Title: The Anger Within
Rating: Make it T, just in case anyone uses naughty words
Category: Drama oneshot (Angst and a little bit of supernatural)
Summary: "Everyone I have ever known well has ended up… dead, because of my curse. Don't fall in too, Angela. You'll drown." (John learns to blur the boundaries)
lengthy A/N: This was written for a Mod's Challenge on the Astral
Light Constantine forum under the following conditions: must be based
on the prompt "nothing to say", must include
Constantine/Hellblazer characters and no OC's, mustinclude the line "Definitely...mostly
not about the girl", must not be set in an apartment and must
include a cat, a baseball, Sweet Hearts candies, and hiking.
I was just so damn tempted to write about John and Balthazar playing baseball, Angela selling candies and Gabriel hiking carrying a cat. But I thought I'd try to be sensible just for once. That said, this is quite possibly OOC in some places because when I wrote it, I was just starting out in the Constantine fandom (and for this reason it may also be dreadfully clichéd). I've probably borrowed unforgivably from various fics I've read over time, and I apologise for that profoundly.
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Don't claim to. All hail the almighty Vertigo Comics for their ingenious creations, and the script writers/director/actors for bringing the characters to the screen. I'm just taking them for a walk while Warner Brothers is counting the takings. Don't even bother trying to sue, because I'm sure that the court case will cost more than the 50c you'll get from my dwindling bank account at the end of it.
A storm was brewing to the east. Whether she should take this as an omen or not, Angela was not entirely sure. The air had a density to it that promised rain, and the rich smell of ozone was pre-empting spectacular lightening. Standing at her window and looking out over the dusk-shrouded city, she could feel the foreboding power of the storm. Electricity seemed to be everywhere around her, and she was almost convinced that if she touched the metal window frame there would be a spark. Bad omen or not, she was sure it was time.
By the time she reached his apartment block the rain had set in, savagely beating down upon the city. She stood in front of his door, half-soaked from the run between her car and the entrance to the building. Her hand stopped halfway to the door, as she realised she was shaking. Whether it was a result of the drenching, she couldn't be sure, and suddenly she had no idea what she was going to say to him. A long time ago she'd acknowledged to herself that seeing him again might unleash emotions she had wanted to keep carefully tucked away.
But she was here now, and there was no point running because somehow she knew that she'd always regret it. Her hand covered the remaining distance and knocked firmly on the door.
Surprisingly, there was no reply. He'd told her once that he was always home for dusk. She'd never been brave enough to ask why that might be.
"John?" She called his name into the heavy wooden door.
She sent out her psychic feelers to determine if his aura was present. There was definitely a trace of him within a few yards of her.
"John?" A little louder this time.
"John!!" Now she was really yelling. But there was still no reply.
Angela turned on her heel and walked towards the stairs. If John couldn't be bothered to open the door then that was just fine with her.
Halfway between the third floor and the second floor, Angela remembered fragments of the last time she and John had spoken. He'd seemed genuinely enthusiastic to meet up with her again, and she'd sensed that there was something more between them. But maybe it had just been the starry night reflecting in his eyes as they'd stood inches apart on the rooftop.
Suddenly, she was racing back up the stairs two at a time, spiralling upwards. It hadn't occurred to her that his aura was emanating from directly above her, instead of directly in front of her.
When she reached the fire escape, she almost wrenched the door from its hinges and stood staring out into the pouring rain. She could just make out his profile, standing on the edge of the rooftop, looking out over the city.
"John!" she yelled, over the deafening acoustics of the storm. He acknowledged her presence with a slight nod, but made no effort to turn around.
This was uncharted territory for Angela – she'd never seen his usually dominating figure so passive and resigned. Studying him more closely as she approached him, she realised that he was holding Chas' baseball in one hand, while the other gripped a railing so hard his knuckles were white.
"John… are you… okay?" she asked, her voice betraying her apprehension.
"Fine and dandy, thanks." The badass bullshit tone was gone from his voice, and he wasn't looking at her.
They stood side by side, looking out over the urban view; seeing everything and nothing at once. The silence between them seemed to stretch on and on, drowning out the deafening roar of the rain as it pelted down around them.
Eventually, Angela couldn't stand it any longer.
"It's not your fault, you know." She hoped she was hitting the mark.
"You'd be surprised." He unconsciously turned the ball over in his hands.
"You weren't to know."
"I should have." Now he was just being stubborn. The ball was turned over again
"John-" She was cut off halfway by his choked voice.
"He was a kid, Angela. Just a kid. He didn't deserve that. It should have been me." Now his voice was cold.
"You're right, John. He didn't deserve that. But equally, it shouldn't have been you either."
"Why not?" For the first time, he turned to her. She was stunned by the dark truth she found in his features and couldn't be sure that the glistening she saw in his eyes was only from the rain.
Without thinking, she raised her hand and placed it on his chest.
"Because you still have things to do in your life. Important things. Things that can help and heal a lot of people."
