The Child Inside

March 27, 2017:

Cautiously, carefully, Jessica Jones reaches out to Juno Hart.

Brooklyn, NY

You deserve a break today.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, T'Challa, Grymalkin

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The street where Juno lives with her 'uncle' in Brooklyn isn't terribly run-down, nor is it exceedingly fancy. It's just another forgettable street in a forgettable neighborhood. The building where she lives is likewise much the same - a sandy brown brick five-story in a row of nearly identical ones. The population is mostly Caucasian, some of eastern European extraction, most born here.

It's important that nobody knows where a killer lives. But Juno lives here, and there are of course people who must know where Juno lives. But as long as nobody knows that Juno is a killer, things should be okay!

The story is that Juno emigrated from a small village on the edge of Siberia to attend school in America on scholarship. Nobody really asks, which is nice, because she doesn't have to remember all the little fake details on demand. She'd rather spend her off-time wandering around the city, visiting the libraries and museums, exploring her new home. It's been five months, but everything is still new and exciting. New York City is enormous… she feels like she could go out every single day of her life and never see it all.

Which is why she lets herself out the front door around 10AM, as usual, with her usual backpack and another one of those colorful hoodies she likes so much. They have a HUGE pocket on the front and they're bulky enough to conceal most of her weapons loadout without being uncomfortable! Now, where should she go today…?

—-

Her plans may be derailed. A woman leans on a car directly across the street from her house, and as soon as Juno emerges, the woman waves, to her.

Jessica Jones planned her approach very carefully. The car isn't hers, but the pose is casual, non-threatening. She'd forgone her beloved leather jacket in favor of a black tank top that couldn't possibly hold a weapon.

If Juno decides to shoot her, Jessica's pretty sure she'd go for the head anyway, so the bulletproof clothes are not entirely the help they could be. She's chosen tight, hole-filled jeans that similarly make it clear she is unarmed.

Her hands are clear at her sides, open. Juno doesn't have to know that she herself is a weapon…not that she thinks it would necessarily help, since Jessica would as soon shoot her own eye out than hurt a kid, especially one in Juno's situation.

If she needs to defend herself today, she'll flee.

"Juno?" she asks, keeping her voice calm and quiet. She will wait to invoke certain names until Juno is closer…some things should not just be shouted across streets.

—-

Juno spots the woman only seconds after turning around to go down the steps. Her fingers tighten imperceptibly on the strap of her (absurdly colorful, fake-rainbow-paint-splattered) backpack, but she doesn't react otherwise. It's not unusual for people to wait outside beside parked cars, after all! And it's normal for the woman's eyes to follow her if she's bored by waiting. Juno watches people go by all the time.

It's just that most of the time people don't wave to her, and they definitely don't call her name! Now she does frown, but only a little bit - after all, people from Back Then would call her Yuliya or J-27.

Juno trots down the stairs to the edge of the sidewalk, looks both ways because cars are dangerous and she doesn't like being hit by them, and strafes right just enough to stand ten feet or so away from Jessica, behind the trunk of her borrowed car. Her face is neutral, a perfectly acceptable facsimile of a teenage girl's 'polite interest' that holds up to everything but close scrutiny. Jessica, of course, will know the difference; most people don't bother to notice. "Hi! Who are you?"

—-

"My name is Jessica Jones," the private investigator says with a friendly smile. She lowers her voice. "I'm a friend to the Winter Soldier. May I speak to you for a few minutes, Juno?"

She supposes it might have done to bring some proof that she's friends with the Winter Soldier. Then again…who would dare to invoke that friendship if it weren't true? Given the legend of the man who now lies asleep and at bay inside of Bucky Barnes' mind, Jessica imagines anyone who tried to invoke that name without authorization might have been signing up for a swift and painful death.

She meets Juno's eyes, guileless, trying to make it clear that she's telling the truth. She should have taken a photo with herself and Bucky to prove it, she supposes, but it didn't occur to her.

