Chas didn't appreciate it when he was awakened at 2:30am by his cell phone ringing. He knew it was John, asking for a ride to some kind of exorcism, but that didn't change the fact that it was 2:30 in the fucking morning. Not even morning. Some obscure hour of night that didn't exist for normal people.
He grabbed blindly on the floor beside his bed, fishing in his jeans for his phone, the ring becoming louder as he pulled it out from the folds of clothing. The console on the front was the only light in the small, stuffy room, flashing rapidly between blue, pink, green…it was enough to drive a sleepy teenager insane.
"What do you want, John?" he muttered sleepily as he flipped open the phone, not bothering to lift his head from the pillow, just adjusting his head to put the phone to his ear.
"Mr. Kramer? Chas Kramer?"
He didn't recognize the voice. He sat up on his elbows, hearing a commotion in the background. "Yeah, I'm Chas."
"This is Dr. Pfennigar, at Ravenscar Hospital," the voice said, and Chas's mind seemed to blank. Somehow, he knew what was coming. "A man was brought in a few minutes ago with severe wounds from an assault. He had your name and number in his jacket."
Chas's heart was in his throat. He felt like he'd swallowed cotton. This was the call he'd half expected all along, it was even why John kept his name and number in his jacket; he knew how big the risks were in his line of work, and Chas knew all of his contacts and could handle being the first told if anything were to happen.
At least, he could handle it before he fell hard for his mentor. Now it seemed more like a curse.
"Mr. Kramer? Are you there?"
"Yeah," Chas choked out. "Is he tall with black hair? Wearin' a suit?"
"That's him. I was hoping you could come down here and speak with me in person."
It's bad. They wouldn't ask you to come unless it was bad.
"I'll be there in five minutes."
Chas ignored the grunting and pounding noises of sex through the paper-thin walls, his mind occupied with other things; he didn't even bother with clothes. He had on boxer shorts and a t-shirt, and that was enough for him. He didn't turn on the light to stumble to the door, since he couldn't afford any extra on his electric bill this month and he'd been trying to not use the light at all.
He grabbed his hat off the stack of boxes by the door and took his keys out of it, walking out and shutting the door behind him. Nobody around here bothered locking their doors unless they were inside; if you lived around here you obviously didn't have anything worth stealing, and the broken lock from a kicked-in door was expensive to replace.
The ride to the hospital was all a blur. He knew he was going fast, he knew he ran multiple stop lights and almost hit a few pedestrians, but he didn't care. He needed to go to John. John needed him.
What if you're too late? What if by the time you get there it's all over, and you weren't there for him, and he has to die alone?
What if he heard you thinking these sappy thoughts? He'd kick your ass, Kramer.
He screeched to a stop outside the emergency room and sprinted inside, running into the desk at full force with a loud 'thud'.
"Where is he? John Constantine, is he alright?"
The nurse at the desk stared like a goldfish for a few moments. "Calm down, sir…who're you talking about?"
"The guy in the suit, they brought him in not too long ago," Chas said pleadingly, and the lady nodded.
"I remember. Let me go get the doctor for you, hon, you just wait right there."
She got up and walked away, and then ensuing two minute wait felt like the longest two minutes in Chas's life. He had nothing to go on but the vague words the doctor had used on the phone, which were less than encouraging.
As soon as he saw the nurse returning with the doctor in tow, Chas was moving before the order even consciously got from his brain to his feet. He met the doctor halfway down the hallway, already asking the pivotal question.
"Is he okay?"
The doctor hesitated. Chas's face fell.
"He'll live, Mr. Kramer," the doctor finally said, his tone morbidly flat. "He was found in an alley behind a warehouse downtown, no idea how long he'd been there…"
"I just dropped him off, I should've stayed, I'd just fucking dropped him off," Chas said, his voice quiet and distraught. The doctor hesitated to make sure he was okay, and then continued.
"He has severe stab wounds to his abdomen and legs. Luckily there was minimal damage to vital organs, so we've been able to keep him stable," he said, each word adding more dread to Chas's state of mind. "Do you know who his next of kin is? Are you his son?"
Chas cringed. "No. No, he doesn't have any family, not around here. I'm his…his apprentice. His, uh…driver."
The doctor nodded, writing down something on a chart.
"Can I see him?" Chas asked, practically begging already. The doctor shook his head.
"He's still in surgery, but they're finishing up. Shouldn't be longer than a couple hours and I can take you to him."
Chas nodded. "I'll wait right out here," he said, and the doctor looked him up and down, as if noticing his state for the first time: pajamas, bed hair, only socks on his feet.
