My Only Sister

October 10, 2018:

Jessica Jones visits Azalea Kingston in Titans Tower.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Red Robin

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

More than anything, the Tamoans know their mythology. Izpapalotl gave everything to restore their world, but it was a world of shadow. Until the return of the Sun God, Kinich Ahau, known to the world as Tony Stark. Allied with him were Xiuhnel, the Dead Serpent, and the Twin Souls of Uluchu, the New Sun and the New Moon. So when the Tamoans who witnessed the Titans nearly fall to Zatanna and saw the specter of Xiuhnel appear and try to kill the New Sun. they knew what they must do.

For them, Jessica Jones was the stone the world was built on, the rock the other gods made orbit of, someone who would know what to do. Through Trish, or perhaps a flock of locusts delivering a missive, Jessica would learn that someone very close to her was in Titans Tower. She would also find out, in short order, that it would be a familiar dynamic. Here in the detention area, separated by unbreakable glass, the harrowed form of Azalea Kingston rests on her side. Her wounds, whatever they were, had been treated, and she's dressed all in grey - tank top, sweats, her back to the glass as if she might be afraid to face anyone who would walk through that door. Some more than others, to be certain, but for all the world she looks as if she's hiding, sinking into a plat-form bed that extends from the cell wall.

As much as she might have filled her roll as the Aspect of Redemption, as much as she might have been a God if only for a short while, now more than ever she will seem wholly human.

Somehow too small.

Somehow diminished.

The crusty PI has never once suspected she's any kind of stone or rock, that she somehow has made it into any mythology at all. And indeed when a locust person came to call she had a moment. A moment where she thought she was about to have to defend herself, because a locust person is not that distinguishable on its surface than, say, a demon with an anamilistic form, and one has to fight those just to get to the grocery store. Or to help people on her old city block stock up so they don't have to leave their homes, which has become one of her routines.

But the thing wasn't hostile, and though Jess lost some of the thread of the conversation about New Suns and New Moons and the like, she understood enough.

The glass displeases her. If Az were anywhere but Titan's Tower Jessica might try to test that 'unbreakable' theory here and now. Instead she looks over the small grey girl on the bed. It doesn't matter if she's diminished. Jessica had thought her dead, a victim of the Hell's Kitchen bombings. She had quietly mourned, unable to talk to anyone about her. Not Trish, who had her own mourning to do. And not any of her friends. To her knowledge most of them didn't really know Az and she'd had no idea that Matt Murdock had finally begun developing a friendship with her. It had been part of a list of things she'd brooded on in a state of quiet depression she'd kept hidden from mostly everyone clear up until she got shot, ending up in a hospital bed of her own.

Still, the lines of her face are, for the moment, settled into deep concern rather than the happiness she's feeling. Detention glass isn't good. And if she still doesn't understand what the Hell took place here…something something Zatanna, something something…shit hitting fan…it was obviously pretty major.

She lifts a hand and raps thrice on the glass.

Where ever she is in her head, it is some place far away. Starscapes and blood turned to glass against the backdrop of hard vacuum and a wailing that would not end. She would not hear Jessica come in, but hears each and every wrap of those knuckles with a chilling finality. It reminds her of the breaking of bone, and reminds her that she has a whole other reality waiting for her that she dreads beyond measure. Blinking forces a tear down one cheek, a hand reaching up to absently rub it away as she steels herself for facing the worst she might face.

Taking a deep breath, she eases herself up from that position and turns to face some accusation, fingers curling into the edge of her bed, and crystal blues only tilting upward when she can call upon all her strength to face-

It is not at all who she expects, and her mouth drops open with something layered in surprise, relief, and heartache.


She sounds the same, even if she looks as if she hasn't slept for a long long time. The last time she looked that way, a dead God had reign over her heart, but even then she still had a fire she lacks now. Stumbling forward, uneasy on her feet, she presses both palms to the glass and tears run down her cheeks as if her eyes housed some unending river of regret.

"I'm sorry. I should have…"

Whatever she should have done gets lost in a sob, and her head bows forward, smacking against the glass a little to hard.

Jessica finds herself putting both her hands against the glass where Az's hands are. "You're alive. I thought you weren't. So everything else? We can work out. Why are they detaining you? I'll see about putting an end to that shit."

