More Mistakes Were Made

January 05, 2017:

Part two from the events that happened in Mistakes Were Made. Zatanna discovers additional details about the curse her father had placed on John.

Constantine's Bunker - Brooklyn - New York City

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bruce Wayne, Chas Chandler, Giovanni Zatara

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

(OOC: Continued from Part One.)

She only makes these words seem easy to say.

At the best of times, human beings tend to have a tremendous amount of difficulty saying what's in their minds, let alone reveal the shadows that lurk in thorny emotional territories. Zatanna is not immune to this, but only she knows just how much effort she expends to keep her heart bare to the slings and arrows of others. It's a mystery as to why, considering how her father is a different animal altogether - Giovanni most days was a wall of ice, sleek, crystalline and impenetrable, so one has to wonder where his daughter gets it from. Or perhaps it is the way he is that triggers those latent rebellious tendencies every young woman harbors especially towards her parental figures; the raven-haired magician's life has been shaped and influenced by all the authoritative men in her life, John Constantine not the least among them, it may have been the only way she knew to set herself apart from the rest, one notch on her belt that demonstrates that she goes where the rest of them fear, or at least are reluctant, to tread.

His hand finds her cheek again but her eyes remain on his, the way they slip down from the line of her nose to rest at the shape of her mouth, and how it curves upwards in a smile. His thumb charts that well-remembered path under that rosy bottom lip, his other set of fingers moving over the bloody brand that she has placed on herself in order to whisk her away to safety in the event that the worse happens (and did happen), calluses rolling over such tender skin that the sting would have done the work to keep her in the present. But for once since his return, her mind doesn't backtrack to the past, or rifle through the mental photographs of the past summer when they freely reveled in the enjoyment of things that lay outside of the doors of the supernatural. More human things.

Her response is immediate, always so quick to open herself up to feel things, the way those eyelashes droop and how her face turns faintly, iron filings to lodestone, attracted to the heat of his palm.

Everything has changed, he says.

"I don't think I have." Her breath shapes the words.

Fingers, long, elegant - the bones of an artist, an entertainer, an expert in prestidigitation - lift to touch his mouth, tracing the seam and refreshing herself with its masculine symmetry. She is almost feverish, a side-effect of what he had given her, and heat throbs from the tips of those digits.

"I kept waiting for it." Her voice is so quiet, her confessions fit for a sanctified booth. "The regret. Wishing I could take back those months. Wishing I could forget. I felt everything else and it nearly killed me, so why not that? But I never did…I never felt those things, and I never wished that I could stop. I was never one to look so far ahead that I'd just let myself throw it all away and pretend that it was nothing. And maybe it won't last. Maybe I'll outgrow you, one day."

They flood with it, ice-blue eyes like mirrors, taken up by his reflection.

"But I never gave a damn about one day. Only now. Maybe I'll outgrow that too, but I can't bring myself to care. I'm fine with all of it."

Her fingers slip away, curling inward, the second knuckle of her index brushing against the side of his face like a ghost, leaving a spectral trail down his cheek. Even now, she can't help herself - her chest has been broken open, bleeding out steadily in the course of days, and all she does is reach in and rip out the rest of the bones to complete her emotional suicide.

"I'll bleed." She whispers it and he would know that she means it. So quick to dive into the muck with him, to tangle herself up in the thorns. He can practically taste it in her breath.

"I'll burn."

—-

'I don't think I have.'

He starts to open his mouth to argue that point. Having been away from her for the months of their separation he can chart the changes she perhaps cannot see because she's lived them — the ways that her independence have slightly reshaped her character, not starkly but with the subtlety of experience — and those things seem worth saying. Only he can't. She touches his lips and every last syllable turns to ashes on his tongue. Butterfly-light, they traverse sensitive nerves and leave behind a tickle that begs for the press of teeth to relieve it, only he doesn't dare, because then she might stop.

