Litanies of Impossible Kindnesses

April 08, 2017:

John Constantine uses his gifts on behalf of one Jessica Jones, safeguarding her mind against psychic tampering.

John's hidden flat, New York City

Literally, where the magic happens.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Azalea Kingston, Bucky Barnes, Zatanna Zatara

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

John's flat is much the same as the last time Jessica visited: in a state of gradually improving utility and decor. John, however, is not; it's clear to look at him that he hasn't been sleeping well this week, shadows beginning to appear beneath his eyes, his expression slightly drawn. When she arrives he's all cutting grins and light quips as usual, displaying a characteristic disinterest in discussing or even mentioning the trials of his personal life, but the worn look lingers around the edges of everything while he goes about setting things up for what she's come here to have him do.

There isn't altogether too much involved. A knife, a silver bowl of water, a Tibetan singing bowl, all items he arranges on the kitchen table. There's no incense or candlelight as one might expect for a ritual, which has been the source of some small disappointment to other clients of John over the years. 'At least turn the lights down or something,' one of them told him once, as they sat in the man's fluorescent-lit kitchen with the peeling laminate floor and contacted the ghost of the man's dead wife. The lack of ambiance had, apparently, seemed disrespectful. John had lit a Febreeze candle and shut off the lights because he wanted to be paid and go home.

When he's set everything up on the table he joins her, sitting in the chair adjacent hers, turning it on an angle to look at her directly. "Jones, there's something you need to know. To put this on you, I'm going to have to…get in there." His expression is apologetic, but he lifts one hand to forestall any words on her part, one brow arching. "I'm not a telepath. I couldn't read your mind even if I wanted to, and I can't — " He hesitates. "Well, no, that's a lie. I could make someone do things, if I had to. But that's not what we're doing here, so you don't need to worry about that. But I'm going to have to put the wards in there. Right? So you're going to feel it. I'm not poking around. I don't have the ability to do that. I just thought I should warn you." He lets that sit a moment, searching her face with blue eyes. "You still want to do this?"

—-

In their demeanor and presentation, they are alike today. Jessica Jones is displaying the same wear and tear, though for different reasons. She's also happy to engage in joking and snark with him all he wants. It's a common mechanism for both of them, one she's happy to fall into. Especially as she'd noted how distant he had been during the tense situation with Azalea. She hadn't been able to decide if it was rightful focus on a shit situation (which was the reasonable, sane explanation) or whether she'd somehow tanked their friendship at last by involving him with Azalea at all, or maybe by doing something stupid by bringing a dagger home from Hell, however accidentally and however much he'd been willing to verbally absolve her of the fault for that (the explanation her ever-present, ever-gnawing anxiety cooked up for her). And while she'd ultimately allowed her logic to win out…having him act normally with her thankfully shut the little bugger of a demon up.

And if his state is cause for worry for her, she also knows the way their friendshp works. He'll tell her if he needs or wants her to know; if she can help somehow, if there's physical action that needs to be taken on his behalf, and she will spring to do those things. In the meantime, she's not about to press him to talk about his feelings or his emotions. A great deal of it might in fact just be Gandalf Shit she has no hope of understanding to begin with. She trusts him to know for himself when she can help and when she cannot.

There are plenty of things she won't address either, starting with the big duct taped silver X's on her jacket, some sort of a repair job for some sort of damage.

Despite their general state and their general demeanor together she still watches the simple preparations with both keen interest and an undisguised hunger. There is no disappointment. She's seen John work wonders with a bit of a outline drawn with his finger, in ale, on a bar countertop. In the time they've worked together she's seen him navigate his power with very little zip and bang. What she cares about are results.

She trusts John to deliver those.

And of course, she didn't think to offer to pay him, so there's that.

He lays out what he's going to have to do.

It would be nice to say she doesn't turn a little whiter.

It would be nice to say that his warning doesn't give her pause. She'd feel less ashamed of herself, given this is her friend, someone she trusts with her life, if she could say that a cold, crawling chill didn't work its way up her spine and arms as if to ward off the very notion.

She can't say any of that. He might even see it in the slow grimace, the way she goes so very still beside him, suddenly with the air of a half-starved she-wolf not sure if she is sniffing the shelter she's seeking or a threat, unwilling to move until she knows even if she's dying slowly from the blizzard that rages all around her.

