Desires of a Murdered God

December 19, 2016:

Called to Azalea's apartment in the dead of night, Zatanna Zatara discovers that it isn't just Mammon that wants her soul.

Azalea's Apartment - Chelsea - Gotham

A dingy apartment that has long since had its power cut off, inundated by candles and packages of ramen.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bruce Wayne, John Constantine, Winter Soldier, Giovanni Zatara, Steve Rogers, Jessica Jones, Tim Drake

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The call was awkward, at least for Azalea. It began with 'hey'. It ended with 'I need your help. Sorry to ask, but there's something you need to see and I can't take it out in public.' When she gave Zatanna her address, it sounded pained. When the heir to the Zatara legacy arrives she'll begin to understand why.

It's not far off campus, an apartment building that isn't by any means shameful. Plenty of students pair off to afford something that isn't a tiny dorm room. But if Azalea had originally done that, she's long since past the point of having roommates, or even visitors.

The door is open - if Zatanna tries to knock, it swings, because the lock and door catch is broken. Barren is a word for it. Dismal is another. The lights are off, but a few candles cling to life in what used to be the living room, now turned into the only real livable space in this place. Everything worth anything has been sold, and like a drug addict fueling a habit, Azalea Kingston used the money to stay alive, to stay in fighting form, and a single mattress with a sleeping bag on top of it lays surrounded by maps of the city, a few stacked books, and a lonely guitar. That 'living' space is to the right, and to the left is where a little dinette would be, outside a kitchen, though only a tiny stable rests, overflowing with mail she's received, the latest of which all have the same theme: FINAL NOTICE. LAST ATTEMPT. EVICTION.

The last one is the most recent, and it's clear that The Dark Devil, for all her prowess and might will need to find a new place to haunt. A glance to the kitchen will find the cheapest Ramen possible stacked high, along with a first aid kit that's been torn open and strewn about, and just outside the kitchen, facing the dinette is a little slab eating space with two stools in front of it, one of which is occupied by the most dangerous tiny person for ten blocks. She's dressed in her hero-digs, save for her gloves which are piled next to her, and she still hasn't found a real replacement for a mask. When she turns to look at the door, every freckle on her face will shine against the backlight of eerie blue, and her eyes will somehow seem all the more wild, for directly in front of her is a vial: Small, luminescent, and cerulean, and nearly lights up more of the space than any of the various candles do.


She manages to find the time in between her own investigations and school to come when Azalea calls, not simply due to the fact that she has promised her, but also because she was generally worried about her constantly. Zatanna's conference with John Constantine earlier in the week has duly informed her that there is another demon lurking around Gotham, on top of the worrying fact that one of the Demon Princes of Hell has been conducting business in her home city, and his presence is usually an indicator that something big was brewing….somewhere, important enough to drag John away from the U.K., though she hasn't asked him why he was in the United States again. Part of her doesn't want to ask, struggling with the other part of her that knows that she should.

Azalea's existence, however, is one that she keeps under wraps - for now, though she knows better than anyone that her problem is something that she would need some assistance with. For now, however, her presence is enough of a deterrent to keep the entity that has integrated into Azalea's soul in control, and until the situation with Muller was handled, she decides that it is enough of a temporary measure until she can consult with others more experienced than her as to just how many options Azalea has left. This does mean, however, that whenever the Dark Devil calls, she /has/ to come, if not just to be there for yet another lost soul who finds some measure of solace in her presence.

The fact that the Dark Devil is squatting in this apartment is made apparent immediately, by the door that swings open easily with the gentlest nudge, and the candles in the living room that suggest that power is out. Zatanna picks through the fitfully lit space cautiously, her quick steps slowing down as ice-blue eyes leap and jump over geographic details shrouded in shadow. The nights have become more challenging, at least in her end…after the incident with Tim Drake, she couldn't help but feel /watched/.

She moves to the kitchen, finding the stack of ramen - a staple food for college kids, if she ever saw one - and the eviscerated first aid kit.

