Odd Company

March 16, 2017:

John Constantine, grumpy and confined to his bed, receives a visit from one Jessica Jones.

John Constantine's Secret Flat, Somewhere Beneath New York

New and improved.


NPCs: Chas Chandler

Mentions: Zatanna Zatara, Darkedge, Melinda May, Bucky Barnes, Jane Foster, Red Robin, Elinor Ravensdale, Daredevil, Silk, Azalea Kingston

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

Constantine may or may not know that Jessica has been getting text updates from Chas daily on the state of Constantine's condition. This is the first day he's said the man was fit for company. Given how terrible he'd looked she'd been content to let him rest and recover. She'd certainly had business to attend to, business she could attend to with a lighter heart now that she knew Zatanna and John were both tucked into whatever earth-side beds they were tucked into.

But she's finally gotten the note that John is up to visitors, and that lightens her heart still more. Zee, she knew, had been mostly okay when the paralysis poison had worn off, and but she'd figured there might be some mental recovery or just sound sleep to do. She'll be visiting the teen witch later too.

Chas feeds Constantine well, but she figured she'd bring a little something anyway. She stopped by a local gyro shop and grabbed up gyros, fries, lots of sauce, drinks. She'd slipped to the manhole cover that represented the one stable entrance. Not much danger that John had moved it while laid up, and given she texted Chas ahead she just goes right ahead and lets herself in, juggling the food to make the short climb down the ladder into the mystic's place.

"Knock knock," she calls, since she can't exactly knock the conventional way. "I come bearing gifts."


The flat has seen some significant changes since the last time anyone but Chas was inside of it. Without John around to interfere (and with too much time on his hands that he might otherwise spend in worrying), Chas has made massive strides in the retrofitting of the expansive underground space into something like an actual home.

The ladder descends in the same place as ever, and the brick-walled, polished-concrete-floored space will always be characterized by walls that curve upward into a rounded, tunnel-like arching ceiling, but there are other walls now where previously there had been only temporary privacy screens. The far end of the space is now dominated by a raised loft space above the kitchen they built into the back wall, taking advantage of plentiful vertical space; the area that once marked out John's 'room' now belongs, apparently, to Chas.

He emerges in a lean from the propped-open door, tugging headphones down off of his head and winging a wide, warm smile in Jessica's direction. "He's upstairs. And — "

"Oh? Am I permitted a conjugal visit, Warden Chandler?" John's voice drifts down from that remote second level, acerbic and only a little rough.

" — cranky," Chas finishes, expression flattening. "Don't say I didn't warn you." And with that, he winks at Jessica, tugs his headphones— no doubt functionally serving as life preservers while he's forced to live with a John Constantine suffering from those worst of all afflictions, cabin fever and boredom— back on, and disappears into his room, shutting the door behind him.

The sitting area on the right in the main expanse of the flat is much the same as ever, though the wall on the left is being gradually converted to a more appropriate workspace for whatever it is that John does, when he isn't dropping in on people unannounced and being vague about doomsday scenarios. Shelves contain a wealth of books and objects of bizarre description, and there are fresh boxes stamped with postal markings from overseas, suggesting that John's been having more of his personal effects sent to the United States.

The stairs up to the loft are lightweight and metal, much as one would find in any industrial loft in New York, and the loft itself appears to be split into two areas.

The outermost, ranged facing out over the railing toward the flat's interior, is something like an office, though being John's office, it's full of things that nobody is going to find at Staples of Office Depot. There is a desk, but it's spread with everything from printouts of blogs to manuscripts that look almost as old as the art of illumination; there is a cork board, but half of the things dangling off of it are dried bits of something organic, and the other central feature is a newspaper clipping of a politician with horns and a goatee drawn on. There are darts sticking out of it.

The rear of the loft is John's room, and contained within another wall, behind another door, which is presently open.

It contains a large bed, albeit one in a frame that sits low to the floor, as well as end tables that support lamps, an alarm clock — the usual mundanity. There is a closet door on the left, closed, and…not much else, aside from John.

He is grudgingly in bed, wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of grey sweatpants, knees braced up under the covers to prop up a laptop that he's frowning at, though when he hears footsteps on the stairs, the frown wanes, replaced with anticipatory affection.

Glancing up chances that expression yet again: still affectionate, albeit a different kind of affection. "Ah. Jones. Not conjugal, then." He looks better, though he could hardly have done otherwise. He's still underweight — he's always been lean, without much fat to spare on hunger — but a full week of rest, liquids, and food have done a great deal for his bruised look. A /shower/ has done wonders for the rest.

He drops his gaze to the bag in her hand and lifts his chin at it. "What's this, then?"


"Damn, Chas, it looks nice in here," Jessica says with some admiration. "Well done." It was good that he'd found some productive way to manage his anxiety, though Jessica, for one moment, wonders if she should have spared the time to help him with any of this. But…she rejects that thought before it can even cause her any guilt. If Chas had wanted her help, he surely doesn't seem the type to sit on that information, hoping she'd figure it out and offer. It was more likely he just wanted to be alone and busy, and he wanted her out where she'd already been…working to get his best friend home.

As for all this talk of a conjugal visit? Jessica snarfs and makes her way through the flat, liberally ducking her head into doors just to see what's different. Her curiosity is high, though she doesn't touch anything or move anything.

