Necessary Clarifications

February 12, 2017:

After To Have a Choice. Seeing Jane troubled by the idea of people having conversations— and making decisions— about her mental state without her, Bucky quietly seeks out Jessica to get the story behind it.

A Rooftop, New York City

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jane Foster, Red Robin, Captain America

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The only thing that is going right for Jessica Jones these days is work. That is where she's at her best. That is the only place she doesn't feel like she's fucking up left, right, and center. Fortunately, the stupid Stilt-Man affair has produced a lot of free publicity for Alias Investigations; she's got a backlog that is producing a nice savings cushion for Germany. And these are fairly quality cases too.

No cheating spouses tonight. She's got a full on corporate espionage case going, which means she's in a place only an assassin who really knows stalking could find her. She is on the roof of AMX Industries, crouched down and waiting for one of their employees to arrive for a meeting with one of their employees. The first step is to catch her quarry in a meeting. The second is to follow the person he meets with to verify the contact as an employee of JTS Incorporated. That's not the whole of a case like this— she'll need more, but it's a start.

She's holding up her camera, verifying the app and modifications that make it decent at night photos are working just fine.

The windswept top of a building is not exactly a place one usually expects to be accosted— especially when you arrived there, yourself, in stealth and secret— which is why it might startle Jessica considerably when a voice breaks the silence. Even familiar as the voice is.

"Jessica," Bucky says behind her. There is zero indication of how he got up here or how long he's been following her to track her up here, but then: Winter Soldier. He is dressed in dark clothing and crouched down also, at the least, in deference to 'not messing up her groove more than he likely already has.' "We probably need to talk."

He glances over her shoulder, marking her line of sight and assessing instantaneously her likely points of interest. They're all still empty. "Woulda picked a different time, but you seem pretty busy lately."

Jessica is a jumpy woman when snuck up on. She jumps, then lets out a long breath. "Bucky. You scared the shit out of me," she says, her lips starting to curve into a wan smile.

But 'we need to talk' are anxiety inducing words, and this woman has anxiety to spare. He can watch it ramp up immediately, right over her face. "What's wrong?"

Shit.

"Is this about the other day? I'm really sorry, I know I shouldn't have just shown up. Everything I'm dealing with is really trivial and you guys didn't need that, it was really inconsiderate of me and I'm really really sorry and I won't do it again. All I can say in my defense is I just feel really…I like being around you guys. That's no excuse. I'm sorry."

This can't be the first time he's shown up to have someone start babbling all their percieved sins at him the moment he ghosts out of the shadows. Probably not the first time they're wrong about what he wants to talk about too.

You scared the shit out of me, Jessica exclaims. A passing expression flickers over his face, something that could be humor. "I tend to do that. Sorry."

It's not the first time someone's started babbling the moment he ghosted up unannounced behind them. But it's certainly the first time, in a long while, that he wasn't there to either silence the babbling with a bullet… or induce a lot more of it, with a blade. …It's a nice change of pace, if he does say so himself.

His purpose here, however, is still mildly uncomfortable. His expression is neutral in view of that fact, his elbows braced on his knees, his body poised in absolute stillness.

"No, it's not about that," he answers eventually. "You know you're welcome over whenever. Problems are problems, you know?"

He ruminates a bit before he goes on. "It's about this business with Red. He shows up the other night, says you two had a conversation about Jane's state of mind. Hands over something, says you told him to give it to her? To help her regain some sense of control?"

Bucky doesn't look angry, per se, but he is wearing a rather stern look. "Jane was a little upset."

Jessica 's look transforms to one of confusion, then one of consternation as blood drains from her face. "I upset Jane?" she asks, stricken. "We…it wasn't…"

She pulls her hair back from her face. "It wasn't a discussion about her mental state," she says. "At least it wasn't meant to be. Jane asked me to get that research from Red. He balked, he was afraid it wouldn't be good for her after everything Hydra had put you guys through. I made a case to him why it would be very good for her, just…drawing on my own experiences. I— I mean I drew so much from my own experiences that he guessed more about me than I really wanted him to guess. I didn't even know if he'd run it over to you guys; I figured he might just drop it with me to drop to her next time. It was all too science-y for me, so I didn't have one from our initial mission to get a chip in the first place. A copy. I mean. So if I hadn't convinced him, he wouldn't have given her…I never meant…"

But she can see it. She can see what it would look like, second hand.

She curls an arm about her stomach, feeling sick. She can imagine what she'd feel like, if it seemed like someone were having whole conversations about her mental state. But what to do about it?

Her mind flashes on Captain America, as it often does when she's trying to reach for her best self, and she knows she can't come up with that answer herself. She needs help.