Her next grimace reveals a hint of shame for doubting him for a second. She beats back the buzzing demonic flies of her own anxiety once more.

"Right," she says. He's going to have to put the wards in there. "Yes. I trust you." How often has she uttered those words in her life? Even when she's extending trust? She…can't even really think of one. But they are no less sincere for that.

A faint, dark smirk; she knows how much he just loves heartfelt words, and she seeks to diffuse them. And to diffuse something else, something she thinks might come hard on the heels of such a declaration. "You're so not allowed to do your Grumpy Merlin 'You Shouldn't' routine in response to that by the way. Veto. It's not going to do any good anyway, and you'll need that breath for all the chanting. If there is any chanting. But even if there's not. None of that shit."

—-

John expects the grimace, and the anxiety, the wariness, the displeasure, the fear. He expects them and understands them and, if he didn't, he wouldn't have felt it necessary to warn her in the first place. At the very least, it doesn't appear he takes any of it personally. He's a man who — as has been amply demonstrated in the last week by an unfortunate event that he has still not recovered from — is particularly private, and the thought of having someone inside of his head has been the stuff of nightmares for him for longer than he can remember. With that very thing having happened to him recently, now more than ever…he gets it.

There are just some lines you don't want anyone to cross, no matter how much you like — or love — them.

His serious, searching look transitions into easy wryness as he sits up out of his forward lean, reaching for the knife — it's an athame, actually, but who's counting? — on the table. "About this, Jones, you can absolutely trust me. I wouldn't agree to do it if I didn't know that I could. And I'm very sorry, but I'm going to have to put some blood on you, so…"

With as little fanfare as she's already noted he typically indulges in, he slices his thumb with a tight grimace and reaches out with one hand, pressing the bleeding pad of it to the space just above and between her brows, the seat of the so-called third eye. He rises as he does, setting the athame aside and holding out his hand in a staying gesture to keep her in her seat.

With one free hand he knocks the side of the Tibetan singing bowl, producing not one tone, as a normal bowl might, but an entire suite of tones that come and go, layering over one another, waxing and waning with soft, clarion voices.

I want you to listen to the bowl and look into this," he instructs, sliding the silver bowl containing the water over toward the space in front of where she's sitting. "And try to…zone out. Slow down your thoughts, focus on the your breathing and the sounds the bowl makes. Relax. Unfocus your eyes. It works best if you don't try; if you just let it happen. You have to let go."

—-

"I'm pretty sure we've bled on each other before," Jessica points out with a wry chuff. "If it hasn't happened yet it's going to." He holds out his hand; she stays put. There's no flinch when he touches her, though she holds herself still. This isn't some clap on the shoulder between them, a quick hand up. This slight contact stirs up her traditional wariness because of what she's asked him to do for her, and what it will require. It puts the contact on a level that is not casual in the slightest.

It's as though her actual body is three times as big as the spirit within it as a result, the parts of her that make her 'her' retreating deeper inside the too-still form, instinctively placing walls, barriers, space between her self and this contact, as if she pulls 'personal space' inside of herself in the absence of any outside.

She likes the tones, though; they're pretty. Jones is not immune to beautiful things, nor their appreciation. Far from it. She just isn't overly inclined to share this appreciation with others. She's doing well just to try to figure out how to navigate a verbal appreciation for the people around her. Sharing something as simple as a 'that's pretty' for something as simple as a rose, or the kind of complex music that will never issue from an iPod or a radio station is something that is, at the end of the day, for her, a level of connection and familiarity that she hasn't been able to offer up to a single soul, not even Trish. Still, it's possible to detect she does like them, if only by the appreciative intake of her breath.

She realizes— or at least deduces, perhaps wrongly, that he's trying to hypnotise her. Her expressive face flickers with ripples of surprise; that's something nobody's ever tried on her before. She watches the water obediently, even as her expressions flicker between that surprise, another burst of fear, even a self-depreciating bit of amusement as he says 'let go'. Something she, control freak that she is, is so very very adept at.

