Nightmare News

December 04, 2017:

Jessica Jones calls Daredevil to the aftermath of her disastrous dinner party to issue a warning about their mutual friends. A new nightmare begun, but he has news of his own…a tale of nightmares ended.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, NYC

Never a dull moment.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Emery Papsworth, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Luke Cage, Danny Rand, Kinsey Sheridan, Stephen Strange

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Jessica Jones waited until two things had happened in the aftermath of the world's worst dinner party before texting Daredevil.

One. She waited for Emery Papsworth to go home. There are a lot of reasons for that. He wants to check out the 'Satan of the Subway,' as he called him. Jess has…reservations. About allowing that.

Two. She got her hip bandaged and she got herself changed and showered. She is aware she probably now is going to reek of rubbing alcohol, gauze, and blood, but at least she won't reek of anything else.

Now she's trying to clean up; there's a lot of food all over her floor from that fight. While she does, she contemplates the risk she's taking. Because there's nothing that says there has to be two and only two enthralled bear people. They could have Matt too. But hey, now she's all alone in her apartment in the dead of night, so if he's soulless now she supposes he can take his shot and she'll try to talk him down too. She vaguely contemplates what kind of animal he'd be. A cougar maybe, all lithe economy of motion married to powerful blows. He does that head tilt thing that reminds her of great cats, but it would have to be something North American.

Whatever. If he's not an evil bear person she feels like this is news that really ought to be discussed in person, and she has a personal thank you to deliver anyway, so there's that.

And so it is that she is picking a brisket off of her floor that may or may not (she's still not really sure on this count) have been poisoned, dropping it into a plastic bag with a grimace.

Both sides of Matt Murdock's bifurcated life are linked to Jessica Jones, which means that an appeal from her for help could come to either the quiet-voiced attorney or the brutal, masked vigilante. So which one is she looking for at this instant? He lets the method of contact guide him. After all, the text came to that other phone — the flip one he carries and keeps perpetually on vibrate, whether he's wearing his lawyer's getup in the daylight or his blacks past a certain hour at night.

So it's the Devil that arrives at her window, rather than the blind man at her front door. He raps on her window once, twice, thrice with his gloved hand while he takes in all the trace signs of ruin and chaos spread strewn across her apartment building. Even through the window he can make out two familiar scents that leave his heart sinking in his chest, and have the words ready as soon as she opens the window for him to crawl into her room:

"Bucky and Jane? Are they alright?"

It's been working for them so far for sure; the method of contact…method. Jessica steps over and opens the window to admit him, glad that he picks up on it right away, the very thing she called him over to talk about. But of course he would.

"They are definitely not alright," she says, in a low, grim voice. "They are each short one soul. Watch out, the floor's covered in soup, gravy, and icing."

Sure, she knows he can smell it, but she's not sure how far that extends to actually picking his way around wet, slippery, sticky hardwoods. For all she knows it just smells like a food fight happened in here, one big, continuous, smeary mess of confectioner's sugar and beef broth.

For what it's worth, she is better, back off the sauce from pretty much the last day they talked, pretty much because they talked…and no longer jumping like a rabbit when he ends up in her vicinty via her having to let him in.

He can detect all the changes in her, the steady improvement and healing she's undergone. Later he'll feel relief and gratitude, and were the circumstances just a little different, he might even comment on it. But then she says what she says. "Short one — what?" Daredevil asks, his mouth pulled back into an incredulous, baffled grimace at odds with the picture of sleek composure or barely contained rage he allows himself to show as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen.

He slides in, and for all his distraction, his boots land deftly on clean and clear spots on the floor. "What do you mean they're short they're souls?" The word itself recalls for him a hundred sermons, classroom lectures, private debates and dialogues. Matt Murdock may be a metropolitan millennial now, but once he was a literall choir boy, and he still attends Church every week — if not every Sunday. "And — where are they now?"

"Yeah. Souls. You must not have gotten the e-mail."

She grabs up a stack of folded towels from her bathroom and marches back in to start just tossing them liberally about the floor. She has no patience to try and do this with a mop. A bare foot comes down on terry cloth as she starts swiping it around. Carrots sort of get tangled in the folds and smushed. Sometimes when Jessica Jones cleans she ends up first making a worse mess, then sort of getting around to getting it all dealt with.

