Treble and Bass

January 02, 2018:

Alias Investigations has a new neighbor. Azalea Kingston has her groove back. Jessica Jones makes a promise.

485 W 46th St

It's a dump, but it's our dump.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Cindy Moon, Pepper Potts, Emma Frost, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Matt Murdock, John Constantine, Zatanna Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It seeps into the psyche, ever present. Always there. Thrumming. Booming. Base and treble, compromised by shoddy, thin walls. Until now Jessica has been blessed with a distinct lack of neighbors. No one wants to live in this building who isn't simply stuck here. But now she has one, and for the last few weeks it's been the same thing. Odd hours, various degrees of volume, but never has Jessica in all her detective glory witnessed this new blight upon her ears.

Really, the music might actually be good, but not through a wall, and not while Jessica is working on something. She will know only the misery of electronic distraction. Usually this is the sort of thing, some minor annoyance, that Azalea would deal with. She has a way with making distractions go away, but given the path she's taken since her change, oen of reaching out and helping others find redemption, she keeps scarce hours. Before, when she was broken, she only went out when she needed a fix for violence or something else. Now she's on a mission. One that never sleeps.

Jessica Jones is working on something, a fairly complex embezzlement case for Stark Industries that has required her to reach out to a forensic accountant for help.

She's got a headache.

She's reading his report now, and she's having to go slow so she can understand it at all. As best as she can tell it's giving her plenty of leads to track down the villian of the piece. And on one hand, this is great, because it's just money and greed. No demons, no magic, no gods, no dimensional whatnot, no assassins, just someone in the building doing something they shouldn't be doing, who needs to be caught and dealt with. Her 'bread and butter cases', now, those, the ones that allow her to earn the generous expense account she's been gifted with, since the original issue that brought her that account has produced no more leads, has produced nothing but silence. Jessica Jones will take the support, but by god, she earns her keep. And with offices on every continent, Pepper Potts has absolutely no problem finding plenty for her to do. It's not that she's stopped being a freelancer— she's taking all kinds of cases— but these are the ones that ensure she can take the cases she wants to take, can choose to get paid or not on those cases, which ensures, basically, that Jessica Jones is well-cared for.

So the pounding rhythm of the music starts provoking responses in fairly short order.

The first is the hard thunk of a shoe against the opposite wall. Then the hard 'bang bang bang' of her hand against the opposite wall. Then, finally, the hard BANG BANG BANG on her new neighbor's door. Eyes are narrowed into thin slits, and her expressive face is twisted into the kind of sour scowl reserved, mostly, these days, only for pricks of the highest order and the types of villians who steal children, eat hearts, kick puppies, bother innocent people and/or threaten those she cares about.

Time ticks by, a silent taunt of sorts, for something that isn't silent at all. But eventually the music quiets just a little, and the lock on the door clicks over. It seems like an eternity for it to draw back, and a whole other dimension reveals itself. In this dimension, Azalea Kingston stares back at Jessica, somehow her neighbor instead of her roommate. She's dressed in a black tank top and grey sweats, and behind her the music stirs. A song from beyond eternity, dark and filled with melody that humanity might be swayed to extinction by. Now in the open, it draws emotion from the core, raises the pulse, a key to unlock the potential of the Human soul.

The remote in her hand turns off her creation, and it's like cutting a string that Aspect of Creation had dangled. At the very least, it may have erased the headache it helped create, and beyond Azalea the room comes into focus. No, not another dimension. Just the fickle actions of a New God.

Here she has made a home. Been bag chairs in a great wide room. A kitchen with nothing in it. Thousands of dollars of production equipment, computers, guitars, a keyboard, and along the walls the trappings of other people, other lives. A spear and shield, a long coat and top hat, a tapestry from across the ocean.

"Right. I knew I forgot something." Her smirk could wash the world away, and when she smiles it's to open the door and let Jess in. "I meant to tell you… Thursday. But I missed you. And I've.. missed you." The last is sentiment, and she peeks back over her shoulder. She has no fridge, nothing to offer Jessica, except a bean bag chair. "I'm sorry I've been away so much."

Jessica's planned harangue dies on her lips.

First, because the music itself. Now that she can hear it clearly it wipes her scowl away, transforms her twisting lips into an 'o' shape. The sudden loss of her tension headache isn't missed, but the music itself resonates inside of her. When it's gone, she actually feels its loss.

Second, of course, because of the person who answers the door. "I've missed you too," Jess says, a little stupidly. "But I figured you had stuff you were pursuing just like I did. No need to apologize."

