How to Make a Friend

February 10, 2017:

You bring them cake, that's how. (Not realizing it could be that easy, Kinsey and Jessica discuss the difficulties of having a social life when you have secrets to keep.)

The Garage

Kinsey's Garage in South Point.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Matt Murdock, Rocket, Groot, Star-Lord, Ribbon, Trish Walker, Silk, Jane Foster, Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The long winter drags on, in Gotham as with everywhere else in the Northeast corridor. It'll be at least a month before the weather turns a corner, and possibly longer than that, given the chaos of extremes across the span of the last year. Most people are weary of the cold, grey, and damp. Kinsey is one of them.

The garage can be draughty. The concrete floors communicate the chill altogether too easily, and at least one of the bay doors remains open throughout the day. Filament-heaters near the entrance and further into the space provide radiating heat at proximity, but the space is too cavernous to be heated by it to any significant degree, particularly when clients come and go, and other rolling doors have to be lifted to permit that. It's comfortable enough for visitors, but for Kinsey, whose percentage of body fat sits on the lower end of the scale and whose schedule requires that she be situated in one place for long periods of time, the chill creeps and drains. By this time of evening her core temperature always begins to fall out from under her, and her solution is to consume a great deal of piping hot tea and pile on the clothes: long sleeves beneath a red, heavy, too-large knit sweater that fairly well drowns her figure, over the usual dark-wash, legging-fit jeans. Sneakers have been ditched for sueded, wool-lined boots only a step up from Uggs.

With a lull in her business and most of the pressing tasks for the day sorted, she's curled into the papasan chair behind the front counter, legs tucked up on an angle in front of her, a book propped atop her knees and her insulated, steaming thermos cradled in her lap, as though she might extract some of its heat for herself.


Jessica had to borrow an old beater to give an excuse to be here; she isn't sure if 'visting a friend' is sufficient when she holds Kinsey's life and secrets in her hands. But a friend of a friend did need his car fixed, and Jessica got the money to pay for it from him.

As crappy as she's been feeling she nevertheless eventually remembers that the other woman might be a little lonely and scared, might want some company from someone who knows the real her. And as she's recently rediscovered, getting outside herself for awhile is a fine way to make her forget her own woes. So she'd also stopped by a Cajun eatery in Hell's Kitchen and picked up a King Cake.

She drives in and leans out the window, determined not to show any of what she's feeling inside. This visit is for Kinsey; her heart can just sit in its corner, shut up, and ache over there.

"Hey! Anyone fix old shitty cars around here?" She keeps her tone jovial, though it dances with the sardonic edge that marks many of her communications; it's meant to provide some jokes, some levity. The woman had gone out on a limb for her, had gone above and beyond the call of duty, and Jessica had just…well okay, she'd just been doing a lot, including being in the hospital. Still, just in case Kinsey needs it, she is doggedly attempting to provide.


The book in Kinsey's lap is Pirsig's 'Lila,' a dense treatise on the Metaphysics of Quality — Quality being an invention of the author's. It is difficult to understand and, being the product of philosophy, dry, slow, and thoroughly preoccupied with semantics, and Kinsey's expression as she reads it says everything that needs saying: there is a small frown adorning that look of concentration, and an air of impatience in the delicate knit of her brows.

Staying part of the DEO's book club may have been one of the worst ideas she's had since her accident.

So she's already in a brightening mood when she hears an engine rumble and a vehicle pull in to the admittance parking spot, because it means she can put the book down, which she does with slightly more petulance than strictly required, tossing it aside without marking her place. She unfolds long legs from the seat she's in and rises, and spotting Jess her expression transitions through surprise into easy, friendly welcome. Rather than go all the way down the counter and around the side, she hops up backward to put her backside on it and swings her legs over, giving the car an unhurried once-over as she crosses to close the distance.

"Sure can," she says, and when she's close enough she rests her fingertips on the ledge of the open window to balance herself, and sinks into a crouch. Hazel eyes angle warm light up at the woman in the driver's seat. "I was wondering if I'd be seeing you again. I'd half expected you'd be spending the next few months in Berlin."


"That's coming," Jessica says, getting out of the car. "There've been incidents and delays." She brings out the King Cake. "I have no idea if this sucks," she warns, "But given it's Mardi Gras somewhere I had the impulse to bring this over and share it with you."

Kinsey at least looks fine, happy, relaxed. It puts Jessica's mind at ease. She also waves a hand over the car. "And believe it or not that damn thing does need work. Probably worse because it's been 15 years since I last got behind the wheel of a car. The breaks were doing this weird thing every time I hit them." The truth was, she knew how to drive. She'd just had a policy of not doing it since the accident. And she'd only had her learner's permit at the time of said accident. Living in New York had made cars more or less unnecessary for her so she'd never bothered to upgrade until recently. But since her experiences in both strange alternate worlds, she has found that the accident, at least, is put to rest for her, if nothing else was.

She had been a teenager. A brat, sure…but it had been her father's responsibility to keep his eyes on the road. He was the parent. He was the driver. He was a good man, and he'd made a mistake, and they'd all paid, and she certainly hadn't helped, but Jessica could at least believe it was no longer 100% on her. And if driving wasn't precisely enjoyable for her in the least…given she was suddenly in and out of two states fairly often it was getting stupid for her not to use the tools at her disposal.

"But even if were in Berlin now I'd have come to check in on you eventually, make sure you were okay." Maybe way too eventually, given her asshole level is high, but…she likes to think her presence here now is proof of that.


