There Are Just Gifts

April 10, 2017:

As promised, Jessica Jones teaches Juno Hart how to ice skate. They end up teaching each other a lot more than that.

Sky Rink at Chelsea Piers

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Captain America, Kitty Pryde, Azalea Kingston, Cindy Moon, Rocket Raccoon

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The nice thing about having exchanged phone numbers is this: they eliminate the need for simply showing up at a place, looking all mysterious while leaning on other people's cars. Today, Juno would have received one that said, Wanna go somewhere today? You can pick wherever. And how we meet, and get there.

And then, Also, have a present for you.

Jessica had originally thought about tossing out destination suggestions, but eventually her sense of needing to give Juno as much autonomy as possible had taken back over. That means Juno decides what she might like to do, or if she even wants to do things at all. Still, the detective's commitment to the young woman's well being, to helping her walk a road away from being a tool of evil men, is such that she carves out the time to do it. And if her own attempts to connect with the girl are as fumbling in their way as her attempts to connect with anyone, they are no less heartfelt for all of that. Either way, she sits at an outdoor table at Sal's Deli, waiting for the reply, working on a bagel and coffee.

—-

Isn't technology great? Over the couple of weeks or so since the last (first) time they'd met, Juno had been quite pleased to find out that Jessica Jones was more than happy to exchange text messages as well as recommendations for new media that Juno herself hadn't discovered yet. She's already approaching the end of Scrubs season 2! Janitor is still the best character though.

'Sure!' she'd texted back. She is a little curious about the badass rink thing… 'Want to try ice skating? I can meet you at the train.' Once arrangements are made, Juno dresses in what she thinks will be appropriate clothing - a sweater and thick leggings - before shouldering her backpack and starting off toward the station.

—-

Done, Jessica texts back.

And so it is that she meets Juno at the station, dressed pretty much as she ever is. Jeans, a black t-shirt, a gunmetal grey necklace in the shape of a diamond, and today, her black leather jacket, though it's open and there's still no sign she's armed. Silver duct tape patches up a couple of holes in the jacket in a pair of 'X' shapes. Black boots. She jogs over to Juno, holding up a little gift bag and offering it out. She studies the way Juno is dressed but really finds no fault with it. Worst case if the girl gets cold she can borrow Jessica's jacket, once the myriad of little things she carries are fished out of it; Jess herself is fairly indifferent to heat or cold at the best of times.

"That's our train there," she says, pointing to the appropriate one as it pulls up, already ready to disgorge folks and aquire new ones. "Looks like we got here in the nick of time."

—-

Some things are universal. Jessica is more of a hero than she thinks, Junos gonna Juno, and black leather jackets look incredibly badass. This must be something made for colder climates, Juno thinks privately as Jessica gets closer. Her own sweater is pretty nondescript despite its cheerful pink hue; it was warm, soft, and had reminded her of ice cream, so she wanted it.

"Hi Jessica!" the assassin chirps, lifting a hand to wave as the detective approaches. She doesn't really understand why anybody would bring her a present. Juno hopes it isn't super impressive or expensive or… or something, because she is figuring out that presents should be returned? Maybe? And she doesn't know anything about how to do that.

She really just… doesn't have any idea. But Juno accepts the little gift bag after a moment's hesitation, and might peek up at Jessica's face a little bit as the train pulls in.

She thinks that sometimes people are supposed to wait to open presents? But she doesn't know when that is! In the end, simple curiosity wins out - Juno peers down into the depths of the bag, but doesn't dig in, because wow trains are always crowded. "It's not very far, right?" the girl asks, pointing her gaze either into the bag or toward the ceiling, but not the crush of humans around her. "Do they give you a sparkly dress when you get there or are you supposed to bring your own?"

—-

"Hi, Juno!"

Being greeted in such a happy and sunny manner can't help but bring a smile to the PI's lips. It's an easy-going thing, and if it still is a bit unfamiliar on her face it's not unwelcome either.