She comes in and claims the beanbag chair with no particular concern, but frowns at the gaping hole in the kitchen. "They usually sell these with fridges," she says. "Why didn't Mrs. Alvarez give you a fridge?" She's processing quickly, it's a cool apartment, but weirdly missing basics. All this production equipment, but no fridge?

"It was broken. I told her not to bother - money she doesn't have. But I'll eventually get it fixed up for.. close friends. Honestly, I only bought it because I needed some place to put my stuff. Well. Kindof my stuff."

Azalea's expression changes then, because she isn't sure how to speak about it. Xiuhnel's legacy left a lot of breadcrumbs, and getting those memories back didn't immediately fill in all the gaps. There's a shelf there, below those things she's hung on the wall, a mess of books and smaller nick-knacks, files and other things. One of the bean bag chairs has other files laid out around it, one labeled 'Hellfire Club', open, with several images of Emma Frost taken from afar.

Maybe Az still hasn't given up on tall blonds.

Finally, she drops into the seat nearby those files, an expression of triumph rising as she flops. "Mostly though, I needed a place to compose. I spent so long unable to create, now I just.. whenever I'm not working, I want to do this. If I had known you were home I swear, Jess, I would have used the headphones. I hope I can make it up to you. Maybe I'll clean Cindy's room."

"Cindy joined the Titans," Jessica says. "She moved out, has a room in the giant T now."

And that is a measure of how little any of them have been in touch, she supposes. "So it's your room I guess? Or we can bring your bed over here. Do you sleep? Anymore?" It hadn't occurred to her, by now, that Azalea might not. It hadn't occurred to her that Az might not eat, but she's realizing none of her groceries have been consumed by anyone but her.

She picks up the file on Emma Frost though, curious. Because she met Frost, briefly. Because John wanted dirt on her, then told her to back off when she took it to a certain point. And 'Hellfire Club' is certainly a name Jessica Jones has never heard before.

"Was the music I just heard your composition? Because it was fantastic." She waves off the apologies, no longer upset. If anything, it's good to see Az engaging in music again. She never would, back when the darkness held its sway. If there is anything Jessica could point to that says 'Azalea Kingston is going to be okay', that would be it. Not just her newfound compassion, but her restored passion. And indeed, her body language is all relaxed now, all scowls and growls eased away in favor of curiosity and interest. And, indeed, feeling rather proud of Azalea.

"Something I've been working on since eternity's creation." Some might say that as a whimsical thing, maybe after eating suspect mushrooms. Azalea says it because she was there, at the beginning of it all. "Something I hope I can play at your baby shower some day. You know, at the end of eternity."

That's to let her know that not everything has changed, and when she asks about sleep, about taking Cindy's room, her gaze drops to the file in Jessica's hand.

"I can sleep. But I don't need to. Sometimes I put my mind at rest. Sometimes, it's like meditation, and I think backwards to when I was someone else. It helps put everything together. Like that, there."

Doctor Edgar Helmsworth is featured in the file, a man recently arrived from Britain around the turn of the century, a man who had joined the Hellfire club with ease, fitting in with a life among American high society as well as he had the alleys he used to stalk for his kills.

"A mystery surrounds one of the monsters I used to be. I'm trying to look into it. Unravel it. It meant going in and getting my membership there reactivated. So if you ever feel like rubbing shoulders with some of the snobbiest, debauched people alive, let me know. I'm sure they'd love your ripped jeans look and hail it as avant garde."

"But no, I'll take Cindy's room. Really, this place is a museum. Kindof my own Batcave. Not a place to live."

Jessica smirks. "Try beyond the end of eternity. Pregnancy. Ugh. No thanks."

Says the woman who tenderly bounced Annette on her hip and who arguably tries to Big Sis/Mom half of her friends and acquaintances. But pregnancy would kind of put a real big damper on her own work. As would trying to Mom anything younger than 11. By 11 they can feed themselves and watch themselves for awhile. But that is still very anti-Baby-Shower.

The revelation about Helmsworth tells Jessica something she didn't know; that sometimes Xihunel maybe leapt bodies without waiting for them to die off. There's no reason why he should have, she supposes. "Is Helmsworth still killing?" she asks, frowning. She puts the file aside, but looks up at the young woman. Batcaves are fine, as is Az keeping her room, this is nothing she has any objection to. The question was a matter of learning Az's preferences, having done so, she simply puts the matter aside.