Kinsey rises again to step aside and let Jessica get out of the car, and the look of puzzlement she directs toward the box she's being handed clarifies and brightens once she pops it open enough to have a peek at what's inside. "Oooh, this is one of those things with the babies in it, right? King cake. And if you get the baby, you…" She hesitates. "Actually, I don't remember. Hopefully it doesn't have to do with babies, though. That is seriously the last thing I need."

While she's speaking, she's making her way further into the garage, toward the back where they had coffee all that time ago, when Jessica had inadvertently found her way into the secret rooms of Kinsey's life. "I can have a look at the car while we eat king cake and have coffee. Unless it's something /really/ wrong with the brakes, it shouldn't take me too long to get it straightened out. You want coffee, right?"

She sets the box down on the counter, fishes up a plastic knife, and opens the lid, then sorts out clean mugs, all of her gestures efficient, even when she turns her head to angle a half-smile over her shoulder. "You're sweet. I'm fine. Just busy. I mean…garage busy. The weather's hard on people's cars, with all of the street parking. It's boring, but it pays the bills."


Jessica chuffs a laugh and says, "They told me at the shop. You have to throw the next King Cake party, is all. But I will release you from all plastic-baby obligations."

She follows Kinsey back, relieved, as well, by the lack of tension in this meeting. "I do want coffee," she says, nodding her head. "You make it, I'll cut this bad boy." Kinsey's relaxed state starts to relax her. She finds, suddenly, that she's in a pretty decent mood. It surprises her, but it pleases her too. She has friends, she has family, she's really not so bad off. She's not sure this will last— a slight tightening in the back of her throat tells her that her emotions are really not done with her yet— but Kinsey is good company, easy to talk to, easy to be around.

She takes out the cake and cuts two thick slices. It's got a blueberry filling and good, thick swaths of icing topped with sparkling colored sugar. "Boring is good sometimes," she says. And it is, because that's what she likes to hear. Nobody surveying Kinsey, nobody suspecting, no hint that her actions, drawing her into the case, have brought either the DEO or evil wizards down upon her head.


"Oh, is that all?" Kinsey's brow scrawls upward, and she hands off the plastic knife and turns her attention to making the coffee. "That sounds like New Orleans to me. 'Sorry, you got the baby, you have to throw yet another party.'"

Well, 'making': she remembers that Jessica takes hers black, so it's just a question of refitting the coffee machine with a fresh filter and fresh grounds, then flipping the switch and turning around to lean back against the table, arms folded, to wait for the stuff to brew. She observes Jessica as the detective goes through the motions, and then lets her attention trail down onto the cake, the glittering sugar, the—

"I didn't know they came with filling. That looks…amazing. You know, I never liked sweets growing up. Weird, right? What kid doesn't like sweets? But after…everything that happened…" She refers obliquely to her accident, but it seems to be more out of caution than any kind of lingering trauma, to judge by her delivery, "…I can't get enough sugar. Must be something to do with the hardware. Brains use up a lot of energy." She pushes her too-long, too-large sleeves back and reaches for one of the slices, picking it up in slender fingers that hold it in a way that's mindful of the probability that she'll get blueberry goo on the rest of her clothing. "That's what I tell myself, anyway," she adds, a low and distinctly feminine mutter, underpinned with amusement.

It's a big bite later before she continues speaking, and she doesn't hurry. The look of bliss that settles onto her lid-eyed face clearly says that Jessica's hit a home run with her offering. "Boredom kills me," she says finally, pausing to probe her teeth with the tip of her tongue for bits of bread. "Really. I don't handle it very well, and I get bored pretty easily. But you're not wrong, anyway. I'll take being bored over…you know."

She glances up at Jessica. "How about you, detective? How've you been?"


Jessica settles more on the coffee than the cake, though it is pretty good. She listens to Kinsey tell her about the hardware and says cautiously, "Well, also you're carrying around more I'd think, so…metabolism. And stress might just prompt you to go for it. It's better than reaching for booze to cope."

Cause. Ya know. Ask her how she knows.

The turn of the conversation back to her has her mood plummeting again, but…she has a good game face. At least she can answer the question without touching on anything that's bothering her. "It's been a roller coaster," she says, quite honestly. "I think my client is in the clear for now though." She ought to know that she was beyond helpful, far more so than could be conveyed with a simple e-mail to an address she's not even sure happened. She also chuckles. "Here I'd thought I'd never ask you for case help again. Keep going on about boredom, see if I don't end up right back on your doorstep begging favors! Not that I need any now, but I'm just saying, you ought to be careful what you wish for." She's teasing, something she can do perhaps because she doesn't have any desperate need for what Six can do right at this moment. She's well aware she can be a relentless user when she feels it's important to getting the job done.

She's also still practicing the 'light conversation' thing. She's been self-conscious about her habit of only showing up when there is work to be done or something she needs to tell someone or get from someone ever since Zee had called her on it. This is her way of working on it. But since it seems to be going okay…


"Mhm," Kinsey says, mouth closed and full of cake. She finishes chewing before she opens it again, obviously having inherited sound manners, a commentary on the sort of home life she must've had as a kid. "I can't drink." She'd had a flute of champagne at the Gala auction, but a sharp memory would recall that it was full, essentially untouched. "Anymore, I mean. More side effects. Probably for the best, though."