"The demon bear thing. It steals them. It stole theirs. But as for where they are now?"

She shakes her head helplessly. "I have absolutely no idea."

She points to her wall, with absolutely no irony, and with her heartbeat reflecting absolute truth. "They went thataway."

She is at least trying not to do the thing where she rambles information at him for minutes at a time. Or she's still trying to make sense of this herself. She took it in stride— compartmentalized, really— when it happened. And directly after. And even now she's kind of doing it. But she hasn't made sense of it yet. Sadly, as a result, she has also not even considered the Catholic angle. There was probably a more tactful way she could have led in with that, but it didn't occur to her to try.

Daredevil himself has faced the "demon bear," or at least the nightmarish apparitions of former girlfriends that it conjured for him. And for all its obvious powers, he never really credited it as an actual demon in the classical sense — the type that stories say would lead the unwary down to damnation, or snatch the souls of the pure and innocent. His lets out a long breath through still-parted lips as he steps over some of the muck and makes his way towards the desk, there to claim a seat on its edge.

"Jesus," Daredevil murmurs, he himself without apparent irony. A beat, and then a sharp: "Wait, wait, wait. When did this happen? We just got Jane back, and I was with them a few nights ago. We went on a mission together."

A mission that he'd actually been meaning to tell her about, once he'd confirmed a few last details on the ultimate fate of one Zebediah Kilgrave.

"An hour ago. And yeah. I'm not real surprised. They acted completely normal. Right up until the moment they didn't."

Jessica picks up the mucky towel and makes a frustrated sound in the back of her throat when she realizes she's made mashed carrots and ground them in. It's not the biggest concern she has by a long shot, but when she's agitated having something to do helps her, and right now what she has to do is to get the mess up off her floor.

She goes to sort of beat the smushed carrots into the trash, then tosses that one in the hamper. Then it's back to swiping another towel around.

"One minute they're sitting there, eating, joking, just some friends sitting down for dinner. The next minute they realize Emery's on to them, they start like… creepily saying bear-worshippy things, and it gets even more fun from there."

'Fun,' of course, is said sarcastically. But it doesn't do much to hide the undercurrents of worry in her voice. Or anger.

They acted completely normal. Right up until the moment they didn't. The words strike Daredevil in his solar plexus, and disbelief still tinges the lower half of his face that's actually open to scrutiny. "I don't understand," he confesses in a quiet, searching tone. "If they're really under this thing's thrall, why come with me at all? Just to — keep up appearances?"

He racks his brain through that night when they raided Wilson Fisk's meth lab from hell in upstate New York. Did they seem different? Could he or should he have known? He remembers the loving banter between the two, lighter than it usually is. Jane's sense of humor was sharp, on point. But the way she fussed over me, when I got clocked by one of those guards. Was it just —

The sentence never completes. After a long beat he says: "We should bring in John and Zatanna on this, stat."

Jessica turns when he says he doesn't understand, and she shakes her head from side to side. "I don't either. And yeah. Yeah we should."

She abandons her attempts to clean house to send them both a text, shaking her head. "I think they still have theirs. Zee didn't go out with us to retrieve Jane that day, and she'd know if John was missing his. I still have mine, I've been checked. Luke still has his."

One might ask why she hadn't done this, immediately. It had a lot to do with trying to ascertain if Matt was fine, and wanting her shot to try to talk him down before worrying about whether those two would light him up with magic.

And because he still represents a sort of bedrock of safety to her, even now, when she's starting to get real close to being her old self again.

But to the end of ascertaining, to the best of her ability, whether he is in fact fine, she hesitates and says, "Emery wanted to check you, too. But um. I don't really know how his soul check thing works. It could be a 'yes/no' option. And it could be, 'Hmm, Jessica's soul tastes like a burnt cookie. This Daredevil's soul tastes like a pint of gourmet rocky road.' And then like. The next time he runs into your alter-ego, jig's up. So like— If you're going to turn into a giant animal and take another bite out of me now's the time, dude, before the wizards get here."

She isn't terribly worried. He sounds shocked, and he wanted to call the wizards, which is something she can't imagine any bear thrall would want.