She also files away the fact that Azalea Kingston now has a membership in a club full of snobby debauched people. That could be useful if that ever comes up in a case, after all. But unless it does there are zero reasons why Jess would ever want to get in there, and truthfully, if she did she'd just send Az, who has all of her investigative skills and the existing membership to work from. That would make her about 100 times more effective in those surroundings than Jessica herself ever could be.

"He's been dead for a long time. But he killed when he was here. My concern is a copycat in Bludhaven. Something I wasn't sure about at first, but after awhile it started to become a pattern."

There's a gravity to her in those words, leaning forward a little, but also some amount of detachment. It's simply her new nature, to pursue this without the kind of passion she might before. Redemption is her duty now, not her desperate salvation. Of course, she can't help but smile at Jessica's quip. Of course, she can hardly see her waddling around, gravid. But who knows. Stranger things have happened.

"I'm worried the copycat knows his muse from another time was not some simple killer. I worry he might be trying to attain a higher purpose. In any case, he's made mistakes. I'll find him. Stop him. What have you been getting up to? Anything you might need a hand with?"

There's another file there, one Jessica has seen before, on a shelf far away. Union Allied. Of course, if she spends to long looking that way, Az will draw her attention with a simple question, one that shifts her tone ever so slightly.

"Have you heard from Trish?"

"There is definitely something I need a hand with," Jessica says. Her gaze does go to Union Allied, long enough to provoke the Trish question, but she answers that one first.


She finds she's not sure how to tackle this succinctly. "There's this demon bear that eats souls," she says. "And briefly, it had Bucky and Jane. But now? Soulless-Bucky and Soulless-Jane have managed to leash it. Which is sort of worse. On one hand, yay, they're not in the thrall of a demon bear. On the other hand, their empathy and conscience are missing and they have all the bear's power. Nobody, to date, has been able to do jack shit about it. If you log into the files all the info is under 11072017-DB. At this point I think what we're looking at is a coalition of heavy hitters and some magic shit; the casework is as done as it's going to get I think. But if you have insights or ideas, well, have at. Beyond that I might be looking at an undercover mission within the next several months, which are just not at all my favorite. Beyond that? It's been quiet."

Azalea might have a new addition to that file, it looks like Union Allied mysteriously decided to start liquidating its holdings and selling off its company as of December 4, 2017.

"Trish is…"

Jessica sighs and flops back on the beanbag. "Not planning on coming back to New York any time soon. She definitely got the podcast deal from This American Life, she's wrapping up Season 1 and they've already renewed her for Season 2. They gave her studio space for Trish Talks and now NPR features that show as well, so it's taking on a more national scale. It's. Everything she ever wanted. I was thinking about going down to DC for a few days to see her, as soon as I get the chance, but I want to make sure when I do I can be nothing but outwardly thrilled. Because that's what I should be, right? If she thinks I can't handle things without her she'll rush home and I don't want to tank this for her."

She grimaces. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be moaning and groaning about me on this. I mean you and she…" Her hand waves about. Relationships are complicated. Life is complicated.

A demon bear. And now, Bucky and Jane were souless things, devoid of humanity. She knows something about that. Her expression turns flat, and rather than ramp up and be ready to run off into Hell, she begins formulating a plan. She'll have to look at the file first. Put something together. To this, she gives a curt nod. An understanding. The cavalry will come when it's ready.

It used to come as a rolling tide. Emotion would show so clearly etched across a face that could barely contain it. Her anger. Her rage. If she had had time to process Trish leaving before, with the Devil still inside her, she may have lost her mind. If Jessica wants anymore proof that she's going to be alright, it's in her response. A little smile that plays around the edges of her mouth, happy beyond the spark that shines in her eye and the flush in her cheeks that Trish has everything she ever wanted. She is, more than anything, happy that Trish is happy.

'I mean you and she…'

"Were a mistake. I don't mean that in a callous way. I wasn't at my best, to say the least. I did exactly everything you asked me not to do. But a part of me will never stop caring. One day she might forgive me. One day, I might be able to try again. Until then, you're what she needs. Go and see her. Make sure she knows you're happy."

The unsaid part remains: I'll find out why you really went away. Who urged you along. I know something happened.

"She didn't wade in without some warning," Jessica says, meeting Az's eyes frankly. "I wasn't trying to sabotauge you, but before you ever started with her I gave her a very clear assessment of what your situation was. So it's not all on you. She's an adult, and she made adult decisions."

