AKA The L-Word

May 01, 2018:

Jessica Jones brings Luke Cage up to speed about the twins' visit. Sort of. Then he derails her.

Luke's Construction Site, Harlem

Coming Soon! A building!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Wanda Maximoff, Pietro Maximoff, John Constantine, Trish Walker, Matt Murdock, Six, Danny Rand, Owen Mercer, Tony Stark, Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The work day is over, but Luke remains at the site after all the laborers have gone home. He stands in the pit among the new footings standing over a mobile drafting table and leaning over a set of blue prints, illuminated by a single flood light powered by the low thrum of a generator. He'll have to turn everything off soon or risk the ire of the neighboring buildings, but for now he can squeak out a few more minutes of scowling at lines and calculations that are giving him a headache if the lines on his forehead are any indication. His hardhat sits aside a paper cup of coffee that's long grown cold and he wipes his bald head with a faded red bandanna. The site itself is marked by a sign that totes some obscure Rand company offshoot that Danny himself didn't even realize he owned until he started doing some digging for this particular venture. It has a computer mock up image next to the name, advertising the 'Coming Soon' of an eight floor building with old school nostalgia mixed with shiny new enhancements, store front on the bottom floor and modest apartments above.

*

Squinting at the floodlight, Jessica arrives on the scene. She sets a cup of coffee down next to Luke's elbow, pauses to sip at her own, and then pulls a Maglite (out of her phone) to switch on and set next to him while he stares at the blueprints.

"Do they get sneaky and move when you don't stare at them? Or are you a secret badass architect on top of all your other dark secrets?"

She of course peers at them like she's got any insight into them either. But given the brief, speculative look on her face? It's possible she does.

Still, with nobody here to make her self-conscious a slim arm slips around his waist and squeezes, and she stands on tiptoe to offer a quick kiss to his cheek.

*

"There's my girl." Luke rumbles, braiding an arm around her shoulders and bending himself into the kiss. 'My girl'. He's been using that phrase more often lately, which means this is getting dangerously close to a real relationship. As real as their messed up lives will allow, at least. "They need my final decisions about layout next week." A finger stubs at the drawing along what seems to be the Western wall. "Instead of butting up next to the neighboring building like it was, I'm thinking of leaving a pedestrian alley along this side so with the utility alley on the back, the building will be its own little island. In case…You know, the place gets blown up again, it'll minimize collateral damage."

*

"Not a bad idea. Is it too late to add a secret room?"

She does not dispute 'my girl.' She doesn't say anything about it, but she doesn't dispute it, which means she's consenting to it. It is dangerously close to a real relationship, which means she is just kind of not moving. Like a wolf who isn't sure if she wants to be seen by whatever's out there.

But despite the question, which sounds like it should be delivered with all due snark?

It is asked with absolute deadly seriousness. "And I think that's a good idea. Making sure you've planned for that. Bombs. Though I was thinking I might ask a friend of mine to protect it for you. If you want. With magic."

*

Luke takes his eyes off the plans to eye Jess for a long moment, no doubt processing the mention of 'magic protection' as another line creases his forehead. "That. Would be helpful." Not that long ago he would have straight up refused, but now? No sense in refusing help when it's needed. Even if it causes a shiver to creep up his spine. He squeezes his hug of her shoulders a little tighter. "Taking me up on that rompus room suggestion?" He finds a grin slipping onto his lips, but shows her a place on the plans that looks like a giant void on footprint. "What about here? We can have an entrance from the smaller alley, and one that goes into the section of the basement for the bar."

*

"Hiding place," Jessica says quietly. She takes out her phone and pulls up a picture of the collar on its remote firing device.

"Twins visited me too. They brought one of those. Apparently this company, Trask Industries, is making them. American politicians are pumping money into it and half these registration bills are just precursors to them getting to use them. I don't want to sound like some insane prepper, but…having a few secret places to hide would be smart. I've got one, I'll show you later, but here you are already building. It's a real good opportunity to create another."

She exhales. "I won't lie. Seeing that thing scared the shit out of me. I'm still fucking scared. So. Here I am. Jessica Prepper Jones, I guess. I'm trying to do something about it, of course."