Steve Rogers might have stood squarely, looked Bucky Barnes in the eye, and asked this question man to man. Jessica hangs her head, her face looking blotchy.

"How do I make this right?"

Bucky listens to the explanation in silence, his features calm and inscrutable in the dark. Seems like a perfect storm of misunderstandings to him. His hands move eventually, his left hooking its metal fingertips into the chain of his everpresent ID bracelet. He doesn't twist it, though, not like before: just touches it, as if liking the periodic reminder of its presence.

How does she make this right? she asks.

"Doesn't seem there's much to 'make right,'" he says finally. "You had good intentions. My only concern was if it was gonna be a pattern, people talking about Jane rather than to her." He flicks a glance past her, keeping watch on her mark for her while she processes. Still no activity. "If you had to explain to get him to change his mind, that's what you had to do."

There's a pause. "Bit of an ass, isn't he?" he says conspiratorially. "Kid can't be older than twenty. Acts like he's three times that. He ended it giving /me/ life advice."

"I can think of other ways I could have done it…now."

Like being an asshole. She could have just snapped 'Hey. Red. You gonna take a choice away from her too?'

That's what the old her would have done. In this new, uncertain sea of having friends and relationships she had tried to just talk to him instead. Had it been a mistake? Had that been the one time where being a sarcastic bitch would have been exactly the right answer?

As far as people talking about Jane vs. to her…"I— don't know," Jessica admits softly, still not really raising her head yet, though some of the blotches and splotches have faded in the face of his ready, fatherly acceptance of her explanation. "Nobody maliciously. Just…out of concern I guess. I mean I can't think of any other conversations I've had about her. Just that one, the one with a purpose."

But she grimaces, conflicted, when Bucky says he is an ass. "Red…once did me a solid," she says quietly. "A big solid, a huge generous solid. Let's just say I was about to get evicted and he fixed it. I just asked him to translate for me, the next thing I know he's basically giving me an unasked for fresh start that must have cost him what would be a year's pay for some people. So I can't say he's an ass…but…he's some sort of super-genius. I guess that would make anyone confident in their own perspective. And might assure he doesn't exactly have the highest level of emotional intelligence."

Neither does she, for that matter. She shoves her hands deep in the pockets of her jacket. "I don't think he meant anything by anything he said either. He was probably genuinely trying to help, even if he came off badly."

Flustered again, suddenly, swallowing, "Not that I want to presume to tell either one of you how to feel."

"No, it's not malicious," he agrees. "I think she was just a little startled to have a relative stranger show up, having had a full conversation about what was best for her or not." It is a sore spot, to be sure, for both Bucky and Jane— to be discussed over rather than spoken to. Too much like being in a chair talked over by scientists, even if the intent this time is benign.

He shrugs. "I guess some amount of that is inevitable," he allows, though he seems to feel that his ultimate point is adequately made.

A hint of amusement appears in his features, however, when Jessica hastens to defend Red Robin's honor from being called an ass. "I have no doubt," he says, when she insists he is a good person who likely didn't mean anything bad, likely just wanted to help— just probably has a correspondingly low emotional intelligence to match his supergenius status. "Said he was an ass, not a bad person." Bucky appears to mean the term with a degree of affection, proved only when: "Hell, even Steve can be an ass often enough."

He is unaware of the degree of Jessica's reverence for his best friend, clearly.

He glances over her shoulder again: then cants his head at her. "One o'clock. Those your guys?"

He might be about to find out, because Jessica's head snaps up and her mouth goes open at the mention that Steve can be an ass. Her mouth drops open and her eyes widen. "Captain Rogers? An ass? But Captain Rogers is…" Everything she wants to be. Everything she'll never be. But she's not going to finish that thought. Not that the reverence in her tone when she speaks the man's name probably doesn't make it clear.

Instead she asks: "Um. Do you want me to talk to Red? I can…" Anything for the Bros. Especially now that she's fucked up. But those are her guys, and so she issues a soft "Shit!" and fumbles for her smart phone. She starts taking photographs, professional and crisp ones, a fast running series of them. Multiples are required to get really good shots. "Should I go see Jane? Should I leave her alone?"

She has canted her tone into a soft whisper of course, not wanting to tip off her target. "I mean I'm an ass all the time, but I don't want to hurt her more than I already have."

He chuckles a little at the degree of her reaction. Bucky never really gets tired of seeing people get all gobsmacked to imagine that Steve Rogers is, in fact, a human being. "He is a very good man," Bucky finishes for her, "the best man I know, and he can be an ass. Yes. Granted, way more often when he was a skinny brat." He shakes his head. "He was easier to handle being an ass when he was a skinny brat, too."

