.:: Every ending is a new beginning . . .
Jessica Jones woke up with a strangled cry, her heart pounding in her chest as she sat straight up in bed. The few remaining wisps of her nightmare swirled in her mind, and she frantically reached down to run her hands over her stomach. "Still there," she whispered.
Inside, the baby kicked angrily, as if it was as disturbed to have been woken up. No, not it. She. She. It was a girl, that's what the doctor had said. A little girl. A daughter.
A hand gently touched her left arm. Jessica jerked away instinctively, her already speeding heart rate increasing yet again. Eyes wide, she spun her head around. Beside her, Scott Lang tilted his head questioningly, but he didn't say anything.
She gave him a weak smile, trying to force her breathing to slow down. Her heart felt as if it was about to pound out of her chest. "I'm fine."
On her right side, there was a snort.
Jessica turned again. On the other side of the huge bed, Luke Cage was propping himself up on one arm, his eyebrows raised.
She raised an eyebrow in return. "What?" she asked curtly. "I'm fine."
He just stared back at her. "Bullshit."
"Excuse me?" she asked, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
Luke didn't even blink. "I said bullshit."
"This is the fifth time tonight," Scott said gently.
Jessica turned her head slightly toward him, making sure she could still see Luke out of the corner of her eye. "I'm pregnant," she said defensively. "Pregnant women have bad dreams. Did your ex never have nightmares when she was pregnant with Cassie?"
Scott gave her a weak smile. "I'm fairly certain she never woke up screaming, convinced that the Scarlet Witch had killed me and Luke."
"Or that Killgrave escaped again and put us under his control," Luke put in.
Scott nodded. "Or that Nick Fury was-" He paused. "I'm still a little vague on what it was you thought Fury was going to do to us. There was a rocket launcher involved in that one, right?"
"Or that we were about to be eaten by dinosaurs wandering around Manhattan," Luke said, cutting Scott off before he could say anything else. Anything involving Fury was still a subject that Luke didn't like being brought up. "Of course, that one's probably the most likely to come true."
"Which says a lot about our lives," Scott added dryly.
Jessica rolled her eyes. "Now the two of you are ganging up on me?" she grumbled. "Assholes."
"Yeah, yeah, we're both assholes." Luke threw his arm over the pillows, reaching across both of them in order to rest his hand on Scott's shoulder. "Now that's settled, think we can try to get some sleep? I'm supposed to be playing bodyguard for Murdoch tomorrow, remember?"
"Yes, we know," Jessica said, resting her head on his chest. "Any idea why Matt's paying the Raft a visit?"
Luke half-shrugged, obviously trying not to move too much. "I didn't ask any questions."
Scott turned a little bit more in their direction, propping himself up on one arm. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it's nothing too serious." He smiled a bit. "I mean, what's the worst that could happen?"
Jessica stared at him. "I can't believe you just fucking asked that out loud."
"What?" Scott asked, frowning.
Luke just shook his head. "I'm going to sleep," he grumbled. He pointedly closed his eyes. "If the Raft blows up while I'm there or aliens invade the planet, it's your fault."
Scott blinked. "What?" he repeated.
"Seriously, how long were you an Avenger?" Jessica asked. "Don't tempt fate. I'm pretty sure it's part of Superhero 101."
"Oh, come on," Scott protested. "Do you really think something's going to happen at the Raft just because I asked what the-"
"Don't say it again!" Jessica said, rolling over in order to swat Scott on the arm. Judging by his grimace, she hit him a little harder than she had meant.
Scott sat up, rubbing the spot where she'd hit him. "Hey!"
Luke pulled his arm back over to his side of the bed. "Will the two of you stop talking already?" he grumbled. "He already said it, Jess. It's not like he can take it back."
Jessica crossed her arms, staring straight up at the ceiling. "Why do I put up with the two of you?" she muttered, a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth.
"Hell if I know," Luke said. She couldn't see his face, but she could tell that he was grinning by his tone of voice.
Scott just took her hand, squeezing it lightly. "We're just happy you do."
She smiled. "You're still assholes for teasing a pregnant woman."
As Scott groaned, shuddering in release, Jessica opened her eyes. He was staring straight at her, a dazed look on his face. "Wow."
