Brave New World (Pt. 1)

December 30, 2016:

Keeping himself distracted from his personal woes, John applies himself to his professional concerns instead. He taps Jane Foster, with a plan to put her genius to work, and Jane must make an irreversible choice about the world she wants to inhabit.

Brooklyn, NYC

…And the interior of Jane's car.


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's over a week after their first encounter that Jane's phone — her /new/ phone — finally chimes with a text message from one of the newest contacts on her list. It's short and to the point, and in keeping with his mode of operation, it doesn't solicit her opinion about scheduling so much as it offers her the opportunity to board the train departing the station, or not, with the implication that if she does not, it will leave without her:

'time to get to work. outside your bldg in 2 hrs. call cab if no car.'

And so he is, leaned up against the low, wrought-iron fence strung between one building and another like a bank of rusting spears, placed there to protect twisted, weathered, hard-bitten city shrubs so used to pedestrian abuse that they could probably not be be eradicated even by the climate change following a nuclear winter. Smoking, of course, dressed in precisely the same way he was when she met him the first time, and squinting at pedestrian traffic while he waits. The sun is out and the sidewalk is wet, crusts of snowfall leaking as melt into gutters with metallic spattering sounds. His coat is draped over the fence next to him. To all appearances, he is no worse for the wear for having been skewered by the Empusa.


A phone chirps like R2D2.

And chirps. And chirps. And chirps.

Two minutes later, metered by the absent tic between her eyebrows, Jane devotedly ignores the entire world that is not the three-layer-deep pile of strangely-noticed, metal plates strewn all over her living room floor, each piece tagged with some strange, only-makes-sense-in-Janeville set notation taped to each — A1, D5, B2y, x(C8) — until the chirp hammers so deep in behind her left eye that she drops her assembly and searches endless, clanging bits of vanadium alloy until she finds — there it is.

She takes her new phone in hand and reads the text. John Constantine.

Time to get to work?

Jane's fingers pause over her touch keyboard, and then furiously begin constructing a response:

'How do you know wher—'

She backspaces. Deletes it. Stupid question. Stupid questions deserve stupid answers.

'Will do.'

A pause. That scrolling ellipsis of 'someone is typing'.

'I also did something you told me not to do.'

Another pause.

'Everything's ok though.'


'Empusa came back.'
'That's also ok.'

Two hours later, punctual on the dot, Jane Foster locks her apartment and sighs her first, foggy breath into the winter air. Dressed in jeans and her familiar, wide-hooded winter coat, with something of a girlish scarf knotted around her neck, she steps lightly down the steps, and with the clear awkwardness of someone not having many clandestine meetings, looks obviously about. Her eyes brighten to recognize John, and her step quickens, crunching snow underfoot. There's something spritely about her, beyond just her abject pixie-tininess, bursting with energy at the seams. "Hey!" she calls, in strangely good spirits. "I didn't see a car — I called a cab." She stops, as if pausing herself, taking a breather on so many braiding thoughts as her dark eyes look him over.

Question of the century. "How are you?"


If it is possible for him to look both better and worse than the last time she saw him, then he does. His body looks /better/, for obvious reasons — i.e., lacking four additional holes it wasn't intended to have — but his face looks worse, in the way that faces do when someone hasn't been sleeping well, or is just recovering from some sort of illness.

The eyes are still sharp, though, and they tick over as he hears her door open. By the time she draws up beside him he's levered himself up off of the fence and picked up his coat. "Nah, I meant if /you/ don't have a car," he clarifies, and slings the coat over his shoulder. "I don't drive."

So, how are you, John?

He has a cocky, crooked grin, even when he's tired. Maybe especially then. And it travels up into his eyes, which crinkle at the outer corners, just a little. Not as much as they clearly will in ten years, if he doesn't slow down and take a few spa days, but still — more than most at twenty-eight years of age. "Breathing, so it must be a good day, luv. Hope you're ready to get to work." He turns his gaze out to the street, up one way and down the other, looking for this promised cab. "There's somebody I want to introduce you to. Old friend of mine, we go way back. I have a feeling you have some…'overlapping interests,'" he says, emphasizing the diction of the last two words, and punctuating them with a little dip of the chin.


Jane Foster knows sleepless, insomniac faces. Jane Foster /is/, more often than not, that sleeping, insomniac face, when she's lost, chasing the blinking starfield of her own errant thoughts, ideas just out of reach but there, staring at her, for all she needs to run faster, jump higher, never stop —

She sees it on him. There's question in her eyes: it could be the Empusa, it could be some form of oddity, it could be something else entirely…

For now, she leaves it alone. "Oh!" Jane says instead, not even close to fluent in Constantine-text. She pauses. "Wait, you don't drive?" Another pause. "I mean, yeah, New York, but — OK. I actually do. It's… parked a slight walk away. I haven't been able to sell it yet." She fumbles into her pocket for a phone, and taps an app. "Actually, let me cancel the cab. It's probably better we have privacy."

She is, with time and repeated hits to her head, attempting to grow an ease toward all the oddities in her life, but Jane still cringes at the thought of awkward demon conversations while a cab driver eyes her from the rearview mirror.

With a tip of her head, she motions him to follow her down the icy Brooklyn street, no doubt where she won some months-old parking consolation prize and has, so far, refused to give up the spot. "Breathing. You're breathing a lot better than I thought you would. I was worried about you," she asides, meaning the Empusa, that strange, strange night that heralded so much to come. She glances briefly up at the sky, colour in her cheeks, and something pensive in her eyes — pensive, but at the same time, peaceful. "Friend of yours? Don't tell me he waves a wand too?"

