January 22, 2017:

Takes place after Saudade and before Gandalf and the Crow. After seeing guests off, John Constantine and Zatanna Zatara quietly regroup after the harrowing week they've had by carefully maneuvering through new personal territories and talking through next steps. Everything seems to be going well enough, until John's night terrors return, finding a mental conduit through his repression and desire to do things differently in order to savagely haunt him. This is why he can't have nice things.

Brooklyn Bunker - Brooklyn - New York City

John Constantine's headquarters in Brooklyn.


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones, Red Robin

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

What do four people who have just been through deeply traumatic personal experiences do, when they emerge on the other side, bruised and bloody, emotionally exhausted, but victorious?

If those four people are Jessica Jones, Red Robin, Zatanna Zatara, and John Constantine, the answer is apparently this: order three different kinds of take-out food and celebrate in a magical flat that exists within the realm of the real only at the whim of its primary tenant. Jones would have required little in the way of convincing, but no doubt it took an act of what might almost be considered genuine magic on the part of Zatanna to convince the taciturn, mysterious Robin to join them, aided by the fact that she was holding part of his kit hostage. John doubtless helped: his gratitude to Robin and Jones is not something he'd be likely to articulate in any straightforward way, but inviting them to the place he puts his head down at night is for him an outrageously intimate demonstration of trust, and appreciation.

They had no consensus on the type of food to order, and so they ordered a little bit of everything: hamburgers and fries, Chinese takeout, shwarma. Hell — smoothies for Robin, even, if his commitment to a disciplined fitness regimen cannot be negotiated with. Whatever was wanted, was gotten. Expenses not spared.

Light, wry chatter. Laughter. Nothing too personal, nothing about what any of them went through: a couple of hours of warm camaraderie, rare and precious, not least to the man who owns the flat, because he has so few friends in the United States. It is a small window of normalcy for four people who are anything but normal, and the levity was aided in no small part by the flat's response to John's own internal emotional barometer. The ley lines sing with his relief, spilling through the cavernous space like invisible sunlight.

It must eventually end, and that would the source of genuine regret for John if it didn't mean he and Zatanna would finally have time to be…


He places a hand on the brick wall, and it folds closed behind the two departing figures, swallowed up by night and then by distance, deposited half a city away. Then he's turning, slanting blue eyes back toward the sitting area and the woman he left there so that he could let the others out. After all of that bubbling life and banter, the silence — in spite of the music on the radio, which of course Zatanna picked, this being unequivocally her night — seems sudden and deep.

"We have enough left over food to feed ten people," he says, slow steps taking him back toward the sofa. He affects a wince and places his splayed hand on his stomach. "Or Chas, I s'pose."


She had excused herself from the group almost as soon as they arrived in the flat for a quick bath and change while delivery was called; Zatanna was in desperate need of a soak if not just to let hot water melt the tension out of pain-locked limbs and scrub the sweat clinging on her skin. While she tried not to linger, the temptation to sink into the tub and languish there for hours was so overwhelming it took an effort that was nothing short of herculean to extricate herself from the bubbles and put on some fresh clothes. Nothing of John's, at the moment, as there is no reason to - Jessica had compiled some things for her from Shadowcrest the last time she visited, so she rejoined the gathering looking like her old self: black tanktop, black shorts, and leggings that pulled up to the mid-thigh, with her wet hair pulled in a careless knot that left loose strands wicking into her skin like ink. It was just as much for them as it was for herself, to show off the color she had just reclaimed, the healthy flush on her cheeks from hot water and the restored vibrancy in those blue eyes that rested somewhere in the middle between beautiful and discomfiting. The wards on her left arm are even gone, a testament to her friends' efforts in reclaiming her blood that she doesn't need to worry about that past problem anymore.

But the resolution of past travails has only opened the door for new ones. Bucky and Jane were still out there, and she has yet to lubricate the gears of her exhausted heart to address those concerns with the honesty that people have come to expect from her.

When John turns back to the couch after seeing his guests off, he would find her /gone/ from the cushions. Because of course. Of course she isn't there. It might've been easier to keep track of her when she had been so sapped of strength that she spends hours sleeping, but now that all of that is back, her old restlessness has returned, and in spades. He'd hear her rummaging around…/somewhere/ in the flat.

She returns with a first aid kit - the need for one might be puzzling at first, but once she returns to sit next to him and set the box on the table, she extends both hands to wordlessly ask for his; the one that her nails bit into and opened up fresh welts. Not to say that he was so delicate that he wouldn't be able to withstand a few gouges on his flesh, his wiry strength if nothing else confirms that John Constantine's craft has beaten a necessary hardiness into him to ensure his survival, but it wouldn't be her if she didn't take the time to see to those injuries.

And if he protests…

"Your hands are some of the most elegant parts of you," she points out. "If you're not going to take care of them, I will." An excuse, largely, to do what she could, remembering the sound of his anguish from behind her, the thickened accent as he lied painfully to the mother he never knew.

She doesn't use her magic, not today. One would think after having had to go without for a week, for someone who has known nothing but free, unfettered access to unimaginable power, she would be throwing herself in the act right away. But the evening forced her to take a look at what was lying within her father's seal.


He can likely be forgiven for the immediate resurgence of concern at the sight of that stereotypical red case, emblazoned with a white cross. He does not anticipate that she's brought it out for /him/: by now he's entirely forgotten the small cuts, and it takes her actually having to mention them in specific before he remembers, glancing down, hand half-lifted. What little bleeding there was has long since stopped, red smudges and stains around crescent marks all that remain. It's such a small thing, really, hardly worthy of remark. That she notices and goes to the trouble is enough for him to understand her reasons implicitly, and so in spite of having spent every last minute of their time since his return from that utopian hell fighting the urge to draw her into his arms and keep her there, he extends that hand instead, fingers gentle and touch light. The heat she radiates still sends a thrill of relief through the center of him, each fresh demonstration of her return from the brink a salve for the pieces of him savaged by such a near miss with another, unbearable loss.

"Well, far be it from me to interfere with whatever you like about any of my parts," he says, tone dry and offhand. As with most of the evening leading up to this point, his demeanor is relaxed and wry, but the eyes remain both intense and preoccupied with the sight of her.


She can clean them up, at least.

Her touch is delicate, and despite the chill left there by the alcohol swabs she uses, it is clearly artificial and her warmth radiates from under her skin, a consistent flow of it than the fits and starts that have underscored both their worries in the last few days. Her ice-blue eyes are engrossed with her work, though his stare is weighty enough that she can sense it against her skin like any of his more tangible demonstrations of affection. There's a tick upwards at the right side of her mouth, the dry remark taken in stride, though it has her lifting her eyes to meet his and it's almost a mistake, to find the full force of his intensity there, focused on her face.

The familiar thrill - old but new - cascades down her spine and lingers at the small of her back. While not prone to be embarrassed easily considering just how shameless Zatanna can be, a sudden wave of self-consciousness washes over her, though it isn't something unpleasant. It's the way he looks at her, the potent effect John Constantine has on her and almost everything about her, a thing that has not abated in potency in the four months they've spent apart. To the extent that there is some part of her, that which clings to her newfound sense of independence, that finds it galling in a way.

But as she said a few times until he managed to (oh god, did that conversation actually happen, she was somewhat delirious then) agree with her, it's worth the risk.

The dried blood cleared away, she turns his hand within her own before lifting it to fit against her cheek. She turns into it, as always responsive to his warmth.

It breaks then, the dam. Emotion fills her in torrents - relief, most of all.

"I'm glad I got you back." The words are quiet, heartfelt. "I was just guessing the entire time, and I was weak. I didn't know if I had the reach." Though that obviously didn't stop her from trying. "And it wasn't as if they were completely wrong, about what they said about the machine. I'm not so idealistic that I'm not aware of the allure. Still it scared me, John. I tried not to look, I tried to ignore it but I heard. All of it. It wasn't fair."


The intensity does not wane when she meets his gaze, but it does change, the texture of his look softer, less naked and overt. Humor tempers it, and then something else once she finishes cleaning his hand and lifts it, a gesture he amends with intention. It snags at something in his chest. The distance between them closes somehow — he could not be pressed for details — and the only thing that keeps him from eliminating all of it is his desire to /look/ at her. Eyes pale for all of the right reasons again, skin fair but vital, lips flush. Her calculated decision to wear her hair up and draw attention to every nuance of her restoration was canny; he cannot seem to stop drinking it — her — in.

Not even when she says what she says, and he realizes for the first time that there had been a window on to the world he'd so briefly inhabited. That his suffering had been seen…or, in any event, heard.

She'll see it process, arriving as just enough of a surprise to part his lips. They close again as he takes in the shape of that information, turning it over inside of his head and soliciting opinions from the rest of himself: /what do we think about this?/

There is some discomfort, some concern. Some guilt. Other things he keeps close enough to his chest that their nature is not entirely clear. It might have been worse, but she is a potent balm, and the evening's golden final hours in the company of those who suffered beside them did a great deal to suture him back together, even if the deeper damage of his wound has yet to be fully felt.

"Ah," he says finally, a soft word that dips down into baritone velvets. It placeholds the moment as he wonders what else to say, eyes the color of a pale blue sky momentarily unfocused where they rest on her face. She'll see the moment they sharpen, attuned as she is to things about him that aren't visible to the eye. "They were mostly wrong. I would…" Hesitation. "I would never have been able to stay." The pensive cast of his gaze adopts some of its humor again, though the memory of his time in the rift remains a phantom overlay, like the echo of something troubled. "And in the end it turned out you didn't need any of us to help you get your soul back, after all. Bloody disappointing I couldn't lord a rescue over you for months, but I'll settle for knowing you could always have done it yourself if you had to."

