Soul Invasion

November 08, 2017:

Takes place immediately after All for Charity!. After ensuring that Conner Kent and Caitlin Fairchild are safely in Titans Tower, Zatanna Zatara returns to Brooklyn and to a worried John Constantine, still mired in the very serious business of preventing the apocalypse.

Brooklyn, New York City

John's magical flat in Brooklyn.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Tim Drake, Conner Kent, Caitlin Fairchild, Loki, Thor, Wanda Maximoff

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Her return to the Brooklyn flat has been understandably delayed.

Guilt and shame have obligated her to return to the Titans Tower with Conner Kent and Caitlin Fairchild, to ensure that the former has been checked by whatever automated diagnostic equipment Tim had set up in the base for specifically this purpose. It is only once she and the Boy of Steel have been informed that no permanent harm has been inflicted on the redhead that she felt free to go home. There was really only so many shamefaced looks she can shoot at Conner without really saying anything, and much like his more illustrious (father's brother's cousin's former roommate?) relative, he is unfailingly obliging and supportive, doing his best to reassure her despite not knowing her well and telling her she should get some rest.

She knows that on some level exhaustion played a big part of it; it has been a few days since her acquisition of Isis' tyet and she doesn't feel fully recovered from what she had endured to receive it. The return of her usual spirit is a gradual thing, but not as quick as she would like. It had been easy to dismiss the Scarlet Women's warnings about how she shouldn't expect things to remain in the status quo after she reached the end of her journey - maybe that assumption had been foolish, in the end.

The alien magic inside her throbs, still and whenever she closes her eyes, she can picture bands of emerald green keeping her father's seal in place. As grateful as she is of her mysterious benefactor's assistance, she is uncomfortable having someone else's magic active inside her. She'll have to reinforce her father's magic before disbanding it, and silently resolves to do so by the morning.

After she gets some sleep.

A portal manifests in John Constantine's flat after that, the young woman stepping through, carrying her top hat and the rest of her stage outfit. She changed her clothes upon her arrival in the Tower; she has a 'dorm room' there, after all, a place to stash essentials in the event that she can't return home due to capes-and-tights business.

—-

While John may have been restless in the time since the explosion of bizarre feelings emanating from the locus of Zatanna's presence at the gala, he's gained enough patience through experience to be satisfied — temporarily — with a text message to tell him that she's alright. Any delays once she's in the presence of the rest of the Titans are tolerable, but nevertheless she'll find him slowly pacing when the portal opens, arms folded and hands tucked underneath his upper arms.

He spins in place, blue eyes with a cutting edge to them flicked over her in search of injuries — physical or otherwise. Here in the flat and at closer proximity, the strangeness of something else in her is magnified exponentially, resonating through him via the piece of her stitched to his soul: it may be separated from the rest, but it is still hers, still part of the fabric of the whole.

For someone like John, who had to come a very great distance indeed before willingly inviting any part of her in at all, the sense of Someone Else is disconcerting at best — and this is twice in as many weeks that he's felt the contents of her soul somehow changed by an alchemy he doesn't yet understand.

Caution has given him a toehold on greater patience than he usually has, so he doesn't leap to asking questions straight-off. Not about the gala. Instead, he gestures over his shoulder, unfolding his arms and pushing his shoulders backward with a faint tightening of the eyes, signaling stiff muscles from buried tension. "We ought to get something sweet down you before you tell me what in the bloody hell just happened."

—-

She finds him pacing and knows precisely what that means, though she doesn't address it first off. Zatanna turns sideways to set her clothes on a neatly folded pile on the couch before long legged strides take her towards where the Englishman leads. The kitchen resonates with a familiar presence - masculine and well-missed. It has been a while since she's seen Chas, much less felt him, but his return has made ephemeral marks all over the part of the flat in which he holds undisputed dominion. Ice-blue eyes wander towards his room at the far side, where the door remains shut.

