The Meaning of Family

March 08, 2017:

Takes place after AKA Get That Girl Some Netflix. Jessica Jones and Azalea Kingston get into a confrontation when Jess asks her ward to stay home from Hell.

Alias Investigation, Hell's Kitchen, NY

Now complete with its own toaster oven.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Trish, The Joker, Batman

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Jessica Jones steps out of the bathroom in jeans and a grey t-shirt, running her fingers through her dark hair. The shower hasn't done much to remove the grim, tired expression from her face, but it's a start. She pauses to pick up the red and black suit that she'd dumped on the floor, shoving it in the bathroom sink and running cold water over it in the hopes of getting some of the blood out. She dumps some shampoo in there too, just for good measure, figuring it couldn't hurt.

Then she lets out a tired sigh and leans against the door of the bathroom for just a moment, one bare foot still firmly situated in a puddle that has formed on the floor. She pushes off a moment later. There's stuff to get done. Ever forward. And right now what she needs to do is put some food in her mouth.

Some days ago she updated their kitchen tools to include a toaster oven. She pulls out a bagel, slices it, and tosses it in, turning the dial. Toasting a bagel, important cooking skill #2. It's slow going. She pauses to start coffee too. She is getting better at that skill too. It still smells strong enough to stick a spoon upright in, but it doesn't smell burnt or stale or like it came from the bottom of someone's shoes.


The window opens like it often does, but never has anyone really feared that someone might break in. Any person who might do so would realize soon enough they're breaking into the wrong fucking apartment. And so, Jess will have little to worry about, and when she finally chances a peek out of the kitchen she'll see Azalea changing, swapping the destruction of her costume for sweats and a t-shirt from a bag she brought up from her bike. In the intermediate state of dress, the bruises and cuts across her body paint a map of someone on a crusade.

Six days. It's been six days since that sick fuck terrorized Trish and only did half the job he should have on her and Jessica's shit mother. Azalea has been out there ever since.

Maybe it was a sense of responsibility, because of who was training her in Gotham, some terrible sensation that this was her fault somehow, and not just random circumstance. She should have guarded her identity, perhaps. Or maybe just done what Batman never had the stomach to do: Find that fucking Clown and End Him.

With her change complete she slumps into the couch and grits her teeth, eyes fixed on some point past the television, a slow breath escaping her as she works out a kink in her bruised jaw and settles in for a night of contemplation. Inevitably, her mind will wander to what it will be like to see Trish again. Inevitably, it will crush her hopes for a future without woe.


Jess has, of course, been tending to Trish— staying with her at the hospital. This has been the first time she's been back since the attack; and now it's for the shower, the clothes, and to get things in order. She watches Az comes in, notes the markers of fury and frustration. She cuts the bullshit, crosses to the couch, and sits down next to the girl. "Trish is going to be okay," she says quietly. "She's at home now, sleeping. How are you doing?"

It's too much to hope that Az hasn't gotten the memo by now, after all. Jessica hadn't yet considered what might happen after the Joker attack, when Az found out, how the god-ridden girl might respond to a threat to one of the pillars of her support system. That was naive of her, to think that sheltering her in the moment would be enough to ward off the threat Jessica sees, potentially, to Azalea Kingston's soul and sanity.

Thus, she does as she so often does with this young woman who has become, irrevocably, a member of her strange family: she treads carefully, and tries to be, as much as possible, a rock for her.


At first she can't stand to look at her, the fury in her mind focused on something that's but a memory. The last time she was in another body, and felt wronged. Slighted. She remembers that rage. She remembers what she did. The blood runs down the insides of her mind as certainly as it did that room long ago, and she sucks in a breath when Jessica's words catch up to her.

Slowly those blues turn to regard the woman who had become her surrogate sister, and her jaw sets again while she sinks further into the couch. "I was in Gotham. Heard it happen. Nothing I could do. Not then, anyway."

