She used to visit every week, on a Tuesday. That got difficult, because Mondays are a bitch, even for cops (especially for cops) and she didn't like to visit him when she'd woken up screaming. So she switched it to Thursdays, and then Fridays, and then just came whenever she could. Sometimes it was every two weeks, and she felt guilty about that, but she's used to guilt where John's concerned. It's to be expected. He's family. They're good at guilt, the Constantines.
When it'd been a while since her last visit, he punished her by just sitting at the window and writing on the glass with a finger, smearing messages against the sky. Not saying a word until she'd had enough and stormed out, slamming the door and feeling even angrier, because that was how he won, these days.
Or he'd ask questions - always a bastard with questions, was John - like, "How many people have you shot this week?"
She'd punish him right back by telling the truth. "Two." The nurse would scold her about that, if she heard. It excites the patients to hear about violence. Angela really couldn't give a crap about the nurse.
"In the dark," he said, watching her reflection in the glass. "One bullet each. Dead-Eye Dodson. Do they call you that?"
He hated the name, she knew he hated the name. He took every chance to stomp on it, to grind it underfoot. "How you feeling, John?" she asked. When did she get so good at ignoring him?
He drew the curtains. The room grew golden, tinted with bad seventies orange-and-brown. Turning around, he said, "I'm just peachy."
About the time he stopped bothering to tell her convincing lies.
"Drink?" Weiss offered, at the end of Friday, same as always.
"Can't," Angela said.
"Visitation?" he asked, folding his arms over his chest as he leant against the corner of her desk. That was it. He didn't need to say any more. He knew that Angela knew what he thought about it.
"No, actually," she said. "Date."
He snorted. "Another weirdo?"
She knew what he thought about that, too. "Shut up." She didn't know yet, anyway. It was a blind date, a set-up by a cousin. "Just your type," she'd cooed.
Angela didn't know that she had a type. She'd gone for all sorts, in her youth. Never liked the slick guys, the smooth-talkers, the sharp-cut young professionals in their suits. Never, just a thing, made her skin crawl. But apart from that...
As it turned out, the guy was weird. And not bad looking. But she didn't understand him and he, she realised before they've even got past pre-dinner drinks, certainly didn't understand her. She made him feel nervous, she could tell by the twitch of his fingers and the scent of his breath when he laughed. She manufactured a forgotten something, and left him to it.
She's used to that. She's made every guy since Charles nervous, and that's most likely because after Charles, she stopped trying. She had what she'd wanted, anyway. When she wasn't trying, apparently there was only one man in the world who understood her. He'd been in Ravenscar for six years now. What did that say about her?
Weiss and the others were still at the bar by the time she arrived, and she drank enough that she could remember throwing up in a gutter, but not how she got home. She woke up alone and fully dressed apart from her jacket. Weiss hadn't even left a post-it note on her mirror or a message on her phone, and somehow that made her feel even worse than if he had.
She went to confession in the day or two after she'd visited John. Not because she had more to confess then, but because if she did it the other way round, he could tell somehow. "You stink of faith," he'd spit at her, and she'd wonder if it was the incense or the wood of the confessional or maybe even the communion wafer, all the time knowing it was none of those.
He hated her beliefs, he hated her name, he hated what she did for a living... most times Angela even thought he hated reminders that they were related, that the same blood flowed in their veins. But when she didn't visit and he punished her with silence, everything about it screamed, "I thought you'd abandoned me."
On the days when he didn't make her too angry, she'd lay a hand on him, on his chest, and sometimes her head on his shoulder, and that meant, "Never."
She went to confession in the day or two after she'd visited him, and repeated the usual list of misdemeanours. Disrespect towards their mother. Lies and doubts and disbeliefs. A man shot dead with a single bullet, barely aimed.
Place-holders. Certainties. Until she could figure out the names of her real sins.
Like feeling alone in the world without him. Even on the days when she hated him so hard she could feel it bleeding her white.
The day she got shot was a Tuesday, fine, bright and beautiful, and it happened just after ten in the morning - getting it out of the way nice and early, she thought, surreal.
