Say Something

December 28, 2016:

After visiting Benji Raymond's offices in New York, Zatanna returns to the Brooklyn bunker to find a baffled, angry John waiting for her, culminating in a disastrous confrontation.

John Constantine's Magic Bunker - Brooklyn - New York City

John's magical hidey hole in Brooklyn.

Characters

NPCs: Chas Chandler

Mentions: Giovanni Zatara, Mammon, Batman

Mood Music: Say Something (A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera)


Fade In…

It was hours after John visited Basile's shop that he finally returned to what he is gradually adjusting to think of as 'home,' the book Zatanna asked him to find to prop up her research wrapped safely in a plastic grocery bag: six hundred years old with a minor starring role in several revolts, and the best way to keep it protected from the onslaught of heavy snow is in a grocery bag. That kind of thing tickles John: taking the sacred, fusty rites of thousands of years of formal sorcery and upending them with the crass conveniences of the modern world. He enjoys the irreverence, and the knowledge that he's just /good enough/ to get away with it. One takes their kicks where they can get them.

Assuming that it had improved his mood at all, any appreciated gains there would have been swiftly evaporated by his confrontation with Chas. He barely has a foot on the floor before he's being accosted.

'We need to talk.'
'You and everybody else this week, Chas. And it's never /good/ news.'
'I'm serious.'
'So am I. Leave it out, will you? The only conversation I want to have right now is with a bottle of whiskey and—'
'/Shut up/.'

Well, that had gotten his attention in a hurry. Chas rarely cornered him without good reason, and this time the reason was — really, he could have guessed — Zatanna and what was apparently a heart-wrenching collapse into tears once John had left. He'd struggled with that a moment.

'Well Christ, Chas, she's 'ad a rough week, hasn't she? I'd be more worried if—'
'Fuck that, this is /your/ fault. Have you even /apologized/? You need to fix this. Fix it, John.'
'An' what if I tell you I think that's likely bloody impossible?'
Chas had given him a long, flat look.
John: 'What?'
Chas: 'I once saw you walk out of Hell. Literally just walk out. And you're trying to tell me you can't make amends with a teenager. Really?'

/It's more complicated than that,/ John had wanted to say, but he knew even thinking the words that he'd never be able to finish them before something awful happened to his /face/. And in that moment, all he wanted was for Chas to leave him alone, so: 'I'll…do what I can. Alright? She inside?' 'She went out to set up that thing with her other friends.'

'Right. When she gets back, then.'

That had been hours ago. John has changed out of what most people probably think is his uniform and into something better suited to lounging and bed: a white t-shirt that is almost, but not quite, fitted to his frame, and dark grey sweatpants pushed very slightly up his shins. Chucks with no laces, better than slippers. It's difficult to make sudden escapes in slippers.

And he /did/ lounge…at first. As time has continued to pass and he's made mental estimations of the time she'd have left on the wards on her arm, he's grown increasingly restless, resorting to unpacking boxes to keep Chas from complaining about his pacing. At this point he's on-edge, already beginning to formulate rough next steps in his head for the eventuality that she doesn't come back.

—-

It is rare that Zatanna unleashes even a fraction of her full potential anywhere.

She has learned to appreciate both the bombastic and the subtle from her two most prominent mentors and these days, she operated in the middle. Throughout their adventures around the world, Zatara was never one to pull punches; whenever he moved, the entire mystical world /felt/ it, like stones cast over the still waters of a placid lake, ripples left to expand into perpetuity until every person who was worth anything in their profession knew he was up to something. While tempted to follow in his footsteps with the same ballsy, fearless way he tackled everything else, Giovanni had enough foresight to send Zatanna to John to learn a different way, and while his daughter remains oblivious, it would be clear to John - Zatara was a legend, but his rise had been born from working his fingers to the bone in his pursuit to be a force to be reckoned with. His daughter, however, was something else entirely.

Now that she has been unleashed to the world by her father's disappearance, these ripples resurface. It is nothing jarring or severe, just a brush, a whisper of power stemming from somewhere in downtown Manhattan and radiating outward, electrifying sleeping nerve endings and causing hair to stand on end.

Just as suddenly as they appear, they stop.

Half an hour later, the door leading into John's magical bunker in Brooklyn melts into view, the ladder coming down and booted feet clanging against metal before Zatanna herself drops down the rest of the way.