Still, she relaxes a little bit, and nods. "I will. I want to. I miss her pretty fiercely."

But rest assured, the differences in response are noted. She also grimaces. "I'm sorry, I probably should have called you about the demon bear thing before. I just put it in the files and assume it'll get read. I got into 'do the research' mode. For all the good it's going to do us, I didn't exactly find the one shining star of weakness that's going to save all the souls and put an end to the demon bit. Which is what I was looking for. You know. Bathe a dagger in shark piss under the light of the 7th full moon to get the weapon of justice or whatever. And trying to even keep track of who all is involved is getting hard cause it's just rampaging. So I ended up just passing info to whomever specific I thought to at the time and then moving on to the next thing."

The matter of Trish dwindles away, as much as that revelation speaks the truth. But even with Jessica's warning, she could't have known what she was getting into. Knowing Jessica made it easier for Trish than it might have been for anyone else, but the monster she was could not be wrangled. It doesn't erase that, that she's different now. But maybe, one day, she'll get her redemption there too.

As for this problem with a demon bear, well. She has a few ideas, but none that can come to fruition without research, engagement. None of it has anything to do with shark piss, however.

"You don't have to apologize. We work in a business that requires action, and I was off doing something else, saving someone else. But I'll get on it. See what rocks I can kick over. I do know where a lot of things are buried. I wish I could say I've ever ridden a demon bear into battle and know just how to restore the people it's touched, but… the horrors of this world extend far beyond my influence. "

There's one more thing. One more problem that will never really be solved that she should check on. "Sounds like it's been difficult. Busy. You look good, though."

Her gaze narrows and her head tilts just a little, a question forming that coming from anyone else might be offensive. Maybe it still is. But she has to ask. "You're still on the wagon, yeah?"

It's not offensive. Not really. Indeed, the way Az asks it is somewhat less worrysome than the way some might. Not all. Az and Matt Murdock are bound by more than shared secrets and a shared battle on the rooftop; to date they are two people who can frankly ask about Jessica's alcoholism without provoking any defensiveness. They get only honesty. A lot is in how they handle it. A lot is in the fact that Jessica doesn't hurt them somehow when she falls.

She digs in her pocket and ruefully holds up a red token. "I've gotten back to my one month," she says with a sigh. "I fell hard in mid-November, right after my first encounter with the bear. I honestly should have sought you out. I knew, really knew, you could soothe it, but I was—"

Her mouth twists. "First, it made it hard for me to be around anyone I knew or loved. Strangers were fine. Friends…it burned. It stole other people's souls. It downright bit mine, that's the only way I can explain it. And second I was ashamed that I would need soothing again."

She scrubs her fingers through her hair. The dynamic between them is changed. Az used to be the younger, but now she's the older. That was maybe always the case, but now she's the older and stable. Or parts of her are the older. Jess stops trying to understand it. The point is, she's now relating to Az a little differently. "I'm sick of needing soothing," she says softly. "I just want to be over this shit already. For good. Forever. It seems like I get what I need for awhile and then something else finds a new angle to knock me on my ass."

The flat look she can relay now that she's whole has a kind of neutrality someone can sink into. Where she might have been to vibrant in her constant need to act, to move forward, to be a predator, now she is the calm sea far below the violent wave she once was. Like a tropical ocean, still and warm, her hand comes the moment it drops from Jessica's hair. Fingers curl around her hand, and she gives her a squeeze that is meant not to be soothing, but reassuring.

"All life is like that. Every bit. No matter what dangers we seek, or how mundane we make things. Fate and circumstance conspire to craft us into what we need to be. And what the people around you need to be. That is why they rush to comfort to you. But I can't tell you what you want to hear. That you will be over any of it. That it will ever go away."

There is a pause, and her squeeze relents, but she does not withdraw her hand.

"But I can tell you, we'll always be here for you. I'll always be here for you. And in matters of the soul and things that might like to eat them, some creature beyond mortal understanding chewed on mine for eons. It failed. If there's anything left of this bear, it can have a try at me."

There is another change there too. Azalea was always confident, but not like this. It isn't a confidence born of ego, nor bravado, or a need to dominate. Her's is one born of experience, and a power that rages in her chest unbound, thanks to Zatanna Zatara and John Constantine.

Poor, young fools. For all their power and wisdom, they know not what they unleashed upon this world.