And then, suddenly, even for John. Curious, mostly: "Did you think I wouldn't come back for you?"


It may have been a mercy to not let him know that, but Zatanna wasn't prone to hide things from anyone, most especially John. In fact this tendency has an uncanny knack to pull them apart as capably as it does to bridge them back together.

Leather creaks under the shift between their bodies, distance vanishing as if by magic. Her eyes drift closed, depriving him of the startling color, but compensating for it by the way the fuller curve of her bottom lip drags faintly against the heel of his palm, how her pale fingers thread in between his knuckles. She breathes, luxuriates, savors his presence in the tactile way she prefers and in many ways, she is just as prone to the seductions of physicality as he is.

It shields him from her discovery of the signs that pass over his expression - the tells that denote his discomfiture, the concern, guilt or everything else that he may have experienced in that beautiful facade of a perfect life. But those lashes flicker upwards again after she's managed to take a sip of the well he provides, if not just for a moment, ephemeral reminders of the fact that this victory was hard won and not one of them emerged from it without adding onto whatever scars they're already carrying. And Zatanna is familiar with not just her own, but also those that haunt her companions.

They couldn't stay closed, even the desire is there. The need to bask in him is swiftly overriden by her own need to look at him, if not just to fill herself with the way he looks at her, triggering some small sparks of hope that he was in this just as much as she was. A small instance of something more selfish than her usual wont, when she spends so much of her time and energy being so unfailingly generous.

"That's not true." As always, quick to contradict him when she doesn't agree. "You think I would have been able to push myself that far without having the rest of you? Without you?" Her teeth worry against her bottom lip, remembering her own screams and the pain. "I didn't know what I had, John. The extent of it. The sheer vastness of it." Terror flits past her expressive eyes like a ghost. Her hand tightens over his knuckles in a way that's absent, instinctive. "I wasn't prepared…taking in so much of it so quickly, I would have destroyed myself. That'd be a horrible kick in the ass, wouldn't it? If in the end it was actually /my/ fault that I died."

His curious question earns him a pause, her stare level on his.

"You're not exactly a greenhorn, John," she replies at last. "It's not as if I thought you wouldn't have known what was going on, but I wouldn't have blamed you if you wanted to taste a little bit of it. But in order to return….I had to give it my everything, what I had left, and if I had to, I can't imagine what the cost would have been for you. How much of your life would have been snipped away that much shorter. If I had failed, you would've had to pick up the slack and I don't know if I could bear…"

She falls quiet at that. Turning her face into the cradle of his fingers, her mouth brands the center of his palm with a fervent kiss, lashes falling once more.

"Oh, John, I just got you back. You're not the only one who's terrified of losing."


He's been profoundly affected by his time in Hydra's Perfect World simulation, and he knows himself well enough to know that he doesn't have the full measure of its impact on him yet, though he understands in an intuitive way that the moment will resonate forward through his life. But given an out to take — to talk about her own suffering, her own fears — he will take it /almost/ every time. She helps him to erect barriers around the crater of its impact with her closeness, her tender looks and the press of her mouth against the sensitive span at the center of his palm, the breath of her words spilled across skin that relishes its humidity.

"Nothing," he says, in a voice softened and warmed by that token of her affection, "Has changed. About you, or your magic. You're the same person you've always been. You got a peek behind the curtain — fair 'nuff. But 'tanna, it changes nothing. You already know the risks and the limitations of magic. How you use it doesn't change just because there's more of it in the bank than you thought. Not if you're smart." He dips his head, one of his brows besting the other on altitude, a flicker of wry wit in otherwise solemn eyes. "Open question lately, what with how you've decided to shack up with a weapon like me."

He extracts his hand from its enviable place at her lips, but only to seek the nape of her neck and the base of her skull, the damp, silken strands of her upbound hair, a cradle of careful fingers. With the hex removed he is at liberty to kiss her as often as she'll let him, but there's something to be said for restraint — for the frisson of unsated impulses, left to linger overlong. He's close enough then to cast shadows between them, but the fingertips of his free hand lift, tracing out the cushion of her lower lip, accompanied by a gaze that relishes every last nuance of the sight. Of her, yes, but also of the contact, the interplay between the two of them, the subtle drag of skin on like.

"You worry about my magic too much. I don't always have to pay in mortality. I can use mana like any other magical twit." Less wry, though it carries remnants of the glow that humor confers to his voice: "I'm not going anywhere."


She knows, but to force him to disclose what he felt about the entire affair is something she knows better than to do. Not in a time of quiet where they're still recovering from the outrageousness of what has happened to the both of them in the last few weeks. Perhaps some would say that it isn't like her, considering her general fearlessness in traversing emotional terrains, but she remembers looking at his back a second time and the hollow that she had felt after. Especially now, it wouldn't just be inadvisable to push him. It would be cruel, to force him to relive everything else that has happened. Or maybe that she has gotten to know him better in the last month than she has in the summer to know better, or know that the dragons of his nature will rise to the fore eventually, snapping like an overwound spring, in which she'll be forced to deal with him at his worst.

If nothing else, Zatanna thrives on challenges. The harder the fight, the more invested she becomes.

His reassurances are one she listens to, but for all that she doesn't take them for granted - her expression gives way to a softening, signifying acceptance - there's a hint of uncertainty there, but that might not be all too unexpected. There's simply too much that she doesn't know about herself, too much that she hasn't been told and Giovanni Zatara doesn't exactly take the time out of his busy schedule to give her the necessary elucidations. Not like he could now, at any rate. But his visible affection and the fact that he bothers earns him a quiet smile, her eyes half-lidding at the way his crown tilts into hers, to close more of the distance but not quite, soaking her in the reminiscence of those frustrating weeks when being this close is a temptation they can't afford. Maybe that was it, she thinks. Maybe they've been both so inured with the pain of each other that they wouldn't know how to /be/ without it.

Not the healthiest thing in the world, but addiction never is.

Mischief flares in those ice-blue eyes. "Quips about proposals and now about shacking up? You're not asking me to move in with you already are you? Because Chas can't live in a hotel forever."

Want bleeds over, though. He would know the expression well, the feline glint fading as lashes sink lower over her eyes, her senses following the wake of his thumb as calluses light up arcs of sensation over her lower lip. Her lips part, the edge of her front teeth finding the edge of his index.

"I'll hold you to that," she murmurs. "I don't take too kindly to being left." /No kidding/. "Unless you really /are/ a sucker for punishment in which case you better let me know now so I can invest in the appropriate whips and chains."


She teases him about his level of commitment and all he does is roll his eyes, leaning back just enough that she's able to watch him do it. "You /have/ basically been living here," he points out, through a lazy, leonine smile. "Just because it was against your /will/ doesn't mean it didn't count." His questing fingertips eventually do part ways with her mouth, but they fall on the place that stockings yield to bare skin, and absently curl just barely beneath that hem — not to remove it but merely for the pleasure of preoccupying himself that way. His gaze follows, again, and this time he catches his lower lip in his teeth, a small shadow painted between his brows where there will, one day, be lines that do not erase themselves when they unknit. Some years from now, at least.

Thigh-highs and shorts. The effort of will required not to stare in mixed company exhausted him almost as much as his torment at the hands of Hydra's impossible utopia. "It'll be quiet without you here, but we'll manage."

There is a low sound in his chest when she tells him she doesn't take kindly to being left — they share a thought to that end, obviously — and then another after that, broken up across the fragments of a laugh that doesn't quite make it out of him. "Eh. I've tried it. Handcuffs lose something when you know they can't really keep you in them, don't they? Anyway, I wasn't impressed, but maybe that was circumstances."

It hadn't been a good period for him, to say the least.

"I'm sure it's hard for you to believe. I've a reputation, don't I? I won't even try to pretend I didn't earn it. We both know I did. But this…I don't know, Zee." His thoughts roll backward, tentatively viewing the memory of his time in that wonderland of living ghosts — the life that some better version of him had managed to create, surrounded by people he'd betrayed in this one, most of whom had perished for the trouble of being close to him. It did not escape his notice that in his perfect world, he was still with Zatanna — something he'd have roundly laughed off with any other woman, probably, as an error as substantial as the simulation asserting that he'd had a brother, which he most certainly did not.

"I'm sticking around to find out what happens. I've got to know. It's a character flaw." And that's true; that's John all over: whether this never ends, coasts onward toward some horizon he can't fathom the nature of beneath a gentle sky, or goes up in flames, combusts, explodes, shattering and spraying everyone close to them with shrapnel…he has to know. He could no more turn his back on that than he could walk away from a door behind which he knows there's something Other in residence, or refuse to answer the phone when he gets that icepick chill in the spine, knowing before he ever picks it up that something wicked will that way come.

They are an outstanding mystery, and his fascination with her, his mad interest in her, are both easy to see in the eyes he lifts to find hers. "I'm sort of hoping we've got the 'you almost died' bit out of the way early so that I don't have to think about it for a while," he confesses, fingertips sliding around the circumference of the band of her stocking.


"Ah," Zatanna muses, her lips finding room to grin once his hand leaves it to rest somewhere on her leg; she crosses one over the other, to ease his reach, eyes barely open once fingers find the pale, ivory ring of bare flesh between her hem and the band of her stocking. "Live-in prisoner, then. Slave? I didn't think you were into that, John Constantine." Not that she ever would, and he knows that /very well/, but she ribs him because she enjoys this too; the dry humor, how words whip between them like the points of opposing foils, clicking away across the mat until someone manages to lunge and nick a vital spot. "But I suppose it did, eventually. You did spend most of my incarceration on the couch, and once on the floor."