"You have time to drive home and ch-"
"No. I have to stay. He needs me here."
The doctor gave him a look of sheer pity, and then turned and walked away. Chas sat down in one of the waiting room chairs, exhausted and shivering in the air-conditioned lobby, unable to keep from dozing slightly but never able to fully fall asleep. One of the nurses took pity on him and brought him a blanket, and someone in the lobby bought him hot chocolate at a vending machine.
Chas briefly considered driving back to that warehouse and interrogating everyone he saw there until he found out who did this. Then he realized just how foolish that would be; anyone who had the guts to beat up John Constantine had to be a half breed, and Chas had no idea how to deal with half breeds one on one. Besides, anyone involved would be long gone from the scene by now.
It was three hours and seven minutes exactly until the doctor returned to the lobby. He took Chas aside, since most of the people in the lobby had taken quite an interest in the boy's case and would likely try to overhear.
"He's out of recovery and in the ICU," Dr. Pfennigar said quietly, one hand on Chas's shoulder, as if he thought the boy would fall over.
"So I can see him?"
"He's still asleep and will be for quite a while. There's always a chance he won't wake up, Mr. Kramer. His injuries-"
"I don't care. I want to see him. Please."
The doctor nodded, taking Chas down the hallway to the elevator. He was silent until the elevator doors closed and it began to move.
"If he should recover…once he gets out of the hospital, he'll need care 24/7. He should probably stay with a friend, until he's better able to care for himself."
Stay with a friend? Beeman lives in that little cubby hole, Midnite is less than hospitable and John wouldn't want him knowing about this anyway, Hennessey has that crap apartment with the foil all over the walls…
Despite all these thoughts, he simply nodded. He knew if it came down to it, he would go as far as to sleep on the floor at John's apartment to be there to help him.
"He's in room 304, down at the end of the hall," the doctor said as they got out of the elevator. "I'll be in and out, taking care of his medications and checking up on his condition."
Chas nodded, and he walked quickly to the room at the end of the hall. But once he reached the door, he stopped dead.
He didn't want to see John, his hero, his idol, like this. Lying in some hospital bed, unconscious, helpless…it would be like admitting that someday even Superman would die. He reached out to the door handle, his handle touching it, and the coldness of the metal sent chills up his spine.
You can't stand out here forever. You said from the start you'd be there the second he needs you, and he needs you right now more than ever. Not that he'd admit it.
He pushed open the door and walked inside, and it was like one of his worst nightmares coming true.
John was as pale as the sheets he was laying on, and there were tubes in his mouth, nose, and arm, leading to various bags and pumps. The skin that Chas could see was covered with bandages or bruised deep purple, and a bandage around his head marred the ebony hair that was always so perfectly messy.
Chas slowly shuffled forward, nervously eyeing the machines sitting around John, all of them whirring and beeping and flashing, but underneath all that was morbid silence.
"John?" Chas inquired softly, despite the fact that he knew he wouldn't get a response. He took a few more steps forward, numbly grabbing at the nearest chair and pulling it up beside the bed, though not sitting yet.
"John…c'mon, wake up, you lazy ass," he said, gently touching John's arm. No response; just the steady beeping of the heart monitor and whirring of the other machines around them.
Chas slowly sank down in the chair, his hand still on John's arm. He felt like if he pulled his hand away he might lose John; he had to somehow hold the man to this plain, connect him here, let him know that there was still someone here with him who wouldn't give up on him.
"Now see, I wanted to come with you on this bust. If you'd have just let me come, I could've thrown a few spells out there, used one of your guns…Jesus, John, why've you gotta be so stubborn?" Chas interrogated, his hand sliding down John's arm to rest on his hand.
He paused again, not sure what he could say. Maybe John couldn't even hear him.
"I swear, John, as soon as I find out who did this I'm kickin' their ass into next Tuesday. They'll regret ever going near you," he promised, sniffing hard to hold back tears. He didn't want to cry, especially not since John was right there, even though the man obviously couldn't see him.
He looked down at their hands. Something simple, so simple, and he'd wanted to do it for so long; a gentle touch, just to find out if John's skin was really as smooth as it looked. He stared at his hand on John's for a few moments later before shoving doubt aside and gripping John's hand a bit tighter.
"I'm not gonna leave, okay? I'm gonna be right here till you're ready to leave this dumb place," he promised, gently stroking John's knuckles with his thumb. After a few moments, he was just too physically and mentally exhausted to keep his head up. He laid his head on the edge of John's bed, still clasping his hand in his, and within moments his fatigued body gave in to sleep.
John's hand tightened on his.