"Man's right about that," Luke said from behind her, trailing a few kisses along Jessica's shoulder. She couldn't help but notice that his voice wasn't all that steady either. Scott hadn't been far behind him. The two of them had both waited for her before they really focused on themselves, but once they had- well, it hadn't taken long.
Jessica smiled, stretching a bit. Scott's hand was still resting on her inner thigh, stroking her skin lightly. Luke's arm was wrapped loosely around her, not quite in a hug, and his hand- she blinked a bit. Luke's hand was on Scott's hip, lightly trailing a circle on it.
A flash of memory ran through her head, and she sat up straight. Her smile disappeared instantly, and she had to struggle to keep her breathing under control.
The mattress moved a bit as Luke sat up. "Jess?"
"Jessica?" Scott asked, almost at the exactly same time. He pushed himself up into a seated position as well. "What's wrong?"
Jessica closed her eyes. Damn it.
"Jess?" Luke repeated, sounding worried. He rested his hand on her shoulder, and she jerked away from his touch. "Is it the baby?"
She shook her head. "Give me a sec, okay?" she said, still trying to calm her breathing. After a few seconds, she opened her eyes.
Scott was staring at her, wide-eyed. Luke was still behind her, but she could feel him hovering just a few inches away.
"Back when Killgrave-" Jessica hesitated, not looking at either of them. "The last time, when he showed up at your place, Scott."
She felt him tense up beside her, even though she wasn't looking at him. She was careful not to look at Luke either, but she could picture the confused look on his face even without seeing it. Neither of them had been willing to share that part of the story, even after all this time. Not even to Luke.
"Do you remember, after he- you know?" Her voice went flat. "When Killgrave made me see my worst nightmare?"
It was Luke's turn to tense up, but he didn't say anything.
Scott gently rested his hand on her arm. It took everything she had not to pull away, but she managed it. "I remember."
"It was this," she whispered. "Just not with me. The two of you, and-" Jessica groaned, reaching up to rub her eyes. "Goddamn it, I should be over this already. It wasn't even fucking real."
Luke lightly rested his hand on her other arm, moving a little so that he was beside Scott instead of behind her. "Hey, girl, it was real to you. That's all that matters."
Jessica managed a weak smile.
"Remind me again why I can't beat the hell out of Killgrave?" Luke asked, his expression darkening.
Scott reached up to rub his face. "Other than him being locked up for the rest of eternity?" he asked wryly.
Luke rolled his eyes. "Yeah, other than that.""No idea," Scott said. "It would definitely make my day."
Rolling her eyes, Jessica looked down. Her hand rested on the swell of her stomach, rubbing gently. "It's a nice thought," she said, her smile growing a little more genuine. "I'll have to add that picture to my daydreams."
Luke grinned, lightly throwing an arm over Scott's shoulder and squeezing a little; it wasn't quite a hug, but it was pretty damn close. Scott froze, a surprised look on his face, before his mouth split into a grin as well. He leaned into the embrace. The two of them made a pretty picture, dark skin against light.
Jessica leaned back, moving her hand a little lower than her stomach. "Then again," she said, her voice hitching a bit, "I can think of another image that I'd like to add to my collection."
Jessica woke up slowly, comfortably warm under the light blanket on top of her. Her face was less than two inches away from Scott's. His eyes were still closed, his breathing slow and steady.
Then she blinked. There was a heavy arm wrapped around her, curving around from behind her.
Trying not to wake up Scott, she turned her head a bit and found herself staring straight into Luke's face. He was awake, his mouth twisted into a broad grin. "Morning.""Morning," she said, stretching a little. She glanced back at Scott. "Last night wasn't just an awesome and surprising dream, I take it?"
"Hey, some of us are still trying to sleep," Scott mumbled drowsily. He didn't even open his eyes.
Jessica reached over and gently flicked his ear. His eyes popped open, and he mock-glared at her. "Ow. What was that for?"
She just raised an eyebrow.
He stared back at her. "What?"
"Just waiting to see if you're going to freak out," Jessica said, shrugging a bit. "If you are, I'd kind of like to get it over with."
"Why would I freak out?" Scott asked. He looked genuinely puzzled.
Luke leaned forward, resting his arms on Jessica's shoulders as he looked over her. "Think about it."
Scott stared at them both for a moment, his face blank. Then his eyes widened.
