4728/Five-Finger HYDRA Discount

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Five-Finger HYDRA Discount
Date of Scene: 14 January 2021
Location: Peggy's Safe House Apartment
Synopsis: John comes to visit Peggy with some information about the artifact he stole. They come to realize they aren't so different after all.
Cast of Characters: John Constantine, Peggy Carter

John Constantine has posed:
The last Peggy had seen of John Constantine had been most of a week ago. Her infiltration of a HYDRA shipping front had led to John getting captured, then Peggy using some mystical means to find him, and rescuing him-- only to find out the magus had in turn played her, using the cover of a SHIELD rescue operation to steal a long-lost 084 from HYDRA's custody. So old that it had fallen off SHIELD's inventory as well, lost in the dust of time and bureaucratic inertia. Stolen from SHIELD? Misplaced? Taken as a spoil of war?

Whatever it is, this particular 084 had been marked with a lot of <UNKNOWN> categories. At least one positive: nothing in the file indicated it was dangerous.

Well, explicitly so.

A knock at Peggy's safehouse door. It's the early evening, not long after she'd have made it home. A few minutes leave to relax and unwind, but surely someone was timing their arrival.

When her door cracks open, a slovenly looking Brit with a roguish smile and mussed blonde hair quirks a half-smile at her from behind a cigarette in the corner of his mouth. "I come with a gift." He hefts a bag from a local poke place. "Ahi tuna." Brows lift expectantly, waiting for Peggy's reaction.

Peggy Carter has posed:
The knock at the door, strangely polite and something that doesn't generally happen at a safe house, gets a long look from Peggy. She's barely out of her heels and in a pair of slippers, still completely put together from the day otherwise. It makes it easier to silently slip towards the door, her body slightly crouched and hugging a wall in case someone starts shooting chest height through her door. Once there, she carefully withdraws and slips the safety off her gun, though it remains pointed towards the floor and her finger along side of it instead of on the trigger.

Now armed, in a position to NOT get shot, and curious, she carefully reaches over to undo the bolts. She leaves the chain, just in case, and cracks the door open...

Only to see one of the last faces she expected to see. The breath she slightly held is suddenly released and she shuts the door again to release the chain before nodding him inside. Her red lips remain in a firm, quiet smirk as she ushers him in and quickly shuts the door before safetying her weapon again. "An explanation might be a better gift, but I will take some dinner before deciding just how cross I am with you." From the tone of her voice? Very cross.

John Constantine has posed:
"Well, never die on an empty stomach if you can help it," John agrees with a lazily philosophic tone. The gun barely warrants a glance. He sliiides past Peggy into her apartment and looks around, habitual paranoia making him check his sight lines and look in the corners for an ambush.
     The bags are moved to the little dining table and set atop it. "Hope you like poke bowl. Mate of mine turned me onto it, sort of like a DIY sushi," he explains. The magus moves the blinds a little to peer between their slats, then turns back to Peggy.

"Got anything to drink?" He uplifts his chin at her kitchenette. "Not picky about what's on tap, either," he adds a beat later. "As long as it's alcohol."

Peggy Carter has posed:
Dark eyes watch his gaze study the room, much the way she did when she first came home not even ten minutes ago. Peggy's expression actually softens just a touch as she realizes what he's doing -- she can't blame him for it -- though she knows her place is clear. She'll never complain about MORE paranoia. "Meat and carbs? I'm never one to complain. Live on rations long enough and you start liking nearly anything they put in front of your face." Peggy clips out simply, a trace of amusement behind her voice.

She then moves towards the small writing desk in the corner, popping open the bottom cabinet to reveal, instead of papers, a few bottles of whiskey. She pulls out a decent level one, not the best but she's not going to let him drink rot gut in her house. Chances are, she doesn't even have rot gut. "So. What was so important in that case you stole out from under our noses? You are lucky I didn't bring half of SHIELD's forces down on you looking for it..."

John Constantine has posed:
There's a clatter on the table before Peggy's done with her sentence. A transluscent disk of some smokey crystal, ringed and bound in gold wire. It looks like a crude lens, of a sort.

