Her Only Sin

January 12, 2017:

Azalea Kingston does something very stupid in an act of desperation, and in turn shows Peggy Carter her only sin.

The Triskelion


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Steve Rogers The Winter Soldier


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

"Steve Rogers. That guy in the museum."

The front guard at the Triskelion does not look amused. The front guard is even wondering how this girl - wearing her black cargo pants and a grey and black flannel shirt got past the gate guard without a badge. There's a moment where the guard stares up at her, and two more are already coming from the side, something that draws Azalea's gaze sidelong, teeth gritting, fists curling.

"Ma'am, Mr. Rogers has a mailing address for fans, and he's not available for visits. If you'll just come with u-" His hand reaches for Azalea's arm and she ducks under the grasp, a tiny slip of a creature compared to the two men she's facing down.

Her fingers form an iron claw and when she hits his throat it powers through him, forcing him to gasp as her foot slams into the back of his ankle and she completes the sudden, unexpected takedown.

It's that moment when. Hesitation. Brief, sudden shock.

Then S.H.I.E.L.D. is in motions, additional guards swarming in as The Dark Devil moves into her dance. A week ago she would not have been able to do this, but she sees them all in wan-motion, intention transferred through muscle, the slightest hint of motion giving away their game and helping her find the path of sharp strikes, deft rolls, and finally a quick swipe to snag a badge that will get her through the next door.

"Nevermind. I'll find him myself."


She's through the door. Down the hall. Up some stairs. Peggy will hear the alert - wherever she is, probably leaving some meeting or briefing, and not a moment later will Azalea Kingston burst into the very same hallway, looking very much like she does not belong, and momentarily not looking in the direction of the living legend she shares the hallway with.

Peggy Carter is not exactly near the disturbance when it happens. Despite Steve's first victory of having Peggy rest after her injury, she continues to return to work afterward. Some drives do not turn off: hers to continue working remains. At the moment she is not in her office. Instead, she's near a strange record's room.

The door opens, the lights now flickering red and white to alert a security risk. The Agent Emeritus' head pokes out. First, she looks one way, then the other and her eyes spot Azalea as the woman tears down the hallway. It's a quick moment before she gives a faked look of surprise and dives behind the door again. Then, doing the math and counting in her head, she waits the amount of time she thinks it will take the woman at her speed to reach the door before tossing it open again in an attempt to catch the intruder right when she is tearing by.

After a practical application of door applied to face, Peggy is still in motion. Pushing Azalea against the wall, she pulls out her handcuffs to place on the woman's wrists.

It's dangerous to play games of hunter and prey with The Devil, and when Peggy shows that look of fear, Azalea would lie to herself later to say it did not make her want to give chase. Instead, it's to the mission, and that gets her exactly what Peggy wants - though it's a shoulder full of door, bouncing her across the hall - right where Peggy can pounce.

The handcuffs come out and, and Azalea's eyes fall shut, pulling in a steadying breath just as metal touches her wrist. The hip-escape is flawless, easing backwards to encourage more force to pin her, emulating a struggle, and then ducking down and to the side. Her fingers coil at Peggy's wrist on her way out, a leg tucks behind the Living Legend's own.

They're going for a ride.

When they hit the ground, Azalea should roll forward - should try to get away, but face to face with the taller woman there's a slight widening of her eyes, and her grip at her wrists loosens just a little.

"Holy shit. I saw you in a museum!"

Azalea leans back, and she looks absolutely harrowed. "I didn't know that.. I thought Steve was the only one. Wait.. what was your name again? I need to find Steve Rogers!" Of course, this is all just one big opening. She's way to relaxed now, and doesn't even realize that SHIELD agents are slow-marching towards her from both ends of the hall.

Peggy knows nothing about games of hunter and prey with the Devil. This is simply an intruder in SHIELD and she will do what she must in order to subdue her. As the door smashes into the Devil, she feels a triumphant sense of catching a wanted woman. It should be handcuffs and applause for all. However, as soon as soon as she gets close enough, things shift.

Despite her struggle, Peggy finds herself a prisoner to the expertly executed physics of Azalea's escape. As the leg tucks behind her, the woman already knows the outcome. Pushing herself more against Azalea, she attempts to lessen the impact of her back onto the floor. There's only so much she can do, but she manages to keep the wind from being knocked out of her lungs, even as she finds herself pinned.

The last thing she expected to hear, however, is the exclamation that she was seen in a museum. Her eyes widen and then narrow. Peggy knows the operations of SHIELD and knows they will be coming shortly. When Azalea gives an opening, she twists her hips and shoves with her arms to unbalance the woman who is already leaning back. The things said could all have been gleaned from the Smithsonian exhibit. There's no mercy there.

