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Three Times Lucky

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Afterwards, Jessica thought they should probably make a scorecard for their "team" "adventures", and tonight's would have gone something like this:

- Walls punched: three (3)
- Roofs jumped off: two (2)
- Bullets stopped by certain bulletproof individual(s): a lot
- Ribs broken: 3 (Matt. See above re: roofs jumped off)
- Property damage: most of one (1) building
- (Allegedly) magic fish returned to rightful owners to be repatriated to China: 4
- (Allegedly) magic fish accidentally smuggled in folds of 1 individual (Jessica's) sodden coat and then returned to rightful owners: 1
- Alcohol consumed: not nearly enough

She was still checking her wet pockets for stray fish and glaring at Danny, because things like retrieving (allegedly) magic black-market fish never goddamn happened to her before she met him.

Danny was currently perched on the back of the couch, looking down at Matt, who was flopped on the couch with his shirt off and Luke crouched next to him. Both Danny and Luke looked like they had every intention of sitting on Matt if he didn't stop trying to get up.

"I think that really is broken," Luke said, prodding Matt's ribs. "You want us to call Claire?"

"I'm good," Matt said. He had an arm thrown over his face. With his shirt off, the bruising on his ribs and shoulder stood out with painful vividness. "I just need to get some sleep, and maybe some aspirin."

Danny cleared his throat. "I could try to heal --"

"No," Matt and Luke said together, and Luke added, "You almost passed out from chi drain already once tonight, dude. Just eat something."

"I'm in the mood for sushi," Jessica declared. No one seemed to find that as funny as she did.

 

*

 

Afterwards, while they waited for pizza (no one appreciated Jessica's suggestion to add anchovies, either), Jessica accepted Matt's offer of a dry hoodie. With the sleeves rolled up to stop them from covering her hands, she draped her coat and sweater, sodden with aquarium water, over the radiator. Everything smelled like fish. She smelled like fish, her shoes smelled like fish; she was going to be dreaming about fish.

"It's a job well done, you guys," Danny said. He was on the floor next to Matt's couch now, with an old carton of takeout pad Thai from Matt's fridge that Luke had made him eat before he passed out again. "The arowanas are on their way back home and nobody died or even got ... uh, badly hurt. Sorry, Matt."

"It'll heal," Matt said.

"It's not a typical night out for us unless Matt breaks a few bones," Jessica said.

"Those aro-whatevers aren't really magic, right, man?" Luke asked from the kitchen.

"I don't know," Danny said. "There are lots of people who say they bring you luck and fortune. Our smugglers definitely thought so, but they don't seem to have gotten a whole lot more out of it than a few years behind bars."

Jessica opened her mouth and then closed it. She hadn't really heard a fish talking to her tonight, and that was all there was to it.

Luke came out of the kitchen with wine for those who wanted it and a cup of tea for Danny. Matt's door buzzer went off just then, announcing the pizza was here.

"I'll get it," Jessica said. She wanted to get away from her thoughts, and away from this conversation. The surprised looks she got reminded her that she wasn't the usual volunteering-for-stuff person on the team, especially since she hadn't even taken the enormous travel-size mug of wine from Luke yet, so she added with a scowl, "... as long as Danny pays for it."

She went downstairs with a crumpled wad of Danny's cash stuffed in her pocket (this delivery person was getting a shitload of a tip; she was pretty sure Danny didn't even understand how denominations of cash below $100 actually worked). And she tried not to think about the fish, with scales that looked like gold coins, that had looked up at her and said, "You have something good here. Don't let it become the one that got away."

Jessica had yelped and dropped it, as you do when fish start talking to you, then caught it and stuffed it in her pocket and, just to be on the safe side, wrapped her hand around its mouth until she could find a bucket of water to put it in. And now it was on its way back home and she would like to drink until she managed to convince herself that any imaginary talking-fish incidents were purely an artifact of stress.

The pizza delivery person was a cheerful girl with a hair pouf on either side of her Yankees cap, and a stack of pizzas that would probably have fed a small softball team. Jessica pulled out the wad of cash along with some pocket lint and ... something hard, and unexpected. She turned it over in her hand and for a minute she couldn't figure out what she was looking at -- her first thought was a fingernail -- until it caught the light and she realized it was a scale off that goddamn fish.

"Here," Jessica said, shoving the wad of cash into the girl's hand. "And, uh ... here." As the girl looked in surprise at both the ridiculously huge tip and the golden-in-the-right-light scale, Jessica added, feeling like a total loser, "It's for good luck."

The girl broke into a grin with an endearing gap in the middle. "Thanks, lady!"

Jessica grunted and shut the door.

If there were magic lucky talking fish in the world, she thought as she climbed the stairs, then ... well, first of all, the world didn't work how she used to think it did --

(The world contains aliens and bulletproof guys and assholes who can control minds; what do you THINK the world is, Jones?)

-- and second, they didn't dispense fishy wisdom peppered with fish jokes; they just didn't.

She opened the door to Matt's apartment. The guys were clustered around the couch, Matt propped up with pillows, Luke and Danny on the floor. Danny was illustrating some idiotic story with expressive waves of his hands, almost spilling his tea; Luke looked like he found it hilarious, or maybe just found Danny endearing, and only Matt glanced over her way -- not that he could see her, but he smiled at her, because he'd probably heard her the whole way, and probably heard what she said to the pizza girl too, damn it all.

She kicked the door shut with her heel. Stupid fish was right. But she was never telling it that.

She didn't believe in lucky fish, any more than she believed in talking fish, but she hoped the pizza girl hung onto that scale; she knew better than anyone that a little extra luck didn't come around all that often.