Chopping Wood

March 04, 2017:

Jessica Jones awakens into the aftermath of the Hell's Viper attack, and comes to several important decisions.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NY

A place with food in the fridge. Seriously!


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jane Foster, Bucky Barnes, Azalea Kingston, Silk, Red Robin, Elinor Ravensdale, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

A raging headache awoke Jess from sleep, and for one dark moment she thought she’d gone and gotten drunk again, had blacked out again. Then, memory came rushing back to her.

A shudder of revulsion took her in an instant.

Her whole body hurt too. That wasn’t right…the psychic couldn’t have done that much damage, and those kids sure hadn’t. After a moment she recognized it as just…emotional exhaustion, a shitty feeling.

There’s wood to chop.

The thought came out of nowhere, but…it propelled her into the bathroom. The girls were both out, though she could see the signs in the sink that they’d been there and eating since the mission, which meant they were alive and well.

She was glad they were out…they might have, she supposed, had an impulse to make sure she wasn’t alone when she woke up, but that actually would have made her feel worse than she already did. She stripped off her filthy clothes and ran the shower water as hot as she could stand it, which meant she didn’t even really bother to switch on the cold.

She sat on the floor of her shower, scrubbing her entire body from head to toe, until the vanilla soap and shampoo she favored was all she could smell, until the faint hint of dried blood and rust was out of her nose. Then she thumped her head against the back of the shower wall and closed her eyes.

It happened again. Someone tried to take my mind again. Everybody who was there knows what happened to me, now, too. Not all of it, not even the worst of it, but they knew.

The thought churned through her stomach, a source of shame. They not only knew, but they’d seen her break down, seen her cry, seen her plead, seen her weakness. It twisted in her stomach, begging for booze or at least a cigarette to blunt the feelings, and it did this until another thought came to her.

So. The fuck. What?

Everyone had seen the aftermath of Jane’s torture. Everyone knew all about what had happened to Jane and Bucky. They didn’t wallow in it. Nobody thought less of them. She sure as Hell didn’t. And if someone thought less of her that maybe made them kind of an asshole.

Should she think less of herself? Well, that would be dumb. If she thought less of herself, that would be holding herself to a different standard that she held two of the people in this world who she admired and loved, and that was stupid.

A memory of Constantine’s voice. ‘You don’t have anything to prove to me. You survived, didn’t you, Jones?’

I sure did. I fought it right off till I got the help I fucking needed. Not everyone can do that.

Her inner demons tried again.

You also really sucked out there last night. You damn near got shot. Bucky had to rush in and save your ass. Everyone had to leap to defend you like you were incompetent. You don’t even belong on a roster with the rest of that team.

Guilt, embarrassment, shame…they all washed over her in a rush, and for a long moment these dark emotions were all she was aware of.

And then…

No. So the fuck -what-?

She frowned at the wall of the shower, thinking it through. What of it? She’d leapt in to save the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen too, hadn’t she? It happened sometimes. Did she think less of him? No. And so what if people had dropped in to help her? Didn’t that just mean…

Well it means you have friends, dumbass. People who give a shit what happens to you. That’s pretty damned awesome don’t you think?

She had no right to detract from the mission by screwing up so people had to protect her.

You don’t have to though.

The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, firmly. ‘You don’t have to have a right to ask for help.’

And someone out there had to be the worst at the job, didn’t it make sense that it was her? She’d still been there, she’d put her life on the line, she’d contributed.

It wasn’t like she was powerless in the face of needing to improve. She could figure out how to do better. She could decide to be better every damned day if she wanted to. She just needed to learn some things. She could keep learning. Everyone had to start somewhere.

Well if you hadn’t spent your twenties completely wasting your life…

Jessica snorted. That hit didn’t much land at all. It was a last ditch attempt by something inside her to try to pull her down. Lots of people fuck around, work dead end jobs, watch lots of television and have no social life in their twenties. Some people don’t, they do great things with their life and good for them. But a lot of people do. Having powers doesn’t make me better than them, and some people don’t get their shit together till they’re fifty so whatever. I’m doing it now, aren’t I? That’s what matters.

Bucky’s voice, when she asked him how he handled everything with such grace. ‘Practice. Patience, and awareness that what must be done, must be done.’

She stood up and turned off the water. “Pity party over, Jones,” she said firmly. “There’s work to do yet. John and Zee aren’t back yet. Figure out what must be done, and stop fucking agonizing.”

She got dressed. She took her little white pill. She pulled out her phone and checked the news. The police had picked up the Vipers and found all their drugs so…probably mission success. What needed to be done?

