The Heart of a Murdered God

February 03, 2017:

Zatanna Zatara calls on Azalea Kingston next. Now that her soul-related problems have been mostly settled, she intends to get back to the serious business of keeping Xiuhnel the Cloud Serpent in check, but a distraught Azalea confronts her about her absence and the reasons why Zatanna elected to leave her out of the problems that nearly killed her.

Jessica Jones' Apartment Building - New York City

Brownstone building where Alias Investigations is headquartered.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: John Constantine, Jessica Jones, Tim Drake, Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

There are so many places in the world you can go to feel like a God, and New York has no shortage of vantage points that can inspire or transfix. The top of Jessica Jones' apartment building might fall short of those wonderful vistas, but Azalea Kingston does not come here to feel like a God.

She comes here to feel human.

For years she'd thought of New York as far to big, to impersonal to enjoy. It was part of why she settled on Gotham, aside from the mystery and the music scene, something that felt more intimate and suited to her tastes. But here in the waning hours of daylight, in the warm glow of a sun less than an hour from setting, the long shadows of various buildings still struggled to take hold, sunlight searing paths of reflection from windows above and below it does not feel so impersonal at all. Here on one of two old lawn chairs, hauled from some dumpster and lovingly chucked up each level of the fire escape, Azalea sits and waits. She basks in the dying day and inhaling the air of the coming night, eyes closed as if deep in thought. It's growing cold, but she still runs hot, and a tank top replaces her uniform top, for it's far to awkward to pluck at her guitar while wearing something bulletproof.


There are some very important reasons as to why she has not left New York yet to return to Gotham.

The events in Ozone Park have left many with more than just a few additional scars, but the reclamation of her soul and the strides she has made together with John Constantine (who has been reeling over the simple, uncharacteristic fact that /nobody died/) have left Zatanna Zatara in a state in which she is more worried about everyone else than she is about herself. Admittedly that would be the case no matter what happens to her, but compared to the rest, HYDRA's plan has left the kind of marks that she finds bearable to shoulder. The discovery of just what it is inside her has made her restless in her sleep, and the idea of facing Bucky Barnes eventually has her in a constant state of apprehension, not just because of her difficulty reconciling what she knows about the man versus what she remembers the man doing, but because she is not accustomed to keeping things - especially those that deal with emotion - unresolved. But until such a time when she can figure out her approach, she can take care of other things.

Like her friendship with Azalea Kingston, who she had left to the wayside while she attempted to solve her own problems. Save for a few texts, she has not sat down with her for weeks, too embroiled in the very urgent business of saving her own life, and too sensitive in the end about John's fears for her safety that the idea of letting a bloodthirsty Aztec god know that his favorite banquet is vulnerable was probably unwise. Now that she has reclaimed the full strength of her defenses, she can sit down with her and speak with her face to face.

When she arrives, she bears none of the traces of those earlier struggles. Fresh-faced and ready to take on the world, she appears very much the same way as when Azalea had first met her; clad in her signature blacks, ice-blue eyes teeming with her insurmountable vivacity, color whipped into pale cheeks by frost-laden winds. Her lengthy black hair has been pulled in a careless knot at the nape of her neck, the rest of it spilling tousled and free around her face and shoulders. Expensive Prada boots have made quick work on the steps leading up to the rooftop of Jessica's apartment building, and while she does not carry a bag with her, she has brought a couple of cups of coffee from the local Starbucks.

"Jess told me you were staying with her these days," she says in lieu of a greeting, setting the cups on the upturned crate in front of her, between the two lawn chairs. "Do you intend to go back to Gotham eventually?"


She'd brought the guitar with her as a distraction. Chosen the rooftop for all the ways it made her forget that the thrill in her heart was not her own when she heard someone fighting down the way, that the sounds, two floors down, of a new couple grappling near an open window was not in fact for her enjoyment. But when she feels Zatanna coming, no distraction in the world can cut through what it does do her, inside and out.

