cliff steel

9

Doom Patrol Vol. 6 #7 - Into the Scantoverse or Emotional Robots and Psychic Werewolves: A Doom Patrol Adventure (2017)

Written by: Gerard Way
Artist by: Mike Allred
Colorist by: Laura Allred
Lettered by: Todd Klein
Publisher: Young Animal (DC Comics)

some thoughts about jaylah the magnificent

- Within her first week at Starfleet Academy, Jaylah hacked into the environmental controls and security systems of her dorm– because she was bored and twitchy, because she didn’t know what to do with a home she had not taken apart and re-wired herself. 


- She broke into the cafeteria after hours and told herself it was just to see if she could. She skipped class to go wander the streets and build a map of the city, of these concrete canyons and glass-and-steel cliff walls, of which way she would run if she needed to. She played her music too loud. Kirk wrote her from deep space, further and further away as the months and maydays of their mission moved on, to ask if she was trying to beat him in demerits earned in an Academy tenure. She took that to mean he approved.


- Jaylah had had a big brother, once. Elah had taught her about engines, about how to wrestle, and a lot of really terrible jokes, once. But Scotty walked her through the Enterprise’s engines, when she was rebuilt and shining. They got grease and fluids all over their overalls. Kirk and Spock sparred with her while they waited for the Enterprise’s next mission to come through– Academy martial arts and Vulcan holds and corn-fed Iowa brawling tricks. Uhura provided the bawdy humor, parsed out smugly at the edges of social gatherings. 


- They had set the ruins of the Franklin up as a museum, tucked into the floating bubble of Yorktown. Schoolchildren would take field trips to wander the halls of her house. They invited her to the opening ceremony, cut the ribbon while she and the Enterprise crew were still wandering, limping, through those clean curving streets, but she did not attend. 


- Instead Scotty showed up at her doorstep with a bottle of Scotch stolen from Chekhov. They played her music so loud it shook the walls and earned them a dozen pissed off texts from Bones and a single sternly disapproving note from Spock. They ignored them all and toasted the Franklin, a good lady, a fine home. 


- When Jaylah boarded a transport ship for Earth, for California and San Francisco and the Academy that lived in the shadow of that golden bridge, the whole surviving crew of the Enterprise came out to the loading dock to wave her good-bye. It had been so many years since she had known any faces so well, living, other than her enemies’. She pressed up against the window and watched them– peach and blue and brown and black and green– disappear. 


- No matter how hard she fought and hoped, she had thought she would never get off that planet. The moment she saw her father go down, she had thought she would never be able to survive that stab in his gut, that light that went out of his eyes. She had been small, willow limbs and shaking hands, and she had thought she would never see another sky again. 


- She got up early on cold mornings and walked through the swirling San Francisco fog. She greeted the sun as it climbed up over the Bay and burned the sky back to blue. 


- The crew pooled their credits and bought her a motorcycle for her next birthday, to replace the one they’d left on the planet. Jaylah had left a lot of things in that boneyard. She drove the steep streets on her humming bike and felt like perhaps she had not left everything. 


- When Jaylah took the Kobyashi Maru her final year, she watched her classmates complain and rant afterward about unfairness, about no win scenarios. She did not speak up, just took her results and left. The lesson was one she had already learned, already buried in herself. Sometimes you cannot win, no matter how good you are, no matter how brave, no matter how much you love your daughter and want to live and live and live for her. Sometimes all you can do is die the best way you know how. 


- (When the ruckus had finally died down on Yorktown Base, after the smoke had settled, after the crowds had parted, Jaylah had seen Demora Sulu run to her father’s arms. She had seen Hikaru kneel in the rubble and lift his daughter into his lap and hold her safe in his arms. She had thought, I would have died for this. I am alive, and I am glad, but I would have died for this, I would have, I would have died for this)


- (Her little sister Jessy had been about Dem’s age, the last time Jaylah had seen her alive). 


- She didn’t declare an emphasis in her Academy studies for two years. Scotty thought she should go into engineering, because as a traumatized, escaped child she had reverse-engineered repairs on the Franklin that could only be matched by his own genius. Kirk thought she would make an excellent command officer. Uhura, impressed by how she had taught herself Federation Standard from the Franklin’s logs, made sure the communications department paid friendly attention to her. 


- Instead, Jaylah took the introductory classes for every field of study in the Academy, ignoring the disapproving cries of her guidance counselors. In combat she was years ahead of her peers. She found languages easy, but their technical underpinnings were unengaging and confusing. In engineering she was gifted, but decades behind the state of technology. Scotty had happily dragged her through the Enterprise’s rebuilt engines, but her heart and her blackened fingers would always belong to engines lifetimes older.


- The Enterprise crew were on their second five year mission when Jaylah graduated from Starfleet Academy. They gathered in the main mess hall, all the crew that had survived the Enterprise’s first death, and the new crew members who had heard stories of this adopted daughter of the ship for years. They live-streamed the ceremony. Scotty wore a ‘PROUD BIG BROTHER OF A STARFLEET GRADUATE’ shirt Sulu had hand-lettered for him. Bones opened a bottle of good ol’ Earthside bourbon and pretended not to tear up when her name was called. 


- She wore medical blue.  


- After years of Academy schooling and medical training, Jaylah stepped onto a Starfleet ship, her badge pinned to her chest. The corridors curved into the distance. The lights hummed and lit up as the ship floor murmured under her feet. It felt like coming home. 


- But there were no rocky hills out her shipboard window, no dull sky, no shimmering shield to hide her from her enemies. There was just space– black, cold, endless; brilliant, star-studded; full of discovery and danger and things worth dying for. She was ready to boldly go. She was ready to bravely go. She had thought she would never see another sky and here she was, older than her oldest brother had ever gotten to be, with hands that could defend lives and save them and heal them. The universe was spreading out before her, endless stars lighting the skies of endless planets. She was ready. 

