Hiari na Kitari ni Yako

October 01, 2017:

With the rumble finished and the real bomber caught, only a single step remains in the fight to clear Bucky Barnes. When Jessica Jones realizes the final puzzle piece is a cultural one, she approaches Jane Foster to present her with a choice.

Outside a hospital in Birnin Zana

The recent location of a massive rumble.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, T'Challa, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Matt Murdock, Peggy Carter,

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

A few hours after the bedlam at the secret hospital (and not the hospital Jessica originally went to with the Carters on what was very nearly the first day), Jessica Jones sits with her butt on the hood of a car, toying with…a bucket.

She'd beaned a few people in the head with this bucket during the fracas, Dandy Jam in particular, rather gently. She's still not sure what role he played if any, but she has no stomach for hurting stupid gangland kids, and that's all he struck her as.

Deep in thought, she finally looks up and looks around for Jane.

When she sees her, she snatches up her bucket and draws near. There are things on her mind, but first…congratulations are in order.

"You know. For a PhD that weighs like 30 pounds soaking wet, you make a Hell of a PI."

She finds another car to plant her butt against, ignoring the chaos of emergency people and arrests all around. Arrests they've miraculously avoided getting swept up in.

Even in a city as advanced as Birnin Zana, Wakanda pay its eternal respect to nature —

— and at the base of one the city's spreading, reaching trees, sits Jane Foster. The woman sits there, hollowed-out from her last spectacle, her tiny body labouring to recover after her last trade to magic.

Draped across her knees, she looks down at her own hands. The things her hands did. The thought is enough to distract her momentarily away from the pain. For now, she holds still, trying to find her strength while lost in thought.

It's only Jessica's voice that pulls Jane from whatever distant place has her mind, and she lifts her head.

The compliment brings the ghost of a smile to her mouth. "I don't think so," she confesses. "I don't even know what I'm doing most days."

Jane shifts her legs, her limp hands curling their fingers. "You did good in there."

Jessica pushes off the car and flops down at the tree next to her friend, then sets that bucket between them. She turns it upside down.

"So did you," she says. "And believe me, not knowing what you're doing? That's like the job requirement. It's the PI's version of writing your thesis."

She thumps her head back and gives a weary smile. "Don't see much reason not to turn over all the case notes. Rubicon and his buddies will spill fast enough."

She sighs, thumping one leg down, smiling wearily. "Problem is…'s not going to be enough. Fortunately, I think I worked out the solution," she raps lightly on the top of the bucket, "while I was hitting old Dandy over the head with this thing. Reminded me of a conversation I had with the King oh…March or so, I think. Long before any of this shit hit the fan."

Jane's dark eyes stare down at the bucket, though with a distance — probably looking straight through it. A mind like Foster's must rarely ever remain within the boundaries of this world — this universe.

But at least there's enough now to provide some conversation. "Job requirement," she echoes tiredly, letting her head lean back against the tree to turn her eyes up on the sky. She's barely looked up there these last few months — no time to. "The math of it all, manipulating energy and matter with my hands, breaking its rules — it's so easy to me. I don't tell people this often — how little a challenge it is. But convincing people of truths? I have no idea. Not a single idea."

Her eyes up on the stars, Jane listens. Then her eyes pull over toward Jessica, watching her: they are black-shadowed, sunken, sleepless, and still desperate for answers. "Yeah? Lay it on me."

Lay it on her, she says.

And Jessica tries to decide how to do this. Problem? Or solution?

She decides to place the problem before Jane as succinctly as possible. But not before she says: "I have options to solve this problem, but here we go. The problem is…it's not about Mizizi. And T'Challa is stalling hoping we figure that out. We needed to grab the Mizizi culprits. Foreigners needed to. But— James' problem isn't Mizizi, even once it comes to light the hAcker says Luv fucked with the footage. His problem is Amandla. It's the doctrine that terrorists will be scoured from Wakanda. He was fucked, on that count, from the moment he crossed the border. Because they don't have a cultural framework for mind control. His hands committed the acts of the Winter Soldier, and to them that's all that matters. The King is now required to take him out, but the King— is not an idiot. Not that he won't kill James if that's the choice he's left with, but…he gets it. He got it way back when I talked to him in March. He got it when I told him about Juno."

