The Foster Child

February 25, 2017:

Jane Foster pays Jessica Jones a visit at her request, and gets caught up on the Case of the Missing Magi.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NY

A place where all of the inhabitants might just be secretly starving. You never know.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Red Robin, Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Early this morning Jane would have gotten a text.

Need your help with John & Zee case. Have a few things for you. Can you come up to Alias?

She could have gone over to Jane's, it's true. But…

She knows about withdrawing.

She knows about isolation.

She knows that sometimes it might just be good to nudge Jane to go some other place than her own four walls, even if it's still Jessica's basically safe four walls at Alias.

Also, she's tired as fuck. She's now officially burning the candle at both ends, spending her days working the case that keeps the lights on and spending her nights in a search either for the right gang or the man who can point her to the right gang, searches which are both starting to feel a little fruitless.

She stands in her kitchen peering at an AR display radiating off her phone, dressed in a pair of sweats and a tank top and bare feet. It's not an important or weighty AR display. It's a recipe for breakfast burritos. She thought it might be nice to prepare something for Jane to eat.

She has the stove up on high, which is why the eggs are cooking too fast, which is why the stench of burning eggs may be the first thing to greet Jane Foster when she walks in. And the dark, rich smell of coffee which is at least properly made.

—-

Truth be told, Jane Foster has never known any four walls as intimately as the past few weeks. Before that, her apartment in New York was a forgotten thing, barely lived-in, an extra storage for the true home of her laboratory. Before that, the New Mexico desert was her house, all its dry, forever expanse, and those wonderfully chill nights ceilinged by the gas and dust of the Milky Way.

Even if it hurts to look up at the stars these days, she knows it's time she starts remembering who she was. A woman without a true home, who was always proud of that, always believed it the most integral part of her — someone who can move forward without ever being troubled to look back.

She rankles at the idea of going out alone, when it's much more safe, much less exhausting to stay inside, but Jane hits that moment. Enough hiding, and she won't beg James along to make her feel better, because she's better than this, she's /stronger/ than this.

Jessica gets a text back, not too long after: On my way.

Jane gives her quick good-bye to James, with a promise to text when she gets there. She grabs some things, her laptop specifically, and messing around with her equipment, listens to her gut to bring along a few more of her toys.

She gets a little lost on the trains along the way — wrong transfer, and she was even watching the last time she went with James, she'll never get used to New York — but eventually makes her way into Jessica's neck of the woods by late morning.

There's a polite, if too-light knock at the door, before, ever the suburbanite, Jane tries the doorknob and finds it unlocked. "Hello? It's me!" She steps in, all jeans and winter coat and one of her favourite scarves, toeing off her boots as she's… hit by the smell of something burning. She pauses, easing off her heavy backpack.

"Is everything OK?"

—-

Jessica throws the spatula and turns off the stove. "No," she admits with a sigh. "And I'm not just talking about the eggs. I thought I'd cook for you but…that's not going very fucking great. Your chili inspired me, but I can't even begin to live up to it. I did everything the fucking recipe said, so I don't even know what the fuck is wrong there. I think I have some leftover fruit tray from the party though. And the coffee should be okay." She takes down two mugs.

One says, "I do not spew profanities. I enunciate them clearly, like a fucking lady."

The other just says, "Definitely Not Vodka" with a winky face. Jane has nerdy coffee cups. Jessica has utterly tasteless ones.

She fixes Jane's with a bit of cream and no sugar, passing her the "spewing profanities" cup, either because she thinks it's funny, or because she thinks the Vodka one is marginally more tasteless. She opens the window to vent the egg-stench, then pulls out the fruit tray…

Which has gone bad. "Fuck. Damn it…" She tosses that and finally just puts a bag of chips on the table.

"Breakfast of champions," she offers weakly. Ruffles have ripples. They're not stale at least.

She looks down into her coffee and says at last, "I've good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"

—-

In the midst of stripping off her winter coat and easing down her backpack, finding a nearby chair to host her things, she meets Jessica's aggravation with a slight smile. "That's so sweet of you. But, seriously? Don't sweat it. That chili is product of like twenty years of cooking for a father who didn't even know how to open a milk carton the right way. And between you and me? First ever breakfast I got to make for James? I burnt the eggs too. Happens to us all."

