The Wall

December 09, 2017:

Having received the story of the soulless state of Bucky Barnes and Jane Foster, Luke Cage hastens to check up on one Jessica Jones.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

The windows are gettin' an upgrade.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Emery Papsworth, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Danny Rand, Daredevil, Tony Stark, Michael Carter

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…


Jessica Jones is just getting out of bed. She stands in a pair of red boxing shorts and a white tank top, messy hair forming a wild black halo around her face. She's eating a bowl of Cheerios, on her feet, because she's carrying to her desk where she plans to eat it at work, but before she can a brick soars through her window, shattering it.

"MUTIE FREAK!" comes the chime from below.

The brick bounce, bounce, bounces across her hardwood floor and lands at her feet.

Jessica looks at it. Takes another bite of her Cheerioes. Chews. Swallows. Looks to window like she's contemplating yelling something back.


Calm as can be: "Morgan, text Ted the Window Guy. Tell him we're done with this shit, I want the reinforced security windows with the anti-break film and now I don't give a shit how much it costs. I think I've had enough of this running gag."

There's a knock on the door. Well, less a knock then a beanie capped head thudding against the wooden jamb. Luke just stands there, leaning, with two cups of coffee dangling from limp arms. "Jones. Coffee." When did it become that making words took so much effort. "If you're being murdered in there, I can come back later." The joke is said flatly, because likely if he actually thought she was in danger, that door might not still be on its hinges. His sunglasses slip down his nose a little, and he just wrinkles the bridge of it to try and push them back up.

Jess sets her cereal bowl down and comes to unlock the door. Which is locked for a change. She blinks at Luke as if she's having trouble figuring something out. (She's also glad he didn't jump the gun, because that would be yet another version of the running gag and Ted would make even more money).

Her brow furrows as she stares at Luke. "Am I an asshole? Did I forget what day we were gonna meet at the park? What day is it even? Shit. What time is it even? Fuck, I'm sorry."

Full freight train into believing she screwed this up somehow, she waves him in, running her fingers through her hair.

Luke bumps up his glasses with the butt of his hand, ambling in after Jess. "It's Saturday, sometime around 'acceptable hour for night owls', and no. I'm stopping by unannounced because I'm the asshole." He takes the necessary steps to set her coffee on the edge of the desk, the retreats to the couch which gets his full weight flopped onto it. "I came to see if you had all your limbs." He says, as his own go akimbo and he rests his head on the arm of the couch.

"Dude, I don't care if you stop by unannounced. I run my business out of my…" She waves a hand into the half of the room to indicate the desk. "Everyone basically stops by unannounced. You're one of a bare handful who fall into the Venn diagram between 'friends' and 'people who also use the door instead of breaking in because they've got ninja schticks to uphold.'"

She takes the coffee. "Thanks," she says. And looks more than relieved that she did not, in fact, screw up going somewhere that she said she'd be. She's usually pretty good about that.

And then she furrows her brow. "Why would you think I don't have all my limbs?"

"I heard Barnes attacked you. Emery said you were okay, but." He apparently had to see for himself. Luke's head lifts slightly to take a sip of coffee before he flops back again, bonelessly. "There are levels of okay." He hasn't bothered to take off his sunglasses or his wool cap, but he still slings an arm over his forehead. "I think your ninja friends threw a smoke bomb in my brain."

"That was like. Five days ago," Jessica points out, slightly taken aback. "The wound's already gone. Emery got hurt worse than I did, and I don't think heals as fast, and he's the one who got wronged in all that."

Guilt seeps into her tone, but she suddenly takes in the classic signs of…hangover?

She puts her coffee down now too, and crosses to the fridge to get a bottled water. Holds it out in his direction. "Hangover cure is water, man, not coffee. Come on, you're a bartender." Dark eyebrows lift. "You should know this."

"Apparently news travels slow." It's not like he's on speed dial for Jessica Jones' status updates. "And Emery's fine now, once Danny found out he did that glowy fist thing…he did it on you back in the tunnels to get the poison out of your system." He lifts his thick arm from over his sunglass covered eyes. "I'm not hungover I'm…recovering from meditation." He still lifts up to take the water gratefully before sinking back down, cradling the bottle to his chest.

Never try to bullshit a detective. Well, okay. In actuality Jess can be bullshitted. See: friends, giant animals, biting. But most of the time? She's hard to bullshit. Her expression turns skeptical. "Meditation isn't something you recover from. Meditation is deep breathing while you sit very still."

