Disclaimer: Constantine belongs to WB / DC / Vertigo, I have no idea who Prophecy belongs to but it isn't me.
Set: Pre-movie Constantine, pre-movie Prophecy 2. One-shot.
Betas: Mitchy and PRZed, who are fantabulous in all ways.
The water pooled around him is a scalding conduit pulling him down before he admits to himself there's nothing he can do for Marconi.
He's holding back the hounds with consecrated trinkets before he admits to himself he's screwed.
He still hasn't admitted he can't face going back empty handed.
He'll never admit he'd take Hell over hearing Hennessy say 'I told you so'.
Call it hubris. Call it work ethic. Call it threading the needle with a camel.
They say 'Hell is other people' and 'the road to Hell is paved with good intentions'.
They're right. They're right; they just got it back to front. Bones splinter under every step of this oh so well intentioned fool's errand while anger fuels the protection that mumbled prayer is shaping. The irony isn't lost on him.
Los Angeles towers above and sprawls around in every shade of red but blood; blood is saved for the rivers and, besides, the Devil is an artist. Every building, every car, every stop sign and broken phone booth lovingly called into existence, born in a shimmering haze of orange acid corrosion.
They say 'as it is on Earth, so shall it be in Heaven' and they're right. They're right; they just got it upside down. Hell has to be what people make it or there's no justice and justice is oh so important, even if it all looks like torture in the dark.
He tells anyone who asks that he filters out the heat and the screaming: the Hell. After all, the Great John Constantine is affected not by these things. One more lie is one less difference.
A naked man, man for the moment, perches on the hood of a twisted corvette, leaning forward to make space for wings he, it, no longer has. Teeth glint when it smiles and it smiles more than Hell would like. Its hair is black, just like its eyes. Just like its humour, he recalls.
They stare unblinking at each other for a long time, as much as time means anything, and then the Great Constantine speaks and pretends he doesn't care he lost the little battle of wills with the divine. "Shouldn't demons be ripping you to shreds?"
The Angel shrugs almost philosophically then slides off the hood of the car and drops to its feet. Red flesh melts into pools and flicks up in black and yellow droplets with each step. "They're running late." It tiltsits head, sharp and birdlike. "Now, there are a lot of people I expect to see down here. That guy? You know, the one with the", hands wave, fire-black nails making rents in the sulphur smoke, "the hair. Him I wasn't surprised to see. But you, you don't belong here, Constantine."
Constantine wishes he could smoke. "Everyone else thinks I belong here."
"Yeah. Yeah, but you're not dead. You're looking for someone. Is it me?" The Angel walks closer in a streak of molten skin and hissing concrete and the dead eyes never blink. Every step measured, every step closer, until its breath is cold against too-human skin.
Too close. Way too close. The Great John Constantine turns his head and hates himself for it. He speaks into his collar; the fabric is rough and stinks of nicotine and brimstone.
He'll be doing his own laundry again. "No one's looking for you."
"That's where you're wrong. You're wrong." The voice is low and intent and almost needy. Black eyes are drills into his skull and he forces himself to bring his gaze around to stare back at the abyss. Maybe even wave.
"So enlighten me." He makes his words a challenge and throws a mental two fingered salute to the Angel because he knows God's attack dog can see it.
A sniff of disdain and pride is so clearly marked in every line of the Angel's face that there is no question where its weakness lies. "I'm not in that business anymore."
"Like you ever were."
It draws away so abruptly that there's nearly a rush of cooled air in its wake. Nearly, but not quite. This is Hell. "Why are you here, Constantine?"
Every syllable is tasted and spat out with a bitter twist of angelic lips and that makes him smile as he replies. "Marconi."
The Angel's head rolls up, rolls around and back like it doesn't have vertebrae to worry about. Maybe it doesn't. "He's not here."
"Not yet, they got him on life support. He doesn't deserve to be down here, he was saving a kid for chrissake."
"Watch the language." Disapproval from on high. Like that's news. "He's a sorcerer." The Angel closes again and murmurs against his ear and he grits his teeth not to step away. Personal space is just another thing the Host never quite understood. "Divination. Magic. A sin that cries to Heaven for vengeance."
Now he can push away and call it anger and he does. "Like hell."
"Exactly. So go bargain upstairs."
"No one's home."
"Yeah, well, War in Heaven. What can you do?"
A Hell-storm is coming; he can feel it slicing against his soul like a sandstorm does skin. It steals sound and sense and it leaves what it touches open and bleeding on a landscape made of agony and he doesn't want to be here for that. Not even in spirit. Time isn't his anymore.
But he can't let anything into his expression, he can't because now the Angel has time and it really can't be allowed panic.
The water touched his skin and he knew there was nothing he could do and by then it was too late. There's nothing in this for him, there's no plan and all he remember is the scream. "I can …"
The fingers are so, so cold and he shivers under their touch. The hold is strong and bruising and feather light and keeps him from looking away. "You can what? Lu's stupid but he's got a long memory. Fool him once, shame on you. Fool him eight, nine times, he starts to catch on."
Time and sense isn't on his side but this Angel's pride is legend and his smirk is needle sharp to prick it. "Let me guess, you can help me."
The Angel smiles like Balthazar smiles and he wonders whether the two have met. "Help me help you. I help those who help themselves."
"Cut the bullshit. Give Marconi an extension and make a lightshow doing it."
"This won't make any difference to you, you know."
"Now ask me if I care. Do it."
The edge of the breaking storm is making every strand of his hair into a whip but he stares until the Angel touches two fingers to its lips and raises them up. He stares until another voice speaks.
Time is gone and sense is gone and with a sibilant hiss, certainty is gone. Anger, though, anger remains. He turns in the frozen eye of the storm to face his demon.
The Devil stands in a black suit and white tie. The pin is red. Blood red, like nothing but the river. Teeth too sharp and voice too much like the baying of the hounds. A thin trickle of saliva runs down Lucifer's jaw, hissing into oblivion in the heat. "You're in my playground and with a little friend, too. Now, how did you do that, Angel? You got no power here. Fallen. Fallen."
The Angel smiles widely and sees its escape. "An earnest prayer to a divine being. Sweet, sweet God didn't cast me down here, you did. Anything this monkey … apologies, mortal … devoutly wishes is still within my power to grant."
"Marconi's mine. He signed the papers. Mine."
And The Great John Constantine should stay silent because this can play out as he wants from here. But he can't because he's never known when to shut up. He's never known when to stop twisting the knife. He ignores Lucifer to look to the Angel. "If you're not beat, there's another guy could use a hand. Saunders? Got pneumonia on that last run, but I think he's really repenting all those people he killed, too. So..."
The black suit is black wings and the blood red pin is bleeding out over the ground as the beast growls its rage. "Mine!"
The Angel nods magnanimously "Sure, pray any time. You know where I am. For anything. Anything at all."
And the Devil is in the details and so he knows when he must fold. Hell does not need another Prince. The rivers of fire rise in a rush and claim Gabriel in a spiralling column that whispers the Angel will be released and shouts payment will be extracted.
And the Devil is reaching for him and he screams all his fear and all his defiance in a name. The rush of being pulled back is like nothing he can describe and nothing he'd want to. Hell becomes Hennessy's earnest expression, hands holding him up and steady and he doesn't have to ask because Hennessy is still priest enough to know.
"Marconi's asking for a bottle of vodka and you. In that order."
Hell is made of good intentions, the road to Hell is paved with people and justice is in owing a life to the Angel of Death.
The Great John Constantine lets his knees fold to deposit him in a puddle of water on a grimy blue and white tiled floor, takes the cigarette from Hennessy's trembling hand and laughs until the storm is gone.