She does it herself, though it's an absent thing, as if not fully present. She walks to the fridge, remembers where it is because she's used it many times. A curl of her fingers around the handle, pulling the door open and peering at the contents until her stare settles on a carton of orange juice. Taking it from the inner shelf, she is about to reach for the cupboard, to find a glass, when the counter obliges her, stone twisting upwards into a more defined shape, solidifying and turning transparent, the remains of it falling away to reveal one. It's not a new feature and she's noticed that it is becoming more and more frequent, how her Magic has started to anticipate her needs, like a living thing jumping at every opportunity to be at her beck and call.

Little things, for now, but she knows how dangerous that really is.

She undoes it her usual way, with a word and conscious control. With the glass reabsorbed by the counter, she finishes what she is doing, lifting a hand to take a glass from the cupboard and filling it with the orange juice. For all that she has started living in the flat at least half her time, she has refrained from drinking anything straight from the carton - she has manners!

"There was another reality bender in the gala," is her explanation after a few swallows of the orange juice. "….at least that's what I think. It feels different from how I do it, more like…playing around with possibilities, or the numerous permutations an event can happen. I don't know if that makes any sense. She found out about my thing about puppets somehow and she used that. Used me. Someone I met at the library under Studio 54 was a guest and he helped me out."

Her brows furrow inwardly. He? She? He sounded like a woman turning into a man during his intervention.

—-

John wordlessly follows her into the kitchen, there to take up a lean against one of the counters, palms resting atop it to either side of him. Watching her. Watching what happens, clearly as a side-effect of her needs as opposed to any conscious effort. He says nothing about that, either, but he won't have to — and not because they're bound together in inexplicable ways, or even because they've been intimately acquainted for so very long. It's precisely the kind of thing he's infamous for disapproving of, and the fact that it's involuntary may not actually worry him less.

One thing at a time.

I don't know if that makes any sense.

"It does."

If anybody knows a thing or two about tweaking the odds in a given situation, it would be John.

There's a long silence to follow, and it's a busy one. He's looking at her the way he looks at most puzzles, brows knit only slightly but eyes serious as gravestones beneath them. "You said 'she.' You saw her? Figured out who it was?" He's getting very good at restraining his protective instincts (well: good by the standards of his previously frantic inability to manage it at all) but there's still a molten pulse of anger that throbs outward from the center of him and into the flat upon being told that someone's not only discovered an extremely private phobia of Zatanna's 'used that.' Used her.

The question is as gentle as he's able to make it. "What do you mean, 'used?'"

—-

It's true; the effects of the Red Witch's magic are a lot like Zatanna's, but the way they happen bears more similarities to how John manipulates chance, in the rare moments when he feels the absolute need to do so. It's a strange amalgamation of their talents, one that she didn't think was possible until she saw it in person this evening. But she's learned to temper her expectations there - how many times have they told one another that something was impossible? That something shouldn't happen, only for it to happen anyway?

She finishes her orange juice, pale fingers moving to put it away into the sink. Even the act forces her eyes to linger, sensing how air brushes against her skin every time she moves, the chill of metal and the surface of the glass, laden with invisible scratches that press up against her flesh and make themselves known to her. This new connection to everything is taking some getting used to, having not had the opportunity to acclimate herself to it - and that is dangerous too, when her attention runs the risk of getting yanked away in efforts that should hammer it down in the now and not elsewhere. Meditation would probably help…?

In the end, it's the emanations from their tether that brings the raven-haired woman's focus back to John, his face solemn, eyes intent. A stab of guilt makes itself known in her stomach, unable to help it, forever reluctant to be a burden in any way. Her foray into the realm of Herself was supposed to change her, make her more assured of her own power. It doesn't feel that way when she finds herself drifting through inexplicable seconds, her psyche struggling to process what she had just been through. Honestly, she thought going back on stage and doing what she loves would help. It was supposed to.

"I saw her but I don't know who she was. She said something…" Her brows knit further in the middle. "But I was too far to hear. Her commands were pretty loud and clear, though. When she got in, it was like…." Her skin crawls at the thought of it. "Pulling strings. She told me to kill the people I knew. Told me to break. And it felt really easy to follow, because everybody was a puppet and I just wanted them gone."

