#CallForSpoilers

August 27, 2017:

A concerning message from back home prompts Jessica Jones to take a short break from the Wakanda investigation. She phones Spoiler for some insight into what sounds, at first, like a bad plan…only to get a little more information than she bargained for.

New York City/Wakanda

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Batman, Catwoman, Joker, Daredevil, Six, Red Robin, Nathaniel Richards

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones is getting adept at converting time zones in her head. She knows exactly what time it is in New York City when she calls— late afternoon, still during business hours. Far away in Wakanda, 16 hours ahead, it is pushing midnight, an hour that for Jess is still somewhere in the prime of her working hours. It's early mornings that screw with her.

Since coming to Wakanda she has barely given New York City another thought. Indeed, the place is lulling her somewhat. It doesn't feel like home, but she must be getting used to international travel in a way she wasn't in Germany. So many of her friends are here that it feels close enough, and the case that she is eating, sleeping, and breathing is something she understands, even if it's hard, in a way that she didn't entirely understand the Germany case because it had been wrapped up in layers of magic and mystery that cut across all the lines and rules. So far, these leads are following predictable patterns, and weirdly, as hostile as the nation is to her and even moreso to her friends, she feels in her element.

So when she received a secure message— scant, but secure— from Nathaniel Richards of the Avengers she was momentarily thrown. It forced her to switch gears, to even remember the case she had put on hold back home. She hadn't felt too bad about it. It had sat this long, it could sit longer, especially with Spoiler taking point on undercover work. But this? This demands at least a few moments of her time.

She rings the number she has— for Spoiler, of course, not for Stephanie— and the moment she gets an answer she simply growls:

"Tell me Miss Tery Clue is a joke."

*

Late afternoon is not usually a time that Stephanie's black phone rings. Not unless it's something important. So when it rings, she excuses herself and steps away before answering.

Her 'hello' is more of a 'hmm?' than a hello.

What greets her ears is not at all what she had expected, and Stephanie brings a hand up to pinch at the bridge of her nose.

"There's a good reason for it… that I don't really feel like talking about." Because it hands everyone her secret identity. Hell, Jessica the PI could likely find it without any spoilers or clues. (Heh! See what I did there? Look, it was funny in my head.)

Stephanie glances about the very public student union she's in, hair falling in a curtain over the work phone. This is going to be an awkward conversation, isn't it?

*

“Start telling me all about it anyway, because from where I'm standing? You're gonna get yourself killed, and that's the last thing I wanna see."

Jessica was in a frothing temper when she saw the message, but she has since had a cigarette and calmed down. Perched in the window of her hotel, she pulls out another one and lights it right up, inhaling deeply. Mr. Marlboro Red will keep her nice and calm so that she can carry on this conversation in a productive fashion. So mote it be. The smoke wreathes around her, almost like a cocooning wall. Stephanie might hear the click of the lighter and the practiced inhalation and exhalation.

But she seems willing to listen, for all of that, willing to hear what Stephanie has to say about the moniker that to Jessica's ears, sounds like an obvious alias. It's certainly a terrible pun.”

*

Yup. Awkward conversation. Stephanie sighs lightly, grabbing her backpack and mouthing apologies to the study group she was trying to get to be a part of, all so she can walk away and toward her car.

Her sigh is audible. As audible as the lighter.

"Well, to be honest, it's the last thing I'd like to see also, so we're in agreement," Stephanie starts, buying herself enough time to get out of the building at least.

"It's.. a calculated risk, and an easier in than some of my other options." Or something. Because it IS both an obvious alias and the worst of puns.

*

"Go on," Jessica says, her tone neutral, but…unyielding. It certainly doesn't sound like the voice of a woman who is going to let this go, not by a long shot. She's unaware, of course, how she's collided right into the other woman's daytime life. It's possible she didn't think of it entirely. In her mind, Spoiler is just Spoiler, as if she'd been born and raised under that name, issued a birth certificate and hospital records and credit cards under that name. This attitude may come as a boon for the masked friends whose identity she does not know, but it can also be damned inconvenient. Jessica's only crazy careful when she does know the identity. It's a rare bit of irony.

