Xiuhn'azel's Comfort

October 20, 2017:

The aftermath of Deadpool's appearance leaves Jessica Jones reeling. Azalea Kingston gets her back on an even keel…and hides a few details about another matter she's looking into.

Alias Investigations, Hell's Kitchen, New York

A favorite of the window contractor.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Deadpool, Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It is very rare for Jessica to employ her full strength against anyone. Super-soldiers who are training her. Gods on rooftops. Some cultists, once, attacking in a swarm of magic and fury. An individual guy whose strengths she doesn’t know? No.

She feels a mixture of relief and dread to hear his cursing all the way down on the first floor. So, he can survive all that, she thinks, filing it away. If he had died she is pretty sure everything about the situation counts as self-defense, and she’d have been on the phone to Nelson & Murdock in a heartbeat.

As there is little need for that, Jessica Jones takes in the destruction of her apartment, the blustery late October chill blowing through her broken back window, the view of the entire hallway and elevator doors from her front window. The A in Alias drops away. In both cases a small sacrifice to make; when she finally decided to attack she wanted it to be quick, brutal, and to the point, putting him down and getting him out while giving him a chance to live through it. That meant door, not the already broken window. And of course, the window was sacrificed to the bomb.

She hears Azalea, telling her that it’s now become their business to locate this Francis. She hears it. She can even see the merits in it. She just can’t handle it right now. She sort of holds up her hand in the classic ‘I need a moment’ gesture, her lips pressed firmly together and her brows drawn down in a face that’s still stark white.

Rubbing a hand over her face, she takes in Azalea’s apparent case on her couch, next. She carefully and deliberately transfers all of it, in order, to the coffee table.

Then, in a move that might strike someone from the outside looking in as insane— not Deadpool level insane, but still insane— she grimly starts breaking the couch up into sections.

But perhaps the woman standing in her apartment will understand why it must be done anyway.

The air fills with ozone and worse as Jessica begins working on the couch. Evidence. Always evidence, and Azalea's smoldering clothing could be added to the pile. For a moment she isn't certain what to do, staring down at her fingers, and replaying the drop of the bomb into the dumpster. How the entire thing had been lifted upwards, sent fire and burning trash scattering, and landed oddly because of the person in it's way. Jessica may not notice her press a hand to her midsection, to find only the blackened soot of what's left of her borrowed tank top.

"I'm going to grab a shower. As long as the tub doesn't have any bullet holes in it."

It only takes her ten minutes, as if the soot and dirt and grime from the blast did not want to stay on her any more than Az wanted to be covered in it. When she returns she has on some exercise clothes that certainly do not belong to her, but that were left among her things anyway. She can only hope Jessica doesn't recognize Trish's training get up, but it isn't very much like Az to wear pink on grey Nike.

It only takes her a moment to gather up her folders, to stack them, to put them out of the way, and then she's there with Jessica, moving to help with plastic bags - a trash bag, and a zip lock, to divvy up everything.

"Don't let it get to you. He was funnier than most catastrophes that come our way. As far as Heralds of Chaos go, I've seen worse. Been worse. Though I'm sorry to say, we did have a casualty." Slowly Azalea lifts into view the very worn paperback copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that she had bought for Cindy, a bullet having cleaved through the wall to impact it where it lay resting under Cindy's bed. And now the piece of led sits in the middle of exploded paper, so that it looks like the woman on the cover is looking lovingly at a man with a giant hole for a head.

"Clearly I need to get her the hard cover now. Maybe have a kevlar book cover. Maybe Stark could help." The mirth in her voice is matched by a small smile, and her brows lift at Jessica, as if to invite her into the realm of her devious little joke.

It has nothing to do with evidence, nothing at all, but neither does Jessica stop Azalea from believing it does. She carries the first chunk of couch to the broken window and sends it sailing down into the alley. It lands with a crash.

Nor can she give voice to why it is very much getting to her.

She simply nods, though she gives a bit of a grimace when Az says she’s actually going to go in there and use that tub. Jessica is sure she won’t be able to until she’s scrubbed it down a good dozen times at least. She rubs her hands over her arms, thinking about it, and stands there for a good part of those ten minutes just sort of staring into space before she finally shakes her head and snaps the next portion of her couch apart. Thus she hasn’t really gotten that far on this project when Az emerges.

Nevertheless, the theatrical presentation of that stupid book (the second copy floating around Alias, now, because Agent May of all people gave her a copy to serve as the key to a book code so they could send encrypted messages— though those are stuck in her phone) tugs a tiny chuff and a quick half-smile from the tense detective.

