Foreign Relations

January 07, 2017:

John Constantine needs to get in touch with the woman Captain America brought to the charity gala. How does one get close to such a public, well-protected figure? For John, it means a surprise trip to his favorite pub in England…

Dogshead Tavern

It's really just a magical facsimile, though.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Dr. Jane Foster, The Winter Soldier, Zatanna Zatara, Jessica Jones, Spider-Man

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

It's actually a fairly nice day, given that it's January in New York. There's snow on the ground and it's crusting over in the cold because there's just enough sun to melt what's on top. A pale blue sky enough sun to warm the shoulders, even, though only just enough. As ever in the Northeast corridor, the contrast of any sun whatsoever with the last several months of dark days is enough to have people out and about, enjoying it while they can. The pedestrian sidewalks are busy, the streets thronging with traffic. It'll be dark in a matter of hours, but until then, New York City enjoys its brief moment of sunshine.

The gym that Steve Rogers uses is also packed, if the lot on the side is any indication. One would expect the interior to be abuzz with the sound of treadmill belts, clanging weights, and whatever they like to play on the stereo, and for two seconds after Cap opens the door, that is exactly what it is.

It's just that once he steps through it, it isn't.

Isn't even a /gym/ anymore, actually. It's a —

It looks like a bar.

Not a New York City bar, mind. Not something you want to recoil away from once the lights come on after last call, not dingy and sour with the stink of spilled alcohol. A /pub/. With wooden fixtures the color of honey and metal fittings, polished brass, pictures of regulars mounted in places behind it. There's sunlight enough inside to wink on rows of hanging pint glasses — proper pint glasses, not this milk glass /nonsense/ people prefer in the States — and a fire going in a hearth off to one side, above which there's a stuffed dog's head on a trophy mount, and beneath that, a plaque.

There is only one person in the room, and that man is John Constantine. He's sitting at a table in the middle of the room with a foaming pint glass of lager in front of him, and another opposite him on the other side of the table, dripping condensation onto a coaster, waiting for someone to join him.

That someone has just arrived. And behind that someone, the door, it—

Well, it disappears. Because any sane man would stumble over his thoughts, think he'd walked into the wrong building, turn around and leave. And that just wouldn't /do/.

"Bloody hell, I thought you weren't going to show, and I'd have gone to all this trouble for no reason," he says, glancing down at the watch on his wrist. His coat is draped over the back of his chair, the sleeves of his white button-down shirt rolled up to the elbows. "You're almost ten minutes late. I thought you capes were supposed to be punctual."

—-

To say that Captain America is used to the arcane would be a lie. He fought against it, had some run-ins with heroes that used it, but it's not like Rogers really preformed a spell, sat in on a summoning, or even thought he would be teleported against his will.

Yet Cap finds himself in a flash away from the familiar and surrounded by the strange. Not The Strange, because well, that's a different magic-user. Instead, it's a pub. With his workout equipment and shield currently in large duffle slung over his back, Rogers has the bag drop down as he works to pull out his shield as John begins to talk. Only once his shield remains in the sight at the top of the opened bag does Steve process what is being told to him.

"Traffic was bad," the First Avenger begins as he looks around, his voice distant and distracted. "I presume you're going to explain what's going on here" is offered with a tone that seems to be polite with the undertones of concern. Part of the American Hero wants to get upset, but Cap doesn't like to presume the worst in people he's just met. Of course, being teleported without his say so does not endure someone to his good side.

—-

It is not /technically/ teleportation, because that's not John's area of specialty, but explaining what it /is/ may have to wait for a point at which Steve's not flashing that shield of his around. John's seen the footage, he knows what that's about.

"Of course. That's the whole point, innit? C'mon, mate, have a seat. We're on the same side, you an'I. I just took a pass on the tights. Not my style, old son. Not that I'm judging," he adds, one brow sliding slightly upward as he reaches for his pint glass, and brings it up in a small gesture, salut. "Suppose you make it work, I just prefer a little bit more breathin' room for me plums." He takes a pull from the pint glass, sets it down, and beneath the table uses one foot to gently push the chair across from him out.

