Chapter Ten

They pulled up in front of the apartment block. Angela got out of the car, expecting Solitaire to follow her. She was halfway up the stairs when she realized that the girl wasn't with her. Undecided, she stood on the step for a second, deciding to see what was wrong. She hurried down the stairs, throwing the outside door open and stepping into the rain. Seeing the slumped blonde figure in the driving seat made her hurry even more.

She wrenched open the door, kneeling next to the car. Her knees were in a puddle, but she didn't care. The rain lashed down, growing heaver all the time.

"Solitaire?" She asked urgently, shaking her gently. Her hand went to Solitaire's bruised neck to feel for a pulse. It was there, but it was faint and slow.

"Shit!" She swore, reaching across the girl to unfasten the seatbelt. Her hand came back covered in blood. Pulling the black top up, Angela saw the blood soaked dressings and swore again. Confused and pain filled grey eyes glanced at her, wide and wary.

"Why didn't you say something?" She muttered rhetorically. She swung one of Solitaire's limp arms over her shoulder, lifting her out of the car. They staggered to the building, Angela struggling to open the door. Once inside the lobby, the both collapsed to the floor.

"Stay there. I'll be back." Angela told Solitaire, yanking off her coat to lay under the girl's head. She sprinted up the stairs, bursting into the apartment with little regard to her own safety.

"John?" She yelled, hoping that he was okay. please, Let him not be possessed. She found herself praying over and over. Let him be okay.

"Angela?" He called back, hearing the worry in her voice. "What's wrong?"

She ran into the bedroom carrying a knife that she had taken from the block in the kitchen. It was sharp, and for a second there was something like fear in John Constantine's eyes.

"What's happened?" He demanded, taking in the blood with once glance. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine." She assured him breathlessly, cutting the rope that held his right hand to the bedpost. She tried not to look at the brusies and raw patches where the rope had bit into his skin. He didn't seem to notice them.

"What's wrong?" He demanded again, "Angela! Speak to me!" He snapped.

"Solitaire's been hurt. She's downstairs. I can't get her up the stairs on my own." Angela said, sighing as one rope sprang apart.

John took the knife, using his superior strength to saw through the nylon strands more quickly. With his hands free, he un-tied the knots around his feet. He was sore and stiff from too many days without moving, but he forced himself to his feet, not bothering to put any shoes on as he followed Angela out of the apartment.

The dark huddled figure on the floor at the foot of the stairs wasn't moving, and for a second, they feared that she was already dead. John bent and picked her up, surprised by how light she was. The small pool of blood that had formed looked striking and out of place against the grimy white tiles. The three of them raced up the stairs, Angela stopping to lock the apartment door behind them while John went straight into the bedroom. He waited until Angela came into the room, asking her to straighten the covers that he had left in a heap in his haste to get Solitaire.

With the covers neatened, he laid her gently on the bed, sitting her up so Angela could slip the top she wore off. It was sodden and bloody, and Angela dumped it onto the floor. She went into the kitchen, coming back with a large first aid kit. She opened it on the floor next to John, handing him a pair of scissors to cut the tape that held the blood dressings to Solitaire's far too pale skin.

She stirred, gasping as his fingers brushed the would. It was clotted with blood, and he had to wipe it away to see how bad it was. She saw his hands, covered with her blood and primitive terror raced though her veins. Struggling, she tried to sit up, failing as her body didn't respond to her commands.

"Stay still," Angela said gently, taking hold of her hand.

It hurts too much to even think about moving again, she thought, then closed her eyes. He carefully knelt down next to her. His hand hovered above the wound. He lowered it slightly, then stopped. His hand was shaking, and he suddenly longed to be back in his old life, responsible only for himself and no-one else.

"I'm sorry. This is going to hurt." he warned.

He didn't know if she was listening. He pressed the thick gauze pad in his hand over the wound and felt warm blood seeping between his fingers as he tried to stop the bleeding. Her breathing was slow and painful. Angela propped her up on another pillow, and it eased slightly. She was shivering, and Angela draped a blanket around her bare shoulders, covering her bare skin. Moving to the foot of the bed, she un fastened the soaked trousers, carefully pulling them off. She replaced them with a dry, loose pair of silk pyjama bottoms that would keep her warm. Almost as an afterthought, she drew another on up to her hips, covering her legs.

"How bad is it?" She asked John in a low voice.

"Pretty bad." He said, "I think it's stopped bleeding though." He didn't want to move the gauze to find out.

"That's a good thing." Angela agreed.

"I'm still worried about her." He said.

"Me to, John. Me too." She said softly.

He taped another dressing over the one already in place, and standing, he said. "There's nothing else we can do." He wanted to rub his hands over his face, but they were covered in blood. A longing for a cigarette came to him suddenly and he fought it back, knowing that there were non to be had.

They left her sleeping, Angela covering her with another thick blanket before stepping out of the room. She found John sat at the table, head in his hands. His hands looked freshly scrubbed and she could smell soap in the room. She laid a hand on his shoulder, offering silent support.

"She'll be okay." She said, "I have a feeling. She's a strong girl, and she wants to live."

"It's not that…" He said. "I… I keep thinking it could be you laying in that bed, hurt and thinking how glad I am that it's not." He laughed a bitter laugh. "It's an awful thing to think, isn't it?"

"It's human, John. Nothing wrong with that." She assured him. "She knew the risks and she agreed to help. You can't blame yourself." She said softly, moving to the stove, then sink as she made a cup of tea. She needed something to do with her hands. Making them something to eat seemed the right thing to do.

With the kettle filled, she set it onto the flames, letting the water heat. Taking out a chipped teapot, she added tea bags to it. They waited in silence for the kettle to boil. When it did, she snatched it off the heat, spilling a little of the water on the counter. She made a cup of weak tea first, setting it aside for Solitaire. She would want something warm to drink when she woke.

Making two stronger cups, she added milk and sugar, passing one to John before sitting at the table. He flashed her a small smile of thanks.

"Do you want something to eat?" She asked a subdued John.

"I'm not hungry." He said, flashing her a tired smile. "Have something if you want, I don't mind."

"I'm okay." She lied. The truth was, she didn't think she could handle eating right then.

They sipped the tea, each lost in their own thoughts. He didn't know how long passed before he heard a weak voice calling from the bedroom. Jumping to his feet, he bolted from the room and into the bedroom. Finding her awake, he let out the breath he'd been holding.

"How do you feel?" He asked gently.

"Pretty crap." She said truthfully.

"Well, I'll take that over dead any day." He joked lightly.

"What happened?" she asked groggily. Her voice came out weak and shaky. Her side felt like it was on fire. She knew that if she dared to look, the whole of her body would be covered in cuts and bruises. She hurt all over.

"You don't remember?" Angela asked, coming into the room, carrying a tray. The tea was on it, along with a few biscuits.

"The last thing I remember was climbing onto the statue and starting the spell." Solitaire said. "Did it work?"

"It worked. We won." John said. "The half-breeds have been deported."

Solitaire smiled drowsily. "That's good." She decided that the rest of the story could wait until morning. She was content to know that they had won the war at long last.

--Fins--