Unleashing the Murdered God

April 17, 2017:

Itzpapalotl decides to drive home her point to one Jessica Jones by chaining Azalea Kingston inside her own body and unleashing the full might of Xihunel upon the world. Xihunel begins his reign of terror by choosing to challenge the Daredevil, resulting in an epic confrontation on the rooftops of Hell's Kitchen that comes perilously close to bringing doom upon the world.

Hell's Kitchen, NYC, NY

It's possible rent might be going down in this area of town sometime soon.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Silk, Jane Foster, Bucky Barnes, John Constantine

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Hell's Kitchen, New York City

The rooftop of the building is silent, and though it's a clear night, the new moon means it's dark enough that anyone up here won't be seen by those below. Those who mean to traffic in things they shouldn't. It's a thread that Daredevil had heard about from his last encounter with mugger who wanted to keep his arm from being broken. He bartered without asking. The thread led to this place. Sometime tonight, someone should be making a drop. Drugs? Weapons? Something worse? Who knows, but the alley was empty for now.

The sky cracks with an unexpected blast of ozone as lightning strikes little less than a block away, it's source a dark cloud that should not exist, roiling in from the south and cascading across the skyline. The sudden storm has all the makings of something that should not be, and the buzz that follows behind it carries with it the echo of a name, cast in a familiar voice.

It calls out for Azalea, and must be a mile away or more, but Matt will recognize the desperate vocalization of Jessica Jones, even as the air takes on a fever pitch. In the world on fire, the very ground seems to tremble, vibrate.


It's subtle, the way bricks flake off tiny pieces from where they're already cracked, from the way the street below seems to shake with waves of power. Somewhere above, Matt's senses will detect a meteor, a fireball of two forms in one, billowing across the landscape to set it aflame with entropic and kinetic energy.

To anyone else watching, it will just be the diminutive frame of Azalea Kingston landing a dozen feet or so from the Daredevil. Around the pale shadow of her shell In The World on Fire, a hulking creature roils, his skin scaled and his muscled coiled and thick. He pulses like a beacon, and the shadow of movement below, the shadow of Azalea's mortal coil strides forward, bringing with her the storm of Xiuhnel, the Sky Serpent with her.


Matt Murdock has natural — or rather, unnatural — advantages that let him suss out most threats before they arrive. The simple advantage of being able to see a threat coming, whether it's the whisk of a knife slicing through the air to the click of a revolver, often means the difference between life and death for the otherwise ordinarily-abled man. Knowing as more than half the battle.

Yet this threat is anything but ordinary, says that first whiff of ozone in the night air — a familiar scent, but more urgent and pungent than he's detected in the past. He's seen magical gangsters and Hell's handmaidens and brownstones sucked into mystic black holes, but this oncoming flurry of storm and comet is a new one, and there's no reason at all to expect that knowing will do jack shit for him.

On the other hand, despite his obvious and obligatory startlement, he's better prepared for a clash than he's ever been. This is the red suit's virgin voyage; ramshackle bandana and MMA gear abandoned in favor of crimson-tinted carbon nanotube bodyarmor that may or may not be a marvel of modern science. It's light, flexible, and fully capable of withstanding, to hear the Manic Pixie Scientist tell it, just about anything you could throw at it.

Hell of a way to test that hypothesis, Murdock, Matt thinks after the shock of that sudden impact passes and he faces whatever this thing is, whether it's a missive of the magical assholes or the tech startup demon worshippers or—

Wait, he knows this girl. Or whatever girl is within that hulking form that somehow surrounds her. And, of course, he knows the voice echoing behind it.

"What do you want?"

In the end, it almost doesn't matter. The menace communicates itself, unspoken, and prompts the Devil of Hell's Kitchen to assume a combat ready crouch.


Desperate indeed.

The next time Jessica Jones is confronted with a goddess, she's going to say "No thank you," to whatever baragain, and then zip it. No explaining why the bargain is one big despicable no-can-do, no trying to push the goddess into the course of action the goddess is there to talk her out of. Just "No thank you," and shut the fuck up, Jones. Why wasn't she smart enough to come up with that answer the first time? Fuck your stupid mouth, Jones, fuck letting your emotions run away with you, Jones, fuck your entire existence, Jones, cause now look what you've done. This could be the end of Azalea, right here, all because you couldn't get your shit together.

The one consolation Jessica has is seeing the form of Silk sail overhead through the broken window of her apartment as she herself thunders past on the ground below. She begs all that is holy that Dunce has kept Annette from wandering down the hallway— did she slam the door shut behind her or leave it wide open? And that Annette has not cut herself on broken glass. Or eaten broken glass, or whatever else babies do to try to kill themselves before they can grow up.

As her feet pound the pavement Jarvis softly tells her that Cindy reports the child is fine, and those terrible thoughts, at least, are put to the side.

To be replaced by another, irrational one, rising from the depths of her subconscious.

Itzpapalotl is sending Xihunel after Matt. To punish me.