She couldn't quite remember how it happened, and she wanted to, she needed to, because things like this didn't happen to her. They didn't. She lay on the pavement looking up at the sky past a fringe of concerned faces, trying to figure out what had happened. The pain took even longer to get past the wave of denial.
Weiss was at her side, pressing firm and - ow - hard on her shoulder, and she turned her head a little and said, "How did this happen?"
"Shut up," he snarled, and she knew he wasn't angry at her.
Angela was delirious and half unconscious in the ambulance. There were two of them, she realised. Two of them. Once, John told her that there were two of us as well. There still were, it's just that they hadn't been "us" in years. Just two individuals.
She was going to visit John that day, and the irony was that they took her to Ravenscar, and at some stage in the pained and drugged delirium of that day or the next or the one after, she gasped out a message, but she never knew if it got delivered. How could she? She wasn't allowed out of IC to visit him, and they'd never let him out to visit her.
One day she asked after him, though, and the nurse went away and came back and told her blithely that he was very well, showing great improvement, and she needed her rest. Angela knew she hadn't actually asked and found out, because John didn't improve. He hadn't improved in six years, why would he start now? It was a point of fucking honour or something.
Weiss visited her. He even brought flowers, and wore the shit she gave him over it. Even better, he brought her a little bar of dark chocolate with almonds, and the news that they'd arrested the guy who shot her.
"Great," she said, breaking the chocolate in half. "And the other guy?"
Weiss took the chocolate and gave her a look. "What other guy?"
The guy behind him. The one who shot me and the other guy. But Weiss had been there too. "Huh," she said.
Two weeks she was in the hospital, and when she got home there were six messages on her machine, which was more than she'd ever had before at once. Three were from their mother - "Do call us, Angel"; "Thank that nice Detective Weiss for me"; "You will come and visit us?" - one was the weirdo blind date, one the cousin (asking about the date), and one was Ravenscar, informing her that due to dramatic and sincere improvement, John Constantine was going to be released on Friday afternoon, at 3pm.
She didn't know which Friday it was talking about. She couldn't figure out any way to get the machine to tell her.
It was ridiculous. Ridiculous. John didn't improve. It was like he didn't want to be out, like he'd never wanted it. Angela had tried so hard, fought this epic struggle, to get him released for a weekend to attend her wedding. And when she'd finally managed it, finally talked everyone around and signed her life away for it, she'd gone into his room to tell him and he'd just looked at her. Hard, black eyes.
"I'm not going," he said.
"What?" It was her hard voice, she realised. Charles called it her cop voice. "Do you realise what I've had to do to get this?"
"Then maybe you should've asked first." He could have turned his back on her, looked out the window, dismissed her. He just kept staring at her, standing there in the centre of the room. "I'm not going."
"It's my wedding, John." Oh, she'd been so angry. Angry enough to take the step closer and thump her palm against his chest. "My fucking wedding; I'm your twin sister, for Christ's sake; I want you there!"
He caught her wrist, eyes glittering, face hard. "You can throw yourself away without my blessing." His mouth twisted in his most vicious sneer. "But do convey all my best wishes to... what's his name again?"
He yanked her closer, the bones in her wrist grinding beneath his grip. "What's his fucking name, Angela?"
"Charles Dodson," he repeated, hissing in her ear, and for that moment, until the door burst open and the orderlies dragged him back, she had actually been afraid of him.
First and only time.
She called Ravenscar, and learned that it was the Friday just gone that John had been released. They didn't know where he'd gone.
Neither did Angela.
He'd only been free for a weekend. He could still be anywhere. He'd been inside for more than six years; where could he go? He was hardly likely to go to their parents. If he had, there'd be more than just those three messages on Angela's phone. He hadn't come here, or maybe he had and she hadn't been here, but he'd known - hadn't he? - that she was in the hospital. She didn't have any up-to-date contact details for the people he'd associated with before going into Ravenscar, so it was a sure bet that he didn't either.
LA had never seemed so huge. Where the hell was he?
"We cannot put out an APB on him when you've just mislaid him," Weiss said, and Angela could hear the eyeroll. "So are you feeling better?"
