All recognizable "Hellblazer" and "Invisibles" characters and settings belong to Vertigo, "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" TM and © (or copyright) Fox and its related entities; I am using them without permission but mean no harm and am making no profit. The plot and original characters, however belong to me. Any and all feedback is appreciated at dexfsympatico.ca. Redistribution of this tale for profit is illegal. Please do not archive this story without contacting me first to obtain my permission.
"Fancy the heels, luv." John Constantine said over his pint. As pub crawls went, this one was shaping up to be epic. However, the sudden appearance of the statuesque blonde had sobered him immediately, like a bucket of cold water dumped down his back. John sipped from his pint and set it back down on the bar top as she came over to him.
"Darling, don't be mean." Lord Fanny pouted and swirled her drink. "I thought you'd be happy to see me. Especially after last time."
"I was drunk, you sod." John scowled, staring at his drink. Lord Fanny laughed delightedly and sat down next to him, putting her handbag on the bar and waving the barman for a refill. John held up two fingers for a gin as well. Beer wasn't enough to handle Lord Fanny on.
"Lovely bird," The barman muttered as he refreshed their drinks.
"Piss off." John said. "What do you want this time, Fanny?"
"Just a little help for the Unseen majority." Lord Fanny smiled. She was referring to the Invisibles; an anarchists cell which pitted itself against extra-dimensional forces seeking to control the Earth. John referred to them as the Conservative party.
"Buncha fuckin' wankers with a head full of garbage more like. Ooh, we're hard-core anarchists, so in our fight against order, we'll organize ourselves into tightly regimented units secretly hidden from the world. Like Maggie Thatcher could be running the whole thing, for all you know." John snubbed out his cigarette angrily. "And tell bloody King Mob his books are shite."
"Darling, such hostility. We aren't asking you to join again. Although, if you're interested in getting another inside look..."
"Christ." John put his head in his hands.
"There there, John. No, I'm not here for that adorably underfed and wasted body of yours. I need something from you." Lord Fanny patted him lightly on the shoulder.
"Oh, but darling, I simply have to have it."
"Don't pass that up, mate," Said the barman as he passed by, winking at John.
"Sod off!" John snarled. The barman took several well advised steps back.
"No. I'm not bloody well getting involved with you lot again."
"Well." Fanny pouted. "I thought we could switch it for a deFleuresque chain we found a few weeks ago."
"Would I lie to you, darling?"
"All thirteen links intact." John's eyebrows went up. A deFleuresque chain was the creation of a French alchemist from the fourteenth century. He made six of them before he was burned as a heretic. Each link of the chain was of a different element, from platinum to a black crystal that still remained unidentified. By moving down the chain, chanting the glyphs enscribed along the links, a magnus can bind any entity into Limbo. Two were in the possession of the Vatican, and two others had been broken into pieces. The pieces still had power, but no where near that of the whole chain. The other two were still lost, according to the arcane underground.
"Why would I want that?" John feigned disinterest.
"Because, dear boy, plenty of things are still hunting you, and I know you'd love a way to close out some old debts with them," Lord Fanny replied, sipping the last of her drink. "Don't lie to me, John. I know what you've riled up in the underworld over the years."
"Point. I'm interested," John said. The barman put another drink in front of Fanny with a smile.
"Compliments of the establishment, Miss," he said.
"Why aren't you precious! Ta luv. You've earned a kiss for that." Fanny purred, leaning over to peck the barman on his cheek. The man drifted away to the vague cheers of his fellows down at the other end of the bar, and John scowled.
"Hush." Fanny said. "Now, do we have a deal, dear boy?"
"No need to be rude."
"You haven't told me what you really want yet."
"Lord Fanny, if you please. Hilde doesn't have much power here."
"Fine, Fanny. The Mirror isn't exactly something I like to just dash off at the pub. It bloody shows you everything; through thought, flesh, time. Bloody everything." John sipped his drink. "And you know the rules, right? You look into the abyss, it changes you."
"Darling, I'm all about change... and flesh, now that you mention it." Fanny laughed gaily. "Nothing to worry about. The Mirror won't be even enspelled yet."
"Mnemonic fluid. The liquid soul mirror will hold your spell in fugue until I call it."
"Right, your bloody Aztec witchcraft. Puking up magic. Charming trick."
"It doesn't have the allure of sado-loathing British arcana, true, but us Bruja make good use of it. Now, do we have a deal?"
"Yes, and no."
"John, don't try to con me." Fanny sighed.
"Nothing to do with that. A friend owes me a favour. If he comes through, I might be a bit indisposed for a bit." John took a long swallow from his pint. "That kind of magic comes with a price, Fanny. You'll learn that one day."
"Oh please. So maudlin, John? Magic has all sorts of prices, and not all of them are bad. That's a British invention; magic that must corrupt and destroy. Ours is a natural thing, as a part of life as breathing." Fanny snapped her napkin at him.
"So the ritual flayings were just window dressing then?"