There's a hard swallow, and her arms cross. She looks every bit the part of someone who has found her resolve, and wrapped it in her guilt. "I've beaten whole gangs to a pulp across two cities, and no sign of him yet. But I'm pretty sure he's in Gotham again. When I get my hands on him I'm going to dislocate every limb he has and tie him into a fucking knot. I will show him who the amatuer is, in our little dynamic. I will show him horror that can only come when you pray to it."


"You could do that," Jessica replies evenly. "God knows I've had the same fucking urge. I have concerns that it might put his attention right back on her though. Seemed a one-off thing this time, messing with her, all focused on Bat-Douche. Of course, he wants to play with Batlings, and you still qualify as best as I can tell. That gives him what he thinks he wants. I don't know what the right answer is there, but…I know you going in hot and full of hate maybe undermines everything you want to preserve about yourself."

In the end, frank and honest is usually best, even if Jessica tries to word it all as tactfully as possible. "If you're gonna do it, don't go in with the intent of causing horror and pain. Go in with the intent of getting a menace who hurts people off the streets."

And then, because she knows well the tendency to take personal responsibility when things go wrong: "It sure as fuck isn't your fault, by the way. What happened."


"No, it's not my fault. It's Batman's. He has his one fucking rule, and we both obey it for different reasons. Or maybe the same one. But one think I'm started to learn is that their are exceptions to every rule. Next time that fucking clown gasses some five year old's birthday party to get Batman's attention, maybe he should give it until he loses the capacity to demand it. Or else, I fucking will."

When Azalea rises it's with every intention of digesting everything else Jessica said, but she doesn't respond to any of it. Instead she goes to get herself some coffee, and when she returns it's to lean in the doorway facing the living room and drink it down straight. It's almost about hydration more than anything else, and while the spiritual energy that fuels her can sustain her for a long time, eventually the siren call of coffee and ramen must be answered.

"Anything new leads on Zatanna and John?"

Maybe she's asking because Jess mentioned those small parts of herself she wants to hold on to. Maybe she mentioned it because she's worried. Maybe she's just changing the subject.


"Yes," Jessica says quietly. "I got a text just before I hopped into the shower. We have a way in, a way to head straight for them and try to get them out. Later, a small team is going to go in and take care of it. Bucky's leading it. Hopefully we won't be long, though time might be a little different where we're going."

She watches Az, leaning forward, placing her elbows gently on her knees, letting her hands dangle between them. Her eyes are sober. "Az…I'm going to ask you to stay here. I still need you holding down the fort, and the phone has honestly been ringing off the hook all week. I haven't been able to handle jack shit. Second, because someone has to watch out for Trish, and Cindy, if I don't come back. That someone is you."

She says it baldly but compassionately, knowing this may be the very last thing Azalea wants to hear. Knowing that it might hurt Azalea to hear it. It's not a comfortable thing for her to navigate either, but…it has to be done. The timer rings on her bagel; she appears to have forgotten about it. She doesn't even glance in the direction of the kitchen.


There's a long moment where she stares at Jessica with an unreadable mask of something perturbed, and then there's the sound of Jessica's bagel. Az turns then, watching Jessica a moment longer than she should, and she disappears once more into the kitchen. Dropping off her cup, the scrape of a knife against the bagel can be heard, and when she returns with it on a little plate, it's done up just right. Just how Jessica likes it. She'll offer the plate to her, looming over her as she stands there, a quiet rage burning at the center of her being.

"What you're really saying is it makes a lot more sense, given all you have to lose, for you to stay. For me to go. And yet, here you are. Telling me to steer clear. Like I could fucking take care of any of those people. Or this place. Or any of it. What it sounds like, Jessica, is bullshit. So what the fuck is going on? Where are they? Why do you want to keep me away?"

Despite her anger, she does not lose herself to rage or despair, keeping it bottled up in the place it should rest. For now. Meditation has helped. Seeing someone look at her as something other than a creature of darkness and sin has helped.

