That Kind of Hero
Roleplaying Log: That Kind of Hero
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Bucky Barnes knows when it's time to show up in the window of one Jessica Jones. He proposes a new path.

Other Characters Referenced: Jane Foster, Tony Stark, various Defenders
IC Date: September 17, 2019
IC Location: Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, New York
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 18 Sep 2019 04:24
Rating & Warnings: R (Swearing)
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Jessica Jones has a whole apartment she's not using.

It hasn't been touched since the day she called Matt over to take the bottles of booze directly out of her hands. Instead, she's been sleeping at the new, decidedly not residential Alias Investigations office. She crammed the world's ugliest orange couch in there and threw down blankets. Whatever clients she's seen in here don't care. Or she's not seeing many to begin with. She's taking her showers at the gym, or over at Trish's house. She's flopped over at Emery's a time or two. She's crammed a mini-fridge in there which mostly holds Red Bull and is once again eating a diet of takeout and stale chips. Some of the desks have been removed to make room: she's again down to one. Whatever. How often is she at her desk?

There are some case files scattered all over the coffee table, disorganized all out of character, with a few half-ass notes jotted on them. They look like they've just been abandoned.

Jessica Jones has had more than love life problems to contribute to this mess. First, of course, there was taking a case where she was on the side of helping telepaths, her least favorite people. Of watching a young girl use mind control to defend herself, and all of the mixed and nasty feelings that brought up.

There was being arrested after helping to put a stop to a metahuman trafficking ring. She was the one the witnesses recognized, so she was the one who sat in jail until Foggy could talk her back out of it again.

And in truth, Registration and the neurological issues she's trying to keep secret already had her sleeping the long hours of the depressed long before Luke left, long before the Defenders started fracturing, before Jane went to jail herself, before the Triskelion blew up and took out the only source of working anti-depressants she could get her hands on with them. The only ones that would work for her, anyway.

The only good thing in this, the one thing she has managed to do, is to stay sober. Not just on the night she'd called Matt to stop her, but every other night since. There were a few three-sip lapses before that night, but she's managed to stay dry, managed to drag her ass into AA, managed to avoid bars and bodegas alike. She's not hurting for money, at least, and thus the rent remains paid and the lights remain on and the business remains at least titularly in business. Has occasionally gone out and done things, like intervening to protect a bunch of cops from a gang of metas late last week.

But she's not doing too well. And, as is almost always the case, she has pretended she's fine.

She comes in without turning the lights on, thunking a greasy bag of Chinese down on the scattered folders with a heavy sigh and very little care. She then flops onto her couch and pokes at it, as if poking at it could somehow convince her to eat it.

All that situational awareness Bucky drilled into her is sort of not active right now, lost in the haze of not really having enough energy to practice it.

* * *

The familiar scent of cigarette smoke might be the first thing that clues Jessica in she isn't alone, when her situational awareness finally catches up to the world around her. It's the first one that usually hits the senses, strong as it is, but she'd know the other notes that tend to accompany it and recognize the in turn as they come: leather, metal, gun oil. It's the kind of scent that hits straight into memory, dredging up an immediate sense of recognition and a mental picture of who's here.

Bucky Barnes is hanging out at his usual window, and it's cranked open wide in order to not fill the entire office with smoke. He's dressed casually, and his demeanor is casual, but on the sight of him Jess might remember how long it's been since she saw him — and realize that's probably the reason he's here.

He knows some of what's been going on. Not all. Enough, though.

"Long couple of weeks?" is his opening remark.

* * *

She actually jumps when she realizes she's not alone.

"Jesus, you scared the shit out of me," she says, in a way that indicates her heart is too far in her throat to even be embarrassed about it.

She does stand and turn on the light though, as if to verify all those smells belong to the man whose voice she's just heard. This lowers her adrenaline back down to managable levels. She opens the window up opposite his, settles into it, and for a moment she just closes her eyes, leaning her head back. But this is the eyes closed of something comforting, something she's missed.

Her eyes open soon enough though, and she says, "Long for everyone, probably."

She'd never try to bullshit him, not him of all people, but neither can she bring herself to answer the question directly, grimacing in embarrassment to admit that much.

Normally she'd fish out a cigarette of her own, but they are apparently All The Way Over There or something, because she just drapes an elbow over her knee and soaks in Bucky's secondhand smoke. "It's good to see you."

Which serves as the honest truth, and also her own roundabout way of asking after him without doing so in a way that might make him uncomfortable, or which might seem like a deflection.

* * *

"I get that a lot," is Bucky's dry response, the words salted with a terrible sort of self-awareness. It's a gallows joke if ever there was one. "No shame in it. I've been doing this longer than you've been alive."

A long pause, for effect. "Climbing in girls' windows, that is."

