1963-11-16 - Face it, Tiger
Summary: She's not sure she'd consider it hitting the jackpot, but at least Jessica has a name for herself now. Thanks, MJ.
Related: Catch and Release
Theme Song: None
mj drew 


Dinner at the Empire Diner is actually pretty crowded. A lot of folks getting off work or taking the family out — you know the drill, dear reader. What this means is a drought of available seats! Not a problem for those already seated, but for the young woman named Mary Jane Watson, well…

"Man oh man!" the redhead says, looking like she just came from a job interview of some sort — or maybe she's always dressed in eye-poppingly colored outfits of mod coat, short dress, crazy tights… "Even when I just want a bite to eat, ol' MJ still knows where to find the party!"

Mary Jane wanders the length of the diner, trying to find an empty seat at the counter. Her search is for naught — until she comes upon a sulky-looking brunette with crutches at one of the booths. "Hey there, true believer," MJ says. "You mind if I share a booth? I promise I'm not contagious," she winks.

*

As busy as the diner is, that sulky brunette doesn't seem to hear any of the conversations going on around her, sitting with her chin propped up in one hand and a very tired expression on her face. How anybody can look so glum when there's a milkshake that big right in front of them is anybody's guess.

It might help if she actually drank it, though, instead of just listlessly prodding at it with her straw.

She does notice when she's addressed directly, at least. She looks up when Mary Jane steps up to her booth and blinks, seemingly needing a moment to remember how to brain. "Huh? Oh, shuh. Sure." How eloquent~! But it does get her sitting up straighter and waving at the other side of the booth. "Knock yourself out."

*

"Thanks, kiddo," Mary Jane says with a big smile. She's 21 now, but any memories of her, well. She still looks the same. Just older. Less of a high school student and more of a grown woman. She slides into the booth next to Jessica and takes a folded newspaper out of her purse. "Just need a spot to sit and peruse my periodical."

The newspaper is open to the want ads, with various things circled, crossed-out, and otherwise marked-up. A pencil that MJ has in one hand has some nibble marks on it. (Human ones.) "Ever since all that crazy business in Central Park, I tell you, it's gotten a lot harder looking for a gig that can handle the firecracker that is moi," she notes to Jessica without looking. She glances around to see if there's a waitress anywhere near, then notices the milkshake. "…you just order it to watch it, or is this some kinda kooky science project?"

*

"Kiddo?" If the poor girl wasn't flustered before, being called 'kiddo' and joined on her side of the booth sure does it. The way her face scrunches up might be uncannily familiar to Mary Jane, much like the way it is immediately followed by an accomodating scoot-scoot-scoot to give her some more room.

She runs a hand back over her hair, trying to oh-so-subtly crane her neck and peek at the newspaper. Sue her, it's right there and her knowledge of the world is apparently a few years out of date. "What happened in Central Park? I've been, uh…" Think, !Peter, think. "…out of town for a while." Yeah, sure. That works.

As soon as MJ reminds her of the milkshake, she grabs it and drags it back in front of herself. "I'm still deciding."

*

Mary Jane gives this mysterious brunette a sidelong glance, before returning to scanning her job listings. "Oh, you missed a lot. This… big sinkhole, or something like that, opened up in Central Park and demons and zombies and vampires came out of it. It was crazy, parts of Manhattan were blocked off and everything." Mary Jane idly bites the eraser of her pencil, but gently, as she reads a listing.

"Wait, deciding on what, whether to drink the milkshake you ordered? Because if you're having trouble, friend, I know a certain redhead who's absolutely famished after a long day putting feet to pavement."

*

She only thinks about it for a moment before she just sighs and slides the milkshake over to where Mary Jane can lay claim to it. "Go ahead. You probably earned it," she says, flashing a tired smile.

