No RSVP Required

July 10, 2017:

Jessica Jones makes good on a promise made long ago to John, even in jest.

Stratford's Junkyard

It's full of junk.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: The Winter Soldier, Dr. Jane Foster, Zatanna Zatara, Emma Frost, Red Robin, Azalea Kingston, Silk, Tony Stark, David Archer (NPC), Richard Simpson (NPC), Chas Chandler (NPC)

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Jessica made John a promise once.

It is a promise realized today in a single text from the PI.

Promised you invite to next destruction party. Invite now open. Stratford's Junkyard. Already have stuff to drink on ice. Be careful coming in, shit may be flying everywhere. She also texts a time.

This coherence at least indicates that she's probably not drunk. And, indeed, she isn't. Should John decide to take her up on her offer, he'll find her at the junkyard. It's closed, but she apparently has permission to be there; Stratford himself is in his office working on his books, and he only gives the occasional glance at the spectacle in progress.

It is a spectacle. Jessica has used one of the cranes to haul the shell of a car up like it's some sort of punching bag. And that's precisely how she is using it. The thing is already devoid of glass, which at least means there is not, in fact, shit flying everywhere…but Jess felt it a good idea to issue the warning. Dressed in the rattiest of all ratty jeans, boots, and a black tank top with a little hot pink Dr. Suess character on it that reads 'Big F, little f, What Begins With F?' she is engaged in a series of flying leaps. Clangs and crashes fill the air as she conducts a series of aerial kicks and punches that forge deep dents into the metal of what used to be a Pontiac Grand Am.

In some ways, this may not be any less self-destructive than her War Against her Apartment in January. The car is swinging. She's having to duck and dodge it. 3 tons of force slamming into her body would still hurt her, would still potentially break bones or give even Jones a concussion. So far, though, she seems to be doing a decent job of keeping up with it.

There on the ground, far away from the swinging car…an ice chest. Nothing alcoholic inside. Just sodas. Water. Lemonaid. Tea. She's laid a sledgehammer next to it in case John shows up; a second car has been hauled out, this one mostly in tact, in case he wants to destroy something with her. Prepared for him either to show or not show, it seems.

—-

There was never really any question for John as to whether or not he'd turn up. Not because of any deep desire to destroy things — he does that handily enough without trying, and often when he's trying for the reverse, as well — but because of the strain on Jessica implied in the need for a day of destruction at all.

He's been scarce lately, but the man comes and goes like a cat. Sometimes he's everywhere, sometimes it's virtually impossible to find him. When he turns up he seems no worse for his absence, looking head to toe himself. He's brought nothing with him, hands in his pockets when he strolls through the front gates of the yard at a leisurely pace. His attire seems to mark him as immediately out of place — a tie, dress shirt and slacks do not harmonize with junkyard grit — but he's not. Not really. Easy to forget the years of jackets with studs on them, the politically incendiary slogans on worn, torn t-shirts, the ripped jeans and leather cuffs on his wrists. It's all in there somewhere, though.

He wears it in the way he moves through tangled piles of dangerously rusting refuse, on his guard for dogs but otherwise as much at home here as anywhere else, and more than many other places.

Finding her is not difficult.

He digs a pack of cigarettes out of his pocket with one hand and the ever-present silver lighter out of the breast pocket of his coat with the other — it's mad to be wearing that coat in this heat, but he surely has his reasons — and takes up leaning against a pile of discarded washing machines at what he judges to be a safe distance from the pendulum arc of a gutted vehicle, and the target of her current ire. One flick of the lighter wheel later and the smell of the cloves he prefers will certainly announce him, if nothing else has.

In the lingering dearth of conversation, he takes in the display, the woman, the car that she's murdering, and the chest containing ice. He doesn't open it. Maybe it would look uncomfortably like prying. Maybe it would look like checking up on her, or having an opinion. Drinking is one of the few things he knows better than to lecture anyone about.

Finally: "Hope you're up on your shots, luv."