She follows the line of his stare to her leg, and the grin only widens, though she does attempt to quell it, brows lifting faintly as if the look could pierce through the look on his face, as if wondering the nature of his thoughts. Though given with the way he decides to express his attentions, she doesn't have to be Jess or Red to be able to guess. Her own fingers lift, her index hooking gently on the haphazard knot hanging a few inches from where it properly should, drawing it down, loosening it further by the inches, twisting the rest of it with her other digits. She does close the distance, tilts her head, giving into her usual poor impulse control, but only to graze her lips on the ridge of that cheekbone, victimized by her father's hex just a few days ago - the closer to drink in his quiet not-quite-laughter. It does wonders to exorcise the lingering spectres of the flat, the days in which they spent treating each other like glass.

But she at least knows he's serious - the rarely used moniker is a tell, and she eases her face away just enough so she could meet his eyes. She is no mind-reader, obviously (and one would argue that life with John would probably be easier if she was), so she waits. She does not know that he goes back, hesitantly, to review the footage left behind by the utopia crafted specifically to tempt him to stay. Her fingers pause from its playful meander against his tie.

"What, you don't have enough of those?" With what he says about character flaws, but humor reaches her eyes and he would know that she doesn't find it as severe as she suggests, and he would know why that is - it is one that she shares, half the reason why she treads so recklessly in volatile emotional territory. But she discerns his sentiment, her smile fading as those ice-blue mirrors crest over his features, refreshing herself with their nuances, the tiniest details. She knows his face down to the minute ticks of his eyebrow, the barely-there look he wears when he lifts his shoulders in a shrug, but it never stops her from looking. From reveling in them.

"I'm glad you are," she says at last, quietly. "I didn't think you ever would. Want to, I mean. It wasn't as if I didn't know how you felt when we first started and I thought I was ready for it, the realization that you didn't take me as seriously as I did you. And for a while I believed it, especially after Daddy made you leave. It didn't feel like it at the time, but maybe…" She furrows her brows. "Maybe the time apart was a good thing after all."

It changed her. Some for the better, some for the worse. But maybe…

His last remark has her inclining her head, letting a few moments pass scrutinizing the look of him. Turning sideways on the couch, she twists until she's facing him directly. One leg slips over him, moving in until manages to rest her weight on a loose straddle over his hips. Her arms drape in a relaxed band around his shoulders, the lift of her fingertips catching over the gold-brown strands at the back of his head.

"Is that something you want us to have out?" she wonders, digits moving in a light stroke through his hair. "I know, John. It wasn't hard to figure out, after the night I tried to give you a way out of this anyway. I'd be lying, though, if I said that didn't make me all the more determined to live."


He is easy to bid nearer with the lightest tug on the loop of silk around his neck, and his eyes lid near to closed as she presses her lips to the repaired contour of his right cheekbone. He has grace enough to take her remark about his character flaws with humor rather than bridling to the core of truth it contains.

It arrives as something of a surprise that she believed he would never want to stay — a mild surprise, but still, something he spends a moment mulling over. Insofar as he'd thought about it, his thoughts went only so far as to ascertain that he did not expect things to last, a far more passive expectation than any kind of conscious determination to leave her and never look back — even if, he supposes, that would've been more or less the case.

"I think so," he inserts quietly, of their time apart, but that is a half-lie: he doesn't just think so, he /knows/ so. As much struggling and fighting with himself as he's done since Fate sent him streaking out of the atmosphere and back into her life like a comet trailing fire, those outward expressions of his reluctance to stand in the firing line would have been infinitely worse if he'd not had to confront the realization that he'd missed her more than he believed he would. He cannot fathom what he would've done had she been on the brink of death six months ago. Talked himself into falling out of love with her, probably.

And then all of his thoughts get soundly pushed aside, swept clear by her shift and the pale parentheses of her thighs bracketing either side of him. It preoccupies him enough — in a lazy, low-simmer sort of way — that he has to ask himself what it is that she thinks they ought to have out, processing the words through the filter of that sudden haze of warmth, and the low, silvery tickle of anticipation somewhere in his abdomen. "You should be determined to live /anyway/." He delivers that tease with distracted amusement, reaching for the hinge where thigh meets hip, thumbs aligned with the creases. He does find the reserves of personal focus to drag his attention upward, eyes lidding while she plays with fingertips and nails in his hair. "Bloody hell, I don't know. I'm still here, and that was as close a call as I think anyone can have. And it's…"

There it is, again, the hovering indecision, wheels turning behind blue irises, privacy screens that yield so little of the thoughts beyond. The internal debate that prefaced (or presaged?) his decision to ensure that she knew his mind before they made their attempt to restore her to her former glory, in case the worst came to pass, and he never had another chance.

Rather than simply begin, or change his mind, he follows up with a question, eyes narrowing in assessment. "Do you want to know about it? The rift."


His quiet agreement slips in with the other nagging notion in the back of her mind, that can't help but wonder whether they were better apart than they ever would, ever could, be together.

But just as easily as that filters in her mind, Zatanna dismisses it - not because she finds the thought so outlandish but because it speaks of a potential future, and she unrepentantly almost always focuses on the present. In a way it is a surrender to hedony, in her part, when she lives and breathes for every second as they come, so unwilling as she is to pepper her life with needless regrets. It is what coaxes her to close the distance at last, to fit herself against him, letting the breadth of his shoulders, the wind of his arms frame her as she arranges herself upon him in a loose construct of soft skin and black cloth. Unsatisfied with that, she lets herself lean, to have his chest cradle the softness off her own, leather creaking on either sides of her when her knees take the brunt of her weight. His tease earns him a smile, and a roll of her eyes, because when is she /not determined/ to do anything? It was practically one of the most basic building blocks of her personality.

"You should be flattered that you're /inspiring/ me to do better on that end," she drawls. "Unless you're more comfortable with being a bad influence in all things. …wait, don't answer that."

The look he gives her now is familiar, though it takes her a moment to recognize where she had last seen it, as delirious as she was with exhaustion to the point where she is perpetually half-uncertain as to whether his confession about choosing her had been more of a wishful dream than anything that finds its roots on reality. If she has her doubts, this latest expression banishes it, though she is in no hurry to answer him. Those eyes fall on his mouth, mapping an intangible course through those well-remembered lines, eyes lidding as she examines the way it shapes the words, tentative as they are. Her fingers shift over his hair in an absent drift, the edges of her black manicure tracing nonsense patterns at the back of his head, finding her way through those dark-gold fields…

'Do you want to know about it? The rift?'

Her head tilts, the brush of her raven fringe tickling his brow. The tip of her nose glances the side of his, her mouth so close, but not quite there, as if separated by a millimeter of glass.

Her other hand slips from around him, the tip of her index touching the point of his chin.

The door is open and her first instinct is to bull through, to shoulder it open the rest of the way and throw herself forward on the mysteries beyond. Were this any other moment, any other person, doubtless that she would be throwing caution to the wind again, no matter what explodes or gets set on fire along the way. And she wants to, having never had an opportunity before to impress upon him just how much she wants to be /let in/, to reach the pieces of him that he hides from everyone else, if not just to help him safeguard them and she won't be able to do that if she doesn't know the nature of them.

But. But.

"Not if you don't want to tell me about it," she says finally, so softly her voice is barely audible. Her hands move away, to gently cradle both sides of his face.

"I'm not even trying to imply that the way you evade me doesn't drive me crazy, sometimes," she continues. "Because it does. But I'm not with you because I want to pry you open and dig for the keys to your puzzles. You're not a mystery that needs solving, though I don't want you to think it's the mystery that keeps me around, either. I've…" Pause; she visibly wrestles with hesitation, and wins, because she always does. "I've lived my entire life wondering whether I'm just some other, that maybe some part or all of me just doesn't belong in the same world as everyone else. I open myself up in breathtakingly idiotic ways just to prevent myself from feeling this way, because I'm unusual enough not to feel real even to myself. Your wounds, your flaws, your triumphs, your glaring imperfections…even the way you hurt me time and again. You're…/so real/ to me that even if you left me tomorrow, I wouldn't be able to forget you if I tried. Whatever your reluctance…just…I want you to know that you never have to force yourself."

She tilts her head back, her lips roaming over his brow.

"I'll wait for you, John."


One of his brows lifts, skews toward the other, bemused. 'Not if you don't want to tell me about it,' she says, and he considers that, tries to figure out whether or not this is her polite way of saying 'no,' because he's just offered to do that, and — being John — wouldn't have offered for the sake of charity, or if he'd not been prepared to have that discussion in at least some degree of detail.

She does clarify, and John does listen. Attentively. Somewhere, in amidst all of her blessings and forgivenesses and patient insistence that she understands how and why he truncates some pieces of himself, there's something about her — about the way she views herself — that he did not know before. She illustrates for him something about her perspective, her view from the inside looking out: the feeling that she doesn't belong, some sort of living curiosity — but that, he thinks, is an entirely human sentiment to have. It shines a light into a corner of her that he was not aware existed, and maybe entirely by accident also draws attention to a window that looks out on who he is to her and why, viewed through her eyes. It is…


The list of his qualities makes him real to her, but to John they cannot help but sound like a litany of failings, most especially the one about hurting her over and over again. He cannot tell in the moment whether or not he's hurt by this sudden introduction to the way she sees him. Suspects so, but hasn't the time, energy, or presence of mind to sift through the reasons as to why, as he's certainly under no illusions about the poorer qualities of his own character. All followed up with the promise that in spite of those things, she will wait for him. In sequence it sounds like self-castigation, to inflict him on herself because the pain of him reminds her that she's real, the way people cut themselves to anchor themselves in their own lives.

Uncertain what to do with that new piece of information, he sets it uneasily aside, to return to later, and answers the benediction of her lips on his crown with hands that travel warmly up either side of her spine, securing her against his every inhale.