Whether she can actually talk Robin into letting Az go is a matter that's up for debate, but the stubborn set of her jaw says she's already marshalling her arguments. She switches gears a little bit and says soothingly, "You don't need to apologize to me for a damn thing." She swallows back the lump in her own throat, but doesn't let the tears fall. Right now that's probably not what Az needs. The slight, pale woman searches Azalea's eyes as best she can, trying to piece together the shape of the events that have led them…

Well. Here. Once again separated by unbreakable bulletproof glass.

Her own time as someone meant to support others on the way back from darkness should have left her with certain expectations, and that words can have power far beyond the realm of Gods or Men when backed by a sister's love. It lends her some measure of Jessica's resolve, enough to focus on her question.

Why are they detaining you?

The question comes and draws her backwards, to the beginning. The safehouse of the Fat Man. The place where she thought to end it all.


Needing every ounce of her strength to speak, she slides down against the glass until she's sitting, leaning against it, ready to tell her story. "The bombing couldn't hurt me. I watched Anita Martinez fly apart inches from my face, and I couldn't do anything about it. Except find him. Cross a line. Kill him and everyone who got in my way. I didn't know when I left that was what I was going to do, but I know now. I was going to be a hypocrite and do the thing I told M… the Devil of Hell's Kitchen not too. But it didn't matter."

Her weary eyes rise to meet Jessica, because here is her rock, and this is her in orbit.

"But Fisk had found a way to summon Xiuhnel's brother. Bring him to human form. I don't think that stupid fat fuck could possibly understand what he had done, or what he had unleashed upon this world, but I did. So I used Xiuhnel's heart. I took us both away. As far away as I could imagine and farther. Out there in the cold black. He didn't care."

Her hand tugs down her tank top, to the place near her sternum where it was pulled from her. A scar that had healed when John had put the stolen bit of Xiuhnel in her chest to fuse her two souls together. Angry, jagged, this new scar will ever be a reminder of what she lost.

"He bit through it. Smashed it to nothing. Then I felt terror for the first time since that alley so long ago, when I first became something other than human. Then someone else came. I don't remember it all. I don't remember his name. He was layered in black, like I was just yesterday. He killed Mimich. Do you understand, Jessica? He killed Mimich. Itzpapalotl, for all her power, for all her might, could not do that in his primal form. She had to trick him to Earth, make him a man, make him love. But this Stranger cut him to pieces. Flayed him until the stars run red with his blood. I was so scared."

It does not answer her question, but the terror reflected in Azalea's gaze is not an expression Jessica will have seen from her, ever. It is harrowed, broken.

It is human.

Jessica asked and now it is answered. She listens to Azalea's tale with empathy darkening her eyes, brows furrowing down in concern.

It all should be terrifying. A god-killer calling himself the Stranger. Azalea whisking this other god into some dark void to stop him, only for him to bite through her heart, then return to fulfill his pact in a way that briefly broke an unbreakable man. Cosmic in scope, incredible in form, even beyond all of New York turning into a Hellscape. With that it seems a portent of apocalypses, and it certainly tugs at things Jessica has been on the trail of before. Dark things. Fearful things. World ending things.

And yet she can't seem to focus in on any of that, not exactly. "If he took your heart, how are you alive? Are you on borrowed time? Do we need to do something?"

To the practical first, but the look of concern deepens, followed by a wince. Rock she may be, but like a rock she's sometimes a hard place to lay one's head. She recognizes the emotional thing she sort of skipped right past with those worried questions, the emotional things, really, and she reels it in, backs it up, reins herself back in. Azalea was scared. Azalea has suffered loss.

"I'm sorry. I wish you hadn't had to go through all that. It does sound pretty fucking terrifying."

Which isn't exactly high-EQ stuff either, not the way it's phrased, but. The empathy's there at least.

It's a hard thing to find some ray of something other than fear or anger or misery in someone consumed by trauma, but Jessica finds it. She finds it in asking about Azalea's heart. She almost smiles. It is a short lived expression. "I still have Azalea's heart. Still have a soul that's whole, thanks to John and Z-"

The word cuts her in half, and sends her back to the moment that curls her insides. It's never what she did, not the act itself, but how she felt doing it that always cut to the core of her humanity in the times she was made to feel like a human being again.

Now, devoid of her divinity, she feels it all. Worst of all, this last act, one brought forth from a promise.

