Flailing Around Down Here

December 15, 2017:

Kinsey Sheridan and Jessica Jones enjoy a long-anticipated night out. Featuring: light shop talk! Excruciatingly embarrassing stories! Girl talk! And philosophy!

An Italian Bistro in Manhatten

If you go, be sure to try the Tiramisu!


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Owen Mercer, Tony Stark, Matt Murdock, Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Spider-Man, Zatanna Zatara, Michael Carter, Red Robin, Bucky Barnes, Captain America, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's early evening in Manhattan, but the sky has been dark for hours. Outside snow is trickling down, lit orange by overhead street lamps, but people are out in force for Friday night, undaunted by the bitter chill. Light radiates from business windows, splashing in warm puddles over the frosted, icy sidewalks.

One of those windows belongs to a small Italian bistro Kinsey chose for tonight's outing — it's intimate enough to facilitate conversation even on a weekend evening, and the food is outstanding. There are clusters of intimate tables almost crowded into a narrow floor, with a small, polished wooden bar that runs one wall — six or seven stools at most. Half of the bartop is consumed with an enormous, extremely fancy espresso machine. The music feels a little out of place — it's Italian pop music, rather than anything 'traditional' — but that's only because it reflects the actually, legitimately Italian heritage of the owners, operators, and employees.

It took pulling some strings, but Kinsey got a last-minute table by the front window without any reservation at all. Working for Tony Stark, as exasperating as it often is, comes with plentiful benefits for those willing to name-drop. When the appointed time arrives she's sitting in one of the two seats there with a small glass of white wine on the table in front of her, watching people pass by.

Jess was more than relieved that Kinsey was willing to pick their spot. She had come up with and discarded dozens of ideas, but her friend carries a touch of sophistication that she clearly lacks. The exercise of trying had in fact ramped up the same sort of anxiety she feels over gift shopping. As it was, she suspected wherever Kinsey chose would be cool for a half a dozen reasons she never would have thought of, and lo and behold, she was right.

She arrives right on time, a fact Kinsey will probably be able to see quickly enough from her window spot, sweeps an impressed gaze around the room, grins, and heads over to give Kinsey another big, quick hug about like the one she offered at the bar, feeling at this point Kinsey has made it clear enough she can do that without the whole song and dance she normally does. She could happily give half a dozen more given all the things Kinsey has done to save and improve her life in particular these past several weeks.

Subtle signs of those improvements are pretty much everywhere. Like…hanging all over her, in the form of her clothes.

The detective, who tends to wear dresses, or, even, stuff which could ever possibly draw the least amount of attention to her, only when required for cases and or trials, obviously allowed herself to go shopping; the new-clothes smell hovers around her.

She's wearing a bright red sweater dress, proving that she's not at all immune to flattery or compliments (and in fact kind of soaks them up like cracked earth soaks up thunderstorms). It's probably shorter than anything she's ever put on her body, it's hemline landing a good two-and-a-half inches above her knees. When she removes her leather jacket (for she was still wearing that), gloves, and scarf she reveals that she's wearing a cute little blue jean jacket over it, the type that's cut more to encourage the wearer to leave it hanging open for contrast than to have it buttoned up. Three-quarter-length sleeves. It's not immodest, this outfit; black leggings and boots which come all the way up to said knees ensure that. They're flat-footed and practical; if she needs to kick someone in the face or take off running tonight she'll certainly be able to do that. No purse; the bulge of her phone and wallet are in the front pockets of the jean jacket, their outlines just clear enough to somewhat spoil her attempts at fashion. Once her outerwear is off the panther-tooth necklace she wears everywhere serves as pretty much the only reminder of her normal get-up to be found anywhere at all. But her make-up's right, her ruby red lipstick matching her dress color, even.

"This place looks amazing," she says, sliding into her place across from Kinsey at the table. "It also smells and sounds amazing."

If avoiding undue attention is still important to Jessica, she obviously dressed wrong for the purpose, since Kinsey's response, with widening eyes as she stands up out of her chair to return that hug, is, "Woooo, you look hot!"

She's all wry, impish smiles as she sinks back down into her seat, casting a glance deeper into the restaurant as she scoots her chair back up to the table. "It's nice. I discovered it on accident one night when I was starving after leaving the tower, and needed to grab a bite before heading back to Gotham." She dresses more or less the same all winter: sweaters, sometimes slouchy and sometimes nice or cashmere, with jeans and boots, heeled or not. Tonight is no exception. It's not a dressy look, but it's enough to clear the bar for being presentable.

She leans forward into the edge of the table, aligning her forearms on it, just…takes in her tablemate's whole appearance, her mood, the energy she puts off. There's a smile. "So? I haven't seen you in a while. Not…not really in any way that we could, you know. Talk." About things other than 'mission-related happenings,' anyway. She presses her lips into a gentle line, the unspoken acknowledgement obvious.

Jessica blushes, but she grins, smoothing down the skirt a little bit. Today, she feels pretty good; today, she feels like she can look hot without it feeling like a danger. She doesn't know if that will hold tomorrow or a week from now or next month, but today, she can, because her worst nightmare is rotting in some hole.

The energy is pretty good. Stuff is of course going on; stuff always is. Some of it sucks. Some of it sucks big hairy balls. But just like at the Christmas party she has put it all firmly away, determined to have a good time with a friend she really doesn't get to see enough of in the least, ready to enjoy some time that doesn't suck with the same fullness of attention she gives to, say, punching demon bears.

"Right? And it's silly, because honestly I'm in and out of Stark Towers all the time too. They've got me on retainer, they're huge, so every time there's some bit of potential workman's comp fraud, embezzlement, or deadbeat accounts recievable from someone who bought a ton of expensive tech and didn't pay for it they're handing the file to me, and there are enough to keep me pretty busy in the background. Catching lunch or coffee or something way more often has got to be an option."