Her smirk grows when he realizes she's not Zatanna, when he announces that conjugal isn't happening right now.

"Nope. The gravitational pull of your rakish British charm still isn't strong enough, though I guess since you just literally went through Hell I can pretend for just a moment."

She puts the food aside, then makes a great show of clapping her hands over her heart and staggering back. She flaps a hand at herself as if fanning herself, and opens her mouth as she throws back her head in an over-exaggerated version of whatever look various teenagers get when they get too close to a rock star.

Then? Moment over! She gives him a smirk and swoops up the food. "Gyros. Of course you may hate gyros. I've never asked. So! If you're in the mood, have at. If you're not, I'll feed 'em to the kids." She puts the food down on one of the end tables, then disappears to liberate a chair from one of the other rooms. She drops it next to his bed and then puts herself into it. "Enforced rest driving you apeshit?"


John watches this theatrical display with one brow slightly cocked and the ghost of something like a smile threatening, though it has a skeptical cast. "Bloody hell, Jones," he says delicately, slowly closing the lid of the laptop with a click that's loud in the silence. "I never realized just how much swooning looks like 'stroking out.' If I had, I'd never have let myself be so goddamned compelling in mixed company." He tosses the laptop gently aside and leans into elbows on his blanket-draped knees, but that posture isn't long-lived. The moment she puts food within his reach he snatches it up and he doesn't wait long enough to even hear what she's brought.

"Nobody hates gyros," he chides, cunning hands already opening bags or boxes or whatever it is that still forms an obstacle between himself and the calories she's brought. His appetite has always been good — he was present for The Incident that turned Zatanna into a vegetarian, and it certainly didn't cause him to give up eating meat, or anything else— but the last week has seen him consume more food than should be possible even for someone six feet tall.

He barely manages to get out a 'cheers,' by way of thanks before he's putting the first bite in his mouth — just in time for her to ask a question, because that's always the way of things. Very fortunately, that's a question he can answer with a look. It's a hell of a look, too, flat eyes and dry as the Sahara.

"I'm constantly two seconds from crawling out of my own skin. I'm not meant to be sitting still this long. It's not alright. I've got— " Food interval. "— shite to do."


She smirks at his assessment of her swooning, eyes twinkling with good humor. She sits back and lets him rip into it; there's three of them in there. A folded up wrap at the bottom indicates one maybe didn't survive the trip. There are also spiced fries. Cokes are in the drink carrier, pure sugar. One of those she does take, as she hadn't really dug into it.

She contemplates his words for a moment. She understands shit to do, and she understands how 'shit' might keep him sane. It certainly serves that purpose for her on any given day. If she's working, actively working, she can push off almost any other addiction, uncertainty, insecurity. It's when she stops working that she starts overthinking things, that the anxieties creep in, that temptations loom.

On the other hand…two months in Hell. Still, the answer she arrives at when she reaches the end of that calculation tell her that he doesn't need any chiding to rest from her. He might just need to keep his mind busy more than he needs to be continually coddled. He doesn't really need to be told to rest his body. He wouldn't be putting up with this at all if he didn't already know it, not even from Chas. He'd be pulling on his trench coat, lighting up a cigarette, and getting out there.

And she doesn't have an endless supply of theatrics to keep him entertained. Thus, she settles comfortably into the mode of being more than happy to offer him at least a semblance of work-like things, if only via bedside conversation. She jerks her head at the laptop.

"Unless you're playing a rousing game of 'Minesweeper' or going on a World of Warcraft raid," she says dryly, "You've already got some kind of iron in the fire. What are you working on right now?"


On the score of whether or not John would even be in bed if he did not, on some level, actually need it, she has hit the nail entirely on the head. No doubt that fails to make him any easier to live with as he doesn't hesitate to protest loudly and at length, but even that, in its way, is just symptomatic of the way the man spins his wheels. Complaining is something to do.

"World of what?" As with many quips of the kind, it isn't clear whether or not he's serious, and he doesn't leave any room to ask. He tilts his head in the direction of the laptop, stitching his answers to her question in between bites of food. He doesn't wolf it down, exactly— he has the restraint of most of his countrymen when it comes to eating in mixed company — but it still somehow manages to disappear with alarming rapidity. "I'm looking through data from Ritchie, catching up on what I've missed. Ambient…" He hesitates there, looking for the word he wants. "Ambient statistics. You know. Tracking supernatural activity. His whole— well, anyway. All of that sudden activity I was telling you about before. Still going on. No surprises there. I can't say I expected the world to suddenly snap to its senses in the last— " Partway to putting the gyro in his mouth again, he pauses, blinks, glances at her sidelong. "How long has it been, again? Out here. A month?"


"A month. And…that stuff is starting to draw all kinds of attention, if the encounter I had is any guide. I can tell you of one supernatural happening right now, for myself."

She grimaces a little and says, "I may have created a bit of a mess for you, while you were gone. Or maybe it will help. Whichever I did, I had to make a decision and I made one." There's more certainty in her, though, about making decisions for good or for ill than the last time they were able to sit and share a conversation. A lot has happened in one month.