She ignores it. It's an irrational fear. She heard what Azalea said. There can be only one Devil. Which means…

Xihunel is going after DHK.

And really it doesn't matter who Azalea is going after…who Xihunel is going after. Jessica has to…has to what? Get through to her? Knock her out? She doesn't even know, but she has to do something.

The private detective's heart races. Her adrenaline thunders. She catches the barest sight of Azalea. Landing? Does Az fly when in Xihunel's grip? Shit. Ok. Landing. Landing on a rooftop. Well. Up, she can do.

She gathers powerful legs beneath herself and soars up to land behind the Sky Serpent in the girl. Heavy boots meet the top of the roof. It's only the voice— 'what do you want?' — that lets her identify DHK in his new armor. She assumes a combat stance too, but it's something more ready to grab, grapple, and tackle than something ready to hit.

'Break me,' Azalea had made her promise. 'End me if you have to.'

Something roils in Jessica's gut. She'll break a limb if she has to, but she's not giving up on this girl. Not tonight. Maybe never. At least Xihunel chose to go after someone who can take care of himself, but it might take both of them to handle this threat.

"It's not her fault," she tells the red-clad Devil. "She's— "

She can't bring herself to waste any more time on the explanation. She sucks in a breath.

"Azalea. You can fight this. Push him down, push him back, you can do this. Just listen to my voice and come back like before."

Desperation again, because she has a sinking feeling it's not going to be that easy this time. But she has to try.


"I want to fuck your skull. To hear the cry of a so-called devil as I pop his eye out and drill a finger into his brain, to listen to his human misery, his mortal failing, as he comes to understand. There is only one Devil let loose upon this w-"

Her voice is the same. It's the most disconcerting part, the voice of someone who fought beside The Devil of Hell's Kitchen, and who had his back against Viper-people when everything was on the line. This time, she wants to break his back. This time, she wants to eat his soul, and as the energies that roil off of her, unseen by Jessica, grating on the senses for Matt, the physical manifestation begins. Nearby, there's a rumble. A parking garage across the street. Cracks streak along it's pylons. Down below, in a nearby street, tires flatten as the rubber runs raw and cars skid this way and that. A fire hydrant is plowed over and water shoots to the sky. Thunder cracks, lightning strikes three times in rapid succession.

Jessica Jones arrives.

It's what breaks Xiuhnel's smug discourse, turning his speech into a sudden motion. Jess will get as far as saying her name before she's turned, almost in her face. Then she does a thing in combat that the brawler would need to spend more time in Gotham to get used to: She leaps. A short, whirling somersault over Jessica's head, to deliver a blow at the back of her neck that it's inventor called The Stunning Sleep.

Meant to kill if one strikes hard enough, to dislocate the skull, it can also be dialed back to force temporary paralysis. Azalea doesn't dial it back. One will have to wonder if that's because she or Xuihnel knows she can take it. The answer comes when her arms wrap around Jessica from behind, when her face presses to her neck and she drags her tongue along her skin. "I remember you. Remember how warm you are between your legs. I'm so glad you're here, because after I'm done fucking him, I'm certainly fucking you."

Jessica will feel and hear it all, and then Xiuhnel lets her go, leaving her on her side, but with a great view of her renewed stride towards The Devil of Hell's Kitchen that breaks into an all-out run.


Xihunel's initial tirade does little to unsettle Matt, garish imagery or no. How many times in the last three months has some asshole pledged to kill him violently and murder everyone he's ever loved? Surreal context aside, the words themselves are so much wind in the spring night air, leaving Matt unphased. Even the telltale signs of calamity that impinge on his senses do little to truly rattle him; he is slowly becoming as inured to supernatural spooking as he has become to physical threat. Which is not to say he underestimates her; he can see to much of what others cannot to miss her the danger that coils serpentine around the slip of a girl. But it does mean he can keep his /own/ feelings and fight or flight responses in check; he can ask a simple question while expecting anything but a simple answer, and perhaps even try to help Azalea through whatever madness she's been subjected to.

But then she is leaping, leaping over Jessica, here's the crunching impact of fist to the base of her jaw, hears the whispered assurances of violence or worse, and all of that hard-won emotional detachment stemming from years of fruitful meditation practice is ash and cinder. "That," says the Devil of Hell's Kitchen in the softest of tones, barely enough to carry over the night between them, "was a big mistake."

She's running, all momentum, but even with his ire up he won't charge to meet her. Instead, he figuratively takes the gloves off, reaching for the metal-alloy batons sheathed at his thigh. He brings up either in each fist and waits one second, two — each step she takes, each crunch of her footfall on the floor, is crucial data about her speed, her gait, how she moves. It's only when she's nearly within his longer reach that he vaults into action with a brief battle-cry, batons whirring and arcing in the air, all his agility and his years of training and his fierce strength thrown into the flurry to come.

Jessica might want him to spare her friend, save her. Seeing what that got her, and still swallowed up in rage by it, Matt will not, for now, allow himself the luxury of mercy. Whether aimed at shin or forearm, ribs or head, his blows hold nothing back.