Overlapping interests, he says. Jane turns a little, mid-step. "What is this even about?"


'Wait, you don't drive?'

John looks at her in the way he looks at almost everything by default: brows just together enough to express a persisting, low-level skepticism, or perhaps some cousin of that feeling — lack of being impressed? Not boredom either, exactly — and he just shrugs, square shoulders hoisting half an inch.

He has no opinions about privacy, but he does slide his hands into his pockets and fall in beside her readily for the walk to her car, which suggests she was right to opt for her own vehicle. He probably /would've/ just had that conversation right out in the open. This is a man who didn't care about people seeing him punching a building in broad daylight, after all.

It's when she tells him she was worried about him that she gets the first real reaction out of him, a double-take out of the corner of his eye, lips slightly parted — just enough to suggest he didn't expect it. It probably says something about him, that he could be surprised someone would worry about a man who was bleeding everywhere the last time they saw him. It's brief, though. He puts his eyes to the front again, pulls his expression into a squinting grimace. "Wasn't kidding when I said I've 'ad worse. Will again, too. It's not easy, this. If that bothers you, you might want to reconsider getting involved."

And then the grin is back, wide and wicked, like a schoolboy's — if the schoolboy was a degenerate truant. "Last time I saw Ritchie wavin' a wand about he'd got rat-arsed in the pub and an' lost his pants." The memory paints him with a veneer of wry good mood. "But if you mean 'does he magic,' then yeah. Or he did, anyway. It was a long time ago." Before Newcastle.

As they draw up to the car, he glances aside at her more fully. "There's somethin' big coming, and it's no good. Rumors. Impossible things happening. Ritchie monitors patterns in the noise. He's got— well I'll let him explain it to you, eh? Not my wheelhouse. /Data-mining./"


Jane Foster, perhaps fortunately, perhaps unfortunately, possesses a healthy amount of shame. And so she very aggressively cancels that cab and happily takes it upon herself driving Miss Constantine.

She hopes she remembers her keys. She hasn't really used them, since that first day where she thought she could drive in New York City like a normal person, a sane person, and spent the next three hours getting lost, getting screamed at by cab drivers, screaming herself at jay-walkers, and very closely committing vehicular homicide on a delivery bicyclist wearing earphones. She parked her car, swore never again, and left the battery to freeze.

Shame brings Jane back, her strange new colleague in tow, properly ignoring the look he gives her for her 'why no drive'. Right right, stupid questions.

"It doesn't," she does reply, somewhat hastily, "bother me, I mean. OK, maybe it does, but some things are more important than that. I'd bother me more if I… didn't know." That is Jane's nightmare: left behind, left to herself, searching and looking and never seeking, turning an aimless circle that just brings her back to herself, incomplete, empty, alone. "And someday I'm going to make you tell me just how 'worse' it gets."

Thankfully, conversation turns, and so does John's mood, enough that Jane sighs a misty breath out into the air. Relieved and worried at the possibility of him changing his mind on her, cutting off, going through a wall or someplace ridiculous she couldn't follow. She listens to him speak about a friend, eyebrows raised, maybe just surprised he has one of those.

They come up to her car, older, a ford, Red, one door not like the others, like she's taken a good hit and had to have it replaced. She jimmies the passenger door for him first. "Lost his pants," Jane echoes, strangely neutral. Oh no, judge? Her?

But the rest he has to say stops her, driver's door opened, but not yet entering, one hand left forgotten on the handle. Jane stares up at Constantine, and while 'no good' would bring worry, perhaps even askance, to most, she just looks interested. "Big? Big like what?"


"Lost, aye. You can ask him about it." And that is all that John says about that. While she fumbles with keys and such, John stops dead on the sidewalk facing the passenger door, looking at the mismatched one. Pale blue eyes tick from the door to Jane to the door and back again, and this time it is classic skepticism that sets in over his expression, along with some small grace note of worry. Here is a man who faces down things like the Empusa presumably on a regular basis, and the thought of getting into the car with someone who can't drive gives him pause.

She'll catch him looking at the vehicle that way when she looks up at him over the roof of the car, and he meets her gaze. "Well, that's the question, innit, luv?" It seems as though he may have more of an idea than he's willing to say, but he gets into the car on his side after that, and pulls the door closed behind him. From inside of it comes a question of his own:

"So what did you do that I told you not to?"


Jane Foster levers open the driver's door — it likes to stick— with all the ease or cluelessness or delusion of someone who believes herself to he a capable driver. Whatever Constantine's brief pause, she catches the way he's eyeing up her car. Her gaze flattens out like old champagne, and her lips purse, ruminating with a few choice words she'd love to say. "What, is this too normal for you? I promise I have Satan tied up in the trunk."

She slides in after he does, buckling her seatbelt, giving him an arched look like she expects John Constantine, the man who conned God Himself, to do the same. She has vehicular rules.

The ford is an ice brick inside, left too many nights out in the cold, and Jane bites her tongue in silent prayer as she keys the ignition. The engine groans its first attempt. She frowns, and tries again.

It grumbles, but thankfully, kicks off the cold, and Jane pats the wheel with one hand. Good boy.

Of course, that's when John asks a very good question, far better than the ones she's been pinning his way since that first text message. Jane pauses, then gives him a telling glance, guilt and about fifty unspoken mea culpas writ along her expressive face. Natural poker face, she very assuredly does not have.

She swears he was waiting for to be enclosed in a small space to bring it up.

"I told you," she says breezily, checking her mirrors, pulling her grumbling car out to drive. "In the text. I thought I explained it well."

Jane frowns to herself. "So which way are we going? And it wasn't deliberate. You told me not to do — magic. I wasn't /intending/, I — found some books. I wrote a script. And then… a thing."


