Backroom Deals

February 12, 2017:

John Constantine enlists Jessica Jones' help on a mysterious errand that takes them to the heart of Chinatown, where they are later accosted by a group of thugs that appears to have no connection whatsoever to John present investigations - a curious development in its own right, but one that will inevitably complicate matters for him in New York.

Chinatown - New York City

A chinese restaurant in Chinatown.


NPCs: Wong and a group of street thugs sent by a Mysterious Person (NPC'd by Zatanna Zatara)

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Kitty Pryde

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Tonight's excursion takes John Constantine and Jessica Jones to New York's Chinatown - a section of town that the latter is growing increasingly familiar with, considering some of her first magic-related adventures occurred just within three blocks from here. True to the demands of the local real estate market, Madame Chong's building has already been repurposed, its antiques cleared out and its foundations repaired. A large FOR RENT sign dominates the repaired window, along with a phone number. Knowing how this city works, however, it won't be long until another business is setting up shop there.

Wong's Chinese Restaurant and Takeaway takes up a humble storefront on the intersection of Canal Street and Broadway in New York City, a location perpetually choked with pedestrians and littered with tourist traps. It is a deceptively small, rectangular space, marked by a sign painted with a shade of garish yellow that would remind anyone of crime scene tape, covered in lettering written in both English and Pinyin. Two cartoon characters have been painted on the sheets of foggy glass, standing opposite of one another with the front door in the middle; a warrior dressed in a white gi, and another in black - whether meant to depict a simplified tableau of the battle of good and evil, or the Oriental principles of Yin and Yang (probably the former, as if it were the latter, one of the figures would be female), or whether just to entice people to walk in and samble the goods, nobody knows. But the scents wafting from within every time the door opens would be enough to recommend it, accompanied by the perpetual sizzling of multiple woks and the intermingling notes of fiery Szechuan peppers, fish paste and soy sauce.

A low hubbub dominated by conversations in Madarin fills the restaurant proper, its atmosphere warm and inviting - a welcome respite from the wet, cold February weather. It is crowded at this time of night, social cues accompanied by the clatter of silverware. There are tables taken up with bodies and laminated menus, but Wong's regular clientele do not bother with them - people who come here typically already know what they want before they are seated, and most of them order off the menu. An elderly Asian woman with white hair and a deeply-lined face set with keen, dark eyes runs the front of the house with ruthless efficiency.

In here, she is their Sphinx, though once John enters the restaurant, she recognizes him instantly and knows immediately who he is here to see. But she waits for him to state his business and once he does, she is ushering him and Jessica to the backroom, separated from the rest of the restaurant by a curtain of beads. There is a single, circular table in the middle of a dimly-lit space surrounded by bookshelves, the scent of incense faint in the air - nothing lit recently, but enough to indicate that the burner situated on the mantle at the back of the room sees plenty of use.

"I go get Wong," the woman mutters to John, before she vanishes through the beaded curtain once more.


The text had arrived out of the blue, without any prior warning that it would be coming:

'chinatown, broadway and canal. making an exchange. need backup. let me do the talking. will explain after it's over.'

Well, she /did/ say that he could contact her any time, day or night, and she'd be there to help — for any reason. And he'd told her then that she'd come to regret that offer, but he hadn't turned her down.

And that's how John comes to be standing beneath an awning several shopfronts away from his ultimate destination, collar up and coat closed, hands in pockets, smoking and trying to keep the damp chill from creeping down into his bones. He has an arching eyebrow for her when she appears wearing attire well outside of the sort he's accustomed to seeing her wear, but whatever this errand is about, it's serious enough that he has only a short nod for her and a gesture in the direction of Wong's. He holds the door for her when they're close, and follows her inside, silent.

"I've got business with Wong," is what he says to the canny woman in the front. It's difficult to discern from his tone what kind of /business/ it is that John has, exactly. He's obviously striving for a relaxed set of the shoulders, but his eyes are constantly on the move, an air of watchfulness underneath that careful ease.

Rather than remain standing as he waits for Wong, he opts to sit, pulling Jessica's chair out for her first — he has manners, John — and then seating himself afterward. The lack of eye contact suggests that he prefers to maintain their present protocol of silence, at least for the time being.


Oh dear God, was Jessica Jones ever glad for the distraction after a truly cringe-worthy 'girl's' night at a 50th Street bar..

She was glad enough to rush right over when John texted, with an air of relief so profound to have something fucking productive to do besides go home and contemplate her latest implosion that he might have thought he was offering her an early Christmas. "I'm there," is her instant response, going right back out of the door she'd just walked into.

She was relieved enough to forget how she looks. A make-over from one Kitty Pride has her hair tumbling in glossy ebony waves down to her shoulders. Make-up emphasizes her high cheekbones and softens her normally somewhat too-pale complexion into something more graceful than her normal, 'sun, what's that?' look. Instead of her normal 'I picked this lipstick off the rack because lipstick is something I know I'm supposed to wear' look she's wearing a softer color that makes her lips look lush and full, a candy pink that somehow suits her appearance better…though not her personality. Gone is the heavy eyeliner and mascara that looks ready to raccoon at the slightest provocation, again worn mostly as an afterthought. Instead, the delicate make-up job makes her eyes look wide and innocent. Even her scowl of concentration can't detract from this.