There's a sharp gasp of shock and pain from one Jessica Jones as she is so struck. Work with Bucky Barnes may have prepared her on some level for being hit by someone who can keep up with her strength, but…not like this. Bucky is rough on her, rougher than almost any other instructor would or could be, but this is a new level of magnitude for her. Her whole body goes rigid; nerves scrambled, muscles locked in place. She is grabbed, handled with an effortless ease that leaves her uncharacteristically helpless.

Her eyes are still wide open as the trickle, then the flood, of fear starts, cold in her gut, crawling up her spine.

Xihunel licks her, and everything in her physiology recoils, even though she can't physically follow suit. She can't even issue a sound of protest. The threats leave her in the grip of silent panic with roaring ears and a fluttering, wild heart, as she finds herself for one terrible moment in a position she never, ever wanted to be in again.

And with it, a reflexive, twisting, shame-filled ache in her stomach that comes with knowing to her toes that whatever happens to her next is something she deserves. And guilt. Whatever happens to her friend? Utterly her fault too, and he doesn't deserve it, a thought which brings a rush of despair.

Placed on her side, incapacitated and in pain, she does the only thing she can do. She prays the Devil of Hell's Kitchen holds his own or even triumphs, and fights to move, despite the sickness in her own soul. Some part of her is still mulishly determined to act, despite this black, familiar sensation, banished for months now but back in full force, that she's little more than a broken piece of garbage.

His display is more than impressive; control exploding into sudden ferocity and violence, beauty and grace that only come with hard work, skill, focus. It inspires a rush of relief, really, because that is a warrior who has a shot at surviving this shit-show, maybe even mastering it. It inspires a rush of pained warmth that mingles with all the other dark reactions, because he's defending her as well as himself, a sensation that he might have felt from more than one civilian, in fact, when he started his battle dance on their behalf. She does want to save Az. But…she also remembers how fast Az regenerates when in Xihunel's grip. No. There's not even a physiological protest from the frozen detective.


For Jessica's perspective, it is that moment when two titans clash in battle, and no one can anticipate the outcome. No one can know what Azalea can do with Xiuhnel pushed to the forefront. Batons crash in, and the creature that dances with Matt will send him the sensory equivalent of a symphony of violence, showing a technique and style that comes from disciplines that might be all but dead. Globe-spanning skill, effortless precision, and though she dodges and weaves, his rage gives him the currency that Xiuhnel is trading in. It brings victory in the form of batons crashing against arms, ribs, and finally her skull.

Is it painful for Jessica to see Azalea's head lurch to the side, to see the spray of blood hit the rooftop, only to boil off in the entropic hold of Xiuhnel's soulstorm?


Each blow that lands is jarring, body-shifting, and in her street clothes - a tank top, and a pair of sweats, she has no armor to soften them, and yet it hardly seems to matter. One blow crashes in, a hand snaps to that wrist, and The Dark Devil twists with a grip made of harder stuff with iron, one that would crush bone if not for the armor that Jane Foster layered him in. A hauling pull demonstrates her new found strength, pulling the Devil of Hell's Kitchen along to whirl him into an old brick chimney that hasn't been used in years, shattering it to utter pieces and releasing him so he can find his own way through it.

A small hop sends her up onto what's left of it, and when she starts at him again it's with a gleeful fury, the creature that cascades around her a focused ire of roaring glee, while the girl trapped in the middle moves like a deadly predator. At first, she was far behind him in the engagement, lagging his sensory-fueled initiative, slow to block, to react. She quickly begins to catch up, throwing bone-crushing punches against carbon nanofiber without regard to the damage it might inflict on her, punching hard enough that it might feel to Matt like he's barely wearing armor at all. Duck, block, counter, she's gaining. Pushing. And when she's done, Matt knows what she's going to do.

She's going to kill him in front of Jessica, and do far worse to her.

In a place that only Jessica can see, in her mind's eye, or a realm just past this one, she'll feel the hand of The Obsidian Butterfly on her shoulder. Unseen to the Devils at war, unheard and unnoticed, she speaks, cradling Jessica under the arms, gifting her the spiritual might to help her back up. "I bound your friend, pushed her down. Like the Brightsoul often did to my dear Xiuhnel. Such a minor thing, and look at the destruction it's wrought. You promised her. You promised you'd kill her, but can you kill her? Not as a matter of will, Jessica Jones. But as a matter of might. If you and your friends tamper with her and fail, this is the smallest portion of what might come to pass. Do you understand now?"


Whether Matt takes anything like pleasure in his extracurricular activities — his night-time rages and fits of violence against Hell's Kitchen's underworld — is really a debate for the ages, and one he does his best to suppress or shrug off. But it's safe to say that, for all his anger, he feels not a speck of enjoyment when those batons land on his opponent with bone-splintering force. Jesus, she's just a girl — a college kid, really, he reminds himself, even if every hypersense he has tells him that, in this moment, she's anything but.

