Anger is Magic

June 17, 2017:

Juno Hart and Jessica Jones embark on a mission to make testifying an attractive option for one Peter Smirnov, former Kindergarten and Project Wolf Spider trainer. The mission itself barely phases Juno…but the aftermath creates some new realizations in the mind of the recovering assassin all the same.

New York City, NY


NPCs: Peter Smirnov

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Grymalkin, Matt Murdock, Red Robin

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Jessica Jones spent a long night after talking to Grymalkin, running surveillance on the target.

And thinking. Thinking about how best to talk to Juno Hart about this mission in a way that helped her, not hurt her.

Her internal sense of right and wrong demanded that she tell Juno everything, lay down precisely why this was important to her. Explain that this man had hurt her. That she was not a doll. That she was a person, god damn it, and she deserved…everything. Parents who cared about her. Happy Meals at an age where one could actually really appreciate the toys. The chance to cut out paper sheep out of construction paper with fat-handled scissors. Warm blankets. Friends. Crushes. Homework.

Well, okay, so her view of what Juno should have gotten is a fairly American picture.

Eventually, though, one Jessica Jones realized it would be too much, too fast. Remembered what she had been told. Recognized that ultimately, this attempt to 'fix' might well break.

It doesn't mean there's not progress of a sort to be had here. It's still a chance to demonstrate a different kind of protection, a good and useful mission without bloodshed. It's still a singificant choice that she can offer to the young woman, not young girl, whom Jessica has tried to take under her own broken and imperfect wing.

Round about lunchtime, a text. Wanna come over to Alias? Have a sandwhich? Have a question for you.

Jessica's text receives a reply shortly after. OK! :) Be there soon. Juno pockets her phone, checks to make sure there isn't a trollish cat hiding in her backpack (it's unlikely but she doesn't want to take a chance), and heads out to Jessica's apartment-slash-business. She isn't terribly sure what kind of question can't be asked over the phone, but there will be a sandwich involved, which is plenty of incentive to ask no questions.

Juno arrives at Jessica's place about an hour after her text goes out, backpack hitched up on her shoulders. She knocks once and enters. "Hellloooo! Jessica?"

They're good sandwiches too. An array of options from Sal Sarino's Deli, (not to be confused with Slick Sal Devonry's Used Car Lot). The knock is refreshing, and met with a tired smile. It won't be hard to find her. The desk, the sandwiches, the woman sitting there…all pretty visible from the door.

"Come on in, Juno."

This is, of course, Juno's first look at Jessica's space. It's mostly clean, though the blankets and pillows that say someone is sleeping on the couch are still slung carelessly about. Her punching bag swings a bit too, as if she's been at it for a little while, though maybe only in passing because she's dressed in jeans and a t-shirt. The shades are drawn, making the room almost black against the drizzle that follows. Mindful of the sudden gloom, Jessica switches on one of the mounted wall lights.

She indicates the sandwiches and pushes a soda across the table. "Sit down and help yourself," she says.

She suddenly doubts herself. What if she's just using this kid? Who can't possibly understand the ramifications of her decisions? What if she is the biggest piece of shit on the planet? She should just have sandwich funtimes with Juno and send her home…

"If I told you I had a mission I'd like you to run with me, a mission a little different from all the others you've ever done, would you be interested in hearing more?"

In the end, Jess talks to her in an uncharacteristic way. Like she's another adult, and not like the goofy little sister who likes plushies and chicken nuggets.

"Oh! You're right there." This isn't really what she had expected, though come to think of it Juno hadn't expected anything in particular, really. She closes the door behind herself, looking around with undisguised curiosity. Does someone sleep here? There are all those blankets and pillows and things.

But more importantly, there's Jessica, and there are the promised sandwiches.

Juno has a seat across from the detective and cracks open the soda can. "A mission?" Of course, her interest is automatically piqued. "Of course! I want to go on one with you. It'd be fun!" Although she can't really… imagine Jessica doing the sort of things that Juno usually does. "What kind is it, then?"

Jessica gives one of those sad, tired smiles she often gives in Juno's presence, but it's got undisguised warmth. She brings out a photograph.

"You might recognize this dude. Peter Smirnov. He was one of the trainers at your Kindergarten. At the moment, he's my enemy, and Bucky's, and yours if you accept the mission. But we're not going to kill him. We've got to handle this a different way."