His expression does not change much, even when she offers up the full scope of her guilt via a face never meant for subterfuge. He's just…waiting. When she insists that she explained it all, he digs into his pocket, retrieves his phone, unlocks it, flicks his way to his text messages. Recites: 'I also did something you told me not to do. Sorry. Everything is okay.'" Holds the phone up that way a few moments longer, and then roll tilts his head to look at her again.

She does elaborate, though, and by the time she gets to 'I wrote a script' he's heaving a sigh that expands his chest to the point the seatbelt — which he /does/ put on, actually — locks on him. He drops his head back against the headrest and closes his eyes, head tilted back. He looks like a man with a headache. He is.

Two, actually. One in his head, the other driving him to see Ritchie.

Make that three. They're going to see Ritchie.

"The day I meet a bird who listens to a single bloody thing I say," he says philosophically, "Will be the day I know I've managed to reverse the lien on my soul, and I've made it to heaven after all."

There is another sigh to follow. He doesn't look at her, though. Keeps his eyes closed. "Up the college, north of here." It's a popular one — she'd know the way.

It takes him a few seconds to gird himself to ask the next question: "What script. What…" Ugh. "What thing."


Jane bites a little more deeply at the inside of her cheek as her text message is recited back, like some sort of forensic evidence called as an exhibit to her trial.

"I didn't have to say anything," she mumbles, "I just want honesty in all of my relationships, and I don't want ours to start…" she interrupts with a light honk of her horn, impatiently waving along Brooklyn pedestrians, before crawling her car out down the street. North, he tells her.

North, thinks the doctoral-degree genius, who takes a little too long to sort out which direction goes well. She's not used to New York. With a frown, she seems to find her bearings, and turns the car on its slow, but thankfully, correct, destination.

All the while John has a headache. And keeps muttering things to himself.

"You have a lien on your soul?" Jane asks, sparing him a quick glance from the road. He's apparently won her full and unerring belief, after all he's shown her, and she perks with an obvious hunger to learn more. "So souls are real?"

She huffs to herself, a flicker of a smile, like someone happy she's guessed right.

But he's not letting it easily go, for as strenuously as Jane tries to distract Constantine in other ways. "OK, OK, fine. Just… I'm going to tell the story, and you can't interrupt. I found this digital copy of a… uh, Apocryphon of John? They kept talking about… light. And dark. And 'dimness' of worlds, and well, I was thinking, TTS. Uh, T Tauri stars. Pre-main-sequence stars, like — dark nebula, basically. Like the mixing bowl of matter. I wanted to model it. Like, I was first trying a stoichiometric calculation, but, not as easy, all theory, estimation, and names. They use a lot of names. But this goes back to my work. And I want to model this — maybe the book is onto something? And with some of my coordinate data, I ran a script and I —"

Jane babbles and babbles and babbles. Her hands tighten and loosen on the wheel. "Brought… a thing."



She's talking about honesty in relationships. Honesty in relationships. Like she's doing him a favor by telling him about having done something that could have gotten her killed, or — and this is really more the point, for John — might still. Brief fantasies of throwing himself out of the car door at full speed pass through the inside of his skull.

He doesn't actually say anything until she /finally/ gets around to explaining what it was she was doing, at which point he lifts his head and opens his eyes, and turns them her way, focused on what she's saying as though it's actually important…because it is. She has the whole of his not-inconsiderable attention. By the time she gets halfway through his slightly arched brow has returned to its usual, entirely flat position of neutrality, because he doesn't really need to listen to the rest to understand what has happened.

"You wrote a summoning script."

His voice employs the kind of moderated patience used with schoolchildren being hand-held en route to a life lesson. "And do you know the /name/ of what you summoned? And," he adds, and this receives that particular, especially delicate diction of his, "Did you, while said thing was summoned, mention my name at all at /any point/ that it was there?"


Meanwhile, Dr. Foster's driving leaves a little to be desired.

She drives like she's still in the backwater desert of New Mexico, surrounded in infinite space and all alone, at times feeling like the sole pioneer charting the first celestial body, with nothing but the thoughts in her head and the endless field of stars to guide her. Now Jane struggles with congestion, hitting her from all angles, and her mouth twitches with growing road rage the more people walk in front of her car, the more cut-offs by taxis, the more inopportune red lights. She bites her tongue as not to curse.

She doesn't like to curse.

She holds it in as Constantine, in his own private hell one seat away, tries to think of reasons not to throw himself out of her moving vehicle. And tells her she wrote a summoning script.

"I… wrote a summoning script," Jane repeats, word for word, taking it all like a Catholic school punishment. She bites her lip, bracing, not certain what she expects but just that she expects /something/ — he has gotten ornery on her once before, but then again it was under more pressing circumstances, namely a demon trying to kill one or both of them, and quantum tunnelling, and references to Criss Angel.

He takes it rather well, in the end. Or so she thinks.

"Name?" Jane echoes, like out of whatever long list of questions she had mentally compiled, that was not part of her list. "I… let me remember. I — deleted the script." Of course. "There weren't a lot of — Demiurge?"

She pauses for a second, then nods to herself, eyes on the road. "Yeah, Demiurge." And then the second question. That earns Jane's eyes, a quick glance, as she obviously tries to search and sort memory she'd better off leaving forgotten. It was — there. And it spoke. And the rest…

Her hands fidget on the wheel. "I don't… no. I don't… I don't think I spoke… much."