"Az?" she wonders hesitantly. Her hands don't hesitate, reaching out to rest on the smaller woman's shoulders, her face shifting close so she could take in the finer details of the Dark Devil's face with every hope and intent to gauge her condition. She seems fine, physically, but Zatanna knows that with Azalea, it is hardly that simple.

"I'm here," she continues. "Talk to me."


It'd been a little while since they had seen each other - long enough for things to spiral away from 'normalcy' from them both. Zatanna had an old flame to deal with. Azalea had the fire inside. Yesterday she was chasing someone over rooftops, hunting them like an animal - she'd lie and say she chose a cold shower in the aftermath if asked, but no one would ask. She didn't have anyone watching her so closely as the Justice League or that Man, in New York, with the proportional common sense of a Spider.

The Dark Devil - the combined being - had almost forgotten this. She ran hot, and so the apartment is mostly cold, though a little space heater powered by an extension cord that goes god-knows-where makes it almost livable in this run down place.

It was nothing compared to what she feels when Zatanna steps into the room.

She'd thought she was prepared for it, but the caged animal inside her riles and roars, because it /isn't/ an animal. It knows exactly what it wants, and the thousand-yard stare that bores into Zatanna, blue ice against blue ice, says all the things she wants to do to her before those hands even touch her shoulders.


When her eyes close, it's to steady herself, to let the better angel she was before the joining tangle with the demon-thing in her core. Then Zatanna touches her. Feels the feverish condition of her skin even beneath her 'uniform' top, delicate fingertips snaking up to hook the younger girl's neck, a hold that is far more tender than anything she /really/ wants to do. "… I found something."

When her eyes open again they meet her up close, and one thumb brushes up, painting her jawline with affection in much the way she did the first time Zatanna gave her a taste of her soul, when her body was broken and she needed her most. But she isn't looking at her eyes anymore. Doesn't care about the chase, or the vial behind her, casting them both in blue. She's staring at her mouth, and it isn't to wonder what kind of lipstick she's using.


She has her father's disappearance to deal with, and is often of the mind that everything else that came along with that was incidental - she remembers what she told Steve Rogers, that she had only found out about Bucky because she was looking for her father; the search has managed to turn fresh earth out and over other aspects of her life and others that have remained buried for an indeterminable period - Barnes' return from the dead, Bruce's difficulty in coping with the death of his second son, John being…well, John, among a slew of others. Jessica, too, who mentioned her experience with mind control in passing, and who she hasn't heard from since returning from their trip to New York. It worries her, but the caustic private investigator was capable and no-nonsense. She can take care of herself.


She manages to close the lid on her growing apprehensions on that front, suddenly finding herself ensnared by the woman's arms when she draws close and curls those deceptively thin arms around her neck, her thumb tracing a pathway down her jaw; Zatanna was often a giver of affection, and hardly a recipient of it, most of the people she surrounds herself with are reserved, aloof, guaranteed to pose startling contrasts to her personality whenever she stands close to them. Az has always been different, unique in the fact that she has never hesitated in touching her….but whatever small happiness that gives her is often tempered by what she knows is causing it.

And Zatanna knows the entity inside her can't help itself. She can taste its hunger, the danger it presents.

'I found something,' Az murmurs.

The magician's attention wanders from Azalea, missing the way the other woman stares at her mouth, dark brows stitching in the middle at the /thing/ sitting on the kitchen counter, throwing its iridescent blue light over the candlelit space, rendering Azalea's pale features all the more ghost-like. "What the…"

Her hands slip from Azalea's shoulders, moving towards…the artifact? What was it? Long, pale fingers reach to pluck it off the surface to give it a look. "Where did you get this?" she asks, rolling her thumb over the surface and holding it up, a muttered word, too low to hear, cast into open air, to peel off the veil just a fraction to see just what's underneath.


While Zatanna might be musing over the fate storm of her life, the whirlwind of circumstance and interaction that has put her in a tumbling free-fall as of late, she'll enter the trap with a willing bravery. Because she can take care of herself. Right?


