It was only afterwards that Angela thought maybe she should have talked to John before her first exorcism. At least got some tips. But after all, she rationalised, it wasn't as though she went looking for it. It happened to her.
She'd known the family forever. Hell, she'd been Confirmed with Lucia. Two giggling girls in pristine white dresses. That had been a decade before that bastard skipped off and left Luce in disgrace with little Marcus. Not so pristine. They still giggled, though. Angela went over every Wednesday for dinner.
It had been a long day, and Angela had barely registered what the noises on the phoneline were about, but as soon as Lucia's voice cracked, Angela was alert. Couldn't have said why. Didn't need to justify it anymore. "--maybe not this week," Lucia was saying.
"Is something wrong, Luce?"
The slightest hitch of breath, like an aborted sob. "No. Everything's--"
"I'm coming over."
Angela expected... she didn't even know what. Bruises from some bastard new boyfriend. Marcus in trouble, maybe. Not Lucia in her arms as soon as the door opened, almost too hysterical to cry, saying, "--to the bed, Jesus Ange, I've tied him to the fucking bed, oh God--"
She had. She'd found two old baggae straps, and Marcus was stretched out on his bed, cinched tight at shoulders and waist. He was lying as pale and still as if he were dead (scratches stood out livid across his ribs, not thorns, not like he'd fallen, from fingernails) but when Angela took the first step into the room, his eyes snapped open, swivelling to her. Not to his mother, clutching at her hand and babbling, but to her. They were wide and dark and alien.
"Luce," Angela said, not breaking eye contact. "I want you to go and make some chocolate. Some of your fabulous hot chocolate. You know how much Marcus likes it. He's going to want some."
It took an interminable moment, but then her hand was released, and Angela heard Lucia go away down the corridor. She stepped fully into the room, and shut the door.
"You picked the wrong body to jump into," she said, walking around the bed as that black gaze followed her. There was anger billowing under her skin, but something else too. Something golden and burning. Faith.
She touched the cross hanging over her sternum, but it was just metal. She stepped up to the bedside, and put her hand on Marcus's forehead.
She remembered not pushing, but just willing, pouring her faith out into him.
She remembered needing more purchase, setting the palm of her other hand on his bare chest, over his heart.
She remembered him thrashing, arching up, snarling and twisting, and that it simply did not matter.
And then he was crying, saying, "Auntie Angie?" like the child he never wanted to be these days, and she fumbled the straps loose, dragging him up and into her hug, saying, "Shh, it's OK, your mother's made hot chocolate..."
"Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It has been -- uh..." She trailed off, losing count.
"It's been quite a while," Father Garrett said from the other side of the screen. Angela shifted, uncomfortable in the confines, and he added, "I've been worried."
The laugh took her by surprise. "So much for the anonymity of the confessional."
"I've been worried, Angela," he said, "because last time you seemed so very uncertain. I was afraid you were wandering lost in the world of the Lord. You've always had the light of the faith, my child, but you were guttering. You were growing dim. When you did not return I feared you had gone out altogether."
"Never, Father," Angela protested.
"So I see." There was a smile in his voice, or she didn't know him at all. "You have graced us again and..." Was that uncertainty? She'd never heard it from him before. "My child, you are positively dazzling."
The words caught her in the solar plexus, pushed the breath from her. She thought of the golden burn; something thrummed beneath her skin.
"I have heard about what happened to the Bentivenga boy," Father Garrett said. He paused, perhaps to allow Angela to say something, but she couldn't find where her words were kept. "Is there anything you would like to tell me, Angela?"
Angela looked down, twisting her fingers together. Surely, if anyone would understand, Father Garrett would. "I doubted God's place for me, Father."
"Certain things have been made clear that were... hidden, previously."
Another pause from the other side of the screen. "Are you telling me that you have found the path God has laid for you, my child?"
Had she? Angela thought of Marcus, of his eyes, his eyes, meeting hers over his mug of hot chocolate, and she had felt that it was perfect. That it was right. Heaven help her, she had no idea what she was doing. "Is it possible, Father, to know the path when it's under your feet, but not be able to see where it might be leading you?"
"My child, I feel that way every moment of my life."
Angela took a breath, taking in the mustiness of the confessional, all the weight of those uncertainties. They didn't feel so very heavy.
"Do you still need my guidance, Angela?" Father Garrett asked, a gentle nudge.
"I-- I still need a friend, Father." She hesitated, then smiled. "And I'd actually like to confess, you know, so that I can take communion."