The most important part comes last. John is attentive but still somehow waiting for something, and that's clear throughout. In the end, when she says she doesn't think she mentioned him, he actually relaxes some of the pending tension held in reserve. "Well that's something, at least. That increases your odds of survival by an easy eighty percent. The last thing you or anybody else needs is for Hell to get wind that you're working for me." She's working for him, apparently? "I'm not /popular/ down there. And that hierarchy, well…it doesn't really matter what you summoned, I suppose, because they'll all eventually hear about it. Pack of gossips, the lot of'em."

He digs in his pocket for his pack of cigarettes, and fishes out a lighter as well. It's very noticeably different than the last one: silver instead of brass, elegantly engraved rather than plain, with designs that almost defy the eye that perceives them. "To your earlier question, yes, souls exist. Currency in the ongoing pissing match between the celestial spheres, unfortunately for us." Of the specifics of this /lien/ he mentioned, he says nothing.

"I told you if you didn't listen to me that was it. An' I'm not beyond wiping your memories to keep you from doing something stupid and getting other people hurt, and as you seem like someone who values her own thoughts, it's probably best if you make that your last foray into messing about with things you don't understand. Especially since you picked up a book that's ninety percent bollocks."

He lights the cigarette in her car. Does not even stop to ask. "Not that it matters. Magic's not about that."


He says she's working for him. Jane turns her eyes off the road, brief, acknowledging, but says nothing. Possibly in any other circumstance, her pride would rankle — she's a natural control freak, and unapologetically so when it comes to /work/, and she hasn't worked for anyone but her own self for years, and it still itches the skin off her bones that she has to answer to SHIELD to get anything done with her work that the prospect of havign some advancement happen purely of her own mettle and not their help, or money, or 'generousity', or —

She doesn't rankle. Maybe it doesn't feel like work. Maybe it feels more like — back in post-grad. Working under her thesis advisor. Only Jane's field of study has come with a wide divergence.

For that reason as well, she comes clean. He has the way about him like he'd sniff a lie, and she doesn't like to lie, anyway — good, straightforward honesty is the only way to conduct your life well. It's not like she was /intending/ on doing wrong. She wasn't lighting candles and reciting dark poetry. She was compiling data. How should she have known —

"So Hell is real too?" Jane asks, an unease to her voice like someone discovering she's halfway through a game of roulette with fully-loaded chambers. Disbelief cuts up her words, gives them an awkward levity, "Do you know which Hell, at least? There's a lot of them. I didn't really grow up believing in it, anyway, half Jewish-ish. Is it just a big mix? Wait, even Buddhists? There's a Buddhist hell. And they gossip. They all know you? Jesus."

But he goes on to explain, imparting knowledge here and there that, despite its strangeness, Jane absorbs with a ready zeal. Souls exist. Souls are currency. She's going to have a deep glass of wine and think this over later, but for now, she's just going to drive her car and remember to nod. Nod a lot.

She thinks it's all going reasonably well — her confession. His reaction. The conversation… until.

"I did listen to you!" Jane shouts, trying to divide her attention between the northbound lane and the man lighting a cigarette in her car. "I didn't do this /maliciously/ — I'm telling you this — "

She doesn't babble any more. Because she hears, in and through her rattling words, John mention something — joke? threat? reality? — about wiping her memory to keep her from repeating her mistakes.

It's a green light. Jane still slams her brake, fortunately with them both in seatbelts, and not giving a shit about the car honking behind her. She veers her eyes fiercely off the road, a brightness to her eyes like he could have reached out and slapped her across the face. Strangely enough, he's hit a raw spot. Hell, he's hit something broken in her, broken and bleeding, been bleeding all this time, while the rest of her chirps questions and tries on smiles. "That had better be a joke," she says tightly, her hands white-knuckled on the wheel. "A sick, disgusting joke. I want to help you. But I'm going to need your help too."


Almost thirty years. That's a good run, right? Dealing with demons and angels, cultists, mythical beasties, other magicians — arguably the worst of the lot, save perhaps his vicious drunk of a father. Thirty years has got to put him out ahead of the curve as a survival estimate.

This is what he thinks to himself as Jane swerves across two lanes of traffic and jams on the breaks, causing the seatbelt to yank painfully against the shoulder containing his still-mending wounds, which earns a tight-eyed, grit-teethed grimace, but little else. And anyway, it's gone by the time he turns his head to look at her, all of her bluster rolling up against the seawall of him, crashing and breaking with surprisingly little effect. Probably that has something to do with all of the aforementioned things he's /used/ to dealing with.

Which isn't to say that an angry woman can't leave him eviscerated and bleeding out if she wants to, as he has been so recently been made aware.

Just not /this/ woman.

"Let me ask you something," he says, thumbing the release on his seatbelt and turning in the passenger seat, the leg closest to the console folding, knee drawn up, as though he were sitting sideways on a bench. He drapes his inner arm over the shoulder of his chair, beside the armrest, and arches both of his brows.

This might be a test.

"Your work is dangerous, it sounds like. Let's say you do all of this /quantum tunneling/ you've been talking about, and you find out that what's on the other side isn't just dangerous, it has actively been looking for a way to get through a quantum tunnel of its own, and its express purpose for existing is to destroy…" Blue eyes like ice floes tick slowly upward toward the ceiling of the car, both of his hands — expressive, deft, shockingly elegant, considering the man they're attached to — lifting, gesturing, out and outward, small movements that encompass the world. "…everything. All of this beautiful, scientific reality you like so much, and all of the fascinating, very unscientific humanity in it. Everything. Literally everything. And it /can/ do that. And one day, while you're working, somebody somehow gets into your lab, gets a look at your work, and for whatever reason they see just enough that they decide they want to replicated it. And they decide they are going to open their /own/ quantum tunnel. Mind you, they don't know about what your work really is, all they have is the crude mechanism for the door, but that /could/ be enough." He lets that hang, tracks his eyes down again, lets his hand dangle, the other on his knee.