*

That grin turns out short lived as Jessica shows him the picture on the phone, his big paw of a hand guiding hers for a moment to get a better look at it. "I figured you meant a meeting place that was better than a bunch of masked heroes climbing in your window." The fact that the harbingers were the Twins isn't really helping his headache any. "Is it in here? The collar? In your magic phone doodle thingie?" He stops just shy of shaking it, like it'd just fall out.

*

"No. It's just a picture. I didn't fucking want it."

Still. There's something about the giant man with his giant paw shaking her tiny phone to try to get the evil thing out that gives her a moment of levity. A little grin flashes over her fierce and tired features, brown eyes sparkle. "I promise John probably won't put anything in your bar that defies the laws of physics."

Did he catch the probably? He should.

She leans on the drafting table and takes another sip of her coffee. "Masked heroes, clients, the number of people who break in and wait for me is just so high at this point that it's a running goddamn joke. Mostly I don't even mind. I only mind when they're the bad guys. Ironically, Team Twincest just knocked and let themselves in during business hours."

*

Luke relinquishes his hold on her hand and the phone, moving to stand in front of her as she leans on his table. His fingers lightly splay on the sides of each hip in a loose armed embrace of her, looking down with a slight jut of his jaw like he's resisting the urge to be protective given those facts. "That's even more disconcerting." The fact that the twins act like normal human beings. "And what do you mean, probably? Not filling me with warm and fuzzier about John there, Jones."

*

"I mean probably? For all I know an anti-bomb ward would require him to set things up so bunnies come vomiting out of the ceiling every time someone brings in too much C4. What I don't know about magic could fill this room and then some. I know just enough to know when to call John Constantine, and really, that's the freaking lesson just about every person who ever encounters magic really ought to know."

That's not entirely true; she's picked up a little more than that, but adds, "Usually if there's any at all, and he didn't put it there? Time to call John. But…"

And she realizes this is the first time she's ever talked about this bit…

"I asked him to ward my head ages ago. Against anyone else getting in there. And the thing works beautifully. He'll take care of you. He's a little…"

She cuts off whatever she was going to say, seeming to enjoy this loose-armed embrace well enough, resting in it.

She suddenly smirks.

"Actually, you know what? You guys will get on just fine. I'm sure of it."

Luke Cage is dating her. So John's brand of caustic snark is not going to phase him at all.

*

When she confides that John warded her FREAKING MIND, Luke just leans forward and gives her forehead a kiss as if adding his own brand of protection. The Luke Cage seal. "Well, I appreciate the solid from your friend. If he ever needs something heavy lifted or a bullet shield, he knows who to call. So what do you want in this secret hideout? I'll have to do some finagling. Find separate contractors. Figure out a way to pay some of them cash so it's no questions asked. Figure out a way to pass it off as something else."

*

"I can put money in," Jessica says, shrugging uncomfortably. It's not something she likes to announce, that she actually has money these days. "This is exactly the sort of thing I can put on the expense account. Tony's working on anti-collar measures himself, or so I hear, so I doubt he'd say a word about it. I—" She twists around to look at the blueprints, then spreads her hands a bit helplessly. "In…the building? I have a feeling this picture you've been staring at makes more sense to you than to me. You tell me."

She pauses, then lays her head on his chest for just a moment.

"You just take things in stride," she murmurs. "I really appreciate that about you."

This is almost downright mushy coming from her, but it's true.

*

Luke wraps her up again in steel bands of arms that are strong but not crushing in their hold of her. It's a delicate balance to remember one's strength, but yet he's never been worried about hurting her. "The way I look at it? You're Jessica Jones. If I'm going to love you, I'm going to love all of you. Neither of us deserves any less." He says it as nonchalantly as he took the news that she has a magical forcefield on her brain meats. "So it'll be a fine balance between leaving us safe outs, but not leaving us vulnerable. Two exits we'll conceal somehow. The interior one will be easy. Exterior not so much. What do you think about a fireman's pole from my apartment?" Kidding? Hopefully.

*

"…"

He just said the L-word.