"Saw you had a run-in with a Nazi tosser I've been hunting down. Shame, that. Turns out he's got 'imself a case of the immortality, but I've a mind to put'im in the ground for good. Lady friend of mine mentioned that a bird you went to the gala with knows his real name. In my line of work that kind of thing is important, so I thought we ought to have a chat, but as I didn't want the red, white and blue stuffed up my duff, it seemed like maybe I oughta go through you first. Besides," he adds, blue eyes slipping away on an angle, head tilting over. "I wanted to ask you about this previously-dead mate of yours. Barnes. Been working with him lately. Interesting fellow, you friend."

—-

There is a long side long pause as Cap walks slowly toward the man with the unique way of speaking, the bag thrown over his shoulder once more. As John might have imagined, the war hero wants to keep his trusted weapon close when in an unfamiliar place and an unknown stranger that seems to know A LOT about Captain America's current events.

At the moment, the superhero's not in the tights, but rather the 'everyday man' attire of a man going to the gym, dressed in sneakers, jeans, a white tee, and a leather jacket. It's a bit less than most would wear in New York during the winter, but Cap isn't really the sort to mind the cold too much.

"I did," Steve states plainly with regards to the Nazi. He takes a seat along with a deep breath, clearly trying to keep his composure as he processes and remain professional and level in a situation that is all but alien to him. His blue eyes scan every inch of this place, as if trying to ensure that there isn't some sort of ambush being prepared behind the bar or in the corners of the room.

The strangeness of the place plays in John's favor however, his defensiveness more on the room than the content of John's words. After second or two of silence, Cap slowly moves over toward John and gazes into his eyes, clearly trying to get a read on him. "Not sure how you know about him, but seems to be a lot of people have come into contact with him."

—-

There doesn't appear to be a single other soul in the room. And Captain America's senses are tuned up well beyond those of a normal person's: it's a small room, there's a mirror behind the bar…if there's anyone other than John here, they're hiding themselves by way of some additional sort of magic, because he won't be able to sense anything of the kind.

John, for his part, remains more or less still where he is, save for the occasional sip from his pint. The one in front of Steve sits and sweats and gleams in dark gold. Smells real enough.

It's a quaint little pub, with a plate glass front window that looks out on a street that isn't in New York city, that much is plain. If he takes the time to read the name painted on that glass — it'd be backwards from inside, obviously — he'll find it reads 'Dogshead Tavern,' which may explain the stuffed dog's head over the fireplace.

John does not appear to be much of a threat, physically speaking. He doesn't hold himself like a soldier, though he has the wary readiness of a man who is used to having to move quickly at a moment's notice. His build is lean, perhaps strong for its muscle density, but Steve Rogers could snap him like a toothpick without much in the way of effort.

He also appears to be unarmed, unless something is strapped to his back, but there don't seem to be any indications of holsters or anything else underneath his button-down shirt.

Just a very British man in a very British pub, saying strange things in a very British accent.

The eyes are probably the closest thing he has to weapons. Those are sharp, and a little amused. He gets a kick out of this, obviously, even though it is decidedly dangerous to spring something like this on someone like Steve Rogers. Maybe /because/ of that reason. And that probably says something about John.

"I met him by chance — well. In my life, mate, almost nothing's chance." His lips quirk. "I'm happy to answer all of your questions about that, and wouldn't mind asking a few of my own, but let's talk about the gala first, yeah? Who's this bird of yours, and when can she and I have a sit-down? Because the Nazi, Hanussen, he's had enough time bollixing things up for everyone, and I'd like to get started putting an end to that. Sounds like she may have the information I need."

—-

It's clear the caution on Cap's behalf is from the bold move on John's part. After all, the man looks like he knows what he's doing, which means he felt this was a necessary move or one he could manage. Considering that this is likely the magic user's home turf, all the more reason for Steve to be careful.

"Bird of mine?" the question makes Rogers defensive. It was fine when this person was asking about things on the public sphere, but now he is talking about people close to him and getting information on him.

"I think let's have a talk about everything else on the table first. If I feel it's warranted, I can see about setting up a meeting with you and her. I'm not in the habit of making meetings with friends and people I haven't been properly introduced to."

Despite the terse tone, Rogers still extends his hand as he attempts to be cordial despite the situation. "While I'm sure you know me, I'm Steve Rogers. A pleasure."

