Ill-Fit Fortune

December 30, 2017:

Beneath Gotham Harbor, T'Challa and Sizani concern themselves with matters of madness.

The Mizzimi

A Wakandan submersible cruiser holding station far underwater in Gotham Harbor

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Batman, Jessica Jones

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Wakandan Battlecruiser Nizzimi

Somewhere in Gotham Harbor.

It has been some time since they have seen one another. While Sizani is of the Dora Milaje, she is also at the beck and call of other duties, and given the latitude required to perform her duties as an intelligence agent in this strange and often soulless land. Here on the Nizzimi, settled on the bottom of Gotham Harbor, she has come in time to attend to the more mundane duties of the Dora Milaje:

Dressing her King.

Certainly, it is not every day such a thing is required of the sisterhood. T'Challa can dress himself. But on special occasions, when preparing for certain functions, it is not only customary but tradition of the highest order. In the mysteries surrounding the sisterhood, so few understand the intricacies of what is required. A King must know those who may one day be Queen, and time must be afforded. It is in these small things that rest the world, and here and now, Sizani shows her taste for cloth arrayed in a room meant for making clothing from scratch. All that is required of T'Challa is that he remain still as she mill about the racks of fine silk and hand made ornaments. From behind, he will feel the press of her nails, stretching a line of string from his left shoulder to his right hip, an old form of measuring that would pale in comparison to what the scanning equipment on board would find.

But this is how her mother taught her. This is how she would have helped measure her father to make him his robe and later, his crown. Nails drag and align sensation against skin not meant to break, for it is not only distance that she must measure, for it is the mass of muscle, the give of skin that tells her how the fabric will sit.

For Sizani's part, she is dressed in black, a bodysuit she often wears when expected to wear her armor. It is how she made it to the ship beneath the waves, and even now the Usiku Malaika stands motionless in one corner of the room, for her journey here was recent.

Still behind him, she speaks, after such a long stretch of silence where touch was there only form of communication. "I was surprised to find you here, in this city. It has a madness all it's own. The ground here does not sleep."

The cast of the old ways still shine like the noonday sun on the fields of Wakanda.

T'Challa is an engineer by nature. If there was a better way to do a thing, it is in the young king's nature to find and favor it. To replace wood with glass, glass with steel, and steel with something more. But the young king has spent much of his life learning the hard lessons, and even more recounting those lessons from his father. Being underneath the eye of the Panther God has taught him much about the old ways, and where even the new ways can still learn from them.

Machines have never touched his clothes. Not for any bourgeois reason, but for the same reason the young king relents today to stand in the center of the bolts of silk and the lengths of string, arms outstretched as he is obedient, compliant to the touch of one of his strongest. His eye is a focused one, even as nails tick over the length of his muscle, and the inked pattern over his skin. It is his nature not to flinch, not to show an emotion beyond the cut obsidian of his eye. The only movement under his Milaje's practiced hand is the slow breath he takes.
The reason he relents is itself the same that Sizani does things the way she does today, even esconced in the darkest technologies in the darkest city. People and the memory of the land are more important to the veins of Wakanda than any advancement. It is the way that T'Challa can show respect for Sizani's father and mother, and all who came before.

He is, himself and in his own estimation, not a good man.
But he has great reverence for those that are.

"That is why I must be here," T'Challa responds mildly to Sizani's word, cut short at the admonition. "The madness of this thing is one we must know, before it consumes the world at large…. before it can pose a threat to our home."

Those words echo in her mind as her odd, green eyes slide along the dark skin and the markings that cover them. Fingertips slide, from the tension of dense fiber of muscle to the bone that rests below, moving past shoulder blade to rest on T'Challa's spine where she can feel his breath in the the place where he is most still. Fingers linger, eyes tilt with the motion of her head, a palpable gaze that the Kupaa tribe is known for. The look the others might give him in reverence is never a hope that they might be chosen to be his Queen. Such thoughts, if they exist at all, are private. But so to is this room, where she could be honest with him in words, or even touch.

Her fingers leave his skin, and his extraordinary senses will let him know she has returned to the selection of cloth, but with her absence comes the void of that intimacy, such as it is. But what is it? Such questions remain, for as close as she might be to the King, each and every Dora Milaje is both familiar and withdrawn, a mystery meant to be solved over time.

