Kind of Perfect

October 15, 2018:

Luke Cage has a case and a question for one Jessica Jones.

Danny's Place

Where Defenders remain camped out cause he threatened to move!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Azalea Kingston, Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson, Tony Stark, Danny Rand

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Bringing Azalea home to Gramercy was a little bit fraught to be sure. But it worked out, and now the woman is all settled in. Jess had texted Luke about it about an hour prior with: Bringing Az home. Come meet her if you want.

She comes back grinning though, sticking her head into the room they share to look for her Man Mountain.

Met Az. Threw me through a window once. We're pals. Cya soon.

When she gets home, she’ll find Luke sprawled out on the bed, laying on his stomach with his laptop open. He must have been at work at some point today, because he’s wearing his Luke’s Bar t-shirt that proclaims to the ceiling that he’s a Hot Strong Cup of Coffee. His scrolling through whatever document or website ceases when the door opens, and he looks up with a similar grin to the one he read her text with.

“Normally I’d ask if you were getting laid, but as the second party in that scenario I already know the answer to that. So why else are you smiling so big?”

"You seem to forge all your friendships with my friends by allowing them to throw you. Is this a thing you're into?" Jess asks, with a smirk, as she comes all the way into the room. "Because Az isn't dead. I mean, she's not in great shape, and she's been through some awful shit, but she didn't get blown up."

She flops on the bed next to him after shucking her jacket and tossing it across a chair. Her grey tank top is nothing special over her marginal jeans. "I mean. I'm also happy I'm getting laid, Mister, but as you said, that's no mystery. What are you working on?"

“I’m thinking about getting it printed on my Super Hero resume: Works well with others. Great projectile.” Luke smirks, but he’s quick to close the laptop as she comes closer, nonchalantly rolling onto his side to prep for the incoming flop. One arm drapes over her narrow waist in that casual comfort slash possessive thing he’s got going for her.

“I guess Not Dead friends rate for a thousand watt smile. It looks good on you.” The unsaid portion being: After everything that’s happened lately.

The question as to what he’s working on garners a partial shrug, “Browsing desks for your new office.”

She starts at that, looking up at him with a few blinks. "That's sweet of you," she says. "I'll still do a lot of work at the Brooding Desk, but…I don't wanna meet clients there. I kind of wanna keep one foot in Hell's Kitchen and also…I dunno. I think maybe if I split the homeplace from the workplace we can reduce the amount of crazy that comes into both? And maybe also reduce my tendency to be an obnoxious workaholic."

Though something occurs to her, and she winces. "I completely made that decision without saying anything to you, too. I'm sorry. I'm still getting used to it. Talking about things as a couple and stuff. I'm so used to just up and doing whatever. Are you mad?"

Luke makes that noise between his teeth that sounds like a tsch of admonishment. “Of course not. It’s your decision to make, babe. I didn’t consult you when I put the GoGo dancer cage in the bar.” His grin of course belies that statement about recent bar upgrades. “Fine, no cage. But there may be a motorcycle in our dining room in Harlem.”

“I’m glad you’ll be in by the boys. Means you can keep an eye on them.” And they on her. “And you already mentioned having an actual office this time around, it makes sense to plop it down by Nelson & Murdock. Speaking of. You, my dear, already have your first case. So you better sign that lease if you haven’t already.”

Luke's words produce a warm smile and earn him a series of kisses. The slow sorts, multiple ones. She probably wouldn't really care about the motorcycle if there is one. She'll just walk around it. This is not a woman who is going to get fussed about couch cushions and drapes. This is a woman who barely understands the purpose of those things. And owns no decorative towels. Towels are meant to be used.

But this second bit, about having a case, piques her interest right away. "I do?" she asks.

But she leaves it at that. She could pepper him with a zillion follow up questions, but trusts the efficient two-word question will get the info in this case.

There is, in fact, his Harley sitting on a tarp in their apartment, something he’s been tinkering with lately to fix after he wrapped it around a light pole the day she got sniped and took her little coma nap.

During the course of kisses, Luke wraps his arms around her and drags her bodily on top of him so she can sit on his hips while they talk. His hands lace together behind his head, pillowing his bald cranium on their pad.

“Me.” And before she can begin to think he means that lasciviously, he adds, “But you’re not going to like it.” It’s actually something he’s hesitant to go into now, because it might diminish that smile of hers.

