50 Burgers and a Diet Coke

July 25, 2018:

Jessica and Caitlin get to know eachother.

A diner in NYC

Characters

NPCs: A bartender, various passersby

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

*

Caitlin Fairchild and Jessica Drew had gotten caught in "Schedule Heck", as Catilin would call it. Appointments, job obligations, heroic duties, and just plain bad timing had conspired to prevent a planned follow up for a few weeks. Finally, though, the stars had aligned and Caitlin, at least, had an afternoon free of prior obligations on a late, sunny Sunday.

It was pleasant enough weather to justify heading up to the Boardwalks near the New York Marinas. Away from the commercial shipping harbor, the ocean near the docks was relatively clean and there were businesses, sandy beaches, and lots of people coming and going. Fried foods and sweet desserts fill the air with a bewildering array of delicious scents.

Caitlin waits for Jessica near the entrance to the park area, with paths heading into a conservationist grassland and others into the seaside business strip. She's dressed with a careful informality, in an a-line sundress in smeared purple and pink with a modest neckline and no sleeves. Low wedge sandals and a small purse are her only accessories, and she leans her hips against the back of a bench as she looks around for her date.

*

This is Jessica, so what would she arrive in but a well-fitted red windbreaker with black sleeves and a pair of too tight blue jeans, ankle high black leather boots, sunglasses, and a disaffected expression. She flashes Cait a brief smile when she sees the redhead seated at one of the benches and starts in that direction at a stroll.

Jessica isn't short, really. However, next to Cait she's tiny. Even seated her date just about has height advantage, leaving the spider to stroll over in a very deliberate way and tilts her head slightly so that they are properly looking one another in the eye.

"Well, hello, stranger," Jess begins in a well-affected southern drawl. "You look like you're waiting for someone. How about you go somewhere with me instead? I brought candy, or something."

*

Caitlin's mouth tugs up into a smile and she rises off the back of the bench before Jessica is within talking distance. She unconsciously smooths out her dress and then giggles at Jessica's affected drawl. "Candy? I'm pretty sure I heard that candy is how people get suckered into getting kidnapped." Her eyes dance. "I'd make a real joke about it, but now I'm really wondering if you have candy and what kind it is."

She hesitates just a little then steps forward and hugs Jessica. It's a little brief and uncertain, but she seems genuinely pleased to see the dark-haired woman. "I'm glad you could make it," she tells Jess. "I'm sorry things have been so crazy lately. Work, then job interviews, then stuff with the capes crew…" she rolls her eyes with an expressive 'and so on' gesture. "It's good to see you. How've you been?" She turns her shoulders left, then right, indicating Jessica should pick a direction to start meandering.

*

"Busy too. Causing trouble for people. The usual." Jessica returns the hug firmly. She might not be as strong as Caitlin but she's still strong enough to make a moment like this count, even between the superpowered.

"I have a couple candies with me. Guess right and you can have them." Jessica's response is spoken with a teasing grin, even as the dark-haired SHIELD agent is shifting to stare off into the park.

"So… What do you want to go do first?" Jess asks. Then she pauses for a second before adding, "…I did promise to win a pink unicorn, didn't I?"

*

Caitlin considers, pressing her lips into a line and looking skywards. "Mmm… bubblegum?" she hazards, moving in the direction of Jessica's glance. She smiles and rolls a shoulder at the question of winning a toy. "It's okay, really," she tells the shorter woman, her tone apologetic. "I've been so crazy busy lately that I'm surprised you remembered. But there's a fun amusement park over on Coney Island we could try sometime?" she offers diplomatically. "If you want, I mean. I don't know if amusement parks are your thing," she adds, hurridly. "I don't mind them, though bumper cars isn't a lotta fun," she admits, nose wrinkling.

"Oh, I do have some good news?" she offers, after a few steps. "I got a job. Stark Industries hired me full-time. It's a dream job, doing nothing but R&D in their skunkworks labs. I'm a little nervous, I'm surprised I even got the job. I met Pepper Potts personally for the interview. She's really neat— I mean, you see her on TV and she looks so collected all the time, but I guess with Tony blowing stuff up constantly, you get to be pretty chill."