She spent a moment finding Jane a stupid science meme and texted it to her. Texting those dumb memes was her way of letting the scientist and the soldier know she was thinking about them, that she cared about them, that she hoped they laughed today.

She texted Red: I’m up, I’m fine, was anyone badly hurt?

She didn’t have a number for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, he’d called her from an Unknown Number. She’d just have to thank him again when she saw him next.

She realized that Matt might want a better update on the witch that had saved him. She contemplated, pretty sure his phone had voice-text capabilities that would read out whatever she sent to him. She didn’t have to go crazy with Braille labels if she wasn’t sending him a box of stuff.

Her fingers hovered over the keys, hesitantly, before finally tapping out the message. It was just a courtesy text. She wasn’t being creepy. He’d want to know.

We don’t have Zatanna yet, but she’s definitely alive, and we’re making progress. Seemed right to let you know. -JJ

She was surprised to find that other than her anxiety for how she was coming across and whether or not she was doing or saying anything that might burden him with the depth of her emotions, she no longer felt even a pang of hurt over his lack of availability.

She still had feelings for him, deep feelings…You’re still in love with him, you mean…idiot… but…she found she could live with that now. It didn’t matter what he did. She could feel how she felt and he could feel how he felt and that was okay. She could pull off this just friends thing.

She was embarrassed, again, now that she thought about it for the first time in days (what had made her think about it anyway? Such a non-sequitor really)…that she’d let the whole stupid thing hit her so hard in the first place.

That’s kind of been your problem, hasn’t it? You’ve been letting everything that happens hit you hard, pretty much, indiscriminately, because you don’t like feeling shit to begin with. It’s all well and good to do the fall down seven, get up eight thing, but if you let everything hit you equally hard then you’re not going to have any damn energy for anything.

True enough. The inner demon tried another stab of making her feel like shit over that though, and she shoved that aside too.

There was wood to chop. And…

Maybe it was okay to not be perfect, to not handle every fucking thing perfectly. She’d never felt like that before, she’d been caught off guard by her own feelings and by the sudden wall she’d hit, whatever. She’d acted like a stupid teen, fine. Maybe sometimes even adults acted like dumbass teens. Was she really going to spend the next six months hating herself because she’d fled the scene, let a few tears fall, and let him know that it was more than a casual attraction all in one blow?

No. Fuck that.

That was an invitation to madness. It was an invitation to making sure she could never interact with him in a comfortable way, to being his friend as she’d said, and meant, that she wanted to be. She had to let that go. Someday it wouldn’t feel so awkward, be so awkward. Holding on to it was probably what was making her act like an idiot around him.

And…it was time to put that aside, because there was work to do, even if it was just…the emotional work of seeing to all the other people she cared about.

She could swing by Elinor’s later, with a gift or something. She hadn’t even known John and Zee and she’d stepped right up. She did that, just stepped up. Jess admired it. She needed to make more of an effort to be a better friend to the strange ectomancer.

Her fingers hovered over the keys again as she contemplated what to text one Bucky Barnes, the man who she’d set out to help only to find that he’d helped her 1,000 times more at every turn.

Thanks for watching over me last night. I’m up, I’m fine, ready to chop wood and fix fences.

He’d know what that meant, she knew. She thought about the next part…couldn’t exactly talk about kidnapping and interrogation on a legal record like a text. But…she imagined that he had whomever was responsible for hiring those kids in pretty dire straits right now, probably holed up somewhere. What could she offer that wasn’t an intrusion into what might be a really sensitive time for him?

The same things as ever. No memes, today, but simple things. If you need me to drop off coffee or food wherever you are, let me know. She could think of other support he might need— someone to stand guard for a few hours if this person proved hard to break, so he could go home and shower and shave and nap for example— but that she’d tell him that in person. She had a feeling he wouldn’t turn down an offer of food.

She put the phone down. Her stomach rumbled and she opened the fridge. A wall of ingredients stared back at her, nothing resolving itself into a sensible meal…

She could choose to get better every day.

“You know what’s stupid? Ordering out when you have groceries,” she said aloud. “Jarvis.” It wasn’t the real Stark JARVIS of course, but she’d kept the default virtual assistant on the phone Tony had given her. “Why do I keep burning eggs?”

The virtual assistant whirred to life and provided an answer. “Madame, I suspect you are turning the heat up far too high.”

“Oh. Well. That’s simple.” Answers were everywhere, weren’t they? All she had to do was look. She was smart. She could figure out how to do some simple shit in this kitchen.

She put on coffee.

She flipped the knob on the stove to medium-low instead of high.

She melted butter in a skillet. And she cooked and ate her first successful scrambled egg.

She had wood to chop. Bucky had taught her that. And she couldn’t do that on an empty stomach.

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