January 18, 2017:

Steve Rogers greets Jessica Jones when she finally awakens in the local SHIELD medical facility. Jessica regains hope she may indeed still have what it takes to be a hero…and takes one of the scariest steps she's ever taken in the hopes of doing just that.

SHIELD Medical Facility, New York


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, The Winter Soldier, Red Robin, Spider Man

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The place is very clean and very white. Over the feelings of pain and discomfort that evil spells can bring, that is likely the first things that Jessica Jones sees when she opens her eyes. The set-up of bed, television, side table, and chairs is rather 'standard', almost to the point it seems to be the true archetype of hospital room.

The TV is playing ocean waves, the soft sounds of the beach filling the room, almost enough to drown out the sound of medical equipment offering occasional chirps and beeps to prove that the woman is, in fact, alive.

To wake up after a life or death experience in a strange place by yourself is a horrible feeling, one Captain America has suffered once or twice. So it's little surprise that he is here, in costume, calmly reading a book. While there is a stack of them that include Calvin and Hobbes, a recent book on the nature of asymmetrical warfare, and Things Fall Apart; Rogers is choosing something else. It's a small bible that he leaves through, carefully moving his finger through the dog eared pages and occasional tears. The fact that his helmet is off and resting on small table next to a dirty plate and a mostly empty water bottle suggests he's been here for awhile.

The last time she woke up in a clean, white room like this, people were dead. Her family, specifically. Some part of her has been in and out, vaguely aware of being in this place, but under the influence of the drugs that are fogging up her system she hasn't reacted much, falling back into sleep often within seconds of becoming alarmed. It's made for some fitful dreams, but…no incidents. No screaming. No sudden panics. Just the occasional blips, increases in her heart rate, before the dreams passed.

Though the TV with its ocean waves has helped. Sometimes she's dreamed of just sitting on a peaceful sea shore, unaware that it's doing so in time to her own evenly beating heart, watching the waves roll in and out, oddly content.

It's as if two parts of her brain are battling for dominance. The paranoid, twitchy part, convinced that everyone around her can only live around her at their own expense, that bit of her mental software that has grappled with PTSD and guilt for a long time now. And the part of her that's starting to heal, to look ahead and see better things on the horizon, to recognize things like boundaries, and what is and is not her responsibility, and who dares to suggest brand new ways of looking at old problems, ways that whisper hope.

And while it may not be a surprise to anyone who knows Steve Rogers that he would take the time to sit by the beside of someone he barely knows for no other reason than his own incredible empathy, it surprises Jessica Jones. But pleasantly. His presence instantly calms her, however much it confuses her. This is a man of importance, and he's…waiting for her to wake up. There must be a dozen or more things and people requiring his attention, more than a dozen, and…and here he is.

She takes all this in with the first few blinks of her eyes, but despite her very real amazement at finding The Man with the Star Spangled Plan sitting there beside her, her mind soon fixates on something else, something way more important. The temple, and the reason she's in a hospital bed at all, rushes to the forefront of her attention.

And that recurring anxious thrum in the back of her brain.

The last time she woke up in a hospital, it was because other people were dead.

This guides the first words out of her mouth, in a rough whisper that still speaks to the remains of the drugs in her system, "Captain Rogers?" The first is said in the way people speak words to get the attention of another. The next are actual questions. "Zatanna? John? The others? Is everyone alive and safe?"

The bible is marked with an old black and white picture. The photo is of a woman, but not Peggy. But before any details on it can be gained by the highly observed detective, the scriptures are closed and put away. It's slid into belt of too many pouches, as if it was just as important to Cap in a fight as k-bar knife.

"You're fine, Detective Jones. They're fine. From what I heard, it was a bit touch and go, but it seems like everyone got out safely," the man begins. The headset springs to life, a woman's voice on the helm requesting some sort of report. While it's unknown if it was directed at Steve or merely chatter on whatever channel he was on, the war hero reaches over and turns it off. "It all worked out," he continues, offering Jessica a small smile. "Thanks to you. You did well, from what I heard. Amazingly, in fact."