It's in the way she's already looking at her when she ascends the stares and imposes herself on her little thinking spot with all the exuberance she remembered and all the vitality she had so sorely missed. Azalea's lips part, and the way the sun catches her from the side makes her free-falling locks dance against a soft breeze and a backlit glow. But so too does it show a radiation: Magical. Dark. Hungry.

She doesn't feel the shame yet, the way she had when Zatanna had taken her hand and pressed it down, a firm touch that brought with it a rebuke that was as gentle as the magician could make it, but cut as deep as any shard of crudely hewn obsidian might.

It new that feeling. It's oldest memory.


There's a flutter of dark lashes against freckled skin, and before that fierce and unnatural gaze of hers can finish it's simmering evaluation she cuts a hard look to the makeshift table between them, fingers frozen where they were in the moments before, when she felt so very human.


It's a curated self control that lets her set that guitar aside with a steady hand, bruised knuckles coming into view when she draws them over her lap, curls them. There's a steadying measure to the next breath she takes, and she reaches for the gift of luxurious Starbucks, an indulgence both God and Girl alike can enjoy. There's a silence then as she takes a sip and looks anywhere but at her, afraid of what it might give away. Unresolved feelings, terrible realization, and terror. Fear.

Because Zatanna almost died.

The thought brings her gaze back up and she has no way to make light of it, to push it down and talk about the weather, or which couch she'll crash on this week or next in the tumble of sating Xiuhnel's desires in ways that let her retain her humanity. "If I can get my life together. Figure out the things that have changed." There's a beat, and her breath catches, until it's just to much to keep in. "Tell me what happened to you? Tell me why I couldn't know. Why I couldn't help." She tries to keep the anger out of her voice, the anger of someone who cares. It is not The Devil Inside that speaks with a need for it's precious candy, but the human who was so very lonely, so very broken, who made a friend that she almost lost without ever knowing it.



She curls her fingers over her cup as she takes a seat on the second lawn chair, watching the way steam curls out of the small spigot the little cup cover makes. Lips purse, to send the wisps away with a breath, before taking a quiet sip of it. It warms her, welcome in the chill set upon them by the weather and high altitudes. But unlike her companion, her appreciation for the sunset is brief, and one that she foregoes in favor of looking at her friend directly. There is guilt, among other things on that pale mien; as usual, Zatanna's face is prone to expressiveness, unable to hide her feelings even when it would serve her some good, even if it could preserve limb and sanity to not be so vulnerable.

It is there because of the anger and the hurt that she detects in Azalea's voice. But she squares her shoulders and girds herself internally. She is not a stranger to having it out with someone, it's just that usually, that someone is John Constantine, ever so adept as he is in riling up her more volatile emotions. The fact that she might have to with Azalea Kingston is new, especially since she isn't too much of a deft hand either, when it comes to tact. Her emotional recklessness, combined with her youth leave very little room for it sometimes, though perhaps it is also because she /has/ to trust her friends to be able to handle what she says when she is in a state like this. She has long since been resigned to the fact that she could drive people away with her intensity, that she can, on occasion, prove to be /too much/ for someone to shoulder.

But she doesn't know how to be anything else.

"When Steinschneider found out that John and Daddy were after him, he tried to pit them against each other by holding me hostage from afar. He needed my blood, so he arranged for a friend of mine to get attacked on campus knowing I would have to try and defend him without clueing him in on what I was." Though she eventually let Tim Drake in on her secrets, eventually. "My father only has one weakness, I'm afraid, and everyone knows what it is. And John is formidable in his own right, so I assume that he figured he could kill two birds with one stone by having them duke it out and leave him in the clear. So he brokered a deal with the Cult of the Cold Flame, which had its agents attempt to rip my life from my body from afar after he delivered a sample of my blood to them. They kept trying. I managed to ward them off for a time but they don't have any shortage of numbers, they can try day in and day out, so they just ate at my protections constantly. John built…something in his flat in New York to keep them from getting to me. He meant it for Steinschneider but he ended up using it for me instead. That's why I had to hide out in New York, it was the only way they couldn't get to me."

