Fears of a Murdered God

June 10, 2017:

T'challa gives Jessica Jones a brief moment of his time. She gets her chance to ask him why he wanted Xihunel to feel fear. But what was he doing at the Federal Courthouse, exactly?

Outside the federal courthouse, NYC.

No international incidents here. At least, not today.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Azalea Kingston, Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

There are no court proceedings here at the Federal Courthouse that Jessica Jones cares about today. The bail hearing for her friend and sometimes-surrogate father figure has already taken place. What remains is the trial, and that's not for weeks. The defense is being given some time to prepare. At some point, jury selection will take place, but that's not today either.

The private detective finds herself staring at it morbidly anyway as she makes her way to the spot that T'challa has summoned her to. She hadn't forgotten sending him the message requesting this meeting, but neither had she been sure he would answer. He is a King, and she is, after all, just a Hell's Kitchen private eye at the end of the day. If one who is routinely involved in affairs that are quite a bit stranger than the usual private investigator's fare.

She smells of vanilla as she always does, her soap and her shampoo one of those all-in-one things meant to cover the body and the hair. She also smells of depression, a depression deep enough that it's a wonder she's out of bed, clean, and moving. But this is a woman who is pretty used to pushing past such things, pushing the physical sensations they cause— a heavy body, an ache in her chest, an exhaustion beyond exhaustion— to the back of her mind so she can get on with the bit where she has to function.

Sunglasses block her eyes from view. Her gleaming black hair shimmers a little in the late afternoon sunlight, left to fall around her face in careless fashion, brushed once but defeated by the summer wind that has chosen to tug at it, play with it. In her black t-shirt, jeans, and black boots she could be anyone; she is immeninently forgettable, wearing very little make-up. She blends into her area with ease, adopts a sort of social invisibility with ease, something that no doubt serves her well as a private investigator.

Nobody who looked at her would know that there's part of her who could cheerfully burn down that courthouse and all it represents right now.

She strides up to his location with her heavy, sure footsteps. Her voice is pretty steady too. "Thanks for meeting with me," she greets, balanced as ever somewhere well shy of the courtesy due a King but offering courtesy which is well above average for that which she offers to the average person on this earth.

—-

"It is of no consequence, Miss Jones. The earth and air are free, all I must supply is a moment, of which I have hopefully been blessed with many. You will forgive the circumstance and stage, I trust.."

Today is a day for appearances. Jessica has no interest in today's business on the auspice that what interests her the most having already occurred, but the Wakandan king has a decidedly different outlook. Today, he descends the courthouse of this circuit in well-handled tones of brown and black, his suit jacket cut and tailored to fit him specifically, a fact that is reminded as he quietly adjusts the sleeves to hang properly as he moves.

As always, he moves with purpose, and there is very little accessory motion. T'Challa is not by nature a nervous man, and when he is pleased with the hang of his jacket, his hands slip to his sides. Not to his pockets, nor behind him or in front of him. The ready gaze he fixes on Jessica is something not entirely of the country; he watches her with the customary stillness and expectation that he is known to affect. And he does watch her: She is heiress to the lion's share of his attention, the business of even only a few moments before forgotten.

"Though I confess a certain..curiosity as to the detail of your request today."

There is not a lot T'Challa can't pick up on, his own scent of natural textiles and the rich earth of Wakandan craftsmanship tempered by Jessica's vanilla. To contrast, T'Challa has no other overt scent or fragrance about him, having apparently eschewed unnatural aromatics for preference. He can hear her fatigue, a thick sound borne deep in the throat, but if he has any concern over it, it is hard to determine, behind a face that is commonly severe, an expression cut from the stone of the mountain marking even the most casual of interactions.

If one did not know him, they would find his question in tail with his expression unsettling.

—-

She's gotten pretty used to his mien and demeanor, for all that they've only shared two previous conversations. The second was long and intense, the type that gives one person a bit of the measure of the other.

She gives a faint smile when he confesses curiosity, ducking her head and letting her hair cover her face for a moment as she indulges in a bit of exhausted humor. Curosity. Because cats. It's the kind of humor someone who doesn't have much left inside of her indulges in, a grasp at a straw to find something funny or light in a mental sky gone dark. But she doesn't indulge it long.

"I wish to offer thanks, and request answers," she replies, still in that even, straightforward, professional tone.

"I offer thanks, because you visited Azlaea Kingston and gifted her with a necklace of your people— or she has it, anyway, because you brought it, I wasn't really clear on which. You may not know it, but…she is someone I have cared for, taken under my wing, someone I took into my home, someone I would see live, and thrive. What you brought her seemed to help her with her burden."

She does slide her hands into her own pockets, content to amble with him if he wishes to walk more, or to stand there in this place with all of her questions about why he is there at the courthouse of all places left, for the moment, dead on her tongue. She will pursue this matter of the gods first and foremost, as was in the message she sent.

