One Thing at a Time

December 20, 2016:

Zatanna finds Azalea a place to stay, in the most unlikely building in town.

Saint Lawrence Cathedral - Gotham City

A cathedral and an attached rectory in Gotham.


NPCs: Father Gabriel

Mentions: Winter Soldier, Steve Rogers, John Constantine


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's impossible to know how long Azalea had laid entwined with Zatanna, but for the first time in a long time, Azalea would sleep without her usual, endless nightmare. And sleep she did, snoring before long as exhaustion took her from the horror of what she had tried to do to the only person bent on helping her. When she woke she felt reborn and the world felt different. Focused. The rage left her behind, and in the absence of it, she could accomplish great things.

Or at least, she tried.

Bucky, the man she had been chasing, had eluded her even with the Batman's help, and now she felt restless, listless, and without a sense of direction. How she had left things with Zatanna put a pit in her stomach, and though they did not have time to talk about what the magician had seen inside her that night, she knew it must not have been good.

Still, she wasn't surprised when Zatanna came through on her promise. She said she'd do something about her housing situation, and now, standing before the looming structure of a church, two bags slung over her shoulder and containing everything she owned, she waiting for Zatanna to show, trying for all her worth to not look as if she were loitering out here to stalk the ghost of Jesus Christ himself.

Today she wore black jeans and a faded Nine Inch Nails t-shirt, overwhich an old army style jacket kept her reasonably warm, and added to the first impression that she might be as homeless as she seemed.


She would find Zatanna Zatara inside of the church once she manages to lug her belongings inside; the taller, younger woman stands at the very front, quietly consulting with a lean man of average height, clad in the black and white trappings of the Catholic church. Their words from this distance would be indiscernible, but Azalea is an astute individuals - whatever they were talking about, it was almost guaranteed that they were discussing her.

The echoes generated from the large double doors closing attract her attention; the young magician pivots on booted feet to glance at the newcomer. "Hey, Az," she greets, lifting her fingers in a wave, gesturing to her companion. "Come here, there's someone I want you to meet."

"You must be Miss Kingston," the priest remarks, extending a hand for the other woman to shake. "I'm Father Gabriel; Zee's dad and I go way back." His dark eyes scrutinize the god-vessel carefully, inclining his head; for just a few moments, he seems to be looking beyond Azalea, his stare unfocused, inward rather than outward - but it could be a trick of the light, or her imagination.

"Father Gabriel says there's an old room in the rectory that you can use," Zatanna supplies, her expression faintly apologetic. "It's not much, just a bed, closets, a desk, its own bathroom…but you can have free reign over the kitchen at certain hours and there's a separate entrance at the back of the building."

"Zee tells me your situation is rather…unique," Father Gabriel interjects, his tone mild and perfectly affable. "Rest assured though that I'm uniquely equipped to handle complications. Follow me."

He folds his hands behind his back as he turns, moving away from the tabernacle and through a door leading outside of the church; over the grounds, they'd find another building at the very back of the yard, with pathways attaching it to the cathedral's main body. Steam rises from its long chimney, suggesting that at the very least, the cold would be kept at bay; Gotham's winters were distressingly bitter, after all.


A year ago her parents helped pay the rent, put her through school, even met her boyfriend. He was the one who told them how concerned he was after she was assaulted. Then he told them who he had found in her bed, and how she struck him. She didn't lie about it. That was the end of people helping her, or so she thought. That was the end of deep and meaningful relationships - or maybe not. At the very least, arranging this had shown Azalea that she wasn't a lost cause, and as she looks from Zatanna to Father Gabriel, she has little time for the haunting guilt of the other night.

As Gabriel looks through her, the Devil looks back, her gaze a drilling beam of castigation that she simply cannot control. Still, she remembers how to be civil, and sets her guitar case down to shake his hand. When talk turns to her situation and Gabriel's qualifications she casts a glance to the dark haired magician, a brow lifting as if to ask the question: Does he know it all?

Maybe it wouldn't matter. They're on the move soon after, and a white plastic bag bounces against her leg in a rhythmic sway, noisy in it's rustling ramen contents. "I don't know when I'll have money for rent. But I'll figure it out. How much is it?"

She can only assume that she'll have to pay somehow - that's how the world works, and though she had let the clock run out on her parents good will, she wouldn't do the same to Zee. As long as the gothling was coming with them, she'd glance to her, more unspoken questions hinted along the way, the kind that makes her glad they're in mixed company and unable to speak with the kind of soul bearing weight that might be impossible to bear before long.

Maybe in the time that passes in the short walk, she'll figure out a way to not blather herself into a corner when the demonic elephant in the room finally shows up. "This place is fucking amazing."

Most people probably wouldn't speak that way in front of a priest, but for Zee and others who have gotten to know her a little, they might be be thankful that's all she says.