Truth be told, and the reason she won't admit out loud, Jane feels a bit relieved not to have to eat. Never been a big eater — and it's really taking a glance at her, tiny as she is, to see it — and lately her appetite is largely missing. James has been forcing her to eat meals more often than not, and it's driving her out of her mind. At least here, she can just have some peace and drink some coffee.

Her smile goes crooked, reading the words on Jessica's mugs. Jane's got the biggest soft spot for tacky things.

She lets out a genuine laugh at the last ditch, resigned bag of chips, though in the back of her mind, this isn't helping the 'Everyone at Alias Investigations is Starving to Death' theory at the Barnes-Foster house. If she gets some free time, she might start leaving anonymous pots of stew at the door.

But even the exchange of levity doesn't quote exorcise the darkness under Jane's eyes; she drinks her coffee down gratefully, but with open eyes, ringed with her chronic insomnia, and now more freshly, a new worry.

Glancing over at Jessica's question, Jane weighs the options. There's a lot to say about a person whether they pick what first: good or bad? "Good news," she says.

—-

She gives a wry smile at Jane's laugh— it doesn't do much to excise the deep lines from the PI's face, either. Still, a laugh is a laugh, and she'll take them where she can get them. She's learned enough about crisis situations to know you laugh when you can, where you can…and you try not to feel guilty that you're laughing while the people you're trying to save are hurting.

But as for anonymous pots of stew?

They will get eaten.

Every one.

Should they appear. They aren't starving, but it's probably safe to say that Jessica eats like a college kid, and thus her wards eat like college kids, ad infinitum. She now has a lot of ingredients in her fridge. Unfortunately she has no idea what to actually do with them.

"Good news," Jessica agrees. "Though good news is maybe starting a little in medias res."

She doesn't appear to care about starting in medias res though.

She sets her coffee aside and opens the bag of chips. Jane may not feel like eating, but she does. "We've got confirmation John and Zee are alive, and perhaps a path to getting them back from where they are right now. Red has also gathered a bunch of books and things that might prove of some use, he dropped them off here last night. Hedge magic stuff. They're in the other room." She gestures vaguely. "Do you think you could read them for us, get a sense of what's in there? I don't even know if what's in there will look like it directly applies but…if I think if anyone can remember everything in there and apply the right tool at the right time when the time comes, it's going to be you. The I Ching apparently agrees, for what it's worth."

This does not appear to be a random comment, nor an ironic one.

"There's seven pretty thick volumes, I've added a photocopy of an eighth, though the eighth comes from Zee's library. Just flash-bang protective spells that don't need any particular source of power, kind of like Quick Mystical Kicks in the Balls for Dummies Who Want to Run. I've included them as 'good to knows' and for reference, for comparison. Apparently a lot of other stuff? In addition to very finnicky components like fucking frog snot or chicken brains or whatever, many seem to need a power source to work, like a magical power source, of which Red has recovered and passed on precisely…"

She holds up a single rueful finger.

—-

The relief is palpable on Jane's face to hear that Zatanna and John aren't dead.

Palpable and — not all that surprised. It's the feeling in her gut, despite all her concern, despite all her driving impetus to see the two people she's coming to care deeply for /safe/ and here — but Jane is a creature of significant faith, and well, her faith is that —

They are both able people. Competent, able, powerful people. And if they have to be missing, she is quietly glad they have gone missing together. It doubles the chances of them being able to survive whatever is keeping them away. Jane cannot forget how Zatanna looked, speaking at length of John Constantine, with the ease and frankness of a woman speaking of someone she knows intimately — down to the very source fibers of the soul.

For either Zatanna or John to have gone missing separately, Jane thinks she'd be five times the wreck she is now. If they are together, all they need to do is remain that way. Stay strong together until found.

And as it comes to finding, she listens. Already straight-faced, right to business, Jane taps her ring finger absently on her half-finished mug of coffee as she absorbs Jessica's words. Books on hedge magic — eight of them. "I can have them all finished within the day," she promises, without any sort of arrogance. It's simple fact. She is a really, really, really fast reader.

Though she does pause at one part of that, head tilted, not understanding. "The I Ching?"

