Malcolm doesn’t call his parents.
He doesn’t even know what he’d say to them if he did, how he’d explain what had happened – hell, he doesn’t even know how he got into this whole mess. It’s all just a vague blur, filled with drugs addling his brain and commands forcing control over his body.
He doesn’t like to think about it.
So he doesn’t call his parents. He goes through their Facebook feeds to make sure they’re okay, and then shuts off the computer and tries not to think about it anymore.
He’s still sitting there, staring at the dark screen, when Jessica walks in after finishing her latest case. She looks at him and sighs. “You didn’t call.”
“No I did not,” Malcolm sighs. “I thought about it, but...” He trails off awkwardly.
He sees Jessica scoff under her breath as she takes off her jacket and he thinks she’s going to berate him into calling them or at least sending them some sort of message but instead she heads over to the kitchen. “I’m thinking about ordering some pizza.”
“We had pizza yesterday,” he replies.
“Yeah, well, we’re having pizza again today,” she calls out and he can hear her start to relay their usual order to some poor place over the phone.
Malcolm gives the delivery boy a big tip when he finally shows up with the pizza, before sitting down on the floor with Jessica and looking at their case files. He doesn’t address the elephant in the room and neither does she, and they have a comfortable meal.
Robyn moves out.
Malcolm thought she would make a big spectacle about it, an exit as dramatic as she is, but there’s just a loaf of banana bread at his doorstep one morning. No note, no explanation, nothing. A goodbye without the goodbye, he thinks.
He’s just standing there in the doorway, still in his pajamas with the bread in his hand, when the elevator rings and Trish comes to stand in front of him. She takes him in, in all his morning glory, and raises a brow.
“Morning, Malcolm,” she says. “What’s, uh, what’s that?”
“Banana bread, I’m pretty sure.” He gives her a shrug by way of explanation. “Jessica should be in but I’m not sure if she’s awake yet.”
“She never wakes up before noon,” Trish replies, looking at the door with a slight smile. “You guys haven’t put in the new window yet?”
“I think we’re going to do that today.” He remembers taping it up that morning, the day after – well, the Day After – while Jessica took out the broken pieces of glass.
There’s an awkward silence and Malcolm is acutely aware that this is the first conversation he’s had with Trish alone since their last one. It feels like a lifetime ago.
“Do you want to go and get some coffee?” she asks him after a moment.
“Yeah,” he says. “Just give me a moment to put this away.” He gestures to the bread and she gives him a little chuckle and he thinks that yeah, this might not be so bad.
Until he finds out why she invited him out to lunch.
“I need you to spy on Jessica for me.”
Trish sits across from him on a small table, outside of a quiet, hipster coffee shop where no one would recognize the face of the woman behind Trish Talk. She leans forward, hands folded together, coffee left untouched.
Malcolm brings his drink to his lips and takes a careful sip. “You could just talk to her, you know. Like normal people would.”
She laughs, but there’s little humor behind it. “You know Jessica – her hero complex prevents her from letting someone else help her for a change.” She lets out a sigh and leans back. “She’s going to find out about this and she’ll tell you to tell me she’s fine, but… I just want you to keep an eye on her and make sure she’s actually okay and not getting buried in everything she’s doing.”
There are a lot of objections Malcolm could make, but the only objection he really has is that he can’t even consider saying no. “All right. I mean, it’s not much different from what I’m already doing – making sure she doesn’t get killed doing what it is she does.” He sighs and shakes his head. “You really think she’s going to find out you asked me to do this?”
Trish picks up her coffee with a subtle smirk. “She’s actually pretty good at being a PI, if you haven’t noticed.”
Malcolm laughs. “That’s an excellent point.”
Trish leaves a couple of minutes after that, but the experience was enough for him to think that they could actually get along, even if the only thing they have in common is Jessica and their shared concern for her.
Though, for a relationship like this, it might be enough.
He comes by Jessica’s apartment with the banana bread later that afternoon to find Jessica sitting at her desk, scrolling through something on the computer. She looks up and rolls her eyes. “Trish asked you to spy on me, didn’t she?”
Malcolm blinks. “How did you find out so fast? I just got back from coffee with her.”