"He has a secretary named Melodie. She's a lovely woman and makes his appointments. No need to break into SHIELD."

Azalea raises a hand, as she's bucked backwards and to the side, and she would raise a hand to protest concerning Melodie, because she /did/ try to call. They thought she was another fan! She barely knew who Steve Rogers was until a couple weeks ago! THIS IS BULLSHIT!

And that is her last thought before ICE-er rounds slam into her. To her credit. She does not immediately go down, struggling to her feet and squaring with one team - only to get pelted again in the back by another. "F..fuck. It's about.. Bucky!"


She crashes to the carpet, all heavy breathes and drool as a shock pellet and an ICEer both work to subdue SHIELD's newest fugitive to be, her eyes rolled back as she twitches in place. One of the Agents of the tac team stands over them both, offering a hand down to Agent Carter. "Team B, stand down. Suspect in custody. Agent Carter tripped her up. Huh. Who the hell is Bucky?"

Perhaps it is bullshit, but it's all bullshit that Peggy doesn't know about. As the SHIELD agents rush forward to put an end to the security breach, ICER bullets slam into Azalea as Peggy keeps her restrained as best she can. The woman pushes herself to her feet before toppling over and speaking something of a magic word before passing out.

"Oh damn it all," Peggy mutters under her breath. While she nods at the Agent offering a hand, she stands up of her own volition, wincing a bit as she does. She still hasn't fully recovered from the auction. Without adrenaline pumping through her, it is noticeable now. Brushing herself off, she sighs. "I've got this one. She mentioned a code word in a mission of mine. Put her in a room, I'll interrogate her."

When Azaalea wakes up, she will find herself in a small room. It has strange round bubbles on all the walls and a metal table in the center. She is on a small cot and there is a table with two chairs opposite each other in the middle. Peggy sits at one of them. Due to the nature of ICERs, the woman had a decent idea of when she could assume she would wake up.

"So. You wished to speak about Sergeant Barnes?"

"You can go. Your underwear are somewhere over there.. I think. Maybe. No we're not in a barn..what the /fuck/ are.."

It isn't her best moment. It isn't exactly that she's groggy, it's just that when she wakes up she thinks the question was something else, and she does not think that Peggy Carter is the living legend and founder of SHIELD, but the latest in a long line of discarded conquests.

The fog lifts a little, and she looks around, pulling at her wrists - which are cuffed in to prevent any sudden repeat of her previous outburst. Eventually her eyes focus, eventually she finds the woman who spoke in the museum exhibit sitting across from her again. Different, but the same, and it all comes rushing back with a grit of her teeth.

Finally, she sinks back in her chair, her gaze searching the room for some evidence of how dire her situation is, and she knows one person in Gotham who will not be happy if he finds out about this. Whatever, it was to important to ignore.

"Barnes. Right."

She remembers that he was called that in the exhibit - she'd taken her time to sight see while she was in town - and now she'd finally gotten to someone who would at least talk to her about the man she'd been chasing for weeks. "Yeah I need your help. He has a boyfriend, this Steve Rogers guy. They were in love back in 1940 or something, and then Steve let him fall to his doom, and I saw it /all/ like I was there myself, and I can't just let Bucky go running around as some sort of mad dog. They fuck with his head. They mess with his mind. It isn't really his /fault/."

Whoever Azalea Kingston is, one thing is very clear: She cares very dearly about Bucky Barnes.

There is almost an amused eyebrow raise at Azalea's first comment that starts this interrogation. People often are groggy when waking from tranquilizers and she waits it out, hands folded politely on the table in front of her. She does not dress much like the woman in the Smithsonian exhibit. Her clothing is modern, her hair at the moment is straight instead of pincurled into a vintage look. However, it is unmistakably the same woman.

As the person who fought SHIELD To talk to Steve in front of her speaks, Peggy gives little indication about whether this information is new or even anything that may release her. "Yes, these are all things that were available for public view at the Smithsonian." Bucky and Steve's friendship - she raises no eyebrows or arguments about how Azalea took their relationship - his fall to his death. What does catch part of her attention is the insistence that Bucky's mind is being controlled. It's hard to tell, though, She's incredibly even keeled.

Using Azalea's own language, she states clearly and calmly, "Bucky is dead. He can't be mind controlled."

"Dead people don't fight Nazi Sorcerers at charity auctions. Unless, like… maybe if they were a vampire. But like a good vampire. Like on that old show, Angel. But then there would have been a whole cadre of people helping them, like a nerdy science freak and a demon and.."

