Secrets of a Murdered God

July 22, 2017:

Jessica Jones finally pays Azalea Kingston a visit. She comes expecting only to provide comfort. She leaves with answers— big answers.

Stark Industries, New York City

The place where answers are found.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Tony Stark, John Constatine, Cindy Moon, Trish Walker

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Blood splatters against the glass that is not glass, a fine mist drawn from bruised and scarred knuckles. They strike true, powering into a metal jaw that looks very much like the jaw of Iron Man. An elbow blocks the retaliatory strike, moving from low to high as her other fist jars Azalea's mechanical opponent into the curvature of her prison. The fury of her followup, the crunch of metal as a knee meets chestplate, is palpable. It fills the room with a frenetic tension. She is tiny. She is battered. She is lethal.

And Azalea Kingston does not look good.

Her gaze is a sunken thing, her mouth a mockery of makeup, smeared red with blood from the last strike that connected, and dried across her chin. Bruises cover her shoulders and arms, and one finger is taped to another, curled in for a permanent fist. The tank top she wears was once white, and is not dirty, a mixture of blood and sweat and the filth of combat, and her pants aren't much better off, grey sweats that have blood at the knees, and a tear at the bottom of one leg.

As the robot recovers and unleashes a flurry of blows, Azalea meets them head on, the torque of metal grating on the ears as she wrenches at one of it's limbs and sends it spiraling away with a kick.

On the outside of her prison, a timer ticks away. Combat 42 - 6hrs, 27min, 18sec. It seems that in her inability to go to war, she has asked the war be brought to her.


Jessica Jones arrives looking much as she did on the day they both met.

Black jeans. Leather jacket, zipped up. She hasn't gone so far as to put on her scarf in the middle of summer, but the t-shirt she wears beneath is black, drawing attention away from her face. Fingerless gloves, though they look more utilitarian than warm, made of some fabric other than wool. Boots. Ever since her discussion with Sizani she hasn't been able to stop armoring up, and the temperature outside, one she doesn't care about or notice that much anyway, be damned.

Despite the wards, she comes with the gris gris Zatanna also made her to shield her from Itzpapalotl's eye. She is well in the grip of her anxieties, though anyone who looked at her grim, tight face right now wouldn't really know. A closed expression that nevertheless looks pained and concerned is on her face. She stands there, really taking in Az's deteriorating appearance, and feels the prick of failure again.

Jessica notes the time, drawing close to the tank.

"You look like shit, kiddo," she says.

But perhaps even to her own surprise, she's suddenly speaking to Az pretty much as she always did, seeing the girl only right this second, and not the thing that's destroying her, the one she's so afraid of that she found herself unable to contact the girl with so much as a phone call for a full month while she ran about pursuing madmen in Germany.



The word freezes the robot in it's tracks, and it's menacing pose promised retribution for what Azalea had done to it. The panel outside reverts to her vitals. Her blood pressure. Her abnormally high temperature, and racing heartbeat. Her shoulders heave as she gets a handle on herself, and on processing just those few words from Jessica. Finally she stumbles over to the side of the prison where Jessica waits, hands pressing against it as her scrutinizing gaze comes to bare.

"It's not so bad. Not as far as dying goes. I've seen pretty much all the bad ways. Inflicted them in other lives. Suffering a stroke while fighting a robot seems just fine. Just fine. Spares you." Her forehead taps against the glass, and her eyes fall shut, and so close her bodyheat fogs the glass. "See I used to look forward to people coming down here. Every time the elevator opened, it meant someone might have solved my problem. But now I know it isn't true. Because I feel it. Something pulling at me. Some .."

Her eyes close, and she tries to steady herself, finally leaning back so her hands can fall away. "I don't want to be in here anymore. Please.." Azalea's expression turns desperate, and she drops to her knees on the mat she uses as a bed. "Please. I'll be good. I'll stay at home. I'll just talk to Cindy, and Trish? Just talk. I promise."


Screw it.

"Jarvis, let me in."

It's Friday that speaks up.

"That's ill-advised, Miss Jones."

"Do I need to wave my fancy access card around?"

Both AIs fall momentarily silent. Then the cage slides open, just a little, and Jessica is inside. The cage slams shut, almost slamming into her in Friday's haste to get Az properly contained again.

