Take It Back

August 20, 2014:

Constantine finally returns to Stark Tower to take the Book of Vices from Pepper. She's only too glad to see it go away.

Pepper's Office, Stark Tower


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

It's late evening, the rest of the office having emptied out hours ago, and only mostly because of the hour. The rest of the reason has been Pepper's increasing grumpiness. She had to stop herself from SCREAMING at someone over the phone earlier. Now, she's sitting at the round conference table in her office instead of her desk, cup of tea in hand while her eyes glare toward where that BOOK is wrapped in a Fae-made dampening sack and stuffed into a bottom drawer of her desk.


"This isn't an ideal solution, you know," Constantine says. He stands a few paces inside of Pepper's office, her small closet door standing wide open. The interior of the door is an odd, stark white that contrasts with the rich wooden hues that decorate the rest of the place. It's as if the door's been transplanted from somewhere else, and Constantine had been hiding in Pepper's closet- or strolled out of it as casually as if he'd been entering a cafe.

Smoke trails in little circles with the bobbling motion of the cherry tip of his cigarette, which moves with the motion of his jaw as he speaks. "The Book has a life of its own. Willpower," he explains in an even, low tone, stopping a few paces from Pepper. His hands, jammed into the pockets of his trench coat, give him a rumpled and disconsolate air- coat open, tie undone, shirt partially unbuttoned. He could be mistaken for a drunk businessman, save for the hard edge in his eyes.

"It looks for a certain kind of person," he explains, scratching his temple and then gesturing vaguely. "Usually people with nothing left to lose," he offers, taking a pacing step. "Or with power to gain. A hunger for more- authority, wealth, power, position, prestige. They don't call it the Book of Sins for nothing," Constantine tells Pepper.

"But what I can't figure is… what's your vice? Everyone who knows you, or met you, or talks about you, says that's not you at all. So what's your deal, Pepper Potts?" Constantine says, leaning forward slightly and putting his fingertips on Pepper's table, supporting his weight and staring intently at her. "What is the book offering you, and how in the literal hell are you resisting it for as long as you have?"


Pepper Potts startles at Constantine's abrupt voice in her office, but as quickly as she was startled her expression goes angry. "This is a no smoking building," she says to the man sharply. "Put that out or I put YOU out." She doesn't answer his questions about the book, as she's currently focused on being mad at the man bringing that stinking smoldering carcinogen-generator into HER OFFICE.


Constantine stares back at Pepper, matching her glare with something that's made of sterner stuff still. It's the sort of gimlet expression that people talk about when they say 'he could stare down the Devil himself'. Not a promise of a threat, but a suggestion of one- indeed, perhaps even the intimation that Pepper couldn't make him even if she wanted. Or simply that little rules like 'no smoking' mean nothing to the legendary sorcerer.

"Try it," he tells Pepper in a grim tone of voice. "But I can say, my dear, right now, I am hearing an awful ruckus in your voice. I can see it in your eyes. Maybe that's how it's finally getting to you," he suggests in a harsh, low voice, gesturing between him and Pepper. "Anyone ever told you the dangers of being wroth?"


Pepper Potts carefully and gently sets her teacup down, stands, then snatches to take the cigarette out of Constantine's hand very much the way she did to Lucky just a day or so earlier. "Has anyone ever told you what a bad idea it is to cross an angry redhead?" Oh, if she could fake a Scottish accent, she would SO tear into this man.


The cigarette vanishes from Pepper's hands as fast as she can snatch it from Constantine's. It's not that he's quick, but the motion is so smooth it's practically sleight-of-hand. The sallow-faced Brit smirks a bit mirthlessly, taking another drag of his cigarette, and picks up Pepper's teacup, taking a sip of it. "Ugh," he says, pulling a face. "Not as bad as some of the American swill I've had, but still, you drink this?" he asks, rhetorically, setting the teacup aside behind him.

