The Devil's Candy

December 09, 2016:

Hours after Red Robin's apprehension of Michael Kazinsky, the Dark Devil follows the wake of the magical ripples that Zatanna unleashed in the abandoned tannery, and finds herself in her hospital room.

Gotham General Hospital - Gotham City

The biggest and best hospital the city has to offer, Gotham General has seen its share of crazy stuff.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Red Robin, Winter Soldier, John Constantine, Giovanni Zatara, Batman, Nightwing


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…


In the dream, the sound is a red bird chirping, hanging on the edge of a branch she can see from an impossible vantage. It looks up and stares, a light reflected in it's eyes as it calls out to the only god it knows. She cannot speak. Cannot move. And yet she has purpose, shining radiance down upon the red bird to keep all the shadows that swirl around it's tree at bay.

Except for one. The bird's own shadow peeks around it, bobbing, weaving. It has cold blue eyes and flits past the red bird to snatch it's lone egg from it's nest.

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP, it cries. But it no longer sounds like a bird, and as the bird's shadow flutters by, no matter how much Zatanna might want to reach out to pluck the egg from it's grasp and return it to the red bird, she will be overwhelmed by it's shadowy wake.

Which smells of delicious, freshly brewed coffee.

Wait, what?

The world is a haze again, and the beeps continue, but at a pace representative of her heart, and as the dim light of the hospital room comes into focus, a Starbucks cup (no expense spared) rests on a tiny swing table that looms before her.

On the rail, to her left, are the folded arms of a girl she barely knows, black hair cascading over them like an inky waterfall, and that cutting blue gaze fixed at a cantor, her cheek resting on her arms as she watches and waits to see if her cure for all that ails modern humanity can bring Zatanna around.


She is not a stranger to strange dreams.

There have been many in her relatively short life; of fantastic landscapes and abnormal dimensions, unfolding in her most unconscious thoughts in a kaleidoscope of color. But Zatanna is no stranger to the ones that start out as mundane, every day occurrences, like seizing the attention of a red bird on a tree, situated in an impossible position reminiscent of hazy, surreal environs that would find a perfectly comfortable home in one of Salvador Dali's paintings. Still, the imagery is familiar, after her ordeal from the night before, it was easy for one to assume that the red bird was a subconscious depiction of her rescuer - Red Robin, who may or may not be a relation to Gotham's Boy Wonder.

But she knows differently, too well-versed with the supernatural to believe that this is just her subconscious telling her that her mind has not yet let go of what she has seen and experienced in the heart of this dark, gritty city. Demons often manifested in harmless guises, and this one is no different.

As her pale fingers extend for the blue-eyed shadow, the world warps around her, splashes of color and ink on an intangible canvas, pulling her up, and up and up…

The hazy outlines of her hospital room spring before her, and while her throat feels chalky and dry, she is thankful to find that at least the overwhelming urge to throw up has vanished. The scent of coffee, deliciously, delightfully real, tickles her nose.

She reaches out to take the cup, though she can't help but stare at it for a while - it is red, etched with snowflakes, the typical reminders that every business in the world is gearing up for the holiday season, and Starbucks is no exception.

The young magician's eyes fall on Azalea after that.

There's a bit of hesitation there; she was already drugged by someone once, and one who she knows had called one of the worst of Hell's denizens to play footsie with his body. The Dark Devil was a step above that - Kasinzky at least did not have his soul integrated by one. But the woman wouldn't be here just to harm her, would she? What could she possibly gain?

"….fancy seeing you here," she croaks hoarsely. "Don't tell me you got in another scrap that landed you in a hospital." She isn't so egotistical to think that the woman was there for her.

Or was she?

She could simply be returning the favor.

"Thanks for the coffee."


The way she leans back as Zatanna comes to is the casual observation of a predator that is weighing it's energy level versus a desire to chase a gazelle on the horizon. Inside the Devil churns as it always does, and the whispers in her mind come not as words but impulses that she swallows down into her soul.

She's become good at it, but it's never been easier than the last few days.