She leans over and takes an inhale, then shakes her head and crosses back to sit on her desk, reclaiming her Cheerios. "I don't know what the cure for day-after pot is. Water. Probably. Water for most things."

She's a recovering alcoholic, and 'recovering' is sometimes generous. Her sister is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. Jessica isn't going to judge other people's addictions. She just doesn't wanna be bullshitted.

"Sorry, I was making fun of Danny, not your common sense." Luke groans back into a seated position, setting his coffee down by his booted feet so he can crack open the water. His throat undulates with each deep gulp that drains the twelve ounce portion in short order. "So, are you? Alright, I mean. And I don't mean physically. It'd take a lot more than that to slow you down." Finally he drags off his glasses, even with enhanced durability, his eyes are still bloodshot but he wants to see her without the tint.

Her mouth twists in the way that it does when she's feeling things and does not want to feel things. Which lately, not wanting to feel things is about most of the time, because feelings are inconvenient, messy, distracting things.

Still, she's warmed by the concern all the same. She looks down and to the side, then back up. "I dunno," she admits at last. "I mean. I'm finally shaking off— I mean the bear, you know, it had me…triggered. Pretty good and hard. But between you guys dealing with Kilgrave and— weirdly somewhere around Bucky biting the shit out of me as a giant wolf, I feel pretty much over that. Maybe the time was helpful too, it's been a month. But now, see, two people I give more than your average amount of damns about are running around, and it's not just their lives in peril, it's their souls, right? And their minds. I mean that is the last shit Bucky needed over again, to have someone fuck with his mind. Jane too. Fuck if there's not whole lot I'm willing to do to keep anyone from joining that Shitty Club, to be honest."

Her spoon moves up and down in the Cheerios.

"So I should be feeling a lot more than I am. During the trial, during Wakanda, I just…I was scared, sad, just…a whole mess. And I mean I'm worried, I am, but it's…just…it's distant. I was ready to—" She gives him a narrowed eyed look, as if not sure what it's going to do, admitting this.

"Cry while they were here. In front of me. And I was trying to reach Jane. And then I was pissed. And then there was just. Nothing to do but pick up my house, make a few phone calls, and recognize I'm still stumped on this case which may not be mine to do more than throw the occasional assist pass on to begin with. Mostly I'm feeling…maybe resigned. Maybe just. Nothing. And I don't know what that says about me, or where my head's at. Because I was sure feeling sorry for myself a few weeks ago. And here I am."

She lifts her spoon. "Drinking coffee. Eating Cheerioes. Working other cases, even."

"Sometimes that's all we can really do, Jess. Pick up our house, eat some cereal. March on. But it's also okay to freak out a little bit too, I know how much Barnes means to you. Crying? Getting mad? It's a whole lot healthier than feeling numb." Says the man who took a night off life in general by getting stoned with the billionaire he's come to think of as his friend. Empty water bottle is traded out for coffee, Luke still trying to chase away that haze on his brain meats. "Hell, maybe I'm the last person you should be talking to about this, all I have right now is anger and resignation."

"It means something that you came over to check on me," Jessica says hesitantly.

"It meant something the last couple of times you have. I mean, don't get me wrong. If I'm falling apart and anyone I know can see it they definitely wade right in with the spackle and get ready to do a patch job. Some so much I'm starting to wonder how exhausted they all must be with it. But I guess usually I do okay convincing people I'm fine, so they don't come asking. You…you just keep. Checking in. And asking. With no sign that there should be anything wrong. You just keep doing that. So it just— I mean it's— Something I'm clumsily attempting to thank you. For."

She looks down, frowning into her bowl. It's out of Cheerioes. So she lifts it to her lips and drinks the milk like a 10-year old might, then wipes her mouth and sets it aside.

"I think I'm just out of emotional gas right now. For angry and sad."

She finally comes over and sits on the floor by the couch, back to said couch. Near him. She props her arm over her knee and chuffs a little. "Lot of those friends of mine," she admits, "They can just. Say a thing or two. Just one or two phrases. Like they're reaching inside my head. Tuning up a freaking car. Just oh that's the wire that's loose?" She mimes plugging it back in, makes a little popping noise.

She looks up at Luke, mouth twisting. "I don't know how to do it back. I'm sorry you're sad. It's been a sucky few months for you. I wish I could fix it."