Her confession stunned him like an unexpected right hook, but John isn't the sort to stay stunned for long. He's got his mental feet back under him but she's /talking/ about /everything/ and it just /keeps coming/, so that all he can do is keep his gaze low enough that thin scrims of lash shade almost the entire crescent of pale blue irises, breathe and listen, brows knitting and expression almost faintly pained. Men wear looks like that in the moments just after being shot on a battlefield: they understand that something has happened to them, but in that span of heartbeats between the impact and the realization there is an almost gentle confusion, more like an ache than the agony that will come. /That/ is how he looks, locked in stillness, listening to every last word. It's an onslaught that keeps him on the back foot, soaking swing after swing from her like a boxer in retreat. He bends with the weight of every word, crown slowly but inevitably tilting to meet hers, head turned on an angle slightly askance, as though that might help him deflect some of the hits he takes. After everything she's suffered, for a few moments it's /John/ who seems unsteady, as though her embrace were the only thing keeping him where he is. He tries to breathe in what little space is between them, lifting his head in its tilt, the bridge of his nose glancing against the side of hers, the warm air of his exhale a tingle on her cheek. Lips glance fair skin, parted, but do not close.

Not until she starts to whisper. What she says. What she promises. The way she says it — that has him on the ropes. Nowhere else to go. The line between his brows cuts deep, eyes close, and then he's lost.

/Nothing good can come of this./

But as he tilts his head on a hard angle and cradles her head with fingers splayed in the falls of her hair to support it against the hungry urgency of his kiss, for just a moment — /just a moment/ — nothing else can touch him. Incandescent with need, he clutches her slim frame against his and /takes/ what he knows he shouldn't have, the line of his jaw a hard knife underlined with shadow as his mouth opens over hers, hot and restless, slow but greedy, making demands of her with a tongue well accustomed to getting him what he wants.

It doesn't last long. It can't. His suffering will be exquisite.

It feels as though filaments stitched throughout the bones of his face grow suddenly molten-hot, lines of magic activating as he violates the boundaries set on him by her father. And that — that is only the beginning.

He can feel it, and she can probably /hear/ it, when the bridge of his nose digresses with sudden violence on his face. It is not a kind transformation. Giovanni could have given that to him, could have made it clean, but this little cantrip has the fury of a father in it, and as he wrenches away from her with a short, rough, teeth-gritted sound of pain, as he twists his torso away and brings one hand up to his face, there's already blood rilling through the splay of his fingers, black in the shadows, as it runs in thick ribbons from his nose. He can feel the shape of his right cheekbone begin to change, too, growing sharp, pressing outward, distorting his profile even seconds after they no longer have contact.

It slows after that. Things seem to cool: like a volcanic eruption or the movement of tectonic plates, the magic making his face malleable slowly grows quiescent and cools before it can cause any more extensive damage.

But /this/ damage…is done.

To his face…and to who knows what else.

"Christ," he pants, not sure whether it's the want or the hurt in him that have him breathing the way he is.

—-

She knows what's coming, but she's not in any hurry to meet it.

Zatanna watches his face with half-shuttered eyes, hungrily collecting these small pearls of memory, to keep in the growing collection at the back of her head, to return to at the twilight of her life before the Source reclaims her essence and returns her to the rest of the universe. This close, most of the details are lost, as if there's too much - too much sensation, too much emotion, and how the staccato hammering of her heart threatens to drown everything else. Nerve endings open at the brush of his exhalations over her skin, tingle where the tip of his nose brushes the side of hers. Her chest cramps tightly, so much that it hurts, one hard, pulsating echo in the cavern between her ribs and where her exhausted lungs reside. It's difficult to breathe, he has yet to do anything to her and yet the way she inhales is shallow, barely enough to give her the air she needs, lightheadedness pooling somewhere within her skull.

He says nothing else, but that was alright. To her, his expression means everything. She catches a glimpse of the way his face contorts, his eyes screwing shut and she can't help herself anymore. She is finished waiting.

She's already moving when he pulls her close.