She's thrown her leather jacket and ratty grey scarf over a knee-length flowy feminine skirt that surely some hand other than hers picked, in shades of black. Knee high boots do more to call attention to her legs than to hide them. The mismatch is immediately evident. Two of these things don't belong here.

She's not exactly intimidating as she stands back there with her arms crossed, apparently no more conscious of it than John is.

She settles into the chair as John pulls it out, and she keeps her mouth shut. She sweeps her eyes around, tracking all the important things. Exits. People who might suddenly leap at them with a weapon, or with suddenly sprouted claws and teeth.


The door closes and shadows move from a nearby alley; short and somewhat spindly, a young Latino man dressed in baggy jeans and a crimson jacket leans against the wall and lights up a cigarette before his hands slide in his pockets. One set of digits slip back out, a black phone in his hand, checking his messages before pivoting and making his way in an unhurried pace down the street until he reaches a newstand.

It's only a few minutes later when Wong arrives, an antiquated ring of keys dangling in his hand. For a man who runs a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant, he is dressed impeccably; a dress shirt and tie, neatly tucked underneath a black, double-breasted jacket, buttoned up proper, and a pair of dress slacks that perfectly match. Handsome, youthful in the ageless way Asians are known for, his years are indeterminable; hair as black as night has been combed back and his mouth is parted with a ready smile. While some degree of hostility is almost protocol whenever John Constantine darkens someone's doorstep, there is no sign of it from the man in question.

"John," he greets, though there's an inquisitive glance towards Jessica, brows lifting in a prompting fashion, taking a seat on the other side of the table and arranging himself on it in a casual splay, fingers on the table. "Was not expecting you to bring any company, but what the hell. The more, the merrier."

There's a quiet puff from the suddenly active incense burner, and the man seems content to sit in silence, waiting for the smoke to curl up and fill the space, drifting in the corners. It's only when the near-invisible film surrounds them utterly that he continues; security measures, a sign that the transaction that is about to take place is a relatively sensitive one…and with good reason. For all of his familiarity with the kinds of goods that John has tasked him to keep an ear on the ground for, even he didn't expect this outcome. "I see you got my note. What you wanted me to keep an eye out for - not exactly the sort of thing that falls out of the sky very often. /Turns out/ that's exactly what happened, if you can believe it."

Then again, stranger things have been happening these days.

"So today, I've got something for you. Question is, do you have something for me?"


"Wong. Good to see you, mate. You're looking fit." The pleasantries are offhand, though not insincere. John's smile takes a turn for the cheshire as Wong makes his observation about Jessica 'femme fatale' Jones being present at the table. "She's a good one. Besides, I've got to walk home with this thing."

John's hands rest lightly on the arms of his chair, one index finger tapping noiselessly on the worn, polished surface. Of the object's rarity, he observes, "I would've settled for the regular variety. Not that I'm complaining."

The pertinent question is asked, and John has an answer.

A very, very dangerous answer.

He's known Wong since his teens, more or less. Since before Ravenscar, certainly. He trusts the man's judgement, but it's an open question as to whether or not anyone should trust anyone else with the thing that John is about to give Wong.

He slides his right hand into the pocket of his coat and withdraws a very slim crystal phial, stoppered on one end with a rubber plug which has then been drenched in black wax to keep it absolutely secure. Inside of that phial are splinters of some peculiar substance, gleaming and slender, of a hue so dark blue that it verges on black.

Beneath the table on the side that he and Jessica occupy, deliberately slid out of view of the man opposite them, the inside of his left wrist lights up in a brilliant display of indigo light and swirling shadow — bright enough that it's easily visible through both his shirt's cuff and the heavier weight of his coatsleeve. A circular symbol, with a patch of shadow that seems to move around the circumference of that circle toward the phial as John reaches forward and sets the slim vessel down.

"You're not gonna believe me when I tell you what this is."


Jessica inclines her head to Wong politely but holds her silence; she's not keen to direct much attention to herself. A twitch of curiosity flows over her face as John brings out the darkness, as his wrist flares into violet light. These are things she has not yet seen. She is endlessly curious about the world both of her friends inhabit, about most things…this is no exception. This is just another window, another glimpse.

If John's trading that, then what is Wong giving him? She looks forward to hearing what the hell it is too.

But all of the expressions are subtle. She's mostly giving poker-face. PIs are occasionally hired for bodyguard duty; she's got the mannerisms for it even if she currently doesn't have the face for it. She's done it before, though never have the stakes been quite so high.


"So would I, but when I found out my supplier managed to get ahold of one, I couldn't resist. Had to see it for myself. Genuine article, that. Couldn't even believe what I was seeing so I popped by Gerry Craft's place in Gotham so /he/ could confirm it. Even tried to buy it off me after he took a look." There's a flinty smile there, a sign that at the very least, the man had been tempted to listen to whatever offer the archivist had for him, but the fact that they're having this meeting is indicative enough that whatever it was that John Constantine wanted, Wong had managed to hang on for him.

