Keys to the Kingdom

July 09, 2018:

Luke delivers Jess a little good news because they both need it.

The New And Improved Luke's Bar & Apartment Building

Now with 100% more Fiskproofing.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Danny Rand, Emery Papsworth, Owen Mercer

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Luke says he has something to show Jessica and he leaves it at that, handing her a helmet before they both climb on his bike and head up to Harlem. He turns down some very familiar streets until he pulls the rumbling motorcycle in front of a dark eight story building with a banner strung along the side that totes 'Now Leasing!' and a phone number along with details about the building. It has a business on the ground floor with dozens of apartments above, one or two bedrooms with an elevator and a doorman. Fine living in Harlem. Unilluminated neon in the bottom level window scrawls out a familiar name, just waiting to shine again.

LUKE'S.

It's been a long journey up until this moment, and one that would be virtually impossible without the interference and benevolence of Danny Rand whose subsidiary paid for every brick and windowpane with a loan that will could never be repaid by the Trust it now belongs to.

*

Jess is not a person who does the Unknown well.

It is, in fact, a fundamental trait of who and what she is. Detectives are driven crazy by that which they cannot know. I want to show you something produces an immediate, "Okay, what?"

And a scowl, when he won't tell her.

But she trusts him, and, as with surveillance and shadowing, sometimes there's no way to get the answers she wants other than to just hop on the damned bike. So, she shoves her helmet on her head and slides in behind him, enjoying the sensation of wrapping her arms around a big, warm Man Mountain, at least. It curbs her attempts to guess.

A carton of designer synthetic heroin?

Footage on the Disney Princess Drug Dealers?

A pile of fresh bodies, freshly slaughtered, in need of a detective to help bring them justice!?!

She has just about settled on option #3 when he finally stops the bike at a familiar place. And then her eyes legit tear up. Because after the devastation in Hell's Kitchen, seeing a restoration, seeing the results of a precursor explosion cleared off and made beautiful again, does that.

"Luke," she says, wonder in her voice. "It's gorgeous. It's done? It's really done?"

*

Luke hits the kickstand and slips off the bike, pulling off his own skullcap helmet and hanging on one of the handlebars. "It's done." He can't help but smile a little, even if it is a bittersweet sentiment given everything that's happened over the last year in his own personal life, doubled by the tragedy that is happening in the borough just south of here. The shine in her eyes causes him to cup her face and lean down for a soft and soul-felt kiss before he's reaching for her hand. "C'mon."

It's not the entrance of the bar that he takes her to, but the one on the side for the residents that are going to live above but the listing on the buzzers is blank for now. Keys rattle as Luke takes them out of his pocket, the man looking a bit like a proud papa pulling out pictures of his new baby. The lobby is small, just large enough for the set of mailboxes and a little podium for the doorman. It's not fancy, but it's clean and shiny and smells like new paint.

"Every penny of income from renting the apartments that isn't set aside for expenses is going back towards the loan, as well as my salary for being the Landlord and Super. I'm also doing some side work for Danny as a bodyguard when he's in the public eye." Not that Danny actually needs the protection, but a six and a half foot bulked up black man can dissuade a lot of reporters. "I'll get my money from the bar." He feels the need to explain that he's not just freeloading off Rand's generosity, which is likely said more for his benefit than Jessica's. At the elevator, he punches the 'up' button.

*

He deserves to feel like the proud Papa, and after that soul-felt kiss Jessica grins at him and just lets him take her through a place that is nice, but not extravagent or out of reach for people. He explains, and Jess gets it, though she herself has basically taken all manner of … charity? Gifts? Yes? … from people at this point with an attitude that can only be described as: really? Are you sure? Awesome, no takebacks!

She settles into the elevator with him though, and says, "That sounds like a good set-up. Though you might not think so when you get your fourteenth three am toilet call."

She smirks, having been the producer of said calls herself, more than once, in the past. She slides her hands into her pockets as they ride up and up, then changes her mind on that and slides an arm around him instead.

*

The button Luke pushes is for the top floor, the elevator ride smooth and virtually silent, all the kinks worked out already before they start letting people move in. The walls are temporarily covered with specially grommeted moving blankets that hook near the top in preparation for furniture and boxes to be crammed into the cubicle and shuttled to the various apartments. Despite the covering, no doubt the elevator follows the same pattern as the lobby: nice, but not flashy. No marbled floors or shiny mirrors, but there is a discrete camera in the ceiling.

