Metropolis: Meta Heaven or Meta Hell
Roleplaying Log: Metropolis: Meta Heaven or Meta Hell
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Jessica Jones meets with Clark Kent to discuss attitudes towards metas in Metropolis

Other Characters Referenced: Lex Luthor, Lois Lane
IC Date: December 23, 2018
IC Location: Metropolis
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 24 Dec 2018 17:01
Rating & Warnings:
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

THEN

The woman on the other end of the line has a hard-bitten alto, gruff, but not unpleasant, nor particularly impolite. She introduces herself as Jessica Jones of Alias Investigations, a private detective out of New York City.

"I've been reading some of your work, Mr. Kent," she says. "You seem to be a great reporter. I'm doing a bit of groundwork on an investigation, and I'm hoping you can help me get a sense of the big picture around here. I'd be happy to buy you lunch if you're willing, and of course if I can be of help as a source to you at some point in the future I'd be happy to do that as well. What do you say?"

NOW

At the moment, one Jessica Jones is leaning against the wall of the Daily Planet. In the clean, pristine, and thoroughly modern surroundings of Metropolis she probably looks instantly out of place. She's smoking a cigarette, and it's no slim, feminine cigarette either.

Her black hair is messy, blown about by a slightly blustery wind in a way that seems to concern her not at all. She is dressed in ratty jeans, combat boots, a royal blue scoop-necked shirt that seems nicer than the jeans, a black leather jacket and a finely woven purple scarf of some outstanding fabric quality. Fingerless gloves, titanium ring on the ring finger of her left hand, bold make-up: red lipstick a little too bright, mascara a little too dark. She can't be more than 120 pounds soaking wet, but even at a glance carries enough attitude to make her look somehow larger and more solid than her tiny frame should allow for.

She looks somewhat careworn and mildly cynical as she watches people go about their business. She also looks sharp-eyed. Very little on this street is getting past her, and it seems like she's performing this watchfulness exercise out of habit.

THEN

It was not difficult to reach Clark Kent. His journalistic renown is that of puff pieces highlighting coming events and banal columns such as “Metropolis Medalists” a sunday feature that highlights the heroic actions of everyday citizens. His biggest claim to fame is that he, along with Lois Lane, and staff photographer Jimmy Olsen are widely accepted as “friends of Superman” and nothing sells papers faster than the Man of Tomorrow.

So when Jessica Jones of New York called the Daily Planet trying to reach Clark Kent she was transferred directly to him.

‘You seem to be a great reporter..’

“Thank you,” Clark’s sounded genuinely appreciative of her fondness for his articles on the city’s largest cookie or the water skiing squirrel. Jessica probably noted that Clark was a good listener because he didn’t ask many questions. He seemed interested in what she had to say but his strongest reply was, “I appreciate the offer but it wouldn’t be right for a potential source to buy me lunch,” in a way that was a mixture of clear moral dilemma and near-apology for having rejected such a kind offer, “but I’d be happy to meet you for lunch.”

NOW

Clark is more than five minutes late. For Clark Kent, this is very late — but forgive him. The building that houses the Daily Planet is more than thirty stories tall and the lobby is very large. As it’s lunchtime there were a lot of people coming and going. He actually arrived ten minutes early and began waiting …

… he waited near the golden statue of the goddess Pheme. Until one minute till at which point he checked his watch and began actively scanning the people who were coming and going. First he asked the security desk if anyone had come looking for him.

At the security desk, Gwendolyn, who finds Clark’s nervousness particularly irritating, brushed him off. He then produced a single sheet of paper with Jessica’s picture that he acquired from some internet search except that it looks like in his haste he didn’t actually print the picture he printed its thumbnail. So it’s too small to be useful. Gwendolyn laughed in a way that was not polite and brushed him off again.

So he began moving about the lobby basically stopping anyone he didn’t recognize that was both female and had dark hair with, “Uhm, excuse me. Ms. Jones?” He did this for a full three minutes — which is why you have to forgive him for being late; he was trying— until Greg Worley walked past and cheerily said, “Hey Clark,” and then with faux disgust in his voice added, “There’s some lady /smoking/ outside? Maybe you should call Superman.”