That smile is gradually replaced by an expression of very genuine confusion. She eyes MJ, clearly trying to figure out if she heard her correctly. Demons and zombies and vampires (oh my)? Seriously? "…c'mon. You're pulling my leg, right?" she asks, raising both eyebrows. "I mean, I did see mosquitoes the size of a Buick this afternoon, but that just seems… really?"

*

"If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'," Mary Jane says, accepting the milkshake with a smile. She has a sip — "Chocolate, huh? My favorite."

"But, yeah, seriously! It was a big crazy hullaballoo. Surprised even where you were, you didn't hear about it! I've got a pretty wild imagination, let me tell you, but even I can't imagine Central Park opening up full of monsters NOT being national news." MJ sets the pencil down and focuses on the milkshake for a moment. "So what's with the crutches? Slip and fall, or am I just THAT behind on the latest fashion accessories?"

*

"Chocolate's everybody's favorite," the brunette notes, developing a rather familiar grin. "I mean, who doesn't like chocolate?" Communists, probably.

She shifts to sit sort of half-facing MJ, resting an arm along the back of the bench and pointedly ignoring any looks this earns her from the group at the next booth over. "I probably just missed it. We had lousy reception," she says after a moment, and it's even technically true.

Her eyes flick towards the crutches propped against the table and she makes a face. "Oh, I did something stupid and cut my foot pretty badly." Now that is definitely true. "Stitches, can't put my weight on it 'til it heals up. So much for getting used to the city again."

*

Communists AND racists, actually.

"Ah, you'll be fine," Mary Jane says. "Even New Yorkers know to move out of the way of a girl on crutches." She picks up the pencil again to circle an ad — something about TALENT WANTED at a recording studio? "Besides, if it's just a cut, you'll be back on two feet in no time, and then there'll be no stopping you!" If nothing else, MJ comes off as relentlessly positive… even if she's doing so without having asked about any of the details, so her positivity is based on pretty much nothing.

The redhead reaches out, finally, with one hand — "I'm Mary Jane, by the way."

*

The girl actually laughs at that. "Are you sure? I've never felt more invisible," she admits, self-consciously rubbing at the nape of her neck. "It's crazy, I feel like I have to scream just to get noticed at all. Uh. Not that I do scream," she quickly adds, her voice dropping an octave. "Because that would be weird." Unlike this conversation, which is not weird.

Neither is the way the brunette freezes when Mary Jane offers her a hand. She slowly reaches out to take it, her eyes quickly casting around for — there. A waitress' nametag. "Jessica," she says, forcing herself not to wince. "Jess is fine. Nice to meet you."

*

"Nice to meet you, too, Jess." Mary Jane turns back to her newspaper for a second, circling another thing — something about a cattle call for a TV production. "Well, y'know, you're only as visible as you want to make yourself," MJ notes in a moment of thoughtfulness. "In which case, just sign me up for the Fantastic Four and tell 'em the Visible Girl is ready for the spotlight! If you want to be heard, Jess, don't be shy about screaming!"

Mary Jane pauses. "I mean, as a metaphor. Usually," she notes, before having some more milkshake. "You sure you don't want any of this?"

*

Jessica tips her chin towards the newspaper, raising her eyebrows. "You're an actress?" she asks, and for someone that MJ as obviously only just met, she actually sounds pretty pleased about it. "That's great! How's the work, is it good?"

She holds up both hands and develops a downright rakish grin. "No non-metaphorical screaming, I promise. I'm not really one for the spotlight anyway," she says sheepishly. And then MJ is offering to share the milkshake, and she feels her cheeks suddenly growing hot. "Oh, um. No, no, it's okay. All yours."

*

Mary Jane rolls her eyes good-naturedly and pushes the milkshake back toward Jess. "There are no cooties on it, I swear," she says, teasingly. "Besides, only boys need to worry about that, last I checked."