—-

Those blue eyes of John's roll upward, his head tilts back, the eyes close, and a massive sigh follows. "Oh, for — bloody hell. 'ave it your way, then." He rights his head, shakes the taller man's hand. "John Constantine — as I said bloody thirty seconds ago. Steve Rogers. Everybody knows who you are, goes without saying, doesn't it? Wouldn't have gone to all the trouble to bring you to me favorite pub if I didn't know. So this /was/ our proper introduction. Don't know as you've noticed, but you tend to have people following you about and giving the evil eye to anybody who gets within ten meters of you. Pretty sure my coming up to you saying 'hallo, let's talk about evil magic and your old friend who is now apparently some sort of half-machine assassin and appears to be on the verge of 'aving a nervous breakdown' wasn't going to get me anything but a rifle barrel up me arsehole and a funny story to tell the lads. Was I supposed to call your /secretary/, then? There's an immortal Nazi sorcerer running about, hiring up idiots to do summonings for a Prince of Hell. I don't have the /time/ to wait six months for a ten minute autograph signing or a form letter, mate."

He retrieves his hand, lifts both of his, elbows on the arms of his chair, and splays his fingers. "Look, I know this is all a bit /weird/ for you, and I appreciate you not knocking me 'ead off, but it was — it /is/ — sort of an emergency. I don't usually go in for the flashy stuff, but if I didn't get us some privacy we wouldn't be getting anywhere."

—-

There is a long look that is given as John rants about why he did what he did. It pretty much says one thing: You done yet?

"Proper introductions don't happen when someone is taken against their will here. I'm trying to be nice here, but you are asking me to just openly trust someone with highly sensitive information." There is a frown. Captain America is not happy. His muscles tense as personalities clash. Then he pauses to take another breath.

"Either way, yes, I am willing to have you meet Agent Carter. She knows a bit about this Nazi wizard-warlock-whatever and the Consecrated Book. But I want her or another Agent to be there. As I said, still not comfortable with all of this."

Cap's gaze moves away from John's eyes, perhaps so he can glare angry without it being a slight. "I don't pretend to understand what is going on with the book or why so many people are involved with it, but you're right, we can't really let someone run around with something that powerful."

There is a long beat before Cap feels the need to add. "By the by, Melodie is a very good secretary. She was very patient about telling me how to set up my page on The Facebook."

—-

John looks more or less unperturbed about his abrasive effect on one of the shining bastions of American history. He is accustomed to rubbing people the wrong way. He's accustomed to dropping on them out of nowhere, and asking them for unreasonable things as though they were perfectly reasonable to ask — and usually they wind up consenting, because by the time he's asking things have gotten well out of hand in some way, and it's difficult to refuse. It does not in the least bit make him popular.

He just cocks a brow and tilts his head in what might be considered acknowledgement, even a silent 'thank you,' when he's told that Rogers will arrange a meeting. The conditions affixed to that do not appear to trouble him in the least.

With that agreement given, he settles a little, grows more tractable and willing to faff about with the details. "I'm sure she's a peach," he says of the secretary, with absolutely no interest whatsoever. Also offhandedly: "I've got the book." He gestures at the lager in front of the man. "It'll go warm on you," he says, before downing the rest of his own. The foam remaining from the head slides down the interior, a creamy blur, and John sets it aside and settles back more deeply into his seat, folding his hands over the flat of his middle. "And I'll see to it that nobody who wants to use it for the wrong reasons gets ahold of it. I'll be passing it off to a mate of mine soon enough. For now, it's locked in a vault that nobody's getting into. Not Hanussen, or anybody else, for that matter. But as a show of good faith for you agreeing to set things up with your lady friend, I'll fill you in, how about that?"

"Hanussen's immortal. Mentioned that bit already, I believe. While back, a serial killer you may've read about in the papers, Kazinsky, was trying to summon a Prince of Hell. Mammon. Prince of Excess. Greedy, fat bastard. Turns out Muller — ah, Hanussen — is the one who hired'im to do it, which was puzzling to me. There are loads of demons you can make deals with if you want something; there's no point in calling up somebody like Mammon, and'e wouldn't usually bother with a worthless tosser like Kazinsky. Turns out it's something going on between Hanussen and Mammon, instead, and I'm sure I don't have to tell you that someone like Hanussen having a deal going with a Prince of Hell is worrisome. Found out Hanussen wanted the book, and that's why I've got it now. Can't be having him walking off with it, can we?"

