Chapter Eight

The white hallway was so starkly lit that it was giving her a headache. She leant back in the uncomfortable plastic seat, resting the top of her head against the wall and screwed her eyes closed. It gave her a measure of relief. A few minutes passed before she sensed someone standing in front of her. Startled, she sits up so quickly that the seat nearly slid from under her. The doctor who was treating John waited patiently while Angela collected herself.

A long day had passed while she waited for news. Angela can tell from the look on the Doctor's face that she had brought bad news. Angela's mouth was so dry she could hardly talk. "Is he dead?" She asked, biting her lip to keep the tears at bay. Doctor Morris sits next to her, and laid a gentle hand on Angela's shoulder.

"Is he dead?" Angela repeated in a mere whisper.

"I'm afraid it's bad news." Perhaps sensing that Angela needed straight talk, she simply said "John is paralysed from his waist down. He'll never walk again."

The tears Angela had been holding back force their way through and she sobbed quietly. "There's no chance of it healing?" She asked, looking for some kind of hope for him. She knew that it was the worst thing that could happen to him, aside for death. "Does he know?" She asked softly, clasping her hands together as if in prayer.

Doctor Morris shook her head "No, he's still unconscious." Anticipating Angela's alarm, she quickly added "It's not surprising, with the amount of blood he lost. He's stable and should make a good recovery." She didn't tell Angela just how many times they had nearly lost him on the operating table.

"Will he need special care?" Angela asked, wincing a little at the word 'special'. It felt wrong to talk about John like that. He'd never asked for help from anyone and now it looked like he'd be forced to accept it.

"There are a number of options that he could consider" The Doctor was choosing her words carefully. "He could go back to his own home and manage fine by himself. Of course, that might not suit him. It depends on his attitude."

Angela shifted uncomfortably on the hard seat, guilt eating at her. How could fate be so cruel to a man who had given so much? She thought, angry and ashamed that she hadn't done more to help him. If I'd have gone in, he might be okay. She blamed herself, and always would. Guilt was a tricky little creature- once it got inside of you, it was impossible to get rid of. Another wave of tears flowed down Angela's cheeks. The Doctor's beeper went and she looked at it, face registering her alarm.

"I'm sorry, I've go to get this." The Doctor said, patting Angela's hand as she stood up.

Angela said "Is it John?" but her question went unanswered as the Doctor hurried away.

She paced in the hallway, every few steps looking at the ugly brown clock that hung opposite the window. The minutes dragged by slowly. The shirt she wore was stained with his blood- she hadn't thought to change before rushing to the hospital. She looked at her hands. The blood on them was starting to dry and flake off. She wished that there were some way that she could give it all back to him.

She sighed and realized how dry her mouth felt. From her pocket, she pulled out a handful of change and walked down the white hall towards the coffee and soda machines. She got a cup of black coffee and walked back up the hallway. After a few sips of the coffee, Angela felt worse than she had before. She dumped the coffee into a rubbish bin, gagging a little as the sour taste lingered in her mouth.

Making a decision, she walked towards the bathroom, determined to clean herself up. The blood came off her hands surprisingly easily, washing down the drain as she pulled the plug out of the sink. She scrubbed her hands again, still feeling his blood on them. There wasn't much she could do with her shirt, and she stripped it off, buttoning the jean jacket she was carrying in it's place. She hesitated for a second before throwing the shirt in the bin. She never wanted to see it again, let alone wear it. She had avoided looking in the mirror, but did so now, shocked at how weary she looked. She had been aged by circumstance, not time.

Walking back to the seat she had sat on earlier, she wondered how to tell John that he'd never walk again. It would be hard, but she figured the best way to do it would be just to tell him. The though brought fresh tears to her eyes, and she swiped angrily at them. The time for tears had passed. Seeing a nurse in the hallway, Angela asked the young woman "John Constantine?"

"Room 157, on the right." The young nurse said, pointing. The green scrubs she was wearing made a rustling sound as she moved her arm. Angela froze, disconcerted. For a fraction of a second, she thought that she had seen the outline of wings on the girl's back. When she looked again, they'd gone and Angela put it down to stress.

"Thank you." Angela said, gathering herself as she walked to the right door. She paused outside, trying to look through the window, but the shade had been drawn over the glass, to provide privacy. She opened the door slowly, stepping through it before closing it softly behind her. The room was cool and dim, as tranquil as it could be with medical equipment chirping softly in time with his heartbeat.

John looked lost in the huge bed. Tubes and wires ran all over his body, looking like some kind of animal had invaded him. She sat down heavily on the chair by his bed, taking hold of his hand gently. There was an IV line in it, needle covered with a inch of flesh coloured tape. He didn't react to her touch and she was forced to blink away tears. His knuckles were split and bruised and she kissed each in turn. She kept hold of his hand, counting each breath he took. The rhythm was soothing and soon, she found herself drifting off to sleep with her head on the bed by his chest.