"And what about Chas? Didn't he try to help? Didn't his sacrifice mean something??"
"Of course it did, but-"
"But what??" His eyes bored into hers.
"But…" she paused, not entirely sure how to put it. "Can't you just be happy that you're alive?"
"Who really cares if I am or not?" His voice was harsh on the surface, but she could sense the real pain underneath.
"John, you've got to stop pushing people away. I know that you don't want people to get hurt, but… sometimes you've just got to take a risk."
"Everyone I have ever known well has ended up… dead, because of my curse. Don't fall in too, Angela. You'll drown." He wasn't sure why he'd said that last bit, but he was past caring.
"You can't keep blaming yourself for everything. I'm a big girl, John."
"And who the hell are you to tell me what I should or shouldn't feel guilty for?"
Her hand fell to her side, feeling as if by touching him she'd been burned.
"Jesus, John! Every time I try and talk to you, you run away from me!"
"Like you ran away from Isabel?" His voice was steely.
There was a moment that stretched between them while John tried to find where that had come from and Angela tried to comprehend what she'd just heard. The pain of her sister's death was still so raw inside her, and John had just taken her back to the day when she had stood by as the dark oak coffin was closed over by soil.
"You bastard," she choked out before the hot tears behind her eyelids could overwhelm her. She turned and left without a glance back at his rain-soaked face.
Just when it was all about to come tumbling out, suddenly there was nothing to say.
Halfway up the incline, Angela finally allowed herself to acknowledge the anger which was festering inside her. She'd opted to go on a mountain hiking day-trip with the rest of her squad which was intended as a team-building activity to raise moral. She had no interest in raising moral, or playing silly team-building icebreaker games; for her this was an exercise to get outside, get some fresh air, try and clear her head. What she was desperately trying to hide from herself was that the trip was mostly to rid her mind of John Constantine.
Her train of thought was broken by Weiss' voice from beside her.
"Angela… Hello? Angela?"
"Sorry…" she muttered "in a world of my own."
"Want some candy?" He held out a Sweet Hearts candy to her, and she accepted it with a fragile smile.
"Thanks very much." Truth be told, she didn't really like candy, but Weiss' kindness and willingness to cover for her since Izzy's death made her feel she couldn't say no.
They walked on, up to the peak of the foothills, making small talk about everything from Australian beaches to French cooking to the state of the American administration.
The dense woods in front of them suddenly widened into an open circle and the group stopped walking. The tour guide began a talk about team building in nature, and how natural habitats like forests can only be sustained by a balanced ecological system. Angela switched off at that point, as she realised she felt very, very cold. She looked around to the rest of her squad, sitting on benches at the edges of the circle, absorbed in what the tour guide had to say and seemingly unaffected by the chill in the air she had detected.
The sensation of talons lightly scraping across the back of her neck made her scream, and the group turned to stare at her, unsure of what was happening.
Weiss ran to her side and asked if she was alright.
"Yeah.. I'm... fine." She said in a shaky voice. "Just feeling a little light-headed."
"You don't look fine… I've never seen you so pale." He took her temperature with the back of his hand and looked even more concerned. "God, you're freezing, Angela!"
"I'm fine… I just need to sit down," she insisted.
"I'm going to get you out of here, you can't carry on walking in this state."
When she finally got home, it was after 10 and the city was cloaked in darkness. The hospital emergency department had been loath to let her go, given her low blood pressure and deathly pale features. But after various clear tests she'd insisted she was fine and discharged herself, taking a taxi back to her apartment block.
Walking up the stairs to her floor, her psychic mind felt something. It started as a mild queasiness, and slowly grew until she was sure something was terribly wrong.
She stopped dead in her tracks as she reached the opening to the hallway. Sitting outside her door, preening his whiskers, was Duck.
How the hell had he ended up in the hall, through the door of her locked apartment? She was the only one with keys, and was sure she'd secured the door before she'd left that morning. She reached into her handbag for a pair of latex gloves, which she always kept spare in case she was called out to a crime scene in the middle of the night.
She examined the door in front of her, and could find no signs of physical damage. Pushing on it revealed that the door was properly locked. She examined the lock itself and found no trace of any scratches consistent with lock-picking.
Inside, everything seemed normal. Duck went back to his basket by the lounge room window, and Angela walked into her bedroom. She checked the usual three; no jewellery missing, no money missing, no documents missing. As far as she could tell, nothing had been moved.
There was a scraping sound outside her window, which she would normally discount as a feral cat stalking vermin along the balcony - but in her heightened state of awareness, she reached for the handle on the knife draw.
In the centre of the wooden draw, where she kept her large meat knife, there was a very conspicuous space.
She ran up the stairs, only stopping to catch her breath when she reached his door. This time, there was no hesitation in her movement as she banged loudly on the dark mahogany.
When she called his name, there was a desperation in her voice that had been lacking before, and John recognised it instantly even through the solid wood. He'd been hoping that this inevitable moment wouldn't come so soon; he needed time to work things out in his head.