—-

She drops from the latest leap, panting and sweating, reacing out to simply stop the arc of the car as it goes bounding crazily about on the thick, industrial sized chain. Actually sweating, because the act of boxing with a car requires a lot more than the act of boxing with her punching bag back home at Alias. Her knuckles are nevertheless unbloodied, her skin unmarked from the dance. "Oh yeah. I'm all about health and safety," she says, though whether or not that means she is, in fact up on her shots or hasn't thought about such things since she was a child is anyone's guess.

That would be hilarious, given all the things that have tried to kill her since November. Dying of lockjaw. But she suspects her physiology would point and laugh at lockjaw, so she's not too worried.

He won't open the ice chest, but she does, flipping it open and grabbing up a water. She waves vaguely at it, inviting him to grab whatever he wants. She drains the whole thing, tilting back her head and closing her eyes. The motion is exactly the same as someone drinking booze straight out of the bottle, as if she takes some comfort in the psychology of the thing she has barred herself from.

She won't admit to having missed both members of the His and Hers Wizardry Set. She did, but she won't admit to it. Instead, she fishes out another water and sits on one of the washing machines next to the one he's leaning on, watching the Pontiac as it continues its slight swing on its chain. "How you been, John?" It's a dumb question, but it's the opener she's got.

Another difference, though it's obvious enough from pretty much everything that she is, indeed, pissed off at life, pissed off at the world, and pissed off at herself, she doesn't look particularly guilty about anything, nor does she hasten to say much about it. Today, she's as closed off as he normally is, though seems appreciative of the company all the same.

—-

An initial inclination to decline her offer turns into reconsideration, and then a lean to snap up one of the chilled bottles of water. He takes his time twisting the cap off, watching the car swing — wondering to himself if he could even get the bloody thing to move if he shoved it with both hands — and then drains a small amount of it, holding it in his mouth for some seconds before swallowing. She boosts herself up to sit on one of the machines, and slants his gaze sidelong to look at her. Finding a distinct lack of intense emotion there, he gives her more of his attention, actually turning his head, and doles out a crooked half-smile for her, eyes still tightened slightly into the glare of the light. "Oh, you know. Dealing with piss-arse colleagues of mine who want to extort favors from me for borrowing a little mcguffin they've got that'll help us give Emily Montrose a looking-over. Business as usual, really. An' yourself?"

The way he asks doesn't allude to the invitation she extended him or what it says about how things have been for her; it's light, casual. It expects very little. It's still, with John, an open door of a kind.

—-

"Was gonna ask you if you ever figured out what to do with good old Em," Jessica says, finishing off that water too. "Guess now I know the answer to that. You'd think 'this might help us prevent the end of the world' would be good enough, but guess every fucker's gotta have an angle."

She jumps off the washing machine. She can hear the invitation, but she's also not sure if she should take it. She's learned that sometimes confiding can be as hurtful as not confiding, after all. She's back on uncertain ground when it comes to human relationships. It's been a bad week for them. A bad six or seven or ten weeks for them, truth be told. But…he's here, and she doesn't want to not-talk either. It's a strange tightrope to walk.

She finally heads over to the car that's just sitting on the ground and slams her foot into it four or five times, until it looks like it got hit by a parking lot pole instead of by a woman who looks like she weighs 120 pounds soaking wet.

"Imagine I'm about as good as any of us right about now. Lot of stuff sucks," she adds at last. "James' trial. Shitty stuff." She thumps her fist into the hood a couple of times, frowning down at it. She exhales and turns to face him again, perhaps not as comforted by the ritual of destruction as she might otherwise be.

—-

At least she invited the right person, if she's uncertain about how much detail she wants to go into. Barring anything that might have bearing on his professional activities, John's very probably the last person to go rooting around in someone else's emotional state — even, for better or worse, that of a friend. Maybe sometimes especially then.

"Yeh," he agrees, bringing the bottle of water back to his lips. "Every fucker does."

Recapping the bottle, he pushes himself up to sit on the edge of the machine behind him as she makes her way back toward the unlikely punching bag she's set up for herself, perfectly content to relax and watch her reduce heavy machinery to its component parts, it seems. He doesn't press his inquiry, and it doesn't seem like he's going to, either. The car buckles around her foot, and sets him to thinking thoughts better suited for industrial designers: who designed those shoes? How many pairs of shoes does she go through in a year?

