Demon Bear: SoaE: Jessica Jones

November 12, 2017:

Jessica Jones' nightmare within the Demon Bear's shadow. A continuation from log:


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Michael Carter, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Matt Murdock, Azalea Kingston

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

A free-fall through blackness and cold reminds Jessica of another unpleasant experience she's had, another one that struck chords of terror in her very soul. Her aching face, the knowledge there are dead maggots under the layer of her skin, invite her mind to some form of sheer madness. It's not the most balanced mind to begin with. She's been doing well, but there are shadows in her soul. They may have gone quiet lately, but it is not dead which can eternal lie, and so forth.

She closes her eyes and sucks in freezing breaths. There is also a box in her mind, one filled with kind words, love, good moments.

"You're a hero," from multiple mouths.

"For you? Any time."

The words of a strange god-girl hybrid who sees her as family, a mother-sister hybrid. Strange as it is:

"Only one truth exists for you, Jessica Jones. Adversity cannot defeat you. In every instance when someone has used force to invade your life, they could not keep power over you."

As she falls into her couch, she murmurs the finish to that bit of advice. "'S okay to be a hero to yourself, first." And though her stomach is twisting and her body is shaking, she finds she can stabilize the wild turns and twists of her mind.

Which blooms with blood flowers in cool, clear water. John Constantine had to fight to remember his own reality, but that very worthy put defenses in her mind that make it possible for Jessica to simply note the differences between this world's Alias, and her own. She hasn't had a real TV for some time, for example, because she smashed her last one while very drunk and just replaced it, eventually, with projections from her Stark Phone. And she never watches reality shows.

But just because it's an alternate timeline, or a projection of nightmare, or some other dimension doesn't mean it's not real on some level. It doesn't mean it can't hurt her, either physically or psychologically. After she put aside her self-pity and began making something of herself she learned that lesson very well on a number of occasions. So she doesn't worry much, one way or another, whether it's 'real' or not, whether her memories line up with this place's memories or not.

She girds herself, instead, to survive it.

She slides off the couch and grabs up her coffee table the way another woman might grab a baseball bat. Narrowing her eyes, she takes a few steps back from the door, enough to give her room to swing if she needs it. And she hopes her voice doesn't waver too much when she calls, "Come in!"

It could be a friend. But if it's a foe…

Yes, there are subtle differences within this world.

Small ones, but ones that bring forth a vague *ping* of wrongness.

The television for one is definitely the start, who's to say how many more will be found as this macabre play continues.

But first, a door needs to be answered. Though not apparently in the typical fashion of most people - not when Jessica Jones calls out for the person behind it to open it and enter. And especially not with her holding her coffee table thusly, either.

The door opens and a familiar figure can be found within the doorway. He doesn't take a step inward, not when his keen eyes find the dark-haired woman standing with the table in her hands. "Jessica." Michael Carter states mildly, as if women holding coffee tables are really an everyday sort of thing for him. Perhaps it is. "Problems?"

And while he waits for her answer the man doesn't step further inside. Instead he waits to be invited in.

Michael is, indeed, one of the few people in the world who actually knocks on her door. And for him, a woman holding a coffee table is definitely an everyday sort of thing. She eyes him with a narrow gaze for a few moments. Is this Michael? Or is this something that's coming for her?

At last, she puts the table down. "Sorry," she says. "Sorry, come in." She can't bring herself to bean him with that thing anyway, not until he does anything that might warrant such treatment, at least. There are those in other worlds who can be allies, after all, and if she doesn't race to embrace the man she's in like with, she's at least willing to take him at face value for now.

What she doesn't do is bother to explain why she was ready to knock whoever came through that door into Kingdom Come, but then, that's the life they lead, isn't it? That shared life of peril and uncertainty and workaholism, along with a moment of finding some fun with one another for a change, was the thing that drew them together.

Once Jessica issues that invite of hers, Michael Carter steps inside.

Reflexively his gaze turns to the woman's apartment slash workspace, as he automatically looks for any potential trouble.

In the circles they both often find themselves in it's never good to be left unaware, or unprepared. "I brought food." He says, once he's inside, "Take-out." He continues with, even as he raises the bag of greasy Chinese food. And whereas others might push to see if there is a problem or not, Michael doesn't. Not yet.

Instead he takes a step toward the kitchen, "You sit, I'll grab silverware and plates for this. Then you can tell me what has you holding a coffee table on unsuspecting strangers." Comes the vaguely humorous remark; though there's a core of truth to his question. He does seemingly want to know.

And whether she sits, or follows him to the kitchen, there's enough of a lag time that Michael Carter finds himself in the kitchen before Jessica Jones does. In fact, what he says when he's within that small room is muffled, while he's there alone for however long. "You know -" Begins the man, "I can help if there's a problem." Continues the man and that offer of his sincere.

And this is where the nightmare exerts itself ever so subtly -

A few more sentences are said by the man, but it sounds almost like a broken record. Or a scratched record; as his words skip and stutter, and it doesn't matter whether she stays in the living area, or finds her way into the kitchen. Only bits and pieces of what he's says is clear, "I — so - right?" And then, "—- le, Jessica."