She herself leaves the food mostly untouched, though she sips at the soda and occasionally picks away at the bread to stick some of into her mouth. When she has got to heal major injuries she's ravenous, packing away an inordinate amount of calories to account for what's being burned by rapid regeneration. And her metabolism is certainly well above average at other times, but her mood is such that she can't summon up much appetite.

"In fact, we can't even hurt him, not physically. If we put so much as a mark on him, lay hands on him at all? We're going to spoil him for what Bucky will need out of him."

She waits, then, to see how Juno Hart will process that much.

In contrast, Juno is able to eat just fine. Then again, she surely doesn't understand the things that keep Jessica awake at night… that make her question her own morality. The girl unwraps a tuna sandwich, sniffs it, opens it to check for tomatoes because tomatoes are great, and takes a bite. Homf.

Mouth full, she looks up at the rustle of Jessica producing the photo. Recognition crosses her face, the sort that you'd expect from someone spotting a former acquaintance or coworker, not an architect of someone's ruined life. She swallows. "Oh, Teacher! I remember him."

Juno doesn't elaborate further. Just eats her sandwich and gazes easily at the picture of one of the men who ruined her.

It feels like years since she last saw him. What had they been doing then…? One of the scars on her left leg itches, but Juno doesn't assign any particular meaning to it. She looks up at Jessica instead, blue eyes wide and curious. "But if he's your enemy, and Bukiy's, then…" Ah.

They need him alive and unharmed. Juno may not be particularly suited to that task, but she is capable of it. "Ohh. I see. What will we do with him, then?"

Juno simply calling the man 'Teacher' sets Jessica's blood to boiling. For one red-hazed moment, she forgets that this is a potential life-saving witness for James Buchanan Barnes. Forgets the parts of herself who wants to use words and non-lethal means to resolve problems. The darker side of her heart speaks, the one that says this man is a monster. He needs slaying. She needs to walk up. Break every bone in his body until he pisses himself and cries. Bend down and tell him exactly the crimes he is dying for, for the little girl he hurt, and hurt, and hurt again…

She takes a deep, shuddering breath, and banishes the image, but cold sweat runs down the back of her neck. Because even now, she wants to. She wants to murder that motherfucker. She'd managed to stay objective.

Until that moment.

Instead she says, "We need to scare him very badly," she says. "He needs to be afraid of you, Juno. He needs to think you are there to hurt him, to kill him…"

End him, end him, end him, END HIM.

Another deep, slow breath.

"You need to be really creepy. Like…just sort of show up behind him as he walks down the street. Or sit in the back of the class he is teaching, then slip out when he is forced to look away. Show up at his window, then disappear. Be like a ghost from his past, playing with him, toying with him. Make him think you are there to punish him. And then? When he is reeking of his own fear, when he's looking at his shoulder at every step, when he is fumbling for a weapon, I want you to just step out and say something that freaks him right out. And then? I'm going to come and call you off. I want him to think I'm the only thing between him and the ugliest, most painful death imaginable. I want him ready to do anything, to promise anything, if I will only protect him from you."

Jesus. As she speaks this plan Jessica Jones realizes this thing is not exactly air and light and My Little Pony either, unless the pony's name is Psycho Sparkle. Psycho Sparkle, the unicorn with the big dripping knife on her ass.

But she asks the question anyway.

"Think you can do that?"

'Teacher' should have a good connotation. Someone who wants you to succeed, to become the best person that you can be, someone who wants to watch you grow. Certainly, in a way, even Peter Smirnov might have technically fit that role…

Juno's head tilts fractionally to the side. Jessica is upset. Why?

Well, it can't be that important, right? Otherwise, Jessica would explain it to her.

"Oh!" Juno nods suddenly, mouth curving into a bright smile. "Yes, I can do that." There hadn't been very many lessons on that particular brand of terrorizing, but Juno has seen advertisements for scary movies. These seem like excellent study materials! And, to be fair, a lot of what she's been told seems to be pretty obvious.

"This is a strange mission," Juno reflects, crossing her legs and looking up at the ceiling. "But it sounds like fun! Being a ghost, right?" She's already got that part down! Nodding once, the assassin fixes Jessica with a happy, conspiratorial smile. "Yes, I want to!"

"It's because he has information that Bucky needs him to share with the court. To be clear, Bucky did not order this mission. This is my mission that I set for myself and that I can't do without you," Jess says solemnly. She might not explain everything to Juno, much as she maybe should, but…she tries very hard not to out and out lie, either. She didn't even lie when she said Bucky wanted to be on trial, though that was perhaps a shading of the truth that has some moral problems all of its own.