Several wrinkles form on Luke's forehead disappearing beneath the brim of his beanie as his eyebrows creep up while he looks at Jessica behind the desk. But the deepest is the furrow between those brows like something is perturbing him. "One of your nearest and dearest just tried to filet you and is running around without a soul. I'd be more worried about you if you were okay with it all." As she moves to sit on the floor, he slumps down off the couch to sit next to her. "I don't need to be fixed, Jessica. I'm unbreakable, remember? But if you want to just sit here and stare at the wall with me for a little while…" Well, it'd help.

"Unbreakable body don't mean unbreakable heart, Cage."

He sits next to her. She hesitates. "Sitting and staring at the wall. That means no talking, right?"

This seems to be an important point. No talking. Why? Who knows. The inside of Jessica's head doesn't work like the inside of most people's heads. At last she just sort of. It's not exactly a fall sideways, or a slump sideways. She's just sideways, shoulder against his arm, head against his shoulder.

Her wall on that side isn't exactly a wall. It's that pushpin map, one that hasn't been updated in months, and above it, a projector screen that hasn't been pulled down. Near it, to the right, are the shelves, set into the wall. A photo of a teenage girl with black hair, a young man with dusty brown hair, a woman with a brown bob and a man with a receeding black hairline wave and smile in front of a blue house. A thank you card, from someone. One of those diffuser things that probably needed to be changed like. A year ago. A black statue of Athena ascendent, 18 inches high, liked enough to be on the top shelf, and well out of the way of most disasters that come their way. To the left, her punching bag, which is really starting to look like it's seen better days, and a dent in the wall where her punching bag apparently found its way into it not so very long ago.

Frigid wind blows in from the broken window, but Jess doesn't appear to care.

Long jeaned legs stretch out, booted ankles crossed, and if Luke seems surprised that Jessica is leaning on his shoulder it only takes place in an eye shift that she'll never see. There is a huff of laughter at her question, but he doesn't answers. Just. Stares, or more importantly gets the first real good look of Jessica's apartment, despite the number of times he's been here now. After another slurp of his coffee he remarks, "You know, staring doesn't necessarily rule out talking. Like. If you wanted to tell me what that hug was all about, that'd be cool." The arm she's leaning on lifts out from underneath her head, disrupting her just long enough to grab the quilt and drag it over their laps before silently offering it back.

Jessica tucks her half around herself, drapes it all the way up over her shoulder even. She settles back on his arm and looks at the pushpin map. She really needs to take that thing down, but then she keeps feeling worried they're going to need it, that some deep pattern will emerge out of all the little pins that will be important later.

"I was just saying thank you," she says.

"Daredevil said you were right out front at the raid. And I mean. I know you had all sorts of reasons of your own. But you were still there. Part of something that put him in a deep dark hole forever. Making sure he wouldn't hurt anyone else ever again."

She hitches her shoulder up. "Warranted a thank you. I couldn't really. Talk. Just then though. Too much in my brain."

"Afraid your eyes might leak?" The tease is light as he keeps his eyes focused out on the map too instead of the dark-haired woman next to him. He can smell her shampoo, it's very distracting from the whole staring at the wall thing. "Devil came up with the plan, I was just following through. And when you're a walking talking human shield, those tend to go in front." His head finally tilts, resting a cheek on top of the crown of Jessica's hair. "But you don't need to say thank you, Jessica. Truth is, I'd have done it even if I never would have met you. Or even if you asked me not to. But you deserve that peace."

It's vanilla. So is her soap. It's a vanilla shampoo-conditioner-bodywash mix that is as practical as they come. One goop to dump all over every place that needs cleaned, scrubbed, rinsed, repeat. Easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy. And she likes vanilla.

"Yeah," she says. "And you might not have needed to be thanked, but I still needed to say it. Or. Do it. Or whatever it was I was doing."

He can stare at the wall. She closes her eyes. "I don't know what I deserve, but I'm glad to have it anyway. More than that, all those people who would have been victimized by any drug made out of his fucking DNA deserve that peace, even if they'll never know." She exhales. "I mean all the other pills too. But that one most of all. I'm glad they couldn't get the formula right in time to stop you guys from stepping in."

"It doesn't mean it's over." Not that Luke means to be all doomsday, but like she pointed out earlier, he had his own reasons for being there too. Reasons that have left him the way he is. Left him with questioning the last six years of his life about what was true and what was just a show of smoke and mirrors all for the sake of some experiment he was lucky enough to survive. "I think we killed a weed, and I'm just waiting for the next one to pop up. What do all the pins mean?"

"A failed attempt at doing some good on another investigation," Jessica murmurs, eyes still closed. She's comfortable. It's comforting, to lean against his bulk.