With the vial out, its questionable contents catching the dim light of the room, something about it gives the Asian man pause. The very presence of it twists the ephemeral strains shielding this room away from prying eyes and ears, mystical or otherwise, as if shying away from whatever it is in John's hand. Fingers extend, though he isn't so crass as to relieve the table of it entirely - the deal has yet to be struck, after all; that hadn't been the intent, but his hand doesn't even get close when he's recoiling, as if that limb had just been slapped away by an invisible force. Dark eyes stare at the glass object, and then at John.

"…what the hell…" he says slowly. "…is it..?"

He keeps his posture easy, but his hackles rise and a curious, but apprehensive stare returns to the so-blue-it's-black contents of the thing John had brought him. There had been an intent there, to see how far he could push the deal in his favor. After the item had fallen in his possession, he was almost sure there was no way Constantine could afford it. But this bit in his restaurant has changed the game entirely. He doesn't know /how/, but he feels it in his bones, the familiar terrifying, but welcome thrill singing in his blood, only drawn when he has found something extraordinary.

The black-clad man is already rising from his seat, however, to walk to the back of the room, keys in hand to unlock a hidden space somewhere within the wall. Tumblers disengage, the sound thunderous and hollow, reaching in the black beyond the wall to pull out a velvet case that looks very much like an overlarge ring box. He carries it to the table and sets it down, thumbs disengaging the latches that hold the cover shut.


God knows what Wong would do if he knew this was merely a small fraction of the amount of the stuff John has in his flat. A third of a mason jar. That's enough to give /John/ the willies, and it isn't that long ago that he'd been willing to do something absolutely maniacal to get Zatanna back from the Winter Soldier. His threshold for creep factor is high.

The phial sits on the table, looking innocent and feeling like the end of the world. The smoke from the incense burner, as it passes close to the crystal, swirls in unnatural vortices, responding to the presence of what sits within. As Wong leans forward, reaches, John watches, but says nothing. Not that it matters, in the end: Wong declines to put his hands on it, and instead retrieves the thing that John has come for.

The black velvet box looks as though it could hold a grapefruit, and when he opens it—

The thing it contains is imperfectly spherical, a swirl of ripples gently painted along the top. It sits half-nestled inside of cushioning within the box, the hues of the visible upper half graduating from deep blood red to scarlet and then red-orange, tangerine, gold at the very top. The whole affair coruscates with spectral fire, radiating heat but casting no light. It has the brilliant luster of a pearl — which is what it is — if perhaps a pearl that seems almost semi-translucent.

It reflects itself in the dark pools of John's pupils. He doesn't reach for it, and his expression remains absolutely schooled, but he lapses into a silence that says volumes.

/Bloody hell./

Eventually, pale eyes lift. "I think we've got ourselves a deal, mate."


Jessica only watches all of these wonders unfold with half her attention, though her eyebrows climb and she's definitely paying attention. Something about the moment of the exchange seems the most dangerous. She's watching the room, watching the entrance to the back room in particular…but also Wong, who she has not known for years and who in her opinion could turn traitor because really, people on the whole suck, the tiny portion of humanity she's grown to like notwithstanding. That's like less than 1% of a population of a city block, after all, hardly a reason to overthrow her mental statistics which note that humanity sucks nearly 99.9% of the time.

Maybe it's just the darkness sloshing around in that vial, but her hackles are rising. It puts her on the edge of her seat; she angles it strategically, ready to leap out of it and knock it into the path of an attacker at a moment's notice.

Paranoia has served her well in the past. And right now it's almost a welcome emotion. Old, familiar friends, paranoia and focus, reminding her that she is Jessica Fucking Jones, and whatever that mostly means it means she can fucking handle herself most days.

Not that she wants things to turn bad. She would like to just walk John home safely with 'that thing' tonight. Nevertheless, it feels great to have this and ye gods, only this, to think about.


"We do. After you explain this."

Wong closes the velvet case carefully, does up the latches and slides the pearl towards John. There is another brief moment of hesitation there before fingers reach for the phial and the slivers of primordial stuff swirling inside it. He holds it carefully with /all/ fingers, as if unable to trust himself with holding it up with just two. As if unable to trust himself from having an accident and letting it fall and break - not just because this is his reward for a fair bargain, but also because he has a feeling that letting it drop would be a tremendously bad idea, even though he doesn't know why he feels that.

Not yet. Expectant eyes remain on John as he carefully stows it within the lining of his tailored jacket. Feeling it close against him, despite the layers of clothing that function as barriers between him and cold glass, makes goosebumps rise on his skin.

Still, probably not a good idea to keep it here, either, in spite of the restaurant's more interesting amenities. He'll have to find a more secure location to stash his prize.


John reaches out — once the phial is far enough away from him, and the display on his wrist has died down — and with the utmost care finishes moving the dragon pearl into his own care. He remains seated because it would be impolite not to — and because he's asked for an explanation.

"That," he says, watching Wong manipulate and then store the phial with a reluctance that says a great deal about the man's excellent survival instincts, "Is primordial darkness. Don't ask me how it got turned into 'something,' because I have absolutely no idea. I wasn't told. I got it from…" Hesitation. He debates his choice of words. "A celestial agent," he says finally, just enough information to be significant. "For something I'm looking into. Goes without saying you should probably avoid seasoning food with it, or dumping it down a drain, yeah? Don't care to find out what would 'appen if that got into the water supply." He lifts his right hand, both brows, and points fixedly at the man across the table. "I'm trusting you wi'that, Wong. Pearl or no, I'd not trade that to most. If there's an unscheduled apocalypse, I'm comin' knocking on your door."

