When Constantine Calls...

May 25, 2017:

Lock the damned door! Emma Frost and John Constantine meet each other on Frost's home turf. It goes about as well as you'd expect.

Hellfire Club - New York City

Characters

NPCs: Random Hellfire Club Folks

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto E Minor OP.64


Fade In…

As a spring storm rages outside, the interior rooms of the highly exclusive Hellfire Club seems perhaps a little brighter for it despite the swirling cigar smoke in numerous wood-paneled and silk-draped rooms and the crackling of desperately traditional, cavernous wood-burning fireplaces.

The energy inside seems to thrum, as bodies mill about.

Scantily clad young women that mill about in their heels and lingerie to serve alcohol and perform the odd task while a Mendelssohn violin concerto plays throughout. It's an ambiance with a male appetite in mind, to be be certain, but there is more than one elitist member of the female persuasion to be found as well.

Leather arm chairs and sofas wrapped in velvet and jacquard abound in intimate conversational groupings. But, as there's no grandiose event going on this evening, the rooms are populated but far from crowded.

And deep in the heart of it all, there is the solitary form of one Emma Frost as she sits alone in one of those arm chairs with all of the aires of royalty watching court. Bedecked in her own bustier and boots, the blonde observes the room with a cup of something strong and alcoholic in her hand and a general look of half-hearted interest cast upon her features.

—-

Things are about to get considerably livelier.

It may be an open question as to how John got in. It usually is, in places like this. For instance: in the unbearably exclusive club The Abyss, a more ostentatious, elitist, and New-York-Local concept not unlike the world-famous Oblivion Bar, John is often granted entrance based on one of three reasons. Either he's posing as someone else and nobody realizes that he's himself or he uses some sort of magic trickery to get through the doors; he's been invited by someone with significant weight, whose request cannot conceivably be denied; or someone, somewhere, has decided that it's going to be less trouble for everyone if they just let him in to do whatever it is that he needs to do because it's going to be impossible to keep him out and he's the kind of man who enjoys spiting the people who make his life difficult.

It has to be one of the above reasons that places him in the Hellfire Club tonight, because he is most assuredly not a dues-paying member. This sort of environment isn't one that lends itself to his interests. He is not a man with patience for, or interest in, formal ritual. That he's here at all means he's here on business, and as several owners of several pairs of eyes that turn in his direction as he strolls through those well-appointed chambers can attest, John Constantine never turns up with good news.

He looks absolutely disinterested — even in the half-dressed young ladies and their heels — until he finally comes upon the mistress of the house, so to speak, at which point he dons a flinty, closed-lipped smile and drops into a lazy lean against the side of the interior wall, hands still in pockets. "'Bout bloody time, Emma. I was starting to think you'd turned this place into an infinite loop, and I was wondering how you managed to find enough boring people to give it any semblance of well-populated life at all. Could you get any further into it, do you think? Just endless hallways of pompous, stuffed shirts, labyrinthine around the world's most tarted up minotaur?"

—-

A blonde eyebrow pricks upwards at the unfamiliar mind's arrival. And it progresses onwards to a decidedly furrowed brow and frown from there. And as John Constantine finally starts talking? He doesn't get any further than Emma’s first name before her expression trains into a decided neutrality and her brain begins weaving an illusion born of her own genetics to shut his obnoxiousness away from the other members of the club. To the world around them, the corner they occupy is just… suddenly vacant. Suddenly silent. Since staring isn’t polite, it might seem as though they missed the two bodies slip out of the room when out of sight.

Her accent, stolen from a proper Londoner many years prior, is about as good a theft as one could hope for. The Bostonian-bred woman doesn't fear his authentic one.

Her head tilts far enough to one side that it sets a golden curtain against her cheek. "You have one sentence to tell me why I shouldn't have security dump you back into the back alley from which you crawled out. If you use two, I will be absolutely certain to make you even more certainly regret it."