She picks quietly at her cup, on the holder that prevents her from burning her fingers.

"I tried to solve the problem myself. I was ready to bust some heads and call Mammon himself to figure out what the hell he really wants. I was desperate to save my own life, but I ended up…"

I wanted to /hurt/ you, John.

"I've been on my own for months before I returned to the United States. I kept getting left, by the people who trust me the most. So on the road that time, I had to rely on myself more and more, and once I got accustomed to it, I didn't know how other way to be. I was reluctant most of all to take John's advice, and his help. I threw a lot of his attempts to look after me right at his face, because he's abandoned me once before. Except I was wrong about that, too."

Her jaw sets at that.

"That's part of it. I don't want to be a burden to anyone, no matter what anyone says about being there for me as I've been for anyone else. It's habit that's too ingrained, I know. But I never proclaimed to be perfect and being crazily independent and stubborn about it seemed a better option compared to the alternative." Of being /too much/ for somebody to handle that she gets left, again, completely. "The other part was that I was vulnerable, Az. I didn't think it'd be safe to be around you especially after Xiuhnel was very clear as to what he wanted from me when we first talked. When things between John and me escalated again, I couldn't do that to him. Put myself in further risk when I could prevent it. I did what I thought I had to do."


As the story unfolds, as Zatanna lays out her mountains and all the cuts and scrapes she's accumulated in an attempt to climb them she settles back, her gaze fixed on her cup and the way her mouth feels so dry. But she doesn't want to take a drink, doesn't want to move while the magician tells her the plight that almost brought her end. There's a hard swallow, and her eyes shift farther away, as if seeing her speak the words might cut into her again, draw more from her than the forming tears that threaten to spill over.

She could handle every ounce of it, the explanation of a danger she thought she needed to face herself, the independence that had served her so very well for so very long. Those tears spill over and show her makeup the plight of gravity, mean streaks of darkness that turn the cheap stuff into a badge of emotional distress, held still in her heart but for the moisture that falls.

When her gaze cuts back to Zatanna it's searching for her humanity, something it does not often seek in other people. Those expressions she used to drink in, emotional energy that used to tease her God-soul and drown her mind in thoughts so dark, so savage, that she thought she never might come back. She looks now for another reason, to find some hint of regret. She sees the set line of her jaw. Sees her resolve and feels it in every word that replays in her mind.

Her coffee finds the makeshift table, and her arms cross to fight the numbness that grows deep in her chest, as every part of her two souls tangle and twist and pull at her insides. Finally, she finds the words, tears dripping from her jawline as she tries to explain to Zatanna why it hurts.

"I'm not Xiuhnel."

Whatever wave of emotion had broken her calm, had forced her tears to fall, fails to overcome the confidence in those words, and as she stands and the sun sets behind her she somehow seems something she's never been in her entire existence: Larger than life.

"Xiuhnel isn't sorry. Doesn't want to be friends. He doesn't apologize when he crosses the line. Doesn't leave himself vulnerable. Not anymore. Not since /her/. But /I/ do. Because that's what friends do, Zatanna! They open up! They trust! They do the hard thing, when it's most dangerous."

She chokes up, and swallows away the sob that rises, her arms shaking as she lets out every ounce of her pent up frustration. "I am everything Xiuhnel is fucking not, and I show it every god damn day. I showed it when Muller burned my soul, made me feel this fucking thing deeper and forced me to live in Batman's /cave/ for a week. I showed it when I saved that girl from those cultists, after they tried to chain my soul to their bullshit will, and I showed it the other night when I followed you into Fascist Paradise Land to save Bucky Barnes. And I know that doesn't erase what happened when that blue.. gunk.. light.. SHIT made me lose my mind and try to steal you away, but you can't just put me in some fucking corner whenever you're in trouble. I'm /not/ a monster. /You/ helped show me that. How /could/ you?!"