Jane rubs a little at the back of her neck. "But it shouldn't take long. I'm already — I'm becoming more and more acquainted with Zatanna's library. She's been feeding me books before she — well. Yeah. Mainly stuff on astral projection and travelling, the dimensional boundaries, going back and forth into limbo…" She blows out a deep breath that ruffles some of her dark hair. "So, yeah, this shouldn't take too long. Whatever I can do to help. So Red's found a power source? This doesn't have to do with the bad news, does it?"

—-

"Limbo!"

Jessica sits up straight. "Good. That's good stuff. No…the power source is just some dumbass mana charged medallion."

Jessica might have felt rueful about jumping straight to business. She's told it's a failing of hers. But in truth, that is how she is functioning right now. She is at her best when she's working, doing the one thing in her life that she's ever sure about: her ability to work a case.

"Limbo's important. They were there first. But…"

She swallows. Guilt suddenly crosses over her features, plain as day, making her look sick.

"They're most likely in Hell now. We finally got into this night club they disappeared into and got the 411. Nobody stays in Limbo and most doors out of limbo apparently lead to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory…or places so much like them as it makes no difference. And I believe the source when he says nobody goes to all this trouble to send someone to Heaven or Purgatory. So that's the bad news. The bad news is…They've been sent, bodily, into Hell. So all that you know about limbo and other dimensions, for all I know, is about 100% more useful than what I'm about to hand you."

She puts her coffee aside and wraps her arms around herself. "The source told us we were going to have to find the wizard that did it to them. He said it was African magic, or maybe Haitian. Voodoo shit. We're working that angle, but…"

She stands up, needing to pace around a bit, finally wandering into her room to withdraw the books. None of them look very savory, except for the photocopy. The medallion is on top: a cheap looking thing with the image of a bleeding eye on it. Jessica paces around a little more after setting them down on the table next to Jane. She crosses to close the window. 54 degrees, with a light drizzle today…too cold to leave that open for very long, especially dressed in sweats and a tank top. Goosebumps are popping out on her skin.

"And yeah, one of the first people we shook down was this contact of John's named Wong. Wong didn't do much more than cough up a prediction. I'll show it to you if you want. So far the markers seem to be good. He said it wasn't the only path to our answers, just the best one. He said they were sign posts. I have to go see Bucky later, I want to talk to him about one of them."

—-

That first, shouted word earns Jane's eyes, her shot-up eyebrows, her full, undivided attention. She's not so hair-trigger tense that she doesn't jump against Jessica's momentum, but she certainly stiffens straight up each bone of her back.

"They were in limbo?" she repeats, her voice not so much dubious — no time to be, not these days — as it is searching for meaning. Why go there? From what she's been reading, it's for the spiritually half-formed, those dead and lost for a way to either find true salvation or deserving of punishment: those whose souls are sent to some spiritual waiting room. Jane's first thought is that it must have been some sort of voluntary trip, though —

Jessica says otherwise.

She drops the bomb. And it's one hell of a bomb. The fallout bleaches and ashens Jane's expressive face, her eyes staring, her mouth left open, because she'd just heard that Zatanna and John were in HELL. Actual, literal, brimstone and fire and all nine rings of HELL. Sent there by some wizard. Trapped there, not just as doomed souls, but in their bodies too. They are trapped in Hell.

Her mouth shuts with a click of her teeth. Her eyes turn, slipping unfocused, because Jane can only think one thought. One thought she does not, cannot say allowed, but is still there, circling every god damned synapse in her head: John Constantine owns the literal keys to James Barnes' soul, and right now John Constantine IS IN HELL.

This is why she knew it was a bad idea.

Her fingers curl and tighten into her palms, unconsciously, furiously, until all Jane can do to ventilate out that emotion is to lean her face into her hand and rub over the lids to her closed eyes. Jesus fucking Christ.

"OK," she utters, voice a little strained, "I've mostly been focusing on the Astral Realm. I haven't been reading too much into Limbo, didn't seem relevant to what I — I'll read everything about it I can." Finally, Jane opens her eyes, and with them, follows Jessica as she retrieves the bulk of books from the other room. The scientist sits up somewhat more straight, drawn a bit from her quiet, inward fretting, and reaches to look at the cache for herself. She picks up the medallion first to eye it more closely, frowning, turning it in her hands. She thumbs through the books, and decides first on the photocopy, attention fracturing as she leafs through the pages.