He glances sidelong at Jessica, aware of her coiled-spring readiness, and allows himself the indulgence of a slight upward tic at the corner of his mouth, and a barely-there nod.

Maybe this is going to be less exciting than he'd anticipated.


Primordial darkness, obtained by the hands of an angel. There are memos Jessica hasn't gotten yet. This. Is one. Her mouth drops open; it spoils her poker face.

She recovers very quickly, lightning fast, snapping her pink lips shut, but she definitely looks a little bit paler than she did before, despite the very fine make-up job. And yeah, it's just around, in forms that can be dumped into water supplies.

She'd been so very good about keeping her mouth shut, but a distinct murmur of "Jesus Clooney Fuck," comes from her side of the table.

Don't mind her.

None of this stops her spring-coiled readiness. It does not shift her posture, and after a moment she's returning John's nod with a stolid one of her own, one that says, Okay, I've heard, seen, processed, and I've got your back good or bad.

She just absorbs it into her growing and ever-shifting paradigm. Creation is weird and fascinating, terrible and beautiful, here is just another snapshot of that incredible truth.


There is a few moments of silence after John's litany, because his host is presently entertaining images of a door opening in a Bel-Air mansion, and throwing the British magus out while sprinklers are active on the front lawn.

Wong stares at John with open astonishment. "You're fucking kidding me, right?" he wonders, though he falls silent when the rest of the explanation comes tumbling out. While there's plenty there to treat Constantine's words with a healthy amount of skepticism, there have been too many things occurring in the supernatural radar to dismiss his words as outright fiction. Realization flares in his dark eyes. "…wait…that…a few days ago. Off the Garment District. That was you? Jesus fucking Christ."

He leans back on his chair, passing a hand against his face. His smile is gone and for a few moments, the man actually looks like he's aged ten years. And people wonder why they'd rather keep John Constantine off their lawns.

"I'll keep it safe," he replies, finally, though his expression makes it clear that he's still struggling to absorb the implications of what had just been said to him. "I think you better get going then, John." The smile returns, though it's wry. "As always, it's interesting seeing you." Though at the very least he doesn't utter the usual Chinese curse about living in interesting times. After what he just heard, they don't exactly /need/ any more of that.

With that, he rises from his seat, and while the smile remains, his eyes are tight on the corners. But he makes no move to keep them in his restaurant any longer. In fact, he gives the very distinct impression that the faster they leave, the better off he is.


'You're kidding me, right?'

John pulls a face. It's subtle, but it says 'who do you think I am?' with more eloquence than the words ever could.

'That was you?'

This question prompts a sudden, sharp smile, foxish, non-committal. He shrugs. It's not a denial, but obviously, he's reluctant to confirm anything.

"I trust that you will," is what he says as he rises, tucking the velvet box beneath his arm. "Good to see you, Wong. Thanks for getting this to me."

And then he's turning, glancing at Jessica, tilting his head and passing back through the rattling, beaded curtain, through the restaurant, out into the street where he spends a moment standing in front of the door, squinting up and down the sidewalks, looking for anyone…suspicious. He extends the pieces of himself that sense magical threats and finds…

Nothing. Only the beacon of the restaurant behind him.

So he starts off at a pace that balances casual with efficient, aiming not to draw attention to himself, but still cover as much distance as possible with long-legged strides. It's only once they're clear of the restaurant that he turns his head to look aside at her, and lets himself quirk a more natural smile.

"Thanks for popping by. I'll have you come with me back to the flat, if you don't mind, just to be safe." Eyes the color of a blue sky flick from her booted feet to the crown of her well-styled head, and narrow. "If you're not off on a date, or something," he adds, having absolutely no idea whatsoever what has been happening in the life of Jessica Jones lately. "What's all this, then?"


Jessica falls into step beside him, hands flowing free from her pockets as it's not condusive to good bodyguarding to have them in there.

"Girl's night," she says, both a little— well, a lot grimly, and with a sardonic edge that indicates these are not her happy clothes by any stretch of the imagination.

"100% unimportant," she continues. "I can walk you home, no problem."

She arches her eyebrows, her pale expansive hand taking in the restaurant they're rapidly walking away from, the pearl, the darkness. "What's all that, then?" She makes no effort to mimic his accent or anything, nor is she particularly happy-cheeky; she sounds a little blown away. "What did we just do? What happened in Garment Park?" Mysterious John-looks don't fool her ass…he was obviously in on 'that thing.'


"/That/," John says, thumbing over his shoulder, "Was Wong. A mover and shaker. His specialty is I Ching, but he gets his hands on things. Specializes in Asian markets. What I've got in the box is for 'tanna — and you're not to say anything about it if she asks you what we were up to this afternoon." He looks briefly, distinctly uncomfortable, as though the thought of being caught out in an act of sentiment is embarrassing. "It's a surprise."

Well, Valentine's day /is/ looming, isn't it?