Then she mentions the trial.

John nods slowly, dropping his gaze down to the flimsy plastic bottle in his hand. Honey-dark lashes momentarily screen stark blue eyes. "Mm." It sounds like agreement. He consults his own thoughts for some moments.

"Haven't seen them much. Checked in with Foster last week to give her something to help with the cabin fever, but they're closing ranks. To be expected, really. I would." If this sort of thing ever happened to him, anyway, which is unlikely to an extreme. John's life may be likely to end in his being held accountable for one of his many transgressions, but not in a court of law. Not in a public spectacle. Not like this.

—-

This level of conversation seems to be the right one. For the both of them. Jessica is at the closer car now, of course, rather than the swinging one. She rips off the bumper like someone ripping off a hangnail, then just…starts rolling it up. Like someone might roll up a straw. A very focused and determined destruction now.

"Closing ranks. Yeah. Makes sense." Maybe that, more than anything else, puts some sort of sensible light on the argument she just had with Bucky, the one that she hardly understood at all. Maybe it was less about her actions and more about their mutual desire to withdraw, to cocoon, to just…batten down the hatches against whatever comes and not drag anyone else down with them. She nods, like that one phrase of him has actually unknotted something in her. That might not be the answer, but it's an answer.

She decides he maybe deserves an explanation on that front, adding, "Managed to upset him, doing stuff to try to help clear him." She won't elaborate on that any more, not wanting to violate his privacy, but…it is weighing on her, and she lets that much past her teeth.

She tosses the rolled up bumper. It goes over a hill of garbage as tall as a building, and clanks neatly down the other side. "How's Zatanna dealing with it? Prosecutor seems dead set on making everyone he can drag up there look either like a crazy person or a criminal person. I mean I know she's busting ass as always, she dropped me a line about something I can go do for Az. Which I will. Fucking thrilled," and that's not sarcastic, "to have something useful I can do there."

—-

It's always fascinating to watch Jessica do what Jessica does, if only because it's so improbable. Absurdity has always been something John had an eye for. It probably plays no small part in his success as — as whatever he is.

She clarifies just enough to give her mood some context, which wins a brow perk out of him, and another thoughtful silence. He can either say something in response to that, or say nothing at all. Nothing is the safer bet.

"If it were me," he begins slowly, because he's only vulnerable to the need for safety in very, very specific circumstances, "all the shite going on out there to do wi'me would make me half-mad trying to keep an eye on it all. Everything anybody did would worry the bloody hell out of me, for lack of knowing how it all might shake out. I'd want people to piss off an' let me deal with it." After a beat, he allows himself a small, tight smile. "Then again, that's how I am about most things already." 'John Constantine:' synonymous with 'trust issues.'

How is Zatanna dealing with it?

He tilts his head one way, then the other. "Alright. She's had other things on her plate in the last few weeks. Trying on capes an' tights." Amusement sparks in pale irises, but it's amusement with a dark, wry edge.

It doesn't last long, the good humor. He's reminded that David Archer exists, and his expression twists around another squint-eyed look, one corner of his mouth pulled tight and back. "He wants to be careful wi'that."

And that's all he's going to say about that.

"I feel sorry for her, being stuck down there in Stark's fish tank, but not sorry enough to consider letting her out," he continues, this time about Azalea. "Not until the mess is sorted."

—-

Considering 'trust issues' could define a huge portion of their entire team, Jessica merely nods. Of course, how much Bucky and Jane can ultimately deal with it from their position of being virtually under house arrest is under question. Her own course is pretty set now. But he still provides context, and context still helps. The PI nods her understanding— again, it's a point of view that lets her cast that conversation into something that makes sense, something that didn't just come out of left field.

She rips off the hood of the car. She snaps it over her knee, then starts rolling up the pieces the way she rolled up the bumper. It could all be so much clay in her hands, for all that the sounds of the tearing, crunching, and ripping make screaming metal sounds ring through the place.

She smiles faintly at his dark words about Archer, if only because seeing John make vague, dark threats is actually heartening in its own sort of a way.