She's all wet; icicles cling to her hair, fashioned by Winter's kiss in the outside world, her jacket sporting the usual signs of wear and burn. Those ice-blue eyes flash with fury and triumph and some manner of grim satisfaction, and she peels off her outer layers with the brisk movements of one whose blood is still singing from a galvanizing adrenaline rush, the kind that pushed color into her cheeks and the sensitive hollow of her throat.

The unmistakeable whiff of ozone and sulfur clings to her.

She hangs up her coat and grabs the hem of her longsleeved shirt, peeling it off, drops of moisture pattering on the floor as she wads it up into a careless ball; in her sodden jeans and tank top, he'd find those new markings on her left arm, pulsing with fresh mystical life - unfamiliar, untried, but of a deliberate configuration that taps into her endless reserves, for however long her mastery of her arts sustain it.

She stops by the fridge to rummage for a bottle of water, pulling it out. It's only then when she realizes John has returned, blinking once.

"…oh, hey, you're back," she says, uncapping it to take a swig.

—-

She probably doesn't notice him because he's standing stock still the entire time, from the moment the door opens — he drops the box he's emptying — to the moment she reaches into their brand new refrigerator, and finally sees him standing there.

He can be famously impossible to read when he likes. Not for nothing has he been called the greatest con-man in the world. He has the presence of mind to employ at least some of that now, giving his expression a modicum of inscrutability, but there are things bleeding out around the edges of that, small scraps of ongoing thought process that canny eyes could glean from small facial ticks, if they cared to.

Which they maybe ought to, because the energy in the room has taken a sharp dive toward unpleasantness.

That's not hyperbole, either. This place is tied to his soul now, the essence of him, and with the last several days wearing his personal restraint thin, he's capable of causing those converging ley lines to resonate to /his/ frequency. That hen in the new age bookstore must be getting a hell of a migraine, with all of this upheaval.

"Yeah," he says, the word short, too casual, his diction too precise. "I am."

It's very quiet. This is only partially due to the fact that Chas has evacuated the building, which John will skewer him for later.

—-

There is nobody more aware of John's absolute possession of this place than Zatanna, considering who it belongs to and the reasons why she's here. Her near-incandescent stare flicks over his inscrutable mask, the corners of his eyes; her skin mottles with visible goosebumps as the atmosphere changes and he makes his tension and temper known by the stirrings in the air. While she was still riding the high from her latest escapade, she finds it suffocating enough to feel that small victory tarnish a little on the edges, slowly lowering her water bottle to the side.

He would sense it too, the way her hackles rise; Zatara's daughter has always been sensitive to the moods of the people around her, unfailingly empathetic. She had a tendency to absorb and reflect emotion, which only feeds into her willingness to dive headlong into emotional turbulence without a care as to how badly she could get gutted. It is nothing new to Constantine, he's tasted it himself, this willingness to sink into quicksand with him, body and soul.

And to antagonize him also. When they fought, everyone felt it, and they did have their share.

"What is it now, John?" she asks, her voice level though he can detect her usual fire touching on the more subtle syllables. A pale hand plants on her hip, that same leg bending at the knee.

—-

He doesn't approach her quickly, but he does get close. Not in her face the way he was on Christmas Eve, but close enough for confidences. Stops there. The corners of his eyes tighten, pale irises sweeping across her face, up to her crown, down to her shoes by way of her arm. They remain downcast as he leans forward and to the side, cheekbone even with hers but six inches away, maybe more — not /really/ whispering into her ear, but in mimic of the act.

His voice is quiet, half-silk. If she didn't have a read on his actual mood through senses that most people do not have, she might easily have mistaken this for an advance, so intimate is the tone.

"I can smell the Hell on you."

—-

She doesn't take any steps back as he advances; that hasn't changed either - Zatanna's moxie always rises whenever anyone attempts to intimidate her, and it's clear on her expression that this is how she chooses to interpret John's present mood. Her pupils shrink into tiny black motes in twin, pale blue seas, feeling ice-and-fire tension drip down her spine and pool somewhere at the small of her back.

She doesn't know what his problem is, but she also knows that she was going to find out sooner rather than later.

He leans forward and a small tic at the hinge of her jaw throbs once or twice, hearing the click as her teeth clamp together. She strives for patience, she is /cognizant/ of the very real fact that this entire arrangement wasn't ideal for him either, but at present, as usual, he is making it /tremendously difficult/ to be sympathetic. Especially when he seems to be prolonging this….whatever the hell this was.

He utters those words close to her ear and realization snaps in place. Annoyance washes over her quickly and she lets out a small, exasperated chuff of air.

