The Kool-Aid Woman

January 06, 2017:

As Jessica Jones continues to attempt to run down leads on Hanussen, a.k.a. Muller, she unwittingly bursts through the walls of Kinsey's secrets.

South Point, Gotham

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Spider-Man, Batman, Peter Quill

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

South Point is not one of the better parts of Gotham, though it's not as dangerous a part of town as Gotham gets. It's on the waterfront, and waterfronts being what they are, the peripheral areas are usually full of transients: it's easy to come and go, there's rough, hard labor to be had, and there are plenty of entertainment establishments for the crews of the cargo ships that ply their trade on those bay waters.

The Garage used to be a warehouse, once upon a time, but has since been converted, with multiple, large bay doors in the front, only two of which are open at any given time. It is easily hangar-sized, and serves that purpose, as well; the roof is capable of being retracted to admit personal aircraft toward the back, into one of two significantly larger bays than the ten or so meant for more pedestrian automobiles and the like. There are hanging armatures of equipment and roll-back doors for pits in the concrete, polished floor. It is lit with brilliant, white flourescents, the walls are adorned will stacks of tool chests containing drawers, framed bits of paper, sprayed patches of graffiti. Toward the back in the corner on the right is a two-story enclosure within the garage, accessed via metal stairs leading up to a door at the second-story height — an office, or a loft, maybe.

There is blues-rock playing over the speakers that periodically dot the sidewalls.

Out front, it's easy to miss. There are laser-cut steel letters mounted to the exterior that read 'G A R A G E,' and that's it. Well — that and multiple security cameras, which are also present throughout the interior of the shop, along with other fixtures for security less easy to identify.

Kinsey herself is dressed in work clothes: ripped jeans, boots, a dark blue t-shirt with a logo so faded it can't be read anymore, even if there weren't oil, grease, and who knows what else all over it, which there certainly is. Her hair's up in a bun behind her head that is barely clinging to that status, loose streamers adrift everywhere, because she spends her entire day sliding underneath vehicles to wrestle with undercarriages.

At the moment, though, she's sitting half-inside a commuter car, most of the dashboard dismantled, with her hands buried in shoddy wiring.

—-

"Dr. Sheridan?"

Jessica had pretty much been convinced she'd made it to the right place at the security cameras. Tracking down a woman she only knew by sight had seemed almost like an impossible task. They don't exactly shove tiny photos next to the guest list. But then she'd gotten the idea to root around in the opera house's lost and found for anything that hadn't been taken into evidence. Mostly flipping open purses and wallets and peering at driver's licenses. When she'd found the right clutch, rather the worse for wear, she'd plucked it up and grabbed the name and address, resisting the urge to paw through it for anything more than that.

It wasn't easy to resist. Snooping was in her nature.

She's holding it now, though returning it is hardly the reason she went looking for it in the first place.

"Do you have a moment?"

—-

There hadn't been much in the clutch. That is, after all, the nature of clutches. No wallet, just an ID with the requisite information, a debit card, a couple of pass cards for mass transit line fares, a new smartphone (locked with a remote app by the time Jessica found it, though), and…something. Small, flat, metal. Hexagonal, with a circle inset on one side. Almost like a lithium battery, but…not.

'Dr. Sheridan' gives Kinsey pause. That's not what her clients in the area call her. Most of them have no idea she's a doctor, nor any idea that she ever was, which means that this visit is…unique. That someone knows more about her than usual.

She sits back into the seat, contemplates the windshield a moment, and then tosses her wirecutters to the side, reaching up to use the top of the vehicle to haul herself out and to her feet, turning to look over the top of it.

She looks /nothing/ like she did. Sure, the face is right, and that's probably something for someone like Jessica, who spends her time doing things that make a person better at ignoring superficial details in favor of the more important ones, like bone structure. Still, the difference is vast: all polish and classical class at the gala, she's about as natural here in the garage as it's possible to get, cosmetics largely eschewed, hands stained, smudge on the cheek. There is a pen stuck through that haphazard bun.

"Sure do. Can I—"

(Identified: Jones, Jessica. Dossier number unavailable.)

Her expression locks, then transitions toward something warmer. Something in her stomach lets go, easing. "Hey, I recognize you. You helped me out at the charity auction. I've been meaning to try to track you down and say thank-you, but…" She hooks one slim thumb into her back jean pocket, twists slightly in the torso and gestures at the rest of the shop with her other hand. "Work, you know."