“I dunno. I think that book’s better when that creeper has a fucking bullet in his fucking head,” she says, her voice hoarse but at least possessed of some measure of a return to the sass that’s usually there.

She does know exactly who the clothes belong to, and she turns away to blink rapidly. Not over Trish and Az’s failed relationship, but because suddenly she misses her sister so terribly that it nearly overcomes her. And Az is the last person to talk to about that, probably, by any measure of kindness or decency.

She grabs the next section of couch and sends it hurling out the window too. “Let’s hope my landlady doesn’t see this shit. Mrs. Alvirez will think I’ve relapsed.”

Then: “Thanks for handling all that.”

When Jessica turns back towards what's left of the couch after throwing the last bit down into the alley, she'll find Az in front of her. Feel the hand on the side of her neck, curled the way it does so that her palm can feel her pulse. Only in her most salient moments did she ever do this, only when the creature inside of her was far away, and yet it's origin lay with him. Now she and the creature were one, and she could no longer divorce herself from that habit than she might turn off her ability to feel. A slight tilt of her head and those eyes search Jessica's very soul, as if seeking to draw the sour notes from an ill-played sonnet, to pluck them out so that she might re-write it.

She is not that kind of creator anymore. But she is not helpless here.

"You stood against me when I was pure destruction. Willed yourself after me. Overcame your terror to face me again and again. Certainly, I was worse than him. So it must not be him. Not him alone." Her other hand eases up and over Jessica's shoulder, giving a reassuring squeeze. "Tell me what has you on edge. Tell me the root of it so that I might help, and because I cannot bear to watch my only family languish in pain."

Whoever Azalea Kingston is, she is no longer the girl who was in that cage below Stark Tower. No longer the girl who stopped existing in that alley where the Devil in the Dark first found her. There are parts of her there in the eyes that so clearly reflect Jessica's face, the best parts of the human, the best parts of the God, and a morality that had been missing for countless millennia, stolen away by the stroke of a knife. Different, wholly, because the old Azalea would likely not notice that wound up tension, may not have deduced something lingering in Jessica's soul like poison.

That she stiffens at the touch of hand to neck and shoulder has little to do with Azalea; that she allows it has everything to do with her. For a moment Jess studies her, trying to make sense of the changes herself, this synthesis. Her pulse is, as ever, steady and strong, but thundering too fast.

Azalea— Xihunel? Has already told her that his/her situation is nothing at all like Bucky’s, or her own, that this is not some separate person who didn’t do all those terrible things. And that makes a complex situation all the more complex. She’s not even sure she should tell her a thing, because what’s bothering her is in the same circle of issues that finally put the fear of Xihunel into Jess in the first place, for all that she’s determined to forgive it of him. She might go nuts without her heart too, how the Hell would she even know? And it’s sure as fuck not Az’s fault. That makes her afraid it will hurt the new Az, to speak up.

Whomever Az is now seems a lot like the person Jessica had initially described when they had their very first conversation about synthesis. What had she said? A Xihunel people can trust at their backs. A’Xihunel? Az’Xihunel? Worth knowing, anyway.

But complex as it is, scary as it is on some level, still, she can’t find it within herself to push Az away. They’re family. Family can go through some shit. She certainly ran around like a chicken with her head cut off all year long after setting foot into Hydra world, trying to fill that void. Trish was there, but it was a big damned void. And one piece of that puzzle was here all along. Or…well, also in Stark’s basement.

She returns the gesture, foreign as it is to her, though she’s no good at feeling pulses.

She doesn’t have a lot of words to give to this; they’re stuck as if behind some vast stone wall…this poison has made her retreat inside herself as a matter of reflex. “Armed man, uncertain capabilities, multiple references to sexual acts he wanted.” The words come out in a clipped, shaky staccato.

She closes her eyes and grimaces, her skin crawling, her emotions shrivelled up into a small, slimy ball of sick shame and fear, as well as impatience for her own weakness.

The hug comes almost before Jessica can finish the words, almost before she can feel that Azalea, at least, still has a pulse. Before she was she, she was him, and he was terrible. He was a great many things to a great many people, none of them good. But Azalea could be good now, and as if making up for time lost on the wrong side of a coin, she becomes the rock Jessica needs to break her terror, to shatter it against resounding, rocky shores.