Someday, Juno will know why she's angry and sad. But she sees the confusion. Sees it…and shoves it down. Now. Is not. The time.

"I'm glad you want to help," she says sincerely instead. "I've done some digging, I've got his schedule and a lot of information."

She passes over a Bluetooth headset that will keep them both connected. "I'll be watching. I'll tell you when to start the final showdown so I can come in and finish it."

If Juno has any misgivings about the mission not being handed down from Bucky, she doesn't show them. There's just that expression of an endlessly polite sort of interest, even though she says she wants to help. She takes the Bluetooth and automatically checks it out - not that she thinks Jessica would ever give her bad gear, but because a single malfunction can mean death. Even worse, it can mean failure. "Okay," she grins, and reaches for the other half of her sandwich.

In theory, there are countless things that the human brain is conditioned to find threatening. Juno knows a number of them, but it's important to do an impeccable job this time - after all, it's a mission from Jessica, to help Bukiy.

To that end, she researched.

Oliver Pearce has never ordered so many horror/suspense films in his life. His Netflix queue may never recover…

First contact was simple. She stalked him through the city, waiting for him to enter a crosswalk… and ran past him from behind, nearly close enough to touch, disappearing ahead of him into the rush of humanity.

Two days later she leaned out of a wall to tap his shoulder, vanishing back into its depths at just the right moment for Smirnov to glimpse something dark sinking into the plaster.

Again and again she found ways to tug him just out of a spy's notoriously narrow comfort zone. Knowing the methods he would likely use to target her, she managed to stay a step ahead of him (though she did nearly walk into an electrified wire and was grateful that nobody saw her do it). There was no room for error — Bukiy was somehow depending on this, and Juno really would rather die than disappoint him.

Which brings Juno to the present - Smirnov cornered, Juno bleeding from a few places, his gun empty, and a cordless drill in her right hand. The bit is unusually wide.

"Teacher," Juno smiles down at him, eyes bright in the darkness. "Am I still your favorite?"

Jessica Jones had stayed with Juno the whole time. She's pretty good at shadowing. Not assassin good. Juno would have been able to spot her here and there, though she'd have had to look on a lot of rooftops. But good. She could stand to get better, given the calibre of people she's involved herself with lately.

She spent the time monitoring Smirnov. His reactions. His precautions. She was able to report to her partner the precise moment when his horror was at his highest.

Then Smirnov does something Jess doesn't expect, but really should have thought about. He shoots Juno. Nowhere fatal. The girl's phasing powers, which Jess gets ample time to observe, save her. But that doesn't stop a concerned yelp through the bluetooth. "Jesus. Fuck! Are you okay?"

Despite the urgency of the words, she also hears the creeper act. "Cordless drill, nice touch. I'm coming in right now."

She comes in dramatically. The showdown is right in the heart of Smirnov's perceived power. His very nice little townhome in the academic neighborhood, a place where everything is pretty and gentrified and expensive as fuck. Jones breaks the lock on the door and slams it open hard enough to rebound off the opposite wall.

It's her job to be exactly who she is. Juno's friend, who can maybe talk her down. "Juno, stop!"

She might have tried to think of something a bit better to say, but she's a little distracted by the fact that her friend is bleeding. Concern for the injury, but also a whole lot of:

Sure, Jess. You're pissed off at her teacher for hurting her, then go and get her hurt.

Still, she does a good job of looking like an imposing shadow, an unknown figure, one who might be a benefactor and who might be something else entirely. She turns to Smirnov, darkness in her eyes.

"She listens to me now, because I'm her only friend, you sick son of a bitch." At least she can deliver a little honesty here. "But I know who you are. And I know what you've done. If you want to live, if you want me to take her out of here and keep her off of you, you're going to listen really closely. I'm going to tell you exactly what you are going to have to do to purchase back your own life. Because the moment I tell her I don't care whether you live or die? You lose your protection. And the moment you deviate from my instructions, even a little…she'll come for you. I'm here to offer you redemption. I hope you're smart enough to take it."

The cowering man is definitely smart enough to take it, caught in a state of animal-fear as he is. Juno has done her job well. And as soon as Jessica is done obtaining his agreement, done making him understand that she is watching him now, his every move, done making it clear that if he flees, he will be found…done making it very clear that he's going to show up at Nelson and Murdock to tell his tale within the next hour, she whisks them out of there…very intent on figuring out where Juno has been wounded, and fussing over it.

"Where are you hurt? Where did he get you? My god, I'm so sorry."

