A.K.A. Bacon

June 25, 2017:

Unsure how to approach his sister, Michael Carter decides to approach someone he'll be working with instead— the easiest one on his list to reach. Jessica Jones once again proves how hit and miss her "peopleing" is.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Tsk. This place offers entirely the wrong sort of cured meats.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Peggy Carter, Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There are times for impulsiveness, rudeness, spur-of-the-moment-ness. But if Michael Carter can possibly help it, he likes to do things properly and politely. Seeing as a visit to Alias Investigations was not urgent, he called the day before, asked her what time would best suit her, and agreed to that time. He introduced himself only as Michael, and said he'd prefer to discuss his purpose in person.

He arrives, approximately six minutes early (not too early to be a pest, not obsessively on-time, but not late either.) He's wearing an immaculately tailored, modern suit in pale blue with a crisp white shirt beneath (no tie) and brown leather wing tips. It doesn't matter that it's warm outside - this is not a shirtsleeves meeting. He knocks once, then pushes open the door.

*

Michael Carter probably could have heard the shock in Jessica's voice all the way across the phone line when he did something so civilized. Not disdain, mind you. Just…shock. Because nobody does that. In fact, the case that changed her life happened when a teenaged witch basically walked in on her while she was on her couch, in her underwear, drinking. Not that she much does that anymore, but it demonstrates how rare it is for people to approach her in such a way.

This was tempered, somewhat, by the lack of a last name, but she rolled with it.

Because he called in advance, the office is impeccable too. It smells faintly of lavender cleaner. She's got some tea brewing, and coffee, in case he likes either. She has put on clean, nice, newer jeans and the red tank blouse that usually goes with her suit. It's still jeans and a tank top, but…with that and her shined boots she still looks relatively respectable.

There are a few oddities around the office, like the big map on the wall that has pushpins in it, and a label that says 'Bullshit Nasty Magical Events' on it. There's a punching bag that looks like the stuffing is coming out of the top, but it's new, not so old that it's falling apart naturally.

He knocks once, she stands to greet him. "Michael?" she asks, intrigued and wary all at once, holding out a hand to shake. "Welcome to Alias Investigations. Jessica Jones."

*

Michael steps forward and grips her hand firmly, but not overbearingly. "Ms. Jones, thank you for seeing me. It's nice to meet you." He takes in his surroundings without doing any obvious looking. "I'm glad I wasn't late. I'm afraid I'm a little bit jet lagged. I just arrived from London yesterday." And boy is he British. He's the kind of British who shows up in American childrens' shows - characters who do everything but drape themselves in the Union Jack.

*

"Would you like coffee? Tea? Please, have a seat."

Jessica gestures to one of the guest seats. It's an interesting contrast, the British…between Michael here, and, say, John Constantine.

But she also picks up on something quickly, and her brow furrows. "All the way from London yesterday," she says slowly. "And Alias Investigations in Hell's Kitchen is your very first stop?"

Brown eyes narrow thoughtfully as she really starts to study him. She's not combatively suspicious yet, but she's definitely shifted this right into the 'okay, what the Hell's going on here?' category.

*

"Tea, please. Perhaps I'm a cliche'." Michael smiles warmly. He inhales, then undoes his button before he sits. "I'll get right to it. I'm in New York at the request of Phil Coulson of SHIELD. If you don't know who he is, I'd imagine you do know of SHIELD."

*

"Never heard of Coulson, no." Jones says. She goes and pours him the tea. "Sugar, milk, any of that jazz?"

His tea finds its way into a coffee cup that says: 'Tears of My Enemies.'

"But SHIELD, sure."

He can see a few things. First, that she's pretty warm towards SHIELD overall. The mention of it eases some of her tension.

Second…the fact that she quickly does the math, and given his training he can see the moment she comes up with an answer about why he's here. But she doesn't share that answer, so it's hard to see if it's the right one. Instead, she quirks a dark eyebrow. She's not going to volunteer any information. She's going to wait for him to give her some information.

*

Michael examines the mug and grins. "No, no, just like this is fine, thank you." He sets it aside for the moment. Before he continues, he looks around the space and asks, "Are you certain your office isn't bugged, Ms. Jones?" He says that matter-of-factly, like the way he'd ask someone who just walked out of the house if they've got their keys.

*

The grin brings an answering one out of her. "I suppose I haven't done my sweep today," she says.

She shrugs, then grabs her phone. It's a Stark model, but they don't usually come with things that allow what she does next. She taps something. She sort of…reality distorts for a moment over the screen. She pulls a small device out of the phone. This one looks like a gutted second phone. It is obviously on, and doing something. Finally she shakes her head. "No bugs, no trackers, or this thing would have started singing to us."