She smiles a little at the colors, but is very aware of the scrutiny, of the ways that Juno's mien and 'normal teenager' don't quite line up at all.

—-

Jessica. Jones. Both of them are common names in America. There are a lot of Joneses in the phone book she took off of the front stoop, and many Jessicas on television. Juno wonders for a brief moment if Jessica Jones is a real name, or an alias meant to fade into the background.

Outwardly, she just holds the straps of her backpack expectantly. She's learned that this is an excellent posture to adopt when she may have to kill someone quickly, because it puts her hands very close to the weapons hidden underneath her arms; she doesn't need to bother with tugging her shirt out of the way first, so it's very convenient! Is she going to have to kill this woman who knows her name and where she lives? Maybe she can run to the alley and hope that Jessica follows, and do it there—

But Jessica mentions the Winter Soldier. Juno's pupils dilate faintly, and she breathes out. Whatever he is to her, mentioning that name had an effect on the girl.

Juno stares back at Jessica for long seconds, transparently considering the woman's claim. "Ты моя сестра?" she eventually asks despite Jessica's lack of an accent, her native language rolling easily off of her tongue. And just in case the woman isn't, she adds in English, "If you are the Winter Soldier's friend, describe it to me." She still has that same mask firmly in place. Juno may as well be asking about the weather.

—-

"I'm sorry, I don't speak any Russian," Jessica says sincerely, face briefly screwing up in frustration. Maybe this would have been easier if she did.

"Describe it? Oh. Him. Describe him. Sure. He has long brown hair and high cheekbones, intense eyes. He's often stern and fatherly, and he still uses a cigarette lighter from the 1940s. He has a metal arm with a red star on it, though I mean that's the kind of detail anyone knows. He's about yay high, about yay broad. He's a great teacher, but he will fuck your shit up if you don't do exactly what he says when he says it, and you'll want to thank him for the privilege because you learn so much. He likes to smoke filterless Lucky Strikes and is pissed off that he can't find too many filterless Lucky Strikes. I also have his number if you want me to just call him so you can hear him verify the association for yourself."

She keeps her hands up a little, not quite in the 'stick 'em up' pose, but definitely elevated, in view, open, and away from any place where she might possibly be hiding a weapon of any kind.

—-

Not a sister, then. Juno rocks back and forth on her heels, a habit she learned from watching people, and listens. As Jessica lists off traits one after another with no hesitation, Juno relaxes more and more. Either this is a very well-researched trap, in which case she has no choice but to spring it, or this woman is telling the truth. Either way…

With that many descriptors, and especially the personality traits, though… Juno mulls it over, not moving from her spot near the car's far tail light. But she smiles, really smiles, when Jessica says he's a great teacher. Apparently that was the right thing to say?! And Juno even learned something new about him.

"What do you want?" she asks, ignoring Jessica's offer to call him. He's busy! He doesn't need girls like Juno questioning his orders or his friends.

—-

"To talk to you and maybe to be your friend, too, if you'd like that." Jessica says with a brief smile.

"First…I found your cat, the Grymalkin. He is very sorry that he scared you and says that he will never do it again. He is very, very old, thousands of years old, and doesn't really know how to act in our era. It would probably be good if you stop breaking into hotels and things to look for him."

She gives a rueful, apologetic smile, a little concerned that her delivery on this isn't great. But straightforward doesn't seem to be a bad idea. "I wanted you to know so you wouldn't be worried anymore. Trust me I'd have freaked out too in your shoes but…I thought you should know someone had investigated it, looked into it. I don't know where he is now, but I did find him."

Pause, beat, "And the Winter Soldier would also like you to stop breaking into important people's hotels in search of this kitty."

—-

Huh. Just to talk? Why would anybody want to just talk to Juno? She doesn't really understand, and maybe the way her head tilts a few degrees to one side illustrates it. But she takes her hands off of the straps of her backpack, noting the position of Jessica's, and rests one on the metal of the car's trunk lid. The other hangs loose by her side.