"Just peachy," she said, and hung up.
Finally, Angela called the number on a scrap of paper shoved away in her address book and forgotten about.
"Beeman," the voice on the other end said.
She took a deep breath. Beeman had just shown up, six years back, around the time it all went crazy and they'd had no choice but to put John in Ravenscar. He'd said he was an independent investigator who found John's case "interesting", and could he ask a few questions? Angela hadn't particularly liked his questions, and John had liked them even less, and after the second interview ended in shouting, the nurses had asked that he not come back again.
He'd shrugged, and given Angela his number on a torn-off corner of his notebook. "My area is the unusual," he'd said, shoving his glasses up his nose. He was full of nervous habits, she remembered. "Call me if it seems appropriate."
"Hello?" he said.
"Uh," she said, "Mr Beeman. My name is Angela Dodson."
"Dodson?" he repeated.
She cleared her throat. "We met six years ago. It was Angela Constantine, then."
"Ah," he said, and there was the sound of shifting paper, a few clicks and thumps. "Yes, Constantine. I remember. Brother John. Most interesting. Long time. How are you both, Ms Dodson?"
"John was released from Ravenscar on Friday. I don't... I don't know where he is." It sounded so stupid. So fucking stupid. Angela forced her grip on the phone to relax. "I thought, perhaps..."
"Hmm," Beeman said. "I could ask some questions in the right corners. You'd be surprised how small the world is, Ms Dodson. I'd like to see you and your brother reunited. Oh yes. Shall I call you back?"
Angela leant her forehead against the cool glass of the window, and gave him her number.
Beeman's directions led her to a bar she'd never heard of before. Angela wasn't really dressed for clubbing, just pants and a shirt and the big coat that covered her holster, never mind that she really didn't have any official right to shoot at this point. She headed down the stairs, lurching to a halt in front of the leather-strapped bouncer.
He held up a card, and she frowned. "What the hell?" The guy just watched her, card held up.
John was here. She knew it. Somehow. She needed to find him. He was her responsibility. She actually pressed her hand to her lower back, feeling the press at her hip, but the said, "Look, it's a very nice card, and I'm sure your job is riveting, but I'm here for Constantine."
She wasn't sure why she said it like that. She wasn't sure why her skin prickled. Before she had time to think about it too much, a woman - at least, Angela thought it was a woman; svelte figure, green eyes - appeared out of the club and said, "Come with me."
The place was dark and full of bodies and the beat of the music. Angela didn't look around much; she was more interested in keeping an eye on the woman leading her, the reassuring weight at her hip against the skitter still on her skin. They ended up down a back corridor, in front of a padded wall. There was a chair, and the woman flicked a finger at it, tossing, "Wait here," over her shoulder as she walked away.
Angela sat, leaned back against the wall. Pulled the gun from the holster to run her thumb along the barrel and wonder just why she'd brought it and the wall - actually a door - opened. It filled up with shadow; a big man, black, in a questionable suit and utterly ridiculous hat. For a moment she thought there was smoke coming out of him, but then she realised he was smoking a cigar.
She stood up, but it didn't help; he was just all around big, and she still didn't like the look he was giving her.
"Well," he said, a rolling Caribbean voice smokey as rum, "look what the cat dragged in."
Angela smiled pleasantly at him. "And just who the hell are you?" she demanded.
He just chuckled. "One for you," he said, stepping back a little and turning, so she could see into the room that he'd been blocking the doorway of.
And John was there, leaning against the big, cluttered desk, hands in the pockets of his trousers, studying the carpet. He was wearing... a suit? She'd never seen him in anything like that, and he looked well, surprisingly well, well enough to have her off balance and she hated that. "My sister," he said, no inflection.
The big black guy laughed again. "The resemblance is uncanny."
This wasn't her brother. Her brother was in a hospital room, her brother was crazy, her brother was waiting for her. This man looked sane - thin and bothered, but sane. Sure. Certain. A step ahead of her. He looked up, met her eyes, his own black with determination and pride and... and she didn't know. Anger? She didn't know him like this, and it felt like a tragedy.