He clears his throat, and is perfectly happy to move along to less personal subjects. "It was in the Meat Packing District. I— well, it's a long story. I've got something on my arm that lets me detect when that /stuff/ I gave Wong is messing about in material reality, which it is patently not supposed to do. I created it with the raw material, and had some left. Anyway, it went off the other night, and 'tanna and I tracked down the source near the High Line." His footsteps fill the next few moments. He weighs what to say, what not to say, and in the end decides on full disclosure: "It had got hold of a seraph somehow." He grimaces faintly at the memory. "Poor bastard. Out of its misery now, though."

He chooses to leave out the bits where he tore its wings off, and the bits about what they learned — the former because that's hardly the sort of thing you want people to know about you, and the latter because he hasn't made up his mind about that information yet.


A flicker of a smile flashes over Jessica's face as John confesses the purpose of this oh-so-serious and mysterious meeting was to get Zee a Valentine's Day gift of the sort only he could acquire. Sure, her love life is a diasaster right now, but it's nice to see John doing something amazing for Zatanna. At least someone can be happy in that way.

Fortunately, his next words distract her from all thoughts of Valentine's Day, a holiday she had never given three fucks about before and which now has taken on enough importance to make her ready to kick over a fire hydrant in frustration when she thinks about how she likely will be spending it versus how she had imagined spending it.

She forbears, and she listens.

"…So this is the thing," she says, shivering in spite of her coat. "What you told me about in the cafe. Nasty dark stuff sliming up the higher orders of the Heavenly Host and sending them around to…" He'd said it was worldwide. "To what? Dance up an apocalypse?" she finishes.

Yeah, this is what he's been handling while you've been mooning over men, Jones, good job. Angels and apocalypses.

"Jesus. I mean just. Fuck, man."


"This is the thing I told you about. But…" More hesitation. More thinking before he speaks. "I don't know why it's happening. We're not there yet. Maybe that, sure. Probably, if things keep gaining momentum. Get enough steam on this kind of shite and it'll be an apocalypse by side-effect. The worrisome bit is that we just don't know."

It bothers him, that lack of knowing. With none of the incidents connected in any tangibly evident way, all disparate explosions of supernatural strangeness, it's almost impossible to narrow anything down. "Ritchie's going to have to get back to work soon. It's probably time for a wee natter with him."

Her summary of the situation draws his gaze again, and another faint quirk of the lips, lidded eyes amused. "Right?" But the gaze lingers, still inclined to find this change in her attire and presentation fascinating, when he isn't preoccupied with weightier subjects. He gestures loosely with his free hand at her — at her everything. "So is this every girls' night? You look…uncomfortable." Pale eyes narrow, then relax, and he follows up with a rakish smile meant to put the thumbscrews on that discomfort. "Good, though."


They veer off away from the more crowded avenues of Chinatown and towards the direction of Brooklyn. The shortcut that looms before them looks just like any other winding path leading out of Chinatown's rapidly beating heart and into its quieter fringes. The Latino youth in his crimson jacket is at the very end, his cigarette gone and still playing around with his phone, though when Jessica and John step into his line of sight, he looks up and stows his phone away. A tanned hand pushes away from the wall, well-worn Reeboks taking him closer on an intercept towards man and woman, making tracks on . Somewhere behind him are two other shadows, sliding up at the fringes, flanking two sides of the alley - either passers-by, or guards.

Another youth, burlier this time, lands from the rooftop and onto the adjacent building's fire escape, steel-toed boots ringing on impact, dust and snow spraying over the ground below, an entrance meant to call attention instead of less. A baseball bat swings against a meaty shoulder and after a few more steps, hunkers down on the lower rungs as Crimson Jacket wanders past. There's bound to be more, at least in John's experience, and Jessica's as well - young gangsters like these roll in packs.

"Yo, Constantine." Teeth glint sharply from a broad smile. "Got a light?"

There's an appreciative look at Jessica, eyes tracking her up and down with a slow roll of his head. There's an emphatic shift in the deep pockets of his jacket, the unmistakeble bulge of something metal and possibly dangerous within. The shape is extremely familiar, especially with the way it juts out against the lining. Sudden movements are probably not wise.

"Just so you know, inquirin' minds wanna know 'bout what you're up to 'round here. Maybe we ought to have a lil' chat 'bout that."


"Really? This is what you want to talk about right now?" Jessica sort of waves her hand up and down her body in disgust. Still, there's no real edge, not for John. It's a little maudlin in fact.

"It's nothing I've ever done before. I was in a shit mood. My friend Kitty showed up to try to cheer me up. I was feeling shitty, so I let her do whatever she wanted."

Thank God for the distraction. She could almost cheer when trouble rounds the corner. Even if trouble has a gun. Looks like she might end up having to keep that promise about the bullet.

Balls. Okay maybe she's not happy after all.

In the end her emotions don't matter. She's moving. She's doing her job. She reaches out with one firm hand to guide John behind her, with his back to the nearest wall; she steps firmly in front of him and adopts a fighting stance. It's a brawler's stance, she was never formally trained— she couldn't see her way clear to endangering a dojo full of people like that, even now that she wants to improve her skills. Still, brawling has always done well enough thanks to her strength.

Her eyes track assets. Lamp post; the weapon above; the fact that they can't all get at them at once. "Valentine's shopping, gentlemen," she says, cool as a cucumber. "I'd offer you a cheap chocolate but I just ate the last one. But we mean no disrespect. We're just passing through." Sometimes gangs could be talked down just by showing them you respected them; that need, in people, was pretty much universal. That had been the cocaine that had kept her coming back for more hits from the people she'd been letting into her life. Love had been the heroin. Or was it the other way around?