"I'd give almost anything to bring them back to life," he says, quiet enough that she'll feel the soft hum of his voice in his chest as much as she hears it out loud. Close this way, there's no need for more than that. And a long pause follows, a parade of faces floating past his mind's eye. The sound of his mother's voice — maybe. How would he ever know? "But that's different than what it was in there. There, they'd never died in the first place. I'm a piece from a different puzzle. Edges all wrong. For me, they did die. Just giving them back, pretending I'd never lost them, it's bloody impossible. I can never be whatever man lived that life. And that you? That was some sort of bizarrely perfect world. Your da was probably over the moon about us, blessings and all. We'd probably never had a single fight about anything, ever. Great in theory, yeah? But 'tanna…" He settles his head back against her roving fingers, letting them — and the cushions beyond them — take the whole weight, the better to look at her. "Nothing's ever better than the thing you do against all of the odds. I'm not saying I think suffering's noble, that's a bloody stupid thing to say, or think. Pain is just…incidental to existence. But a man does get to be proud of not being destroyed by it, and when he somehow, in all of that senseless shit, manages to get a thing right, it's—"


He looks at her a moment in silence. He knows exactly what he wants to say — that what they have means so much more because the odds are stacked against them, and he's coming around to seeing that the danger of losing it makes it that much sweeter for as long as it will last — but parts of him still viscerally reject being explicit about his feelings. So he circles around it, testing his own limits. "We've had to fight for this. It isn't easy. Nothing in that rift could ever be this. I knew that in there and I know it out here." Pause. Silence. Fingertips curl against the valley between the wings of her shoulder blades. "For whatever that's worth."


This is certainly new territory for her, and she can't help but fumble, as she has no prior experience to call upon when John actually offers to give her a glimpse of what's behind the door and knowing to some degree what kind of pain that caused him. He's only ever told her things out of necessity - when she had given him a way out and misunderstood his intentions, when he confessed that he would choose this because he didn't want to risk not being able to tell her that much in the event they were unable to save her, or when tempers are so hot words can't help but spill forth. Statements, replies…but this is the first time she has ever recalled him actually /offering/ to tell her something, a rare jewel of confidence that, once presented, she had absolutely no idea what to do with because of its very exotic nature. But that's so typical, wasn't it? Wishing for something for so long that when it's finally offered, she falters. Like a dog that finally catches a car: well, now what?

There's a prevailing sense that she's somehow managed to wound him, as /that/ is something she has had plenty of exposure to, considering their volatile interactions in the last month. But for the moment, she can't fathom how, and as she waits for him to tell her, he startles her by going ahead with it anyway, half-expecting him to shut the door and turn off the lights. It's new, certainly not unwelcome, but brings with it an entirely new set of apprehensions, wondering whether this is just another way of salving the still-open wound of him almost losing her. That he somehow feels obligated to tell her what's in his head just in case, now that he's become aware as to just how much /trouble/ she manages to bring in both of their lives.

But she is grateful, also. That he's giving her this much. Somewhere deep down she hopes that it exorcises some of the anguish she sensed from the viewing portals.

Through all of it, she says nothing, though she is attentive, because she is never not - she has never paid him anything less than her full focus whenever he opens his mouth. Her thumbs trace absent circles over his cheeks, feeling the scrape of the perpetual stubble clinging to his jaw and from her superior height, she watches those shades flit through his eyes, wondering about the shapes of them. Contemplation softens her features, her brows drawn faintly, though there's a slight curve up on her mouth when he mentions never fighting, a line of incredulity present there, because she can't picture them /never/ fighting when that's almost all they've done ever since he walked back in her life. Amusement. He would know /she/ thinks that would be impossible, almost as much as Giovanni ever approving of being involved with him in this way.

"Did you always feel that way?" she wonders at last. "Your pride…for surviving. Or is that a recent revelation?" Brought upon by falling in the rift, perhaps. She can't help but ask, if not just to demonstrate that she is not taking this conversation for granted.

She meets his eyes when he finally lapses into silence, though the conclusions he reaches would be something that resonates with her, if not just for her stubborn tenacity to see something through, so long as she believes in it. A smile, barely there, but genuinely meant, lifts her mouth. "We still have to, I think," she says. "Not just…because of what happens around you and me. We're two very different people, and with the way we are, anything can happen. I knew that, though, coming in. And all the things I said before." Not just her declarations of love and affection, or her regular demonstrations of devotion, but also the fact that she isn't ruling out the possibility that she might outgrow him, or that he might tire of the way they constantly generate friction just by being themselves around one another…or that if it came down to it, he would have to be the one to do the leaving.

"But worth it, right?" Her teeth tug faintly on her bottom lip. For what it's worth, he said. "All of this, the things you just said…it's worth plenty, for me. Weight in gold. Not just because of the rarity of a talk like this, either." She tilts her head back, chuffing out a small laugh. "I'm so happy I could cry, but I've cried /enough/ the last few weeks that I could stand not to for a few days."


"Sure." John answers her first question without any reluctance at all, and he even has a quirk of the lips that conveys he's pleased with himself. "Because that wasn't easy, either. I've had some narrow bloody escapes." The humor wanes, replaced with something difficult to name. "That doesn't mean I don't feel like a bastard for being the only one to make it out. It's always both."

He does not argue her suspicion that they'll have to go on fighting, because all available evidence points that way. It's not a thought he takes any great relish in, even if he is beginning to see the silver lining, but he'd be fooling himself if he let himself think otherwise — and in any case, John Constantine is just not that optimistic.

He should answer her next question, but she bares her throat for him and he finally yields to his latent desire, kindled and kept banked as embers throughout an entire evening of mixed company. He tilts his head, inclines it, parted lips at the chalice of the hollow of her throat, then twisted away, around one side, heat and damp and texture grazed across the long slope carved from her ear to her shoulder. Not just to /have/ her, but to savor those things that had fled her for what felt like far longer than a week's time. To drink her in, soak her up, the way cold hands hover close to the heat of an open flame, coveting some of it for themselves.

"I meant it when I said it," he tells her, voice little more than a whisper, when he's come as close to her ear as he can given her loft above him. It only occurs to him belatedly that she might interpret that in ways other than intended; as though he's suggesting he meant it /only/ when he said it, and all of that building heat wobbles and off-tracks, a sharp, full smile staging a coup over him, eyes narrowed with the laugh he tries to keep in, turning his head when he finds he can't quite manage in order to keep from inadvertently deafening her, soft as it is. "This is why I don't /have/ these conversations." That's more than half of a lie, but she'll know it anyway, so does it count as dishonest if he knows she'll know better? Repressed laughter threads itself through his voice, still quiet enough for intimacy, but gilded with that mirth. "I meant it. I mean it. I mean what I said. Christ."


She becomes all the more vibrant and alive when his mouth finds her; the way her heartbeat escalates almost immediately when it seals over tender niche under her jaw, stubble, breath and teeth conspiring to stain her pallor with a rose flush. Her breath catches at the back of her throat, her laughter stumbling over the sensation of him suddenly /there/, her arms instinctively draping over his shoulders when his insistence brings humid heat to course up that ivory slope. Her head dips, digits weaving into his hair, body curving into him in a concentrated effort to envelope as much of him as she can with her - her warmth, her softness, her associated scents, the fabric softener on her clothes and the vanilla of her moisturizer.

John manages to find her ear through the tousled, half-bound falls of her hair, eyes lidding at the tickle his confession there brings, though that pulls up her smile even higher. She was, in fact, /just/ about to rib him for qualifier he tacks onto the end, though he manages to correct himself there, too, thus depriving her of the means in which to poke at him again. She ends up shifting instead at their changed proximity, adjusting her position over him, barely cognizant of how a strap slips down one shoulder at their combined movements and uncaring of where it ends up, entangled as it is with a lengthy midnight curl. "Well, I'm definitely trying /not/ to discourage you from having them," Zatanna replies, amusement underscoring her soft contralto. "But if nothing else, you seem to be taking some pleasure out of it, so really, it's not all that bad, is it?"

She eases back, but compensates for the brief distance by closing it again, catching his bottom lip within her mouth, fingers fanning against the curve of his head, the tips of them applying the lightest of pressures, as if afraid of cracking him open should she be any more forceful. "I'm glad you told me," she confesses between breaths. "About what happened in there. Like I told you earlier, I tried not to look…Red and I did our best not to pry, for you and Jess both. The circumstances made it…somewhat difficult to ignore, no matter how well-meaning the attempt. We still heard things, but…we didn't look. It was probably hard for him, too, because he's lost a lot, and he's the brainy type so he probably couldn't help /but/ investigate the allure a little bit, in his own head. And…it was difficult for me, to hear you so…" Her voice trails off, unable to give it a name. "But it made me all the more determined to get you back so I could do /this/…" She punctuates the word by letting her fingers drift through those unruly strands, lean in to seal her mouth over his, briefly. "And remind you that I meant that, too…that I'm not saying goodbye to you, yet."

There's a pause, and she slowly tilts her face sideways, something more feline and slightly offended at the thought: "Besides, I'm pretty sure in the next two years, I'll be /so much hotter/ than the construct they tried to foist on you. All that detail, stealing my almost-everything to power all that ridiculousness, and they couldn't even do me /justice/. Hmph."

The words inadvertently remind her of her traverse through the fabric however, and her fingers still in his hair. For a few moments, her eyes are distant, latching onto the vague recollections of her soul reaching, connecting….to something that shouldn't be. Something that /cannot/ be tethered to this reality.