Her voice doesn't quaver, despite recounting the stuff of her worst nightmares to John. But she smiles after - thankfully it touches her eyes, and is genuinely meant. Her recent changes have been puzzling, but she hasn't shifted so much that she would attempt to fake her emotions.

"It's alright, John," she tells him. "It won't happen again."

Her hand comes up, tilting sideways until she's cupping air. She pulls a memory from her head and renders it visible, a hologram made out of magic instead of light. Wanda Maximoff's face floats in the ether, wreathed with thin strands of scarlet light, infernal fireflies winking from her fingers.

"She doesn't look familiar. I'd say she's a newcomer to the community but…her control speaks otherwise."

—-

A week ago, Zatanna spilled out of a film that was more than a film and John, in the aftermath, had sensed something in her that made him…cautious, with her. Careful. It had manifested in an inexplicable hesitation to touch her, not because he was afraid of her, or repulsed. He'd simply sensed something incomprehensible in her, something not meant for him, and a lifetime of remaining sensitive to the polarities of powerful things made him leery. Given the attitude of the Scarlet Women, that had likely been inadvertent wisdom on his part: who knows what would happen if a man accosted Zatanna now…?

In the time since, something nearly like the reverse has been true. He's wanted to touch her almost more than ever — no small thing, given a mutual history practically defined by its lack of inhibitions and tendency to favor passion over restraint. Still, those overtures remain filtered through this new element of awareness on his part. They're less casual, more deliberate. Less unthinking — for better or worse. Probably a little bit of both. Exhausted as she is, that caution may have come as something of a relief, really. She's needed to recover.

It's still there when he pushes away from his counter lean to join her, provoked by the twinge of guilt as evident to him in her eyes as on the live wire run between them. At least it doesn't look like hesitation anymore; familiarity is making him less overtly wary, even if the unconscious effects of his proximity to what she contains linger on. He settles there, closer, knitted brows dipping downward before his expression clears. "It's not your fault, 'tanna. You can't protect yourself against everything. It's impossible. There's always going to be something unexpected, someone you never saw coming."

She shows him exactly who that someone was, and whatever meager softness his eyes had regained, whatever quiet had rounded off the edges on his voice, both evaporate. He studies the image, but in the end he's forced to shake his head once. "We'll ask around. Someone knows something." Which leads, quite naturally, to his next concern: "You said someone helped you. Someone you met. I can feel…" He lifts his eyes, but whatever words he might use to articulate the strangeness of her soul's benevolent intruder seem insufficient. She'll know what he means: "Someone else. Who? How?"

—-

He steps closer and the vague emissions of his warmth has her looking up from the projected memory and over at his face when his shadow crosses her own. That pale stare meets his - looking at him, and through him in equal measure. She glimpses the wisps of color that she's only seen once before, the night of the GAC gala about a year ago, when she had been so magically open that her eyes temporarily acquired the ability to peel back the more corporeal layers of the world around her to give her a taste of what lurks underneath. The golden smoke of John's aura burns around him, twisting upwards and fringed with other colors. Her education in magical mysteries had been extensive, even at her age, but Synchronicity is unique to John and with such a novel tableau preseted before her, she can't help but look, her head tilting slightly sideways.

It's not your fault, 'tanna.

"I know," she tells him - the words are sincere, but unfocused. A hand reaches up to the side of him, to pass her fingers over what she sees, now that he's close enough, rolling filaments of gold and blue across her palm and staring at them, momentarily transfixed. "But I never liked worrying anybody."

They almost look like moths, she decides privately.

The conversation turns to the deity who provided his assistance, and that pulls her back into the present again, looking up. Turning her attention to it only makes her more acutely aware of the emerald bands reinforcing her father's seal within her, sourced from a kind of magic that's both ancient and alien - the kind that she's only felt once before, from a handsome blond interloper who spent a few nights on her couch due to a few domestic disputes with his warrior woman girlfriend.