“I know her,” she replies. “She’s been thinking about doing this for weeks, I could tell.”
He doesn’t really know how to respond to something like that, so he just shrugs and goes to put away the banana bread.
Jessica’s voice follows him into the kitchen. “Do you think the two of you are becoming friends?”
“Uh, yeah, I think so,” he says. “I mean, coffee was nice.” The leftover pizza from last night is still in the fridge, as is the one from the night before, and at least two bottles of cheap beer are missing. What else did he expect?
“That’s good,” Jessica says. “So, after your next outing or whatever, when you’ve finished telling her how fine I am, you can tell me what she’s been up to.”
Malcolm closes the fridge and heads back to the main room. He gives her a look. “Your response, to me telling you your friend wants to know what you’re doing, is to use me to do the exact same thing to her?”
She shrugs, not even looking up from her computer. “It’s easier than finding someone new to spy on her.”
It would be easier if you two talked to each other, Malcolm thinks, but doesn’t say.
Jeri Hogarth asks Jessica to retrieve a case from her, and Jessica sends Malcolm in her stead, as she’s been doing ever since he started working for her.
He goes into the building, up the elevator, past the empty secretary’s desk, and knocks on Hogarth’s office door before entering.
She’s sitting at her desk, papers neatly organized and files carefully arranged – completely different from how Alias Investigations is set up, but then again, what kind of place would be set up like Alias?
“The files are right here, Mr. Ducasse,” she says, gesturing to a manila folder.
For a moment, it doesn’t register, but then it hits him – her scars are gone. There used to be hundreds of tiny scars littering her face and her arms and everywhere else on her skin. She didn’t explain and he didn’t ask, but it was obvious in her silence as to what exactly caused them. And then Jessica had explained to him what had happened and, well…
Now her skin is clear once again, as though nothing had happened. Even though it did.
Malcolm grabs the files and turns to leave when Hogarth lifts her head. He resists the urge to look confused – she hasn’t actually taken the time to talk to him ever since the first day Malcolm came to collect Jessica’s files for her and he can’t imagine what she’d want now.
“Would you tell Jessica that the scars are gone now?” she asks. She looks so vulnerable in that moment, as though the very request revealed something she didn’t want anyone to know, and the answer is out of his mouth before he can stop himself.
“I will,” he says. He watches her turn back to her work before heading out himself.
The thing about hubris, he thinks, is that you don’t realize it until it’s too late.
Malcolm wakes up to a loud crash.
He doesn’t bother getting dressed up, doesn’t even put on shoes, just runs out and heads to Jessica’s apartment.
She’s sitting by the door, a bottle in one hand and the new glass window in her lap. She looks at him and inclines her head. “Hey. Just putting this thing up.”
He can see inside the apartment, the broken desk, the crashed table, and there’s a lot he can say in response. There’s a lot he should say in response, especially in a situation like this.
He lets out a sigh. “Let me put on some pants and I’ll help you.”
“All right,” she says, and drains her drink.
Trish invites him out to coffee again at another out-of-the-way café.
It reminds Malcolm, vaguely, of the type of place he’d go to give Kilgrave information on Jessica in exchange for drugs. How long ago had that been?
Trish catches him staring off in the distance and sets down her cup. “Let me guess, Jessica told you that while you’re spying for me, you should spy for her too.”
Malcolm rolls his eyes. “You two know each other so well, don’t you?”
“Perks of growing up together,” she replies, eyes sparkling.
“I guess that’s why both of you decided to go through this roundabout way of caring for each other instead of just, you know, actually sitting down and talking to each other.”
Trish shrugs. She’s still smiling, but it’s a little more distant, a little less real. “Jessica… isn’t really the type of person to admit she has feelings. You’ve seen her – underneath that whole ‘tough girl’ exterior, she really cares about people. Except, well, in her situation, if you care about someone, then they can be…”
“They can be used against you,” Malcolm finishes.
They don’t really talk for much after that, just about the current case Alias Investigations is handling, but as they’re heading out the door together, Trish turns to him. “I’m glad you and Jessica are friends,” she says quietly. “She needs those now, more than ever.”
“Yeah,” he sighs. “I know.”