This ticks an eyebrow up. A flicker of a smirk crosses over her features, one that says she might just make the joke anyway. Except it's so rare for Jess to make any sexual joke at all, even to Luke, and sure enough, it doesn't slip out now. She just lets it pass with that tiny micro-expression which says 'that door was still open, and I graciously did not walk through it.'

The eyebrow stays up when he says she won't like it. She doesn't say anything about that one way or another, not even a 'I'll be the judge of that.' Instead she just tilts her head to one side, a silent encouragement for him to go on. He's hesitant, but it's been laid out there now, and now nothing will do but she has to know. To have it sitting there as a 'I wonder what this is all about' is the kind of thing truly intolerable to her detective's soul.

Luke tents his knees, scooting her a bit forward but at least she'll have something to lean against.

"I love you."

And when things start like that, it’s typically going to be downhill from there. Cage exhales a breath that empties his lungs, “Matt and Foggy, they’ve talked me into turning myself in. To get ahead of what Fisk has on me. Knock that right out from underneath him so that he can’t use that against me, against us, and our future.” One hand unlaces from the back of his head to rest on her thigh just above the knee. “But before I do that, I need you to make sure they can get me exonerated.”

Jessica leans back against his knees thoughtfully. "Well, if you hadn't led in with 'I'm turning myself in' I'd be absolutely thrilled to take this case. It's what I wanted to do before. But…"

She scowls a little bit, but it's her 'thinking' scowl. "But if they say that's the best way to handle this, well…I believe them. They're some of the best lawyers on the planet. They pulled off what nobody else could. And I know I can solve this case. Just…Luke, it could be awhile. Investigations are slow sometimes. The wheels of justice turn slow too. I can't promise you I'll be done in a week or even a month. Even a case that isn't this cold takes time. Are you sure about this?"

That comforting hand raises quickly to try to quell the fear that he’ll be sitting on ice for a long time. “I’m not handing myself over to the authorities until we’re sure we have something, anything to go on. But in order for the Lawyer Wonder Twins to get charges against me dropped, I will eventually have to turn myself over so there can due process and we do this the right way. I thought…” Luke sighs again. He’s got a lot of them stored up. “That we could do this the dirty way like I talked with you about before. Murdock and Nelson talked me out of it. So. It looks like we’re taking a little trip to Georgia.”

"Good. That's a relief. I don't want you sitting in jail all that time. So in that case…"

Jessica's eyes sparkle. "Let's solve this case, Mr. Cage. Start from the beginning. I don't think I ever asked you what exactly happened. I always knew you were innocent anyway, and I figured you didn't want to talk about it. But now? Now it's time to dig into every last thing you remember. Every detail, no matter how stupid, if it crosses your mind."

She dives briefly off his legs. "I need a legal pad! But start talking!"

Luke gives her a swat to speed her dismount, flopping back against the bed with a sigh as he focuses on the ceiling. He’s spent nearly a year here once the bar burned down, he’s memorized the way crown moulding fits at the corners so precisely and the pattern the ceiling light makes on the paint with the shadows it casts. What is Gramercy going to be like after Danny gives up the keys? Not that he can blame Danny for wanting a simpler life. That’s what he’s trying to do here, with his old self after all.

“How far do you want me to go back? Childhood? High school?” It’s not that he’s uncomfortable talking about this with Jess. It’s just that he’s uncomfortable talking about it at all. “I got busted for hot-wiring a car and joy riding my senior year. The judge gave me a choice: jail or the service. I chose the one where at least I’d see sky. Did my tour in the Marines, it was hard, but nothing special. Joined the force when I got out. Guess I must’ve pissed off the wrong person because some drugs went missing from a bust. Ended up in my apartment cut and bagged and ready for the street.”

"Okay. So let's talk about the bust itself. And who you think you might have pissed off. How long had you been on the force when this went down? What was your rank? Were you a detective or a uniform? Who was your partner? Who was on your squad? Who was your supervisor? Had you had any run-ins with IA in the past?"

She's already taking furious notes, coming back to sit with him. This time it's beside him though. She props up her knees to use as a writing desk, pen flying away. She's written a few things down already. Not just what he said, but also: T.D. —> FIA Req's CL Case Files.

She's in her element now, every part of her focused, intense, a hound on the hunt.