He laughed. "Very well. Go on."
Angela folded her hands in front of her again. "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. I have had impure thoughts..."
Impure thoughts. Like she was fourteen again. Damn him.
It was unexpected for John to knock at her door. When they met, these days, it was because she'd chased him down, dragged him out for coffee, made him come over for dinner, and then he'd always bell up from the front of the building (never "It's me", always "It's Constantine").
He was just there when she opened the door.
"You should check the peephole," he stated, coming inside as she gave way for him.
"Yes sir," Angela said, closing the door behind him. "I thought you were someone else."
"Who?" John asked. He was standing in her living room, taking up all of the space.
"Someone who visits me," she shot back.
He gave her a look, and she felt absurdly like she'd kicked a puppy. As if they came any less like puppies and any more like mastifs than him.
"You want a drink or something?" she asked, coming into the room. "I had wine with dinner or I can put on some coffee."
"No, thanks, I'm fine."
Fine. Fine standing in the middle of her goddamn apartment and suddenly Angela felt like she could scream. Why? Why did he solve everything and then make her life so difficult? Why did he say that he'd like to see her and then never actually do anything about it? Why couldn't--? She grit her teeth. "Well then, what the fuck can I do for you?"
He looked startled. She was startled. But she stood her ground, kept her hand on her hip where it had fallen, just naturally. "I heard about that boy," he said.
"He had a name," Angela said. "Marcus Bentivenga."
"They all have names." Well, John had found something too, turned to face her fully with a little flip of that coat of his. Set his jaw. "Tell me you didn't exorcise him by yourself."
You what? "There was something in him," she snapped. "Something that wasn't a part of him. When I was done it was gone. You tell me the fancy official demon-hunter term for what I did!"
"Dammit." Like it was the worst thing he could have heard. Of all the arrogant pricks; she knew cops like him, had worked alongside them, bastards who didn't think she should carry a gun in case she shot herself in the foot. "Angela, you can't--"
"Fuck you." It was amazing, surprising, how good it felt to say it. "I can't what, use this power I was born with? You helped me find it again, did you think I was going to sit at home and tell fortunes?"
John took two steps closer, got up in her face. "You can't just use it like that! Without equipment, without ritual, without--"
"Seemed to work from where I was standing!"
"We don't do it that way for fun!" he shouted, and then took a breath, deep but hasty. "Dammit, Angela, it's for protection. The symbols, the circles, what the fuck ever, it's all about putting barriers between you and whatever demonic bastard's got himself tucked away inside the innocent. You just march in and face up to it... Do you have any idea how fucking vulnerable you were?"
Angela folded her arms across her chest. "How is it any different to what you and Chas did to me?"
A muscle in John's cheek jumped and he took a step closer, over her now, but though she wished for a moment that she hadn't said that name, she held her ground. "We knew what we were doing," he said.
"Oh, bullshit," she exploded. "You had no fucking clue. You were desperate, you were reaching, you were operating on spit and blind faith. Well, so was I."
"Angela," he said, like a demand, and then seemed to run out of words, because his hands were on her upper arms, gripping like insistance, and he pulled her forwards against him.
He kissed the way she would have expected if she'd thought about it, hard and fast, tongue sliding against her teeth as she was not-quite gasping, and she tilted against him, drawn in by his urgency, tugged off balance by how much she'd hoped. Nothing like she had hoped. Too sharp, too brutal, too late, damn him, why now, why here, what was wrong with him?
She got her hands up between them and pushed. John went like he'd been expecting it, unhanding her and spinning away, three quick steps over to the window and a stoic contemplation of the electric-starred night. His back to her.
And Angela there, standing in the middle of her apartment and gasping, trying to find her equilibrium. Always trying to find something. No idea. No idea where this path was leading her, and wasn't that just typical of life, to keep moving and changing long after any reasonable story would have had the sense to stop.
There was a bitter taste in her mouth. "Have you started smoking again?" she asked.
At the window, John shook his head. "I should go," he said, and strode across the room, around her, to the door.
He stopped, in the doorway, and looked back at her. "You taste like heaven," he said. And then he was gone.
Post Partum by dee
All stories are works of fan-fiction by Dee. "Fan-fiction" means that she does not own any of the core creative concepts and characters, but she does heap adulation, appreciation and awe upon those people who do hold the intellectual property rights to those concepts and characters. Further, any instances of real people are fictional, and the author does not wish to suggest any truth should be attached to the actions, emotions and words attributed to them in these fictional stories.