She leans to set the half-eaten slice of king cake down, tilting her hips to lever herself up out of her lean and pivoting around when the brewing sounds behind her change their pitch, having long since figured out when the machine is almost finished with its job. She puts the pad of her thumb and of each finger in her mouth in turn, gently sucking sticky sugar off of her skin while her other hand plucks the coffee pot up to pour into two mugs, leaving enough room for cream in hers. She slides the other carefully over for Jessica, and then goes about the fiddly process of trying to open one creamer bucket with a single hand — something she manages with enough finesse that it's clear she's had to do that a /lot/.

"I'm glad to hear that," she says, of the client. "I don't pretend to understand most of what I read when I was looking into that file, but none of it sounds good. It's interesting, though." Once she's creamed her coffee, she gestures back in the direction of the car, stretches into a lean to get that half-finished piece of cake again, and when Jessica is ready will begin to meander back toward the vehicle unhurriedly. "You can always ask if you need help. Some things are riskier than others, but I'm a curious person." She pauses, quirks a half-smile that verges on a smirk. "'Insatiably curious,' I am told. Doing those kinds of jobs, I learn all sorts of fascinating things. The challenge involved is exciting, but the information is almost as good."


Jessica takes the coffee and gives a long drag of it, letting the warmth sink into her skin. She still feels too cold lately, as if she's running a low-grade fever nearly all the time no matter her mood, but for a moment, it helps. She is happy to follow Six back to the beater, letting her take lead in her own space, meandering with the fresh black coffee in her hand.

It is not a great car: a silver 2001 Pontiac Grand Am with plenty of rust. A glance will show the rotors on the breaks need to be replaced, having been ground down to nubs after the brake pads went. Just what an inexperienced driver needs to be tooling around in, but somehow, by the grace of something or another, Jess had managed to make it.

"I'll keep that in mind," Jessica says sincerely. "Just…if you ever think anything is too risky, just tell me. I'll get off your ass immediately and find another way to get the job done. If it's a pleasant diversion for you great, but…you know."

She figures Six does, indeed, know, so she doesn't pursue that any further. As for not understanding, Jess smirks. "I just sort of boil it down to the very simplest of terms. Things like 'black tentacles bad,' 'punching people who make tentacles' good. Nobody really gets that shit but the people doing it."


Kinsey works and listens at the same time. She sets her coffee mug to one side, then does a walk-around of the car, eating and crouching at each of the wheels, tilting over to one side to get a look through the wheel at the rotors, the calipers…

"I'll tell you," she promises, tone softened by her split focus, but not to the point of distraction. "I like a challenge, though. Things are pretty safe for me, generally speaking. Nobody's really prepared for what I do. Cybersecurity is in a pretty sad state of affairs in this country, and that's if you ask a regular hacker. Me, that's — it's something else. They haven't designed for me."

(Yet,) whispers Five. (The DEO does have your work.)

Kinsey's lips tilt into a gentle frown. /You're such a downer, Five./

She tucks the last bite of cake into her mouth, stands up, and dusts her hands on the sides of her jeans. "Well," she says, "This is an easy fix, but I'm gonna need to lift the car, so you'll probably want to come and get it tomorrow after all. I can't imagine you wanna spend your evening sitting around in a cold garage."


"I'll take the bus back to a friend's house," Jessica says with a flash of a smile. "I need to go apologize to her anyway. There was a party, I had a little too much, I knocked a door into a wall and left a dent, and was too drunk to do more than slur at her incoherently when she discovered it."

So not what happened. But like any smoothly delivered lie, it contains kernels of truth. She feels few moral pangs about delivering it, since covering up an embarrassing incident with someone one is just getting to know, still, is really just basic decency.

And. You know. She figures it wouldn't help Kinsey sleep better at night to know that her secrets are in the hands of a high-functioning alcoholic.

She settles herself out of the way and adds, "It bears re-iterating that if you need anything from me I am happy to reciprocate. Or to compensate you financially if you want. I didn't really cover it before, since things got— well you know, I was trying to reassure you, and I didn't know if that moment an offer like that might insult you." It does insult some people, after all. Her tone turns more serious. "But I do keep my promises, Kinsey. Unless I am, indeed, in Berlin or you know, am getting choked to death in a parking lot or sitting in jail or something…" All of these things have either happened or are within the realm of possibility, "I'm happy to help you out if you need my particular skillset." Computer records can't tell one everything, after all.


Kinsey's laugh echoes through the space, even though it trends toward a warmer spectrum of sound. "Sounds like it was a pretty good party," she says, obviously buying the lie without hesitation. She's not looking for one — or even at Jessica directly. Not until after that, anyway, as she abandons her study of the vehicle and makes her way back toward her temporarily abandoned coffee, to reach down and pick it up, and then drop to sit on the floor. For being located inside of a garage, that high-gloss, polished, sealed concrete floor is practically spotless, obsessively maintained.

Jessica offers her services, and Kinsey's lashes flicker, then lower, screening the way that wheels seem to turn behind the gold-green coins of her irises. It's a thing she'd not considered — whether or not she might be able to put to use the kinds of skills that Jessica has. A result, perhaps, of the way in which they met, and of the events not long afterward, the exposure of Kinsey's double life. It had not occurred to her to /use/ Jessica for much of anything.

"There are things I've been trying to…figure out," she says slowly, choosing her words with deliberate care. "About myself. What happened to me. But a lot of that involves digging around in government property, which is…" He hesitates, clasps the cushion of her lower lip with her teeth. "It's dangerous, obviously. And…well…"

Extremely illegal.