“Just a beat cop. I was happy on the streets, so while I climbed the pay grade a little, I never made it past deputy. Joined the force when I was twenty three and served five years before the charges. Around that time there were whispers of dirty cops because IA was all over our precinct. We all got questioned in one way or another, even if it was in passing. Wanted to know if we ever saw our partner take bribes, or if we ever had dispatch send us on suspicious calls.”

Luke rolls onto his side to face Jessica, head propped up on one fist as he watches her scribble furiously. “My partner was Pedro Hernandez, but we all called him P-Dough. I used to have Sunday dinner with him and his wife sometimes. She was pregnant at the time, never got a chance to meet the kid. Seems like a lifetime ago. Hell, it was a lifetime ago.”

“Bought each other Christmas gifts. Played pranks. He was my brother, all things considered. Just like buddies in my unit in the Marines, I have no doubt he’d take a bullet for me. Then I got rolled up and he turned his back on me, just like my family. They were so quick to believe I was…everything they said I was. A disappointment. My moms, she got sick when i was at Seagate. Cancer. Passed away in the first year. My pops blamed me.” Luke veers away on a painful tangent, the look darkening his eyes likely why he doesn’t talk about it, ever.

Jessica starts getting these notes into some semblance of order, and then asks, "Do they know when the drugs disappeared? You said they vanished from the evidence lock-up? Or did they vanish from somewhere else, like on the way? It might help to establish a timeline here."

She shifts to sit cross-legged. She's never started an investigation while sitting in bed before, but there's a first time for everything.

Luke's lean on his side starts to melt into the mattress, his arm crooked beneath one ear as he continues answering all her questions to the best of his ability. "We were serving a no-knock warrant on a local drug lord named Carlos Hall. At first we didn't find anything, house seemed clean as a whistle until someone noticed scratches on the floor boards like the chair that was sitting had been repeatedly moved. There was a hatch in the drywall, and the field report states we pulled six packs of drugs out along with about fifty thousand dollars. Only five packs made it to evidence lock up, and none of the money. It wasn't in my custody but somehow they seemed convinced that I got my hands on it between the scene and the precinct."

"Hmm. Okay, so that nails down a timeline and a suspect list," Jessica says thoughtfully. "I definitely need the name of everyone on that bust. Everyone who might have had the opportunity to come into contact with that package of drugs, even for thirty seconds, between that house and the station. I also need your old address, and the address of this bust. I mean I'll get it when I put in the FIA requests…I'm going to pull all five years of your cases to see if any weird patterns emerge…but FIA requests also take forever. Whether one of those people was ultimately the mastermind or not, one of them was definitely the hand that screwed you over."

“I gave some of that to Foggy and Matt when I stopped by their office for their…legal advice.” And to be talked out of doing this the irresponsible way. “Notes about what I could remember from my time on the force along with my military career and going back all the way through childhood. And if you look, Miss Jones,” Luke smirks slightly, “You’ll already find a new folder in your case files under ‘Man Of Your Dreams’ with copies of all those notes.” Maybe that’s what he was also doing on the computer prior to her coming home.

“Look Jess, once all this is over, I can have a real life. I can get credit cards and a real driver’s license and…I can be real.”

"Oh? Good. Perfect. Then I'll start sorting through that. Won't get too far until we get down there, but it'll help."

The name of her case makes her lips twitch. She admits nothing.

Instead she watches him as he spins out his hopes and dreams for this maneuver. Her earlier confidence melts into her far more habitual realism in the face of that statement. She puts a hand on his cheek, putting her legal pad aside. "Look, Luke…"

She hesitates, then says, "You've heard the legal advice. Now I gotta give you the PI reality. You can do all that if. If I don't screw something up. If all the leads haven't evaporated into smoke. I'm glad you have this much faith in me, but it would …kind of be malpractice for me not to warn you that we're not in the home stretch by a long shot. I have a higher-than-average solve rate, but I do not have an 100% solve rate. Nobody does. I still have some open cases floating around out there. I am excited to do this for you, but just…well. This is basically the same thing I tell all my clients, Mr. Man Mountain of my Dreams. Because it's damned important to hear, especially for cold cases."

Luke reaches out to cap his hand over her knee, a squeeze of reassurance given. “Then we’ll have to hope against all hope that The Wonder Twins can plead a convincing case that my good deeds in New York City have to count for something against my remaining time and whatever they’re going to tack on for the escape.”

Now he reaches for her hand, his tone matching the severity of what he’s going to say next. “And if they can’t. I’m going to do the time. I need this behind me, so that you and I can have a future.”