—-

The P.I.'s lips curl into a slight half-smile as she puts the clutch down on the nearest flat surface, coming inside, but…Kinsey's warmth gets matched with some of her own. If anything, seeing this woman in her natural habitat helps to increase it. There's something in all of this she can relate to, that just resonates with her, and it makes the courtesy she'd normally extend on a visit like this one come far more naturally.

"And here I was hoping you'd forgotten all about that." There's self-deprecating humorand sincerityin her tone as she says this.

"I'm sure you'd have done the same," she adds, hoping that will be the end of it. It was, in her estimation, the least anyone with the capability to do ought to have done. The practically very least.

She steps forward though, holding out a hand. "My name is Jessica Jones. I'm a private investigator. It's nice to meet you in a less ridiculous atmosphere. Did I catch you at an okay time?"

—-

There's just something /easy/ about Kinsey's character, as though she were living in some kind of perpetual summer, everything loose — at least, when she isn't on her guard, which is something she's only had to adjust to in the last year. The ease is in the quickness with which she smiles and how she's unhurried, rounding the car and shaking her head slowly, all of her gestures exuding familiarity. As though she'd known Jessica for years.

"It was a distinct possibility, you know? I took quite a knock to the head." True, and not true. True enough. "But it'd be a hard thing to forget."

She wipes her hand out of habit on the hip of her jeans just in case — it's clean enough, though — and gives the detective's hand a brisk, firm shake, inherited from years of mingling with military personalities. "Nice to actually meet you, Jessica. Now's fine. I set my own schedule."

Hand retrieved, she hooks her thumbs into her back pockets again, apparently a default posture. "So you're saying you're not actually an expert on cheese," she says, smile drifting toward wryness. Pale hazel eyes glitter. "Could've fooled me, sister. I guess that means you're a good private investigator."

—-

Jessica picks up on that; that little military tell, but simply files it away where she files all the random little tidbits she picks up about people in passing.

And surprises herself by snarfing an actual laugh at the other woman's joke about the cheese. Surprises herself again to find herself just…relaxing around this woman.

"Well. Only the ones they were serving that night," she replies. "Cause game's over if you just stand there stammering like an asshole when someone asks. No, I was there working a case for a friend of mine, and looking after her a bit, at the same time."

She hesitates, now. Some people are sensitive about these sorts of things, and the thing she's about to ask…well. She can think of a few reasons why it might be upsetting, especially given she /did/ spot the weird-ass thumb drive.

"I saw what you did with the lights. That was incredibly timely and helpful. I'm not investigating you or anything," she hastens to add.

After clearing that much up, she charges ahead. She's in it, now. Only way through is forward.

"Are you that good with /all/ electronics? It's just that…if you happen to be that good with computers as well, or even if you know someone who is…You might be able to help me get some information on the asshole who turned that gala into a shit-show, or maybe a lead into some of the people who work for him."

—-

Kinsey's smile turns into a laugh, warm as whiskey, over the line 'stammering like an asshole,' but it's quick to come and go, leaving only good humor in its wake, alongside her interest in whatever's about to follow. She's been interested in what was happening that night, disconnected from any of the players involved, and she'd hoped to pry with Jessica at some point, but she hadn't formulated a plan of approach. How to say that she found out Jessica did detective work, how to angle her questions so that it made sense to tell her anything. She didn't expect things to reverse themselves, for Jessica to come to her, but she's not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Unexpected benefits don't just happen along that often.

And then it turns out to be a trojan horse, after all.

It isn't that Kinsey's humor fades, it's more like it snap-freezes on her face, something liquid and fluid going suddenly rigid and static, locked into place. Her heart stops. She feels it stop. It cramps when it starts up again, a sudden gush of blood that carries on its tidal wave a pure shot of adrenaline, pulse accelerating as though someone had stepped on the gas pedal of her endocrine system.

/No./

/This can't be happening./

Denial. It's not possible. How could anyone have seen that, in the dark? (How could anyone have jumped over an entire crowd like that, Kinsey? Things happen.) She can't know. Nobody can know. But she knows. She knows. But she can't know it really /was/ Kinsey, can she? It could've been coincidence, it could've—

She's a detective. She'll never buy that. She might accept it out of courtesy — maybe? — but she won't believe it, and then you're still in the same situation, someone out there that you don't even know carrying around the one thing that could completely destroy you, only you won't be involved, won't get to know them, won't know what happened that night, either. Maybe you'll be left open to whatever it is happening again. And you're not sure you can handle that a second time, are you? Whatever the /hell/ that was.

(There are only two viable choices. You confess, or you eliminate the witness.)

The color drains out of Kinsey's already fair face, causing the spray of subtle freckles on nose and cheeks to stand out.