"Err..." Fanny paused. "All right. You have a point. However, this won't require you to empower any sort of spell. The mental structure will remain encoded until I require it, and I'll be the one paying any price."
"Always ready to dance?"
"I suppose. Let's move to the booth. Last thing your boyfriend there needs is to see you retching up liquid mirrors on his nice clean bar."
"What about your friend?"
"Friend is a broad term. Let's say mate, and he's smart enough ta figure out where I've gone."
"You really are a horrible little man, John."
"If the high heel fits, luv," John said, shifting over his drink.
"So, who is this mystery mate then?" Fanny asked as they transplanted their drinks to one of the secluded booths in the corner. Fanny wiggled happily into the centre, watching John's discomfort with a sexual glee.
"Known him for years. Spends his time chasing around after some young bird now."
"Men." Fanny tsked him and John grinned.
"It's a little more complicated than that, but close enough." John turned in the corner booth and held up his hand. "Speak of the devil. Over here!"
The man that walked into through the door paused to fuss with his umbrella and adjust a pair of round spectacles. He spotted John's wave and started over to the booth, freezing in mid-step as the pair of them came into view.
"You." He said, puzzled and horrified simultaneously.
"Oh yes. John, you naughty thing. You never told me that you and Rupert were friends." Lord Fanny cooed, a wicked smile splitting her face.
"Rupert?" John said. "Fanny, how do you know Ripper here?"
"Brazil. It was a brief meeting."
"I was drunk," Rupert Giles said. John looked from Fanny to Giles and back again before breaking down laughing. Giles rolled his eyes and slid into the bar booth, using his umbrella as a barrier between himself and Lord Fanny.
Constantine continued to laugh, tears in his eyes.
The short breathed wheeze added to the English Magnus' mirth.
"Right," John said, trying hopelessly to stop laughing. Eventually he was able to rein it in enough to talk, but little chuckles kept sneaking past his lips. "Right, Ripper."
"Don't call me that."
"Ripper? How fabulously punk! I never knew you had it in you, Rupert."
"I never knew he had it in you either." John cackled and Fanny tossed her napkin at him.
"TT!" She hissed.
"Look... John, you could have mentioned you had company." Giles gestured at Fanny.
"Didn't know it myself. Still, if you ladies want to argue..." John said, holding up his hands. Giles scowled and waved over the bartender.
"Scotch. Rather lots of it, if possible." Giles ordered. Both John and Fanny refreshed their own drinks, leaving the Watcher hanging on their previous conversation.
"John, you didn't answer my question. Where do you know Ripper from?"
"John..." Giles said helplessly.
"He was the bassist for my band, Mucous Membrane," John elaborated. "Wanted to tear down the world, free everyone's minds, and in the process, shag as many birds as possible. How's the magic working these days, Rip?"
"Look, it's not 'Ripper' any longer. I gave that up years ago. You remember the reasons."
"True. How goes the whole Watching gig?"
"That's actually what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Darlings, you're leaving me behind."
"Sorry Fanny. Giles here is a Watcher. This group of mages–" John started, making complex gestures with his hands.
"Not the circle that Harper-Seaton took over," Fanny interjected.
"We prefer the term 're-organized'. How did you know about that?"
"I, uh, knew his son briefly."
"Son? I wasn't aware of that." Giles looked puzzled, and both of them turned to John.
"Why is it whenever someone doesn't know something, they always look at me to answer? What am I, the bloody encyclopedia?" John huffed, trying to look affronted behind his pint.
"Ripper, remember Tom O'Bedlam?"
"Giles. And yes. Lived on the streets as I recall. A great deal of power in him, but of a different type. A sort of meta-mage."
"His real name was Frederick Harper-Seaton, the son of Byron Harper-Seaton, Arch-Magnus of the Golden Dawn and meddler in the lives of everyone connected with magic in Britain. Of course, he also had ties with your little group."
"Curiouser and curiouser, said Fanny." Fanny quipped. "I'm assuming the Watchers watch?"
"Sentinels against the supernatural, the sign says. Really, we keep an eye open for young potential, new menaces and channel the efforts of the Slayer; train her, guide her. "
"Watch her in the shower."
"The Slayer?" Fanny asked, puzzled.
"Long story. Gaia's paranormal immune system, in a sense. Which is part of the reason I needed to talk to you, John."
"No. A young witch, actually. She's becoming... unstable."
"Witches normally are. What's the worry?" John said dismissively. Witches ranked very low on the paranormal scale. A magnus like John didn't just harness magic energy, but also shaped it to his will, like beating a piece of metal into shape. Wicca was about channeling energy down already existing lines, aiding healing, growth, and natural processes.
"It's not like a normal coven member. Harkness and I have come to realize that her education has taken on a far different path. Something not all together healthy, in our opinion."
"Thaumatrugical constructions, meta-magiks, and transmutations."
"You fucking stupid twat," John said, quietly but forcefully. Giles blinked once at John's language and then nodded.
"A witch-magnus?" Fanny said. "Shouldn't the inconsistencies destabilize any real power?"
