx,” he answers, soft. 

They repeat.

After that, she reaches out more. Timid fingers reaching for his hand as they walk down halls. Hiding behind him when they encounter other people. After more time, after years, there is no more hesitation. She will sit close besides him to more easily reach his eye when assisting him, for dinner. She crawls into his bed (it rarely wakes him up, which would worry him if not for how stealthy he knows she is, despite how loud she might seem at first glance) when it has been too long without sleep and her own is not so safe. 

She lets him initiate contact, too, in a way that she never tolerates from anyone else. 

When she is trembling or weak on her legs, he is allowed to stabilize her. When she is screaming and thrashing, he is allowed to hold her, is allowed to grip her wrists when she is scratching and bruising and doing her damndest to get her head to quiet.

He is allowed to carry her when she passes out from exhaustion or dehydration in her workshop. He is allowed to hold her close and apply gauze and stitches when she comes back from picking fights he hadn’t been aware of. 

But then, sometimes, there are days weeks months where she flinches under each touch and picks at her skin under proximity. 

Silco has considered outside trauma, of confrontations on her journeys outside or attacks, but she denies these claims and Silco does not believe she would lie about such a thing. Sevika and the others, the rare instances where Jinx does not bother to lose her trails slash babysitters, claim nothing happens. 

She simply does not want to be touched, sometimes. 

Silco becomes unused to the touch, becomes so careful about avoiding the bubble she is trying not to suffocate in. It always surprises him when she is done with it, when she is back to craving the attention and affection, and despite everything, Silco has never been great at hiding his emotions.

-

“You haven’t been sleeping again,” he murmurs quietly. He brushes a piece of her hair behind her ear from where it is sticking to the sweat along her cheek. She tosses a grenade up in the air, catches it when it comes back. Fiddles with the pin, does not pull it. 

She shrugs.

Silco cannot fault her. He hadn’t slept for weeks after killing Vander, when his past had once again caught up with him. He could not possibly find blame in Jinx not resting when her sister had begun showing up again.

“You know that you feel worse when you don’t sleep.” It is needless information. She knows this, likely does not need a reminder. She nods. Slumps sideways until Silco’s body is supporting her more than her own bones.

“It’s hard,” she says quietly.

“I know,” Silco says just as softly.

-

“I wish you would stop doing this,” he chides, voice a step too close to worried to actually pull off biting. 

“I wish I had made the bomb bigger,” Jinx mumbles under her breath. 

Silco stills.

“What?” he asks, stupidly. He is already turning around the chair Jinx is sitting in, turning her away from where her fingers are stuck in wires and metal scraps. She isn’t wearing her gloves, again. “What do you mean, Jinx?”

She says nothing, stares resolutely down at her project. Her eyes have softened, and she is finally calming from the manic state she’d been stuck in for days on end, but she looks so empty-

Answer me, Jinx,” Silco demands. “What do you mean, you wish you had made the bomb bigger?”

A half-hearted giggle, too high and irregular to achieve the amusement she had been going for. She sounds exhausted. “I mean, pretty self-explanatory, don’tcha think?”

Silco stares at her, aghast. 

“Bigger boom,” she whispers under her breath, hands twitching up and down randomly, head bobbing. “Bigger boom, bigger bomb, bigger damage. More damage! Less me.”

Jinx finally looks up, a transparently false grin stretched wide over her face. There is still a red mark on her chin, along her jaw. 

The red mark from the bomb she had just set off in front of her. The bomb that had been a step away from tearing an arm and leg off of her. The bomb that Jinx had just said she wished she had made bigger.

“Jinx,” he barks. She flinches under him, and guilt pierces him for a moment before he shoves it aside. Not the most important thing, right now. 

“Nothing important,” she huffs, swinging her legs. She frowns in confusion when they collide with Silco’s shins and lose momentum. Gently prods them again, lets her feet drop back to the floor. “You know how it is.”

“I don’t know how it is, if it is you contemplating sui-” and god he is far stronger than this, he can say the word, it’s just- it is just that this is his daughter-

She sighs again, loud and dramatic and fake fake fake. “When have you ever seen someone down here with proper lab safety! Just look at Singed. He’s freaky, y’know. I don’t think he ever cleans his stuff, it’s a wonder he hasn’t given you and himself an infection before.”

“Stop trying to distract me. Lab safety is not the matter we are discussing, we are talking about you just admitting to suicidal idealation.”

“A big word,” she mutters, glancing away. Her head lulls against the back of her seat, tilts back and forth. Silco reaches forward, curves a hand against her cheek. Stills her, forces her to look back at him.

“You know what it means. I’m not going to let this one go, Jinx.”

“I just like big explosions! You know that, Silco!”

“There is a difference between that and wanting to have harmed yourself in one, Jinx. Stop trying to dissuade me from this conversation.” She is all wide eyes and startled, and he wonders if she had slept at all last night. “I need you to answer me, Jinx, or I will have Sevika stand guard on you every time you are near anything explosive.”

Her face twists in outrage. “No! No, no! Sevika is horrible, and she gets all twitchy every time I touch anything boom around her! It’s not like I can blow up her arm for a second time.”

“Then be honest. How long have you been… wishing things like that?”

It takes a long time, but she eventually gives up biting her lip and fidgeting her hands in favor of speaking. “I don’t know. A long time. Since I killed them… Before that, maybe? I don’t know. You know I can’t remember a lot of that. Sometimes, when M-Mylo was joking around, I’d think he was right, y’know? And so- I mean, Zaun is violent, I’m violent, so-”

Silco hugs her. 

She startles. Relaxes, eventually, leans against him and closes her eyes against his chest. “I’m sorry,” she says quietly. 

“You don’t need to be. It’s not your fault, Jinx. Don’t ever think that this is your fault.”

Her hands come up to hold him back, to grip his shirt. Silco takes in as deep of breaths as he can, and does not dare to loosen his grip on his daughter. 

(They talk. They talk and talk and Silco lays out new rules and Jinx argues before finally agreeing and Silco grieves for what he might have lost because he had not noticed this earlier. Jinx finally exhausts herself after she loses a fight against the tears trying to rise, and something about Silco keeps Sevika from any snarky comments as he carries Jinx back home. It is not the last time that something in her workshop hurts her but it is the last that she actively lets it happen. It does not fix her refusal to wear gloves to protect her hands from the burns and cuts that cover them, and it does not fix her insistence on sometimes picking fights because sparring isn’t cutting it and she needs something to cause pain and cut down on the adrenaline eating her up. But it fixes this, and that is enough for now. They will just have to continue working on the rest.)