She sags in relief when he assures her they're fine. She did follow the Bible and perhaps some part of her noted the photo, but really the only thing she can honestly think about it at this moment is one little verse from long ago, when she still went to the First United Methodist Church with her parents every Sunday, before everything went so horribly wrong.

When I was sick or in prison, you visited me.

But his next words draw…well, it's a complicated series of emotions from her face. Definitely surprised, but also touched, and something beyond that.

She went on a mission with Captain America. And…and…and he thinks she did well.

That little part of her, the one that still wants to be a hero deep down, soaks this in like a budding plant sucks down life-giving water.

Her eyes have gone a little wide, and her lips part as if she'd say something, but she's just having trouble dealing with the tidal wave of emotions his words have caused, even if they're all positive.

She has to say something, so she swallows around sudden tightness in her throat. "Ithank you. It waswe were a team though, so. Thanks to us." Try as she might, she can't hide the raw vulnerability in this graceless stammering, the emotional effect his praise has had on her. The resources she'd use to play it cool and pretend this is just another Tuesday are busy trying to climb themselves out of the pile of drugs. "Um. Jessica, you can call me Jessica. It's—I think Detective is just for police officers, not PIs." Why is she babbling about that?

"I thought I was dead, to be honest." And that she'd made a horrible mistake, too, endangering everyone when she'd made her leap. But whatever it had looked like, that had been a calculated decision, made in an instant. "What happened after they took me out? What happened to you? I thought you were right behind us till you weren't." There's nothing but the need to piece everything together there; her final question carries undertones of concern.

"My apologies, Jessica" is all Captain America offers in-between talk of official titles and concerns if Jones is truly alive.

As Jessica has concerns and questions on 'what happened next', Steve rubs the back of his neck as he uses Jones' own words to begin. "To be honest, not too sure. I stumbled upon some sort of magical circle and disturbed it. I don't know how or why, but for a short time, I was taken away from you guys until I figured out how to get out. But… It seems like it worked out. Who knows, might have been for the better."

Slowly, Steve gets up and moves toward the window, gloved hands clasping behind his back, letting the question of 'why' sit for a second. He looks out of curtain and past the panes of 'glass', but if Jessica takes a gander, she will see it's fake, merely an ultra high definition real time of NYC meant to cause someone to think at first glance that this isn't some ultra high defensive area.

"I failed," Steve pronounces firmly. "While it might have been an unavoidable mistake, my err put the rest of 'the team' in jeopardy. In the one area of expertise that I was expected to lead the charge, I was absent. But you stepped in selflessly when I was not there, leading them into battle and protecting those that were not as 'durable' as yourself. They were able to defeat the enemies there, a portal was made and everyone got out, with me barely making it to the portal in time. It's why you deserve the praise. It's why I'm apologizing." He turns his head so Jones can see the side of his face and the faintest of smiles forms. "Considering the situation, such things are the least I can do."

She sits up a little bit and does look, but…if Steve is just sitting here with no visible guards it stands to reason this isn't Metro-General. It smells too good to be Metro-General anyway. She figures that will come in good time. As it is…

His words have shocked her to the core, and her brain slides away from any other details to go grapple with that for awhile. Whatever else happens in her life, whatever her other failures…she feels like she can latch on to this, these words, and take them out again and again whenever she needs them.

He'll see her shoulders firm and her back straighten and something enter her eyes. Even when not actively pushing people out before there had been a kind of…dullness…to them. Shame and a persistent feeling of failure that might be put aside for a time, but never really forgotten.

But the true gift of Steve Rogers existed long before he was transformed from a skinny Brooklyn kid to a super soldier. It was always in inspiring people, of waking that spark in them.

He's awoken not only the realization that she can do this, but the yearning, burning hunger to keep improving, to do it better in the future. As if his words were the final component in a spell itself, one that Zatanna began, that had forced her into a new crucible and then had pushed her back out again for John to nurture, only for America's hero to complete it with a few earnest words.

"Don't be so hard on yourself. Magic…kind of changes all the variables, right? Throws all sorts of nasty surprises at everyone. You'd have done something I overlooked—you'd have stopped everyone just inside, taken a head count, made sure everyone was ready to go." She smiles, though he might not see it if he's still looking out the window by the time she does. A rare, full smile, one that transforms her face.