"I'll do what I gotta do." Luke tells her simply of his superintendent duties, but no doubt in the end he'll have to hire a part timer to fill in when he's busy being a vigilante.

When the door slides open, there is only one door accessible here besides the one that leads to the stairwell. The only apartment seemingly taking up the entire floor. Of course, there is the secret space for their group up here and the bunker in the basement, but they'll be time to show Jess and the others all that later. A different key is thumbed out to open this door and the dead bolt before he swings it open and reaches in to flip on the lights.

The apartment is large for Harlem, the common area 'open concept' where the living room bleeds into the dining area and kitchen, a long counter separating the last two. The look is modern industrial, a combination of exposed brick and metal with sleek furniture that is Luke-size appropriate. The record cabinet has no records, the bookcases have no books, but the personal touches will come later. In one corner of the living area is a room sectioned off with walls that are made out of multi-paned glass in a myriad of muted colors, each column a louver that can be opened or shut for privacy into the home office. Where there is a desk. With a plaque. That reads: Jessica's Brooding Desk.

*

"This is nice," Jessica says, and means it. For all that her own apartment could best have been described as 'shabby and cramped,' it was what she had been able to make for herself and she'd been proud of it on those grounds. In the rare occasions when she'd considered a move, apartments like this had briefly consumed her daydreaming, only to be discarded in favor of the known.

The known, of course, is now wiped off the face of the earth, a fact that would cause a pang if Jessica weren't so busy compartmentalizing her face off.

She runs her fingers along the counter and the bookshelves. But when she gets to the sectioned off living area, her eyes light up. They fall on the plaque, and she grins, leaping up to…

Well. She is sort of like a koala?

"You really put it in," she says, resting her forehead against his and grinning. "And it's awesome."

She had thought maybe he'd…put a desk in his bedroom or something. A whole gorgeous sectioned off area? Well…that's called exceeding expectations.

*

There is a laugh from Luke, a surprised thing that bubbles up his throat when Jess jumps and latches onto him. His hands go underneath her thighs to support her, though no doubt she could hang there for a good long while before even getting tired. "Of course I did. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it /right/."

He walks her the rest of the way into the office area and attempts to plop her down on the edge of the desk pending she'll actually let go. There's some pipe and plank open shelving in here and another bookcase, even though she keeps most of her stuff in her phone that doesn't mean there can't be some decorative tchotchkes. There's also a window in here with a wide ledge, perfect for sitting and smoking judging by the ashtray that's already there. "Which means one more thing." Seeming how he's doing things 'right'. He's leaning past her over the top of the desk to yank out a drawer and pull out a little black box.

*

Jessica gasps when she sees the rest of it, eyes wide. Every touch screams of someone who knows her, who has really given it thought. "I…could never be this romantic or even…this considerate in about a thousand years," she says, half thanks, half warning. All awe though. She has to swallow for a moment, because now she is getting emotional again.

And then he's pulling out small black boxes and she gets the same sort of look of perfect uncertainty that she got when he first used the L-word. Or when she first used it. For that matter. But she doesn't say anything, doesn't even offer the kind of nervous joke that might typically come at such a moment. She just watches him, taking a second moment to swallow back all this emotion before she can go all weird.

*

Luke just grins about her self-flagellation when it comes to romance or consideration, but he's never needed or required anything more from her than she was willing to give. He might nudge her from time to time, like meeting for coffee in the park when she didn't want to be near anyone, but he'll never shove. It's what works for them. Accepting each other as they are. "Don't freak out on me." He can see the telltale signs of a Jones spinout brewing, so the words are said like he's talking to a scared horse that might buck. "I just thought…well I want this place to be ours, not just mine. I know it's not your neighborhood, but." He tosses the box at Jessica to break the tension. And the fact that the box /jingles/ might help.

"Live with me, Jessica Jones." The box contains a set of keys.

Like he's afraid she'll start coming up with excuses of why she can't, he quickly starts to ramble. "The place has two bedrooms and bathrooms, so if you get sick of me you can hide in the other. And one of the office walls slides closed like a door, so you'll have your privacy. Roof access is in the stairwell, so you can come and go from there if you need to. Hell, half the time I'll be working downstairs anyways."