But this was something she asked of him, just as she'd asked Bucky to train her, and the end result is similar. Her jaw firms in determination (something pretty well antithetical to letting go, but…she's working on it) and she watches the water like she thinks inner peace is a fish that's going to leap out of it at any moment, requiring her to close her jaws around it and hold it up triumphantly— relaxation achieved!

But then she remembers there were some other instructions. She starts by unfocusing her eyes, which is easy enough. Slow down her thoughts, her ever-racing, ever working brain…that comes harder, so she focuses on the breathing first. This is not unlike Bucky's Void, perhaps…or perhaps it's the complete o— no, Jones, don't do a compare and contrast job, relax. Listen to the sounds.

Watching someone try not to try may be an exercise in frustration.

In the end, though, it might help that she's actually exhausted. The tension in her shoulders finally starts to ease away, and her facial features slowly start to slacken.

—-

It goes on for a long time that way without anything else happening. She isn't wrong about what he's doing; he's inducing the same sort of hypnagogic state that leads to deep hypnosis — or rather, providing her with the means to enter it on her own.

When he told her that he'd be lying if he said he couldn't make her do anything, hypnosis was what he was referring to. Augmented with magic, John is capable of all sorts of tomfoolery involving the mind — like the 'Jedi mind trick' he used in rescuing Zatanna from Hydra when her soul was being ripped out of her body, for instance. But while he might be able to forcibly induce trance in Jones…in light of what he knows about her history, he would need a very good reason indeed to try. And it may not even be possible, for all he knows: she's had deeply traumatic experiences relating to that kind of trespass, and people do develop willpower and defenses to combat that sort of harm.

It's easier, safer, and kinder to create a space in which she enters that state voluntarily, no magic required — save, perhaps, in the relaxing aura emanated by the bowl, which is more a matter of mood than state of being. Her willing participation will ease the rest of what they've come here to do.

When it comes to his work, John is almost infinitely patient if he needs to be. He waits in silence for as long as it takes; five minutes, fifteen, half an hour — it doesn't matter. It's only once he's able to sense the telltale signs of being aware and present but comfortably in that space of trance that he moves again, quietly, to extend his thumb over the bowl above her field of view and squeeze his thumb at the base near the heel of his palm, pushing blood to the wound and into droplets that plummet down into the silvery clarity of the water in the bowl. He articulates his spellcasting in a whisper barely more than breath, a repetitive mantra executed as his eyes close and roll very slightly backward, leaving only thin seams of white visible between nearly-closed lids and lashes. Over a decade of practice with tantric magic has made it trivial for him to enter a state not unlike her own.

The droplets of red that plummet into the water seem to erupt in the emptied amphitheater of her head like scarlet flowers, unfurling with the same sort of grace, in slow-moving, viscous plumes and whorls. Each new drop fuels the expanding whorls, their coils, sweeps and spirals beginning to take on shapes that suggest order and purpose, as though a pattern exists just beyond the edge of sensing.

It's a structure that has substance, weight. She'll feel it as a presence, just as he warned her she would, though there's nothing particularly specific to John there, nor to any individual or personality, really — something more like an object, as though the ward itself had a material form.

—-

It takes, all in all, a good half hour in fact, so she will have cause to be grateful for his patience as well as for his kindness and consideration, his delicacy for performing a task that requires measures that are so very fraught for her. After, when she's thinking at all. Her unfocused eyes take on those patterns. Like a lava lamp, almost, or some sort of fireworks display, or like simply watching clouds, red clouds in her head. It almost doesn't register for her as being John Constantine's blood at all.

The lack of personality in there allows her to take a deeper breath still, almost a releasing one, like someone finally settling down into sleep. It's not sleep at all, of course, but the metaphor applies. As she does that sense of self slowly expands to fit her entire body again, no longer concerned so much with personal space. It's as if this knowledge was the last component she needed to settle comfortably.

She watches these things in her mind as a vaguely appreciative observer, capable now of simply being curious about them in some detatched, lazy fashion. From time to time her mind tries to put names to the patterns, to apply order…but it all seems like just far too much effort in the end, and the ideas sort of slide away before taking root or troubling her. The weight is a good thing…what would a wall, a trap, a protection have but weight? It seems wholly expected, just fine and right.