"Nothing like that." She watches her drink and drink, until she lets go of the rail to sink back into the chair. It is the weight of a shadow lifted from the bed, and shows Zatanna just how tiny a person she is, an inexplicable mix of monster and morsel. "I honestly don't know why I came. Felt something. A wave. Then a trail, behind an ambulance. Wasn't sure I should follow, not in uniform." Uniform. Not costume. Maybe she does take what she does at night seriously.

Maybe she just thinks 'costume' sounds silly. Indeed, she's down to a black tank top that's at odds with the coming season, and a pair of black jeans that flare around her boots. She has a jacket, slung over the end of Z's bed, near her feet, another swath of monotone against stark white. "I'm still not sure why I knew, or why I came. But then I remembered I promised you coffee, and it seemed worth the trip." She smirks at the last bit, and it's like the last time she smiled at Z, out of left field, a sudden brief humanity on a solemn visage that more often showed base, vile emotions than anything approaching warmth or concern.

Sometimes though, Azalea could bleed through.

"What happened?"


The smell of coffee was enough to rejuvenate her, pull her senses completely back into the waking world; the taste itself was a welcome wave, banishing for the time being the remnants of the nightmare she had just suffered and planting much needed moisture back into her vocal cords. Zatanna keeps the cup cradled in her hands as she sinks back on the pile of pillows crammed behind her head, shoulders and the small of her back, nursing the drink with the simple, relieved happiness of one relatively confident that things, at the moment, has reverted into a calm status quo. Admittedly, like what she told Red Robin a few hours ago, what actually happened was nothing new - if she doesn't find anything supernatural to deal with, it normally finds her, a neverending dance until she resolves the problem or the problem kills her.

An option that is presently impossible; she turned eighteen only a few months before, she has yet to start living her life, and her father was still missing.

"Uniform, huh?" she says, her pale, ice blue eyes falling on Azalea as she sits by her bedside. That, too, is the last thing she expected - for all of her easy way with others, she doesn't really have too many friendships to speak of, though having the Guardians and Jessica in her house has alleviated those perpetual bouts of loneliness that plague her and, more often than not, get her into trouble.

When the Dark Devil asks her what happened, she releases a long, drawn out exhale. "You won't believe me if I—" She pauses, eyeing her fellow university student sidelong. "…actually no, in your case, you'd probably believe it."

She gives her the nutshell version - how she was out dancing and socializing, leaving out the depressing circumstances as to why she had decided to hit a nightclub by herself. She describes the freezer, the unassuming young man who bumped into her, the rohypnol slipped in her drink, and the sigils devoted to Beelzebub painted all over the walls of his bedroom away from home.

"He had an Aramaic spellbowl in the room," she finishes in between sips of glorious black brew. "Traditionally they're used to protect domiciles from demons, but symbols here and there were inserted to twist its purpose and leave it reversed. To invite a demon in instead of keeping it out….it was done crudely, like…it's the kind of crappy, sloppy work I would expect from a beginner or a hedge magician just starting out." Or John, if he had absolutely no time to prepare for a supernatural battle and he had no other choice. "But someone knew enough to give him a bowl and instruct him how to work it. Anyway, I got out of the freezer and I reversed the bowl's reversal and recalibrated it to its original purpose, but I had no idea one of the Robins was already there, presumably beating the crap out of him. He got me out before I got completely sick."


It's about when Zee begins describing the freezer that she can't really contain what she is. Inching forward, almost restless in the way she changes positions and once again leans on the rail. Her pupils go wide, and the way her head tilts at the description of the girls, cut open. Ripped apart. Beauty deconstructed.

She fills in all the blanks with a little breath as the story continues, and her lashes bat at her cheeks as she tries to steady herself in the calming warmth of Zee's radiant soul. The last time the Devil didn't know how to react, except like anything that does not get enough of what it wants. Now it churns and languishes, understanding that this very special vessel of energy is not going anywhere.

Her expression changes yet again as she cuts back to the here and now, to the description of the bowl, and though she does not really understand it, there is a familiarity to it all. A familiarity that pulls at her human interests in this very inhuman state. Her cheeks glow a little, and she sinks her chin in against that rail to ponder it all.

