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Behind the Mirror

Chapter Text

You are the only one reading this.

Only you. No one else. That’s important. You won’t show anyone else. You won’t tell anyone else.   

Let’s make a promise, you and me. We promise to keep each other’s secrets. Your secret is me. Keep it, and I’ll tell you mine. Do you promise?

Good.

I want you to hear my story from me, no one else. When you do, when you understand what really happened, then you’ll understand that I shouldn’t be here. I’ve done nothing wrong. I was living my life like anyone else. I wasn’t trying to be a hero and I certainly had no desire to play the villain. I’m not out for power or money or anything else. I was trying to get by in a world that considers us freaks at best and dangerous criminals at worst.

Even if I had done something wrong, that’s not why I’m here. It’s an excuse. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.

In the beginning was Jessica.

I met Jessica Jones on a cold, clear night when I was taking a walk in New York City. The leaves had started to fall. The alleyway was dark. And a gang of yobs set upon an innocent man, gave him a bloody nose and took his wallet.

Jessica stepped in. I knew immediately that she was special; I saw it with my own eyes. She’s a warrior. Those thugs were twice her size but she never hesitated. She threw them around like skittles. To see that strength, that power, concentrated in the shape of so lovely a woman…

I knew there and then that we were meant to be.

I stepped in to help, of course. I told the thugs to run and I checked on the poor man who had been attacked. Once I was sure he could stand, I let him go. That left Jessica and I facing each other on the street, getting the measure of each other. We both knew that something extraordinary had happened. That somehow, in this big wide world of ours, we had encountered each other, as unlikely as that was in a world filled with the mundane, in a city of millions it was by chance that I met the one person who was my match in every possible way.

Jessica felt it too. I saw it in the way she looked at me. I offered my hand and she took it. We shared stories about our gifts over dinner. Me and my mind control. Jessica and her strength.

“I never met anyone else like me before,” she said. “You’re the first.”

“You’re the first for me too.”

I’d thought about it, meeting someone else with powers. I knew there were other gifted people out there and Jessica did too, but we’d both grown up alone. No one taught us to do this. There’s no manual for growing up with gifts like ours. We had to figure it out for ourselves.

The more I talked to Jessica, the more I felt we were kindred spirits. I wanted to know everything about her.

We made love that same night. We connected.

It was the start of something wonderful. It was the start of something terrible. You see, I never controlled Jessica. I never could. Everything she did, she did of her own free will. What we had was real.

That meant I couldn’t walk away.

*

Do you know Jessica Jones? Have you seen her? If you know her, then you know that words can’t do her justice. I’ll try.

I’ve thought about Jessica many times since we parted. I saw her last at the police station after I’d been arrested and dragged off by government men. They’re cruel, these men. They won’t let her see me. If she knew what was happening here, she would put a stop to it. Jessica taught me right from wrong. She would know that this is wrong.  

I haven’t seen her in so long, but the image of her has never faded. When I close my eyes, I see her. I used to wonder, which part of her was the loveliest? Perhaps her hair, long and black as a raven’s wing. Or her mouth, those soft, full lips. Best when kissed. Or her nose, she really has the most perfect up-turned nose. I could write an ode to that nose. Cheeks, eyes, brows, all stunning. Skin I never tired of touching, pale and perfect.

She did her best to hide that beauty. The Jessica I met was coarse, bad-tempered and appallingly dressed. I never did fix those first two flaws, nor her tendency to manipulation and deceit. But that’s the thing about love, isn’t it? When you love someone, you love everything about them, even the parts you hate. Jessica had edges. She wasn’t soft, not on the outside. She was strong. She challenged me in a way that no one else could.  

She was my opposite; she made me complete.

On our second date, I asked her if she wanted to be a superhero. We were in a little café just having coffee, surrounded by a sea of ordinary people. But we were in our own world.

“Maybe,” she said. “I don’t really buy the whole superhero thing.”

She wasn’t the type to put on a costume or use a fake name. When she went after those thugs, she didn’t do it for fame or profit. She did it because it was the right thing to do. I admired her all the more for the purity of her intent.

“Me neither,” I said. “Although you would look good in spandex.”

“Oh, God,” she laughed. “My friend Trish tried to get me to wear one of those! It looked awful, like trashy reality show awful. Like skin-tight, no sleeves, full on cleavage, and white.”

She was painting a vivid picture, gesturing at where the plunging neckline of this horrid garment would have gone.

“Right,” I said, “yeah, I was with you until the white. Whatever happened to a classic black cat suit? Is that old-fashioned nowadays?”  

“I would’ve said no to that too.”

“Gold bikini?”

She made the most adorable face, her nose all scrunched up.

“You’re right, it would get a bit chilly. So, no costume, no superhero name. Do you use your gifts for anything other than occasionally beating up thugs?”

