Integrity's Good

June 03, 2017:

Jessica Jones finally gets clearance to visit Bucky Barnes at the Raft.

The Raft

SHIELD's infamous prison for meta-criminals.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jane Foster, John Constantine, Steve Rogers, Peggy Carter, Trish Walker, Matt Murdock

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Checking in at the security checkpoint, this time with documents she needs to pass clearance.

This time two people follow her. The two in New York most likely to catch the story first. Ben Ulrich. Thembi Wallace. She keeps her head down as they pepper her with questions.

Thembi: "Who did the police arrest outside of Stark Towers yesterday? You were there, weren't you?"

"No comment."

She hands over the documents to the first SHIELD prison guard. He scans them. The reporters do the same. They don't know the extent of the documents they need to have. They're stopped.

Ulrich: "We heard rumors it was James Barnes. Like Captain America's Barnes. You went to see him today, didn't you?"

"No comment."

Thembi: "Who is his attorney?"

Ulrich: "What is he being accused of?"

Thembi: "How is he even alive?"

One Jessica Jones finally turns on her heel, fixing them both with her furious scowl from behind a barrier she's just passed. "Ben. Thembi. You know I wanted to be a reporter myself when I was a kid?"

They pause. They didn't know. The sudden shift in gears makes the print and TV reporters exchange glances.

"So I mean. I want you to know I respect you and what you're trying to accomplish when I do this."

A pause. A beat. She turns around. Walks away. Flips them both the finger. And gives her final statement.

"No fucking comment."

Then she's on the ferry. On the ferry, she bows her head and gets her emotions under control yet again. She let herself cry a little in front of Steve. She let herself cry a lot, alone in the car, on the drive down the coast, trying to excise the urge so it wouldn't trouble her again. Not again. It can't happen again. Especially not now. Especially not here.

She zips her leather jacket tightly around herself, her phone miles and miles behind her in a locker at the checkpoint. Which now means every worldly possession she has is basically behind her in a locker at the checkpoint. She stares down at the water, feeling men with guns eye her, ready to shoot her if she twitches. None of them trust her. She ignores them, and thinks about the fact that she never really manages to help anyone at all. She keeps trying. She keeps failing.

But this time she's not even trying to help. There is nothing she can do to make this better, not really. Do things that need to be done. Maybe. A little. But she can't make it better. So this time she won't try. This time she just wants to see her friend.

She has never been in a prison before. She stares stoneface around the little lobby they lead her into, with the little cubicles, with the thick bulletproof glass, and the red two way phones. Shivers with sudden claustrophobia as she feels the thing make its descent between the waves. Imagines them all drowning in here, imagines the bolts that hold this place together popping at the seams, blasted away by the relentless sea. Being able to see every moment of that clearly in her mind is just one of the side effects of the fun little mental health issues she gets to tackle every day. She banishes the image as best as she can. That can't help either…((we'd all just float up like dead, bloated super-fish))…

She takes her place at the seat the guard shows her. She waits for them to go get him. She waits for them to go get Bucky.

—-

Jessica doesn't have long to wait before the familiar and not-familiar form of James Barnes is escorted in to his seat on the other side of the bulletproof glass. His wrists are still shackled, though this time in chains instead of that heavy magnetic cuff — something was clearly done to his left arm to render it no more than an average prosthetic. His ankles are shackled similarly, forcing him to take smaller strides than he otherwise would.

He is accompanied by three guards: one on either side, one behind. One looks neutral, but the others wear expressions that approximate betrayal, disbelief, disgust, hate. Plenty of people grew up on stories of the Howling Commandos, and saw in Captain America and his men figures to be admired as peerless soldiers and bastions of America. Barnes himself had always been a popular figure in particular among special forces men, a sort of early patron saint of those who worked in the shadows, because he was one of the first to take such a role in combat and be accepted for it, long before covert and unconventional operations became a standard part of the military.

Few people, as a result, are prepared to hear that not only is James Buchanan Barnes not dead and martyred, but he's supposedly been a fucking traitor all this time. A turncoat Commie, a Red, a killer for the Soviets. A man who betrayed everything for which he once stood—

Bucky's heard plenty of it already, over the course of his stay in the Raft. From the other inmates and from guards alike. His expression already wears that jaded blank exhaustion that is the only way he has coped thus far.

The guards sit him down, and secure his shackles to the table before him. Just enough clearance to reach the phone, and no more. They leave him alone afterwards, at the least, something for which he looks wearily grateful.

He reaches, with difficulty, to pick up the phone. His blue eyes inspect her through the glass.

"You been crying?" he asks.

—-

Her eyes narrow in fury to see him chained up so. She sticks one hand literally under her ass as she picks up the phone. Literally under her ass so she can sit on it and avoid hitting something or someone. She sees the expressions of the guards, and she bares her teeth at them a little. They're the ones she'd like to hit. She hooks her legs around the back of the chair to keep her temper under control. She has never been terribly successful at it, controlling her temper, but for the second time in as many days, she manages.