Enough, even, to put a balm on how much being asked to stay behind hurts.


Jessica takes the bagel with a nod of thanks. "It's not bullshit. I've named you as my heir. Alias Investigations is yours, if I die, today or ten years from now, because you're family. I don't want you to doubt it. And you can. You have every capability."

Still, she's not stupid. She expected anger. She knew Az was going to be furious, pissed. And Az isn't wrong. There are other reasons.

"They're in Hell," she says. "Physically in Hell. Which means we are walking bodily into Hell. Now…" she holds up a hand. "I know you're probably going to tell me that Xihunel played chess with Satan every other Thursday, but that's kind of the problem. I think letting you walk Xihunel in that place might destroy you, and that's not what either of us want. You're trying to manage and resist a terrible evil. It's a rough fight. And upping the difficulty on that fight when it's not necessary is the wrong play to make. I'm sorry. I know this frustrates you. I know this pisses you off. I also know it's no different than me begging Bucky Barnes to put me down in the middle of that amusement park, okay? We all have our liabilities. Mind control and psychic invasion are mine. Xihunel is yours. We both have to manage ours as best as we can."

She takes a bite of the bagel, watching Azalea with steady eyes.



The way Azalea's gaze goes sidelong when Jessica says it, the way her lips part as if to say something that never fully forms, tells the investigator she's struck a chord. The memories that cloud her mind are a tapestry of a past she could not fully piece together. More and more comes every day as Xiuhnel, the Sky Serpent, wins. More comes every day as more of her slips into the abyss. The way she breathes now says she's reliving something, something from long, long ago.

"I'll go there myself."

It's then that she turns, the bombshell that she'd been left Alias Investigations having not quite the effect that it should. She begins shoving her uniform into her bag, as resolute as she was when she said she'd put Joker out of their misery, she seems intent to find a way into Hell herself. Alone.

"I asked you to kill me if I turned wrong. Not protect me from that if that's where I'm going. Because I'd have to hang it up, Jess. I'm not willing to. Not able to. You want to herd me? Feed me bullshit to keep me on the sidelines whenever you think.. what? That i'll get triggered? Fuck everything about that. Fuck living life that way. You can cut me out all you want but this is how it's going to be. I'll end-run you until you'd just rather I not walk through the door."

She sounds calmer now than she did before, but she isn't. She's angrier. Furious. Every time she tries this whole friendship thing, it has some way of blowing up in her face. The truth is the people she loves are the only thing keeping her anchored, and every time she's told she's too dangerous to be around it makes her feel like Xiuhnel felt when she cleaved his heart from his chest.



Jessica Jones says the word in a way that is at first very, very calm.

"You see, you don't get to do that."

She stands up as Az starts packing up.

"You did ask me to fucking kill you if something went wrong. So yeah. You're damn fucking right I get a say in whether or not you fucking risk losing that battle, Azalea Kingston. You don't fucking get to drop that fucking burden on my god damn shoulders and then do whatever the fuck you wanna do, fuck that! I sat down this morning and wrote out instructions and arrangements for someone else to take you down if I'm dead and I can't. Because that is what I promised you I would do. And that fucking weighs on me every damned night. I didn't enjoy killing someone the first fucking time it happened, I don't ever want to do it again, but I promised I'd do it for you if I fucking have to. There is no sicker FUCKING FEELING then taking a human life, and I don't even want to think about it when it's for someone I love, but I took the responsibility to give you a fighting chance. So don't fucking FUCK IT UP."

She juts out a finger, her own anger growing, the calm shattering, the end of her rope well and truly reached. "You don't want to be a monster? Then be a fucking HUMAN BEING, take responsibility for your crap, and recognize that we all have our god damned limits, and this one is one of yours! Let me handle this for you, and let me get Constantine out so he can get in here and do something about this so we don't have to do this. You're not on the fucking sidelines. You were there at the park, you helped gain vital intel. You wanna be part of a fucking family?"