*

Luke starts to soothe her and really…it helps. She sort of needs that recognition. That she can start, just a little, to get emotionally scared about a step, and he will not judge. That he won't freak out, but will see her through it.

And just like those nudges in the park, that's what he's always done. See her through it. If she could name any quality that made her fall for him, that one is the one. There are others. Many others. But that one is there in the lead. He knows when to push and when to pull. He knows when backing off can be the wrong choice, but knows just how far to step, too.

Jessica Jones catches the keys reflexively. And presses them to her chest.

Meanwhile, he starts trying to cut off objections, and she's just looking at him. Just looking, and looking, with the keys still clutched to her.

Finally she's trying to just shut him up with a kiss.

It means yes.

*

Luke clutches Jess to his chest with arms immediately twining around her back. He'd never admit how scared he was himself in that split moment before she kissed her agreement, but the thud of his heart in his chest might betray him. The words are silenced but that can't stop a laugh against her lips and he hoists her off the desk again, spinning her in a celebratory if cliche sort of way. So sue him for being a little bit cheesy, he knows a good lawyer.

Breaking the kiss, he adds the cherry on top. "We have our own washer and dryer too."

*

The celebatory spin has her grinning. Then?

"Damn, Cage," Jess whispers, as he unveils the crown jewel of true New Yorker luxuries. "Fancy.

She runs her hands over that bald head and takes a deep breath. "I love you," she says. It's getting easier for her to say it. It's still a rare thing. But now she looks into his eyes. She looks like she's going to try to say more.

Nope. Look. Traffic squeal stop, talking about emotions now. That's all she's got. It will have to do, will have to encompass everything she's feeling in this moment. She cannot Word. She just clings to him and says that much.

*

Luke clunks his forehead against hers, "I love you too." They've never actually had that simple exchange of not-so-simple words, but there it is. He takes another minute just to enjoy that proximity, reveling in the sentiment of the moment without needing to verbally express any of the mushy stuff. He knows those words hold it all.

Finally, he gives her a wink and a quick swat on the butt before letting her down. "I don't want to move out of Danny's just yet though. Not until stuff quiets down. I think it's good for all of us, as much as possible, to be in one place." Not just for comfort but logistics. "Then, we've got a lot of shopping to do." Jess will discover there aren't dishes in the cupboards or even linen on the beds yet as he pushes her out of the office to go explore the rest of the apartment. The guest bathroom has a shower, but the master bedroom has a ensuite with a large jetted garden tub and glass wall shower that has that fancy rain shower head they both coveted at Danny's.

*

"Oh my god. You couldn't have possibly have known my thing about these tubs before you built this," Jessica says, once she has hopped down and followed him around to finish the tour. But no doubt about it, her eyes light up.

It is a strage thing. She can be very expressive with friends. She has been. But something about being super expressive with him is harder. Thank goodness he doesn't need it, that he gets it. Maybe it's just the nature of the relationship. Friendship is friendship. It requires opening some doors but not others. This is more about doors still beyond those, and that's where she can't find words or expressions.

She nods thoughtfully about Danny's apartment, saying, "Yeah, I don't think I'd feel right running out of there either. I can at least say with a clear conscience it's not because of his great stuff. This place is…it's us, and I love it. It fits. But I agree, I think we just all kind of need each other right now."

She shrugs at that. "Even the kitchen actually makes me want to try to cook more. And. Better."

This perhaps sheds some light on her entire cooking thing. Who would want to cook in that cramped little space she had before? It was not really that conducive.

*

"That's for you, that's for me." Luke indicates tub versus shower, because even though the former is large, he'd still manage to look like a bobsledder in it and unless he's going to act out Cool Runnings, he'll stick with the shower. "Reva." He clears his throat. "Reva told me once that all chicks love bathtubs. Only had that little one in the old place." Which is weird to think, a few floors down used to be an apartment that he shared with his wife. Quick, a distraction! He thumbs over, "And the two sinks is so that you can have your girly stuff on one side, and you won't complain about my beard hairs in yours." When it comes to the kitchen though, his smile renews. "We'll get you all the fancy gadgets you want. And I'm sure Emery will teach us how to use them. All we have to do is do it wrong once in front of him, and get free cooking lessons for life."