Her anger can only make this worse.

The first thing she asks is if she's been crying. She won't lie to him, but neither will she burden him with her crap.

She forces herself to give him a smirk.

This is the one and only time she will ever make this joke. Seriously.

"I'm on the rag," she says lightly.

"And it's totally hayfever season." She doesn't get hayfever, and it's probably not.

"And some asshole guard on the ferry must not eat anything but onions, Jesus Christ. Just farting up enough onion blasts to screw up anyone's fucking eyes. Be careful, if they pick that asshole to guard a person in solitary I'm pretty sure cruel and unusual doesn't even begin to fucking cover it."

—-

Her anger doesn't escape him. Nor does it escape him, the specific targets of her anger. He smiles wearily, one of those 'it'll be all right, don't worry about me' smiles that people in trouble always seem to give.

The expression turns a little more genuine when she makes a joke of the fact she's been crying. At least she's still able to make jokes. "No solitary," he says. "Not yet. Not planning on provoking anything that'd make them put me in solitary, though I can't speak for the rest of the population."

He leans his head against the phone and the knuckles of the hand holding it, tired. "I do get my own cell, though. Reward for my good behavior, I guess. Though I dunno if they're keeping me apart from the general population for their good, or mine." He winces. "Probably both."

He is silent a few moments, before he asks, "Jane?"

—-

She listens to him, gripping the phone with white knuckles. He asks the question she knew he'd ask.

She hesitates, but she doesn't sugar coat it. "She was willing to go home, at least. I was afraid she'd try to sleep on the beach or something. She's…hanging in. She was on the porch sitting most of the night, but eventually she went in. I thought about picking her up, but if she's finally gotten to sleep I didn't want to disturb her."

Normally it would be creepy, telling someone you basically surveilled their girlfriend most of the night, but in this case…

"Nobody unusual or suspicious around your apartment. No funny cars, no unusual behavior or activity that I could see. Not even any reporters…yet."

She shrugs a little sheepishly. Some of what she was looking for, of course, might have easily slipped her surveillance. She's good, but she's not a freaking spy, not a member of an organization full of crazy spy-Nazis. But nobody kicked in Jane's door either.

—-

Bucky listens in silence as Jessica tells him about Jane — her state of mind, what she did, how long she was out on the porch. He knows the spot Jessica's talking about. Jane sat out where he usually sits to smoke.

The circumstances remove any potential for creepiness as far as Jessica keeping watch over Jane. Bucky seems neither surprised nor perturbed about it. Just relieved that someone was there, and primarily that no reporters have hassled Jane. Not yet. "…I worry about the effect on her," he eventually admits. "Not just the obvious. But I'm not the most popular person on the face of the earth right now, and I don't want that blowback hurting her when I'm not there."

He sighs. "The wards should help, at least." Thank God for John Constantine.

There is a moment where he is tempted to ask about Steve. It's an old, old impulse, nearly ninety years old, the impulse of someone who for a long time was the only one ever worrying if Steve Rogers was all right. But Steve's reached a point, now, where he doesn't need to be looked after 24/7, and besides there's Peggy as well. So he swallows the impulse and remains silent.

His gaze unfocuses. He's not looking at the glass, not at the phone, not even at Jessica. Whatever he's looking at is far away, decades ago, older even than the institution in which he is now imprisoned. "Woulda preferred not to be reintroduced to the world in this way, though I guess there was no helping it."

—-

She's no mindreader. She sees him stop for a moment and not say something, but she has no idea what it is. When she brings up Steve in a moment, it will be simply because she figures he wants to know. She hasn't checked on Peggy yet; she got voicemail when she tried to call, but the time will come.

But the first thing she answers is the other thing, simply because she doesn't know the road he walks inside his thoughts. She doesn't entirely know what to say to that, about preferring not to be introduced to the world that way, or the effect on Jane. "You got a friend in the media," she reminds him. "And Trish has friends in the media. The world will get to see more than one side of the story, at least. And there's no way you're not getting out on bail. You'll be able to be there for Jane yourself, soon."

And then she adds, "Went to see Steve. He says he intends to take care of Jane, and Peggy, too. He's got absolute faith in you." Well, and her, but she feels like that's a weird thing to add. Nor will she mention that he was so distracted that he got tagged a few times in a spar during which he should have easily just wiped the floor with her face.

—-

There's no way you're not getting out on bail, Jessica assures. Bucky looks a little more doubtful, his gaze lowering. "I dunno," he says. "You could put me in the dictionary next to 'hazard to the community.' Or 'flight risk.' Your kid Murdock is gonna have to be good to get that one through."