"No, I wouldn't think that you should let her out. Not now. Not at all bidding for that." Her face twists, something pale and scared, sorry and angry— not at John, it's clear, but just— angry. She suddenly needs something lighter, something else, and this crack about capes and tights provides the fodder. "I thought she already wore both, on stage, but this sounds like…" she says with something approaching humor, some of her dark mien dropping away to reveal something else.

Fuck it. It is humor by the time she turns to face him, the hint of a grin tugging at her features. "Don't tell me she's picking out a mask and a secret identity."

—-

"Secret…ehhh." The darkling mirth irons itself out into something smoother and less pitched. "You know 'tanna. She can keep secrets…but she keeps other people's, mostly. I don't think there'll be too much secret about it, at least on her end." It helps that he's seen her costume already, of course — such as it is. 'Costume.'

"Red's up to something. Organizing something. 'Titans.' Other wee capes, I expect." He untwists, retwists, untwists the cap of the bottle, then rolls a shoulder, eyes lidding with some sort of internal ease. "I'm for it, if only because it means they'll have other people watching their bloody backs. 'Course, it remains to be seen whether that's a good thing, or they'll all just inspire one another to find all new ways to become sodding lemmings, but Red's got a good head on 'is shoulders, when he takes the time to put it down on an arsing pillow every now and then."

And Zee? Zee is committed to spiting him by refusing to die, in defiance of his every (not-so) private expectation, which is as good a reason as any, he supposes.

"I'll never understand the faffing about with the spandex and the — but I'll not complain, any road, about more resources to use in a pinch."

—-

"Huh. I heard about them in passing from some other chick. Good on him. I wonder if it would be a good fit for my other ward. I think she's just sort of…spinning her wheels at this point."

Nevertheless, Jessica starts chuckling as John starts griping about the Titans. 'Wee capes.' Red needing to put his head on an arsing pillow. It's enough to produce a twinkle in dark eyes, enough to pull forth a laugh. She knew John was the right one to call to get her out of her slow, sliding funk, though she didn't entirely know why. Now she does. Because he can grouse better than she can. His grousing is artful. She just rants.

"Dunno. On one hand, the mask thing keeps loved ones out of danger, which is useful. I admit I've second guessed the whole bare-faced bit on Trish's behalf, though she is swiftly reaching a point where she can take care of herself and finds her own trouble besides. And maybe from legal problems, also useful. There's some sort of psychological element to it too. Feeling stronger with the damned thing on, or something like that. Feeling like an avatar of something greater than yourself. On the other hand, the amount of complication it all causes, with having to protect the identity, and try to keep the identity separate from your other life, trying to keep your super-phone separate from your regular-phone. I think they mostly use body armor now, not spandex, which is a bit useful maybe. I dunno. Any road, like you said. Right for some, wrong for others. Like you, and me. Lot of times being known by your own damned face, name, and rep is useful too."

—-

"Can't hurt to ask," he says, of her other ward, and his expression takes a turn for the amused again. "Spandex day-care," he says, a monotone largely to himself, as though marveling at the nature of the world he exists in. He drowns the words in another long pull from the bottle, and it crinkles and crackles as he squeezes it.

She goes on to speculate about the nature of anonymity and its role in what they do, playing at high stakes games that aren't, for the majority of regular humans on earth, games at all. John glances around behind himself, then cautiously leans back against the spine of a dismantled machine he can't identify, flakes of rust dusting the collar of his coat. Settled, he contemplates the bottle in his hand, now dented and rippled, at least half empty.

"I go through half of that shite as it is, and I don't have to dress in a stretchy bodysuit and put a lucha libre mask on, either. But I get it, yeah. Truth is, most identities are masks in some way or other. Mine. Yours. Hell — I took off the coat in Berlin and that was enough, wannit? People see what they expect to see. They're not so good at the rest of it."

Another handful of heartbeats pass, gaze directed into the bottle he's holding, and then he drains it completely, caps it, and tosses the empty into the cooler with the kind of aim that only Fate's favored son can produce without the kind of training most people put on the aforementioned spandex to endure.

It's either sinking shots or sinking ships with John. There's no middle ground at all.