Jessica wanders into the kitchen after closing the door behind him. Chinese, just like when she woke up in her infuriated panic this morning. So far so good. She swallows, something cold still oozing and creeping down her spine. She comes to the little dividing doorway separating the kitchen from her office. She puts her hand on the frame and she freezes as she listens to this skipping, this stuttering, this broken record effect.

What the Hell is going on here?

"I— I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you just said, you're right about what now?" she asks, her muscles tensing until her neck feels like it's got twin bars of iron resting on either side of her spine. She stares at him, wondering if he's going to skip and distort next.

What is this place? What am I facing here?

Her face grows a little more pale, save for the red, livid lines where the bugs had their field day, where she and the birds scratched her to bits. The lines near her mouth, around her eyes, deepen just a touch. They are more the lines of hard living and worry than age, they're subtle, but they're always there, and they're more than visible when fear is twisting her gut into an aching mess of bile.

The Chinese food that Michael Carter brought is portioned out upon plates.

Silverware and chopsticks are aligned neatly upon the plate. Then with food plated the figure that looks so much like Michael Carter turns to face the woman in the doorway.

His sharp gaze takes in her posture, her expression and even the pallor to her features now. It's enough to tug the man's lips downward into the start of a slight frown.

The broken record effect seems to have stopped, or faded away for his next words. "I said." States the man, his tone quite affable, "You should -"

"Smile Jessica."

And while those two words are said in Michael Carter's voice, the cadence changes slightly. The tone and rhythm beneath those words quite familiar to Jessica Jones.

She's heard them spoken in such a way before.

By Kilgrave.

Though it has been some time since she realized that particular power has no impact on her whatsoever, it's still chilling to hear one British accent morph into another, to start seeing the ripple of foe beneath friend, to find her body and mind drawing parallels between someone she went to bed with willingly and someone she did not. The bile rises in her throat. She had taken some time, even after meeting John Constantine, reminding herself that, say, she couldn't freak out every time she heard a Brit talk. Having even that shadow, that whisper, in her home, her sanctuary, this thing she's built…

It disgusts her. It angers her.

Kilgrave, worming like a maggot beneath Michael's skin.

The mad thought occurs to her. Maybe Michael is Kilgrave. Maybe he was in a coma, but got plastic surgery, and Peggy thought her brother was dead because he is, and Kilgrave took his place and…

Hysteria. Raw, lunatic hysteria, she thinks, even as she steps back. "You know what? I— I have to go," she says. She'd rather flee her own home than grapple with thoughts like that.

I don't really want to revisit that time in my life, she'd told Matthew Murdock. But that time in her life never seems to want to stop revisiting her.

She bolts for her door at a dead run.

Kilgrave's shadow, or rather Michael, doesn't follow. Not when Jessica Jones runs. Only his questions (asked in his normal voice) chases after her, "Jessica? Wait! What's wrong?"

Still, thankfully, he doesn't follow. He stays in that kitchen, holding those plates, motionless for the time being.

For Jessica, her progress to the door is made easily enough. It's only when she pulls the door open will she find her path blocked. A man and woman are there - Bucky and Jane - and again familiar sights. Jane looks surprised when the door opens suddenly, but Bucky doesn't.

"Jess." States Jane, "Did we come at a bad time?" Which is a normal enough question between friends, right?

Sure is.

There's even a concerned look from Jane, as her eyes flick past Jess, to try and get a peek inside.

And while the nightmare could be left at that, it continues to play forward, as the Bucky within this 'world' speaks up. "Jane's right." Comes the initial words from the man, "You should smile."

But when did Jane ever say that? If Jessica replays the conversation back she'll find nothing that points to Jane Foster ever telling Jessica Jones to smile.

Only, now the light brown-haired woman does, "Yes." And like Michael there's now a certain familiar twist to the physicist's voice.

"You should -"

"Really -"

"sMilE JEsSica."

At first, the sight of Bucky and Jane is a welcome one. Bucky would never let her get hurt, Bucky will protect her. He promised. He promised he'd never let her be taken again, and…

And then they close in the same way. Kilgrave has somehow infected all of them, somehow taken all of them, and now they're coming for her. Or maybe he is all of them.

Maybe she never left. Maybe he just made her think he did, to toy with her. So he could break her all over again, because it would be fun. Maybe he made her believe an entire story about everything that happened to her over the past year, and now he's starting to play his hand again.

She grits her teeth and shouts, "Stay back! All of you just fucking stay back!"

She grabs the coffee table again, sends it sailing towards the window to shatter it, to give herself a different escape route. "Don't touch me! Don't FUCKING come near me!"

Her skin crawls, the filthy feeling, the feeling she can never get clean, that she can scrub and scrub and scrub but be covered in the creeping tar of that man's touch forever— that feeling starts assaulting her as she bolts for the only other exit. Bucky's smoking window, ironically. Or is it? Was it? What's real?

The table crashes through the window. Glass shatters mostly outward onto the street below, but some shards fall to the floor of the apartment.