The reappearance of Angela in his life for one brief moment had upset his emotion-avoiding subconscious and made a mockery of all the deals he'd done with himself to keep his distance from her. It was for her own safety, he reassured himself, though the words sounded increasingly hollow. The reflex action when she'd come too close to him was to hurt her so she might have second thoughts about what it was she was potentially getting into.
But, he acknowledged finally, fate did not seem to appreciate the best laid plans. He'd never truly believed that their conversation on the rooftop would be the last. And now it sounded like she had no where else to run to.
Opening the door, he studied her pale face.
"Hello stranger," he said in his trademark smartarse tone. "Back so soon?"
"We need to talk." Angela's voice was almost a whisper, and the fear in her eyes sobered him instantly. "Now." She grabbed his arm and practically dragged him up the stairs and onto the roof.
"What is it with you and this place?" He knew he was being distasteful, but unsure of how to handle the situation, the smartarse aura had crept out of hiding.
"Open… air… I can breathe," she faltered. Her eyes were darting across the skyline and he could see the slight shimmer of tears glazing them. "I don't know what happened… I was so cold, and then I felt the claws, and when I got home Duck was outside-" she was cut off by his hands grasping her shoulders.
"Get your hands off me!" she spat in a tone that held such iciness that even she wasn't sure where it had come from.
"Angela… slow down. Tell me what happened." His hands didn't move.
She took a breath, and looked out over the city skyline. "I went on a trip today with the squad, hiking in the western foothills. Suddenly, I felt so cold… but no one else could feel it. Then I felt claws on the back of my neck… but there was nothing there. God, John, I've never been so scared in all my life..." she trailed off and he could feel her trembling beneath his fingers. "They took me to emergency to check that I was okay, and I told them I was fine. When I got home, Duck was sitting in the hallway outside my door, but it was still locked. Nothing obvious had been stolen or moved, but when I went to the knife drawer… my meat knife was gone." She swallowed hard. "I… I didn't know what to do… so I came here-" she was again cut off mid-sentence, this time by his voice, more gentle than before.
"These things happen sometimes… you won't like it - I don't - but you'll learn how to handle it eventually. It just takes time."
"I just get… so scared. I mean, what if…. whatever it was…. had been in my flat wielding a knife when I'd got home? How can I deal with that?" She was nearly falling apart in front of him, but she was past caring.
Unsure of quite how to handle her in this state, Constantine dropped his hands from her shoulders and clasped her hands in his. Her eyes were still searching the darkness around them, and her psychic mind was trying to pick up any trace of danger.
"Angela… look at me. Nothing is going to happen now, you're safe." His voice was strong and reassuring, and when he spoke there was something in his eyes which she couldn't quite define.
"Don't you dare go and be-the-bold-hero on me." Her voice was low and cold, and behind the anger, John could sense something deeper. "I don't need to be saved," she spat, but even to herself the words sounded empty.
She was so angry, both with herself for unwillingly investing so much unrequited emotion in him, and with him for… just being him.
She'd come here in the hope that she might find clues as to what had happened to her, and was now more confused than when she had arrived. It had been purely a fact-finding exercise, to pick the brains of the one person who knew enough about the world of angels and demons to help her in her quest for answers. But, as she stood with her hands clasped in his and his dark eyes locked on hers, it had turned into something entirely different. There were so many things she wanted him to understand, but when it came to the moment of truth, she found that there was nothing to say.
She was shocked when she felt his arms encircle her and at first didn't know how to react. Was this a friends-thing, or the start of the it-thing that they were both running from and longing for simultaneously? The gesture would normally have been so off-limits for John, and so out of character for Angela, that neither quite knew the answer to that question.
The angry wind knocked out of her sails, Angela felt suddenly exhausted. She buried her head in his shoulder and clung on to him like a life raft.
She'd looked so broken and frightened that John's reflex action had been to reach out and comfort her. But, standing with his arms around her, her arms around him, and her head on his shoulder, it had turned into something entirely different. He'd known that this moment would inevitably come, and he'd thought about it a thousand times over. But now it finally had, he found that there was nothing to say.
After an undefined time of simply enjoying the tranquillity of the night and the sound of each other's breathing, John broke the comfortable silence.
"Come on… let's get you downstairs. You can't stay at home on your own tonight." Realising how much could be incorrectly read into that statement, he cringed inside. Not wanting to sound too pushy, or as if he was expecting anything from her, he hastily added with a note of sarcasm "I've got a comfy couch I can sleep on."
In himself, he knew that his offer had been unexpected. Mostly by her, but by him to a certain extent. Since when did the great John Constantine offer to sleep on the couch? And in his own apartment? He had no idea what he'd just got himself into, but for the first time in his life, something finally felt right.
Staring out over the city for one last time, he was ambushed by a memory of his own voice.
"Definitely… mostly not about the girl."