Punished Enough

April 28, 2017:

As Jessica Jones watches over Adelaide Weir's house she receives some unexpected communication from one very confused Juno Hart.

New York City & Berlin

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Red Robin, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica Jones has been watching an old woman read a novel for quite some time now. Perched on the rooftop above, she eats a pastrami sandwich which isn’t as good as Sal’s back home, but…which she has to admit is still pretty good. Adelaide Weir has shown zero signs of being anything other than the retiree she’s supposed to be. Not so much as a scent of occult dealings, or anything that might indicate anything untoward.

Really, it’s light duty work, light enough to almost make her feel guilty. Sure, it had to be done, but it doesn’t quite feel like she’s pulling her weight. Or maybe she’s only feeling guilty because she’s enjoying herself there on the roof, getting to feel as close to relaxed as she ever gets.

Her phone buzzes, breaking up the gentle monotony of the day; a text from Juno Hart.

—-

hi jessica how r u it's juno. do u know a man with a bird on his chest

—-

Yes, sweetie, he's my friend Red. What's up?

—-

oh good
be careful around him he will say lots of things to confuse u

—-

At that, Jess pauses.

What do you mean, honey?

—-

i saw him on a roof the other night and he talked a lot and he's kind of a butthead
i learned that from doctor cox

—-

Though she can't see it, Jessica snarfs a little bit.

He's a good person. He would die to defend you. But he does like to talk a lot. You can trust him, I promise. He did something really big to help me once.

—-

Somewhere in NYC, Juno makes a face.

he made me mess up!!!!!/

—-

Mess up how?

—-

he kept bothering me :frowning: i was trying to work
and he told me that i would be a bad person and so i missed
and he jumped off the roof and i did too and i hurt my leg

—-

The PI glances through the window below again. The white haired woman placidly sips her tea and turns the page.

This is not a conversation for text.

She sticks her earbud in her ear, just one, and dials. She keeps her voice low and quiet. She doubts anyone could have heard, especially since the house she was sitting on is empty.

When Juno picks up, Jessica takes a deep, gentle breath. "Honey, were you trying to kill someone that night?" She works to keep her tone judgment and emotion free. “And how's your leg now? Did you get medical attention?"

—-

Juno doesn't seem to be in particularly bad spirits. She's the same sort of vacantly cheerful as always. "I had a job to do and he messed it up. That man is still alive now, I think, but maybe he won't have his arm anymore." There's a shuffling noise. "I came home and Pearce wrapped my leg up. I'm mad at Red for that too, he jumped and I jumped but it was four stories!"

—-

"Red is pretty good at gliding," Jessica says absently. "If you're not equally good maybe don't building jump next time."

But building advice is the last thing on her mind. "What were your orders specifically?" she asks. She's picking her way so very carefully. She sounds like the concerned older sister, though of course…she's not 'a' sister. But at least television might have taught Juno what that kind of sounds like? "Is it okay to tell me?"

—-

Juno makes a face again, probably something like ‘_`a. "I didn’t think. I was afraid because he made me mess up and I keep making mistakes. He had a zipline! I don't have a zipline."

She takes a few long moments to consider what she should say. There's a difference between Bukiy and Bukiy's friends, isn't there? Just because Miss Elena approves of Bukiy doesn't mean that she would approve of Jessica. But Juno likes Jessica. Jessica has been kind to her. "Richard Tziminsky. Age 43. Supervisor of one of the trafficking rings that I'm hunting. Orders are kill on sight."

—-

Jessica is silent for a long moment. If Elena is reforming the girl, why is she sending her out to kill?

Carefully, carefully, carefully. She truly needs to meet with Elena, ask her some questions. For a moment Jessica considers asking the girl to put the woman on the line, but Elena doesn't know Jessica from Adam. So instead she chews on this for a long moment, and then asks, "What do you think the more important goal of your orders are? To kill Richard Tziminsky, or to stop the trafficking from happening?"

—-

Juno doesn't hesitate. "Killing Richard Tziminsky."

