"Jessica, you have, uh, visitors."
Jessica Jones, private eye (and as mind-numbing as the job could be sometimes, she never got tired to saying that) looked up from her computer screen. Malcolm had a sort of shell-shocked look on his face, and he kept glancing back over his should into the tiny waiting area where he'd set up his laptop to act as something between a secretary and a personal assistant. She knew she didn't have any appointments for this morning, but it wasn't completely unknown for clients to walk in off the street.
"Did you get their names?" She finished typing a sentence as she spoke.
"Um, no. I didn't have to."
"Hey, Jess!" Danny Rand popped up behind Malcom, clapping a hand on the kid's shoulder to gently maneuver him out of the way. "Nice place you've got here."
Luke loomed behind Danny; he couldn't help it, being close to the same height and general shape as the doorway. He jerked his head in Jessica's direction. "Yo."
"What are you guys...?" Jessica shook her head. She had to hope they knew her well enough not to just drop in for a social visit. Well, Luke, at least. Danny had real issues with things like boundaries and personal space. "Malcom, can you get these gentleman some, uh, coffee?"
"I didn't know you knew the Heroes for Hire!" Malcom blurted out, then blushed. "I mean, we don't have any. Coffee, that is. The pot's busted."
She pulled him by one arm and hustled him out the door, pushing a couple of bills into his hand along the way. "We're in New York. If you can't find coffee within two blocks you need serious help."
"I'm going to buy coffee for Luke Cage," he said, clearly in a happy little world of his own. "Shit, wait, how does he take it?"
"I don't..." Jessica floundered for a minute. Was she supposed to know this sort of thing by now? Luke knew what to order for her from the Thai place near her apartment, and Danny could list the address and cell phone numbers of any amount of his friends; she couldn't even remember how the two of them took their coffee. "Get two black coffees for me and Luke, and grab a bunch of creamers and sugar on the way out. And something...froofy for Danny. With no caffeine."
"Vanilla flavored froof," Danny called from her office. "No chocolate!"
She pushed Malcom out the door and closed it behind him, leaning heavily on it for a second. Luke and Danny were talking quietly and chucking to each other, and she tried to push down the feeling that it was at her. They liked her. If they were laughing it was about Malcom, or something dumb Danny had done, or a joke someone had told Luke. She took a deep breath, pushed her hair back, squared her shoulders and walked into the room. Professional, she thought. You're in your own office. On your own turf. Act like it.
The effect was kind of spoiled by Danny. As she walked past he reached out and ran a hand across her hip, making her yelp and jump, banging into the corner of her desk. Everything jerked to one side, and her computer tower rocked alarmingly until Luke put a steadying hand on it.
"What, you had a bad morning? I thought you'd be happy to see us," he said, smiling that adorable half-smile of his. "Happier, at least."
"Sorry, sorry. I'm just...I didn't expect to see you so soon." Jessica scooted behind her desk, relieved at the feeling of security sitting in her own chair gave her.
"Did you have fun on Friday?" Luke glanced at Danny, who was grinning. "I thought we all did."
"Well, yeah," she said. She had a feeling she was missing out on something here. "Of course I did! I just didn't think we'd, um, meet to discuss it afterwards. Or in my office."
"Oh, that's not why we're here," Danny piped up, somehow managing to cross his legs under himself in one of her uncomfortable client chairs. "But since you mention it, what are you doing on Wednesday night? Me and Luke usually do pizzas and old Westerns or chop-socky stuff, but if you want to watch something in particular you'll need to let me know."
"If you want to come," Luke added. He was looking out the window, doing a terrible impression of nonchalance. Still, Jessica felt heat rising in her face.
"Sure, yeah. That would be great." She pushed her hair back again, annoyingly aware of the nervous gesture. Tension seem to melt away from Luke, while Danny's grin didn't change, although he winked at her. "But if that's not why you came to see me...?"
"Yeah, we got business," Luke said. He took a sheaf of papers out of an inside pocket and dropped them onto her desk. "We need your help."
It turned out to be stolen goods they'd been tracking, crates of decommissioned "exotic technology" that had disappeared from a Rand-Meachum warehouse. Jessica had been in the superhero world long enough to know what that euphemism meant: guns that could dissolve titanium, backpacks to make you fly, bulletproof fabrics for your cape. The only reason Danny was looking for them, he said, was because of the destructive potential. She believed him; it was hardly as if he needed the money.