*

"How about we start by taking a walk and see what we run into?" Jessica suggests, the smile quirking around the edges of her lips again as she studies Caitlin's features. "We can definitely go to the amusement park and get that unicorn sometime if you want to." Jessica laughs and then reaches into her pocket and does produce a pack of bubble gum, which she offers to Caitlin.

"That's one of them," the woma ncontinues in that lazy tone before shrugging and then turning slightly. "You're going to do a great job. You don't need to be nervous… I dout that Pepper Potts would have picked you if you werne't perfect for the job." Jessica's confidence is unwavering, it seems. "And whether we remembered before now isn't the point, right? So let's…" She shrugs briefly.

"What do you actually like to go do? I'd probably go get drunk somewhere and play pool or get into a fight or something… You know, maybe I should work on that."

*

Caitlin carefully pockets the gum in her purse and shoulders the little bag, walking near to Jessica but not close enough to constantly bump into her. "I… er, well, I'm kind of lame," Caitlin says, laughing self-consciously and tucking a stray tendril of red hair behind her ear. Her ponytail tugs behind her shoulders in the grip of the low coastal wind. "I tend to spend my weekends kind of decompressing and playing computer games, except for Sunday services. Then the rest of the week it's the gym, work, training, and home. Throw in an emergency crisis once in a while, and—" she trails off, one athletic shoulder rolling in a shrug. "It's not all bad, I'll get dinner with friends in the evenings pretty often. But I don't really drink, 'cause there's not much point in it for me, so I don't know the bar scene very well. Maybe you could teach me to play pool sometime?" she inquires, glancing to Jess hopefully. "I don't know anything about it."

*

"I bet I could," Jessica agrees thoughtfully. "And- right. You can't get drunk. That's fine…" she seems to be musing about something now, looking between Caitlin and the road ahead thoughtfully. Back and forth go her intense eyes, as if she's formulating some sort of incredible plot. Then she freezes. "…Why do you go to the gym?" She tilts her head slightly to the left while she considers this. "Do they carry weights big enough?"

*

Caitlin takes a step and a half before Jessica stops, turning and blinking her wide green eyes at Jessica in confusion. "I… because physical fitness is important?" she says, as if suddenly wary that she's stumbling into a verbal prank. "I go at least four days a week, more if I can. Diana's teaching me some Amazon martial arts lately, and I want to get better at them."

"That's one of the reasons I have to work out at the League or the Titan Tower," she explains. "We've got these giant electromagnetic spring suspension systems so people can really push themselves— there's really no practical way for me to squat clear something weight a hundred tons. Even if I found something that heavy, it'd fall apart if I tried to lift it. And the Army guys get really mad at me if I start throwing tanks around. I guess they're like, six million dollars each?" she guesses.

*

"I think it's around there. Four or six or somehting… Anyway." Jessica nods a couple of times, then squints again, looking up at Cait. "One hundred tons? Is that, like, a limit, or have you just not tried to lift a skyscraper yet?" She hasn't unveiled a prank yet, she's actually asking. "And I get that physical fitness s important, I just…" She pauses. "Got me thinking, I guess. I don't even bother working out. I just got lucky. And you're working so hard even though we're pretty sure you can juggle tanks…"

Jessica trails off there and then gives another brief shake of her head. "I was just thinking that it takes something special to work as hard as you do even though you've already achieved so much. Drive, maybe? Is there something you're hoping to accomplish with all of that strength…? Beyond protecting people, I mean. Or whatever you do, I'm not really judging."

*

Caitlin shrugs again, and nods at Jessica. "It's a limit," she says. "It's a pretty good machine and it'll go up into like… a thousand tons, or more. Diana and Carol both like training on it, so—" she makes a wry smile. "I guess it does what's needed. I think a lot of metahumans don't look into physical training. Even if you can't, like, build muscle, the practice for how to move still comes in handy."

She considers Jessica's question seriously, taking a few seconds to mull it over. "I… I guess I don't really care about being strong," she concludes, finally. "Well, okay, I get a /little/ competitive about it," she admits sheepishly, a second later. "But it's just something I happen to be good at and work hard at. I used to only be able to do twenty or so tons. I just want to help people, is all. Sometimes that means inventing something really cool or being in the right place to give someone a shoulder to cry on. Sometimes it means something super heavy needs to be moved. If I can do it, why shouldn't I learn to do it the best I can, right?"