"So I met an elf. Like an actual elf. From Avalon, he says, like King Arthur? He's some sort of advance scout, sent to find out if all this stuff that's going on, the same stuff you've been tracking, is a threat to his— Well I dunno whatever the hell it is. Island or dimension or whatever the hell it is. It…seemed smart to create the contact, to maybe start building a potential alliance, though it veered off into left field quick. Suddenly some SHIELD agent we don't know is sending me her card via him in case we need that kind of support. And he's all pledging his blades and telling me he has a vested interest in keeping me safe now and a bunch of other stuff I don't understand. I didn't even have anything worthwhile to tell him really, except that tiny little bit you told me in Chinatown. I apologize if either party taking an interest causes you problems, John."

Her jaw tightens, and a grimmer look takes over her face and eyes. "I admit I was calculating both in the hopes of getting you two back safe and sound— creating resources that might be useful to you, to us— and hedging my bets in the fear that you wouldn't, and the fucking apocalypse would still be on the way right on time. But I sure didn't look at the elf and think oh, well, that will get the Triskelion right up in Constantine's business. It might have been careless of me even so. He gave me something if you wanna look at his magic or anything. Having him on the periphery could also be harmless, or useless, but…I thought you should know. You can probably make more sense of his presence here than I can. I might have even found out more but…"

Her mouth tightens still further. "He doesn't speak out loud so well. He speaks primarily through telepathy, and after the one and only time he touched my brain I told him to back the fuck off. To his credit, he did. Immediately, and never even tried to convince me I should let him back in. It was why I was willing to extend as much trust as I did. I didn't say a word to him directly about you or Zatanna, but…I surely didn't work the resource for everything it was worth either. I just…can't stand the fucking telepathic bad touch, and fuck it if various people and things don't keep fucking trying. Elinor, however, is perfectly happy to brain-talk with him, and he seems to have attached himself to her, too. She was…pretty instrumental in helping us get to you two, so…when you're up and running again please don't forget to set those wards you promised her."


It's a pattern that will repeat itself many times across the arc of their relationship, it seems: Jessica Jones leads off some sort of retelling by saying something ominous, usually to suggest that she's done something wrong, and then whatever follows afterward utterly fails to inspire concern in John. This is no different, save that instead of brushing it off entirely, the look of knit-browed, steady-gaze concern and focus he's directing toward her collapses in on itself when she says the words 'I met an elf, like an actual elf.' All expression drops off of his face for what must be the flattest look in human history — one that barely changes as he stirs from his motionlessness and resumes eating. He does look more or less unconcerned, if perhaps also a trifle long-suffering. Because elves.

He doesn't even look particularly overwrought about the Triskelion, but given his absolute lack of respect for celestial institutions, one must imagine that mortal institutions hold him in even less thrall.

He saves all of his personal concern for her personal concerns, instead, refocusing on her when things take a turn in that direction. The minute tightening at the corners of his eyes might be sympathy — he knows enough about her history now to understand why that kind of interconnected means of communicating upsets her — but as one might expect, coming from a man who is famously emotionally inaccessible, it's subtle. He seems to be waiting for her to tell him about some greater trespass, but she assures him that her boundaries were respected once she was given the opportunity to set them, and so he falls back onto his earlier exasperation with the whole of elf-kind's existence.

"You've got a real knack for winding up in odd company," he tells her, as though she's not the first person to know that. "Elves. I'm not much a fan of elves. 'Course, Jones, I say that, and I'm talking about our elves, yeah? As in 'pre-human races associated with the homo-magi.' See also: Atlanteans, the fae, elementals, numerous primordial demi-gods and so-on. What I'm beginning to gather in recent years is that there's a lot of…dimensional cross-talk, so who bloody even knows, at this point? I know my way around the one kind. Could be something else altogether. I can look into it, if you like."

Setting the remnants of the gyro down, he dusts his hands over the wrapper and reaches for one of the sodas, taking a long pull from the contents of the cup. Somewhere in there he processes the piece about Elinor, and tied to that finds himself confronting the fact of the rescue. He lowers the cup slowly. The change in his aspect is visually small, but large in scope: his eyes and tone turn serious. "You lot. You shouldn't have gone in there like that. You had no idea what you were getting yourselves into. You still don't, I reckon. I'm almost afraid to ask how you got Midnite to cooperate. The fact that he even knows who you are isn't ideal for you." As lectures go, it lacks much in the way of spirit. He means every word and every word is, in his estimation, true. But, nevertheless, in the end the edge rounds itself in sky blue eyes, and the kind of quiet that his voice is changes. "Thanks, though. We— I —owe you."


'You've got a real knack for winding up in odd company.'

This only produces a chuff of a laugh and a sardonic smirk. "Starting," she says, "with you and Zatanna. But…it seems to have worked out for me."

She takes a long slurp of the Coke before moving on to add: "His name is Darkedge. I can call you the next time he shows up."

That sympathy is noted; and she doesn't shy from it. He might get the feeling she's going to address it again in a moment, but she doesn't just yet. Instead, she listens patiently while he lectures her. The lecture is, it seems, not entirely unexpected. She had known, right away, that if they'd managed to carve them a door out of there he'd say something of the sort, and that he'd be doing it out of nothing more than concern for the wellbeing of both herself and the rest of the team. Unlike that pattern of hers, where she thinks she's fucked up and then he finds she has not, there is no guilt or worry at all in her eyes while she hears him out.

Even though all of his criticisms are true, every word of them. None of them had any idea what they were doing, and she had personally drawn in several individuals at various points who had even less idea what they were doing. None of that changed the fact that it had to be done.