She shoves it into her pocket though, instead of into her phone, just in case. She smiles a little fondly at it.

Nine months. Nine months ago this woman was working standard, routine PI cases. A lot can happen in a little time.

Of course, experience and life has taught her a thing or two, so she says with dry tolerance, "I'm starting to like you, Michael, so I really hope this isn't the moment you pull a silenced pistol out and start shooting at me."

*

Michael watches her bug sweep with curiosity, but if he's surprised, he doesn't show it. Technology has changed a hell of a lot in the past hundred years. The television was a hell of a thing. Then the microchip. Distorted reality doesn't seem as strange when you've seen other leaps.

"When I come to take someone out, Ms. Jones, I don't walk through the front door and shake hands." He says that fairly seriously, with arched eyebrows. "Ms. Jones, I'm with MI-6," point five, but the fact that there is a point five is not common knowledge. "SHIELD has asked me to assist you and your compatriots with this Decimux business."

*

She nods. Confirmation. "Well…good," she says, though…

For a moment he'll see it. The moment when confidence becomes something else. The moment where she's suddenly conscious of who she is. A PI in a decent enough apartment in a not-decent-at-all neighborhood. Not someone who normally would be meeting with SHIELD, or MI-6. Not someone who would normally be anyone anyone would consult about anything important.

"I mean…I mean I'm glad this shit— stuff, sorry— is being taken seriously…by people other than those who just kind of know me personally. I know it all sounds really insane but…"

A pause.

"Sorry. I'm wasting your time. What do you need from me, Michael? How can I get you up to speed? I can give you a copy of the casefile if that will help…I'm surprised you didn't go to Peggy first really, she's SHIELD. You must have though. She probably met you at the airport."

*

Michael is excellent at hiding his true intentions. He's infiltrated governments. But he has steadfastly avoided crossing paths with his sister for decades. And now he has to work with a version of her with whom his supposed death is only a handful of years past. There is something in his expression that gives something away when she mentions Peggy's name. It's hard to say just what that something is, though.

"I like to enter foreign countries with as little fanfare as possible. No, Agent Carter isn't yet aware of me. And I highly doubt SHIELD has told her that I'm coming."

*

Jessica has done none of these things. She infiltrated a hospital once. She pretexts all day long, but not on the same level spies do. And a lot of her work deals in hard facts, not the nuances of expression or social graces.

But she catches it.

She doesn't answer right away. She crosses and grabs a cup of coffee. Her own cup says: 'Black Like My Soul.' That's how she takes her coffee, too. She dumps some in. Comes back. Finally sits down on her side of the desk. And studies Michael.

The flustered bit is gone. Now there's something a bit more hard edged. No-nonsense. Cut-the-crap.

"Got credentials, Michael? Proof you're with MI-6 besides your knowledge of this Decimux stuff?" she says at last. "Cause I just realized I got ahead of myself. I'd like to know why that would be the case. Why would SHIELD withhold something so basic from Peggy?"

There's something suddenly…protective…there, too. Of Peggy, and her interests.

*

Michael works his jaw to the side. He's been dancing around it, and he's not a man who liks to dance. Like Jessica, he too likes to cut to the heart of matters. "Because you see Ms. Jones, my name is Michael Carter." He lets his name lie there for a moment.

He sips his tea, then, "Peggy is my sister. And she's rather certain I'm dead - even the one who seems to have slipped through time. I've come to you first in order to ascertain what might be the best way to break this to her. The other people in the dossier I was given are not people I can easily make an appointment with. Not without flashing my credentials." Speaking of which, he reaches for them now.

*

"Aw, fuck."

She's trying to clean up her language for him, she really is, because he's so polite, and he's not someone she wants to treat like shit. She gives him a stricken look that has the words 'Are you kidding me?' all over it.

She waits for the credentials though, before she says another word, her face twisted into a helpless expression. The best way to break it to her?

While she waits for them, she thinks, and rapidly.

But even as she waits he can see she believes him. Asking is a formality. It's due diligence. But she believes him.

*

It would be a convoluted plan indeed for a man to show up pretending to be Peggy's brother after all this time. His credentials are produced. It's a photo ID and the crest of MI-6. There are some high-tech security features visible, along with a data chip. His name, an ID number and a photo are the only things on it. No date of birth, no rank, no visible clearance level - which is in and of itself a marker of his security clearance.

