Lines on the Sand

January 09, 2017:

Jessica Jones meets with John Constantine and Zatanna Zatara to share with them her new discoveries about Gottfried Muller's identity. A savage attack on Zatanna's defenses prompts Jessica to display a rare moment of emotion, and the night's sleeping arrangements in the Brooklyn bunker make things (unsurprisingly) complicated for Zee and John.

New York City

The city that never sleeps.


NPCs: Chas Chandler

Mentions: Captain America, Peggy Carter

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Salvatore's Deli in Hell's Kitchen isn't exactly what would strike anyone as a "secure location" at first blush. It's one of those true "hole-in-the-wall" sort of places, with enough seating for maybe 15 people if you're generous. Most people get in, get their sandwiches, and get out again, if they know about the place at all. It never sees a tourist. It barely has signage, in fact, just a small little painted on window sign. Most people these days go for "safer" chains, but for those in the know, nobody offers fresher bread or finer cuts of meat. Salvatore himself also watches out for the people from this neighborhood. His neighborhood. He knew Jessica Jones well, for she had watched out for him too, in the past. It was the kind of relationship that brought privacy, and an eye out, a key to open up an hour after closing, and even fresh sandwiches for people who feel like having fresh sandwiches this late at night. If not, well, they carried well.

The lights were mostly off, since Jessica didn't want to call attention to people in the place. Chairs are stacked on the few tables. There are two booths. The detective has claimed the one at the back. There, a candle flickers, its light mostly shielded by the booth itself. She works on a pastrami on rye and waits for the two mystics to arrive. She didn't know where Zatanna was sleeping these days, only that it didn't seem to be Shadowcrest, so that had seemed out, and she didn't want to pry into either of their secrets so…she came up with a secure spot of her own to pass on the information that she'd texted them about.

She'd kept it zipped close in the pockets of that jacket. She'd barely taken the damn thing off save to shower. And she was rather glad for the coincidental aid that had kept it from say, going into space, or wherever Peter's space enemies had planned on taking her.

She has been going stir-crazy in the bunker for the last two days.

The last forty-eight hours have seen Zatanna Zatara do something not many people would expect; stay inside. Stay indoors. Her encounter with the Darkness and the compromised protections on her arm has, at the very least, kept her out of trouble, whiling away the days in deep and constant study. A night owl most of the time, she has burned a significant amount of the midnight oil as she pored through the notes of the Liber Consecratus, wondering if they should have kept it a little longer - if it was meant to be a compass for answers, certainly she could have found a way to ask it how to stop the threat against her soul, or at the very least come across the secrets to a more impregnable mystical fortress. Her experimentations, as usual, went well into the dawn; while obsession is not an unheard of trait for any mage worth his or her salt, it is frustration, determination that drives her, sinking her teeth in her inventions and tossing and turning on her borrowed bed when yet another attempt ends up in failure.

She does not do well in the role of a damsel in distress.

The trip outside fills her both with relief and trepidation; she has done her level best to repair the damage to her arm, but the effects of the attack linger and all she could do in the end is fold a weaker layer over the patches the assault had left on her bare skin. Whoever Hanussen's agents are, they are bound to eat through those first. It should hold long enough for a meeting, and this way she can attempt to find a pattern - track how continuous the attempts are.

She arrives with John Constantine at the designated meeting place, and in spite of her tired eyes, she is thrumming with energy, throwing body and soul into the experience of fresh, cold winter air and proactivity. Her steps are brisk, bursting with her usual vitality; in fact she's just so happy to be out and about that she doesn't even complain about the prospect of going to a deli for food, considering all she would be able to eat is probably a salad between two slices of bread—

Oh hey, tofu option.

But she goes to where Jess is first, giving the woman a quick one-armed hug.

"You're a sight for sore eyes," she greets with a grin.


John looks…


He's getting sleep, or at least as much sleep as he ever gets, because the dark circles under his eyes have waned in their intensity.

He isn't quite in the explosively good humor that Zatanna seems to be, but the brisk and business-like cadence of his gait suggests plenty of energy and more than enough resolve.

It's Chas who drops them off at the curb in the rental car, a slice of punk music broadcast to the sidewalk for the few seconds it takes them to slide out of their seats. John leaves him with the task of finding somewhere nearby to park, or circling the block until the meeting is done. "Good call this," he says to Zee as they near their destination. "Could go for a bite." He holds the door for her, follows her inside, and drops into the seat opposite and adjacent Jessica while the ladies exchange greetings. "Oi Jones. What've you got?"


There truly are not that many individuals who could just walk up and hug Jess, even with one arm. But Zatanna actually gets a one-armed hug back. "So are you," she says sincerely, though her eyes narrow in concern at the girl's state.

Well. Maybe what she brought for them will make it better. Not the sandwiches of course, as bad ass as the tofu option is. At John's comment about the bites, she nods to the sandwiches, five or six different varieties still in their white paper wrappings, but gets immediately down to business as well.

She takes out the rumpled envelopes and passes them across the table. "Open them up and see. I didn't even want to text his name. I was afraid it would get his attention. Maybe that's more paranoia than was called for, and if so I apologize for dragging you both out to hand you what I could have emailed, but…" She shrugs her shoulders, perhaps a little embarrassed at the notion that maybe she really had been /too/ paranoid, and had perhaps inconvenienced them for no good reason.