She has cause to appreciate something else, distantly, vaguely, more viscerally enjoying it than verbally naming it, the way one might viscerally enjoy a warm blanket on a cold day.

She'd been using alcohol to suppress her emotions since she was 17 years old. She'd been a highly functional alcoholic, but Kilgrave wasn't really what put her on the booze-train. He'd just been the catalyst that took her from socially-acceptable functionality to a truly besotted level of blackout depravity. Since her commitment to quit has taken hold, her emotions have been a raging flickering flame, hitting her with four, five, six times the force they ought to, simply because she is suddenly having any besides numb, cynical, throbbing inner pain or sudden bursts of fear or unhappiness too strong even for the alcohol.

This may be the first time she's felt peace in anything like a conscious state in her living memory. Not happiness, because she's felt that in the past several months, not wholeness, because here and there, she's gotten to touch that too, however fleeting and desperately addictive that sensation is, no matter how much she finds herself assuming it's people that can deliver that to her, rather than something inside herself. But peace, surcease from her storm-tossed inner seas, a momentary end to the overthinking, the worrying, the obsessing.

Appreciating the beauty in that does not require its disturbance in the least.

—-

The slow movement of blood in water — mirrored in her head, the blood on her forehead slowly disappearing as it's consumed by the construction of the ward he's building for her — continues to change, reorganizing itself around the invented shape of the protection he's designed. It gradually twists through itself, over and around, arcs in wide curves that seem to brace the inside of her skill like reinforcing girders, and as it nears completion, threads of light that bring with them a sense of warmth begin to slip through the core of every last ribbon and line, expanding outward from the origin point. It grows to fill her the way a vine might, as though instead of blood it were clinging ivy, and her skull a sphere of brick, adhering to the outside, interlocking in sigils that will mean nothing to her at all.

The movement slows, slows, gradually draws to a halt, the garnet liquid having spent itself. It darkens, hardens, crystallizes like flowing water spooling out into ice, and the light gradually wanes until the entire spectacle goes dark, and ends.

The weight and sense of presence remain. If she thinks about the structure she now knows is there, she'll feel it: something in her that is not an innate part of the fabric of who she is. Dormant. Sleeping.

At some point, the bowl ceases to make any sound, and at some point after that John says quietly, "Alright, Jones. Come on back, but take your time."

In the interim, he uses now-pink water in the bowl to rinse his thumb and the athame, carrying it afterward to the sink to dump the water, and then hunting through cabinets in search of his box of adhesive bandages.

—-

They may not have meaning to her, but they convey something nevertheless. She's watching a master of his craft build something, no less impressive than watching an architecht create a building, or a composer create a masterpiece. She'd been thinking of his craft as mostly being like a science: rules plus whatever it was inside of him that gave him the ability to turn those rules to his advantage. Will, as he'd said, mana, as she'd read, things that simply took on power by virtue of the role they'd played in various events, as Zatanna had indicated when educating her on the difference between a Hand of Glory and a hand simply chopped off the corpse of a guy hung in an alley once.

But now she sees something else: artistry, creativity, symphony. She finds herself appreciating it not just for what it will do, but for what it is: an investment not just of John's time, or his will, or his magic, but his very real genius. His is no mere gimmick or super-power, but something hardwon and carefully cultivated. It puts his other gifts of magic even more into perspective for her.

All in all, it is humbling, but in an essentially positive way.

These are the thoughts that resolve themselves as he tells her she can come back. Take her time, John says, and she does, mostly because she's studying this structure the way a tourist might study a cathedral in Rome.

Still, coming back is way faster than going in; five minutes later her eyes are open, her restless mind reasserts itself, relaxation mostly fleeing…but not completely. Some bit of it remains inside of her, either because she's still sitting there so close to it, or because she knows she's safer, now.

Maybe the next time she tries to meet Bucky's requirements for clarity she'll imagine water and singing bowls instead of a void. Maybe she's spent far too much time chasing voids, really, for that to ever really work for her.

'Your work,' she wants to say, 'is beautiful.'

She cannot.

Instead she says a quiet, heartfelt, "Damn, John, that was bad-ass. Thank you. Thank you so much."

