Not Quite Dead Yet
Roleplaying Log: Not Quite Dead Yet
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

After the attack described in Tones of Home, John and Babs have a somewhat cantankerous discussion of costs and risk.

Other Characters Referenced: Black Canary
IC Date: February 09, 2019
IC Location: Sherwood Florists - Gotham City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 11 Mar 2019 17:21
Rating & Warnings: Foul language, angst, and kissy stuff
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Barbara picks up bloodied cloth and gauze, and puzzles the first aid kit back together before she's getting up out of her chair to put everything away — whether that's back in the cabinet or in the trash. She moves with a kind of tense uncertainty — the kind of someone waiting for the other shoe to drop or the other bomb to go off. She grabs a bottle of whiskey, and two cups. The latter are set down in front of John before she pours them both a healthy shot and then sets the bottle down just slightly out of reach.

The woman sits back in her chair with a hard exhale, and then she scoots in closer to John to press a kiss to his shoulder gently — a soft punctuation that she is happy he's okay, no matter how tremulous each passing moment becomes. Quietly, and with some hesitation, she ventures, "Is this going to happen again?"

Her blue eyes lift to meet his, searching for the answer before the warlock can actually answer it verbally — almost trying to suss out the truth.

Constantine rather ill-advisedly flexes and bends his deeply torn arm thoughtfully, eyeing the sutures that Babs helped him with— sutures that had to be -even- to preserve the marking that's currently etched in a brutal, almost surgical wound, burnt subtly at the edges.

He's distracted by the arrival of glasses, and then of redhead. She presses in close, and John's tangibly tense, almost skittish, despite his own affirmation not long before. He downs the shot in one smooth motion, and whatever is running through his head just now— the tension doesn't last. He scoots towards her chair in turn, until they're sitting fully side by side, if somewhat askew, and slips his good arm around her back with a deep sigh, some of the tightness melting from his form.

"Blue, I don't even know for sure how they found us yet. Any of the enchanted bits you collected from the scenes here still? Could've gotten the scent of any of the team, too." Not quite 'scent', but the meaning is plain enough that way. "You and I are warded against that kind of tracking, but Dinah…"

And lest he be accused of putting undue suspicion on the Canary, the warlock appends. "'course, powerful enough demon or sorcerer could forge past that, but I haven't felt it happen. Cagey enough and powerful enough? It coulda been that magic, or me." He admits, voice only growing quieter; somewhere between guilt and apprehension. "I told you, you don't want to be fuckin' wrapped up in any of this." It carries more weight, with the same mixed emotions, than just the most recent crisis.

When John takes his shot of whiskey, Barbara is not far behind. It burns, and she grimaces it down into the center of her belly. Then she breathes out a slow exhale, and she turns slightly back toward him as he turns in toward her, inviting her closer. She doesn't reach for the bottle for a refill, but instead rolls the glass between her fingers, letting the last little haze of whiskey in the bottom of the glass reflect golden light.

She listens to him, blue eyes lifting to meet his with a quiet, thoughtful silence. Her frown starts to tighten down into a steady, thoughtful expression that also clearly shares her worries and concerns. She tilts her head into his, resting her temple against his own briefly, and breathing out a soft little exhale that also releases some of the tension built up in her frame. Her fingertips tighten gently around the glass and then loosen once more to set the tumbler down.

"No. Remember? We went right back to the Belfry after the Shadow guards in the underground. I didn't bring anything back here. The only thing that might make sense is if they've been tracking movement in and out of the Belfry. I'm careful, but not absolutely perfect every time." Admitting that possible failure on her part sends an uncomfortable shiver through her body, and she ducks her head slightly.

Her jaw works with some carefully held anger, frustration. When she looks back up at him, her blue eyes carrying a serious weight. "What do you want me to do about that, John? You keep throwing that around — I don't want to be mixed up in this, but you don't exactly cast me aside? Do you want me to walk?"

"Not that time, luv. Nothing left to track us, I'm pretty damn sure." John grimaces, deceptively lightly for as heavy as this particular chain -is- to trace. "From the Whispers. Maybe the Hellraisers. You don't think it's a little convenient that a couple sets of hoods start wielding magic, infernally-tainted power and making nice to focus more mayhem outwards? I'd wager good scratch it's not just tied to each other, but all sorts of abductions, killings, rituals and omens all around the area. Hell, probably beyond it. Someone— something's pulling these strings, Blue, and it's a web I'd rather burn to cinder than be fuckin' caught in."