As for the gift…It's not terribly expensive, no. It's just an Applejack plushie, just a little something to add to her collection. "If you already have one," Jessica says sheepishly, "We can exchange it for another you'd like. The fact that you might have occurred to me as I came over here. And no, we only have to ride for about ten minutes."

She's clearly taken aback, though, at the question of the sparkly dresses. She suddenly grins and says, "Well…professionals wear those. I imagine you have to buy your own if you want one, but you won't want one while learning. You'll want all the covering on your legs you can get. Most people who do it just for fun just dress like we're dressed."

She's noted it, though, the aversion to crowds, and offers, "Next time we go hang out I can borrow my sister's car or something so we don't have to ride the train. Whatever you're comfortable with." Hopefully Juno has already gotten the idea that Jessica is probably safe enough. Though the same might be a bit of a stretch when it comes to Jessica's admittedly highly terrible driving.

—-

Huh, it's… orange? A hand dips into the bag to check, and Juno is surprised and pleased to see that it's just as soft as she'd thought it looked. "No, I don't have one already. Thank you!" she beams, though she doesn't pull Applejack out of the bag and start cuddling her right there on the train. Juno knows that unfortunate things sometimes happen on public transit. It's better to prevent a spill than to have to fight to regain possession of the coveted plush toy. There may have been An Incident(tm). e_e

In any case, she no longer seems tense around Jessica. Maybe their last outing was plenty of evidence for Juno's Grand Jessification Theory!!

Or maybe Juno's just the kind of girl that wants you to never see the bullet coming. Either/or.

Somehow it's a bit disappointing that there won't be any sparkly outfits, but that's just as well. After all, Juno doesn't want to be lifted into the air by a strange man in sparkly bellbottoms, which seems to be part of the 'professional' ice skating world. She does look back toward Jessica when the older girl suggests borrowing a sister's car, with a quizzical expression. "The train is okay. There are just a lot of people," she tries to explain. There hadn't been this many, Back There. Or, there had been, but all of them had been faces that Juno had known from childhood and there was far, far more room too move around than this small box on wheels.

She smiles at Jessica, but it's a bit uneasy. It'll be nice to get out of here…

—-

Jessica gets a look of relief. She's actually not accustomed to giving gifts. She's never actually sure when they'll backfire. The fact that this produced a simple thank you and a smile is perfect. "You're more than welcome!"

Jessica offers Juno a window seat; perhaps taking an aisle seat so that she can not be super close to people will at least assuage some of her uneasiness. She listens as Juno explains about the people, and nods with understanding. "I think 'lots of people' is the number one reason why people don't love the train," she agrees.

She decides to try to distract her by prepping her for what to expect once they get to the rink. "So when we get there we have to pay to get in, then we'll rent the skates. They have them in every shoe size. We'll sit outside the actual ice part to put our skates on. You'll have to kind of wobble-walk on the blades until we get out there, but that's a good way to get used to balancing on them. You want to make sure they're laced good and tight and that your ankles aren't moving around inside of them. I'll stay close though, and you can grab on me if you feel like you're about to fall at any time. You won't knock me down."

Here is one area where Jessica will have an advantage over all other skating instructors, because she has the strength to avoid taking them both down in a tangle of blades and limbs.

"They usually play a lot of loud music," she adds, not wanting Juno to be overwhelmed by that either.

—-

She takes the window seat when Jessica offers it to her with a small sense of gratitude-relief-comfort. If uneasiness is the worst thing that Juno has to endure on a short ten-minute trip, that's fine. Nobody is shooting or bleeding! That means everything is okay.

Instead, she looks out the window and tries to imagine the reality of things Jessica is describing. It's easy enough to imagine paying first, because that is like eating in restaurants and going to see a movie. "They're like shoes?" Juno murmurs, eyes darting toward a bird on a wire outside the train car. "Boots. I watched another video. People have to lock their ankles." To keep from falling over. Human feet aren't that great at balancing on such skinny surfaces, but they're able to. Ice skates, wires, fences… all sorts of thin things!