Her eyes, once wary, took on a wicked gleam. Because oh yes she did. She’d threatened many an asshole, as she put it, mostly men but sometimes women too. Lifted up cars for the hell of it. And it turned out super strength wasn’t her only party trick. She could fly too. Or defy gravity at any rate; I watched her leap up ten storeys from the ground and jump across buildings. She was magnificent.  

I told her that she was magnificent and her smile lit up the world.

*

Love changes people.

It’s a cliché, but it’s true. I never appreciated that until it happened to me, until I fell in love with Jessica Jones. I’d never been in love before. All my life I’d gotten everything I ever wanted and I thought that was enough. How could it not be? But Jessica showed me a different world, another way of living.

There were small things, like trying ice skating for the first time or listening to the terrible music she liked. But more than that, it was about getting to know another person. Getting to know her world.

“Do you ever need to just get away from people?” she asked. “You know, clear the air.”

We were walking through Central Park, holding hands. The sun was setting but though it wasn’t peak time, it was still busy. Families, couples, tourists, you know.

I glanced around. “I could tell everyone to go away.”

“I was thinking we might catch a movie.”

“Ah, empty the theatre.”

That wasn’t what she meant. She took me back to the apartment she shared with Trish, but rather than going inside we climbed up the fire escape and on to the rooftop. No people here. Instead a projector, a wall, and a silent movie. It was oddly memorising.

“This is what Trish and I do when we’re trying to go off-grid,” she said. “No phones, no people. Just us.”

“Why?”

I looked at her. I had my arm around her waist and she snuggled her head into my shoulder. Her eyes, maybe that’s what I love most about her. Those soulful dark eyes. They looked sad.

“I dunno,” she said. “It just gives us time. No one has any time.”

“I get it. Everyone’s so busy with the rat race down there…” I gestured at the traffic below. “You have to rise above it. Literally and metaphorically.”

She nodded. “I said I was figuring my life out. Maybe this’ll help.”

I’d asked her if she wanted to be a superhero. And if not that, then what? She didn’t know. She didn’t know what to do with her gifts or with her life in general. She wanted someone to guide her.

Lucky I was there to help.

*

Before Jessica, I rarely stayed with a woman for longer than a month. Usually a week at most, to tell the truth. I hadn’t found the right person for me.

With Jessica that first month flew by. I learned about her family and what had happened to them. (Long story short: fatal car crash.) I met her best friend Trish, also known as Patsy Walker, former child star and talk show host. I didn’t like her, but I was nice because Jessica liked her.

Trish wasn’t good for her, I saw that immediately. She was the one with the ideas about Jessica’s superhero costume, all that fake celebrity trash. That wasn’t Jessica at all.  

So I helped Jessica to move out. We got our own place together.

I was ready for a life of domestic bliss.

It wasn’t perfect. There were highs and lows. When I was happy with Jessica, I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. I wanted nothing more than to be by her side. But when we fought, when we turned against each other… The frustration drove me mad.

She was stubborn for no reason.

“I want to do something,” she said. “I want to earn a living, not sit in your lap.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, dignity? Self-respect?”

“You’ve complained about every job you ever had,” I said, which was completely true. “Work is a fool’s errand. We’re free of that; we can do whatever we want.”

I was generous, I even let her try a part-time job for a little while, to prove that I was right. A scabby little bar. I knew she wouldn’t commit. She admitted that I was right, later on. She came home and I held her close and told her that I would take care of her. I would always take care of her.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

I held those words close to my heart.

*

Here’s one cliché that isn’t true. Love does not conquer all. If it did, then Jessica and I would have been set for the rest of our lives. But the world gets in the way. People get in the way.

And in this case that person was Jessica herself. She was a mess, to put it bluntly. A walking complex of survivor’s guilt, insecurities, hopes, dreams and a bad attitude. I found myself trying to do the impossible. I tried to make her happy.

Are all women like this? She was never satisfied by anything I did for her. I gave her a home, servants to take care of our daily needs, clothes and gifts aplenty. I treated her like a princess. Every whim she had, I indulged. I took her to London to celebrate the New Year and we kissed under the fireworks as Big Ben struck midnight.

I made our lives perfect. After all those months together, we knew each other so intimately too. Sex with Jessica was the best I’d ever had. She knew exactly how to please me and I knew exactly how to please her. I wanted to please her.

Maybe that was the problem.

I should have realised that she was taking advantage. I was naïve. She got everything she could from me, using my powers for her own gain, and then she ran away. She didn’t even say goodbye.

She abandoned me.

*

Is that sudden? The twist in the tale. It was a surprise for me too. I couldn’t tell you when she stopped being happy. Maybe she never was, but that wasn’t me. It was all her.

I expect you’ll be surprised to learn this, but I have been in therapy before. So I’ll give you this piece of psycho-analysis for free: I hate betrayal and I hate when people leave me, because that’s exactly what my parents did to me when I was ten years old. They abandoned their own child and left me to fend for myself, alone.