"Anyway. His was an alias hiding behind an alias. The woman at the gala had alias #2. In there, you'll find the real thing, plus a few other choice tidbits."

The legal paper that is the front page of these slightly grimy dossiers holds a series of bullet points, printed in Jessica's block capital handwriting. In some places the ink damn near tears through the paper, as if she was pressing a little too hard when she wrote each of these facts for their reference.

Real name: Hermann Steinschneider - high profile clairvoyant, predicted rise of Hitler, entered inner circle.

Aliases: Erik Jan Hanussen, Gottfried Muller

Rumored assassinated by Goebbels - body buried outside Berlin, cemetery coordinates (50 degrees N, 12.3 degrees E)

Then the list of known surviving relatives, including the note about the son, clairvoyant Hanussen II, the note that there is nothing strange in the accounts, the fact that some other family owns the Steinschneider house.

Finally: bought plane ticket back to Berlin. Cannot confirm whether this was used.

The rest are the print-outs, the list of his old clients, the home sales records.

The P.I. seems immensely relieved to hand these things over. She takes a big bite of her sandwich, giving them a moment to look over what she's brought for them.


Jessica is very much aware that Zatanna doesn't eat meat, having lived in Shadowcrest with her for several weeks, though she hasn't really regaled the private investigator with the (macabre, gory, gross) story as to why, which involves, incidentally, the man who has accompanied her at the present moment.

She takes her grilled tofu sandwich, though she looks longingly at the corners of cheese sticking out of the private investigator's pastrami and rye, shuffling the basket of foodstuff over to Constantine as she takes a seat at the corner of the table, so she could have a clear view of the both of them. Paper crinkles in her fingertips, taking a hungry bite, chewing as she rifles through her own bag and pulls out her own implements for the day - she is still collecting data, if one wants to be scientific, setting a stop watch and a small notebook and pen on the table as she works off her jacket, letting it fall carelessly on the floor; the three of them are the only ones around after all, meeting in the dark by candlelight. It reminds her of the dark, winding alleys in Europe, the days when she hunted with her father.

She peels off her longsleeved top; Zatanna often dresses in layers, today is no exception, no matter the weather. A black tanktop tugs over her pale skin, the contrast of such dark clothing making her pallor look all the whiter…and the mess on her left arm to be more evident. Pale blue, glowing sigils are woven with what appears to be black mystical tattoos, and half of her forearm is bare.

She folds her fingers over the stopwatch, it has been going since they left the protections of the bunker. It has been fifteen minutes.

"Hermann Steinschneider, huh?" she mutters. "That's really….German. And all of his surviving relatives are in Germany? Looks like he at least wants us to believe that he flew back there."

Good riddance, she thinks, glancing at John.

"Either he'll stay there, come back, or he never left."


John drags one of the wrapped sandwiches over after a brief glance over what's available. He opts for the Italian. …the Italian sandwich. Not the Italian he walked in with. Which, sure, yes, but—

He only just manages to get the wrapping open and fold it in half, sandwich neatly placed atop, when Jessica slides the envelopes over with all of those caveats about secrecy. The lengths to which she's gone to keep this safe mean he's not comfortable leaving his envelope to sit on the table, even though they appear to be the only people present, and he tucks a sidelong glance at Zatanna in there, followed by a brief, mournful look at his sandwich. He can't open the envelope and eat at the same time.

He slits the envelope neatly open and slides the contents out, unfolding them and tracing them with intently focused blue eyes. It takes him longer to read than expected. There's a lot more there than he thought there would be.

For their purposes, of course, Zee zeroes in on the most time-sensitive piece — and it just so happens to be the one he can do something about.

"Well, I've got a chunk of his body and one of his personal belongings back at the flat," he says offhandedly, as though it's entirely normal to have a chunk of an immortal Nazi sorcerer at home. "With the locations narrowed down, it shouldn't be too difficult to tell you if he's still here or he really did leave."


Jessica actually blanches a little when Zatanna just says the name just like that, though she tries to cover it with a wan half-smile. "So, I /was/ being too paranoid," she quips, though as she gazes at the wards she doesn't feel that much like laughing.

She listens as Constantine says he can tell if the man himself is still in town or not. "I'd tell you I'd sleep better if he's not in the States, and I probably would, as long as I didn't try to wonder too much about the range on Nazi sorcerer teleportation spells."

Still, she offers her thoughts, for whatever they're worth.

"That body-the one in the cemetery, not the chunk you've saved for posterity-I have a gut feeling it's important. Maybe there's something buried with it that could offer insight or who knows? Maybe I'm just grasping at straws. But that lady that was with Rogers seemed to have some beef with this fellow."

"If she's government like he is, maybe she'd have the resources to get to Berlin, maybe dig it up. Maybe talk to some of the jokers on the list too, though I couldn't even begin to think which of them would be safe to approach. Maybe she could run down a weakness, if Muller…" Nope, she still can't bring herself to say the real name out loud, "…is still on her list of concerns. I mean?I know Rogers went there hoping to ID his friend. Or, Hell, you're on a first name basis with assassin-boy. Maybe you could talk him into doing it. I know we have more immediate problems," she nods to Zatanna's arm, "But."

Wryly: "I'd offer, but I don't even have a passport. Never even been to Canada."