She breathes. Five seconds in. Five seconds out. Squares her shoulders. Her expression is a complicated thing, hard to read. Az has dropped to her knees on that mat, and Jessica is just abruptly there, on her knees too, her arms coming to wrap firmly around the young woman, her eyes closing as a cold shiver runs through her. Her breathing is a little quick as she rests her chin on the girl's head. All of the physiology of fear is still there, but so is something else, something quite a bit more powerful than that, and it's that something else that compels her now.


There's a moment there where every muscle in Azalea's body tenses with the urge to escape. The cage is up for a brief moment, and it's really all she needed. She knows how to stop Jessica if she needs to, she remembers, from the rooftop. It's the moment and mindset of a caged and cornered animal, and it almost consumes her.

But then Jessica is there and her eyes squeeze shut as a sob rocks her form, bowing her head against her as all her frustration pours out in the form of tears. She shakes and sputters and utterly fails any composure she might have had, having used every last bit of it up with her last visitor, and before that, with Trish, before she said things that were dismissive and hurtful.

"I saw it in a dream. Saw where she lives. It's so dark. So dead. Kept alive by all I do, all the pain I cause, all the emotion and power I suck in and give to her, and now I can't. Now I'm in here, and I'll die. Now I'm in here, and she'll do something horrible to take her revenge."


It's a clue, and what Jessica should do is pursue it. And perhaps, in a moment, she will.

It's a clue, and what Jessica should do is talk about how she went to the camp with Zee so that clue actually maybe means something to her, though it doesn't tell her everything about what she needs to know. Indeed, because so much of the answer seems to be 'Insert Something Magical Here' she is at dead end after dead end on the matter of this girl. She struggles to understand magic, because it has rules, but the rules seem arbitrary and strange to her, changing from circumstance to circumstance. Sometimes Zatanna can just speak and a thing happens, at other times she needs squid balls and a full moon, and Jessica can never predict which it's going to be. Even as she sees some sort of a flicker of a possibility right here and now, she isn't sure how to harnass it, take advantage of it.

But maybe that's the problem—she assumes she can't, and maybe she needs to go over it all again, dig back into the case file, and treat it like any other. She has only haphazardly done so where Az is concerned, because she's always assumed the answer was nothing she could do. But what if it isn't? What if her own inferiority complex causes her to miss something obvious?

She'll go over it again. But right now, she wraps Az in her arms and lets her cry, rocking her like a baby. In this moment she reaches for the part of her that bounced Annette Anders on her hip as effortlessly as if she'd been bouncing babies all her life— not entirely foreign, as she did have a baby brother once. The part of her that in some other universe might have made a great Mom.

She opens her mouth to speak, but what comes out isn't a statement or a question, like it maybe should be. All she wants to do is comfort this person, this person who is in so much pain, who has faced it so bravely, who has bits of it Jessica understands and bits Jessica never, ever will.

So what comes out is something softly sung, barely murmured, like a lullabye. She has a nice voice, though it's mostly directed to her stove, sink, or shower when alone, or in bits of pieces while she walks with her iPod. And to be very fair, Finger Eleven makes for a weird lullabye. Most song lyrics, in fact, when examined too closely, get a little weird, never quite perfect. It probably pops into her head as much because it was on her playlist recently than as anything else. But, "See it in another light, you'll see it working out alright, I know I won't change any mind, as long as they're still changing mine," seems fitting enough.


There is a stifled laughter when Jessica begins to sing, and she leans back, seeking to disentangle herself, to look her in the eye. One hand finds the side of her neck, a motion so quick it will call back to the strike that disabled Jessica and put her at Xiuhnel's mercy. Instead it is that hold that puts palm to jugular, the way Az has always said hello, some greeting from a place or culture long dead, given new life as the distant shadow of a monster that stalks her soul.

"Please. Jess. Let me die fighting. Helping. I can't go this way. Wasting away. Burning up inside. So many people need me. There's a trial. There's Trish. Please."

She blinks away new tears, and it's all she can do to keep from losing her composure again. It is the plea of someone on death row, who did not commit their crime. The plea of someone who was made a puppet, and who can no longer take the high road.