The world grows eerie in it's silence following her words, because like it or not, a God has spoken. Not quite Xiuhnel, not quite Azalea, and her power booms from a depth of emotion, demanding that New York, for a little while, give them a nice quiet place.

So they can argue.


She is not shaken.

Zatanna Zatara is /exhausted/. The last month since her less-than-glorious return to the land in which she spent some of her childhood has not been kind to her. Through all of her trials and tribulations, what she has managed to do, still, in spite of everything, is be there for the people who need her the most. People who did not know her, but who had a chance to get to know her. Her availability, her openness, the thing that makes her so accessible to the broken souls that tend to gravitate to the smell of her blood in the water, is what makes her, as Jessica says, important and therefore irreplaceable - not her powers, not her magic. But to think that doesn't take a /toll/ on her is naive, and nobody who truly knows her would ever assume that. She has done her best to help shoulder other people's burdens in hopes that they do not find /her/ a burden, ingrained behavior that has been instilled upon her after a devastating, rainy night in Paris as a child.

So when Azalea rounds on her and fixes her eyes on her, her anguished words accentuated by the power of the bloodthirsty god inside her, she is not cowed by its influence. She has faced her death just a few days ago and for the time being, any capacity for fear has been smothered.

What her friend sees on her face is anger. It lights up her eyes, mirrors holding incandescent electricity. Her cheeks bloom with the flush of her white-hot temper, because that limitless capacity for emotion is not without its barbs. Her fingers clutch her cup tightly and her lips curl to bare her teeth.

She is tired.

She is /so tired/.

"How could I? /How could I/?!"

Her voice rises at that. The raven-haired magician pulls herself up to her feet and rounds on her friend. In a sudden show of violent physicality, she /throws/ the cup of coffee she has in her hand, letting it rebound off a nearby trash bin with a clang.

"I did show you that," she hisses. "I /did/. When I pulled you out of the dumpster to help you out, I knew what you were and when you texted me, I came, because I'm not the sort to renege on my word when I give it. But while I was helping you, I was dealing with my own shit, and there's /plenty of it/, Az. Plenty I thought I should handle myself! And can you /seriously blame me/ for taking precautions?! I wasn't just thinking of me! I was thinking of everyone else who already think I'm /way too fucking reckless/ to have what I have, and the methods I use! Am I supposed to just throw away their concerns also to make you feel….what? /Needed/? /Wanted/?"

Her breaths leave her lungs in ragged spurts. Somewhere inside herself, the floodgates are loosed.

"I shut you out. I know that. But at the time I thought I did what was /best/ for me, at a time when I was /most vulnerable/. And you /dare/, you /dare/ try to make me feel horrible about the choices I had to make to protect myself?! To protect /you/ if your control lapses when the thing inside you smells the holes put in me and chains you up again so it could get to me?! If our positions were reversed, do you think I would do /this/ to you?! I would be hurt, yeah, but I wouldn't be fucking offended! I wouldn't insist on interjecting myself into your affairs when you feel like I shouldn't be involved for some very good fucking reasons!"

Those angry eyes bore on the Dark Devil.

"You already forced yourself on me once, Az."


There are long moments where Zatanna's anger feels like a familiar balm, to all the parts of her she wishes she could have left to die in that dumpster, right up until Zatanna mentions how much Azalea wants to be wanted or needed. She can't look at her anymore from then on out, head turned to the side as she wins the tide of anger. For Azalea to let anymore out she'd have to lose control, and after what she saw when she saved Bucky, after what Xiuhnel had told her to convince her, in the end, that it was all a fantasy.

You'll only be at peace if I win.

When the final words fall they ring through her body like a shockwave, a cut so deep and so true it churns in the darkest part of her, and it shows on her face. There's probably not one in the world who could tell her how much of a monster she was to her face and have it hurt.