She has the decency to look slightly abashed. "But maybe something will come up that won't involve breaking the law. I don't want to get you in trouble. There are definitely things I can't do, though. I can't get information from my former colleagues, for instance."


Jessica considers that for a moment. She watches Kinsey over her coffee cup.

Will she end up panicking Kinsey?

"This was not true when I met you," she says at last. "But I've made some contacts in the government. Good people. I can't promise anything, but…it's possible I could leverage that on your behalf."

She frowns thoughtfully. "My contacts are in SHIELD," she says slowly. "It had even crossed my mind to ask you if you wanted me to see if they could…shelter you. I don't much care for the DEO," she's done a little research since the last time, "but SHIELD is hardly anti-meta; they're international, they outrank DEO by a considerable margin. It's possible they could help you, and get what you need legitimately, by the simple virtue of demanding it from another agency. They might try to recruit you, of course. I don't think that's something you should decide today, and of course I am not going to do a thing without your go-ahead. And I want to assure you I'm not government, they sure as shit wouldn't take me. It's…just been a really odd month."

She also trails off thoughtfully.

Six could help them locate more of Hydra's operations, she bets. In a heartbeat. But she holds on to that. There's enough on everyone's plate. She'll keep it close, until the moment everyone's healed and the books are a bit clearer.

"Barring that, me talking to your former colleagues is legal enough, but the effectiveness of that conversation would depend on what you needed to know. Obviously if I start asking about classified things I'm going to end up in a DEO black site."


Kinsey's parted lips and sudden stillness are probably more than enough to convey that this turn of conversation is not one she had expected. Not in a bad way; there's no air of distress about her, but the surprise is palpable, even if it's muted.

SHIELD. She knows who SHIELD is, of course. Everybody knows about Captain America, don't they? That wholesome, patriotic (broad-shouldered, long-legged…) icon with the distinctive buckler and the costume that somehow manages to avoid being absolutely hideous in spite of the fact that he had only the stars and stripes to work with.

Kinsey knows a little bit more about them than most, if only because, as Jessica has noted, they're on footing with the DEO in their own way…but their willingness to include metahumans in their program has made that footing oppositional, to say the least.

She listens carefully to what she's told, and she is not quick to speak after Jessica is finished, though her smile takes on a rueful shade at mention of a black site.

"They'd have to be people who didn't know who you were, and that rules out Knightwatch operatives, but they're not the ones with the information I need, anyway."

More silence, during which she sips from her cup of well-creamed coffee, weighing her own thoughts. SHIELD as a means to shelter her. Would it even work? She could ostensibly be hired into another organization as nothing other than a completely normal engineer — one with a solid resume. But SHIELD would know, the moment she was physically analyzed, that she's more than she lets on…and then what? Would they have her doing illegal things? Illegal things are what she's /best/ at. For the time being, only two people on earth know that she's anything other than a mechanic. Once that changes, once SHIELD knew…what would her life look like? Would she be on a leash for good?

"That's a pretty generous offer. I'm — I don't want you think I'm not grateful. If things go south for me, that might be a good choice. Someone invited me into the Justice League, but I don't think…they're quite my speed. SHIELD would be a better fit. But I'm also…" She props her knees up, drapes her elbows on them, mug held in the hands between. "I'm still stuck in that stage where I'm not sure what I want my life to look like yet in the long term, and I keep feeling as though telling people about me is going to take a lot of my control over that out of my hands." Silence for two beats. She chases it with another rueful smile. "Maybe that's dumb of me. It's not like I'm any closer to figuring it out now than I was a year ago, so I'm not sure what I've been waiting for."


"It's not dumb." Jessica says, perhaps with unexpected gentleness. "Everyone needs to know they're in control, that the choices we're making and the consequences we're taking are on our own terms. It's also not generous, it's what a friend would do. I like you, Kinsey. It's rare for me to like anyone. You seem to bypass my knee-jerk reaction to be a bastard to people. So I'd like to help you. And if you want me to talk to anyone, give me the names. Tell me what the objective is. I will make it happen, no question. No gratitude required."

"And since telling people about you could take control away from you, I'd say you're only being cautious. I'm telling you so you know you have some options and resources, perhaps. And if you get desperate and need to run, run to my door and we'll figure it out. I know how to make sure someone isn't found; goes part and parcel with knowing how to find. In the meantime, you're not in trouble so you've got lots of time. And when you know, I'll see what I can do for you. There's no need to rush. I've had investigations take months, my colleagues in SPI," (Society of Professional Investigators), "have had some go on for years. I know one guy who has been working a missing persons case, probable murder, in Virginia for years, a police cover-up of a murder by a boy in blue. He's doggedly waiting for that one break that will prove what he knows."

PI novels and movies always made proof seem like the trivial domain of cops, but PIs end up testifying in court a lot. They work for the defense a lot. Their work product has to be as above-board as the police work product…if not more, in some cases. Jessica had to learn that one early.

"The point of that being…time is reasonable. Especially when government is involved."

She frowns faintly. "Now one thing I can do is a FOIA request; they come in from PIs with a fair amount of regularity, so if you think there are FOIAs I can file for you that would help on top of these people you want me to talk to, I'll get it done."