Okay so maybe the tranq effects haven't completely passed, her stream of consciousness taking over her thought for a moment, and then she shakes her head and gives Peggy a slow once over, the visceral deconstruction of her gaze not at all befitting someone her shape, size or age. Oh, Peggy will have seen looks like this one before, perhaps not /quite/ as predatory, but they usually came from some of the soldiers who hadn't quite gotten to know her right cross just yet.

Eventually she finds Peggy's gaze, and she leans forward a little, some small bit of anger lending a weight to her words. "They put him to sleep. Drag him out. Shock him. Say the words. He does the mission." There's a pause in her methodical accounting, and she swallows. Because a part of her, The Devil Inside, revels in images like the ones she saw flash in Bucky's head - images of methodically executing whole families, and watching them fall atop each other in a twitching pile.

The other part of her dies inside, every time she reaches back, but she'd suffer far worse to find him. To free him. "Then he goes back and does it all again. You knew him, right? I saw you in pictures. How the fuck are all you people still alive?" She means Her, Steve, Bucky all. A slump backwards, exasperation setting in, and a desperation that maybe no one here would believe her after all.

Fuck. Is she going to have to break /out/ of this place too?

Peggy Carter does not get the reference of Angel. That's one of the many things she still has to catch up on, though she has been getting better about that. She's seen most of the new Disney animated movies now! That's something. However, the auction is met with a bit of narrowed eyes. Studying the woman a bit more closely, things start to fall into place. "You were at the auction. As a waitress."

Her hands move from being folded over each other to interlocking fingers. As Azalea continues to discuss what people have done to Bucky, there is a slight frown that turns her lips downward. It's subtle, but noticeable to someone with the other woman's intense study. "I believe I might have started this a bit ahead of where we should have. Let's start with a few other things before we speak of Sergeant Barnes' treatment, I'd like to know who you are and why you think you know these things."

The question about how they are all still alive is met with a raised eyebrow and a very dry reply, "Army food. It's very preserving."

The slump in her seat gives her an image of consigned defeat, but her gaze says otherwise, cutting a deathray across the table as Peggy begins to understand, piecing some part of it together. There's a tick at the corner of her mouth, teasing and tempting, as if she might manage a smile against her terrible predicament and the uphill battle she faces of convincing SHIELD to help her.

Maybe though, she doesn't have to convince all of SHIELD, just the first and very best of them.

"Pretty sure you got my ID. It isn't fake. Azalea Kingston. College student." Her gaze cuts to Peggy's hands, as if she could read a book there written in the way her skin creases at her knuckles ever so slightly. "Former college student. I used to play guitar and write music. Now I write the measure of a man when he steps in front of me." Her head tilts a little as she tries to describe her current state to The Living Legend, and she looks like she's talking about the perfect night out with the perfect person, rather than the language of violence. "They know their weight, their balance, and come at me with the confidence of someone bigger. But I know those things now, too. I see them move before they finish thinking it, shadows cast forward by muscle memory, and I'm already moving."

She leans forward, locking onto Peggy, crystal blues that pin soft brown. "I don't know what I am now, but I take them apart. Stronger than I look, faster. I take a punch, it should put me down but I just feel lethal, men who have years on me, experience, every advantage but the one I have. And sometimes.. I see more than how they move. Sometimes my mind can brush theirs, and it's like a flood. I savor every terrible thing they've ever done, a love letter to all the bad parts that give me my terrible power, and a curse to carry for the person I once was."

Her intensity becomes distance, emotion clouding her gaze. "I'll never forget his horrors, but he might forget the man he once was. Every time it takes more away, strips him bare, crushes him back to that cube of ice deep in his core. He /needs/ you. He /needs/ Steve. He needs /me/. /Please/, there's no one else like you or him in the whole fucking world that can bring him back. You're all he's got left."

Much like it unwise to play prey to a hunter, it is just as dangerous (mostly for her freedom) to try and con an interrogator like Peggy Carter. It's, perhaps, just part of the dance. Attempting to pin down who Azalea Kingston is a tough thing. However, she has interrogated Dotties and Thompsons and senators and starlets…she's sure she can make something out of this.

During Azalea's response, she doesn't interrupt or speak. There's a slight tilt of her head as she listens to the explanation. The words come out like a poem or a riddle in an old tale. She's no stranger to people with abilities. In fact, her current injuries are due to magic. However, this is something else entirely. Attempting to strip down the very basics of what Kingston is trying to say, she suggests, "What you're saying is that you're able to read a person's strengths and weaknesses when you meet them?" Peggy tends to be a nuts and bolts sort of learner.