/I'm not a murderer, Five./ Even if she thought she were capable, which she does not. She's read the dossier.

One of the benefits of Kinsey's condition is that she processes multiple streams of information simultaneously, and all of this takes…almost no time at all. It may not even register as an awkward pause, though the change in her expression would be difficult to miss, as she's not very schooled in subterfuge. But one of the disadvantages of her condition is that it's /new/, and from her perspective, that conversation felt like an eternity. She does not realize she could probably have played things off.

She draws a breath so long and tight that the fragile cords of muscle stand out in her slender neck, the hollow scooping out and filling with shadow, and when she exhales, her shoulders fall. Her lashes flutter in a series of blinks as she comes back to the exterior of herself. She swallows. Flicks a glance over Jessica's shoulder toward the bay doors.

/I can't believe this is happening./

Terror twines its fingers around her insides. "I guess you'd better come in so we can talk. I'll…I'm gonna need some coffee I think." She turns around and starts to move toward the back of the garage. Behind her, the bay doors begin to roll slowly closed, all on their own. "Do you want some?" When she lifts her hand to push spidery pale fingers back into her hairline, her fingers are visibly trembling. "It's…I'm sorry, I made it this morning. It probably isn't very good now."

—-

Jessica had actually taken a step back when the color had drained from Kinsey's face. She hadn't been expecting that reaction. Whatever else is going on here…well, if Kinsey can read expressions at all, it's clear she wasn't lying. Uncovering Kinsey's secrets is pretty much the farthest thing from her mind. When the lights had come on she'd looked up, and there was the woman she'd picked up off the floor, touching the lights and boom, they were on, dissipating that awful shadow shit, which she'd been extra grateful for because she /hated/ Muller's god damn tentacles.

She'd assumed. What's the first rule of investigation, Jones? Don't assume? Yeah, that one. And now, maybe she'd made a /terrible/ assumption. Maybe this woman was some sort of meta-hater, someone who would freak out at what might read as an accusation…It could have been a coincidence…but then they'd gone right back off again, so it hadn't been a secondary generator or anything like…

But then she's being invited in for coffee. "I'd love some coffee," Jessica replies. "Bad coffee or not. I'm sure I've had worse." She follows her and says, "I'm sorry. I've obviously shaken you. It was a long shot. I really am not here to fuck up your Christmas…"

—-

It's a short walk to the back of the cavernous space, and Kinsey uses it to try to pull herself together, though it doesn't go very well. Along the back wall on a second-hand table, near a couple of second-hand chairs for clients to sit in if they want to wait, there's a coffee machine, a stack of magazines she knows nothing about, a few mugs. She checks them to make sure they're clean, setting them up and pulling the put from the machine, filling both. The pot rattles against the side of one of the cups as she pours.

She has to figure out how much to say. She doesn't know if she should lie or not. Maybe omit some truths? But how does she give even a piece of the truth, when the truth is that /complete/ secrecy is the only thing keeping her safe?

"Do you, uh…do you take cream or sugar? I only have the little single-use things of half and half."

She hears the apology, but she doesn't know what to say to it. She's still treading water, still shocked. It happened so /suddenly/. She's spent the last year wondering what would happen if someone found out, and now she knows: she'll stand around like an idiot and offer them coffee.

Good plan, super-genius.

—-

"Black like my soul," Jessica replies, reaching for the cup. "Which makes it easy for you."

She can sense it, the way she has trod her way into quicksand here. Well, it happens sometimes. She says, "Look, I tell you what. I'm going to offer you information first. Then, if you decide you can or want to help me, you can just…say yes. Nothing else. And then do what I need, or direct me to the person who can. And if you simply can't, or simply won't, just…say no. I'll drain my coffee like it's good Scotch, I'll walk out of here, I'll get the Hell out of your life and I'll never look back."

She feels like shit for causing this much distress in someone who could make her like her so very fast. It shows on her face, but…she soon schools it into something more professional.

She takes a long sip of her coffee, and looks away, sort of at the corner, where no secrets at all might be hidden. "Does that sound fair?"

—-

Sometimes kindness is better at eroding emotional control than cruelty. It's sometimes easier to push back against a threat than it is to accept comfort. Kinsey feels her stomach drop as she's offered that way out, and for a moment has to stand there at the table, back to Jessica, with one hand — her left hand, the organic one — cupped over her mouth and her eyes squeezed shut to keep the stinging in her eyes and nose from turning into tears.