He can, and does, fight her with everything he has. But there's no undercurrent of savage relish you might find deep within Matt while he's taking on the slavers, the drug pushers, and the hired murderers of the New York City underworld.

That — in a nutshell — may be why he ends up on the verge of losing.

His radar-scope of the world goes spinning as he's hurtled into the chimney; muscle and metal displacing century-old brick while he feels his own ribs creak and internal organs momentarily slosh and displace with the sheer force of the impact. If he survives, he'll literally thank God for that helmet, impossibly sturdy despite the debateable wisdom of the decorative horns. It saves him from what would surely be a knock-out blow, which instead has him only briefly dazed there amid the rubble, desperate to summon some air back into a torso that is fairly well on fire.

Go on, get the FUCK up! he hears but doesn't, a gruff voice speaking to him across the span of decades — just one more sound only he can hear. And so he does, flipping himself upright without benefit of hands, which are snapped into a boxer's stance. The batons are long gone, scattered somewhere along the debris-strewn rooftop. All Matt has is his body. What's you're strongest weapon, kid? the voice asks, demanding, taunting.

He leaps back into the fray, knowing it's a losing battle, knowing that the longer this thing that grips the girl fights, the stronger it gets. Meanwhile the strength that lands every punch, every spinning kick, every elbow jab and knee to the stomach is ultimately exhaustible. He will tire, and he will lose, because at the end of the day he's only human.

But he's also a Murdock, which means he'll damn well go down swinging.


Does it hurt to watch her ward's blood fly everywhere? Yes, though she knows as it happens that Xihunel is already healing.

Does it hurt to watch the Devil of Hell's Kitchen get thrown through a chimney, then punched again and again? Yes. She doesn't know how his back isn't already broken, but she fears for him. Even as she silently cheers to see him get right back up again, come up swinging again. God damn, look at him go. For one moment she feels nothing but fierce pride on his behalf.

And then? A mystic whisper in her ear that only she can hear. Pins and needles all over her body. Strength flooding back into her muscles, enough to remain on her feet when Itzpaplotl places her there.

Jessica gives one quick look over her shoulder, staring into the Goddess' eyes as she perceives them. And keeps her mouth shut.

She gives no word that could be construed as a promise, no whisper of a bargain sealed. Her eyes say she does understand, but this time she keeps her god damn mouth shut. She always was a fast learner.

Her fingers dip to her pocket. They find the Pinch, John Constantine's gift given to her months ago, something that has remained carried always but unused because she'd never felt the situation warranted it before. An item meant for the most dire of circumstances, a gift that can be used but once.

A tiny vial of holy water with blood trails whisping through it like wax in a lava lamp, sealed with a holy wax seal.

She does not mean it for herself.

The goddess is fickle. She might decide not to reverse what's been done simply because Jessica wouldn't respond. This might just be a demonstration— and she might let it run its course. The Obsidian Butterfly cannot be trusted, for all that she says she is the hero of the piece. Nobody sane relies on the whims of gods or goddesses. If Azalea is to be saved, Jessica knows in her heart that it will have to be through human hands, human actions.

But here is what she has learned to rely upon.

Jessica Jones has learned to rely on the people she cares about, and who care about her in turn. Crazy as it seems for a woman who spent years insisting that all people sucked, that she wanted nothing to do with them. It turns out the strength of her bonds with people are, at the end of the day, the only thing that she can ever put her faith in at all.

So, she leaps clumsily to the side of the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. She stumbles roughly, still a bit messed up. It does not matter. His is the skill, his is the ferocity, his is the life she must preserve, his is the will to overcome. She just has to give him a little something extra, an edge or two to help him win the day.

Her hand slaps out to the back of his shoulder. She shatters the Pinch against his person. "You're about to be completely invulnerable and insanely lucky for…hopefully long enough," she mutters, under her breath, almost subvocalizing. She remembers how good his hearing is from their shared investigations, and trusts in it now. "So…enjoy that."

As the vial shatters, lines as red as his suit spring up all around him in an active shield, a netting of magic and blood, surging with the Synchronicity, perhaps the only weapon men and women have when faced with angels and demons, devils and gods. Their own potential, their own fate, the consequences of their own actions, woven with a bit of the touch of whatever strange force in the universe is actually still on the side of the little guy, be it capital-G God, or something else.

A deep, shaking breath. A whisper. "She regenerates almost instantly. I'm going to draw her attention. Chokehold might do the trick, if you can get her in one and keep her there."

And then she leaps away, landing behind Xihunel and out of the Daredevil's way. She snarls at the Sky Serpent: "Hey! Fucktard! You sure I'm not the one you want to kill? Take a good long whiff, Xihunel! You'll find Itzpapalotl's fingerprints all over me. She's decided she likes me, yeah? We've had a great fucking chat. You wanna get some revenge? Come get some revenge! You wanna fuck me? Go ahead and try! You won't take me by surprise twice!"

She throws a right hook and a left cross and doesn't spare her strength either, because right now, Xihunel can take it. And surges forward with a few more boxer's blows, just like Bucky taught her, aiming at the floating ribs and kidneys on the back of the girl who holds the god-thing.