It's a relief, though, when their stop arrives. Juno isn't tense enough to run from the source of her uneasiness, or to become combative, but being out in the slightly-more-open air is much better than the cramped car interior. Breathing out slowly, her shoulders rise and fall with the release of anxiety. Her pale blue eyes seem less pinched.

Juno looks up toward Jessica again, and if she knows to be embarrassed about her dislike of the crowd she doesn't show it at all. She may not even understand that it was unusual, despite Jessica's attempt to put her at ease. "…" Still, maybe she sticks just a bare inch closer to the older girl as they leave the station…

—-

Jessica Jones may understand more than Juno thinks, given her own uneasiness with being touched, or surrounded, or boxed in anywhere. She notes Juno drawing closer, and she more than allows it, her demeanor shifting. It's as if she's doing some sort of protective, hawk-like mantling over the younger girl.

Silly though this may be, given which of them is the deadlier.

Still, the instinct is there. She'd been content to chat about shoes and locking ankles on the way over. "At this hour the rink shouldn't be too crowded," she hastens to assure Juno. She'd chosen about the 1:00 PM hour, before most anyone is out of school. A few couples might be here maybe, maybe a few of the people who actually do compete, maybe some homeschool kids, but not entire passles of children and parents and crazy birthday parties.

Once they've gone through the motions of paying and shoe rental, Jessica plops onto a bright blue bench. This rink is indoors, well-appointed, clean and newer. The music is loud, but not so loud at this hour nobody can talk over it, and the DJ isn't clearing the floor for games or anything like that. She rents lockers so they can put their stuff inside (though in Jessica's case that's just going to be her boots) and fits her own foot into her own size 8 skate, tying them up firmly. "The last time I did this," she admits, "I was 14 years old. My Dad taught me when I was much younger, 7 or so. I always loved doing it though. I don't think I'll be too rusty to show you the ropes." It is almost an absent thing, talking about her family, talking about being a young child being taken around by a family. Three seconds after she says it her expressive face twists into a grimace that she directs down at the laces of the impeccably white skate shoe.

Perhaps not a topic best brought up, given Juno's circumstances. Clumsy, Jessica.

—-

Jessica is (mostly) a known phenomenon. Juno thinks that she's pretty soft-hearted, or at least kind, which isn't quite the same thing. The Winter- no, Bukiy - is kind, but he isn't soft-hearted at all. When she's uncertain, Juno is usually happier to make sure at least one variable in her environment can be guessed at.

And if she were to want to protect Jessica Jones from the crush of people at this short distance, then she would be able to.

The rink isn't crowded, and instead of watching people on the approach Juno can focus on the strange artificial taste of the humid air, the cold that isn't precisely the same as the late winter-early spring weather outside. She can smell hot water and chemical chocolate from a hot drinks vending machine, the strange smell of disinfected rental skates, the faded exhaust that comes from the zamboni tucked into a bay at the side of the rink.

Applejack and her own winter boots are tucked carefully into a locker next to Jessica's with an extra inspection of the lock. It should be enough to keep most people out, Juno thinks optimistically. And if it's not, she can find any thief. Juno watches Jessica lace her skates up and does the same, copying the motions of tugging the leather tongue and pulling the laces taut with concentration.

What was she doing when she was fourteen? Juno tries to remember, but so much blurs together whenever she tries to work out a timeline. There was so little to measure years by… It was after the surgeries, she's pretty sure. Most of them, anyway! She doubles the laces around her ankles for security and tests her range of motion before knotting them securely. A dad…? Juno is reminded of the wallet she saw last time. A man's name, and Jessica's surname. "Your dad… was his name Brian?" she asks.

She doesn't seem to have registered Jessica's sudden unease. Juno doesn't remember a father or a mother. She doesn't remember wanting one.