"I'm…trying." That's all he can say, about his recent tentative ventures in the direction of being less opaque — all he has /time/ to say, but probably all that he /would/ say even had she not curled herself around him, all soft curves against unyielding planes and angles. His hands slip from their place behind her, arms circling to trap her where she is, high and low. He closes his eyes turns his focus toward all of his other senses, steeped in the smell of her: it doesn't matter that she eschews strong fragrances; nothing else in the world smells like she does. Like many of her other qualities — like the whole of what they have — he'd not realized how much he'd been missing it until having a taste after a lack, even those incidental traces of her bleached out of existence by the draining of her soul.

So he doesn't see it coming, when she leans back, leans in, teasing a kiss that ends too soon. It catches him by surprise, and by the time he responds — with a sudden pang and a deep-seated hunger — she's already leaning away, the chase of his mouth foiled a mere heartbeat after it begins. Not without some amusement evident in his opening but hooded eyes, and with a peculiar, infinite patience. His need for her scourged him that first night, but he is not a hurried lover, too experienced in playing the long game at work to disregard its benefits at play.

Which is just as well, because she delves into territory sensitive not only to himself, but to the others responsible for helping to save her life. Time enough to wonder about Red Robin, and not for the first time: he'd known things he shouldn't have about Zatanna's condition, and Zatanna seems to know more personal details about him than his masked facade seems willing to convey. His suspicion that she knows him outside of his caped persona remains unconfirmed and private, but that possibility does not trouble him overmuch, and he has the sense to respect those boundaries, the same way he trusts Zatanna not to reveal his every secret to world at large.

And so of course he's distracted again when she dives in for that second rejoinder, and again, he's incapable of making it last. The look of exasperation he puts on is subtle and fleeting. It gradually becomes tender humor, and as usual he's only to happy to feed into her arch playfulness with unhesitating, forthright confessions of his attraction. "Talk about incentive for me to stick around. For a woman who was more than half dead four hours ago, you look…"

The humor and heat in what he'd been saying both bleed slowly out of him, prescient of some change in her that he doesn't grasp the cause of. He can see it in the way her eyes unfocus, feel it in the nuances of whatever it is they share along that otherworldly link. "Alright, 'tanna?"


It helps that she doesn't know his every secret, but she has been nothing but trustworthy with the bits she does have, having grown to become a repository of confidences within the last few days, especially. Being on the brink of death, she discovered, has a strange effect of getting others to confide in you, tell you things that they never wouldn't under normal circumstances - one last attempt at something significant and lasting before the earth claims your body. John's choice, the fears that assail him whenever he thinks about the two of them, Jessica's life in her foster home, how she's looking into treating her alcoholism, the mystery of Peter Parker's parents and while he has lived a happy life with his aunt and uncle, he has always wondered, and Tim Drake's series of personal tragedies, having consigned himself to the war Batman is waging in Gotham because of them….unburdening himself with his feelings for her, despite knowing that her heart was elsewhere. All of these, she keeps as close to her chest as Peter's and Tim's identities outside of their masks.

Zatanna was a magician, raised by a magician; she'd make a poor one, indeed, if she didn't know how to keep secrets.

That smile broadens into a grin, close-lipped as it is, and as he gives chase to her, she can't help but dance around him, the fleeting press of her kisses lingering just long enough to leave him wanting. The look of exasperation is one she glimpses and savors, and she intends to fully reward him for said peculiar patience in just a moment…

She savors /that/ for a moment, the way he is so quick to pamper her own sense of vanity, and to her credit the smile stays despite the sudden overarch of seriousness. She does hesitate, though, wondering whether she ought to dismiss it in favor of giving him what he wants, and succumbing to what she needs - the last few days were /torture/, having had no strength or desire to do anything but curl up next to him and let him warm her as her life slowly drained out of her body and now that she has reclaimed her vitality in /spades/, all she wants is…

"…there was something…" she says slowly, unable to be more articulate. She stops to collect her thoughts.

"When I was struggling with the leylines, reaching for what I lost. I had to chase it. I was blazing after it as fast as I could, until I realized the entire construct only fired up because it somehow thought I was the Tarnhelm. So I stopped chasing, I decided to command it instead, but the rest of me was so…it didn't want to come, despite my commands. I'm not all that surprised, considering how weak I was, it took everything I had left to get as far as I did, but before I managed to just…./wrench it all/ back towards me, I felt it touch…/something/. Something that shouldn't be here. I'm trying to remember but I was in so much pain…"

She exhales slowly, before lowering her head, to bury her face against his hair and closing her eyes.

"Whatever it is, it's probably waiting for us, where Bucky and Jane are. If it needs my soul to touch it, as an amplifier or a conduit…it's bound to be dangerous."


'There was something.'

It's what she doesn't say that sharpens his interest, humid thoughts of an evening to spend in lazy demonstration of his appreciation for her resurrected mortal coil left by the wayside without regret. Whatever it is, it eludes her capacity to readily explain it, and that alone, without any further detail, is enough to pique his interest. He waits in silence for her to collect her thoughts.

It isn't an easy thing to listen to her walk him through what she'd endured whilst he'd been trapped elsewhere, but pain is an inescapable side-effect of what they do. His eyes tighten with muted sympathy, his fingers with pressure meant to support, but that is all of the consolation he can offer her, and more than she likely needs.

Nothing to illuminate the nature of the unknown force or entity, save that her slow bend into him, sighing and closing her eyes at merely the thought of it, says to him that whatever it is, it's going to be A Problem. He toys with that in silence, debates whether or not to press her. Allows himself only a half-step in that direction: "Do you still sense it, or was it only when you were in the circle, having your metaphysical tug of war with your own soul?"


"When I ripped myself away, the connection was gone. But for a while, something…/someone/ else had it. Someone with a will just as strong as mine, but older." Zatanna struggles visibly, raking the coals of her pain-filled memories for useful scraps, her fingers restlessly moving somewhere behind his head. "And then he or she…/forced/ me. The rest of me. To make a connection. Something critical…." Her brows furrow. "…devastating. I felt it because I was so close to it."

She eases one of her hands away from him, rising up so she could scrub the side of her face. "I can't sense it now, but I don't know….tomorrow, maybe I can try and find it. Now that I know how it feels like. And if it needed my soul to bridge a specific gap, maybe traces of me are still out there that I could reach."

Zatanna eases back, so she could look at him directly, her expression apologetic. "I can't…I know it's vague but I've tried to peel through and I don't have any other details than that. I can go digging tomorrow, stretch myself out there and see what I can find, if anything."


For all that John is trying to loosen his grip on the pieces of her that take risks, the thought of her reaching out like that to something she describes in that particular way, so soon after repairing the hole torn in her…

To call his expression uneasy would be understatement. The thought makes it briefly difficult to breathe, a sharp and unexpected revival of the fear that he kept buried so deeply and so well for the week leading up to tonight's concluding efforts. It takes him by surprise. The lack of any sort of emotional break had been interesting, but ultimately futile to contemplate; he was glad for the pervasive numbness, troubled only periodically by the sense that he was not altogether himself. He had believed the resolution of her situation to entirely erase all of his associated anxieties; to find that they still exist causes startled distaste in him, as though he'd touched something unpleasant unexpectedly.

"Just…be careful," he says. She cannot fail to see all of his myriad reservations, his desire that she not go through with it, but as he said moments ago: he is trying. Here, then, in his tacit support of her decision in spite of his misgivings, is ample proof.


His face is eloquent with his apprehensions.

After everything they've endured, Zatanna pauses there, gauging what she finds and wondering if she shouldn't levy some semblance of mercy. To just /stop/ for a while, and fully savor the reclamation of her soul and life in ways other than diving headlong into danger again. But her brain latches onto the distant, digital crackle of the audio logs that Red Robin found in the computer before he destroyed it in a rage, and the dead bodies of Tasha and Karl, the knowledge that Bucky was under HYDRA's thrall and Jane was probably being deconstructed before she was molded into whatever image fits its ideal. She knows nothing about mind control in the brutal manner of science and mundane experimentations - it is different with magic, but in her experience, the longer people are kept in it, the harder it is to break them out of it, and the results should that ever happen could be devastating.

There is always a breaking point. She doesn't have to be Jess, Red or John to know that.

Her hand cradles one side of his face, giving him a small smile, and one that she intends to be reassuring. He doesn't tell her that he is worried, says nothing about the fear that crawls past his expression, but she identifies it for what it is. "John, it might be the only way to figure out what we're dealing with when we go get them," she tells him quietly. "I have to try. I don't know what'll happen if we go in completely blind, and we've risked ourselves enough getting here to chance another complete surprise if we're going to go after them. And who knows, maybe I won't find anything." But not to make the attempt at all would be unconscionable.

But she is grateful - he would see that plainly over the delicate mien. Thankful that he tries, a far cry from the state of before, the blistering rows they exchanged over her safety, and her lack of acknowledgment that he cared enough to express them.

Her fingers shift, crest lower on his cheek, to trace the pliant line of his mouth lightly with the edge of her thumb, her eyes filled with it, gentled and left aglow by the potent strains of her unyielding affection.


His swallow is outlined by traitorously visible musculature, but silent. All of her points have logic, and there are things he cannot protect her from: this is a connection she has with something through a piece of herself he cannot replicate. It is beyond him, a thing inaccessible through expertise alone.

Like many of the week's discomforts, his solution for the time being — about things he cannot change — will be to avoid thinking about them until he absolutely has to. A fine plan, in theory, and it allows him to recover some of his earlier wit with a small, determined half-smile, grim though it may be. "Don't forget to use protection." Wards, of course. Other small precautions.

He lapses into temporary silence, sinking into the wordless intimacy of the way she looks at him. Her touch. /Don't dwell/, comes the thought, as much a surprise as the discomfort he felt moments ago. /She's safe again — for now — and still looking at you that way, even after everything — for now — so why ruin it for yourself, John? For the both of you? Try to just enjoy what you have, for once./

And maybe it's the exhaustion, the emotional depletion of his earlier experience; maybe it's the drinks they had over dinner, or the unanticipated but not unwelcome company of the two people who'd entered the breach alongside them, unified by their shared purpose. Maybe the stars are in alignment, or maybe — /maybe/ — he's learning to do things differently.