He pauses, lifts a hand, flicks his pint glass. It refills itself. "T'any rate, Hanussen's backup plan was to…" He hesitates. The angle of his jaw skews, his eyes slide off on a low angle, away from Steve. His eyes remain lidded and relaxed, his tone even, but something behind that perfect mask of his face shifts. Something dark. Anger, maybe. "…to sacrifice a young lady I know. They've been trying to work blood magic on her for over a week now, and we're managing to keep her soul from being ripped out, but now my priority is finding out who Hanussen's got pissing about with her blood. So there's a bit of a /deadline/ on sorting through this. And it's a bit personal, innit?"

A beat later, he draws a breath, snaps his gaze up again, and that moment of — whatever it was — passes. "Anyway. I met your old friend while I was chasing up information about the book. He was looking into it as a means to get to Hanussen. He was working for someone with an interest in killing the Nazi, so we worked out a…deal. Doesn't sound like they knew he was immortal, though, since he turned back up to ask me about it after we killed Hanussen the first time."

—-

A nod is given at the sign of good faith, Rogers taking in the information with clear interest. Steve sips the beverage offered to him, but he doesn't seem to enjoy it. But it's likely that Cap is not the drinking type. But he's being polite. Because it matters to him, even if it doesn't matter to Constantine.

"I think Pe-Err, Agent Carter mentioned something about him being immortal, so it's likely best that you guys get together soon and talk this out. As for this whole 'Mammon' thing, that's news to me and will likely be to her too." Unless Peg was protecting Steve, which might be a real possibility. "I'm sorry to hear about your friend," he concedes, softening as the right heartstring is pulled. "If there is something I can do within reason, I'll do what I can to help your friend. I understand wanting to help a friend."

A second or two passes as Steve leans forward, resting his elbows on the table. "I'm sure you understand who Barnes was and who he is now. Not sure who he's working for, but considering his targets, I fear it's nothing good. Combine that with the fact that he's recently gone missing with an important woman, Doctor Foster, and I'm have serious concerns."

There is a moment of emotion for Steve, but instead of rage like his current companion, it's more of a quiet languish. "I'm not sure if that disappearance is linked to that of your friend and this Prince of Hell guy, however."

—-

John isn't particularly comfortable with emotions. He eyes Steve sidelong as the man softens just enough to offer his help, and John nods a little, but says nothing. It does seem to shift something in his mood, though, which is perhaps as much sign of his gratitude — which is real — as he's prepared to offer.

Not one for talking through his /feelings/, then.

The next subject is…tricky.

On John's phone there are text messages from a random number, a burner phone. They tell him that Jane is safe, that Bucky took her somewhere to keep her that way. And John, for all that he sympathizes with the look he sees cross the face of the man across the table from him, doesn't know who or what it is that they're hiding from. He knows that he promised this assassin that he would to try to keep Jane safe if something went wrong — which something appears to have done, if they've gone into hiding.

So he's hamstrung by his inability to say anything specific, but perhaps because Steve offered his help, John feels obligated to do the same, and he spends a moment staring at the bigger man, drilling his fingertips on the table.

"I don't think it's connected," he says slowly. "And for whatever it's worth…I think they're both alright. For now. But the last time I saw him," he continues, moving into safer territory, "He mentioned that he suspected something might happen. He wasn't specific."

John's gaze drops to the pint glass on the table, and he reaches to curl his fingers about it, but he doesn't lift it yet. "He was acting strangely. Or — well. Less strangely, if you're using normal human behavior as your metric, eh? Could swear he smiled a little. That's not the man I met. The man I first met was death on two feet. There was something different about him the other day and it gave me a turn, I don't mind telling you. So something's going on, but for now, just…" He lifts that hand, fingers splayed, and presses it a little in the air, as though settling something. "Take my word for it, for whatever that's bloody worth. And if that changes, and I think something's actually gone wrong, I'll let you know."

—-

There is a pronounced pause as John shares this information. While John takes his time in relaying what he knows, Steve also takes his time in figuring out what to do with it. After all, the man is sharing more than he needed. He could have lied, he could have easily shifted the conversation to something else.

"Considering that he's not in full control of himself, it seems…" Captain America is about to say something, but whatever it was, he just shakes his head. He's clearly frustrated, but it's clear that it's not with John. It's clear he is dealing with so many people who know more than him, want his help, but keep him in the dark. In the end, there is a blessing to that, though Steve doesn't understand that quite yet.