When she returns, he will feel the cool touch of something very much like silk, but spun in a far different manner. Soft and strong, it drapes his shoulders, and she tests the look of it's rich, vibrant purple against his skin. Here she does now touch him, letting the fabric hang as she walks, the slow stalk of someone as much a predator as he is, and when she comes into view she does not look to his eyes. Instead she takes in every inch of his frame in a wide swath, her hip cocking as she comes to a stop, one arm tucked across her middle, the other lifting in consideration, nails tapping at her own cheek in some consumed thought.

Finally she exhales.

Finally, and only after she is finished visualizing the final product, her eyes lift to find his own. There she will show a rare glimpse of disapproval. Not at his physicality, but at his words. It is brief, and always one to work the problem at hand, she offers her council.

"Perhaps Jones would be useful in this place. Purposeful or not, she can tread lightly for only so long. Hers is the way of unlocking every door, looking in every window. Her's is the way of stirring the pot to see what comes to the surface. Your presence will rouse the defender of this place. Her presence could force another angle he will have to engage."

The rest is unspoken. She knows T'Challa must know this man if he has not known him already. Not meet, not observe. But know. It is the way of Wakanda, to push, to test, to engage. She is here now, and so too shall she do these things. "My own work brings me here. I will remain until you depart."

"Jessica.." T'Challa remarks quietly. Even gentled, his voice carries with it the rough edge of a whetstone putting an edge to the steel. His thoughtfulness is betrayed by his frame. The cordage of his labors drain underneath her measure, tension sliding from cooling muscle as a thought occurs to him that truly had not prior. There is an innate readiness to him, and his nature leads him to a plateau not easily read by the underobservant. She has to her advantage the feel of him to know his mind, if not his face or his word.

It is itself, enough.

Dark eyes turn over the Kupaa liaison's inimitable look as the young king inclines his head ever slightly after her. A glance of hers to speak an honest mind—an honesty of the sky. The look itself is not necessary for those kissed by the panther, but it is needed to infer the meaning to his word. "Jones is not a woman easily turned to task. Though I am convinced of her loyalty to the cause, she has a long path to walk before she understands the spirit of our lands. I fear she will not understand why it is we do this thing. Is her curiosity enough…?"

Even before his word, he trusts Sizani's judgment in his dress implicitly, and the bolt of purple that unfurls against him to mantle his shoulders is met with casual address, his gaze breaking from hers to stare forward, letting her better find her meter in her mind's eye. His eyes fix on nothing in particular, only the task that rolls in his mind.

"They say he breaks bones like gypsum," the young king states. "That he builds a cult around himself to sentinel the city. A man like that need only turn his mind to a mildly less noble pursuit to imperil the world."

The cloth at the King's shoulders will lay untouched for a moment as Sizani puts the emerald of her eyes to his skin and the way it moves with minute shifts in muscle and bone, with breath itself. It takes her a few moments more to find the King's gaze, and with a step forward languid to the extreme, she reaches for the bolt. Nails find skin, brief but perceptible, before her hand closes and she draws it from him at one side. It is to judge not his unflappable expression, but the way his skin reacts to the feel of it. Too sensitive, and it will not do for a shirt, and so she tests, drawing it over her hands again and again until it is wrapped around one and grasped in the other. It betrays her training, balanced towards the underhanded ways of someone who operates out of sight, for in this mundane activity she wraps the silken cloth much like she would prepare a garrote.

"Curiosity is enough for a Young Panther to take his first steps. To run when he should walk. To look to his father, and ask why he must do a thing before he is allowed to play. For Jessica, it must be the same. Learning our way will come in time. But only if she is given opportunity to be more than curious. Let this be her lesson." The cloth is drawn from her hand, and as her eyes slide off of him, light as a feather filled touch, she moves back towards the rack she pulled it from. There is more silence, then the sound of her retrieving his shirt, taken from him when he stood to pose for her in a measure of quiet duty. For her, it is an honor, but for one like T'Challa, so in tune, it is not like those who have come before.

There is something resigned. Detached. For all of this tradition, for all of it's importance, there is some destination at it's end that she seems certain of, driven forward by fate and circumstance. It hangs in the air like a prison sentence yet served. Or perhaps that is only the malady of her cursed soul, something some consign to rumor until they meet one of the Kupaa. The Kupaa, who would have been traitors to them all, or so they say. Willing to claim the meteor that brought Vibranium to Wakanda for themselves. Others say they rushed to it out of a sense of duty, some insurmountable fate that burned their eyes with the color of it's dying green embers and stole parts of their very essence to bind the metal to the land. Is she lesser, by nature? Inhuman, by lineage? Is it a blight or a badge or honor? None living can know for certain.