Whatever the reason, he feels his insides unknot, and takes in the tenderness in her expression /without/ parallel thoughts about how it would tear him apart to lose her so soon, after everything. It rounds his edges; gentles him.

"Let's go to bed, Zee." Quiet words, spoken to the pad of her thumb.


There's a small smirk at that. "What do you take me for? I always do."

His act of letting go relaxes her in turn; somewhere inside her, she feels her ribcage loosen, and for liquid relief to replace the tension. The last thing she wants to do is argue, and she doesn't even want to think about what would happen if they did, and then she went off and did what she was going to do anyway, because the two of them are accustomed to doing that. But at this demonstration of good faith, she finds it in her to hope that they'll last for a while yet, despite all what could be waiting for them beyond the foundations they've managed to rebuild with one another. If anything, it makes her all the more eager to wake up to the next day, and experience what it brings.

She eases her thumb away, her mouth finding his - sweet, soft, but no less impassioned from the tenderness of it. Zatanna releases the bind of her arms over his shoulders, easing back, on her feet on the cold concrete floor, but she manages to ensnare one of his hands, the surprisingly elegant digits she had been tending to earlier. There's an encouraging tug, and much like their not-so-real adventure in Hong Kong, she leads the way - unhurriedly, but no less eagerly, to the bed in the cell.

"I hope you didn't mean sleep," is all she says, looking over her shoulder and giving him a wink. "We're due."


It takes only the suggestion of pressure in her fingertips along the tether of his hand and arm to lift him out of the couch cushions as though gravity had suddenly ceased to apply to him, fluidly on his feet. When she winks, he turns that movement into a forward lunge of a step, tethered arms slackening as he gets both of his around her middle, colliding carefully with the back of her and leaning forward, his superior height folding her into the curve of him. He tilts his head, tucks a sharp, full smile into the curving line of her neck. "What do you take /me/ for?" There are teeth involved.

His forward lean reverses and he bends backward, using the movement as leverage, hoisting her more diminutive weight upward until her toes leave the floor and turning that into a twist that slings her over his shoulder, as though /she/ in turn weighed nothing at all.

Hours pass, in that way that they do…

John slid with unusual swiftness from the exhausted contentment of that afterglow into sleep. The physical challenges of his day cannot possibly compare to her own, but his time in the rift had drained him in other ways, and much as she did in the wake of Bruce Wayne's betrayal of her trust, John's body interprets that suffering as physical, and attempts to mend it with the solace of sleep.

It is countered by the mind. The warm, welcoming shallows of the doze that found him as they lay tangled up in stillness and soft caresses drop off quickly, plunging him down into the depths of a cold, dark, empty sleep — for a time. It isn't long before things begin to surface from that void of psyche, monstrous things that turn the crank on his restful heart.

He dreams about the rift.

He awakens in the bed of his London flat, aware that they'd closed the rift but convinced that somehow — through the logic of dreams — that he's been able to return to it through will alone. As before, the tableau plays out for him as a bounty of potential, well-loved names and faces fountaining from out of the past, each miraculously unscathed. He determines to make the best of his second chance, but all he touches is beset by senseless tragedy, as one by one the resurrected phantoms of his loved ones are slaughtered by carelessness and circumstance — until that world, too, is as corrupt and bereft of old faces as the one he'd left behind.

Broken by his relived losses, he returns to his shabby London flat in the rift and goes to sleep. He awakens with a gasp, just as he had before. And just as before, there are all of the faces he misses, bereft of their accusations, unaware of his betrayals, his failures, his inability to save them from what would come…

It is a never-ending cycle of death and loss, each successive attempt escalating the horror until he finally turns his back on reliving his past, strives to return to the future he left behind, and when he does—

Staggered breathing, pounding heart and the occasional twitch finally become a sudden gasp as he snaps awake and sits up. For one heart-rending moment he is unsure of where he is, waiting to hear his phone begin to ring on the bedside table again.


She had spent most of her own hours asleep cradled against him, spent sheets twisted between their legs and the side of her face resting against where his rapid heartbeat has gradually slowed after hours of additional exertion. A bare arm, the curve of a hip, her shoulder, have been left out in the open, her hair plastered over his skin and over pale bedclothes in tangled, inky ribbons as deep breaths unconsciously take in the humid air of the cell. She had joked at some point in the night that they should really move the mattress and frame back to the space set aside as his bedroom, but it had been a fleeting thought - the moment they reached the bars, there was simply no desire to do anymore work, when there was so much play to catch up on.

But it is inevitable that their bodies would shift apart, to seek cooler spaces. Zatanna ended up somewhere to the side of him, her back turned and devoid of cover, the sleek lines of her soaking up the golden sheen of the vintage bulbs in the main living space, whatever thin beams there are slicing through the thick darkness most of the cell is ensconced in. Her own sleep has been relatively dreamless, but that is not surprising - to say that the last few weeks haven't taken a toll would be an utter fallacy, and especially the last few days and what she had just endured a few hours ago. It would be perhaps miraculous to some that she still managed to wholeheartedly sink herself in his hungry embrace, put him through his paces, and willingly posed and enjoyed an unorthodox request or several - but she was /young/, and (some would say terrifyingly) adventurous, with energy and vitality and the hormones to spare.

When John finally lurches from his side of the bed, plagued by his suppressed phantoms, she doesn't stir for a few moments.

Lashes lift from her eyes and as the darkness of the concrete wall swims in front of her, she wonders whether /she/ is dreaming at last. The likes of her tend to remember them, as dreams are often just doorways to other worlds, wreathed with their own magic. But the tortured creak of the bed suggests otherwise, followed by a moving body next to her, a strangled gasp. Memories return, as they often do, for someone who fully embraces the good and bad of her history, of like evenings in London when the same man beside her twisted into whatever lashings his conscience inflicts on him when he is rendered vulnerable by sleep. Those months, she knew better than to ask, desperate as she was to keep him, ever so cognizant that any egregious misstep could send him running away.

She isn't hampered by that now when she slowly rolls to her other side to face him, eyes heavy with the Sandman's touch. She slowly manages to sit up, the sweet ache of his loving intertwined utterly with the other internal evidence of her more harrowing physical toils, rendering her movements sluggish and careful. She reaches with a hand, the other one drawing up the covers - a halfhearted instinct to needless modesty - over her legs and hips. Fingers spread lightly between his shoulderblades, moving to soothe.

"Shhh, easy…" Her voice is soft and thick with sleep. "You're awake, John, you're awake, now…"


The sleek lines of muscle on his back radiate feverish heat into the fingers she splays over them in that gesture of comfort, not slick with sweat but humid. There is perspiration on his crown and centered in the slight depression at the center of his chest, the latter of which he rubs impatiently with a palm. All of his limbs burn with hot-cold traces of adrenaline, and the remnants of his nightmare are not quick to fade.

Her touch and her voice earn her a look that would be sharp if it weren't cosseted by lingering grogginess. Whatever he sees allows the air in his chest to leave him along with some of his tension, his head lowering and his eyes closing, hand swept back into the damp tousle of his hair.

He hasn't had one of those in…a while.

His heart continues to punch at the inside of his chest, the engine of him ticking along, nerves alight. "Sorry," he says, voice rough with sleep. He leans, presses a kiss to some part of her, whatever he can reach, and then turns to drop his feet over the edge of the bed, small movements of his silhouette implying the retrieval of some of the clothing shed earlier. The jangling of his belt implies trousers. "Go back to sleep." He strips the belt from the belt loops, drops the belt on the floor, and drags the trousers up to fasten them low on his comparatively narrow hips. "I'm just going to get something to drink. I won't be long."



Zatanna lets him go, though she doesn't go back to sleep as bid. The intention is /there/, when she shifts to lie back down on her front, her cheek pressed against the pillow, watching the lean shadow of him cut through the cell, to retrieve clothes before venturing out of it and into the rest of the flat. Her eyes drift shut and for a moment, it looks like she would follow the directive after all, she is certainly exhausted enough, but those lashes fly open again, regarding the empty space he had left behind in contemplative silence. Her hand slips forward, touching the depression and emanations of heat he has left behind and something passes over that groggy stare.

She slowly rolls to the edge of the bed herself, reaching out half-blindly for whatever clothes are in reach. Her fingers hook into the discarded belt, roaming over until she finds cloth, withdrawing John's dress shirt off the floor. It would have to do, lacking in patience as she is to hunt for black clothes in the deep darkness of the cell. She pulls it on; he is almost half a foot taller than her, and outweighs her by about fifty pounds, it unsurprisingly hangs on her like a tent. Still, she does three buttons in the middle before rousing herself, dragging the heavy length of her hair out of the white collar and shuffling out of the cell.

Zatanna lifts a hand to rub her eyes, squinting at the golden light - they managed to shut most of them before heading for bed, save for two, one in the living room and one in the kitchen. The onset of movement chases the remains of the fog away, worry filling the spaces it used to occupy. Her steps lead her to the kitchen, presumably that is where he is, unless he intends to venture out in the cold for a drink.

She follows, because of course she does. It has gotten her in plenty of shenanigans in the past, and yet she can't help herself.

"Are you alright?" she asks quietly, from somewhere behind him, leaning against the counter. "What can I do?"


It isn't water that John wanted, which is unlikely to arrive as much of a surprise. He's cut the whiskey with water, which is why he's in the kitchen in the first place…but not by much. It looks more like a polite gesture in the direction of moderation than an actual effort.