"So?" she replies, the single syllable dragging over the razor's edge of her visibly growing ire, twisting on her heel so she could take several steps away from him and past towards the middle of the room.

"I don't want to hear it, John," she continues. "What, did you actually expect me to just sit here and plink away at symbols and ink all day? I've been here for /three days/, and while you've probably forgotten, I actually /like/ the sun."

—-

She just…walks away. Just turns and walks away.

John watches her go and it's only his iron-clad expression that keeps the vast ocean of his disbelief from surfacing. His stare imparts incredulity so taken-aback that he barely knows how to proceed.

"So? /So?/"

Silence. The atmosphere thins.

It isn't easy to leave John at a loss for words. She's probably done it as often as anyone, sometimes to his delight and others to his everlasting exasperation. This is well beyond either of those things. It has leapt from the furthest reaches of the spectrum into whatever pit has opened up in him in the last three days, an icy void with nothing good at the bottom of it.

"No I /didn't/ expect that. But I also didn't expect you to go fucking about with— " He stops, has to backtrack, trying again, struggling to encapsulate the building tempest of his thoughts. The disbelief finally surfaces, pure, shocked. "Did it not occur to you to, I don't know, have a chat wi'me about it first, make sure somebody knew where you were going, in case something went wrong? Did you even— "

The words fall off again, and he half-turns away, ducking his head and raking his fingers back into the messy crop of his hair. "Fuck's /sake/, 'tanna. Did you even need the book you asked me for, or was it just an excuse to get me out of the way so you could sneak off and do something you knew I wouldn't like? A grown man in a bloody bat costume explained with /great/ specificity how he planned to break my spine if I didn't tell him everything I knew about you, and then told me /all about/ the wards you were casting on yourself and the magic being done to you, and incidentally he knows there's a bloody vault involved, even though only four people who know me have ever even /been/ here. So now my home is— and you just— "

He shakes his head, and this time it's almost bewildered. "An' you just, what? Thought you'd try to take Hell on all by yourself, the minute I wasn't looking?"

—-

She sets the bottle of water down on the table.

In her mind, it was a slow and deliberate, careful gesture, to let it rest lightly on the wooden table and leave it there to give both of her hands room to lift them in an offensive-defensive position, because Zatanna knows when a fight is about to start, and she would rather have both hands free, so to speak, than have one proverbially tied behind her back. Somewhere in the depths of her imagination, she was cool, rational, looking him right in the eye as she formed the words that would come to her naturally, geared to efficiently take him out by the knees and leave him scrambling for mercy while she primly sat back down on her borrowed bed and told him to be a gentleman and turn around so she could change and get some much needed rest.

In a perfect world, that's what would happen. Zatanna Zatara, Ice Queen. Zatanna Zatara, Impregnable Fortress.

What actually /happens/ is that her hand slams the bottle down on the nearest table as he lectures her in the midst of his frustration and bafflement, a squirt of water fountaining from the top, hastily drunk by the pitiful needles of the nearby Christmas Bush.

"I spent /months/ in Europe by myself, performing my own investigations, John. I exorcised demons, broke into museums…I even impersonated a nun! I had nothing but a backpack, my tricks, my wits and Daddy's contacts and you know what? When a girl's been left alone like that for a while, she gets accustomed to /not/ having a minder. Did you not account for that either? Chas knew where I was going!"

She pauses, and falters slightly. "Sort of. I had to go back to Shadowcrest but then I thought I'd give this a test run." She waves her left arm. "And it works….I think. Attempts have been pinging off it, it'll at least last me a whole couple of weeks, maybe three."

If she's lucky.

His words about the Batman manage to lower the defensive barbs she is mentally fortifying, her brows knitting in confusion. "The Batman? What the hell's he doing in New York? Gotham's his domain….and why the hell is he following me around?! Oh my god, is this seriously happening? Do I have a stalker now?!" Concern starts to bleed into her expression. "Did he— "

She doesn't have a chance to finish it. How the hell did he know about what was inside John's bunker? Her lips press together determinedly and he would see it on her face. Fresh from whatever it is she was doing with representatives of Hell, it also looks like vanishing back to Gotham to demand answers from a dangerous, hyperviolent vigilante has now become part of her agenda.

She turns back around to head further into the room to where she has left her things, rifling through a bag to pull out another tanktop and a pair of jeans.