She catches the unspoken bit, of course, and her smile is warm. She'll wait for the waiter to do his 'what would you like to drink' and 'here are some menu' things before she murmurs, sotto voice, "And…I never did get to thank you properly for anything, either saving my ass or doing all that research that I benefited from, but…your badass level, which was already 10 out of 10 in my book, has been taken all the way up to eleven." Keeping it vague is the other defense; there are multiple non-superhero ways one woman might save another woman's ass, and research could mean anything.

"I'm usually socked away in a lab somewhere, but if you ask Jarvis I'm sure he'd buzz me if you're in the neighborhood." The way Kinsey slides the menu off to the edge of the table suggests she knows exactly what she wants, but she's in no hurry — she leans back in her seat and twists enough that she can cross her legs at the knee without kicking Jess under the table, picking up her glass of white wine to periodically sip at.

The follow-up gives her a moment of pause. Her mouth opens, then closes, and she looks pleased but self-deprecatory, too. "You'd have done the same. For anybody, really." She taps gently on her wine glass with her index fingernail, and it rings quietly even in the muted ambient noise in the room — a little bit of subtle trace evidence that the fingernail in question isn't actually made of keratin.

There's something quiet in her eyes as she quirks a small, rueful smile. "I've got a lot of things to make up for. If I didn't do whatever I could, it would be…wrong. The only difficult part is that it's not possible to do more, faster."

Jess does need a second, but ultimately settles on a chicken picatta that looks pretty damn fantastic…and one of those fancy cappucinos. Even she's aware that's normally an after-dinner thing, but it's something fancy she can drink without resorting to wine or sangria or anything else alcoholic, and it suits her pretty fine to drink it right alongside the meal. It doesn't take her long to scan it and locate something she knows she'll like, though, and she certainly doesn't linger overlong on that.

She sips her water as she studies Kinsey with her rueful smile. She flashes, as it happens, back on her conversation with Owen. Kinsey feeling like she has a lot to make up for comes as a bit of a surprise; despite having stumbled face-first into her secrets she's tried to respect privacy as best she can. Therefore there are some gaps. This was one of them. She doesn't answer right away, mostly cause she's thinking on how to respond.

At last she just does it, blunt and honest, speaking her mind as ever.

"Maybe I would have— done the same, I mean— mostly cause I get what that feels like. Feeling like you've gotta make up for stuff. But from everything I've seen of you, Kinsey, I think you mostly try to do what's right with the information and…paradigm, I guess?…that you've got. And that's all anyone can do, you know? Whatever you feel you gotta make up for, just…I mean…everyone fucks up, time to time. As it is, a whole lot of anyones also benefitted, some who won't even know it cause they're getting to live their lives blissfully untouched by crap that might have impacted them otherwise. Don't be so hard on yourself."

Pot, kettle, she's well aware, but being the pot at least gives her the desire to try to bolster the kettle a bit.

"You'll get it all done, and what you think of as slow will look like greased lightning to anyone else."


There's gratitude in the way she looks at Jessica Jones, who makes her halting petition to self-forgiveness in the best way she knows how, but also uncertainty. It's not a look Jess is likely to be unfamiliar with. She'll have seen it in the mirror countless times before: the muted, haunted look of someone curating a closet with a skeleton inside, doing the best they can, but more aware of the sins of the past than the possibilities of the future.

Which isn't to say that she looks miserable. Particularly not now. "Thanks. I hope so. I'm really — I'm trying." She curves a small smile, sympathy etched in green-gold eyes. "We all are." And what a group they are, really: she and Jessica, Matt and Luke. And — who knows, if Danny Rand has a tortured soul? Not Kinsey. She barely even understands how to read him.

"Speaking of which, I, um. I brought in…somebody else. Somebody…you remember. I told you. His friend got a tense visit from a guy at the Daily Bugle? I made him promise not to do anything on his own. I told him there's a group of people working on these things, and I can put him in touch. I hope that's okay. It's…he's a good person, and it's just as much his thing as ours. People he cares about are in trouble, too. I think you'll like him."

If Danny Rand has a tortured soul it's swathed in entire cotton bales of Derp.

And while Jess notes that haunted look, she doesn't poke, too aware, for one thing, that there's only so much encouragement that can really ease it at one go. As it is, she often has to trot out multiple encouragements from multiple friends to even hope to dig herself out of that pit, and it doesn't always work.

Thus, she follows the subject change without skipping a beat, looking just about as relaxed as she ever has. Then again, whether it's cake and coffee in the garage or a hip Italian bistro, anywhere they're standing and anything they're doing, Kinsey Sheridan has a knack for putting Jessica right at her ease. "Who is he?" Jessica murmurs, keeping her voice down. And she grins. "Why are you asking me? I'm not the lead investigator; the devil of those details falls to someone else. Truthfully I've barely been involved. But I am curious; if only to see if I've heard of this guy." She has heard of a lot of guys, after all.

"It's not about who's leading, it's about — you know. We're apparently all in this together, now. Besides…so much of it has affected you personally, going back years. That means something, you know?" Kinsey tilts her eyes down into the glass in her hand, watching the overhead lights swirl and boil and stretch on the surface. "That's true for the others, too. Most of them. Sadly enough." There's an unconscious tilt to her mouth, not quite a frown but something like one. They'd found so much in those files. So much. And so much of it had been relevant to the other two in the room when she decrypted that thumb drive…

"You have," she promises, the lopsided almost-frown turning into a lopsided smile. "He's a chatterbox in red, black, and blue." Then she gasps. "OH. When he came to see me, he started to tell me this story and it was — I mean. Trying to get details out of him was — it's impossible. The guy is living at five thousand miles per hour, and when I say that, that's really saying something. Uh, it was something about a…"

And then she hesitates. How does she bring this up in a public space? Hazel eyes slide off to the side, watching the other nearby tables. Slowly she leans in, still watching the others, and pitches her voice low, lifting her glass hover near her cheek and conceal her mouth from the rest of the room. "Something about a butt? You went into a butt together? What the hell?"