Reaching for the vial instead of paying very close attention to the predator invading her space is all the evidence she'll ever need, and when she closes her fingers around it, casts of the veil and tries to draw meaning from it's strange circumstance, she'll feel one of Azalea's hands drop to curl over her hip, a sharp yank drawing her closer still and into the net of her waiting legs.

She's smaller. Shorter, but she's on a stool, and when her mouth opens to ask the question Azalea fills it with the only answer that matters. It might be the first and only time that both she can the Devil Inside agree on a sentiment, and though she fails at smoothing her monster's rough edges often, never has it felt so good to falter.

Her lips crush to the magician's, her tongue an angry, hungry invader, a reminder for Zatanna of times past, when raw passion was on her plate every day, the last time she let herself get ensnared by someone so imperfect and broken. But more than the sudden kiss, is the electric connection of dark and light. The Devil Inside is closer, deeper than it's ever been, and Azalea trembles as she pulls at the infinite reservoir in her grasp, tears squeezing from her eyes and a sound both pained and pleased muffled against painted lips.

There in the dark corners of the mind, separate from sensation, wanted or unwanted or confused, is the very picture of a being fractured: Dark skin, like obsidian glass, but shattered through. Eyes like red burning coals. A mane of hair, ragged and wild. As big as Zatanna's soul is, from her vantage and the light she casts, it will seem bigger, and inside it is a light - blue. Pulsing. A heartbeat. The creature lunges, latches on. It thinks to devour her whole, but it does not understand that she cannot be depleted - not by it. The cracks align, a little more, and it's fitful growling grates slow to a steady breath. It will seem at first that the light bleeding off of Zatanna and into it is smothering the light within, but if she looks close she'll see the tiny light is in the shape of her friend - Azalea's naked form floating, tiny, inside this great fiend, but not /diminishing/. As the light mends cracks, it emboldens the heart within, even as the greedy creature seeks more and more from the only source of light that's ever been powerful enough to let it think again.


The vial drops from her hand once Azalea reaches, once she's wrenched away from the counter by demon-augmented strength. It drops on the floor, though it's fortunate that it doesn't shatter. An arm flailing wide, the young woman finds herself pulled back, spun around, her eyes wide and urgent. Whatever reverie she has been entertaining banishes immediately, burned to ash at the sudden change of her circumstances, her body stumbling forward towards Azalea and the stool that she has managed to find so silently, to stand on it and…

Her surprised expression would be lost to anyone, her mouth crushed, pried open for the sudden onslaught of teeth and tongue. Flirtations aside, and there have been many subjected to them as of late, Zatanna finds herself in the grip of a kiss; it has been a month, maybe a little over, since the most recent - long enough for someone as young as her to have momentarily forgotten what it's like to encounter amorous intentions. John hadn't been her first and neither was he her last, there have been a few others on the road that have tasted her mouth and other parts of her; loneliness had a way of making her seek out closeness, wherever she could find it, blatantly eschewing whatever concerns she ought to have about her virtue. It was way too late for that, after all.

"Mrff— !"

It is hungry, tearful…distressing, and in those fiery seconds of contact, she's flooded with the images of the black-skinned demon that has inextricably tied itself with Azalea's soul, glimpsing, somehow, the shimmering her friend has left behind through the gnawing trap. She feels her eyes roll slowly to the back of her head, a distant throb pulsing from where the base of her skull meets her neck…the part of her brain that she doesn't know exists, unique only to her, radiating strains of power even as it /feeds/. Her frozen fingers curl reflexively, drawing it out…the urge to give in, to give it up. To give herself up and let this thing drain her away…

Zatanna, no!

Her hands lash out, latching over Azalea's shoulders. Her taller, heavier body tilts forward, knocking both of them away from the stool and onto the hard kitchen floor. Her bones jar on impact and it is enough to keep her mind from drifting away; she doesn't know whether the demon will attempt to keep plying her strength against hers, but she has to try. After that faint glimpse of Azalea - the /true/ Azalea - she doesn't want to hurt her.