Emotion will have its due though, and for one moment, horror of horrors, she finds herself tearing up just a little bit. Not out of sadness. Indeed, much of the wear and tear she'd come in with has eased away, a gift that's a side-effect of what he's done but nevertheless appreciated.

No. It's because this is another in a litany of impossible kindnesses she's received over the past several months.

She's simply touched by it, struck by it, the emotions marching across her face as easily as disgust usually does when she's confronted (as she so often is) by someone or something stupid or disgusting. Even stunned, a little, as she finds herself contemplating the fact that these kindnesses exist, and that they've been offered out, so selflessly, so generously, to her.

—-

Funnily enough, the thing that Jessica Jones finds it in herself to appreciate about John's work is the very thing his contemporaries tend to scoff at. He's been called a 'gutter mage,' a 'mongrel' and a 'thief' by men and women deeply invested in the history of magic. Also a 'magpie of magic,' though he doesn't particularly mind that one, because it's more or less true, in essence: he borrows from nearly every tradition and combines those elements in entirely new ways without any regard for the ~institution~ of magic. No reverence, no theater, no formality: just tools in a toolbox for a job, and if he has to MacGyver things together to get the result he wants, then so be it. He will go on being the object of derision amongst those in his community who care about doing things 'properly,' with the appropriate gravitas…

But John's pragmatism, insolence, and disdain for institutions of authority have certainly won him friends outside of those circles, amongst people more…grounded.

Bandaging his thumb at the kitchen counter, he glances over his shoulder when she speaks, one blue eye bright, glittering amusedly. "Welcome back, sunshine. No problem 't'all." He tosses aside a bloodied rag, drops his gaze to the bandage on his thumb. "I'll have 'tanna fix this later. Cuts on hands are a pain in the arse."

He returns to the table unhurriedly, takes up a backward lean against it, head turned hard to the side to look down at her. Pieces of him extend into the energy of the flat, sensing what he's created: something he can do because it was created with his own blood, necessary to the theoretical need of repairing, modifying, or replacing it should the need arise.

"How are you feeling? Alright? No headache, nothing, eh, feels off at all?"

—-

"Sunshine," Jessica repeats with a laugh, because she can't imagine anyone less sunny than her. But her eyes are sunnier, the glimmering touched tears chased away by his joke.

She works to get 'grounded', to find her way back to some version of herself that she recognizes, though perhaps not too much. She is trying to transform, to become different; ultimately this is a slow process of deciding which parts of herself she needs to discard or reform and which she needs to refine and keep. It's an uncertain process, a strange and scary road, because she has no idea who she'll become by the end of it, or if she'll make the right choices. Even deciding where to center herself emotionally can be a strange choice after something like this, small as it may seem.

He says he'll have Zatanna fix it later, that hand wounds are a pain in the ass, and she says, "Well, you were smarter than me on the two times I tried slicing myself up for fun and profit." In which she had simply cut into her entire palm, when apparently a nick might have gone right ahead and done the trick.

She lacks whatever apparatus might allow her to sense him checking over his work, but responds to his verbal check-up. "No headache, no dizziness," she reports. She actually pauses to check; her physiology, she knows, is little guard against the ways magic might "cock up" her equilibrium or neurochemistry. "I feel good," she decides at last. Her hand cuts at the air, a gesture meant to help her find words. "Like it's quiet in there in a way it's never been." This could be an illusion: the homeowner's sudden relief at having a good security system in place, for all that she's still got a couple of add-ons to pursue in order to complete the round of protections she feels she needs to ensure that she's pursued everything she can pursue to ensure her greatest nightmares remain little more than nightmares from now on.

As usual, though, she has questions. "What should I know about what you've just created?" she asks, getting to the point. Though the use of the word 'created' might offer insight into the way she views his work, as opposed, to say, 'done'; some of that appreciation certainly bleeds into the tone behind it. "Anything?"

—-

Like it's quiet in there in a way its never been.

John's brow arches, though not to dismiss the notion outright so much as to express that he finds it interesting. "Could be, if you've got any psychic sensitivities yourself. Some people have just enough to give them…" He lifts his uninjured hand, swirls the pads of his fingers and thumb over one another, as though feeling the texture of something. "A nous for it. Hunches and the like."