Jessica turns bright red, though she starts laughing. She's embarrassed, but…one year later it's funny. She sputters out, "Oh my god, I'm gonna kill him. He won't live to see the thirteen I'm sure he'll be turning soon."

But she does, apparently, know precisely who she's talking about. "I will never live this story down, Jesus."

She takes a deep breath, bolstering herself to tell the Butt Story. It's not a bad dinner story, really, if comedy is the goal— which it often is on a night when two friends are trying to enjoy themselves. So the grin stays on her face. Now she just has to figure out how not to ramble through the whole thing.

"Okay so…first the set-up," she says. Despite her laughter she manages to get her voice back down for a whole host of reasons. Brown eyes dance in self-depricating mirth. "Zatanna Zatara, still my client at the time, gets her blood stolen by cultists; they're able to use it to do all kinds of terrible shit to her; they're killing her from a distance, we gotta get it back. We track them to this property in— Queens, I think, it doesn't really matter because they weren't in the house. There's a doorway into like…some sort of in-between realm or astral realm or whatever. Might as well have been Wonderland. So we step through, right?"

Her hands are animated as she smirks.

"Now…this other wizard's with us. And it's this star-studded frickin' team…and me, who still felt like the grubbiest D-lister on the planet at the time. Anyway, he gives us a little lecture on this place we're at. He asks for a ring; I make him one out of a stop sign, and he uses it to make this smoke stretch across the landscape.He says we are to follow the smoke, and it will have this terminus point and the terminus point? That's going to be our way out of there and to the actual place we need to be. So I listen. I listen to this lecture."

She is so adamant on this point. She listened to the lecture, damnit.

The fact that Jessica Jones blushes is enough to leave Kinsey looking gobsmacked, and that she laughs and doesn't immediately deny that butts were entered is enough to have her knitting her brows and gawping openly.

All she can do, in the end, is lean forward and place her chin into her palm, and stare, as the details about this encounter begin to unfold.

It's worth mentioning that Kinsey Sheridan is more receptive than most people to the strange and unusual. She's been exposed to the reality of the world around her for years; that magic is real, that there are talking raccoon people from space, etcetera. She tends to accept those things in stride.

This, though? This surpasses anything in her frame of reference so outlandishly that she watches Jessica tell the story as though it were the most incredible thing she'd ever heard in her entire life. And it might be, actually.

The gape just causes Jessica to duck her head and shake it, still beet red but still gamely being a good sport about it as best she can.

"So we follow the smoky road, and here's what we find. This just completely hideous demon. Imagine some goth girl with a zillion piercings and not enough clothes crossed with a giant and I mean really giant spider thing. And she introduces herself as Ashley of all things. And where is the terminus of the smoke trail? I bet you've guessed it by now. Right up her ass."

She picks up her cappucino and takes a sip, smirking now.

"So okay, now's where opinions start diverging. The rest of the group thought they were going to…I dunno, convince this thing to move the door to something more palatable for everyone. And they felt like that convincing wouldn't have taken very long. I felt like our quarry was getting away, and that thing didn't look inclined to talk. The piercings were all razor sharp, and it looked ready to give us a run for its money. I mean it's screaming 'Death is your only exit!' So while they hemmed and hawed and you know, weren't going to attack first cause they're better people than me, I just…walk around back and…"

She clears her throat.

"Well, I punch her in the ass as hard as I possibly can to get the door open, figuring this will a) incapacitate her and b) let us get on with it. And like…if someone was going to get covered in Ashley shit I wasn't going to let it be frickin' Captain America, you know? And for the record, it worked, and there was in fact no shit; I follow the momentum of the punch all the way to Switzerland, just instantly, and that is where we needed to go to do the hero thing. But like…"

She just starts laughing. "I mean everyone was just so squeamish about it! Just so horrified that the only thing left for them to do was to take the butt gate. And man, I didn't get covered in shit but I sure took some. Just everyone had something to say. I believe I got called…what. Madame Ass-Blaster, and our mutual friend nearly stuck me with the heroic moniker of 'Scary Lady' cause it's all he'd call me for months thereafter…and eeeevery now and then I think 'oh, I've lived this down, this butt story is going to be put to rest, everyone's forgotten about the butt thing…'"

She smirks and adds dryly, "Only to be thoroughly disabused of that notion, blindsided by said disabusement in, apparently, among other things, excellent bistros."

It's such an incredible parade of things that marches across Kinsey's heart-on-sleeve face — the expressive face so bad at concealing the way she feels that she's built her entire metahuman persona around a completely opaque helmet.

She hangs on. She gamely hangs on. She's right there with Jessica, even through the naked, gigantic spider goth girl thing, until Jessica hits the name Ashley, at which point Kinsey slowly squints. It's the first speed bump of many to come.

The next one is when Jessica says she punched this thing in the ass, to 'get the door open.' And the next thing she says that throws Kinsey for a loop happens right afterward-

"CAPTAIN-" That was MUCH louder than Kinsey intended for it to be, and heads at nearby tables swivel to look in her direction. Kinsey glances their way with wide eyes, then leans in to hiss an incredulous whisper. "Captain America?? Went into this BUTT?" It's still just loud enough that the people at the next table over glance that way in obvious alarm, but at this point Kinsey is ignoring them completely.

