Bread and Butter

March 08, 2018:

Jess and Luke do some legwork.

Errywhere NYC

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Winter Soldier, Jane Foster, Valkyrie

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It is an uncharacteristic 8:30 in the morning when Jessica texts Luke.

'On case. need back up. Wanna?'

It is the closest she's ever come to preemptively asking for help, to acknowledging she might run into things she can't handle herself. It also, given the hour and the fact that she texted this rather than called, might be a sign that something's kind of off.

She'd asked him to just meet her at Alias, and that is where he will find her. She finished work hours ago. She sits at her desk, hands curled around a cup of coffee, watching some sort of hologram of some kind of ceremony. Most of the people at it are speaking in a foreign language, the clothing and people all look Wakandan. It looks like it's nearing its end though. Her eyes are bloodshot and her nose is bright red. She's in a black sweater, with a purple scarf draped to either side, jeans, boots. Her hair is pulled back into a messy tail. This does not look like a woman on her best for any kind of detective work, but then again, perhaps that's why she called. This does not look like a woman dressing to impress, either, but then one thing Jessica likes about their unlikely relationship is that she doesn't have to pretend with him, doesn't even feel she should. She doesn't soften herself, doesn't hide herself. It's not that she exactly tries to with all her friends; they just inspire a lot of gentleness in her, a lot of attempts to watch herself, and in truth, every one of them has eventually proven they can handle her stompy, shouty, and sarcastic. Luke does that and one ups by serving it right back up.

So she can sit there, and wait for him, and feel like shit, and look like shit, and call him for help when she knows she's going to need help. It's a breakthrough.

*

He still has the code to get into the building, but there is still a curtesy knock at her door before he just tests the handle to see if it's unlocked to just let himself in. Surely they're familiar enough that him waltzing in isn't really odd, not that Luke Cage is capable of waltzing. Not even the Harlem Shuffle on a good day, two left feet this one.

"Hey babe." He greets with a touch of worry in his voice. He didn't bother walking today, or taking transit, but brought his bike for the most efficient form of transportation and parked it on the sidewalk outside. Because one does not get a text from Jessica Jones at that hour, like that, and take your sweet time in coming over or stop for coffee and bagels on the way. His long legs eat up the distance between them, and he's pawing at her face. "You've been crying. Who do I need to pound?" Not that she couldn't defend herself, but you know, duty.

*

"I don't know," Jessica admits, switching off the hologram and coming to slide her arms around him. She closes her eyes and murmurs, "One of my friends was murdered, last month. I just got the news. I don't know who did it and I've been asked to stay off the case by people who have the right to make that ask. It has nothing to do with what we're doing today, but it…I just found out last night and it kept me up, s'all."

Him bringing the bike will be a boon, actually, for a variety of reasons. One being she might well happily let him drive rather than trying to squeeze him into Trish's sedan. It's probably just as well, too, that he didn't stop; she doesn't look that inclined to eat.
"Thanks for coming."

*

The wide expanse of his hand cradles her head to his midsection and then pets back to ring around her ponytail and let it slide through the hoop of his fingers. "Always." Luke rumbles to the note of gratitude, then merely reaches down to pluck her out of the chair and set her on the edge of the desk so that their eye line is at least somewhat more equalized. The rest he bends down for. "I'm sorry for your friend. I'm sure these people know what they're doing, and if they don't, we'll step in then and find out who did this."

*

She gives a faint smile. "Yeah," she agrees.

She rubs a hand over her face.

"In the meantime, I've got nine other murders in Gotham, some sort of reagent that's either magical or weird science or alien in nature, and people are going to die if we don't get off our ass and retrace the steps of an apparent contaminated bread truck. While some of Gotham's finest seem to randomly be on this, they seem to be more about punching, tasing, throwing, and exploding the evidence than working it. There is a good chance we are going to encounter monsters who burst out of the skins of their victims and carry them around while trying to eat us at some point during this fun-filled journey."

She has to work, she needs to work, if she doesn't work, more people will die. Sizani would have told her to work. And so she works.