"If you really want to know, yes, I need the book," she tells him, throwing an arch look over her bare shoulder. "I can be sneaky when I want to be but deliberations like that are /your/ forte, not mine. And I /didn't/ take on Hell by myself, just a few lackeys. Benji decided to be feisty today, so he needed to feel my boot up his ass."

—-

Months in Europe, she says. Sort of, she says. Everything that comes out of her mouth pushes him a little bit further along toward whatever is building.

"Well I'm glad you were able to navigate Europe's notoriously difficult /railways/ on your own, luv, wi'nothing but a backpack. It's only what every college-age knob-end and his minge of the month do /every bleeding summer./ Absolutely on par with dealing with a /fucking Prince of Hell!/"

He'd managed to moderate his tone so well until the last bit, but referring to Mammon specifically is like accidentally striking a spark near a stockpile of tinder and black powder: it lights his fuse well before he'd planned on letting himself have a go at her, and once it's lit he can't stop it. Not when he's like this, not when he's a raw nerve and the night terrors about losing everyone and everything have started up again. Not when it's her.

So the last bit has him actually raising his voice and throwing his arms out, thunderclouds appearing on the so-carefully-curated stage of his face.

It's rare for John to yell at anyone he isn't trying to kill, or anyone who isn't actively trying to kill /him/, and even then he's usually quick with the knife of a quip. It signifies the moment that the stress fractures have graduated to something more serious, hastened efficiently along by her return to her things, for multiple reasons.

First: she mentions that soul-trader asshole, and John knows well enough who /he/ works for, and that gives him fresh insight into just how /barking mad/ her plan was — if he could call it that, even — and second, it suggests that she's about to leave. Just about to run out again, in spite of all of /this/.

Everything begins falling apart then, and he can feel it go. Something that slips, hitches, slides out from beneath him, out of his grasp. He can sense that he's lost control over…everything, really. And he knows exactly what happens when that begins, when things /really/ tilt over to the side.

People die, is what. And whether he stays or goes, there is almost never anything he can do about it. She isn't going to listen, he can't force her to — certainly not after the other night.

His other hand joins the first in roughing through his hair, and then he abruptly pivots and stalks over to the other side of the long space, toward the in-progress arrangement of what will one day, maybe, be his room. One of the benefits of having unpacked multiple boxes whilst waiting for her is that he has any idea at all where his things are, so he's able to yank the leather duffel bag out of a box and sling it onto the couch he's been sleeping on without having to dig around first. Clothes require no searching, but he has to pick and choose what to throw into the bag — and he does /throw/ them, tossed like paper into a wastebasket.

Sneering. At himself. "Christ, and to think Chas /actually/ had me worried about you, tearin' into me when I got back about 'tanna's so upset, you've got to patch things up.' An' I, for half a minute, believed it. Bollocks to that. You're /gutted/, obviously. I can tell by the way you give an absolute lack of shite about anything I just said."

—-

That stops her short and cold, spinning around to stare at him with wide eyes, her mouth agape. For all the time she's known John, she's never actually heard him yell at anyone, and especially not her. He was usually quick with a quip, something cutting and always angled against an artery for maximum effect, but this new dimension to him has her joints locking up, a volatile cocktail of biochemicals dumping into her bloodstream. Her heart thunders against her chest, tasting the familiarity of the emotion, pulling up half-remembered memories from the sludge of their history together. It encompasses fear and fury and regret and, bloody fucking hell, even something akin to arousal.

For a moment, Zatanna keeps her eyes on him, though he would thankfully miss what comes over her face after as those eyes lock on his back, when he rifles around his belongings.

Her lips part, her tongue starts to form an apology.

An apology that doesn't quite coalesce to what she wants it to be when her own self-loathing rises up in her chest, knocking hard against her bones, finding herself teteering into those same patterns, back in the days where she would say almost anything to placate him.

"Who the hell died and gave you a monopoly on that?!" she demands, anger blossoming in scarlet spots on her cheeks. "Did Heaven grant you a special dispensation and I'm just the last to know about it?! 'Wanna call Hell, just dial 1-800-SEE-JOHN'?! Is that what it is?!" She sweeps her hand in a wide arc to the side. "Are you seriously going to stand there and yell at me about this when you and I both know you'd probably do the same fucking thing?! Or let me guess, it's /different/ because it's you?!"

She takes several steps forward, though she doesn't move up so close that she could see his face. She whips her clothes sharply on the couch as she stomps over to his room and the dwindling distance enables her to hear those last few words clearly. She feels the wind falter in her sails, taking another pause. Of course, Chas would have said something, not just out of concern for her but also for his best mate. They told each other almost everything.