"I'm not a bad person. I wasn't, anyway. Whenever I run into people, they don't know. Maybe they.. sense it. You know? Feel that I'm a little off. But just like the man you bumped into, even if you sensed it, you'd be polite. They're all polite. You saw right through me, knew for sure that I'm dangerous. I didn't remember in the moment, but I dreamed the other night for the first time in a long time. Dreamed about you looking down on me, and the way you looked. It was so clear. You were polite to, but polite with knowing. That's different." She pauses then, enough to lift her chin a little, to make talking easier, that uncanny tilt of her head gives her a way as she searches the other woman's face, gives away the creature beneath. But she has her control, at least for now.

"I go out at night, but it was never to save people. I just wanted to beat on them. I chose the bad ones, because I'm not a bad person, even with what I've become. But I never thought I'd want to become a good person. You, Batman. Blue Robin." She means Nightwing. Ahem. "All of you made me want to do more. Might have just turned the other way after feeling a wave of.. whatever. Might not have followed the trail before, or cared to hear why you're here. But I care now, and I want to learn about.. all of this. I'm not repaying you with coffee."

She means to repay her by never letting the Devil have it's due, by making up for the things it's done. But there's more. There's a selfishness that underlies it. She'd be lying if she didn't admit it, and omission counts too. It's in her lean. Her proximity. Some drugs are stabilizers, and the other night she didn't realize it, but she knows /now/.

"I'll do it by helping. By finding the right people.. like this demon bowl guy, instead of random gang member number five."


She watches Azalea as she shifts towards her, but even if she had the strength to move away, feeling the thing inside her claw and leech at whatever intangible strains of power she manages to emanate without her knowing, it was hard to judge whether she would. Zatanna was an amiable creature, constantly drawn to other people's lives in a conscious attempt to connect with others and fill her lonely life with the colors and experiences that they provided. Her constant dealings with the supernatural and otherworldly could even be said to give her enough approachability for people like Azalea, who would otherwise shy away from those who she thinks does not understand, much like the way she explains herself now. The black-haired girl on the bed watches her visitor, letting the coffee she brought warm her hands; her skin feels like it holds human temperature now, unlike several hours before.

"I think all people are inherently good," the young woman says; it is not so different from what she had told Tim Drake the first day they met, currently oblivious as she is that her classmate had also been her rescuer. "So when you say you're not a bad person, I believe you. The thing inside you will try to twist that, though. I don't know if you know much about….your condition, but every other expert I know would say that it's too late for you, no matter what you do. Normally, there's a deadline in what anyone /could/ do, but with the level of integration you have, you'll only be able to go to one place after you die."

Doesn't that make it all the more remarkable, then? The magician knows; she knows - what she's bound with, where she is fated to go once her corrupted soul leaves her body, but talks to Azalea like a fellow human being regardless.

"But I'm not a firm believer of absolutes, either," she says. "The places I operate in, the things I know, they all speak towards the weird and the impossible, which I know for a fact are….well, still weird, but also possible. If there's anything in this world I can attest to with every breath in my body, it's the fact that when people say something is impossible, chances are it isn't. So if there's a way to save your soul, I'm sure we'll find it. It might just take a little time, is all. I mean….you keep it under control now, so I don't really have a cause to doubt your sincerity, when you say you want to help."

A skeptical expression falls over her features. "Admittedly I don't know a ton about….you know. The kind of nocturnal activities you engage in. Save for my exposure to you and Red Robin, all I've heard about what goes on here are stories. I just got back from living abroad, it's not like I've kept a bead on what goes on in Gotham. I try to keep to myself, but I guess sometimes that isn't possible while still trying to be a good person." She lifts a hand, tugging lightly at her hair. "God, though. I need a shower."


Her soul? What the fuck does she know about souls? There are rules? Heaven? Hell? What the /fuck/. Somewhere inside the Devil borbles at her, but not just at her. It slights the very idea of Hell. It's pretty sure it's found it, trapped in a tiny, dickless body with no one to rip apart or turn inside out. The expression she carries in that moment is as skeptical as Zatanna's as she considers the state of Gotham, or what it is the vigilante sorts do.

She slouches down a little, hanging her chin over the rail with a distant look of contemplation. "You smell fine." Yeah that's not disconcerting or anything.