When he wraps up she speaks again, her voice quiet, intense. "I understand the urge to think about debts, but…you don't owe me shit," she says mildly. "You and Zee, both of you, mean the world to me, and I think the others feel the same. You both fucking transformed my life, transformed me, for the better. The both of you looked at the big stinking pile of shit I was when you met me and saw someone who could be respected, trusted, counted on. You gave me those things, and you gave me your friendship. You were the first people, other than my sister, to ever do that. Ever. Every good thing I have in my life today? I can trace it directly back to the two of you looking at me and seeing something even I couldn't see."

She takes a deep breath, bracing herself against a sudden upswelling of emotion. It's not comfortable, saying these things, but they need to be said. Deserve to be said. She almost missed her chance to say them, after all. "You both have had my back and helped me in a thousand ways ever since."

She puts the Coke aside and leans forward, meeting his eyes. "So. For my part? I'd do what I did again 100 times over, no matter what it costs me today or tomorrow. You're both crazy if either of you think anyone who cares about either one of you would just sit around with our thumbs up our asses moaning about our inability, just kind of hoping you made it, especially not after we figured out where you were. I wish we'd been a little faster for you, but the trail was thin. Bucky and Jane got Midnite to cooperate, and I don't know how, only that we caught up with one of his flunkies, interrogated her, and suddenly the meeting was set. And since we both know damned well you'd do the same for me, or any of us, the only difference here is our novice status versus your expert one. And since we were fresh out of experts…" Jessica shrugs. "We had to make what we did have to bring to the table do."


BEHOLD, as the conversation traverses into social territory in which Jessica 'I got drunk and had a fist-fight with my literal office, as in the actual architecture, including a sink' Jones is significantly more graceful than John Constantine! She may not find it easy to pour her heart out this way, but she does it. It's not even the first time she's done it; John heard her do it with Zatanna once before, and he'd venture a guess that she's done the same as occasion called for it with a few of the faces he's come to associate as being part of this strange little circle of comrades.

With John it isn't even that he doesn't find it easy, he simply does not have it in him to do. Here is a man who could only bring himself to tell the woman he loves that he'd still choose to be with her in spite of the events that might have torn her away from him on the night before the do-or-die rescue of her soul: the absolute last possible moment, and even then, all he could manage to summon was the explicit acknowledgement that he cared enough about her not to take off at a dead sprint the moment things got difficult. It took being LITERALLY IN HELL, having barely escaped an unfathomable eternity of suffering at the hands of the /First of the Fallen/, and the realization that she was broken-hearted at the thought of having been responsible, for him to tell her he loved her, and he still cannot, if he's honest with himself, believe that he actually did that. Neither can she, come to that. Because he doesn't have the vocabulary for this kind of thing. His father simply beat it out of him before he could learn how to speak with it.

He's got almost thirty years of living — thirteen of those in a wider world, two of them in a mental hospital — under his belt to help him navigate these turbulent channels of human feeling, but there are times that they still don't seem like enough. Probably, that owes itself in some way to the fact that his internal response to this kind of thing — to friendship, closeness with other people, any kind of warmth of feeling aimed at him at all — is split cleanly in half. It is a balm for a desperately lonely soul, something he's been starved all of his life for — and it's also, simultaneously and historically, the source of all of his greatest hurts. He wants it, but it terrifies him…because it's so good, and he expects it to be so bad in the end.

He keeps himself occupied with the food while she tells him what he and Zatanna mean to her, though his chewing slows, everything about him deliberate. He chances the occasional flick of a glance at her, but his look is if anything, guarded, tentatively appreciative. He handles what she says as though the words were made of molten glass, accepted but gingerly, at arms' length, while wearing oven mitts. "Bad news for you, then," he says, wry and casual. Underneath that, though, it clearly means something to him — he just keeps the scope of that to himself as best he can.

And chooses to focus on Midnite, because anger is easier. "That wanker. Nobody 'gets' Midnite to cooperate. It'll be worth following up with Barnes and Foster. This is probably just the start of something." He mulls that for only a moment, then looks up at her with sharpening eyes. "How did you wind up putting all of it together?"


Does it bother her that John doesn't reciprocate?

Fuck no. What a relief. God damn. She was already too woobie as it was. She exhales a little as he accepts it. Hydra-world drove home the lesson that those things need to be said, that she would regret not saying them if she had to stare at a cold, dead grave, but…that doesn't mean she is ready to hear them back or even hear a lot of fuss made over them. She can see they haven't done more harm than good. That's enough for her.

Her brow furrows thoughtfully. "He…did seem awfully interested in Jane," she admits. Oh Jane, what did you do? Following up indeed.

"Whatever it is, though, we'll handle it. Together." That seems to take in everybody.

He asks how, and she launches into the story. "I had already been looking into the Chinatown thing with little success before even realizing you were gone," she begins.