As John peruses the papers in front of him, Zatanna reaches out to take his sandwich, a deft finger slipping through the little sticker and unwrapping it for him as he reads, forming a little, handy pocket around it with a few strategic folds. She places it in his hand and takes the papers when he's done, so she could read through the data, her eyes rounding a little bit at all of the details, before her brows knit. "Wow, Jess, where did you get all of this?" she asks, sounding rather impressed, pouring over the ancient clientele list. "Siegfried Wagner is in this?" Giovanni was a fan of opera and classical, it probably isn't surprising that the young woman would recognize the name of the composer, though admittedly it wasn't hard - Siegfried was related to a more famous Wagner, the composer of the Ring Saga, whose works were appropriated by the Nazis.

As Jessica offers her quip, there's a hint of a smile. "The name itself doesn't matter if it's not paired with work," she supplies helpfully. "But better safe and sorry, honestly after everything you've been through, I can't blame you for being careful."

There's a glance towards John at that, she remembers he mentioned in passing, that he had gotten in contact with Captain America recently. "I think that might be the next step, then," she says. "Find out what Captain America's date knows. I mean…the moment she said his name, he /flipped his shit/ at the party. There's gotta be something there, right? Though if he did leave, and everyone he knows is abroad, he died there, he was supposedly buried there….wonder if the way to kill him is also there."

She grins. "Honestly, I don't mind going back to Germany," she says cheerfully enough. "Once we figure out this little problem, I can pack up a few things and see what I can find."

And there she is again, following the irresistible call of the road, and /going through the front door/ as usual.


John takes the sandwich, hands off the papers. He's read it and it's enough, though he's not the type to memorize coordinates on command. His interests lie more in the direction that Jessica underlines first, nodding just a little around the bite he takes of his food.

"Nnn," he puts in, chewing. And once he's swallowed: "'e's not dead, is he? So the body's important. That there even /was/ a body is strange. It was wartime, yeah? Lots of caskets floating about, no real reason to stage a burial, an empty one would've done just as well. And it was only /half-buried/. For whatever reason. I'm interested."

Interested, and hungry. Talk of bodies doesn't put him off of his feed at all.

"I'll be talking to her soon. Meantime, you," he says, arching a brow at Jessica, "Might want to look into getting a passport. Don't worry about the resources for a plane ticket. I can take care of that."

'Little problem,' Zatanna says. He cuts a glance across, low, to the place where her wards remain under assault. The sight of the erratic bare patches twisting through the whole causes another twinge of something just behind his sternum, but he keeps his expression schooled. "An' as 'tanna says, we're not going anywhere until we've got her situation sorted."

/We./ Emphasis on the we.


"Running down information is what I do, Zee. Sometimes you come at it from a weird angle, and sometimes you get lucky and catch a break. Find a few reputable sources here and there that don't want to be found, but who can be convinced to talk or to help in exchange for absolute anonymity. This time, I caught a big break. Originally, I was just trying to run down a few more data points we could use to find that house."

Jessica's lips curve into a self-deprecating smirk. "About time I earned my keep and all, since I'm still sleeping at your house like a big baby. And. Uh. I have updates on that front too, but we can save them for the end of this conversation."

Then, Jessica hesitates, realizing she might have just created a problem with her spit balling. She'd just suggested bringing the information to people who were /also/ very good at extracting information, and who had more resources than her. If they got overly curious about how she'd found it?

The last thing she wanted was for that to create unforeseen problems. Time to add some stipulations.

"I do ask that if what's in those envelopes goes to /anyone else/ that it be absolutely conditional on them making no attempts whatsoever to locate any source of mine. No tapping my wires or bugging my car or digging through my e-mail account or going through my texts or interviewing my last three bad dates. Nada, zip, zero. Hell, I'd love it if you told them /you/ found it all with a séance or something. Promising protection is part of the deal sometimes, and when I make promises at all, I deliver on them."

When John suggests she gets a passport, she nods. "If we are all going together at some later date, then Hell, yeah. I just know it takes some time to get that done, so if we were going to try to get Lady Government McBritish or Barnes to go sooner rather than later, then I wasn't going to stand in the way."

And yeah, okay, plane ticket fare /had/ been on the list of concerns. Her expenses were trailing dangerously in the direction of the red again.

"I'll try to take some language courses too, then."

Jessica looks firmly at Zee, herself, as John emphasizes that 'we', because yes, her blithe assertion that she'd just skip on to Germany on her own had caught her own attention. Now she takes on the demeanor of an older sister. Of course, she /has/ an older sister, if only an adopted one, and she knows how annoying that can be. So she dials it back a bit. "Yep. We," she says. "Cause if I do all that damned government paperwork and sit through the Rosetta Stone or whatever and you just poof off on your own I'd have to kick your ass if you got back, and that would suck for both of us. I'd rather smoke a German doobie with you when we're done kicking this guy's ass. Or is that Austria? Whatever. Celebrating. Ass-kicking, all of us, together."

She certainly knows better than to try to convince Zee with stuff like 'going alone is too dangerous.'


There's something to be said about bravado. It may come from a place of determination, and maybe even one of faith, but more than likely the young woman's glaring awareness of the fact that all of her friends are at risk trying to ensure that her soul remains in her body is propelling her to try and make everyone at ease about what could potentially happen. Everyone else already knows that it is serious, and Zatanna sees no reason to emphasize the fact and cause the camaraderie in the room to sour. John schools his expressions well, but she knows, remembering the expression on his face when the Darkness finally receded and they had the time to assess the damage done.