She's not completely without sympathy when she hears the emotion in Azalea's voice. It sounds sincere, but so can many people attempting to convince her of what they want her to believe. "Why does he need you?" Her tone this time is not investigator, it's curious.

There's a way about her already, a darkness that seeps from a tiny vessel, to big to contain it, revealed under the sharp scrutiny of a seasoned interrogator. She is not one person, but many, and yet there is no duplicity in her. When Peggy speaks of her ability and asks the question, her fists tighten against her restraints. Someone recently asked Peggy who she was. Someone dark and vile who stood for everything she fought against in a time long past. There, at the Auction, The Devil Inside had thought with infinite ego that the question had been meant for him.

Now someone was asking who she was again, about her power. What had Xiuhnel said in response to the question that it had thought was meant for him? Oh yes.

Let me show you.

It should be impossible, but possible and not have become things melded at the edges ever since Muller's soul burned the God inside Azalea and set more of it's immense power free. Metal cracks, screws give away, and suddenly the girl is sliding across the table, her former restraints a shower of discarded metal behind her as strength of a murdered God's ego grants her freedom.

"I'm the only one who can prove he's innocent."

When she lands astride Peggy in her chair it's to keep her seated, but the momentum will already have them tipping back, tipping over, and when her hands cup Peggy's cheeks it does not feel like an attack.

The crackle of a radio will flood their minds eye.

The silence after Steve says her name rends to the heart. The silence of a man who is coming to grips with his looming fate.

'I'm here'

But she can remember how far away she was. How resolve bridged the distance as she tried to be there for him in what she was certain were his last moments. The looming dread. That thing gnawing at the pit of Peggy's stomach.

He tells her he's going to need a rain check on that dance. They arrange a date they will never have, through tears Steve can't hear through the static of the radio, through a terror Peggy can't hear through the rush of wind on the other side.

He asks one more thing of her, but reality comes next, the chair toppling over and spilling Az somewhere off to the side, and when Steve's words come, it's from the voice of a girl who now shares in her greatest sin.

"You know.. I still don't know how to dance!"

She blurts it out, and with it the sob of memory, wracked by a blur of emotion she could not hope to understand as she swallows Peggy Carter's greatest sin.


"..f..fuck. F…why didn't you tell him?" It's a faint whisper, as tears streak dark makeup, and blot out her vision, she curls on her side.

As the restraints rend, Peggy is already starting to stand up, her hands flying apart from their folded position to lay flat on the table to give her more momentum. However, before she is able, Azalea is there, forcing her back onto her metal chair and they are tipping backwards. Automatically, her arms are flung upward to block what she is sure is an attack. Instead, she finds her hands on Azalea's wrists as they fall in what feels like slow motion.

By the time they hit the floor with a considerable clang of metal against metal, there are unbidden tears on Peggy's cheek. A door opens quickly, a SHIELD agent with an ICER ready to subdue Azalea.

"I've got this." Peggy doesn't snap at the third woman, but her words are firm. She shoves herself upward to her feet and gestures to be left alone. A hand brushes against one cheek and then another as she wipes the tears from evidence. That's a memory she has thought of often: recently, even. But, that was like reliving that horrible moment all over again. There's a deep breath as she recomposes herself.

Then, she moves to Azalea and kneels down beside the girl. "Are you alright?" The question of asked of her is left unanswered for now.

The slow intake of breath brings her back, and she's already placed a palm to the floor, her body shaking with the exertion of raw emotion. Xiuhnel, the Sky Serpent, the murdered God that passes itself as a Devil in the Dark corners of the mind, feeds. Azalea Kingston, exactly the wrong kind of host for it, sobs. It takes her several moments, and when she looks up to see Peggy she can only stare in shock as she comes to understand, in that moment, her resolve. She had thought she had seen horror, and known terror, in the mind of The Winter Soldier, but never had she felt her Dark Side so satisfied by someone's plight.

How can someone live with that?

There's a slow exhale, and as she forces herself to sit up she presses a hand to her forehead, as if to try to force some measure of composure back into herself, and then she scoots back to the nearby wall, her head making a resounding thud as it rests against hard metal. She doesn't wipe away her tears, because those are for Peggy, shed for all the times she kept herself from crying in polite company when others asked her about Steve Rogers, when others inferred a relationship she never got to have with him.

"Probably not. But who's got time for 'alright'? You know now. I saw him, just like I saw you. I saw him fall away from Steve. I felt his terror, his regret in his last moment." She looks like she might crack again, and as her hands shake she curls them into fists before pressing one to the floor to help pick herself up, standing instead of sitting. "That he couldn't be there for the person he loved most in the world. You share different shades of the same story, and I needed you to /know/."

