Gandalf and the Crow

January 23, 2017:

John Constantine finds Jessica Jones as she attempts to keep her promise to Matt by staking out Foggy Nelson's apartment.

Hell's Kitchen, NY


NPCs: Foggy Nelson

Mentions: Matthew Murdock, Azalea Kingston (The Dark Devil), Zatanna Zatara, The Winter Soldier, Peter Quill

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

If he's still looking, John will find Jessica in an unusual place…crammed onto a fire escape in an apartment looking down on some other apartment across the street. Most people would take a break after busting out of utopia and helping a girl get her soul back, but…Jessica apparently didn't, if the long cut across her right temple is any indication. There's one across her left shoulder too; he can tell because she's sitting in the freezing ass winter weather in a tank top as if she can barely be bothered to care. The cold isn't even worthy of being treated like a distraction; she's not shivering, though her breath is certainly misting the air.

Because of course the thing to do after something like going to her third world in two months or breaking and entering in Hydra complexes is clearly to pick up a new job, spend a few hours investigating the job, pick up the subject of said job, go get shot at while defending a space ship, try to deposit the check from said morning job only to stop a murder in progress, and top it all off with some stalking/surveillance.

She hasn't even managed to deposit the check yet.

With a phone number, Jessica Jones had what it took to find Foggy Nelson's address; a look at the Nelson and Murdock website had given her his face. So here she sits with a worried, pensive look on her face, waiting for a lawyer she's never met and who is seriously not equipped for trouble to get home safely. She probably just jumped up to the fire escape like a freak, but John could probably take the stairs if he wanted.

John is still looking. He doesn't need to rely on his Synchronicity for this, though Jessica would likely be uncomfortable with the means he employs, as it implies the capacity to violate her privacy at his whim. Not, of course, that it seems likely he would, but nevertheless: some people dislike the idea that their location can be scried by anyone, least of all John Bloody Constantine.

He does indeed elect to take the stairs.

"Making good headway on your crow impression," says the familiar voice, from the moment the door begins to open. The stairwell echoes. The door was locked, and now it's not. Magicians are a nightmare for building security. "Keep training like this and you'll be ready for the Corvid Impersonation Olympics, which I'm almost positive must be a thing." Dress boots scuff the rooftop as he draws to a staggered stop close to the edge, hands in the pockets of his coat. Unlike Jessica, John is cold, and he doesn't particularly like it. He has little in the way of body fat, and plenty of old injuries for the chill to bite into and make miserable. Not so miserable as they will be in his old age, but they're practicing lodging complaints with him even at twenty-eight years old.

Believe it or not she might find it a little comforting. It means if she's ever stuffed into a box somewhere he might just be able to save her ass.

But it's true.

He's on the way short list of people she'd trust to have that capability.

She snarfs a laugh at his snarking, her lips curving up, both of them, her eyes betraying a bit of mischief. "Oh good. I'm told the award really cool clock tower apartments with a view of the whole city if you win that thing." Consumed with worry as she is, she's not in such terrible spirits that she can't appreciate the joke. On one hand, she screwed up Matt Murdock's life with a 25 minute conversation. On the other hand, a very pointed comment about rear ending cars and accidents at crosswalks has buffered her from obsessing over that guilt; it's there, it's present, but today it's not destroying her.

She scoots over to make room for him on the balcony. "I'm looking forward to seeing how you do in the Gandalf Play-Offs. I don't think the lack of a beard will be too big a problem; I'm rooting for you, buddy."

"Gandalf," John says, wryness displaced with a tight-eyed wince of distaste — all in good fun, though, incapable of erasing the humor evident around the edges of his otherwise perfectly expressive face. "The last thing you'll ever catch me doing is pissing about with tiny people who don't wear shoes and have questionable taste in jewelry." He joins her, eases down to sit with more mobility than most give him credit for, and looks out with interest over the scene below, stretching off in either direction in stereotypical urban fashion. He sees absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

"So why are we pretending to be gargoyles this afternoon, then?"

"I dunno, man, you brought the Bug to that one party, and he's awfully tiny," Jessica quips back. "Like some sort of hobbit gateway drug. It's good you showed up though, I've got one or two things to talk to you about."

But at the question she sighs, glancing down at the apartment. "Or three."

She nods down to the apartment. "That's Franklin 'Foggy' Nelson's place. Matt Murdock's partner. The Cold Flame attacked him tonight. I think because he talked to me. I couldn't ask him about what, he was covered in blood and going into shock. He'll live, but it was a close thing. They tried to shake information out of him by dropping his partner's name. He tried to call, warn Nelson to get elsewhere, but he got voicemail. I don't know where Nelson is, but…if he doesn't come back tonight maybe he got the voicemail and I'll call him in the morning to be sure, and maybe he went somewhere safe. If he does, I thought I'd watch the place till I saw him leave again, maybe follow him till I knew he was okay. I'm not sure that will be enough, but I promised and…this is the best I can do."