Daredevil is still mulling the matter of the perpetually beleaguered Bucky and Jane when Jessica Jones asks her question point blank. It's enough, even in his momentarily shell-shocked state, to force a burst of a breathy laugh from his chest. The state of his soul has, after all, been something he's been deeply concerned with for nearly a year now. "I think the soul's still intact, Jess," he says absently. "Maybe a little worse for wear."

His jaw shifts left, right, as a sudden thought strikes him and sends a chill running up his backbone. "It might have been your pendant — the one you and Zatanna gave me in the hospital — that saved it. It resisted whatever the bear was trying to do — it shattered right through." An impulsive decision to take it with him might have saved his immortal soul — and underscored just how easy it is to lose.

A beat. "Who is Emery?"

There's no answer from Jessica's cell, so she shakes her head and goes back to her towels. This, in and of itself, is not alarming. Getting ahold of the wizards is hard sometimes. Sometimes they're halfway around the world, or in the astral plane, or God knows what. There's a soft chuff of answering laughter, but she tilts her head and whistles low.

"Damn. I'm glad you remembered to grab that. And that it was enough." She well remembers how fast they burned up and shattered when she was merely confronted by a powerful wizard, let alone by an ancient soul-eating demon.

"Though I have a theory, because I know John also did something to it to get us all out. I think it had Jane because I mean. It had her. Days. And I think Bucky stayed in with her because he wasn't about to leave her. And that's pretty much maybe why it is those two."

But he asks a salient question, and she tries to figure out how to sum Papsworth up.

Because Emery is weird, and he doesn't fit into a neat little box. "The fourth person who was in here having dinner tonight. Danny Rand's butler, but more than that," she says at last. "He has abilities with some sort of religious base, and one of them has to do with souls. Bear's got a personal vendetta for him, and he was the one who alerted me some people may be walking around without them in the first place."

"Danny Rand's butler," Daredevil repeats, even more flummoxed than before. The billionaire certainly has own secret strengths, to judge from that mean right hook he was dealing out in the tunnels below Metro General. But for his butler to be some sort of soul-whisperer? The world — or at least the Tri-State area — abounds in strange.

Meanwhile, Jessica proffers a theory about why Jane and Bucky, the Guiness Book of World Record's most ill-fated couple, were the ones who were called for the stage direction: Exit, Pursued by a Demon Bear. And it fits. Jane was captive, and Daredevil is well aware that Bucky Barnes would go through hell before abandoning her.

"Well look," he says, bringing his black-gloved hand to rub behind his neck. "This is above my pay grade, but you know I'll do whatever needs to be done to get them back."

"It's above my goddamn paygrade too," Jessica says, gathering up her armful of wet towels. The floor, at least, is done. She dumps them into the hamper.

Of course. Did the thing being above her paygrade stop her from working the case? No. It didn't. Does it ever? No.

"I know you will though. I mostly called you over to warn you, who knows what they'll take it into their heads to do now that they've been exposed. And of course. You know. Letting you brace for whatever pending legal problem shapeshifting into a shadow wolf and biting the shit out of people might start presenting for Buck." With her home newly secured, all the windows and doors thankfully in place for once, currently sealed up tight, with nobody there but the two of them, she offers that one just straight up.

She suddenly snorts. "Man. I never give you good news, do I?"

She exhales, troubled, and gives him one more piece of information. "But. I'll tell you this much. Not exactly good news, but something. They're still in there. I tried to reach Jane, and for a moment, I did."

"God," Daredevil — no, Matt, here — mutters quietly at the prospect of further legal troubles for James Buchanan Barnes. "Just, don't report him, alright?" he says with gallows humor. "Let's try and handle this one in-house before the state gets probable cause. At this point? They'd crucify him." Matt and Foggy moved heaven and earth to get James off the hook one time with mind control. A second time no jury on earth would begin to buy.

His shoulders shake in one solitary, silent laugh when she names herself the perpetual bearer of bad news — right before she delivers her silver lining. "That sounds like bona fide good news to me," the Devil offers quietly. And it does. To know that they are still reachable, and haven't been somehow damned through no fault of their own and against their will, is the best news he's heard since he crawled through Jessica Jones' office window.

A brief, considering beat. "I, ah, do have some good news of my own," he murmurs, angling his half-obscured profile towards her. "That mission Bucky and Jane went on — it was to find your guy. And we got him. He'd never even woken up, in all that time. And now SHIELD has him, and knows what he can do, and how to keep him locked away in case he ever does wake."