The first real reaction that Kinsey has to what Jessica says is a sudden, brilliant smile, tinged with self-conciousness, when the detective says that she somehow manages to bypass Jessica's instinct toward assholery. It's a compliment that catches her off-guard, and the kind of open friendliness she's not accustomed to. She'd spent the whole of her working life in the military and the DEO, where people tend to play things slightly closer to their chests. It's a sentiment that feeds the neglected part of her that is so readily affectionate, the piece that was always such an uncomfortable fit for a lifestyle that otherwise suited her well enough.

She doesn't say anything immediately, though. She listens. She's a patient listener, perfectly happy to spend most of her time with other people hearing what they have to say.

"I know what you mean, but I /hope/ it doesn't take years. I'm willing to take the time to do it right, be careful, avoid unnecessary risks…I just hope." She takes a sip of her coffee and seems on the verge of saying something more, then visibly decides against it, choosing to focus instead on the last thing that Jessica tells her. "That's a thought. The difficult part is that everything is so specific to my work…" She lets the sentence hang, biting at the inside of her cheek. "Well, it's worth keeping in mind." Hazel eyes soften where they rest on the woman with the dark hair. "Thanks, Jessica. All of that means a lot." A tiny twinkle surfaces in her gaze. "You said you don't need gratitude, but you're going to get it anyway. I'm not going to lie, I spent the first couple of days after I saw you last sleeping badly, but…it's a relief, actually. To be able to talk to someone without being constantly aware that I have something to hide. You get used to it, but it's not until I stopped having to do it that I realized how much it takes out of me."


The smile makes Jessica smile almost shyly in return. She's only now getting used to opening up to people herself. But…she's learning people are awesome, if they're the right people. Sometimes she has to be reminded, but…for the most part great people are turning into her new addiction. Healthier, at least, than the monkey she's trying to fling off her back. She'd spent years with a single person serving as both sister and friend, taking her for granted and being shitty to her as often as not.

"I wish you hadn't had to go through that, but…I tried to be careful on your behalf," she says quietly. "I didn't even print that stuff. I just…copied out by hand and deleted it all, just in case. But…I can imagine how it would be rough. You can call me just to talk you know. I mean sometimes I'm useless in that arena, but…from time to time I do alright. Lies and secrets, even the ones kept for all the right reasons, are just…painful hot coals, I guess. Feel free to put yours down around me any time. Just…you know. Not if you think my phone is tapped or something. I wouldn't know."

It had certainly been nice to put that coal down with John Constantine, to look into his eyes and know he knew her shame and knew that he accepted her anyway. Not exactly the same thing. Kinsey hadn't committed a murder that she was not-guilty of and yet absolutely prosecutable for. All the same, Jessica had at least an inkling of where the other woman was coming from on that count.


Kinsey's gaze turns briefly wry, almost wicked. "Don't worry," she says. "/I/ would know." She says that with absolute confidence.

There is a companionable silence afterward, one that fills with the muted, barely-there sound of rock piped in through the speakers mounted along the walls — the volume having been turned down once she picked up that book to try to get some reading in. When she opens her mouth again it's sudden and aimed along a different trajectory, and the look on her face is curious, rendered slightly opaque by whatever chain of thoughts provoked the question in the first place.

"What do you spend your time doing when you're not working?"


Drinking? No, she's trying to fix that.

Counseling super-teens? Well, ok, super-college students. Well, yes, but…that feels weird to talk about.

Stalking lawyers after convincing herself she's protecting them? Yeah that one's out.

"What's not working?" Jessica asks with a self-depreciating smirk.

But she actually does have an answer. "I read," she says, maybe a little self-consciously. "Anything I can get my hands on."

Depending on how much Kinsey dug into her visitor after she left, this might surprise her. She graduated high school with a 1.75 GPA. Then again, most of her high school career had been spent in a coma. Her family was dead, and she was surely grieving. Her work record before hitting on PI work was certainly awful, including a particularly humiliating stint as a plushie sandwich. Nothing about the footprints that she's left in her life would be indicative of much intelligence behind those green-touched brown eyes, other than, perhaps, her reputation of being extremely good at what she did.

"Non-fiction mostly," she adds. "It's…still sort of working. I never know when the most random shit will be useful. How about you?" Ok, this is what normal people do. They get to know each other. She can do this.


Kinsey did just enough digging to make sure that Jessica Jones was who she said she was, and not some kind of government plant. Which is to say: she didn't dig into the woman's private life or try to assemble a picture of who she /was/, but instead checked around for certain red flags to ensure that she knew who Jessica /wasn't/.

It's not because Kinsey has a deep aversion to prying, either. She's been known to pull information about people when she feels there's something she has good reason to know, and with Jessica, she probably has more reason to vet the woman's character than most, but it had seemed…petty to think about. Retaliatory snooping is not good reason. And ultimately, she'd already made her choice by that time to trust Jones. There wouldn't be any walking that back. She was already committed by then.

Whatever she did see, though, she doesn't look surprised about the answer she's given. Maybe that in itself is enough to attest that she doesn't know enough about Jessica to /be/ surprised. Her response does somewhat fly in the face of the notion that this is what normal people do, though…

"I don't…know." She regards her companion for some moments in silence, dons a self-conscious smile, slowly shrugs her shoulders. "I've been realizing lately that I sort of…don't. I play video games or I read, I guess. But I don't— you know, I just…work, for the most part. There's not a whole lot else going on. This week looks like last week, looks like a month ago…" She rubs her thumb along the crescent lip of her mug. "I get the feeling that's not how I'm supposed to be doing this whole 'life' thing."


Jessica chuffs a laugh and says, "Well. You're having King Cake and coffee now," she points out.