At his side again, closer than others might dare for who he is and what he represents, she offers him the shirt he wore into this room, apparently having seen enough to know what she must make for her King.

"He sounds like someone I know."

Lashes rise, revealing her striking green to him if he dares to turn his head and look at her, the truth so plainly held for him to see. If her soul is not complete, it only means it is bare for the gaze of the King, that she would not hold back what she feels in her heart. In pursuing the Batman, she feels he will look into a mirror tinted halfway towards darkness. A step in a direction the protector of Wakanda might take should his mind turn to poison, or his soul turn to ash. Perhaps it is a warning, to consider him just that. Perhaps it is an introspection, for if the King is Wakanda, then what are the Dora Milaje, if not part of the King?

At the contrast of the thing, the king stands as a man who has hard won a war to become accustomed to the light. The Black Panther is a defender of a whole nation. A creature of the dark, watched by millions. A more ill fitting cloth could not be imagined, nor a greater burden. The mantle may truly never fit a man such as T'Challa comfortably, he who is only the sum of his father and mother. But even here, in the quiet and with only one of his most trusted at his aid, T'Challa will never falter beneath its weight.

"This land is not the first beyond our own I would have had her stand upon," T'Challa reflects, hardness in his tone by custom and by nature, but motionless by his preference. An eye hooded by brow cut from stone finds her own, the haunting green of his tribe. There is authority in his obedience, and his preference and stillness is not itself rooted in deference, but in the respect that he finds in her attention, in the soft precisions of her touch, that tease at each breath he takes. It is the temperance of years that finds him her willing cooperative. A man who prizes his own solitude would not settle for less.

"This world is a shade beyond even the one to which she is accustomed…"

The terminus of tradition, he has heard it called. He has seen it in many men and women, and though she reflects upon him with a bared spirit, the glance he gives her would be wholly unnecessary to those like him. But the trust she places in him is reflected by something unreadable, a second's worth of eye contact held a second itself overlong. T'Challa is not one to waste, the study he gives her more than the weight of a hammer laid on the chest.

She speaks to him provocatively. Wisdom plied in equal trade with introspect, the young king's eyes do not stray from his Milaje's easily, as she brings to mind how close that man is to the derelictions of Wakandan spirit. A low, ragged sound scrapes from the king's chest, a breath honed to sharpness against the black stone. He accepts his shirt again, a brown length of handwoven fibers. But in the closeness, he does not give her the space of his distraction. There is something he saw for only a moment, pulling him away from the mad world, and the gravity of something else brings his open hand over her own, the warmth of both of his hands bleeding through the pile of he fabric, the rough cut of his wanderer's skin settling on her own.

"I will bring her into harm's way. But she is now your blood. Do you understand what that means?"
He asks with one set of words more than one question, looking Sizani in the eye and in the blood. Her eye is done, but the king is not known to draw his mind away from the tasks at hand lightly. For a moment, the king's attention is focused, wholly. He does not pull on his shirt, even when given opportunity.

"That is why we must be here."
Even here, the air of this city is mad, and his skin must become accustomed to the chill.

For some the heat of the moment reflects in the gaze when pressed by proximity, by familiarity, and the human condition. A touch can quicken the pulse, raise the hairs on the skin, and force a betrayal of the stoic. For Sizani of the Kupaa, it is all a measuring stick, the meter in which she makes judgement, and so she does as touch transfers through cloth and a look meets her own with all the hidden meaning of station, patience, and the confines of a society that requires strength above all. Her spirit is not strong. The people would never look upon her an accept her as a Queen. She is forbidden in every way, an avenue cut off before even explored. But she does not move, does not relent, lips parting ever so slightly, the response to the sound in his chest drawn from her pointed comment.

It is here that his words speak volumes, a necessity for a King is as good only as his word, and thus proclamation must be. But he did not need to say it, to tell Sizani the responsibility that Jessica Jones would require. For her, another sister would never be a burden, and already, for her actions, for her devotion, she treats Jessica Jones as if she came from the same womb as the sister she lost not long ago. Her head tilts just so, a smile blooms in that understated way that she is known for. Cold as ice, but when the warmth comes? Just a slice. The heat of her hand slips away, but she's changed her mind. She takes the shirt with her, pulling it up on her shoulder with a smooth motion to let it drape there.

