Worth It

January 20, 2017:

Takes place directly after Legwork, John Constantine initiates a very rare moment of emotional discourse.

Brooklyn Bunker - Brooklyn - New York City

John Constantine's headquarters in NYC.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

(OOC: Continued from Legwork)

She pointedly keeps her eyes closed as Jessica rounds on Constantine and tells the British magus, who is rather notorious even in their circles as a lone operator, to lead the group, swallowing the smile that threatens to twitch upwards at hearing the words of such faith pouring from the normally caustic private investigator. She says absolutely nothing there, save for a quiet murmur when she feels the other woman's fingers drift through her hair, tousling those dark rivers further before she heads off to take Chas' room for the night. It's only when the footsteps fade, and she hears the separation screens get drawn, that those lashes flicker back open yet again to peer up at him from under those ebon crescents.

Zatanna is exhausted - she has been for weeks. The difference here is that she is now actually struggling to shore up whatever reserves she has left, when she could normally run so endlessly until she tips facedown on a bed and lie there unmoving until the morning comes. Her lids hang heavy, as if unable to keep herself awake any longer. The coffee is not helping.

But she hasn't finished it. Slowly extricating herself from John's side, she reaches for the mug she has set on the table and forces herself to finish it, swallowing the sweetened brew and lets the contents warm her stomach. She gives her head a hard shake, long, delicate fingers shifting upwards to rake through her own hair and scrub stubbornly at her eyelids.

"I think she likes you," she says, her tone dry but amused, inclining her head towards where he's half-draped on the cushions. "I never would've believed it, you should have seen the way she looked at me the first time I walked in her office. She tried to send me to the bondage club three doors down."

The exasperated words belie the clear twist of fondness there, an impish slant over her pale lips. Hunching over slightly, elbows resting on her knees, she cradles the warm mug between her hands and takes a deep whiff of the remains. Whatever blend Chas got, it's fragrant and sweet, and she closes her eyes, giving herself over, filling her senses with it.

"So I take it no on my psychedelic vision quest?" she wonders. "Half the reason why I haven't just gone ahead with it is that I'm not sure if I can stretch myself that far, but I guess I won't know unless I try."


John soaks everything that Jessica says wordlessly, his expression transitioning away from his obvious and dramatic amusement with her fluster gradually, replaced with something pensive and inscrutable. The words are logic peppered with something like praise — like faith; like trust — as though she were trying to trick him into taking a pill he dislikes the taste of by wrapping it in something in finds more palatable.

"Chas has been staying in a hotel. He won't mind," he assures, with every confidence, tone breezy in spite of the cast of his face. He watches her disappear, and when Zatanna opens her eyes to look up at him that's how she'll find him, looking off at nothing, eyes unfocused. Wrestling with things. She knows him well enough by now that she could likely hazard a few excellent guesses as to the shape of those things.

Her voice brings him back to himself. He sets his cup aside, stretching with one arm, and then sinks back in, placing his ceramic-warmed hand over the top of the arm she's banded across his middle. Anything to fight the chill seeping into her down to the marrow, to leave her as cold as she paradoxically looks when she's herself — when her skin and hair strike contrast far greater than they're able to now.

He watches her as she moves, retrieving her cup and stubbornly trying to finish it, fighting to shrug off her stupor. He finds himself doing that more with every passing day. He's already uniquely disposed to be aware of the possibility of losing the things he loves, but her worsening condition and its outward expressions do not leave him any quarter to indulge in denial: she is fading away in front of his eyes, and with every day they begin to find value in less and less significant things, because he isn't sure how many of those things are left for him to watch.

Smiles, though, when she jokes about Jessica and her esteem for him. "You know how people always say 'they fell in with a bad crowd?' We're the bad crowd, she an' I. It was bound to happen. That's how the crowds start in the first place." And a wink.

But: to the question of the quest, then. It's worthy of some seriousness. He wants to press her for details about her inheritance. He cannot help but be fascinated for both professional and personal reasons with Giovanni's choice to embed that inheritance in his daughter directly, and were circumstances otherwise, he would be caught up in her efforts at self-discovery of a wholly unique kind. But circumstances are what they are, and the pressure of that has compressed and stretched their priorities thin, warping normalcy. There is a time for that, and that time isn't now.