Her chin dips a bit at the mention of the LIAR CAT, blue eyes going a little darker. "That's an old word for a gray cat," she notes, having only learned that recently. But Grymalkin wasn't gray, which has been making her wonder a bit. Maybe he was gray once, if he really is thousands of years old. Juno considers it solemnly. "Tell him if he doesn't do it to anybody again, I won't kill him." She says it so easily, her face so serious.

She hasn't even quite lost all the baby fat on her cheeks yet, for fuck's sake.

"…But it's good to know that he's sorry," she finally relents, and takes a slow step toward Jessica, hand still on the car - and stops in her tracks, a faint bloom of pink rising on her cheeks. Oh… so he found out about that, too…

Juno is just going to spend the rest of her life apologizing, isn't she? It's all the cat's fault, too! It's no surprise to her that the Winter Soldier knew about her meeting with the King of Cats, because she's pretty sure he knows everything. "…I'll stop," Juno finally agrees, and lifts her head a moment later. "Why do you want to be my friend too?" she asks after a moment.

—-

"If I see him again I'll pass on the message," Jessica says softly, but she can't hide the sadness that creeps into her voice, into her eyes. But she agrees to stop, and that was the aim Jessica was trying to get to. Mentally, she marks the KW case closed on her whiteboard; she can't imagine what else he might ask of her in regards to this and what he's already asked.

Juno asks a hard question though, hard, because the last thing Jessica wants to do is patronize her or condescend to her. And walking up out of the blue and saying 'will you be my friend' is honestly a strategy straight out of kindergarten. Jessica herself isn't all that adept at making them outside of extreme circumstances, partnerships born out of various wizard attacks, demon incursions, secret society machinations, gang wars and kidnappings. But then, this girl is a product of extreme circumstances.

Juno adopts body language to put her at ease, Jess finally drops her hands and jokes, "Anyone who can slip into a hotel and tweak the nose of the King of Wakanda is someone I wanna get to know!" As usual, a joke is her go-to, especially when it comes to covering mountains of sincere sentiment that simply cannot be addressed.

Dark eyes meet Juno's, and she smiles. "Ever been ice skating? We take a train a block from here for about 20 minutes and we can be at an incredibly bad ass rink in no time flat. I'll teach you, if you don't know how."

—-

She doesn't understand why Jessica sounds sad, either. She doesn't think there's anything particularly sad about cats or friends…? Maybe it's an American thing, she thinks.

She blinks at Jessica when the intrusion into the hotel is brought up again, this time as… a good thing. "He really was the king, then?" she asks, instead of informing the woman that she never actually touched the panther man save to ghost right through his legs. "So that's why the food was so good!" That danish was amazing.

"???" Obviously, Juno doesn't know what ice skating is. The blank look on her face doesn't recede when Jessica mentions a 'bad ass rink'. And she's not so sure she wants to get into a car with a strange woman, even one that has befriended the Winter Soldier! What if it's a test? What if she fails? What if she passes?! Without knowing what she's even being tested on, how can Juno hope to do it properly?

"…Are you hungry?" she asks instead, and finally comes out from behind the car to stand within arm's length of the detective.

—-

"Sure," Jessica says, content to let Juno lead the interaction. God, is she ever content. This is a girl who just has not been given any control. She can suggest they eat or go hang upside down from trees and Jessica Jones would probably be game, as long as it didn't involve mayhem and murder.

"I could go for some food. Where to?"

But at the blank look she says, "I'm reaching for a phone."

She pulls her phone free of her pocket and pulls up a YouTube video of ice skating, turning it towards the girl so she can see what it's all about. "It feels a bit like flying," she adds with a smile. "When you get the hang of it. Before you get the hang of it? It feels like getting your butt wet and bruised while you fall again and again but…it's still a lot of fun, believe it or not. If not now, someday, if you're interested."

She gestures to Juno, inviting her to lead the way to wherever she'd like to go, managing, now, to shove her sadness away, putting it in a box, having noticed her confusion on that front as well. Juno doesn't need to be burdened with her emotional response to this child's situation.