Her eyes go glassy, and she looks off past Jessica to some place beyond memory, out there, where the wailing does not stop.

Where his voice is everything.

"He told me I'd be free from Gods. That they'd never hurt me again. I should have told him I was a God. Should have told him to kill me too. Too butcher me with my brother, who I still loved, even when he'd come to kill me. But instead I was afraid. So afraid. He put his hand on me and filled the void in my chest with power, and told me he'd make me whole, if I'd just do one thing for him."

Her breath is a near pant when she looks back to Jessica, one hand curling against that glass, for she wishes she could throw her arms around her sister-in-arms if not blood, and cry until she couldn't cry anymore.

"And I was weak. I didn't want to die, and I told him yes, Jessica. I told him I'd do that thing for him. That I'd feed. And when I saw Zatanna from across the whole of creation, her soul a bright beacon unleashed, I knew what power the Stranger wanted. I bit through her skin. Drowned in her blood. I reveled in it, and it was like I were-"

She can't continue, because it was not the first time she tried to take from Zatanna Zatara. It was not the first time she wronged a friend under some dark influence, but this time, she made the deal. She sealed the pact.

There's probably a camera in here somewhere.

"I'll pay for this," she says, looking up to wherever the cameras might be. More properly, Tony will pay for it, via her expense account, but…tomato, tomahto, right?

She walks up to the security door and does her thing, lifting up and exerting her strength to bust the locks. Or…she tries, anyway. It seems to be magnetically sealed to take someone about five times as strong as she is, and the jolt of pain she gets causes her to look closer. Magic wards. Shit.

Well, that only leaves words. She paces back to the window after an irritated kick, with a grouchy call of, "Never mind, good security guys," to the cameras.

Back to the window separating them. She puts her hand against it again and says softly, "Az. Your back was against the wall. You were all alone and under threat. You had no idea what he was going to make you do. You did the best you could with the information you had. He obviously added some sort of compulsion to it, or…I don't know, magical bargains are like that. Unbreakable geases once you say yes. It wasn't your fault. I know it doesn't feel that way, but it's not. You did a brave thing. An awesome thing, sweeping Mimich up there. It put you in a bad spot and some asshole took advantage of that. That's not on you. And Zee's okay. She's alive. And probably understands. Or will, when she knows all the facts."

As logical as Jessica is in the aftermath of her outburst that put the Titans cell to the test, it may fall on deaf ears. She barely moves when Jessica is trying her might against magic and super science, and turns away as if she cannot watch someone else in anguish on her behalf. A harrowed breath slips free, and she forces herself to her feet.

When she looks at Jessica she will see the aftermath of a soul wound, something torn from her along with that piece of Xiuhnel that had finally helped her be whole again. Tears crawl along her cheeks, dancing around her freckles as if that were the last of her divine power, until they spill to the floor in solemn exhaustion.

"It's not what a hero would have done."

In all her time struggling with her demon in the time before, it was the one thing she had clung too, while hanging off of the edge of her terrible abyss. It was all she had left, to keep from swallowing her whole. When she said yes to that pact, she felt that all slip away and she dove head first into that void that was left in her soul.

"Tell her I'm sorry. Tell them all I'm sorry, and if they want to keep me here forever, I'll understand. But just.. try to warn them. Thor. The other Gods, or people who might be mistaken for them."

She turns to move back to her bed, slumping into it with a heavy crash that rocks her back against the wall.

"They're not keeping you here forever," Jessica says quietly. "I'm getting you out of here and then I'm taking you to…well, I gotta put out some calls. I've been staying with a friend. I'm going to take care of you. Same as I always have. Same as I always will. Family. But I will warn them." The least she can do is make sure Az knows that will happen, that her word has been given.

But she has something to say about heroics. She settles against the glass, one arm propped up as she looks at this girl who feels as close to her as any blood ever has.