“Hey Greg,” Clark replied and gave the young copy editor a soft sigh at the prospect of a smoker, “You know, smoking is the number one cause of prev—”

“Clark, I gotta run.” Greg moved on deftly avoiding the black hole of boorish small talk that is Clark Kent.

Clark didn’t seem to notice the dodge, his keen journalistic wheels are now turning. A strange woman outside /smoking/ that sounds like the behavior of a /New Yorker/.

JUST NOW..

“Ms. Jones,” voice almost confident. As a doubtless keen observer of others Jessica would note that Clark is easily six-three but his hunched posture and the extra forty pounds carries at his midsection pulls him down until he’s just a hair over six-one.

He wears a brown suit that was bought off a sale rack a half decade ago. It’s somewhat faded and wrinkled as if its been worn a couple of days this week without making it to the dry cleaners. Black greasy hair lies flat at his scalp beneath fedora that is a slightly different brown than the suit. He wears thick black-rimmed glasses with prescription lenses that seem to magnify his blue eyes so they are oddly disproportionate to his face.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” he reaches to shake her hand but, still having her print out, retracts his hand and shifts it awkwardly to his other hand before reaching outward again, “What are you in the mood for?”

Jessica puts the cigarette out on the side of a trashcan and drops it inside when she's very sure it's not going to start a fire. She turns to face him, and takes his extended hand. "Mr. Kent," she says. "I didn't even notice, don't worry about it."

And it's possible she didn't. She doesn't look a woman who pays a lot of attention to clocks. Her handshake is firm, confident. She doesn't squeeze overly hard, but there's nothing feminine or retiring about it. Straightforward. They are free of scars or calluses. The nails look like they get torn or chewed or something a lot.

Whatever conclusions she draws from his manner are simply filed away behind light brown eyes.

And his last question produces a quick smile.

"One," she says, raising one finger. "I am not a picky eater. Two…when I'm in a brand new city, I definitely go for whatever the locals love, whatever happens to be one of the favorite spots of whomever I'm with. Three…" an honest grin, one that looks almost foreign on her face, one that is there and gone like a marathon runner zooming past.

"You're too honest to let me pay, so…let's go with whatever your wallet and taste buds are good with."

She did not choose him for his fluff pieces. Or even his association with Superman.

She chose him for that quality, right there. The honesty. The moral integrity. As it is, she suspects it's social awkwardness, not incompetence, that is keeping this man stuck on those pieces. Or maybe he just likes them. Either way, she shows no sign of being put off by him in any way whatsoever.

When she takes his hand and tells him not to worry a bit of his social anxiety rolls away. The tension at his shoulders ease somewhat which can be felt by a faint adjustment to the position of his hand within hers as his elbow drops slightly. Clark Kent gives a firm but completely forgettable, almost humble, shake. The gesture simultaneously honoring the way agreements have been made in Smallville for decades but also not daring to assume too much about himself.

Clark’s hands are as soft as his reporting - completely unaccustomed to doing anything that might thicken their skin.

When she smiles he does too though the cordial expression remains even after hers has faded. At ‘two’ there is good humor tugging at the right side of his face and he just nods, “Great,” he replies earnestly at ‘three’, “There’s a pub not far from here that has the best burgers in New Troy,” he begins to walk, “It /was/ one of the few places on the island that wasn’t owned by LexFoods — but the owner’s granddaughter had some health problems in Tampa last year and needed a heart transplant. He worked out a deal with LexCorp to turn the business over in exchange for having her treated here in Metropolis — and in exchange he got keep running the kitchen until he’s ready to retire.”

“The point being, it’s the nearly unique experience of getting to eat in an establishment that is owned by LexFoods but still run by small business native.” He stops at a crosswalk dutifully watching the light for the long moment until it changes allowing them across.

The crowds downtown are thick with eleven million people inhabiting a city half the size of New York. Most rush from one appointment or another with many fighting to move around Clark and Jessica since the former seems completely unhurried as he recites his bit of folklore.

Overall the energy in this area of the city is one of purpose - yet it’s people are somewhat restrained. There is the odd horn honk or vocal exchange but for the most part people are subdued, even as Clark inhibits their progress, content to move forward towards the future without lingering upon the inconveniences of the present.