Zatanna rips her mouth away, fingers banding tight on the smaller woman's wrists, pinning her down on the floor as she breathes raggedly on top of her, knees anchoring her weight, insistent and low, on the dark-clad vigilante. Her eyes narrow, burn from where she looms over her; her mouth tingles, the taste of sulfur washing over her senses.

"I'm addressing the entity that has bound itself to this body," she demands breathlessly, desperately struggling to temper her rising panic. "Who are you?! What do you want?!"


The creature inside rumbles, squeezes, its touch coarse in all the ways that Azalea is fine. It is everything she is not. The world outside tilts, but it doesn't seem to mind. When she finds herself hitting the floor, looming over Devil and Girl alike, she'll realize the blue vial is nearby, casting them up close in it's eerie light. It almost makes Azalea's eyes look yellow, and her pupils dominate the color of her eyes, trapping it against a thick limbal. The impact seems to have done little but raise Azalea's stakes, wrists pinned above her, hips giving a shift between Zatanna's legs, a low languid roll that grinds her pelvis into the weight of her.

Before the girl can speak to her, Zatanna will know the power of her word, spoken so very recently, amplified by the power inside the vial beside her. While it's contents were catalogued for scientific purpose, the nature of its power acts as a projection on the veil-shattering word Zatanna had placed on it to find out it's nature.

Instead she finds the nature of The Devil Inside.

The scent of sulfur is gone, a smokescreen of convenient mythology. Even it's name, taken from the superstitious shamans of a far away place, has been twisted to fit into expectation. It's misery, it's insanity, a function of it's broken state: It is wounded. Fractured, and Azalea's soul has filled in the gaps, and replaced the…

"For what I want, you'll have to scoot those hips up over my face." The way she says it is visceral, not a lewd taunt, and as the veil shattering amplification of that light and Zatanna's Word eat at the very air around Azalea it will tell her what the death-ray she layers across her face does all the same: She is telling the truth.

…her mind's eye will see it. A field of tall grass with the sun blazing overhead, and a breeze washing over a nearby lake in a world not yet fully constructed. Two-headed stags dance at the edge of a nearby forest, and there among the tall grass lovers lay.

Bloodied. Savaged.

The man, his skin dark, his hair wild, looks up with tears in his eyes as the woman smiles down with care, all the while pulling his heart from his chest. "Izpapalotl…" says the man, drowning in the confusion of his last minutes, where moments before he had been drowning in Izpapalotl's warmth.

Izpapalotl looks upon him, his heart in her hand, the other on his forehead. "Shhh, Xiuhnel. It's almost over."

Xiuhnel, the Sky Serpent, a myth long before the Aztec's took his name for their pantheon, who formed the sky and helped create the world.

It is no demon that Azalea has been entwined with, but the very essence of a flayed God.


The fact that the blatant statement about her hips /wasn't/ lewd, but so matter-of-fact that it practically simmers with entitlement - as if it had every right to say that to her, that it would get there eventually - has those pale, ivory tines grip Azalea's wrists all the more tightly. The surge of anger it generates momentarily drowns out her fear, the urge to wish that for just this moment, her father was within earshot. Lowering herself further, Zatanna pushes on - forward, always forward, because that was how she was raised, was how she was taught. She moves so close that their noses almost touch, so close that the finer details of her face are lost, swallowed up by those expressive eyes.

"Sorry," she retorts, her crimson mouth curling to bare a hint of her teeth. "But said hips are closed for business until further notice."

The connection lingers, finding herself split; bilocation is a trick she has yet to master, but once she gets there, this is what it would probably be like - her physical form doing one thing, her after image in another. She feels that other self move, her fingers drifting over tall virid blades as she passes. The hill before her gushes red, blood flowing around her ankles.