The emphatic /we/ has her glancing over at him, but despite herself, she smiles; it's a rueful, gentle thing. "Too bad we're not heading there for a vacation, I could certainly use it," she says, taking another bite out of her sandwich. "But yeah, Jess, grab a passport if you can, especially if you're running with this crew. If the language barrier gets too tough, I can take care of it. That's what I'm in Uni for, remember?"

Double-major in Theatre and Languages, though the latter isn't confined to modern ones. Her German is adequate enough.

Most of the warning regarding Jess' source would be for John and it doesn't appear that Zatanna has any plans on going with him in meeting Peggy Carter, she's already caught the attention of SHIELD after all, and there's something about getting involved with espionage types that unnerve her, /especially/ after the discovery of all those listening devices in her bag from the last week.

The firm look from Jessica has her hands lifting, stopwatch in hand, and despite herself, she can't help but laugh. "Alright, alright. No going off alone, I get it. I just thought that with the lack of a passport and the fact that you just got here - " that to John " - would keep you guys firmly stateside, I was just offering! Mosrly. It has absolutely got nothing to do with my terrible wanderlust at all. Besides, I have a bone to pick with him, too, this is all his fault."

She waves her left hand.

A sudden rush whips sharply into the room, causing the candlelight to flicker and triggering magical alarm bells. The stench of smoke, of burnt hair and skin, fills the room.

A flash of red erupts from the young magician's waving arm, forcing her to drop the stopwatch as she cries out, pushing back from the table and nearly collapsing on the floor. Her right hand closes tight over her inner elbow, attempting to hold the rest of her forearm away from her. Blue eyes are wide, the conflagration's mystical nature /burning/ at that first, black tattoo-like layer of her wards, eating through rapidly to get to the glowing blue sigils underneath.

"Hcneuq!" The spell is out, in an attempt to douse it.

It is a mistake.

Pain locks her limbs as the spell rebounds from the flames, slamming back into the rest of her body. Her lips part in a scream.


John just eats. He's said his piece, and he lets the two of them talk through the rest. As has been amply noted in the past, he isn't much for /a wee natter/. Besides, the sandwiches are good. He'd rather focus on food and wait for some more necessary reason to interject himself.

…like the eruption of nasty magical energy through the otherwise peaceful interior of the shop. A bolt of black and red, a cry from the woman beside him. He drops the sandwich and it falls apart, entirely forgotten. He's already reaching for her, for her arm, when she gets a face full of magical backlash, and the sound she makes — /screaming/ — drives a spike of ice into his chest. He takes her from her rigid position in the chair to the floor with all of the brisk efficiency of an EMT, and once she's there he digs into his pocket with one hand, searching for his phone. Quick-dialing Chas.

It rings three times, which for John feels like three times too many. "We need to go. Now. Five minutes ago."


Jessica's first reaction had been to leap to her feet, skidding past them to set herself broadly in front of the door as if thinking that something physical was about to burst through the windows. A second later reason catches up with her and she realizes that it's blood magic. Not only that, it has the air of someone stepping up their game.

She flings the door open, looking left and right down the street just in case. Perhaps for John's car, perhaps for threats. "Depending on where you're going and how far away your ride is, I might be able to get you there faster." That's a definite depends. Current traffic and lights and hazards of driving full speed vs. a few quick leaps, balanced out by whatever distance there is. Of course, she uses her abilities very little and talks about them almost never, so this may sound like so much crazy talk to John's ears. But she can't just stand there with her thumb up her ass, either. She offers, she lets him make the call, trusting his judgement.


"M…my stopwatch…" Zatanna gasps once she's found the floor, though she doesn't dare remove her right hand from its brace, keeping her burning arm away from Jessica and John. "I need to…"

Pain, frustration, fills her eyes.

Her eyes turn to the way the flames - bright red, unnatural - score through the black sigils, burning them away, exorcising them from her body in thick wisps of black smoke. She manages to get up in a sitting position, effort levied there to fight through the haze so neither John nor Jessica has to haul her up or carry her to get to Chas' rental.

…oh god, Chas' rental. Didn't companies add penalties now if people smoked in cars? She's going to have to beg his forgiveness later.

Black vanishes under red as it twists up her arm, sparks flying when the spell gets in contact with the more potent, blue-white layer underneath. Every instinct screams at her to do something, but she's already been bitten once, and she is /very/ good at learning from her mistakes, whenever she opts not to repeat them.


"Bollocks to your stopwatch," John says, more on autopilot than anything. He's still trying to get a look at her arm, and whatever Chas is saying on the other end of the line is obviously not doing much to reassure him.

He'd been telling /Chas/ that they need to go, but Jessica's offer to get them where they need to be more quickly has him ignoring whatever Chas is saying on the other end of the line, the muzzy sound of the big man's voice ignored as he lowers the phone and shifts his attention to the detective. "I can set up the door…" Quick thinking on his part, a little bit of estimation. "Three blocks south. That work for you?"

Whatever that means.


Ultimately, it doesn't matter what it means if that's where they need to go. So she keeps her answer short and to the point. "Yes."

