A/N: Well, my next update will probably take a while (going back to school, after all; bah Spring Break being over!) but it WILL happen. I've already got a large portion of it written. For those waiting for Angela and Constantine to actually SEE each other again, next chappie'll be it.
A/N2: Thanks to my reviewers Karilee Kamicat, Lady Underworld, ColorxMexFake, xCR1MSON-T3ARSx, Evelyn Valerious, a red burn, and VagrantCandy. Glad to see I haven't driven you all off. :D Thanks to everyone who reviewed chapter twelve, as well. I'm afraid I did not thank you all properly but when I get some time off from schoolwork, I'll edit and add in a proper thank you. Just know that you guys really are awesome! As always, enjoy this chappie! Reviews, especially those with advanced critique, encouraged!
-SPECIAL THANKS TO MY BUD MARIYA FOR BETAING- Preparations and Deliberations
Preparations and Deliberations
That morning, Constantine woke up early, feeling as if he hadn't slept all night; truth be told, he might as well not have, with all the Z's he actually got. He felt like crap and the sunlight squeezing in through the opened blinds seemed pale and dirty, befouling rather than cleansing. He would have liked to blame the lack of sleep or his cynical outlook for his mood, but he knew the real reason: Angela. Angela and her visit to Hell, scheduled for that night. He'd agreed to this why? She wasn't ready for this, wasn't ready to be completely submerged in fire and brimstone, in Lu's domain. The son of a bitch still had it out for him, especially after the Big Man himself deprived the devil of his prize. Constantine hoped he wasn't making a mistake in giving Angela what she wanted, even though he knew he probably was. He usually did.
Partially to distract himself, partially because he had to do it at some point, and partially because life went on no matter what his mood, Constantine got dressed in a clean suit, grabbed some ancient texts and jammed them in a black bag, and called up Chas at his old number. Surprise, surprise, the kid answered.
"Need a ride, John?"
"Yeah, over to 325 Blue Orchid Avenue. Know where it is?"
"Of course I know where it is, John. She know you're coming?"
So, Chas knew about Lynn. Pretty well informed for a half-breed runt. John wasn't surprised. "Figured I'd drop by, surprise her."
"Yeah, she'll love that. I'll bring the cab over, be over in ten."
"Couldn't you just fly over?"
"And take the cab with me? Sorry, no can do, John. I'll be over in ten minutes, like I said."
John hung up the receiver. It felt just like old times, with the addition of wings and a confidence Chas had never really displayed in front of his idol before. Picking up his bag, the exorcist closed the shades, left his apartment, made his way quickly down the steps, nodded towards the manager of the bowling alley—opening up—and went outside. Chas wouldn't be there for a while but John could wait. It wasn't as if he had anything better to do.
When Chas pulled up he found Constantine leaning against the blue wall right below the "w" in the third "Bowl." He didn't bother to wave John over; he'd come over himself. He heard the door close behind him and, after a moment, he spoke. "What, no hello?"
Constantine smirked. "Hey, kid."
"So… big night tonight?" John jerked his eyes away from the window and to the back of Chas's seat, the wings peeking out around the edges. He didn't answer. "John, come on, what am I gonna do, stop you?"
"Maybe." It was unnerving, this reminder that Chas really was a half-breed now, a player in the game. He was no longer a sidekick but someone John had to be careful around, someone he could use as an "in" to Heaven but someone who was potentially dangerous, someone with real power who would be watching him just the same.
Chas smiled. "I can't interfere, John. You know that."
"Then why ask?"
Constantine saw a shoulder shrug. "Curiosity, conversation, concern. A bunch of c-words."
"I liked you more when you were human, Chas. Less cryptic."
"John, come on, gimme something. How are you doing it, John what's your plan to protect Angela?"
Constantine stayed quiet for a long moment. He ran through plans, options, everything that kept him up the night before. What was the safest way, was there a safe way, what would she accept? Did he even want to protect her, after the shit she pulled at Midnite's? Constantine was loath to admit to himself that he'd entertained thoughts of giving her just as much "freedom" as she desired, and he had entertained these thoughts for a good long while. After all, it wasn't as if he could do much. He didn't have any of the trinkets necessary to protect Angela and he really doubted Lynn would have any on hand, although the possibility that she did was certainly a motive for his little visit. There was still the amulet but John was afraid that it would keep her away from Hell rather than protect her once she was there. It was too much of a ward against evil—especially against Hell—and it would stunt Angela's abilities, possibly too much to even allow a proper crossing-over. Besides, he didn't want Angela to resent him any more than she already did, and forcing her to wear the amulet she obviously hated would not exactly make her love him.