"Besides, when I kind of realized that was needed all I could think was you'd put me on point, made me a sort of leader even though anyone else would have wondered what I was even doing there. I was thinking I couldn't let you down, that if something had gone wrong I had to do what you'd do, so I just…did what I thought you'd do."

This rings with an air of truth, because in reality, at the moment she'd started to feel as if they were rudderless up there, it had been her exact thought process, albeit one that had rocketed across her brain in the space of seconds.

A shrug is given. "I like to have faith in people. And I just had a hunch you were up for the challenge." It does seem that Captain America excels in working with people and caring for them. But that is likely why he was selected by the meek and humble scientist for Operation Rebirth. Rogers knows sometimes the best thing to do with power and responsibility is to give it freely, letting it have the same ability to transform others as it did for him.

Slowly, Rogers moves over toward the table, his hands still clasped behind his back. "There is no need to give me praise, but thank you. You can get to a point where you don't need any more guns, swords, spells, or fists. But hope within yourself to be who you want to be or in the world to become a better place? I find that's something that I always find people consider in short supply. And if there is anything I can do to help, just let me know and I'll do my best." For many people, such words are a platitude, but it's clear that Steve means it. Even if it's for a heroine he just met, it's one that he's deemed worth trust on some level.

A nod is given toward the area. "Speaking of, you're currently in a SHIELD facility. I didn't know your abilities or if a standard hospital could treat you, so I took you to a place that I knew would be able to." His eyes look back down to meet Jones' dark gaze. "I hope it doesn't trouble you. If it does, just let me know and we can leave now."

"No, no, it's very nice," Jessica says, hastening to assure him on that point. That explains the windows, and the peace and quiet. "Thank you." He must have been the one to bring her here, nobody else could have. And being here, instead of in a regular hospital, somewhere safe to recover, was another boon.

Many people would thank him and not take him up on it. But Jessica will. Because she's here, right here, and an idea that had been niggling at her all this time could come to fruition right here and now. And right here and now, while she's still in an emotional state to take it…she's going to latch onto it.

"There…is something," she says earnestly. A pause. A struggle to speak. But then she just…bull rushes ahead, fast. "I…could stand to see a psychiatrist, someone who /can/ work with my physiology. I don't think I need someone who wants me to talk everything out, like a therapist, though if I did, having someone who won't look at me funny if I have to talk about meta-stuff would be nice. I think I just need…I just need help. Do you think—you could ask one of the doctors here refer me to someone who can do that?" SHIELD may be the only place she could obtain that kind of help, but without the word of someone within the organization they might not be willing to help her out.

Part of her cringes to admit this need to anyone, let alone to Steve Rogers. Asking for help is not something she does easily, even now, and asking for this kind of help is uncomfortable at the best of times. But…there's something about this entire encounter that has convinced her that she can trust him with this, that he won't judge her.

Still, she has to keep her hands very still. If she white-knuckles the hospital bed she'll damage it. Blurting this out meant pushing past a bigger and more intangible fear than facing down evil sorcerers on mountaintops could have provided for. But…she doesn't try to backpedal from it once the request is out there. No matter how good she feels right now mentally, she has already learned that some patterns are graven into her brain, that she can't dig them out on her own, and that if the bottle is her only recourse to cope with those patterns, the bottle is where she'll return.

A brief of relief is given when Jones approves of the room. When it comes to superheroes, trust is something that is either swiftly earned or slow gained. While some graciously trust the American Icon, he knows far better to presume people carry the sentiment that Captain America has their best interests at heart. "Glad to help," comes the automatic reply.

When Jones speaks, it causes Steve's eyes to widen. She unloads, not a way that is offensive, but surprisingly. After all, she seemed strong, presented herself as strong. In Rogers mind, he captures the thought; he reminds himself sometimes, the strongest thing is to ask for help, to reveal the weakness that threatens to consume in the hopes of overcoming it with the aid of others. Rogers fights the natural urge to reach for the book he was reading. There are some things a bible verse, a prayer, and some encouragement can solve. While those things are helpful, it won't be something offered in lieu of what is asked.