"Nothing, don't worry about it… I suppose I should thank you for letting me know they are not compromised and he seems to be showing more humanity. I'll still be looking for Bucky and Doctor Foster because I'm concerned for their safety, regardless if they believe they are fine or not."

Rogers looks to the dead eyes of the stuffed animal, as if expecting it to have some solace for him. As he gives the stare to the deceased, he continues to speak. "But other than the wanting me to set up a meeting for you or Agent Carter, was there something else I could do for you?" After the question, Steve turns toward John, the flood of emotions having passes leaving him calm and gentle, as if kindness was his default setting.

—-

"I can't really tell you more than that," John says, tracing out the muted signs of struggle in his companion's face. "Wish I could. I just don't know much else."

He does finally collect his pint glass and takes a measured sip, waving off the thanks with his other hand as he does so.

"Not at present, no. I need whatever information she has. Once we have that meeting, then — possibly. I'm not much in a scrap if I don't get the drop on someone, and I was relying on your friend the assassin to do the bits that need muscle, so that I could focus on the bits that need magic. But if I can't reach him, it could be I'll need new muscle. It sounds like you're going to be there when I have a chat with — Agent Carter, was it? — so we can figure out the fine details then. Though…"

He slips his hand into his pocket, withdrawing a glassy black phone, which he flicks on with one hand. The other retrieves a card from one of his coat's pockets. "It might be better if you just give me a number where I can reach you directly. Much as I enjoyed this little field trip, it's expensive doing business this way." He places the card down on the tabletop, pushes it across with one finger.

—-

A brief smirk is given. "You /can/, but you won't. But I understand why, so it's fine." While Rogers has had his time to express and emote discontent and sorrows, he's back to his usual professional that serves as his calling card and his defense when life becomes a little too complicated for the softer side of Steve. The card is taken with a simple nod before he gives one of his own. "Don't be giving that thing out, it's a number that will give you a quick line to me. It's a direct line, so don't be giving it out unless you need to." The superhero moves to get up, sensing that the conversation between the two is close to over. "I'll let her know and get you two in contact soon. As for the extra muscle, that would be good too. Might not be the smartest at all of this intel stuff or much of a magic man, but sure if it's about fighting a demon, just get me a bit of holy water, a cross, and blessing on my shield and I'll be fine."

Stands to reason that the Traditional Values Boy would think the only way to fight demons is with the holy, but well, he's new when it comes to this whole occult biz as stated before. A glance is given toward the place that he had come in before. "Well, it was an… interesting conversation, John Constantine, but likely should be going. Seems like you're a pretty busy guy, so don't want to keep you from all the stuff with saving your friend. Again, if you need my help, just let me know."

—-

John doesn't look disdainful over the mentions of those very Catholic, very traditional means of dealing with demons. Truth is? They work. Sometimes. And John isn't one to knock something that works just for reasons of style.

He makes the card on the table he's given disappear. "Wouldn't dream of sharing it out, mate," he assures the war hero with the gym bag, and there's an offhand sincerity in the way he says it that suggests he means what he says about maintaining Steve's privacy.

He doesn't rise when the good Captain does, preferring to remain. Maybe he has to, in order to keep the — illusion? Whatever — in place.

The offer of help comes when John is looking at Rogers this time, and it's less easy for him to utterly conceal the flicker of feeling it causes. His expression is made for poker games — only the foolhardy ever sit down at a table with John — but his lashes flicker a little in something like a blink, and he allows himself a small nod, the muscles stringing his neck together changing their shadowplay, indicating a swallow. His eyes tighten, faint indications of crow's feet creasing the outer corners of his eyes. "I appreciate that," he finally says, dredging it up from somewhere well beneath all of hard exterior shells. It seems like an effort on his part.

"We'll be in touch," he continues, more businesslike. "Give my apologies to your handlers."

—-

With his items secure over his back, Rogers waits for the exit to appear. "No worries, it's good for keeping them on their toes," he replies with a bit of mirth with regards with to his handlers. Who are likely trying to figure out the eternal struggle of 'handle this themselves' or 'call for backup and risk looking bad'.

A shrug is given at the thanks. "No prob, helping people is what we're in the business of, right? Til next time, take care of yourself, Constantine." And with that, provided the gateway is opened, he head back to the gym. His drink is barely touched, perhaps a final gift for the man seemingly in need of every advantage he can get.

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