There was always the option of going with Angela, but something told him she wouldn't like that. Furthermore, there was also that sadistic, resentful part of him that didn't want to aid her; she obviously didn't want him to help, after all, and with the way she'd been lately, no doubt she would hold a grudge if he did.
But honestly, he wasn't sure if he would go with her or not. That was something he was still debating. So what else could he do? He would talk to her about what to expect, tell her what to feel for, what to look for, how to handle the situation. The demons would be after her, and she would have to know how to avoid them for as long as possible; it was impossible to keep away from them forever, especially with the walk Angela had in front of her. If the detective really wanted to look for Isabel, she would have to go to Ravenscar. In all likelihood, she would feel a pull to the hospital, a pull to the site of Isabel's suicide, but with Isabel long-gone, it was very possible that Angela would not sense a thing.
To make matters even worse, Constantine had a sneaking suspicion that Angela did not doubt Lucifer's word—which Constantine could easily understand—but his; she doubted that he had asked the Devil to release Isabel, or at least that was what part of him was insisting. Angela's trip to Hell was a real point of bitterness for the exorcist.
"I'll do what's necessary."
"Now who's being cryptic?"
Again, John did not respond. Instead, he turned away from Chas and looked back out the window. It was starting to drizzle and small droplets were leaking down the glass, blurring the street, buildings, cars, people. While stopped at a red light, John thought he might have seen a dog, but he couldn't quite make it out, catching a glimpse of dark brown fur only as the light turned green. The ghosts were out, too. Hard to distinguish them from the living, even though it was a safe bet that those without umbrellas were the ghosts. Yet it was still impossible to tell who was just a person caught outside in the rain and who was dead. Every now and then he caught a glimpse of half-breeds, wings and rotting faces. It was easier to spot the Blessed than the Damned; the wings were distinctive.
It was about twenty minutes before they reached Carolyn's place and pulled up in front. There was a red stripe along the sidewalk and Constantine stepped out onto it, the edge of his heel right on its edge. "Wait here."
"John, you know it's a fire lane, right? I can't park here, John!" The door was already closing.
"Then move the car." Constantine shut the door.
It was raining harder now, bordering on a regular shower. Not that bad, all things considered. He took his bag out of the trunk quickly and strode over to the entrance of the tall, white building, making his way between the two Roman columns and into the small entrance hall. To the left were buzzers for every apartment; he couldn't get in without being let in. Constantine scanned for 663: Minnow and pressed the small metal button. It was only a little past seven in the morning and she wasn't employed. Chances were she'd be in, probably asleep. No doubt he would be causing a disturbance.
A minute passed and there was no answer. John buzzed again. Another minute passed and he considered ringing a third time when he heard a voice from the speaker. "Yeah, who is it?" Lynn's tone was annoyed and impatient.
A pause. "For the love of… can't this wait?"
"It could, but I might need to find myself another bookworm in the meantime."
"Ugh, fine." Constantine heard a buzz and he stepped up to the door and pulled it open. Two minutes later, he was at her apartment. He was just about to ring when Lynn opened the door, appearing thoroughly annoyed in her white bathrobe. Her hair was a mess and shadows were starting to bloom beneath her eyes. Crossing her arms, she barred the doorway. "What do you want?"
"I need to make sure you're as talented as you make yourself out to be." He had an urge to ask her about the protective charm but decided against it, at least for the moment. He would see how she did on this first.
She paused for a long moment, watching him, mulling things over. At last, she hissed, "Fine, take off your shoes and be quiet."
He said nothing, just walked in as she stepped aside. However, he did do as she'd requested and slipped off the black shoes, leaving them next to the closed front door. "We gonna turn on the lights?" he asked. It was cloudy outside and not much light was getting in, even though all the windows were open to the daytime sky.
She smiled at him darkly. "No, I think we're good, don't you? Now speak quietly or get the hell out. I don't need this job, remember? I don't have to be your own personal scholar."
Apparently he'd come at a bad time and his eyes flicked over to her bedroom door, shut. It would not surprise him if she had company in that bed, probably sleeping over a night's aerobics. Hell, she could also be babysitting a friend's one-year-old and she had only gotten to bed an hour ago. Or maybe it was something else, a hangover, although he didn't smell any alcohol on her, and alcohol was something he knew well. Whatever, her nighttime doings didn't concern him. He had more important things to worry about.
"This won't take long."
Lynn rolled her eyes. "You have a real great sense of timing, you know that?" Tightening the belt around her waist, she walked over to the orange, vinyl-lined couch and plopped down. She gestured for him to sit at the opposite end. "Well, come on and do it, then," she beckoned softly. "Let's get goin', cowboy."
