Cut From Obsidian

February 12, 2018:

T'Challa moves forward with his plans to send one Jessica Jones into Gotham to gain a better understanding of all things Batman. But even as he reveals, he conceals, for he hides the truth of Sizani's death from her for reasons known only to him.

The Wakandan Embassy, New York City

When it's quiet, you know it's not going well.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Batman, Red Robin, Spoiler, Sizani

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It has been extremely difficult to get in touch with Wakanda lately.

While the summons for Jessica's presence specified Gotham City, by the time she had arrived there - on the Wakandan dime, it should be pointed out - the Hospitality Center construction building which Wakanda had been using to organize housing and reconstruction projects in the city had been running on skeleton staff.

The King had not been present for days, they said. The sisters of the Dora Milaje, nominally everpresent, were conspiciously absent. Something had happened.

T'Challa had cancelled several public appearances in the time since, and has only recently returned to the public eye, with a sharp countenance, and an announcement about reorganization of staff and resources for the delegation and the country's foreign aid. Even in the end, many of his missed meetings were left to the wayside, as his Embassy throne room remains silent and cold. Absent the political bustle within the Embassy's walls, the sounds of distant New York can be heard from within. This is because the lights in his throne room are off, and the skylights in the angled ceiling drawn, letting huge pillar-sized beams of city grey morning light stab into the otherwise darkened room, illuminating the motes of dust as they arrive.

The King is not sitting at the massive Panther throne that has been set for him. Instead, he is at the foot of the steps leading up to it, sitting on the third from last step, his fingertips together in deep contemplation. The augur of thought drives him, the obviousness of his mind's intensity the steel banding his countenance. Sharp eyes stare a thousand miles into nothing as he thinks in preferred solitude.

On his throne, folded clothing sits neatly, a hand-loomed shirt and a scarf.

Jessica Jones has been out of the loop. Until virtually last night she had been trapped in some creepy soulgem. On her way out, there was a dragon. Long story.

So when she shows up it's looking more rough and tumble than usual, with long gashes across her cheek and forehead, one running down her chin. Anything else is hidden by her thick leather jacket and ratty scarf and jeans.

The signs that something is wrong make things flip flop in her chest though. What could have happened?

And when she sees T'Challa a brief flash of that worry crosses over her face.

While in Wakanda, she tried to learn as much of the native language as she could. She has little knack for languages and the accent is terrible, but she manages when she says, in his own, "As you've summoned me, King T'Challa, so do I appear."

Sort of.

Because someone had some fun with her, because whomever really taught her this phrase taught her more of an idiom that means the same thing, the closer translation is something like 'the cub runs to the pride leader when he roars.' The great gravity with which she says this in her patented New Yorker accent indicates a woman who has zero idea too.

Perhaps it was something to do with the Milaje.

Jessica Jones is permitted entry into the darkened room only by the tolerance of T'Challa's guard, which either says something about her status, or something about the gears at play in the Wakandan delegation.
The young king is not particularly well known for his excesses, so it is not overly strange when he does neither rises to meet her, nor has the lights turned on. The natural light of the city is enough for him to see perfectly, and the nature of the thing is enough for those like Jessica, who cut their teeth on iron and concrete in the night. It is a preference of his to remain in the dark for the time being.

The panther looks up at Jessica, the severity of his look a razor's width too sharp to be the norm. He counts her wounds, the scent of exposed blood fresh to her scent. A ghost of concern travels his face, but tracking his mood is as easy as reading the shadows across the mountainside. As is his custom, there is nothing for her eye to gain purchase on. The overarch is all that remains for her, the mood of the building, and everything that breathes within it.

Something is missing.

She responds in the greatest gravity she can muster, and the humor of the idiom is not lost on him.

The very ghost of wry, he comments, in the clipped and accented English to which her ear has had more time to become accustomed. "Though I appreciate the uncommonality of respect, you should be careful of whom in my country teaches you the native tongue…" it is phrased as advice, not offended in the slightest, but neither does T'Challa actually clarify what it was that Jessica actually said, either.

After the length of it, a heartbeat passes.

"I have called upon you because I have need of your services," he finally explains.

She sits down next to him, careful of the items laid out before him. Respect she has for him in spades, but in their first meeting he set the tone. Be herself.

"Her name was Rizza," she says softly, regretfully. "She was a delightful old grandmother."

Though the 'oh crap, did I just call him a jelly donut' look totally does cross her face.

And then, "My services are yours and always will be." In truth, she had meant to check in anyway. She has not, to her own honor, nearly met what Wakanda required of her; to her mind, the nation and its people gave her more than she has given them, and that weighs on her. She had distractions a plenty, and had been unsure how she could express such concerns without, say, accidentally provoking another need to fight someone, but it has been on her mind.

And then: "What's going on? Everything's all wrong around here. Everything's…everything's off."