She looks to Jessica. "Isn't that why you joined SHIELD? To help people?"

*

"Nope," Jessica replies rather seriously. "That didn't even come into it at all until later." She's staring into the distance now, the wind causing her hair to flow out behind her as she fixedly studies some point past the horizon.

"I'm not against helping people," Jessica adds quietly, tilting her head slightly as she does so. "But that wasn't what I was going for at all. I want to gut HYDRA and burn what's left to the ground." Jessie gives a light shrug of her shoulders.

"You're right, though. If you can be that person then why not? If it makes you happy." Jessica offers another of thos quiet smiles andstarts to walk again. "Okay. Dinner. Pizza, burgers… Make Olive Garden cry with the all you can eat pasta?"

*

"I'm banned from Olive Garden," Caitlin tells Jessica, seriously. "And Golden Corral. But pizza is always good," she tells Jessica, falling into step with her once more. "I used to try to do the all-you-can-eat thing when I was in Gotham and poor as dirt. I got mad about being banned, but I realized that it's not fair for me to show up and eat a hundred bucks worth of food for fifteen dollars. They're just business people trying to make a living like anyone else."

She hesitates, as if trying to gauge Jessica's feelings, before asking her question. "So… HYDRA. I've heard of them. They're bad guys," she says. "I guess you, uh… kinda ran into them the bad way, huh?"

*

"Yeah, you could say that," Jess replies fixedly. She continues to walk with long, forceful strides. Caitlin's steps are larger but Jessica directs herself with a cold intensity that somehow makes each step more impactful. It's still not enough to compare to the sheer presence of Caitlin given the difference in their heights. "I'm going to buy you twenty cheeseburgers. Then I'll buy me twenty, and we can compare notes."

*

Caitlin lags a half a step behind Jess, looking embarassed at having committed such a faux pas and a little pained on behalf of Jessica's tribulations with the enemy. She catches up with a hopskip step and falls into step with Jessica, not particularly struggling to keep up while the cold anger radiates off the slender woman.

She smiles when Jessica breaks the silence. "Can /you/ eat twenty burgers in one sitting?" she asks, her tone a little more gentle than before. "I know I can do that without much effort, but I'm kinda on the extra-large-plus side. I've seen Spider-Man put it away at the dinner table but he's nothing compared to me and Impulse."

*

"Watch me. I can probably out eat Spider-Man," Jessica replies helpfully. "And if I don't finish them all that's more for you, right? I can't send you home hungry. Then again, you're kind of always hungry, right?" Jess picks up the pace.

"Three dollar burgers at this place up the road and a billiards table. I'll teach you how to shoot pool and we can keep buying burgers til they run out of buns." Soon enough, the tavern in question is coming into view. Rick's? No place of note, then. Still, the price can't really be eaten this close to the city. "So… What's your story? In you words, not whatever they wrote in your file."

Decent lighting, a long wooden bar, a couple old pool tables… Lots of beer being sold alongside baskets of burgers.

*

"Ten thousand calories a day to maintain body mass, not including what I need to eat after working out," Caitlin confirms, with a nod. "Th' cantina at the League has a nutritionist on staff— it's a lot of high-energy protein bars and shakes. Things I can make at home or carry around with me."

She follows Jessica into the bar, pausing just inside the door to let her eyes adjust a little. It's not quite a spaghetti western where the piano player cuts off abruptly, but there's a definite pull of eyes from the patrons as Caitlin goes from 'cute girl in a Sunday sundress' to realizing she's close to needing to duck to get through the door.

"I'm… I mean, it's kinda uninteresting," Caitlin tells Jessica, a little evasively. "I moved here from Iowa when I was seventeen, after I graduated high school. My daddy died— had a heart attack— right before my senior year. I got accepted into Columbia when I graduated. Really, the only reason I was able to do it was 'cause of a scholarship and the life insurance. He wanted me to go to college." She eyes the baskets of burgers with a dubious but hungry expression. They /do/ smell good. "The rest of it's kinda all over the internet. After I got big, I started doing the vigilante thing. Mostly just breaking up street fights and helping out during car accidents. Nothing major until I met up with Carol and the Justice League recruited me."