She's chuckles softly at his entreaty not to report them, making a ridiculous show of tap tapping her finger against the side of her face as if she really has to think about that before her head dips in a nod. Can a smirk be felt on some level? Cause she probably is, a bit, while she puts on this performance. Still, he gets a thumbs up from the detective, who is heading over intending to put her punching bag back on its chain when he brings his news to bear. His very good news.

Kilgrave is in custody, locked, now, in a deep dark SHIELD-controlled hole, and moreover, still isn't awake. A perpetual nightmare ended, with Daredevil leading the charge to make it happen. Her breath catches for a moment. Words catch right along with it; she's overcome with too much emotion to even find them.

And then, well. She makes it reasonably clear what she's about to do. She'll give him a chance to move or pull out of the way or otherwise indicate he doesn't want to be touched, the way she always does with just about everyone because she's so sensitive to it herself. But if he allows it?

Well, he's about to have an armful of Jess who just, in a matter of seconds, crosses the room with every intention of flinging her arms around her friend and wrapping him in a tight (but not crushing) hug of sheer gratitude and wordless relief.

Matt Murdock, for all his quiet reserve and professional formality, has been known to take his fair share of hugs of gratitude from both clients and those in his private orbit. Daredevil, though? Even after he's saved a life, he's struck too forbidding and aloof a figure for anyone to risk it. But Jessica Jones does, throwing herself into an embrace that's only partially mindful of her own strength.

He grunts in surprise, or at least in psuedo-surprise, and then laughs quietly as he slips an arm around her. That laugh, and the full smile left behind in its wake, are both rarities of their own for Matt Murdock's masked alter-ego. He feels a sudden, powerful surge of tenderness in his chest. "Told you," he whispers wryly to the wisps of dark hair near her ear.

The ship where Daredevil would seem too aloof and forbidding to Jessica did indeed sail some time ago.

She buries her face against his shoulder for a moment as he laughs, inhaling deeply as she tries to find her voice. His whisper produces a soft, highly emotional laugh of her own. "You did," she agrees, in a whisper of her own. Words stick in her throat again; for just one moment. She's soaring happy, so the lump in her throat makes no sense, but she has to work around it anyway. It's dizzying, the sensation of that nightmare ending at last.

Usually she won't even let herself think of his real name while he's in Daredevil form, or his Daredevil name while he's in lawyer form. But his pseudonym won't do here, and her soft, "Thank you, Matt," is said in such a soft whisper that it's definitely meant for his ears alone; someone standing a foot away would be hard pressed to hear it. Words that come straight from the fairly soft inner core she doesn't like to let most people see.

But then, the ship where her tough-person act would ever have really fooled him the way it fools some others sailed, what, 5 minutes after their very first meeting?

It seems inadequate to her, trying to convey what ought to be conveyed this way. Words. The embrace. Just. Inadequate. But some things just are, and much as she'd like to stay right where she is— both because prolonging it might ease it towards something that feels adequate, and because she just likes it here— she knows if she does she might very well rebirth awkwardness between them, might well send a little hot coal that's still sitting in that heart of hers careening right off the shelf marked 'platonic' where she has, with quite a bit of work, put it away very firmly.

So after a moment she gives him a final squeeze and steps back, letting out a long breath. In a more normal tone, "You really are incredible, DHK. Just…just…" Well, this is pretty much still true. "…frickin' phenomenal."

Sweet as it is, neither Matt Murdock nor Daredevil do what they do for gratitude's sake. He's motivated by a strange cocktail of of guilt and empathy and rage, as well as some even darker emotions he'd prefer not to dwell on. But this black-clad figure who is in the moment a rough amalgam of both Murdock and the Devil of Hell's Kitchen will take her gratitude happily — if only to an extent. "Much as I'd like to take full credit," Daredevil says dryly as she steps away from the embrace. "Cage was way out in front of me. That guy can take a lot more than spoons. Even Rand played a role, though he wasn't physically there that night. But the real MVP in all this? It's been Kinsey." That's said with a quiet, wry note of warmth — and perhaps some pride, too. "Without her," he adds, "we'd never have known about the asshole who was using Kilgrave, or been able to track his operation down."