—-

If Jessica ever suggests hanging upside down from trees, Juno might be up for that. She likes trees.

"I like the orange restaurant two streets down. It's called McDonalds, do you know about it?" Juno asks, motioning in the direction of the closest major street. "There are a lot of them everywhere! The food always tastes the same though." It had surprised her! She snuck into one at night and rifled through the walk-in cooler. Everything comes in bags and boxes! It doesn't look much like the food she grew up with.

Juno doesn't seem very anxious about the idea of Jessica reaching for a weapon, if the relaxed angle of her shoulders and the cant of her head are an indication. She watches Jessica call up a video, and leans in toward the screen as it plays. The woman is wearing such a glittery dress, and even the man is covered in sparkles! Her eyes go wide at the sight, and she intensely watches the couple spin and glide until the video ends.

"…Maybe," Juno hedges, because she would like to try that! Especially wearing the sparkly dress. But for today, McDonalds is plenty of adventure for someone that wants to be her friend.

"Come on, it's not far." She turns to make sure Jessica is coming too, and sets off at a light jog. She's not in any particular hurry! Juno just likes running.

—-

It's called McDonalds. Does she know about it?

"I may have heard of it," Jess says, with none of the dry irony she'd give almost anyone else who offered a comment like that. Instead, she feels another tightness in this chest. This kid has never played in a ball pit. Nobody bought her Happy Meals, or gave her one of those dumb ass McDonald's birthday parties where all the kids get Ronald McDonald bibs and vanilla twist cones.

"I like it too. I think the food tasting the same is part of the appeal. You know what you're going to get. You don't have to guess. It can be comforting."

Jessica is glad to note that her caution in telling Juno what she was reaching for and why was probably not warranted, but what Bucky had to say is still at the back of her head. Still, people tend to live up or down to expectations. Other than making sure Juno knows she is safe with her, Jessica just can't find it in herself to treat her like a killer. She's a kid. A kid who has been abused in ways that are so horrific that they make her soul cringe.

Jessica can keep up with the running. A light jog is nothing, and she keeps easy pace with the kiddo. "I like your backpack," she says. "Where'd you get it?" Just idle conversation of the sort she's normally terrible at.

—-

"Oh! Then you know how good it is!" Juno turns to grin at Jessica, already imagining delicious rehydrated onions and melty cheese food product. "It is pretty nice to know that it will always taste the same. I like trying new things, but I like knowing what will happen too." Honestly, they're both pretty good, just in different ways.

Jessica probably shouldn't ever be told that Juno doesn't even know when her birthday is. She would probably implode of sadness!

At the pace they're going, the golden arches come into view very quickly. It really was only a couple of blocks away! "It came from a store, but I don't remember which one. There were so many kinds! And when I first got here we went to so many of them… after a while they all started to blur together. There were already things waiting for me, but Uncle said I needed clothes and things to put in my room - I get a whole room, to myself." It had been strange and silent the first two nights, without the sound of her sisters breathing and shifting on their cots. Of course she had adapted, because that is what Juno does.

Opening the door, she makes a 'shhh!' gestures and leads Jessica into the dining room. "You have to get in line," Juno tells her, in case Jessica has forgotten. "But that's good because you get time to read the sign and decide what you want."

—-

Sadness, but also anger. Jessica Jones right now wants to find every person behind this sickening program, beat them until they sob in agony, and then throw them into the dankest, darkest black site hole she can find for them— impractical, because she's a private eye, not someone who could possibly find a black site. But she knows people who know how to find them or make them.

She keeps her reactions hidden though, listening to Juno describe the ways her life has improved. "Yeah, America is pretty much all about the stores," she agrees.

She can't keep her lips from twitching into a smile as Juno helpfully teaches her how to navigate the line at the McDonald's. "'That so?" she asks. She gets dutifully into line, making a show of examining the board. The truth is when she comes here at all she gets the double quarter pounder with cheese, a chocolate shake, and a large order of fries just about every freaking time, but…in this case reading over the board seems appropriate. She even briefly considers the chicken nuggets before deciding nope, she's gonna go with her old standby.

