HooDoo that You Do

June 07, 2018:

John Constantine pops up at Luke's Bar to help ward off history repeating itself.

Luke's Bar

Well, it's no longer a burnt out husk, so there's that. Construction continues. It has the idea of walls now!

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Jessica Jones

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Once the foundation was properly cured, the framework for the eight story building started to go up relatively easily. During the daytime, this place is crawling with hard hatted workers who are busy tackling the infrastructure from all angles. Union rules, however, dictate all that comes to a screeching halt at five in the afternoon and the place becomes a ghost town all save one soul who still paces around on the highest floor. It's to host the 'penthouse', but to a keen eye there are partitioned rooms going in that aren't on the master floor plan that seem to allow for a second apartment sized area. It's that that Luke has elected to work on himself when no one else is around. One difference between this building and the one that burnt down. Everything is metal and concrete. This one, come hell or high water, isn't going to merely go up in flames.

*

Building plans are very specific — even those that contain secrets within secrets. As a general rule, things are on the inside limited to the dimension described by its boundaries: a room has only the number of square feet within it permitted by its walls, etcetera. Doors are plotted according to the need for access, convenience of travel, etcetera. One relies upon the math. Everything makes sense.

And then you get magic involved, and all of those things are instantly arbitrary in the most irritating possible way. One whiff of ozone, and suddenly there's a door where there wasn't one, in a section of unfinished wall that Luke's just paced past. The door opens and disgorges a briskly moving Englishman with an expression that says he's already judging the hell out of what he's looking at, and for the brief moments before the door swings closed behind him and subsequently melts back into the wall, the room beyond it is visible, impossible: a brick space with curving walls and a rounded ceiling, long and windowless and full of furniture and nonsense.

"Well, that's for that, then. No protection from magicians, obviously. Shall I put that on your tab, as you yanks say?"

*

Luke gets to do that weird double take where he looks over at Constantine like 'hey buddy' before his brain catches up and parses that no one should be there, much less have materialized from a previously non-existent doorway that then vanishes. Plus, big dudes doing a double take is amusing. "I'm beginning to see the virtue of collaring metahumans. Only my version will just be everyone has to wear a bell around their neck so they stop sneaking up on me." Not that that would have helped much in the case of John, but it gives him a direction to put his ire into. Luke is in his own hard hat and gloves, both superfluous given his 'nature', but habit now because of union regulations. He sticks one paw out in the direction of John. "Jess' friend, I'm guessing."

*

The collar remark is what finally gets John to pull those sharp, blue eyes back from the ongoing construction, to land on Luke beneath one slightly cocked brow. "Like to see them bloody try it. Never been keen on things 'round about my neck." The faint twitch to one side of his mouth is all that suggests the joke. That, and the beleaguered tie, loosened enough that it would be fair for most people to wonder why he even bothers in the first place.

Luke's outstretched hand gets John's in turn, and for a magician — that is, someone engaged in a profession one might assume entirely sedentary or academic — it's surprisingly callused, not the hand of a man unaccustomed to hard labor. "Something like that, yeah. John. And you're the boyfriend." That remark gets a lid-eyed moment of sidelong scrutiny, though it's impossible to say whether that's because he's judging Jessica's tastes, or judging Luke's, or trying to imagine how that works, or — who knows, really?

It's brief, anyway, and ends with a vague gesture of his hand around the area before he begins to strip off the trenchcoat he's wearing. "She said you've got a bit of a fire problem. She tell you what I told her about fixing it?"

*

"Something like that." Luke repeats back when he's called the boyfriend, his own smile sly and somewhat secretive like a cat that ate the canary. His shake is firm but restrained, the sort that doesn't want to accidentally crush someone else's bones on accident. As Constantine makes himself comfortable, Luke shoves his gloved thumbs in the pockets of his jeans and hitches his hands there. "The original building was leveled by some sort of incendiary device or bomb that was put in the stock room of my bar. Jess warned me that your…magic…" Still getting used to that word, "Works in mysterious ways. So if it's a 'no flame' thing, even a lighter wouldn't work in the building. No pilot lights. Everything has to be electric."