"Not if she was able to instinctively intertwine them. Fanny, you know that all magic is really from the same source. Whether it's Latin spells or shamanistic silver sick, it's that same base energy. However, if Ripper is right, this bird is channeling highly complex and rigid magical constructs down organic pathways."
"Imagine if your veins were suddenly filled with ground glass," John said, with a glare at Giles. "Yeah, it's pretty fucking bad."
"That's what I'm concerned about. The magic... it's an addiction for her. I'm afraid if she goes back to it, it will destroy whatever remains of her real personality."
"And you'll have a bloody mage with enough real power to destabilize North America." John gulped the rest of his gin and waved for another. "Right. Bloody hell."
"Why didn't you call me before."
"We– I thought she had learned to step away from magic. But her girlfriend was killed today. I just received word. Willow is... a passionate girl. She invests so much of herself into others that I'm afraid it might push her over the edge. That and–" Giles fiddled with his drink. "Well, the coven received an image. In fact, most of Europe did as well. A magically force, consumed by grief, has just erupted in America. I'm terribly afraid that it's her."
"Love and rage are the eternal flip sides of the coin." Fanny nodded.
"So that's why you were so easy to convince on the Balmut Keystone. I'm not going."
"John, I'm not asking you to go, but I do need help. The coven has agreed to instill me with their power, but it's not going to be enough. I can't just beat the girl into submission." Giles said helplessly.
"I think I see what you've got planned. Ripper, mate, you're talking to the wrong mage for that. Hell, you'd need a celestial or... a transvestite," John said, the beginnings of an idea dawning on his face.
"I fit in anywhere, Darling." Fanny said. "What's the idea, John?"
"A little shamanistic virus. We need to connect the witch to the real price of life. Let her taste the consequences of magic. Heavy empathy and the like," John said. Giles nodded.
"Indeed. If we can touch the essential 'Willow' part of her mind, she should be strong enough to fight it down. At least until I can bring her to Westbury and stabilize her."
"Or she'll go completely insane and consume herself. After killing you first, of course," Fanny said.
"True, but it's a risk I'll have to take."
"Right. This is why I never drink with mages. Presents on the tables, boys."
"Put it away, Fanny," John said. There was a brief shuffle as John collected two wrapped packages and slipped them into the depths of his trench coat. He lit another cigarette and drained his gin. Giles, in more of a hurry than at any point in his entire life, gave a quick glance around and nodded.
"Right." John held out his hands, cupped like he was dipping water from a pool. Lord Fanny tapped out an even rhythm on the table with her nails as the magic swelled in her. Viscous dollops of a silver fluid began to link from her eyes and mouth. Her murmurs in Nahuatl droned like entreaties, drawing the magic from in her. The drops pooled in Constantine's hands and after a while, he drew them back towards him.
John flattened the fluid, and pulled his hands back apart, stretching it like a translucent silver gum. His fingers made a series of complex gestures, pulling the threads into a pattern, like a child's cats cradle. After a moment, he had a shimmering web balanced in his hands. The lines hummed with energy, and John whispered softly to it. A brief tracery of blue energy danced along the surface, and John nodded.
"Done." He motioned over Giles' hand, and laid the web across the back of it. The silver fluid sank into his skin and disappeared. Giles gave a startled shake of his head and stopped, again calm.
"That was... peculiar."
"It'll fuck you up some," John confirmed. "But that should do it."
"I should be moving then. John, I don't know how to thank you. And Fanny, well..." Giles said, flustered.
"You're so cute when you blush, dear," Lord Fanny said, kissing him on the cheek. "Have fun with your little girls, Rupert. Maybe I'll come for a visit." Amusement and horror fought for control of Giles' features, as little images of Lord Fanny in Sunnydale ran through his head. He shuddered and nodded.
"Please, just call first," Giles said and rushed out. His umbrella bumped the coatrack and sent it wobbling as he went through the door. They could see him in the midst of the 'taxi-hailing' chicken dance so common in London. John and Fanny exchanged looks and began to laugh.
"You know, he used to be such a bastard too."
"You have no idea," John said. "Couldn't play the bass for shit, though."
"Of course. So, shall we prepare my Mirror?"
"Giles' favour took a fair bit out of me. We may have to wait a while."
"Have to build it back up. How about dinner, then?"
"John, are you asking me on a date?"
"Not bloody likely! I'm just hungry. You're paying, by the way."
"Fine." Fanny smiled. "I won't even make you put out."
"Bollocks." They gathered up their coats and headed for the door of the pub. John dropped a wad of bills on the bartop to cover their tab, and the barman walked over.
"Cheers you two." He said, and leaned over the bar to whisper conspiratorially to John. "Bloody lucky with a bird like that, mate. Give her one for me."
"He might give you one for your own, bollocks." John said nastily, watching the barman's jaw drop. John nodded, and cocked his elbow. Lord Fanny slipped her arm in to link around his, and the two of them walked out into the misty London rain.