Jessica darts back over to them. "Both of you, arms around my shoulders. Hold as tight as you can." She holds her arms out to gather them in. "Might want to hold on with your legs, too. And…feel free to puke if you need to."

Assuming they comply she'll wrap one tight arm each around their waists. She hoists them up like toddlers, like they weigh /less/ than toddlers. Like they're a couple of lightly filled grocery bags.

And with the door wide open it's nothing to haul ass through it with them, her powerful legs putting on speed. The moment she clears it she repeats her warning to /hang on/, even as she gathers powerful legs beneath her body. She knows the city like the back of her hand, orienting to the south like it's nothing. She leaps, and they soar, up and up with dizzying speed that might instantly explain the comment about puking. They come briefly down on a building with a lurch, but she gives hardly a pause before she's racing to the edge of that to leap again. This time they're higher, which gives more of a boost; she sends them soaring over several more buildings before coming down with another tooth jarring lurch. She pauses just long enough to spot more or less the exact spot that's three blocks from Salvatore's; then she's taking them up one more time, angling her feet downward so she can take all the force of their landing on hard pavement. She clutches them close the whole time with a hard, sure grip.


There is serious magical muscle behind it.

It may very well be that whoever has been tasked to get her soul to Mammon has become frustrated by the fact that his quarry can just slip in and out of whatever magical radar he has like a ghost, a testament to the effectiveness of John's nullifcation chamber in Brooklyn. Now that she is out of its shielding capabilities, a brightly burning beacon for anyone with the Gift, the opening salvo was bound to be aggressive, meant to do as much damage as possible on whatever protections there are while repelling any attempts that the target might use to quell it. Through the haze, however, there is a thread, faint and glimmering, extending outward, past Salvatore's and into the aether. It is savage, deft work, but one that requires continuous concentration. Whoever is casting it most probably cannot move.

Hoisted up, Zatanna tries her best to keep her burning limb away from Jess; this close, she can feel the heat against her body.

The black outer layer is almost gone and once they're out the door, she dangles from Jessica's arm from one side, and John on the other. She carries the both of them like they are /nothing/, and while Zatanna has always known that the private investigator was special in some way, she most certainly did not expect this. Were the situation /not/ so serious, she would probably laugh, because /this is awkward/, and feel more mortified than she is.

….no, she still feels mortified.

And a little pukey.

"Oh, god," is all she says, screwing her eyes tightly shut. She has levitated before, and while she has not mastered flight, she is really only comfortable defying gravity when she is /in control/, and at the moment, she is most definitely /not/ and /oh god/.


It is safe to say that whatever John was expecting from Jessica, vis a vis a faster way to get where they're going, it was not the instruction to put their arms around her shoulders. Or their legs. He obeys the arm command because he's too preoccupied with the urgency of the situation not to, but the leg command escapes him entirely. What, he's supposed to…cling to her leg like a koala? Because what in the blue fuck?

Moments later, he understands why. His eyes widen as the ground suddenly just /drops away/ from underneath them, as surely it's more likely that the world has decided to take up sprinting than it is that Jessica Jones is currently leaping through Hell's Kitchen like Jiminy Goddamn Cricket. Only that's not exactly right, is it? John knows about capes. Knows they exist.

Still, though. This, he decides, is easily the most bizarre thing he's ever personally had done to him, which is saying more than most can possibly fathom.

The breath almost gets knocked out of him during that interval landing, and he fights with his lungs to mutter the command for the entrance to his flat to shift, peeled away from one location in Brooklyn, reattaching itself to the entrance of a bodega on the corner.

The very moment they touch down he stumbles away from her, reeling but focused. It's late, the bodega is locked, but he gets his hand around the handle and opens it, and it opens onto a vast interior space, into which he waves Jessica, still burdened with Zatanna on one side.

The interior is longer than it is wide, but vast…and very clearly not the inside of the bodega. The walls are brick and ascend to a rounded, vaulted ceiling, the entryway of which is defined by an overhead mural in a 1920s deco style. There are moving boxes piled around, strands of lights hung from overhead. There's construction ongoing, and also what appears to be the world's strangest bank vault in the back. Concrete chiseled with elaborate designs on the outside, a vault door, an interior slick with metal sheeting. A cot. There are other bits of furniture, as well: an overstuffed leather sofa, adjacent matching chair. A coffee table, a real table, a kitchen being built into the wall in the back, a door leading off…somewhere. Standing screens arranged around what look like temporary rooms.

And John isn't even looking. He's looking at that thread of magic spooling off of the young magician in Jessica's arms, winding away like a filthy ribbon into the darkness.

He wants to follow it. His fingers itch with everything he wants to do to the person on the other end, but he suspects that the moment she's inside, safe, it will fade. And much as he's growing accustomed to this desire for vengeance…

Her safety still has priority, in the end.


Of course, Jessica would vehemently deny she's a cape, but fortunately they're not having that conversation today. The moment John shows her the way she's moving for that door at all speed, eyes fixed on the vault as she instinctively picks it out as the safe spot if only by connotation, muttering, "You're going to be okay, you're going to be okay, don't worry about burning me, I'll be fine, we're going to get you safe."

Maybe John's getting that other data point; direction is certainly one more thing they can use towards figuring out where the son of a bitch has his hiding place.