She banishes her brain's babble, adding, "We aren't looking for any trouble."


John's humor wanes somewhat when he realizes her discomfort isn't embarrassment at being caught out in a dressy outfit, but instead related to something…else. Something that prompted the makeover in the first place. He studies her profile, is trying to decide whether or not he should ask, when the opportunity to do so is stolen from him by a man who knows his name.

He stops, flicks his gaze to the fore, and takes in the person in front of him. Young. Utterly unexceptional — just another New Yorker, to his eyes. No signatures of magic. No traces of artifacts or weapons. Nothing.

He yields to Jessica's push against his chest, feels the wall press up against his shoulder blades, and even knowing as he does what kind of physical power the woman has at her command, he seems tickled by the picture they must paint: tiny, dressy woman, broad-shouldered unshaven git, and the former is going to protect the latter. Tops.

He firms his grip on the box in his hand, secures it more closely to his side without /looking/ like he's doing it, and by that time he's taken in all of the other visible onlookers, potential participants in whatever is happening.

Jessica tells them they're not looking for any trouble.

"They're the ones lookin' for trouble," John says behind her, eyes nailed to the man with the gun. "'e knows my name." And still, even knowing it, they're going to — what. Accost him on the street? Without an ounce of magic?


Or stupid.

Jury's out.

"Like the lady says — shopping." It's for Jones' sake that he keeps his tone even. The gall of what's happening irritates him, though. Who the hell are these people, and who do they /think/ they are?


"Yeah?" Crimson Jacket's smile grows, brows lifting at Jessica's insertion between him and his query. "Trouble's lookin' for you though, nina bonita. And it's found you."

Two more bodies move from the other end, to 'chord' off the alley from other pedestrians that might move into the small, narrow avenue - it keeps them within a good distance from one another, but well within line of sight and ready to engage if needed. Their ringleader draws out the pistol hidden in his pocket, and lifts it sideways, pointing the muzzle straight at Jessica's chest.

Baseball Bat rises from his seated position, boots flecked with dust tracking over and closer towards the growing conflict, a large shadow that would be intimidating under any other circumstances, but whoever had sent the gang has absolutely no idea that the woman with Constantine isn't exactly a wilting flower. Still, things are liable to turn south quickly, now that there is a /gun/ involved.

It's a plausible enough explanation, but he had been given orders. John Constantine's been known to /lie/.

"So she says Valentine's Day shopping, what story you gonna give us, Constantine? Or you gonna be quiet? Your girlfriend's pretty and all but I ain' opposed to splattin' her insides all over you if you don't tell us what we wanna know. What are y'doin' in New York?"

There's a glance at the velvet box tucked under the British magus' arm. "Oh, that we definitely /can't/ allow. You passin' shit on, then? Gotta pay the toll on that one, ese."


Suddenly Jessica Jones just…smiles. It is neither a kind smile, nor a pleasant one. Her brown eyes turn as hard as the mountain.

"Boy did you assholes pick the wrong bitch on the wrong day," she says. But she gives him no more time to examine that.

She's going to get shot, probably. She's made her peace with that. But…she's seen Zatanna heal grievous injuries in a heartbeat. She'll have to trust John can save her if he has to. Accepting she's going to get hurt makes what comes next easier. As long as he doesn't hit her heart.

Still, if she can do this she can end the whole thing with very little escalation. Frightened gangbangers run. And John Constantine is at her back. She's learned enough to know he's going to respond fast to whatever she does. Maybe she won't even get hurt. There's a great thought, one that bolsters her courage.

Either way, she leaps. She attempts to simply grab gun and gun hand in a single hard grip. If she hits, she'll attempt to squeeze the gun and hand alike into crumpled uselessness, hopefully before she's shot, but…if after is what it takes she'll take after. Of course, that's not her whole plan. Her head is lashing out for a head butt, even as her off arm attempts to slam his arm up and into her waiting grip, all the better to maybe get the gun pointing at things that aren't her body, or John's.

It's not a subtle plan, but this isn't a subtle situation.


Once the gun appears, John begins to have some serious reservations about having involved Jessica. If this were a life or death situation brought on in the course of his work, that would be one thing, but this? This errand is inarguably selfish in nature — something he's doing for Zatanna, and not something he could ever justify endangering Jones' life over. He'd seen her soak countless bolts of elemental magic in Switzerland and reasoned that she'd be more than capable of handling any would-be magical ambushers, but he has no information about whether or not she can survive gunshots wounds the same way. She's still a person who needs to have proportionally more blood inside of her than outside of her to live.

"Like the lady said: shopping. And—"

And there's no time to say anything else, because Jessica turns into that dark-haired dervish of destruction he's seen at work twice before, and he's lifting his free hand, starting to whisper words under his breath, an incantation that's surely going to mean trouble…


Crimson Jacket does not expect that; dark eyes widen when Jessica grabs his gun, and instinct overtakes everything else. He pulls the trigger, but the muzzle is already collapsing under the wake of the private investigator's super strength. The firearm discharges, but the bullet remains trapped, and /despite/ what Hollywood says about what happens whenever this happens, it does not explode and hit the gunman. What /does/ happen is the Latino youth drops the now useless weapon, Jessica still holding onto it as he scrambles backward in shock.