Again, Constantine did as she said and sat down, unzipping his black bag. He took out Hell's Bible first, plastic-covered, just as Beeman had left it. Probably the last thing the man had read before he died. "Open to a random page, translate it for me, and tell me whereabouts it is in the Bible." He handed over the large volume, knowing full well that there were large sections of this book that even Beeman had barely known. The fact remained that it was still a useful test.
Frowning, she took the Bible and placed it on her lap, looking at the upside-down crucified Jesus. "Hell's Bible, right?" Constantine didn't bother to respond. Lynn sighed and pulled the plastic away from the pages, although she kept it on the cover. When she opened the book, it was to somewhere about a third of the way in. "Um… let's see…" This was pretty complex Latin and she wasn't usually put on the spot like this. "Paraphrase or exact?"
"Um, it's told from someone's point-of-view, not sure whose. Wait, here it is. The son of David, king of Jerusalem. Yeah, pretty damn powerful someone. He's saying how the Devil sent his soldiers and apostles to speak to him and cajole him to sin." She skimmed through the next few lines, examining case endings, person, tense, mood. "Let's see. He's seeking happiness and the demons suggest using his wealth and influence to obtain knowledge for himself, pleasure for himself, magnificent buildings. They lead him to decadence and he's all too willing to dive in and please himself. Guessing this is Ecclesiastes, Hell's version of Solomon's confession. Huh, this seems to be basically like it is in the Bible, except the 'Teacher,' while lamenting his pain, does not lament his life. He suffers but he-"
"All right. Let me see." A little startled, Lynn looked up and Constantine reached for the book. She allowed him to take it, turn the Bible around and look it over.
"Can you even read it?" she asked after a while, watching him with a raised eyebrow. He glanced up at her and she met his gaze. She seemed to be challenging him, daring him somehow.
"No, I can't," he replied, his eyes fixed on hers. "I'm going to guess if you got it right." It wasn't hard to detect the sarcasm.
"Fine, if you can read it, what do you need me for?" she demanded. He didn't even bother to look back up at her.
"I can't read it quickly, I can't carry these around with me, and I can't devote hours to translation. Besides, research isn't all I'm hiring you for." He didn't exactly have many suppliers left who could get him what he needed. Make that none, at least none that he could trust. He couldn't try to weasel into the business, either; he had conned too many people and made far too many enemies for that.
Time passed and Lynn felt herself growing more and more impatient, tapping a finger on her arm. She could be in bed right now, asleep, with her lover who had work that evening, rather than sitting on her couch and being interrogated by a jackass employer with a wannabe badass attitude. She had to resist the urge to do something rather offensive when he calmly reached into his black coat and took out a piece of gum.
"Okay," he said at last, and handed her back the Bible. "Try another section further on."
She did as she was told wordlessly but with a glare that said it all. Once they were done with that, they moved on to some book in Mandarin, a myth in Egyptian hieroglyphics and a demonic text written in Hell-speak.
"Holy shit," Lynn hissed the moment she got her hands on the demonic text, and she seemed both scared and genuinely excited. "I didn't-I thought this was basically all in Latin now. How, wh- I haven't seen something in Hell-speak in years."
"Can you read it?"
"I-I could try. I'd say I'm rusty but that's-that's an understatement. I went through a phase where I tried to track down as many texts in Hell-speak as possible but even their Bible is in Latin. It was near impossible to track one down without payin' a small fortune and getting' involved with none-too-benign company. Um, Cain didn't want me looking into it any further—afraid of the evil influences at work, I s'pose, so I just-" Finally looking away from the old, old book—practically falling apart—she fixed her eyes on Constantine's patient visage. "You really don't give a rat's ass, do ya?"
She smiled. "Well, the long and short of it is, I can't translate this on the spot for you, though I'd love to study it extensively. Give me a few months and I'd have this thing inside and out. Now, I'd probably be able to get a word here and there, but not enough to help you very much." That she could even do that much was impressive—not many a mortal could spend too much time with Hell-speak without feeling ill effects—but it was still a disappointment. Although rare, there were some important works done in Hell-speak and sometimes demonic half-breeds wrote in it to communicate. Beeman had at least been proficient at it but as John could easily see, this woman was no Beeman.
"All right, fine. Thanks for the candor." He reached out for the book and, somewhat hesitantly, she returned it. Carefully, he put it back in his bag, which was set on the floor by his feet. That was all he had. For a moment, he considered asking her some questions about the Balance, the secrets of the universe, and shit like that, but decided against it. He had something of far greater importance to inquire after. He sat up. "I've got a request."
"I need to know if you have any protective trinkets laying around. A ring, a necklace, an amulet. Something that could be worn without stifling someone's abilities but could protect their spirit in Hell."
Lynn seemed to think about it for a moment, but in the end, she shook her head. "'Fraid not. I could get one for y-"
"Two, three days maybe. That good?"