And immediately, just with lunch alone, he tells her a lot about the city. She navigates around with him, with all a New Yorker's habit of ignoring moving vehicles in favor of briskly continuing to a destination.

In fact, she's already several feet out into the crosswalk when Clark stops. She gets an 'oh' look on her face as a car starts, sees her, hits the breaks, driver freaks out…

And then she just sort of raises a gloved hand to the driver in apology and steps back to Clark's side again. Right. People wait at crosswalks here.

"Sounds like all roads lead to Lex around here," she comments, sliding her hands into her pockets thoughtfully as she keeps up. "Just how many people's paychecks is that corporation signing in this town? How long has the buy up of Mom and Pop shops been going on?"

The moment he's in motion, moving across that crosswalk, she is, but this time she just keeps pace with him. When in Rome and all that. Or Lexland. Take your pick.

“Actually,” Clark replies his sardonic wit undercut by his milquetoast delivery, “Lex owns most of the roads too. At least if you count the ones his company has paved.”

“I’m not sure,” he confesses to her question about the paychecks, “Lex Luthor makes sure people know he owns what he wants them to know about but, like any business, LexCorp obfuscates things when they’d rather people not know about.” A half-pause and then he adds, “Which, as Lex would tell you, is ‘just an accepted business practice’.” That bit sounding almost like a direct quote.

“Off the record,” he continues as if she were the journalist, “I think you could tie nearly half the people in the city to LexCorp and more indirectly.”

“People /trust/ Lex Luthor,” Clark explains, “he’s always been here when the city has needed him. Even when its cost him /billions/ to repair infrastructure or re-build buildings in the wake of catastrophe he’s always done it – and he’s tried to do it by valuing the lives of the people who have lost something.”

“No one can say it hasn’t been profitable for him in the long run but,” Clark looks to her, “but I don’t think that part is an accepted business practice. Not one we see often. It’s hard to point fingers at Lex because /sure/ many of his employees make less than fifteen dollars an hour but they also have medical and retirement — and an affordable-on-their-salary cost-controlled micro-apartment if they need it.”

“But, he’s always been keen on consolidation,” he adds to her question about small businesses, “For LexCorp it’s about every link in the supply chain or every square foot in a building. I think the fear that we’re all going to wind up living in micro-apartments while Lex is still in the penthouse is what frightens folks here. At least until they see folks in other cities going bankrupt with an unexpected surgery. Then, I guess, a small apartment doesn’t seem so bad in exchange.”

"Yeah, it sure sounds like the precursor to those old company towns. Oh, we're housing you. Oh we'll just pay you in company scrip. Oh you can only spend that in the company store, where we control the prices, and oh, this means every scrap of your blood, sweat, and tears gets fed right back to the almighty Company. And we just put away an asshole in New York City who did plenty of, I don't know, charity work or whatever. Just because it made him that much more untouchable."

She is already looking concerned as she walks with him, her brow furrowing, her mouth flattening into a thin, worried line.

"Guy like that…Lex Luthor, I mean…seems like any local politicians you guys vote in would be authorities in name only. All he'd have to do is sneeze to make most of them do whatever he wants. So essentially, if I'm hearing you right, you've got yourselves a very gorgeous, technologically advanced city…with a dictator who wants to be seen as benign."

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” Clark Kent replies to her, “Martin Luther King Jr.”

He then turns to press on, “Everything you said has merit,” Clark agrees, “and that’s part of the reason why the Daily Planet has remained independent and why so many of its staff have made their careers on watching LexCorp and the citizens of the city to make sure we’re all being dealt with squarely.”

“I think that history has shown us that even the greatest kingdoms constructed by the wisest rulers will eventually fall. Lionel Luthor seemed every bit as ruthless as Lex is benign,” Kent says, “Maybe Lex is Wilson Fix. Maybe he’s King Solomon. What happens after Lex though? Who gets to own the company town then?”

“We may be in the City of Tomorrow, Ms. Jones, but we’re still human beings. If we don’t look past a present filled with creature comforts we’re only doomed to repeat our mistakes over and over again. We’ve got to learn to solve our own problems instead of looking to the sky for help.”

“So,” Clark gives her a sideways glance, “Is that why you’re here? Are you investigating LexCorp?”

