When they meet, he tells her, "Someday I'm going to break your heart."
She doesn't believe him. She's young—headstrong and invincible. She's sure she already knows everything. (As it turns out, she knows maybe a smidge more than nothing.)
Besides, he's kind of old and smokes like a chimney. Okay, he is passably attractive but there's no way he's going to break her heart. Please.
Zatanna never does figure out how John gets her into bed that first time. It isn't anything flashy, not a grand gesture or impressive show.
It's him. It's her. It's a lot of pent up tension she hasn't even realized she'd been feeling.
He worships her, the way he touches her. The way he looks at her—like she's something amazing to behold. And maybe to him she is. (Who really knows where John Constantine is concerned?)
When they met, she'd thought him in love with her power. When they sleep together, she thinks him in love with her body. Years later, when it's all over and they've long since gone their separate ways, she knows better.
He loves her. Her. Zatanna Zatara. He loves the magic in her, the way she smiles, the sound of her laughter—everything. (She loves him, too, as it turns out.)
Sometimes he even fancies himself in love with her; she never does figure out if that's the booze and/or his dick talking or if there's something to it. (Not that it matters. She loves him, but she can't trust him with her heart. Not again.)
The day it ends isn't anything special. It's a day like any other. Zatanna has learned all she can from him (regarding magic, anyway); it's time for them both to move on. And moving on means letting go of each other.
It's sad but it doesn't break her heart. Silly her, she thinks herself safe then. She thinks his prophecy will never come to fruition.
Knowing John as she does, she should know better. She does know better, really. She turns a blind eye all the same.
It's never a good thing when John Constantine calls in a favor. Not that he's some kind of amazing magician, but he does have his talents and a knack for getting out of precarious situations on his own. When he can't do it alone—that's when they're in real trouble.
Doesn't matter, though; Zatanna won't refuse him. She owes him. She trusts him—in so much as anyone can. She let him into her heart.
Her father insists on coming along. Never mind that the debt is hers alone to pay; he loves her, wants to protect her. (From John more than anything else, truth be told—she probably should've worked harder to keep their past relationship from him.)
The thing is, she genuinely believes that her father is a strong enough magician to face this with her. It never occurs to her that his protectiveness would be his downfall.
Later, the thing that makes her hate John the most is his selfishness. He'd known on some level what would happen, so he'd kept it from her. Selfish. (And maybe she's a little selfish, too, drowning in the grief of being left behind. Of being the reason her father is gone.)
There are words, so many words. Angry, heated accusations based more in truth than they probably ought to be. ("The Great Evil Beast, John! You knew better! You always know better! And yet—here we are.") And tears. Tears of anger, tears of sadness.
She hates John for being right. She hates that he has broken her heart. (Beyond all repair, she suspects, but she's still young then.) She hates herself for ever thinking he might not. She hates her father for leaving her behind—for taking her place. It was her that caught His eye! It should've been her to burn. But she's still here and he's gone.
It's both of their faults she's still alive and her father isn't. John's for not telling her what he knew, her dad for dying when it should've been her. (Except that it's really her fault because she was the one meant to die and these men couldn't let that happen. Because they love her. She hates them all the same.)
"Someday I'm going to break your heart," he'd said.
When he's right, John Constantine is right.
He loves her, so he saved her—despite knowing she'd hate him for it. Because, by saving her, he all but sentenced her father to death. (How is she supposed to forgive that?)
It's a long time before Zatanna can look John Constantine in the face without wanting to hit him. Longer still before she can smile around him or talk to him without glaring.
But then one day she can. She can be around him and it's okay. She can call him a friend and mean it. She can love him and not hate herself. She can forgive him (even if she never quite forgives herself) and let it go.
She can't let him in again, though. He'd broken her heart once and it'd broken her. Knowing him, he'll only do it again. Selfish being that he is. (Poison to those he cares about more often than not.)
And then it happens again. Only this time it's all on Zatanna. (And Lobo for his part but that's small, comparatively.) Her father—he'd been there and she'd just wanted to finally save him but instead he's gone for good. For real. Forever.
There's no coming back from the abyss. It isn't possible. Giovanni Zatara is really and truly no more. His essence has been destroyed. Destroyed by her.
She goes to John as soon as the chaos in Hell is sorted, and she's back on the mortal plane. (Well, first she cancels all her shows for the next few weeks and drinks too much wine in the bath, and then she magicks herself to him.)
She doesn't even know why—except that she does. If anyone can understand screwing over someone he loves or hurting family, it's John. (A heartbreaking truth.)
Not the best selling point to him, she'll admit later, but she's already crying and he's not heartless. Between the tears, she offers apologies she never thought she'd give and John must still love her at least a little because he only hugs her tightly, comforting in his way, and lets her cling to him helplessly.
He doesn't pretty it up for her. (She'd probably hurt him if he tried.) But he does tell her that sometimes nothing is better than suffering and, honestly, her father asked it of her. To deny him would've meant cursing him to eternal damnation and pain.
Somehow, that doesn't make Zatanna feel any better.
"Someday I'm going to break your heart," that's what he told her.
He left out the part where she hurts herself even worse. (Not to mention her father.)
She forgives him this, though, because she doesn't think she'd have wanted to know. It's bad enough living with it now—but having to live with it before the event? No, thanks.
After the Blackest Night, she cracks a little. She just can't escape the reality of what she's done—and having to battle her father's reanimated corpse? Not helpful there. When she finally gets a chance to catch her breath, the carefully built resolve crumbles away and the overwhelming grief returns tenfold.
And it's so much. Too much, maybe. More than any one person deserves, certainly.
Most people only have their parents die once. She's had to witness her father's demise, destroy his remaining essence and fight off evil manipulating his remains. And she's tired—so tired. There's an aching emptiness in her chest and the crushing weight of the world grows heavier every day and she has no hope of things ever getting better. Not this time.
Zatanna has no idea how many days she's been holed up at Shadowcrest when John shows up. She's a mess, and she doesn't care even a little bit. She's been living off of a diet of chocolate, ice cream and red wine and doing just fine with that, thanks. (Except not. Not at all.) But she opens the door because it's him and he'll just break through her wards if she doesn't. Bastard.
He's brought flowers—roses, white wrapped in plain brown paper—but they aren't for her. He doesn't bother with pleasantries. Just drags her off, barely letting her grab a coat before they go.
She doesn't have to wonder where they're going. (John, for all his flaws, is not nearly as unpredictable as he'd like to believe. Bless his black heart, he does try.) Feels like they get there in the blink of an eye, anyway. He steers her forward, squeezes her shoulder, and then lets her go.
The first thing she notices is the ground—it's too soft and there isn't any growth. She hates the reason and grimaces with every step. She kneels in front of the stone, laying the flowers down with extra care. She tells herself she's going to go, that she's done but her fingers are already running over the name engraved so carefully.
And there are tears rolling down her cheeks (although she only notices when her vision begins to blur) and when she exhales, she actually feels it. It's like breathing for the first time and everything doesn't feel quite so heavy anymore. It's still there, of course, but somehow a tiny bit less.
A glance over her shoulder confirms her suspicion, John is gone. Zatanna isn't surprised, though—he's not the type that handles big emotional displays well. Which makes his coming to see her all the sweeter, really.
That thought makes her smile just a little. It's her first in a long time and it feels like a turning point.
He was very clear when they first met. "Someday I'm going to break your heart." What he failed to mention was that someday he'd help her put it back together again.
Now that she's older, she's pretty sure that's the important part.