Except for Zatanna Zatara.

"I'm not offended, Zatanna." There's no more wind in her sails, her shoulders slumped and the presence that made her so fierce cut to pieces. A trembling hand reaches for her chair to guide her narrow behind into it, adrenaline souring in her system as she ruminates on the magician's rage. Eventually, she finds the strength to look at her again, to ache at how angry she is, to stare into an abyss she can't crawl out of.

"I've been a monster to everyone else who's been close to me, and I didn't want to be one to you. You were my only friend. My only friend. You almost died." The pain she expresses draws a hand to her mouth, the pain of thinking of this person she fell hard for dead and gone, and finding out after the fact, her hand shaking and a sob wracking her. "But you're right."

Her concession comes after wiping her face with the back of her hand, black smudges adding to the bruises there, and she gives a long exhale. "If you can't forgive me for what I did, you're right. If you think I'm a monster, then you're right. If there's no way I can prove I'm not, then you're right."

There's no right thing for her to say, and it shows on her face. She wanted to do anything but this when Zatanna came to see her, and Jessica had told her all these things - her reasons, the mountains Zatanna had to climb.

Azalea just couldn't let it go. Love hurts.


"You asked me how I could do what I did," Zatanna counters, unbridled heat setting her words on fire. "That I would make you feel human only to somehow cruelly /take that away/ when I elected to shut you out because I thought it was in my best interests /and/ yours! That sounded pretty fucking offended to me, Az! That wasn't my intention at all!"

At the moment, she is fury personified, with her red cheeks and eyes like molten, white-blue fire, hair whipping around her at the mercy of the winds assailing the top of Jessica's apartment building, shadows come to life. The fabric of reality shudders around them, throbbing, rapid pulses akin to the march of scores of timpani drums. A pale imitation of the danger she presents, to everyone and everything around her, but a glimpse of it, an ominous stirring in the horizon. She is ever so powered by her emotions; Tim Drake, as always canny with his observerations, had told her once that she is stronger when she is fueled by her wild and crazy heart. She and the world at large, for now, have absolutely no idea how terrifyingly true that is.

It abates, though, just a touch, when her friend slumps on her seat. Even now, she is not beyond empathy - she knows what lies beyond that door. Remembers a metal hatch slamming down, the last time she had tried to disregard someone's care. A similar situation, but different also. While she is fully aware that both god and woman desire her, she had not come here to lash out at her friend. She did not come here to deliberately hurt her. She did not come here to defend her decision to do what she did, which is something she considers as one of the more well-reasoned things she has done since her return back to the States. Her anger was to be expected - to be castigated for not thinking on one end, to end up suffering the same when she does.

How else was she going to react?

"I didn't come to fight, Az."

She takes a slow, deep, deliberate breath.

"I haven't forgotten about you," she tells her, slowly reclaiming her seat. She doesn't have any coffee now, so she slips her hands in her pockets and sinks further into the seat, her legs stretching out in front of her. Her eyes linger on the cityscape, willing herself to let go of her anger now that Az has acknowledged just what went wrong in the last few moments. "That's why I came. I thought once I was settled with everything, we could go back to figuring…you…out. I wanted to ask how you were doing."

She turns her head to look at Azalea. "Do you still have the nightmares?"


There's nothing for fighting anymore. Azalea's heart is ripped out and beating in all the ways The Obsidian Butterfly would enjoy, and she's certain it will stay there. Certain it will die there. When she watches her friend become something terrible, terrifying, her eyes go just a little wide and her lips parting just so - the only time she has looked shocked, but it too passes when Zatanna quells her fury.

'I didn't come to fight'

It is a rallying cry for her sanity and she almost looks like she might cry again, when she tells her she hasn't been forgotten. Because Zatanna, for all of Azalea's mistakes, does not talk to her like a monster now despite her earlier condemnation.

There's a terrible sound. A shriek of wood against wood as a foot slowly edges that table towards Zatanna, apparently offering her coffee up as a sacrifice since she is directly responsible for ruining Zee's other cup.