"Armed man. Uncertain capabilities." The words slide from her as if she almost enjoys them, and when she leans back, just a little, it's to look into Jessica's eyes. "Only one truth exists for you, Jessica Jones. Adversity cannot defeat you. In every instance someone has used force to invade your life, they could not keep power over you. Not the man who thought he owned you. Certainly not the fool who just left this place by your power. Your soul will not have it. Take in a breath, let it go, and with it the shadows that haunt you. Let go your internal demon, and with it your worry about external ones."

A step closer, to cup Jessica's cheeks and offer her a smile she's never seen on the face of her troubled friend, a humanity that Azalea could never bring through the dark cloud weighing her down. "You're a hero to so many people. It's okay to be a hero to yourself first."

And then she lets her go, to sink or swim on her own two feet.

Jessica folds her arms around Azalea Kingston, and one would never guess how much force she could exercise with them. It’s firm, but no firmer than it would be had it come from anyone else.

She finds herself meeting Az’s eye. She takes the prescribed deep breath, and lets it go, and finds the combination of that and this description of herself that Az has just given to her has the intended effect.

There is a great magic in how people see each other. Seeing oneself through the eyes of another, and seeing something positive reflected there, has the power to transform. It’s a truth that has been hard at work in Jessica’s life over this past year. There is also power in knowing she’s not alone anymore, and that’s the second truth that’s been changing her so greatly, from self-pitying drunk to… to this. To someone who can be described in this way.

There is no sinking. She gives Az a grateful look, straightens her shoulders, and finds her inner strength is there after all, finds the shadows inside her fleeing, finds her destruction of her couch maybe ridiculous…well, no. The thought of sleeping on it is still gross. She’ll just buy another.

She suddenly knows she’s going to stop cheating with the booze. Maybe she really doesn’t need it anymore.

She can’t find any similarly inspiring or even return emotion words for Az, but maybe right this second they’re not needed. Maybe it’s enough that she is herself again. She chucks the last bit of couch, like she’s chucking Deadpool all over again, and says, in a far stronger voice: “So. Francis. Can’t do much with just a first name, but a guy like Dipshitpool probably has all kinds of people who want to kill him, and a reputation. Figure out what his deal is, we might get the surname. If only to send him a note that says ‘random fucker is random and has nothing to do with me.’”

Hero she may be, but she sure as Hell is not thinking about trying to save either Deadpool or Francis from one another right now. They seem like a pair of people who need to be left to fight amongst themselves, somewhere other than her god damned office.

"I did far worse to you, and you didn't let me drown."

When they had met it was in fact a far, far worse situation. Somehow, they'd made it through. Sure, Azalea had apologized. Deadpool likely never would. But Azalea's point comes when she moves away to pick up what remains of her clothing, discarded on the way to the bathroom, little more than burned through tatters of unrecognizable cloth. Az does not have the burns to claim she wore them. With a toss they go through the window too, to a cry of 'I'm walkin' here!', but it doesn't give Az any pause.

"I don't know anything about that man except for the obvious truth. He's damaged through and through, but has a quest that is far to important for someone like him to care about for more than five minutes unless it meant his life."

Her arms cross and she leans back against the wall by the window, and it is not condemnation that she piles in Jessica's direction, but something closer to expectation. "I think he was here for a reason that had nothing to do with his enemies. Bucky found me on a rooftop, and if I'd never been his enemy I'd never know him as a friend. Zatanna found me in a dumpster, and I menaced her worst of all. The truth finds a way to the surface, and the truth is I was never meant to be a monster, and perhaps that mouthy fool wasn't either. Only one way to find out, though."

A beat, and her distant gaze focuses on her friend.

"We'll have to find Francis. Find out what his side is to this story. Maybe get him to pay for your new couch, too."

Jessica’s initial response is to look skeptical as all get out. But the expression gets squeezed out, because Az has some good points. And Az is capable of knowing when someone is hurting, she knows.

Damn it.

Damn it!

“Cautiously. We have to find him cautiously.” Said grudgingly, but the point is well taken. But without a last name she’s got no clear understanding of how she might do that just yet, so she turns her attention to another matter.

Because she’s Jessica Jones, and she doesn’t miss much. “What’s the deal with Union Allied Construction?”

To Jessica's suggestion of caution, Az gives a little nod, and as the subject changes she hesitates. If Jessica had the full picture of the person in the room with her, she would know doubt is no longer at the very core of her being, so it may not seem strange. But very simply, Azalea has few reasons to hesitate about anything anymore, though one of them may very well sit at the end of a balancing act she's only just begun to look at.