No one likes betrayal, of course, but what Jessica did to me… It hurt in a very personal way. The only reason I can write about it so calmly now is because some time has passed. But when it happened… I was angry. I was sick with betrayal, sick with anger, I was furious and I wanted to punish Jessica for hurting me the way she did.     

Look, I’ll spare you the details. It was messy; people died. Not by my hand – no, Jessica killed someone. Funny how I’m the one in prison and she’s the one who got off scot-free, eh? She must have a good lawyer.

But I came around. I offered Jessica a second chance. That was tough; at every turn when I trusted her, she betrayed me again. I wondered if I’d lost the way to her heart, or if she was simply being self-destructive. When I chased her, she ran. Then she went after me. She wanted me.

She thinks this is it, that it’s over. I’ve been caught.

You and I both know that isn’t true.

Should I forgive her for everything she’s done? For abandoning me yet again, for leaving me in this terrible place? Was she forbidden from coming here, or did she choose not to?

God, the uncertainty kills me. This is what I hate about not being in control.

*

I know this wasn’t Jessica’s doing. No, the government put me here. Don’t think I don’t know what it’s all for. I know. It’s been over a year. It’s inhuman.

You need to hear about Jessica to understand that everything I did, I did for love.

You need to hear about what happened after Jessica to understand that there is no justice in this place. This is not what I deserve.

I know you’ll understand.

Chapter Text

You’ve been wondering about my mind control. Maybe you’re wondering what it’s like. I can’t answer that, obviously, but I can tell you what happens.

People do anything I want, say anything I want, feel anything I want. You’d do anything I want too; don’t think you wouldn’t. I tell the women I sleep with that it’s the best sex they’ll ever have, and it is. They’re lucky to have me. I free them from the burden of responsibility. I give them everything they want. In return, I get the pleasure of their company.

That was how I lived for years before I met Jessica. Before Jessica, I was never alone. After Jessica…

I spent six months in relative isolation. A disembodied voice talked to me over the speaker. Never a pleasantry. Barely even so much as a hello. No, it was always do this, do that. Place your dinner tray in the hatch. Take off your clothes. Lie on the bed and don’t move. They had people come in wearing hazard suits, like I was a nuclear reactor or something equally dangerous. Couldn’t talk to them. I tried. They drugged me and then God only knows what they did while I was out cold, but I woke up more than once with a bandage on my arm. I think they were taking my blood.

Whatever they were trying to do with my blood, it didn’t work. They tried something else. The first time it happened, I was asleep. I was woken up by the sound of the door slamming, strange footsteps. I sat up and there was another man in the cell with me. Another prisoner, judging by his clothes. Fetching blue jumpsuit, three digit number printed on the back. God, he was scruffy. Not a big fellow, as I recall, a little scrapper of a man with a missing tooth and a scraggly beard. Whiskers growing out of his ears.

I looked him up and down. “Who are you?”

He spat on the floor like the disgusting dog he was. “Who’s asking?”

“Stop that. I asked you who you are. Answer me.”

Of course he answered. He was in the cell with me; he had no choice. You think you’re safe, hearing my story at a distance, separated by this wall between us. That’s how I’ve been imprisoned. No contact. No breathing the same air. But this man, this prisoner, they shoved him into my cell with no warning, no courtesy at all. His name was Gerald. He was fifty-two, a known drug dealer and small-time crook, and this was his fourth time behind bars. He had no gifts. There was nothing special about him.

“Then why are you here?” I asked.

“They caught me for possession,” Gerald said, “and violating parole–”

“No, I mean, why are you here? In the Raft? They don’t put petty criminals in here and they’ve never put anyone in with me.”

He didn’t know. I couldn’t get anything else out of him. Gerald was ignorant, and that had to be deliberate. So I decided to ask the powers that be. They were always watching, I was certain of that, and they would definitely be watching me after dumping this convict into my lap. I looked across the cell at the mirror that spanned the entire wall.

“Who is this man? What’s he doing here? Answer me!”

“Who’re you talking to?” Gerald asked.

“Shut up.” I turned back to the mirror. I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were behind it, watching. Voyeurs. “Why is he here? I demand an answer!”

I didn’t get an answer. And yet I had nothing to do but dwell on the question. The cell had one bed. They hadn’t changed anything to make it suitable for two. Perhaps this was a test. They were watching to see what I would do. What did they want me to do? I put Gerald in the corner and made him sleep on the floor. Other than that I left him alone. I had no intention of harming him; I knew he wouldn’t harm me.

But what did they want me to do?

Whatever it was, I didn’t want to do it. I wasn’t inclined to help the people who were keeping me prisoner. Perhaps they were trying to learn more about my power, to observe it in action. That was my best guess; I couldn’t see any other reason for Gerald being here. He was as disposable as they come. No real family; no one would miss him. Who would bother to save someone like him?