It might be the onle brief moment of levity they share, as the conversation turns to how she is, fingers rising to somehow fuss with her face, to clean it up. Such a lost cause. After all this she cares how she looks in front of her. A mess upon a mess. Still, she manages to look at her - those haunting blue's finding Zee's crystal gaze and locking.

"Yeah. Not.. it's different. Muller did something to me. Attacked me, I guess? I don't know. But it.. afterwards, I woke up in Batman's cave, which, by the way, smells exactly like a Batcave would fucking smell. I could see him.. see /through/ him. See the way he moves like.. it was almost intimate?" She winces here, eager to forget what had transpired before, but still mired in it physically. "I can remember more of what it is, but also.. it isn't so much nightmares. It's a dreamscape, and I can do things inside it. It's like I have control, vivid control. But the same thing always happens. I'm a murderer, or worse. Or she's there, and she rides me until I can't breath, and before I open my eyes again, before I've caught my breath I can feel her cutting into me."

Her breath quickens, like she's living it, a panic coming and going in her eyes. "By the time she has hold of my heart, I wake up. And I'm covered in sweat, ashamed of how it makes me feel, like I was almost loved or something."

As she finishes recounting her tale in more detail than she ever has, as she tells Zatanna that her dreams have gravitated towards the beginning of her monster's life as a God-spirit, and not so much the rape, murder, and genocide between then and now, she sinks further into her seat and runs her hands over her arms.

It's as hollow as she's ever looked, the dichotomy to how she seemed before when she shouted down the city's sounds and drowned out all distraction.


At the offerance of the coffee cup, Zatanna shakes her head. A smile returns at the very least, lifting at the corners of her mouth. "I brought that for you," she tells her. "Least I could do for not seeing you for so long, right? You tried to bribe me with coffee before, I figured we could make it a tradition."

After a pause, she sighs, sifting around her pockets. She produces a small plastic package of Kleenex, which she has taken to bringing these days, considering how many tears she has shed within the last month. Enough to bring about a second Great Flood, she thinks sourly as she looks down at it. But she does withdraw a few sheets, to reach out across the distance. She would need makeup remover, but the younger woman does try to eradicate the black streaks of mascara on Azalea's face. Even now, in spite of her earlier rage, she finds the room, still, to fulfill her promises, to demonstrate that she means what she said. That she has come because she had not forgotten about her.

She is still at it; amidst the sweeps of gentle, disposable cloth she listens to what is being said to her. "So you can control it in some way, but the outcome is predetermined?" she wonders, her lips pursing faintly as she thinks. "Might be another level of integration that's more two-sided than its earlier version. When I first encountered you, he was definitely calling the shots. If you can control some aspects of the dream…whatever happened to you in the gala, it could have amplified your ability to…I don't know. Connect with Xiuhnel. But since it's still him, and his life….you probably can't change those because it's already happened. Gods are still bound by Fate, after all, no matter how murderous. That does present some interesting possibilities, though."

Once she has done her best to rid the black traces from her friend's face, she slowly lowers her hands, crumpling the spent pieces. "When I was trying to figure out your problem, I looked into him. And her - Itzpapalotl. The Obsidian Butterfly. Do you know much about her? I only know what the old stories say, but if there's anything John's taught me about deities, it's that sometimes they get it wrong, so people can also sometimes get them wrong."

A quiet buzzing sound emits from her back pocket. Absently, she fumbles for it to take a look at the text. The name on the caller ID and the contents of the message soften her expression:


Speak of the devil.

She taps a quick message:

ok. tell u later.

She hesitates. Mischief, brief, but overt, lights up her expression as she taps a few more keys with her thumbs.

xoxoxoxoxoxoxo <3 <3 <3 <3 !!!!

Oh god, I hope he's with Chas. I hope he sees this. Does he still think less than threes look like asses, that would be amazing.