—-

John's mind is a curious thing. It is proofed, heavily, against telepathic tampering. Which isn't to say that someone couldn't make a go of it if they really, really wanted to, and they had the raw power with which to do so — just that it would be noticeably more difficult than it should be, and might come with a side of peripheral consequences.

His posture remains lax, and if anything that small, thin smile gains fresh life as they're slipped into a careful pocket, sanitized for the consumption of the other people present. By the time she's challenging him to justify his presence it has gained proportions that would not shame any shark in the sea, the tremble of his chest and shoulders signaling a visible but inaudible moment of amusement. He tilts his gaze upward, angular features caught in a thoughtful look, sky blue eyes roving the smoke-curtained ceiling. But it isn't a question of what he'll say that occupies him that way — it's deciding whether or not he wants to play by any rules.

Eh, says his expression, as he rights his gaze and levels it on her. It's early. Why not?

"Because if you do, it won't save you when the world ends."

The pause afterward is just long enough that it seems he might actually be able to keep himself from pushing her…

But, no. This is John.

"If you're not interested in finding out about the latest and greatest apocalypse scenario, though, feel free to show me the door." The obnoxious twinkle in his gaze claims he wins either way.

—-

Obnoxious, indeed.

As her uninvited guest's smile grows, Emma's lushly painted lips are its elegant counterpoint. And just when she couldn't look any more disapproving with the turn of events, he moves on to sentence two.

The pads of her manicured fingers drum contemplatively for several seconds, her eyes narrowed to furious slits. And then finally there's a scoff of disgust. "Who sent you?" she demands, without saying that she's bought into any part of… whatever Constantine is peddling. Because someone has been speaking out of school, clearly, and needs to know what it's like to spend several months speaking pig latin whenever exposed to fluorescent lighting.

—-

Witness John Constantine's everlasting inability to keep from pressing his luck: she, with the precision calculation of the upper crust, concedes without making any overt concessions and he, product of the underside of the under-est underclass—just some street kid from Liverpool, whose British accent represents wholly a different face of Britain than the upscale iteration she stole — smiles the widest, sharpest of cheshire smiles. I know, and you know that I know, it says, and seems to be content with that.

He presses into his shoulder to right himself off the wall, taking a few steps further in, hands still in pockets and gaze suddenly taken with the occupation of wandering the room, observing everything but the woman who commands it with an iron fist in a satin glove.

"Sent me?" One of his brows cocks upward. "I'm John Constantine, luv. Nobody sends me." He stops near the wall, leans, squinting, to look at whatever's going on in one of the pieces of framed art hung there. "Hnh. I could pretend I'm doing you a favor—well, I am doing you a favor, though that's not why I'm doing it—but I'll just be straight with you: this is about the pillocks in the other rooms, really. And not even about them, but about the people who count on them, because the Hellfire Club— " He pauses, pivots to look at her briefly, eyes lidding. "Cute, by the way. Two-point-oh, as they say. Sir Francis Dashwood having had the original, and that. I had to deal with his ghost once upon a time. Sent me all the way to sodding Australia, he did. Mad as a loon."

And then, pivoting away back to his slow, aimless circling of the room they're in, taking in all of the details: "Any rate, the Hellfire Club runs a brisk business for the bloodsuckers at the top, dunnit? Men Of Importance." The capital letters are audible, his enunciation briefly exaggerated, crisp as a starched shirt. "And women, of course." He winks at her.

"When things get ugly — and they've already done; things are starting to come well apart at the seams now — they'll be helping to keep the lights on. Or not. And I'd prefer they do. Little folk tend to get stepped on when it's too dark. So: I help you, you keep this menagerie of yours operational, you have some influence over the pillocks, they help to keep things from getting uglier than they have to…" Pause. "Everybody wins. Nice, innit?"

—-

As John mills around, he'll find that even now he's still invisible to the occupants of the room and Emma's own ice pale eyes—practically icy daggers by now—remain locked upon him as she continues to mask his presence as bodies meander in and out of the room.

He baits her. She knows he's baiting her. But when she tries to slide in the side door of his mind to subtly extract who in the Hell ratted her out to this smarmy creature… she meets that resistance and fights back a snarl.