He hears her when she stirs. The cell's enclosed walls naturally amplify sound for as long as the vault door is open — as Chas discovered to his continuing mental detriment — and he's aware that she's not sleeping, but he can't corral his thoughts into any semblance of order before she actually appears.

The lights pick out the here-and-there symbols and scripts etched into his skin, the flushed welts left behind by her nails, the scars and burns left behind by a life that has been anything but sedentary. He's facing the cabinets, glass in hand, taking periodic sips, and when she finally casts herself up against the counter in a sleepy drift of white fabric and long dark hair, he turns his head to look that way, and summons a self-deprecating smile. "Of course. Sodding ghosts. They know they can't bother me when I'm awake, so they play dirty." And he /looks/ alright, and he /sounds/ alright, but he doesn't seem to notice she's wearing his things — a predictable point of interest, as with most men — and the hand holding the glass has just enough tremor in it to disturb the shards of light in the amber liquid it contains. "That's what I get for going to sleep after eating all of that rubbish Chinese food."

He isn't fooling himself. He knows what he saw, when he finally pushed his way back through the facade of the rift, to re-emerge in this reality: he 'woke up' in bed the cell next to a corpse.

The memory causes cold slime to ooze down his spine. His expression tightens, and he drowns the thought by draining his glass and setting it aside. None of this makes sense to him. He's not lashing out at people, he's not drinking himself into oblivion. He isn't torching all of his relationships. He's not dwelling. He'd actually chosen to commit to being with her instead of letting all of his old hangups send him running for the hills again, which — that's healthy, right? Or so he imagines. He's been…not fine, exactly, but not falling apart. He'd thought he had this figured out. Turning, he eases his weight back into the counter behind him, cognizant of the fact that, yet again, after something terrible has happened to her, she's the one looking to see if /he's/ alright.

"Ah, 'tanna. It's nothing. The usual peanut gallery shite."


The unforgiving chart his back presents to her only reminds her of everything he doesn't say. There have been others before and after John - nothing so intense or lasting, but they were often some manner of adventurer and her time spent with them has exposed her to the stories of each of their scars. With the Englishman, she only has but a few points of reference, a map that would invariably cause her to lose her way if she ever used it. Ice-blue eyes tick over his wards, identifying them easily, over the traces of agony and ecstasy being with her entails, but it is always the burns and the dagger wounds that she focuses on the most, his physique beaten to lean efficiency by his many trials. They are easy to heal, however, in comparison to the injuries that he carries within himself - those, she suspects, will never go away.

Zatanna knows something about hauntings, how could she not? Restless spirits are the basic building blocks of any magician's resume - the literal ones, the ones that have spawned various paranormal investigation shows on television but in many ways, the principles are the same. The person or thing that the ghost is anchored to will never get any peace, will never know rest, unless the haunting is addressed in a manner that satisfies it. Exorcisms can range from the simple to the most complicated - some cases are more difficult than most, but they can be done, but the last month has given her more insight into John Constantine than the summer they spent together as lovers. Some part of her wonders whether he actually wants to get rid of them at all, or if he believes on some level that he deserves this.

She is reminded of what he said about suffering, just a few hours ago - that it wasn't noble, that it was stupid to think that, and now she also wonders whether he only speaks of suffering taken without reason, as opposed to suffering that one has earned.

"Would it help if you told me about it?"

She offers because watching him in silence, taking in the way his internal torments string him up like a puppet to their whims, is not enough for her. He would divine it easily in her expression, how her mouth softens and everything about her gentles, save for her eyes, those pale reflectors of her characteristic fearlessness. She clearly does not think it's nothing, and whatever her own suffering had been in the last few hours, the last few days, the weeks since her return to the States, she shows absolutely no sign that she is dwelling on any of it.

Slowly, she pushes away from the counter, to approach him. Her hand lifts - warm, alive - to leave the touch of her fingertips on his cheek in a light splay, and she gives him a small smile.

"I'll make some tea," she tells him, slipping away, rummaging around the cupboards for what she needs. Chas, thankfully, keeps the kitchen well stocked, given that this is his favorite area of the flat. She draws out a few jars - Chamomile, Lavender, some Lemon Balm. They don't have Valerian, but it is simple enough for her to change a pot of dried rosemary into something else, a whiff of her magic lacing the air, barely enough to cause a twitch, simple enough, the only indicator she displays in how much the discovery under her father's seal has affected her. She quietly finds a mortar and pestle in one of the drawers.


Her question triggers cinema in his head: imagining, or trying to imagine, telling her about the things that keep him up at night. It strikes him as selfish; to prattle on about things like that when she's just hauled herself back from the brink of death — and also foolish, because words cannot encapsulate the genuine essence of those horrors, and they would only come out of him sounding like pale and pathetic imitations of what they are. More than that, they are a road map to the places he's weak, and the scrappy little Liverpudlian boy who fought for every last scrap he ever had finds the thought of doing that pathetic beyond words.

/Going to talk to your bird about how you wish you'd had a mother, John-boy? Going to let her dry your girlish tears on the hem of your own shirt, are you?/

Bollocks to that. He bristles at his own thoughts.

/She almost bloody died, and you don't see her pissing and moaning about night terrors./

Internal dialogue having properly shamed him, he tracks her as she moves around the kitchen with blue eyes that remain more or less the only thing about him that moves, and he combs through his thoughts in search of somewhere else to direct the conversation. It's the thought of his mother (boo-hoo, Johnny) that gives him a toehold onto something else.

"You said yesterday that you'd found a way to go talk to your mum's people. Just you, then?"


Just a teaspoon each. They fill the marble crucible she has managed to find (good for spellwork, too, she notes absently) before she takes the pestle and grinds up the dried herbs together, closing her eyes as she incorporates will and intention into her movements. Always the most important part - not the very first lesson she has ever learned, but one of the few, and one of the most reiterated. By her father, by Ginny Townsend, by John Constantine. She is careful, however, not to pulverize them to dust. It is one of the simplest preparations she knows, but also the most important to her, though she does not explain why that is. Instead, she finds a teakettle, fitted with a mesh where herbs can steep while water boils and after filling it with the mixture, she turns on the faucet. A burner lights with a flick of her wrist.

Of course, he says nothing and she can't help but sigh inwardly. She doesn't press after that, fitting the kettle on top of the open flame to let it do its work, some manner of alchemy brewing in ceramic.

"I think so," Zatanna says at last, electing to respond to the inquiry instead. Leaning against the counter, she rubs her upper arms with her fingers, glancing at the active stove. "Truthfully, I haven't thought about my mother in years….I barely remember her, she died so suddenly. All I recall of her is the way she smelled and how Daddy would sometimes call for her while he was sleeping. I suppose it couldn't be helped, in his case…all that power, all those lives he's managed to save, and yet he couldn't even be there when his wife died in a mundane car accident."

She watches the tea, eyes lidding, absent.

"All this time I thought she was just a person," she continues quietly. "Turns out she was something else. I very vaguely recall Daddy telling me how they met, that she was a healer of some kind. He fell unconscious somewhere in the mountains of Turkey and she found him there and nursed him back to health. He was smitten with her ever since. But I never thought…"

She lifts her fingers, rubbing absently against the back of her neck, lightly brushing where the curve gives way to her head.

"He wrote about her." She presses on, but her expression becomes more and more unreadable, and how could it not be? She has barely had time to process everything that has happened to her, and while it is /evident/ that she feels things, with so much of it, she isn't certain as to what they are - a neverending deluge of sensory input that she has not had the time to unscramble. "In his books."

Her eyes find the floor.

"The books he inscribed inside me."


It was probably a mistake to latch onto the mother thing.

John turns his head, looks off to one side while she speaks about Giovanni and the injustice of a balance of lives saved versus the lives — the one life, really — lost. It hits a little bit close to home for John's taste, and with recent events being what they are, having common ground with that man is complicated for many reasons.

"You never wondered about your magical pedigree?" John's brow rises just enough to imply whatever surprise has difficulty surfacing through the layers of opacity and weariness he's left in place over his expression. "You never wondered why most people you meet don't have what you've got? Surely not?"

He splits the focus of his gaze between her face and the work of her hands. He can pick the scents of each individual herb out the moment she begins to crush them, and the valerian is a sweet touch, if perhaps — he thinks — a little bit optimistic. Such a gentle remedy for sleeplessness, up against all of his hounds of hell.

He finds the effort soothing, though. The gesture, the care implied. She'd have been well within her rights to be fed up with having been woken after everything she's been through. That she isn't is better than he likely deserves, and this degree of tenderness well beyond that.


There's a hint of a laugh at that, Zatanna lifting her eyes to give him a frank look from where she stands. "Of course I wondered," she says, moving towards the stove to pick at the tea; the kettle makes quick work of it. She turns off the burner before liquid bubbles out of the spout, though she doesn't remove it as of yet. She lets them steep, while she moves again, fingers moving over the cupboards to find a pair of mugs and gets them ready on the counter.

"But wondering and actually getting a straight answer from the one person who knows everything about it are two different things. You know Daddy, John. You really think he would've told me when he's so clearly reluctant to acknowledge that I could make my own decisions or let alone form my own opinions about anything at all?" There's an inquiring brow at that, though the look passes over her eyes there. The remark is grousing, but nobody knows Giovanni Zatara as well as his own daughter, the apple of his eye. She knows better than anyone else that her father does not do anything for a very good reason, often calculated to either amplify or lessen the impact of one action. That was always his way, though he infinitely prefers preemption against whatever disasters there are, as opposed to mitigating them when they happen.

"That was probably uncharitable," she says, immediately contrite. As always, forgiveness comes easily for the young magician, as far as her father is concerned.