"I think I couldn't live with myself if I encouraged you to try, and then lost you before we could even try to take your soul back. I don't know what your proposal involves, though, and I'm not ruling it out, I'm just…" His gaze ticks back and forth across her face, and his now coffee-free hand rises to rifle through his hair. "I'm ready to do this. Beyond ready."


The quip about the bad crowd earns John a faint smile. "Does that make me the good girl?" she wonders. "Should change my name to 'Sandy' at this rate."

With the rest of her coffee swallowed, and the remains of its scent inhaled, Zatanna rests the coffee mug carefully, almost delicately on the table. Absent, graceful digits dance over the rim, tracing the lines of it with quiet, careful focus - as if a newborn exploring a unique shape for the first time. She fills the void inside her with sensations, now; the smoothness of ceramic, the chip on where the handle meets the rest of the body, the lingering warmth. She finds some comfort in being able to /feel/, still, this very important, integral part of her, the basic foundation of what everyone knows of the young Zatara. And as she does this, she lets her mind wander, over half-faded memories of a random pottery class in San Francisco, when she was around six or seven and only slowly starting to immerse herself in the terrible wonders of her father's world. The city was one of the best places to start, given its sprawling mystical scene. Las Vegas for magicians.

His concerns are valid and for a moment, she mulls over the possibility of an argument, but just as quickly as the thought passes through her head, she lets it go, recalling the faces of those she has so recently visited, though John's memorized expressions are the most prominent, ghosting over anger, then helplessness, then relief, and everything else that he doesn't say while he watches her fade away before his eyes. She knows, because she has been clued into the fear. It is easy to identify the basic shape of his distress, whenever it involves her, now.

"We'll table it for another time, then," she says. "Last resort, I think. I'm honestly not in any hurry to find out what's beyond that wall, and Daddy never does anything without a very good reason. He's never told me much about my mother, or where she comes from, and he's never even mentioned my inheritance until I was in dire straits. All signs point to the fact that I can't be careless with it. With all of it."

She sighs, rolling her head back to fix her eyes on the ceiling, catching the haze emanating from one of the old fashioned bulbs. She turns then to look at him directly, angling her knees towards his direction.

"I thought charging in without a plan was /my/ job?" she teases, good humor tracing her smile. "Not like I can't relate, I've been chomping at the bit to get what's mine back. But the group will be happy to hear that, I think. Nothing shores up morale like a leader's confidence."


The face that John makes when she says the name 'Sandy' would be difficult to describe. What is safe to say is that it does not have his vote.

As she shifts, he accommodates, modifies, shifting in again, taking space that isn't there to take — until he gently lifts her calves to drape her legs over his lap, the rise of him comfortably beneath the hinge of her knees. His hands remain there, pools of warmth where is palms rest just above and just below the knee closest to him, thumbs bracketed across the angle of the joint.

"I'm not planning to push you out of a job," he promises, and not without some humor to match her own. "I just think this is as much plan as we're ever going to get."

Which is not, in the grand scheme of things, desirable — but John trades in hard realities when it comes to the things he needs most. Fantasies are for the people he plays.

She can no doubt tell when his thoughts veer off with deliberate intent toward something else, thoughts held in reserve. It's too much to expect that this timing is coincidental with her pointed remark about his position as any kind of /leader/, but the tenor of his expression does promise that these thoughts were there before the handy excuse to divert the conversation appeared, too solemn too suddenly to have been inspired by a passing thought.

He uses his feet on the floor to drag himself more deeply down into the sofa's embrace, until the overstuffed back and cushions can support his head. It tilts, rolls a little toward her, though his gaze is for the time being trained on the lace his fingers make against the dark hues of her clothing.