Should Jessica Jones looks back, or over her shoulder, as she runs for that escape route, she'll find neither Michael Carter, Jane Foster or Bucky Barnes, are following her in anyway shape or form. They just stare at her with dead eyes. Eyes that follow her all the way to the broken window.

Then with a jump the woman escapes.

The street below might be a welcomed sight. There's people upon it. They startle when the woman appears, but this is New York - shit happens all the time. All the time.

Seconds pass and in that brief time, Jess can easily see the people nearest her turn. Not physically turn, but mentally. Their expressions go slack, their eyes deaden, and the three women and one man, opens their mouths to say something -

Likely 'smile Jessica'.

Only those words never come. This time when the nightmare stutters to a stop, it actually stops. Everything but Jessica freezes. Then like an old photograph set ablaze, light begins to curl along the edges of this nightmare. That light begins to burn through all that surrounds Jessica Jones and the people and this neighborhood begins to disappear.

This time when the blackness returns, it's not so cold. Not so terrible. And something is pulling her out with the physical sensation of rising upward. A previous path retraced."

By the time the entire street has gone cold and dead, has began mouthing 'smile Jessica', she is ready to burn. She is ready to burn up and die, because every muscle is on fire anyway, because she can barely breathe, because she doesn't know if she can let this be her existence. By the time she's hit the street it has occurred to her there is nobody in this reality that she can run to, nowhere she will be safe. Not unless she can find a place where she can be completely alone, where she can bar the doors and keep everyone out, hide and keep everyone from finding her. In New York City? Not fucking likely.

So when the burn touches her, she actually flings her arms open to greet it, closing her eyes.

She opens them to blackness. Pulling up and out. Rising. She tries to swim upwards too, frantic, desperate. If she swims hard enough, if she swims fast enough, if she rises through the darkness, maybe it will be okay. Maybe she'll be okay. Her mind is a shattered glass, a mirror broken that she'll have to painstakingly put together yet again, but she can do this. She can swim. She can fight to escape.

She can fight to survive, after all, instead of giving in to death.

She can fight to take something back for herself. Her autonomy, her agency, her safety. She bares her teeth. Fuck smiling. She doesn't wanna. She might never wanna again. "There is one truth for me," she hisses into the dark, clinging to those words with all her might. One truth, one truth, one truth. But that one truth doesn't scrub the sensation off her skin or chase the sick feeling out of her stomach or wash away the reminder that she might never, ever truly be free of that singular longest shadow in her life.

Both the light and the blackness takes Jessica Jones away from her nightmare.

The cold sings along her limbs as she struggles to rise up even faster then what she might. Those movements do seem to help and after a few minutes, the grasp of the shadows is defeated.

She'll find herself back in that familiar clearing. Where snow still falls. Where the others that were swallowed by the Bear can now be found.

The Bear itself and its shadow is gone and after a few minutes there's a noise off to the side. That noise heralds the arrival of Bucky Barnes who holds an unconscious Jane Foster within his arms.

The mission, at least, was a success. They've completed the task they set out to do, only how much has it changed those here today? The nightmare may be over for Jessica, Constantine and the others, but perhaps it might linger.

The mission is complete, and she was barely a help.

She shivers in the snow, quietly gasping. Rolling behind a tree for a moment to collect herself. She's having trouble looking at them, having trouble being anywhere near them. Or anyone. She sucks in breaths, hears Constantine say something about Zatanna. She needs Zatanna, or there will be maggots beneath her skin forever. Unless she wants to burn them away. She seriously considers it. Just letting them go, saying she'll find her own way home, burning half her face off and half her hands off and staying in till it's done. It's nothing she hasn't dealt with before, being burned.

In the end stone cold practicality drives her up and onward; that would be a stupid thing to do. She falls far to the back of the group, tears frozen in the corners of her eyelashes, desperate for nobody to notice.

Maybe Zee will let her stay at Shadowcrest awhile. It's hidden. It was one of the first places she ever felt safe. Maybe, just maybe, it will serve as a refuge for her again. Except she feels painfully raw and exposed. The thought of anyone touching her makes her shrivel inside now. Even Zee, who would never harm her. She briefly flashes on the thought of a touch she spent months longing for, and shudders back from that, as well. Even from him, she doesn't think she can take it right now.

She feels nauseated. She'll try it anyway, Shadowcrest. If Zee lets her.

She sure can't go back to Alias Investigations right now. Or, bless him, to Michael, who won't understand, she knows, one bit, when she finally texts, i'm sorry, something happened, i can't, i just can't right now, will not be back in nyc for a bit, don't come find me with her frozen fingers shaking wildly over the keys. It kills her, the thought that she's going to hurt him. Makes her hate herself a little more, because logically it feels like this should be discounted as a little thing. But it reached to the heart of her, cut her to her core, was symbolic of so many things, so many fears she had tried to put to rest. And really, she shouldn't have tried it. She really should not have tried it.

She looks down at the text, face screwing up into something pained. She. Can't. Not right now.

Maybe not ever again.

She hits send.

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