"Wait, what?" An annoyed look appeared on Scott's face. "This isn't the first time I've slept with a guy, Jessica."
"Really?" Jessica asked skeptically.
"Yes, really," Scott said, rolling his eyes as he sat up. "Though I really don't have any idea why it matters."
Jessica quirked an eyebrow. "Really?" she repeated.
Scott threw his hands up in the air. "Yes, really. Is that that surprising?"
She kept staring at him, doubtful.
Luke chuckled. "Not really. I guess those rumors about you and Stark are true, huh?"
Scott's mouth dropped open. "How did you hear about that?" he demanded.
Jessica spun around to face him. "Wait, what?" she blurted out, staring at Luke. Then she realized what Scott had said, and she turned her head back toward him. "Since when have you slept with Tony Stark?"
Scott crossed his arms defensively. "Name three people who haven't slept with Tony Stark."
"Me," Luke said instantly, though he was grinning.
"And me," Jessica said, crossing her own arms in mirror of Luke's.
Scott waited a few seconds before clearing his throat. "That's only two."
Jessica started to open her mouth, then she thought better of it. Frowning, she glanced over at Luke. "Has Iron Fist- ?"
Luke shrugged. "Hell if I know, and there's no fucking way I'm asking him. What about Danvers?"
"Carol?" Jessica asked, struggling to keep a straight face. "You're actually askingif Carol has ever slept with Tony Stark?"
Scott burst out laughing.
Luke blinked. "I'll take that as a 'yes' then."
"Oh, you have no idea how much of a 'yes' that is," Jessica said, giving up on not grinning.
"What about-" Luke stopped. "No, she probably has at some point. He did make her the arm."
Scott's laughter had mostly faded, but he was still grinning broadly.
"Daredevil?" Jessica suggested, biting her lip a bit.
Luke didn't say anything for a few seconds; then he nodded.. "Yeah, I can't really picture him doing the dirty with Stark."
"Can you prove it one way or the other?" Scott asked.
Jessica and Luke looked at each other. Luke shrugged.
"Well?" Scott prompted.
"Oh, shut up," Jessica said, turning to punch him lightly on the arm.
Scott just grinned. Then he glanced at Luke. "What about you?" he asked innocently. "First time?"
Luke snorted. "What do you think, Lang?"
A thoughtful expression appeared on Scott's face. "So those rumors about you and Iron Fist?"
Luke rolled his eyes. "Danny's going to be amused as hell that everybody out there seems to think we're fuck buddies."
Scott raised an eyebrow. "Is that a 'yes' or a 'no' then?"
"Why the fuck does it matter?" Luke asked, crossing his arms.
Jessica pressed a quick kiss to Scott's shoulder. "I've been trying to get a straight answer out of him on that one for ages. No luck so far."
"Christmas," Luke muttered, shaking his head, "why the fuck does it matter who I've slept with? As long as I'm not sleeping with them now, I don't see why the hell it's any of your business."
Scott tilted his head. "Christmas?" he repeated silently, mouthing the word but not actually saying it out loud.
"Don't ask," Jessica mouthed back.
"I oughta strangle both of you," Luke said, crossing his arms in front of his chest.
Jessica laughed as she leaned up to kiss his cheek.
"This isn't a goddamn contest, okay?" Jessica snapped, throwing her hands up angrily. "I'm not some fucking prize for one of you to win!"
Luke and Scott froze, both of them staring at her with wide eyes. Scott lowered his arm, his not-so-bright idea of trying to punch Luke in the face apparently forgotten. She still wasn't certain why they had both shown up at her apartment tonight, at the exact same time, but it didn't seem that important now. All that matter was that they were fighting over her. Again.
She closed her eyes, reaching up to rub the bridge of her nose. Her head was throbbing, and not for the first time in the past few months she wanted a drink so bad she could practically taste it. "Just- stop, okay?" she said, the anger fading from her voice and leaving nothing but exhaustion behind. "I know you both want me to just make up my mind and pick one of you, but it's not happening. Not right now. Not-"
Jessica trailed off. Not ever is what she had wanted to say, but she knew neither of them wanted to hear that part. Hell, she knew this couldn't go on forever, deep down at least. If she kept putting it off, she was going to lose one of them eventually. Maybe even both. They were going to get tired of being one out of two instead of one out of one, and then that would be that.