She tucks her phone back into her pocket.


There's a quiet calm that finds her when Zatanna gets close, for all her anger and rage before, there are some things she can't help. One of them is what being close to Zatanna does on a level that goes beyond desire, the ephemeral warmth of her soul drowning the dark urges of her passenger in a contented coil. Her eyes close so she doesn't have to look at her so close, so she can focus on words instead of that caring touch and how worse it makes her feel about her behavior.

It isn't until Zatanna speaks the name of her lover and murderer that her eyes snap open. The emotion that wells at this piece of the puzzle brings a harrowed breath, a small huff of an exhale. "I didn't even know her name. Only how it feels like.. every decision I make in the dream is something /I/ want to do. No matter what it is. I.."

The buzz of the phone sends her blinking from her reverie, and she watches as Zatanna's expression becomes something soft and kind and wicked all at once. But most of all, she finds the same thing she finds in her dream.

She finds love.

It is a revelation for her, that Itzpapalotl loved Xiuhnel, but also makes her heart swell with something else. "You love him very much." It might be surprising to hear her bring it up, to watch her dwell on it, when she sees it on her friend's face. It is hard to admit, hard to swallow, but she knows plenty of hard truths.

Like that even in perfect Fascist ChristmasLand, she was not with Zatanna.

"I'm glad."

For all her anger before, and everything she feels for Zatanna Zatara, what she says it not a lie.


"That's worrisome," Zatanna says with a small frown. "Itzpapalotl keeps Xiuhnel's heart for herself, though the myths never really mentioned what she uses it for, or why she keeps it. It could very well be that she wants to make sure that the Cloud Serpent is kept under her control. Or maybe she was genuinely in love with him so she made sure that he wouldn't want anyone else." Which would, in theory, put Azalea and herself in deep shit if the Obsidian Butterfly decides to return to the world with the rest of her Tzizimime and the full weight of Tamoanchan's power behind her. But enough has happened to her and the Dark Devil that surely, surely the universe will levy some manner of mercy and keep that possibility confined in the realms of the improbable. Because that would be too much. It would simply be too ridiculous.


She was a goddess. It has to be because of power. She's just not sure what sort of power she would have with Xiuhnel's heart in her grasp.

Or whether the god inside the Dark Devil would even /want/ it back. She had been there in that first dreamscape, watched the two fornicate in a manner fitting their blood-soaked mythos. The moans and the screams and the wild undulation of bodies squirming on green grass stained with crimson, the sickening squelch of a chest being caved open, bones ripped away and long, elegant fingers grasping a still-beating heart…

"In any case, that does mean that there's a dangerous possibility that someone out there /can/ control what's inside you, so long as he or she's got the god's heart. If /you/ have it though, then…might be the only way to ensure that you've got a full grip on him, Az. And that's….a pretty huge undertaking. I mean it's not like we can just call up a crazy skeleton goddess and ask her to hand it over— "

'You love him very much.'

The sudden segue is disjointed enough to pull the young magician from her thoughts, to stare blankly at Azalea for just a moment, doing what she can to mentally recalibrate her gears in this shift in direction. There's a pause, and one that lingers, when she realizes just who the other woman is talking about, and what has prompted the sudden change of conversation. Something shifts inside of herself, a little uneasy, because there is something inappropriate about this. She is very familiar with her friend's love for her. This isn't new territory for her, when Tim has expressed the same, though his remains the infatuation of a young man. And much like how she tends to carefully navigate conversations with him, this is the same reason why she is reluctant to talk about her relationship with John to others who have expressed an interest in her. She does not want to exacerbate those wounds.

Azalea does what Tim has not though - she expresses her…not contentment, but at the very least approval in whatever terrible, beautiful thing she is creating with the Englishman. So she gives her friend a quiet smile.