The coup de grace is 'I follow the momentum of the punch all the way to Switzerland.'

Her chair creaks as she sits heavily back in it, giving over her entire seated weight to it to prop her up while she reels in the aftermath of a story that nobody, not even Kinsey Sheridan with all of her open-minded, government-induced worldliness, could ever have expected.

"Are you. I mean. Is this like. A prank? That you guys pull on people? Like, maybe you were doing something ELSE together, some kind of sensitive — something — and then someone asked you what you were up to and he made up this story? And then you had to just agree to uphold it because otherwise it would blow your cover?"

Oh god, oh god, Kinsey's response just makes Jess lose it. She holds up her right hand like she's swearing on the stand in court, gasping with laughter. "I swear to you, every word is true," she says softly. "Captain America, Bucky Barnes, my wizard friend, one of the batlings and our mutual friend all went through the butt. After I yelled at them to get on with it. I most definitely was not doing some sort of sensitive something with— I mean the guy's a child, or sounds like one! And I was not even doing sensitive somethings at the time! No, that's how it all went down."

She gestures to her face and neck, now redder than her shirt. She can feel the heat radiating off her skin. "I mean do you really think I'd agree to this story as a cover?"

She suddenly buries her face in her hands, laughing but also just like, pleading: "Oh god, please don't tell Murdock."

Even though he could probably verify the truth of the tale. It might, she supposes, be cruel and unusual to ask Kinsey not to pass a perfectly good story about a their own mutual friend on to her beau, one he might get a laugh of his own out of as well, but there's only so much her dignity can take.

"BAR-" Pause, wince, hushed. "Barnes??" She's trying to process this, but it's…difficult.

That's probably understandable.

"No - nononono. No. I don't think you, uh. I don't think you were up to that…that kind of 'sensitive' thing. I mean. Any kind of…yeah. Wow. …Wow."

She shakes her head, eyes dazed and distant as she continues to process this thing about the world that she didn't know before, from which she can never go back. She will always, now, always and forever. know that this reality is the kind of world in which people can travel through a spider-goth's butt to Switzerland, but only if they punch it open first.

The petition not to tell Matt has her lifting one hand in a gesture of reassurance. "Jess, you have nothing to worry about. First of all, I'll keep your secret and second, even if I didn't, I'm really not sure he'd believe it anyway." The latter point is a joke. Increasingly, Matt Murdock is being confronted with the limitless kinds of weirdness the world is capable of containing.

This is when the food arrives. Kinsey waits for the waiter to clear out before plucking up her fork and draining her glass of wine. "And I thought my life was weird."

She stabs a fork down at the penne in her bowl, and eyes the woman across from her. "So? What else is new?"

Jessica fans herself, shoulders still shaking, sort of laughing, sort of crying. She'd been so grouchy about it all at the time, but when Kinsey grants her petition she takes a gulp of water to boot to toss it all down. She has to take a moment to recover, one that requires her to take a bite of her food while it's still piping hot, and she nearly loses it again when Kinsey says 'and I thought my life was weird.' She spreads her hands, because it's been a non-stop roller coaster of weird since then.

She doesn't want to talk about cases, she really doesn't, not more than they have, and what they had talked about was good too in a way but she still doesn't want to revisit it. What else is new?

Dryly, again with some humor at her own expense, she says, "I could tell you but only with the disclaimer that it's like…The Continuing Saga of How Detective Jones Fucks Up Her Love Life, so like…I'll let you decide in advance how much you want to hear about that. And I mean, backatcha, cause I wanna know what else is new with you too."

And she does, but this also gives Kinsey an out, she figures: if she wants to skip right past the sorded details of Carter and Cage she can just start talking about what's new with her and no harm, no foul.

"Nobody gets it right all the time, Jess." Eyes on her food, Kinsey glances up only once, sympathy in her eyes. "Not even Matt and I. We had a little disagreement not even that long ago — it happens." Gaze dropped again, she stirs her food and picks at artichoke hearts in the sauce before adding, "A personal life is something that, by definition, you continually fuck up until you get it right, suddenly. And you hope it sticks, and these days it seems like it usually doesn't, anyway."

She's completely finished with chewing through that bite before she adds, "Plus, it's probably the most normal conversation I'll have this week. Girl talk? I don't really get that anymore. I definitely don't get it from Stark-" Pause. "Yeah, no. That's not a great thought." Weird. And creepy.

"But only if you want to talk about it. Personal things are personal. I'm not prying!"

"No, I'd love to girl talk it with you, I just didn't want to inflict it if you didn't! I could freaking use your perspective, and like, when I thought about who I'd want to talk to about it I thought about you instantly."

Truth is, despite the weird way they came together, Kinsey is the only friendship she has that did not get forged out of just repeated extreme circumstances. It feels natural to talk to her about things like this. The only sort of friendship that's progressed normally in many ways, with them, however infrequently, making time to just hang out and talk about things, often normal things, far more often than they come together to punch things in the face. It's not that other friends of hers don't also make that time, and it's not that she and Kinsey haven't worked together to right wrongs, one way or another. It's simply the balance, the ratio, of being just friends vs. being battle partners, coupled with the fact that Kinsey is also another woman. These are definite reasons why Jess values their friendship so highly, why it holds such a special place in her life. Not that she's going to articulate that one right this second.