"What else did you put in your room?"

—-

Juno, however, is blissfully unaware of Jessica's rising urge to use her fist of death. She is focused on the world's most basic motivator: food. "There are a lot more than people need, aren't there?" she asks, though it's not really such an important question. It's just something she noticed. It seems inefficient to have so many stores with so many choices… but it's also exciting to have so many options, and so many things to explore.

She looks away from the board to glance up at Jessica. "It was hard to find something at first. There wasn't anything else that I needed. I found out about stuffed animals though, and Pokemon. They're great!" Her bed is starting to resemble a small, technicolored zoo.

The line isn't too long, thankfully, and the middle-aged woman working the cash register smiles when Juno and Jessica reach the counter. "Juno! It's nice to see you again, sweetie. Who's your pretty friend?" She's got crow's feet at the corners of her eyes and her dark hair is tucked back into a long braid. Her nametag says 'Esther'.

"Hi Esther!" Juno chirps, resting both hands on the countertop. "This is Jessica. We're going to eat lunch, even though it's early."

Esther laughs and nods, as if this is something she's come to expect. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Jessica. Now! What would you young ladies like to eat?"

—-

Huh. Juno has become a regular at this McDonald's.

Jessica warms to Esther right away, just because she's so sweet to Juno, a far cry from the surly fast food employees she's used to encountering. She gives Esther a little smile, even as she withdraws an old, leather man's wallet from her back pocket. It's engraved with a name: Brian Jones. It looks years old, bearing the kinds of cracks that leather gets after awhile, especially when someone isn't really vigilant about polishing it or taking care of it.

"I'll pay," she tells Juno quietly, then says, "I'd like a double quarter pounder meal, supersized, with a chocolate shake instead of a Coke, and whatever Miss Juno is having. It's nice to meet you, too, Esther."

There are good people in the world too. They can be found anywhere. Not just among the heroes and larger-than-life folks of the world. There are good people working at the McDonald's restaurants of the world, too.

To Juno: "Pokemon, huh? Do you play the little phone game? Have you caught any good ones?"

—-

Juno was going to pay! But if Jessica wants to, then she won't cause a scene about it. It's only lunch. (She'll just have to be faster if Jessica wants to eat lunch with her again sometime. Friends eat together somewhat often, if television is to be believed.) "I want the big fries. And a cheeseburger, please, and a Coke." The long name for it is Coca-Cola, but she has been assured that most people just call it that.

She looks at the wallet curiously as Jessica draws it out of her pocket. 'Brian Jones'. It's very old…

"I've seen it! I tried to play it a little but I didn't really understand the point. But I hatched a lot of eggs, walking around so much. Do you like it?"

It doesn't take very long to get their meals, as the place isn't that crowded at this time of morning. They beat the lunch rush by forty minutes, according to Juno's internal memorization of the McSchedule.

"Want to pick where we sit?" she offers, because Juno really doesn't care where as long as there are fries.

—-

"Sure, how about over there?" Jessica picks a table in the corner, one which will allow Juno to put her back to the wall, and which will let her see the whole of the room if she wants. It's maybe an unnecessary gesture, but…she wants the kid to be comfortable, and she's at least read about various people in Juno's…profession…wanting those things.

She smiles and shakes her head. "Naw, kiddo. I don't have a lot of time to play games like that. I'm a private detective, so…I guess I get plenty of fun finding real people and things, instead of cartoon ones. But I mean I've heard of it. I know what a Pikachu is. I couldn't tell you what any of the other ones are. Bulbadino? Something like that? I think there's a cartoon, if you've watched it."

She does pause to get a metric ass-ton of ketchup. Ketchup is the real point of those french fries; sweet and perfect and cold on the end of a hot stick of salty potatoy goodness. Jessica has a weakness for fries and ketchup.