Suddenly she's shouting. "Well this is it! This is what family means! It means fucking compromises! It means taking a weight off my god damn mind right now. It means you don't fucking get your way all the time! It means you lay aside your fucking pride so that all of us can work together to create outcomes we all want, whether you LIKE how it happens or NOT!"


The God-Bound creature in front of Jessica bristles on the inside. The girl trapped inside dies a little, when she too turns anger and ire upon her. In profile, her shoulders slump, her head bows, and her expression falls. It's there that she wavers, every bad emotion, every bad memory of how others kept her away from where she was needed wells up. Jessica was the one who was there, who comforted her in that aftermath, and the reality was that it had nothing to do with her pride and everything to do with people telling her they were her friend, her ally, and had her trust.

It is very clear not in Jessica's request, but in her manner of making it, that she has not yet fully earned it.

When she looks at Jess she holds back tears, but it's clear it's hard for her to speak, keeping her bag shouldered. "I just wish you'd all give me room to prove I can handle it. I've been meditating. I've been working on it. I just want to help. And If you really think I can't, just out with it. Don't tell me to man the phones while you guys run into Hell. Don't.. don't take choice away from me."

The defeated posture is an avenue for all her rage to waste away. More than anything she wants to leap out the window, to run away, to burn another bridge. As frustrated as she's been with her training, with being closer to people here in New York than the place she'd called home, she realizes in that moment that she quite honestly has no where else to go.



Jessica swallows and sighs, her own anger draining away.

"Az, I'm sorry," she says softly. "That— I didn't mean it that way, okay?" She stands up, putting the bagel aside. She moves tentatively for the girl, offering to put arms around her but hesitant, not wanting to touch her without permission. She ends up in this sort of…no touch hug, where she's a hairs breadth away from actual contact.

"This is not about what you're capable of. I know you've been working on it. And I'm not talking about the phones. I'm talking about…my business, my life, my livelihood, my vision of the future. But I get it. It feels like a sop."

She hesitates and lowers her eyes. "I'd never want to take a choice away from anyone, but I'm asking you, I am begging you, not to force me to take you in there. It's not about what you can handle. How could anyone handle that? I don't know what to expect, but all I can imagine is…evil, seeping straight into our skin, oozing through our pores. I imagine it feeding Xihunel, strengthening him until nothing you could reasonably do could stop him. I feel like it would be like asking you to go into battle against a T-rex armed with a toothbrush. Maybe I'm wrong but…"

She sighs. "Az, I'm so scared. And I'm so tired." She sounds on the verge of tears. "I do not want to lose you."


It takes all of five seconds for Azalea to lean into that touch, something Jessica has never been super forward about, when it is Xiuhnel's bread and butter. For Azalea, a slap on the shoulder is more natural than waving hello, and the way she disregards the personal space of everyone around her has been a bane to her social life. And so she's kept herself reigned in, but when Jessica takes the initiative her bag drops to the ground and she ducks her head against her chest.

A laugh might be the last thing Jessica expects, and she turns to wrap her arms around Jess and give her a heart-felt squeeze. "He owes me. Owes him. I created his sky. I created all of it."

It sounds like she's talking about a dream, but really, she's talking about Xiuhnel in time primordial, well before the realms were pieced out by smaller Gods and godlings, where Sky-Stuff was spun from Xiuhnel's wake before he had even had a name. From there, they all plucked their pieces from the spinning dark, to hang over their realms and let the stars shine through.

"I was in the Carribbean the last time I went to Hell. I…" There's a hard swallow, and as quickly as she engaged that hug, she leans back to look up at Jessica, her eyes wide. "I.. He sends Xiuhnel back. Whatever he calls himself. Satan. The Devil. Whatever. He doesn't want Xiuhnel there. I can't..fuck. I can't remember why."