"I don't even know how it all works. Souls. Creatures that lurk inside. Corruption. I tried to.. uh.. do research. Found some things, references. The Devil in the Dark. An old voodoo thing. I don't know even what this is, inside me. Or what these other things are, that seem to crop up. As far as Gotham goes..

There's a meek shrug, and of /course/ she does not quite see the dismal overlay here that others do. It seems like a /perfect/ place to live. "Seems fine. I mean, sure. Bat-people, and Spoiler, and Robins. They spend their nights beating the worst of Gotham to a pulp and leaving the leftovers for the police. I'm still learning the ropes but.. if you could help me learn about the rules that come with your world, maybe I can help you understand how mine can help you out."

Azalea is not Batman. It's possible she has more in common with him than she could ever imagine, but she may never be on his level in any way, shape, or form. But even if she pries that door just a little, she might have an angle that could be helpful in all sorts of activities.

Maybe even finding a missing person.

"Right now I'm still trying to find this guy with the metal arm. But.." She looks breathless in that moment, a tentative excitement showing around her eyes. Is that triumph? "I have a lead. I'll have to be better prepared this time. More focused." There's a moment where her gaze wanders down to the rail in front of her, lips parting as if she means to ask some unspoken question, wavering on the edge of propriety or courage, things she does not often struggle with.


Finishing her coffee, Zatanna sets the empty cup aside, leaving it for the orderlies to clean up as she adjusts her position on her borrowed hospital bed. The idea is there - she should be sleeping right about now, return to the Sandman's embrace and reconfigure her body in a halfway functional state. But the caffeine lurking in her system now isn't exactly conducive to rest, leaving her mind mulling over various options. She probably should check herself out once she was confident that she could walk without keeling over - Jessica was probably worried about her now that she hasn't been home for hours.

"Well, there aren't really any hard and fast rules in my world," the young woman offers. "They're honestly more like guidelines than anything, but if you need room to maneuver, I can certainly provide guidance. I'd direct you to an old friend of my dad's who's been at this for decades, but it's a long drive from here to New York." She reaches out to Azalea, a calling card appearing like magic between her fingers; a smooth, sleight of hand trick, once again exhibiting that she is just as adept as faking miracles as she is in creating actual ones. "If it starts acting up, I'll see what I can do to help. The last thing anybody wants is the thing that's in you running around unchecked." It would help, she thinks, if she knew the demon's name - but she doubts that Azalea knows, and even if the entity did give her something to call it, she could guess, and rather accurately, that it held its true name under wraps - the only moniker that matters, as far as these things were concerned.

"I guess you haven't given up on looking for him, huh?" she wonders. Part of her /doesn't want/ to get further involved with the man with the metal arm, all reports seem to indicate that 'Stan,' whatever his real name was, is a dangerous individual that could kill Azalea if she isn't careful. A concerned frown pulls visibly on the corners of her mouth.

Maybe she ought to go looking for him. Azalea's idea the last time wasn't a bad one, she still had samples of his blood in her jacket, from where she used tissues to wipe down the table she performed his magical surgery upon. Finding him would be an easy task.

But to tell Miss Kingston that would be foolhardy. She remembers the state she found her in; the last thing she wants to do is send a well-meaning young woman to her possible demise. She had managed to escape Stan before, to tempt fate a second time, to her, seems pushing her luck.

"You already know what I'm going to say about all of that, you really shouldn't be pursuing him after what he did to you," she tells her. "Leave it to the Batman, he's got the experience….this is his turf. Or if you're going to do it, at least bring back up."


When Zatanna speaks of her Devil running loose, and her desire to keep it in check, that look of unease, of a question unanswered evaporates, and as she reaches out with a tentative look to the card, it closes not on the paper, but on Zatanna's hand.

It wasn't just her spell last time, that let the creature pull from her endless reservoir, but close contact, and when it happens again Azalea's pupils shrink and a clarity washes over her - the same one that found her in the moments after Zee blessed her with healing power. "He's stronger than me. Faster. Better trained. I can barely hurt him." None of these things are the Devil's words, and if it weren't wallowing in Zee's afterglow she'd never be able to speak them. "But last time I didn't know that. Couldn't admit it, and wouldn't even have realized it if not for you. Whatever you did to me let me sleep. I wrote a song for the first time in over a year, and dreamt about something other than chasing people through alleys to rip out their organs, or crushing skulls on the field of battle." For all the strength the Devil gives her, she looks like she might cry, and where she holds Zee's hand it trembles. "You're already helping keep it in check. Already helping to keep me focused. I won't be alone next time, but I /have/ to find him. Have to face him. That's what a good person would do."