They make a pretty functional team, all things considered. Jessica can observe things that Juno doesn't necessarily recognize and guide her through the subtler parts of scaring the pants off of a grown man.

Her usual expression of vacant cheer serves her well here, the utter lack of true inflection a better disguise for her thoughts than any mask. Her finger tightens on the switch as she steps forward…

…and Jessica Jones arrives just in time to save poor, terrified Peter Smirnov. It's easy to stand down when she knows she's supposed to.

Still, she keeps her gaze on Smirnov, even when she wanders away from him to wait at Jessica's side. …her only friend, huh…?

Later, she blinks at Jessica when the older girl begins to fuss over her. "Huh?"

She looks down. Oh, because of the blood. Juno tugs her shirt off over her head, ruffling her ponytail. She has two ugly holes in her abdomen, but they're shallow. Another dribbles red down her upper arm. More damningly…

The scars on her torso aren't like the ones so prominent on her arms and legs. These… these are too neat and tidy. Too symmetrical.

A series of short incisions in rows beneath her collarbones. Lines that curve over her shoulders. And a horizontal line just underneath her navel, three inches long.

"See?" Juno beams. "I'm fine!"

And Jessica wishes that she didn't have to leave this man to be a witness.

She presses one hand hard on Juno's bullet wounds, one hard on her back. Tears prick at her eyes, roll down her cheeks, both for the current damage done, and the old.

Back at Alias now, having watched the man all but run to the Hell's Kitchen lawyer's offices, Jessica Jones wishes she'd attended to this a little faster, too. She realizes they're shallow soon enough, but grabs the first aid kit. "I'm told my stitching is a little ham fisted," she says, apologetically. She sniffles, and she starts dousing the girl's wounds with a heavy duty local anesthetic. Not so bad she'll need to go to the hospital. They look about like Red's did, the night they stole a corpse together.

"I didn't think he'd shoot you. I should have thought about that. I am so sorry."

The tears stream down her face in a mess of mascara. She should have killed him.

She grabs a lighter, uses it to sterilize a needle. "Just sit tight, okay? I'll get you sewn up."

She doesn't make a sound when Jessica puts pressure on the wounds. Juno just breathes, deep and slow and easy, because of course she knows what to do when she has been shot. "It's okay. It happens sometimes. I ghosted before they could hit any internal organs or major blood vessels." But Jessica doesn't look any happier.

"Hey," she speaks up after a few moments, a faint frown tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Why are you crying? The mission was successful!" Juno looks down. She isn't even badly hurt. Maybe it's because Jess doesn't like to do stitches? Or even, really… just because Juno was hurt. Can that really be it? Something so simple?

She watches the detective sterilize a needle over a flame. "If you don't want to do stitches, you can cauterize a wound closed with something hot enough," Juno notes cheerfully. Maybe this will help! "Or I can do them if you don't want to!" The steady burn of the wounds is already fading away thanks to the anesthetic, so Juno can't sew herself up by feel, but if it would make Jessica feel better… "Hey… don't cry, okay?"

"I'm crying because I got you shot," Jessica says, sniffling back tears. "I should never have brought you into this. And just look at what they've done to you. No, sweetheart, I'm not going to cauterize it, and I'm not going to make you do your own. Cauterization hurts, I'm not going to do that to you. I'll stop crying in a minute, I promise."

She can see for herself it's distressing the girl. She threads the needle, gulps back some tears, not even ashamed at her own weeping today, and says, "Hold on tight to the chair, okay?"

The kiddo is probably just going to laugh at her for that. Hell, Red kept right on working while Jessica stitched him.

But she kneels down, cleans off the wound a little more with some rubbing alcohol — was she supposed to do that before anesthetic? Well, whatever, alcohol stings, takes a deep breath, and starts to sew.

"I'll be done in a second. I'm glad you ghosted. You're great at what you do. You were great, Juno, so great. I was just so stupid, I can't believe how stupid I was. Of course someone like that would have a gun, of course that would be his first fucking thought, fuck him, I swear to god if Matt doesn't tell me he is a perfect fucking witness I'm going to…"

Well of course cauterization hurts, but it's fast! It does a pretty good job and everything. If you don't have a lot of time, it's perfect.

She looks down at Jessica quietly, but obligingly curls her fingers around the edge of the seat. "If you're sure," Juno finally acquiesces, and watches her work. It does sting, sure. Before the anesthetic took hold, the bullet holes hurt too. But lots of things hurt, and it's rarely an obstacle to doing what she wants to.