She didn't know how long passed, when a clumsy but tender hand on her head woke her. She lifted her head. "J…John?" She asked, trying to clear the cobwebs from her brain. As scary as it had been to see him after the demon attack, seeing him in a hospital bed was somehow worse. It made everything so much more real.

"Angela?" His voice was croaky and weak. It was so unlike him to let her see him defenceless.

"I'm here." She assured him, squeezing his hand gently.

"Are you okay?" He asked, real concern showing through in his voice.

She smiled a tear filled smile. "I'm fine."

He struggled to life his head. "What aren't you telling me?"

"John.." She started to speak, stopping because her throat was so tight she couldn't force the words out. She cleared her throat and tried again "The attack… it caused a lot of damage…" She broke down again, blurting the words out before she could stop herself. "You're paralysed from the waist down." He could read the guilt so clearly on her face it became his own.

He felt like all of the air had been sucked from the room. He couldn't breathe, and if it hadn't been for the rapid beep of the machines, he would've swore that he was in hell. His first instinct is to deny it, as if by denying the words he can deny the injury. He couldn't though- the numbness in his body is too strong to just be the meds he'd been pumped full off. His mind is suddenly as numb as his body. He couldn't accept her words, but there is no denying the evidence. Tiny pieces of sensation are like jewels to him; each one rich and different. He clung to her hand like a drowning man and she pulled him to the surface.

Embrace pain long enough and you'll become numb to it, John had just found out. When he'd looked to the future, he'd never imagined that he'd be spending half his life as a cripple. He'd always thought that he'd go out in a blaze of glory. Little did he know that he very nearly had. He knew that Angela thought he laid blame at her door. He couldn't figure out why. He blamed her for nothing.

"John?" She asked, sounding so uncertain that he hated being the cause of that uncertainty.

"I'm thinking." He said, earning a ghost of a smile. It wasn't true. His mind was still trying to accept the fact that he'd never walk again. "I can't stay here." The half breeds in the city would relish the chance to kill him if they heard he was vulnerable.

Her confusion came to quickly to hide. "In the hospital?"

"In the city." He explained. "It's not safe." It had never been safe, especially with the circles he travelled in.

"I'll come with you." She offered, hating that she sounded like she was begging.

"You can't." His voice was soft, and that made it all the harder. Both of them were crying, his tears strangely cold on his face. Hers were warm and fell quickly. She sniffed, blotting her nose on her cuff.

"When?" She'd never thought that one little word could cause her so much hurt, but it cut deeply as she whispered it.

"Tonight." His voice was even enough, but pain was simmering under it. "It has to be tonight." He said it more to himself that to her, but she caught the low words anyway.

"So soon?" She asked, voice breaking. She had only just got him back and now she was going to lose him all over again. It was too much to take. "Where will you go?"

A twisted smile appeared on his face "I know a place." It had been his childhood hideout when his family went on vacation to their cabin. The details are in my apartment. There's a red box in the dresser." She nodded, understanding the unasked question. It didn't mean that she liked it.

Their wet eyes met and held each other's gaze steadily. "Angela. I'm sorry." It wasn't what he meant, and both knew it. The three little words that he wanted- needed- to say wouldn't pass his lips and he couldn't force them. She understood, and closed her eyes while tears flooded her face. Standing, she kissed him deeply. He took all she could give and gave it back. Passion and pain made desperate bed fellows, and both hurt equally.

Careful not to hurt him, she slid onto the bed next to him, getting as close as she could. Hands met and gripped each other. Neither one of the wished to break the contact. Both were overwhelmed by the emotions coursing through their bodies. Both were scared by how intense the emotions were. When you're not used to feeling, the smallest emotion can be hard to bear. He fell asleep before she did, hand relaxing against hers. She didn't let go until she was sure he was deeply asleep.

It took her less than half an hour to do what he'd asked. The lady on the other end of the phone knew John and spoke warmly about him. Angela felt like she'd been punched in the gut. Her life would be so empty without John. She'd grown to depend on him by her side. She felt selfish for wanting him to stay. She was angry at him for not letting her go with him. She couldn't understand his reasons, but would abide by them because he'd asked her to.

He was still sleeping when she returned to the hospital room. She kissed him again, before curling up next to him on the bed, her hand resting softly on his shoulder. She never planned to fall asleep, but fate wasn't on her side. She fell into a deep and dreamless sleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.

When she woke, the bed next to her was empty save for a letter. He was gone and she didn't have the strength to follow.

--Fins--

A/N

Thank you everyone for reading this. Your support is the reason I've kept writing. I know that you're all hating my guts right now, but fear not dear readers. There is more on the way.