It does eventually pass, a wave of something chemical that rolls off behind her and leaves her feeling a little bit dizzy, but also a little bit numb, which helps. She sniffs, picks up her own cup, and then gestures at the 'waiting room' chairs, sinking down into one of them, herself. Her eyes are a little bit too bright and her voice a little bit too thick, but she has control again, which is something.

"I'm not sure that's going to be — I don't know if that will, uh, work. The…it's really complicated. That's probably not safe."

Distantly, somewhere in the background noise of the garage, something changes, audibly, like the rush of pressure that happens when noise-cancelling headphones are activated. That is essentially what it is, too. An errant thought from Kinsey activates a system designed to keep outside ears from listening in.

"I appreciate that, though. You can still start if you want to. Maybe I'll…" She looks down into her mug, cupped in both hands, curling her index finger against the side in a repeating fidget. "Have time to figure out how to do this."
She's been there.

—-

She's so been there, and Jessica feels her stomach twist as she sees those too-bright eyes, hears that too-thick voice. For a moment she has to swallow the lump in her /own/ throat. She doesn't know this woman's story, but…she's certainly had her moments when something unexpected blindsided her, brought her whole world crashing around her, brought horrible shit back to the surface. It sucks, and to be the instrument of that…shit.

But she swallows her reaction. She listens as Kinsey speaks, looking up a little as she hears that noise cancellation come on.

"Okay," she says softly. "Here goes."

Her voice remains soft as she relays what she knows, soft and even. "The man who fucked up the gala goes by the alias Gottfried Muller. He used his abilities to murder a woman down in Chinatown, and he was after one of the auction pieces."

She digs a printout out of her pocket. "A few weeks ago I tracked him to his hotel room at the Excelsior. It didn't end well and I didn't find out much, but last night I realized the most important information about him might have been at the front desk. I was able to obtain a print-out of his check-in information." She proffers the paper, where she's circled a number in red. 4481-3389-2722-0129 8/20. A Visa card number.

"This is a big legal grey area. A private detective's license doesn't put me above the law. But you saw what he did, what he pulled, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. The man was close enough to Hitler to be featured directly next to him in a photograph. He hasn't aged a day since. He's got some serious powers, and I think we both know standard law enforcement isn't going to take care of it. I'm working for some heavy-hitters who might be able to match him, however, but some of his flunkies are doing something to my primary employer, something that's killing her as we speak. She’s…”

Jessica pauses. She’s never even said this out loud, to anyone. “I’m probably not as important to her as she is to me, but she’s like a little sister to me. I haven’t even known her that long, but…fuck. I think she saved me in a way, just by walking into my office. And she’ll never even know how much.” She swallows, hard, and there’s that fucking lump in her throat again. Fuck. “I don’t think I could take it. If this goes pear shaped and something happens to her. So…I came hoping for a hacker. Someone who would be able to get me a print-out with every transaction on this card number…well. If someone could do that, I’d damn sure owe her a deep debt, at the very least.”

—-

It's not until Jessica pulls out that printout that Kinsey can shift her attention from her mug to the printout and the circled number, unable to help herself. She's daunted, deeply, but also curious, and that is part of the bedrock of who she is.

She reaches out with fingers that still tremble with the aftershock of her adrenaline, taking it and looking down at it. The number, read is filed away by Five: it's good to have an advanced, weaponized AI living in your skull, sometimes.

Sometimes.

She does finally look at Jessica directly as things get personal, some of her own woes subsumed within the greater narrative being told. Not gone, but part of something else, a side-effect of someone else's pain.

Her brows knit, well-kept arches sliding together very slightly, drawn that way by uncertainty, sympathy.

When the story is finished, she sucks a deep breath into her lungs, trying to get them to expand all the way. There's tension in the lines of her body, shoulders drawn slightly inward. Defensive, uncertain. She looks down at the paper in her hands — she doesn't need to look at it anymore, it's just a place to focus her attention as she struggles with herself — and eventually she opens her mouth to speak. Her voice cracks. She clears her throat, starts again. "Nobody else knows," is how she starts things off, because that seems like it'll say a lot in a very little. "Nobody. I mean…/nobody/. I guess it was bound to happen eventually and I should be lucky it's just somebody looking for help, but it's…" The words don't come, though she visibly searches.

She turns her head, finally, and looks at Jessica with gold-green eyes that are wreathed with fear, pain, and desperate hope. "Can I trust you?" They come out in a tight whisper, those words. And there's a sudden rind of liquid on her lower lids, even though she doesn't want there to be. This is insane. She shouldn't be asking that, because who would ever say /no/? What is the point of that question?