Her arms band around his neck tightly, moving forward, her half-clothed form spilling into his chest, flesh-and-blood bundle that she is of inky hair and black cotton, and lengths of alabaster silk. Her lips part, youthful, enthusiastic, earnest, and whatever desires she has denied herself /explode/ from the pit of her stomach, swirling up and outwards, threatening to blow the top of her head off and sending it spiraling away never to return, manifested as a growing flush spanning the high arches of her cheeks and the sensitive hollow of her throat, eager for his caresses there. Her half-lit world washes itself with white heat, her tongue lashing against her mouth's brazen invader, pulling him in as cheeks hollow out in an impetuous suck - his hunger takes her breath away, and she can't help but respond in kind; he would remember that she's always been like this, though, her emotional sensitivity only encouraging and lighting up a passionate, mindless responsiveness.

She's everywhere, she surrounds him, her fingernails leaving light, raking crescents on his scalp, scoring a path with her other set against the back of his neck with every intention to set him on fire, much like she does with everything else.

She burns.

And somewhere within the blood-rush pounding in her ears, she hears a crack.

It happens so fast that she doesn't manage to catch what's happening until he's turned away and clutching his face. Blood drops fall, staining the white of his shirt, leaving a trail of red roses over her left thigh.

It's the smell of it that hits her first, the rusty tang stinging her nose. The unwelcome distance leaves her mouth bruised, crackling with electricity, still, from the fiery remnants he's left behind. Her eyes fly wide open, reaching for him in an attempt to help him apply pressure to….

"Oh my god, you're /bleeding/!" she cries, moment destroyed by what seems to be a terrible injury. "What the hell happened?! Hangon, just…oh my god!"

She's rising from the bed, /leaving/ him there. Her pale, slender form slips out of the cell in an attempt to find /something/, a moist towel to stem the gush of red, or at least clean it up. Bare feet patter away quickly, and return with a dash, stooping over him so she can press it against his face.

"Did you cut something?" she asks, breathless. "Oh god, oh god, there's so much of it."

—-

She's still everywhere, even after she isn't. She leaves ghosts of herself all over him, memories of something that lasted only seconds, echoing forward through time, and him.

They are some small consolation in the moments that he realizes he's going to be slightly less effective at getting his way with people, the face he relies upon to negotiate with the unknown compromised in ways he has no sense of the full scope of, yet. He doesn't ask himself whether or not it was worth it, because there's no /point/. He could no more have resisted that lapse in judgement than he can resist reaching for a bottle when he hurts, or reaching for the nicotine when he's angry. It addressed a fundamental need.

Did not satisfy that need, granted. She leaves and he shifts onto the bed to settle with his back against the wall of the cell, feeling the soft chill of the metal flashing that lines the inside. Couldn't protect him from /that/. Not when it was inside of him. Not when he was, technically, the one who activated it. According to the rules of the universe, that was a spell he cast on himself.

In his slouch back against it, he stares at the opposite wall and tries to wrestle with the snapping, whipping desire, humming in him like a hive of bees, and the traces of shackled anger, as well: over her earlier predicament, and over this one. Blood drips and spatters down on white cloth, leaving dark streaks and circles, the shapes changing because his chest is still rising and falling, still working to catch the breath eh lost, and the drops fall to find different angles of that plane.

And then she's back. He seems reluctant to let her shift his hand away from his nose, but she'll know almost immediately that something is…wrong…even with his hand there. His cheekbone shouldn't be that high. It should not be that /forward/, as though something behind it, a balloon, had inflated and pressed it into an outward curve. She knows the lines of his face as well as anyone, and they are disfigured.

His nose looks as though it has been horribly broken, when he does finally move his blood-smeared hand to let her get at him.

His eyes train on his glistening fingers.

"Not exactly," he says, voice rough.

—-

She slowly sinks on the bed next to him, facing him, her back towards the distant wall as his slump against the bars of the cell. For a moment, there's some confusion there, wondering just why he isn't letting her get at his injury, but when his fingers slowly leave the front of it, she stares at him mutedly at what she sees, and thick, viscous crimson pattering from his nose.

"Oh, Jesus," she whispers.