She gives a crooked smile. "Apparently your buddy from the goat selfie was one of them. She was the one who tased some evidence. Nice lady."

*

"I know lots of nice ladies." But before she can slug him for that verbally, Luke's leaning over to kiss one eyelid and then the other. It won't chase away the red, but maybe it'll ease the sting a little. "Alright, so monsters in human skin suits. That seems about right for a … what's today? Thursday?" Hands rub her shoulders and down her biceps, like one would warm someone who has been out in the cold too long. Cage then snags her cup of coffee, helping himself to the rest of the liquid inside. "Ready when you are."

*

She in fact has. Usually cold or heat don't impact her much, but her skin feels like she's been underdressed, outside, for hours.

Which she in fact has.

No protest about him finishing her coffee, which seems to be in a plain mug bought from the local bodega, like everyone else, rather than one of her signature trashy snarky mugs. She jumps down, grabbing her phone and her jacket, which of course has everything else she could possibly need, and directs him to an address which proves to be a Circle K about 15 miles outside of Gotham. Normal traffic. She goes in, buys a loaf of bread, creates a folder in her STUFF app that reads, of all things, SUSPECT BREAD, and chucks it in her phone. After a bit of surveillance she decides there's nothing to see here.

And so it goes. 7-11. Gas n' Sip. Ma's Grocery and Liquor. Just a ridiculous number of little stores. Buying bread and surveillance.

After awhile she admits, "Sorry, I know this is boring. None of these are really even the interesting ones. Dead Driver Paul, a fellow who turned into Baby Cthulhu, spent way too long at one stop, and I mean, I could have just taken us straight there." Many investigators would, prefering not to waste the time. But Jessica is thorough, when thoroughness costs nothing. "I just want to make sure I'm not missing anything. Sad part is you basically know everything I know about this case right now. I got hired by someone mysterious to watch the bodega where all this went down. Normally I do not take anonymous clients no matter how much cash they offer, but since it was just a watch job and fit into some other stuff I'm doing, I decided to risk it. And lo, weird-ass murder case."

To be honest, a few of these stops seems to have put her back to something like herself. Her subdued self, her cuddling against Luke's back as they drive more than she normally indulges in self, but more or less herself.

*

"I'm just starting to think you're just raging a war on gluten." Luke comments after about the third loaf of bread that gets zapped into her phone. "If nothing comes out of this, we're going to be eating toast for /weeks/." His hand cranks the throttle when she settles behind him again, making the engine purr louder while he keeps his the clutch engaged. "Back to the bodega in question then?" He asks when the roar quiets.

*

"No way. I love gluten. I am like whatever the opposite of a gluten-free, organic, vegan, no-GMO whatever whatever eater is," Jess says dryly. "So toast is pretty okay. Toast and peanut butter and jelly. Meals I can make."

But she nods and says, "Yeah, the next one is a mini-mart on Thurgood Street, that's the one he spent way too much time at. This is where we might actually get somewhere today." She smirks faintly. "This is about 90% of the job, you know? Staring at shit that doesn't tell you shit to get to that ten percent that tells you everything."

She sniffles a little bit, still stopped up, and adds, "Hey. Question."

*

"Cereal, don't forget cereal." Luke adds to her list of culinary expertise. So they'll eat a lot of take out in their relationship, the thought doesn't faze him. He nods to the directions for the next bodega but doesn't pull off straight away as she poses a preface to a question. He keeps his legs braced, easily balancing the weight of their combined bodies on the two wheels. "What's that, babe?"

*

"Feel like grabbing dinner with Bucky and Jane some night?"

She shrugs. It's a weird question to be asking. She compartmentalizes her life. Friends who know about her relationship have found out almost by accident. Now she is in a place where she is contemplating beginning introductions. Beginning them, in fact, with some of the most important people in her life.

It's not quite 'you wanna meet my parents' or anything, but for her it's still a real big deal, and just something thrown out there among murdered friends and trips to potentially monster-filled Gotham bodegas.

Because.

How else would she do it?