In that strange waking dream, she sees the heart, glimpses the open ribcage, reminding her of Kazinsky's victims, though the memory does nothing but ghost over the proceedings like a passing thought. The sound of a murdered god's heartbeat throbs in a deafening cacophony, vibrating through her more supernatural senses.

Her own lurches wildly against her chest; Xiuhnel would taste that potent stab of weakness - inexperience, self-doubt. She was young, after all….so very young.

"Oh, Jesus," Zatanna breathes, her grip slacking though she doesn't let go.

"Why?" she manages around that growing fear, cold sweat trickles down her back. "Why Az?"

She should be asking it other questions. More important ones, like why her?

As usual, she doesn't ask about herself; her priorities tended to lie towards those around her, those to whom she has pledged her devotion.


There's a laugh in the face of her resolve, when she tells The Devil Inside it will never get what it wants. How many women in it's existence have told it no? How many did it exact revenge upon, for what had been done to it? For all the tragedy of it's creation, it created the role of monster for itself, and Zatanna will see a flash of it - a glimpse. Different bodies. Men across time. Powerful leaders, barbarians and Generals alike. But they were not insane. Not like the thing barely being held together by Azalea Kingston. Something else happened to it, between it's creation and it's final destination. Even now, so disjoined, it proceeds the same way, stoking base urges and pushing them to their extremes. Rape, pillage, plunder. It's all it knows.

Until now.

The motion is quick, and happens the moment Zatanna loosens her grip. The magician will understand why Azalea hasn't been beaten to death by some random encounter in her heroic moonlighting - it knows things. They are fractured, and out of practice, but when she needs this knowledge the most it rushes back to her. Like the twist of a wrist, the hook to the back of Zee's neck, and the sudden hip-escape that will reverse their positions.

As Azalea takes the top, her hips wedged between Zee's legs, her hair falls over the Gothling's face in a warm curtain, reminding her how very cold this apartment really is. She looms like a triumphant predator, and Zatanna might begin to wonder how her magic might line up against the power of a being that helped craft the magical fabric of existence.

"I wish I knew."

The way she says it sounds almost dazed, and when she leans in to bury her face in Zee's neck it's with none of the aggression she expressed before. She sobs, her grip on Zatanna's arms loosens, and she languishes in the calming influence of her soul, the true magic that melds the cracks in the Godling's mind, and strengthens the resolve of the woman trapped, entwined, inside.

For all her aggression, for all her need, the Dark Devil cannot fight the warm balm, and in the time they have grappled, the time that let Zatanna see the truth, it has let Azalea regain some small portion of composure, stifling her desire away in the scent of Zatanna's hair and the warm glow of her skin.

"I'm sorry."

It is an unsolvable dimorphism, for as much as she meant her lewd request earlier, she means this too. She is at once, both monster and mortal.


It laughs - Xiuhnel laughs and the sheer intimidation the conqueror serpent-god instills within her nearly shatters her resolve. Zatanna is no stranger to demons, to angels, to faeries and mermaids and things that stumble from the Other World and into her own. She has been on the road since she was five, has been her father's apprentice since she was eight. She is no stranger to the hunts that call him out into the darker corners of the world late at night, and that had been part of John's curriculum, too - she was his student, but he never shielded her from what she needed to see, knew that sheltering her would doom her in their world rather than protect her. For all that they've failed to create something between them, he was unwavering in his responsibilities there. But gods - fickle gods, those that create and destroy at a whim, are parts of the world's mystical fabric that she has yet to build a knowledge base around and the fact that it clearly wants her shakes her to the core. Rules are more nebulous there - at least with demons, they /have/ to be invited in.

Gods have no such limitations and the fact that she has /completely/ misdiagnosed Azalea rattles her confidence.

It wells up, nearly drowning her; it is all the advantage Xiuhnel needs to reverse their positions, to bodily roll her over until Zatanna finds herself sprawling on her back, her eyes staring helplessly at the ceiling as those inhuman glowing eyes stare down at her, celestial-strong fingers gripping her arms. The Dark Devil pushes, her negligible weight grinding between her legs, pushing up and in, choking a sound from the back of her throat as she is reminded as to who and what Xiuhnel is.