One of the men sighed, but she couldn't tell who it was with her eyes still closed.
Ah. Luke it was then.
Biting her lip, Jessica reluctantly opened her eyes. Both of them were staring at her, a hurt look on Scott's face and- she wasn't quite certain how to interpret the expression that Luke was wearing.
"What?" she asked. Her voice came out more bitter than she had planned, but she didn't particularly regret it.
"You don't want to choose, do you?" Luke asked. He sounded tired. "You're not gonna choose."
Something ran through her chest, a feel that felt as sharp and cold as ice. Not him. Not so soon. Except she knew that, if it had been Scott, she would feel the same way. And that, well, that was the problem.
Not quite trusting her voice, Jessica shook her head.
Luke closed his eyes, a wordless grimace running across his face. He opened his mouth, started to speak, and-
"Then don't choose," Scott said hesitantly. "I mean, I'm willing- if it's okay with him, I'm open to try something new." He paused, smiling sheepishly. "I don't want to make you choose if you don't want to, Jessica. And I'm sure he doesn't either."
Luke's eyes shot open. He looked surprised, but not necessarily in a bad way. Jessica wasn't sure if it was in a good way either, but she was willing to take anything at this point.
Then she realized just exactly what Scott was suggesting. She'd be lying if she said that the thought had never crossed her mind. Still, she had never expected . . .
Scott's gaze was moving between her and Luke. He looked nervous. Uncertain. "Or we could forget I ever said anything?"
Jessica opened her mouth. Then she closed it, looking at Luke instead. She was willing, but if they were going to even think about this then they all three needed to agree.
". . . then I slapped him." Jessica paused. "Actually, slap might not be the right word. Punched is probably a little closer to being the truth."
Luke grimaced and reached up to rub his temples with his right hand, his left still gently rubbing circles on her back. "Jess-"
"Don't Jess me, asshole," she muttered. She buried her face in her hands. "I need a fucking drink."
Luke's hand stopped moving.
"I'm pregnant, Luke, not stupid," Jessica said, not looking up. "I'm not actually going to go get a damn drink. That doesn't mean I don't want one."
He started rubbing her back again. "You do know that this will probably be the first place Lang comes looking for you, right?" he asked casually. "And, what with us sitting on the front steps, he won't be looking far."
Jessica sighed. "I doubt he'll come looking," she said. "Scott's kinda pissed. For good reason too."
Luke didn't say anything.
She looked up, meeting his gaze. "He's here, isn't he?" she asked, trying not to let her surprise show.
"Jessica?" Scott asked hesitantly from somewhere to their left.
"Go on," Luke said, pushing her so she didn't have much choice but to stand up. He didn't push very hard, but it was still enough to make her stumble a bit.
She glared at him, pointedly not looking in the direction Scott's voice was coming from. "Maybe I don't want to-"
Luke shot her an annoyed look.
"Jess?" Scott said again. "Look, I didn't mean- I'm sorry, okay? You can't blame me for being a little upset, but what I said was- I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
Jessica crossed her arms, reluctantly turning away from Luke to look at Scott. She knew as soon as she saw his face, she'd forgive him.
"Yeah," she said softly. He lived and his friends didn't. You can't blame him for wanting to have been there. "I know."
"I should have been there," Scott said, his voice shaking. Jessica pointedly ignored the brightness in his eyes. "I was supposed to be there. If I hadn't been the one to go to the doctor with you, if I hadn't- "
"What would have happened differently if you'd been there from the beginning?" Jessica asked, cutting him off. Her voice was a little more heated than she had planned. "Do you think you could have magically saved the day? That you could have stopped the Scarlet Witch single-handedly when all of the other Avengers combined couldn't?"
Scott just shook his head. "I could have done something."
"How do you know that you wouldn't have died too, if you'd been there?" she asked, her voice breaking. Damn pregnancy hormones. "Like Hawkeye? Like the Vision?"
"I could have done something," Scott repeated.
Jessica glared at him, her vision a little blurry. "And you could have died," she said again. "Then what? What about me? What about the baby?"
Scott looked away. "Then you'd still have Luke Cage," he said bitterly. "Hell, it's his kid anyway, not mine. I'm not sure why I'm even still in the picture, other than you wanting an extra fuck on the side from time to time."