So I used as little mind control as possible, only enough to keep Gerald out of my way. Hard to do in a cell the size of a shoebox. He told me stories of the outside world. What date was it? What had I missed? Had he by any chance heard of a woman called Jessica Jones? He hadn’t. After three days, he began to irritate me. He snored. He had a habit of snuffling into his beard and smacking his lips whenever he ate. He smelled like a tramp even after I made him shower, and he had a shifty sort of look about him, like he was eyeing you up for money or about to beg for food. He was also beginning to show withdrawal symptoms that made him shiver and twitch, and I couldn’t stand to look at that hangdog face any longer.

I stood up. “I want him gone, do you hear me? Imprisonment is tedious enough without having to share with a washed-up addict. What do you want from me? What am I supposed to do?”

I got no response so I had to improvise. I hoped to escape. Maybe Gerald could help. I told him to hit the door until he forced his way through. He’d never succeed, of course, it was reinforced steel. But if he put even the slightest dent in it, that would be a start. He attacked that door until his hands were bloody and then finally the intercom crackled.

“Tell the prisoner to stop.”

The disembodied voice was female. But it had a robotic quality. Have you heard it? I still don’t know if it’s a real person, not like you. I could reach out and touch you.

“I’ll tell him to stop as soon as you tell me what’s going on.”

“Mr Thompson, this is your final warning. Tell the prisoner to stop.”

Mr Thompson. Awfully polite, wasn’t she? That was the name they used. Not my name. Kilgrave is my real name, the name I chose for myself. It was the first time I’d heard the threat of a final warning, so I didn’t know what it meant. I ignored her.

“I want answers,” I said. “He won’t stop until he passes out, you know that.”

Conversations like these are all about bargaining power. I could only get what I wanted if I had a way to make my captors comply. But they had other tricks up their sleeves. There was an air filter at the top of the cell, out of my reach. I heard a hissing sound, like a gas cooker being switched on. That’s exactly what it was: gas. Within seconds it reached my throat and I tasted something sharp. I coughed and choked. So did Gerald. We collapsed in under a minute.

When I came to, the air was clear and Gerald was still there, bruised knuckles and all. He woke up a little after I did. So they had a way to stop me from giving an order they didn’t like. I thought about that. It was the only time they had stopped me; I’d been controlling the other prisoner from the moment he’d arrived and they hadn’t done anything about it then. Was it because he had been injured? Or because he was trying to escape?

Could have been either, or both. I had to guess. I had to test them, I thought, just as they were testing me. Last thing I wanted was for Gerald to stay in here even a day longer. The longer he was here, the more evidence they had of my mind control in action, and the more I’d have to endure his company. His stories had stopped being interesting days ago.

How quickly could they knock us out with the gas? Might as well test that too.

Whatever else they’d done, they’d left me intact. I was gambling on that. Once a week they’d send a razor through the hatch along with breakfast so that I could shave. That always came with strict instructions; they were worried I might harm myself. The thought had occurred to me. Not because I wanted to, I’m no fan of pain. But if I was injured, they’d have to treat my wounds and perhaps that would be an opportunity. A chance to escape. Well, it was a long shot. I’d never tried it. I’d have to be desperate and I wasn’t that desperate yet.

Gerald, however… Well, he could test out a theory for me.

I gave him the razor. “Slit your throat,” I said. “Quickly!”

He did it, and a bloody mess it was too. Have you ever seen a man’s throat open up? It was a gash, a deep red cut spurting blood. I moved back and then came the gas.

They tried to stop me. They were too late.

*

When I woke up next, I was alone in the cell and there was no blood at all. Not a trace. I wondered what would happen next.

I slept twice more. They do day and night cycles in the cell, light and dark, otherwise I’d never know which it was. Never see the sky. I literally never see the light of day. But it must have been the third day, I think, when things changed again. They sent in another prisoner while I slept. I woke up and this time I saw a bear of a man, a great hairy beast. He had long brown hair and a beard; I half-expected a furry back.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Red Harry,” he growled. That wasn’t a particular tone of voice; everything he said was a growl. “Only one bed? What the piss is this? Out of my way.”

I suppose a lesser man would have been intimidated. I told him to sit down and tell me his story and it wasn’t much different from Gerald’s. He was in prison for aggravated assault. He was an ordinary, jumped-up criminal, no powers, and he had no idea why he’d been placed in here. Did anything unusual happen before he was taken here? Apparently not, except for the fact that he was in the Raft at all. He shouldn’t have been. Neither should Gerald.

Four days later he killed himself. They hadn’t punished me the first time. They didn’t this time either, so I could only conclude that they didn’t care. The lives of these men weren’t important to them. They were looking for something else.

It became a pattern. They’d send in a prisoner, that prisoner would last a few days, sometimes more, sometimes less, before killing or crippling themselves. I started to worry that I was giving them what they wanted. Maybe I should let them live. Then they sent in the fifth prisoner, and everything changed.

Because this time, the person entering my cell was a woman.

Not one of those hard-bitten female criminals either, no, this was a girl, and a very pretty one too. I woke up to find her huddled on the other side of the cell, pale and staring at me like I was the monster under her bed. The least I could do was treat her gently.