"If you'd like further proof, I can tap this against your mobile and you'll be emailed documents to verify my identity." He looks at her, eyebrows up. "But somehow I don't think you're going to ask me to do that. And I wouldn't particularly recommend giving British Intelligence information on your mobile if you don't strictly need to. We tend to keep information for a rainy day."

*

"Yeah. No. This is fine."

Jessica passes it back, frowning.

"Sorry to have to ask."

She rubs a hand over her face thoughtfully. "Michael…you have to understand that while I value Peggy's friendship really highly…I don't know her super well yet. We've mostly been professional friends. She's always been incredibly kind to me, helped me in ways I can't even express, but…any advice I would give you could be wrong."

A pause. But then she meets his eyes. "But since you're asking…I think I know her well enough to tell you this…."

Another pause, a slow grimace, a shake of her head. "Don't dick around. Don't go seeing everyone else she knows trying to interview them to see if you're going to find an in that sucks less. In fact I don't know that I'm even going to give you that option cause now I mean…I'm kind of in a position where if I don't tell her myself quickly enough I'm being a real asshole. So…I mean I suggest you just rip the band-aid right off. It's not going to be any less god damn painful for her because you wait a week and find the perfect approach. Do the stiff upper lip thing, know you're going to deal with some sort of emotions, brace yourself for them, show up at her door, knock. Try not to get hit or shot. Be ready to be tested, for her to try to assure herself you're not a…clone, doppelganger, alternate universe version of yourself or any of the other myriad of crazy crap she could be. Just be honest with her. She deserves that, man. I know it's scary as fuck cause yeah, this is pretty big shit, but…it's what you gotta do. I'm shit at advice and even I know that's it, that's all you've got."

*

Michael listens, and he learns a little more about Jessica in the process. Namely, that she was trying to be more formal than she normally is. That, and she does seem to care about Peggy. He takes in everything she's saying. He seems to be listening quite intently.

When she finishes, he inhales through his nose. "I know there is no good way to break this particular piece of news. But I also know very little about my sister's current mental state. SHIELD seems to think my presence here would be beneficial, but SHIELD is known to make mistakes." His tone seems to suggest, 'you have no idea.' "I suppose what I'm trying to ask is - how is she?"

*

Jessica gives the slightest of smiles.

"She's got ovaries of solid steel. She's god damn amazing is how she is. Not— like she's good amazing, cause a bunch of awful crap is going down, but is she freaking out? Hell no. Not where I've seen, anyway."

Having abandoned the formality, she just…doesn't bother anymore.

"I mean she looks beautiful, sweeps into a room, takes total control. You don't know what to do? You go, 'Peggy, what do I do?' and she tells you and it's just right. When everyone else," there's an echo there, that sounds a lot like everyone else is Jessica Jones, "falls apart, panics, can't breathe? Your sister is handling it and making sure everyone else can too. If I can become half the woman she is? I'll count myself a success in this life."

*

Michael, in spite of his British stoicism, smiles at the description of his sister. "So what you're telling me is, the trip through time hasn't changed her in the slightest." He chuckles a little. "Do you know she nearly didn't join the military? She was going to get married to this…tosser." He snorts. But then he realizes he's being a bit too informal.

"I do apologize for putting you in this spot, Ms. Jones. But I did want to hear that from someone who knows her before I reveal myself. But, I promise you that it won't be long before I do."

*

Jessica doesn't seem to mind. If anything, Michael's venture into informality warms her to him again, just as his allowing himself a grin over the coffee cup did. "I didn't even know it was time travel," she admits. "I thought she got frozen or something. The tosser should probably count his lucky stars though, she would have eaten him for lunch."

He apologizes, she shrugs, waving it off. "If you're going to tell her soon then I don't have to, and that's fine. Not something I should be in the middle of. I think whatever you do, she'll be fine. She'll absorb it, adjust, and ultimately she'll just be glad you're alive. If my brother walked in here after all these years and told me I was all wrong about his death? I'd be overjoyed. How, why, why I didn't know before…I don't think anything would matter as much as that would."

There's an undeniable ring of truth there.

Of course. She's a private detective, and he's not her brother, so. She does ask. "Why does she think you're dead?"

*

"That's prevailing theory among intelligence circles," time travel, that is. "But for all we really know, it could be something else. These things are hard to figure. Used to be, things were more straightforward. We fought the Nazis, then we fought the Russians." Michael's posture gets a little more casual, but there is a return of tension at her question.

"It is a very long and classified story. But the short of it is, I've been a member of British Intelligence for a very long time. Before the war started," and by 'the war,' he clearly means THE war. "The SS marked me as a target they wanted to wipe out because I was too good at my job. My superiors thought they'd do it for me as a way of saving me. And then some other things happened that necessitated me staying dead."