*

They're pretty straightforward burgers. Pickle, mustard, onion, tomato, lettuce, a beef patty. Nothing too special for only three bucks. "Okay, so… I want forty cheeseburgers." Jess pauses for a beat. "And a diet coke. I'm watching my figure." The woman fixes her with a startled stare across the counter but then she just nods slowly with a glance at Caitlin. "40 cheeseburgers it is… And a 'diet coke'."

Jess pays the woman and the first five burgers reach them almost immediately. The grill hasn't stopped cooking in a couple of hours. The kitchen is probably an inferno. But… It does mean fast service. "Okay, so that's it? Really?" Jessica looks up at Cait pas she picks up the basket and walks over toward a nearby table. (Cait might have trouble with the booths.) "I'm… Willing to bet like… All of the money… That everything you told me is completely factual," she starts, arching a brow.

"And that you left out, like, everything. You might have better luck telling me to back off if you don't want to talk about it, sweetheart."

*

Caitlin exhales and looks down and away from Jessica, hugging her forearm across her stomach and squeezing the elbow opposite. "I …. don't wanna talk about it," she admits, finally. "I didn't make anything up. There's just …" She trails off. "It's complicated."

She slides into one of the seats after a few moments, and transfers a burger to one of the plates. She glances under the hood of the bun, then flattens it out a little with her fingertips and inhales half of it in two bites. She's not exactly wolfing her food down either, chewing with a weirdly demure sort of rhythm.

"Mmm, those aren't bad," she approves, after swallowing. "They do the roasted onions here."

*

"Complicated is fine. I get complicated. I'm complicated. You don't have to tell me anything just cause I ask, you know. Pretty sure if I got really pushy aobut it you could kick my ass." There's a gentleness behind Jessica's frank words and she reaches out and places a hand on Cait's shoulder while acquiring one of the burgers for herself. "So. Hoping to work for Stark Industries after that internship of yours?"

*

Caitlin smiles gratefully at Jessica when she drops the topic. Seems backstories will have to wait for another day. "O-oh. Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't clarify," she apologizes to Jessica, after polishing off the burger in her hands and reaching for another. She's not a messy eater, but she is powering through the food /fast/.

"I didn't apply for an internship. I've done the intern thing. My last gig was working for Karen Starr, over at Starr Labs? I thought she was just being nice to me and letting me work in corporate 'cause it was helping her. I told Miss Potts what I did and she pointed out that Karen basically was grooming me to, like, run a company some day. It didn't even occur to me."

She waves down the bartender and asks for a diet cola. "So, um, it's not really an internship. I'm on probation and OJT for the next few months. Once my trainer retires, I'm taking over as the, uh, head of Research and Development, the real cutting-edge stuff. It's a skunkworks— making whatever crazy stuff the design team comes up with just 'cause Mr. Stark and Miss Potts think we might make some cool stuff."

*

"Oh, yeah. I got that part but I wasn't going to question your choice of noun," Jessica responds blithely, gesturing with her right hand as she speaks. it's full of burger, so a moment later she's taking a huge bite. Jessica can't keep up with Cait when it comes to eating but she can make a good goof it, and as burgers stack up she continues to chow down. Maybe she really can out-eat Spider-Man. Might need to arrange for that food fight to take place someday.

"Head of R&D? Okay." Jessica nods once. "Any idea what you want to make first then? There has to be something you're hoping for. Right?"

*

"Mmm… I've got a few ideas," Caitlin says, cagily. "Some prototypes I sketched up but never really produced. Starr Labs is pretty small and agile, but there's a bunch of stuff I couldn't do there. The workshops didn't have the tooling or we didn't have the production space. Stark Labs, though, especially the R&D facilities— there's nothing we can't make there. So I've got some concepts on paper, but— NDAs and stuff. I can't really talk about it until I get the paperwork registered with the patent office," she tells Jessica, apologetically. "And honestly a lot of it will take a few months or a year or two to hit main production, in any case."

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