He frowns a little. "Still haven't forgiven him for the time he blew our train money getting some kinda pencil set. Had to walk all the way home. It was January."

He's distracted when he notices movement in the window Jessica was watching. Pointing it out, he settles back on his heels and into silence as she starts working. His blue eyes observe her with interest. "Nah. Not necessary," he says, of her query whether she should talk to Red. "No real harm done. You can go see Jane if you wanna, but it's not like you gotta go apologize or anything. See Jane cause you wanna see her. I think she'd appreciate not being treated over-carefully."

That makes Jessica relax a little more. She chuffs about this pencil set story, dark eyes sparkling, and nods fervently. "Movie night, then," she says. "Sometime next week?" That seems the best way to restore equlibrium. The promised 80s Movie Binge. Just being friends. Not something that embroils them in a serious conversation, she thinks. Jessica could use some laughs, and watching Marty McFly being stupid is a good way to go about it. Maybe they can use some laughs too. Or some…possible bafflement in Bucky's case.

She isn't going to implode all the relationships in her life, it seems. At least not today. That's good to know.

She positions herself to get a shot of the license plate, just in case she's unable to follow the guys. They're exchanging things…a stick drive for an envelope that's full of cash. Soon enough she's going to have to follow the second car.

She tosses him a quick smile, though, over her shoulder, between shots.

Movie night? This is a greater leap than Bucky anticipated, but— he finds— not necessarily an unwelcome one. He thinks that perhaps some time spent just… in one another's company, doing normal things rather than dealing with heavy conversational topics, could do people some good. Including himself. And movies sounds like a great vector for that. Moviegoing was huge during the era in which he grew up, and this particular kind of escapism is a familiar thing to him.

Or so he thinks. He has no idea of the modern-day shape of 'a movie night.' "Sure. Why not," he agrees. "How do you do those these days? You still go to the theater? Christ, I haven't been in one of those since…" Doesn't even bear thinking about. Though, given what he's used to versus what they've become, he's bound to be simultaneously very impressed— and very disappointed, the first time he goes in a theater. The screens are certainly bigger, but the experience is markedly less classy.

He, of course, has NO conception of the idea of a 'home entertainment center,' which is almost certainly more where Jessica was going with this.

He keeps an eye, himself, on the transaction as it proceeds. Sensing he's about to become an inconvenience to her job, he nods. "Any rate, that's it. I just wanted to hear it from you. Should let you get back to work."

"Sure, people do, but it's stupid expensive. $14 a person, and drinks at $6 a pop. Who needs that? I'll bring my computer and Netflix, we can get everything. I'll hook it up to a projector, we can all watch right on the wall. You guys can come to my place if you like; you've never been and we've all been invading yours. Invite other friends you'd like to bring? I'll make popcorn, we'll have junk food. It'll be great. That allows for laughter and commentary."

She shoots him another smile.

She's suddenly looking forward to something. It's a wonderful feeling, and she mentally holds it close, her posture straightening. It's another gentle fall of water in her personal mental desert; giving seeds in the cracked earth more shots at straining towards the light.

"Thanks, Bucky. I appreciate you asking me directly. And…asking for an explanation before passing judgment."

Not everybody does that. It's in fact rather rare.

But the car is pulling out so she leaps one building over, drops down, and gets in a rental car she's got for this purpose, pulling out in a second to follow the guy.

He might note, as he watches her awkward yank of the car onto the street, that she's kind of the stereotypical woman driver.

Stupid expensive, indeed. Bucky looks completely horrified at the prices Jessica lists. Telling him it's $20 to see a movie is pretty much equivalent to telling him he's got to shell out $300, given the purchasing power twenty bucks would have had back in the 40s. "Christ. And I thought $10 to go on the rides at Coney Island was bad," he grumbles. "You know what rent was back when I was renting? In 1938? About $30 a month. And that was for a decent area, too."

His expression remains a bit politely blank as she chats on about Netflix, though 'projectors' and 'walls' he does understand. 'Other friends' draws another bit of a pause— the dead whisper angrily at the back of his mind a few moments, before he closes his eyes to shut them out. "I'm sure Steve and Peggy could use some introduction to what movies're like these days, too," he says, though what he really means is they could use a break from working all the time.

Not that he can talk, himself, about being a bit of a workaholic nowadays.

But she thanks him, then, for asking directly. For seeking explanation before judgment. He cants his head, looking puzzled. "Figured that was just the right thing to do," he mutters. "Have people forgot all their manners? Well— don't answer that. Guess I'll find out myself."

With that, Jessica is off to complete her job. Straightening up now the need for concealment is past, he watches her 'driving' a moment with amusement, before he turns away himself.

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