Those wide, ice-blue eyes look up and past Jessica, catching sight of the same ribbon that's winding away from her arm and towards the skies, through the dark clouds and into parts unknown. Her arm is still on fire, but now that they've managed to get to John's bunker in record time, she manages to find it somewhere within her to relax just a little. Still cradled against Jessica's side, she stumbles with the stronger metahuman towards the door. She hears Jessica's quiet reassurances, and something burns in her chest at that. It wasn't all that long ago when the older woman was trying to get her out of her office and direct her to the bondage club three doors down.

Through the door is safety, Zatanna knows. Her arm will stop burning and she will be able to salvage her wards before the flames themselves could even touch the blue-white, tattered network of arcane symbols underneath. In the dark, they glow a fitful, pulsing light.

But she shakes her head, never the sort to run away, to squander an opportunity when she has the chance. She digs her heels into the snow in an effort to (futiley) resist Jessica Jones, who can probably bench press a building at this rate, but she has to try.

"Wait….we have to follow it, there's a thread! If we could just…!"

Fire licks at her inner elbow. More of her tattoos fall to the conflagration clearing her skin. Tongues lap over her wrist, drawing over pale flesh as it starts on the blue-white mesh.


Zatanna is going to argue the point. Of course she is.

The sound of it pulls John back to himself, prompts him to turn on his heel and throw a hand out. He's afraid for her, and fear does not typically provoke the most elegant of responses in John. "Don't be bloody stupid," is what he says, brows dipping dangerously together. He extends one of his hands as though to help push her through the door. As though Jessica Jones even /needs/ such a thing; as though he would be anything but in the way, when she is far more capable of dealing with physical resistance on Zatanna's part.


Jessica doesn't like the idea of fighting Zee's will or wishes—and her impulse is to follow leads herself?so John's push is still helpful. More mental than physical, a wake-up call, a reminder that Zatanna is a teenage girl whose judgment is maybe not always the best, and that of the three of them, in her estimation, he's definitely the one in charge here. John has her respect, perhaps more than anyone else she can name, and he can overcome hesitation with a touch where a shove cannot get the job done.

Besides. She agrees with him, once her brain kicks into gear again. She moves.

It's a funny thing about "not long ago."

It wasn't that long ago that she was broken and hopeless.

It wasn't that long ago that she felt worthless, useless, a washed-up loser crawling from day to day for reasons she didn't entirely understand.

And then this girl walked into her life. This girl, pouring out love and compassion wherever she went. Meeting her right where she was, ready for what she had to give at that moment, no more, no less, unlike the few other people who had been in her life who wanted her to just 'get better' already, who met her with guilt or impatience, wanting her to go back to the way she'd been, never realizing there was no way back to that person through what she'd been through.

This girl, drawing good people in her wake, people who shone almost as brightly as she did. People who simply shrugged off her efforts to push them away, or who shone with such clear goodness that she couldn't even activate those defenses properly.

And all of them had seemed to believe in her too, until she started to believe in herself a little bit as well, enough to contemplate becoming someone better than she'd been the day this girl had found her in a pool in her own saliva and probably a little puke, in her underwear, reeking of booze, ready to put her faith in her despite everything.

Jessica Jones will be damned before she lets the light in this girl get extinguished. She bends, pulls her arm beneath Zatanna's knees, and grimly charges into the room.

There are tears flowing from her eyes by the time she gently lowers Zee to the bed, and her voice shakes with rarely expressed, rarely admitted emotion as she says, "God damn it, Zatanna, do you not understand, even a little, what it would mean for any of us to lose you?"

It's so heartfelt she's not even embarrassed to let that little bit of emotion fly in front of John, who she'd definitely rather keep a stiff upper lip in front of if only because she would honestly hate to lose his respect.


'Don't be bloody stupid,' says John Constantine.

"I will set your /bloody knickers/ on fire!" There it is, her frustration bubbling over the cauldron that has been set to simmer in the last two days. She has already spent way too many hours attempting to fix this problem only to come up with nothing, and with the chance presented before them, she isn't about to let it go so easily, more than ready and eager to rip apart the fabric of reality so she could curl her own fingers around the neck of whoever has been holding her hostage for the last two weeks and /throttle/ until cartilage between vertebrae rattles free, to leave Hanussen's agent spent on the floor.

Before Zatanna can say more, or press the issue, she squeaks when the other woman simply /picks her up/, her legs swinging off the snow as she's marched back into the Brooklyn bunker. She doesn't remember the last time she's been carried like this - she had been unconscious the last time - and she isn't sure whether her silence is more out of embarrassment or surprise.

"We can't just let him get aw— "

She's hauled back into the open cell where she spends most of her nights, though to Jessica's credit, despite her own frustrtion, she still manages to handle her young charge gently. She hasn't let go of it; her temper, coupled with her tendency to just leave a blazing trail at her wake whenever she gets going, that second-nature tendency to go head-to-heaad with insurmountable odds, makes for a volatile combination /especially/ when she feels helpless. Those rosy lips part with every intent to unleash all of this, the torrent of words held back by the thinnest leash…

….until they sputter and die on the vine when she sees the tears in Jessica's eyes.

Surprise washes over her features at seeing them. Most days, Jessica was distant at best and downright impossible at her very worst. It mingles with confusion, perceptive enough to at least catch onto the fact that whatever she is crying about, it has something to do with her situation. "…Jess…?"

The chastisement. It triggers all of the switches and levers that enable her to feel guilt and remorse immediately. The young woman's face shifts, looks stunned, as if struck across the face.