"When you told me about HYDRA, I did some digging on my side of the tracks," John says. The food's extracted from the bags, one container full of rice and tuna, and the other a smorgasboard of exotic fruits and vegetable options. Presumably it's a match-as-one-wants arrangement.

John looks more interested in the liquor and pours himself a full glass. "Asked some of the blokes who were around in the day. HYDRA had a lot of Nazis in it," he reminds Peggy. Despite the removal of years, he carries the proper English bile in his voice at the mention of that group. "The Nazis had their own secret society, I found. Folded largely into HYDRA after the War ended. Called themselves the Thule Society."

He drags on his cigarette, squints speculatively up at her. "Sound familiar?"

Peggy Carter has posed:
Removal of years or not, even Peggy gets a faint, cold sneer on her features as he mentions the name. She's been fighting them a long time and, as warranted by their encounter the other night, still is. She pours a bit deeper of the whiskey into two tumblers, starting them both with well over two fingers, as she brings the glasses over to where he's set out the food. It's not exactly a romantic dinner, but it's quite suiting to them.

"Yes. I remember intelligence on them. There was much speculation that HYDRA started as an offshoot of the Thule Society, but turned a bit more scientific than magic based. But they remained intertwined for most of the war, from what I can tell. Or... at least, there were HYDRA members who still kept their membership in the Thule Society even after HYDRA's head command tried to break with Hilter to form their own little perfect race." Oh, the bile in Peggy's voice is deep and dripping. She's more angry at HYDRA than John, at least.

She then is reaching for his pocket, the one with the outline of the cigarettes, before she pauses. "...give me one if we're going to keep talking about this. And... whatever that is you took."

John Constantine has posed:
John 'ah-ah-ah's in a 'holy shit don't do that' tone, and stays Peggy's wrist when she starts frisking him. Hands quickly dig into his pockets and come up with the lighter and packet, held aloft, and then surrendered to her custody. "Perish that I'd ever tell a lass to not go rooting in my clothes, but I keep spring mousetraps in this coat," John tells Peggy. "Rummaging around's a good way to lose a finger."

Romantic, it's not, but there's a certain comfortable weariness to it. Two people sharing a common labor, no matter how distasteful. The drink's the meal; the rice and fish, a buffer. John scrapes the latter into a bowl for himself and adds some corn, onions, and mangoes into the mix. It's a complex flavor profile that a gourmand might appreciate. John mostly eats to buffer the whiskey.

"1944," John says. "The Thule Society uses a ritual to bind one of the incarnations of Death to their service. 'Lady Death' is bound to serve them for a year. In '45, the Allies broke the Thule control over her. In retribution, she slaughtered a hundred SS officers stationed in Wewelsburg Castle and disappeared."

A finger touches the lens, then he gives it a flick to set it spinning. "The ritual disappeared afterwards. No one knew where it went. My sources dried up. But-- I did learn that there was an artifact they used to translate the ritual. Called it 'Das auge der Unterwelt'," he says, and offers her the little smoke-crystal puck. "Dunno what the real name is, but it predates German by a few score millennia, at least. It's a tool," he tells her. "Translates ancient cthonic magics, the sort of dark spells that haven't been spoken by mortal man since before the rise of the Egyptians. German agents stole it out of Wales in '38, then SHIELD recovered it, and then it just sort of..." his fingers flex open, demonstratively. "Fell off the grid, so to speak."

Peggy Carter has posed:
"Yes... I rather remembered your captor's unfortunate... Scrape, when they dug at your pockets." Peggy must have been listening in the hallway when it happened, hence her fingertips drawing back without him immediately grasping her, but she doesn't pull back from his touch. She just gives him a wry look, accepting the pack gratefully a moment later and tapping one free for herself. It's between her lips and being lit within a few seconds, far more comfortably than the first time she stole a cigarette from him. He's gotten her back into old, bad habits.

Then she's moving for the food, cigarette balanced between her lips as they settle down into the couch, the coffee table needing to serve as a dinner table because there isn't really room for a proper one in this little safe house. She's not quite so into the wide arrange of choices he's making, but adds a fair amount of things that well carry spice and a bit more spicy mayo to her bowl before settling it in front of her.