"The B- oh. Spider-Man, yeah? That was 'tanna's doing," John says, leaning back into the prop of his arms behind himself, torso a lean, lazy, concave crescent of white within the beige of his coat.

He ticks his gaze to the side to observe her profile when she tells him they have things to discuss, and sighs that way. But she looks…fine, save for the obvious evidence of her scuffle, into which he has not pried. She leads a dangerous and very physical existence; the occasional injury is to be expected, really.

She points with a nod, and he follows it to its source, though there's nothing to distinguish the apartment's exterior for him from any other set of windows on the block. New names are processed, tucked away somewhere in the sprawling network of social contacts he maintains, his expression fairly neutral until she mentions the Cult, which earns an upward lift of one brow.

"Why in the bloody hell are the Cult shaking down people who have contact with you?" The tone of his question suggests rhetoric; he clearly does not expect her to have an answer, but the peculiarity of it is obviously strange to him. He follows up before she can answer, in any case, even had she wanted to: "Do you want me to try to find him?"

"Probably because they think I told them something about Zee, who they're probably not done sniffing around like a bunch of demented monkey-dogs. It's the same lawyer that got caught in the crossfire when they shook down the sandwich shop."

The one she'd gotten all blushy over.

"If it won't cost you too much, I'd like that," Jessica admits. "I wouldn't have called to ask you, but you're here. But first…I we'd better talk about the other things."

No, she's relatively calm. She's not thrilled with the turn of events, and it doesn't take a mind reader to see the signs of fear that Murdock won't make it whenever she talks about this. But she's steady, stable and in control…he won't have to talk her off the proverbial ledge today.

Which is more important? She decides, pulls out her phone, and brings up a photo of a gun with three runes carved into the barrel. Uruz, Thurisaz, Hagalaz. "Hydra attacked Peter Quill's ship today; they were repelled. These are upgrades they made to their guns. I don't know if they'll be able to keep doing that now that Zee has her soul back, but it seemed worth passing on. Magic /and/ spaceships, they have broad interests. They apparently installed the same runes on Sargent Barnes' arm. He was zipping all over the battlefield, teleporting just all over the damn place, which I know was a feature of the Helm, which, after all, they've still got."

A pause. "He's still in there. I got through to him. For just a second. Then he was gone again. But he's still in there, fighting the new conditioning." It might, after all, have been in doubt.

He puts two and two together, then, but opts not to tease her. He is capable of tact, and being wry about her interest in a man when she's worried about that man's safety would lack anything even remotely like said tact. John's certainly no stranger to being responsible for harm to the people closest him, either: something of a sensitive issue.

"It won't cost me anything. We'll just have to get something of his from his apartment. You can ask his partner to let us in, or—" He leans off of one hand to lift, gesture nonsense, a movement that stands in for 'whatever.'

When she retrieves her phone he leans to look, and to gauge from the way both brows jump slightly upward, he recognizes the runes before she even begins to talk about them. "Yeah. I saw them on his arm when I went to get 'tanna back." After a moment's pause, he lifts his gaze from the phone's screen to meet hers. "Send that to me, would you? I'll do some digging."

The other bit is harder for him to address. He's still furious with Barnes — but furious, also, with himself. "We'll do what we can, Jones. I've deprogrammed cultists before, but this is different. Something like this…'e's probably got killswitches, they'd rather destroy him than let him go. But we'll do what we can. Whatever we can."

"Whatever will have to do. I doubt Matt's conscious now to give or deny permission. I'll have to pretext that, my way of breaking in tends to leave people without locks, and that won't help him either. I'm kind of hoping he shows up any minute though. This poor bastard doesn't know me from Adam, but he's in the frickin' crossfire anyway." She glances down the street, her mouth flattening into a thin line.

She takes back her phone and fires them over to him; the text appears a second later. She nods her head to that, taking him at his word. For Jessica Jones, whatever John Constantine can is good enough.

"Finally, we should talk about this kid I brought home tonight. She said she was a friend of Zee's, but after hearing her wax poetic about how Zee's soul was like heroin I told her to stay the hell away from her. But…I couldn't just leave her there either."

"I saw her at the gala, she says she works for the Bat-Douche, though he basically left her to twist in the wind. I remembered she had some sort of reaction to the book, so I asked her about it. She told me about an ancient evil invading her mind, living inside her, influencing her somehow. If I hadn't seen what I saw at the gala I'd think she's crazy, but…" Jessica shakes her head. "I don't think she is. And…she wants to do some good in the world. I had the opportunity to see it, watched her beating herself up over not doing a good enough job at it. She's /also/ worried about Sargent Barnes and somehow, I'm not sure how, knew he was innocent and is freaked about it and seemed prone to just charge off and do random things to satisfy her urge to act. She's really just a kid, so…"

Her mouth twists and she sighs. "I brought her back to my apartment." Such as it is.