Questions are also expected, and ultimately good. John has answers, and a small quirk of a smile for the nuance of tone in her voice. "It has a few functions. You'll know if someone tries to poke about in there. It'll react to any other consciousness but yours. I can't tell you precisely how it'll feel, or even look, but there'll be some reasonably unobtrusive indication, probably a bit like what you saw or felt when I was setting it all up. If they push, they'll find it's solid, and they'll…" He hesitates, closing his mouth and running his tongue over the front of his teeth. "Get a warning, let's say. Ice cream headache, perhaps, or a shock, or — well, I'm not psychic, as I've said. It won't be disabling, but it won't be pleasant. More than that though, and they'll be very sorry. The spell's designed to put out feedback proportional to the amount of times that someone tries, or the amount of force that they use. There's a good chance it could knock someone out if they're cocky about it, and if for some reason it's someone very good at handling pain, there's every chance it could kill them if they don't stop. But they'd have to be very committed to pushing it, Jones. It's not likely."

He sits in silence a moment, then adds, "It's also possible someone could remove it, if they're better at this shite than I am. And if that's the case, I've left them a little parting gift that only triggers if it's undone." His smile is flinty. "Nuclear option, that one. I don't appreciate having my work tampered with."

—-

Or a detective's gut instinct. Though the notion that this is anything psychic does cause a conflicted look to pass briefly over her features; given her general hatred of psychics the idea that she might have anything like that…

But she'd known, hadn't she, immediately, when psychics had touched her mind? She'd chalked that up to it being a raw wound, like someone sticking their finger right inside a knife cut. A person damn sure feels that; no special senses required. He can at least be sure she's not going to develop some fond new eagerness for exploring whatever 'nous' she happens to have floating around in there.

She ultimately shelves the concern. If she chooses not to develop it, then she's not a hypocrite, if there's even anything there to develop. Her detective's gut instinct could be as much a matter of experience and a knack for the work that she does; pieces pulling themselves together simply because she's seen the patterns often enough, much like she's able to solve the daily cryptoquote within about ten minutes by making leaps of logic that ultimately work just fine.

She leans forward, absorbing his answers; the far more interesting thing to contemplate and pay attention to.

She's soon nodding with approval at his explanation; this is precisely what she asked for. She doesn't really want it to kill anyone, but if someone is that damned committed to making his or her way inside of her head then they'll have earned what they get. She'll certainly warn them verbally about the possibility as soon as they try it. "Sounds to me if they keep at it at that point, they're just sticking their fucking fingers into the proverbial light socket and winning themselves a Darwin award," she says.

She grins appreciatively in response as he describes his nuclear option. "There can't be that many people fitting that description in all the world" she says, "but that's brilliant."

Having gotten the rare chance to actually see what his work actually looks like, and not just the effects, she can say that with a lot more confidence and certainty than before.

She stands, then, and hesitates, before tentatively offering a quick hug that she won't close without his express acceptance of it. He already knows how huge this is for her, and she doesn't wish to discomfit him with effusiveness, having seen that discomfit several times before, having heard about some of what pains him as well, things she couldn't begin to fix or even patch the way he's offered this out to her. But…something more than a casual thank-you still seems to be called for. "You're amazing, John Constantine," she says, whether he accepts that burst of warmth or not.

—-

"Exactly," he says, of the light socket analogy. He shows no evidence of any kind of compunction concerning the wellfare of anyone who pushes the limit on what he's put into her head.

What she says once she grins draws an appreciative half-smile out of him, but he shakes his head once. "You'd be surprised, Jones. There are plenty and then some. But for the most part…they're not going to be interested in a New York City detective who isn't even a mage." He tips her a wink.

It may come as something of a surprise that John doesn't actually mind physical contact with other people. He's so guarded about his inner life that it makes sense to assume that he is with his outer life as well, but that's only very selectively the case. When she reaches to hug him he readily accepts, folding her into a warm one that carries with it all of the various scents of his life and his work: the blood, the faint ozone tang of spent magic, the cloves and whatever he uses to shave and launder his clothes. He fills those out again better than he did, too; Chas' excellent cooking has done a great deal for the repairing of his physique. "Oh, don't know I know it," he quips, of his own amazingness. "I very nearly put that on my business card, and then I thought — doesn't the reputation speak for itself? The English don't like to self-promote, even if it is truth in advertising." He pats her on the back twice, then levers her back with hands on her shoulders to fix her with a level look. "If you feel anything about the ward change, or you have any side-effects, call me, yeah? You probably won't. Bears saying, though. And remember there are only so many kinds of attack this can protect you from."