He frowns suddenly. "Where'd you find him, anyway? Blind lawyer is an interesting resource." He has no idea he's already met Matt Murdock, several times before.

He falls silent as Jessica assures that more than just one side of the story will be told. That Steve is all right, and will take care of everyone. He's got absolute faith in you, Jessica adds. Bucky smiles, a wan expression. "He always did," he says. "Always will. Even when I'm not worth it. The dumbass."

—-

"He kept me from going to jail a few months back." Jessica explains, not bothering to explain the whole saga of how they met, a saga which criss-crosses into dangerous territory when it comes to protecting Matt's identity as the Daredevil. Best to explain the legal connection.

"I tried to stop some asshole evil-cape and he did a lot of property damage, cops tried to pin that on me, tried to accuse me of assault with a deadly weapon— myself— tried to accuse me of theft even. We were there 20 minutes. 18 minutes of it was him listening to me freak out. 2 minutes of it was him taking them down and making them drop all the charges. Not exactly the same situation, but…I promise you, Bucky. He's good. He's better than good. And nothing this Archer prick does or says is going to rattle him."

She shrugs, knowing Matt seems a bit young, but also adds, "The other lawyer I might have called is a shark, but she likes to make shit up whole cloth. I don't think a lawyer whose primary skill is talking so much bullshit that everyone drowns in it is going to cut it here. I also figured you'd want the one with integrity."

—-

Brows raise as Jessica mentions Matt kept her from going to jail a while back. "I think I missed that one," he says, though he doesn't press for details and doesn't look like he needs any. It's over and done with now.

It's there in her face — she knows he's young, she knows that watching him work once isn't the same as knowing the full breadth of his skills or body of his work. But from what she has seen, he's good. He's composed. And while she does know another lawyer, she figured he'd want the one with integrity.

"Yeah. That's the right call. Integrity's good," he says. He's holding the phone with his right hand, his good hand. His left is flat on the table. He looks at the metal of it dully. None of the plates move like they usually would, the living articulation of the limb gone still and dead. Its power source has been cut off. It's no more than a prosthetic piece of metal sewn to his torso now.

"People looking at me, they don't know what to believe," he continues. "They thought one thing about me, and just learned that it's all lies. That for the past seventy years, I've been something else, in secret. More lies isn't what we need right now."

He closes his eyes. "Hey, Jess," he says presently. "Thanks."

—-

She follows his gaze down to the metal hand. Her eyes soften as he talks about people not knowing what to believe. She swallows, then says firmly, "Fuck people. Your people think you're pretty damned amazing, and your people are the ones that matter. Everyone else is just an asshole."

He thanks her. She swallows. For a moment she can't find anything to say. She just looks at him, as if she could somehow change his situation with sheer will. Change 70 years of situation with sheer will. Suddenly just put herself back in time to drag him out of the snow before anyone could take him.

But that's not how anything works. Nothing at all.

So she says, "Just…hang in there. Okay?"

Don't give up on yourself, she wants to say, but…that seems like one set of words too many.

—-

Your people are the ones that matter, and they think you're amazing, Jessica insists angrily. Bucky smiles wanly. "Appreciate the vote of confidence," he says. "It's all those other people who might be the ones to get me executed, though, sadly."

He thanks her, and there's just no way to say that kind of thing without an implication of… finality. A sense of 'in case I don't make it.' Jessica doesn't miss that, and the way she looks at him makes him regret saying anything at all. He averts his eyes. The last thing he wanted was to upset or scare her.

Even here, he's trying to be the strong party.

She asks him to just hang in there. He can hear her actual implication in the silence after her remark. "Not gonna just lie down and let it happen," he promises, and he looks like he means it, though there's a haunted quality to his eyes. The haunted kind of look he gets whenever he tries to believe he deserves to be happy, to be free… and then the screams rise up out of the back of his mind to cloud all those hopes back down.

—-

He says he won't just lie down and let it happen.

"Of course you won't, because you're a badass," Jessica says softly. She sees him try to be strong for her. She doesn't try to stop him from being the strong party, but she's determined to try to be strong too. She wishes she didn't so easily broadcast her emotions to him, but hiding such things from a veteran spy is just an exercise in futility, unless she chooses not to feel at all. She'd have to be drunk for that, and that? He can't afford.

She keeps her hand on the glass and decides to say the only thing she can say now, because he always wants to know that he's taken care of the people around him. She casts for something appropriate to say to reassure him. She has to say it before they tell her time is up, before they drag her out of here. She has to take the only burden off his shoulders that she can. The burden of herself. And her emotions. And her reactions. When that is the last bullshit he should be focusing on.

"Hey. Buck," she says quietly. "I won't be out here freaking out. I'll be out here chopping wood. Okay? I promise. Keep your energy on you and Jane, cause that's all I'm doing. Just chopping away."

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