"Well, I guess I am now," Jessica Jones says dryly.

She slides her hands into her pockets and doesn't answer the real thrust of it right away. Questions are stock-in-trade for both of them, and he has gamely answered all of hers. She is pretty much a straight shooter by nature, and there is only a moment of caution before she simply shrugs a little.

It's a fuck it shrug if Clark Kent ever has seen one.

Besides, the mention of Fisk by name tells her he did his homework. So what has she got to hide or lose by simply being up front?

"I'm here investigating Metropolis," she says. "The name on the lips of every meta who sees leaving New York as an option. The great shining beacon of tolerance and the American Way. I wanted to find out what the big but at the end of that sentence was. I didn't want to encourage any friends to come out here if I found something so rotten under the surface that would threaten them just as much as the registration law. Or if I got here and found out all the tolerance was just on paper, and that anti-meta sentiment ran just as high here as there. People are scared. They need answers. Finding answers is what I do. Ergo, here. Self-assigned case."

And then she studies him with a faint lift of her eyebrow, as if silently asking if this newly revealed motivation is going to upset him.

Clark can read the gravity of what she wants to reveal in her shrugging gesture and so as they find themselves beneath an awning he steps off the main thoroughfare and thoughtfully listens. He stares bug-eyed through his glasses in polite consideration creating a pause between her statement and his response by absently rubbing the area of his forehead beneath his fedora with the palm of his hand.

“Golly, Ms. Jones,” he says, “that’s an awful burden.”

“I don’t know that the people of Metropolis are any better or worse than people anywhere else.” Clark admits and then straightening his hat he asks her, “What do you suppose pushed some people of New York to want to put their neighbors on a list? And, even if the sentiment of Metropolis is different /now/ why do you think they suppose it’s a better bet for the future than Gotham or Smallville? Is it just the narrative of our tourism department or is there something more?”

He seems genuinely curious and perhaps a touch uncomfortable given her initial hesitance. As a man who is in every way the social norm he is not foolish enough to believe that the way the city treats him is the way that it treats everyone — but also aware enough of his normality to understand how his evident curiosity into the rationale of other gradients of human culture might seem a bit off-putting to some.

Socially awkward, despite Jessica’s desire to involve him in her investigation in the first place.

"Sorry, not trying to burden anyone," Jess says, with a genuine wince. "Just telling it like it is. For the record, I'm staying in New York. List and all. As to why? I dunno. Lots of crap. Chitauri invasion. Demon invasion. Robot-demon snowpocalypse. It's been kind of a wild year in New York. Friend of mine thinks people are just trying to assert some control."

Since they're under an awning she pulls out her carton of cigarettes again, tapping one out. She offers one to Clark. "Better bet than Gotham? Probably because Gotham's doing their own weird legal shit. Heh. I'm afoul of that one too, I'm licensed over there as well. And I mean, rural areas can work, but they can also be a place where someone different will get shunned. Or mobbed. Right now Delaware, and Metropolis, look really good to a lot of people because the lack of new laws gives people hope, I guess. One of my other friends is looking to invest here big time. Lex might get a little run for his money."

She sticks the cigarette in her mouth and lights it. Talking about Registration is a great incentive to chain smoke, especially since they aren't at the pub yet. "As for me, I'm just a real suspicious bitch who has people to protect, you know? That means doing due diligence. If this is just a great high-tech liberal place, basically no better or no worse than anywhere else, awesome. I'm not going to tell them to steer clear just because I uncover some normal problems. But if it turns out Metropolis is welcoming metas with open arms because someone is, I dunno. Shoving microchips into their heads to turn them into slaves or some shit…which I've seen before…then…I want to warn them off. And probably shut that shit down, too."

She shrugs uncomfortably. "Maybe sounds a little stupid now that I say it out loud, but I'm going to do it anyway. Nobody ever died from overestimating a threat. And pretty things make great traps."

Clark opens his mouth at the wince and makes a gesture like he intended to put his hand on her shoulder but clearly hesitates midway and then attempts to cover the gesture by adjusting the fit of his tie around his throat which is probably more awkward than just putting his hand on her shoulder. He clears his throat, “N-no,” he stammers in objection, “I didn’t mean that it was too much for me to hear. I just thought that shouldering … the safety of your friends – that was a lot to bear.” He gives her a tepid smile there, embarrassed, “I just – it’s a lot of courage.”

