AKA Right vs. Right

October 08, 2017:

Jessica Jones finally develops the courage to go and face Luke Cage after her return to Wakanda. Her attempts at apologizing and explaining do not end well.

Luke's Bar, NYC

The broken stuff will be cleaned up quickly enough.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes, Zatanna Zatara

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Life is back to normal, even if normal is relative. At least it means no more traipsing around Wakanda, sweating your balls off and working for an ungrateful woman just because it's the right thing to do. Pfft, women.

The bar is just starting to stir for the day, early enough that it's just a few regulars dotting their favorite stools or tables, watching a football game that's muted on the TV in favor of some bluesy music coming from the battle worn jukebox in the back. Luke is behind the counter, methodically working through a liquor order on some sort of autopilot as he checks the label and marks it off the delivery form. Even though he currently seems dispassionate about the task, he's still careful about each bottle's placement, putting it just so on the various shelves behind the bar. Being distant, even the blonde at the end near the bathroom has given up trying to make idle chatter with the bartender and now just stabs at her ice cubes with her little red straw. So much for trying to schmooze her way into a free drink.

There were many things behind Jessica Jones' actions. No small few of them wrongheaded.

A lack of gratitude wasn't among them, at least.

Which is why she's been standing in front of that bar for a good hour and a half. She's come home. She's gotten her bearings. She's scored some cases. She got a hug, of all things, from Bucky, an event that basically condensed an entire conversation into a 30 second moment between them in which all was understood.

She is not a total asshole. She had, at some point, texted. 'Home.'

Because she didn't want him to try to go back and find her not even there, if he even would. To be fair, the 'Home' text came only a few days after Luke woke up to find himself 'home.'

But eventually, her tendency to 'bull ahead at all costs' and her need to 'do things about things' overrides her basic cowardice. She takes a deep breath and pushes into the bar.

She wears a bright red scoop-necked T-shirt and her leather jacket. Jeans. Fingerless gloves. October isn't particularly cold yet, but neither is it warm, and this all makes her feel like herself. Like she is back.

She draws up to the bar and slides into a stool.

'Home'. A text that went unanswered.

Maybe he didn't get it, but more accurately it was read and ignored in favor of brooding. Something he's perfected over the last few weeks so that even Pops hit him upside the back of the head on more than one occasion for scowling at his customers. No body wants to get their haircut when they're being mean mugged, he said. Luke swept up like old times in penance.

There is a little jingle of a bell above the door when Jessica enters, his gaze flitting in that direction as it announces a customer but the double take is almost comical as he realizes just who it is. He lumbers in that direction slowly, as if each footfall has to be willed by the grace of whatever being is greater than either of them. A glass clunks down on the lovingly worn wood. Whiskey is poured into it. It's all the greeting she gets.

No protests about not drinking here. She takes up the whiskey and takes a good sip of it. She doesn't down the whole thing in one gulp, but she does enjoy the burn of it going down her throat. She glances about at the other customers, briefly, then looks back up at Luke.

Then she cuts her gaze downward. She'd known, by the unanswered text, just how truly pissed he was.

"You almost died. Like truly almost died. You inhaled cyanide gas and carbon monoxide. I couldn't stand it."

Hi other customers, don't mind me, hell of an opener.

The blonde had been eyeing Jessica, trying to figure out just what the PI has over her. That. That's what she's got going for her. 'Cyanide gas' openers. Best to go back to your drink, blondie.

"That was for me." Luke rumbles about the whiskey, the thunder low in his voice as he drags out another glass. Clunks it down like before. Fills it higher than the first. Then downs it.

"I know." About the gas. "I was there." Was being the operative word. He could leave it there, go back to his work, back to his life. Instead he leans his large frame down to rest an elbow on the bar in front of Jessica, perhaps waiting for a better explanation.

Jessica almost offers it back. But he's pouring his own. Whoops.

Well, it's not the biggest fuck-up she's ever made.

And then: "Rizza died."

She downs the whole whiskey. "And that was my fault."

She can't come at the explanation square. She can't even bring herself to do it in long, involved words. It comes out in dribs and drabs, leaving the listener to piece it together. Once, after she first stopped drinking, she turned crazy expressive. Just let it all come spilling out, because she was feeling things for the first time. Now her habit has been under control, if not eliminated, for a full year. She's used to feeling things, and while she has not shut down entirely, she's become less expressive again.

And this is a whole well of shit she hasn't even really begun to deal with.