But some part of her wants to believe that she can. Some naive piece, maybe. Kinsey is far from stupid, but faced with two choices (one of which is a non-choice, and therefore only the one remains), it's the only thing she can think to ask. At least if she asks, maybe she'll be able to tell from the way Jessica says the answer whether or not the answer is true.

—-

Can I trust you, she asks.

Trust. It's a heavy burden. She's spent years trying to not let anybody put their trust in her, not really. Even recently, as she's begun slowly letting people back into her life, little by little, as she's been reminded, over and over again, that there are good people in the world. No matter what John says, by some estimationby her estimationshe has already let them down once.

And now here is this woman, who clearly not only has some /serious/ secrets, but some real pain attached to those secrets, looking to ask if she can trust /her/.

All at once it rises up in her, that reminder of her true identity as a piece of human garbage in a trench coat. She'd been making strides. Not feeling it so much. But in moments like this, in moments like now, the fragile foundation of confidence she's been building for herself shudders, lets some of the darkness she'd been trying to resolve back through. She slops her coffee and grimaces, wiping it off on her jeans.

"I don't even trust /myself/ sometimes," she mutters. "No. Wait. Just…"

She takes a deep breath. She needs to answer honestly, not give this woman stinking piles of her /own/ angst. Christ. Force it down, Jones. Get off that fucking track. At least answer the god damn question.

She looks up and meets Kinsey's eyes with her own. "Trust me not to sell you out, or reveal your secrets willingly, yes. Though I have to tell you, full disclosure, that Muller basically opened my head up like a cantaloupe and scooped out any memory he wanted to look at not two weeks ago, against my will. I don't think I'll face that exact situation again, but…shit does happen."

She puts the coffee cup aside before she does something worseaccidentally cracks the cup, for example. "Trust me to help you if you need it? I was already going to offer that, even if you said you couldn't or wouldn't help. It looks to me like it might not hurt to have someone you could call or…well. Not that you necessarily would have taken it, but the offerwell.

"Trust me not to fuck up in a way that ultimately complicates your life? Maybe. My track record on that is not so hot. But. I'm trying to get better about that."

She needs this information. Needs it badly.

But she can't bring herself to give this woman a glib, quick 'of course' or 'yes'. Kinsey deserves honesty. That much is very clear to Jessica. Even if honesty ends up getting her thrown out of here on her metaphorical ass.

—-

Jessica's first response gets just about the kind of reaction in Kinsey she might've expected; a tight knit of her brows and a ducking of her head, slim fingers squeezing her cup as she tries not to — who knows, let her heart explode? Throw up?

But the detective takes strides in another direction, and Kinsey blinks away the tears before they can fall, a drop hitting the jean-clad top of her thigh, the others slid away with the stretch of index finger just after her second knuckle. She sniffs — twice — while she listens to the rest of it, and continues to wrestle with different parts of herself.

It just doesn't sound /safe/. But none of it is, really. Because it's not just about what she is. It's about what she /was/.

Having forgotten the coffee she said she needed only moments ago, she finally lifts it to her lips and takes a few bracing sips, trying to gird herself. She is at sea, unable to determine which of her choices is the best choice, and it's the lack of knowing that frightens her more than anything.

"I wish you hadn't seen," she says, honestly, a muted regret in her voice. "Not just for me, I mean. For you. I'm not— Jesus this sounds so cliche, but I'm not /safe/. Because nobody knows. And it's — it's sort of the only reason I've been safe. Because I used to, uh."

The air in her lungs leaks out of her as though she were a deflating balloon. She slumps back into her seat, gripped with something almost like fatalistic resignation, because the strain of trying to puzzle through it is too much. "I used to work for the government. I was military before, and then I did a stint in the NSA, just very, very briefly, and then I got recruited to the D.E.O. The Knightwatch, actually. Research and Development."

The all-human, elite task force designed to /put down/ extranormal, supernatural, and metahuman threats.

"So there was this accident, and uh…they…don't know. About me. And I was involved in — I had my own lab. I know these things about…how they work. What they know. The, the technology that's out there. How they, um…how they deal with extranormals. I didn't think they'd…I wasn't sure how they would react if they knew. That something had happened to me. Because of what I knew. And what, what happened. And I, after the accident…" She sets her coffee cup to the side, lifts both of her hands and leans forward, cradling her head in the slender array of splayed fingers on either side. "God, I really wish you hadn't seen. But I don't know how I could avoid telling you. Because some people out there, it's fine, what they are. They're really open about it and that's, they're safe. Right? And you could mention it to someone you trusted and it would probably be okay even if the secret accidentally got out, because it isn't that secret. But it's not like that with me. If they find out I'm…I don't know. I don't know what would happen. Will happen. So I couldn't let you leave just, you know, thinking this is the usual, uh, thing. Not /usual/, just whatever counts as usual for extranormals. Because it's really not, and even if you didn't plan to sell me out, it's like — if they hear something like that about me, from you or anybody, I don't know what they'll do. Even to you."