—-

Jessica hesitates in the act of tying up her second skate, looking over at Juno Hart as she displays both her increredible situational awareness skills— she doubts one teen in 100,000 would have noticed the name engraved on her wallet— and a memory for those kinds of details. But that's not really what gives her that moment of serious-eyed pause.

It's the notion that in this, she might slowly, carefully, introduce an idea. Plant a seed, so to speak.

"Yeah," she says. "Good catch. He died when I was 15. So did my Mom, and my baby brother." It's the first time she's talked about this so easily, so freely, but…after the story of your family's death is printed by The Daily Bugle it no longer seems to be such a big deal. And even if it hadn't been, the little seed she's trying to plant, the little idea she's trying to introduce, and hopefully not clumsily, would be worth it.

"I miss them every day. I wish they were still here, alive. I loved them, very much."

She doesn't know if it's landed, or if it will even take root, this idea. This idea that death isn't just the successful execution of a skill, nor even the visceral rush of blood or the fall of a body. It's the irrevocable loss of someone who may be missed, and loved. That it's not a trivial thing, but a thing with weight. To move her closer to the notion that killing should be a last ditch solution, if that, and not an early answer to most problems. She won't hammer it home any harder than that though. She finishes tying her skate and stands up, balancing on them with the practiced ease of someone who remembers how to do this, even if she hadn't done it in awhile. She offers an arm for Juno to grab just in case she cannot similarly balance at first. "Ready?"

—-

Juno noticed the name because she was taught to look for tiny details about people. The lump of a hidden weapon, the hitch in a step that means a leg is compromised. If Jessica had brought it out at a later date, Juno might never have noticed the writing there. But because she did notice it, and because she is friendly toward Jessica, she remembered it. No - because she is Jessica's friend. It's different.

Outwardly, Juno's expression is open and unconcerned, if slightly focused. She's watching Jessica carefully, observing the way her fingers tighten on the laces, and the vwip sound the laces make as they pull through the eyelets. Yes, her laces did the exact same thing. Good!

But Juno's gaze wanders up to her face as Jessica allows her grief to peek through. "…" What would it feel like to lose a family? Juno has never had anything like that. She doesn't have a frame of reference, and it shows on her face. But Jessica is sad, and Juno doesn't like that someone nice should feel bad. She just doesn't know what to say. She hopes it didn't hurt? She's sorry, even though it wasn't her (it probably wasn't her)?

In the end, Juno says nothing, but something is obviously being turned over inside her skull.

She reaches out for Jessica's hand, but catches the cuff of her sleeve. Standing is weird, and the teenager wobbles once before her training takes over. She knows she has to lock her ankles, and adjusts for that. It's not much like walking a wire at all…!

Of course, standing on skates and standing on skates on ice are different propositions entirely, but Juno isn't afraid. "I'm ready," she nods, ponytail brushing the back of her neck. She'll let Jessica lead, and she'll fall on her own rather than pull the other girl down with her, but Juno makes it to the side of the rink without falling on her face. Progress!!

—-

Noticing Juno looking willing to simply fall rather than drag her down, Jessica smiles. And says gently, quietly, "Juno, I promise…I'm stronger than I look. Way stronger. You won't drag me down." She turns backwards onto the ice after a moment's remembrance, the half-forgotten skill asserting itself once more. She holds out both her arms. "You'll want to grab both of these. Step out onto the ice, get your balance under you once again."

She'd noticed, of course, the flitter of expressions on Juno's face. But that was it, that's all she's going to do there: now is for skating and for just being friends, for forging the bond she's committed to forging with this girl. And if she's still new to deliberately forging bonds, she's nevertheless noticed some things work pretty well. Time and attention, kind words. Sometimes food. Maybe those are the only things that ever do.