She tells it all as she knows it, which means there are things that don't make it into the narrative. She starts with she and Red visiting with Wong, and notes that he came back from the back room with a reading while she sat in the front and ate lo mein while Wong's bodyguards kept guns trained on her head. She only pauses to say, "I would never have bothered your contact if you guys hadn't been missing, but since you were…"

Then on to recruiting Elinor to guide them into the Abyss nightclub, meeting with the ghosts who were able to show them the psychic impression (here, a twist of her mouth yet again) of the dust covered suite, who had told them that it was Limbo, and what it meant, and what they'd have to do. Then on through the next steps. Jane's intensive study of the hedge magic books Red had recovered from Gotham. Her hunt for the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, the long, frustrating hunt. His agreement to help her, and how he'd figured out that he could get it done by interrogating the Chinese gang members who had given the Hell's Vipers passage. The fight in the dead amusement park with said Vipers, noting the involvement of Elinor, the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, Silk and Azalea—

Here she interjects, "John, I really, really need you to do something about her, we can bounce ideas maybe? But this can't sit much longer."

She would glaze over the damned psychic if only she could. She sort of does, noting, "The mouthpiece was a fucking bitch of a psychic voodoo mind controlling piece of shit who went right for me. Bucky had to put me down to keep me from being turned against them so I missed some of what happened, but they got her and questioning commenced. I have another favor to ask in this regard too but one thing at a time…"

She skips right over the particulars of the interrogation. She doesn't want to make him an accomplice to a felony by telling him about hospital beds, dark tunnels under the city, or guard shifts. She's sure he can fill in the blanks though.

"After that, I got a text saying we had a way in, to grab Red and to meet Bucky and Jane there at that night club. You know the rest. And to that end…how the fuck does one survive Hell for two months? You…actually came out looking a lot better than I'd imagined, not that I'm complaining. Both of you did."

Easy to figure out what her outstanding and gruesome imagination came up with from the moment she heard the destination of the two mystics.


As ever, John is comfortable in the role of listener, and he does it with even more aggressive focus than usual, starved as he has been for anything of substance to worry with the teeth of his intellect. He quirks his brow when she mentions dealing with Wong — mental note to look into that later, because Wong doesn't do anything for free either — but waves a hand to dismiss her concerns. If they got a reading for their trouble, Wong couldn't have been too ticked off by whatever the exchange was.

The next time he reacts to any real degree is when she gives him her aside about Azalea. It gets her a nod, but it's a nod with visible caveats, though he doesn't interrupt her story with any of them — he just knits his brows in a way that says he has concerns about it.

He also somehow manages to avoid saying something stupid, like, 'People sure do love fucking with your mind,' although the temptation is assuredly strong, when she covers the bit about the psychic. A slight nod to acknowledge the favor she intends to ask.

Quite a litany of efforts, spanning more than just a handful of individuals and comprised of more than just a few moments of violence. He's silently contemplating that when she turns the tables and asks for a recounting of his end of things, which has his lips parting. He looks at her a long moment, then clears his throat and puts on a thin smile. "Well, you know. It was only Limbo, for starters." Mostly, anyway; he'd been further down below for a time, but why complicate the issue? "'tanna developed a way to pull things in and out of her phone if she takes a picture of them. Handy little spell. She didn't want to carry her books all over campus. We were pillaging her social media for pictures of food, at least for the first four days. We, eh." He pauses, digs the tip of his tongue into his back teeth with his mouth closed, squinting at the memory, choosing his words carefully. "We were separated after that." There's more to that story, but his tone is quiet and blank, suggesting reluctance to delve into the details. "She spent most of the time after that finding our way out, and I was…caught up in politics, I suppose. Eventually, my host got tired of my company and loaned me out to Mammon as bait to tempt Zatanna. 'e wants her soul, you see. She pulled off a brilliant little trick that let her get me free, and then we made a sprint for the exit, all of Mammon's forces on our heels. It was at least another week of travelling. It's not the same amount of time in there as it is out here. Here it was a month. There it was — it was two at least. Maybe more. I lost track, a bit. But we were lucky, Jones, more than anything. Things might have been much worse."


Its his story to tell or not to tell, and it's Jessica's turn to listen. She frowns at a few intervals, but doesn't interrupt. She smiles, though, once, at Zee's social media trick. That's such a…such a teen bit of magic, really, but it seemed to have come in handy. Brilliant, but also iconic to her age and generation.

When he finishes she doesn't ask clarifying questions, figuring she's gotten as much as she really has a right to get. Maybe more.

"Hooray for luck then," she says, instead. "I'd remembered that, about Mammon, and Zee. It kept me up a few nights." She shakes her head, and some of the self-recrimination he'd predicted for her enters her eyes. But where before she might have addressed it, lept in with apologies, let it twist her about…this time? She just lets it come, feels it, then lets it pass. "Can't bank on it, but sure is nice when it's working."

The politics of the afterlife. Oof. She feels like only John Constantine would basically end up in Limbo or Hell or whatever and end up wrapped up in politics.

As for her mind yes, it's probably to the best he doesn't say it. Then again, given she can bench press a car it might make sense. Things tend to balance out, swapping weaknesses for strengths. And her mind has been beaten on and wounded quite a few times. There are those who can sniff such things, much as any predator might sniff out the prey that's limping.

Either way, Jessica falls into silence for a moment, opening the top of her Coke so she can take in a mouthful of ice. She crunches it, absorbing all he's said. "It's really good to have you both back," is all she says after that. "I should feel bad that I'm basically asking you to do a bunch of work for me now that you are back, because that hardly seems a fitting welcome." She suddenly smirks. "Except I know damn well you like the work, and mostly thrive when you have useful things to do." She's kind of ribbing him, and kind of serious. "Not that I expect you to spring right up now and do any of it. Chas would have both our hides, and he's scary when he's angry." That's teasing too, because Chas' anger is certainly something Jones is not particularly afraid of…and yet.