"Things are always ugly if you know where to look," she argues just before sipping from her brandy, pretending that she didn't even make the effort to read him. "What is so different about right now?"

—-

If John is aware that she attempted to pry, he doesn't let on. It seems safest to assume the worst.

"Well, we can agree about that, at least," murmurs John, of ugliness, and the eyes to see it. By now he's made his circuitous loop of the room and picked up on the fact that he's obtained some sort of invisibility field and he uses this at least once to test that theory in the most juvenile of all possible ways: he leans over and pulls a ridiculous face in front of a man staring off into the flickering tongues of flame in the grand fireplace.

"Hah," he says, straightening.

When he turns to look at her after that, most of the wry cockiness has been set aside. The blue eyes are obsidian-sharp, solid as anvils with things he knows, and isn't saying. "End of the world, luv. I told you. Not long ago I watched a member of the angelic Host devoured by the darkness that existed before God. T'wasn't pretty. Poor bastard. Had to put him down in a car park. They're all wankers, angels, but they don't deserve to die beneath an underpass." He pauses, briefly flicks his gaze off to the side and upward. "Well," he amends. "Not all of them."

But then it's right back to business, that peculiar seriousness that seems to have emerged from a personality capable of anything but that. "Things are happening out in the world that always happen, and that's not news. But they're happening too fast, too often. Too easily. It's getting darker. Dark things are getting stronger. I was recently in Berlin to tidy up a loose end with an immortal Nazi sorcerer and—get this—a knockoff Spear of Destiny, and a bunch of loony robes-wearing cultists attempted to summon a mystic moon. Bad news. Don't know what that is? You're welcome." The tide of words briefly stems, but only briefly.

"Things are gaining momentum. The people who come 'ere are placed well to notice when things go wrong, and let's face it—they're a bad lot. Dark things happen around bad people. Soon, they're going to be confronted with all sorts of inexplicable, horrible shite. I need to know when that happens because, for whatever bloody reason, someone's put me on the task of saving the world." He sucks his teeth, murmurs dryly: "Madness." And, more conversationally: "You tell me, I fix their problems, I'm sure they'll look at you as some sort of bloody savior, if you've not made them do so already— " Yeah, he probably noticed. " —and when the time comes, you can keep these wankers from making things worse, possibly. And then, possibly, the world will not end."

—-

As he tests the limits of her illusion, Emma simply clenches her delicate jaw. She lets him talk at will, without interruption. In the end, it's a scathing indictment that he levels at her, all from a man going on about angels, and—get this—false relics, and immortal sorcerers. She's being condemned by a man who, in other company, might very well be deemed a stark raving lunatic.

It doesn't sit well, but she makes no plea for understanding. No tear-stained defense of herself or her colleagues.

"I dislike chaos," she tells him bluntly. "Worlds ending do tend to fall into that category. However, that doesn't, however, change the fact that I don't know you. You're asking me to—What, precisely? Divulge Club conversations?—to a man who may very well believe that he has cheese from the moon in his refrigerator."

—-

"Bollocks to the moon," John says, dismissive. "You want to know about me? Ask around. Spend some of that dosh you made being a— " He lifts his hands, spreads them as though depicting a marquee, pitches his tone into some faintly theatrical register, " —'young, entrepreneurial prodigy' or what the bloody hell ever they called you on Wikipedia. Pay off a few occult personalities and see if they've got the stones to talk about me behind my back." That thought seems to tickle him; his smile grows very wide, very sharp. And then it wanes into indifference: "Or don't. Thing is, your belief is not required."

His hands change the attitude of their spread, less about a marquee now than a kind of helpless shrug. "And I don't give a sow's tit for most of the things these people are talking about. I want to know about inexplicable bad juju. Ghosts. Possessions. Cults. Blood sacrifices, furniture moving about on its own, people seeing things. Angels covered in primordial darkness. The list is too long for me to put down on paper, but trust me, luv— you'll know the kind of thing I'm talking about when you hear it." He studies her for a few moments, sharp eyes like crowbars ticking across her striking features, and then shrugs, and the intensity that had been ever-so-briefly there dissipates like dew in the sun. He opens one side of his coat pocket and retrieves a business card from the inner lining, gets close enough to offer it out to her between index and middle finger. "I don't even need you to agree to anything now. Time comes and you decide you'd like to stay apprised, you'll know where to find me."