"And one day, let's say you actually feel like the worst could happen. What lengths would you go to, Dr. Foster, to make sure that it didn't? That all of creation could continue to exist, blissfully unaware how close they came to not existing because of a small accident with /your/ work?"


Her hands wring the steering wheel. Her dark eyes — expressive, emotive, deliberate in every single look they give — shine with a dangerous sort of anger.

Jane Foster may seem, at the seat of her, the warmer sort of soul incapable of real hate, real violence, real malevolence — but she seems to possess herself one slow burn of a temper, triggered at the slightest pawing where she's weak. It's like he just reached into her head and pulled out the one thing that's been the source of all her fury, all her outrage, all her impotent desire to DO something —

— and it's for the types of persons who feel it is their right to help themselves to the minds and memories of others. She fights visibly against her own anger, wanting control, wanting clarity, needing her mind, her words, her wits, even when the blood boils inside her veins. It chills her to imagine John capable of the thing he so says, but it's not really him she's furious with… it's those people, those torture burns up the Soldier's arm, and right here, slid into her inside the car like a cold dagger between her ribs, that feeling of /helplessness./

Cars honk and swing slowly around her. Jane ignores them. Ignores the sounds they make. She hears little through the beat and cycle of the blood through her ears.

The only thing that pulls Jane out of it is Constantine, as he shifts in his seat, turns on her in their little space, and claiming her attention, poses a question. Poses a test, really.

Her dark eyes watch him, suspicious, pleading, other things too, as she listens. Tries to listen.

"It's not quantum tunneling —" Jane tries to argue, the semantics of it suddenly important, even if it's meaningless, but he continues on, and her interjection dies on her lips. Her jaw tightens a moment, something stubborn coming to her through his questions, his practical questions, his sensible questions, and through them she seems to travel the stages of grief, from denial to anger to bargaining — and seems to stop on a strangely hurt, wincing sort of sadness.

His what ifs hit and hurt, and it clearly shows on her why: she's thought these same things to. Her mind, restless, overanalytical, and plain cursed some times, has gone over and over and over what could happen, what she could do. And yet…

Yet even she has never beheld the idea that her, tiny Jane Foster in the tiny front seat of her tiny car, who had a piece of toast for breakfast drank with yesterday's coffee, could be responsible for the end of creation. It sounds ridiculous. Beyond comprehension.

"That's why it has to be me," she replies, lowly, softly, speaking over the running engine of her car. "I don't trust anyone else with it. I know who I am, and… I want to learn. I need to learn. I need to know everything I'm getting into. There's been a lot of dangerous work, and a lot of people who try to stop it. I don't think you or anyone can stop advancement. If it won't be me, it'll be someone else, eventually, who might want all those things you're saying. Or who isn't sitting here, listening to you, and… yeah, I made a mistake. I don't know what I'd do if those things happened, I suppose I'd have to —"

Jane's voice lingers off. Lingers off as something hits her, turning slightly in her seat, her dark eyes turned up on Constantine. "This happened to you before, didn't it."


It's probably the visible ebbing of her anger in favor of thoughtfulness that keeps John quiet as she verbally feels her way through the ethics, and the radical idea that someone — just someone, anyone, anyone in a world so big and full of everyones that they become practically nobody at all — could be the catalyst for the end of it all. It is a huge idea, and not a nice one. It's the kind of thing that keeps John up at night. It's the kind of thing that has turned him into what he is, which is also often not particularly nice.

So he lets her find her way in silence. He doesn't seem bothered at all about the chaos she's causing with her parked car. That is Out There, and normal, and mundane. It hardly matters, except in the sense that it means everything.

She lands on a question. His brows relax, his angular features serious, not a scrap of his usual acerbic humor to be found. She thought her way through his question honestly, and so perhaps he supposes she deserves an answer. "More than once, I'm 'fraid."

He scrapes his eyes over her face — she looks so young, so innocent, so eager still, and it feels so wrong, so morally questionable for him to be doing this after everything he's seen, all of the people to die along the way — and draws a breath, holds it a moment. Goes on, frank and honest. "Thing is, an' you don't realize it yet, but you've landed yourself on the front lines, luv. We could turn around right now, drive back to Manhattan, an' I could pass you off to any ol' hedge mage, and honestly? Your life would probably be better and longer for it. They could teach you a few things to impress the lads with, little tricks that make life easier instead of harder on the balance of it. But you'll not find that with me. It's…" He hesitates, looking for the right words. The muscle in his jaw pulses once. "It's not the point of me." A beat of silence, and he shrugs by turning the hand of his seat-draped arm palm-upward. "'Round me, the stakes are that high /all the time/. That's not me blowing up me own skirt, that's fact. I've held the gates closed twice I can think of, and I think we're about to go for round three." He finally does smirk, a look edged with self-deprecation, permitting himself a splinter of ego, though it lacks the swagger it might've had on any other, less awful week. "You're welcome for that, by the way."

He swivels back to put both of his feet in the footwell, reaches for his seatbelt, looking through the front window. "I do what it takes. It don't make me popular, but the alternatives are bloody worse, aren't they? An' around me? People die. All the time. If you can't handle that, you ought to think of forgetting about magic as a /blessing/, not a violation. Save your life. Save your sanity, maybe. Been into hospital four times myself, an' some days I wonder if it weren't enough."