Jessica does hesitate at this mention that Kinsey and Matt got into it, but that is definitely not her business, and while she wants to be there for Kinsey on any number of levels she cannot for the life of her think of anything good coming out of even offering to be so much as a sounding board for that one. She may have moved on, but the history is the history. Instead she nods ruefully to this bit about personal lives being immenently fuck-upable. She also snarfs at the mention of Tony, and says dryly, "Well, Tony did straight up kiss me, but only cause I brought him Wakandan art. Nevertheless, I agree— you probably won't get much girl talk from him."

She slices a piece of chicken off and chews on it thoughtfully with the air of someone looking to figure out how to start. "So um, okay. There's uh, kind of two men in this deal. It starts with Cage; our host of the other evening. He ended up in Wakanda. And now that you know how deeply our histories are intertwined I mean…that was just awkward, right? For so many reasons. But chemistry, all kinds of chemistry. And he just has this way about him, I don't know. It's weird. He'll like tell me to lock my door or eat or something and it's not condescending. But when we finally move on to just kissing and making a beeline to the bedroom someone shoots a cyanide missile into the place we're doing this and follows it up with a firebomb, because of course they did, right? And I sort of freaked and had Zatanna heal him and ship him back to New York. I freaked cause he was there getting poisoned for my business, I also freaked because, well, I mean. Suddenly it was just like I was slamming all the walls and doors, you know? And so he got pissed, and didn't talk to me for a full month, and I figured well, tanked that. So while he's off being pissed and making it seem like he's never talking to me again— I mean he seriously threw me out of his bar when I showed up to try to explain before the whole radio silence thing— I end up starting a thing with this MI-6 agent named Michael Carter."

'Two men' gets the anticipated double-arched brow and 'OooooOOoo' expression, though it's playful at best, and absolutely not envious. Kinsey, for her part, barely feels she's qualified to have one relationship, let alone be fielding things with two people.

As Jessica explains she takes the opportunity to put away a good amount of the food on her plate, but her eyes remain on the dark-haired woman across from her, and she doesn't have the look of someone listening just to be polite — she finds interpersonal dynamics fascinating, obviously. Besides: it's another way to get to know Jessica.

She actually winces when they get to the part about the firebomb. "Yeah. Of course they did." Because it never fails, does it? One demon-interrupted date to Radio City Music Hall and super-secret underwater installation-vacation to Cabo Verde later, she knows perfectly well how difficult it is to have a normal time with normal people when you are anything but normal.

And then? There's the bit about Carter

That gets a wince of an entirely different order. "Please don't tell me you dated a spy. You dated a spy, didn't you. You should never date a spy." Her wince lingers in the tightness of her eyes, and the thinness of her suddenly rueful smile. "I should know. I sorta was one. I mean…not an operative. I worked in TECHINT. But still, though."

Indeed, Kinsey will soon learn there's not much to be envious about, however it sounds at first. It's more like a big fat tangled mess. Jess herself is definitely underqualified for this level of drama, and she knows it. Still, Jess grins wryly as Kinsey commiserates with dates derailed by madness, as she winces about dating a spy, and says, "It just sort of happened, I wasn't looking to? He thought I was in trouble, kicked down my door, at first we were just talking cases, next thing we're trying to talk about not being workaholics, then we're dancing, then we're doing a thing. I mean I was in like with him, he was in like with me, and I thought: ok. Here's a dude who can keep up with my crazy ass life, who thrives on it like I do, who respects me, we're having a good time together, let's see where it goes. I walked in knowing he could be shipped out any time and I might never see him again…thing is, I've got obligations now that could mean some of the same for me?"

She picks at her plate, frowning down at it. The left turn this took is dark, there's no way around it.

"Anyway, he's not the one that did anything wrong by being a spy or anything like that. I mean he was great. Took care of me after the hospital thing, everything. But see…right after the hospital this other friend of mine ran seriously afoul of this demon— one that I am proud to report has not as of yet required me to aim any shots at strange bodily locations. And like…I was kind of rattled by the hospital thing, honestly. I didn't want to admit it, because that felt lame, I mean I'd slept through all the action, what the Hell did I have to be wigged about? I think that contributed. I pushed myself harder than I should have, went up against this demon and…"

She grimaces. She takes a sip of her cappuchino to get fortified for this part. She looks at Kinsey and her mouth twists, and she says, really softly: "It triggered the everloving fuck out of me, Kinsey. Just super bad. Worst I'd had in months. I couldn't stand the idea of being touched, I could barely handle being around friends; it seemed like the closer my bond with them the harder it was, I went on a 11-day bender, I slept in my car one night because I couldn't even go back to my apartment. And I just— I couldn't. He was so nice, and I dumped him right over text like a real shitheel, because I couldn't. Maybe if we'd been together longer than 2 weeks I might have been able to get over myself enough to let him help me. He wanted to, he really did. But I just ignored him."

She exhales. "He sent me a note. Said he accepted a mission, that I shouldn't blame myself for that, he understood whatever had happened was bad, he wasn't mad, that he hoped we could be friends. I finally texted him and apologized. He asked if we could talk when he got back and I mean yeah, of course, I'm going to. I don't think either of us want to jump back into a relationship, but maybe I can at least repair that friendship. I don't think I can with him, the way the demon did it— it cast a fake him into a particular role, and it— " She shakes her head, lips thinning. She doesn't want to get into describing that blow-by-blow, she in fact can't, so she just skips out of it.

Indeed, she grimaces and says, "Sorry, that's not exactly light, fun conversation, but I don't know how else to tell it. I mean I'm better now, I'm fine now. It was just rough there for awhile."

It's about halfway through the story that Kinsey begins to slow down with her eating, and the bowl is nearly empty, anyway — just enough left over to eat later on when she gets home. This is all part of a grand plan, because the restaurant has tiramisu that is fire. They're probably going to need some of that when this is over. Jessica is, anyway. Kinsey will take any excuse.