She says nothing for a very long time as the words sink in, stewing into the volatile compounds in the pit of her stomach. Slowly, her fingers reach out to grasp the private investigator by both shoulders.

"Why is everybody so convinced the worst is going to happen to me?" she wonders quietly, her stunned look replaced by a more determined one. "I'm /not/ going anywhere, Jess."


John is ready for that. Ready for the wild look, the flashing, angry eyes. They've been on eggshells since their very explosive, very personal falling out, but this is — for him — a line in the sand that he's more than willing to draw. A hill he's willing to die on, so that she doesn't. He has words at the ready. It wouldn't be the first time they'd sniped at one another, even in public.

Jessica Jones makes that unnecessary, which earns her another several notches of esteem in John's slim book of associates worth dealing with. Ready and willing for a fight, but not eager.

Most particularly because it's with no small amount of regret that he casts a last look down the street at that magical tether, before stepping into the flat himself, and closing the bodega door behind him. When he does so, it melts away, replaced with featureless brick. The wards that enshroud the exterior of this underground bunker seal, clipping them off from whatever — whomever — that was outside.

He reaches up, snaps the lapels of his coat out toward his shoulders and shrugs it off, tossing it over the back of the leather armchair as he advances on the cell. That scream of Zatanna's is still ringing in his ears.

He isn't sure he's ever heard her do that before. Actually scream.

What he expects to hear as he nears the vault door is ongoing argument. What he hears instead is the soft heaviness of Jessica's voice, tears he can't see implied in her tone, and it draws him up short, stopping a yard from the entrance.

He hears Zatanna's follow-up question and it twists at his irritation. Makes him want to engage. But for the sake of the detective, or maybe for both their sakes, he chooses to bite his tongue — hard — and continues toward the back, to the kitchen, to open the fridge and look for a bottle of water, giving the two some time.


Jessica is not good at this. She actually glances behind when John comes in. She sniffs a bit, trying to get herself under control, but she doesn't yet. She puts her hands gently over Zatanna's in a gesture that really is as sisterly as her tone was earlier. There's no hint of the earlier strength displayed now; it takes control, but that control is second nature to her.

What is /not/ second nature to her is working through her emotions, dealing with them. Her mouth opens, but…Zatanna has at least given her a question that doesn't involve trying to explain /why/ she feels so strongly.

When words finally do come she's borrowed a couple from John himself…words that had given her strength and which might give Zatanna wisdom…but there are some of her own in there too.

"You are my friend," she says softly, firmly. "Before I met you I had no friends. I didn't /want/ friends. I had my sister, and associates, and clients, and a weird junkie that broke into my house and ate my peanut butter, and nightmares."

"I know, we know, we all know you're tough. You— you survived, didn't you?" That's the part from John, along with, "So…so you don't have to prove anything to us. Me or anyone else who cares about you. And we are going to nail these fuckers to the wall." Well, that last bit is pure Jessica.

"I /promise/ you we will. But your strength…" She takes a deep breath. "You think it's your magic. And your magic is fantastic. It's wonderous. It's amazing. But that's not your strength. That's not what makes you matter. Who you are. Just who you are. And who you inspire others to be. The way you transform people into better versions of themselves. And the way you give a damn, and keep giving a damn. You are not replaceable. Things have /already/ happened to you, things that never should have happened. Because you forget your real strength. That strength has earned you…damn it, it has /earned you/ the right to be protected /as well as/ to protect. And to draw perspective from people who have lived a little more than you, so you don't have to hurt more than you have to hurt. You're already giving all this strength to other people, building them up, making them more. And because who you are isn't replaceable, there are risks to take when it makes sense, and there are risks that don't make sense. You're a fighter, and I'd never dishonor you by telling you to stop fighting. But fight smart. Fight with us and beside us. Don't run away from us. John, me, all your other friends. Because the truth is, fighters are a dime a dozen. What you have…who you are…not everyone has that. Not everyone does that."

She winds down to a stop, flailing, uncertain, saying more emotional words than she's ever said in one go before.


There's some part of her that wonders whether, from what happened at Salvatore's and from the not-quite-flight back to the Brooklyn bodega, she was somehow transported to a parallel universe. Where it is still wild and dangerous, occupied by people she knows, but who are somehow much more free in expressing themselves than she remembers back in her world, where all the Jessica Joneses are probably taking advantage of her infinite bar back in Shadowcrest.

Zatanna's eyes remain fixed on the other woman, her irises like mirrors, reflecting her reflection back at her as she stares at her with open wonder, somewhat incredulous and a little perplexed. The words will sink in eventually, but this gentle approach manages to slip through the cracks of her fiery barricade and taps into the core of her that remains hungry for human connections, which the young woman doesn't always get no matter how hard she tries to reach someone. Much like John most days, Jessica is a difficult read, preferring to keep a healthy distance between herself and the rest of the rowdies living at her house, but this…

…is new.

Her lips part, close, then part again. Suddenly self-conscious, the young woman averts her stare to the far wall in a slightly panicked effort to regain the composure she has lost. Silence, heavy, deafening, follows the investigator's last words.

When the magician finally speaks, her voice is low and a little stunned. "….I didn't know you felt that way about me," she says, quietly.