"Does African mysticism even believe in Hell?" Jane asks, somewhat rhetorically, somewhat dry. She's no theologist. She doesn't even know what her own faith is these days, and especially now, after that fateful car ride shared with John Constantine.

Her attention, however, in the end, jumps back up onto Jessica when the woman mentions Bucky Barnes. Jane goes a little still, strained in the eyes, like someone who is girding herself for the worst. "Which one is that?"

—-

She hadn't meant to shout, but she'd been startled when Jane had basically said one of the 'magic words' of the entire clusterfuck. Afterward, Jessica watches as Jane has about the same reaction she did to the whole idea of people wandering around Hell, bodily. She just waits it out. She doubts this bomb will get easier with time.

'Does African mysticism even believe in Hell?'

"I have no freaking idea. I think Voodoo does, because half the loa are fused in with half the Catholic saints, but…beyond that…beats the hell out of me."

She asks about the reading. In answer, Jessica pulls a printout of the whole thing and slides it across the table grimly. She pours more coffee, while she's at it.

Several passages have been highlighted. She pauses to highlight another. "The highligted ones," Jessica says, "are the ones we've already knocked out.

Highlighted: "The raven must speak to the weeping whore in the ruins of the glittering ashes." he says.

Highlighted: "The robin must follow these signs: the broken clock, the windy vale, the woman in white."

Freshly highlighted: "The foster child must comb the fruits of the robin's labor for the opportunity within."

Unhighlighted: "The broken jewel must seek the god-fearing devil in the dark of the night."

Unhighlighted: "Venture not alone into the lair of the lost ones. The robin must fly with winter, the jewel must hold the sky serpent, and the devil must lead them, or the fanged children will take a life before you earn the answers you seek."

Unhighlighted: "Only the winter wind is fearsome enough to drive answers from the mouthpiece of midnight."

"The winter wind stuff. I think that's Bucky," Jessica explaisn quietly.

—-

Very deliberately and very emphatically, Jane finishes her cup of coffee. She swigs it back in the same sort of grace a seasoned alcoholic would a forty ouncer. Because she needs to drink something, anything, to get this taste out of her mouth.

The taste of Hell being real, and that Zatanna and John are IN IT RIGHT NOW.

Slid over the printout, she reaches over to take the paper in hand, and rearranging her tiny body to sit more comfortably crosslegged in her chair— an old habit from university days, her favourite thinking position for long nights of study— Jane reads it over. Her eyes absorb the text machine-quick. Fast as shit reader.

Some of the names strike familiar. Some not so much. She gives certain pause at 'foster child', lips slightly parted, before taking it in with a slight pinch of her dark eyes. Jane huffs a small sound; how true that is.

But she's a quick reader and she's a quick mind. She knows the winter wind is Bucky before Jessica even mentions it aloud.

It's there in Jane's face, a certain, lingering, tight-mouthed tension. Dislike, in a way, for those ephemeral words that seem to source from nothing and yet profess to know so much. And at the same time, something inside her wants to say: but it's not even /true/, because he's not that anymore, he never chose to be — he doesn't want to be a winter anything anymore. And now he has to drive answers from a what?

"This reads like one of those core English lit classes I had to take in undergrad," Jane murmurs, sliding the printout back to Jessica. She's got it memorized already.

After a beat, she clarifies: "I hate English lit."

She leans back, the bones of her back and shoulders slumping into her chair, one hand reached to smear some of her dark hair back from her face. Jane chews pensively, unhappily on her bottom lip. "But yeah, looks like it's meant to be him. He'll want to know about this. He'll… need to, fast. This was a prediction someone made? Seriously, weeping whore? I have a feeling that one's probably not on google maps."