—-

If looks alone could kill, Constantine would likely be a bloody mass against the opposite wall. Perhaps it is a mercy upon humankind by the powers that be that Emma Grace Frost is not a creation with telekinesis numbered in an otherwise daunting repertoire of psychic feats.

The woman smiles outwardly, but it never reaches her chilled, kohl-framed eyes. Rather, the curve of her mouth is an offended viper’s hiss of warning and several heartbeats pass as she considers the unwanted intruder as though whether or not to strike. He’s made dangerous accusations without making them. She neither confirms nor denies. She’s betrayed herself enough as it is already.

She simply breathes out, metaphorically uncoils, and very literally lubricates her sensibilities with another measure of alcohol.

Delicate and soft fingertips then stretch out to daintily collect the card that is offered to her, holding it by the smallest possible part of its corner that will still allow her to hold it securely. Of all the times to not wear gloves.

She turns it over, back to front, to drink in its details. Its stock and ink and craft are measured with just as much weight as the information upon it.

“I suppose I will,” she replies blandly, her eyebrows arching with the unspoken continuation of thought. It doesn’t need her telepathy to communicate. Are you quite finished now?

—-

If looks could kill — well, they can, as it happens, just not hers, one supposes, but regardless — John would have been a bloody mess smeared on a wall years ago. As an infant, in fact. Or perhaps not; one of the first things that Emma Grace Frost will learn if she takes him up on his offer and digs around in his history through people who have a hope of knowing anything about it is that John has a peculiar relationship with luck, chance, and Fate, and should have been dead ten times over by now. If some of the rumors are to be believed, he has been. If so, it did not stick.

Contrary to all indications otherwise, John has very well-honed survival instincts indeed. He cannot possibly fail to notice the welcome he would have outstayed if he'd ever had it in the first place, but noticing and minding being two separate actions entirely, all he does is stand there, brow slightly cocked, card held out at arms' length, waiting. She does take it, and doing so reanimates the man in the coat, who lifts hands that are shockingly elegant, actually, given the rough character of the man they belong to — the hands of a magician, of course; he needs them for very fine work in the field of deception — and uses them to snap his lapels, resituate the iconic garment. Turn the collar up, proof against some imagined spring chill he'll soon be out in again. "Good. Remember, Emma: you don't have to like me to need me."

It may as well be the tag-line for his business card. Possibly the tag-line for his entire life. The card itself is neither impressive nor unimpressive. Sturdy, cream, black lettering.

JOHN CONSTANTINE, it says in the middle. Below that a phone number. No email. No address. No additional information at all.

And John, having done what he came to do (one must assume) pivots and starts back the way he came with nothing but a, "Ta."

It's not until he's outside in an alley just around the corner that his composure momentarily falters, breaking into a brief, sharp laugh, his grin a blade. For a moment all time everywhere stands still. Tiny droplets of rain misting out of the heavens freeze where they hang in the air, glistening gems affixed to nothing. Steam boiling up out of a New York City tunnel grate locks into a rigid phantom, plumes of heat motionless. Everything ceases to move.

Everything except for John, that is, and the sudden spate of bursting rain drops and scattering rubbish kicked up by a human-like figure with dark skin and massive, arching, feathered wings that drops with the weight of a motor vehicle into the alley behind him. John tightens his eyes against the kicked-up dust and doesn't even bother to look behind him, digging into his pocket for the pack of cloves there, and the silver, engraved lighter in his coat's chest pocket. He knocks one clove out of the pack, sets it between his lips and flicks the lighter to life, briefly gilding his own features.

"I think she likes me," he tells the angel, and the angel rolls its eyes.

When the world comes to its senses again, both are gone.

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