He then considers her words gaze falling as she pulls out the cigarettes. He gestures away the cigarette with a shake of his head and ventures a glance to the shop they stand outside and then moves them away from the awning as she lights up.

“So people are scared.” Clark does finally say, “I guess I don’t know all the details, Ms. Jones, but I wouldn’t have thought registration would have kept out the Chitauri or the Demons.” He says in a delivery that is a bit naïve but after he says it he looks at her, his bespeckled gaze giving away the dry humor.

“Well, if there’s five million people who work for Lex that leaves five million who don’t,” Kent says, still in good-humor, at the prospect of her ‘friend’ investing. This tells him something of her connections but he would seem as if he didn’t notice — perhaps too polite to dig in on that just yet if he did.

“I don’t think you’re a bitch, Ms. Jones,” Kent replies the humor in his voice fading as his tone becomes more serious, “I—" he blanches at people ‘shoving microchips in their head’, “Nothing like that,” he says aghast, “I mean. I don’t know if I’d even know about that?” Clark says, “I’d /like to think/ that couldn’t happen – here. I /do think/ that if you find something like that I’d like for you to tell me because I think that’s something the world would need to know about.” The journalist perhaps not believing that her investigation will merely end at the conclusion of their conversation.

“And, it’s not stupid,” Clark says in mild correction, “it just means you have an open mind.” He stops then and points to the sign above the door, ‘THE BIRD AND BOW’ in golden cursive on an emerald green backdrop. He reaches and opens the door for Jessica, “You know, a mind is /like a parachute/..” he begins as they move inside.

Jessica stubs out the half-smoked cigarette the moment he opens the door for her. Oddly, the awkward gesture brings a touch of a smile to her lips. Not a mocking one. Not at all. A smile of recognition. She has trouble being social herself, just in a different way, and she's initiated moments like that.

His compliment about courage brings a slightly uncomfortable look to her face though, one that says she doesn't think she nearly lives up to that one. "It's not like that," she says. "It's not just me, for one thing. This is just my part of it. Digging, I mean. And I don't like seeing people get hurt, is all."

She gives a wry smile about Registration not solving the invasion, and she says, "Yeah, well. People can be stupid."

But to his request, she says, "Absolutely. I'm more than happy to pass on any information. Wanted to be a journalist myself, when I was a kid. My sister's in the press, too. I think there's a lot of power in that. Shedding light into dark places."

The open mind compliment doesn't make her nearly as uncomfortable; that one she seems more willing to accept. More in line, perhaps, with the way she sees herself.

She takes the opportunity to look around The Bird and Bow, soaking up first impressions, inhaling deeply to catch the scents. "You'll have to tell me what you recommend," she adds. And then, after a moment of hesitation, she says, "Can I ask you something? Something else I mean. A you-question, not an investigation question."

“Well,” Clark says as she becomes a bit uncomfortable and then says, “maybe, but just because you have the courage to stand with others doesn’t mean you’re not brave.” His delivery meant to be encouraging because his voice doesn’t waiver despite the discomfort.

He follows her in reaching to his head and pulling the fedora off his head before he crosses the threshold. While the owner may managed the back-of-the-house the front of the house has received updates. Much of the original decor upon the walls remains but a keen observer would note that while the chairs, tables, and flatware might seem ‘original’ that there’s a certain faux irish tradition to them. Which satisfies many cosmopolitain customers but cheapens the experience to those who have been eating here for decades.

“Hey, Mr. Kent..,” a mid-twenties hostess says her green uniformed polo embroidered with ‘Bow and Bird’, also a contemporary update, “Two?”

“Afternoon, Stacy.” Clark replies in a gentile fashion, “Two.” and then follows as she collects the menu and leads them to one of the open tables. He’s assessed enough about Jessica Jones to not even fumble the attempt to pull out her chair though he does remain standing until she has seated and spends the moments until she has settled pulling off his coat and setting it upon the back of his chair and then tucking his tie into the front of his shirt — this is a man who is ready to eat and has more than once made a mess of himself doing so.