"If I manage to get those pillocks overseas to part with their precious little doodad so's we can figure out what to do with the body laying about the flat, I'll let you know. Chas is in London wi'the family, and I'm sure half the reason why is that he's sick of living with a corpse. Comes back next month. It'd be good to get through that piece of things 'fore he gets back."

—-

She snarfs at Spandex day-care. The kids all do great work, at least, the ones she knows of, but…that doesn't really make the joke any less funny.

"The corpse would be enough to send me to a foreign country too," Jessica replies dryly. "Even if I had to take another plane to do it. And yeah. I get a lot done with baseball caps, hoodies, sunglasses, and reversable jackets. A bit harder in summer, but not impossible."

She contemplates the car, but now she's too hot and too relaxed to continue her reign of destruction. She comes and grabs a lemonaid instead, twisting open the cap and having a nice long swig of it. "I'll let you know if any leads shake out on my end too. Honestly, we're stalled unless Red can get something out of that data. I thought of a gambit we could run if we don't get anything we can use, but it's dangerous, and will need a lot of attention and time, and will definitely need a time when reporters don't occasionally still pop out of the woodwork and put microphones in some of our mouths. That data helping Ritchie any? Red told me I was putting too much information on that map and wasn't narrowing it down properly. And now that we're even talking about it, I'm reminded that I told him I'd ask you if there were better parameters to throw down than hey— something nasty and vaguely mystical happened here."

This. Is the other thing that totally relaxes her. Case work and dealing with it. It's a long ease into another addiction, but at least it's a better, healthier addiction. Arguably. Except when it's maybe getting her deep in over her head and putting her in situations that could totally kill her. Mostly less self-destructive. Occasionally capable of paying her bills?

Whatever. End of the world. Her shit's here too.

—-

"As far as I know, Ritchie trawls with a wide net for that information, but you'd have to ask him, luv. Not my area of expertise, exactly. Give 'im a ring or stop by his office. I'd ask him for you, but I'm giving myself a week before I talk to him again so I don't get my foot permanently lodged up his arse for letting his students do magic. Meantime…this Emily business needs sorting. She's not dead. Her body's…sort of dead, but it's not acting dead, and I expect that means they've got her soul off doing something else. If we can pull her back, she can probably give us a lot of inside information about what's going on. If we can't…" After a beat, he draws a breath, holds it a moment, exhales. There's displeasure in it, but it's muted. "Better we untether her from whatever it is going on. Too late for her partner, of course."

He plants his hands, pushing himself off of the machine and back to his feet. "I'm not involved in the trial at all, so I don't have to worry about getting caught up in difficult things. You, on the other hand, need to watch what you're involved in. 'tanna, too. At least until this bloody circus is over, and nobody's asking inconvenient questions, or looking to smear you as collateral damage. There'll be time for the rest of it, but if it comes down to it, Red an' I will do heavy lifting until the trial's over."

—-

"Yeah," Jessica says with a sigh, her mind brought back full circle. Because smearing will happen, though hey. She only gets the 'crazy' bit, not the 'evil traitor' bit. Even odds on which is worse. She's not looking forward to airing that laundry on the stand. More meditation practice for her.

"The fucking United States vs. James Barnes. And this Wakanda bullshit, fucking bullshit frame-up terrorism accusations." She turns and executes a neat spinning kick through the back passenger window of the Cavalier, shattering it. It shatters down rather than out, at least…nothing comes flying towards John.

The little glass crystals mostly bounce off her jeans, and she mostly doesn't seem to care. She breathes in through her nose, exhales, withdraws her foot, turns, offers another couple of round kicks to the thing.

Then she stops and brushes her leg off, scattering bits of glass. Shakes her head and says, "But okay. Good. Alright. At least I know I can be guilt-free about not doing a damn thing on that case right now. I was worried about it. Back of mind."

—-

'Wakanda bullshit' means nothing to John. He quirks one brow, but fails to ask. The situation with Barnes is internationally difficult; it's inevitable for there to be political splash damage of a kind. There are so many things he was involved in that can't be proven, so many things he did that nobody knew about to begin with, it would be bizarre to him if there were no incidents in political history that opportunistic world leaders weren't looking to pin on the opportunity that the revelation of the Winter Soldier presents.