She has no idea why it's off, but she can feel it thrumming through her bones, like a song she's come to know that's now being played both off-key and off-beat.

Despite having a face appearing to be cut wholesale from obsidian, T'Challa is not at all inured to the sentimentality and gravity with which the private eye mentions the name of the kindly grandmother. Even so, it takes him only a moment more to place the name. After dealing with the tumult following the Mizizi, T'Challa attended to the wounds of his country in many other ways. Even now, those countrymen who had occasion to know him knew the time he spent learning the families of those who had passed in the melee under his governance. He knew the names of everyone who had died for his country.

A list which grew longer by the moment.

He glances to her as she sits alongside. He does not object to her closeness. Still, he does not face the articles of clothing, those sitting in the throne behind him, but the weight of them seems enough to deliberately focus his eyes forward, as if path forward were the only path he had ever considered.

She asks him what's wrong.

"—I need you to go to Gotham City," he replies in simple-cut tonality. There is no aggression in what he says, but there is no soft hand behind it, either. It also very plainly has nothing to do with what just happened, or what remains unsaid. Instead, his request is laid out, with no further explanation.

"There is a vigilante in Gotham who I fear may be overreaching his control. As a result, the excesses of that city have begun to be agitated, in some cases even leaving past it. I need a strong mind and hand to make contact with the periphery of this vigilante's network, to get the knowledge of things before I render my verdict…"

"Who is he?" Jessica asks. She was in fact spending quite a bit of time in Gotham anyway, before her unwanted vacation in the land of the red gem. She doesn't seem to care what tone the request is laid out in. She's happy to get the job done for him, and that's that. She doesn't entirely understand what drives Wakanda or her King to intervene in any place at all, be it New York or Gotham City, but in this it's not for her to understand.

She took oaths. She'll honor those oaths. And having seen the extent and complexity of the King's judgment and mind, she even trusts, as exasperating as it can be when she can't quite follow these things for herself, that when he decides he has reason to make these interventions they are good ones.

Especially since he's essentially sending her to make sure he has the entire picture. Which. Is kind of what she's for. And while Gotham isn't exactly home turf, it's certainly closer to home than any of the myriad of other places he might send her. That she'd get up and go to, too.

So she simply sits, absorbs the information, waits for him to tell her the rest of it.

The intervention of the Black Panther into places other than Wakanda seems certainly out of line for such an insular nation. However, T'Challa has never been a simply minded or purely reactionary man. The black cast of the room is meaningful, purposeful. He is not a man easily read, so when he speaks to her, his words ply along the surface of those oaths.

"They call him the Batman. However, your quarry should not be with him. He is a dangerous individual, and not the sort of mind I would have the agents of our country follow."

He doesn't move, doesn't look towards her. "There is an entire constellation of minds which the Bat has co-opted, coerced, or warred with in the city. The tone of the city is one which you may be uniquely accustomed. I rely on you for this, as you are the one who has seen the worst. The worst in the hearts of men…this is nothing which the people of my country are currently equipped to take up and understand."
He pauses, as if the next words were drawn hot from the forge itself.

"….And it is a unique cruelty I ask you to bear, knowing our ways."

The Batdouche?

She is friends, of course, with two of his ilk. She finds herself wondering at this yet again, how she went from having no friends to having many, only to find, from time to time, those ties vibrating against one another in ways that may prove discordant.

Don't follow the Batdouche, but follow the constellation of minds. What is he looking for, exactly? Jones opens her mouth to ask, but her breath pauses in her throat. This talk of 'unique cruelties' arrests even her propensity to barrel through with just buckets of them at a time.

She raises her eyes to cast them on him, as if by studying this man, so often seemingly cut from obsidian — though he has, from time to time, let her see that's not the case at all — she could come to understand the entire shape of what is transpiring here, in this Embassy, with him, with what he is asking her to do, for the timing of the summons.

She comes to no conclusions other than to keep her silence and hear him all the way through before she inundates him with her queries, before she seeks to fill all the places where her understanding proves to be lacking.

Finally, perhaps mercifully in some considerations, the closeness is broken. T'Challa, putting his hands to his knees to brace the motion, stands. His clothing is the darkest black right now, bearing none of the rich colors in textiles his country is known for, and the only detailing is a thin embroidery pattern across the belly and sides, an intricate trail of delicate filigree taking long right angles nd lines in a pattern whose tracework's meaning remains unknowable.

"I must find what kind of man the Batman is," he says hollowly, ascending the stairs to his throne. "And the remoteness from New York may give you time to heal from your .. injuries."

Turning the rich fabric over and over under his eye, T'Challa busies himself with the cloth, treating it with reverence. "I hope that your exploit have not caused you undue harm," he asides. "Should that you require aid, I would be bound to provide it," he explains simply. Then a decision.

"See my people after our meeting here. They will provide you with care for your wounds. Do not worry, Miss Jones. I will not ask your business if it is not my place."

Well, that's clear enough.