She continues after a moment; perhaps it's her way of trying to explain. As if she thinks Jessica would need more information, that she wouldn't automatically understand, even as 'a friend to the Winter Soldier'. "Because if I kill enough of them, there won't be any left."

—-

"Mmm," Jessica says noncommittally. That's probably the logic of people who make assassins in the first place. She struggles to find the right advice, but she has recently learned how important it is to ask more questions. "What did Ms. Elena say? Does she know?" The more she knows, maybe the less she'll misstep. She can't be this girl's therapist— Jess needs too much of that herself, and she's more than learned the folly of trying to play that role. But she can be a friend, and she can at least ask questions and listen.

—-

"Of course she knows," Juno replies easily. "She gave the order."

"Oh- she knows about my leg too," she thinks to add after a moment. "Is that what you meant? I told her with everything else after I got back. …Tell Red to leave me alone, okay? I don't like him! He kept talking and talking and I heard your voice, talking about your family, and I couldn't think and I missed my shot. And then he ruined my rifle with sticky stuff!!"

—-

"Shhh," Jessica soothes. "Shhh. It's going to be okay. Was Miss Elena mad? Did she say anything? It's going to be okay, Juno, I promise. I'm not in the country now but you know if you're ever scared or confused I'm always here for you, by phone or in person when I can be. I'm not out of the country often. It's going to be okay."

—-

She takes a few moments to think of the words she wants to say. "She… didn't look or sound angry. I don't understand.This isn't the first time I've made a mistake but I still haven't been corrected. I think… maybe they're saving it? Is that the right word?"

"Before it was every time and that was fine because I knew what to expect. If we made a mistake we were corrected and we learned not to make that mistake anymore. But now nobody corrects me and I keep doing the wrong things - even Winter Soldier was upset with me and made sad faces but he didn't do anything."

Juno counts five breaths and tries again, slower this time. "I… thank-you. I don't know a lot about how things work here. Like how I didn't expect anybody to find me on a roof. I'll ask if I need to, okay?"

—-

"Okay," Jessica says quietly. "Don't hang up yet though. Let me think this through."

And think she does. About what Bucky said, about what Elena is trying to do, and why Elena hasn't just revealed everything right away. And how damaging it might be, really, to have the world work a certain way— no matter how shitty that way was— and then to suddenly have all those safeties removed. How scary that might be. So what can Jessica do to give some reassurances?

"Sometimes," she says slowly, "Punishment actually makes it harder to learn. Maybe it is more important to Ms. Elena that you learn new things in new ways than it is even to see a target eliminated. Maybe she's not interested in punishing you. Maybe you've been punished enough."

—-

"Hmm? …Okay." Juno waits while Jessica gets her thoughts together. It doesn't hurt that she's propped up in her nice warm bed with a mug of tea on the bedside table. It's so nice that Juno might even forget, eventually, that something scary is looming over her.

She listens as Jessica puts forth a new theory. Punished enough…? She isn't completely sure she understands. "Miss Elena…" She says the name every time with something approaching fondness and reverence. "I don't know. …Was it like that for you? Was there somebody that wanted you to learn new things?"

—-

There's a thoughtful intake of breath. There are lots of ways that question can be interpreted. Some lead down dark avenues, ones that bring Jessica's mind back to certain 'punishments' herself, though even as her hand snakes up to rub, slowly, at the deep scar at the back of her ear, the only scar her altered physiology has ever left in place, she reminds herself that what she endured was nothing in the face of the abuse this child has gone through.

Normal parenthood? She was certainly grounded enough as a kid. Grounded. Great. She casts about for frames of reference, trying to cobble something together.

"When someone tried to hurt me to teach me what he wanted," she says, ever so slowly, "the only thing I ever learned was that I was afraid. Others have taught me with kindness, and I have wanted to learn. Miss Elena seems…to be your friend. Friends don't hurt each other. Maybe she doesn't want you to be afraid, but doesn't want to confuse you. Things have…always been a certain way for you. Too much change…it's scary. Maybe she just wants you to be happy. That's how it goes with friends. Friends want friends to be happy."

