She meets Steve Rogers at a party. He’s standing on a balcony, just off the crowded ballroom, hands stuffed in his suit pockets. His head is bent against exterior lights, like something heavy is pushing him down.
Off, in the distance, under the music and the chatter from inside, she can still hear the chants of the protesters still gathered out front. She had passed them on the way in to the party. There had been men and women and children, with signs and bullhorns and she had remembered a radio broadcast, months ago, where people had said Hope Schlottman had deserved to rot in prison.
“Captain Rogers?” she says, softly and gently, like he’s Jess on the balcony, skittish like a wild animal and ready to bolt if she moves too fast or too loud.
He turns and she sees his face twist into a empty smile, practiced and polished. “Yes, ma’am?” he asks politely. He looks more worn than he does on TV, from the blurry news footage of him climbing the courthouse steps, surrounded by reporters and lawyers. He looks whiter than in the court room photographs, sitting stiff and straight in the audience, right behind the defendant box, with his head held high like he's braced for a blow.
“My name is Trish Walker,” she offers. “I just wanted to. I just wanted to say.” She looks behind her at the shiny floors and the shiny politicians and then back at the man standing alone in the rain. “You were my hero, when I was a little girl. I wanted to be a hero. I wanted to save people.”
“It’s an honor, ma’am,” he says in that same tone, genuine but also weary and empty beyond measure. It’s a little dismissive, but she doesn’t let that deter her.
He’s testifying tomorrow. It’s all over the news. Tomorrow, Captain America will take the stand to defend his childhood friend against charges of treason. He's been called a traitor and a villain and an embarrassment. They have suggested he give up his shield and his title - that he be thrown in prison right along side his friend.
“I have a best friend,” she says. “When we were young, she protected me. We use to pretend we were you. You and Sergeant Barnes. She saved my life. And, I just wanted to say. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate and respect that you’re standing by him. People are wrong. They would rather blame the victims of brainwashing than admit that strong people are vulnerable. That there are powers - people, things - that can take good people and make them do terrible things.”
He’s looking at her now. Really looking at her. The smile is gone and there’s something terribly vulnerable on his face. Behind him, the protesters’ chants swell for a moment, telling Captain America that he’s a disgrace to his country. That he’s a terrorist too. That his best friend is a monster, a traitor, a murderer, a villain. They would rather prosecute a prisoner of war and castigate a war hero than believe that even the strongest of them can be broken, can be twisted, and controlled.
Trish thinks she wouldn’t have wanted to believe it either. Until it was her best friend falling apart in her arms because Kilgrave had forced her to kill an innocent women. Until it was her, standing numb and broken while a monster kissed her in front of the only person she had ever loved. Until she had watched Jess snap his neck and felt nothing but clear relief that it was over.
“My best friend. She went through something like that. Someone forced her to kill someone. Forced her to watch other people die because of her. And she was still trying to protect me. And it’s hard. It’s still really hard. But she’s so strong and she’s still with me and people can mutter behind us all day long but it doesn’t matter because we’re still together and she’s the strongest person I know. She survived. And Sergeant Barnes will too.”
“Thank you,” Steve Rogers says quietly.
She nods, feels her eyes burn. “She survived,” she repeats, “And she knows none of it was her fault. Just like your friend will. Stay strong for him.”
“I will.” He smiles at her, just a little, but it’s genuine this time. “I would never abandon him.”
"My best friend is a hero," she says quietly. She doesn't elaborate. Maybe he'll guess that she doesn't just mean figuratively. Maybe he won't. It doesn't matter. "And what that monster did to her didn't make her any less a hero. I think it made her more of one."
A door behind them opens and the voices grow louder, drowning out the protesters completely.
“Steve?” a man sticks his head out the door. “We’re leaving now.”
"Thanks, Sam," he says in return, shoulders sagging again just a little.
She steps aside. “I won’t keep you. I just wanted to let you know that I understood. That people are on your side. Good luck tomorrow.”
He steps toward the door and turns. “Trish Walker, right?”
“Thank you,” he says again, quietly, and then he’s gone.
She tells Jess that night, curled against her in their large bed and holding Jess’s fingers between hers. “I think they’ll be okay,” she says, quietly and watches how the moonlight turns Jess’s skin to silver. She’s losing the gauntness she had when Kilgrave was hunting them, putting muscle back on and even joining Trish for Krav Maga in the mornings.
“They have each other,” Trish says at last, squeezing her fingers. “That’s all they need. They’re like us.”
Jess is quiet. “He may want to go to prison,” she says quietly. “I did. Sometimes, that feels safer. Quieter.”
Trish shakes her head. “They belong together. Captain Rogers wouldn’t let him rot in jail.”
“You’re so sure?” Jess turns on the pillow, dark hair mixing with Trish’s blonde.
“I wouldn’t have let you,” Trish says. “I would’ve broken you out of prison. Gone on the run. Kept you safe. That’s what Captain Rogers will do.”
Jess curls against her. “Patsy Walker, fugitive from the U.S. Government.”
Trish kisses her, just a quick brush of lips. “It would be worth it all.”