How easily a pitched battle turns into something like a game, ducking and dodging and shoving at the battered Devil of Hell's Kitchen as he begins to slow down. As humanity catches up with him. The blows that find him are each hard enough to put his new armor to the test, enough to send force ricocheting around inside his body like an echo chamber. Internal bleeding. Broken ribs.

It would all be fatal if not for his armor, and Xiuhnel takes his time, drinks in the feeling of dominance, of winning, of slowly beating a man to death for no reason other than to prove that he is weak, and Xiuhnel is strong. It's the feeling Azalea embraced night after night, every time she punched a mugger. Every time she came within a breath of choking someone to death.

It is intoxicating.

So much so that she does not notice Jessica struggling past a blow that should have left her paralyzed for an hour. Does not notice her reach into her pocket. Instead, Azalea is focused on her opponent, right up until she decides she's ready. That she's finished. She waits for a swing, one she steps into and under, a choke hold finding Matt's neck and the hand that should be sinking it in reaching for his chin.

The vial smashes against him and Azalea blinks, scowls, and looks incredulously with her now golden eyes to Jessica.

"Too late."


She meant to rip his head clean off, instead she catches under his mask, and the newfound luck works it's magic. Nanofiber fails, Azalea staggers and trips, and as the Daredevil goes spinning he'll realize the front and top of his mask has gone flying off - instead of his head.

Jessica's blows land, and Azalea tumbles and rolls past The Devil Of Hell's Kitchen, and when she rises it's in profile to an unmistakable face. The face of the man she loves more than anything in the world. Jessica gets exactly what she wants then, a cartwheel Capoeira kick leading her engagement, and Xiuhnel screams in the spirit world at the taunt Jessica baits him with, for more than anything in this world Xiuhnel wishes to destroy the one that betrayed him and stole everything that he had. Technique shifts, disappears as rage takes over, but Jessica will find that Azalea, in only a scant few minutes, has grown stronger than even she.


Even to the last, Matt struggles and strains against the sudden death grip he's found in, hands grabbing behind him for shoulder, neck, anything he can grapple on to that might potentially dislodge her. He feels the pressure, feels the pull, feels the onset of something ominous and momentous at once — a tunnel to bright light should be flickering in his mind's eye any minute now. He's done plenty of things that should have gotten him killed over the last half year, but this is one of the few times he's been genuinely close to death.

And then several things are happening at once. That vial is dropping, and something is shifting, invisible currents barely felt in the air twisting and writhing. He's changing too, a sudden infusion of vigor where his strength was all but sapped. He doesn't just feel himself, he feels like more than himself, some kind of avatar or vessel of — he doesn't even know what. But it's more than enough to renew his attempt at breaking that headlock, of diving backwards and plunging the dervish grappling him from behind into the cold stone with enough force to break a few of her ribs. He's set to do it, and —

—and there goes his mask, off into the night sky. Raw, abject terror seizes him as he feels the cool kiss of night air on his features, a wave of emotion so strong that it momentarily overcoming even the euphoria of his newfound strength. The world lurches, and it's as if he's dived off a great height with no grappling hook, no fire escape, no balcony, nothing to latch on to. Nothing but the long drop towards an abyss so deep and dark he has no idea where it ends.

No one outside of a blind man has known Matt Murdock's secrets; even his father went to his grave without ever really knowing what his son was, or was on his way to becoming. This wasn't some accident: it was a choice by a pathologically secretive, compartmentalized and closeted individual. For a minute, he almost wishes she'd killed him.

But then Jessica is taunting it and there's no time to care about what she knows and what she sees and what it all means. The creature who just did a number on his body and may have fucked up this less-than-steady but so-far-holding double life he's cobbled together is attacking her, and Matt -cannot- let that stand. Rage returns, both in Jessica's defense and over his own psychic wounds, and the Devil of Hell's Kitchen provides in that instant he doesn't need a mask to live up to his name. When he steals behind a very distracted Azalea he is silent but implacable, rounding the crook of his arm around her and drawing her into a blood choke. Impervious, impenetrable, immovable: she can punch or kick or elbow all she likes, he will not budge until he finds out whether this brand of devil still needs air to breathe.

When Jess sees him, she'll find him more or less the same: eyes staring sightlessly forward, hair disheveled, lip bloodied. But his aspect — that cold, brutal determination found on every-man features as he tries to choke Azalea into unconsciousness — that must surely be new.



For a moment she's sure it is too late. The gambit has failed, and Daredevil dies tonight. Her blows land with ferocious grief; she actually hallucinates his head flying for a moment before she realizes…that was just his mask.

And she sees him for who he really is for the first time.

"Matt," Jessica whispers, flooded with awe, and a sudden surge of raw, hot love even fiercer than that which she's felt before, something that she can't quash, deny, or hide. The love not just for a truly good and honorable man who makes her feel less broken. The battle-born love of seeing someone who does not need a protector, but is a protector, someone who can not only keep up with her madcap life but who steps into the gap and rages like a titan when she herself has fallen.