"So much that I'm terrified," she confesses, though for someone who is, she meets her friend's eyes when she says it. Her own is filled with it, so eloquent in the adoration and affection that she has not described to another the depths of that it's almost embarrassing to see them there. "That if the worst happens, I might not recover. But I'm young, too. It could go either way. I could either outgrow him or never get over him if something tears us apart. I don't know what the future holds, but at the same time, I can't find it in me to care. If there's anything I realized in the last few weeks, it's that my life can be over at any moment. I always believed this, which is why I'm the way I am, but I never thought it could be so true until just a few days ago, when I was fading away. So….why hold back, especially when it involves something that I might never experience again? This…burning, bleeding, Heaven-and-Hell-be-damned kind of love."

She glances down at her fingers. She takes a breath.

"People in this world have destroyed themselves for so much less," she continues quietly. "To me, it makes more sense to be obliterated in this way. I can't think of a reason that's more worth it."


Really, there's just no way that it's possible Azalea's luck could get any worse, that The Obsidian Butterfly might make a play for the last thing she ever thought Xiunhel might find in the world: Some semblance of happiness. No no, this is fine.

All fine.

Maybe the world banks trust in all the right and wrong places, waiting until it's needed at the right moment, the right time, to mean something to someone. Azalea surely listens to Zatanna go on about her Murdered God and the love that he - and she - feel for the Obsidian Butterfly, feelings intertwined and inescapable, but the words fall away from her mind as she watches the lasting vestiges of her love for John carry in the light of her eyes and come to an abrupt stop as she faces Azalea's accusation, and subsequent approval. It's what she says next that makes her feel trusted. It's her admission that makes her feel the shame of ever doubting Zatanna cared about her.

Long before Azalea learned she could love her, long before she realized what her touch meant, she was always a person who would throw her arm around a friend and hold them close, always the person to share personal space as a gap between the loneliness of the world that swallowed souls whole. Zee admits her love in the purest way, words tumbling from a waterfall, describing a chaotic whirlwind of realization and emotion that will end in her promise to face obliteration itself with a worthwhile cause. Azalea's slender fingers find her cheeks, tilting her head up, her gaze searching her face and her eyes in a way almost alien. It's different than before, reassuring, but almost clinical, as if she were a doctor, checking her for some malady.

"/This is how you should be./"

Whatever gift she gained when Muller burned her twin souls lets her see when people are broken, know when they're weak, and right now, when Zatanna is embarrassed and thrilled and nervous and excited all at once, it looks and feels as right as anything she's ever seen.

The warmth of her hands will fall away, and she leans back with a soul-weary look, content that they found some ground to stand on that wasn't made of lava. Aching because she will never be what John is to Zatanna, but moreso because she knows, deep down, she will never be that for anyone.

You will only know peace if I win.

"We should meet, all of us. Maybe Jess too, to discuss my situation. Shit. I was supposed to make dinner."

It's Azalea's night, because it's her specialty. Oh man. F…ffucking Ramen. She looks annoyed, staring at the steps of the fire escape, as if they are taunting her.



Zatanna doesn't protest when Azalea cups her face on both sides. Large eyes blink at her from where she sits, eyebrows quirking faintly.

"What do you mean? I've always been like this."

Because it's true.

With her hands falling away, there's a glance to follow where her friend's eyes are cast. A small half-smile tugs one corner of her mouth upwards, and she slowly stands up from the chair. "Yeah, we can do that. Between the two of us, John's got more experience dealing with…deities. Not sure if he's come across anyone from that pantheon though, but we won't know unless we ask. Meanwhile…"

She gestures down the steps. "I can help with dinner. Might as well, yeah? Plus I wanna see Jess, too."

Sliding her hands in her pockets, she waits for the other woman to get up. Once accompanied, she'll proceed to head down the stairs, taking a quiet breath. And just like that, she leaves the rest of her anger behind, to haunt the lawn chairs on the rooftop as she and the Dark Devil descend on Jessica's apartment, to have dinner prepared.

Which is by far the most normal, mundane thing she has done in the last few days.

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