"John," she said. As though she needed the confirmation, and maybe she did.
"Angela," he said in response. His voice, him. She had the urge to run to him, like a flinch, then it was gone.
"If you're going to shoot him," the other guy said, and Angela was surprised to find she'd forgotten him, "do it outside. Upsets the patrons."
John snorted. "I bet it does."
Angela looked down, flexed her fingers around the grip of her gun. She didn't put it away, though. She had a short, hard list of things she defined herself by, and she'd already given up two of them tonight.
"Well," John said, "we'll be going then." She looked up, and he was moving, picking up a black coat, striding towards the door and her. She tried, involuntarily, to take a step back, but the chair was there and she knocked it up against the wall. John glanced at her, then clapped the big guy on the shoulder. "Thanks, Midnite. I'll be in touch."
The guy - Midnight? - hummed contemplatively, grinned at Angela around his cigar.
Her apartment was precisely the right size for her, grown to fit her like a glove, and too small with him in it. He stood in the middle of it, looking around, and Angela felt stripped bare. Ridiculously self-conscious.
"Sit down," she offered, though it sounded more like an order. He just looked at her, because of course he wasn't good at orders; hadn't they been telling him 'get better' for years? Hadn't he been ignoring them all this time? She elbowed past him, heading for the kitchen. "Want a drink?"
"Sure," he said behind her, same way he'd say it when she asked if he'd play Ken, when she asked if this top was OK, when she said she'd be back to visit him again next week.
She retreated into the kitchen, but she could still feel him stalking around the living room, and it was like he'd caught her unawares. Like she needed time to get herself in order before she let him in, but it was too late now. The clock on the microwave told her it was one fifty-four. At least she didn't have to be at work tomorrow, still convalescing from the bullet wound that never should have happened.
When she came back out with a beer in each hand, he was on his knees by the window, at eye level with the crowded line of framed photographs on its sill. She froze in the doorway, opened her mouth.
John looked up from the photos, and she forgot what she was going to say. It was them, in the frames. The two of them, over and over again. Covered in jam and mischief; both looking at something out a window, short-haired, impossible to tell apart; behind a cake with eight candles ablaze for each of them; teenaged and dressed up for some dance or other. They'd had pictures taken with their dates as well, but Angela hadn't kept those, even though John looked pinched and distracted in this one, and she wasn't quite smiling.
The one John picked up was loose, tucked between two others, not even in a frame. "This Charles?" he asked, off-hand.
"Yeah," she said, setting his beer on the table.
"Sorry I never had the chance to meet him," John said, examining the photograph.
Like hell he was. John was turning the picture over, looking at the back. Angela couldn't remember what she'd written there. My husband? Married 19th March, divorce finalised just after Christmas? "He was a nice guy." She'd kept the photo and the name. Last she'd heard, six months ago, he'd had his first kid in Baltimore.
"Good," John said. Put down the picture, picked up his beer. He was still wearing his suit, jacket and tie, and he looked a little incongruous swigging from the bottle. Hard to tell past the base incongruity of her brother standing in her living room.
"What the hell are you doing out?" she demanded.
He looked at her placidly. She couldn't remember when he'd started doing that, when he'd started making no sense. "I thought it was time."
"You thought--" Her grip tightened on the neck of her beer bottle, the urge to hurl it at him sudden and acute. "Why now, John? If you could just waltz out any time you felt like it, why wait until now?"
He shrugged. Angela wanted to scream. Six years she'd been alone because... what? He didn't feel like taking responsibility for himself in the real world?
She slammed her beer down on the table. What she said, though, tight and angry through her teeth, was, "Blankets and pillows in the cupboard. Make yourself at home."
She closed the bedroom door quietly behind her. Alone in the dark, but with her brother just on the other side. She'd missed him so much, for so long, that the habit was hard to shake.
She slept better than she had in years.
When she woke up the following morning he was already in the kitchen, coffee brewed, one of her potplants (died, while she was in hospital; you didn't think of those things when you'd been shot) half an inch deep in ash. He hadn't smoked the whole time he was in Ravenscar, but by the looks of it, he'd had no trouble picking up the habit again.