His one cheek is misshapen and his nose looks caved in, as if someone had taken a tire iron and used it for some rough rhinoplasty. With the injuries clearly visible, she wastes no time, delicate, light touches attempting to soak up the free-flowing streams of blood dribbling from his broken nose and she tries to do this in a way that minimizes any aggravation of it in her part. Concerned, ice-blue eyes roam over his face, the way he drops his stare in his hands and once again, the cell lapses into silence.

She does what she always does, Zatanna - she doesn't ask him just yet, reaching out to take his bloodied hand so she could work damp fabric over his digits with the soft touch and care of one who is gifted with a natural bedside manner, rolling fine fiber one at a time until she's managed to rid him of those traces. There's nothing she can do about his nose but to apply pressure, and so she shifts closer, folding the towel and guiding his hand to it - she doesn't want to risk hurting him further, and he'll be able to gauge the amount of pressure he can handle better than she can.

And as usual, she doesn't hesitate. An overly-warm hand reaches out, tentatively touching that distended cheekbone, her thumb rolling in a barely-there touch over the curve. She doesn't wince, though she feels it somewhere in her gut; not at what it does to the overall aesthetics of his face, but rather because it looks like it /hurts/.

"How bad is the pain?" she asks softly. "Do you want me to try and do something about it?"

John doesn't ask permission for anything, usually, but Zatanna was raised to be courteous.

Taking in his expression, hearing the way his voice scratches over the syllables, she knows immediately that this is….well. She isn't exactly a stranger to John's vanity, and were she in his position, she would balk at it also.

Her thumb brushes back and forth carefully, so carefully, over the side of his face.

"/Tell me/," she urges. "Tell me and we'll fix it."

—-

It seems tender, but not as painful as it should be, for so seemingly catastrophic a structural failure. Lingering soreness, tissue and muscle aggravated, but once the spell subsided it knit him back together in that shape. There is no yield to the bone beneath her fingertips, though the eye above her fingertips flinches as she touches it. That eye is slightly narrowed on that side, a consequence of the misshapen lower curve of his eye socket.

How bad is the pain? He shakes his head, finally ticking a glance over at her, but it doesn't linger long. The scope of what he's just done to himself is only barely beginning to sink in, finally penetrating the lurid haze of his physical interest. The physical pain was bad — really bad, actually, a lot worse than he was expecting, and if he'd known it would be that bad it might've slowed his roll a little bit — but his pride is infinitely more wounded. His pride. His ego. His vanity.

/Shit./

'We'll fix it.'

Even like this, with a bowling ball made of white lightning in his head and a terrible ache in the rest of him, where his libido is pitching a fit — like a furious animal in a cage, throwing itself against the bars of his quiescent body and demanding to be LET OUT — all he can do in answer to that is utter a bleak little laugh. "Yeah, I don't know about that, love. I don't know."

His voice is muffled by the cloth she's holding to his nose, sluggish with the blood in his throat. He clears it, turns his head to hock, spit on the floor, and then settles again, letting her repress the rag to his face.

"Your da was good enough to let me tell you about his little spell, but he's not /that/ kind. He changed it, he didn't remove it."

He has to draw a long breath through his mouth, exhaling, breathing moderating gradually. After a beat he slants her a sidelong look that manages to be wry in spite of his many discomforts. "If I've got to look like the elephant man, at least my last kiss was a good one, eh?"

—-

She stares at him mutely.

The rest is silence.

The implications roll over her overtired brain like a burgeoning storm, all ionic clashes and rolling thunder, lightning splitting the blanket of dark clouds. Her lips part, then shut, then part again; it is a rare thing for Zatanna to be at a loss for words, when Constantine finally dredges up the /other/ part of the curse that Giovanni had placed on him. Really, she should have wondered about the hows, what the functions of the hex were as its purpose was supposed to make him stay away from her, and it was confusing that he's managed to be around her despite it. But as always, her father has managed to find a solution that's both elegant and downright /savage/, the two words in the English language that encompass the Great Zatara in a nutshell.