"Well…okay." She pushes her plate aside, pats her mouth with her napkin, then leans forward into her forearms on the table's edge again. "First of all, I don't think it's weird to be wigged out about the hospital thing? You almost died. That would wig me out too, Jess. That would wig anybody out. So, cut yourself some slack on that. Geez."

She glances up as her plate is spirited away, and gestures at Jessica's cappuccino silently. The waiter throws her an 'ok' gesture, and disappears.

"And second, it sounds like you're hanging out with all the wrong people." This is said half in jest, with a quirk of the lips. "You're running into, I don't know, easily two hundred percent more demons than most people ever do?" Well-kept brows knit slightly, just enough to paint a shadow between them. "If he's a decent human being, he'll understand — or, if he can't understand, he'll try to understand. Sometimes horrible things happen and…" Her mouth opens, closes. She rolls her shoulders upward. "You can't help how it makes you feel. If you could, you would. Someone with his background ought to know that. So, I'm cautiously optimistic you'll be able to repair the damage, and go on being friends."

The cappuccino arrives, and she reaches out to cup it with her hands, drawing heat into her real fingers and feeling it distantly through the array of sensors in the artificial ones, visually so indistinguishable from the real thing. "But…you seemed to be getting along with Luke well enough at the party…?"

Kinsey says it wasn't weird; she chews on her lip a few moments and finally nods her assent to that one. The several other times where she's been really that close to death she had also been kind of wigged out for a few days anyway, and had usually gotten some recovery time in. And this time she hadn't been nearly killed fighting; she'd been nearly killed just laying there, helpless to do anything about it. It had made a difference.

And Jessica starts chuckling when Kinsey makes the quip that she runs into 200% more demons than most people ever do. She is not wrong. 200% more of a lot of shit. She tilts a finger at her, a smirk with a 'touche' written all over it, shoulders still shaking. She can laugh about it, because what else can she do? It occurs to her that she danced around the issue of 'which friend' got taken by the bear out of habit; Kinsey has, after all, met Jane by now. But she doesn't roll back to it; Matt has part of that story too, after all.

"Cautiously optimistic is where I am too."

She hesitates about Luke, smiling…fondly? Is that fondness? Is that something more?

"Yeah, Luke and I are getting along," Jess says softly. By now, despite doing all this talking, she has managed to get right into her plate; efficient at making food disappear at appropriate points in the conversation. "It— I mean, at first? He just shows up. One month later. One week into me and Michael. Chinese food in hand, unnanounced, I've just found out about this demon thing taking my friend. I told him off, I really did. Told him he was too damn late and I was seeing someone else and just…all sorts of stuff about why he and I could never work anyway."

She drains her cappucino; she might need a second when that waiter rolls back. She likes it.


She frowns thoughtfully. "After the hospital thing he just…he just started texting me. Nothing obnoxious. Jokes, sometimes. Just to find out how I was doing, if I was okay. He'd hear things through the grapevine about shit that was happening to me and he'd check on me about that. Like, people check sometimes, but I mean he was just— consistent, you know? Or he'll ask me a question and we'll banter…it's nice."

She scoffs a moment, she sounds like she's in high school.

Then, she frowns and says, "We've gone to the park, had coffee…he's been over a few times. When I snarled at him I'd told him he was shit at respecting boundaries— and he kind of was, like seriously— but he changed his behavior in response. Like actually really changed it." She seems to be marveling that anyone would be doing that.

"We ended up curled up with each other the other day, just— I mean we both felt shitty, emotionally, so we were just…sitting there with each other and then we slept— actual sleep, not euphamism sleep. I keep trying to push him away, he keeps not giving up. But the way he's not giving up isn't some shitty creepy way, you know? I've got feelings for him, I do, I'm just worried that maybe I can't do the relationship thing at all, that I'm just too screwed up in my head, witness what happened with Michael. I've kind of hurt Luke enough, I don't want to— I'm afraid to—"

She exhales ruefully, spreads her hands, smirks and says, "See why I gave you the disclaimer? It's a mess. I'm a mess."

Kinsey's cappuccino arrives, and somehow, she manages to work the tiramisu order in during the brief moment that Jessica hesitates, thinking about Luke with that smile on her face. She's sipping from her cup when Jess reaches the last of it, and shrugs, slow-blinking and letting one corner of her mouth hook. "People are a mess. Seriously. I'm honestly of the opinion that hardly anybody's got it together, full stop. Even more rare: people who are together as they seem to be. We're all down here just…I don't know." She looks out through the window, past their ghostly reflections, and gestures with one hand. "Flailing around, shouting at nothing, being completely inconsequential specks for whom every last thing that happens is the penultimate crisis."

She glances up as the tiramisu arrives, cut from some refrigerated sheet in the back, and shrugs as the waiter makes himself scarce. "Some people probably find that depressing. I think it's comforting, though. Maybe because, like I said, I've got a lot to make up for — like nothing I screw up can possibly matter as much as I think it does. Anyway what I'm saying is, just tell him what you told me. That you're worried, that you feel bad about what happened before, that you — you know? Just lay it out there. What's the worst that can happen, honestly? Even if things go completely wrong in the end, you can say that you told him you never had any guarantees for him, right? Not that it makes sense to guarantee anyone anything, ever, or expect any, either. But…you know? Life is short, Jess. Shorter for some of us than others."