—-

Juno seems to be listening. 'He'? Not 'they'? Hrmm…

"I wanted to learn so that I wouldn't have to be afraid. If you're smart, if you learn fast, it barely hurts at all." Of course sometimes the training and the learning themselves hurt! But there's nothing to be done about that.

She takes a sip from her mug, holding the phone between her ear and shoulder. "Mm. Miss Elena is…" That chemical cocktail that makes her want to adore and obey washes across Juno's brain, leaving her happy and a little more relaxed. "I want to make her happy. She's so nice to me. It… makes sense that she would want to do things gently, right?" The concept isn't totally unfamiliar to her, but it's never been Juno that was part of the equation before. Is Miss Elena her friend…?

"Jessica," she begins again after a moment, "Who tried to teach you where it hurt?"

—-

Jessica doesn't answer right away, though the sharp intake of breath says she is still there.

In this case it's not so much sharing her story that gives her pause. Juno is a member of the Shitty Club in the worst way. Her answer alone demonstrated that much, making Jessica's heart ache for the teen. As with Jane, if sharing with her can help then Jessica is willing to do it, feels very little resistance over doing so. In this case, it's more a matter of knowing what is appropriate, what will actually help, what Juno can take, what will help her move forward in her own personal quest and what will just snag her up.

In the end, she decides…she really needs more time to think about that one. "A bad man," she says, gently. "Someday I'll tell you more. Not over the phone though." Not, too, while she's sitting on a rooftop watching the world's most boring woman through her window. Adelaide Weir may have been reading the same book for the past hour and a half, but that doesn't mean Jess won't eventually see something she needs to respond to.

Not, too, until she's had a chance to talk to Elena, to know her strategy, to understand how she is trying to accomplish all she's trying to accomplish.

—-

She hears something like a gasp. Did she say something wrong? Normal people do seem to have things they just don't talk about. Maybe Juno stumbled onto one of them…?

She may be expected to apologize. Jessica is quiet for a long moment, and Juno tries to figure out how to frame the words. But before she can, Juno gets an answer. Not a whole one, but it's something at least. A bad man… "Okay," she agrees simply.

What else is there — there had been something Juno wanted to tell Jessica, wasn't there?

"Oh!! I found that cat!" Jess will be able to hear the smug pride in her voice.

—-

"Did he bother you or hurt you again?" Jessica asks the question like an angry hawk mantling over a chick. If he went back on his word he will be tracked down again, and T'challa will be the least of his worries. She certainly doesn't seem angry at Juno for anything at all. Really, given who she is talking to a more reasonable question might be 'is the cat still alive', but that truly is not where her mind goes.

—-

"No," she tells Jessica, the mug making a quiet clunk as she puts it back on the nightstand. "He didn't want to come with me. He said he wasn't allowed to bother me, because you told him not to. So I told him to get in my backpack so I could show him to Bukiy- Winter Soldier. I said that wouldn't be bothering me."

Poor Bukiy. She'd made another mistake, and one involving his name, too. But he had implied she was still useful, which meant he couldn't have been that upset. "I showed him to Winter Soldier, but the cat recognized him. He called him Bukiy! He has a real name!" And then there had been a filmreel that floated in midair and some babbling about meeting that helpless-looking man, Steve Rogers, but Juno didn't pay too much attention to that.

—-

Bukiy? Jessica's lips compress into a bit of a smile. That's a cute take on the name. "You should call him Bucky. He likes Bucky better than he likes Winter Soldier," she says. "Because it is his real name."

Jessica tilts her head to one side. He has a real name. It occurs to her that Juno might not even be the child's name. "Is Juno the name you like? Or do you have a different one you like better?" At least they didn't call her like…The Phantom Menace or something. That would have sucked.

—-

"I thought maybe he would," Juno says slowly. "I wasn't sure though, and I didn't know if you knew his real name or not." She can't go blabbing the whole thing to people again, but Jessica has gone beyond 'people' status - she's already Bukiy's friend, after all, and now Juno's too.