"And then we'll take the next step. Nice and slow. If you slip I'll put you back to rights. But it's all in good fun." It's how her dad taught her, though he didn't have the benefit of super strength, and she did tangle him up, more than once. "Promise. And soon," she nods to one of the speed skaters who goes zoooooming by behind her, and grins, a genuine one, though she's not really prone to a lot of grinning. Even if smiles and laughter have come far more easily to her of late.

"Soon you'll be flying, like that dude."

A different kind of teaching, a different kind of learning, than Juno is accustomed to, perhaps. Which is why she feels the need to repeat it's fun. She's seen how Bucky teaches someone he likes. She can only imagine how Juno and her 'sisters' were 'taught'; she imagines 'being taught' might carry associations of pain and even terror. She consciously makes an effort to try to make a clear distinction here.

—-

It makes sense that Jessica would be very strong. Juno assumes that Bukiy doesn't associate with many weak people, although that makes his friendship with Captain America strange because that man had seemed kind of defenseless! Hmmm… "Okay," she nods, glancing from Jessica's hand to her eyes. Her back straightens a bit as she adjusts her posture, Juno trusting Jessica to know her own abilities - it would be foolish to make a promise that she can't keep, wouldn't it?

It takes her a moment to figure out how to step up, and she grabs Jessica's hands without hesitation this time. Her feet glide on the ice without much effort on her part - so that's what it feels like!! Juno looks down, adjusts her feet minutely, and glances around the rink as the speed skater zooms past. This is unusual, but it's okay.

She transparently considers the idea that one day she'll be flying around the rink like that. And Jessica smiles, and Juno knows that it's okay, so she smiles back.

One foot slides forward; she copies the movements she's seen Jessica and the other skaters make. They seem optimal for moving over the ice.

Now that she knows the parameters and the basics of the technique, her confidence rises a bit. A good student learns quickly, and doesn't make her instructor repeat a lesson if at all possible. Juno learned early that she wanted to be a good student. It's easier for her to learn physical skills than social ones… though half of that is because nobody ever considered social lessons worth teaching to her.

Once, Juno had been afraid of being taught. But that was a long, long time ago.

"Fun," she repeats, nodding once. She looks so serious!! …But she's actually skating, so clearly Jessica is doing something right!!

"Whose hands did you hold, when you learned?" she asks suddenly.

—-

As she pushes off— picking up on it so lightning fast that Jessica is startled, but pleased— the private investigator slides backwards, almost like a dance. She keeps her feet out of the way, moving her left as Juno moves right, right as Juno moves left. She keeps it nice and slow, but if Juno looks like she feels ready to pick up the pace, Jessica simply adjusts, and does too.

A moment later it occurs to her why Juno learns fast, but she simply allows that thought to pass without examining it too hard. "That's it, that's great," she encourages, smiling warmly instead.

Social lessons from Jessica Jones might be a hit or miss proposition to be sure, but. Admittedly Jessica may be better at Normal Personing than some of the others in Juno's circle, who all went through the same Hell that she did.

It's a sad, sorry state of affairs, but at least Jessica is coming to Juno in the shape and semblance of someone who is maybe approaching functional adulthood at last. At least she's not showing up drunk, self-centered and useless.

Her hands are steady and stable as if they were actually made out of the same iron as the safety bars that some of the beginners are clutching. She never shows signs that holding her arms out in this position bothers her in the least.

"Daddy's," Jessica replies. "Of course, I was way shorter back then. I had a runny nose, and it got all red because it was so cold— it was an outdoor rink, not an indoor one like this one. And a little hat, the first time, with floppy pom poms. It was pink and white, Mom made it for me and it was my favorite hat. I wore pig tails and he made me wear my snow pants in case I fell cause he didn't want me to catch cold. I wasn't a fast learner like you; it took me an hour to even get, oh, about a foot on my own, but he gave me hot chocolate after and I begged him to take me back every day that week. By the end of the week I could wobble all around the rink by myself, and it felt like the proudest day of my life. Dad snapped a photo, and put it on the fridge."