"It means like all my sisters, she will need something that belongs to the King."

The tradition of the Dora Milaje is to accept something of the King's to watch over when he is gone, and while Jessica will never represent a tribe in her sisterhood, she will perform some of the function. It is not necessary. Not required. It is a rule that Sizani has made simply to ensure that T'Challa must be shirtless when he returns to his quarters. Will it inspire scandal? Doubtful. But he will remember the mad air of the city on his skin, as the warmth of her own fades away.

In the end she does respond, does let him know that she understands the measure of this responsibility. "I will keep her victories, her defeats, as if they were my own. I will watch over her, and her way, to make sure it is everything we require. And as we peel the layers of this city to find it's rotten core, I will make sure the Bat's cultists have a challenge in me, so that you and he might speak on equal terms."

That is a joke. It is clear this Batman is well funded, well trained, driven beyond measure. But that is not enough to equal the will of a King, not the technology he can bring to bear.

Patience is the auguring tide with which the young king holds the trust and mindfulness of those who serve his country. Days could pass between the seconds, and T'Challa's gaze would not give nor break when called by the ice green eye of the Kupaa daughter. Concerning her, there is nothing in him that is unsure or fearful. But to consider that T'Challa acts towards her with no trepidation in the slightest could be a cryshing fact. His consistency and fairness can as damning as it is soothing.

He did not suspect Sizani's next, retaining his clothing. But neither does he seem surprised, the arch of his brow giving way to a faintly nettled expression when she spirits away his shirt as an impromptu selection for a gift. It is something he lends consent to on the margins of his goodwill—a wry smile slowly creeps across his face, the ghost of a thing seldom seen. T'Challa is not frequently jovial, so her playing at his strings is met with resolution, a rarity for him.

There is something brief and momentary in that smile, a thought of a cocksure youth, adventurous and unafraid. Such as he was back in the time of T'Chaka, during the times he spent journeying afield from Wakanda. It is a side he seldom shares, the number of those beyond his family who have received more than the merest glimmer of warmth numbering few.

"If you mean to have me in censure with the rest of the guard," T'Challa comments mildly, stepping away from her. "Then know that it I am naturally inclined towards the cold."

A few choice words to counterpoint his confidante, and then T'Challa smoothly steps away, to the control panels and sensory reports that consume his attention. Only when the exchange is made and the consent given do his eyes retreat from Sizani and her varying ice intensities, his shoulders lifting, as if to lift the mood all in themselves. The lines of his back face her, but he does not make habit of making moves that mean nothing, the young king's hands staying at his sides.

"I will reach out to her, then," T'Challa decides.
"Then I will find him…"

"He will despise you." It is matter of fact, and as liquid emerald spills across the bare skin of the King's back, he will feel it as surely as he did her touch even from feet away, and as silence fills the gap of assertion and statement to a bridge that seeks to define, she reaches over to move her nails in a particular pattern to interact with a small hologram. It will send data to him, collected only recently, over a few days.

It is, after all, her primary mission no matter where she treads. In this, she has anticipated his needs, various archival files of the Batman's cult, his trainees, his followers.

His enemies.

Enemies, it seems, that do not die. Here her statement comes to fruition. "As he does all killers. His is a psychosis that bars him from one path, while telling him all others are righteous." What is left unsaid is the measure of what it means, and how these men, protectors, guardians, reflect one another. One will kill, will do whatever is required, to protect the whole of a country. One will do anything else, but break his one rule, and hold others who might do so in contempt.

Nearby, the Midnight Angel armor slumps over, transforming into it's Panther form to stalk towards her master, coming to heel. Here Sizani's hand drops, showing affection as nails slip across textured vibranium, sending a subsonic tremble into the air. It is not for some time, until he has digested her words, that she speaks again. Her information may not be new. Notions that he has come to himself. But hers is a duty that must not make assumptions about what her King knows. Her only assumption is that he needs information, and she must provide it.

"I will be with you until you have what you need from him. Until he breaks upon you, or he shows you a man who cannot be broken." Perhaps it should be the last thing she says, loyalty untold. But she cannot help herself when she turns, gaze lowered, head dipped to the side and her panther at her hip.

"Here, in the cold without end."

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