He is a creature of impulse, programmed for conquest and little else. It is his nature to take, and take, and take. He has Azalea, won't let go of her without a fight, and now he wants…

Her imagination runs wild, circling the drain, attempting to fill in the blanks. What drew him to Az in the first place, how he took her. She mentioned nightmares painted with blood and violence and she can't help but wonder if he tears her apart every time she closes her eyes and tries to rest. It snaps her out of her fearful fugue violently, the intensity of her fury surging white hot in her veins, sharpening her focus as she looks up at those golden eyes.

Golden eyes that slowly fade back into blue. This isn't the first time she has seen this expression. Azalea had told her before, there was something about her that enables her to…

She takes advantage, presses upon it, seizing the opportunity while she can. As the woman moves to bury her mouth and face into her neck, her control slowly returning, Zatanna bands her arms tightly around the smaller body on top of her and holds fast. She turns her head and presses her cheek against her hair.

"Lliw S'aelaza ot flesruoy dnib dna srehtet ym egilbo," she whispers, white-blue threads unraveling from her body and reaching inside her friend. "Dlrow eht fo rehtaf, Yks eht fo Lehnuix, eeht ekovni i."

True names have power. It is one of the most basic principles of magic, especially when otherworldly entities are concerned. It seeks the god-core in Azalea's body, coccooning it with her influence, drawing tight to apply the necessary chains and manacles to give Azalea some peace, some respite in the next few days. She feels it take hold in every cell, raw, unsmelted potential seeping out from every pore, from the depths of her endless well - Zatanna Zatara /is/ magic, for all of her inexperience. Unfortunately, everything else in the world aside from her knows it.

The god will break free, eventually, she is nowhere near learned enough to make it permanent….but for the next few days, at least, her friend will have the closest thing to absolute dominion over the entity inside her.

Zatanna is certain she will reap the consequences of it later, but she doesn't care. Her father would be furious; anyone who even so much as cared about her would, but if it gives Azalea even just a few days of freedom, she considers it a price worth paying.

She reaches up, stroking the smaller woman's hair as she remains on top of her, her eyes wandering to the ceiling again, taking in the cracks, the peeling paint.

"It's okay," she tells her quietly, giving her a squeeze and finally closing her eyes. "It isn't your fault, Az….it isn't your fault."

After a few more moments of heavy silence, Zatanna speaks again. "You can't stay here forever," she says. "I'll see what I can do on that, okay?"


Tension enters her as words paint her ear in reverse, and Zatanna will feel the sharp pressure of Azalea biting down against her neck. It hurts, bot not like white hot energy binding two souls together in a way that can placate one and empower the other. But what's a little bruised skin in an inconvenient place compared to the peace she just blessed her new, very vulnerable friend with.

Zatanna tells her it's okay. It's not her fault. She sets the record straight. "I'm sorry for everything but the kiss." Then she is quiet.

In the time that comes after, in the wake one warm body clinging to another as if a life preserver on an ocean of turmoil, Azalea will eventually find a dreamless sleep. She hovers in the space between worlds and sees the creature inside her with more clarity than ever, and more importantly she has her mind, her calm, once more. Zatanna will be able to slip away with her prize - a vial of blue, and the knowledge that despite the danger of connecting so very pointedly to a broken, dangerous, powerful being, she has done /good/ for Azalea Kingston.

A storm surges outside. Wind howls, and an amber gaze washes over the city as a thread so thin as a single strand of silk links Zatanna and Azalea far into the aftermath of what transpired. It can see the thread from anywhere. It was one of the powers Itzpapalotl, The Obsidian Butterfly, stole from her beloved when she tricked him into mortal form.

"There you are, beautiful creature," bespoke the Goddess, fingertips tapping at her bottom lip. "What's left of /you/."

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