“Hello there,” I said. “Don’t be scared, I won’t bite. What’s your name?”

“Adelaide.”

Adelaide was twenty-two and a medical student. Her family had fallen on hard times following her parents’ divorce and her mother’s back problems, and she and her two brothers were struggling to make ends meet. They’d scrimped and saved to get her into medical school, but she was working two other jobs alongside her studies, one as a barista and a second, more shameful source of income for men online who liked to see her tits.

“So why are you here?” I asked.

“I don’t know! I don’t understand – I was drugged, kidnapped…”

“Kidnapped?” I sat up. “You mean you didn’t commit a crime?”

She shook her head. “I didn’t do anything!”

“Then you were chosen.”

“Chosen?”

She looked confused. But the more I looked at her, the more sure I was. Slim, dark-haired, beautiful. Those sharp brown eyes. There was sadness in those eyes, and something hurt and defiant about the shape of her mouth. Adelaide had been brought up a nice girl in a nice house, but she’d known pain and suffering.

Now who does that remind you of?

“Yes,” I said. “Chosen for me.” I indicated the mirror. “That’s a two-way mirror. We’re being watched.”

She jumped; she was leaning right against the mirror, but she soon backed away from it. “Watched? What do you mean, watched? Where are we?”

“We’re in a prison,” I said, “called the Raft. It’s designed for people who are so dangerous they need to be specially contained.”

“Dangerous? Like you?”

She wasn’t afraid, merely curious. Intrigued, in fact, after I’d explained, though still worried and angry about her own situation.

“Why would they choose me?” she asked. “Why am I here?”

“Careful,” I said. “They’re listening.”

“Who?”

“Well, the Raft is officially run by the United States government, so…”

Though for the first time I began to wonder if that were true. Was the government truly so corrupt that they’d kidnap an innocent girl just to see if she had a different effect on me?

“I don’t understand.”

I shrugged, turning away to address my captors. “Thank you for the gift. I’ll take good care of her.”

Adelaide didn’t know what to make of that. The intercom remained silent as usual even when she screamed and banged her fists against the two-way mirror. Eventually I got bored and told her to stop. She wouldn’t accomplish anything other than hurting herself and I didn’t want to see her suffer.

We spent some considerable time together, Adelaide and me. She told me her life story, the hardships that had befallen her family. She tried to get me to talk about myself but I refused.

“They’re listening, remember.”

“Listening for what? Do you think – do you think they’re testing your power?”

I’d told her about my mind control, and told her not to worry about that either. No point in scaring her. It had been so long since I had seen a pretty girl’s smile.

“I don’t know.”

“But there were other prisoners. I’m not the only one you controlled.”

I’d told her that much too, though not what had happened to them. I shrugged. “Maybe so.”

“Then you should stop controlling me. Don’t give them what they’re looking for.”

She was echoing my own thoughts. I raised my eyebrows. “You assume there’s some nefarious purpose behind this.”

“Well, yeah! They kidnapped me. They kidnapped me to hand to you as… what? Your test subject? Your toy?”

My toy. Yes. She was. My favourite toy right then. There weren’t a lot of options in prison.

“This is the government we’re talking about,” I said. “Your government sanctioned this.”

She was silent for a moment. “Is it even legal, what they’re doing to you?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I was arrested and locked away without a trial, so draw your own conclusions. I’ve had no official sentence either. I don’t know how long I’m supposed to be in here.”

“It must be life, right? Someone with your powers must get life. You’re too dangerous otherwise. You could kill the President.”

“Anyone could kill the President,” I said, “with the right means and motive. Why on earth would I do that? If we arrested everyone with powers because they might kill a world leader, every gifted person would be behind bars. You sound prejudiced.”

“I’m sorry,” she said, chastened. “I didn’t think about it like that.”

“Well, you’re young. I’ll forgive you. Come here.”

I gave her the privilege of sharing my bed. After months on my own, I craved the intimacy of a woman’s touch. There was no privacy in that cell. We slept, showered, dressed, ate and relieved ourselves in full view of the two-way mirror. Frankly, I didn’t care. Adelaide gave me a break from the interminable boredom of life in prison, something to do other than exercise, write or read. Besides, it wasn’t the first time she’d performed on camera.

Of course, it didn’t last.

*

I never wanted to hurt her. I enjoyed her company, and she was far preferable to sharing my cell with another grizzled convict or being alone.

One day we received a small plastic tube along with our morning breakfast tray. It looked like a test tube, except that tucked inside it was a rolled up piece of paper. I was curious. I opened the tube and unfolded the note.

FAO: KEVIN THOMPSON

Read these instructions aloud.

Adelaide, listen to me. A doctor is going to see you today. His name is Doctor Malus and you are going to do everything he tells you. Don’t try to escape. Everything will be fine.

Those evil, evil bastards.