He just said it twice.

Have they moved on to the L-word? Is it time for the L-word? Is she ready to let the L-word pass her lips? You know, when it's serious, and the person she's serious about is available and wants to be with her? When it would mean actually being vulnerable and intimate and all of that good stuff?

Loving Jessica Jones might mean loving her while she stares up at him with her lips slightly parted. That wolf, crouched and very still, unsure if moving is going to bring something more dangerous than herself.

Her brain catches up to the silly question at the end, and she says, "Sure, every giant dude should have a flimsy little pole to slide down exactly once before it crumples under his weight and brings the whole building down with him."

*

Luke doesn't even seem to notice that little guppy face, or he knows well enough to pretend like he doesn't. Don't corner a scared animal. "Right. No pole. But I can't help but feeling some sort of vertical escape wouldn't be helpful. At least you could fly up it and Double D could probably scale it like some spider monkey. Maybe even Danny." He chews on that thought for a moment, not so concerned about a building collapsing on him. Wouldn't be the first time, right? "Maybe we need someone more familiar with secret hideouts."

*

"No, trapdoor on the ceiling is a good move," Jessica says thoughtfully. "On the roof, I guess? I mean…I don't know. Man. Someone ought to be into that. Secret hideout architect. They'd make a killing. But yeah, we've got air access so we should. I bet Six could make use of it too, in her own ways. That's someone you should talk to. She can probably help you get some serious security tech in here neither you or I are ever going to think of."

She slides her arms slowly back around his waist, abandoning the coffee. There. She didn't shove him off or push him down or freak out. Right now this is a win. She is still touching him. He can take that however he likes. Right. Is it weird if she says it back? It's really going to be weird now, she made that lame ass joke about fire poles.

*

"With how many of us are crawling out of the woodwork and being sent scurrying right back like cockroaches with this anti-mutant movement? Damn right they would." Luke comments of the lucrative business plan catered to hidey holes. As she goes back to hugging him, he tugs playfully on the end of a lock of hair. "I'm taking the 'penthouse' this time around. Being a secret pseudo sort of building owner has its perks. Roof top access'll be easy. I'll even have a guest room if someone needs a place to crash. And space for a desk you can sit and brood at while you visit."

*

"Is that what you figure I'll do when I visit?" Jessica says with a smirk. "Brood? Versus more interesting things I might do when I visit your apartment? Actually, no, I'll always do at least a little. Now it is officially named Jessica's Brooding Desk. No takebacks."

She's probably guilty as charged. "Are you inviting me to drop through your roof when I get the urge to do so? Just show up while you're walking out of the shower, all hello, I have dropped through your roof because I shouldn't be the only one with guests who can't enter like a normal person?"

But it's good that he's gathering up a place to live on top of all of this. She'd wondered about that, and now she knows.

*

That elicits a deep laugh out of Luke, "I'll get a little plaque and everything. Just figured you'd like a satellite office for Alias." He shrugs, because he's not only planning a living space for himself, but also including the future of Jessica Jones in with those. The 'if' of his statement of love was purely symbolic and not factual, it seems. "Whenever you like. You drop in, I'll drop the towel…" He grins, letting that sentence drift off as he tilts up her chin to steal a more solid kiss this time.

*

She kisses him back, closing her eyes as she does so, smirking as he allows he'll drop the towel. "I'll take a satellite office," she says. The wolf comes slowly out of her den. "I'd like that."

She isn't going anywhere at least. He doesn't freak out like a rejected schoolgirl when she doesn't say it back right away. It's good. This is good. And suddenly she decides it's not weird to tell her bartender boyfriend who she…(???)'s…after all. "Hey. When it's up and running. There's these funky fruit juices meant to taste just like cocktails. Stock them for Trish and me so we can drink something fun when we come to the bar? I just hit six months. First time. So. I need something fun to drink when I come to the bar."

Why did she think it would be weird? It isn't weird now that she's done it.