She has no idea why she suddenly feels compelled to share the details of this memory, in more sensory detail than she's probably described anything in her life. She says it fondly, tenderly. She can't erase the grief, but there's also happiness there. In fact, she meets Juno's eyes warmly and adds, "I haven't thought about that in years. Thank you."

After a moment it hits her that she'd put all of the good memories of her family away on the day she learned of their deaths and had never taken them out again, allowing only the ones that flayed and castigated her soul with guilt to come out to play. She still has photos, locked in a box at the back of her closet. Why didn't she ever put them up? Because they were all good memories? How strange.

She realizes in that moment what a terrible mistake that was, what a ridiculous, tragic, stupid mistake.

Once again it strikes her. Once again she's set out to help someone else…and without even trying, another person has helped her, healed something broken in he. It warms her, makes her feel a surge of fierce protective affection for the girl she's currently leading around the rink.

—-

You cannot be a slow learner and survive. That is a thing that has been written into Juno's blood and meat and bones; it is one of the core principles of how she sees the world. It's why her continued mistakes disturb her, even though nobody has punished her for them (yet).

But here, today, this is supposed to be Fun. And she understands that if she doesn't get it right quickly, Jessica won't be upset with her. Jessica won't beat the lesson into her. She probably won't even make Juno learn if she decides she doesn't like ice skating! It's strange. But Juno doesn't dislike it.

Juno listens carefully as Jessica tells her about the memory of learning to skate. It's like the pictures made by the poems in the books from the library. She can imagine it - though she doesn't know what a 'pom pom' is and decides to look it up as soon as possible - smell the slush of wet snow, remember the raw feeling of chapped skin. The faces of Jessica's mother and father are necessarily blurry, but she can give them features later if she thinks about this again, if she wants. This is a gift, Juno realizes, like Applejack and Scrubs - sharing the details of a time in Jessica's life that must be very important to her. Something that makes her happy.

Her smile gets wider, more real.

She's not terribly certain how she helped, when it was Jessica that did all the work, but Juno is glad because Jessica is glad. "You're welcome!" she chirps, and lets go of Jessica's hands. Her technique obviously lacks finesse, but Juno is stable on her feet. "Do you want to try side-by-side? I want to see how you do it not-backwards."

—-

Holy crap. Jessica just looks impressed. It reminds her sometimes of the 'gifts wrapped in shit' principle that she's starting to wrap her mind around as she continues to think about the events in her own life. Everything Juno went through was god awful, but it gave her at least one gift wrapped in all that shit. It gave her the ability to pick up skills fast. That's not nothing. One positive in a litany of negatives. Jessica herself relies on being a fast learner, but her own ability to soak things up like a sponge pales in comparison to what Juno can do, at least physically. But then…given everything, as far as Jessica can tell she's actually picking up quite a bit socially as well.

Jessica meets her smile with another of her own, and whips around to go side by side with the younger woman, keeping one arm out.

"Just in case," she says, though she's laughing, because…she somehow doubts Juno will need it. She glides easily, though she keeps her motions as small as Juno's, not wanting to outpace her across the rink. She also keeps an eye on the rink people themselves; like drivers, some skaters are absolute idiots, and she wants to make sure nobody crashes into them.

"Damn, kiddo, we might just have to get you a sparkly dress. You're a natural! You might be able to pick up all the figure skating stuff too, though that? I can't teach." Though she suspects Juno could figure it out just by watching some of the graceful sorts out on the ice even today.

She'd always been more of a rough and tumble kid than a graceful one; it probably isn't a big surprise that tiny Jessie Jones wanted speed, and screw all that twirling and leaping and dancing stuff. But she still bets Juno can pick up both.