A night security guard who had been on duty at the time of the robbery had disappeared by the time the police had arrived, and hadn't come back to work the next day. Luke, and presumably the police, had scoped out his apartment and discovered it empty. No one knew where he had gone.
Jessica, pretending to be working some investigator magic, plugged the name into some of the skip trace databases she used. It wasn't her normal line of work, and if she'd had to go through every publicly available record by herself she'd have needed a week and a five hundred dollar advance, so she didn't feel bad about cheating a little this time. Plus is was nice to have Danny and Luke watching her work with baited breath, sipping their coffee and trying to act casual while she did something they couldn't.
She worked through the chaff, absently answering Danny questions about her complete lack of cinema knowledge. Finally she found a promising lead: the guy, Mark Davies, had rented a storage unit three weeks before the robbery, using a credit card with a different name but his own address. A quick call to the storage company confirmed his appearance, although Jess had to credit Luke for that. Technically the guy on the phone shouldn't have told them anything, but he turned out to be a big Heroes of Hire fan and was happy to help after Luke promised to drop by and sign a baseball cap for him.
"How do we get out there, though?" Danny asked, peering at the Google map on Jessica's screen. "That's out in the Bronx. I hate taking the subway that far. People stare at my booties."
Jessica rolled her eyes. "I can't believe neither of you can drive. You want to go now? It's only-" she checked the clock "-four. We could grab something to eat on the way.
"I'd like that," Danny said, smiling.
"Why does it always fucking end like this," Jess muttered to herself, trying to sink as low as possible into the seat of her car.
Up ahead of her she could hear shouting and gunshots, and every so often the sharp bright glow of Danny's chi bleeding out from the ends of the storage units. She wasn't getting involved, no way. A bulletproof strongman and a mystical ninja didn't need her getting in the way. She was strictly the wheels in this operation. A third wheel, she thought sourly.
Two men rounded the corder of a unit and sprinted right towards her car. Fuck.
But it seemed like they hadn't even seen her; between breaths one said something about fucking tyres and pulled a knife out of somewhere, crouching down beside her front wheel. She didn't like getting involved, but there was no way she was claiming villain damage on her insurance. Her premiums were insane enough.
She grabbed the door handle and opened it with a shove, sending the guy sprawling back onto the gravel. She's surprised them enough to give her time to scramble of out the car and swing a roundhouse at the guy standing, hitting him hard enough in the stomach to make him crumple into a heap. The man with the knife launched himself forward from his knees, missing her by a fraction but giving her enough momentum to flip him over neatly with a classic judo throw.
"Fuck! Fuck!" Her heart was pounding in her chest, adrenaline rushing through her system. "That was a fucking textbook move and no one even saw it! Fuck!"
"Jess!" Luke sprinted around the same corner as she pressed her foot on the chest of Mr. Knifey; he was winded and not really going anywhere, but there was no point in encouraging him. "Heh, I guess I shouldn't have worried."
"I guess not," Jessica said, pushing her hair back off her face. To her surprise, her voice wasn't even wavering. "As long as he didn't dent my door. I do have a bit of a background in this stuff."
"Damn right you do, girl. The three of us make a pretty good team." He was grinning again, and Jess could feel the bubble of tension in her chest dissipating. "You got your cell? Now we've had our fun we gotta deal with the boring part."
Jessica woke up slowly, drifting in and out of a light doze. A gap between Luke's curtains let a narrow beam of sunlight shine against the wall she was facing. Eventually she woke enough to need to pee, and wriggled out from under the arm draped over her back. It was Danny's; he had a weird way of spreading himself like a blanket over Luke and Jessica as soon as he fell asleep.
She stumbled to the bathroom and back, diving back under the covers without a thought for the two sleeping figures. Danny, temporarily deprived of two sources of heat, had curled up around Luke like he was a hot water bottle. As she shuffled around trying to get comfortable Luke woke up, blinking sleepily.
"Luke," she said. She knew she wouldn't get a better chance to spring this on him. "I need to tell you something."
"Wednesday night, I want to watch Flashdance."
He stared blankly at her for a moment, then smiled. "I'm awake enough to know what you're trying to do."
"Don't care," she said, pressing her cold feet between Luke and Danny's tangled legs. "I'll bring the pizza."