Title: Work in Progress
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: It was funny, John thought as he shook another piece of nicotine gum onto his palm, how things could change so much without really changing at all. 1200 words.
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not. All your Constantine are belong to DC/Vertigo and Warner Bros.
Spoilers: Constantine (2005)
Notes: For empressvesica, who requested a Constantine fic, starring Constantine, with the below quote. Movie canon only.
"The self is not something ready made but something in continuous formation through choice of action."
~ John Dewey
It was funny, John thought as he shook another piece of nicotine gum onto his palm, how things could change so much without really changing at all.
He'd lost allies, in his last major fight. Lost enemies, too, that he'd been rather used to having around. Lost certainties that he'd been clinging to for a very long time. But his day-to-day work was pretty much the same as it had ever been. He still deported any demons he caught breaking the balance, kept his thumb on the pulse of the supernatural world, and taught his current apprentice as little as he could get away with in the interests of keeping her as safe as possible without driving her to try and teach herself.
He'd have to throw Angela another bone soon, he knew; she had an advantage over Chaz in that she'd started out with a strong psychic gift of her own. Still, the frustrated refrain that followed him around whenever their cases coincided was as familiar to him as breathing, an acknowledged and, sadly, cherished part of John's routine. Wherever Chaz was now, hopefully he was too happy to miss it.
If John had anything to say about it, it would be a very long time before he got another chance to bitch at him in person. That hadn't changed, either; John had no more desire to go to his eternal reward now than he ever had, even if the landscaping of his destination had changed just a little.
Maybe even because it had. Hell or Heaven, it terrified him just the same.
He hadn't really been thinking, in that desperate moment when he'd cut his wrists and waited for Lucifer to appear, in terms of adding to his tally of righteousness or changing his fate. He'd accepted, by that point, that there was nothing left for him to do on his own account; had decided the only thing left was to cause as much damage as he could on his way down, and maybe barter a little justice for Angela's sister while he was at it. For maybe the first time in his adult life, he'd consciously acted out of faith, not knowledge or mercenary ambition... but he'd never expected to be rewarded for it.
Of course, in the finest tradition of Upstairs paradox, it never would have worked if he had. Twenty years it had taken him to learn the meaning of sacrifice, no thanks to Gabriel.
Faith; it was a scary thing to get your mind around after a lifetime of scorning the messenger. There was something to be said for the devil you knew; for the last twenty years, he'd known exactly who he was, where he was going, and what he had to do along the way. There hadn't been much room for want, even less for hope, in his agenda.
But now-- every time John closed his eyes, took a breath deep enough to reach the bottom of his newly healed lungs, or looked into Angela's faith-filled gaze he was transported right back to that all too brief moment when Lu had let go his hand and Heaven had reached down for him instead. He remembered the warmth of the Light on his face, the way that boundless grace had buoyed his spirit, and felt a full measure of awe, in the older sense of the word: dread, veneration and wonder all tangled up in a stomach-dropping rush of emotion. What did God want from him? What was expected of him now?
He wasn't a good man; he had no delusions about that. He was Constantine, John Constantine, with a much-deserved reputation twenty years in the making. In Hell, at least he'd have had the notoriety of being the most reviled soul in Lucifer's grasp; what would he be on the other side? Trash-sweeper of the golden streets? Toilet scrubber of the pearly thrones? He hadn't exactly been "laying up treasures in Heaven" all these years. Was he supposed to clean up his act now? Watch his language, give up alcohol, stop inviting half-breeds like Ellie to his bed?
Worse-- what if God didn't want him to change at all? What if this had been His plan all along? What if He'd let John go through so much torture as a child, left him to fall far enough to slit his own wrists in despair, solely to create the kind of warrior Constantine had become? What were twenty years of one soul's suffering, after all, against the probability of creating a weapon He could send against the most powerful soldiers of both Hell and Heaven?
Like the book said, God worked his work in mysterious ways. Some people liked it-- but John was never going to be one of them.
The most frustrating part of the entire situation, though-- the part that got under John's skin the most-- was that none of his bitching was going to change the inevitable. That one, brief glimpse beyond the pearly gates had been enough to make him want to be better, on some fundamental, subconscious level; to prod his atrophied conscience into clamoring at him on a daily basis. To make him stand still when Midnite moved to say a prayer over him, and pick up a Bible from time to time as more than a roadmap for prophecies and exorcisms. It made him sick, when he caught himself succumbing-- and made other people smile at him, with that idiotic approving look on their faces, when he didn't. He was John Constantine; he didn't need anyone else's endorsement.
At least he could count on the half-breeds not to have changed. The demon-touched still watched him with sneers of fury and lust, and the part-angelic still favored him with as much condescension as ever. He was pretty sure that lot hadn't forgiven him for his part in what had happened to Gabriel. It was just as well; he was unsettled enough as it was. If he actually started getting smiles when he walked into Midnite's, he'd have to start checking around for rabbit holes.
For so many years, he'd struggled against the fate he'd known was coming; and now that he'd unexpectedly earned a reprieve, he was finding it just as hard to adapt. Fortunately-- though whose fortune it actually was, John couldn't say-- he wasn't alone in this particular endeavor.
He looked up from his hands as the door of the confessional creaked open, and smiled a little, wryly, as Angela emerged. "Had enough self-flagellation for one day?" he asked, dryly.
"Have you?" she asked calmly, raising an eyebrow as she reached the end of his pew.
He sighed, glancing up at the crucifix hanging prominently within his line of sight, and shook his head, not trusting himself to speak.
"I'll get you to come to service with me one of these days," she said, not unkindly, as he got to his feet and followed her out of the church.
"Baby steps, Angela, baby steps," he murmured in reply.
Recent raindrops glittered on the pavement as they walked toward her car, but the only thing to fall on his upturned face was a shaft of light.