A grumpy Jane is apparently a sarcastic one. She rubs restlessly at her opposite wrist. "Listen, if there's anything else you need me to do — if you think of anything. I'll try anything. In the meantime, I'll get reading. I'll see what Zatanna's books can tell me about Limbo. And —" A thought comes. She shifts slightly. "John knows about this. I, uh, shortly after meeting him. I dug around a bit. I managed to…" Ugh, even now it's still hard to say out loud. "I wrote a script, without really meaning to, that summoned a demon from Hell. James helped… with that. But keep in mind that there's probably more routes down there than solely chalk circles."

She exhales, and asides, maybe to herself, probably aloud to Jessica too, "I should probably tell Richard about this." Probably means Ritchie Simpson. "Or maybe not. He'll probably not take it well."

—-

"No. She was a dead ghost haunting a club called Abyss. And…yeah. I took issue with it too." Jessica is careful here…she's already been reprimanded for talking about one half of the couple rather than to them, and that had been done with the best of intentions. And yet it seems natural. They're together. And she has to offer some sort of reassurance, doesn't she? Shit. She really doesn't want to hurt either one of them. How the fuck does she deal with this?

As best she can, she supposes.

"Jane, I don't give a shit what the I Ching says, even if it's chock full of real magic. Nothing dictates shit to members of The Club, especially not fucking Chinese fortune tellers. If he doesn't want to be in that role, we'll find another way. And that's that. My back up plan, if Bucky takes a hard pass, is to see if I can't make this mouthpiece start talking by dangling his ass over the Brooklyn Bridge, which I think ought to make anyone shit his pants. But…I figured he should know. And make his own decision. That fucker said this was the easiest way. Not the only way."

She hopes that's not dancing on the line that's been drawn for her. Or stomping it into dust. Once again she finds herself in one of the weird, sticky situations that arises when one actually wants to have people in their lives, in which the words you say can be hurtful or problematic or spark fights, and in which she has no idea what to actually do other than just kind of plow ahead, full speed, and hope it works out for the best.

What else does Jessica need Jane to do? Hug her. Tell her it's going to be okay. But that seems an awkward thing to say. And right now everyone needs her to be…

Well, Jessica isn't sure what they need, but it at least feels like she ought to be acting as a steadying force. A rock. Calmly helping everyone navigate this awful shit, being in control, acting like it's any other investigation and she's got this, even though she feels like she's 'got' precisely dick all. Even though she's starting to feel the cracks inside herself, but…what happens if she indulges in her need to take her hands off the steering wheel, even for a moment? If she'd had her shit together in the first place, this just would not have happened. It's already too little too late.

Sixteen days dry. Her throat prickles insistently; the monkey on her back hisses that there's one way to stop feeling shit so she can do shit. For now, she ignores the demonic little asshole and resolutely grips her coffee cup.

"What we found out from the ghost was that Hell is a big place and it would take the wizard who cast the spell to create the trace, but…that doesn't mean you won't figure something out. As it is…you've got the problem and the parameters. I can't think of a better asset than your mind on this. You might see shit that needs to be done way better than I do. As for telling Dr. Simpson…up to you. I know John has him on some big data mining project for the problems he's been chasing. I also know he turns awfully fucking grumpy when the subject of John comes up. I suppose it depends on how much of a headache you wanna walk away with."

—-

That fierce, self-deterministic speech from Jessica earns Jane's full attention. She listens carefully, and those hot, angry words — gentle the look on her face. Her eyes soften. She looks as if she agrees entirely.

"He does need to know, and it has to be his decision," she concurs, stooping forward, elbows to her legs, hands twined. Jessica has that right, and Jane doesn't even have it in her to disagree. As much as she thinks it may hurt James to be prophecized by bullshit mysticism as a winter anything, to not know is even worse. Her eyes slant away, looking down at the floor for a moment. "And he won't," she adds, voice even more delicate. "Take a hard pass. He wouldn't do that." She doesn't know him for that long, but she knows him well enough to be sure. "He'll never do that."

At least in this case, there seems to be no hurt, no offence — no dancing on any line. Jane's weariness seems to rest with all the things that are /not/ concrete in this moment, all those hanging guillotine blades of Heaven and Hell, fate and prophecy. Forces beyond her immediate calculation and quantification, though if Jane has any say in it: it won't be for very long.