God. She'd thought she was lost before.

There is, of course, also some surprise.

But…not as much as there could have been.

A thousand little data points assemble themselves in her head in an instant without requiring her to call them to mind, data points her subconscious had already been playing with. A story in a sandwich shop that didn't quite add up, but had been plausible enough. The way he'd laughed in the face of his impending death in the alleyway. His exasperation at her protectiveness when he'd been attacked a second time, but had needed her in all actuality not at all. The same haircolor, the same mouth shape. Anyone can change a voice; she does it herself, all the time. The retired mesh mask, such a strange choice, capable of being seen through but still impeding sight…unless you're blind, and reliant upon off-the-chart senses.

She realizes that in her heart of hearts she'd known since that night on docks, when he'd done such a Matt thing, believing her without question while her mouth spoke insanities, making things better for her, without hesitation. But…she hadn't entirely wanted to know, because she'd liked it. Working with him. Being able to be around him without fearing that it would be awkward. In a way he'd let her get to know him in that mask 1000 times more than he'd let her get to know him behind his inscrutable daytime face. To try to assemble the puzzle would have been to risk ruining it, to perhaps drive away the little bit of him she got to have. The partner, the friend.

All these thoughts rocket through her brain in less than the time it takes to whisper his name, but nevertheless, she stares a split second too long.

The Capoeira kick cracks against her face, shatters her jaw, sends her spinning right to the edge of the roof, flying over the edge. She bounces off the railing of the fire escape below with a cry of agony, hits the next one down and goes sailing through a little glass table someone parked out there illegally, the product of some renters treating the safety landing like a porch because they're assholes. The shards slice into her arms, her legs, her body, unprotected tonight by a leather jacket because it was spring, and it was nice, and she hadn't wanted it.

She groans and pushes her bleeding body upright by sheer force of will. Bucky would have had her ass for that moment of distraction, that failure to block, and this is precisely why.

She leaps up again, tired, pins and needles still in her veins, blood rolling down her pale snow-white skin, unable to even get all the way to the roof. She gets one arm wrapped around the edge and dangles there, panting.

She gets there in time to see Matt Murdock take her suggested strategy to heart, to see what he looks like in all his warrior's glory, far more fearsome and glorious than he could ever possibly look with that mask on, for all that he feels he needs it.

But he does need it. Psychologically and also…well. It protects his head.

She surge-flops up onto the roof and groans. Then she pushes up, darts after it, grabs it, stumbles towards him and just sort of…pops it back onto his head for him, just like she's handed him his glasses about 100 times before.


When Jessica goes flying, The Dark Devil revels. "Maybe I won't get to fuck you tonight." It almost sounds sad. But then there's a strength renewed at her neck, and the battle begins once more. It is the battle of someone who has found a worthy challenger, shifting. Shaking. Each footstep crating the rooftop they struggle on. Each step sending another wave of power that could create or destroy through the leylines of the world, cascading energies that kill plants for miles and crumble brick and mortar at their weakest points.

In a few more moments, who knows how far it will go. Minor structural damage is poised to become earthquakes, and the world hangs on the edge of oblivion because Azalea Kingston is bound and helpless in her own body.

Just as Jess finds Matt's helmet and drops it on, Azalea thrashes, sending them both for a ride for a brief moment, her spin bringing her in position to kick Jessica with near-Asgardian strength, while her hands clamp over Matt's and she takes a knee.

Slowly it happens.

He can feel his muscles beaten back. He's ten times stronger than he was with John's Pinch running through his body, and still, she begins to untangle him. There is a laugh, the laugh of someone who is going to kill everyone he sees tonight. The laugh that heralds the coming of a new age.

This city will burn in the wake of Xiuhnel's vengeance.


She feels the ripple all the way to Gotham, Zatanna Zatara stopping in her tracks and looking up at the sky, watching the fabric shift. While she is familiar with the fact that the white noise that is stirring the magical community has only grown in scope, she wonders whether she is more sensitive to these effects now because of it. Unlike others, however this feels familiar, and it doesn't take long for her to realize just exactly what she is feeling.

Or, for the matter, who.

Her image drips through the link she shares with John Constantine as she picks up a dead run, pulling out her obsidian obelisk.

John, I'm going in.

Reality splits, tearing asunder by a single word escaping her lips. Before she is crushed by the rush of incoming Gotham traffic, the young magician leaps into the rift…

A corresponding tear suddenly coalesces from out of nowhere, twisting into being as the blue-eyed girl is spat out into the rooftop, suddenly there, boots skidding across concrete and kicking up a small film of dust. Pure, blue-white magic crackles at her fingertips as she taps into the endless well inside her - it's going to be necessary, the spiritual miasma enveloping the building is enough to choke a dragon, and she knows this without having seen one yet. Threads of blue-white mystical energy band emit from her slender form like hazy smoke, her eyes already starting to recede to white.