*

"Mysterious ways indeed," John says, with a half-smile that suggests he finds that observation amusing on some level that he then entirely fails to explain or share. "But right enough. Simple magic is least likely to get bollixed up, and simple magic won't distinguish between hostile fires and some pillock's lighter. Fire is fire, yeah?" He drapes his coat over his arm, pushes his shoulders back in a stretch that tightens his eyes, and then draws a long breath. It expands his chest until he expels it in a sudden burst of a sigh, bootfalls echoing in the unfinished space as he starts toward the stairs down.

"I kept examining your options after Jones dropped by, though, and there are a few others, if you're interested. One would mean less upkeep from me, actually be fairly unalterable by other magicians, and it could actually distinguish between your fire and fire belonging to other people. But you'd need to set up an altar, and replenish offerings and that. Little Lithuanian spirit called a Jagaubis. Common sort of household spirit. Fire and the furnace and such. I took the liberty of catching one up. Bright little buggers, actually, which is why I think it could be taught to know the difference, and not as mercurial as you'd expect for the element."

*

"Wait, what?" Luke just BLINKS after Constantine as the Wizard? Warlock? Magic Mr. Fancy Pants? weaves around supports to the central staircase near the elevator shaft. (There's going to be an elevator! Decadent!). His following steps are delayed as all of that works into his chrome dome and tires out the little hamster that is doing double time on Luke's mind wheel. "Jess said you'd mumble a couple of words, maybe draw some symbols or something …altars? Elements?" Suddenly never being able to light a candle or let Jess smoke a cigarette in his apartment again doesn't sound so bad. "A Lithuanian hoodoo what now?"

*

"Mumble a couple of-" John pauses partway down the stairwell and throws a look over his shoulder that wouldn't be out of place if he'd just bitten into a lemon. "Christ," he mutters as he starts downward again. "Editorials from camp mundane. Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes there's a lot of bare-arsed dancing and rolling in pig's blood as well, or eating things that make you feel as though your 'ead's being hammered into the fourth dimension like a nail into an especially nauseating two-by-four."

He reaches the ground level quickly enough, moving at that same efficient pace as ever, and at that point tosses his coat aside, unbuttoning the cuffs of his button-down shirt to roll them up toward his elbows, exposing sinewy forearms and a handful of tattoos, all of which look — well, Jessica might say 'occulty.'

"But not always, mate. Sometimes you're just rehoming things, right? Exorcising demons, sending lost spirits along toward an eternity of boredom or suffering, depending. Once banished a ghost dog from a mate's flat. True story." He claps his hands together, gently rubs them. It looks like an expression of relish, but it changes something difficult to describe in the air, introducing a charged feeling not unlike the calm before a thunderstorm. "And sometimes it's other things. Like hearth spirits. But if what you want is a circle on the floor and a lifetime commitment to pouring me pints, that suits me just fine. Up to you."

*

Luke doesn't skim down the steps as gracefully as John, but his long legs and the fact that he takes them two at a time means he can keep pace with the other man easily enough. "Just to be clear, all of this scares the shit out of me. And for a six and a half foot bulletproof man to openly admit that something gives him the heebie jeebies…" The sentence trails off with a shudder rolling through Luke's frame.

At the bottom of the stairs, the bartender cum construction worker sits down on one of the lower ones and crooks his legs up so his elbows can be rested on the meat of his thighs. Without any real walls to speak of down here - just the metal studs - it's easy to wander from the realm of what will be the apartment building micro lobby to what will be the bar and it's associated rooms. It's also easy for Luke to keep an eye on John without having to necessarily follow on his heels every step of the way. "A lifetime of free booze for you was implied no matter what. But let's go back to the altar thing and offerings thing and go over what exactly that entails and what the consequences are if I, you know, forget to bring it weekly chicken bones or whatever."