—-

This is just another product of her long years spent being made into a living weapon - to observe a skill, to adapt it, to become its master. And she's using it to learn how to ice skate. Have any of her sisters ever done such a thing?! It would be nice to show this to the others, she thinks idly, watching Jessica's feet as the detective easily slides into a new position next to her. Ah, so the leg turns like that, but the ankle doesn't twist! It seems to be guided more by the hips than anything else?

And Jessica laughs, and holds her arm out 'just in case' - Juno laughs and quickly, only for a moment, reaches out to grasp Jessica's hand and squeeze lightly before letting go. It's not as natural-seeming as the skating - her timing is a little strange, and she hesitates a little before reaching out. But she does it because she's pretty sure it is a 'friend' thing to do.

It'll be quite a while before she's doing any tricks or spins or something, but the basics are easy enough for her to grasp. "Really? I saw it on the internet… it was pretty. Like dancing." Turning to look at Jessica, Juno gets a stray look of… something in her eyes, as the speed skater whizzes past them again.

…Oh no. It's mischief.

Juno sucks in a breath, adjusts her spine, and takes off in the same direction as him, whooping loudly. "Catch me if you can!"

It has not occurred to Juno that she doesn't quite know how to stop yet.

—-

It is, and Juno gets a warm, quick squeeze in return. Really, the hesitance is something even Jessica understands. Jessica may have built her own prison, may have imposed it on herself, but she nevertheless walled people away. She knows how it can be, trying to navigate one's way back to understanding what it is to be a friend. So however hesitant, however strangely timed, the gesture is warmly and willingly accepted and returned.

People are hard. They're messy. They say and do things that drive you crazy; they hurt. And it's scary thinking you might hurt them in turn. But…the right ones believe you and believe in you. See the things in you that you can't see in yourself. Inspire you to be better. Pick up your broken pieces off the floor and innocently hand them back to you, all— here you go. I found this for you. You should have it back. When you're a crumpled piece of garbage paper on the floor they pick you out, smooth your wrinkles, restore you to some place on the wall and say: hey, this is a pretty good piece of art I've found here. No. I'm never going back. Not to that. Not ever.

And it's in this rumination, in this moment of rare introspection, that Jessica realizes what Juno's about a bit too late. "Oh…shit! Wait! Juno! We forgot to cover—"

Aaaand she takes off after her across the rink.

Granted, Jessica is also fast when she wants to be. What applies to running applies nicely to skating. But…she also doesn't want to overtake Juno. And heeeere comes an idiot. Jones has to whip sideways and backwards to avoid someone who really ought to have his skating license revoked. It's a man in his 40s, some hippy type with long grey hair; she flips off his back before remembering herself and whipping her head around to try to track Juno once more.

—-

Going fast is pretty great! Juno does like to run. And this is like running, only with smoothness added! Getting up to speed, she glances back over her shoulder to make sure that Jessica is following - good! - and hurtles for the far end of the rink. Ahead of her, the faster skater leans into a turn and Juno waits until what she judges to be the correct distance before doing the same thing. It's a little wobbly, but she manages it by leaning closer to the ground. Some of the right movements are instinctual - though, tragically, stopping isn't…

Perhaps fortunately, she missed Jessica giving some old guy a one-finger salute. Who knows when Juno would decide to start practicing that?!

But then, where is Jessica? The rink isn't Olympic-sized or anything, but rinks in general are still pretty huge! Juno cranes her head around, looking for the other brunette, and while she does spot her… she doesn't spot the wall fast approaching.

Huh! Okay! Jessica isn't as fast as Juno is, maybe. She'll have to remember that… Juno looks in the proper direction again, sees that she has about ten feet of ice left, and remembers that she is going at approximately twenty five miles an hour. Hmmm… this is A Problem.

She uses the first five feet to crouch, foot number six to adjust her feet, and feet seven through ten to leap forward, straight toward the wall!

Well… sort of. Ice doesn't give the traction that normal ground does, so instead of a graceful dive Juno just sort of falls forward. But she ghosts through the wall, like she'd planned all along, and sort of flops into a head-over-heels tumble made more awkward by the blades of her ice skates. "Whoulf!"