He smirks around his cigarette, but doesn't immediately speak onward after his opening remark. He just watches Jessica as she turns on the light — the way it reveals him, lurking in the window, calls to mind the way a floodlight might reveal a tiger in the brush — and then crosses to the other window, breathing deeply and settling her nerves back down.

Her eventual answer brings his blue eyes to avert thoughtfully.

It's good to see you, she says. "Now that one, I didn't get a lot," he says. More of that graveyard humor. "It's appreciated, though."

He turns over his left hand, looking at it. "I've been busy. I'll get busier."

* * *

Bucky's sense of humor has always gotten smiles out of Jess; and in this, he succeeds. A laugh escapes in spite of it all, a grin lingers. The sudden pivot away from the dark and terrible thing that could be made of it to the image of a young rakish Bucky Barnes climbing into girl's windows makes brown eyes sparkle, strips some cares off her face.

And if his graveyard humor acts as a sort of verbal switchback that takes them back into that territory, some of the amusement lingers.

Enough to produce a dry: "Well, Bucky, who can help it if our dads or whatever are on to you? You're supposed to ask via the front door if you want to take us girls to the dance, and you gotta pretend to be reputable."

Just to switch it back again.

But then he's studying his metallic hand. She watches the way the low light of her office gleams off of it, provided by little more than the shade of a green-tinted desk lamp that looks straight out of the 1940s itself, like some prop out of The Malteese Falcon that people actually used…some part of Jessica Jones gleefully embraces every part of her ingrained Noir aesthetic, though most of it is completely unconscious on her part.

"Are you busy with something I can help with? You know I'm happy to."

A quick, wry smile crosses over her face. "Hell, I miss it. Even if you do go all old man gripey when I refuse to throw cars."

* * *

"I asked via the front door enough," says Bucky, perhaps encouraged by seeing Jessica laugh instead of — whatever he's been hearing she's been doing lately. "Sometimes they didn't see eye to eye with me on my feeling I was plenty reputable, though. What's a guy to do then other than play the expected part?"

He leans back against the sill after, finishing his cigarette. The mood slips serious again, especially as he regards the way light plays across his own left hand. He has been busy lately, he says, and she's swift to offer her help.

"I only gripe when the car throwing would probably have been a good strategic choice at the time," is his first response, a lighthearted sort of one that gives him time to do a little deeper thinking about the real answer.

He eventually stubs out the remainder of his cigarette against the rusted metal of the fire escape. "You miss it? Been keeping yourself plenty busy, from all I hear. Being honest with you, there's a lot I'm doing that's kind of confidential — not really the kind of stuff you help with — but…"

He shrugs. "That stuff's gonna have me traveling a bit, and the Avengers'll be a little short staffed."

* * *

"Being busy doesn't mean I don't miss you two," Jess says. "Or miss working with you two."

Confidential stuff, not the stuff she helps with…that tells her some of what he's doing involves bullets, and his own unique skillset, places where, indeed, she can mostly only get in the way. But the last statement, placed out there, has her pausing.

To anyone else it would look like she's just thinking, as she leans back and casually crosses her arms. Anyone who didn't read people like books and who didn't know how to read Jessica in particular.

She has to do a dance with her own imposter syndrome. There was a period where all the self-esteem issues that used to plague her evaporated, but there's been a solid summer storm of them raining down on her recently.

But the days where she briefly lost so much control over her emotional expression have been fought through and concluded, so she doesn't verbalize any of it. For one thing, the fact that Bucky, who never bullshits her, who doesn't just say things just to say them ever, dropped that seemingly casual statement tells her that the crap in her head is just that.

Crap in her head. The same crap that has had her toying with this idea only to convince herself, no, she's just Jess Jones, D-list hero who can't hack it in such a lofty group, despite what anyone else tries to tell her.

But this is Bucky. There is a very short list of people who Jess trusts more than she trusts herself, and Bucky is certainly right at the top of that list.

So, instead of asking the first self-deprecating question that pops into her mind, or the second or third, she quirks a half grin (that still looks self-deprecating, but what can one do?) and says, "I've sure used and abused that consultant's card Tony gave me ages ago whenever it freaking helped the situation. Maybe I could step up, and actually do the thing I have conveniently pretended to do for ages."

* * *

Bucky watches Jessica's reaction to his statement. The distinct pause there isn't entirely unexpected, and nor are the extended moments afterwards where she struggles against her own doubts at the idea. He knows her well enough to know what her hesitations are, and he also knows her well enough to know that the best thing that could come from him right now is silence.

The fact it's him saying this is already persuasive, for Jessica. Extra cajoling, extra convincing, extra words — it's not what he does, and it's not what tends to convince her to do things in the end.