It's also a poster child scenario for all the reasons why Jones herself rejects masks, costumes, and alias-monikers.

She props a bare foot up on the window and looks out at the twinkling lights of the high tech, Sci-fi Northern African city that she's been in for days. It's a beautiful view, one she would have enjoyed under any other circumstances. It's another nice, medatative sight to look at while she forces herself to exercise patience. It's not really her best personal quality. Persistence, bulldog determination, and a willingness to tackle tedium? Yes. Patience? Not really. But she tries.

*

There's an audible half groan only to be cut off by a faint but shapr inhale.

"Gimme a minute," Spoiler states, voice tense. Stephanie saw that… that… someone that's been dogging her steps for what feels like months now. As always, it spooks her. So, the blonde moves quickly to her car, parked in the Student Union's parking lot. In her car, engine on, Stephanie app-switches to scan her car for listening devices, then links her work phone to her earcom so she can go hands-free, and then pulls out of her parking space, eager to get some distance between herself and … that ghost of a man that seems able to track her in and out of the mask.

"It's a play on words and links me to a just notable enough Gotham villain to have street rep I can use. In New York, just being from Gotham is street cred enough. Being linked to one of their own criminals has been useful," Stephanie explains, trying really hard to find the balance between giving Jess enough information to soothe her without out right saying, Hi I'm Stephanie and my dad is Cluemaster.

Although, given the very public nature of criminal profiles, it's likely that just saying she's Cluemaster's daughter gets everyone Stephanie Brown's name. Stephanie has been banking on those files, since she was a minor, being harder to access than the typical street thug can manage to acquire.

*

"Gotham," Jessica grunts, "is full of barking crazy. You know that? The Joker. Scarecrow. The Penguin. For fuck's sake."

She hears the tension, but she's not sure of the source of it. If she were, she might be even more wound up than she already is. Fortunately, she attributes said tension to having a cranky PI grill her from thousands of miles away, and gives it no further thought.

"I could tell it was a play on words," she says dryly. "But isn't said Gotham asshole going to know you aren't really linked to him? Criminals check around too. All it's going to take is for Clue-by-Fuck to go 'nope, don't know who she is' and they're going to blow your motherfucking head off. All these dumbass names make it sound like it's all fun and games and shit, but seriously, that'll be it. They might use microwave rays or whatever to do it, but you'll be just as fucking dead."

She is getting hot under the collar. She can hear the edge in her own voice. She takes a judicious inhale on the cigarette.

Let Spoiler answer, Jess, fuck. Don't badger her. Why do you have to badger everyone? Why do you have to be such an asshole all the time?

*

"Hardly news," Spoiler quips to Jess's assessment of Gotham's Guano-crazy Levels. She knows exactly the kinds of crazy her home town is known for. The Catwoman, The Halequin, the Batman…

Isn't he going to know you aren't linked…

Stephanie falls quiet, because the truth is that Cluemaster only needs one look at the thin domino mask that's a mock up of his own, the color pallet of the outfit… and he'd be Worst Dad #1 if he DIDN'T recognize that bright eyed little girl who'd run down the stairs Christmas morning for breakfast… or the blonde angel he'd shoo out of his workshop… or would find curled up asleep on the floor by the door to said workshop because if she couldn't sit in there with him then she was going to sit as close as she could and finally couldn't keep her eyes open.

"Won't happen," Spoiler says, voice tight as she forces herself to focus on the highway as she pulled into traffic.

Jess is getting annoyed. Stephanie can hear it in her tone, in the edge of it, and she knows that her answer doesn't give any reasons for her assurances. In fact, Stephanie's really sure that her answer could be taken as fool hardy bravado, and Stephanie sighs.

Well, you painted yourself into this corner.

"Cluemaster isn't going to say I'm not linked to him."

*

Jessica falls silent for a moment. Cluemaster. There are clicks. There are button clicks as she types that right into Google, using her phone's ability to both continue the call right in her ear and give her a screen as she starts bringing up the articles. She may not have access to Wakanda's Intranet, its public records, its news articles, all part and parcel of the insular b.s. that presents some real challenges here, but she's found that the same basic internet that works at home works fine. It's just useless to her here for the most part.