"And a request for answers, because it seems your Goddess has quite the history with the mad Sky Serpent. She told me a bit, before the Obsidian Butterfly saw fit to intervene."

Her brow furrows. "Why did you hope the god Xihunel would feel fear? I thought he was incapable of it. What did that mean?"

After all, the bit about the King of Wakanda carrying Xihunel out of Wakanda and flinging himself on the rocks seemed straightforward enough of a story. But T'challa's motives in visiting the god-ridden girl? That seems strange to her, a bit that she hopes contains a clue, an answer, a final bit of contribution she can pass on to a certain witch before her own part in this is well and truly done, before she's finally done all that she can.

—-

The king does not seem overtly taken aback by the revelation that Azalea has kept his necklace. It was something he expected, and certainly something he allowed to happen, despite the extenuating circumstances. Stark interfered too soon, but it wasn't T'Challa's aim to become tied down with superficial things and to become distracted by a protracted battle with the incredible Iron Man.

The day may come where he must peel Stark out of his iron casket, but to do so prematurely is nothing but a failure of wisdom.

In all truth, he picks up on the fact that Jessica is trying to avoid smiling at his commentary. The cultural divide is big enough that the only response to her sudden movement is a slowly arched eyebrow, though it is hard to tell with T'Challa's customary attitudes towards things if it's because he doesn't pick up on the reference, or if he doesn't find it amusing. Ultimately, the momentary subject of confusion is set aside for more tangible things.

Opening a hand to Jessica in allowance as she gives thanks but responding little overmore, the Wakandan king's brow furrows in caution. "It goes without saying that I should be concerned for your wellbeing, Jessica," T'Challa remarks absently. If Azalea loses control, it could become a problem for her. "But I trust that you are capable of handling the consequences of your friendships."

Of course, the friendship comes only as a mild surprise to T'Challa to start with. He picked up on Azalea's scent easily in Alias investigations, but the scent that he picked up on and the scent that he tracked to Stark Tower were not one and the same. The relation between the two, nevertheless, clicks easily in his mind.

"But the real history of the Black Panther, beyond the tales the smugglers tell, is one that uniquely belongs inside the boundaries of Wakanda. Beyond what you must already know, the rest will have to wait for another life, or one that sees you past our borders."

He takes a few steps past Jessica at that juncture, and for a moment, it may seem that that is all he is willing to tell. His car awaits on the street, as a well-dressed woman smoothly exits the vehicle and holds the door for him. But, after the space of a thought, he king finds reason to pause.

"If you ask a god, 'can you be killed,' he will always say no, Jessica," T'Challa remarks, without looking back. "But gods have lied for less before. Ask Anansi. Belief, our belief, is the loam in which an immortal's bones grow. Feeding it with our own fear only causes them to grow stronger. That is why our Panther is strong, but the crocodile and the gorilla have been all but forgotten."

Why did he want Xiuhnel to feel fear? "If you accept the premise that a god cannot die, then he should by all rights not feel fear. But he has already been killed once. And what can be killed, avoids being killed. And if it avoids being killed, then it feels fear. Do not be misled by the irrational simply because someone asserts it with enough belief."

—-

He is concerned for her well-being? That actually didn't go without saying, not entirely. The Panther King is ever an enigma, threatening her in one conversation…sort of…expressing concern (sort of) in the next. It causes a flicker of surprise, and warmth as well, even as Jessica ultimately takes that for what it's worth, saying dryly, "Well, she's in a big metal box now, I'm probably safe."

There' s a wryness there as her hand clenches around the gris-gris in her pocket, meant to shield her from the spirit world in general and Itzpapalotl in specific.

She's probably safe. Sort of.

He is already on the way to his car, with one of his bodyguards holding the door, but he stops to tell her a bit about gods and forgetfulness, and how they might be killed. Belief and fear.

"Wait, wait, wait. When was Xihunel killed? I know Itzpapalotl took his heart but he seemed to mostly survive that, launching his ass from body to body until we got today's clusterfuck."

That's when she just follows him, as much as she feels she can without triggering an incident. She might get in the car with him until she gets her answers. Or not, since she doesn't really want to rumble with his people, people who are just doing their job. Still, her exhausted brain does what it can to wrap her mind around the problem. "And if he was killed, why is he back? Are you saying the answer to this entire problem is just to…what? Stop fearing him? Start forgetting about him?" Ask Anansi? Is that a thing? She supposes it has to be a thing, given he has the red phone to Bastet and Xihunel is in Tony Stark's basement.

He tells her not to be misled by the irrational, and she gives a little grimace. From her point of view, the fact that she's standing on the sidewalk in front of a courthouse talking to a King who she's on a first name basis with (sort of) about whether or not a god can be sufficiently either a) killed or b) inspired to shit his pants with fear until he poofs out of existence? Is in itself irrational. But here they both are, doing this very thing, because that is the problem at hand. At least for her. He has a zillion other problems.