Father Gabriel leads them down the narrow hallway leading into the rectory; it is mostly empty, with room set aside for the church's minimal staff. Most of its operations in the day to day are handled by volunteers, managed by the man himself, but once the church closes for the day, bodies within are utterly lacking - some would find the silence eerie, but some would find it a comfort as well; the marble halls and columns are pristine, and those who do visit the church in these hours manage to keep quiet, keeping up with the atmosphere of reflective repose such environments ought to maintain.

Zatanna smiles faintly at Azalea, giving her a nod; it will have to be a sufficient enough answer for now, when the look of her inquires whether Father Gabriel knows all of it. Granted, it would be impossible for Zatanna know know /all/ of it, considering she doesn't know it herself, but it's safe to assume whatever she does know, she passed onto the priest. If she was going to seek his aid, she wasn't going to ask for it without telling him what he needs to know, and the man /needs/ to know a bloodthirsty Aztec god has decided to create his home on Earth within Azalea. One can't assume the risks of a situation without knowing what they are, after all.

This isn't her first rodeo; it is by the grace of God and Fortune both that she still manages to find those willing to assist her by simply invoking her father's name. That and it wasn't as if a Catholic priest could in good conscience send her away, especially if he's one of those indoctrinated in the strange, supernatural world the Zataras are mired in.

Father Gabriel opens the door to the spare room; there is a bed, a desk, lamps and light fixtures and a small, but clean bathroom. It is nothing opulent, certainly nothing as lavish as a full apartment. But it is quiet and clean, with windows overlooking the yard and the church's belfry beckoning the eye from a short distance.

"I need someone to do some minor housekeeping around the church," the priest replies, turning to Azalea. "Making sure the donation boxes are emptied out, windows and doors locked up every night, putting away the instruments we use for mass, that kind of thing. We'l talk about rent whenever you get an actual job, but for the time being, helping us out around the grounds should be enough. If that is okay with you anyway. I've also been informed that you're….quite learned with security measures. Gotham can be a rough town." The implication is there; it's a protection gig, too.

"Make yourself right at home, I need to check on a few things yet, so if you'll excuse me." He smiles at both women before he exits the room.

"Father Gabriel's nice," Zatanna tells Azalea. "And he's been on hunts with Daddy several times, ever since the Archdiocese assigned him here. He's not a stranger to the weird - Gotham's not as /crowded/ of a crossroads with that stuff as say, New York or San Francisco, but it's got enough that the Vatican sent an agent to keep an eye out."


Azalea used to be the type of girl who served as a mirror, listening and engaging, reflecting conversation in the most positive of ways. The Dark Devil, however, was more of a sponge. She filled areas of pleasant conversation with immense silence, and all the while served as a demonic elephant in the room. As Father Gabriel explains what he wants in return she doesn't even give a nod, instead running each activity through the lens of someone who will slowly lose her control.

Hopefully angry sweeping still counts as sweeping around here.

When the Priest excuses himself, a pair of fingers swing the door shut behind him, and with a casual toss her bag of precious ramen takes a dive just short of the bed. Her focus trails away from it as Zatanna speaks and when she looks to her it's the thousand yard stare all over again. Her bags drop, one after another, and she seems to give little consideration to even her guitar, advancing on Zatanna with the kind of purposeful stalk that evaporates distance and brings her into Zee's personal space.

Her fingers find her neck first, and one might wonder if that touch - the gentle hook, her thumb grazing Zatanna's jawline, is something Azalea shared between friends or lovers, or something the God-Thing inside her shared with the woman who literally stole his heart.

The touch fades as her arm snakes forth, the other joining it, but instead of a crushing kiss, one she had admitted she was not sorry for, it is only a thankful, desperate hug. The sound she makes is a treatise on her shattered humanity in this very human moment, and though her fingers curl at Zee's clothes to hold her tight there's none of the Devil's wandering touch. "I don't know what to say anymore. I open my mouth and more often than not it isn't so much me as /us/, this thing and me combined. I don't know what to say. I'd be sleeping in an abandoned building somewhere tonight. I'd be eating hard, cold noodles and sleeping around just to use the shower." Okay well, maybe not just to use the shower. "Thank you so much."


The door closes deliberately with a press of Azalea's fingers, and before she knows it, the woman is on her.

To her credit, there is no stiffening of her joints, no wary stepping back when the Dark Devil advances on her. It isn't as if she has forgotten what has transpired in Az's apartment a few days ago, but rather given what she has discovered in that encounter, perhaps that doesn't matter. Zatanna is as quick to forgive as she is to anger; whoever it is might depend on the circumstances, but in Miss Kingston's case, they were pretty damned extenuating.

She hasn't addressed that - her comment about the kiss and how she was sorry for anything but that. While she was often the straightforward sort, the type to bull into emotional minefields and boasting no protection but the fact that she is determined not to lose sight of anyone she calls her own, romantic overtures are a thorny patch in which she has yet to reclaim most of her usual confidence. It isn't something caused by John's resurgence in her life - not /just/ the reason anyway, as his presence is enough to remind her of the mistakes she made several months ago, but also because there are plenty enough complications in her life to countenance making it even messier.