Which they can almost certainly agree on. He frowns at the more pointed, personal inquiry, and casts his eyes to the kitchen floor. The relative stoicism, the quiet anger in the words that follow, they're deceptive elements— masks directed outwards, for emotions roiling inwards. "It'd be better than seeing you all die, luv." If he were less exhausted, the statement would be practically spat.

"I'm the little Dutch Boy with his goddamn finger plugging the dike, it never holds the way it should. I told you not to poke at this shit." The magic. The demonic events. He knows she can't leave it alone, though. Neither of them can. "I told you this would happen. People around me die, Blue. Fortresses crumble, friends slam me into the wall, hell sometimes I gotta do 'em in myself, so it's just bloody karma." John does reach for the bottle, pouring himself another shot, and Babs as well if she settles her glass. He doesn't immediately slam this one back, though.

That drink punctuates the next. "If you can't bloody well handle that, if it starts lookin' like /I'm/ the bad guy here, with the weight of this prey— then go." A strong swallow forces back a punctuating choke; the burn of the whiskey washes it away, and lips purse in a profoundly sullen, frowning restraint, unwilling to look even half as vulnerable as he obviously is, here. It's worth noting the arm around her has only tightened, fingers curling, clinging into her far hip. "None of this is about what I bloody want." The magician offers up a touch bitterly.

Barbara listens at first, taking note of each detail as he tries to find the connections through the various threads, trying to tie ends together. But then he's nearing the place where the knots can tighten, and she ducks her head almost wearily. There's sometimes no connections to be made, and then they are just left where they are, struggling to find the next loose thread. "This is more than just the Whispers, or Shadows… why did they come here?"

Then she rubs curves both hands around the cup, and it gives her something to flex her grip around, softening and then tightening. Her eyes do not meet his despite the way his hand tightens around her hip, the way he tries to hold her close. He fills her cup once she settles, and then she looks back to him with those serious blue eyes.

"I can't." Those words are said quietly. "I can't go." She looks away then, and she takes this shot much faster. Then she shakes her head, and turns the cup over in a soft clank. Her eyes drop away to her hands, and she's working hard at her knuckles. "I said I was here, John, and I'm here… but I don't understand what happened here, and I don't even know what I'm supposed to do." Her blue eyes meet his. "You keep pushing at me, keep reminding me how bad everything is, warning me that I should be okay with this, or that I should go."

Her jaw works through her anger which she is holding very tightly in her jaw and shoulders. "Dinah is pissed off because something came home — to our home. To a place that is supposed to be safe, and it isn't. She's mad at you because she thinks this is your fault, when… isn't it just as much mine?"

"You know what kind of power 'tanna has, luv?" John muses quietly, and a bit darkly. "You know what kind of reputation -I- have for mucking up the works of the great and godlike?" John says the last three words with more than a touch of derision. "Whatever's behind whichever set of messes, the big guns are out now, noses thoroughly up in its business, a few operations gone a little bit sideways from what they were supposed to accomplish, I'd bloody well reckon. They came here because we pissed someone, something off, Blue— maybe after me, maybe after you, maybe after Dinah. Maybe just to trace whoever they could and make us pay for it, make us hurt."

Demons thrive on that kind of ire, that kind of guilt, that breed of raw emotion. "It's not about being okay with this, you ever get okay with this something else is fucked. It's about dealing with it. It's about being prepared for it. About striking back and striking back smart not immediately fracturing around the seams and looking at each other with exactly the kind of doubt and suspicion the goddamn demons want to inspire." Constantine pours, again, but leaves it, pausing to lean in and press a kiss to Barbara's head.

"Might be my fault, might be her fault, might be yours. Bottom line is we're in this shit together, and there's a hell of a lot bigger job to do than to decide who's to blame for this particular life-threatening bullshit. It's too much to ask of anybody, but it's how it's gotta be. I'm not trying to push you out the door, Blue— but it's gonna be hard enough living with anything that happens to you on my account without making damn sure you know every step of the way I'm not bullshitting or playing around, and I understand too goddamn well if you can't do it. Me, I've got to do it." Which means the path diverges there, in part or in whole— the idea of hiding away somewhere to days of ease and peace isn't an option, for John. Even backing off isn't an option for John.