She listens to him curiously, not interrupting for once. For all the frustration of him, she does trust him as an expert in this area. The news of what the tool is makes her frown a bit deeper, pausing with her food to look up to the object on the table. She's not reaching for it and not even demanding it back right now. "...so, not powerful in and of itself, but it can fuel giving some very awful people a lot of access to some dangerous power. And, somehow, it just...disappeared from SHIELD's archives."

John Constantine has posed:
"Right, because in sixty years, SHIELD's never employed anyone corrupt or incompetent." There's a mild rebuke to John's voice at Peggy's speculation. "Look-- this is going to be a bit of a stretch to understand, but there are cycles for these things," John explains. "A time when old magics find a foothold in our world. Last time it happened was around 600 AD," he says. Smoke issues from his nostrils like a sleeping dragon. "One of the less common translations of Sir Mallory, who documented it. It seemed so outlandish it didn't make it into the mainstream tales. Just the historical notes."

"The Eye is the tool for decoding these magics. Findin' 'em. I need to locate the missing parts of the spell so I can bind them up and destroy them. If they're ever all united, well..." John picks up some ahi with his fingertips, pops it in his mouth. "Frankly you'd say the Japs got off easy at the end of the war, by comparison."

Peggy Carter has posed:
That information brings Peggy to silence for several long heartbeats. The older woman just watches him quietly, studying him with that sort of look that seems to go straight through into someone's soul. It's the evaluation look, the old profiler figuring out just how likely it is that he's lying. How much she trusts, even after that. She exhales a long breath of tobacco smoke through her nose and reaches up to ash in an old tea cup forgotten at the edge of the coffee table.

"...in truth, I don't trust SHIELD with it right now. If I did, I'd be... far more angry with you. But, if you swear you're destroying the thing... then that's what needs done." She finally mutters, taking a long sip of her whiskey after. She's poked at her dinner but not really dove in yet, most of her appetite gone over the last little while. It's been a very long few weeks.

John Constantine has posed:
"I want to make sure no one can mis-use these magics for a very long time to come," John confirms. There's a deep sincerity to his assertion that is hard to challenge. "Listen luv, this is-- this is way beyond SHIELD, maybe beyond the pale for most of us with our fourscore and some years we get in this world. But the spells I'm looking for..." He sips his whiskey, trails off. "I'll put it this way, a fragment of them allowed the bloody Nazis to summon an incarnation of Death itself. Imagine what could happen if a whole book was assembled. Every fell incantation and dark ritual." Another sip, holding Peggy's steady gaze. "The wrong person holding all that power could send the entire world back into the Stone Age."

Peggy Carter has posed:
That look lingers another few heartbeats and then Peggy seems content with whatever she sees. Any lingering anger at him slips out of her eyes as she gives him a single, rather tired nod. "...thank you for telling me. It..." She finally pokes at her her food with her free hand, taking a bite as she considers exactly how to phrase this without sounding too sentimental about it. "...It bodes well for future cooperation." She goes with the most sterile response of all, though there's a lot more layers of gratitude, relief... Maybe even a bit of fondness behind those very neutral words.

A second bite of food is taken and she smiles around chewing, a wry brow arching at him as he explains just how bad this is. Once she's swallowed, she offers simply, "Well then, all the more reason to take my off the books help in recovering such things. Since I'm already in this deep and you admit this is a lot for even someone of your calibre to handle..."

John Constantine has posed:
"Right, help," John remarks. He gives Peggy a steady look. "Because of your advanced degrees and expertise in anthropology and history. Or is it because you're secretly a powerful witch, clinging to the secrets of pre-history?"

John drags some rice through a rivulet of soy and teriyaki with his chopsticks, adds some savoury vegetables and takes a bite. "If you want to help, what I need's for you to keep this whole thing mum. Close to the vest," he clarifies. "I don't need SHIELD /or/ the Thule remanants to know I'm holding the Eye. Anyone asks, y'know-- shoot 'em, or whatever you do," he says with an offhand shrug. "I've a list of potential locations for the remaining parts of the rituals. I've located one already, pulled it out of Boston." John digs in his pocket for a folded paper, examines it, and slides it towards Peggy past the little island of food between them. "Few leads I'd like you to trace down."