But she stops to think about those words. Really think about them.

"But…maybe that's why you can't envision a future you want to craft," she says, slowly, the way she does whenever she's trying to offer advice to anyone. She's found she has a weird knack for easing the mental pains of the broken and bleeding, perhaps because she's been cut to shreds herself. Kinsey hardly seems broken, but…

There is a similarity. Work and not much else.

"It's hard, because you have to keep secrets. But…maybe you don't need close friendships. Maybe you just need people. Take a stupid class or join a club or something, get out, laugh with people. And anyway most people don't spill their secrets at the first opportunity anyway. Unless you end up like, I dunno, in some sort of serious relationship you can probably play them close to your chest until it becomes unconscionable to do otherwise. And there are people out there who are content to have and not ask too many questions."

She smirks and says, "But we've already covered that I am a workaholic so…you know. Do as I say, not as I do, I guess, if you're taking that advice."


"Touche," Kinsey says, lifting her mug of coffee, lashes drifting lower over leonine eyes.

There's something worldly about Jessica Jones. For Kinsey, who cannot see into the heart of her life, who has no idea what it's like to be Jessica Jones looking outside from the inside, there isn't any sprawling mess of self-loathing or recrimination, easily-inspired guilt, or deep loneliness. For Kinsey, Jessica Jones is a woman who can leap over crowds carrying strangers to safety when everything goes to hell, with an active and fascinatingly outre detective practice that involves things like Nazi sorcerors who cannot die. She's someone who took the time to be reassuring when she inadvertently blundered into the most dangerous corner of Kinsey's life, and she's thoughtful enough to show up at the garage with a cake, unsolicited — and a job, which truth be told Kinsey appreciates just as much, as it keeps the lights on.

When Jessica decides to give her advice, she listens, because she sees plenty of good things about /being/ Jessica Jones. Sarcastic, bright, funny, and the kind of person who radiates that 'will not take shit from anyone' vibe: the woman seems like she has her shit together.

There is a faint flicker of shadow in her expression at the mention of relationships. She knits her brows just enough to convey doubt, and drops her eyes into the top of her mug. "That's definitely part of it. Feeling like there are these boundaries on what I can tell people around me, and being worried that they're going to get upset with me when they run into some wall I've had to put up, and I'll just wind up losing them. The thought of getting close to somebody and then losing them seems so much worse than just not getting close to them in the first place."


It would…touch Jessica Jones to her core to know that someone sees her thusly.

That someone looks at her and sees someone who has her shit together. Because usually to Jess' eyes it's the other way around. She looks at everyone else around her and sees people who have it together in ways she never will, and she envies them.

Maybe it always looks different from the inside.

And perhaps she'll even learn to live up to the better self some people see, sometimes. Or maybe will learn to see these things as the gifts of all the ways she's fallen apart.

She listens and she says, "I know a thing or two about pushing people out."

She frowns thoughtfully. "The line is this. If the secret threatens to hurt them? Directly or indirectly? Physical or emotionally? It's time. And you just say…look. I didn't tell you before because we were not there yet. But we're there now. I have this thing going on with me. I want to make sure you hear it from me and from nobody else, but it's scary, and I have to be careful. You'd…be surprised. I think. By the compassion you'll get. Each time I've done something like that I've been terrified. Bracing myself to be castigated, rejected, hated, worse. There's some dark shit behind me, and some real bad mistakes. But…every time. And I mean every time…the people who mattered were just…eager to make it better. To find out how they could help. It takes the right person of course. You don't want to accidentally get seduced by a secret agent or anything and tell him all of it only for him to smirk and pull the gun on you. But…when they've earned the trust, you can give it to them. And if they haven't, and they fuck off cause they hit that wall, then fuck them, because they feel entitled to bust past your boundaries before you're ready to let them. And anyone who won't respect your boundaries doesn't deserve to be in your life anyway."


All of that is something that Kinsey takes to heart, and all of it resonates. It makes perfect sense. It's logical. She has the added complication, of course, of knowing that her secrets are dangerous to /her/ as well as to others, in the sense that they could easily wind up with her being locked up in a lab and vivisected…but the general principles still apply even if the bar for entry is higher.

She lifts her mug, drains the remainder, and then tilts over backward, rolling down into a prone position, eyes narrowed up at the fluorescents in the high ceiling. Her dark hair puddles against the white-painted concrete. "I tell myself those things a lot, but it's easy to doubt my own judgement when I'm sitting here thinking things to death. Lately I've been trying to convince myself that I have to at least try. If I don't try, I'll never know. But god, Jess…it's hard." Her upward-staring eyes soften, growing distant, hazed with memory. "I had a lot of friends in school, growing up. My parents were pretty strict. Military family. So I just…made friends with everybody, really. That's where I got what I needed, all the warm fuzzy shit my parents couldn't give me. And then I started working, and…hah. You've looked into the DEO so I guess you can imagine what that's like. It's the military all over again, but with this fine dusting of 'cutthroat competition' on top, at least in my division. That was /years/ for me. I'm not even sure I know how to make friends anymore in the first place. Do you just…I mean." She puffs a breath out, exasperated with herself. "Do you just /talk/ to people you meet? How does that even work? In the city people are gonna think you're trying to steal their wallets or, I don't know…give them a flier for some cause they don't care about and drag them into a protracted conversation about…about…endangered muskrats."


Jessica snarfs at endangered muskrats. "Well. You're right. I often collect for the Society of Donkeys Who Lost Their Tails."