"I mean, we /are/ friends, I just…I didn't know you…" Felt so strongly, words that she doesn't manage to push through her teeth. She trails off at that, chewing faintly on her bottom lip.

"Normally I don't stay in one place for too long," she confesses. "I'm too used to life on the road, but that doesn't really give me a lot of opportunities to forge any…anything significant with anyone. And I try, all the time, because I want to, more than anything. I don't want to be alone, you know? But I get…I can get really intense, and most of the time, the people I try with just….go. I try to make them feel wanted, I try to make them feel needed, but in the end….and it often makes me wonder what I can do differently, or if the way I am's just a burden after all, that I carry some kind of…" She gestures vaguely to the side. "…weight…with me that bogs people down so they leave. So I try to carry as much as I can, because I don't wanna get left. I don't ever want to be too much….for someone."

A rainy night in Paris.

"I guess that opens me up to overcompensating the other way," she admits softly. "And I've….this isn't the first time I've been in this position the last two weeks. I can't seem to climb out of the same trap as well as I should." A small smile tugs upwards on the corners of her mouth.

"I'm sorry if I scared you."


In the kitchen, John stands facing the cabinets being slowly assembled into the sections of wall that he and Chas have been carefully removing, uncapped water bottle held in front of him, listening to what he can hear from where he's standing — which is most of everything.

And that's where he stays. Nobody to see what passes through his expression, if anything. Nobody to glean small things about his complicated history with the woman in the cell for her own safety, or feelings about his parallels with the woman who put her there. It is, for the time being, the safest place to be.

His phone starts to ring, and he dips his hand into his pocket. Chas' voice on the other end is so loud that even the ladies might be able to hear it.

"Shite, Chas, I'm so— it happened fast, I didn't have time to— " He winces, holds the phone slightly away from his ear as more berating happens. "Al/right/, bloody /hell/, I get it! You can tear me a new one when you get back. The bodega up the street from — yeah. Yeah I'll make sure it's open. If you're there you might as well flip the lock on the door of the shop, yeah? We left a little bit of a mess— alright. See you in ten."


Jess listens, holding Zee's gaze as she explains what has shaped her, made both the good and the bad. At the end, she smiles. It's genuine. It's full. It feels really alien on her face.

She jumps when she hears Chas' shout of upset, and she looks guiltily back over her shoulder. Then she gives Zee a quick hug. That's both her acceptance of the apology and her acknowledgement that, well, her own difficult personality is probably going to give her reason to apologize someday in the future, after all.

But…she's been as open as she can be, for now, all at once, and the argument erupting over the phone in the other room has shaken her back to more normal ground. The smile fades to a smirk, and she raises her voice a little so John can hear, cause, you know, this is a good threat, and he should be armed with it too. "Just don't do it again, or I'm /so/ calling you /Scrappy Doo/ for the /rest of your life,/ and I bet the label sticks, too."

Then she turns to wander back towards the front, giving John a sort of apologetic and embarrassed half smile. She should probably introduce herself to this Chas, apologize profusely…and then see if there is some appropriate flat surface she can pass out on, because like the rest of them, probably, she's pretty freaking exhausted.


Jessica is smiling at her. It is full blown and genuine, her teeth visible through parted lips, and if Zatanna looked absolutely hamstrung earlier, it is absolutely no comparison to the look on her face now.


But her arms do come up as the private investigator hugs her, /on her own volition/, instead of her making those gestures first, her brain still reeling from the most unexpected conversation from the most unlikely person in her present circle of friends and acquaintances. She returns her embrace, the far wall of the cell taking the brunt of her flummoxed expression and then, when the private investigator finally lets go…

….she calls her Scrappy Doo.

"Wh— !" Her face is indescribable. "I am /NOT/ Scrappy D— "

Let me at 'em! Let me at 'em!

That pale mien immediately dovetails from dazed to /absolutely horrified/.

As Jessica leaves the cell, she remains seated on her borrowed bed in the cell, frozen, her mind tumbling over the images of a Great Dane puppy inside of her head, at the brutal /knockout/ her self-esteem just received.


John greets Jones' reappearance with a sidelong glance that gauges whether or not she's still looking emotional, before it finally shifts to focus on her in full. "You look knackered, love." And then he hands her his half-finished bottle of water. He does not ask about her ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

It's much less than ten minutes before Chas appears, face pink with cold and expression of displeasure strange on a face typically given to more affable looks. Whatever dressing-down he might've given John is put off for another time, though on finding someone else, someone new, in the flat. Introductions are briefly made — Chas Chandler, Jessica Jones — and then Chas insists that Jessica take his bed for the evening when she inquires about somewhere she might be able to get some rest. /Insists/. And the way he does it, it's clear that he'll spend the entire night feeling horrendously guilty if she doesn't accept. It's just…something about the way he carries himself, the way he talks, the way he looks. His conscience would never let her stay on the couch.

Of course, that's where John's been sleeping, but not even John's conscience can stomach the thought of Chas staying on the /floor/. And besides..

"Nah, it's all yours tonight," the Englishman insists, clapping the taller man on the shoulder. Chas shoots him a look that reads /are you really sure this is a good idea?/ and John, being John, just quirks a barely-there smile, drops a wink, and retreats into the cell.

That is /his/ bed, after all.

"I hope you don't still steal the blankets," he announces, as he steps through the vault door and into the deeper shadows the cell contains.

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