*

Scares the shit out of me, Luke says, and John's smile is quick and sharp, brows rising a little. "Ah, leave it to Jones to find herself a bloke with sense. To be honest, mate, it ought to." Approval is rare from John, and so inevitably it doesn't last long, a thing he's not accustomed to sustaining for any real length of time. Almost immediately it slides back toward something grim, a mutter almost more to himself than to his company, though in the open layout and silence of the end of the day — or as silent as things ever get in Hell's Kitchen, anyway — it's not difficult to hear him. "The day it doesn't anymore is the day you're going to start doing things like using your own blood to cast spells, and I've got a hell of a story for you about how that ends."

Nevertheless, the story isn't forthcoming. He's still doing hands things, and things are still happening in the air, but what those things are isn't entirely clear. "Household spirits are a lot more common than you'd think. Loads of stories about faeries, right? They're not always that complex, though. Sometimes they're a- an aspect of a thing. Like this little furnace chap, for instance, or the gremlins that for some reason really like to make off with just one sock out of a pair."

He might be making that last one up.

Not that he says as much. %R"But you're getting yourself into trouble if you try to imprison one. Take it from a younger me: binding things is a bad bloody idea unless you've got no choice. They're usually beneficial, these spirits, but they can be capricious, and like any roosting creature they go where they're most comfortable, so it's all about giving them incentive to stay. A cozy place to spend time, a bit of flammable material now and then…"

*

"Great." Luke says dispassionately, finally pealing off his heavy duty gloves and palming the hard hat off his head. He leaves them both aside for now on the stairs to be locked up later, because even if it's nailed down doesn't mean there is a guarantee it won't go walking off in the middle of the night around these parts. "I guess all things considered, the trade off is pretty fair not to see my life go up in flames again. So give it things to burn. What else? Don't get it wet? Don't feed it after midnight? And it's afraid of bright light?" Gremlins. Furnace spirit things. Totally interchangeable.

*

Maybe John hasn't seen Gremlins. Maybe the humor just misses him. Either way, his response is a dry, "It's a minor fire elemental, mate. I'd say yeah, getting it wet might be a bad idea."

The sentence is punctuated by a quiet crackling, popping sound, as veils of white, scraps like ghosts, bleed out of the space between his hands and worm down the length of his body toward the foor, outward across that expanse in patterns almost fractal in nature. From the point at which he stands they spread in all directions, out through the concrete, up along the framing and the stairs, into the elevator shaft and downward — exploratory, almost.

Exploratory exactly. %R"I didn't bring it today because you're not quite ready, are you? Going to need a furnace, for one thing. For another, I expect your construction company might wonder a bit when the engines in their cranes or trucks or whatever else stopped working on account of ignition being impossible. I'll set up an interim measure once I've got the whole, you know…structure sorted."

*

At first Luke tries to avoid the wisps of white they spread, but once he realizes that pulling his feet up on the steps isn't going to do any good as they start climbing walls and exploring the rest of the building he just exhales through his nose in an irritated flare of nostrils. "Warn a brother next time." With a rumble in his chest that sounds suspiciously like a grumble, Luke straightens his legs out again so that he no longer resembles a frightened housewife who jumped up on a chair after seeing a mouse. "Framing should be done this week, and they'll start throwing up the exterior walls and roof, then the interior walls and then the finishes. Month more, tops. So this thing is going to live in my furnace, I give it burnable things. Where does the altar need to be? And that means I can start fires but…no one else?"

*

"And miss out on seeing a bulletproof bloke squirm like a schoolgirl? Not bloody likely," John ripostes, his smile sharp as a blade, one raised brow turning the amused look sly. "The furnace can be the altar, if you get me down there to set things up, but it might get you a few weird looks if you ever need to have it serviced. Otherwise, we can put it wherever you want. I'd say a kitchen, as that's probably where the little chap feels most at home, but Jones didn't seem sure you had one."