"I think it was the fault of the motherfucker with the missile launcher." The lean down to Jessica becomes apparent, Luke is using expletives and he doesn't want to scare off the customers with the blatant talk of people dying horrifically. It dampens the atmosphere, imagine that. Glass clinks against glass as he refills them both, the hour of the day no longer seeming relevant to the disproportionate amount of alcohol consumed. "Sorry about Rizz."

Is the hour of the day ever relevant to Jessica?

She gives him an anguished look. "I stayed there. I befriended her. I drew attention to her. I could have pitched a tent if I couldn't find a private hotel. We found the hotel in Zana but not in S'Yan… I should have thought twice about using either of them. He could have taken it into his head to blow up the hotel, too. I just should have thought it through."

The lines on her face tighten. "She was so kind. So unbelievably kind."

It may not seem relevant to why he ended up back in his own bed, but it is. It informs a great good deal of why he ended up back in his own bed.

"People get hurt, Jessica. Good people. We were there trying to make sure it didn't happen, but instead you took it upon yourself to take me out of the goddamn game. Woke up with a hangover and note on my pillow like it was some wild one night stand…" Stay out of it, Blondie, don't perk up at that. Luke has bigger fish to fry, instead of shooting them in a barrel.

"Yeah, sorry, Zatanna's healing— it forces you to feel some measure of the pain you got when you took the injuries. I guess a hangover is how it translated for you…"

So not the issue. So not the point. Jessica turns her glass around and around in her hands. "If you're going to go dying in the line of duty," she says at last, "I'm the last person you ought to be dying for. If it was a fight you had some stakes in, something we'd both partnered up in, then I wouldn't have done it, but— that wasn't what was going on there."

She stares down at the bottom of her glass like some answers can be found there. "I don't like the idea of you dying period, but dying in Wakanda in particular…"

"My choice, Jones. And you took it away from me. If this Zatanna," The name is foreign to him, not like introductions could be made while Luke was unconscious. "Healed me, there was no reason for me to be sent home like some parcel package. And how the hell did you know where I lived in the first place?" His ire jumps from one irritation to the other, as he huffs out a breath of frustration that's spicy from him chosen drink.

Jessica grimaces hard. She knows a thing or two about choices being removed, and it's true. She did directly defy his and go against everything he said. She took it away from him.

Something curls and shrivels inside of her, and she hunches up at the bar, feeling icky. Might as well. This next part is just as bad.

"I'm a PI, it's really not that hard, it's kind of what I do," is her first mumble.

And her second, "I've also known who you are and where you lived for years."

It's kind of what she does. It's forgivable. It's understandable. She knew his late wife's name. Could have easily looked up the property that was held under her name. Link the two together. Find out where he lived. No harm, no foul.

It's the second, however, that has Luke straightening up away from his lean to his full height, blotting out the sight of the television like some Cage sized eclipse. "I think you should leave." Judging by the way his hands curl up tightly at his sides, it's to keep them from doing something stupid.

It's no surprise, really, that she's tanked this before it's even out the gate. Not even a little bit of a surprise. She tanked it before they ever properly met, and that's honest fact.

Oddly, it seals her idea that getting him out of Wakanda was the right thing to do. Before they did something he'd regret, swept up in the stress. Swept up in Wakanda. Talking about every last part of it didn't make sense at that point. There was enough for him to process.

The problem with doing the right thing is it's sometimes not a fight between the right thing and the wrong thing. When it is, that's easy enough. Choose the right thing, if you are a person so inclined to trying.

It's when you're trying to choose between two competing right things that you get into deep shit. Like…all the reasons why Luke needed to be brought out of Wakanda vs. all the reasons why she should have left well enough alone, and let him stay.

She digs out money to pay for her pilfered drink and slides out of the barstool. At least in this case, she knows what the right thing is.

There is a sudden crash of a bottle behind Jessica when she finally turns her back to head for the door, followed by a stilted, "Billy, watch the bar," as Luke's heavy footfalls go in the opposite direction towards the back office. 'Right' is always subjective.

She flinches at the crash of the bottle. She glances over at the blonde. There's a chick who has great chances tonight, Jessica bets, if she plays her cards right. The thought produces a look of sour bitterness across her face. She digs out another $20 and drops it into the tip jar. "Seems like you're going to earn it tonight, Billy," she says, in the flat monotones she uses when she just can't deal with any of it.

She considers dropping another $40 just to buy an entire bottle, but resists the urge. Not here, not over this, she has cases to work. She'll have to find some other way to cope.

She pushes out the bar door into the blustery October air, pulling her grey scarf from the inner pocket. She zips up her jacket against it, winds the scarf around and around her neck. She looks up, unhappily. There's a storm brewing high above the city, grey as her scarf and as ominous as Luke's anger.

Suits her mood just fine.

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