1963-09-05 - Cleaning Up The Kitchen
Summary: A rumble in Hell's Kitchen causes some trouble for Johnny Storm. He needs legal help.
Related: N/A
Theme Song: None
johnny sue jennifer 

Good morning, New York! The law office in Brooklyn thrums with activity, giving a reasonable approximation of a beehive in late summer. Fans oscillate in the partners' offices to bring the temperature down to comfortably cool, and a legal secretary bustles by with a metal cart laden to the gills with bankers boxes, copied notes, and steno pads for the day's various cases and affairs. Everything is colour coded to a degree that would set an ancient Egyptian bureaucrat's heart aflutter, partially because they actually *use* hieroglyphs here. Blame Lieber. He's German and everyone know the Germans are Aegyptophiles.

Priscilla, junior receptionist to the stars, sits at her habitual post. Coffee brews and steams for the first clients on the authoritative ledger on her blotter. Beehive in place, powder blue shirt and neat skirt in place, she is the formidable force borrowing power from her superiors.

Jen, a pen between her lips like a rose, is busy fighting four or five wily folders and envelopes atop a box of her own. A good hip check to the door swings it open, though she ardently wishes the freedom to go green would give her the run of the records and library rooms. So much faster to carry -everything- in one arm, including a beam from the ceiling.

"—and you've got a one-thirty with Mr. Peeps and Nora from Prescott and Mullein. Your three is moved to Thursday, I let them know about your engagement there. That call for Mrs. King will be on Tuesday between two and two forty-five, depending on when the press conference ends," rattles off the lawyer. "Plus you had a message. Your… clients… got in trouble."

Disapproval storms over her. A junior lawyer with high profile clients! The entire office is probably in a furor. An uproar. Dare we say a kerfuffle?


The walk to the law firm was painfully silent. After the pair's late-night discussion, neither had wanted to rock the boat.

Sue Storm, decked in her 1960s mod dress looks impeccable today. In fact, it's possible she hasn't put this much work into her appearance in recent memory. Her black pumps had been some of the only sound between them during the course of the journey. Not that Sue is mad anymore. The anger has completely drained from her expression.

Oddly, however, when the pair had arrived, she'd lingered behind her brother, not even taking the initiative at checking in at the desk.

The pair had been immediately ushered into the conference room upon arrival, and were outfitted with coffee.

Sue's fingers curl around her cup and she issues Johnny a small smile. "Everything is going to be fine."


In contrast to his sister and even his last visit to the firm immediately after the fight, Johnny's suit is less impeccable. Still entirely presentable, but his collar is undone and his tie just a touch loose — not enough to be unacceptable. Just noticable. Even his hair is just a touch messy.

He made an effort, but where Sue's had increased to 110% following their row, his dropped to 90%. Gotta maintain that equilibrium in the universe.

Johnny just keeps his eyes on his drink, which he has no even touched. He casts a brief, slightly anxious glance askance at his sister's reassurance and makes a quiet, noncommital noise.


There is a conspiracy at GLKH: make the junior sec err, attorney do the work of what billable hours they can earn out of her. Whatever rate that might constitute is light compared to any of the city's big firms, but that does mean passing a legal clerk glaring at her and muttering, "You got company."

Anyone want to see if she turns green there and then, facing the unwelcome reality of an irate, irradiated girl? She pauses and stares over her collection of boxes. "Keith." A good, solid Scottish name, Keith. "Don't you have twenty-four filings to make with the state over the tertiary financials for Bay County? Get on with that." It's better than saying 'be a good boy,' no matter how much she wants to.

One box hastily dumped into her shared office on a chair stacked with boxes, she straightens her jacket with a mournful tug. It's a size too large. It /always/ has to be a size (or six) too large. Then she comes into the conference room, armed with the lawyer's face and a smile. "Good morning, Ms. and Mr. Storm! I hope that you are both well?"

Friendly California girl, engage.


A pained expression crosses Sue's face at Johnny's non-reply. She emits a quiet sight followed by a shake of her head. "It will. Everything is fine." Everything. She takes along drink of her coffee. That will make everything better.

When the lawyer enters the room, she smoothes the skirt of her dress and extends a hand to Jenn. She manages a sweet smile that doesn't quite meet her eyes. "Ms. Walters. A pleasure. Although I wish we were meeting you again under more agreeable circumstances."

She sits again a moment later, smoothing the dress again as she does. "It's a lovely day," she observes with a faint tick of her lips, but the worry that reflects in her eyes as she side eyes Johnny is very thinly veiled.