"As for that data mining project," she intones, "I'm in on that. John conscripted me a while back. Not that I've actually done much since… since everything." Jane exhales through her nose. "I'll think about telling Richard. I still need to… talk to him. Catch him up on… everything too. I figure that anyone sending anyone else off to hell, well — what is magic if not energy? Look for significant amounts of energy, give or take whatever the hell the resident capes were doing on a given day. Might be more than a few false positives, but if you can coordinate these sorts of things?"

Her lips quirk a bit on 'fucking grumpy' as a descriptor of Dr. Simpson. She'd not met someone as sweet and harmless and gentle as him in — some time. But he sure did get pretty rowdy when it came to John. John inspires it.

"But I'll get started on this. Zatanna, John, you… you didn't waste time on James and me. And I'm not going to waste time on them. We're going to get them back." And Jane seems to sound pretty earnest about that; a flicker of her deep, wellspring of faith. "If there's anything we can believe at the moment, it's that they're together. Zatanna knows magic and John knows Hell. And they know each other. It's not just going to be us looking for them. It's going to be them looking for us too."

Something hits her. "Oh, I'm reminded," Jane babbles up. "Um, not by Hell or anything. Or magic. Sorry, my thought process isn't exactly a perfect art."

She rises with that, sinking down to a kneebend to open her backpack and piece through its interior. Objects noisily rattle. With that, she pulls out a — something. It's certainly something, what looks like what once a smart phone, ripped apart, gutted, and Frankensteined back together into some sort of circuit-board monstrousity.

"I made something like this for James a while back. It came in handy for him a few times now." Jane rises back up, setting it down on the table. "I wanted you to have one too. Frequency scanner. It listens for signals being bounced off satellites. It's… really strong. Good for trackers. Good for knowing if someone's planted something on you, something's trailing you. You can even set a ringtone you like. Probably not all that helpful for Hell demons, but never know." She pauses a beat. "I've got more ideas too. For people. For you too. When we get this settled, get them back. We'll come back to it."

—-

"The spike would have happened…well…I can think of two possibilities. On the 12th, when we got attacked in a Chinatown alley while John was carrying a dragon pearl. And then on Valentine's when he gave it to Zatanna…she kissed it, made a wish, and it triggered what was apparently the trap. That might help." Jane's words give Jessica something to latch onto, at least, and she frowns, thinking about data and magic. Her ability to understand fails her after a moment, but…she gets that they're looking for patterns, and that the patterns could cough up actionable intel.

As to whether or not Bucky would take a hard pass, Jess only gives a rueful half-smile that says she had the same feeling. But it doesn't matter. Prediction of a choice does not preclude the making of a choice.

She decides not to spin out all her nightmare scenarios where John and Zee can't do jack shit because they're getting hot pokers rammed into various parts of their anatomy. She likes the image of them fighting their way back way better. "It would be just like them to get back before we manage to fix this," she grumbles. "And then look at us all like…" here she slips into what is actually a very good version of John's accent; she's had to do accents on the job before. "Whot? What were you worried about, luv? Hell's just another Tuesday."

She snorts, because in truth if that happened she would be too relieved to be annoyed. "Especially since it's taking me for-fucking ever to do my part, because I'm looking for needles in haystacks."

Jane digs in her backpack, though, taking her off that train of thought entirely. Her own fucking grumpy gaze (though of course it's not Jane she's grumpy at) transforms to one of curiosity, and then to one of wonderment.

The words: "You built me superhero gear!" slip out before she can even stop herself. It's full of almost childlike wonder and glee, one of those rare hints of a woman who could have been much…well. More innocent, softer, dorkier, had life not kicked her in the teeth good and hard. She looks embarrassed a split second after— really, who uses the word "superhero" after the age of ten? Jessica fucking Jones, apparently. But she can't even hold the embarrassment for long.

"How do I use it? How does it work? More ideas? That's … fucking boss!" Well, she has to slip a cuss in there that time, if only to cover for her dorky moment.

—-

"Dragon pearl?" she asks immediately, eyebrows knotted.

Yet quietly, intently absorbing those facts, that information, Jane takes in the story of the magicians' ill-fated Valentine's day—

—and some part of her wonders, seriously, what is so wrong with chocolate and flowers? Last time she heard, those lindt chocolates just make your jeans a bit tighter. They don't exactly damn your soul and physical body both to eternal hell.