"I've been thinking," he leads off, quiet and mellow, though there's a delicacy in him, a hint of greater moving below the surface. "About what you said that first night. That you wanted me to be happy, and that, for you, no matter what happened, it would all be worth it." Biting at the inside of his cheek hollows it. He does not rush. "And I thought…there's no way you could possibly know that, because you can't know what might happen. But."


He allows his head to roll that much more, and his gaze tracks to some low point in the space between them, unfocused. "With everything bollixed up this way…I never— "

After a pause, he pushes an impatient breath through his nose. He is not a man used to fumbling his words. "I didn't expect to wind up wondering if this is going to be it for us so soon. I thought…years, maybe…" His mouth opens, closes. His fingers stir just a little where they rest, only enough to communicate movement, some muscular response to poignant thoughts.

"I know we'll sort it out. I know it. So I don't want you to take this as a sign that I expect anything but to pull this off. But even I can't ignore the way you look more and more hollow every time I see you, so I've had to think — what /if/?"

It takes an effort of will to meet her eyes, but he invests in it. If anything resides there, it's a note of apology, for some fathomless reason. "I just thought you should know. This would be. Worth it." The pad of one thumb sweeps a mindless arc of affection across the outside of her knee. "And if I had it to do again, knowing this could happen…" He tilts his head, lets his eyes lid, taking her in. "I'd still choose you."


The sudden shift in her position has her following, either because she has always been willing to follow where he leads whenever he touches her, or simply because fatigue weighs her down so heavily that she just lets him move her. His further slide into the couch cushions, the drape her legs make across his knees, has her doing the same, sinking into the cushions behind her, sideways, until her shoulder touches the divot between them. Her dark-haired head falls, tendrils webbing against upholstery, bunched over the side of her face. Eyes lid, so heavily that they're reduced to mere slivers of color, darkened by the shadows cast by her lashes. It's a comfortable position, and with the way his hands slide up her legs, fingers rolling over aching joints from where she had impacted the ground just a few hours ago, it almost lulls her to sleep once again.

It's when he confesses that he has been thinking that draws some further degree of wakefulness from her, the line of her mouth softening and the very look of her inquiring. The fact that he's communicating in this way is rare, and she already knows that his mind has wandered far away from what they need to do and diving deep into something else. She's glimpsed similar signs like this before, the last few weeks have forced them to confront one another in ways they've never had before.

She listens, and she waits. Surprise flares somewhere behind those half-visible eyes as she follows the track of his thoughts to the final conclusion and once she reaches it, the words hang in the air. A mirage. She wonders, privately, whether she has fallen asleep and this is just a very vivid dream.

"….who are you?" she murmurs. "And what have you done to my John Constantine?"

It's a quip, because she can't not, even as her mind tumbles over the words, finding anchors in a few surprising thoughts: he thought it would be years (that long?), that he actually agreed with her that this would be worth it (what?), and even if he had glimpsed this piece of his future, he wouldn't change a thing.

But her smile. For a moment, just a moment, it lifts the pall her condition has cast on her, banishing it in favor of reclaiming some of that missing glow, to reflect everything he already knows - that tender, aching adoration, and two years' worth of longing, still, for the pieces of him that she has yet to reach.

"It's fine, you know," she tells him softly. "When you don't tell me anything. It's not as if I don't know that sometimes you feel uncertain for letting me wonder all the time. I told you, didn't I? The night you told me what Daddy did….I knew what I was getting into with you. Probably nobody would ever believe me, but that's the truth."

Her vision blurs, dew clings to those long lashes. She lets out a quiet laugh, unable to release too much of it due her exhaustion. Fingers lift, curling them by the knuckle, brushing over them. "God, though." Emotion lends a quaver to her syllables. "You never fail to surprise me. Of all the things to say to me tonight. I would've been content if you told me you still thought I was pretty."

Her head leans in further against the cushions, movement forcing moisture to slip free, and in spite of the sweet ache, her present state of physical and emotional fragility, she doesn't look away from him.

"I'm not saying goodbye to you, yet," she reminds him, her voice barely a breath. "I love you, John."