She taps her fingers thoughtfully on the styrofoam cup and says, "So. Before we get to Az…that favor I want to ask. I've…about had it. Kilgrave was bad enough, but then there was Steinschnieder. Then there was Random Telepath lady. Then there was Darkedge. And now Voodoo Fair Lady. I don't care if it's a casual hello or a delve through my memories or an attempt to take control of my brain, I don't ever want it happening ever again. If you're willing, if you're able—" She hesitates. She's always hesitant about asking him or Zee to use their magic on her behalf. She still only vaguely understands what it might cost them, what it might mean to ask these things. Magic is not a toy, it's not the solution to everything, and they are not vending machines. She's painfully conscious of all three facts.

So she adds, "If it won't cost a lot."

Then? She finally gets to it. "I'd like you to shut that down. Make sure they can't. Ideally I'd like to know when someone is trying, and ideally I'd like them to get maybe a warning they shouldn't push, and even more ideally I'd like it to hurt them, maybe even incapacitate them, if they keep trying to get in. I'd settle though for just…nope. Not possible, can't, the brain is closed. I just can't think of a single soul I'd ever want in there. Not even Trish, not even you or Zee. It could be my one true love and soulmate for all of time and my answer would still be to stay out and stay out for good. I'm sorry to ask, but I just…" She spreads her hands. And she can't ask Zee…that would lead into a conversation she doesn't want to have with the teen witch, for reasons she's already explained to John. But John already knows the things she'd keep to herself on that front. Zee might suspect, but John knows.

With his help, maybe nobody will ever like fucking with her head ever again. With his help, they might not even be able to.


There are things about Chas Chandler that Jessica Jones does not know, and if she did know them, they might give her pause. Of course, the thought of an angry Chas is something most people find difficult; he's always the soul of patience — as one might expect of a man who has for some reason cast the lot of his friendship in with a person as difficult as John Constantine — and tends to be affable and warm even in trying circumstances. Which is not to say that he doesn't have his limits. Everyone does.

John shrugs in a manner that suggests he isn't particularly worried about Chas' wrath, but he doesn't insist that he's up to the task, largely because she hasn't outlined what it might be yet. It doesn't take many sentences for him to understand what she's asking, and some of his earlier solemnity bleeds back in, eyes grave as he listens to her outline how absolutely critically important it is to her, how inviolate she needs the interior of her own head to be — and he understands that more than he maybe should, given he's never been subjected to what she's been subjected to. Between his time in Ravenscar and the fact that he is innately an individual whose entire life is conducted inside of his own skull, those trespasses are viscerally abhorrent to him— even in theory.

"There are options." He says the words slowly, careful about what he depicts as possible. "But there isn't a readily-available panacea for keeping people out, because there are different ways that people get in. Yeah? Psychics and telepaths, but also magic, illusion…sort of a mixed bag. It's easy enough to put bars on the windows of your house, but that doesn't do much for your front door, sort of thing. So I can put something together for you— several somethings, even— but I don't know if I can account for every bizarre ability. Certainly, though, I can set you up with something to keep the usual brand of telepaths from putting their hands into the cookie jar, and make them very sorry if they try. You'll just need to remember that it's only as strong as I am. Which," he adds, with a rakish slash of a smile, "Is not nothing. Still, there are bastards out there who don't mind going toe to toe with me on a good day, and if you run up against one of them…" After a beat he lifts his shoulders, the cut and shadow of muscle and bone under cloth still too prominent. "You'd be taking your chances with them getting through. They'd still probably be sorry, though."


"I don't expect you to work miracles, John," Jessica says softly, looking down at her hands. Asking for things makes her feel vulnerable, even more so than confessing things that are on her heart and mind. Vulnerability isn't something she enjoys at all, but she's learning to sit with that, too, when necessary. She's even learning it's not always a bad thing. "Anything you can do, I appreciate, truly." It puts the set of her shoulders a bit more at ease; she'd tensed up merely talking about this. "Your strength is, indeed, not nothing," she adds, dryly. "And if I'm toe to toe with a bastard who wants to go toe to toe with you on those fronts I'm already in deep shit, and probably hitting various panic buttons as quickly as I possibly can trying to get you or Zee or anyone else I can out to help my ass. Just let me know when you're up to it and what, if anything, you need me to do to assist my own aid."

Because while Jessica has learned to accept help, to lean on others, to even ask for it…she's not someone who is going to sit around either, not if she can do something to help herself. One of the earliest lessons her father and mother imparted on her was the importance of pulling her own weight whenever and however she could; and in a life that taught her self-reliance over and above just about any other lesson until very recently those values were only strengthened, reinforced, and writ large until they came to dominate her personality to a fault.

With that settled though…

"Alright. You made a face when I said we really need to address Az…but surely there's something that can be done? I mean I know I can only really help this by…brainstorming stupid ideas at you until I'm blue in the face, hoping something sticks. I know you'd have done something already if you knew exactly what to do. But John…She's trying, really, really hard to manage it on her own, but I don't know how much longer she's going to last. I have great faith in her, and I'm proud of the strides she's made…she even took up meditation. Having people who care around her seems to be having something of a positive impact. But…she remembers Xihunel's memories as her own, and sort of…slips in and out. Her personality and his, her memory and his, her impulses and his."