He lets out a quiet breath. "As for Bucky and Jane? We're going to bring them back." A beat, a slant of a half-smile. "We always do, don't we?"

Meanwhile, he thinks to himself:

And when they get them back this time, we're keeping them in toddler harnesses.

As he lists out the contributions of each of their friends— really, even, soulless Bucky and Jane, who were there, whatever their reasoning— Jessica can't help but feel a flash of warmth. She doesn't address Cage and Rand, not directly anyway. Kinsey, though, produces a second warm feeling. Humor dances along her tone as she says, "Oh yeah? Well, I'll save the really good hug for her then. I owe her a girl's night anyway. We were trying to plan one, before, you know. Assholes, hospital, me, doing embarrassing damsel routines."

She crosses back to hoist up her punching bag. Thankfully she did not snap the chain, which means she can, in fact, hang it back up. She shakes her head a little bit, and says, "I know I don't always— accept help or ask for it gracefully. Or. At all. But…well. I'm pretty damn lucky to have all of you."

Deciding abruptly that's enough mushy shit, she taps her bag lightly and sighs on the matter of Bucky and Jane. "And, yeah. We always do." She's a bit back to the compartmentalization she was feeling back in Wakanda, which isn't entirely a bad thing; she is worried but more focused on the 'how' of that then really allowing that to consume her.

Her tone turns bone dry, "You think once we do they'll be able to make it a whole 6 weeks before they fall down the well again? Cause I think. What was it. Three? Four?"

She might well back that toddler leash plan.

"Awful as that whole thing in the tunnels was," the man says from his vantage on the desk corner, "it gave us the break we needed to find Kilgrave and shut down the operation. "I know it's no fun playing the damsel, but that's one hell of a silver lining." As for her quip about the man-in-black's lady friend — something about the prospect of Kinsey Sheridan and Jessica Jones taking a night out on the town quirks at the corners of Daredevil's lips. "You should do it — she'd love it."

To the rest — her paen to her friends and camaraderie, he rolls a shoulder. "Right back at you," he says of being lucky — or finding it hard to accept help gracefully. Likely both.

But once they move past those celebrations for recent victories, the terrain grows more treacherous — and it shows on his the half of his features she can actually see. "They're a little accident-prone," Daredevil admits with a shift of his jawline. The tone is wry, but it's hard to make too much of a joke about it when their immortal souls are at stake. "Let me know when you get in touch with the wizards, or if you see the two of them. Just — you know. Consider me on call." He was in no rush to confront the Demon Bear after that surreal night upstate, but some of the same logic that took him to Wakanda on Bucky Barnes' behalf is at play here:

No way did he spend the better part of half a year defending Barnes, and or trying and winning the trial of the century, just to buy a man eight-odd weeks of freedom. Not on his watch.

He hefts himself off the desk.

"If I don't hear from them soon I'm going to go dig up the third wizard on the case," Jessica promises, casting the phone on the counter a quick look. But it hasn't done anything new.

"Guy named Stephen Strange. This Bear's bringing in people from all kinds of god damn corners. It's freakin' rampaging. One way or another though, someone who can fling a fireball needs to know this soul stuff. I have a feeling all hands on deck is about what it's gonna come to. I'll forward you the information I've gathered so far, maybe you'll think of some question or avenue of inquiry I haven't, yet. Up until tonight I was just treating it like any other case."

She runs her fingers through her hair, blowing out her cheeks. "But. You are so-considered. Thanks for swinging by. I just. Didn't wanna deliver that one by phone, you know?"

The news that this demon bear has drawn the attention of other wizards besides their go-tos sees Matt's eyebrows lift. Not that she could tell in his current getup, but that skepticism is reflected in his voice, and the quip that follows: "…is that, like, Jonathan Strange's great great grandson?" A big reader, was Matt Murdock, before he found other extracurricular activities to occupy his nights. "Anyway, yeah, this seems like a big one — so watch your back, Jones."

He makes his way to the window, pausing mid-way in the course of hefting it open when she says that she didn't want to deliver this one by phone. Wintry air steals into the room, but there's nothing chilly about the smile she can glean from his profile as his head turns over one shoulder towards her. "Yeah, I get it. Thanks. I didn't want to deliver mine by phone either." And then he's up, and out, and into the night.

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