Jessica lets him take her hand. She's silent in the face of what he has to say. Watches him with one of those unreadable faces she makes, with her dark eyes seeking answers somewhere in his own. At last, she nods. "I told you I'd wait and I will," she says simply.
She doesn't refute his choice. The expected arguments never come.

Though she says, "If it comes to that though, the next step isn't just to lay down and serve all that time. The next step is to see if Tony can't schmooze the Governor of the State of Georgia to issue a full pardon. I'd say Danny but…I mean Danny wouldn't hurt either, but his strategy is not exactly schmoozy. We have billionaire friends. That means access, that means influence. No leaving that weapon on the rack."

Luke shifts their fingers, interlacing his with hers. He looks at their conjoined fingers for a long time, like his tallying up all the favors that his friends have done for him and it goes well beyond what he can count on their combined digits. “You know, a year ago, I was kicking you out of my bar.” Even if that isn’t exactly what happened.

Jessica smirks and says, "Yeah. Good times."

She keeps her hand in his as she snuggles up again. Work mode off, at least for now.

"You've always let me be myself," she says. "Whoever that is. I've never once had to be on my best behavior with you. Never even felt compelled to try. And when I call you on your shit you don't just…you never give me lip service. You think about it and actually respond to it. And you don't let me wallow in my shit. You've always been respectful about it, but you don't just…I dunno. You just struck this balance between being respectful of my space and yet not leaving me to drown. I'd never seen anything quite like it. Ten months ago I was still pretty sure I was way too damaged to be in anything with anybody, but here we are. I do love you. Even if I struggle to say it. I don't know why I do."

“It’s because we work.”

Luke’s wide palm paws back the hair from her face, fingers forming a comb that push through the dark locks around the curve of her ear. For a moment, his eyes flit over her face taking in everything from the frond of her lashes to the shape of her lips. It’s as if he’s decided on something in that split second so he’s lifting their conjoined set of hands to his mouth to kiss her knuckles as he shifts to sit up out of her snuggle.

“I was going to wait to do this until the legal stuff blew over. Maybe plan something special, something perfect…” He leads off as he leans to the bedside table on his half of the bed. He shifts some things around inside, “But it turns out I can’t keep my mouth shut about it and someone’s bound to spoil the surprise. Besides. When you think about it, this is kind of perfect.”

He settles back onto the mattress in front of her, kneeling but resting back on his feet. There is a little black box in his hands, and this time it doesn’t jingle.

“Jessica Jones.” Damn, he should have locked the door to hinder her escape. “Marry me.” If he doesn't form it as a question, she can't say no, right?

He cracks open the box and inside nestled in the split velvet pillow is a simple titanium band without a stone, but rather the metal has been twisted into a knot where the setting should be.

He starts shifting around. He kneels by the bed. And Jessica looks poleaxed. Because the beginning speech about perfect evenings starts to clue her in right away. It is a wonder, but the secret has been kept from the Detective. The surprise, so rarely found on Jess' face, is unfeigned.

She doesn't go flying out the window, though for a moment she's just frozen. It's a sure bet she didn't really consider this possibility. Hadn't gone there in her mind yet. Not just with Luke but…just…in her life.

Her eyes fall on the ring, and it's perfectly her. No diamonds, strong and sturdy, something that isn't going to shatter and get lost if it happens to go smashing into the side of someone's face. She notes how he phrases it, and her lips quirk even as her eyes tear up.

Being who she is, she doesn't say anything mushy. She just said mushy things. Nothing dramatic. Nothing RomCom.

Instead she defaults to this thing that's always worked for them, once she's done looking like someone smacked her upside the head with a great big board. Banter.

"I don't know why I let you get away with being so damn bossy all the time, Cage," she says, warmth and mischief dancing all over her tone and eventually making it up into her eyes as she offers out her hand so he can slip the ring into place on her finger.

Was he holding that breath? Surely not. At least not meaning to. Still somehow, he sounds partly relieved when it’s released.

“Because you’re my girl.” Luke says, plucking the ring out of its nestle, tossing the box over his shoulder as it suddenly becomes inconsequential. “So you humor me into thinking you’d actually let me.” He seems to be concentrating on this task more than it warrants, but it takes a lot not have his fingers shaking when he slides it on over her ring finger.

“Now shut up and kiss me.” Smirk.

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