But she turns more serious. "I don't know," she admits. "All my friends have been made under extreme circumstances, in the course of my investigation, mostly, or because they're in the orbit of it. But…as my manager once said on a particularly dismal sales job I had once…"

She clears her throat, leans back, shoves her hand into the waistband of her pants because that is what the manager did, and says gruffly, "Well, shit, ya got one!" It's said in a jovial, encouraging tone, something in response to someone who hadn't sold once. Jess had not lasted long in sales, but she remembered that moment.

She tries to consider which of the friends she's met would be least detrimental to Kinsey's life and realizes she can't name any. Not in her circumstances. "Normally I'd say I'd introduce you. I think you'd love Jane, for example, and I think she'd love you back. But the truth is most of my friends are metas or close to metas, and that's probably attention you don't need right now, present low-key company not-withstanding."

She holds up a finger, wandering back for a refill on the coffee. It gives her a moment to think, and to grab a bite of the cake she hadn't wanted to bring into the shop. She comes back to lean in the doorway. "But…you have customers you can talk to," she points out. "And what…vendors, right? Professional associations? Those could be turned into friendships."


Kinsey's small smile over the donkeys remark flourishes into the full expression of itself when Jessica does such an extravagant imitation of her former manager. Her chest rises and falls around a silent laugh, and the smile sticks around a little bit — less brilliant, but persistent — because it's true: she's got one.

More than one, possibly, but that's — complicated.

"I think it just depends on what kind of metahuman they are. If they're the 'rebelling against the government' kind then it's probably best if I keep my distance, yeah. But I had this pair in here a while back to get some rocket boots fixed, and — one of them is a raccoon. From space. Seriously! Or that's what he looks like, anyway. He carries around a rocket launcher as big as he is. It's hard to hide that kind of thing." She can't shrug, laying on the floor that way, but she lifts her hands, then lets them fall. "I asked him to dinner. He's an engineer, I couldn't help myself."


"Oh, Jesus," Jessica says with a laugh. "You know the Guardians, huh? Yeah, Rocket's pretty great."

Peter doesn't seem like the type to talk about Jessica's drunken rampage to Kinsey. She decides she needn't add any disclaimers. "Peter Quill is a great one to meet and to not give a damn about any of your secrets too, if you hadn't already. Kitty and Hikari aren't officially Guardians, but they're often around and they're both great. And of course all Groot can say, even if he knows anything about you is…"

Jessica adopts a wise expression. "I am Groot."

Jessica thinks a moment longer and snaps her fingers. "I could introduce you to Trish too; she's my sister, but she's not a meta at all. You might be a little nervous cause she's media, but…she doesn't know, I didn't tell her anything that could even make her suspect, and even if she found anything out, she'd react exactly like I did."

She mentally sifts through all her friends. "I have never heard any government statements at all," she says. "Some of them are a little too governmentally involved for comfort though. There's quite a few who I only know by the masks too, which hardly seems condusive to hey, let's go out and have some flipping coffee."

The masks definitely had their disadvantages. "But jeez, yeah, the Guardians will happily include you in anything, make you feel right at home." Poor Peter. Jessica grimaces just a little bit in the memory of her sins, burying her face in her coffee. "They have this robot or something with them now. He speaks a lot of weird phrases that sound like Japanese. Maybe it even is Japanese."


"They seem pretty alright to me, even if Rocket's nosy. I don't think I'd leave him alone with my toolchests for long." Kinsey plants one foot, tilting herself over and onto her front, the better to look at Jessica directly. She props her elbows beneath herself and dangles booted feet over her backside, hands loosely stacked atop one another.

She's about to open her mouth to mention Spider-Man, to contribute to what Jessica has to say about the difficulty of becoming friendly with people who wear masks — but at the last moment finds herself questioning the wisdom of doing that. She'd met him whilst engaged in some pretty illegal activities, and though she's developing enough trust in Jessica that she can feel /reasonably/ sure the woman isn't going to turn her over to the police, what Jessica knows about her status as a metahuman and what Jessica knows about her status as a /criminal/ are two entirely different things. It's another reminder of just what kind of minefield her social life is going to be. Jessica has enough information to destroy Kinsey's life utterly, and there are still things Kinsey isn't sure she can share.

The thought is very suddenly exhausting. "I'd love to meet your sister," she says, pushing through her own reluctance to focus on the things immediately in front of her. "Or anybody else you think a lot of. And, you know — the garage isn't the most exciting place to be, but you're always welcome to come by. You don't have to bring gifts," she adds, with a crooked smile. "Not that I'm complaining."


Well. There's always the rule. It applies to Jessica too. It's hard to imagine it hurting Jessica physically or emotionally, right?

What could possibly go wrong, after all!

Jessica doesn't seem to notice that Kinsey is grappling again. She smirks and says, "I might a few times more, you know, helps cover those moments where I'm a weird, awkward workaholic. We can just stuff cake in our mouths and that works. But I'll bring her by. She might drag us all out, she's like that. She will ask questions, but…she won't be prying. She'll just be trying to get to know you."

She smirks around the garage. "Nothing wrong with the garage. It's a change of scenery for me, even if it isn't for you. But. Okay. Mission take Kinsey out to do something is now officially enacted. No bars, but…we'll think of something. Maybe hit a movie." It's not inventive, but…maybe it doesn't have to be. Jessica does like movies too.