Self Conclusion

This is slightly AU in that Jughead and Betty don’t talk in high school. They aren’t dating and never have. They don’t talk to one another. All incidents with Betty’s family (Polly being pregnant, etc) and Jughead’s Dad (being in jail) have happened. Inspired by Self Conclusion by The Spill Canvas, Liability by Lorde and Intertwined by Dodie.

Warnings for dark thoughts, depression, talk of suicide.


Chapter One

In between the towns of Riverdale and Greendale, just beyond Sweetwater River, is a bank of cliffs. The further you climb, the higher they get. There’s even a fence to deter people from going to the top. 

Betty had been coming here for months. She climbed under the fence, the setting sun and heavy mist sending a shiver down her spine. She slowly dropped down to the ground, scooting her legs over the edge. The dirt and gravel stuck to her clammy palms, but she barely noticed. She was here almost every day, the same thoughts racing through her mind - j u m p.

Betty sighed to herself and reached behind her back, feeling for a rock. She felt a flat, smooth stone in her palm. She felt the weight, tossing it in her palm before winding up and throwing it with all her might over the precipice. 

She heard footsteps against gravel in the distance, getting louder and louder with each passing moment. Her heart hammered in her chest as she scooted away from the edge of the cliff.

She was dusting the dirt from her jeans as she came face-to-face with Jughead Jones. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw her. He held her gaze for a moment before widening his eyes, trying to make her uncomfortable.

“What are you doing here?” He blurted.

“Just looking at the view,” Betty shrugged.

“What view? It’s foggy as fuck.” As if to make Jughead’s point, fat drops of rain started to fall, making the stone darker where it landed. “I have definitive plans here and just because you’re here doesn’t mean I’m going to change them.”

It took Betty a moment before she realized what he meant - he was here for the same reason as she, except he seemed set on following through with his plan. 

He was dressed simply, jeans and a t-shirt with an S emblazoned on it, a jean jacket and a pair of converse. She realized, looking at him, that his usual beanie and suspenders were missing. Whenever she saw him in the halls, he was never without them.

“You’re in my way, blondie.”

“I’m not moving. Y-you can’t jump.” Betty steeled herself as best she could against the chilly, damp air. She needed to stand her ground just in case he did anything.

Jughead scoffed and rolled his eyes. She could see him eyeing the cliff behind her, the rocks, the mist and fog surrounding them. 

“What do you care? You don’t even know me.” He said, looking her dead in the eye. It was a challenge.

“I know, but I’d like to change that. Give me a chance to change that?” Betty cocked an eyebrow.

Jughead shook his head. “Just like that, huh? Are you trying to take on a project? You’ll walk down the cliffs until we’re on solid ground and turn tail and run just like everyone else. Just let me get this over with.”

“No, it’s not like that. I used to see you with Archie. I… I heard about your dad. I’d truly like to get to know you, Jughead.”

Jughead stood with his arms crossed over his chest.

 “I mean, won’t you miss…” She trailed off. How was she supposed to list reasons why he should stay alive when moments before he arrived, she was contemplating the same thing he was about to do? “Won’t you miss milkshakes and french fries and sunrises? That feeling you get when you watch a new movie for the first time and you just feel how great it is deep in your soul? When you wake up from an amazing night’s sleep? Biting into a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie?”

“Wow,” Jughead laughed. It was a humorless, empty sound. “You make it sound so easy to be alive, Betty, but let me save you the trouble - I’m already dead inside. None of those things are worth staying for.”

Betty bit her lip. She couldn’t let this happen. “Trust me, I know how badly you want to do this. But… but what if instead of jumping, you stay with me. Stay here with me, we won’t go our separate ways once we walk down to solid ground.”

“What do you mean?” Jughead’s eyebrows knit in conclusion.

“My family’s gone for the weekend. Come and stay with me and I’ll prove to you why it’s not worth doing this.” What the hell was she saying? How was she going to prove it to him?

“You make it sound so easy. It’s not like I’ll spend a few hours with you and I’ll be cured.” Jughead shoved his hands deeper into his jean pockets. The rain was picking up, making him wish more than anything he hadn’t left his hat at home.

“I know you won’t be cured. But, if we can get you to re-think this, there’s hope. We can get help. Get-get you help.” Betty dug at the gravel with the toe of her shoe. She only looked down for a second - her eyes snapped back to Jughead as soon as he made the slightest of movements. “Plus, it’ll be for more than a few hours. Give me a few days.”

Jughead sighed. “Look, this really isn’t -”

“Give me seventy-two hours, Jughead.”

He snorted. “Twenty-four.”

“Sixty.”

“Look, I could stand here and try and convince you, or you could come home with me and we could get warm. Give me forty-eight hours, Jughead.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll play along. I’ll give you forty-eight hours to try and convince me, but Christ, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. I’ll come back and fucking fling myself off this cliff, and -”

Betty steeled herself against the rain, pounding down against them now. She was facing Jughead, her back toward the edge of the cliff. Fog hung thickly around them.

“Why are you doing this, anyway? Why do you care? You could pretend you were never up here.”

“Because I know what you’re going through.” Betty crossed her arms tightly against her chest. “Minutes before you got here, I was going to jump, too.”

Jughead’s hardened exterior softened, his tight-knit eyebrows and permanent frown changing into something almost sympathetic. He didn’t say a word.

She extended her hand toward him, rain rolling down her cheek. “What do you say, Jughead? My house?”

He nodded ever so slightly, taking her hand and leading her away from the cliff’s edge.