"Some group of technowizards, trying to sing up Primordial Darkness, which is basically the Nothing, to cause an Apocalypse. Been on a team tackling that one since…mmm. March, April. Whatever they're doing is supposed to make nasty magic easier to do. I asked a couple of consultants to track nasty magical events across the city while I went to take care of a problem in Germany. That's the result, and I fed the info to a guy who is using predictive analytics to try to get a handle on all this shit, but as far as I know that attempt was a big fat dead end."

Her mouth curls up into half a smirk. She knows how she sounds half the time. She really is contemplating putting 'Weird Shit Specialist' on every one of her business cards. But this is her life, this is who she is now, and she's not going to flinch or sugar coat it. People who are in her life need to know what it is, what it's like. The chaos, the danger, the fact that to an extent she thrives on both, no matter how hard it can be.

"There's all sorts of weeds, Luke. We're not miracle workers. We're gardeners. A gardener's number one task is pulling weeds. Every time they go out there. The weeds don't stop coming, can't stop coming, because that's their nature. It doesn't matter if the weed is a thing called CGI or IGH or Kilgrave or Rubicon or iDoL or Decimux or Demon Bear or Dipshit the Drug Dealer. And if you like gardening, think of gardening as this sort of privilege you get to have, well. That part doesn't much get to you."

There is a shift of a cheek against her hair, likely so Luke can look down at her slightly. "When's the last time you just took pictures of a cheating husband or solved the case of Missus Newman's missing Sunday newspaper?" At least Cage has a day job that takes him away from all of this, where he deals with normal people complaining about normal problems while drinking normal beer. It should be bland in comparison, but he actually finds solace in it. And apparently so do other Metas and would be super folk who seem to be piling up on his payroll. "I still don't know if what I am is a privilege, but it helps when it comes down to trying to do the right thing."

"Not for over a year," Jessica murmurs.

"And to me? That's exactly what it is. A privilege."

She hesitates, than says, "Most people, you know, they get up, they go to work, they do their life, and they never get to know their life matters. Not for sure. That anything they do has meaning. And because I can survive shit that kills anyone else, and because a teenage witch walked in, saw me lying face down in a pile of my own vomit, and believed in me anyway? Well. I get to know. I've made a difference. Defended other people's lives. Saved them. If I bite the bullet tomorrow I will go down knowing that if I do, it's probably cause I'm doing something that matters at the time, or it's in retaliation for something I did. I get to die knowing at least one year of my life mattered. Maybe more will get to."

She drops her voice a little. "If that's not a privilege, I don't know what the Hell is."

"I dunno, Jones." The smile in Luke's voice is evident. "I could've done without that whole nearly being boiled alive part of it that got me here." As if to indicate he's just joking, his hand shifts to cap her knee in a few pats, and then seems to realize there might still be a touching barrier set of rules he should follow. "Shit, sorry." Back to being twined around his paper coffee cup.

"It's okay. I'm not triggered anymore," Jessica murmurs softly, as he pats her knee then apologizes. "I mean I'm laying on you right now so. You know. I can't guarantee like. It won't happen again. When it did happen I thought it would never happen again. And yeah. Boiled alive, set on fire, that shit sucks, but…it let you save a bunch of lives later. Or souls or sanity. Someone needed someone like you, and you were strong enough to take the boiling, in spirit, so you got the call. Someone else would have broken in their head, you didn't."

She shrugs. It's all a bit philosophical, and thus is a bit uncomfortable, though she's not sure if talking about triggering and touching is any better.

"Still doesn't mean I should be getting all cozy with another man's girl." Luke points out, and thus his hands stay in their neutral position. Chilling with a friend on the floor is perfectly acceptable territory. "And we don't know what it is about me that made it work, or what it is in your blood that could make those drugs stabilize but I guess that was the point of the whole Monterary. Worse part is that half of me is curious and the other half of me doesn't want the truth."

Jessica chuffs a laugh.

"I tanked it with Michael," she says grimly.

"I know that's a total shock. But I just up and fucking tanked it. After the bear's first swipe at my brain I just went nuts. Couldn't be touched. Couldn't be around my closest friends. Definitely couldn't be around a boyfriend. Slept in my car, one night, because I couldn't stand the sight of my own apartment. And I just…couldn't. I couldn't, so I was a total asshole. Dumped him. Via text. He didn't deserve it but I did it."

She sighs and doesn't move from her position, here on his arm.