He lowers the window, lifts the clove and flicks ash outside of the car. "I don't piss about because it's always serious as a 'eart attack. Can't afford to spend my time with people who don't understand that. You come wi'me to the brink of things and you're going to be noticed. And there's no walkin' that back, luv."


More than once.

Jane leans back into her seat, eyes forward, not hearing the honking of cars, not seeing the dirty looks of drivers passing by — lost, for her moment, in her own little world. Trying to imagine for herself how it would feel to have those possibilities weighed on her shoulders, and more than once. They are consequences she, during some dark nights have thought at length… thought but not yet considered. Her dreams are still theories, still data, still numbers without form or order —

— contingencies feel like years away, and perhaps they are, and perhaps not.

But Constantine speaks, and dawned with a new sort of patience, Jane listens, genuinely meaning from the intent set of her eyes to the curl of her body that she means to absorb every word. Her ample skepticism has changed its Janus face to some deep undercurrent of belief, something that flows too strong even for her skepticism. Flows along, helped by the woman's trust in herself, her ability to reconcile two such disparate worlds. She does look innocent, every soft feature on her face, but her eyes burn — innocent, but she doesn't want to be. She wants to know.

He speaks and she takes in it. Not just a proposal on his end, but a promise. Life on the crossroads like that stupid Frost poem she had to read for her forced arts core and hated, and was too impatient to understand — and now. He gives her an out, here and now, to turn the car and, in the most generous way he can, give her his help as she asks. Give her his /help/ that which would bestow Jane a good life, an easy life, a simple life, perhaps never gaining the insight she wants or achieving the answers she wishes — her grasping hands falling ever so short of the stars.

She could have others things, a home, roots, the life she sometimes, in her more sour moments, envies of others.

She could take a husband and have a child and raise it well, resurrect some ounce of her professional reputation and strike some sort of mark on the world, even if it is slight and, in the end, forgettable —

— and then die at fifty, brain tumour, caught too late, no time to prepare, to time to treat, no time but to waste away in the hospice and regret, regret, regret.

At her side, John buckles back in his seatbelt. Faces forward. Tells her what lies ahead in driving north, up this road, through the green light that still bids her forward.

She bows her head back against the seat, blows out a long, deep breathe, and rubs a hand through her hair. She gets it, Robert Frost, she gets it. You dick.

Noise breaks the silence, someone rapping on Jane's driver's window, impatient New York drivers finally past their limit. She turns, but seems to see straight through the man, and bemusedly, mechanically, takes her car out of park. Jane checks her rearview mirror. Last chance to go back.

She puts her foot on the gas and goes through the green, lips pursing, hands clasping briefly on the wheel, dark eyes straight forward as she travels north.

Jane Foster's made her mind. "What's one more stupid decision, I guess," she says. "And do you really need to smoke in here?"


One might fairly wonder if John Constantine had ever sat quietly somewhere, faced with his choices, and chosen the road that led him to this place, this time, this car, this woman's life. These lines on his face that belong to a man five — eight! — years older than himself. This unrepentant willingness to engage in the cold calculus of the battlefield when he has to. Necessary evils so lightly to trip from his oh-so-British tongue. The dark circles of sleeplessness under his eyes. The tar in his lungs. The kind of life that makes being maimed the bestial offspring of an ancient goddess something almost unworthy of remark. And the things that she can't see, doesn't know yet: the graveyard of his history, the accusing ghosts that visit him — quite literally — in the dead of night. The precious regrets with which he castigates himself in unending penance for his failures. The perpetually empty home he returns to.

If so, his expression gives no sign, though he seems aware from the gravity of his gaze just what sort of questions she's asking herself, an intimate seriousness there that makes few enough appearances in mixed company.

Someone knocks on the window, disturbing the equilibrium inside of her car, and John responds to it as John often does: he leans forward, into her personal space just enough to flip off the knocker. Nevermind that, though — shifts into drive, doesn't turn. Onward, and that's it.

Is it a contract? Has she signed it with herself, or has she just bound herself in some way to the man in her passenger seat who has only just moments ago finished telling her that he's been in a mental institution /four times/? The man who says he can't afford to associate with people who are careless. The man with the Jedi Mind Tricks — or so he claims.

He doesn't talk about that either. He glances sidelong at her when she asks him about the smoking, considers for a long moment, then takes one last drag and sends the remainder of the clove out of the window.

"All Hells are the same," he says conversationally, even offhandedly, squinting into the light that pours through the window, breaks sharply off of windshields and bumpers. Just…picks right back up where they'd been, before they stopped. "It's just Hell, and it's infinite. So yes, Heaven. All true. Angels. /Gabriel/ spends most of his time in an upscale Cambridge club. Arsehole. That's London, not your Cambridge. You think demons are bad, you oughta spend some time with one of the Host." Muttering, distantly annoyed: "Bloody wankers, the lot of them."


It is with a sort of grimness, a twitch of her eyes on the rearview mirror like her last, ephemeral glance good-bye on a life left behind, that Jane Foster makes her decision.

It is not fearlessness that compels her forward; it is fear, whether she is running from or toward something she does not know. All Jane knows is she cannot swear ignorance or naviete on her choice: he offers her no promise of happiness, prosperity, victory, or meaning. The only assurance John Constantine seems to offer is that of darkness, darkness for her to expect, and she decides that she can be her own light. And even if she falters, she has the stars to guide her.

Someone pounds on her window. John helpfully leans into her personal space and flips him off.

Jane can't even keep up if she's still /angry/ with him. But she still quirks up her lips, somehow holds back the laugh that wells up, and drives on through the green light to the path not taken.

The path not taken, north up through New York City, is still obscenely congested. And comes more than a little anticlimactic with a dozen tedious intersections.