Even a visibly depressed Johnny Storm still has basic manners. As soon as Jennifer enters the room, he pushes himself up to his feet and musters up a small smile. "Morning. Been better," he admits, in what is probably a vast understatement.

Look, he had a rough Sunday, okay?

Johnny tries very hard to ignore his sister's worried look and focus on Jennifer, instead, anxiously smoothing out his tie. He's fine. It's fine.


The extended hand from Sue is taken in her own, a light and friendly shake offered. JUenn has a somewhat firm grip. (Surprise! Because no one ever suspects the Californian Athletic Brigade!) "Thankful clients without need for me usually send a card or a call, if we do especially well," she points out, going about the usual arrangement of surveying the guests discreetly. By the time she reaches the other side of the table, she probably has a very good assessment of their emotional conditions. It goes with the job, not a latent psychic ability.

"Please, do sit. Thank you, Mr. Storm." Affirmation his gesture is nonetheless appreciated follows as the brunette sits down opposite them. Pen and legal pad, the sword and board of her crusade for justice, are laid down. "The day has just begun. It can go up from here, someone thoughtful and respected is fond of saying. What counsel can I offer? If it has anything to do with your previous visit, I'm hardly too offended if you choose to work with one of the partners."

Oh, she'll probably cry into Peter's textbooks, but that's not for them to know.


A saccharine smile pulls at Sue's features, and her lips part only to close again. Her throat clears and she casts an expectant glance to her brother, suddenly wishing she hadn't come along. The negotiation between dependence and independence complicates things. "Not at all, Ms. Walters. We're happy with our representation. In fact, I think collectively the three of us," she then feels the need to qualify that, "that have met you," because Ben still hasn't made the rounds, "are glad that you're on our legal team."

Her throat clears. "No, that's not why we're here today." Her eyebrows lift and she turns her attention to her brother.


When he's bid to do so, Johnny obediently sinks back into his chair, his hands resting against the surface of the table. There's a mild air of expectancy to him, and once Sue sort of trails off there, he closes his eyes. Right. Like a band-aid, then.

"I was involved in a bar fight at Farrell's in Hell's Kitchen," Johnny states in a resigned tone, opening his eyes to watch Jennifer. And not Sue. "Five men were harassing a young woman who was there alone. I stuck my nose in -" The 'like an idiot' is unspoken, "- and here we are."


"Hell's Kitchen does complicate factors only a little. That corner of New York operates with a law unto itself half the time, and what little we see crossing the local precincts tends to evaporate rather mysteriously." Jen speaks a truth. It's no secret the gangs police their own and cops as corrupt as the gangsters magically make things disappear that don't suit or serve their ends. A note is written down: Farrell's. Not a familiar place, but then she barely gets out with her long hours and other obligations that include essentially destroying crime as an alter ego.

"The young lady took injuries or raised complaints? Have you heard anything regarding the press or the bar ownership? For someone of your stature, usually there isn't much delay, if they intend to complain." This the lawyer considers for a moment. "I saw nothing about it in most of the papers, though we might have to watch out for some of the tabloid press. They've got a nasty habit of publishing unsourced commentary that blows incidents out of proportion."


Sue silently retreats into her cup of coffee and takes a long languid drink of the black fluid. Her mind begins to drift, and she feels something very odd pulling at her as she studies her brother. Her heart sinks with leftover guilt from the night previous. Her chin drops and her eyes lid — not that either Jenn nor Johnny can see. The yellow dress and black pumps, however, remain in their place, and the mug, rather mysteriously, draws upwards to seemingly nothing.


"No, she's fine. She took one of the guys down faster than I could have, actually," Johnny admits, and a bit of a twinkle finally returns to his eyes. A thought and he adds, more apologetically, "I never got her name. By the time we left, she was feeling the one drink she had pretty hard. A friend took her home." He hesitates. And he closes his eyes. And he sighs. "…Patricia Walker. Her friend's Patricia Walker. She might be able to get you contact information for her."

He draws in a deep breath that puffs up his cheeks, then lets it out in a brief raspberry. "It did come up in one of the tabloids, but I think they were more interested in whether or not Trish and I are going out," Johnny admits, absentmindedly reaching over to his right to lightly tap his sister where her shoulder should be.


Jennifer is not the sort of person to toy with her hair or fiddle with her clothes. On the contrary, she is altogether superb at presenting the capable appearance of a professional woman newly come into her trade. "Then you have a rather solid defense right there. Few gents in New York are going to press charges against a lady who put them in their place, solid fact." Her fingers steeple. "Witnesses with credibility including… Lord, Patsy Walker? Did you arrange for her to be there, a friend of yours, or something else?" This is one surprise to take in.