"Miss Potts," Constantine carefully enunciates, setting the teacup aside. "I once stood in front of the demon Bel'al, naked and in chains, his implements of torture arranged about me, and with a smile, told him to sod off," Constantine explains to Pepper, moving forward a few paces into her personal space, that same grim, dogged expression on his face. "You can imagine the reaction that provoked. You've a gimlet eye about you. I can respect that," he informs the woman politely. "But right now, my number one concern is the book sitting in your desk, whispering sweet nothings in your ear, and what you plan to do with it," he tells the woman, his expression deadly serious. "Because the book can only be freely given or taken in blood, and I'd hate to harm a pretty red hair on that head."


Pepper Potts has to stop herself from slapping the teacup out of Constantine's hand — she'd hate to break the cup — and turns to stomp away from the truly annoying man. "Do you really want to know what I want to do with that damned thing?" She doesn't wait for his reply, and continues talking. "I want to throw it off the roof of this building. I want to drop it in a fire. I want it to go away and never come back." She moves around her desk, and pulls the muffled thing out of the bottom drawer, stalks back toward Constantine with it in her hands, and makes to slam the thing against the Brit's chest as hard as she can.


Constantine catches the book a few inches from his chest, staring at Pepper through hooded eyes. "You tried, didn't you," he says, flatly. "It won't go away. It chose you," he says, holding the book in that space between them and staring at Pepper. "I can hear it whispering. It's been trying to drive you mad for days, and at best it's just making you irritable."

"Do you know how few people can stand to be in the same room as this book? To hear it and not listen? Listen," he urges, his voice a low sussurance, falling silent. In the vast space between their words, there comes a low murmuring, a promise of satisfaction at vitriol, spilled blood, of the glory of fighting and the rightness of smiting the unworthy around a person. "I can hear it tempting you, and you- you, Miss Pepper Potts, are somehow ignoring it. Do you have an idea- any idea- how rare a quality that is?" he asks, looking at her yet with those glittering, compelling eyes.


Pepper Potts very obviously rolls her eyes at Constantine. "I was going crazy within 24 hours of that thing getting dropped in my lap. This," she swats the bag swaddling the book that has the feel of an unusual leather, "is the only reason I can ignore it most days. And I want that bag back. It's on loan, and I return things when they're loaned to me." Somehow, that last bit sounded a good bit accusatory.


Constantine undoes the drawstrings on the bag and pulls the book out, running his fingers along the spine- the leather made from human skin, as opposed to the fae-made bag. "You can keep the bag, Miss Potts," Constantine tells Pepper, sounding disappointed. "I won't make you keep the book. It was too much to ask for you to hold it in the first place. This is the business of the Beyond," he says grimly. "Perhaps you're better off in ignorance." He tucks the book under one arm and looks at Pepper for another moment, then turns and heads back for her closet door, moving with the gait of a man bearing a tremendous weight on his shoulders.


Pepper Potts takes the bag back and crosses her arms on top of it, as if holding it close to herself. "You know, I totally would have taken the blue pill." Because in SOME things, ignorance truly is bliss.


Constantine pauses for a moment. "I can smell the stink of Faerie on you, Pepper," he says, glancing over his shoulder a bit. "You're already in the rabbit hole. But you've just got a little peep into this world. If you're smart, you'll cut off all ties to The Winter Lady and live a nice, sane, normal life. Because the Fae are cruel to be funny. There are older and darker things than the Fae Folk out there, and they are cruel because for them, cruelty is like being kind."

And he turns and looks at Pepper fully. "And then there are things that live in the void beyond the worlds, alien and vast and terrifying, who can undo your mind with a glance. But better to be prepared than ignorant. I'll take the red pill any day of the week. Keeps me alive."

And, because that's a nicely scary note to exit on, he exeunt stage left, closing Pepper's closet door behind him.


Pepper Potts waits several seconds, then sinks into a convenient chair and lets out a deep breath. "Finally." Even the AIR in here feels better already. Well, except for the stink of cigarette.

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