"Holy /shit/! She's a— "

The warning is cut short when the baseball-wielding youth leaps into the fray, the wooden appendage swinging in a deadly arc towards Jessica's head. The boys' back-up are starting to swarm in the alley, still oblivious to Jessica's true nature and absurdly unaware of Constantine's. Crimson Jacket skids sideways and /leaps/, his desperate tackle aimed for the British magus while his more muscular buddy attempts to handle the private investigator. A fist goes flailing wildly, aimed for the man's eye.

And the rest just /pile on/.

Pack mentality is at work. Two more youths attempt to throw themselves on Jessica in hopes that they can press their advantage through sheer numbers, and the other two guarding the other side of the alley are racing towards the site of the fray, aiming to get to their original quarry. Things have gone sideways very quickly and while the group is no stranger to trouble, they've never come across a metahuman before and clearly something happened to their ringleader's gun. There are fists, the flick of a switchblade. There's some solace in the fact that the gun has been taken out of the equation, none of the rest seems to have any firearms and have resorted to blunt instruments instead.


Jessica turns to snap her arm up in a high block which will surely bend the baseball bat when she comes into contact with it right in the nick of time. She's momentarily staggered by the pile on; mostly just knocked off balance. A knife rips through the flesh of her cheek, drawing warm blood which cascades over her perfectly made-up cheeks, and she snarls. She shrugs off the fist.

She goes for the one that just cut her and lashes out with a booted foot, attempting to just catch him right under the chin. She's sparing a lot of her strength, trying to keep it non-lethal. She's not in the mood to murder gang bangers tonight. But she really, really can't keep fighting them if she wants to do that. The longer this lasts, the more likely something's going to happen that's going to require her to hospitalize one of them at best and kill one of them at worst. And any minute they could really hurt the much squishier John. That means a big, dramatic, flashy display of how outclassed they are.

She dives for the lamp post and rips it right out of the street, even as fists and blunt objects slam into her body. Property damage? She's got fewer qualms about that when it's not, say, apartment buildings full of people.

She whirls around, raises the sparking metal pole over her head and…resorts to corny movie lines. But then, she'd basically already paraphrased the 1997 dark comedy Nothing to Lose; what's a little Crocadile Dundee?

"That wasn't a bat, dip shits. This is a bat. And I'm ramming it right up the ass of the slowest shithead out of this alley. I'm guessing the fucker in the Crimson Jacket tearing into my friend, but really, any of you shit heads will do."


John miscalculates.

He's half of a second from being able to whip off the thing he's casting, and he —

He gets greedy.

The man coils and springs, telegraphing his tackle, and John could've sidestepped, raised his hands, something, anything, but he'd have to give up on his half-spoken incantation. He chooses to try to chance it. He gambles and loses. It's a rare enough occurrence, though lately it seems to be happening with more frequency than he would like.

The world explodes into stars as the right hook connects with his left eye, and then there's weight imbalancing him, and his focus turns entirely to trying to twist and protect the virtually priceless object in his possession. The silver lining of having been interrupted at his work is that he's accumulated plenty of energy in that hand of his, and when he grips the wrist of the man in the red jacket he discharges all of it into him at once, a reflex defensive action that cannot — does not — prepare him for the booted foot of someone else, aimed with ruthless efficiency at his ribs. Pain bursts into his chest cavity. Teeth gritted, he uses the fuel of his ire to focus long enough to look for some place to toss the box, to try to get it out of the way, somewhere it might be overlooked, and he prepares to toss it that way—

—and takes another boot to the stomach. He fumbles the box and turns his attention instead to defending himself, eyes like blue, razor-sharp shards of ice aimed up at the man diligently working to break his ribs.

Not even a magician.

He draws one foot back and kicks it out toward the side of the man's planted leg, just to the inside of the knee, because he has none of Jones' compunctions about landing anyone in the hospital, and he is /angry/.


The baseball bat doesn't bend, it /breaks/, reduced to kindling as it makes contact with Jessica's forearm. The burly youth wielding it stares at what remains of it in his grip. He manages to move to the side for another one of his mates to pick up the slack, blood drops flying against the pavement when his switchblade finds purchase on the private investigator's cheek. Another manages to land a punch….but he pays for it. Staggering back, he screams, clutching his broken knuckles close to his chest.

The blade wielder manages to flip his blade to his other set of fingers, only to find a boot up his jaw for his trouble. Teeth break on impact, though she manages to keep enough control to keep his jaw from outright breaking. He's sent flying a few feet, landing on the ground. Dust and snow fly upwards at his wake. The wind is knocked right out of him and he stares upwards at the evening stars, blood running from his mouth and looking absolutely dazed.

