Luke never shows. She thinks she shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the last time he’d seen her he’d been impelled to kill her with his bare hands and she’d ended up shooting him in the throat. But still. A note woulda been nice. Something that said, “Hey, no hard feelings, I just don’t ever want to see your face again.” Something that made it clear where they stood.
She would’ve liked a chance to apologize to him. When he’s not mind-controlled. And when he’s, y’know, not comatose. Is conscious. Whatever.
Jessica invites Trish and Claire out for drinks. As a thank you, she tells them. As a “Yay, we went up against that evil prick and lived to lie about what happened” party. Celebratory. Not a self-pity thing.
“I’m a piece of shit,” she says, and thunks her head down onto the sticky tabletop.
The place is a dump, but it’s all she can afford after having her place wrecked. Again. Trish had offered to help pay for repairs like the overbearingly caring, generous soul that she is, but Jessica had turned her down. Malcolm was pretty much forcing her to take clients so she’d get the money together soon enough on her own.
Claire pats her shoulder with a little too much force and offers a flat, “There, there,” before downing another slug of cheap, yeasty beer and scowling at the taste.
“You are not a piece of shit,” Trish sighs, in her calm, matter-of-fact radio voice. She’s very good at not slurring. “You slew the monster. You saved the day. That makes you the hero. Heroes are not pieces of shit. I.e., you are not a piece of shit. Logic.”
“Pfft. Wouldn’t it be ‘slayed’ the monster?” Jessica asks, raising her head and staring blearily into the depths of the liquor bottle. She’d ordered it to share with Trish, who’d promptly spied what might be a dead eel at the bottom and had recoiled from it. But politely so. Trish was the polite one. Leaving Jessica to work her way through the whole thing by herself, of course.
Whatever the mystery booze was, at least it was doing its damnedest to off her already-pickled liver. The bottle was down to its dregs and the shadow lying at the bottom was resolving into a slimy, coiled… well, would you look at that. It probably was an eel.
She unceremoniously dumps the last of it into her glass and knocks it back.
“No,” Trish says, shaking her head. “It’s definitely ‘slew.’ Not ‘slayed.’”
“I’m not a hero,” Jessica says.
Trish looks mildly confused for a moment before her expression clears into something more exasperated and academic. “Well, I guess it would actually be ‘heroine’ instead, yeah.”
Claire snorts expressively. “Nah. If we’re saying ‘hero’ there’s gotta be an ‘anti’ in front of it.”
“‘Anti-heroine?’” Trish tries, speculatively.
“I’m not saying ‘hero’-anything.” Jessica straightens and glares at them, willing them to understand. “I’m not.”
Claire presses her lips together and sends her a sideways glance which probably has an obvious meaning that Jessica’s brain is too muddled to pick up on, but Trish droops somewhat, her blonde head bowing towards the table. The crummy red lighting throws a halo onto one side of her head like the crooked crown of a summer queen. She pensively chews on her lower lip for a moment before muttering, “You always manage to be a hero to me.”
Jessica squints at the defensiveness in her tone, because it isn’t resentful… Trish is feeling defensive of Jessica. Like Jessica has to be protected from her own opinion of herself. Makes sense, actually.
“I guess,” she concedes, because there is no way for her to withstand however Trish’s affection has decided to manifest at any given time.
Trish’s eyes flash up to meet hers, and her face suddenly breaks into a broad, warm smile, blinding and unsullied even in the low lights of the dirtiest dive bar she’s ever been in. Jessica’s small, shriveled heart stutters at the sight, and she feels her own expression softening into something sickeningly sweet and fond. Downright gooey. Ridiculous.
She blames her extreme inebriation. Exhaustion. Stress. Recent quasi-romantic disappointments. Whatever. It clearly doesn’t mean anything. Clearly.
Jessica’s heard somewhere that natural blondes are scientifically proven to have a higher alcohol tolerance.
Trish is not genetically blonde.
She ends up leaving first.
Jessica comes back in after seeing her safely into a taxi and orders another round. She and Claire sit in companionable silence for a bit until Claire ruins everything by saying, “You should really give it a shot with her.”
“What? With Trish? We grew up together. Since we were tiny idiot teenagers. She’s practically my sister.”
“Fine then. But I’m pretty sure sisters don’t gaze yearningly at each other.”
“Fuck you. We look at each other. Because we have working eyeballs. If you wanna see yearning you can just watch Malcolm send you a text and then stare longingly at his phone ’til he gets your answer. He looks like a fucking lovesick puppy. It’s disgusting.”