"I'll have you speak to my personal secretary Melodie. She's really nice and she knows SHIELD really well. I'll let you know you're contacting her and she'll do everything she can to get you to what you want or need." Translation: she's the one that helps Steve not get drowned in administrative minutia and know who he needs to get things done in SHIELD.

Instead of pulling out the Good News, Steve pulls out a card and a small device that looks like a mix between a walkie-talkie and cell phone with a red button on the side. "The card is Melodie's information. The second? That lets you talk to me. I don't pretend to be able to understand what you're going through and I can't promise I'll be able to fix whatever it is you're going through, but… If you need me, there you go. The big red button is the classic 'I'm surrounded by bad guys, can you help'. Hold it down for three seconds if you need it. Just do the regular call for other things."

Slowly, Steve moves toward his stuff, gathering it all up. "I might not be always there to help, but if I can, I will."

Jessica clutches the proffered lifelines. "Thank you," she says. It feels odd not to have her walls all the way up, not to present herself as absolutely implacable, unstoppable, indomitable.

She watches him gather it all up and adds, "I'll give her my number so you can call me for anything too."

But there's something else, something she can't just let him walk out without asking, some way she might be able to help him, in a way that nobody else, perhaps, can. It's delicate enough to make her hesitate. She gathers everything around herself though, and asks with the defter touch that an investigator sometimes requires both to get information…and to open up a new line of conversation.

"Captain Rogers? Did…Sergeant Barnes come in from the cold?" The line from the classic spy novel seemed appropriate. She wasn't talking about a literal cold—she's not asking if he walked out of Switzerland. 'Come back with you' seemed like a weird way to ask. Coming in from the cold…that seemed appropriate. He'd seemed, in that one guilty look and fast series of words exchanged on the battlefield, very much like a man who wanted to come in from the cold, walk a path back to people important to him after snapping the bonds of whomever had controlled him, but had not yet been able to bring himself to do so.

But battle could change things, and perhaps he'd found it in himself to do just that, after all.

There is a short pause as Jessica asks about the best friend and war time teammate. The answer is given before he even answers his mouth. "No." The simple word is allowed to carry for some time before Rogers finds the strength within the speak. "I think we are getting there, just have to be something I don't want to rush if can help it. While some people might not be too amused with my ways, as long as it doesn't cause any innocent people their lives, they are willing to play ball."

And that is one of Captain America concerns: that as he tries to help people, one day, he will cross some invisible line and he'll be cut from the resources that SHIELD has to offer such as mental health resources for someone they barely know or keeping various agencies from attempting kill Barnes. He figures that day will come sometime when SHIELD and Rogers go down separate roads. Thankfully, it's not this day.

"Either way, I should likely get going," the blond battler decides, soon putting the helm/cowl piece on once more. "Now that you're up and awake, I can handle a few things here and there. If you need, until I come back, can call a nurse just like your normal hospital."

"That's good. Taking it slow is good," Jessica says quietly. But beyond that, she backs off immediately. He doesn't want to talk about it, and to push would do more harm than good. That's the last thing she wants. Still, seeing some of his reactions have given her insight into the other side. Trish herself must have gone through some pain that Jessica had only been able to resent, not acknowledge.

So she shifts in a different direction, deciding that offering unsolicited insights isn't really the way to go. Barnes, she reminds herself, is going through something different. Similar, but different. They aren't the same people and his responses might be different when he does, indeed, come in from the cold. Assuming more than 'it's a long dark road ahead' would also cause more harm than good.

Fortunately, she can offer something else. He has resources, more resources than she can possibly imagine, and tons of good investigators, so it's not necessarily her professional expertise. It's more her professional expertise, combined with something else. "Keep my number handy," she advises. "I'm amused by all kinds of things."

If they're being recorded she can't just come right out and say 'I'm an unaffiliated individual with certain skills who doesn't answer to anybody and this shield of anonymity and former mediocrity might allow me to do a thing or two on your behalf (or Sargent Barnes' behalf) that offers you a metric boatload of plausible deniability if you need it or want it at any point.'

She figures he's smart enough to read the subtext. But then she settles down with a clear air of someone who isn't going to hold him here any longer, because he does, in fact, have the dozens of other people and things to attend to that she'd imagined when she first woke up to find him here.

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