"It was Crowley's notebook," she tells him, her voice almost languid and dreamy, as if catching her fresh from a deep sleep. "I had to return it, you know what happens when things there come due. But I couldn't check it out again so quickly. He took it upon himself to put his name down for it instead and gave it to me. He never told me his name, but he left his card in the pages. His name was Loki."

She pauses.

"I thought that if I ever saw him in the library next that I'd probably give him shit for having the kind of goth-parents who'd name their kid that," she says. "But after tonight, I think he might be actual Loki, or the basis of Loki dreamed up by the Vikings. His presence in me felt alien and old….it wasn't something I was expecting. He feels similar to actual Thor. I should know, he spent a few nights on my couch because of girlfriend issues. Thor, I mean. Not Loki. As for how…"

She pauses.

"I don't know…I don't even remember letting him in. I was scared, and he felt reassuring."

—-

It's a light-show he's never been able to see, though the recent reminder through the confrontation he had with Jane makes him less baffled about what it is that she's doing than he might be otherwise. Surely he must draw his own conclusions about her ability to see it now, but whatever they are, he keeps them to himself. In order of importance, that comes in a distant second to 'everything else.'

To say he's 'speechless' in the wake of her clarification is overstating things, but he certainly spends some five, maybe ten seconds staring at her wordlessly, with only the gradual but distinct slide of his brows toward one another for that span of time to suggest a mounting tension.

"You…didn't want to tell me at any point about meeting the Viking god of lies…?" One of his knitted brows rises. His uneasiness intensifies. "Hm. That feels, I dunno, Zee, like it might have been important." He's still sorting through that as he turns away, takes a few steps to gain some distance, threading his fingers back through his hair. "So — setting that aside for now-" And the operative words there are definitely 'for now,' "-I'm not any sort of expert on the nordic pantheons, but I know enough to be a wee bit concerned about how the Viking god of Lies just popped into your soul for a little bit of redecorating. Benevolent or not, we are talking about — sorry, just making sure I'm getting this bit across — the Viking god of Lies." Two still and silent beats later, he pivots to half-turn back to her, the skeptical, almost incredulous look he's wearing stopping just shy of anything outright inflammatory, though he's got no hope in hell of concealing his displeasure.

"Don't get me wrong, Zee. If that's how it had to go down to keep you from murdering everyone at a charity gala-" 'Again,' he doesn't say, "-then, alright. We'll work around that. But here's the thing. Who's to say he didn't set the whole thing up himself, so that he could get the keys to the castle? He's left little bits of bizarre shite behind in you, I can sense them. I can sense them in me. And I don't mind telling you, luv — I don't much care for it."

—-

His displeasure was one that she takes in stride. "I didn't know he was at the time I met him," Zatanna tells him honestly. "It wasn't as if he performed any grand tricks of magic in front of me at the time to be able to tell, and honestly I didn't take his card all that seriously. I just thought he had…I don't know. Norwegian parents. It was really only when he started bringing what he knew to bear at the gala that I thought maybe there was more to his name."

The magician falls quiet at that, letting him speak, but his continuous reiteration of who Loki is slowly has her lips pressing together, her jaw hardening into a stubborn angle. This would normally be the time where the softer, more sheepish parts of her would rise, but there is none of that this evening. "Like I said, John." To her credit, her voice is still level, though he'd most definitely feel the igniting sparks of temper run through their link, influenced by both exhaustion, guilt and the reminder of the inexplicable, debilitating fear that left her vulnerable and once again confused at where it all came from, something that she was reluctant to pry into even in the realm of Herself. "I didn't know he was that Loki until he was in me, and it wasn't as if I was in any shape to kick him out once his true nature suddenly unfurled like a roadmap."

As for the rest of it, she lifts her hand, closing her eyes so she could roll her fingertips over her lids. "I don't know if he set up the whole thing himself, if he did, the act he pulled with…whoever the other woman was very convincing, because their magic was…" And the look of her before she says the words indicates how even she thinks it sounds: "…disagreeing with one another while I was within 'earshot'." If that even made any sense. "And he did, I could feel them - I was checking them while I was waiting on Caitlin's prognosis. It isn't doing much of anything other than what it's supposed to do, but I was already thinking of ways to reinforce my father's magic and dissipate his."