Claire unsuccessfully attempts to hide her pleased smile behind her glass, a slight flush of color climbing her cheeks.
The thing is, Luke is… was… the first person she’s ever imagined a future with. Because she wanted one with him. Wasted time dreaming about it. And even that little bit of effort, even the thought of that possible commitment, felt like pushing a boulder up a hill. At any moment the stone could slip and roll all the way back down, or, hell, it could roll back onto her. Crush her to death, super strength be damned. But if she tried hard enough there could be some promise of a destination, a tenuous high point on which to balance.
Sisyphus’ pipe dream. It would never have been stable enough to stay. They were always missing each other, always just out of sync. With their history and their freakishness and their violence, all the betrayal between them… avoiding each other for the foreseeable future is probably for the best.
She never had to work at picturing Trish in her future. Trish was a fixture. A touchstone. Even when Jessica’s hopelessness convinced her that there was nothing more to come… that there just wasn’t anything more in store for her, that the path ahead was black and empty… even then, Trish was beside her. Every step of the way.
All she had to do was reach out.
“Why don’t you use the door next time?” Trish says when she lets Jessica in through the balcony.
“It’s slower,” she replies brusquely, without pausing on her way to the kitchen. She opens a cupboard and roots around for a cup.
Trish follows her to the island, leaning against it and smiling. She’s been interrupted in her morning workout; she’s in sweats and a camisole top and her hair’s been pulled back into a high ponytail. A thin sheen of sweat reflects off the skin of her face and chest.
Jessica emerges with her prize: a very plain, stout glass in an octagonal shape. It’s sort of ugly but it’ll have to do.
Trish watches, her eyebrow lifted in the way that makes a good-humored line appear in her forehead above it, as Jessica fills the glass with water and clunks it onto the counter in front of her.
Jessica cuts her off by flapping a hand in front of her nose. “One sec.”
She reaches into her coat and draws out a very small, rather crushed bouquet of violets, unwraps them, and plunks them into the squat makeshift vase.
Trish grins down at them in delight, apparently charmed. “What are these for?”
“Well, I never gave you flowers after you drugged yourself up, fought a special ops vet, collapsed and almost died, sooo…”
Trish reaches out to stroke the petals lightly with a manicured finger. “That’s all?”
“No.” Jessica averts her eyes and stuffs her hands in her pockets to keep from fidgeting, taking a couple steps back to prop herself casually against the fridge. Not quite a retreat, but getting there. “Fun fact: did you know that women used to give violets to their lady-loves? As, like, a coded love message of their interest.”
In her peripheral vision Trish’s head snaps up, her expression openly stunned before she dissolves into laughter. “Oh my god.”
For a horrendous moment Jessica’s stomach lurches as she assumes that Trish thinks this is some sort of preposterous joke, but then Trish is coming around the island and, still laughing, is reaching up to hold Jessica’s face in her hands like she’s something precious. “Oh my god, this is you being subtle, and, and smooth, isn’t it?”
“Uh, yeah, duh,” Jessica says, feeling rather off her game. That happens when you’re preoccupied with whether or not you’re hallucinating. "Is it working?"
Trish shakes with another burst of mirth, a trace of tears on her lashes when she squeezes her eyes shut for a moment. “You dumbass,” she wheezes.
Trish draws back, abruptly serious. “Are you sure, Jess?”
“Hell yes,” Jessica says emphatically, starting to lose the poleaxed look and gain a grin of her own.
“Then definitely,” Trish says, and kisses her.
The kiss ignites a fizzy, pleasant heat in Jessica’s chest. It’s like drinking sunlight. Like fitting the last piece of a puzzle into place. Like coming home.
“I gotta get more cash so I can take you out to dinner,” Jessica tells her when they break apart, feeling giddy and for once not even caring. “Someplace where we won’t get food poisoning.”
“We’ve finally graduated from doing lunch to dating.”
Jessica groans in mock despair and drops her head to Trish’s shoulder, snaking her arms around to hug her. “God, I hate calling it that. We are not calling it that.”
“How about ‘courting?’” Trish suggests, with far too much self-satisfied mischief.
“That is worse.”
When Jessica gets back she finds another new window packaged in brown paper waiting for her on her desk. The bold black lettering of Alias Investigations is picked out against the frosted pane by a slender lining of gold that catches the light.
It’s still not the same font as the first one.