There's a moment when she looks to the door. She could make it. The agent outside would be ready, but she liked her chances. But in the aftermath of such turmoil, a reverie from decades past, anguish tears at her soul. If Peggy wanted to lock her up forever, she wouldn't leave her right now.

Instead the Agent will find herself set upon, this time with a hug. "Will you help me find Bucky Barnes? Will you help me fix him?"

Peggy sits back on her feet as Azalea pushes herself up. She allows the younger woman to lean herself against the wall and studies this woman. If she wanted a way to unsettle someone and to get them to trust in their abilities, this would be the perfect way to do it. Her breath remains as steady as she can keep it. It's an old pain that pulses through her chest now, one that she knows how to push down through the years that she dealt with and attempted to move past it.

The description of Bucky and his fall from the train is met with a frown. That's another memory, tucked along with the receiver room. A bombed out pub, Steve at a table, grieving with a drink that could never make him drunk.

'Allow Barnes the dignity of his choice.'

'Peggy, this is my choice.'

The memories from Xiuhnel makes it all very visceral, as if it happened yesterday, not four years, ninety years ago. About then, she's hugged. It's a surprise to her. There are very few people who have attempted to hug her during an interrogation. Perhaps only Howard. She's still slightly wary of Azalea, but she puts a stiff arm around her in return.

There's a long pause as she debates her answer. "I make no guarantees," she tells Azalea. "A search for Barnes is ongoing."

The girl with the Devil Inside can already feel it drifting away from her. Not the memory, that pain will be with her forever, feeding one side whenever it flashes back while all at once scarring the other. But she knows Xiuhel does not show women the consideration of comfort, nor seek it in so timid a way, and when she dips her head against Peggy, when she feels her fingers curl ever so slightly, she knows she should step away.

The predator returns, hungry again, but Azalea can keep him in check, channel him towards other things. Tonight, if she's not in a jail cell, she's going to need to find someone worse than herself to beat into submission, and someone prettier than herself to conquer, all with a stiff drink to wash away the haze of vice and settle those stolen memories to the back of her mind.

For all the things Azalea will do that she does not want to, but must, she files them under 'Worth it', because today she stepped closer to finding a man in as much pain in her, and though she can never rid herself of her own malady, maybe she can help rid Bucky of his.

When she levels with Peggy it's to search her face for the earnest way she's always carried herself, even when plying someone for information. She knows then she's looking at a much stronger human being than she'll ever be, and trusts her, despite the lack of guarantee.

"I can't make any either. Except that I'll help you, and that I'll do it without killing anyone." She swallows here, and reaches up to run her hands through her hair. "I know you'll probably break some rules, but I should really meet Steve. We should all formulate a plan. I might.. maybe, have a way to find Bucky. I just didn't have a way to bring him in."

Peggy is not hugged often and certainly not from a woman she handcuffed only an hour or so earlier. Allowing the hug to go on for the proper amount of time, she then pulls back to put Azalea the proper distance away from her. After a moment, she stands, smoothing her clothing down as she does so. There's a nod at the offer of help. Azalea's ability to see things such as that as well as how this may help both Steve and Bucky is filed away.

"I'll speak with Captain Rogers," she tells Azalea. If she truly has a way to find Bucky, it's worth the conversation and explanation. "It will be his decision." She pauses, then adds, "And I will only speak with him if you promise to not…if you do not use what you did with me on him." As far as she is concerned, Steve has enough guilt in his life.

Peggy looks to the door and sighs. "I will see what I can do about allowing you to leave. It may take a few hours. There's processing to consider."

The classiest dame on the planet Earth asks her to refrain from using her power, and it almost makes her smile, and once again she's leaning back against the wall, her arms crossed over that diminutive frame. Such a slip of a creature - there are going to be some embarrassed SHIELD security agents waiting to see what Peggy found out, for sure. One can only imagine what they will think when she recommends Azalea's release.

"Honestly. I don't think I can really use it on anyone. Maybe the stars need to align. Maybe you have to be ready to let go. But either way, you have my word - I'll keep my distance. Won't go grabbing at his face to stare into his soul."

At the premise of being stuck here for awhile, she casts a glance to the door. It's still tempting to try and leave. It would be far more satisfying, but she'd never get the help she needs.

"Fine. No problem. You should.. uh.. I mean, it's probably not a good idea I'm in here alone though. Maybe that other agent could come in? I promise to just sit across the table from her and stare. No table jumping. Scouts honor."

Well, none of Xiunhel's previous hosts were ever scouts of any sort, but that's still a promise made in earnest.


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