Once seated Clark says, “The burgers are great but everyone swears by the shepherd’s pie. There’s a vegetarian version — if you’re, um, vegetarian.” He opens his menu but only seems to do so out of courtesy because his glance is cursory and then he seems to spend a moment looking to the other people seated around them before resparking their conversation after drinks are ordered.

Clark will be having a cherry Soder-Cola.

As they begin to talk again he smiles slightly when she hesitates and then gives an encouraging nod for her to say what she needs to say. When she finally poses the question about a question he replies, “Sure, Ms. Jones. I don’t suppose I have much to be ashamed of.”

He guesses right about pulling out the chair. She slides out of her leather jacket, revealing a grey tank top in spite of winter weather. She pulls off the fingerless gloves and tucks them into an inner pocket. The woven purple scarf is unwound and carefully folded over the top of the jacket.

With Clark's recommendation given, she orders the non-vegetarian version of the shepherd’s pie and the cherry cola without a glance at the menu. She wasn’t kidding about experiencing it as it’s meant to be, with the aid of someone who knows what he’s talking about. And/or is not a picky eater.

"It's not a shame thing," Jessica says with a shake of her head.

She furrows her brow as if trying to apply some notion of tact to her words, though that's not really her strong suit. But then she plows ahead.

"You've clearly got the chops," she says at last. "You know your shit, you know what's going on. You ask questions that matter. You clearly care deeply about this place and the people here. As best as I can tell, you've got the skills a hundred times over to, I dunno, have broken a whole host of hard-hitting expose pieces, the kind of shit you can just bring to your editor as a done deal and say, you're welcome, regardless of what he does or doesn't assign. And look, I'm not knocking your work. There's nothing wrong with human interest pieces. Nobody hates giant cookies. But I mean…are you doing those because that's what you like, or what?"

Clark’s inquisitive expression only intensifies as she begins with a series of compliments about his journalistic acumen. His curiosity breaks as she gets to the meat of her question and he leans back in his chair giving a slightly dopey smile and a ‘hah’ of a chuckle.

“Golly,” he reaches and adjusts the fit of his glasses as he considers what she’s said, “Ms. Jones, I just feel like the news is so good at showing people the bad things that are going in the world that sometimes it’s nice to remind them of the good things too. I guess in a way you’re right, I’m happy doing that. There’s so many journalists chasing tomorrow’s headline it’s may as well be someone like me, who likes going out and meeting his neighbors, who writes about the rest of the world.”

“Maybe it’s immodest but I feel like what I do makes a difference. People feel a little better about their world when they read about Metropolis’s Medalists. And, that article on the big cookie? It’ll be hanging in that shop for as long as that shop is there — maybe for generations. It’ll remind the people who work there that what they do can matter and give their customers something to smile about while they wait in line.”

“And as a journalist there’s nothing more valuable than trust. You can probably count the number of..,” he gives a quirky smile as he uses her term, “‘hard-hitting exposes’ I’ve done on one hand but each one has brought a little bit of justice to someone who otherwise had no one to turn to. If people start missing or ‘getting microchips in their head’ I’m as likely to hear about it as anyone because I think people like talking to people who are genuinely interested in what they have to say.”

“I’m lucky that I get paid to do the thing I like doing most — learning about other people and trying to leave them in a slightly better place than they were before I met them.”

About this time the food arrives. Clark’s big bacon burger with two extra packets of mayonnaise, he picks one up between his finger and thumb shaking it back and forth several times to let the thick mayo settle in the bottom of the packet.

Since she asked a question he uses his response as a means to segue into one of his own, “Earlier you said ‘we put away’,” a pause as he thinks the expletive but doesn’t say it, “‘a guy who was doing charity work or whatever’. Wilson Fisk. Did you mean New York? Or did you mean Jessica Jones and her sources?” He pincers the top of the mayo with both his hands and begins to try to tear it open.

Clark's answer produces a genuine smile. It's not a long smile. She's not much of a grinner, Jessica Jones. But it's one that's touched with maybe some sort of inner gentleness. She likes his answer. She gets it. And she tips a finger at him in a gesture of respect.

She tastes her food while she talks, adding no salt, pepper, nothing to the shepherd's pie. She takes it exactly like its. It apparently meets with her approval too, because she keeps eating it as she listens.