"She was one of them, the Homo Magi. From what I remember from the books, at some point during prehistoric times, the first race was split into two and the Homo Magi evolved from one of the branches. There are also bits of her descended from Atlantean nobility, if you could believe it on top of everything else. Anyway…" She gestures vaguely to the side. "They supposedly have a hidden city somewhere in Tahtali Dagi, in the Turkish Antalya province."

A hand lifts to roll her fingertips over closed lids. "It sounds like something I could sink my teeth into. Hidden cities teeming with magic and all. But when I read the passage…I don't know. I had a feeling that maybe I shouldn't just hare off to look for it just yet."


"I believe it," John says, and he does not sound surprised by this revelation concerning her lineage. He's been around. He's seen things. Not least enough things to know that Zatanna did not happen as an accident of nature — but also enough to know that not everything that goes bump in the supernatural night is the product of mankind's overactive ability to will things into being, or cross-dimensional nonsense, or ecclesiastical warfare. "That's where we've got fae from, though they don't like to tell you that. And most every other eternal bloody nuisance." He is acquainted, if rumors are to be believed, with Jack the Green, and has personally been to Abaton. As with everything to do with John, though, it's a dice roll as to which things to believe, and which he lets other people believe because it suits his purposes for them to think something of him.

Probably wisely, he does not say anything about her /father/.

"I think you've got the right of it, anyway. Starting a journey of self-discovery when your life's not either in order or absolutely destroyed with nothing left to lose is just asking to have everything in between fucked about." His tone conveys personal experience. "Besides. It'll keep. Not that I'm against you arming yourself to the teeth so we can stop worrying about every ambitious sorcerous prick from here to Shanghai deciding you'd make a lovely magical battery for his doomsday machine of the month."


She plucks the kettle from the stove, turning so she could fill the mugs with tea. "Probably the kind of pilgrimage I'd have to undertake once I really have to," she says. "Compared to the likes of you and Daddy, I'm very much a novice, still. But I'm not in any hurry to go beyond that wall, and it's not as if I don't have enough to keep me occupied here." They still have to find Bucky and Jane, and figure out what the hell HYDRA is doing with the Tarnhelm, though she has a distinct feeling that once she goes looking for it, she's not going to like what she finds or senses. Zatanna holds her tongue there, for the time being, concentrating on the work and the way she pours the fragrant liquid in each of the cups.

The idea of the journey, however, fills her with a nagging sense of dread, tugging faintly in her stomach. She can't quite tell whether it's premonition - and she does feel these things on occasion, though she's no consummate seer like one of her father's prior lovers - or simply the fact that she is reluctant to pry into her own history because of whatever else she could find in the dusty corners of the world about it. To a magician, knowledge is power, but she has seen too many fall in the pursuit of it and it's really only when one starts rotting from the inside that one becomes a force to be reckoned with.

There's a sigh, pulling her fingers through her hair, memories churning over her 'uncle' Sargon and what had happened there.

Plucking up the cups, she moves towards where he is, offering one of them for him to take.

"I'm honestly not in any hurry," she tells him, curling her fingers around her tea and taking a sip. "I'm curious, yeah, but…I don't know. I can't help but feel a little bit uneasy about it also."

She closes her eyes, taking a deep inhale of the tea.

"Speaking of things to do, I'll probably see what I can find on…what we talked about earlier, tomorrow. I prepared a circle already, when I thought I was going to have to go on a vision quest, but obviously I haven't used it. Might as well convert the purpose towards this one."


"Mm," says John, of pilgrimages. Privately, his resolution is that there's no way in /hell/ she's going alone, but that's a fight for another day — probably literally, and much like Zatanna, he's in no hurry to scale those walls.

Better to focus on the here and now. The cup she brings him. The offering, steam curling upward into the soft-lit air, warmth that seeps into his fingers as he takes it from her, and into his expression, too. It edges out some of the steadfast neutrality, kneading into his mood a degree of something more supple than that. "You're a love."

He must deliberately preserve that sliver of yield in himself when the topic turns to her planned 'expedition.' Knowing better, the thought flits through his head, cruel and senseless: what if what he saw in his dream wasn't a continuation of that dream to its inexorable end, some cliche about how he must choose between his past or his present or risk losing everything, but instead some sixth-sense vision about what's to come? /What if it was just another part of A Brief History of Shit You Did Wrong, John?/

It tries determinedly to needle him, but there's been /too much/ of that in the last two weeks. Too much overthinking, too much /feeling/. His impatience with it, and with himself, spare him from feeling any more than a creeping worry about her well-being. The phantoms of impending doom cannot quite find the staying power they need to push him beyond that.

Which causes a quirk of his lips behind the ring of his cup: he's handling this /really well/, by his standards. Maybe the nightmare really was a product of cheap Chinese food.

Bolstered by that delusional thought, he nods, half-shrugs. "I'm going to check on Jones tomorrow. Eh…'tanna…" This hesitation is different; lighter. Self-aware, but not troubled save in the sense he clearly expects to be ribbed about something. "I'm putting something together for Jones and Red. Don't know how to reach the cape, though, so if I give it to you, you'll pass it along?"


There's a faint smile at his gratitude there, Zatanna's lips lingering on the edge of her cup, the expression buried there. But he'd be able to see it in her eyes and the way they scrunch up at the corners. The concoction was what she made for Giovanni often, after Bruce, after he had been pulled from the bottle and when his own nightmares had become too much, for the lives that he failed to save - her mother's, most of all, but Dr. Thomas Wayne and his wife as well. Her father was known for his bravery and his magical know-how, but not so much for his accessibility and even his friends at present only have a passing notion with respect to the man's private self. Those who do know outside of her are almost all dead, with the exception of Alfred Pennyworth and one or two more individuals.

She leans against the counter adjacent to him, her shoulder against his, the cup lifted against her lips as she takes measured sips. What he says next is also surprising, though he has spent most of the evening doing such to her, and she angles her head over to him curiously. She takes in his expression.

Mischief blossoms along with a broader grin, wide enough to scare the dimple on her left cheek into visibility. "As I live and breathe. I don't think I've actually ever seen you go out of your way to do /that/ before," she teases. "Do you need any help putting those together? Maybe a couple of beads, some puka shells? I mean, I don't know how Jess and Red'll react to getting /friendship bracelets/ from you, but I'm sure they'll be /absolutely touched/. Over the moon. Especially Red. He's actually very sentimental."

Those ice-blue eyes dance with her mirth, though John may very well be gratified that at the very least, his expectations of her are terribly spot on there.

"Whatever it is, I'll give it to him. I was going to see him tomorrow anyway after I go on my happy little traipse across New York City looking for the assholes who took Bucky and Jane."


'Ugh' is roughly the sound that John makes, rolling his eyes heavenward as she fulfills his every expectation. "I do /things/ for people," he protests. Which is true, but usually it involves purging their apartments or loved ones of possessive spirits, or crawling in through a bathroom window to revive his mate's grandmother after she fell asleep (again) on the loo, or some other situationally-specific thing that he's for some reason become useful in some capacity for dealing with.

One of his brows screws in toward the other, and he takes issue with something else: "How do you even /know/ what puka shells are? You're the least tropical human being I've ever met. You probably burn if you sit next to a window for too long." This, coming from a man with dirty-blond hair and blue eyes, whose experiences with nature almost invariably end in his very vocal observation that it's all sweaty-balls pagan rubbish. A true child of the urban jungle, John.

He lowers his mug, sheds some of that humor, though not all of it. "They did what they did for you, not for me. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate what they did. People who are willing to put themselves on the line for you like that — I mean to keep them around, and in one piece. Because if the last month is anything to judge by, you're going to need them again." Blue eyes trickle down her profile, and then his shoulder jostles hers as he leans in and down, craning his tilted head back on a hard angle that paints the cords of his throat and hinge of his jaw in high relief. To kiss her ear, with a mouth made hot by tea. "I'll leave the boxes on the counter. Won't matter which goes where."

The lateness of the hour is encroaching on him. The tea may not have been enough to unbind his tension on its own, but it has the head start of the whiskey to sit on top of, and weary muscles are coaxing him back toward bed, desirous of warmth and comfort even if sleep does not come. He transfers his cup to his other hand, slowly eases up from his lean against the counter. "Ready to make another go at this /sleeping/ business?"


The incredulous statement about puka shells has her nudging her shoulder at him. "I've /been/ to a beach!" she exclaims. "/Several/, in fact. Come on, John, they make sunscreens for /vampires/, you think I wouldn't be able to find a way to enjoy coasts and islands?! How do you think I survived Sumatra, it wasn't as if you weren't there!"

And there she goes, bringing up the /god damn monkeys/ again. "And no, before you even say it, I still don't regret saving them. They were /endangered/! In more ways than one!"

But the invitation to sleep prevails, jolting loose the beginnings of another rant in favor of some much needed rest. "God, yes." Zatanna drains her tea, setting the cup aside. "Waking me up like that at the dead of night. I was just getting to the good part of my threesome with Bradley Cooper and Ryan Reynolds. You're lucky you're cute, otherwise I would've pressed a pillow on your face."

Lies, of course, considering her dreamless sleep, left there by her bone-deep exhaustion, but she keeps her tone light and flashes him an arch look for good measure. She does smile, genuine but muted with those lingering worries, eyes lidding when he dips his head to press that warm kiss on her ear. His open displays of affection might surprise anyone else, but he was like this even before their devastating break; she couldn't fault anyone for not knowing. Still, she relishes these small kernels, all the more intensified by the fact that they're like instinct to him - to touch her, to leave something of himself behind on her skin without a thought, a mark of a kind to reassure her of his lingering presence.

She tilts her face up, burying her lips against the rough fuzz on his cheek in a brief, open-mouthed nuzzle, before she steps away and starts moving towards the cell and the bed they left behind.

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