Jessica's breath caught in her throat.
Scott was already turning back toward her, a horrified look on his face. "Shit, Jessica, I didn't mean that." His eyes were wide, guilty. "I didn't mean it."
She slapped him.
Luke stared at her, not saying a word. He simply waited there, patiently, for her to finish what she was going to say.
"Scott and I-" Jessica paused, not quite sure what to say. Or how to say it. "He's not going anywhere."
Luke's expression didn't change. "Does he know the kid ain't his?"
"Of course he knows," Jessica shot back, her voice a little more heated than she had planned. "Do you really think I'm that much of an asshole?"
He shook his head, not saying anything.
She felt a pang of relief, and it surprised her. She hadn't even realized that she had been worried about how he saw her, at least in that way.
Luke sighed. "So, what are we going to do now?"
"I don't have a fucking clue," Jessica said, running her fingers through her hair. "I just- you're the father, Luke. You're my friend. Hell, you're more than a friend. I care about you. I do."
Luke raised an eyebrow. "But?"
"But I care about Scott too," she said, looking away. "A lot."
Luke waited, not saying anything.
"Why do I have to choose?" she asked, biting her lip. She didn't quite meet his gaze.
For several seconds, Luke didn't say anything. Then he chuckled.
Jessica finally looked at him.
"If that's the way you want to play it, then fine." Luke's smile didn't quite reach his eyes, but he was doing a pretty good job of faking it. "If you want both of us, then you've got it. I don't mind sharing, as long as your Avenger don't either."
Rolling her eyes, Jessica reached over to punch him in the arm. There wasn't any heat in her voice, even though she was at least a little irritated. "Stop making it sound like you're two little kids sharing a goddamn toy or something."
Luke grinned, and this time it looked a bit more genuine than before.
Jessica twisted her coat in her hands, her fist still aching slightly from where she had punched Killgrave. A thousand thoughts were rushing through her mind, everything tumbling together at a million miles per hour. She needed to tell Scott. She needed to tell Luke. She needed to forget everything. She needed a fucking drink.
Needed. Wanted. Was there a difference?
"Well, at least we got past it. Huh?" Beside her, Scott's smile was weak but hopeful. "Right? I mean, this was a pretty big thing, and we did it. We got past it."
Jessica froze, everything rushing around in her head coming to a sudden stop.
Scott's smile faded. "What?"
She needed to tell him. She didn't want to tell him, but she needed to do it. He needed to know.
Taking a deep breath, she twisted her jacket in her hands again. "I'm pregnant," she said, her voice steadier than she had expected it to be. "I'm three months pregnant."
Scott's eyes widened. "Oh."
She could see the question in his eyes, a mixture of surprise and something she couldn't quite define. Her face twisted into a grimace, and she looked away slightly. Just enough to let him know.
The expression on his face was unreadable, even to her. "And it's not mine."
Guilt rushed through her, but Jessica knew he deserved the truth. Besides, she was tired of hiding things. "No," she said, shaking her head. "It's not."
Scott looked away, his gaze moving down to focus on his empty hands for a moment. He had wanted it to be his, she realized almost in surprise. It wasn't that he was surprised she'd gotten knocked up by someone else; disappointed, yes, but not surprised. She hadn't promised him anything.
But he had wanted the baby to be his.
Jessica bit her lip.
"Alright," Scott said, standing up. He didn't turn his gaze back toward her. "Bye, Jessica."
Needed. Wanted. She needed to leave, to find Luke. He needed to know the truth, just like Scott had needed to-
What the fuck was she doing?
Jessica was on her feet before she even realized she wanted to stand up, her heart pounding in her chest. She had no idea what she was doing, what she needed to do. All she knew was what she wanted.
He kept walking, not even stopping.
This time he paused, but he didn't look back at her.
What did she need? What did she want? She didn't know, not really. But there was a hint of something, buried deep, trying to be heard. Something that wasn't giving up.
"Please," she said, her voice wavering just a bit. She wasn't sure what she was doing, but she had to at least try. "Scott, please."
Time felt as if was frozen. Jessica stood there, gripping her coat so tightly that she wouldn't have been surprised to hear it rip. It was up to him.
And then, slowly, Scott turned around.
. . . every new beginning is an ending. ::.