—-

Juno does take the wall seat, but not because she feels particularly nervous about the room. She does like being able to see everybody else coming and going, though… She gets a little ketchup of her own, but the salt and grease in the fries is already a lot of flavor for somebody raised on institutional food. And then there's still the burger with all of its pickley, oniony, cheesy goodness.

She has no idea why Uncle doesn't want to eat here every day!

"Oh, I see!" Being a detective probably means a lot of time spent on stakeouts and sitting in smoky offices and… things like that. She tried to watch something about a Maltese Falcon, but it turned out to be about a statue and not an actual bird, so she changed the channel back to Animal Planet and forgot about it. "If you're a detective… did someone hire you to find me?" She's probably not a police detective, because she knows the Winter Soldier, and he has not killed Jessica yet for trying to arrest him or anything.

It'll be easy for Jessica to see that Juno doesn't eat like someone who has spent a lot of her life hungry. Whoever did this to her didn't starve the girl. She eats like a normal teenage girl, enjoying the taste of salt-fat-potato and fizzy-sweet-cola. "I never saw a cartoon of it, but I like the one about little ponies. The stories are really simple, but the ponies are drawn nicely and it's cheerful."

—-

"Nope. I was hired to find the cat, actually," Jessica replies, smirking faintly. "Telling you about it just seemed like the right thing to do."

Jessica has, as it happens, had her own 'it was a slow day at the office' moment. Complete with a mysterious beautiful woman walking in and turning her life upside down, though of course not a love interest of any kind. And her office was smoky at one point, back when she smoked, though she quit quite some time ago.

Jessica is at least relieved to see no signs of starvation. She sips at her shake thoughtfully. The girl reveals that she likes My Little Pony and Jessica Jones is again struck by the dichotomy. Watching cartoon horses wax poetic about friendship one minute, ready to brutally and efficiently murder in another. Jess has not ever watched the show, but she says, "Sometimes simple stories are best. Do you have a favorite pony? Or a favorite episode?"

—-

Juno looks up from her fries at mention of the LIAR CAT again, but doesn't seem liable to jump up out of her chair and hunt it down. Maybe she should change its name. Probation cat? She'll have to think about it…

"Did he scare somebody else? That's why I was trying to find him." Juno eats another french fry. "Because it's wrong to scare other people." She sounds so sure about it! Seems Bucky was right - she is learning to apply her likes and dislikes to other people.

Juno considers carefully. "They all have good qualities, but Applejack works hard. Sometimes it's hard to understand what she says because of her accent, though." She likes watching the show, but a lot of the time she ends up listening to it while she maintains her weapons. She doesn't think that's appropriate talk for McDonalds, though…!

"I wonder if Winter Soldier watches television…?" she remarks at length. "Do you?"

—-

"Actually a certain King hired me to find him. He said that he wished to know if he needed to be brought to justice. He was worried about you. Still is, in fact. Still not a good reason to go mess with him at his hotel, of course. Rulers tend to get testy about that sort of thing, you know?"

She swipes up a big glob of ketchup as Juno opines about the hardworking Applejack; Jessica resolves to look it up. Because the different personalities of these stupid cartoon horses, and what Juno values in them, will tell her a lot about the real person inside of the doll-child.

"The Winter Soldier has. I showed him a couple of movies once. Ghostbusters and Back to the Future. He seemed to enjoy them. I don't know if he watches day-to-day television, but I've also sent him some commercials I thought might make him laugh. I like a show called Scrubs. It's all about a silly hospital. Usually the stuff they do on the show bears no relationship to what happens in a real hospital, but…it's still funny."

—-

A certain king…? "Do you mean the Cat King?" Juno asks, sipping her soda. "He was in the hotel when I was looking inside of it." She lowers her voice, seeing nobody sitting terribly close yet. "I was hiding in a cabinet, eating a bread thing, and he found me! He tore the door off of the cabinet and wanted to know why I was there. He knew that I was hunting, but not who, and when I told him about Grymalkin he said he didn't know anybody like that." It makes sense that a cat king would want to police other cats, Juno thinks. "He doesn't need to worry about me, though," she frowns. Why would anybody worry about her? She's very capable!!