But she hugs Azalea back, squeezes her tighter against her. "I promised you, remember? You can call me anytime," she says; a simple enough explanation, but it is truthful - what is important in this world doesn't have to be emphasized by bold, grand gestures. Oftentimes, it is the littlest things that impact her the most acutely. She trusts that sometimes, it's the same for others.

With that said, she eases away from Az, slipping her arms free and taking a step back. "I better get going….are you going to be alright tonight?" A sharper look. "You're going to watch yourself while you're out there, yeah?"


So close, Zatanna can feel it - the binding magic is already failing. The Devil Inside eats at it like so much food, in days - maybe a week, Az will have to tackle her baser urges again. She'll need to stay alert, and use this time where her focus is so very strong to prepare for it. It makes letting Zatanna go a little bit harder but when she does she feels the relief of someone who has realized they are human after all. For a little while, at least.

"Yeah, I'm good. I might.. maybe, need another favor. I ask a lot, I know." She looks down and away, as if the bed across the room held the secret to not being a freeloader. "The guy I was after, the assassin. Bucky. Batman and I found him. Stopped him again." She looks back to Zee, her arms crossing as she recounts the encounter. "It got messy, but we weren't able to bring him in. He got away, and I still need to find him. I figure if he can nearly beat me to death and dumpster me, and then shoot me at point blank range, and I keep coming, well. Maybe he'll at least do me the courtesy of a conversation. You uh, know how to maybe do that? I don't know. Some of your strange words or maybe.. uh.." She makes gestures.

Magical gestures!

She's quite bad at them, and the more she tries to gesticulate her point the more she fails at it. In the end her arms drop and she lets out a little huff. "I'm at a dead end here, but this guy, he needs help."

She doesn't want to delay Zee, certainly, but she can't help but ask while she has the presence of mind to do so. Next week who knows how much time she'll have for this sort of thing - there will be back alley thugs to beat to a pulp just to keep herself sane.


It would have to be reapplied, she thinks, once she lets go. But there is such a thing as immunity - apply the same thing too much and there will come a time where it wouldn't be a tenable solution anymore. She was going to have to hit the books back in Shadowcrest, she if she can find a better solution. It'll take more than her logomancy to bind the likes of Xiuhnel to a mortal's will. She knows it can be done, she just needs to find a way.

"I know," Zatanna tells Azalea, about the fact that James Buchanan Barnes - Stan, or whatever he calls himself these days - needs help. There's a small twitch of her lips. "That's why I went ahead and found Steve."


"The name you pulled out of his brain when you touched him," she explains. "His buddy, or boyfriend…I didn't really ask since it wasn't any of my business. And I know whoever he's after, he's going to show up at the GAC centennial bash for it, but Steve will be there. If what you saw is right, then….he's going to have to face someone he knows, and if there's anyone out there who can handle the likes of Metal Arm Guy, it's him."

She doesn't typically like being evasive - but this is Azalea, who has tried twice now to take down who she now knows is a possibly brainwashed Sergeant Barnes. She has bigger problems internally than running off and getting herself grievously injured or almost killed by him a third time. What did that famous saying about trying things thrice…?

Part of her feels guilty, having to keep some things from her; she'd be furious in Azalea's shoes - if anyone got in between her and her search for her father, she would be /pissed/. But as far as she knows, this is a case, something she has to do as one of Gotham's protectors. There'll be other trouble to sink her teeth into soon enough, but she is doing what she can, now, to protect her friend.

She flashes her a quick smile, opening the door. "Get some rest," she tells her. "I'll keep in touch, okay?"

With that, the door slips closed.


Azalea has so much more to say. This little introduction to Father Gabriel, the gift of a new home, it meant everything to her and yet it did not begin to scratch the surface of what they had to talk about. Not where Bucky or Steve were concerned. Not where /they/ were concerned. She watches her talk and thinks back to the near panic, the anger, her wrists pinned and Zatanna's will alone keeping their encounter from spilling into irredeemable territory.

Az could barely thank her, didn't really know how. Maybe letting go of this could be one way, and in the short term as she fills in some of the gaps and tells her some of what she knows, she has a reason to appear sated. But she feels it, a tightening in her gut. The dread of absence after a time basking in that brilliant soulstuff that flashes across dimensional boundaries, much like that smile. Her lips part, as if to say something, but she can't think of words that won't stumble, and she gives a nod before Zatanna slips away, turning to wander to the bed and test it's mettle with a flop. An exhale carries her frustrations, and she nudges her bag of ramen while giving it a look of distrust. "No Zee. It is my fault. I can't stop hiding from the monster inside me forever, because it /is/ me. Why don't you stay and have really high class noodles and we can, you know, talk about how I asked you to sit on my face the other day. I /know/ right? A laugh /riot/. HaHAA. HA. Jesus Christ, what the fuck am I even doing?" As she tells her sarcastic story to absolutely no one her hands slide up along her own cheeks and higher still, covering her face.

But maybe she was telling it to exactly the right person, oblivious to the cross hanging dutifully over her new bed.

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