—-

Indeed, and she'd almost made that point— that she's just a private eye,some mundane in Hell's Kitchen. But her brain had kept coming back to the idea that if some mage is, it's because they're really interested in John himself, or Zatanna. She doesn't really want to turn his own thoughts in that direction in the least, so she leaves it unsaid, saying instead, "Yeah, I'm not too worried about the idea that someone might trigger ye olde nuclear option. I'm happy to keep right on flying under the radar."

She's surprised to find him folding her into his hug, but enjoys it well enough. Much like she gleefully runs to Jane for hugs, she soaks this up as well. This close he can smell her signature scents too. Vanilla and leather, mostly, not just the distinct two scents but the scent that comes when the two just sort of blend into one thing, along with whatever is personal to her, far less complex than his own blend, touched as it is by otherworldy forces. And lavender, which is what she launders her clothes in. Surprisngly feminine scents, perhaps, for someone who routinely stomps, swaggers, swears, and postures in fairly masculine fashions, but those sorts of contradictions and straddled lines between opposing poles are pretty intrinsic to her nature.

She's shaking with laughter as he merrily expounds upon his own virtues during the course of their hug; a hug that she gives a lot less tentatively when he returns it so readily. It's silent laughter, but it's there, her shoulders shaking with deep mirth, another expression that she just couldn't have managed back in November, still something that's a far cry from little chuffs and scoffs and walled-up half-smirks.

He steps her back, and she grips his shoulders briefly as well, a grip that's as normal as any grip of course, small hands hinting not at all that they contain within them the power to rip lamp posts out of concrete.

"I will," she says solemnly. "And I'll remember."

Remember, and compensate for. She's counting on her own endurance and resistances for anything biochemical; pherenomes, she thinks, might no longer be an issue. Drugs might still be, at least until she builds a tolerance, and anyone can fall to torture, but any security is just a matter of layering different solutions, and nothing is impregnable. It's enough to create a hard target. Technological fixes are next. But despite the fact that it's just one prong of a three pronged solution, it's one that gives her some stability. Anything that makes her feel safe is a balm to her soul, much like spending weeks in Shadowcrest had vastly assisted her healing simply by giving her the gift of a place where she'd felt safe enough to sleep through the night.

One more squeeze, and she steps all the way back. "Alright, I know you have a dozen things to do, not the least of which is taking a Benadryl or something so you can get some rest." She might not talk about his feelings, but she will address the more practical aspects of his condition, especially after all of this. "Cause you know, get much more exhausted than you are and you won't be able to manage even a single smart-ass one-liner the next time there's a demon to toss or a vampire to stake, and I for one think that would qualify as a genuine tragedy."

—-

"Good," he says. "Do." Remember, that is.

It's probable that he's not noticed the changes in his own appearance, because what she says takes him aback slightly, although he's never off-balance for long. He perks both brows, leans up off of the table and back onto his feet. "You know there's no rest for the wicked, doc Jones, but I'll take your advice under consideration. Rest assured you don't have to worry, though; I don't think I've ever been incapable of running my mouth."

Breezy reassurances given, he waves her off toward the ladder that leaves out of the flat, turning to retreat toward the stairs to the loft, and the more focused office there. "Go on. And make sure you get your things in order if you haven't. I think we'll be off on our European adventure sooner rather than later."

—-

Jessica laughs again as he says that he's never been incapable of running his mouth; she gives a little bow, but adds, "Yeah, okay, but seriously if the shadows under your eyes get any deeper someone's going to mistake you for a vampire." She's fully aware of her own hypocrisy in this, but just because she can't sleep doesn't mean she's not concerned about his well-being. She can go without longer than most anyway.

Still, she leaves it at that, tossing a careless but incredibly poorly pronounced, "Bis spater," at him by way of flippant reply, giving a little wave and making her way over to the manhole ladder, clomp-clanking up as she makes her exit from his hidden home.

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