The dust settles. Juno opens her eyes, notes that the ceiling is an appropriate distance from her face, and raises a hand. "I'm okay!" she calls out. Not too bad of a stop, she supposes, but the landing needs work.

—-

And phase kid!

Jessica actually skids up a few seconds later, eyes wide. She vaults over the edge of the rink, skates and all, landing…well, badly, because for all her strength and speed, the thing she really still lacks is a lot of grace. Better balance, thanks to Bucky, she's working on it, but yeah. She sort of hits her knees, but ignores the sudden jarring jolt to her own joints, eyes wide.

"Juno! Are you sure? Is anything broken?"

Somehow seeing Juno's phasing trick, which she understands thanks to having gotten a dose of it from Kitty, doesn't stop the urge to quickly check the younger girl for any injuries, and to be utterly horrified at the idea of said injuries.

Even though she knows in her heart of hearts Juno has suffered worse. Because what Juno thinks is OK may not be what Jess thinks is okay. For all kinds of reasons. It's the same instinct that makes her get after Cindy about finishing up her GED course homework, the same one that makes her let go of her tempremental outbursts in favor of quietly hugging Az to her, knowing the girl with the devil inside needed her love more than she could ever need her censure or her lectures. It's the instinct that makes her try to take care of everyone, really, whether they need taking care of or not.

But Juno seems cheerful, and Jessica finally relents, smirking as amusement replaces the worry. "Goof. That's not how you're supposed to stop. We'll…just have to work on that."

—-

By the time Jessica gets over the wall (and if Juno had seen her land on her knees like that, she'd have been the concerned one!) Juno is moving her toes and checking her knees and doing all the normal post-accident nerve damage checks. It'd be terrible to find out that she broke a vertebrae by accidentally paralyzing herself! That would be the worst!

She looks at Jess (upside down) and grins. "Nothing broke. You were right about falling on my butt, though."

Jessica is, of course, right to be worried about Juno's idea of 'okay'. Is okay the same as 'uninjured'? Is it the same as 'hurt but still mobile'? Is it just 'alive'?

"We can work on that next," Juno considers, crossing her arms and nodding firmly. "And then jumping, because jumping is harder on ice. And then hot cocoa." She thinks that's the right order!

—-

Jessica gets to her feet with no apparent breakage, and she laughs. "That's the right order," she assures her. "Sans jumping! I don't know how to jump on ice, and I don't think it would end well if I tried." For all kinds of reasons. Spinning blades going way too high and near people's faces if she overdoes it, for one thing. She has doubts about control over her height on skates.

"Though I suppose if you want to try it I can follow you around and try to catch you if it gets out of hand."

Either way, she balances on her skates again, seeming game to take Juno out again now that she's sure that there are no lurking horrific injuries that the girl is cheerfully shaking off because hey, what's injured?

"The good news is…stopping the proper way is…a Hell of a lot easier than what you just did." Eyes twinkling, she will keep pace with Juno as they get back out on the ice…doing a reflexive check for any anti-meta bigots who might have noticed and taken offense. Fortunately people are too wrapped up in their own skating or smart phones today.

—-

It's strange to remember that for all of Jessica's confidence on the ice, she does not have any skill at the 'fancy' skating. It's strange to learn from someone that isn't an expert. But this is Fun, not training, and it isn't a bad experience. People can teach each other things all the time, Juno thinks, stepping back onto the ice with her friend. Like Cindy and Pokemon, like Rocket and not hugging raccoons, like Jessica and ice skating.

There isn't a reason to master a skill other than 'because you want to'. There isn't a punishment for failing to learn. There is just sharing. There are just gifts, of knowledge and things and feelings.

There are shared experiences that help people understand each other better.

Juno was very fortunate today - she got all of those and was even able to give one of them back! Despite a bruise forming on her rear end, it's been a very, very good day.

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