*

That question actually has Luke craning his head around to try and see Jessica, only succeeding in giving her a bit of a glance over his shoulder. "Because your last dinner with them went so well?" But that was a different time, a different place, and a nice demonic possession to boot. His hand squeezes hers where it's wrapped around his chest. "So long as they don't mind being splashed in the face with holy water in lieu of a warm hello." That's as much of a yes as she's going to get on the matter.

*

"Don't. They're cured, and they're writhing in guilt," Jess says softly, squeezing him. "I wasn't hurt, not really."

Ok, so she lost a chunk of hip, but she got better, and while she's still not sure if there was poison or some sort of villain's sick joke she at least had, purely by chance, activated charcoal cupcakes on hand. All's well that ends well.

Of course, he could just be joking, but she takes it seriously nevertheless. Throwing holy water in their faces is certainly something John might do. She smirks suddenly.

"Still, it's good you know that could have worked. I'll have to get you some. I don't know how hard it is to make, John sent me some so I assume it's not something you can just whip up in an afternoon. But I'm starting to feel like everyone should have a little holy water on them at all times."

*

"I …didn't actually." Know that holy water would work, but hey, it was a gamble and it's good to know it would have paid off. "Just keep some of that in your phone handy, just in case things get weird during dessert." Joking? Probably only half way, considering his brief and limited history of knowing Bucky and the messes he manages to get into. "I'll be on my best behavior." He finally grumbles and then pulls them away from the curb to make short work of the transit to the bodega. At least that will give him a brief moment to brood.
There is nothing going on at this bodega either.

*

Jessica buys more bread.

She comes out and frowns at the place, trying to figure out what might have caused Dead Paul to stay here for over an hour. Soon, she's eyeing the junkyard across the street from the bodega with narrowed, thoughtful eyes.

But before she does anything she asks, "How'd things go with your alien?" Perhaps it's a reminder she's not the only one with a life full of Weird (TM); his alien certainly didn't have anything to do with her. Not this time, anyway. Later, she's going to have to pull out the little book of hedge wards and protective spells that anyone can perform, run him through one or two of them though. Most people go thorugh their whole lives not realizing that magic exists right alongside everyone else, but it has been a pervasive part of Jessica's life for over a year now, and thus knowing such things is, to her, basic self-defense at this point. Even for invulnerable men. Maybe, especially, for invulnerable men. Bulletproof is not spellproof. Some of those things can flow right through skin and armor and anything to begin doing their work from the inside out.

*

Luke is stretched out in a lean on the seat of his bike, helmet bouncing against his lap when Jessica comes back out with yet another loaf of bread. His eyebrow just quirks with a matching smirk, "Maybe we'll have to branch out to french toast. Bread pudding. Croutons?" His eyes follow her gaze to the junkyard, mentally grateful he no longer needs to get tetanus shots. "At this point, you're going to have to be more specific about the alien encounter thing. There was the drinking bar escapade, and then there was the liquor store …I'm beginning to sense a theme with this Valkyrie chick. But if you mean when I texted you, I guess you could consider it contained, but if you see any Pill Bug looking mother fuckers around here spawning, let me know."

*
"Pill bug? Valkyrie?"

Jessica Jones makes a sock puppet motion with her hand. "Me no know what's going on. You rewind tape and get into some goddamn details."

It's tired, and as stabs at a joke go it's one of her worse ones in awhile. The crouton one is better. "I'm not eating anything from this bakery ever, see, that's why it's in a file called SUSPECT Bread. I should have named it SCARY bread just to make sure you remembered not to eat it. I'm just going to trust in your fear of sticking your hand in my phone."

Still, she leans against him in turn. Now she's surveilling the junkyard, but she's getting those little tensions that say yes, sooner or later she's going to get tired of watching and just go right on in.

And it takes about 5 whole minutes.

Fortunately, she does it the new way. That is to say, she takes to the air, and does a fly around like some sort of circling Jessica-sized leather-clad eagle. And when she lands beside his bike?

She gets right back on.

"Yeah, we're not going in there right now," she says grimly. "It's crawling with hostiles. I wanna look at the lab work before we even try. If we don't know what's going on we could end up turned next, and that doesn't sound like a real good day. I think our workday is now officially over. God damn it."

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