He gives her a steady look. "One wrong word of this slips, and we're in shite up to our necks, luv," he reminds her. "So far, I think I'm a step ahead of those Thule bastards. If they get wind I'm trying to pull their fangs, we'll be up to our eyes in a mess that your mates at SHIELD will -never- get their thick skulls around."

Peggy Carter has posed:
"Does 80 years of service count as an advanced degree in history and anthropology? Because you'd be surprised what we come across in SHIELD." Peggy smirks at him, clearly not buying the 'she's not experienced enough to handle it' line that he's giving her. She finishes a last drag of her cigarette then and drops the thing into the tea cup, remnants of this morning's Lady Gray killing the cherry before it smokes too much.

As he slides the paper at her, Peggy stares down at it and, after a heartbeat, gives a throaty, deep laugh. It's probably the most earnest laugh John has ever heard from her. It's an enjoyable sound, almost touchable, something rare and warm from the distant woman. "Lips are sealed, but if I am to be your hound dog, do not think you will call me off the hunt when the time comes." She reaches red nails forward, plucking up the leads.

John Constantine has posed:
"You heard it here first, ladies and germs," John quips. He tops off Peggy's whiskey, then his, and sets the bottle on the low stand near her sofa.

"Listen though," he bids her, and points at her with two fingers that hold his cigarette between them. There's something deadly serious in his voice. "You think you're getting near to it, you call me. Don't handle it, and for God's sake, don't read it. Even without the lens, there are corrupting influences at play. It'll make decent blokes do foolish, even evil things. It's the way of these magics to corrupt people. It might not even look like some ancient old grimoire. The spells have been seen in... mandelas, stone carvings, even in a song once. You find one, you contain it as best you can until I arrive." A moment of unexpected closeness; John holds Peggy's gaze, then blinks and looks down and away. "Don't want you getting hurt trying to wrangle something like this."

Peggy Carter has posed:
The woman listens silently to his warning, any wry expression falling from her features as she seems to get just how serious he's being. Peggy takes in a slow breath behind her whiskey glass, pushing back any pride that immediately rises in her throat, telling her that she's being talked down to or dismissed as a woman. For once, she doesn't think that is the issue. She sinks back into the couch, letting her knee and the outside of her thigh press against his as she sinks into the comfort of the thing, nursing her whiskey.

"If they are really that dangerous... Same goes to you. If you can buy time, you call in back up. It doesn't *have* to be me. I'd like it, but... I get that our lives aren't that easy. But you get *someone* you trust. Because I don't think you are shitting me about how bad this is, but I'd rather not lose you to it either, mm?" Peggy stares at him hard, even as he's looking away.

"I promise I will call you. Swear it. You do the same. But I can manage myself as well...nothing's quite killed me yet, despite many attempts."

John Constantine has posed:
"I've my friends, just like you," John assures Peggy. He measures her with a weighing expression when she relaxes into the sofa and her leg makes that casual contact. Seems he's not going to die of a Carter-related incident, at least not in the immediate sense of the term.

"Look, Carter. ...Peg," he amends. He looks at his whiskey, then to the agent. "I told you before, and I'm sure others have backed it up. I'm not the sort of bloke you should put faith in. I'm a selfish bastich and I don't play well with others."

A hand rests on Peggy's knee. "Listen, I've come up against the wall a few times before. I'm shite in a gunfight but when it comes to this sort of thing, you best trust my instincts. It's not gonna look pretty," he warns her. "I'm not much one for the whole 'good bloke' spiel. Be like that HYDRA base we hit, doing what has to be done no matter how it looks. I'm going to need a little faith on your end. Can you do that for me?"

Peggy Carter has posed:
"I know what sort of bloke you are, John. I've been watching it. I read the reports. I listened to you duck out in the morning like a shamed teenager. You're an absolutely *shite* partner to work with because if you'd breathed to me even one sentence of what was actually going down at the docks, we could have made that a lot smoother. You don't play well with others because you have *absolutely* no faith in others, and very little in yourself. None of this is a surprise." Peggy states rather matter of factly, no doubt in her voice that she's been rather able to read him like a book. By now, it's not just a profile. She *actually knows him*. And she's still sitting there.