But the change - he sees it, the way those tired, yearning eyes suddenly sharpen as her old spirit returns in a rush, luminescent fury spitting sparks of blue fire from those striking-unsettling irises. The flush on her cheeks, culled there by her own arousal (and she had been /ready/, oh god, she needs it) changes character at the drop of a hat, and while anyone who knows Zatanna in any significant way wouldn't be all that unfamiliar with her anger, this is something else. The raven-haired magician was /absolutely furious/.

And if the way she looks now didn't make it all that emphatic, her following words…

"ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?"

She doesn't relinquish the gentleness with which she tends to his injuries but it's like watching the Seventh Circle open right at his face.

"No. /No/. This is unacceptable! It…how…what am I…/I have needs/!!" Said while the cages of his libido are rattling under strain. "I mean…there /are/ limitations, right? Like…I don't know! What if it was one-sided? I mean, what if it isn't /mutual/? Will your face explode if I treat you like a popsicle???!!"

Did she seriously just ask that?

But at his wry remark, she /groans/. "Like I said, this is unacceptable and I won't have it. I'm not above fucking you bloody, John, but not at the risk of watching you turn into hamburger when I do. Jesus /Christ/!"

She leans in, inspecting his face carefully. "….I can probably work up some glamour," she says after her examination. "It'll work on normals and a few higher beings, but those in the top and lower tiers will be able to see through it. If you would like me to. Chas and the others that we deal with regularly don't have to know."

—-

He is not fucking /anything/ her, no. It salves some small part of his self-conscious annoyance with the state of his face for her to get angry on his behalf, though internally, as his ardor slowly cools to something less urgent, settling into the background, his anger with Giovanni stops being anger and turns into something more sullen. Because this is John's fault, really. He /knew/ what would happen. It isn't as though he weren't warned. It's hard for him to maintain his wrath when the consequences were in his hands all along — at least from the moment the spell struck his skull onward.

She starts to rant, and it causes the corner of his mouth to quirk, visible in spite of the wad of bloodstained cloth in her hand. He likes her when she gets like that. It tickles him. When the pot boils over and she starts running her mouth, and things just /come out of it/. Silly things, quite often. Ridiculous things.

These are also ridiculous things, but they hit him where it hurts. Or rather: where it's going to hurt, in about two hours. His chuckle is low and mostly breath, and he starts to answer her exasperated question, trying not to think too hard about that— "It's more about—"

But this being Zatanna, she just /keeps on going/, and it gets worse and worse. In spite of his headache he shuts his eyes and tilts his head back, thunks the back of it against the wall. The closed eyes squint, and then he rubs his thumb and fingers into his eyelids roughly. "Please stop. Stop talking. About that." /Jesus christ./

It would almost be worth it. Almost.

"It's more about my intentions. My…state of mind? So no. I can't get around it. Not without removing it. And…look. I just can't do that to your da." In whatever twisted, convoluted paradigm forms John's sense of ethics, he finds it more acceptable to transgress against the hex and accept the consequences than he does the act of removing it entirely. "Honestly, I don't know how bad it could get, but I'd like to not test the limits. Bloody hell."

She makes him a kind offer, but he doesn't say anything about it, straight off. It just drives home the reality of his new circumstances, and he's still grappling with that actively. Trying to. It would be easier if she didn't keep making things /worse/.

—-

"But…" Your face, is what she wants to say. /You trade with your face/.

Zatanna falls quiet at that; he asks for mercy and she gives it to him by shutting her jaw with a click, and whiles away her anger by tending to his still-bleeding nose. She doesn't laugh, at least, not just because she isn't a mean spirited creature, but rather because despite knowing the risks, he kissed her anyway. There's a slight flutter there, somewhere in the pit of her stomach, stirrings of warmth tugging at the miasma of her ire. And while she could be annoyed that he didn't tell her about this until now, she has a difficult time holding onto any offense that would have caused, she may not have let him touch her if she knew what it would do to his face, already anticipating the remorse that will inevitably greet him when he looks at the mirror.

His remarks about her father draw the unmistakeable tightness only annoyance could bring, but she leaves that comment unaddressed, stewing quietly, still, over the revelations he unloaded upon her a few nights ago. The latest doesn't particularly endear Giovanni to her any more, already chafing at the idea that he even thought about the hex in the first place. But he always knew how to strike where he could do the most damage, further complicated by John's respect - a rare thing indeed, to anyone who knows John. So save short of having to convince her father to lift the spell entirely, they can't act on much of….well, anything.