Of course, she's trying to talk and read at the same time, and she favors talking since she's burning up time to do this. "You've got history," she observes. "What kind of history?"

Because if it's not good enough, Jess is still going to have to push against this. She's going to have to push good and hard against it, because that's the responsible thing to do, and right now she's receiving ridiculously large checks from the Maria Stark Foundation, from the Avengers, for little more than her consult on this metacriminal plague that they've found themselves embroiled in. She hasn't even put in any real man hours, she has not produced any results. The least she can do is give decent advice, and make sure one of the actual Avengers doesn't get herself killed making a stupid mistake.

And the hard part of dealing with detectives is…they push. They push till they're satisfied.

*

That they do. Batman pushes hardest of all. He didn't like the idea either. One slip up, one misplaced bit of fornesic evidence at a crime scene and her pre-law college work, her internship at Gotham's DA Office.. everything she's worked for try to seperate herself from her father's criminal masterminding and her mother's drug addiction and rehab stints would be for not.

And there's the possibility that she could die. That's always a possibility.

But all of that's been deemed an acceptible risk in trying to down this criminal ring, and death is prefered over any of the criminals linking Stephanie Brown, Cluemaster's daughter, to Spoiler the purple batling and Avenger.

What kind of history.

"Do you want the public answer or the real answer?"

*

Jessica hesitates, even before she clicks open any of the references to this Cluemaster. She understands, she thinks, the implications of the questions. Understands she's about to tread right into the waters of yet another person's secrets. She dips her head a little, thinking of the roster she's already racked up. It's a short one, but it's one that provides some guilt. Accidents, both.

Now she's about to demand one for the first time ever. About to demand the key to someone else's identity. And moreover, Spoiler seems to trust her enough to hand it to her. That's humbling, and also a little crazy, because she knows herself, and she knows she's not worth that.

And yet. For all her guilt over knowing about Daredevil and Six's private lives, there's the even greater guilt that she can conceive if she steers Spoiler wrong because she accepted bad information when she could have had the full story. She imagines finding Spoiler in a gutter with a bullet between her eyes, imagines unmasking her then so she can do the notification. It might not happen that way of course. The girl could die while Jessica is still around the world. Found by cops, or fellow Avengers. But she makes herself imagine that moment all the same. Makes herself imagine it worse; superimposing Spoiler's head in the nightmarish scene of the unsolved Cassandra Marx murder that still haunts her nightmares. She remembers what it felt like, knowing she'd mis-prioritized her leads, knowing that screw-up had resulted in a brutal death.

Her tone is gentle, grave, and stony all at once as she plows ahead. "I want the real answer."

*

There's a reason for the trust.

"He's my father."

Arthur Brown, Cluemaster, is Stephanie Brown's father… Spoiler's father.

The layers of secret identities is starting to iterate into a recursive mess that would make Vi Hart proud. But this was easier, faster to set up then a brand new identity. Sure, Batman had offered a new ID for criminal activities, but for Stephanie her father's shadow still haunted. There is always the fear that he'll get loose again just when she thinks she's put him away for good… and the cycle will start again. Maybe, if she goes down this road, she'll figure out some things she needs to know for herself, so she can resolve that part of her life.

"He won't turn them against me… because he's my father," she repeats. As bad of a father as he was there was one thing about him: Family First.

Which makes being Spoiler even harder. But a criminal dad was hurting the family. Trying to get him on the straight and narrow again so that her mother could be saved from drug use .. that's all Stephanie had been trying to do. Tried and failed. Stephanie just needs to know why… but shutting down this criminal ring first is most important. If she finds answers along thw way, great. If not, oh well.

*

'He's my father.'

"Holy shit," Jessica says.

Wow, and she thought she had a fucked up life.

In seconds, of course, Stephanie Brown's name is at her fingertips. If it's nothing for your Average Joe to scan those very public profiles, it's less-than-nothing for Jones. And her eyebrows climb into her hair.

Jesus. There must be something about practicing law.