Constantine slumped back in his seat. Would Angela wait that long? He doubted it, though he would still try asking. "No, but get it anyway."
"A'right, check. That it, or is there a cross-examination comin' up?"
He smiled. "Nope. You've passed."
"Fantastic." Lynn practically leapt to her feet, and although Constantine noticed the sinking neckline of her robe, he didn't comment or dwell on it. There were more important things to focus on.
"Call me when you get it," he told her after he got up. Leaning down, he took the bag by the handle and picked it up.
"Sure thing, boss." Her left hand on her hip, she stuck out her right. "Shake on it?"
Constantine smirked. She was really into that hand-shaking thing, wasn't she? They shook.
When John opened the door to leave the apartment, shoes comfortably on once more, his gum in the garbage, he heard the bedroom door open behind him.
"Took you long enough," he heard a sleepy, distinctly female voice grumble.
"Sorry 'bout that, sweetie," Lynn replied. "I was—" The door shut. Constantine paused, angled his head back to the side for a moment, and closed the door behind him.
"Any luck?" Chas asked when Constantine got back in the car.
The two drove in silence for a good ten minutes before Chas spoke again. "She really does need help, John. You can't let her go to Hell by herself."
"Let me decide what she needs and doesn't need, okay, kid?"
"Chas, I know what I'm doing. It's not like I haven't done this before. Now shut up and get me home."
Chas sighed. "Whatever you say, boss."
Constantine looked back out the window and watched the rain smear Los Angeles into a warped labyrinth.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. John was back in his apartment by noon but he had nothing with which to fill the long hours. He considered going over to Midnite's, see if the good witch doctor had any useful items lying around, but he decided against it. He did not want Midnite knowing his plans, especially not with so many half-breeds scurrying around the bar like so many rats fucking eager for a way to make John Constantine's life a miserable, living hell. They couldn't seem to get him in the real Tartarus, after all.
It was a good thing he had plenty of nicotine gum left, else he would have run out in the span of an hour. He actually had food, too, and he opened up the fridge and made a quick turkey sandwich with mayo. His brunch: a sandwich and a Coke. He practically had to force himself to eat but he knew that, whether he was hungry or not, he would need the energy.
All day long, he could think of nothing but how stupid he must have been to agree to show Angela Hell when she had been a full-fledged psychic for all of three weeks. He would asked her to wait a few days, definitely, so that he could at least get her the protection she needed, but he doubted she would go for it. Not when there was a chance her beloved twin was still suffering somewhere down below. This thought led to thoughts of his own sister but he pushed those away. He did not have time for grief and a fresh bout of self-loathing. Instead, he ran through his options. He could ask her to wear the amulet, but that would be like asking a swimmer to wear lead weights. She'd end up sitting in his kitchen with her feet in a bowl of water and her shoes ruined rather than in Hell, making her way towards Ravenscar. No, she could not wear the amulet. There was only one solution.
He would have to go with her.
Constantine did not think Angela would be too dead-set against having a companion, especially since she was brand-new to this psychic gig and probably had enough on her plate as it was. There was just one problem. It was easier for the demons to catch a scent when there was more than just one person to track, especially if these two persons were powerful psychics. While he was nowhere near Angela's status, they probably knew him intimately by now, and he was still a psychic who had devoted his life to the "supernatural." As for Angela's inexperience, that was more a hindrance than a help. Unable to shield her presence in any sort of way, she would stand out like a white flame in a chasm. No doubt Hell would disorient her, another reason he should go with her. Whether he went with her or didn't, there were drawbacks either way and either way could get them in serious shit. It wasn't that they could actually die in Hell, but their souls—which were really traveling between the planes—could become mutilated and ravaged, and souls did not heal quickly. If one were to get injured down there, it would be like having a half-breed whispering in one's ear 24/7, and although this influence wouldn't necessarily push a person towards a particular crime, it would impair her judgment, push her towards extremes, play with her mind and heart, maybe even drive her to do evil. The more sensitive the individual, the stronger the connection. If Angela got injured down there, it would seriously fuck with her head.
Constantine remembered his second trip down. Somehow, he didn't get hurt on his first but on his second… On his second, a soldier demon got him, put deep gashes across his chest. He wasn't quite right for over a year and, never a saint to begin with, really delved into the black arts and the wonderful world of coke and heroin. That was when he fucked up an exorcism and got a little girl killed. Even if he had never attempted suicide, Constantine would have been surprised to find himself in Heaven when he died. Regardless of whether his actions were entirely his fault, influence did not equal culpability. He knew that; it wasn't just Lu' he blamed for that girl's death.
Still not completely certain on what he was going to do, John continued to run through the possibilities. Angela went alone, she went with him, she didn't go at all…
It was a fun time for John Constantine that day.