The light show, or wisp show, or — whatever the hell that is — doesn't fade out naturally so much as abruptly stop, everything winking out of existence after satisfying whatever its aims were. John's eyes drop, down to the splayed insides of his hands, and a huffed breath sends a cloud of white particulate blooming off of his skin. Residue, or a catalyst, or —

Eventually, people get used to doing a lot of guessing in his company. Explanations don't seem to be his style.

He pivots sharply to face Luke, weight shifted to one leg, and as he loosely folds his arms across his chest he nods once. "Just you. Incidentally, that means you'll be the only person who can use a firearm on the property, if that's the sort of thing you're into."

*

John just gets a LOOK about the schoolgirl thing. It might actually seem something akin to a Jess mannerism, because they've been together long enough that those sort of things annoyingly start to rub off. "I don't do guns." Luke says simply as he reaches out to wrap a hand around a support and haul himself back to the feet for lack of a railing currently. "But good to know." He's sort of still nodding about the rest, processing it all at his own pace which is to say glacial. "And so that means I could ignite a lighter, light a cigarette, and give said cigarette away? Would someone else be able to smoke it, then? Use it to then light something else on fire?" There are rules, and Luke likes to know the rules.

*

"No guns?" John scoffs in that very dry, very British way. "Doesn't that make you something of a pariah 'round these parts?" 'These parts' might mean — he gestures with one hand, briefly — Hell's Kitchen. It might mean America. He doesn't specify, and in any case the question appears rhetorical, because he smiles a cheshire sort of smile. "Neither do I."

Silent, he listens to all of the questions, and in the end arches a brow. "Is that Jones' influence as well-" He totally recognized that look, "-or have you always been an inquisitive blighter? Good questions. The concepts of 'ownership' and 'intention' give philosophers and lawyers fits as it is, and that's before you mix magic and elemental logic in. It's a really simple thing, this spirit, and it's not alive in the way you and I think of things being alive. It's a…" John closes his mouth, squints, and behind closed lips runs his tongue over his upper teeth, weighing his words. "It's a pattern. Alright? Think of it as a pattern. Or a bit of computer code, or a virus, or…something like that. It understands other patterns. Yours, specifically. And being a benevolent household spirit, its whole thing is protecting the pattern of the house. Right? Make sense? So I suppose if you really want to hand someone a cigarette and have it stay lit, then maybe it'll let that happen, because that's part of the pattern you're after. And maybe it won't, because this is where the pattern metaphor sort of loses meaning: it can be capricious. Fire spirits in particular often are. But if it does something you don't expect, it'll do something in the direction of protecting the place, rather than putting it at risk. If it gets playful, it won't be malicious."

*

Blushing isn't really something that Luke does, probably impossible to tell if he did because of his skin color. He does, however, look briefly sheepish about the Jones comment that he wipes away by dragging the web of his forefinger and thumb down his goatee. "I just secretly want to make sure that Jess is forever beholden to me for her nicotine fixes when she's under my roof." His fingers suddenly snap, "What about on the roof? Does it work on the roof? Most of the people I know these days seem to prefer roofs. But then again a spark could drop and then the little Fire Bug will get all angry…wait, it gets malicious? What happens to someone if they /do/ try to burn the place down?"

*

"The roof, the basement, and everything in between. It's a package deal. Once it's in here, it has free run of the place." Never let it be said that John isn't capable of his own brand of wisdom: he completely fails to comment on the joke about the cigarettes. "The verticality of the thing is part of the reason I went looking for other solutions. If I put a ward on the ground, it's going to extend into the airspace above the building. Limiting the reach of its effect is challenging, and I wasn't keen on causing airplane engines to suddenly stop working mid-flight just to keep your bar from burning down. I expect you wouldn't be keen on that, either. And so: little Lithuanian hearth spirit to the rescue."