I stood up, crumpling the note in my hand, and I faced the two-way mirror. “Fuck you,” I said, because I’d had enough. I’d had enough. “I am not your puppet.”

Adelaide jumped at my sudden reaction. “Kilgrave? What is it, what’s wrong?”

“It’s nothing,” I said, not looking at her. All my fury was directed at the glass. I could see only my own grim reflection but I knew they were there. I knew they were watching. “Eat your breakfast, sweetheart, and don’t worry.”

The intercom crackled. “Mr Thompson, please follow the instructions you were given.”

“No. What are you going to do to her, huh? Why is she here?”

“Mr Thompson, please follow the instructions you were given.”

“I said no.”

“Mr Thompson, this is your final warning. Please follow the instructions you were given.”

I rolled my eyes. What were they going to do, gas me again? “It’s still a no.”

Silence. One, two, three, four, five seconds. I knew what was coming. They were giving me an opportunity to back down, but I wouldn’t. If I started giving out instructions for them on command, well, I’d never stop, would I?

The gas came. It was new to Adelaide; she nearly choked on her cereal bar before losing consciousness, her eyes fluttering shut. I managed to stumble back to the bed and crawl onto the mattress before passing out.

When I woke up, Adelaide was gone.

I never saw her again.

Chapter Text

Do they tell scary stories about me? Am I notorious? The man who controls minds. I wouldn’t mind being famous if not for the trouble that comes with it. People ought to appreciate me more. Instead all I get is terror and isolation and mad science.

Right now I’m under the spotlight in all the wrong ways.

You know, this is my biggest fear. Being poked and prodded at. Being a lab rat. This is what I spent my entire adult life running from. Do you know why?

Because I know what my power could be like in the hands of men less scrupulous than me. Imagine if a foreign government got hold of the ability to control minds. Imagine if a criminal organisation did the same. They took my blood. They observed me compelling other prisoners. They tried to make me control Adelaide and then they took her away. If the United States government sanctioned all that, well, that makes them evil too. The only reason people like that would keep me alive is because they think my body is the key to my power and they want that power for themselves.

Mind control on a massive scale. World domination. That’s the end game. I never wanted it. I’m not that kind of man. But someone does. And that someone is the person you need to be worried about. That someone is the person who should be behind bars, not me. Think about it. You know it’s the only explanation.

Who’s controlling me?

*

You think I’m imagining a conspiracy. Well, they wouldn’t tell you, would they? You only know what I tell you. I only know what I see and what I hear and that’s not much in here.

Here then. Proof.

After Adelaide, they sent in someone else. A man, a prisoner with a number. A big man, African-American, looked like he could crush you with one hand. I recognised him. Small world, isn’t it?

“You,” he said.

“Me,” I replied. “What was your name?”

Our previous acquaintance had been brief. I knew him as the proprietor of a bar, one of those dismal places where the sad and the lonely drank through their sorrows. Jessica used to work there.

“Luke Cage,” he said. “You’re Kilgrave.”

“Bang on,” I said. Honestly, I was delighted that someone here knew my proper name. “So what did they get you for?”

He snorted. “Does it matter?”

“I suppose not.”

He was looking around as he spoke. I guessed watching him that this wasn’t the first time he’d seen the inside of a prison cell. No surprises there. But it would be the first time he’d seen a cell like this.

“There’s only one bed,” he said, frowning.

“I know!” And I was currently occupying it, sitting up with my back against the wall. “Awkward, isn’t it? You’ll have to sleep on the floor.”

He gave me a look. “We’ll take it in turns.”

“No,” I said. “You’re going to sleep on the floor. Tell me about yourself, Luke Cage. Why are you here?”

“They found out about me.” He sank down to the floor, resting his hands on his knees. “My… gifts.”

“Gifts?”

To think, all that time he’d been under my nose and I didn’t know. Luke had abilities. Finally, someone who was supposed to be here. He was kind enough to tell me all about them and how he acquired them too. An experiment from his last stint in a prison cell that left him with enhanced strength and unbreakable skin. Quite the specimen. And that posed a challenge for me.

“Well,” I said, “that all sounds incredibly useful. Do you think you’re strong enough to break through that door?”

“Maybe,” he said. “Don’t think it would end well though.”

He was probably right. Even so… “Do it,” I said.

It was impressive to watch. He really gave it his all, slammed his weight into that door like it was made of cardboard. The whole cell shook. But then the gas came and Luke Cage with his unbreakable skin wasn’t immune to being knocked out. When I came to, he was sitting in the same position as before, watching me. I looked at the door.

“Did you make a dent?”

“Yeah,” he said. “You gonna make me try that again?”

I could. Perhaps they’d get bored of gassing us and take him away. But I’d forgotten to ask an obvious question.

“Jessica Jones,” I said. “You knew her.”

“Yeah. So?”

“When was the last time you saw her?”

He thought about it. “The last time I saw her was… two months ago. She came to the bar already drunk. Said she was fine.”