*

"I'll even get those little paper umbrellas to stick in there with the fruit garnish. It'll drive Owen bonkers. Provided of course that he wants to come back." Luke's hand sweeps hair back from her face, even if it's more of an excuse to pet at her. "I'm proud of you." He says of her new chip achievement, meaning it even if he still imbibes a little too much in private when he starts thinking about things a little too much. "Your sister's back in town then? That mean I get to meet her and tell her I hey hey I want your cray cray?" There's even some disturbing dance movement that goes along with those sing song words.

*

"No, he absolutely wants his job back," Jessica says with a smirk. "He told me to tell you so. And she is…"

She trails off as Luke starts that routine. The cray cray routine. She can't even respond to his kinder words. Horror and hilarity live on her face in equal measure now.

She can't even decide whether to defend Trish or…she doesn't even know what. At last she smirks and says, "I mean. You can. But you do it at your own risk. My sister is way tougher than she seems, and that is not a period in her life she likes revisiting. I suggest you defend yourself with sweet dance moves."

She smirks and says, "But. See. Now I see why you're into me. It's clearly the cray cray."

*

"Good thing I'm unbreakable." Luke declares smugly as his sweet dance moves turn into just a sway that he gathers her up in. "Yeah, but you're my cray cray, so. Totally worth it. Maybe I should consider being one of those annoying douche bars that puts up people's pictures along the wall of famous people that drink there. Tony Stark. Trish Walker. We'll leave off Bucky's mug though, no offense."

*

She consents to dance with him, and here is where he might discover something new.

She. Is a good dancer.

She sways with ease, light on her feet, she has no need to look down at his. Not that stepping on his would do much, but she moves with easygoing grace.

"It seems I am your cray cray," she agrees. Another edge towards acknowledgement of that word he used.

"Substitute Murdock's," she suggests. "he's been on the cover of some magazine or another. Been a talking head lately too. Bucky wouldn't do it. Though. If you have a big grand opening party or some shit I'm totally inviting all my friends so they can meet you." He has graduated to being introduced to important people in Jessica's life. He already had, but she has moved from this dinner she never quite gets around to planning to here just meet all the rest of them who might come to this thing.

*

"Done and done. And you can meet all of mine, which consists of …Pop. At least that you don't already know." Because overall, Luke lives a pretty solitary life, considering he's still a wanted felon in Georgia and keeps as low a profile as possible around Harlem when he's not doing street level vigilantism. "You've got some moves, girl." Luke isn't exactly light on his feet, because there is nothing light about him, but he can sway and now he spins her out to some unheard beat.

*

She chuckles and says, "I learned the classical form," she admits. And when he spins her?

She swirls and twirls around with perfect trust, letting him catch her and draw her back at will. It's suddenly not hard to imagine the woman, in ripped jeans and a plain t-shirt though she may be, in a flouncy dress that might go swirling about her legs.

"Swing dancing. The Lindy Hop, the Jitterbug, the Charleston…took lessons. It was a guilty pleasure for awhile. I haven't been back in awhile, but a few of the lessons carry over to any kind of dancing."

She glances up at him as if expecting him to start laughing at her, but she says, "I learned for a job, and I kind of fell in love with it. It's a bit different than club dancing. I can't handle nightclub dancing, too many strangers clustering in getting way too familiar too fast. But that kind is just…it's different."

*

"Then you'll have to teach me." Nope, no laughing. Especially not when she admits to liking something. Luke stops the spin and whirls her back easily enough, but that's the extent of his fancy footwork. "Because all I know is the bump and grind where you just stand there, let the girl do the work and do not under any circumstances wave your arms in the air like you just don't care." He ends the impromptu dance with a hug. "Let's go get some food. I'm hungry enough to eat concrete."

*

He says exactly the right thing, and he catches her off guard once more. He hugs her, and she kisses him. She kisses him with a full, closed eyes, actual has-feelings kiss.

"No concrete eating for you. Let's go."

And when they're halfway up, on their way to wherever he feels like eating, because she's not too fussed?

Just out of the blue.

"Hey. Ditto."

She's not talking about her hunger pangs or any sudden pica-like desires to eat a brick. She slides her arm into his.

It's one of those patented Jessica 'I hope you know what ther means, cause that's all the explanation you're going to get' moments.

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