Leaning, John extends one arm to gather his coat back up from where he tossed it over a horizontal slat of framing. Rather than put it on, he drapes it over his shoulder. How he suffers that extra layer of clothing in heat like this is a mystery for the ages. "Anybody pissing about with fire here, or trying to, is just going to find it won't stay lit. Probably get eaten by the little guy. It's not malicious, no. I wouldn't bring something here that required a delicate touch to keep happy, because then I'd just be popping out here in the middle of the night after I get a text from Jones with a lot of capital letters about Hell's Kitchen burning down to the ground. Which — mate. Can we talk about the name of your neighborhood a mo?" His brows knit, skew. "It's a bit grandiose, don't you think?" …Said as though Luke has any influence whatsoever over what Hell's Kitchen is called.

*

Constantine is right on the money about the not taking down an innocent plane full of people just to keep his bar safe thing judging by the raised eyebrows and the 'Magus, Please.' look that is purely Luke Cage patented. "And by 'eaten' we're referring to the fire not the person…" Luke feels it's important to clarify that one point at least rhetorically. As John looks like he's preparing to leave, he glances around just on the off chance on of those little white wispy things is lingering around and didn't dissipate with the others. Distracted by this, he answers, "Turns out Seventh Layer of Hades was already taken by a little town in Missouri. They missed out on that one by this much." Finger pinch inserted for visual representation. "But boy, this is Harlem." Raw pride in his voice at that.

*

John barks a laugh. It's short, but unfeigned. "The fire. Christ. Bring you a spirit likely to eat people for doing a lighter trick in your bar? Seems like that might cause you other problems in short order, yeah? Give me a little bit of credit, mate. I know I've a reputation for bad ideas, but they're not usually stupid." His amusement lingers even after he adds, grudgingly, "Usually."

There's no sign of what passed through the material of the structure at all — just a lingering ozone-like scent, strongest where John is standing, and even that is quickly fading. "Harlem. Got it." He turns slightly to notch his gaze off onto an angle, played over the ground, as though he sees something there beyond the foundation. "Good to know, actually. The ley lines are different by neighborhood and there'll be some mucking about with that, I expect. But…" He lifts his hand and waves that off, then dips it into his pocket, fishing for something. "Later. When things are finished. Closer to finished."

A few steps take him toward a wall, and from his pocket he pulls a little stub of what appears to be basic chalk. "In the meantime, have some people over to give tonight's little patch job a test, would you? I'd test it meself, but I'm going to be the exception to the rule, you'll find. Man who casts the spell, and that. On the other hand, if your bar burns down before we get the Jagaubis situated, you'll have a very short list of candidates, won't you?" He aims a wink over his shoulder, and stoops to begin drawing a line on the wall from close to the floor to a point over his head, then across, then back down: a rough rectangle. "Any other questions?"

*

"I'm sure I'll have dozens of them." But no more apparently for now. He gives a little up nod that seems to be in parting as Constantine draws what he can only assume is about to become a door. "Thanks again. I was serious before, man. Free drinks for life." After all, Constantine is actually doing a huge part to secure Luke's livelihood in regards to said drinks.

*

It's just as Luke suspects. The rectangle is a door, and when John presses on one side of it, it swivels backward to show another wedge of that windowless, well-appointed interior space. "Text your questions, or have Jones do it." He hesitates on the threshold of that impossible aperture, head tilted as though he's mulling over those words of gratitude. "A better man would probably tell you he's just happy to help a friend of a friend, and charity is its own reward, or some rubbish like that."

A pause. A solemn pause.

It ends when the corner of his mouth hooks upward ever-so-slightly on a sardonic angle. "Happily for my love of a good pint, I'm not that man. I'm holding you to that, boyfriend-of-Jones." Did Jessica even tell him Luke's name…? No time for introductions, if so, because he's disappearing through the door moments later with a simple, "Ta."

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