Jessica's pulse moves quickly under that hand as she swallows. She can't help the sudden burst of adrenaline, the cold fear that dries her mouth when Az moves like that, the reminder that she's willingly climbed into a cage with Xihunel, with all his strength and all his threats. Someone unkind might say a dozen nasty things about this maneuver, all of them dancing along the same sort of implications all wrapped up in questions like well did you enjoy it though?

"You are fighting," she says quietly. "Listen to me. We went to the camp, we learned a little more. You're not dead yet. Okay?"

Her voice is intense, quiet, and she puts both hands on Azalea's shoulders, firmly. And looks into her eyes. Forces herself to look into her eyes. And as she does, her mind goes back to that clue, and they narrow.

"Az. Just now. It sounded an awful lot like you were just now telling me that Xihunel's stolen heart basically gasses up Tamoachan and makes it go. Creates a link that allows her to gather strong emotions and harvest them for her own purposes. Is that about the size of it?"

Would that make things make sense? Itzpapalotl has probably lied to her on multiple occasions, but spotting lies is harder than most people realize without facts to compare them against, or inconsistencies. There are inconsistencies in Itz's stories, but not enough to point to the lies. Itz is also a master manipulatrix, and how she tends to describe her relationship with Xi, both verbally and nonverbally, has changed.

But Jessica re-examines them now.

Xihunel is undoubtedly dangerous, but other gods are walking all over the world. If he contained and controlled his power it wouldn't necessarily melt everything. Her story about cutting out his heart to save all of humanity could be a lie…or some really fantastic self-delusion.

What about loving him? Maybe in a sick, twisted way she does…but maybe it was in the Kilgrave sort of way. Obsessed, needing to possess, and willing to sacrifice having him in her arms so she could possess him completely.

What about the bit about Azalea's memory, the idea that tapping into it— a place where answers surely reside, for one thing— might kill Azalea? Does that even track? Azalea had been remembering shit from Xihunel for months, but she'd been stable. In fact, she didn't start to get really unstable until Itzpapalotl fucked with Zee's protections, bound Azalea's soul briefly and sent Xihunel loose.

Xihunel is undoubtedly bad news, and has seriously made some shit choices as he lashed out in pain and rage, but what if he didn't start as a threat?

Her grip tights slightly on Azalea's shoulders— though not enough to even hurt, let alone bruise— as she starts re-examining everything.

Meanwhile, in the 1500s the Knights of Almeus did something to Tamoachan, basically sealing her there and keeping her influence out of the world, or so they thought. 35 years ago one of their knights then revealed, with his Blood Oath, Xihunel, hopping from body to body. And they thought they all died, but…

"Jesus Christ. The old man in the alley. It was Sir Morris," she murmurs. "He came seeking you specifically because of the Blood Oath. Not because he was trying to hurt you. Because he'd tried to do just like that Wakandan King, tried to contain him, but he already knew just killing him wouldn't work. It had already been tried. The idea was to use your Blood Oath to bind him, just as he'd bound him, contained him. I bet he died shortly after that. I should check the morgues for the date of your attack in the alley. I bet no other being could have fused with Xihunel so tightly except you, and him. Someone with the Blood Oath."

Is she right? Has she hit on it? Is she finally starting to fill in the edges on this crappy Puzzle of Doom?


There is a slow waver, and Azalea looks through Jessica, rather than at her. Her breath becomes a ragged, labored thing, and her hands go to Jessica's wrists. She tries to break free from that hold, her lips curl into a snarl. "I don't fucking know. I don't know what I said! I don't know any of it! Let go of me!"

Jessica is stronger than Az, and she could keep her there if she wanted, but every instinct that tells her how to fight tells her to go for a nerve cluster, to seize her up. To take her access card.

It is the last bastion of her humanity that keeps her from going there, even as sweat beads her forehead and rage burns in her eyes. "Get..the fuck.. off!! LET ME OUT!"


It's a hand across Jessica's cheek, jarring, and not just for the detective. It's jarring because Az only seems to realize what she's done after she's done it, her entire body shaking like a leaf on the wind that's blowing straight to hell.


Jessica turns her head aside as she takes that slap. It hurts, but she takes it in silence, letting Az go nearly as soon as she starts calling for it. She's too sensitive to the issues of unwanted touch not to let go immediately, but Az's freak-out happens so fast that she's not far enough away to avoid the slap when it comes. She doesn't hold it against her. The girl is in torment, and it might have been Xihunel talking, not her. Maybe they're so fused now that there's no tell-tale gold in the eyes.