*

Jessica almost regrets that, bringing the tension back to him. She's even surprised she got as much answer as she did. 'It's classified' would have been her guess all the way through.

"Duty," she says. "I think that's something she'll accept."

She frowns and tilts her head to the side once more, furrowing her brow. "But you didn't time travel?" It's a guess, a shot in the dark. It's a fine line, too. She's trying to get to know him, but getting to know him necessitates asking about things that are probably somewhat classified. But, at the very least, it looks like she isn't going to be offended if he tells her 'I can't tell you that.' Still, she asks with something thoughtful brewing in her eyes.

*

There are certain things about Michael Carter that will become obvious to anyone who works beside him for any length of time. One, is that he's much older than he appears. Two, he's much stronger than he appears. If he's to work alongside Jessica to fight this threat, then she's going to figure this all out. Classifed or no.

"I'm one hundred and twelve," he says, plainly.

*

This doesn't surprise her really, or shock her. "Got it. You're like Bucky and Steve," she says, drawing the parallels quickly. "You've got some power set that keeps you from aging."

And then, in a tone that softens her hard-bitten alto considerably: "You said even the one that slipped through time…there's another one. There's…Old Peggy, around here somewhere. And you had to sit there, for 112 years, knowing she didn't know, unable to tell her a thing?" Gently, because however rough this is going to be for…New Peggy, she guesses…that sounds pretty damned terrible for Michael Carter, too. A duty-imposed estrangement.

*

No, Michael didn't think it would. Even if Jessica had never encountered anyone else out of the ordinary before the current business, the current business is stranger even than some things he's dealt with. A man who hasn't aged much is really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. "Captain Rogers and I have some things in common, yes." As for Barnes? He won't go there. That's a whole other conversation.

As for her question? He looks at Jessica, nods once, and then says simply, "Yes."

*

And of course…she's out of the ordinary herself.

"I'm sorry. That must have been terrible."

Then Jessica realizes she's talking to a man, and a British man at that. She thinks back over her other interactions with men— which, in reality, other than a particularly terrible one, are as new to her as all the scrapes and stuff she's gotten into— and realizes that none of them seem to appreciate the whole…emotional thing that much. So she decides to get off of that one. Unfortunately, she's not sure where to go from there. An urge to be kind wars with respect for his space.

Finally, she asks, "Want a sandwich or something? I can add bacon."

He's a man, men like bacon, that ought to make things…marginally…more…tolerable…?

She winces. She says dumb shit sometimes. That. Was an example. Of dumb shit to say.

*

Even if Michael did want to get into the particulars of the forced separation with his sister, a private investigator he just met would not be a prime candidate. So, her attempt to change the subject is appreciated. The method of it is rather perplexing.

"Ah, no, thank you. I don't much care for American bacon." He stands and re-fastens his jacket. He reaches into his pocket and withdraws a black business card with white writing. On it is a number. It's got a New York area code, so apparently he has a phone for his business here. He hands it out to her. "If you need to get in touch, you can reach me at that number. But I suspect we will all be together soon to discuss this situation."

*

"Brits have a different kind of bacon?" Jessica asks, perplexed, herself.

But she takes the card. She plucks up one of her own. Alias Investigations. How Can We Help? And all sorts of contact information.

And now she's all distracted by it. The bacon. "What's different about British bacon?"

Congratulations, Michael Carter, on learning that one of your team members on this world eater nonsense is awkward as fuck and sometimes makes a real ass out of herself.

But at least her heart's in the right place?

She stands to see him to the door though, even as she asks this stupid question.

*

"Em, yes. It's quite a bit more like ham. It's very tasty. I do see the appeal of the streaky kind for some applications, but our bacon makes the best BLT in my opinion." And it seems that Michael is going to kindly continue the cured meat conversation, because, well, why not? And if it makes someone who is supposed to be his ally feel a little better, then so be it.

*

"Oh! I thought that was Canadian ba— well of course. Canadians are— yeah. Okay. Right."

She offers the card, having realized she plucked it up without actually giving it to him. "Yeah, that's real good bacon."

She's really quite a bit better when things are happening that need to be investigated, fought, or fixed.

"Anyway um. Good luck, Michael. With Peggy. It'll be fine. I promise."

Because he's bound to have so much confidence in anything she has to say after this whole segue into lunch meat.

*

"Ah, no, that's different as well," Michael takes the card from her and smiles. "You know, I'll bring some by at some point. I'm sure you can find it in specialty shops. This is New York City, after all." He tucks her card away, then, "A pleasure to meet you, Ms. Jones."

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