I don't care much for it.

Teeth clip against one another behind her lips, but she doesn't look away. "It's not as if I was happy with how the entire night turned out either, John. All I did was all I could."

—-

All John has to say to her uncertainty follows the lifting of both of his hands, palms angled inward, slightly upward. "He was in the Library. I'm not saying that's proof of godhood, alright? But — we did meet Thor. Gigantic prat? Actually had a hammer? …Still can't really get over the hammer thing." His mild irritation subsides into momentary, remembered amazement, and then snaps back into him like a rubber band.

He restrains it, for whatever that's worth — it's not as though she's not able to sense it in him, a restless sharpness equally generated by his worry for her and his own inability to have helped in the moment. It's effort for him, but he pushes the tone of it out of his voice when he reaches out, setting a gentle hand on her shoulder. The pressure from his fingertips is inwardly-coaxing, conciliatory. Is now really the time?

"I know, luv. I know. It's probably as good an outcome as anybody could hope for, considering. You got control of it. You saw who did it to you. It's…" Blue eyes flick up and away from her, striving for — something. Something reassuring, in a situation in which his nature tells him to look only for the worst-case scenario. "Something we can push back at. But I'll be honest…until that's out of you? I'm not going to rest easy." Or possibly at all. The bizarre, foreign quality of the magic there sets his teeth on edge, curled as it is like vines around the engine of her entire existence — and the one tiny mote of a thing that keeps him seated within his own, without which he'd become swift prey for an infernal denizen recently denied.

"I'm also not ruling out convincing displays. Part of that whole viking god of Lies thing." At least this time he accompanies the emphasis with a quirk at the corner of his mouth, but it's steeped in as much rue as it is tired humor. "But we'll deal with that in the morning. You might…" He hesitates. Apology creases the corners of his eyes. "…consider staying in the cell until you've slept enough to take it on, just in case. I won't fight you on it if you'd rather not, but…" The sentence trails off into nothing, punctuated with a small shrug. After a beat, he turns up a smaller, sharper smile. "Though I could keep you company if you do. We've had worse nights than some of the ones we had in there."

There's a pause, and then a slow exhale. A substantial amount of the tension in him releases, the coiled spring of it pressed down by the weight of his next thought. "Is Red going to handle the fallout from tonight? People are going to want to know what happened." Quiet: "With you."

—-

It is definitely not the time.

Gold twists with her own faint white-blue aura when ice-blue eyes follow the wake of his hand on her shoulder, drifting over rough but elegant fingers. The growing tension within her, the burgeoning knot where both ends are being pulled in opposite directions to tighten it, eases and then fades altogether, noting what she finds on the other end of their link. Not that she needs it to know where he is coming from, precisely, their most vicious rows have always been focused on one subject: her safety. Be it her physical form or the state of her immortal soul. It never comes from anything resembling hate, in fact, it is always the opposite.

Zatanna's shoulders sag at his touch, her exhaustion bleeding out at the gesture. "I know," she tells him, the growing sharpness of her tone dissipating until all that's left is the quiet brought there by his closer proximity. "I don't intend for it to stay there, anybody's magic inside me would make me wary, unless it's my father's and only because it's been there for so long that I don't know how it feels anymore without it." That first line of defense, planted there since she was young, though for the life of her, she doesn't know precisely when. Certainly at an age when she was too young to remember it happening.

"Anyway, until it's out of me, I was thinking I should probably— "

You might consider staying in the cell…

Lips quirk at the corners of her mouth. "Yeah, I was about to suggest it." It's not at all surprising, perhaps, not when she had already mentioned she was thinking about the problem the entire time she was in the Tower, looking at it from different angles much like a Rubik's cube. "Besides." A spark of her old humor returns, irrepressible in spite of whatever layers are presently smothering it. "It's been a while since I slept there. The memories associated with it aren't all bad." And he would know what she means, other than the unfortunate incident of unbuckling his belt while her father's curse was still active on him.