And so, Azalea's plan of going it on her own seems to be dead in the water, no matter what, but the would-be vigilante looks more than a little disturbed by the flood of memory. "I'll stay out of it." The concession is not just borne of necessity, but because of the way Jess looks right now, one hand coming up to squeeze her shoulder, a reassuring touch.


Jessica squeezes Az tightly to her, burying her face in her hair. Touch is fraught for her, and probably always will be. Everything about human relationships is fraught for her, and maybe always will be. In one moment of lost temper, she feared she had already lost Az, something she'd been trying desperately to avoid.

She may be long on empathy, but she is ever short on temper, and even if this was never directed at Azalea until this very day it nevertheless remains the case. In many ways, she's been reigning it in over and over for the people she's come to love so fiercely in such a short period of time, fearful that if she lashes out as is her natural inclination, they'll flee from her.

There are so many reasons she can think of for people to flee from her, to burn their bridges, after all.

She listens, barely understanding everything that's being said. To her it all boils down to there being far more in heaven and earth that is dreamt of in her philosophy.

A few tears leak out despite herself as Az squeezes her shoulder. She hates the weakness, but she wasn't lying. She is exhausted. She is scared.

Well, who else does get to see that stuff but family?

"Thanks," she says hoarsely, not letting go just yet. "I'm sorry I shouted at you."


The doubling down on the hug is unexpected, and so is going so long without getting grabby. Maybe meditation is working. Or the bartering. She's been doing that a long time to take people off of Xiuhnel's radar. Oh the things she's done, and will still have to pay for.

Maybe The Devil has no use for Xiuhnel because he's a walking, living Hell on his own. A mystery for another time, to be certain. "I've had worse. Pretty sure Zee and I almost leveled your apartment building one time. I didn't want to concern you but might as well lump it in now."

Probably better not to really ask to much about all that, considering the building is still standing and for now, her and Zee seem to be amiable at least. Other than Zee being stuck in hell and all.

"If you get into trouble down there… if you see Him, you know. Big Bad.., don't be afraid to name drop Mr. X. But only if things can't get any worse. Since I don't know exactly what will happen."


Jessica pulls back and smirks, her humor and sarcasm taking back over. "Sure, I'll tell him I'm lousy with Mr. X cooties and I've touched everyone involved so he should send us back or else he'll have to Febreeze up the entire afterlife. As hail Mary strategies go it's not the worst one I've ever heard in my life."

She squeezes Azalea's shoulders and steps back at last, not really concerned about Zee and Az nearly going nuclear on the building. They didn't, it's fine. She picks up the bagel and starts wolfing it down, suddenly ravenous, needing the food, the fuel. It's gone in seconds, practically inhaled.

She crosses for coffee next, putting it into a big mug that reads: Coffee. Because crack is bad for you.

She takes a long, deep drag on that, then puts it aside. "I wasn't kidding though. We got five new cases this morning. One process serve, one cheating husband, one lost child— cold case, one 'find my birth parents' and one 'someone is stalking me, I can't prove it, the police won't help, please help' case. Would you take them, please? All but the last are in New York."


When Az looks up at her, she seems altogether whole again. Maybe a few kind words was enough. Maybe the memory more than anything. What Jessica won't see is how much she wants to pull on that string, to know everything Xiuhnel's ever done. There can't be much worse than what she's already seen, right?

There's a nod when she asks about the cases, kicking her bag over and then moving over to where the intake files are kept. Now is as good as time as any. Otherwise she would head out for the night. Not to burn a bridge, but to go see Trish. There's no telling what could happen, and right now is not the time for her to test her strength on Trish's vulnerability.

Now is the time for work.

"I got it. As much as I can. I'll make Cindy process serve the guy. She can just web that shit to him and take a picture."

Azalea is kidding.


"I don't have much hope for the cold case. I'll round out the others here first, before digging a little. Better keep the coffee coming."

It's going to be a long night.

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