The other is that Sue is… missing. Her blue eyes widen a shade, and her attention immediately drops to the paper, those heavy black glasses helpful now. "Oh, lovely. Deflect some attention with the dating scene and the clean up is really down to calling Farrell's and finding out their take on it. Unless I'm sorely mistaken."


An invisible hand squeezes Johnny's at her shoulder. She may not be visible, but she is, very tangible. She sips her coffee again. And as the hand remains she slips back into regular spectrum vision. Sue nods approvingly, "I think it's mostly handled. We don't want any blowback for anyone else — that's the big thing." Her lips turn upwards slightly.


Johnny leaves his hand against Sue's shoulder, though the other immediately comes up as if to shield himself. "Trish and — no, no, we're not going out," he says quickly, eyes going a little wide. "I'd never met her before. She was…" Immediately, he sobers. "…she was there trying to find her sister," he explains quietly, lips twitching into a worried frown. "Her sister lives out there and has been missing for a while. She was asking the bartender if he'd seen her."


Jen purses her lips slightly, and then she nods curtly. "All right, so you have a plausible witness and a simple situation. Several tough thugs think they can mess with a lady, wrong woman, and a good upstanding citizen as yourself decides it's a bad day. As long as you didn't burn the place down I think we can assure the siutation will go through cleanly enough. In this city, time heals nearly all wounds and pays for the ones you can't stitch together." She fits that together easily enough. "Of course, I can see to the business with anyone else there, assuring there aren't any problems. Ms. Walker probably has her own agency contact for that, as far as I know. But her sister is in Hell's Kitchen? And hadn't shown?"


The hand at her shoulder is given a tighter, even more reassuring squeeze, given greater strength through the small grin that plays over her features. Discussion of Trish's sister however, prompts Sue to suck in a deep breath, "There seem to be a string of missing people we're getting wind of. But they seem… unrelated, based on dates and times." But again, the elder Storm will leave the details to her brother to discuss. After all, he's the one that met Trish. Instead, she gently taps her fingers along the mug.


"Didn't even break a chair," Johnny reports, sketching a cross over his heart with a pair of fingers. He takes in another deep breath and, when he lets it out, actually cracks a smile. He's finally starting to look like himself again.

He nods once in agreement with Sue's assessment. "Yeah, it's weird. I mean, I know people go missing all the time, but this is just…" Johnny makes a face and looks to Jen again. "It feels off. But, yes. Jessica Jones," he supplies helpfully, sitting a little straighter. "Trish and I didn't speak about it a lot — she wanted a distraction, so Reed and I hung out and gave her 'normal' for a while. I can give you her number if you need to ask her anything about the fight."


Come now, bring her something exciting next time. Run of the mill dustups are so charming. Jennifer gives a small, determined smile. "Normal is a valuable commodity after such a night, and maybe more so because Ms. Walker's sister has not communicated with her in some time. It sounds either casual or quite concerning if she's canvassing bartenders. Does Ms. Jones have a reputation for frequenting a given waterhole, I wonder? Something we can look into, if you would like. A few discreet questions here or there might be just the thing, especially if she wants to keep a low profile."

Her smile fades, though, a shift of masks. "Missing people are concerning indeed. Ms. Storm, forgive me for saying so but you seem quite perturbed. Is everything else quite all right, or is there something I can help you with?"


The mention of her current mood has any smile on Sue's features disappearing. "I…" the edges of her lips turn downwards, and she lowers both of her hands to the table. Her jaw tightens and she casts a glance over her shoulder at her brother, a silent question running over her thoughts. "It's personal," she finally lands on. "Not a legal problem." She hugs herself and allows her chin to drop to her chest.

"Although," her throat clears, "I imagine it's one that you encounter, Ms. Walters. Forgive me for being presumptive in this question, but do people assume you're the secretary?" Her head tilts to the side, "I'm just finishing my doctorate. JUST. And, save for my family in the Baxter Building, no one even cares about my research. I can't get traction the same way. I kind of disappear." She manages a small rueful smile, "And every step I take in this process only frustrates me more."


"I would very much like to look into it. Yes. Please." Johnny immediately looks for one of the conference room's legal pads and a pen.

When Jennifer's focus turns to Sue, Johnny watches his sister out of the corner of his eye, waiting to see if she says anything. He looks just about ready to open his mouth when Sue clears her throat and he relaxes visibly, keeping his mouth shut.