"I'll let you know. If I'm going to be putting booby-traps in your 'ead, I'd like to be rested up a bit first." This may or may not be reassuring, but it is, at least, open agreement to arrange for something of the kind she was hoping for.

That part is easy; John has no qualms using magic to defend people, and laying traps is infinitely more his style than slinging fireballs around. He's on firm ground there, and comfortable with it.

He should be comfortable with the Azalea issue — after all, situations concerning the soul fall very particularly within his wheelhouse — but he isn't, and that's clear the moment they circle back to the issue. Part of the reason why may suggest itself in watching his expression as he listens to her talk about Azalea, describing her efforts, painting a picture of her — of Jessica's — investment in the young woman's well-being. It grows less comfortable by the moment, troubled and slightly apologetic.

"I don't know what can or can't be done. It's not something I've seen before. It's not a possession, as such. If it were, that would be easy, yeah. Purge the entity, years of therapy — easy-peasy. I only had a brief look, but it's something else altogether. They're fused together. And it's not a question of — look, I can cut them apart," he says, with more certainty than he might have been able to before his journey into Hell, where he did something previously believed impossible with the fabric of his own soul. "But whatever caused them to wind up that way, I'm guessing it was to do with something lacking in the both of them. Right? So it might be like siamese twins with one circulatory system. You can't just chop them in half. She might die. Which," he says, and hesitates. Something guarded slowly settles into place in his expression. "Honestly, Jones? If it can't be fixed some other way? That's probably the best remaining option. It's a bloody terrible thing to say, but if she can't control it and we cannot actually figure out a way to separate them…" He splays his hands. "She's got something very dangerous in her."

He could continue in that vein, but elects not to. John is the whatever-it-takes savior of last resort, and his reputation is what it is for that reason: he will do the hard thing if he must, popular or not.

Rather than hammer on that point, he loops back around to what might be able to be done: "I just don't know enough to say. It's worth trying, obviously, with the alternatives being less than ideal. I can't make you promises because it's nothing I've ever done before, save to promise to try."


"She asked me to kill her if she loses. I agreed." Jessica says, staring off into space as she tells the only other soul she's ever uttered those words to. "She doesn't know that there are about a thousand other things I'd try first but…at the end of the day, yeah. I get that. You're not telling me anything I don't know."

It cuts at her though, deeper than a knife. The words are miserable. She looks sick, and she shoves her hands in the pockets of her jacket, which she'd never bothered to take off. It simply hadn't occurred to her to do so.

"Maybe what she needs is a fuller synthesis though. It's…" She exhales. "Psychologically that idea seemed to help her. She said that she was losing her humanity, was crying…I told her none of this was her fault but it was now all her responsibility, she had to respond. The idea that she should mourn these people Xihunel killed, and basically atone for them as if she'd done them herself, that maybe even Xihunel picked her because she was ready to atone…that seemed to produce some stability. It sounds sickeningly dangerous to me, but…maybe the only way forward is through. To make them into one person. One with the morals and heart and capacity to love that Azalea has, and the knowledge, power, and information that Xihunel has. I understand you might not be able to pick and choose though. God, I don't even know what I'm talking about, I'm just talking out of my hat to you, but she's…"

She stands up, pacing a little bit. "I love that kid, John. She reminded me of myself right off the bat, she's fighting so hard, she doesn't deserve any of this. I know. I know. I love anyone and everyone too hard and too fast when I decide to do it. I know normal people wait a long time to decide to love anyone but…I guess to me that's all it is. A decision. You either give a shit or you don't give a shit. Maybe it's cause everything I do is born out of extreme circumstances. You can see a person's measure right away when shit's going down. You may not know what they like to eat for breakfast or what their fucking favorite color is, but you see the shit that matters, you get the shape of who they are and you can just…fill in the rest later…Fuck."

She makes a scoffing noise, all aimed at herself, frustrated and angry at her own outpouring of words. "I'm sorry, you don't need to hear all this bullshit. I appreciate your willingness to try on that score too. I'm sorry."

She tries to deflect all of it with a joke. "See, it's a damn good thing I brought food, right? Makes up for being a total asshole. Somewhat. Because everyone likes gyros."


'I understand you might not be able to pick and choose,' Jessica says, and John lifts his hands, palms facing the ceiling, in a gesture that says with ultimate concision, 'pretty much.'

He doesn't have time to elaborate before she gets up out of the chair and begins pacing at the foot of the bed, her agitation filling up the largely empty space. Passion is a refreshing texture when you've been confined to a bed for nearly a week, but the source of that passion and its ultimate possible consequences are factors that weigh heavily on John, who shoulders the burden of bad news readily enough. He's been the bearer of it more times than he can count — enough to be considered something of a bad omen amongst his peers — and this isn't going to be the last time, either.

"I'm not trying to enforce some kind of speed limit on how you feel about people. That's what it is, and that's fine. What you do isn't what I do. You can afford that sort of thing. But in my line of work, Jess…" John pauses, lifts one of his hands to rake splayed fingers back into the tousled gold-brown crop of his hair, roughing through it slowly. "I see a lot of people who don't deserve what they get, get got. Hell — if we're being honest, I've been the reason more than a few of them have got gotten. Life's not about 'deserve.' There's no such thing. Nobody deserves what Azalea's got, but that's not my job to worry about. I do what I can, but when I can't…I do what has to be done. That's all. It'd be doing everything we've been through a disservice if I pretended that's not something we have to consider. I'm…" He hesitates, because what he's about to say is simultaneously true and not true. "I'm sorry."