"Hey," Kinsey says, her moment of inner wobbling slipping into the past, "If you wanna bring me cake, sister, I'm not gonna say no."

Jessica's glance around the garage's interior prompts one of Kinsey's own, her head turning, tilting, to angle her gaze deeper into the space, toward the back. She tries for just a moment to see it the way that someone else might: for what it is, rather than what it conceals beneath itself. As much as its work may consume her life, her thoughts are almost always on her other work, her other self — this self that she holds in reserve. Seeing from a fresh perspective that clean, orderly space, she feels an unanticipated note of pride, though it's weak and difficult to sustain. Still: a reminder that she's trying. Doing the best that she can, all things considered. It has only been a year since her life was upended entirely, and she didn't give in to the urge to remain in bed forever. It's not a /great/ story, but it's better than the one she could be writing, she supposes.

"I don't mind questions, as long as she's prepared for some seriously /boring/ answers," says Kinsey, the corner of her mouth quirking. "Everything I can talk about is as dull as dishwater. But hell yeah, movies. We'll do that." She lifts her hand for a high-five. From her position on the floor it's bound to be the most awkward high five in history, but the knowledge of that doesn't seem like it's going to stop her.


The PI smirks about the cake, and says, "I'll keep that in mind." She follows Kinsey's gaze around the garage, but soon returns her attention and smile to the other woman. When she offers the high-five, the smile ticks upward a bit.

Jessica makes the high-five work by taking a knee, very, very carefully tapping her hand to Kinsey's. She adapts quickly, after all.

There are 5-year olds who generate more force, but she's not doing it to be tentative or half hearted. She's smiling. She just knows what Kinsey knows about her, and she doesn't want anyone suddenly afraid she's going to knock their arms clear off their body or something like that. Erring on the side of less force is better than erring on the side of more. She's not as sure of her control as she used to be anyway. Better to be very safe than very sorry.

"Just no Rom Coms, okay?" she says. She's now so much less contemptuous of them, but some movie where it all works out for the perfect heroine is nothing she needs. "Not that you exactly seem the type. I like just about anything else. Comedies most of all." Sometimes what Jessica really needs is just…some stupid laughs, more than anything else.


There isn't any worry in Kinsey whatsoever. Maybe it just hasn't occurred to her that Jessica's prodigious strength is something that she has to consciously expend the effort to control.

High-five achieved, Kinsey plants her hands, gets up onto her knees, and rocks from those back and onto her feet, a movement conducted with a physical fluidity that is slightly less than entirely natural. She takes care to simulate organic limbs in mixed company — and the fakes are good, /really/ good — but Jessica skipped right past the 'I'm a triple-amputee' part of Kinsey's storehouse of secrets and vaulted straight into the hard stuff; it's safe to say that she's not worried about Jessica discovering that three of her four limbs are half-machine.

"Yeah…no worries on that one. They're not really my style. So it's a date, then! I'll find us something funny to watch, or something with a lot of explosions, you tap your sister and let her know in advance that I'm a /supremely/ boring human being, and we'll all go out and watch a movie and — I don't know. Eat more cake. And pretend that this is something we do all the time, instead of working. It'll be like Sex and the City, but with comfortable shoes."


"Done and done," Jessica says with a smirk. Comfortable shoes and no love life to speak of! But hey. "And nowhere fancy either. I hate fancy restaurants." She'd never watched Sex in the City but had a vague impression of pretty women in pretty dresses drinking lots of wine in places she avoided like the plague. But she was sure there were plenty of places to eat cake in both New York and Gotham, and to drink good coffee, and to critique whatever action-adventure movie they'd just seen.

She has observed the fluid movements, but only in the way she notices anything. Sometimes it's just all details that she barely consciously registers until the moment she needs them, until the moment they all coalesce into a complete picture in her head. This is just one of them, something which may never become important later…or which may be lifesaving.

One never knows.

She rises as well, and decides that for now though, she should probably let Kinsey get some work done. She still has apologies to go make; but she's at least fortified, enough, now, to go and make them.

"I should go. But…I had fun coming over today," she says, meaning it. It sounds a little…12…to her own ears, but…that's a step up from some of the actions she's taken lately that seem about 8 to her. Or younger.


"No fancy restaurants either," promises Kinsey, holding one hand up, her middle three fingers together: the girl scout's salute. Because of course a young woman from a military family would've been enrolled in a girl scout troop — whether she wanted to be or not.

Jessica begins to make noises about it being time to go, and Kinsey hesitates, wringing her hands for an indecisive moment before giving in to her usual instincts: she's a hugger. She extends her arms and reaches for Jessica with sisterly enthusiasm, though it wouldn't be difficult for the detective to dissuade her. "Thanks for coming to check on me. I'm glad that you did. I…I'm just glad."


Jessica is finding it easier to be touched; and its generally easier with women than with men to begin with. She doesn't dissuade Kinsey from offering a hug. She returns it, even with the same sisterly air, feeling this woman is basically a kindred spirit, for all the differences in their circumstances. She doesn't make it linger overly long, but then it's not a hug that truly needs to linger, and it's no less heartfelt for all that. "Me too." Note to self, don't neglect friendships for crisis.

"I'll give the garage a ring when I've got my plane tickets lined up, so you'll know I'm just out of pocket and not ignoring you. Once I'm there I expect it to be all crisis, all the time, with occasional breaks for…I dunno, weinerschnitzel or whatever."

She smirks at that, and then she heads out. She leaves the cake though…baby and all.

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