Not that Jane's paying attention, not so long as John starts to speak again — sans clove in his mouth, she's grateful for that, rolling down her own window to air it out — and takes it all in. And just stares, really, straight forward, trying to comprehend the absurdity of realizing the truth of Heaven and Hell, all real, everything about it real, while she's stopped at a red light and starting at a distant Elmo mascot. She gazes deep into the middle-distance.

All real, if she believes what he says. And she thinks she does. Alien gods are real, so why not this? Not that Jane has really even the heart in her to disbelieve; never been religious, but always spiritual, in her own way. Ninety-five percent of the universe remains unobserved and unable to be measured by human beings, and that means a lot of room for mystery.

"Puts those four dollar Asian pears in perspective," Jane hears herself saying, because what the hell else CAN someone say to all that. She wants to laugh. Wants to cry. Wants to consider going to church on Sunday. "So, important question: how many of those guys have you personally pissed off?"


Looking back on the tapestry of her life — if she's lucky, or maybe unlucky, enough to do so at some future date, when all is said and done — Jane Foster will be able to recall this moment as being one of accomplishment, whether what follows is tragic or victorious. She made a /choice/. A life-changing choice, unalterable. There are countless human beings who spend their entire lives in holding patterns, waiting for a sign from the heavens before they take a leap because they want guarantees before they try. And that, in itself, is something. It's something she did.

John will think back on it too, perhaps — with pride, he can hope, and not with regret, or grief, though he always expects the latter — but what he will remember insofar as her accomplishments go is that she was able to make him laugh.

It's the pears thing. It's the absurdity of it, in contrast with the heady stuff of the ephemeral world he in habits. John loves that: taking a good, long look at the incomprehensible, eternal majesty of Creation and all of its mysteries, and then turning around, dropping trou and showing it one's duff. His colleagues in the major circles of magical power in this modern age find it appalling, and that only makes it funnier to him: bollocks to it, and to them. She says that about the pears, and he /laughs/, and for one brief, medicinal moment he forgets to remember that his heart has been shattered for the first time in years.

"'The plain truth,'" he says, obviously quoting something specific, "'Is we are going to die. Here I am, a teeny speck surrounded by boundless space and time, arguing with the whole of creation, shaking my fist, sputtering, growing even eloquent at times, and then — poof! I am gone. Swept off once and for all. I think that is very, very funny.'"

He rolls his head on an angle, shoots her a look that glitters with just a fragment of the rakish charm he so usually employs. "Simic," he says.

And rather than answer her question, he gestures out the windshield up front on the left. "You'll want this turn, actually. No parking by the main buildings. In the lot here on the side. We'll cross the quad."


Jane Foster, with her exacting nature, her maze of a mind, her discipline for detachment, and her tongue, usually lost in its rambling chatter of her lonely world, inspires much in others: confusion mostly, askance in others, a headache in the rest. A little too blunt, a little too forthright, and too little patience to be properly charming, it seems she still has her moments — a sharp tongue and a healthy, healthy sense of sarcasm.

Still, it's not often she makes someone laugh.

Her attention turns briefly off the road, surprised at the sound that comes out of Constantine. Her eyebrows pinch up, amused in her own way, but says nothing — lets him have that moment, lets him get it out. Lets him have that sweet, heartbeat-quick salve from a pain not even she is aware. She just drives along.

Eventually, the laughter settles, and the man is speaking, the words slower than the should be, measured in the recitation of another. Jane listens — seems to be something of a natural listener in her, for as much as she likes to chatter, likes to question everything — absorbing in a thought about life, death, existence, and its grand absurdity.

Never one for the patience of literature, she finds herself liking it. But it's really Constantine, and that look he gives her, and Jane can't stop this genuine laugh that wells up, a smile lighting her all the way up to the good-humoured roll of her eyes. He is charming, and she's charmed, laughing for just the incongruity the man /is/ to all of her life, and all she's ever known —

And, with a last rough, sighing breath, Jane simply reorganizes her world and gives him a place within it. Seriously, what the hell.

She takes the turn he directs, and soon her car swings into that same lot, most of it empty over the holidays. She turns off her car, and slowly buckles herself out, stretching her legs with a sigh out into the chill air. Jane is still not getting used to east coast cold, after three years of the desert. She looks up at the sprawling campus, certain even now that universities just have this /smell/ to them, familiar and still beloved — places of knowledge, places of learning. "So, your friend, he's a professor, I take it?"


John follows, and in spite of himself he sighs with a little bit of relief once he's out of that car, swinging the door shut. Mental note: when he's got things sorted out at home, he's bringing Chas on his adventures with Jane, from now on. Cracking scientist, or so he's read online — doing his due diligence, of course — but maybe not destined for a career in professional driving.

"Yeah, since lately. Professor Ritchie Simpson. Teaches metaphysical studies of some variety or other, couldn't tell you the course name. Samsara lately."

'Richard Simpson' might actually be a name familiar to to Jane from…well. Years ago. There are a lot of papers published on quantum theory. He had a few. Even by her outlandish standards, they must have seemed pretty out-there. More than fringe science, even. Pseudo-science. Nothing that anyone would've taken seriously. At some point, and she may or may not know this, but rumors got out that he'd actually taken some of Kurzweil's theories seriously, and presumably that was the nail in the coffin for whatever academic career he'd hoped to have in that field, because he'd completely disappeared after that.

Until he turned up to start teaching here, anyway.

"We go way back. I've known Ritchie since we were lads. Used to do summers in Liverpool, where I grew up. Thick as thieves for a while."

He finishes drawing his coat on, one arm and then the other, rolls his shoulders, snaps the collar and lapels, and starts walking.


