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Strike

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Jessica goes bowling.

It's so fucking stupid. Bowling. Her. When her life would see her staying in her apartment alone, downing liquor and pouring over files in a sort of vague search for clues. That's the kind of thing that's easy to handle. Straightforward, the way she likes it. Bowling is not so. And the reason for that is her personal ghost - Kilgrave. The man whose face she sees sneering at the idea. Bowling? How very banal.

The reason she does it anyway is Luke-damn-Cage. Mr. Too-Good-To-Be-True.

There is a thing about Luke that's hard to put into words. He is like an anchor to Jessica. So many things aspire to remind her of Kilgrave, yet just the presence of Luke weighs her thoughts down, keeps them close to home, to earth - to him. That makes things a hell of a lot easier, and she appreciates him endlessly for it.

Even if it leads, in this case, to her actually going bowling.

Jessica flings the bowling ball down the court. She can't bowl for shit, knows nothing about technique or any of that. But force counts for something: She watches the ball hurl down the centre of the court and smash into the row of cones. They don't tumble as much as they are flung about, propelled by the force of the ball, which she did in fact toss with the use of a bit of supernatural power.

Jessica whirls on her heel. "Strike!"

Luke huffs and smiles his warm, sneaky smile, the one she never tires of picking apart. "Nice one. But look again, Jones."

She does. And she sees one cone on the very edge still wobbling, trying to decide whether to grant her absolute victory or rob her of it. It decides on the robbing, finding its balance.

"Oh, come on," she pouts.

"You still have another chance. Go for it."

She does, sending another ball down the court. But in trying to aim for the edge, she ends up tossing the ball straight into the trench instead, which sees it sailing past the remaining cone without a chance of hitting it.

That's plainly annoying. So is Luke's face when she saunters back to the plastic chairs to wait for another turn.

"What?" she challenges. "You still need a strike to do it better."

Luke picks up the heaviest bowling ball available, which still manages to look small in his massive hands. "Then I better go get one."

In very little time, the game has become one of intense competition. There's a lot of fun to be had with competition, especially if it's with Luke Cage, but today something is a little different. Jessica is not really aware of what makes the difference, she only knows that she is not getting fired up in the good way. Instead she is becoming increasingly agitated. As the game draws on, her score remains just behind Luke's the entire time.

Luke has not yet sensed that anything is amiss, but keeps teasing her good-naturedly. "It's no shame to lose to a better player, Jones," he says just after driving a strike home, which was exactly what he needed to stay in the lead.

"A luckier player, maybe," she grumbles, trying to keep a level head. She is heating up, and she doesn't really want him to know.

"It's nothing to be sore about. You're a good player. Just not quite as good as me."

This time, Jessica doesn't answer him. Something flares in her chest, and she turns her back on Luke, reaching blindly for another bowling ball and grabbing the one he has been using all night, the heaviest one. When Jessica passes Luke, she glimpses the frown on his face out of the corner of her eye, and his head turns to follow her.

"Jessica..."

Jessica doesn't break stride as she draws her arm back. Her eyes zero in on the far end of the court, on the cones standing in rows.

Though not quite as good, of course...

She's every bit quite as fucking good. She's better. She killed him.

Jessica does not know she has released the ball before it makes its impact. Splinters explode into the air, and there is a sound like gunfire when the bowling ball connects with the back wall. Within moments, someone has shut off the pumping music, and an absolute silence follows. Ten rows of bowling courts lay dormant as the bowlers stand frozen and stare in shock at Jessica and the mess she has made.

It's a strike, more or less. Two cones are still whole, the rest are in various states of disintegration. All of them are down. The bowling ball is imbedded deeply in the back wall. A bit of electricity fizzles.

Someone touches her elbow. Jessica spins around and sees Luke.

"I think we should leave," he says quietly.

They do. "Sorry!" Jessica calls out to the shocked employees behind the counter, tossing a few notes on the countertop as they pass by. Soon after she and Luke are outside in the cold winter night. Jessica takes off, striding blindly down the sidewalk.

"Hey," calls Luke, "hey, hey. Jessica. Stop."

"Things like this has happened before," says Jessica lightly. "I get a little too into it, and I forget what I can do. We should get away before somebody decides there were powers involved with what just happened."

Luke's hand latches onto her shoulder and stops her dead.

"I don't care about them. I'm worried about you. That wasn't just an accident in there. What's going on?"

Jessica tries to look anywhere but into his eyes. She grapples for something to say, but comes up blank.

His voice drops an octave when Luke asks, "Is it him?"

"He never let me win," says Jessica after a long pause. She speaks quietly, trying to get over how maddeningly juvenile she sounds. "At anything. He thought he was the best at everything, and he wanted the world to conform to this idea."

Cheating in games they played together was definitely one of the milder evils Kilgrave had submitted Jessica to. But like everything else he had done to her, it all came down to taking control and constraining her options to the only ones that pleased him. That was the true essence in his crimes against her, and it carried across in every order given - whether it be Switch cards with me or Bend over.

"So we probably shouldn't go bowling again," says Luke, trying to lighten the mood a little. He knows she doesn't enjoy wallowing in what happened to her.

"No fucking way," says Jessica. "That prick has made enough decisions on my behalf. He's dead now, he doesn't get to control me anymore."

"Alright. We'll go some other time. Probably to another place, though. Somewhere with sturdier walls."

Jessica would have laughed at that if she hadn't had an image of coolness to uphold. She smirks crookedly instead. "Then you're saying we need to think of something else to do the rest of the evening? Any ideas?"

Luke's eyes are glittering. The smiles she loves so much spreads languidly on his face. "A few."

Jessica may have lost at bowling, but that night she wins at sex - at not because he lets her. They fight it out like they always do, more or less brawling for the upper hand. Jessica pins Luke down and rides him, and at that point he surrenders. It's such a sweet moment, and such a perfect antidote to the infection of Kilgrave into their datenight.

In the hazy afterglow, Jessica admits to Luke that she snapped not just because she was reminded of Kilgrave, but because it was Luke that did the reminding.

"I never would have..." he begins.

"Don't. Don't apologise. I don't want you walking on eggshells. It had to happen, Luke. It's just amazing it took so long."

He stares at her a long moment, then wraps her tightly in his embrace.

"You know," he whispers against her hair, "you are the strongest person I know."

"And not just because I can embed a bowling ball into a solid wall?"

His chuckle travels into her skin as pleasant vibrations. "No. Not just because of that. You are so much more, Jessica Jones."

There are differences between Kilgrave and Luke like there are stars in the fucking sky, but Jessica still can't help but notice this one especially: Where Kilgrave's supposed "love" was confining and constricting, Luke's is embracing and enabling. He doesn't just want the parts he likes. Rather, he seems to like all of it. Every fucked up, stupid and sorry bit. It's enough to make a girl go all heart-eyes.

But that really isn't Jessica's style. Instead she straddles Luke again, ready for round two.

He happily embraces this part of her as well.