And then he segueys into this question. And she offers up a rueful chuffing sound.

"I was barely involved," she says. "Friends of mine took point. Lots of different ways. One of them went head to head with him on a business front. A few more went after his criminal empire, dismantling his drug operations almost literally warehouse by warehouse. Others went after him directly. And they all got SHIELD involved to finish up the dragnet and the arrest, because they're no fools. And it worked. My job was to dig up dirt on cops Fisk had in his pocket, and I found some and got the info in the right hands, but one of his snipers took me down a few weeks before the bust. I got lucky and survived it, but I was out cold while my friends did the real work. And honestly, Daredevil was on that guy's tail for a good two years, during which I was mostly working other cases. He and the rest of them deserve all the credit. Hell, I wasn't even there the day Hell's Kitchen got bombed. I was across town, babysitting, if you can believe it."

Clark hangs on every word. His blue eyes grow as wide as saucers as she describes getting ‘taken down by a sniper’.

There’s a pregnant pause when she says she was babysitting as if it takes a moment to realize that it’s his turn to say something and, perhaps not realizing he had been holding his breath, he exhales and saying, “I’m sorry …,” beat, “That you were shot.”

Reaching to the arms of his glasses he gives a slight adjustment “And I’m sorry that your sacrifice has been repaid by the registration controversy,” before looking to his meal for a moment.

His dark brows then furrow and he wonders aloud, “Does it feel different to you?” looking at her again, “The bombings, I mean? I just — aliens and demons. Even when the size of the tragedy is the same or — even greater, it always feels worse to me when you know that it’s a /person/ behind it. For those first days I remember everyone looking to blame something extranormal as the cause and then … we were reminded of the truth — that no matter how much we wish to look to ‘others’ - mankind’s greatest enemy is itself.”

“I sure am glad there are people like you and your friends looking out for the rest of us.” Kent says with humble sincerity and then takes a sip of his cola through its white and red paper straw.

Jessica moves her straw up and down in her glass thoughtfully. “The bombing was the first time in a long time I’d lost people I knew. It rendered me and some of my best friends homeless. It was so awful my fiancé made me promise not to go out there to help for just…days. I was so pissed too, but he begged me. Guarding my heart. But the source a guy with money and a phone instead of innate powers? No. I see us as all the same. Everyone has something they can do. Something nobody else can. Some people try to do good with it, some people waste it, and some people decide to trade in their humanity to become monsters instead. He’s just another monster, if probably the vilest I’ve ever dealt with.”

She drops the straw and meets Clark’s eyes. “Don’t be in…I don’t know. I’m not some…look, you know Superman. Never met the guy, but on paper he reminds me of Cap. Er. America. We aren’t close or anything, he’s just been super nice to me and we have friends in common. That’s a hero. Daredevil, Luke, they’re heroes. People who are innately good. Honorable. People you can and should look up to. I was a walking trash fire most of my life. A waste of space. To whom much is given, much is required. I couldn’t see what I was given, only what I’d lost. I was a petty criminal at one point. I lived a half-ass life. I only have my powers because I did something stupid and selfish as a kid. And because I didn’t own them, someone else did for awhile. And sure, I didn’t want that or choose that fucking horror show, but maybe on some level I did earn it. And then I went from being a self-centered alcoholic to being a selfish raging alcoholic.”

Thanks to the Barnes trial that part of her story is public record so she doesn’t worry about explaining it more than that. “I’ve only had my head out of my ass for two years, Clark. So anything I do is just balancing scales. If that. I didn’t become a Sauron level monster. I just became, I dunno, Gollum. I have to earn my way back to being a person. I could live another hundred years and not manage it. It’s not sacrifice when I get shot. It’s not bravery when I do jack shit, cause God knows how scared I am all the goddamn time. It’s just…repayment. Just another set of hands. For me this, I dunno, team of mine— family of mine— is pretty well named. I can’t hero, but I can defend people. Try to look out for them. Doing that is just a choice.”

There is certain sadness to Clark’s eyes when she talks of friends lost and a time spent homeless. And finally, to her point that everyone has a gift to use or abuse his lips purse as he commits that bit to memory because its as fair an outlook as any.