She tilts her head up, stares up at the Wakandan sky, and says, "So. He is a terrorist. An honorless man in the eyes of the Wakandans. Fortunately. I had a long conversation with T'Challa about the nature of honor."

She smiles wearily. "Because when he hired me he called me an honorable person, and I thought he was full of shit. But I wanted to be that. Honorable. Figured. I'd take instruction where I could get it. Which brings me to James' way out, and the decision I guess you're going to have to make on his behalf."

"No cultural framework," Jane says, her voice heavy with derision. It is the only emotion that crosses her dry, dead landscape of a voice. So tired — tired beyond words.

"It's how Hydra got in so easily. They thrive on it — that black-and-white. They culture like bacteria on short-sightedness, and here you go. They're going to have to get a cultural framework real fast." But it's a lecture without any heat; the thought may be there that Jane simply cannot care as much as she usually would — usually could — about Hydra's endemic infection of Wakandan society. Push too far past her patience, too worried about Bucky Barnes, too tired of everything. Even kind souls like hers can be pushed to a limit.

Exhaling noisily, adjusting her legs and letting her arms curl against her lap — and she's a little careful with her left arm — Jane turns her head and, with patient eyes, absorbs Jessica's revelation. It troubles her transparently, from a crease between her eyebrows to the tightening of her mouth, for anyone to think of Bucky as a terrorist — honourless. How wrong they could be. Intelligent people — but so wrong.

"You're an honourable person," Jane concedes, in perhaps the only agreement she'll ever make with T'Challa. "I don't get what — what decision?"

Jessica shakes her head a little at that, not really sure, but she again falls silent as she tries to figure out how to explain it.

"About who is going to carry some buckets. Formally. In a way that addresses Bucky's soul."

She puts her hand on the bucket again.

"Cause that's how Wakanda measures honor. Buckets. You have a bucket of good shit you carry around, and a bucket of bad shit. If the bucket of good shit is heavier, you're honorable. But sometimes a person piles on so many bad buckets they can never do it alone. They have to forge relationships so that they share their friend's buckets. I'm explaining it shitty I guess but the bottom line is…I did some asking around to check my understanding just now and it's a thing."

She pauses, trying to gather her thoughts, but she's tired too, and the explanation isn't coming super easily.

"In Wakanda, a person can take responsibility for another person's crimes. Like all of them. And if that person is considered honorable, they're going to be allowed to live and atone, not be torn to shreds. I didn't understand this right away cause to me, we already all do that bucket thing. You carried John and Zee's when you made whatever deal with Papa Midnite— I assume it's pretty terrible shit that will scare me, cause nobody will tell me by the way. And you and Zee and Bucky and John and Matt and Peggy always carry mine around whenever I lose my shit all over the place and have an emotional meltdown. And Matt carries legal buckets. And round and round it goes. But it's more formal than that for this. I even did it without realizing. They wouldn't let Peggy out of jail till I said 'I am responsible for her.' I thought it was just some archaic thing, but what I was really saying is 'whatever she's guilty of, I'm responsible for and will atone.' And that cleared her and put it on me, but I was considered honorable enough."

Hoping that convoluted explanation will make it clear, she adds: "Bucky will hate it, but…"

She shrugs.

"Thing is, I think only two people here can put in the call to take the bucket. You can. Or I can. Or we both can, together."

She pauses, "I have reasons for why I think it can only be one of those three options which I'm happy to explain, but that's what I think. Whoever does it is tied to Wakanda and her King forever though, which is why I'm gonna go right ahead and volunteer. Because I am already tied to Wakanda and her King forever. So that's it, that's your decision. And once it's made, well. I still have the red phone straight to him. The call gets put in, and I think…I think it ends this."

That explanation brings a twitch to Jane's face; first, a white-hot shock of surprise, chased by a slight flicker of muscle to warn the slow tightening of her jaw.