Normally, there would be hesitation. Zatanna Zatara is perennially afraid of the power inside her, but there is always one thing that never fails to push her over the hump to act when she needs to and that is when her people are in trouble. The sight of Jessica's bloodied form is enough.


The command echoes strangely through the air and the fabric of the world bends to the force of the authoritative command. Ripples shoot out across the city at the force of it, her obsidian instrument pointed directly at Azalea's form even as her own influence reaches out in an effort to ensnare the murdered good. Her other hand is already weaving through the air in several gestures, American Sign Language…a handy trick, for who is, down to the basics, a Logomancer. Words, to her, are power, and the more ways she knows how to convey them, the better off she is in the magical battlefield.

Her silent commands twist reality further, in an effort to reach for Azalea - the real Azalea - to grab onto her and pull her out of the chains that presently hold her.

She has done the reverse before, a long time ago, way back when she was only starting to understand the limits of her own power. After the events of the last few months, the young woman is never so aware of what she can do than at this moment, when she's pushed to save people she cares about from a god whose very instincts are keyed towards conquest and destruction.


Matt's grip fairly well redoubles when he sees the extent of Jessica's injuries, but it's simply not enough, even with all his borrowed strength, and he grits his teeth in frustration as Azalea begins to break his hold on her. He sifts through a narrowing universe of possibilities for stopping this creature, and is coming up short. Forget his mask, his identity — even as it is improbably restored to him by an injured Jessica Jones — people can and will be hurt unless he does something…

But then Zatanna is making her equally dramatic arrival, and exercising the power he's always been able to sense, but at levels he hasn't begun to experience before. The shock waves that come out of her mystic mandate rip through him, scrambling his oversensitive senses and sending him reeling backwards and then collapsing against the ruin of that chimney. Not a glove laid on him in minutes, and Matt Murdock is suddenly down for the count — leaving Azalea unconstrained. Physically, at least.


Jessica is strong, but Asgardians are way stronger, and that kick crumples her, sends her to the ground to lay in a fetal position and cough up a mess of blood. Even she can break, and with it planted squarely in her solar plexus the way it was, the woman is simply done, unable to summon any more fight right now. All she can do is writhe in pain greater than any she's ever felt, her world spinning, her breath coming in labored gasps. That's a killing blow. Not an instant kill, but without treatment it could end even her, right there on this dark rooftop.

Bitter grief fills her as she hears that laugh, realizes they've lost, and the whole world is about to pay the price. These are the fruits of her mistakes. These are the consequences for tampering with things, so many things, so very far above her paygrade. She should never have tried to play the hero. She does not have what it takes. She's always known that— why didn't she listen to what she always knew?

All well and good that she couldn't turn her back on Azalea's pain, on her situation, but if she couldn't bring it to a successful close…if she couldn't help, if she was, in fact, destined to only make things worse…then what did she really accomplish, other than to perhaps make others pay for her idiocy? She'd thought she was being so noble, thought she was taking some element of her own pain and transfiguring it into something that could help others…

What a fucking joke.

Her world spins to darkness, consciousness slips, her heartbeat fades; Jones is sure she'll open her eyes again in the depths of Hell, where her soul surely belongs. At least she got to see the face of Heaven for a moment more before she gets dragged down there, so ironically dressed in the Devil's own clothes.

But then…something pierces her fading awareness. Backwards words, the battlecry of the very witch who strolled into her office, dragged her out of a pool of her own drool and drunken vomit, set her on her feet, and declared to the Universe that Jessica Jones did too have what it took to be a hero, working her magic on her in a spell far more complex and subtle than the one she just flung, but every bit as powerful in its own way.

Hope springs anew, and all at once, she slides back to awareness, opening her eyes, coughing a little more blood, but determined to stick around for just a bit longer, after all.


The world quakes. Zatanna can feel it. Somewhere a line of energy is drawn from the very core of it, right to this creature in front of her. This is Xuihnel as he has never been on this world. Beyond any power he had when melded with mortals, not dragged down by the chains of another's soul, weakened by it's presence and dogged by it's fragility. This is Xuihnel unleashed. As the champions fall by the wayside and reality splits open, she turns. Fierce, deadly, wide-eyed. Her smile is the smile of someone who has it's favorite toy, stepping towards Zatanna even as she speaks.

"Hello, Cand-erk!"

The blast of energy washes out to send Murdock sprawling, to rock and wake and rouse Jessica as Xiuhnel is chained.

Azalea screams, drops to her knees. A nearby parking garage collapses, and lightning gives one last furious streak across the sky before those rainless clouds begin to break up and drift away.

Gold eyes turn blue, and the sudden horror of it all comes rushing back. Azalea, not just snapping back to rest control, but completely and wholly unburdened by her demon but oh so aware of what she's said, done, and wanted to do while the monster was unleashed.

A breath escapes her. Tears roll down her face, and she reaches out a hand to place it on Zatanna's shoulder as a whisper spills forth from a quivering mouth.

"Kill me."