Hmm hmm… It seems that names are an important thing, more than just how someone identifies themself. They have meaning to other people as well. Maybe it helps shape how other people see you - it would, wouldn't it! She had been surprised to find out that Bukiy was Bukiy, after all.

"I'm J-27, called Yuliya Jelen. But I picked Juno because I liked it." She thinks back to landing on American soil for the first time, and the sight of mountains covered in trees beyond a swath of buildings that were all different. "It's about a new beginning. It's where I came to America - in Alaska." Juno makes a face. "They spell it funny though. J-U-N-E-A-U. Shouldn't that be Juniow?"

—-

J-27. Jessica's heart breaks for the kid a little more. That is a number and a letter. Yuliya is a name though, and a pretty one. But she picked Juno, so Juno she'll stay. A new beginning. That's the perfect name for her really, isn't it? "Well, English is supposed to be a fairly ridiculous language. We borrowed from everyone else's and now it's all mixed up. The -E-A-U ending was French? I think? But you spelled it the way most of us would spell it too, for a name, so you've gone and gotten ahead of the game."

She thinks back, then, to what started this conversation…her good friend Red, with the bird on his chest, and how he convinced Juno to spare a life.

"Listen, about Red…I'll talk to him a bit about what happened, but I think he wants to be your friend, too. He believes very strongly in the sanctity of human life, that you don't always have to kill a man to stop a man. He wasn't trying to confuse you, or to get you hurt. If you'll forgive me being a little confusing too? Some people are just stupid punks. They can be stopped without being killed. Some of them…they even go to jail, are sorry, and decide to be better people. They get punished, and they move on. Sometimes even Bucky chooses to stop them that way, instead of dropping them with a bullet."

"And since even Bucky does it, maybe you're in the clear. With Ms. Elena. Maybe she's open to other ways of handling things, and might even want you to decide how you like handling things, in the future. Decide for yourself, that is."

—-

"English is weird," Juno agrees. "Speaking it isn't too hard, but lots of things aren't spelled like they sound! And the… thing… uh, syntax? Doesn't make sense all the time." She's still a few grades behind in reading it, but she's working on that one library book at a time.

She listens, and gives Jessica's words some thought. The older girl is becoming as much of a source of comfort and information as Bukiy is. She hadn't intended for that to happen, but Juno can't say she's unhappy about it either. "…Maybe," she relents. Maybe she should ask Pearce, and maybe she could even… ask Miss Elena herself. "Tell him not to bother me and maybe I'll be his friend. But… I'll think about it. Okay?"

—-

"I'll advise him to give you some space," Jessica promises gently. "I can't promise he will— he doesn't answer to me. But I'll talk to him."

She stops short of asking Juno not to slit his throat on principle…she has to trust the girl, and she has to trust that the strength of knowing that Red is her friend might keep him safe. And…well. Red can also take care of himself, come to think of it. He'll throw one of those things that gum up guns and do the leapy-thing he does, he'll give a lecture with too many big words in it and ultimately both of them will be fine.

And with that, she decides she's probably answered Juno's concerns as best she can, and has given her enough to think about, so she gently gets back off that subject in favor of asking the one question that's been burning at her for quite some time now, as this conversation has progressed. "Do you think I can meet Ms. Elena sometime, maybe after I get back from Germany?"

—-

As long as Jessica will ask him, Juno has really done all she can to warn Red away. She'll have to see how he acts the next time they meet - because there will almost certainly be a next time, she's learning - but maybe he'll take her and Jessica seriously?

If not, she can shoot him. That usually slows people down too.

"Miss Elena?" Juno is a little surprised. She shouldn't be, really, she supposes. Miss Elena is pretty great. "I don't know. I'll ask, though. Maybe!" Wouldn't that be nice? She'd like to sit at that table again and drink tea sweetened with jam. "Be careful, okay Jessica? Let's go out again when you get home!"

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