She lets that dry, sardonic thought be her own armor against her own nightmare scenarios; god knows Jane's mind lately is wired to want to think them. She fights them back down. She refuses it. She doesn't want to imagine that for Zatanna, bubbly, bright-eyed Zatanna in her house, carrying every little gift her arms can manage because she she probably couldn't decide which so /made sure she took them all/, telling her harrowing, embarrassing stories of her past if just to make Jane laugh, looking at her— down into her, to try to allay her own babbling doubts whether she's offering any use to James amd his healing. And John, whom Jane's even been avoiding to see because she saw him there among her rescuer, and now she's afraid he'll look at her in pity, think her too weak or broken to possibly be of any help of him; whom she's supposed to be angry with for sealing James' soul but can't even find it in her heart to feel that way, because of Newcastle, because James must have asked and he couldn't tell him no. He sat in her car and weighed her and thought her worthy to learn the language of his world, and how a gift like that is precious to her, something she can only think of returning through a perfect faith that he will be saved, brought back, and not be broken through.

She tells herself they deserve more than just her own panicked thoughts. And Jane needs to keep her mind clear enough to do her part.

It helps her to take that aside and, reminded in an odd way, to bring Jessica a toy she's made.

Whatever response Jane was anticipating, it was surely not this. It doesn't startle her aloud, but she definitely goes quiet, flustering a little under the obvious attention. She looks away briefly, a smile twitching briefly up on her mouth, flattered and more than a little touched.

"It's not much," she qualifies, self-deprecating enough to think her strange equipment worthy of this sort of audience. Jane rubs feebly at the back of her neck. "It's just a phone grafted with a few sensors I designed. I made the cell too. You won't have to charge it for, uh," she checks her watch, "four hundred or so years."

She plays with the hem of her sleeve. "You'll learn fast that the things I make are a lot like me. So, uh, really type A. You don't have to use it so much as it uses itself. It stays on, and choose the alert you want, and it'll sound when it picks something up. It won't sound any more distinct that a phone bleeping at you. You'll get hits here and there while you're out, so don't freak if you hear anything. So consider more the where and when if you hear it. Or if the alert becomes consistent? It means something's up, and to check if anything is up. James and I just know you have people now, and we want you safe too. I hope it helps."

Jane offers up a shy smile. She shrugs a little non-ceremoniously at 'more ideas'. "Definitely. In the future. I… I don't want to say too much. I don't want to toss out things I may not be able to deliver. But there will be more, I promise."

—-

Jessica is glad for the distraction too. Her own memories are different. The way Zee just walked into her life and trusted her with something important, looking past who she was to who she could be. The way the girl was simultaneously innocent and wise beyond her years, and free with her affection, almost overflowing with it, till it was impossible not to respond. How John had brought her into the fold, offering something she had never actually had in her life.

Respect.

Later, friendship, novel enough.

Both of them providing reasons for her to be better than she was when they found her, swiftly building the foundation for her to create every other relationship in her life that she now values so very fiercely.

To think of either of those faces twisted in pain or fear…but in this, they are alike. They both need their minds clear, Jessica and Jane, because their minds are their best assets in this fight, the things which might just bring their friends safely home.

Jessica picks up the device and fiddles with it to set the warning ring tone; ultimately choosing Knock Me Down by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a song that more or less expresses where her mind just wandered off to. "Four hundred years? Holy shit. That's incredible."

"Thank you, Jane," she says, sincerely, setting it aside. She'll soon transfer it to her jacket, before heading off to work, keeping it with her at all times.

She's suddenly shy and bashful again herself, much like at the party. But…fuck it. She wants her hug. And now she's got a good opportunity to get one. She slides out of her chair and wraps her arms unabashedly about the other woman, grateful a moment has appeared where she doesn't have to be all lame and ask for one.

"You're incredible, Jane Foster," she says, and if her words are a little gruff it's only because she's suddenly a little emotional; she's got to speak against the sudden lump in her throat.

'You have people now.'

It had been just her and Trish against the world for so long. And then…just her.

But now…people. People, plural, who care about her. About her safety and well-being.

Having people is good.

Now…all she has to do is try to avoid letting them all down.

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