Long pause.

Quiet: "God, I really wish you hadn't seen."

—-

The detective takes a seat at last, across from the distraught scientist. She says nothing, letting Kinsey get it off her chest. She can imagine it though. The stress. The strain of living in hiding. The fear of one little slip up. "And so you fled to Gotham, where a bigot in a giant bat suit thinks he has every right to order meta-humans out of the city, where you'd probably fly right under the radar so long as you were careful," Jessica observes quietly, thoughtfully.

And then the party happens and…what? She'd been knocked out. Then Spider-Man stuck her on the ceiling and she went and did whatever she did, which happened to be the perfect, /right/ thing to do. Those tentacles were never-ending and unstoppable, as far as Jessica knew.

"I'm not sure if anyone else noticed or not," Jessica admits quietly. "I think there are a lot of people who were focused on a lot of other things. But…I'd been pretty intimately acquainted with those god damn tentacles, so…my head snapped right up when the light came on. When unexpected salvation chases one of your nightmares away, you look. But I think a lot of people just dismissed you as 'the lady Spider-Man stuck on the ceiling for reasons'. I'm not even sure why the Hell he did that."

But now…they have to find their way through the quagmire she just created by waltzing in here like she has.

"Well, first, nobody's going to hear it from me," she says, firmly. "And it might even turn out for the good. Say someone had come to me, asking questions. I might have said 'oh yeah, this one woman did something to turn the lights on at the exact right moment, it was awesome.' Now I know to say 'Well, the lights came on for a moment.' Hell. I might even take credit myself. It wouldn't be the first time I've claimed powers I didn't have to make some asshole back down. My powers aren't secret. I just don't make a big deal about them, and I don't do the costume thing. I actually kind of just thought you were kind of the same way, to be honest."

"If I have to say shit at all, cause really my plan was to say 'I have nothing to say about that god damn clusterfuck.' Nobody's come asking though. I think someone took care of covering all that up. There were some fairly big names there that night, all with their own stake in matters. But if anyone wants to try to come beat secrets out of me, well. That's not going to be a great day for them, and it's not going to get them anywhere. And if someone comes after you, well. I'm practically sleeping in Gotham these days. It might not hurt to have someone on your side who can come and lend a hand, if you need it."

—-

For just a little while after she's unburdened herself of her secret — and thereby placed in Jessica Jones' unfamiliar hands the knife that could put a quick and ugly end to Kinsey, if she were /lucky/, and didn't wind up in a lab for all of eternity, this time on the receiving end of things — there isn't any relief. Just persisting disbelief that this is happening. Finally happening, because she'd always known she couldn't keep it a secret forever, but happening at all. That had seemed like such a remote possibility, something from a dream. A nightmare.

But here they are.

She listens in silence, head bowed and tilting in the cage of her fingers, more of those strands of dark hair peeling loose to hang through them as she rubs at her scalp. Talking about the gala reminds her of the way her head had felt after that blast of energy. It's a muddle of images, confused, like a flip-book of images rather than a seamless whole.

She has to let everything sink in. Has to decide whether or not she believes this woman who just kicked in the walls, some kind of tiny, dark-haired Kool-aid man, who obviously had no idea that's what she was even /doing/. And ordinarily, Kinsey would find that funny. Even appropriate. That someone who didn't know what she had in her hands is the one who'd find out, eventually.

As she straightens out of her forward lean, she rakes the loose tendrils of her hair back into the rest carelessly, and shifts her gaze up. She chooses to believe. She isn't sure that this isn't still the beginning of the end for her, but if it is, she doesn't want to spend the time she has left in cold sweats about it.

"I'll help you with your case. I want to know what he did, when everything went crazy. Whatever it was, it…" She lifts a hand, gestures with fingertips at her skull. "It knocked me flat. It wasn't exactly like electricity, but it was still power. I thought my brains were turning into scrambled eggs. I need to find out what it was so that I can find out how to make sure it doesn't happen to me again. And…I don't know. I feel bad for your friend, too."

She swallows again. She's not shaking anymore, but she feels almost stoned in the wake of all of those fight-or-flight chemicals. "Thanks for the reassurances. I can tell you didn't mean for this to happen. And like I said, it was probably bound to happen eventually. I thought I would be ready when it did." She manages a small smile, though it's saturated with rue. "I'm supposed to be smart, but I don't feel that smart at the moment. I'm not very good at this whole 'secret life' thing yet."