She wears an almost rueful smile, and finally says softly: "Az…you don't have to be a perfect person to do a lot of good in the world. To do heroic things. A person is a hero to the person they just saved, or rescued. Beyond that it's a black hole. You'll always be comparing yourself to this…standard, right…and because you're fundamentally a good person? You're always going to fall short. Because the truth is…fucking up is part of this entire business. Getting strong armed by a bad guy. Getting mind controlled or tortured or intimidated or geased or even just tricked into doing shit with consequences that make you absolutely sick, that will literally haunt you the rest of your life. Having to do that stuff yourself, just to keep something even worse from happening. And grappling from all the ways anyone can just be…personally shitty. Breaking up with a dude over text, or going on benders, or saying shit to a friend that triggers his PTSD so hard he nearly melts down in front of you, or trashing your own apartment. Freaking stalking some guy. Heroes aren't perfect people. Heroes are just…people. That's what makes them heroes. They're just people who want to make things better, so they keep trying no matter how many times they fuck up. So…that is basically yes, what a terrified, trapped hero with few options and no information might have done. Be a little kinder to yourself."

To hear Jessica re-assure her that she'll pass the word does not settle her upturned stomach, disgusted at her failure at the end of all things, to simply tell that wrinkled, shriveled, inky fuck to go pound sand. And yet, as unreachable as she seems to be, her gaze shifts under the weight of Jessica's words. Not because she's inspired, exactly. It's closer to reconsideration, to letting some reality slip past her emotion.

Though it does make her imagine Jessica shrouded in Red, White, and Blue, with shield in hand.

Giving a PSA about heroism, talking into a camera. A PSA filled with F-Bombs.

It's the kind of image that should snap her out of the desire to lay down, close her eyes, and never open them again, and bring laughter roiling forth. But it does not. Instead it makes her think of all the ways her favorite heroes have failed too, and continue to fail. And yet it still stings to know that she could have stopped short of hurting someone she cared about, if only she had told Gorr to find some oth-

It strikes her as a kind of lightning, shaking her from her misery to stand up straight, her expression caught between now and when she heard the name. Some memory leeched from her mind, or clouded in a purposeful shadow. Some notion or sound she had heard when the Stranger cut into Mimich, but that had been taken from her, until Zatanna's light burned the darkness away.

"His n-name was Gorr. Gorr the God Butcher. He hates us.. them. All of them."

While Jessica's speech did not quell her anguish, it did help her remember, and in that she will see some spark of her friend return, a hand curling into a fist, as if to hold onto that memory, and build upon it in time.

"I've heard the name," Jess says softly. "It's wrapped up in a case I've been working awhile. That isn't exactly a case. More like…well. It's big. The fact that the God-Butcher is this close…unless I'm mistaken, he's a forerunner. Of something else. Something worse. He culls Gods so they won't be around to resist the one he serves. This is a good time to do it. Someone did something and now New York is literally a hellscape. As in demons on every street corner and chaos everywhere."

Her smile is crooked. "So. Dump the guilt, kiddo. You and I got work to do. And…I should introduce you. Which I will anyway if Danny says you can but…you already know Daredevil. You should probably meet the others. And uh. And Luke. Anyway, they can help. With that and any other damn thing that comes along. We…"

She frowns thoughtfully. She is on the shape of something she needs to say, but she is having trouble finding it. She says, at last, "We should work more closely together, us two. We kept kind of doing our own thing before. Which is my fault, I can be a damned loner just constantly. But…screw that. You're back. You're here. You're one of the most important people in my life. So. You know. We gotta get you out of here so we can kick Gorr in the nuts. And his boss, too. Some demons, maybe. And, along the way, a few dozen other people who have it coming."

"I don't think anyone's his boss." Whatever memory helps her find those words gives her something to hold on to. A last gasp of her old self, stoked to something beyond dying embers, and Jessica can see some measure of resolve in her expression, as broken as she is, as undone as she's become, she can still help. It isn't much, but as she lowers herself back to that little bed it's enough. It keeps her focused through Jessica's comment on the city, which explains to her why Zatanna looked so brilliant and bright.

She must have been trying to save the city when something went wrong.

What if she had stopped her? interrupted her? It's almost enough to fell her again, if not for Jessica's reassuring presence. "Yeah. I need.. I need to sleep. Need to think. Figure out if I can still do this."

Be a hero? Maybe not. Be human? Live with herself?

Jessica Jones has given her a little something to live for in the bleak landscape of the last few days.

Her gaze slips upward, finding her friend for a brief moment. "Tell Trish.. nevermind. I'll tell her later. Thank you for coming for me. For always being there for me, my only sister."

She lays back then, and doesn't say a goodbye. She said all those in the dark, out beyond where the stars light means anything to the lost souls trapped in the endless wall. She said her goodbyes, and will never say them again, for as long as she's given this second chance to live.

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