She wants to ask Azalea a dozen questions. No. She wants to ask Xihunel questions. She needs to risk interviewing Xihunel like a witness, and that she cannot do from in here.

"Friday, I need to step out," she says. She backs towards the edge of the cage, using Azalea's moment of shock to cover her escape, ready to call for the gas at any moment.

But she's seeing a light at the end of this tunnel.

If she's right, Sir Morris was one with divinity for a time. If she's right, he also died a martyr. If she's right, Sir Morris died a Pathfinder, and that means if she can find his bones…maybe, just maybe, they can end this.

And all she has to do to verify what she thinks might be the very last piece of the puzzle, the rest of the answer, not just getting to Tamaochan, but what happens next, is be brave enough to trust her instinct that Itzpapalotl is lying about dipping into Xihunel's memories killing Az. And…to be brave enough to look into those creepy golden eyes and ask her questions. But she must have been getting close all along, because Itzpapalotl was worried. Worried enough to try to scare her off, bribe her off, whatever it took. Why did Itz come to her to do that, and not to Zee or John? Because she knew Zee or John's magic could knock her for a loop, or because there really has been something she could do all along?

Either way, Az is certainly running out of time. She's certainly dying, whether Edward swords her, or Jessica poisons her, or Constantine slips a knife into her heart, or whether she simply rots away in here. Getting too cautious cause she fears Azalea's death is starting to seem goofy. Caution cause she's worried Tony's cage might not do the trick if Xihunel really starts losing his shit is good caution, but…

There is the cage. And Sizani's gas. Which means it's also an exercise in trusting her friends.

She could call Zee, call John, let them handle it, immediately stop, pass the responsibility.

But her gut says that's not the right move either. Because Azalea called her something once. What was it? Mimich. She had looked it up once. Mimich was the other cloud serpent. Xihunel's brother. Why would Xihunel associate Jessica with Mimich? Does that matter? Is that a dead end?

Or maybe it's just she has the bit in her teeth now, and she's making yet another Bad Decision. But the more she thinks, the more she decides to keep pursuing the rabbit.

She just has to get out of the cage safely first.


There is a brief moment of confusion in the girl, a twisting of souls and bitter urges. She's back on her heels, just a foot or two away. Then she leaps, hands out, eyes wild, right for Jessica. Right for her throat. Right for her path to freedom.

The sudden appearance of another wall between them, shooting up from the floor, sends her rebounding away, and the sudden appearance of that gas leaves her teetering as she rises, sucking in one breath full before she falls face-first to her mat. As quickly as it appears, the gas is cycled out, and the cell opens, Friday speaking up.

"It would be in your best interest to evacuate, Ms. Jones. I apologize for intervening but your safety is my first priority. I've alerted Mr. Stark of this incident." Can Jessica see it yet? Tony facepalming. Tony, wondering how many times people will just disregard his safety measures. Thankfully, he built in double redundancy. Jessica is safe this time, but who knows about next time.


Well, that makes the decision for her…because she'd started to second guess the whole witness discussion angle anyway.

"It's okay, Jarvis," Jessica says. "Tell Tony I understand if he needs to yell at me a lot."

But what she won't second-guess is the other thing.

She ran Azalea's employment records ages ago. She digs back in there, pulls up the address for the Denny's where she worked. As she walks, she gets on the phone, calling the Gotham City morgue, records room.

"Hi," she says, not even bothering with a pretext.

"My name is Jessica Jones. I'm a private investigator working a missing persons case. I need to give you a date, and I need you to tell me if the police found the body of an old homeless man and brought him in on or near that date. I think my client's father might just be this guy, and I'd like to give him some peace by telling him where the remains might be buried."

Please be a pauper's grave. Please be a pauper's grave. Please be a pauper's grave and not a cremation. Because if it's a cremation, that avenue is closed for sure.

Tony Stark might just be a bit baffled as he reviews the security tapes, if only because of the sudden, ferocious, triumphant grin that stretches across the face of one Jessica Jones as she keeps holding the phone to her ear and steps into the elevator.

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