She falls over to join the other heroes on the rooftop, though not from injury but sheer exhaustion. Behind Zatanna, ephemeral hands cradle Jessica Jones, and a familiar energy will affront the mage's senses. Healing magic. Not much, just a little, enough to stabilize. There, in a realm just pass normal senses, Itzpapalotl kneels, her form fading from even this place as she keeps Jessica Jones from dying.

"Not yet. Come back, dear shepherd. You need to help the others understand." Zatanna might catch sight of her beautiful brown eyes before she's a ghost of energy carried on the wind, a projection from some place not here at all.


And with that, it's over, for now.

Stowing away from the obsidian obelisk, Zatanna rushes over to where Azalea has fallen, getting down on one knee to look at the young woman in the face, hands coming up to frame it with her fingers. Gold has receded to blue, and she knows by the tears that glisten in her eyes that Azalea Kingston is back from whatever spiritual well she had been trapped in. The whispered words has her lips pressing together, the young woman giving her head a hard shake. Despite herself, she reaches out to wrap her arms around her schoolmate's neck.

"No," she tells her quietly. "Look, John and I…we're looking into this, okay? We're looking into you. And the two of us, we have an idea. We just…need to find the right time to execute it. Just don't give up, okay? You can't. You've gotten this far."

After a moment, her arms loosen around Azalea's shoulders, and just as she does, another presence whispers over her supernatural senses. The young woman spins around quickly, obsidian wand snapping out from between her fingers in a smooth, sleight of hand maneuver - a more mundane form of magic, quick and deft enough to seem as if it just appears from nowhere.

She stares openly as the face of the Obsidian Butterfly peers out from behind Jessica, before the zephyrous currents swirling around the rooftop carry the memory of her away. Her lips press into a thin line.

So, she's showed up. She had anticipated that she would, eventually, but not this soon.

Good, she thinks, thoughts running along grimmer lines. We're going to need what she has.

Standing up slowly, she starts moving, to crouch down next to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, whose form and figure looks distinct, wisps of John's magic clinging to him - she recognizes it immediately. Some kind of protection had been used on him, recently. But when she reaches out to try and pull him gently from the chimney, to lay him flat so she could heal him…

Lips part as she stares at the familiar unconscious face.

"….Matt Murdock?!" she utters, disbelief crossing over her features.

What the hell, New York?!


Stabilizing magic flows through her. Jessica just lays there. She hears Azalea's plea, and for one moment she thinks…this is it. Zatanna's going to do it, she's going to end Azalea's life having seen all that's inside of her.

She's not sure John wouldn't have, were he here.

She's not sure he wouldn't have been right to do it, too, and that thought rips her apart inside 100 ways from Sunday, that she could even think it. Itzpapalotl calls her the "shepherd," tells her it's her duty to make them understand why they have to leave Azalea to her fate, and she recoils from that too.

She feels an other unhappy pang when she hears Zatanna's exclamation. Maybe Jess hadn't put his mask on firmly enough; perhaps it got knocked askew yet again, perhaps his luck just ran out, or perhaps she felt the fading remains of her own healing magic, laid down months ago. Nevertheless, the shattering of his private identity to not just herself, someone he probably wouldn't have chosen to share it with, but to two others he wouldn't have chosen to share it with, twists her up with another pang of hot guilt. It's one more sin to lay at her feet, one more black mark on the growing black mark tally board.

She rolls onto her back and stares up at the cleared sky. The man she loves will live, but she may have ruined his life, all because she mishandled Itzpapalotl, and before that Az, and before that probably a hundred and one other things she's not even thinking of. To say nothing of anyone who died in all the mess caused by all the power thrown around. All at her feet.

"I'm sorry," she whispers. To God, to Azalea, to Zatanna, to those unknown people. To Annette. To Bucky, who tried to teach her to be a better, stronger fighter, who might not have gotten taken by surprise by Xihunel's paralyzing blow. To Matt Murdock.

"I'm so sorry."

There are a hundred reasons why a heart can break, and not all of them are the result of unrequited love.


When Zatanna cradles Azalea her lids flutter, and she tries to look up into the face of the first person who reached into the mired pit of her life and dared give her hope. She feels it now, the way she felt the first time she healed her, the first time she bound Xiuhnel up. She feels human, but would rather die than feel like anything less again.

So too, she can feel it fading. Feel him eat at the magic voraciously. And she knows what happens afterwards. The dreams Xiuhnel forces on her, about the people she cares about. The shame that comes after in what she has to do to make it stop. She shakes her head, but consciousness leaves her before she moves on to Matt, who was mostly restored and rejuvenated by John's magical soup. Or.. whatever that stuff was. Who knows with John. Best not to delve to deeply in these things.

Sirens call in the distance, an answer to the collapsed parking garage and some of the other destruction that happened at Xiuhnel's entropy cascaded through the block, and rippled perhaps farther, but despite it all, despite what this might mean about the state of Azalea Kingston and the plan to restore her soul and the physical and social destruction this episode left in it's wake, it is still a victory.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License