*

"I hope you won't be disappointed to find the 'girly stuff' is nothing but a bottle of mascara, some eyeliner and some lipgloss. I use the same soap, shampoo, and bodywash mix for everything. I still don't understand what conditioner is supposed to be for."

There's more than that. There's make-up wipes and some other crap too, but it's just not very much. But all the same, she sounds more than pleased. There's space for both of them, and she reaches out to wrap an arm around his. She snarfs a soft laugh about the free cooking gadgets.

"I don't know if he realizes all these offers to help I've been giving him are cause I'm kind of tired of sucking in the kitchen. I don't know when I woke up one day and said…I wanna be awesome in the kitchen, but…"

But that leads her to a thought, and she looks up. Because she was thinking about doing a thing. And now its the kind of thing that really ought to be run by the man she loves. That she's living with.

"Maybe not this conversation," she says. "But there's a thing maybe that I'd like to do that we should have a serious sit-down about later."

*

"Damn, and here I was going to give you all the drawer space in here. Looks like my turtle wax can have a place to live after all." He rubs his shiny dome, that no, he doesn't actually put care wax on but it still takes product to look that good. He doesn't just wake up looking all super fly. At the mention of a Thing, his eyes narrow just slightly, "Ain't even gonna give me a hint?" Which is fair play considering he threw her on a bike without explanation to get here, but still.

*

Jessica shrugs at his narrowed eyes. "I guess? I don't want to overshadow what we're doing here. But when Emery went missing…and look, I don't want anything to come of this. I want the guy to keep living out his long and apparently way unnatural weird soul-thing lifetime. But…if something does happen to him…"

She chews on her lower lip, putting her hand on his arm. "I…want to sit down with him and see if he'd consider drawing up paperwork. To make me Kennis' guardian. If something ever did. I mean. I know she's close with Owen, and I would never try to stop that relationship, but he's a heroin addict, you know? And there's Danny, and he's sure got the money for it, but…I mean…he's still kind of a kid himself. But now we live together so I wouldn't do that, even make that ask, without asking you. And maybe it would piss him off. To even put that out there. But…"

She shrugs uncomfortably. "I think if something did I could do it. I'd have to change a lot of how I live, but I think…I think maybe I could. And get it right. And here we are, so maybe we could. And get it right. But…I mean it's a lot. To even think about that. Even as a contingency. So. I thought maybe…other convo."

Halting and stumbling, cheeks warmed, because who in their right mind would ever think she should Mom a young child? Including her? For longer than 2 days?

*

"Shiiit." Luke drawls the word out seriously, but a grin cracks almost immediately. "I get you to move in with me, and already you're making me your baby daddy?" He maneuvers so that he can lay two big paws on her shoulders and look down at her square in the eyes. "I appreciate you thinking about me, but if this is something you want to do. I'm in. If this is something you want to keep talking about, I'm good with that too. I'm not going to talk you out of it though. Besides it being a Worst Case Scenario, we have the room here, and the love. And I can paint the spare room in any shade of fairy she fancies that week." His hands shift from on her shoulders to down her back where he crams his fingers into her back pockets.

*

"Jesus Christ, Luke," Jessica mutters at that first comment, burying her face in his chest. And that's all she's got to say about that.

It's funny, but she's embarrassed enough about this as it is that she doesn't even have the snark to fire back at him.

Instead she just snuggles up. And she'll just stay there, just like that, until some semblance of the embarrassment fades. Then: "Thanks."

She doesn't want to talk about it more right now, it seems.

Indeed, she's reaching a point of overwhelm, a point where she can't get words out again. So she just cups his face in her slim, small, so-delicate looking hands, and kisses him again. That will have to do.

*

Luke gladly accepts every kiss she has to give, but this one ends with him hoisting her up again. It seems he's found the easiest way to get people to go where he wants them is just to pluck them up and tote them there. Especially when he still has stuff to show her and if they keep kissing they'll get sidetracked by christening the new bedroom set. "If we're done playing house…" She gets whisked back out into the living area where the tour will continue with him showing her all the secret the new building holds. "Now it's time to talk business."

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