"I wish I knew. When I left I had a whole lot of everything except patience. I wanted to look back over a few things, things I'd been working on, with new eyes. I was actually looking to see who else they'd donated to. I expected I'd only find the sort of local interest that you'd get when someone really wants to bid on a new city contract. Instead I found a few other oddities that.. I'm still looking into. Might be nothing. I'll let you know if it's anything about anything. I'd thought before I went into the cage that they might be a funnel for someone. We'd seen at least two trafficking rings moving from Baltimore to Gotham to New York in the last year, and whenever Urich is eyeballing someone corrupt it's probably worth another look."

The very last piece of that couch will become her responsibility, because it's just a cushion, and she rips a piece of it apart to put some of Deadpool's ass blood into the baggy she'd left on the floor.

"I bet I can find something on this. I'll try the Bat computer first. Then Stark. If none of that works, maybe John or Zee could find out who this guy really is. If not a last name for Francis, then certainly for The Fool. I'll take lead on it. Once I have something, then we can go farther. Maybe I'll do a bad job and we'll never have to see him again." Her smirk says that is not very likely, and she tucks the plastic baggy into one of the folders she had piled up. "I do need something from you though. I am reminded that a family meal is far overdue. This time, we shall find the most dangerous alley in Hell's Kitchen, set out a blanket and picnic basket, and have a nice quiet dinner. Honestly, I just want to see if our horned friend in red will be so perplexed that he shows up to rain justice on a few girls sitting around eating chicken sandwiches."

So maybe some part of the Devil remains, eager it seems to play a prank on another Devil.

Jessica blinks. “When did he start bleeding?” She’d missed that. Because suit. And bomb.

But hey, Azalea has the multizillion dollar bat computer at her disposal and wants to take lead on that, and Jessica decides that’s just fine. She’ll just wait for her to come up with something and see what happens.

As to the matter of Ulrich, she nods again and puts it out of her head.

But as to this suggestion… “Family dinner yes, I’m vetoing this dangerous alley idea though.” She smirks a little to take the sting out of it, and adds, “The last thing I need is someone’s used needle in my ass, and I mean, don’t even get me started on the smell.”

She suspects the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen would be less than amused, and she’s still pretty protective of him even though she’s managed to move on from mooning over him like a lovesick teenager. Not to mention something like that could create trouble where there doesn’t need to be any, and perhaps divert his help away from someone who really needs it.

But she’ll offer an alternative.

“I’m kind of all for going out and grabbing some right now. Indian food,if you like it, with no lettuce in sight, if you’re up for it. In the building and out of the wind. Fuck salads. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

"I think after he shot himself through the ass. He didn't bleed much. Just a little. Anyway, i honestly don't know what you were thinking. Maybe you were thinking 'If I keep doing this, no one will ever question the giant V E G A N tattoo I was going to get across my stomach'"

There's a smirk again, that brims into a full smile. It hides away what comes next, broiling below the surface when the suggestion of eating right now comes up. It does not bring the once ravenous girl to the surface, eager to revel in excess of experience. Instead she gives a thin smile, and a little nod, before looking down at herself. "I'm going to have to go shopping soon." Really, she's almost exasperated by the situation, but she'll put on her boots and prep to head out, if only for the continued company of this woman who has been her big sister and surrogate mother.

Because right now when she does not understand how inhuman she really is anymore, but pretending to need to eat, and that fire still burns might be good enough to keep her mind from traveling backwards towards her own demons, cast only in a shadow of her own face and the solemn knowledge that there is no trickery of the mind at work. She'll have to reckon with having been a monster for so long, and helping Jessica, helping Deadpool, these things would not resolve that. She's leaving with Jessica for the distraction, a holding pattern she's thankful for.

Jessica snarfs at the joke. “Yeah, that must have been it,” she says dryly, playing along.

And Jessica doesn’t miss much, but she does miss the reaction to food, because who doesn’t need to eat? She thinks the thin lips are for the clothes.

“Jesus, yeah, okay, wait a sec.” She pulls jeans and a black tank top out of her phone and hands them over. “I can wander around with you while you try on clothes after dinner if you like. I’m no help if you’re not buying jeans, t-shirts, tank tops, and flannel shirts, but I can give you the company at least.”

She chucks the files in to her phone— her files, not Az’s— because her famously insecure operation is a box with a roof on it right now, with two entry points for just anyone. And she doesn’t want to leave confidential information lying around.

“Mental note, also email window contractor,” she adds. It’s a sad fact that her windows have now been broken enough times that she can just email him with ‘come over and fix more windows and take my money.’

But she doesn’t do that now. Now she waits for Az to get situated one way or another in regard to clothes, and then opens the door for them. And, ridiculously, reaches through the broken window to click the lock behind her.

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