—-

T'Challa pauses there, with his hand resting on the door of the Wakandan limousine. The conveyance is one that could be mistaken for a thousand other similar automobiles by those not bearing much attention, but it doesn't seem to emit the same amount of heat, exhaust or sound that other cars its size and displacement do. Considering that even most presidential conveyance in the motorpool are built like tanks and consume ridiculous amounts of fuel, to focus on it is to be slightly bewildered.

Still, Jessica follows him, and seems pretty willing to get in the car with him.

As much as he might respect her, his body language is not exactly accomodating.

"The problem is not that we fear him, it is that we accept that he should not fear us," the panther remarks to Jessica, his voice bearing the quality of a sword being sharpened on a whetstone.

The king considers his next words for a moment, exchanging glances with the harsh looking woman continuing to hold the door for him. It is a stifling one, of the sort meant to disarm, because it is plainly clear that the woman does not like the looks of Jessica or her tone, fixing her with the sort of smouldering patience that one typically reserves for children who have had a little too much sugar. Disregarding the concern, T'Challa continues. "Do you think that the spirits of your ancestors are still surviving?" he asks. "There is a reason Xiuhnel is considered the murdered god. This is a world in which a man can walk, and still be dead. This is a world in which the dead can be killed again. Do not think that what he does now is in any form survival. A god, hale, celebrated and true, is ten thousand times more than that existence. We know what real gods are. And if this ill thing chances the shores of Wakanda again, I am committed to expending immeasurable resources to assure even this form of existence for him is evaporated."

The investigator might notice that the force with which T'Challa is gripping the car door has left his knuckles pale. Something about T'Challa is immeasurably angry, something deep inside. But with aplomb, the king maintains his composure. "So, if he can fear, and he can be killed, then your only choice left is to believe whether or not you, yourself, should fear him, Jessica."

—-

She backs off as soon as both T'challa and his body guard start showing signs of agitation. She's not pushing because she's trying to be a pain in the ass, but more because she is focused. It's her bulldog nature…if the answer— not even so much T'challa, but the answer— is getting in the car, then that is where she wants to be. But in the end the answer produces a bitter smile.

She is deathly afraid of Xihunel. It's there in the twist of her mouth, though her eyes are hidden. But T'challa can't know how he rendered her helpless in a blow, and reached into her soul with one of the two sorts of threats that could chill her into not just true fear, but true despair. Nor does the rumpled, exhausted woman have it in her to share. It's enough to know the great divide between that which should be, and that which is.

Still, one may at least hope that the tumultuous seas of her emotions won't be the key to the life of Azalea Kingston or the death of Xihunel the Murdered God. She certainly hopes so.

"Sorry," she tells the bodyguard, belatedly. "I'm not trying to— sorry." She puts her hands up a little, trying to show she means no harm, her mouth twisting in a different way, this one in a way that says she is accusing herself of being kind of an asshole.

She turns those apologies on T'challa. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to offend." She just does, ever so often. "With the— " She gestures at the car.

She pushes her sunglasses up on her nose. "You've been helpful, Your Majesty." It's more a bone thrown to the woman holding the door than to him. The way she says it sounds more like his name than like a title. She's at least sure he's given her a puzzle piece, and if she can't use it or understand it, Zatanna nevertheless may well be able to, or Constantine, with his own vast knowledge of gods and spirits, angels and demons. "I appreciate you taking the time."

She gives a curious, sidelong glance at the courthouse, her heart full of other questions, other whys.

But in the end she decides it's none of her god damn business, and she's bothered him enough. She turns to go, committing each of his words to memory so she can in turn e-mail them to her friends, as close to word-for-word as she can.

—-

On the very precipice of an international incident, the imposingly tall woman stares down Jessica. If she accepts her apology or amends, she certainly doesn't show it. A less apt mind would concern themselves with whether the foreign black woman could even understand English, but to think that T'Challa would choose staff that didn't would be rather short-sighted. Even so, the young king pauses, his look focused on the middle space between them. He says something-briefly-in Hausa, before the woman straightens, finally stepping away from Jessica and the door, leaving T'Challa be with it and giving Jessica some much needed space as she quietly gets into the car.

If there is any other apologies or acceptances to be had, T'Challa doesn't express them outwardly, merely content to watch Jessica's body language curiously. It may be something endemic to Wakanda, to be watched quietly.

There is something there. In her spirit, that dims when the murdered god is mentioned. T'Challa is no mind reader, so what it may be exactly will be the subject of many a fathom's stretch. "Many a moment has been spent on less, Miss Jones," the king remarks as she thanks him, but the customary distance has again filled the space between them. "But.. be careful," he thinks, "in the matters of gods. I would be satisfied with seeing you whole at least a few more times before the next world.."

The door is closed, and T'Challa gone long before the thought can finish forming truly.

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