Jessica squeezes Azalea's hand in turn, and sort of leans against her, closing her eyes. It's just this moment of resting in Azalea's comfort and friendship, just sort of letting herself be weak for a second. These moments are coming more often with this or that individual, but she finds they strengthen her more than trying to endlessly act stronger than she is. "Kick its ass," she murmurs with a half smile. She can't, that's been proven to her four times now. And the truth is, Bucky and Jane being wrapped up in the thing has her uneasy and uncertain in ways she can't fully articulate.

And then: "I'm okay now." Belied, a little, by her need to just ease into someone else's comfort for awhile. But this is more someone who is tired than someone who is actively hurting.

What she does articulate is this: "I have a feeling you'll be way more helpful on the next go-round than I will. I'll go, if only to hold the line, but let's just say I don't think I'm gonna be the deciding fist on that altercation."

"I may not be the deciding fist either. Fate will decide, but I'll do my best to intervene." Her other hand rises, finding the side of Jessica's head, and she leans in to give her a kiss atop it. The dynamic has shifted for them, but a chess set always has the same pieces, no matter which one moves first. They're still a family.

That comfort complete, she looks to her phone, on silent but lighting up across the room. "Looks like I'll need to be in Gotham tonight, if that message is what I think it is." Work, always interfering, but she's said what she's needed to say. And when she lets go it's to go not to her phone, but to where she has a spare key. This she returns to offer to Jessica, an open invitation to come here whenever she likes.

"As soon as I get back, I'll dig into this bear."

Jessica, who had finally gotten comfortable, groans and pulls off. "You can always call me to help out with Gotham shit too," she says. "If you want help." She might hold Az back these days, she doesn't know.

But she gets up after giving Az a squeeze. And points at the studios. "I want MP3s," she says, with a wink. Family is family, and she feels that warm sense of it even now. She spent so long trying to fill that void that it's almost startling when she realizes she doesn't have to, that it's filled, that she's in good shape. She has a sister and an Az and a boatload of good friends. She's lucky.

"You found your Christmas present right?" She'd just put it on Az's bed.

"Yes. It's very well balanced. I was able to hit someone in the head with it from forty feet away. Not a scratch on it afterward." Of course Az would use a flashlight as a throwing weapon. Of course she would. "You'll get a copy of everything I make. In return, you'll call me if you're ever thinking of trading your token for a bottle. I won't take no for an answer."

She's over by her long case of gear, opening it up to pull out the stuff she wears when she knows she'll be walking into a war. For the record, walking into Gotham counts. "I'm just going to talk to someone tonight, but probably soon. If I need to put this copycat in a pinch. But fair warning. Bludhaven is to Gotham what New York is to Baltimore. If New York had Baltimore's murder rate, they'd clock over 3k a year. Likewise, if Gotham had Bludhaven's.. well. They'd need martial law to clean it up. Not that any of that is going to talk you out of it, I imagine."

The truth is, she isn't going to Gotham at all. The truth is, she's going to see a fat man, and step on the rabbit in his snowstorm.

"Nope, it doesn't talk me out of it," Jessica says. She says that first, because she's giving some thought to actually calling someone. Then again someone to be accountable to doesn't hurt. And…Az has just asked, which means she doesn't have to worry about imposing.

So she offers her hand. "Deal."

And then, dryly, "You do realize how often that happens right? Like really, really realize?" Maybe the journey out of alcoholism is straightforward for some people, but Jessica Jones is just not one of those people. She really wishes Red had been wrong about it being a winding road; she's a goal oriented person and wanted to take a straight shot to the finish. But…that's not how it works. Not how it's even begun to work.

As for the other, well. Jessica isn't really that good at 'detect lies.' She's good at 'hear discrepencies between two different stories she's been given and or discrepencies with established fact.' One is a people skill, hit and miss for Jess. The other is a detective skill. In the absence of any clues? She thinks Azalea Kingston is going where she says she is going.

"It happens as often as it needs to. Which is how often I will answer your call. Sometimes you'll have to wait. But when you do, you'll come here, put on these headphones over here, and press play. Then you'll wait for me, because I'll be coming. By the time I get here, you won't want a drink anymore, but you will want to cry. You will want to talk."

The certainty in Azalea's voice is almost haunting, as is the look she cuts to Jessica, crystal blues with the weight of history behind them. "We'll get through this a thousand times, and I'll never mind."

When Azalea returns to Jessica, she reaches down to squeeze her shoulder, a lingering touch meant as a parting gift as she shoulders her bag. "I'll be back tomorrow. Please make sure the spider demon didn't leave any cups of webbing in my new room."

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