“That doesn’t sound fine. Did she mention me?”

“No, I did. I asked if she was still with you. She said you were long gone.”

“Hmm. What is she up to these days?”

“She’s a P.I. Started her own business.”

A private investigator. Poking her pointy nose into places she shouldn’t. Well, that sounded like Jessica. I imagine she’s good at it. If, say, there was some sort of conspiracy involving wrongful conviction and governments experimenting on their prisoners, well, I bet she’d get right to the bottom of it. Just saying.

“Anything else?”

I was desperate for the tiniest scrap of information. Anything to bring me up-to-date on Jessica.

“Not really. I got the sense she’d been through a hard time. Didn’t want to pry.”

Me and her both. It was something of a comfort to know that we had both suffered after what happened between us. If anything, Jessica deserved to suffer more.

But now I faced a dilemma. Luke had served his purpose; he had no more useful information for me. If I didn’t want to be stuck with him, and I didn’t, then either I needed to use him to escape or find a way to dispose of him. And how do you get rid of a man with unbreakable skin? All the other prisoners had died from razor-inflicted wounds.

I would have to get creative.

“Do you want to escape?” I asked.

“I’d like to get out of here, sure. I want to see my wife. If I’m lucky, she’ll bail me out.”

“Oh, I don’t think they do bail around here,” I said. “It’s a floating fortress. Once you come in you’re not meant to get out.”

He scowled at me. “Do you have a suggestion?”

“That wall is a two-way mirror.” I pointed. “Smash it. And hold your breath!”

It almost worked. It was a genius idea if I do say so myself. Luke smashed and smashed and the glass cracked and I clamped my hand over my nose and mouth when the gas came. On the fifth blow, the glass shattered. Finally, I saw what lay behind the mirror and it was just as I had thought: an observation room. A panel, monitors, chairs. Boring really. It was missing a crucial element: people. The door to the room was ajar. They’d scarpered.

I tried to climb up and through the hole into the observation room, but the glass cut into my hands and legs, and my eyes were tearing up from the gas. I could feel myself fading. I gestured at Luke to follow me but it was too late. I collapsed half in, half out of my cell.

*

I woke up strapped to a chair.

My head was splitting. The gas didn’t usually give me such a bad headache; perhaps they’d done something else too. On the plus side, I wasn’t in my cell. On the less positive side… Well.

I can only describe it as a fish tank. Glass on all sides with me trapped inside as a lever snapped into place and water gushed over my head. I gasped; it was like taking a cold shower. Outside – I could barely see – an office? There was a desk facing the tank and a United States flag hanging behind it, but the desk was empty. No one there. No one watching.

I knew better.

Something in my ear clicked and I winced. They’d fitted me with a headset and microphone. Now I got to hear the intercom voice beamed straight into my head. Great.

“Follow these instructions and the water will stop. Repeat after me: Luke Cage, open the door.”

“Piss off,” I growled. “You want to use me, use my powers? Ask me nicely.”

I was still getting drenched, by the way. The water had reached my ankles.

“If you do not follow these instructions, the water will not stop.”

“Yeah, I got that.” I was blinking furiously, trying to squint through the glass to the office beyond. “If the water doesn’t stop, I’ll drown and then there won’t be anyone to give your orders so that’s not exactly working out for you either, is it? I’m not doing it. You can–”

Well, I was going to say that they could shove their instructions up their arse. I was rudely interrupted. By an electric shock.

It came from the water and engulfed me with a wall of pain. Do you know what it’s like to have every single one of your nerve endings shocked to pieces? It’s fucking painful, that’s what. Excuse my French.

I recoiled, cried out. The straps dug into my arms and legs.

“If you do not follow these instructions, the water will not stop. Repeat after me: Luke Cage, open the door.”

A thought occurred like a smoke trail in the wake of a fire. “Luke Cage, help me. Help me! Get me out of here!”

They shocked me again and I fell silent. The instructions were repeated. I said nothing. The instructions were repeated. The water kept on pouring; it was almost up to my knees. I could have been crying and no one would have known.

“Listen,” I said, catching my breath. “Torture isn’t going to work on me. I have no reason to do what you want. Why don’t we talk? You tell me something I want to know and maybe I can meet you halfway. Call it a compromise.”

Silence from the headset. Were these third rate scientists or third rate torturers? I couldn’t say.

“Just… tell me what you want from me. What’s the point of all this? Tell Luke Cage to open the door – what door? Where is he?”

They shocked me again. I screamed.

“Ugh, come on! Is that all you’ve got? It won’t work.”

Did they think I’d never endured pain before in my life? Did they think I’d never known suffering? The water came up to my waist, biting, cold. The electricity stung me to the core.

“It won’t work!” I sang.

I laughed at them. I was shaking by this point, but it was as if the pain was some sort of madness. It fuelled me.

The water reached my chest.

Then it stopped. I drew in a breath, expecting another shock. My headset crackled.