Which might explain why John Constantine met someone meeting that description like a block from Jessica's apartment not so very long ago.

"Christ, the summary of those actions sounded way less stupid before they came out of my mouth just now."

John knows a thing or two about people getting caught up in the crossfire just for knowing him, too.

…does he ever.

Unfortunately, they almost invariably have died, so he opts to stick with showing her a faintly sympathetic expression, and refrains from opening his mouth. He has no reassurances to give her.

It's only two sentences into Jessica's story about the young woman she's invited to live with her that John smirks — a subtle enough thing, accompanied by a tightening of his eyes, which he turns back toward the apartment she is - they are - watching. The street reflects itself in ghostly highlights within the pale rings of his irises, sunlight bounced off of car windows and the endless stretches of pavement.

"Azalea Kingston," he says expansively. "We've met. I was going to visit you at your place yesterday, but I spotted her on the street and noticed she's a 'they,' so I decided to have a look-see. Gave her my card." He settles back onto his hand again, tilts his head. "She's not lying to you about her situation. There's something in there, and it isn't good, but they're…" His eyes narrow, unsquint, and his head tilts the other way, indecision writ in small, efficient gestures. "They're linked together somehow. Not the usual eviction job, a little bit of holy water, some yelling — it'll be something else entirely. Not a demon, either. But dark."

Lifting his head, he turns it enough to affix her with a look that's deadly serious, but tries to be subtle about it. "You want to be careful, Jones. It's violent, whatever it is. Kid or not, she's not always the pilot."

"I gathered that from how she introduced herself," Jessica says wryly. But apparently whatever it was still wasn't bad enough to keep Azalea Kingston from hitting every one of her hot buttons and inspiring a perhaps-misguided protective instinct. "Who knows? Maybe I felt inspired to bring her just so she'd meet you, the person who might actually be able to help her."

She's at least caught on to that much about life with John.

She suddenly shakes herself. "Before we go after Nelson - anything you need from me?" Zee had told her she was terrible about just /talking/ to people. The fact that they'd managed a spate of jokes before she launched into the update was a step forward, but she realized that's all she'd been doing…spewing information and worries at John while he very patiently listened to her. It's something she wouldn't have been able to notice as recently as last November, but…she notices now. She hadn't asked about Zee, because she already knew he wouldn't come in with jokes if something new and horrible had happened to her, and she doesn't know how to turn the conversation back to less serious things, but she at least feels enough sudden guilt to recognize that maybe she ought to ask.

John's brow slides upward, but he shrugs and allows himself a half-smile, acknowledging her suspicions about the peculiar nature of his existence and all of its mad, coincidental strangenesses. He does not push her with regard to the danger that Azalea could represent. If anyone is equipped to deal with that, it's the stealth-super next to him. His only addition is: "Sometimes they like to get hold of the things your hurt yourself with and use those as weapons. It's not always fists. The Exorcist got that bit right, as it happens." He chases that with the slash of a smile, quick and sharp and bright, like a sudden knife to the ribs.

And then she surprises him, asking him that question. Not the practicality of it, and he could certainly choose to read it that way if he liked - favors for favors - but the implied soliciting of things other than immediate needs, a more holistic query than it may first have sounded. His lip-parted silence stems from his internal debate with himself as to what he ought to answer with. What he ought to say. That he's grateful for her help? But she'd have been there for Zatanna even without his presence, without a doubt, and she doubtless knows that already, making it a redundant sentiment. Emotional small-talk.

When the silence grows too long, he lets that earlier humor soften to something easy, and shrugs again. "Nah."

Which is as good as an all's-well, one supposes.

"Never actually saw that," Jessica admits. "-1 pop culture references for me."

But she takes his point anyway, and sighs in the way someone who knows they're probably going to take some shit right on the chin sighs; resigned, aware, bracing themselves.

His succinct response draws to her final question draws a smile out of her, quick and brief. "You know to call if you do." The last thing she was looking for was gratitude, or even the exchange of favors, both would be equally uncomfortable. It's this "having friends" thing that's pretty new, and she's still navigating it awkwardly..

She stands up then, looking ready to leap off the balcony, only to pause when a cab pulls up. The blonde man who gets out is whistling cheerfully, and she exhales. "Safe, and apparently has not listened to his voicemail yet. With any luck he'll be out of his apartment in fifteen minutes with a packed bag and a pissed off, worried expression on his face."