Oooh, tiramasu. Jessica is more than happy that Kinsey took care of making sure she didn't miss that one. She listens, filling up her mouth with a forkful of it, eyes widening because that's really damn good. Score another one for Kinsey and her ability to make good choices on the culinary and night out front. She smirks faintly at the 'penultimate crisis' bit; she has a lot of penultimate crisis moments, after all, and more than sees herself in that description. She follows Kinsey's gaze through the window, watching the other flailing people rush about their business, stomping through the punishing winter storm with varying degrees of caring or not caring about said storm. Notes lines around their eyes or mouths or foreheads, tension in their shoulders, rapidfire conversations on cellphones, struggles to get children in line.

Everyone is flailing, and as Kinsey admits again she feels she has a lot to make up for, Jess finds herself wondering if everyone is too hard on themselves too. No, some aren't hard enough, but she's seen many who are; Owen, a kid with a decent heart who got a shit start; Kinsey, one of the kindest and wisest people she knows, still burdened down by the need to atone for something. Bucky, before this latest madness. Matt, with his endless capacity to feel guilty over things that are nowhere near being his fault. It all begs questions she'll need to keep toying with, about what that means for the way she endlessly rides herself, but she's in no mental position to go there now. She returns her gaze to her friend.

"You're good at this girl talk stuff," she observes, and she means it; the advice is good advice, the observations good observations, and now that Jessica has laid the whole blasted nonsense out in order it no longer seems like such a tangle; it's out of her head, all the pieces out where she can see them rather than being scattered, upside down and scrambled up in the box from which they came.

"So now on to you. What's new with you, other than Stark's endless capacity to test your patience?"

You're good at this girl talk stuff.

Kinsey laughs. Outright. It kindles in her eyes, then gains a sharper edge of wryness. "It's really easy to give other people advice about their lives."

The wry edge turns a little bit toward rue, though it doesn't settle there. "Most of what's going on for me, you're already party to. I'm…working. A lot. For Stark, yeah, but…mostly on this other stuff. Trying to compile everything into one place, tidying up loose ends, like getting in touch with that guy we were talking about before. I…I had to bring Stark in, too. Not… I mean. I didn't give him anything he could act on. You have no idea how heavily redacted that information was. But…he's sheltering me at this point, and it only seemed fair to tell him what kind of things I'm mixed up with, now, because it could easily blow up in his face."

She sets her cup down to the side, puffs her cheeks on an exhale and forks at her tiramisu. "That's what Matt and I got into it about. He's not Stark's biggest fan. I mean — I'm not either, obviously, but. He's got a whole…" She gestures vaguely with her fork. "…thing. I also made a suggestion he didn't like. About the merits of going undercover with this guy we're all focused on. Granted-" She pauses long enough for a bite of dessert, "-I knew he wouldn't like it. He's crazy overprotective. It's nice, most of the time. But I'm also competent and I don't make suggestions I don't think I can carry out successfully."

Another bite later, she shakes her head just a little. "We're just adapting. He's not used to working with other people, I'm not used to working with other people like this…and honestly I think we occupy similar niches, in exact reverse of one another when it comes to…ethics, obligations…morality."

The detective flashes a grin as Kinsey declares the ease and comfort with which one can advise others on their own lives; she knows that feeling well enough for sure.

All the same, Jessica gives Kinsey her full attention as she explains it, lays it all out; Stark, with his redacted information. Wise, that, because Tony is anything but subtle, and the group that is focused on this particular set of problems, for the most part, is.

She ends up hearing about the source of the row anyway, but is relieved to find it's nothing she feels is terribly inappropriate for her to hear. She, too, has seen the grimaces every time her own friendship and association with Stark is mentioned, but had never really asked what his deal was. Not all her friends have to like each other; her ability to walk with equal ease among a broad variety of opposites all but ensures some will not and cannot.

"What's Matt want you to do instead of shelter with Stark? Or do you mean he was just more upset you gave Tony the redacted info?"

And, too, there's this matter of undercover. She herself is no fan of that kind of work, to be honest, for all that she and Red have cooked up an infiltration plan. To her, undercover is a last resort when conventional leads run dry, a philosophy which prompts her to ask: "Why undercover? Are you all dried up on leads?"

And then the last bit, prompting a tilt of her head. Ethics, obligations, morality? Different from Matt's? Opposite? Not in any way she has ever noticed; Kinsey has almost always helped her upon request, for example; appeals to 'hey people are getting hurt here' definitely seemed to work. But then again, she doesn't know everything, now does she? She debates, whether she's going to ask, again wondering if she might be easing into inappropriateness by doing so. But Kinsey listened to her, every bit, asked good questions, urged her on, and so she finally touches lightly on that one too, deciding she'll just encourage Kinsey to talk rather than rendering any advice on certain things. So she asks, "Reverse? How so?"

"I asked him before I talked to Stark. By the next day he was…fine with it. He agreed it was probably the right thing to do, he just…he took a night to sleep on it." Dragging a long breath in, Kinsey makes her way through several more bites before she continues, "I don't know what his deal is with Stark, but I suspect it's a few things. Stark's trying to put his firm on retainer, for one thing. And, between you and I?" She quirks a brow, seems to hesitate, and then decides to share anyway: "I think he's a little…god. I don't know if 'threatened' is the right word. Jealous? Except there's nothing to be jealous of. But…Matt didn't come from money. Stark basically pisses the stuff. Maybe that's why. Maybe it's because Stark and I have history, or because we work in the same field and it's not something Matt can be a part of? Who knows." She nips her teeth gently on the tines of her fork, the cushion of her lower lip rippled through the gaps for a moment, and then shrugs one shoulder. "He tries to keep it from being a thing, though."