Her temper ebbs; despite herself, she feels her fingers ball tightly on her side. Her teeth dig into her tongue, feeling blood well up from the surface, to prevent herself from screaming at h—

"I /was/ upset!" The shout tears across the remaining space. "I /was/ gutted, you daft, dense, /incomprehensible/ jackass! Did you honestly think it'd be easy for me to sit here and be surrounded by…" You, and everything about you. "….all this…" She gestures vaguely, fingers slashing wildly at the air. "…after the trip to Muller's sadistic funhouse?! And you would know that without /Chas/ having to tell you /shit/, if you were in any way capable of seeing past your own goddamn misery!"

Her chest rises and falls rapidly, her breathing escalates; as if she had run a mile, as if she had scaled a mountain. Wet heat stabs at her eyes and she blinks desperately to ensure that it evaporates before it falls.

"But go ahead and tell yourself what you need to," she forces between clenched teeth. "Stick to what you're good at, right?"

—-

There are /so many/ things he wants to respond to in her tirade, but having hit critical mass on his personal fears and coasted well beyond his limits for feeling helpless to fix something, all of his energy now is being redirected — furiously — into throwing his shit into a bag. It leaves her to gesture at his back, ask him those pointed questions. He even manages to stop himself from responding to them, though he's got to clench his teeth hard when she gets to that last one.

He has no intention whatsoever of turning around, either. She walked away from him. Walked away, wrote off all of his worry, his concern, just — brushed it off! /Him!/ Not just John-bloody-Constantine, thank-you-very-much, but someone she had — someone who'd —

/Left her without a single word as to why?/ puts in a voice in the back of his head. It sounds very much like Chas's voice, and he takes out the additional gout of anger that produces on one poor t-shirt, hurling it as though he were pitching a fastball.

And then it's suddenly feelings and complications and she's being honest about those, and his shoulders tighten, creep upward, strong slants of muscle between neck and shoulder bunching up defensively. He even stops packing. Stops moving. So maybe what she's saying has put a knife where it counts. Maybe it has him regretting his outburst.

Then he spins around, and nope. Nope. No it hasn't.

"Here's what I'm good at, love: seeing when a storm's coming. And you know what? It never helps. I can stand on the highest bloody hill and scream til it's only blood coming out and nobody believes me until it's too late, and by then they're all /fucking dead/ and I get to spend every night trying to sleep while they stand 'round the bed and ask why I couldn't save them. Didn't I /care/?" It's poison in his voice, different than the yelling. Sicker. "An' to be quite honest, I saw your soul get drained out of you once already this week, and you know what? Once was /enough/."

Shallow, accelerated breaths from him as his expression comes under some semblance of control, though muscle ticks suggest the enormity of the tectonic movements beneath. His voice slants, roughed up with self-destructive sentiments, like the voice of a man who has just done a long sprint, spoken between breaths. "It was almost beautiful, actually. Like all of what you're made of started turning into dust ground from pearls, catching on fire and silting off into the air, disappearing. Skin first, and then everything underneath, and then bones, and then nothing. Everything you are, everything you could be, just…gone. Everything— " /We/ is the next word he starts to frame, but there's a warning tingle in his sinuses, and he stops short. It breaks that nauseous reminiscence, sharpens his gaze on her, to which some of the fire returns as he abandons that digression. "I'll not watch it a second time. You stay here with Chas. Things go tits up, then you have that— " He gestures over her shoulder with one jab of a pointing finger at the cell, his brows up, "— and I'll just…fuck off, I suppose, so I don't cock things up for you by having /opinions/. Or just…" Frustration wells up. "/Existing/. What/ever/. Truth is, if you don't need me on this then I'm just in the way, and if you do, and you don't let me help, then I don't want to be here to watch you die. I'm sorry. I won't do it."

He turns back to the bag and roughly zips it up. The cornerstone of his entire tirade falls out of his mouth so casually and quietly that it's a wonder how such a thing could have fueled his explosive outburst: "I can't."

—-

The shaking starts; it starts from the tip of her pinky finger, webbing over its compatriots, moving up to the wrist and sending shockwaves to the rest of her. Anger, sorrow, they all bleed into one another until Zatanna can't tell which is which anymore, the ill note in his voice reflected in viscous, yellow bile stirring at the pit of her stomach. She can't breathe, feeling the walls close in, every synapse lit up like a Christmas tree as she listens to him turn this around her.