She pauses, and plucks three of her own dark hairs out of her head, winding them up into a neat circle. "I can take care of the rest -no reason for both of us not to get any sleep tonight—but do me a favor? If I don't check in by 8 AM tomorrow morning come pluck me off whatever shadow-tentacle bullshit altar I'm probably tied to, would you please?"

John nods, a short, brusque gesture. "I know," he says, and means it. And that is new for him: the man is not a team player by nature.

He watches her stand and prepares to do so himself, arrested mid-movement by the change in her body language, her long exhale. He glances down, spots the whistling figure, and watches him make his way toward his building, distracted from doing so by what he sees in his peripheral vision.

Her hand. And some hair.

His internal response is a faint pang of nausea, though that's hardly her fault. Of the many (truly, many) things that can be done with human hair, one of those things involves placing it into his mouth and electrifying himself until his heart stops on a temporary basis and it's sad, very sad, that this ritual is not the most disgusting thing he's ever had to do. It does nearly top the list of his personal least favorites, if only because it's one that he so often has reason to use.

Given all they've gone through of late, however, it's probable that he could find her without having to resort to putting it into his /mouth/, so the queasy feeling is mostly a reflex. Magical post-traumatic stress.

He takes the hair and makes it disappear, but he's getting to his feet as he does so, and he looks unconvinced. "Are you sure you want to be doing this alone? You've had a long week." Understatement.

The offer of help and companionship is not so easily turned down, not anymore, not that it's become a warm, comfortable thing that she's grown used to, that she's grown to really like.

It's also been a long two months, and Jessica is no fool. She got lucky taking that cultist down, lucky that the other two were more concerned with fleeing than with hurting her. She got lucky that they were more afraid of her than they were interested in grabbing her to interrogate about Zatanna next.

She wants John along. She really does. Working with him, watching each other's back, feels like the natural order of things lately, and as he's observed, she is not that eager to fight if she can avoid a fight.

She's torn, because there are other considerations, other fears. But he would not be out here, or offering, if he thought for one minute Zatanna wouldn't be fine. This means she's tucked safe into his bunker at this hour, or at least as far as he knows she is, which means she's not going to do anything to her by taking him up on his offer.

She looks at him with the same friendly warmth in her eyes she'd given both him and Zatanna the night before they went hunting for her soul, replacing the businesslike, independent mien that had been there.

"Yes, I really, really want you along," she admits. She never would have asked if he hadn't offered, as before, but…he did. He's the person who taught her it was okay to ask for help, really necessary sometimes, and she's been slowly learning to do that. "I figured we'd just get down there, hail his cab before he can get all the way in it, and tell the cabby we just happen to be three blocks from wherever he is planning on going. Way less work."

Her eyes sparkle - sparkle! - with sudden mischief.

"We probably have time to take the stairs all the way down."

It's been a long two months but…fuck it if she's not happier than she's ever been.

John's brows shoot toward his hairline. "Really really want me along?" Being on something of a deadline, he pivots and begins moving for the stairs without further delay. "That's a lot more wanting than I'd usually be comfortable with," he drawls, through a look of lingering good humor. Her mischief plants the seed, and he cultivates it — and why not? The thing he'd been dreading, the thing that kept him from trying to get close to Zatanna in the first place, nearly happened — but it didn't. No one died. People came away anything but unscathed, but most wounds mend if given enough time. Death, although not insurmountable, is a more difficult thing to bounce back from.

So he's breathing, and so are the rest of them, and for as long as that's true, there's room to hope. Which is a very dangerous thing, for John. The most dangerous, perhaps, because it makes the inevitable tragedy so much the worse — but he's only human.

…for now.

"If I didn't know about this bloke you fancy I'd be worried you were getting the wrong idea."

Jessica snorts with mirth, following him down the stairs, the smirk clear in her voice. "You're right. I should have phrased that as I really, really don't want to spend my night tied to a bullshit shadow tentacle altar."

And though the sight of Matt's eyes, contorted with pain, do rise up to haunt her, she pushes that away, unwilling to let that dominate her thoughts. Good moments are rare, and she's taking this one. Right now she's doing exactly what she can do for him, anyway.

And he's not dead yet, after all, and she did what she could to keep it that way. That's something.

So she keeps her tone dry and full of the same humor as she adds, "Fear not, John Constantine, your rakish British wiles have failed to ensnare my delicate, delicate heart for another day."

They reach the door synchronous to her riposte, and John pulls it open, holds it aside for her, his wry expression tilting with expert precision into a slightly aggrieved deadpan, blue eyes focused somewhere over her head as she passes him by.

"You could've pretended for a minute, at least," he chides, sotto, and then follows her into the stairwell, and on to more important things.

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