"As for 'why undercover,' I think it's just a matter of time before this guy hides everything he has going on, and we're back to square one. Once he realizes the scope of what we've got? I mean, that's what I would do in his shoes. I told Matt…you don't get to where you have this kind of reach and power without learning resilience and adaptability. He shut down an entire data center just because I was…" Another vague fork gesture. She doesn't say the words 'in it,' but they're implied. "So, you know. He's not allergic to drastic action. But, anyway, I think that's effectively scrapped for now."

How so?

This smile from Jessica's dark-haired tablemate is a little apologetic — maybe enough that she'll expect Kinsey doesn't mean to answer. That's not why at all, though.

"He toes right up to the boundaries of the law in trying to make the world a better place. I break it outright. All the time. We both want the same things, but…we don't operate on the same sides of the fence."

Tony's trying to put Nelson and Murdock on retainer? Not surprising, when Jess thinks about it. Tony's strengths don't just lie in creating tech and getting it sold. He's got a fine eye for talent and he invests in it relentlessly. He pisses the stuff, but gives with great generosity. But then, Jess can easily see how Matt might bristle right up at that same tendency. Ferociously independent as he is. Some of the few understated arguments they'd had…well, more him putting his foot down and her backing off, really, had been those times when Jessica had tried to pay him when he didn't want to be paid.

She chuckles, remembering something, and says, "It probably really is just the oil and water thing. Funny thing; both of them found out about Trish taking those pills while I was in Germany. Trish didn't want to tell me. Matt? Held it close to his chest, as he holds everything; Tony? He called me right up. Both doing the right thing as they saw it."

To say nothing of their flip-flopped demeanors, one understated, the other thriving as the center of attention.

Kinsey's argument for undercover work, meanwhile, makes a lot of sense, Jess nods thoughtfully on that front. Scrapped as it is, she doesn't poke at it, but the nod says she sees the merits of the argument, even if she's disinclined to weigh in one way or another. For various reasons she's been at arm's length on the case; she hasn't even seen or read the contents of the infamous 'thumb drive' and finds she does not want to. A case that swirled around all three of the most significant events of her life; the accident and the changes that wrought in her, even as it took her family away, her adoption by Dorothy Walker, a move that bought her an abusive parent and a dear sister; and finally, the entire Kilgrave ordeal. A case that in some respects she ought to have put her teeth right into, and yet even had Matt not insisted on protecting her from it she had, in and of herself, an aversion to learning more than she already knows. Other people's mysteries are far more appealing; sometimes a person is just too close. The cumulitive effect? She doesn't know enough about it to even so much as develop a real opinion.

But this last bit makes her tilt her head, furrowing her brows. It has to be more like…Kinsey's willing to go farther than Matt is; there's no toeing to what Matt does. At least, Jess doesn't think so. She's no lawyer, but she's pretty sure he basically commits assault or battery or both just about every night, with a whole lot of 'defense of others' defense thrown in; vigilantism is also not precisely legal, for all that the authorities often turn a blind eye to it. Still, that's semantics, technicalities, an oversimplification. They each feel their codes are different; isn't that really more the point?

"I can see how the differences in method would cause some tension," she says, thoughtfully.

At the back of her mind, she mentally counts all the times she herself has broken, battered, stepped on, and done a tapdance on various laws trying to get the job done; she respects them when they're helpful and blatantly ignores them when she feels the outcome of putting those laws first would bring events to a stupid and tragic conclusion.

"But you two seem to navigate it pretty well. If you both had precisely the same perspective or methods you wouldn't have much to bring to each other's tables. And if he didn't at least respect your reasons for doing things the way you do them he probably wouldn't have hung in. You two seemed good together at the party," which was, in fact, the first time Jessica had really gotten a chance to see them together, "and I mean…it's been what, a whole year for you two? At least?"

Jess wasn't the only one aware it was the first time she'd seen them together, and not in costume. 'Are we sure this is a good idea?' had definitely been a subject of conversation, raised by Kinsey, not least because some of the people there still don't know who Daredevil actually is.

They'd gone anyway, so it's easy to see what the outcome of that conversation had been.

"If he worries about what kind of slippery slope I might be on, at least he can rest easy knowing nobody worries about that more than I do." Her smile tilts off to one side, lashes lowering. "I think…he trusts…that I'm doing the best I can, with the lot that I've wound up with." For now, she thinks, and doesn't say.

She sets her fork aside, tiramisu half-finished, and reaches for her cup of cappuccino. "We're doing well, I think?" Her gaze flicks up, off to one side. "It's technically about a year, but it's…it's a lot less than that, in reality. I…ah. I didn't see him at all for the two months during the trial. There wasn't any time, for him. It was right before that that he and I realized we had this…um…" Her gaze slants downward, then back toward Jess, laden with meaning. "…side gig. Both of us. That we hadn't told one another about, obviously. I got shot that night, in the back. It sucked! A lot. He stuck around for three days to help out because I wasn't terribly mobile, and then…" Hand lifted from her cup, she snaps her fingers. "Then he was recruited for the trial of two centuries, and that was it."

Draining the cup, she sets it aside, and gestures at the waiter when she catches his eye to box up the rest of her leftovers, then arches a querying brow at her tablemate.

"During those two months, I wasn't sure we survived that. It was a lot of silence after a huge revelation about kept secrets, right? And there are things about my condition that…" She quiets, then shifts in her chair uneasily. "…it's…a lot to ask someone to accept, that's all. So. Then there was Wakanda, obviously." She worries her lower lip, puts on a smile. It's small, but reads as acceptance. "I wouldn't ask him not to do these things. It'd be asking him not to be him, and I obviously like him. There are…challenges, though."

After a beat she clears her throat, lifting and spreading both hands in a gesture like, 'see?' "This is what I'm saying. Everybody's just flailing around down here, doing the best they can. Sometimes, it's even enough."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License