When she talks about being a trash fire and her raging alcoholism he shifts in silent frustration as he wants to speak but then also hesitates - uncertain that it’s his place to summarily judge her past based upon one meeting but after a moment he does say, “If he were here I think Superman would be the first to say that no one is perfect: Not even he,” Kent gives an awkward smile, “At least, that’s what I’ve heard him tell others.”

“And I hardly know you, Ms. Jones, but it seems like you’re making better choices now and even if you aren’t always an angel — and you’re still a person.” Clark says with gentle encouragement adding, “It’s normal to find absolution in a strong family. Don’t beat yourself up for things that are behind you. Just try and keep them there.”

“So what are your next steps?” He asks, “Given the registration deadline, I mean.”

She gives a quick, awkward smile. She appreciates the kindness, even if she can't always absorb it.

And with the question of next steps, she exhales. "Well," she says, "Here, if you can think of anyone else I should talk to in order to get the lay of the land, or haunts I should visit, I'm going to visit them. Back in New York, well, just community-based stuff I guess. Helping people get settled and safe, whether they intend to stay and register or try their luck somewhere else."

Or stay and not register, but Jessica is not about to say that out loud.

"It's not exactly the kind of thing I know how to fight directly, you know? There's no big aha, no smoking gun, not even anything to hit. Hearts and minds, a friend of mine said. He said it's all about hearts and minds. That's not really my area, so. I'll just help where I can."

Clark nods to her desire to visit Metropolis’s ‘haunts’, “Sure, I’d be happy to show you around. After all, I know where they baked the biggest cookie,” he smiles there but its a look that fades to one of slight resignation, “But … if you really want to talk to someone who knows where all the city’s skeletons are hidden then I’d talk with Lois .. Lane.”

“She can be, ahh, a bit pushy. Not very interested in human interest but I think she’d make time for someone who was shot while investigating corruption in New York,” adding, “If that’s something I could share.”

At this point he’s more thinking aloud, “And registration is a big story …”

Then he returns to Jessica, “If nothing else - between the both of us - maybe we can get Luthor on the record about registration. One way or the other - maybe that will help answer some of your questions?”

"Sure, it's no secret," Jessica says easily. In regards to being shot. The comment about being pushy just makes her grin broadly.

"I might know something about being pushy."

The detective nods in agreement to the rest, too. "That would be very good," she says. "Even if he lies, on the record is on the record. As for registration, well…"

She drums her fingers against the table and says at last, "I'm going to give you a scoop. And get you an in with a source. I'm going to ask that you don't break the story before he's ready to have it broken. It's kind of a big deal, touching on both Metropolis and registration. You've helped me immensely. You ought to at least get an exclusive out of the deal. But this person has been in my corner for a long time, and I owe him a great deal. So I don't want to screw him over in this. But eventually someone will break this story, and I think it ought to be you."

She looks up over the rim of her cherry Cola as she sips at it, to see what he'll have to say.

‘I might know something about being pushy.’

Clark gives a quiet chuckle of polite affirmation. Then, to getting Lex on the record, “So let’s see if we can’t make that happen.”

He gives her fingers a faint glance when they drum and leans in with slight expectation. Dark brows rise when he is told that he will get both a scoop and a source. Then, to her request, he presses his lips and nods, “I’m never in any rush to publish the big stories …,” Kent says his tone slightly apprehensive at first, “but I’d be pleased to meet with your source and to hear your story,” he continues with a greater measure of courage, “If you’re going to win the hearts and minds it’s important to get the timing right.”

Vigilantes. Daredevils. A group of defenders who took down a man who killed more than fourteen thousand people to change the real estate market. The thought of it seems to make him pensive and he tries to cover this by lifting his glass and sucking cherry cola through his straw. Perhaps not wanting to seem a complete milksop in front a woman who brushes off having taken a sniper’s bullet.

Swallowing the soda he gathers his courage and asks, “So, when do we start?”

Jessica scrawls down a number. And pushes it across the table. "Then call that guy and ask him about his response to registration, and his current business plans. That's his direct number. I'll warn him you're calling."

There's a bit written above the number. It reads: Tony Stark. Direct line.

As for when they start, either with Clark's promised tour or anything else? She smirks. "After I finish this damn good shepherd's pie."

END

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