Mollified as she is, raven tresses slip from her shoulders, her forehead moving forward to rest on his shoulder. She hears and absorbs the mention of Tim's alias, and girds herself for that inevitable bolt of shame, when she's so fresh from her ordeals with the Scarlet Women. She is surprised, in the end, to realize that after a few moments of silence waiting for it, it doesn't come.

"He'd probably want to," she tells him quietly. "But it was me and my doing, and it's not like I don't know how to handle the press, and most recently I acquired some experience in fielding inquiries from government officials, also." The one positive educational point she gained after that entire ordeal with District Attorney Archer. "I'll take care of it myself in the morning."

—-

His efforts to draw her in may have been more about providing comfort than taking it for himself, but it works both ways. Something in the flat subsides, quieting, as she settles in. He folds her in, tilts his head down and toward hers as his eyes lid, one arm wrapped around the narrow small of her back and the other and his opposite hand gentle at the nape of her neck. Still whole. And free. That, in light of his latter question, was almost certainly not a guarantee; the court of public opinion can be cruel particularly in the case of extranormal individuals — witness the unfolding of the Barnes trial — and it's lucky for them both that she wasn't detained.

"He'll want to talk to you about it, probably, if you didn't talk about it tonight. Titans public relations, and that. Not least because this is going to be your second time in the papers in a short enough span." Thinking about the media circus and its handling of Jane threatens to undo what little progress he's made in abandoning his earlier ill mood, so he pushes it aside for now. "Whatever happens, we'll sort it."

It's safe to say that John would not tolerate a lynching of her reputation by the uninformed mob, even if every last means of rectifying a problem like that were likely to cross ethical boundaries, in magic or any other conceivable way.

Once he's got her in his arms she'll be able to feel his relieved exhale, metered though it may be, when she suggests precisely the same thing about the cell. "Alright. I'm going to get the bed made up." And, you know. Move Emily Montrose's bloodless, undecayed corpse out of the room. Even John has got limits.

"You can get a hot bath, or just pop over to the sofa, hm? I can get Chas to make you something to eat." Over her shoulder, blue eyes seek the closed door of his erstwhile roommate. It's usually an indication that he's not to be bothered, but there are certain circumstances for which he's unlikely to resent the intrusion, and it's probably safe to say that caretaking Zatanna after a deeply unpleasant evening is one of those things.

"We ought to talk at some point about the rest of it. Who was there — all of it. But not tonight."

—-

The completion of his embrace is also something her presently, strangely-wired senses breaks down in its finer components: the brief tingling warmth before his fingers make contact at the back of her neck, the electric anticipation singing through her nerves before his arm wraps around the small of her back, how her own body flows like water, effortlessly drawn to his harder planes and angles until it settles against him. It's almost strange, especially while grappling with her enhanced connection to everything, how something so fundamentally physical can serve as such an effective balm for the soul. Once there, Zatanna sinks into it with all of her expected wholeheartedness, her own arms shifting to band around the narrowest point of him, fingers linking securely.

Some part of her rebels; it feels like static, ruby and crimson sparks crackling over her digits. It would be confusing to some, but not to her, given her intimate knowledge of the direction of the Scarlet Women's ire. But their presence only coaxes her to hold on more stubbornly - the embrace is less about dependence on a man and more about the very basic human need to be touched and held by a loved one, and shouldn't a woman be free to go after what she wants? And at the moment, this is what she wants more than anything in the world.

Even baja fish tacos.

John is right about Tim; knowing his very real need to control everything, she knows that Red's intervention/interference/input is probably inevitable and she can't help but sigh. She doesn't want to burden him, already set on the idea of taking care of it herself. But she's confident that he's right - whatever happens, it'll be fine.

Though she doesn't know where that is coming from, whether it stems from trust or this newfound confidence in her ability to weather whatever storms come her way.