—-

"I think that's pretty much always what shit like this always feels like," Jessica says quietly. "I wouldn't knock your intelligence though. Whatever else it's about, it's not about how smart you are."

For a moment Jessica debates giving her more information, but by now she thinks Kinsey has earned it. "It…" This is a fucking /scientist/. How the hell is she going to…"You ever hear that old saying about science that is so advanced that it becomes indistinguishable from magic? That's what this guy has going for him. That's what he can do. And the thing is, he believes it /is/ magic, but that doesn't stop him from wielding it like a Master. I don't know /why/ you reacted the way that you reacted to it, but…energy is energy I guess."

She takes up her coffee again. It's going cold, but…"I know that's not the most satisfying answer, but…that's pretty much what there is to it. That's what his powers do."

—-

Kinsey smiles a little bit again when she's quoted the old saying, and it has a nostalgic look, but she doesn't explain. She's reminded of her coffee when Jessica picks up hers, and she does the same, settling back once more in her seat. "It probably is magic," she says, without any bewilderment. And then, realizing that probably sounds crazy, she blinks and looks aside at her unexpected confidant. "I — the D.E.O. has files on just about every publicly known extranormal. You have to memorize the list. Hundreds. Watch a lot of footage."

She sweeps her thumb against the side of her mug restlessly, drums up an apologetic smile. "Yours too. As long as we're being honest, I knew who you were at the gala." Awwwwwkward. She lifts her cup, inserts a sip before she continues. "There are a lot of magical entities out there. I worked with a lot of magical artifacts. Extradimensional and extraterrestrial technology." She tilts her head in the direction of the large lockers dominating the side of the interior building. "I've got rocket boots from some other planet in there. Magic isn't that weird to me. What's weird is that it affected my…condition? But my guess has been what you said: it's energy, and that's enough. I can protect myself from electrical energy, but this is the first time I've been hit with something else, and I don't know how to fix that."

—-

Nope. Not crazy.

"Oh. Good. I can stop dancing around that shit and just say magic then, since, yep, magic." Jessica says with one of those half-smiles that she gives.

She grimaces at the revelation though. At first it's just embarrassing and a little annoying. "Who the fuck bothered to put together a dossier on /me?/"

And then some of the implications of that make her blood run cold. Do they know about Kilgrave, then? What he did? And if so, why the fuck didn't they…She shuts those thoughts down. She doesn't want to think about that asshole today.

A smaller fearful voice, whispers in her mind anyway. Do they know about Reva? Surely not. The traffic camera in that part of town was malfunctioning that day. But they might. They might know. And…what? She gets forced to kill a woman, a human woman, and still they didn't intervene?

But maybe they didn't know. Maybe it's just the times she's used her abilities on other cases, or the brief, stupid times she tried to be a hero before it all went to shit. She chuffs a breath and drains the dregs.

"So clearly this D.E.O.which I've only heard of in passing, by the waydoesn't go after every one with powers ever. They just…what, assess threat levels and—actually, you know what? Don't tell me. Let's not complicate your life more by answering questions I shouldn't know the answers to."

Rocket boots from some other planet. Briefly, Jessica wonders if they're some old pair of Quill's.

"At least he couldn't magic his way into one of Gotham's most exclusive hotels without a functioning credit card."

—-

For a few seconds, Jessica Jones experiences what it is like to occupy Kinsey's shoes /every day/. What do they know? What do they not know? If they know, why hasn't anything happened yet..? That's a bone-chilling calculus to make, and probably explains why Kinsey continues to look a bit abashed in the wake of Jones' little grimace.

"It's a government organization, so you can find out information about it if you really want to. Or at least what they put out there for public consumption." She shrugs her shoulders, though, and cups one ceramic-warmed set of fingertips around the soft, bony rise at the nape of her neck. She seems perfectly content not to talk about the D.E.O., even with the anti-eavesdropping measures in place.

Business helps. She latches onto that, nods a few times, and her lingering discomfort visibly wanes, pearl teeth clasping down into the cushion of her lower lip, worrying it as she mentally teases at her options for tracing the card. "How much do you want to know about him? How far back do you want to go? What kind of things will help you the most? Because if I find something, I can chase it as far as you want, probably. I don't want to waste time putting together information you don't need, if you need this quickly. And it sounds like your friend might need it in a hurry."