Her hand slips away, and with a sharp inhale she shakes all over, crushing the calling card into her pants pocket with one hand, while the other reaches for her jacket. Whatever interaction her Devil has with Zee's luminous, too-big soul, won't be solved quickly or easily, or without some pain, but it seems that Zee's promise to help has already taken form.

She looks like she wants to go - to run away before the feeling of clarity fades, but she hesitates, her gaze slipping away from the door and swinging back to her once-savior, her eyes once again filled with the Devil's might.


She would have retracted her hand by now were it not for Azalea's tight grip on it, Zatanna staring at the other woman as she clutches her fingers. She feels the tremors on those digits - surprisingly long, surprisingly dainty for one who engages in such violent extracurricular activities. Those beautiful eyes pour out the rest of what she isn't able to articulate in words, though what she does manage to tell her shake the young magician to the core; that by just being near her, she's able to affect her so profoundly that she finds some semblance of inspiration and humanity again. The revelation is humbling, to say the least, and unexpected. The black-haired goth girl isn't immune to such entreaties, her expression softening once the Dark Devil lapses back in silence.

"I…just healed you…I put your bones back together," she says. "I didn't think I was doing anything special other than to make sure that you'd be alright walking by yourself." She is young yet, barely an adult and left completely unsupervised for the first time in her life, she is only starting to come to grips of her own power, having only tapped a small fraction of her unknown, but limitless potential. She can't help but squeeze her fellow student's hand, if not just to stop it from trembling and for the first time in a while, she feels it - a connection outside of the emotional shelter her father provided, since John bloody Constantine.

But she lets go when Azalea does, unwilling to push too hard. She watches her visitor eye the door, tastes the urge to flee.

Some part of her almost asks her to stay. Ever since her father disappeared, she was so lonely. She was lonely all the time, an impossible, yawning abyss she always tries to cross unscathed, and fails miserably every time.

"…you know how to find me now," she assures instead, foregoing the desire to dissuade her from pursuing Stan the Coldblooded Assassin any further. "Call anytime, okay Az?"

Az. Somewhere in between, she has bothered to find out her name.


The world feels empty without bridges, when the great canyons that stretch the length of the human condition, the gaps between where one person's skin ends and another's begins become so glaring. She didn't know what flimsy things words were until she became this /thing/, and the irony of it sickens her to the core. The way she stares at her is the inverse reflection of her last few words, her commitment to what a 'good person would do'. It speaks only to what a bad person would do, where this any other place or time. Oh how fleeting the balm, but she hears her out, and knows pain better than any other creature for a thousand miles, tastes it in the air filled up by Zee's lonely words.


There's a moment of profound longing, or maybe grief… and then she steps close again, looming over the pale skinned beauty, her shadow casting over the frayed remnants of their conversation as surely as the red bird in Zee's dream were consumed by it's shadow. "…also got you a candy bar." Oh God she brought her chocolate too! No wonder people fall under the Devil's sway! The moment of levity, however unintentional it might be, gives her the opening to lean in and press a kiss to Zee's forehead. "Get better." Whispered breath paints once cold skin with the fleeting ghost of intimacy and then she steps back and away, watching the Gothling all the way to the door.

Then, a small ruckus, a rush of orderlies and a couple paramedics - Zee must still be in one of the small intake rooms just off the ER. One Paramedic, to another: 'Just leave it, they got this. We'll swing back this way. Nurse, this alright?' And then the other relents, leaving his bag and jacket on a little substation outside so he and his buddy can go grab a bite.

There's a moment there, as Az looks from Zee to the bag, then back again, and then she stalks towards it with a casual gait, leaving her jacket behind for Zee to claim, while she scoops up the Paramedic jacket and shoulders his bag. A finger presses to her lips, and Azalea Kingston completes her thievery while making her exit all at once.

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