Jennifer has reconnected.


"Understandable, Ms. Storm. I wanted merely to be certain I wasn't neglecting something in my bailiwick." The pen is laid down upon the yellow legal pad and Jennifer sits up, her even gaze lancing through the black glasses seated upon her freckled nose. She is, in every way, the epitome of 'girl who can't be bothered' in so many categories. Femininity. Fashion. Makeup. Accessories. Anything but the relentless pursuit of justice and civil rights in American standard. The question holds her still for a time. "I'll answer your question with an anecdote, if you will humour me. The first day of law school, the dean told us he was ashamed we — all eight ladies, of five hundred — claimed a seat from hard-working, intelligent, capable men out of our selfish desire to fetch a higher-class husband. We should trouble another department instead of a distinguished Ivy League school with a storied history when everyone in that hall knew we'd all be married out and pregnant within five years of our bar exam. Assuming we made it that far."

She folds her hands lightly upon the tabletop. "We are barely seventy years past the point when courts regularly assumed women at age of majority were property of their husbands, fathers, or sons. Progress is damnably slow. We have a lovely icon standing ten miles from here, a promise to all, and no one judges her on what she wears or if she's wearing lipstick. The personification of our country. But darn it if a lady walks into court, she's told to take a seat or get right out again. I'm afraid the only way to be heard is to make noise, and keep making noise, and prove why they need to listen. The traction you get is the traction you make. Unlike the Belgian and French women, we don't get any shortcuts or shoulders to stand upon. The next generation will stand on ours, but we are the ones putting roots in the ground, as you asked."


Over the last twenty-four hours, Johnny has seen his sister question, crumple, and otherwise struggle with her role in the Fantastic Four, as his elder sister, and as a scholar and scientist. And while these things have happened before, yesterday's derailment was unanticipated. Yet when Jennifer shares the story, something in Sue's demeanour relaxes. Her shoulders lose their tautness, and her jaw shifts. She is far more relaxed than when she came in.

Sue's smile turns wistful following Jen's words. "I've worked harder than every male colleague I have. I studied harder, pushed my research further, pressed in with more vigour than every one of my classmates. I asked pointed questions of my TAs," although at least once she had ulterior motives, "and I've achieved academic excellence. I know I have." She frowns slightly, "And what bothers me more than the fact that they push my research aside is that on some level I let them. I accept the administrative duties of the Fantastic Four because I like them. But do I like them because I like them or because somewhere I bought into this idea of what I was supposed to be or do…" she frowns slightly. "I've been called the secretary before, I think… yesterday I realized I fulfill a lot of those duties. By choice. And I'm not sure I can keep insisting I'm not unless I get back to what I love and refocus on the science. Which I'm doing. I'just… struggling with what I consider my ideals. And what I actually love to do versus what I think I'm expected to do."

She looks over her shoulder at Johnny, "Reed supports that, by the way."


As Sue's posture relaxes and she starts opening up to Jennifer, Johnny just whispers a very quiet <oh thank god> in Korean under his breath. On the legal pad, he writes down Trish's name and number — yes, he remembers it, Sue, shut up — as well as what he knows about her sister. Which is not much, but is more than Jennifer has, so that must count for something.

"Of course Reed supports that," Johnny replies with a blink, tilting his head at her. "I do too. Why wouldn't we?"


That will help. Jennifer can background check with her credentials and all that jazz. She smiles at Sue, anyways, giving her a rather lengthy sigh in the joint toils of sisterhood. "If I thought being eight feet tall and green would change a darn thing, I would do it. Your ideals are rooted in the fabric of who you are, and they are going to change with you. Don't be afraid of that, that's all I can say." From the wise old age of 23.


There's a rather sheepish pull of Sue's lips at Johnny's question. "I don't know," she answers earnestly, "but change is hard. I'm stepping back, which means we need someone else to step in."

A very honest grin is given to Jennifer followed by a nod, "I'm not sure there's much that will make any of this move faster. I just want to be assessed according to my abilities. Not my gender. Not the colour of my skin."


"We have money, Sue," Johnny notes with a bit of a laugh, smiling oddly at his sister. "Write down what you're stepping back from and we'll find somebody to fill in." He thinks a moment and his smile goes downright wolfish. "The biggest, beefiest blond guy we can find. It'll be great."

Still smiling, Johnny looks over at Jennifer and raises his eyebrows. "Eight feet tall and green?" He thinks for a moment, trying to decide if this is just a random example or not, before he shrugs. Doesn't matter. To his sister, he asides, "She's right, she would look good with the white accents."

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