Ghost..? Juno commits the names to memory. If Zimniy Soldat liked them, they must be good! And Scrubs, too… if it's a funny hospital, it should be fine… "They don't show cutting people open, right?" Juno makes a face. "I don't like that."

—-

"The King of Cats. That's a good name for him." Jessica allows, smirking faintly. She listens to the story as told by Juno, and nods slowly. "He was worried because Grymalkin scared you. As you've already observed, scaring people isn't nice. But I'm really sure he didn't mean to. Or at least, that he was making mischief, not maliciousness."

She chuckles. "No. I couldn't handle people cutting other people open either. It's not that kind of show, really. There are a few medical moments but…it's not really about that. The main character, JD, basically daydreams a lot and tries to be a good, nice doctor. He really wants to help people, even though a lot of people think he shouldn't care as much as he does. He and his friends stick together through thick and thin, and get into silly situations with each other."

She starts in on her hamburger, feeling some hope. If this kid doesn't like bloody, gory cutting-people-open scenes, she's maybe not as hardened as everything might indicate. Then again, medical shit is just really gross, probably more gross than stab wounds.

—-

He was a man in a black rubber suit with a weird mask and cat ears and claws… Juno isn't quite sure what else to call him! He was definitely on a different level than a normal cat. "I don't understand why anybody would be worried about me," Juno frowns. "I wasn't hurt. Just… surprised." Scared! But she doesn't want to admit that!

The idea of a man who daydreams a lot seems unrealistic, but so do multicolored ponies and Juno likes those. "That sounds like a show I might like. I'll look for it! I learned how to use the On Demand to look for things." As long as there's no medical stuff… The scar on her lower belly pulls a bit at the memory and Juno frowns faintly, shoving the last french fry into her mouth. People shouldn't be able to get opened up like that and wake up alive… it seems impossible, and thinking about it too much makes her anxious. Stab wounds are normal. People bleed, and then they die and don't wake up again.

After lunch, Juno checks her cell phone. It's just after 11AM, and the lunch crowd is gathering inside the restaurant. If she hurries, she can make the 11:25AM train to Midtown and the library there. "Jessica. It was very nice to meet you," she says, because that is a thing that friends are supposed to say, right? And it's true too! "Can I… give you my phone number? It would be fun to go do stuff…" Like the ice skating!

—-

"Of course you can. I was gonna give you mine." Jessica pulls out a card and offers it to Juno; it's her Alias card with all her contact info. Then she pulls out her phone, ready to program Juno's number into it.

She says, "And if you ever want to talk, or ask questions, or anything, you can call me, okay? I can't always answer right away, but I'll call back if I need to. About anything that's on your mind. And we can plan to go do stuff! I look forward to spending more time with you."

This is all more than sincere. But the truth is, as angry and sad as this meeting made her from time to time, she also sees a lot to be hopeful for. She thinks Juno Hart is not out of the woods yet, at all…but neither is she a lost cause or a hopeless case. There's a young lady striving to get out, someone with a conscience, someone with empathy. Jess is sure of it.

—-

Juno takes the card, memorizing the information there in case something happens to her phone. Of course it'll only last inside her head for so long, but for a while it'll be a good backup. It gets tucked away into a pocket where it won't be lost, and Juno waits for Jessica to be ready before reciting her phone number.

"It'll be fun!" she smiles, and it's a real thing… less of the doll-like vacant smile she wears so often. "You can call me too, okay? I don't know if I can answer any questions you have, but I can try."

She thinks she's done all the things that she's supposed to when saying goodbye to someone she likes. Hasn't she? Juno reviews the list and nods. There's only one thing left. "See-you-soon, Jessica!" she recites, and waves a little bit. And then Juno turns away and starts for the train station, because Pablo Neruda is going to be late soon and she doesn't want to incur a library fine. That would be terrible!!

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