It wasn't fair.

John Constantine was a force to be reckoned with in their world, not because of his encyclopedic knowledge of the weird and the arcane, but because words have always been his weapons of choice. In that, they were the same, and while she manipulates reality with hers, he manipulates circumstances with his and most of the time it works. It's a different kind of magic, and now it touches on the emotional and the volatile. She has never asked him about what he saw in Muller's labyrinth, having assumed that whatever he had endured blossomed from some or several of his past tribulations, which he had many. But the revelation that his nightmares include her, /losing her/, strikes her dumb and fizzles out the white heat of her temper under its savage onslaught.

She feels it when he deals that mortal blow, plunging the knife between her ribs and wrenching it upwards, twisting it to ensure that it wouldn't close. Despite her best efforts, liquid spills from the corners of those eyes, tracing the curve of each pale cheek, drops clinging to her jaw.

It wasn't right. It wasn't fair.

It wasn't fair because…

"Is that what you're after?" she whispers, tension pulling at her jaw so painfully she could barely speak the words. "Do you want to hear me say that I need you? After leaving, and then coming back crashing into my life? After months without a word, no matter how many calls I tried to make, after how many e-mails and texts /begging you/ to at least /tell me/ you were alive?"

Her head lowers, her stare moving away from him to fall directly at the floor, telltale spots of moisture blooming, spreading on impact.

"Fuck you, John."

The words are quiet - barely ghosts of a breath, her temper collapsing in on itself like a dying star.

Slowly, she turns away from him then, feeling her nails claw into her skin. Hard enough to be felt, hard enough to draw blood.

But she isn't done.

"When…" she continues. "…are you going to get it in your goddamn head that I'm not like everyone else you know? To stop lumping me in your gallery of regrets? Don't you owe me that much?"

Was that why he left? Was she just not good enough, capable enough, to survive him?

Her lashes fall at that, and after a few breaths, she steps out of his bedroom, her fingers dragging her clothes off the couch, moving in a dazed, staggered step towards whatever door it was that led into the bathroom.

—-

'Is that what you're after?'

/What you're after./

He misses a great deal of the rest of what she says because he's still mentally looping that statement so that he can appreciate all of the different flavors and qualities of pain it causes. That's one to savor.

He looks at her but at some point his eyes notch off and slightly away, unfocused, and the periodic tics of the muscles that make his expression change their quality. He is visibly at war with them, with all of the things that provoke them, jutting his jaw and changing the angle of his head, but in the same way that steam will eventually find a weak point in an overpressurized system of pipes, pieces of that escape, telltale splinters of emotions he refuses to display in full. Like specks of fire in the distance, the smell of smoke and blood: you don't see the war, but you can't help but know it's happening.

/Fuck you, John./

He tunes in for that, at least, and figures that probably sums up whatever else she said well enough that it doesn't matter if he heard it or not. He turns his head off to the side, giving her his profile. Jaw hard, eyes distant, less of that internal fight in full view. It's the way she says it. If she'd yelled it, screamed it while hitting him, pushing him, anything, but no: just defeat. Ground down.

He should tell her, he thinks. He should just…do it. Tell her. Trigger the hex, just get it over with, come clean with her. Not even for his sake — although also for his sake, jesus — but for hers. Give up something of himself he values in order to spare someone else suffering. Maybe it would even pull Zatara out of the woodwork, and the three of them could figure this situation out together. There are plenty of good reasons for him to do it.

He tries to convince himself. She'll see it for herself, she'll understand when she does. It'll clear up everything. /And I'll look like roadkill for the rest of my life, so what would it matter? It's not like that's going to make things work, is it?/ Maybe she's not as goddamn shallow as you are, John.

He just…can't. Even if he did, that's only a small piece of what's happening here. She's still cursed, he still can't help, she still hates his guts for leaving her, and he can't really blame her, can he?

He takes the rest of what she says in that same posture, head tilted way, tongue shackled by uncertainty and his own vanity. When she disappears into the nook in the wall — curtained for now, doors soon — containing actual plumbing, he stands for a full five seconds before reaching for the long strap of his duffel bag, hoisting it up and over one shoulder, crossing his chest, bag behind him. Ten strides take him to the ladder. One foot on it, he hesitates. He ought to tell her about what he has the assassin doing, but…

Ten seconds later the hatch bangs shut behind him.

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