Whatever knack John has been working finds its mark on the youth wearing the crimson jacket. It widens those dark eyes and he is forced to rip away from him, screaming as he clutches at his arm, clawing at it. Whatever is happening is hidden under his outerwear, the limb locked painfully. It does get him away from the two others who are on John in an instant, a boot swinging for the cage of his ribs. Over and over, again and again - enough for John to temporarily lose his grip on the precious object he is protecting. The way Crimson Jacket staggers backwards in pain-filled delirium makes it worse, his Reeboks kicking the thing over…

…and the latches come free. The beautiful, spherical object rolls dangerously down the alley. It would have found its way into the more crowded avenues of Chinatown were it not for the amount of dust-caked snow on the ground, slowing it to a stop next to the youth who almost had his jaw broken by Jessica Jones. He struggles upwards, blindly groping for his blade. He knocks the pearl away, sending it rolling again until it stops just underneath the fire escape, clanging against the lower rungs and dislodging more debris on top of it.

John's kick gives him enough respite from the assault on his ribs. There's a pained yelp, the young gangster drawing back, a snarl on his lips. "You old bas— "

The squeal of twisting metal claws through the air. Multiple sets of eyes swing towards Jessica as she /rips/ a lamp post off the ground and points it at the rest. The sight of it, to ordinary teenaged gangsters, must be terrifying - not just the act of removing it that way, but wielding it as if it weighed /nothing/.

For a moment, there is blessed, still silence.

And then: "Yeah, /no/. Not worth it," says the kid who's busy spitting teeth on the other end of the street.

With that, the gang beats a /hasty/ retreat.


Jessica bends to put the lamp post down delicately— no need for clanging and banging, steps over, and bends to pick up the pearl instead. She wipes the priceless magical artifact clean on the side of her skirts, leaving filthy trails behind in the flirty lines of the thing without a second thought. It's more reflex than anything else as John's safety is quite a bit more important, but it's there, it's what they came into Chinatown for, and so she retrieves it, hoping it won't turn her into a gummy bear or something for daring to touch it.

Then she's offering John a hand up with her free hand. "Are you okay?" she asks, the concern chasing the former roughness from her tone, her nose wrinkling up with sudden guilt. Maybe if she'd planned that out better he wouldn't have gotten shit-kicked on her watch, but…well, at least he's alive, which is more than she could say would have been the case had bullets started flying. She supposes it's not the worst outcome, but she still feels a little bit bad about it.

"How bad did they get you? Do you need a hospital?" Despite the fact that half her face looks a little like a horror show now she can feel the depth of the cut in its dull, painful throb and knows that it'll be fine with a bit of butterfly bandaging and some Neosporin like always. John, on the other hand…


The dragon's pearl — the cintimani stone — radiates a glorious warmth, as one might expect from an object perpetually on fire in some mystical way, but not enough to burn skin. It's /heavy/, solid, pleasant to hold. It doesn't appear to have been damaged in its roll away. The box, too, is miraculously intact, if perhaps a little bit dusty.

There are bootprints on John's white shirt. By the time she reaches him he's sitting up and grimacing as he probes his chest with careful fingers, but the look he aims up at her has more wrath in it than suffering. It is a wrath tempered by copious relief when he sees that she has the pearl in her hand. "I'm…fine. Bruises." To demonstrate just how fine he is, he takes pains to get himself up off of the ground in spite of her help — a phenomenon Zee knows plenty about, having seen him get shitbeat more than once and refuse assistance to stand. John's pride is a ferocious thing, incapable of stomaching that kind of help, even though the act of doing so causes embers to scream through the constellations of pain left behind by injurious feet. He slants his gaze in the direction of the departed gangsters, his malcontent lingering. "They knew my name," he says, displeasure comingled with puzzlement. "But they weren't even mages. Not a single one of them."


She drops her hand as soon as it's clear he doesn't need it. "A problem for another day," Jessica offers, putting the pearl back into its box and offering it back to him. "I can do some sniffing around." That, after all, was in her wheelhouse, and setting gangs on magigians seemed a thoroughly mundane thing to do. She shakes her hair out of her face, looking like a fucked up Pantene ad for a moment, and gives him a bit of a smile. "In the meantime…let's get you home."


It takes John a moment to drag his attention back from both the alley their attackers disappeared into and the uneasy run of his own thoughts. It feels…off. Then again, everything lately has felt /off/, and he's probably getting paranoid, but…

He tugs his attention back, directs his gaze first down to the box he's being offered — which he takes, opens, spending a few seconds examining the contents and then momentarily closing his eyes and exhaling as much as his furious ribs will allow, overwhelmed with relief — and then /finally/ up to take in the woman beside him, whose perfect makeover and lovely new clothes have been fairly well ruined by their encounter.

And her /face/.

Her face, her cheek, split by a sharp blade and bleeding everywhere.

Blue eyes wide. "Jesus /christ/, Jones." His concern is not manufactured, even if it did take him a good minute and a half of being too caught up in his own woes and concerns to actually consider /her/ condition. Typical John Constantine. "Good job you were here, or that would probably be sticking out of my chest right now. We'll have 'tanna fix you up. Bloody hell. Are you— " Is she alright? She's barely even acknowledged that she's just been stuck like a pig.

John swallows the rest of the question. Dumb questions deserve dumb answers. He decides against. "Yeah. Right then. We can take the tube and horrify everyone if you like." Thinned lips twist around gallows humor. He extracts his phone from his pocket. "Or…I could get us an Uber."

As they make their way back toward more crowded thoroughfares, he slides his thumb across the slick screen and summons one. They can save horrifying the locals for another day.

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