“Kilgrave.”

A different voice, male. I pictured old and craggy. My heart skipped a beat. No robotic undertones. This was a real person.

“Who are you?”

“I’m the man who’s giving you a break. You’re right. Perhaps we can talk.”

“Oh, good,” I said. “Help me. Get me out of here.”

“I’m afraid that won’t work, Kilgrave, I’m hundreds of miles away. I’m talking to you from the mainland.”

“Who are you? Who am I talking to?”

He seemed allergic to answering questions. “The Raft is where we keep our most dangerous felons. But we’ve taken a particular interest in you. Your powers.”

“What about them? Shall I tell your mummy to buy you a pony?”

Not even a chuckle. No sense of humour, that one. “We’re thinking more of certain… military applications.”

Alarming pictures of stormtroopers came into my head.  

“Oh, you can piss right off,” I said. “No. I’m not fighting your wars for you.”

“You would be doing a service to your country. The United States–”

“I’m British, you tosspot, I don’t give a shit. If you want me to swear my loyalties to anyone, I’ll say God save the Queen.”

Who, by the way, I have met. We had tea. It was lovely, trip to Buckingham Palace, very fancy. Before Jessica, of course.

“Nonetheless,” said the man, whom I was now picturing as a hawkish American general, you know, the grizzled war veteran type, “you would be doing a service. In return we might be able to make your stay here more comfortable.”

“Prisoners are not employees. If you want my services, you’ll have to pay for them.”

He chuckled. “Think about it. Say the words.”

“The words?”

“The instructions you were given. Tell Luke Cage to open the door.”

I sighed. “Luke Cage, open the door.”

Something shifted, a pipe or something, I don’t know. But the water started draining away, like emptying a bath. I let out a breath. I’d done something right and this was my reward. A dangerous precedent.

The door to the office opened and Luke Cage barged in.

So that was the door.

“Cage!” I yelled at once. “Cage, help me! Let me out!”

He heard me and oh, joy of joys, he responded. He tore open the door to the tank as the last of the water drained away and set about removing the straps binding me to the chair.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Dunno,” he muttered. “Woke up in another cell. Then I heard your voice.”

“My voice? How? I was here.”

“Through a speaker.”

I swallowed. Luke had freed me from the chair and I threw off the headset and sprang up at once, jumping out of that hideous tank to look around the office. A portrait of Abraham Lincoln hung on a wall. Wooden panels, books… There was a hat stand, but no hat, no jacket, no coat. No papers on the desk, though there was a laptop. I was soaked through and shivering but I couldn’t miss the opportunity. I went over to the desk.

“Guard me with your life,” I said to Luke. “Are we alone? How did you get here?”

“I saw her,” said Luke, and I looked up sharply.

“Her? Jessica?”

He looked dazed, and far too slow.

“No,” he said. “Reva.”

I opened my mouth, and that was when the gas hissed out. Of course. They were never going to let us get far. Enraged, I picked up the laptop and threw it at the tank as hard as I could. The smacking sound it made was rather satisfying.

“Run!”

I clamped my hand over my mouth and the two of us made a run for it, to the door of the office. We reached a corridor but the gas was there too, we couldn’t escape it. I pelted down that hallway with black spots dancing in front of my eyes. I tripped over my own feet.

When I woke up, I was back in my cell, alone.

*

And there we are. That brings us up to the present day. Well, almost. I have enjoyed our sessions together, Doctor. I treasure the times I get to spend with you. You’ve always been a good listener.

You wanted me to write down my thoughts. You said it would help.

I’ve spilled my soul. I wonder what you make of it. I’m not heartless. Don’t ever think that. I loved Jessica, truly. I still do. I wished harm on no one but you can’t blame a lab rat for trying to break free of its cage.

They still want me to be their puppet. I don’t think they know how far my concerns are from theirs. When I lie on my bed, when I’m awake, when I’m asleep… I see her. I see Jessica. I can no more claw her out of me than I can tear out my own heart. I hate her for it, just like she hates me for it. I didn’t make her love me; she told me that herself. She hates me for it, but she loves me.

We love each other.

I suppose that makes us a tragic love story. But this isn’t the end, there’s time enough for one more twist. I could make it a happy one. If we could find one another…

That hope is what has kept me going. It’s kept me resisting.

I don’t deserve this.

You know that. You know they won’t stop torturing me until they get what they want. And what are you here for, hmm? What did they bring you in for? To soften me up? To get me talking?

Yeah, I thought about that. I thought about what this all means. I thought about what it meant when Luke Cage came running at my command over a speaker.

Fun fact. You’ve been breathing my air.

The whole time you’ve been reading this, in fact. They pumped it out when they were testing on Luke. You thought you were safe through that glass, didn’t you? You thought I couldn’t affect you.

Do you remember what I said the last time we spoke? I told you to follow my instructions.

These are my instructions.

You don’t want this story to end.

Come on.

Take me to Jessica.