Malcolm usually ends up spending most his days with Jessica, sitting on the computer while she skims through cases and listens to Trish’s show on the radio – unless the woman herself is there. Then Jessica pretends she has no idea what Trish Talk is supposed to be and acts like she doesn’t listen to it every single day.
“Any new updates?” Jessica asks him during a commercial break.
Malcolm shrugs, scrolling idly through his Facebook feed. His mom shared a new recipe. “She asked about you.”
“As usual,” she grumbles, but there’s no malice behind it. Just poorly hidden fondness.
There’s one morning where Malcolm is making breakfast and Jessica is just sitting around and the radio plays in the background when he hears Trish say something. Something about Luke Cage.
He’s barely registered the name when there’s a loud smash from the main room and he hears Jessica slam the door behind her. He checks, and sure enough, the radio is destroyed.
She comes back a couple of hours later with a new one under her arm. “Mind helping me set this up?”
“Do you want to maybe clean up the old one first?” he asks.
She lets out an exaggerated groan, but she does it nonetheless, and they just plainly ignore why she destroyed the radio in the first place.
Trish has some files she needs to give Jessica, and Malcolm agrees to pick them up for her.
She’s moved apartments, apparently, after what happened with her and that Simpson guy. Personally, Malcolm is glad he’s out of the picture – there was always something off about him, something not quite right.
“I don’t want her to know that I moved,” she admits to him. “She’s got enough on her plate without having to worry about some knockoff Captain America coming to kidnap me or whatever.”
“That’s a good way to describe him,” Malcolm chuckles. “But, seriously, if you’re concerned that he’ll come back or something, maybe you should –”
“Malcolm, I appreciate your concern,” Trish says, “but I am completely fine. Don’t worry about it, all right?”
He doesn’t really know if he can’t worry about it, but he accedes easily and is just about to leave, when a thought occurs. “You should come by tonight. Jessica just finished her latest case and we were going to order pizza.”
“She always orders pizza,” Trish says, unable to resist smiling. “I’ll try to stop by and get her to order something halfway decent instead.”
Malcolm laughs again and leaves with a smile on his face.
Seeing Jessica and Trish together is always interesting to Malcolm. They’re comfortable around him, sure, but there’s an ease to the way they talk to each other, the way they act around each other, that makes them seem so different than they usually are.
Jessica ordered Chinese food this time, and she and Trish pick pieces of chicken from each other’s plate, talking all the while. Trish is laughing and Jessica is smiling and it hits him, how deeply their bond runs. How much they care for each other.
How much they love each other.
Malcolm clears his throat. “I know you two don’t want the other to worry, and I know you know the other asked me to spy on you for them and then told me not to tell them anything about you, but honestly? I really can’t be keeping this stuff a secret anymore. You guys need to talk to each other.”
Jessica raises a brow. “What’re you saying?”
“I’m saying, Jessica broke the radio a couple of days ago because they mentioned Luke Cage on the radio.”
Trish’s eyes widen and she gapes at Jessica. “Really?”
Jessica scowls and points her chopsticks menacingly at Malcolm. “Hey, a stunt like that is going to come out of your paycheck.”
“You don’t pay me,” Malcolm points out. “I just come here and work with you for free.”
"Yeah, well, whatever,” she waves her hand dismissively.
“Also,” he adds, “Trish moved out of her old apartment.”
Jessica’s glare quickly turns to Trish. “You said you were being fumigated when I wanted to come over.”
“Well you said you were over Luke Cage,” Trish retorts.
They go back and forth, exchanging halfhearted jabs that loosely cover heartfelt concerns, and Malcolm knows he did the right thing. Sure, this won’t get them to talk to each other more often about what they’re worried about, but it’s a step in the right direction.
He steps out when he’s sure they won’t notice, standing outside the door and looking down the hall to the elevator.
The elevator where Hope Shlottman killed her parents.
That’s the beginning, he thinks. It isn’t where everything started, not at all, but that’s where the chain of events that led to this very moment began. Where Jessica decided to stay and fight.
So much happened since then, and now he’s standing out here, in front of his new workplace, with his two friends inside.
He pulls out his phone and makes a call. It takes a couple of rings, but someone picks up. “Hello?”
Malcolm smiles. “Hi, Mom.”