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Eight Notes from the End Times

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Still alive?

That was it. That was all the note said.

Jess glanced down at the scruffy kid who had brought it to her, and then kept looking down until she saw she was wearing decent shoes. That said a lot these days, like that Luke had secured a hoard and/or supply line to look after his folk, same as Jessica's group had.

The kid wasn't going away. Jessica tried a hard stare, but that didn't make her so much as blink. Luke knew how to pick them.

"He said you might have a reply," the kid said, a trace of Barbados lilting her words.

Sighing, Jess flipped the page, and scrawled, duh —j on the back, then reconsidered and added, need anything? and returned the note.

Paper was another one of those things they were learning to ration, though Trish had been experimenting with home recycling; one picked up all kinds of things hosting a talk show, apparently.

"You okay getting back?" she asked, but the kid was already gone, twisting past the barricades and disappearing up Broadway before Jessica turned away. Broadway, even upper Broadway, with all its lights dark made Jessica's hair stand on end every time she saw it.

Fuck the Avengers anyway. They broke the world; they should come back and fucking fix it.

She didn't think about how her chest had felt the moment she'd seen Luke's handwriting, or what it might mean that he was talking to her after everything that had happened.

We're in the Heights. Want to get mail moving again, and the libraries.

Jessica flipped the paper over, but that was all, the back left blank for her reply. Same kid as last time, girl had to have a pair of legs on her, and a lot of good sense.

No smart mouth, either; every time Jessica asked something, the kid just shrugged, leaving Jessica to work things out on her own.

It was a statement, not a request, but it sort of was a request too, wasn't it? Was he not asking for her group's help outright because he didn't want to hear her say, "no"? Or was he just letting her know what he was doing, in a neighbourly kind of way? If you could count Midtown and Washington Heights with a whole lot of trouble in between as neighbours.

Well, it made sense. So many people had lost their families when everything stopped, and without the Internet sharing knowledge was good. It was why Jessica had insisted they annex the Public Library before some idiot burned it.

She wanted to write If you want help, just ask for it, but even the end of the world didn't give her the right to demand things from Luke. Instead, she wrote, Just the muscle around here. Will talk to M. Send whiskey. —J

Not to demand things in earnest, anyway. She realised kid was looking at her funny, so she made herself stop smiling and handed the paper back.

Not your bartender. We should meet.

She told the kid it'd be a while and to go find Robyn for food, and told Malcolm she was pretty sure Luke meant him, since he was running the place.

"I chair the committee," Malcolm said, not for the first time, scrubbing his palm across his face. He looked so goddamn tired lately. "A committee which you are on."

"And?" That had been Trish's idea, and Jessica rarely made much of it; she just pissed people off, most of the time. It was Malcolm who could actually keep a group together in the face of overwhelming stupidity.

"And you should go. You know the guy."

"Yeah," Jess said, "That's the problem."

"We've all had to learn to let go," Malcolm said, which only proved, Jessica thought, that the one thing he hadn't let go of was his psychology minor. "Now set something up."

"Aye aye, Chairman Boss," Jessica said, but what she wrote was, Why me?

Nurse C trusts you. Noon tomorrow, C. Circle?

Claire trusted her, though Jesus knew why, but did Luke?

"He's writing to you, isn't he?" Trish said, which was a point.

"Maybe I'm just the only person he knows is still down here." Jessica had made a pretty big splash when they'd held the bridge, or the other guys were the ones who had actually hit the water. Anyway, word of that kind of thing got around. Someone had even spread a rumour that Black Widow was back, a rumour immediately contradicted by anyone who had ever seen Jessica.

"So he's writing to you because you're literally the last woman on Earth?"

Jess was looking at her hands, but she knew that Trish was raising an eyebrow, no longer plucked and arched, but still sexy as hell.

"No, just Midtown," she muttered.

"Right," Trish said, then kissed her, probably on grounds that she thought Jessica was being an idiot and wanted her to shut up.

Later, she found Luke's runner, who she found out was called Shelly, and handed back the note.

It said, See you there. —J

As she watched Shelly take off up Broadway, Jessica decided that it pretty well figured that it would take the world ending to find a new start.