"If you hadn't brought me into this when you and Bukiy needed the mission to work, I…" Juno frowns. "I would have been mad."

The admission of an emotion— any emotion besides doll-like acquiescence—

Strikes Jessica Jones as a positive. It's enough to stop the flow of the tears down her face, a good thing, as they were making it a little hard to work. Her eyes raise to meet Juno's, raccoon-framed with make-up, but thoughtful, serious…hopeful.

"Yeah?" she asks softly, almost not daring to breathe. Not daring to break the moment. Because while some people might think mad is a negative, Jessica rather thinks it's the first step towards self-determination. You can't get angry if you don't think you have rights to things. If you don't think you deserve things.

The admission that she might have been mad makes Jessica's heart soar with sudden happiness. Few would understand it.

Few will understand why, however kind or warm of a person Jess might evolve into being as she continues to battle her inner demons…she will never actually give up on having a temper, or try to control it much more than it's already controlled. Because anger matters.

And in that single word, she hopes she will invite Juno to explore that a little more, being mad.

She bends her head to her work again though, not wanting to neglect the wounds while she does it.

For a moment, Juno doubts herself. Because, technically… what right does she have? To Jessica, to Bukiy? If they had both decided that Juno shouldn't be involved, would she have been able to say something like that?

Would it have occurred to her at all, if Bukiy had judged her like Jessica had?

Juno blinks, and considers carefully. If she were able to do something to help Bukiy, or Jessica, but everybody involved had decided she couldn't be part of it just because she might be injured, Juno would… she would…

Inclining her head by a fraction, Juno lifts her hand from the edge of the chair and gently, awkwardly pats Jessica's hair. Because they didn't trust her. Because they thought her safety was more important than completing her objective.

…Because they don't trust her to make decisions?

Something uncertain threatens to reach its fingers into her belly, deeper than any bullet could ever go. When she thinks about it…

"Yeah," she decides. "Yeah, I would have."

"Well. Good."

Jessica sews, letting Juno pat her hair. "It's okay to be mad, even at friends. It's good to be mad. You have the right to be mad. I'm glad I didn't make you mad, because nobody really ever intentionally makes friends mad, but…I'm glad you would have been, and in the future if I piss you off I hope you just go right ahead and be pissed and tell me exactly why, at the top of your lungs if you have to."

She moves on to the second bullet hole, and decides…she might have an opening. To try a concept.

"I am mad. And sad. When I see the scars on your body. Because even though you are incredibly tough, and incredibly skilled, and can take pain? It makes me mad, and it makes me sad anyway, to think of someone hurting you on purpose."

She hopes that's not a bridge too far. But…it was there. That opening. To introduce the idea that Juno deserves a little god damn bodily integrity, too. That being tortured is not, in fact, the natural order of things.

That she has worth.

Tell her…?

Juno remains silent.

She doesn't really know what to say, or to think. But her scars? They don't mean anything. Well, some of them do - the ones on her right thigh are from not mastering her ability to ghost quickly enough. The ones underneath her collarbones are from one of the surgeries to implant the devices that let her pass through solid objects. The one low on her stomach is from the time she bled without being wounded. She didn't bleed like that any more afterwards, and it was a relief.

What is Juno supposed to say to Jessica, who thinks that people hurt her without needing to?

"Sometimes," she begins slowly, hoping that she can use the words correctly, "You have to hurt a little. So you can be stronger. So you can be better." But it feels good to hear Jessica say that Juno is skilled and tough. That everything she has done, and endured, has been worth it.

That her experiences mean something.

Juno kicks her feet a little, careful not to hit Jessica's knees, and watches her stitch the wound closed. "But if I get mad, I'll tell you. Okay?"

The truth is, Jessica knows a little bit of the truth of those words too. Bucky trains her; she understands that hurting a little can be helpful. Her own experiences have hurt a little, or a lot. How can she explain the gradiants of hurt? Is it even a good thing, for Juno to realize that she was abused? Will that steal something from her?

Maybe it's enough for Juno to decide to be who she needs to be, and to decide who that person is, and to decide she has a bigger toolbox and a greater destiny than being a weapon. Does she need to turn and face that what was done to her is wrong before she can do that?

Jessica doesn't know.

She decides that she's pushed enough for one day. "Deal," she says, tying off the stitch and inspecting it critically.

"Keep an eye on those, and tell Oliver to help you if they start getting infected," she decides. "I think they'll be okay though. A little better than the first time I tried this."

Not bad at all, considering Jessica learned how to do stitches from eHow and freaking YouTube.

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