That, though, is well outside of his wheelhouse. John can be a political animal, but only in the sense that he's profoundly anti-politics. It's not an especially helpful quality to bring to this particular table.

His lips quirk, and he huffs a short exhale through the nose. "I've done this for most of my life alone. Help's nice to have — " Sometimes. " — but if nobody lifted a finger on this it'd be business as usual for me, luv. Don't worry about it. Oh…" A moment's thought, head tilted, almost like a bird of prey. Then: "You know what you could do for me? Dig up what you can on Emma Frost and her company, yeah? Not the Hellfire Club. Don't bother with the wikipedia level shite, I've got it already. An' be careful, if you do have time to nose around. She's irritatingly telepathic and absurdly wealthy. Any dirt you find…I can use."

—-

Emma Frost?

That name gives Jessica Jones pause, because she's heard it before. Her mouth twists into an expression of extreme distaste and definite dislike. "So she is a telepath," she says, as if she was speaking of a piece of garbage that just floated right by in her bathtub or something.

"I've heard the name before. Tony referred her to Trish. Long story— Trish is telekinetic now, which was what she decided to get up to while we ran off to Germany. All Trish was able to tell me was she was psychic."

'You leave that woman alone,' Trish had said, but now there may be reasons not to. "Why are we digging up info on her?" Sure, telepaths inspire no love in Jessica Jones. It's all the same to her, whether the powers are voice-activated, pherenome-based, or fucking psychic. She'd bet dollars to donuts that most telepaths don't use their shit for mere talking, especially not fantastically wealthy ones.

Though granted…flicking the nose of an absurdly wealthy telepathic baroness of high society might count as something Jones might want to save until she's under a lot less scrutiny. Nevertheless, John's protections already make her a great candidate for doing just that.

—-

"Stark did, eh?" Thoughtful, that question, and asked of himself. His eyes tighten, the outer corners crinkled just enough to suggest fleet thoughts behind eyes the color of the sky — two hours ago, anyway, before the sun began to decline. "Good to know. As for why?" Behind closed lips, he runs his tongue over the white crescent of his upper teeth. "Let's call it 'just in case' for now. There are some rich prats who hang about her club for the intolerably stuck-up and powerful that have dirty personal histories, and some of them travel in the same circles I do. With everything heating up, I'm making in-roads there to head off whatever trouble might brew in that direction."

'Making in-roads' is a very strange way to describe instantly putting himself on Emma Frost's shitlist by turning up in the HFC without an invitation, but then there was never really any hope he'd be able to charm her straight-out. Not being as full of disdain toward the pomp and circumstance of polite society as he is, and not with her reputation for cunning and insight — to say nothing of her ability to read actual minds. John's got substantial protections and resistances to that kind of thing (to say nothing of the fact that jumping into his head is a profoundly unpleasant experience), but Frost's world-class at what she does, and if she wanted to —

Well, at any rate, it had seemed wiser to deliberately occupy a specific kind of place on her shit-list — 'inconvenient but very obviously dangerous, possibly useful, and probably worth keeping an eye on' — than to wind up there in whatever role she felt like assigning him.

Mission accomplished as far as that goes.

—-

"Ah. I see. You don't want to make a run on them directly, too dangerous…so you focus on her, and trade secrets for secrets, putting her in a position where she has to dig up their shit for you and creating a buffer so the occult nasties don't see you coming."

The wheels are turning in Jessica's mind, even as she folds her arms and looks up at the sky. Her own protections don't mean her mind can't be sensed. Indeed, her mind, with its burst of red haze and the warning pain that might come from brushing against it, would swiftly become a very easy mind to pick out of a crowd. Which means she can't exactly follow Frost around with a camera. And while she'd never conduct an investigation on the basis of Wikipedia shit— she also knows that a deep dive of the public records isn't going to turn up any thing a good reporter hasn't turned up already. The real secrets won't be hiding in lawsuits or settled lawsuits.