"And even now I don't know if I can be anyone's girl. Because maybe that's never going to stop. I hope it does now that Kilgrave is gone. But maybe it will always be this landmine. And even if that's not…"

She sighs. "I notice I open that door like anyone else. I feel happy and romantic and interested and excited. But then when I walk through it? It's like. I dive right back out. And slam it. And I can't help myself. I did it to you in Wakanda. I was struggling not to do it to Michael before I was pushed right back through by something else. I don't know if I know how to be anyone's girl. If I'm built for it. If that part of me has just been destroyed for good."

Luke's muscles tighten slightly beneath her, his head lifting so he can look down at her fully now that she explains everything about Michael. "Why don't you just focus on being Jessica Jones instead of anyone's girl. And when you explain it all to the International Man of Mystery, if he cared about you in the first place, he'll understand and I'm sure you two can work it out and pick up where you left off when you're ready. Slowly. Like, really slowly. Glacially." Okay, the last was for his own benefit.

"Well. Focusing on Jessica Jones was what I was going to do," she agrees. "So I probably shouldn't be curled up with you beneath The Shitty Quilt." The capitals are all in there, every one. She rubs her fingers fondly over the surface of it.

"I'm not trying to lead you on or anything. It just seemed like maybe…I don't know. It seemed…"

She exhales. She can't word. It seemed to be the thing to do? It seemed to be something he needed? It's something she needed? She has no idea. It's helping her own battered and bruised spirit. She's not sure about him.

She sighs. "I'm not getting back with Michael, Luke. I was in like with him, he was in like with me, and I broke it off via fucking text, ignored him when he offered to help, and didn't talk to him for a month. I think it's gonna take a little more than an explanation of how absolutely fucked in the head I am. It certainly should."

Luke further tilts his head, trying to get a look at her face but he finally lifts his opposing hand and mops some of the hair back from her face so he can see her properly in this proximity. "No body is leading anybody anywhere, alright? The only thing I needed from you is this. Sitting here. Staring at a wall." Though he gives into the temptation to drop a heavy kiss on her forehead. Affectionate, though it doesn't linger, probably for his own sanity. "I didn't talk to you for a month and you still tolerate me, and chill underneath your shitty quilt. You're too hard on yourself. And your quilt. Look at this thing, it's like a cup of noodle soup and a teddy bear rolled into one. The frays in it just give it character. Like yours."

"Mom made it," Jessica admits softly, her fingers trailing across the squares. "It's the only thing I still have of her. So when things go to shit, I bring it out. But I mean it is, it's over 20 years old. It's been washed a lot. So yeah. I mean. I guess it is exactly a cup of noodle soup and a teddy bear rolled into one."

She closes her eyes as he kisses her forehead, liking that. It's a level of affection she can more than handle right now, a level of closeness she can deal with. It's sweet and eases the aches in her soul, but doesn't ask more of her than she can give.

Maybe he's better with Boundaries than she'd believed.

"Sitting here and staring at a wall is pretty well working for me. I admit."

Her mother made it. It's the last thing she has of her. And yet it's the first thing she reached for when he needed a place to crash when he couldn't look at the walls he used to share with Reva. Couldn't sleep in the bed he used to share with his so called wife. It's amazing how fast a lump can form in one's throat. He swallows past it, "Good, because…" Luke scoots down just a bit, so that more of his back is braced by the couch. "We're about to kick this up a level. Switching to closed eyes and potential snoring, because damn. Billionaires are exhausting. We know Billionaires. Plural. How weird is that."

"We do." She works for both of them. That's weird too.

But if he's kicking up a notch to potential snoring, she just picks up his arm and settles under it. She wraps her arms around him and puts her head on his chest instead. And closes her eyes again, because she is just beyond exhausted. She was sleeping this morning, and last night, but not really well. Maybe she's just not actively and acutely feeling the things she says she's not feeling. She's feeling it in the body, in tiredness, instead of in her mind, with anger and tears. But the comfort of a big solid Man Mountain to settle in with…

That's good. That's what she needs, apparently. She has felt like she's needed it since last time at the park, even though she couldn't really bring herself to get near having it.

Yup. Turns out staring at a wall was just what Luke needed. Having the warm body of Jessica Jones using him as a body pillow helps too, grounding a soul that was in danger of splintering into tiny pieces. His chest expands beneath the weight of her head, taking a deep breath that gets released in a low rumble of contentment. A tightening of his arms and a pull of the blanket and his eyes do in fact close. Just a little nap before returning to reality can't hurt.

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