But she doesn't want him to regret it - regret returning, regret kissing her. He might, on some level, and really, she can't really blame him.

She slowly removes the towel once she's certain that the bleeding has stopped. Turning the bloodied cloth in her fingers, she murmurs a word under her breath, transfiguring the towel to a fresh, cold one that she could wad up so she could press it back to his nose in a conscious effort to alleviate the swelling.

"Well, let's….not…then," she says, with all the petulant reluctance of youth. "Test said limits. Between you and me, you're not the only one attached to your face."

Ugh. /Ugh/.

She sniffs, returning to the very serious business of soothing his aches, now that she's slowly recovering from hers. There'll be no soothing his face, once he sees it, but as always, she takes it one thing at a time. Fix what's in front of her first, and then tackle the rest in the chain.

"Let me know what I can do to help, alright?" she offers at last, patting over the swollen ridges of his nose with the ice-cold towel in her grip.

—-

What a night.

The cool touch of the cloth, the dampness that clears the worst of the bloody mess off of his skin, and more than that, the way she's somehow wound up taking care of him on a night when it ought to have been the other way around…

He has regrets, but they aren't about what she thinks they are.

He lifts his hand and folds his fingers around hers, drawing it from in front of his face down to rest loosely between them. He does not let go. Rolling his head to the side, still just a trace of a wince in the set of his eyes, he lets the shape of their circumstances settle on him, giving himself a moment to adjust to this new and different status quo, now that his body chemistry and latent wrath with Wayne have quieted enough that he can hear himself think.

But not think too much. He's been doing too much of that lately. He's tired of thinking. That may be why he's sitting where he is now, but given the chance to trade his face in exchange for that too-brief embrace…he isn't sure that he would. Is pretty sure that he wouldn't.

The corner of his mouth twitches once, then moments later decides to draw upward, leonine. One of his eyes is lidded, sharp as ever, but the lidding of the other suffers for how his face has been distorted. "The things I would've done to you," he says, quietly, and then tchs.

Because she deserves that. And it may also be true.

The sigh that follows is defeated, though. "You'd better cast whatever it is before Chas gets back, then. We'll do it out of the cell. Don't know what would happen if you tried it in here, but I don't want to find that out, either."

—-

She lets him; his fingers move to clutch her own and like a leaf floating downstream, she follows where the currents lead. The towel drops forgotten somewhere within the sheets, left to languish there while digits intertwine and rest in between, linked there as they haven't been for quite some time. This moment could be fleeting too, she knows. There are forces out there that are less merciful than the present circumstances allow, along with whatever there are inside of themselves - human relationships are fraught with volatility after all, especially for the likes of John and the likes of her, nearly complete opposites bridged by a scant number of commonalities that if anything only exacerbated the volatile combination they made.

Her thumb absently rolls over his knuckles, but otherwise she doesn't do anything much else than that, perhaps somewhat traumatized by the remembrance of the gout of blood that exploded from his face after they fell in each other's arms. But his words draw back enough humor and he'd see those ice blue eyes narrow in answering challenge, slamming into the impregnable wall that cocky expression makes. He is never unbalanced for long, John Constantine.

'The things I would've done to you.'

Zatanna grins at him; precipitous, heedless of the difficulties that'll follow, knowing somewhere within herself that she's only signed up for, if anything, /more/ self-flagellation at the idea that she can't just touch him whenever she wants, in the ways she wants, stardust for teeth between her half-parted lips.

She leans into him, a slender, midnight brow arching upwards. Her free hand comes up to cover his mouth and her face dips low, lips pressing lightly on her own knuckles.

"The things I /will/ do to you," she murmurs, upping the ante. He's not the only one who knows how to gamble.

But in due time. She can wait.

Maybe.

Easing back, she rises to her feet, tugging at his arm. "C'mon, let's see what I can do about your face."

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