He relaxes his grip enough to lean back slightly, to meet her gaze more fully, his own softening. His injured arm reaches to trace lightly along her jawline, cupping her face gingerly. "I want you here. Have I not made that fuckin' clear? But I know the price. I've paid more than my share. I've paid e-bloody-nough. Maybe it's just how I justify it, end of the day, when I'm not strong or selfless enough to go it alone." When what he wants demands to be accommodated despite what he is.

Barbara's lips tighten together at the mention of Zatanna, and then at the continued reasoning from the warlock, the continued reasons why this came to their doorstep, why Dinah's family home is in shambles. "I'm not okay with it." Her eyes lift to meet his. "I'm okay with being here with you… that is a distinct difference." Those two words are said with some firmness, some demand for him to hear her.

Then he’s kissing her head, and she is closing her eyes while she looks away from him again despite the press of his lips to her soft red hair. Her eyes close tightly on whatever emotion is building in those gentle blues, and her jaw sets for a moment, feeling her emotions get locked behind that tightness of teeth and set of lips. Then a tear slips free, and she shakes her head as a bit of frustration joins that freed tear. "I need to know how to deal with this, John… if you hadn't come, if the songbird hadn't warned you… Dinah would be dead. I would have come home to that. I need to be able to make sure these things do not come after us here again."

Then she is gathered in by his hands, and her eyes close as her head sinks forward into his hands so that he holds her by the soft curve of her jaw. Barbara shakes her head, and her forehead is pressed harder against him. "Dinah didn't ask to pay the price," is all she whispers in this close, private moment.

"Lines are blurry, luv. Demons and angry spirits bent on torturing me or killing everyone I know, for me that's Monday. Like muggings in Gotham." It's vaguely apologetic, and still just a trace noticeably bitter. "I was here, and I set up more than one layer against anything that's in -any- of these places. There is no foolproof, 'safety' is temporary without cutting off everything, and everyone. The organizations you two usually face off against, there's some top-tier operators there too. This place could be firebombed by them tomorrow, but this shit… this shit is on a different level, I'll bloody give you that." Magnanimous of him, really. John doesn't try to sugar-coat it, though. It is what it is.

"Dinah dove into the vigilante life about as head-first as you, Blue. Didn't see you twisting her arm to act out against a glorified cult of ritual-murdering psychopaths in service to one hell of a higher power. If she hadn't showed up, shits might have killed me. Either of us ten minutes later, shits might have killed you. Let me say it again: this isn't about figuring out who to fuckin' blame, or who asked for this. The answer to both is the same: some bloody goddamn demon and its bloody daft soul-sacrificing hoard. If a mob boss figures out how to take out people close to you, you circle the wagons, and you take that fucker down, right?"

Constantine leans into the touch, presses his head back against hers largely by virtue of weight, resting into the lean as he traces his fingers through her hair and settles them along her back. "I purged every trace of 'em, I'll baffle any trail that led to this neighbourhood, I'll help you learn to protect yourself and call for help, and hide Dinah the way I've hidden you. I'll walk out that door and not come back until the fucker behind so much is done for, if that's what you want. But don't ask me to guarantee anyone's safety, Blue. Don't ask me to promise we'll never be fucked like this again. I haven't made a habit of lying to you."

"I hate Mondays." Barbara's voice is wearied and flat. Then she breathes out a slow exhale, and her fingertips touch the back of his hand gently as she leans into his embrace, and her forehead settles more heavily against his. "I'll talk to Dinah… once she's cooled down. Perhaps I can help at least talk her through it, and take some of the heat." Her mouth tightens a bit. "And Dinah may have agreed to the vigilante life, but you're my…" She stalls slightly at the word, and then lets it slip a bit strangely, "boyfriend. That's different, I think."

Then her lips twitch with a slight smile. Then she closes her eyes to just find her center again, breathing out a slow exhale past her loosely parted lips. "You do whatever you think needs to be done… but I'm in this with you." Her blue eyes open to meet his once more. "I don't ask you to guarantee anything, John. I've learned that, and learned that fast." Her fingers curl around his, and then she presses in close against him until their lips meet.

It's a slow and gentle kiss — the kind that just mixes with a hint of need, sorrow, and heat. It presses forward with each passing beat until she is nestled closer against him, their lips fully
pressed, and her nose resting gently alongside his. WIth a breath, she sinks back from that moment of reconnection, and her eyes open to meet his. "Are you alright?" The question is murmured honestly between them.