"That being said, reminding me what a faithless bastard you are then asking for a little bit of faith is certainly not the best tactic in the world." Peggy shakes her head quietly, taking a good drink of her whiskey and letting the sweet, warm burn down her throat relax her from a bit of the tension that comes with this conversation. Her leg still hasn't left being pressed against his. "But, in spite of yourself, I *do* trust your instincts about this. And I had faith in your ability to, in the long run, do the right and necessary thing... before you ever asked me. I know you, John Constantine. Messy bastard, good heart, and all."

John Constantine has posed:
"If I'd told you my plan at the docks was to steal a forgotten, classified SHIELD asset from a HYDRA safehouse located 'somewhere' in Jersey, you'd have laughed in my face," John points out. "And even if by some miracle you went with it, you'd have been stuck telling your superiors that you aided and abetted me stealing something that SHIELD's had their eye on for sixty years. I'm not shaking you off, I'm giving you deniability."

John's steady blue eyes flicker to the streetlights outside, search his whiskey. The rise again to meet Peggy's gaze. "You want to have faith I'll find a solution out of whatever dire straits I'm in, it's a sure bet. No one's licked me yet. But don't go misleading yourself into thinking I'm some beknighted saint at heart, either. I do what needs to be done, and that leaves precious little time for being second-guessed."

Peggy Carter has posed:
"I sure as shit didn't call you a beknighted saint either, dear." Peggy stares flatly at him, the line of her lips dry as the desert for a moment. She reaches her free hand over, the other occupied with a nearing empty whiskey glass, and wraps her slender fingertips around his arm. Now it's her turn to try and pull his gaze, to let him see just how deadly serious she is about things.

"John... I'm crawling around behind every superior's back in SHIELD already. Lying about missions, stealing vital files and equipment, and talking some of their agents into going off the grid with me as well. If they get ANY scent of what is going on, I'm done. Decommissioned and locked up at best, probably simply just dead. Mucking about in the work you are trying to do isn't going to make me any more or less of a traitor to SHIELD. But I know what is good work, and I know what *needs* to be done. And I'm going to keep doing it."

John Constantine has posed:
John's eyes search Peggy's warily when she grabs his sleeve. The wary look's replaced by mild surprise at the confession; far from grace has the former Director fallen, to the point where she willingly embraces the possibility of SHIELD labelling her a traitor.

"If anyone understands what it's like to be misjudged for one's deeds, it's me, luv," John promises Peggy. A wry smile crosses his face and he reaches over to chuck up her chin with the back of his knuckles. "Don't let it get you down, mind. It's not as bad as it seems. There's a little liberty in know you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. Sounds as if you've already realized the value of living in the moment instead of questioning everything that *might* happen afterwards."

Peggy Carter has posed:
A slight tsk leaves her throat at his last comment, "I wouldn't go that far. I live and breathe on planning contengencies. I'm a spy, we cannot survive otherwise. But... I also know what I pledged my life to. To the protection and defense of good people. To bring down those who would try and shave and shape the human race into a tiny, awful image. If those kind are in SHIELD, which I must accept they are now... then I bring them down." Peggy gives a quiet shrug, letting go of his arm and leaning forward to top off her whiskey once more.

She's treating it casually as anything, like she was speaking of a grocery list, but she's also not meeting hie eyes. He doesn't need to see just how deep this runs, or how much it hurts her people have betrayed that cause. Or how tired she is. So, she sinks into the couch and takes a long sip of whiskey, staring out the small window instead.

John Constantine has posed:
John's quiet for a moment. He collects his whiskey and sips a little, then throws it back with a gulp. "I guess we're not as different as some would say, then," John observes. The glass is set down heavily and John rises, collecting the Eye and making it disappear in his coat pocket. "It's late. Best let you rest," he says, and starts shuffling towards the door.

"Wish I could tell you it gets easier, Peg," the magus advises her, with one hand on the doorknob. "Maybe it'll be better for you, building up something. A legacy. Focus on that," he advises her. "Don't lose sight of the big picture. That's what's always worked for me."

Eyes flicker once, then his head tilts in something almost like a tip of an invisible hat-brim, and Constantine exits her apartment with a quiet *click* of the doorknob to punctuate his departure.