Author's Note: So. This is the real, honest to god, very last chapter. That makes me sad, somehow, even though I wrote it a full two months ago. It's been almost an entire year since I started this fic. It's more than old enough to be my baby.
I cannot thank you all enough for reading this and giving me feedback. As someone who would rather be writing than doing anything else, it makes my life to know that people enjoy my work. There will be a one-shot that finishes up this series posted sometime in the not too distant future. After that I don't know when I'll be back in this category again. If you want to read my current stuff, check me out in RENT. And thank you again.
November 9, 2005
John Constantine hated hospitals. His heart rate increased almost as soon as he walked through the automatic sliding glass doors. He hadn't been allowed to see Angela since the incident. The LAPD had been adamant about conducting a formal investigation during the course of the past week, even flying a team up to Washington to question them both. The evidence was insufficient to prosecute, however, and the fact that all of the victims happened to be wanted criminals helped too.
Angela was awake when he arrived, propped up on one elbow and reading about her own case in the newspaper. She smiled and rolled over to face him as he walked in. Her left arm was bandaged up to the elbow, and the bruise on her temple was purpling, but she already looked much better.
"That's old news," he said, gesturing to the paper.
"Is it?" She moved over and he sat on the edge of the bed, taking her good hand in both of his.
"All the victims have been traced back to an experimental therapy group at Ravenscar. There's talk of a separate lawsuit from the patients' families. The case has been…dismissed, due to the…strangeness of its nature." Constantine winked at her.
"I'll bet. I wish I could've seen the look on that poor judge's face…" She trailed off and shook her head, turning serious once more. "God, John, I still can't believe it. How can anyone trust me now?"
He sighed, a fresh wave of guilt churning in his stomach. Still, his worst nightmare had come true—and they'd both lived to wake up again. They'd barely made it out of the forest, but somehow everything seemed to be on their side once Malone was dead, from the weather inexplicably warming up to the team of rangers who just happened to be in the woods during the off season. He freed one of his hands and reached out to finger the amulet resting against the bare skin of her chest. Angela shivered a little under his touch and smiled again.
"I trust you," he said finally.
She just stared at him for a moment, eyes sparkling with unshed tears.
"John…" Angela shook her head, shifted so she was kneeling sideways on the bed, and wrapped her arms around his waist. Constantine flinched at her touch, silently willing himself not to feel it. Her body was pressed firmly against his, and he couldn't deny the thrill it sent through him.
"It's okay," she said softly, and suddenly Constantine found himself hugging her back, one hand at the small of her back, the other in her hair. For a moment he let himself be lost in the comfort of it before the reason he was there in the first place came back like the bad aftertaste of a particularly sweet dessert.
"Angela…" He swallowed hard, trying to find a way to say it that wouldn't, for once, make him out to be the asshole. "It's not that I—I just—I don't even know how. I can't…protect you…from me."
She remained silent, but slowly brought one hand up to rest against his cheek. Much as his instincts told him to run, Constantine simply couldn't bring himself to pull away.
"I need you," said Angela after a very long moment. Her eyes darted to the wall over his shoulder, and she said it so softly he nearly didn't hear. "You're the only one who understands."
"I know," said Constantine at last. "This won't happen again. There are ways you can protect yourself. I should've taught you before. I got careless and I'm sorry. You deserve better. Much better."
"I'm sorry, Angela," he repeated. "About…everything. Somehow…I always think that by being an unfeeling bastard I can protect myself…and I always end up fucked. I guess it's about time I learned my lesson." He paused, looked down at the bed, afraid to see her reaction to what he said next. "Maybe I need you there to keep me in my place."
She was grinning when he looked back up, her eyes sparkling.
"Well, I seem to be without a job now, so…"
She stopped him with a hand on his wrist.
"Maybe I want to be there with you."
"Angela…" The words caught painfully in his throat. He looked away again, unable to stand the feeling of her eyes burning into him for one more moment. The thought of what he was about to do was somehow more frightening than demons, cancer cells, and the fires of hell combined. But he couldn't stand to let the moment pass one more time. Constantine turned back, steeled himself, then leaned in and kissed her.
She pressed a hand to the back of his neck, stopping him as he pulled away.
"Well," she said, her face absolutely radiant, "that took you damn long enough."
"I…I'm not good at this," he muttered at last. "I don't do 'nice.' I don't do 'sweet.' Just about the only thing I can promise you is too little too late."
Angela sat back against the bed and sighed. "I don't want 'nice' or 'sweet.' I'm fucking sick of that." She laughed weakly. "I'm not asking you to change for me. Just give yourself a chance."
"Angela…I'll use you. I'll betray you. I'll get you hurt. I won't want to, but I will. Trust me. I'm not a good guy."
"I'll take my chances," she said stubbornly.
Constantine shook his head, not sure whether to be annoyed or relieved.
"What?" She gave him a little half smile.
"You are the most impossible…" He trailed off and shook his head. "You're not gonna leave me alone, are you?" Angela just stared at him. "You really think you'd be happy with me?"
She laughed again, a little puff of breath, and laced her fingers through his. "I already am." She pulled his hand to her lips and kissed his knuckles.
"I…All right." There was nothing else to say. "Wordlessly he got into bed beside her, pulling her into a full embrace. You know…you're too much trouble to leave alone."
Angela laughed and kissed him again. "I want to go home," she said softly.
Constantine ran a hand over her back, feeling rather strange. It took him a moment to identify the feeling. For the first time in years, he felt at peace with himself.