There's nothing quite like knowing there may not be another chance to say something to someone to light a fire under even the most recalcitrant of asses. And John, well — he's nothing if not a recalcitrant ass, no? And though he believes what he says, about their coming conquest and his determination to succeed — at any and all costs to himself or to anyone else, at that — the sight of her dwindling away has made it impossible not to probe at his insides, trying to discern which parts of him are most likely to shatter if the worst comes to pass.

What he has discovered — what even tonight was underlined for him, feeling warm affection and pain braided together in an inextricable ouroboros at the sight of life returning to her exhausted mien — is that the regret he's been expecting has yet to show itself. Pain, yes. Fear of pain — god, yes. But regret…no. And that owes itself, among other things, to the difference between /this/ relationship and the others that went before it, and the degree to which she's consented to accept responsibility for whatever might happen, and therefore his degree of fault in the happening. Newcastle was his fault and is therefore his burden to carry. His complicated, excruciating home life, also distinctly different, an involuntary web of connections but also viscerally important to him, and never sorted, a lasting source of suffering, overshadowed by the mother he never knew (and the brother he does not even know existed). The people who murdered the three words he can't bring himself to say.

In all of that dearth of regret, it's easier for him to sense the direction it would be coming from. If the worst came to pass and he'd never tried to tell her, he would never be able to forgive himself. And so the urgency of the situation razed a path to what he felt was a going to be a difficult necessity, unburdening himself of what he's only been able to privately acknowledge.

It is bizarrely easier in practice than he thought it would be. The naming of the thing does not cause it to instantaneously combust.

She laughs at him — a little. Not for a lack of kindness, but because of the sheer improbability of it all, and he can hardly find fault in that. Self-deprecating humor edges in where there was only apology moments ago, alongside a deeply self-conscious restlessness that he expresses by shifting underneath her legs without any particular aim or purpose, a postural fidget. "Don't get too used to it," he murmurs dryly, when she responds with such bafflement. "I'm not planning to take up poetry." This, if the lyric sheets from Mucous Membrane are any indication, is probably a small mercy for the world of poetry in general.

He accepts her absolutions, though they sit uneasily. From his objective position he can see how uncharitable it is of him, how stingy — the imbalance between them, that she gives so much, and he can give so little in return in so many specific ways — but it is a comfort, nevertheless, just like so many of the other ways she forgives his imperfections. More than imperfections; outlandish flaws.

"You're beautiful." That is easy: he is never shy about expressing his attraction. "Drop-dead gorgeous. Though…" The corner of his mouth quirks, "You're looking a bit rough lately, so I might have to downgrade you to 'merely pretty' on a temporary basis." It's wildly inappropriate, to joke about something like that, but he can't help himself, and to gauge from the way he's looking at her, he doesn't mean it, anyway.

It's the last words that cut him to the quick. The way they're said, with barely enough air to carry them.

He twists just enough to reach with his far hand, the nearest too awkwardly close for the movement he intends, to thumb away the trail on her cheek. It ought to be hot. Tears are. That it isn't twists his insides, and together with her whispered words it creates a knot in his throat that requires a swallow to dismiss.

'I'm not saying goodbye to you, yet.'

"Please don't." So quiet, that request, bereft of much in the way of tone. He asks her as though that's within her power to ensure, a wish she might grant — and because these are all myriad ways to say what she says to him, the words beaten out of him by his father before his age needed two numbers.

Her weariness overcomes her in spite of everything. If he could stay there with her forever — ah, well. No. Neither of them would ever be content to stay anywhere forever. But the moment, if that could be trapped, bottled up, preserved somehow, not through the artifice of magic but in some more genuine way — he would make that his life's work.

It is impossible. And because it's impossible, he concedes to her need for rest, sliding an arm around the back of her, already easily able to lift her beneath her legs. To carry her — something she's never needed him to do and might actively protest under any other circumstances.

"Time for bed, love." He can weight the word. He can give it complexity, layers, like the hidden architecture of the Liber Consecratus. And with his conscience assuaged and important last-minute truths imparted as a bulwark against the worst possible fate, he thinks he may actually be able to join her in sleep.

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