—-

"I doubt it's got a lot of history," Jessica admits, getting completely focused on the task at hand once again. Now the confident detective has returned, back on completely familiar ground once more.

"I imagine he got it specifically for his trip here, probably sometime before he left Germany, or perhaps right around the time he set up this most recent alias. I would be surprised if the history is any older than 90, maybe 180 days. And by now? He's made his move now, so…I'd say he's probably ditched the card, and he's on to another. But that doesn't mean he didn't leave some bread crumbs in whatever transactions he made. I'd say the dates between November 28, 2016, and today are going to be the most relevant. Any purchasing history you can get is good. I expect 99% of it to be useless…but that little 1%…that could be /gold/ when it finally gets put together with other data points. And…quick would be good. If you could hand it to me right here, I'd be damned overjoyed."

—-

Kinsey lifts her hand, unfocuses her eyes as she stares at the coffee machine. She places her fingertips on her chin and absently, lightly scritches up and down. Her nails are still blood red from the gala, but at the ends, most of the paint is chipped. Garage work is not easy on one's hands. "I'll look. I might find more than you think. I don't do this the way that most people do it. And you said Germany, right?" Her eyes focus, returning to something she'd heard but not had much bandwidth to process, in all of her emotional upheaval. "And /Hitler/, so he's, what, some kind of immortal? Is he human?"

—-

"Yes, as far as we can tell he's immortal. He's on the board of INA Germany, if it helps, though it doesn't seem like he's directly involved in anything. I wasted days digging on that INA label and didn't come up with much. Wait…"

She'd just hurled Quill through the air at Zatanna's cry that everyone had to hit Muller hard. She knew if she got in the fray she'd get in the way of what others were doing, but he, with his guns, sailing overhead could get in a shot she couldn't get. So she'd flung him and…

In her memory, a woman's voice. 'Hanussen!' She remembers the voice now, as she'd been circulating the room. Whomever had been with Rogers. And then Muller's hateful voice roaring, 'HOW DO YOU KNOW MY NAME?'

Her dark eyes snap open and she says, "His real name is Hanussen. So if /that/ takes you down any rabbit holes…"

Could Kinsey wind up being a far more incredible ally than Jessica could ever have hoped for, in the end?

—-

Kinsey's brows shoot up as she's given entirely a different name, one to go along with an alias. And a company, too.

Jessica wants the information now, and for a brief moment, the good samaritan in Kinsey is tempted to try. She knows she could; just…tap into the transmitter in that secret lab under their feet, send her consciousness rocketing out into the internet. But she knows what happens when she does that, too. How it leaves the rest of her boneless, probably sliding out of the chair, utterly vulnerable. And while she's slowly — ever-so-slowly — adjusting to the idea of this woman knowing something about her she wishes nobody knew, that thought seems a bridge too far. Some part of her viscerally rejects it.

"I can't do it now, but I'll start tonight, if that helps. Do you have some way I can contact you? You probably have the garage phone number already."

—-

"I do," Jessica says, almost apologetically. Well, maybe the return of the purse will make up for it, when Kinsey notices it sitting there in the front part of the building.

The P.I. takes out one of her Alias Investigation cards and pushes it over. It has her name, her Hell's Kitchen address, her web address, her e-mail, her office landline, her cell. "The cell's the one you want. I haven't seen much of my office since this case started. And I really appreciate this."

She stands up; the call for contact invitation is usually the call for her to go, and it seems as good a time as any. She knew how to play the waiting game after putting in a request like this. It was par for the course and part of the job. And a very small price to pay indeed, given both what her requests have cost Kinsey this night, /and/ the fact that her new friend might be able to shed incredible levels of light on just who this guy is, information that might just wind up leading to his downfall someday…well. No. The delay doesn't even flicker on her internal impatience meter.

She starts for the exit. "Don't forget my promise," she says. "I know you have no way of knowing this" OR DOES SHE? "but I don't just fling them around like candy. If you want my help with something, you'll get my help. All you have to do is ask."

—-

Of the many things Kinsey might have access to, that knowledge isn't among them. Kinsey looks at the card, pockets it, and sets her cup aside as she gets to her feet. The doors at the far end of the garage begin to slowly roll open again, a cue from a flick of a thought. "You're the second person from Hell's Kitchen I've met in the last two weeks. You guys must be getting your fingers into everything," she says, with a quirk of the lips.

She doesn't follow Jessica as she goes, but she does watch her go. She feels bruised and afraid, but also as at-peace as she can be with what happened. It's done. And it went as well as it could have been expected to, probably. "Thanks, Jessica. I'll try not to ask unless I really need it."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License