He gestures at the chair loosely. "Anyway, it doesn't make you an asshole. It's an 'ard thing, what we're talking about. I suppose it makes you decent." He reaches for a fry, tucks it into his mouth, and slants a cutting half-smile at her, wry as a Puck. "I'm sure I wouldn't know what that's like."


"You do too," Jessica says, exhaling and getting back in the chair. "Know what being decent is like. You are decent. You've made mistakes, shit's turned sideways for you, but you are decent, John. And if you can't believe it than I'll just go on believing it for the both of us."

She turns the chair, straddles it, and drapes her arms over the back of it, her volitile emotions simmering back down to something more normal. Her tone turns more subdued as she rests her chin on her arms and says, "As for what you're telling me, I respect you for it. Why do you think I come to you with this stuff? You don't ever candy coat it, you don't ever give me bullshit. I don't want you to feed me bullshit and I don't want you to give anything other than what you give. I don't always like your answers, but I do like that you tell it to me straight, that you're realistic about the limits. I know when I come to you that you're not going to take risks that don't need to be taken to accomplish something just because I think it needs to be accomplished. That's a good thing. So what the fuck do you have to be sorry for? The situation sucks. You didn't create it. All you're trying to do is help. And you didn't even bring up how I feel, so I'm definitely not accusing you of trying to put speed limits on me."

This problem, for her, is in many ways a brand new one. Once, she'd pushed everyone away. Her speed limit had been something like 5. She'd felt and felt deeply, but had done so behind high, tight walls that let nobody at all in. Now the walls are mostly down most of the time, and all the feeling is what comes spilling out. Now everything's been turned upside down, but…as fucked up as it is and as bad as she is at navigating it, Jessica Jones has discovered a brand new addiction in the people around her, and this is one habit she's not keen on kicking. "I just felt ridiculous for a moment," she admits, "saying shit like that. Like I had to defend it, I guess, when it's…out of synch, with the way most people do things."

She smirks. "Believe it or not I tried to come down here just to keep you company and cheer you up and see how you were doing. That was the agenda; I'd figured on waiting on all this other shit. Then I found you grumply plunking away there and it was off to the races."


What she says verges on flattery, but only because John views the qualities she ascribes to him as good ones. Not everyone would feel the same. So, of course, he looks momentarily inscrutable, listening but difficult to read, until things shift to focus on Jessica again, and eventuall — when she says 'out of sync with the way most people do things'— he barks a sharp, bright, short little laugh, like the jab of a knife. "Welcome to my entire life, luv." After another bite, he points at her, arches a brow. "And everybody else's in this merry little band of misfits you've accumulated. At least you're in good company for it."

He dusts his hands again, finally— after demolishing an entire gyro and all of the fries, as well as the entire drink— sated enough that he can settle back into the pillows propped between his back and the headboard. "Do I not seem duly cheered?" Both brows rise, the wide smile that accompanies the look disingenuous for the few moments before it yields to a more natural look— faintly wry, lid-eyed. With food in his system, he looks tired, all of his body's spare resources devoted to breaking it down as quickly as possible — and in any case, after a month of solitary confinement in a dark hole in the pit of Hell, he's still adjusting to being around other people again. "Really, though. Thanks for checking in, and for the food. Distractions are good."


"I didn't accumulate us," Jessica says with a genuine laugh. "I think that was Zatanna. But alright, fair enough. We're all mad here."

"You seem positively jovial," she says sardonically, but her eyes are sparkling. "Ass." Yep, compliments in one moment, cheerfully and affectionately calling him an ass the next. That's what he gets. "Zee would probably whap both of us right now if she were here though. This is not how you social, you two! Chas has his headphones on so we're safe on that count."

Or maybe not. Zee was just as game to fling herself headlong into the next adventure as Jessica and John are. But…she can also see that he's flagging. She stands and picks up the bag, stuffing the cups into it. And if he's ready to sleep instead of being grouchy and staring at his laptop, maybe coming in and giving him a bunch of information and problems to solve wasn't a bad thing after all. It certainly would have worked wonders for her, had their positions been reversed, so she decides to just dump that guilt too. They weren't the same people by a long shot, but some basic core principles of their personality seemed to be pretty similar.

"And if distractions are good, there's all sorts of great shit leaving the Netflix queue this month. Just saying." She picks up the chair so she can return it to its proper spot.


He looks tired, but not put-upon, to be sure, and his good humor as she teases him is genuine even if it's subdued. John thrives on problems to solve, and even without any of those…he has a difficult time existing in a vacuum. Which is why it may be odd that—

"Eh, I don't really watch television," he says, dragging the laptop back over and onto his lap, braced against his upright knees. Given the lassitude of the gestures involved in shifting it, though, it seems like the effort is token at best; he seems more likely to be fast asleep in the next twenty minutes than aught else. "No time for it. Ta, Jones. I'll let you know when Nurse Ratchet downstairs feels I'm well enough to scamper about, shall I? And, eh." Brief pause. "Send my regards to the others, will you?"

By which he means his thanks, obviously. The word is 'thanks,' John.

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