A thumb rolls gently against a knot of tension she finds on his back. "I can hel— "

He vetoes that with more pleasant alternatives that she is more than happy to take instead of another chore crammed in an already trying day. While she doesn't express her gratitude verbally, he'd sense it in spades - it floods through their link like a waterfall, cloaked in all of that bright, burning, unyielding affection. Made manifest in the physical realm by the way her lips plant on the hinge of his jaw.

"Okay," she relents. "Bath, and then couch. You think Chas will humor me if I make a request for his chickpea curry?"

—-

Two low notes of amusement, trapped in his throat and chest, preface his thoughts about Chas. It's subtle — more subtle than the quick smile to offset lidded eyes, thin seams of blue as he lifts his head. "I think he misses you more than he does me when he's away." Palm and fingers exert slow pressure against the tight-wound tendons and muscles of the back of her neck, an almost unconscious echo of the pressure of her fingers against his perpetually knotted-up back. One tilt of his head later and he's stealing a kiss from her that doesn't want to wait until after baths and dinner are through with, a contact so momentary that it shouldn't be possible for it to contain a wealth of sentiment so complex. But things between them steadfastly refuse to stay the same: always something new and different, always some hurdle to overcome, some horizon to explore that John, at least, could never have anticipated. It ought to spell disaster for them, this newfound steel in her that refuses to make concessions — and maybe it will, eventually. Who can say? But they've always been walking a tightrope, and strangely enough there are things about her emergent strength of conviction that seem to be changing him in turn. Maybe he finds it comforting, backed by all of their time together and consistent demonstrations that even when she's out of her element, she's capable of beating the odds. Maybe that's not it at all; maybe, forced into the feeling of an ultimatum and no longer so sure that she'll be the one to concede when they land at absolute loggerheads, he's having to reevaluate all of those boundaries.

Who knows? Maybe not even John.

And maybe that isn't so strange, either: for all that the unknown always appears to be a curtain beyond which John can only conceive of horrors waiting to besiege him, he's always been the boy who couldn't resist pulling it back to have a peek at what might be on the other side. As cynical as uncertainty makes him, there may be no stronger force in driving his fascination. Braided together with the familiarity of her and all of the things he knows in other ways — all of those things contained in the link between them, and the archive of their struggles — maybe the bottomless gravity of her, even now, is the least inexplicable thing about the last several months.

He presses a humid kiss to her cheek, then gives her hip a swat. "Go on. I'll knock Chas up." Yeah: that's a Britishism for 'wake up.' Odds are pretty good it made for a hilariously uncomfortable first visit to the Americas.

—-

I think he misses you more than he does me when he's away.

"As well as it should," Zatanna quips simply. "I'm pretty amazing, you know."

The sentiment is lighthearted and made mostly in jest, though one wonders if that newfound steel in her would make it so that she believes that sincerely, too.

He'd find his kiss well-received, lips parting and toes pressing her upwards to take from him as much as he takes from her - or give to him as much as he gives to her. With the both of them, that line has always been somewhat nebulous, but she wouldn't have it any other way either. It is the taste of feminine ferocity without the desperation that underscored most of their initial encounters from the time he set foot in New York City, felt with the way a hand comes up and luxuriates in the way tangled locks of gold and brown slip between her fingers. Her end of the link pulses with hungry, aching need, liable to consume him from where they both stand, belying whatever exhaustion weighing down her bones. She is in terrible need of a soak, and after a week waffling over her own uncertainty as to what the abyssal venture had done to her, she finds absolutely no harm in obliviating troubled contemplations in favor of something infinitely more pleasant.

All of that, and more, condensed in a handful of seconds that end with lashes kissing her cheeks, his lips leaving a dewy graze on one of them.

Go on. I'll knock Chas up.

"Can I watch?" she wonders. "I mean, the look on his face…"

She knows what it means in the British vernacular, those months spent in London are very much remembered. But she flashes him a grin emphatic with her old mischief, pivoting so she could move for the bathroom and with lighter steps than before.

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