Jane Foster is the best driver ever. She has to lay a foot on her driver's side door — the one that looks replaced — to help wedge it open.

A recent dent likes to get it stuck now and then.

Either oblivious to or plain ignoring Constantine's misplaced faith in her vehicular skill — she only hit an Asgardian god twice in her record, nothing serious — she stuffs her hands into her coat pockets and picks up her pace to keep up. It's not that Jane is too short, it's just the rest of the world is too tall.

"Rich — wait, you mean Richard Simpson?" Jane asks, her eidetic memory helping out. It takes a bit of mental digging, but that in collusion with the campus sprawling familiarly around them — she puts together two and two. "I've read a paper of his in my graduate years. Wasn't required, I mean — on my own time. First time I ever really heard about the possibility of a technological singularity." She holds in how, back then, she let go a skeptical laugh of her own. It was ridiculous. The waste of time and money to publish that sort of idea was ridiculous. She had an idea then, how it would all be. She'd take the offer with NASA, ask Donald to get engaged, get paid to look at the stars, have a life, and —

And then, one day, she looked up at the sky and saw something she wasn't supposed to. Or maybe she was. Jane likes to think it was meant for her. But she gets it now, the skeptical laughs, the derision, the nails in coffins, and how quickly — quickly — things change.

A thought does come to her. Jane decides now is probably the best time to say it, ask it, while she's in John's sole company, before she gets carried away by introductions and conversations and — things, and more. "You never did say what you need me for. What's this all about?"


"There's something going on. It's hard to get more specific about it than that, in part because the explanation I've heard is /actually/ impossible, and thus deserves a great deal more investigation before I'm willing to say anything else about it, and in part because it's not one thing, it's many things. Many, many things."

John has precious little time in their traverse to light and smoke a clove, and he seems determined to do that, given he was so cruelly deprived for the fifteen minutes they were in the car. "You do this long enough, you start to get a sense for how often something genuinely bad is happening. I'm not talking about possessions or people creating homunculi or cursing one another, that's what my buddy Brendan would call 'bairn stuff.' For babies. I mean the kind of thing that has me getting on a plane because I wake up feeling like somebody's taking an ice pick to me spine. Rate changes, but it's a few times a year, maybe. Lately, though…" As though at the memory of the sensation, or some vision of those feelings to come in the future, he rolls his shoulders the way a person does when they're pushing off a shiver while trying to look as though they aren't. "It's too often. Things that should've been small are big."

They draw up to a building in front of which is standing a campus security guard. Bloody school shootings.

"Can I see your guest pass, please?" asks the woman, obviously bored. John dips his hand into his pocket, retrieves and lifts up a…playing card. He shows her the face with the suit on it.

"Thank you," she says, thumbing the button behind her. The doors open. The card goes back into his pocket.

"Point is," he says, passing through the foyer and down a long hall, "We need to get a better picture of what's happening. Ritchie's got a program…anyway. It's local, though. It needs to be bigger. A lot bigger. But — and I'd rather you not say this to him, eh? — I'm not sure he's bloody able. Technically, maybe, but he might be…" He stops, runs his tongue over his teeth behind closed lips. "…lackin' in the will department. Plus, that much information…he's got a job, hasn't'e? He'd never be able to parse it all himself. Two of you can probably think of even more reasons it's a good idea than I can."


That explanation that's not-an-explanation-at-all earns John Constantine a flat look. Jane exhales a long, deep breath that mists into the cold air. "Many things," she repeats, yet with not so much an air of skepticism as it is resignation. She adds wryly, "Well, when you are willing to say something, send me a text. It'd be helpful."

He talks about a developed sense. That, despite her humoured weariness — really, Jane is not used to answers without questions, she needs questions, and he's giving her none — earns her dark eyes. Possessions. Homunculi. Curses. Word after word slowly brings those eyes to widen, talk of 'baby stuff' making her a little momentarily pale. Things to keep in mind. Things to remember. Good lord.

Fortunately, it's a thought saved for later, probably when she's in bed and frowning up at her ceiling, watching the play of shadows from the moving cars outside, as for now Jane goes quiet when their forward path is stopped by security. That gives her a double-take. Not a thing back when she was in university, despite everything crazy about the world — ramping up, it seems, like a J-curve in the last few years. She turns a telling glance up Constantine's way, her face that over-honest, expressive look of 'what now, Snape.' Her own head swims. Maybe she could — she is an academic. She could make up something, maybe even beg a call with SHIELD — yeah, right — pull out her phone and look up a few published papers and —

— John takes out a /playing card/ and clears it up.

Jane stares. She stares even as she steps forward, a halting moment after John, looking between him and back at the security guard. In her eyes is the hope there's some in-joke between them she just missed, but it doesn't seem so. The possibilities of what /did/ happen chill her. "What was…"

But he starts talking, as they continue on, and she frowningly puts her own question aside, because John isn't exactly the most forthcoming person with answers, Jane is finding, the longer this strange day goes. She has to take the information if and when she gets it. She squints against mention of a program, trying to keep up. "Program?" she asks, thinking — bigger? Writing a script? "Program that does what?"


They draw up to a door. The door leads to an office. The nameplate says "Prof. R. Simpson' on it. Jane asks him her last question, the most important one, and he looks aside at her with a brow cocked upward. "It tracks the many things," he says, as though that should've been obvious. Then he's knocking, and someone on the other side is saying "Come on in," in a voice that's saturated in the honeyed, melodic roundness of a southern accent.

"Brace yerself," John suggests quietly, dryly, before he pushes on the handle and lets himself in — and her with him.

(Continued in Part 2)

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