"He's a dick," Jessica says bluntly. "But he's a dick who means well. If you can judge a man by who he has raised and trained, well, he's done well with two that I know of, both with very kind hearts. None of them are killers. I've had a few indirect run-ins with his most famous enemy. I know the Batkids consider the shit we run into in New York to be lightweight on the psycho scale, for whatever that's worth. Not that this is a thorough report, but I mean you know. You might as well work with some of the knowledge I've already got."

She chuffs a little at his words. "I'll see them, but it's not a big secret. Just the sort of ridiculousness that pretty much defines my whole life. A brief extra-dimensional imprisonment. A god damned dragon."

A brief extra-dimensional imprisonment, ho hum? But that really is kind of how things go for her. She hitches a shrug, aware of how it all could sound.

"But I'll see them. I've been meaning to check in with Sizani anyway. Is she— " A frown. "I mean is she even here? The Dora Milaje presence seems a little…" Nonexistent? "Thin."

"A dragon? Sometimes, I am forced to wonder at the company you keep."

Even to a Wakandan, the details are more than a little outlandish.

But even as she passes off her interdimensional trip as just another sign of the times, T'Challa lets it slide. "I suppose the world is much bigger than any one day can hold." And that's the end of it, as far as he is concerned.

He turns over and over the rich purple fabric, pulling it once and again over his hands. Someone used to his mannerisms will find it hard to watch, for he as a man is not readily given to repeated actions with no ready meaning to them. He is doing something, but it is never quite clear what that thing may be. As he does so, instead he speaks. "A man can mean well, can have the most honorable of intent, and still be responsible for grave dangers to himself, his land, his people. Good men are seldom heroes, and the men who bear themselves with both banners are seldom either."

He reflects, in the quietest of voices.

"Sometimes it is necessary to discard your vanity to protect the people."

"She will not be joining us again," T'Challa finally explains, his back still facing Jessica. His voice is as cold as the wind in December. "Aside from a few, my Milaje have been sent back to their homelands, to address the grave business that lay there." He doesn't say anything else, his eyes hard and harsh when he finally turns. One of the two articles of clothing lain across his throne, a long scarf, is in his hands. This, he offers to Jessica.

"Sizani sends words of kindness. This will be part of the payment for your services. The winds tell me that it is meant for you."

Jessica hitches a shoulder. "Yeah," she says dryly. "Sometimes I do too."

This bit about good men and heroes discomfits her. She wants to be both, perhaps such is impossible. She wonders if she would ever be responsible for dangers to herse— well, yes, all the time. Her land and people? She mostly doesn't make enough of an impact for that at least.

She will do her best with this assignment, but T'Challa is a man who speaks in ways not-straightfoward. She is not sure what she can do, though, but dig deeper and give an honest assessment.

She doesn't think Batman is much of a danger to his land and people either. He's just a fucking douchebag.

But he wants her to dig? She'll dig.

He turns cold and tells her all the Milaje have been sent away. She will not be joining them again.

Her brow furrows; her lip parts. There are undercurrents in the King's behavior she does not understand.

She takes the scarf, fingers running along the fabric. "You've my services without need for payment," she says, "but I won't ever turn down words of kindness or the will of the winds." She pulls off the old, ratty scarf. It briefly reveals the panther tooth necklace she never takes off, hanging down over her shirt today instead of in it. She drapes the old over her arm and winds the new about her neck, hoping she's not treading on some custom that she does not understand. It would not be the first time. But she likes scarves (obviously), and the thing to do with a scarf meant for her seems to be to wear it. The old grey one is more hole than scarf in some places as it is.

But she meets those hard, harsh eyes and her own reflect concern. What the Hell did she step into, asking after Sizani? Why did the question piss him off? That the interaction has confused her is clear.

T'Challa watches her thread on the scarf with a beat of thought, no more than a scintilla of emotion, something beyond the cold. His is not a hostility, not for a man who is plain with aggression, but an absence of meaning that should be present. He was not a man easily tipped to sentiment, and it shows in the way he treats her.

The only warmth he shows is in his appreciation of her look, his glance in appraisal. The other cloth, a shirt in a weave that looks similar to the scarf, drapes over one arm. This he does not offer. "It suits you," T'Challa finally comments in a voice more raw than polished, fingertips grazing across the very end of her scarf's tail. Her concern and confusion is met with something profoundly different from the young king, the man contented to return to his throne, a sigh raking from him. Fatigue - the weight of things - is something she has seen before in him, but he is still not one to behave erratically. For him, a spare word out of place is really the only indicator she will ever get.

"She said to me," T'Challa remembers, "that you were the one to open every door, look in every window. She said that she would look after you and your way. Even from afar, I feel this to be an omen of goodwill for you. You remind me of her, in some ways."

He pauses, not letting the thought rest longer than a moment.

"My doctors remain on standby for you."

With that, the young king says nothing more.

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