"Wouldn't read too much into Tony's endorsement," she says, absently, even as she thinks it through. "He likes women. He likes pretty women best of all. He might think she's harmless, or at least, unlikely to harm Trish. He might be playing some angle of his own— Tony can offer some real surprises when he drops his whole ADHD Squirrel act and gets serious."

Trash? No. Someone like that will shred everything right down to the grocery sales circulars. Now she's pacing, frowning.

Which means the people she's going to have to focus on are employees. She'll need to know the basics of the organizational structure, and then she'll need to pick a few people, potential trusted agents who will be conducting the real dirty business while Frost keeps her hands clean…if there is any dirty business at all. Getting her hands on an employee list shouldn't be too hard, and from there she can start a deep dive into their personal lives, which could help her identify targets.

"This is a project that could take me 2-6 months," she warns him. "I can run a few preliminaries even as early as now, when I've got a moment off what I guess is now my one and only full-time case…" And a good thing it's her one and only full-time case, too, cause it's going to take everything she's got to turn that fact into a real asset and not into a real deadly shitshow… "But the real work will involve me making some educated guesses and following multiple people around in the hopes of hitting paydirt. Which… I mean…6 to 12 months is actually the average length for a case of any complexity anyway, especially cases involving the rich, famous, and careful, but…I just want you to know what you can expect."

—-

Her first guess isn't a square hit, if the sucking-on-his-teeth sound is any indication. "Honestly, luv, I expect she's practical to a point. The world ends, all of her shit, as you like to say, is also here. Trouble is, by the time she knows what she's sitting on is world-ending, the world might actually be ending. I talked to her a bit ago. She knows what I want, and why I want it. All I want from you are cards to keep in my sleeve in case I need them. And if you can't turn them up, no harm done, yeah? If I didn't ask, I wouldn't have them anyway, so I'm no worse off for it — as long as you don't get bloody caught. Make that your priority, and I'll consider anything you find icing on the cake."

He rolls one shoulder, bows his spine backward in a stretch, and actually concedes to a yawn that he doesn't cover, scrubbing at one cheek when it ends and blinking the drowse out of his eyes. "I don't like to trust 'probably,' that's all. May as well see what I can pocket while there's time to do that."

He drops the largely-neglected cigarette, burned down well toward the filter, onto the ground and then steps on it and slants her a look. "Alright then, Jones? Hate to keep you from finishing the job." He tilts his chin at the hanging vehicle, a subtle movement amply visible in the otherwise still junkyard.

—-

"Awesome. 'Not getting caught' is always my priority," she says. But that does take a little pressure on her, and reduces the number of risks she'll take in service to this thing…while probably increasing the timeline. 'Not getting caught' takes more time than 'recklessly kick open doors and empty trashcans.' She's done it both ways, despite her words.

Is she going to finish the job?

A long look at the hanging car says yep. She actually probably is. She needs to get all this shit out of her system, all this anger, all this aggression, and that's a good place to do it. But she has less of all of it now, thanks to his visit.

"Thanks for stopping by," she says. She winces in sympathy. He's busy, and she's kept him out here. The heat probably isn't doing much for any exhaustion he might be feeling. "It was really good seeing you today. But I saw that yawn. Looks like Red's not the only one who needs to go get himself a passing acquaintance with an 'arsing pillow.' Take off, John. I'll be fine." A tacit acknowledgement that she wasn't 100% fine when he got here. But…neither was she 100% devastated.

Definitely an improvement from her last destructo-party, at that.

—-

"Wouldn't have missed it. Less wild as parties go than the last one," he observes, with a beat of wryness, "But that's probably for the best, eh? An' anyway — " One hand lifted, John dismisses her concerns and her accusations of irresponsible sleeplessness on his part in one simple gesture, even as he turns to go. "It's not like that. Sleep an' I just don't always have the best relationship."

That is fact, unaided by his recent experience of watching Zatanna ventilated full of bullet holes and messily killed on the deck of a ghost ship. It hadn't been real — they'd been Groundhog-Day-ed, essentially — but the visual lingers regardless, a small piece of shrapnel in his psyche.

"We'll be in touch."

It's not very personal as goodbyes go.

John's not very deft with goodbyes.

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