MJ taps her pencil on the newspaper. "Well, being an actress is… a lot of going to auditions and talent agencies and trying to find an agent who's not going to rip you off. Which is a lot tougher than it sounds. I might try to get into music. I like singing, I like musicals. I dunno. I've been plugging away at this actress jazz since I graduated high school, and it hasn't quite been the path to riches that I was hoping for…"

*

That comment does not do Jessica's blush any favors. Her eyes follow the milkshake as it comes back her way and she laughs nervously, hesitantly reaching out for it. "…right. Fair point, I guess. Thanks?"

Jess does actually take a sip while she listens to MJ detail the highly glamorous life of an actor, her brow creasing in thought. "That does sound pretty rough. What about musical theater?" she suggests, offering the glass back. "Best of both worlds, right?"

*

"Yeah! Something like that would be good. See, I knew I kept you around for a reason," MJ laughs, elbowing Jess gently. "Mostly I just want something where… I want to connect with the audience, immediately, you know? I like that feeling when you just know there's a connection." MJ isn't intentionally trying to make Jess choke on a milkshake, but the risk is still apparently there. "Been thinking about starting a band, too, but who's to say I can't try and do both?"

*

The elbow is gentle but Jess still rocks in place anyway, bashfully ducking her head. Did… did she just giggle? Oh, god, this is awful. Gigglers do not deserve milkshakes, apparently, as she quickly returns the glass to the table and clamps her other hand down over her mouth. MAKE IT STOP.

Deep breaths, !Peter. Slowly, Jessica lowers her hand back to her lap. Ahem. "…well. I mean, you could do both, sure," she says easily, her head nodding lightly from side to side. "There's no sense limiting your options, right?"

*

Mary Jane observes this strange Jess creature for a moment. Did giggling threaten to pop her foot stitches? Is she just a weirdo? Who knows? Still, MJ can't help but want to take this baby bird under her wing for some reason. "Careful, tiger, when you say it like that it almost sounds like you're flirting," she teases, going in for a second pass at the milkshake afterward.

Okay, maybe MJ is just actually trying to kill Jess at this point.

*

Judging by the strangled noise Jess makes and how wide her hazel eyes get, MJ has a better than even chance of succeeding. The poor girl's face is suddenly beet red. At least she doesn't actually fall over. The "What?" comes out in a rather high-pitched voice. "Buh-buh-buh-but that would be ridiculous! I'm not — nooooooo, I've never flirted a day in my life."

Suave, Jess. Very smooth.

*

Mary Jane watches this like someone watching a plane in the distance nosedive and then correct itself within the space of a second. "Easy, kitten, easy, I was just funnin' ya." Mary Jane reaches out and gives Jess a squeeze on the shoulder. Gently. "Didn't mean to get you all worked up."

*

Kitten? Jessica just groans and drops her face into her hands as the full force of what her life is going to be like finally begins to really sink in. She takes in a deep, steadying breath, and when she exhales, it carries a bit of a mortified whimper along with it.

"Sorry, MJ. It's fine, I'm fine," Jessica mumbles into her palms, which is sure to be super convincing. "It's just been a… really long couple of days."

*

The shoulder squeeze turns into a gentle pat. "Don't let it get you down, chum. Everyone has days like that." Mary Jane moves to stand up. "I probably gotta be on my way, though, since it looks like I'm not gonna get a waitress anytime soon… look me up in the book sometime, kay? Mary Jane Watson. Or maybe you'll see the name on a theater marquee." MJ winks and grins brightly. "We'll talk more later, kiddo. For now — au revoir!"

*

Jessica's head bobs in time with the pat and she finally looks up, offering Mary Jane a genuinely apologetic smile. Still blushing, though. Poor girl. "I'll do that," she promises, deciding it's probably best not to mention she already knows her number. Well, assuming she hasn't moved, anyway. "Thanks for the company. You're gonna do great," she says, and finally, some actual conviction finds its way into her voice.

*

MJ points to Jessica as she moves toward the exit — "I'm gonna hold you to that one!" Then she's gone, off to live a life of adventure and redheadedness, leaving poor Jessica with half a milkshake.

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