Her fingers curl. It's fury, raw and virulent and ice-cold, not directed at Jessica Jones, angling past the messenger of her words and turning its barrel cleanly on Wakanda. "Don't tell me," she utters, low, numb, and abslutely unforgiving, "after all this bullshit, that's all we had to do. Assholes."

Her head leans back against the tree, and teeth grit, Jane takes all her temper, condenses it to a single, heavy point, and collapses it like an overworked star. She breathes out. Her eyes close.

Three options, Jessica lays out for her in that proposal, with reasons for all. After a moment, Jane's eyes creak back open, slanted away, darkened with thought. Some things she can weigh and calculate as a scientist, and this is not one of them.

Other things she must decide what feels true to her.

"You're a good friend, Jessica," she confesses. "You've always been. Even when I haven't been — too secretive. Too withholding." The mention of Papa Midnite ratifies that enough, and the reminder brings Jane to bear her own guilt. "I don't know how I can ever thank you — you and everyone — for helping with this. But the thing with Papa Midnite, and I'm sorry — I'll tell you about it after this is done, it wasn't for John and Zee. It was for James. He'll hate it, yes, but he's my choice."

After a pause, Jane turns her eyes over and up on Jessica. Her eyes are dark ringed darker, and yet through all that darkness, something shines grateful. Thankful. "The thing is, I'm not afraid of Papa Midnite. I'm not afraid of T'Challa. The only thing that scares me is having my choice taken away from me. And you gave it to me. He's always been my choice, and I'm strong enough to bear it. It needs to be me."

"I don't think so," Jessica says, shaking her head. "I think we had to catch Rubicon too. We had to, because that's what makes it only about Amandla, you see? Without that, it's about Amandla and six dead at Mizizi, and there's not enough responsibility-taking for that. Not with the wounds so raw, not with the country so pissed. And we couldn't have anyway without that, because…Mizizi was seen as a foreigner's debt. We had to pay that debt, before we could take new debt."

She can sympathize with the fury and the frustration. It has been a long two months. It's all been long and convoluted and strange.

Jessica listens to Jane lay out her reasoning. She looks patently unsurprised. To the first she says softly, "I know what it's like to need to stand on your own, Jane. I've been there. But if you won't let me pick up this bucket, just…remember I'm around to pick up a few others, yeah? After all this, maybe you can remember we're there to do it."

Hearing Papa Midnite was for James makes sense, and a smile touches her lips. And as for the rest?

"You really are the baddest of all badass bitches, you know that right?"

She sighs, shaking her head in a resigned fashion. This is the reason she didn't even bother explaining why it couldn't be Matt, though Matt would do it, why it couldn't be Peggy, or even right now, Cap.

Cause in the end, she knew what Jane Foster's choice would be, and she can't help but respect the Hell out of it.

She takes out a post-it note. Wakandan words, phonetically spelled, are written on it. "It says: my name is— well, there's the blank. And then: my buckets are his, his are mine. I claim responsibility for the crimes of the Winter Soldier. I wish to atone."

She then pulls out her phone and hands it to Jane.

"Dial 9 for panthers."

Solemnly declared the baddest of badass bitches, Jane accepts the mantle with a self-conscious bow of her head and a tired smile.

Normally, she'd balk at such a thing — but she supposes she is.

"I'll remember," she promises quietly, apologetically. And maybe, someday, it will even be true for her. For now, this time, Jane Foster takes claim of one of her most important choices. As she entreated James Barnes once to let her in, and make her an equal in his dangerous life. As James Barnes entreated her once, not with words but a look of his eyes — to guide him true from the dark.

She can't have anyone bear his past when it was her choice to: when she is still strong enough to carry his weight.

Her dark eyes watch as Jessica explains what next to do and proffers the note; Jane takes it in hand, reading the spelled-out words only once. When the phone is held out to her, she reaches — past it, and her small, thin fingers clasp around Jessica's wrist.

Her touch squeezes down. It speaks for the words Jane cannot find; it speaks for all the emotions she is too exhausted to grasp. Thank you.

Taking the phone in hand, Jane looks down at the screen before she taps that instructed 9. Taking a deep breath in, she begins.

'My name is Jane Foster…'

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