Eventually, she finally speaks. Her answer brings him to smile faintly.

"Pay Tony a visit," he says. "Someone's gotta keep an eye on him, and I can't do it while I'm in Germany. I'll be stateside, still, long enough to get you up to speed. Most of it is honestly just keeping Tony outta trouble."

He hesitates a moment, before he adds quietly, "I didn't think it was me, either. How could I think being an Avenger was me, after what I've done? It helps, though. I used to be that kinda hero. A century ago. I think I needed people to see me that way again."

* * *

Jessica chuffs a laugh at that bit about Tony. She rises at last to retrieve her own cigarettes, some bit of her energy restored. She returns to the window to light up, quipping: "Put the knockout powder in Tony's drink every eight hours. Check."

What else could really keep Tony Stark out of trouble?

But Bucky does add something then, revealing something of himself and his own struggles. It's not that she's not aware he's got plenty. It's just the voluntary revelation of them. It's a rare event, rare enough that she meets his gaze for a moment. It steadies even more of the internal supports that had been growing shaky, and, perhaps more than that, really gets her focused on him for a second.

She takes a drag and says, "Some people always did."

Always is maybe a little bit of an overstatement. They did meet when she tried and failed to tackle him through some guy's window; she wasn't seeing a hero then. But that all passed quickly. The statement's true enough, anyway.

"But you deserve to have everyone else know it too."

* * *

"It's every four hours now," is Bucky's morose correction. "He's unmanageable, with the nanites."

But eventually, he adds some more context to his choice to make this suggestion to Jessica. It relates to himself, really, and how he felt about himself and this entire hero business, and how he thinks it might mirror the thoughts behind her own eyes in these moments. It's a very rare thing, to be sure — him admitting these things openly, without prompting — but time has eased some of the wounds which had made it so hard to speak about his own internal struggles.

Some people always did, she says. Bucky glances up at her, briefly surprised, before his blue eyes track away again. "…Yeah," he says, thinking of the people who did just that. "I'm here now because of them."

But her last remark brings him to nod slowly. "So do you," he says. "And sometimes it's a burden, all those eyes on you — expecting things of you. But it's one you get to wanting to feel like you deserve."

* * *

"I've wanted to deserve it awhile, without any eyes at all," Jessica admits, dropping her eyes for a moment, frowning thoughtfully. And that's something she can't recall ever admitting. If anything, she has vehemently and openly denied it. Not that several people didn't always know anyway, but admitting it was too close to admitting that maybe she couldn't do it.

Much easier to pull a face every time someone suggested that she might have that ability. Easier to say she was nothing more than a detective. To cling to the known and the familiar.

"I guess I haven't been eyes-free in awhile, but you know. Most of them expect me to live down to stuff, which is pretty much the easiest thing in the world."

She looks up at him, rubbing the back of her neck with her free hand. "But…if you think I do, deserve it, I mean, then I definitely want to live up to that. And that isn't a burden at all."

There's gratitude there, that he's got that kind of faith in her, that he keeps right on looking out for her, too. But she leaves those things unspoken, figures he knows like he's always known.

* * *

Jessica didn't have to admit any of that for Bucky to have known it on some unspoken level. Her words are just a confirmation for him — though he does not say anything to that effect aloud, to spare her privacy.

He does seem relieved she is finally saying these things aloud, however — finally putting herself out there to hope that she can be something, instead of simply fearing that she'll fail at living up to it.

"I think there's only one requirement for a team like that," he says slowly, at the end of all her words. "It's that you want to protect people, to help people, and… if it's up to what I think? I don't think that's ever been a question with you."

* * *

That much, at least, wasn't a question with her either, though she ducks her head and gives a little smile. More levity though, a quirk of a wider grin. "Well, and maybe not peeing yourself, even figuratively, when you decide to fling yourself in front of some poor bastard only to realize that means you've just maybe signed up to get torn up in their place if you don't scramble PDQ. Not that I think you ever had that problem."

But that brings some sparkle to her brown eyes too. And then:

"Could you two maybe save me a spot on your dance cards when you and Jane get back?"

She just assumes Jane goes where Bucky goes, though she supposes she could be utterly wrong there. And while that could easily mean: let's all go grab dinner or something the way they've all sometimes done, this request is something specific.

"I'm out of practice. Goddamn Cage kept stepping on my goddamn feet during the Lindy Hop. He tried though."

She stands and tosses the greasy Chinese in the trash with a definitive air.

"If I'm gonna be a freakin' Avenger then I'm done doing this…zombie shit."

The broad sweep of her hand takes in…the whole mess of Alias at the moment. And declaring that she is ready to do something she sincerely enjoyed, recalling something that really is one of her more treasured memories, seems as good a way to dive back into the land of the living as any.

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