But she doesn't really address that. She can hear, now, the identical nature of the cute, uncertain little DA's intern she met in the cafe weeks ago and the woman on the phone that she knows as Spoiler. But it doesn't really matter, other than Jess knowing who to stand in front of when shit hits the fan in a situation where Stephanie can't out herself.

There are more practical concerns as she shuts down all those searches— and then wipes them from her history as thoroughly as possible.

"Does he know about your night job? Because if he does…"

It's true, though, that the ridiculous moniker makes sense. Now it's a tribute to the one man in the underworld who might not only vouch for her, but actively protect her. It's a Hell of an asset, so long as her father doesn't know that she's turned on him and everything he apparently stands for.

*

"He doesn't. The mask is just some annoying baby bat out to spoil all his plans, spoil everyone's plans," Stephanie says. The sad lonely note is there now, as if she could somehow take comfort in that fact; the fact that her father might know her but won't ever really know her.

"It's risky, I know. But if this does connect back to Gotham as I'm suspecting, this is the best way."

*

Jessica Jones sighs deeply. The lonely note resonates in her own soul. It sings a song she sympathizes with, harmonizes with. All loneliness is a little bit different. And sometimes one can feel it even when surrounded by one's favorite people in all the world. Longings that can't be met, irreplacable people and relationships gone. Like mothers. Like fathers. Gone for different reasons, but still gone, still lost.

"Ok. I'll back you with Richards."

And then: "I want you to get in touch with a Detective Oscar Clemons in the Hell's Kitchen PD, as Spoiler, with your Avenger's card front and center. Do not tell him I sent you. The cops and I are not friends. But he's a decent guy, one of the few who actually gives a shit at his job and is any good at it. You might need someone in law enforcement watching your back in the event that you accidentally drop some evidence somewhere. The idea is not to kick a giant fucking hole in your life, yeah?"

She, too, can think immediately about things like lawyerheroes getting themselves disbarred because they left DNA at a crime scene. Even if it's shown to be a legitimate organization's undercover op, the kid's law career would be 100% over, and that won't do. And the best she can do, right at this moment from right where she is? Is to provide the resource.

"When are you pulling the trigger on this thing?"

*

There's a laugh about her offer to back her.

"Yeah. Sure. That's fine," Spoiler replies, her laugh terse but at least it's amused. She falls serious as Jessica gives her directions.

"I understand the reasoning, but do I tell him Brown's working with us on this in case he asks? Really, I could just slip into PD evidence locker and lift the evidence…." Because THAT'S fine with the Avenger.

Batman's moral compass, everybody!

"I've been in for a while now. Hit Richards when his patrol route got too close to what my contacts were up to. I'm not in deep enough for more right now." And also there's that ghost that's lingering at her peripheral. Stephanie checks on all her mirrors.

*

"Well, whatever, the resource is there if you need it," Jessica says, shaking her head. She closes her eyes. She's done what she can do from here, for better or for worse, and if the kid winds up dead she has responsibility…but did, either way, from the moment Spoiler geared up to be the one doing the undercover work and Jessica agreed.

But the truth is…this kid has mountains more of an understanding of the underworld than Jessica has. Months ago, she had to go to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen cause she couldn't fathom how gangs really worked, couldn't find the one she needed or wanted. She's learning, but nothing in her previous case work has given her the background she needs. The idea of her trying to pose as a native of that world is laughable. She'd be the one getting her head blown off.

"Watch your ass, kid. I'm too far away to do jack shit, and I don't know when I'll make it back."

Or even if.

But she leaves that last firmly unspoken as she winds to the end of this call.

*

Stephanie can be heard to sigh. At the leaset she'll look the contact up. If he's not useless right now, then he could be later. And he'll get his very own file on Batman's computer. Everyone loves having their own file on the Batcomputer!

"Appreciated," Spoiler replies, tone softer than would be normal for the one-word reply.

"Ditto," Stephanie says to Jessica, understanding the unspoken undertones of what Jessica left unsaid.

"We can send Rob into a tail spin by having a girl's pizza night next time he drops in," she adds. Because Jessica will make it back.

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