John's eyes don't open again until after she kisses him, but he's listening. Probably. There's definitely a quiet, wry chuckle at her choice of term for 'what he is' to her. He lingers close, his arms around her tightening subtly as their lips meet, and the tender, deceptively complex emotion is reciprocated warmly, intimacy shared in the layers of what's laid bare and sought in the simple gesture.

The magician nuzzles lightly against nose and cheek in the aftermath, brushes his lips across hers once more when she starts to drift back, and finally opens his eyes to meet her gaze, then. Teeth clench and unclench, and a deep breath that's sought is something more middling, softly shaken and tense.

"Not sure I've ever been fuckin' alright, luv." It's not even sarcastic or flippant, despite the ease with which it could be read that way, particularly with the dry and self-deprecating tones that, let's be fair, frequently -are- both those things. It's about as honest and difficult a way as John /could/ answer that question, without delving into a whole lot of painful detail. "Let her be mad at me, I'll take the blame." Hell, he almost /encouraged/ it spitting right back at her even as he ate the abuse… and doesn't necessarily disagree with the entirety of it.

His embrace tightens another step, seeking to draw Barbara against him fully, or perhaps urging her into his lap. It's likely an instinctual thing, a clinging on to comfort. "You know I'll do everything I can to win this fight." Without everyone around him as casualties, preferably. But no matter the cost, he has to fight; and plainly bears more than a little weight for that reality.

The nuzzle of his nose against her cheek draws her eyes closed, and the second brush of his lips against hers incites a low sound of soft contentment — a contentment found solely in the connection of their lips and soft brush of their skin. Then she is listening to his breath, and the way his words rock some of the shared foundation between them. Her fingertips brush back along his hairline, following along the edge of his ear. Then she nods.

"Oh, she's still going to be mad at you, but I thought at least explaining things to her might make her less murderous rampage at you." Then her mouth quirks with a slight smile. At his urging, she is swept into his lap with her arms slightly around his shoulders, fingers gracing the familiar texture of his trench coat, and then she's curling the edges of her fingers beneath the collar of his trench coat, and she tugs him in closer to her.

"I know you will," her words are whispered. "I know that you will do everything you can…" There's a soft, almost saddened edge to her words. He will do everything he can, sacrificing whatever he has to. She doesn't say that aloud, but it's still said in the spaces between her words.

Rocked or no, there's strength in that foundation. It shows in the simple fact that he reaches for her, when more cynical parts of his brain tells him to push her away, to get as far from Barbara and her flock as he possibly can, perhaps to stymie there ability to follow the trail, the crusade they're currently on; to keep them safe, whatever the alternative cost to him… and to her. It's hardly a new niggling, however, and it's not something he's found the will to do yet, nor now. Instead he sighs softly, a bit raggedly, tipping his head into her touch, leaning his weight more fully into the chair as he squeezes Babs close, a pressure neither possessive nor protective, per se— but anchoring.

His own center remains a bit off-kilter, and who could really blame him? For one thing, Dinah's stronger than she looks, and his arm and chest-wound aren't the only things that just plain hurt right now. Without even going beyond the physical. "Not being murdered is definitely bloody well preferred." Constantine agrees in a dark little mumble, as he leans his head forward to rest against hers, breathing in as he half-buries his face amidst her hair.

"Can we just fuckin'… go to bed? Maybe a hot shower?" It's a bit more uncertain than he's been for a long time about such things. It's hard not to feel his place here addled, tumultuous. Even if it doesn't quite extend to the desire to be close to her. There's no hiding the sheer tired in the words, either— emotional, physical, spiritual. He's spent a lot of energy, taken a lot of hurt to keep this turn from going worse, and it's about as thankless as it's ever been. Or at least, it feels that way, in the moment.

"John — " His name is gently breathed against his lips, as if she has more to say, but it is lost. Instead she is just letting him use her as an anchor, feeling her weight settle into his lap, and feeling his weight settle into her. Her eyes close and she just lingers there in that quiet moment. Then she begins to nod slowly against his head. "I rather prefer you not-dead as well, John." Then she smiles a wearied smile.

"Yeah," that word is whispered against his lips. "Shower, then bed." Then she tilts her head aside just enough to press a kiss to his lips that is soft, short, but no less meant to soothe. Then she is slipping free of his lap, and her fingers drift down to gather his hand. "I'll clean up in the morning," she promises him, and instead tugs him to his feet to lead him to the stairs.

She does not pause on the old staircase, but instead continues up and up until they alight on the landing and then begin down the hallway toward the bathroom that resides close to her own bedroom door.

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