Angela felt seventeen again, like they weren't alone in her flat, but standing in the kitchen of the big echoing house in Hancock Park. Angela just home, John's bed unslept in, Dad locked in the study with a call from Tokyo and Mother fled the house for one of her charities, because the tragedies of other people were less confronting than her own children.
She blinked, and it went away. They never had to go back there.
He was in trousers and shirt, tie shucked, sleeves rolled up, the tendons in his forearm stringy against the skin as he poured coffee for her. He was skin and bone and spirit; always had been, and Ravenscar hadn't helped. Any of it.
"You have plans?" she asked.
"Find the bastard who shot you." John said it matter-of-factly, rinsing the coffeepot, flicking water off his fingers.
"They caught him," Angela told him. He leant against the sink and looked at her. Just looked. She looked back, thinking two of us. Two of them.
"You got anything better to do?" he asked.
She didn't. She was off work for three more weeks yet.
She sort of hated John driving her car. The mirror twitched to suit his height, his hands on the steering wheel, careless and sure. She didn't even know how the hell he had his license, but he drove with calm certainty, like he knew where all the other cars were. Angela stared out the window so she didn't have to watch.
"Do you know where we're going?" he'd demanded.
"Do you?" she'd shot back.
"No. But I will."
John pulled over and Angela blinked as the engine stopped, seeing the scenery for the first time.
"This is it," John said.
"This is a bowling alley," she objected.
"This is it," he repeated, and got out of the car. There didn't seem to be much else to do but follow him.
It was the middle of a Wednesday; the place was hardly packed. A couple guys by the bar, some Asian students in lane four, and way down the end - lane thirteen - a lone kid with his feet up on the scoreboard. Book in his lap, cap pulled down low over his eyes. He looked up as they came nearer, Angela half a step behind John. Soft, was her impression. Curls, warm eyes, still a kid's fleshy face. Couldn't be more than eighteen.
But that wasn't quite right, her instinct told her. She knew that look well, had faced off with it once a week. Somewhere inside that boy, he'd already well and truly grown up.
He flipped his book shut - A Practical Necronomicon, Angela read - and looked up at John. "Yeah what?"
"We want to see him," John said.
The kid didn't look moved. "And who are you?"
The kid's eyes slid to her. "Angela Dodson," she said, watching him so she couldn't see the twitch of John's jaw.
The kid shrugged. Tossed his book onto the scoreboard and swung his feet down. There was a gleaming white ball in the rack; he took it, squared up, and sent it thundering down the aisle with barely a flourish.
As soon as it was out of his hands, he turned to them, resettling his cap on his head. "Let's go," he said, as behind his back, the ball cleaned up the skittles for a textbook strike.
Beeman appeared to live in a narrow apartment above the bowling alley, cluttered with junk that Angela didn't recognise apart from a vague feeling of unease. He looked much the same as he had six years ago, just more so: smaller, thinner, greyer, more nervous. After the kid had led them into the apartment, Beeman pushed his glasses up and blinked owlishly at them. Angela hadn't realised it was him they were coming to see.
"You should've called," he said.
"I should've," she agreed, looking pointedly across at John.
He was glaring back - though honestly, how did he think she'd found him? - but anything he may have been going to say was shunted aside by Beeman turning to him with an excited twitch, saying, "And John Constantine, after all these years. And looking so well."
Angela looked at him sharply, but it didn't seem to be a dig. He was either genuinely happy to see John, genuinely impressed with his wellbeing, or an excellent actor.
John didn't seem to have any doubt. He smiled, that thin smile of his that looked like an insult but was actually sincere. "I'm trying."
"So I see, so I see." Beeman was practically beaming. "Timing and motivation, I suppose. Good to see."
John shrugged; Angela was caught out staring, and turned away, her gaze falling on the kid lounging by the window amongst what looked like water cooler bottles.
"Oh!" Beeman said, stepping away from the bench he'd been working at when they came in. "Where are my manners? This is Chas..." He hesitated. "Or have you already met?"
Angela smiled at the kid, that flat smile of hers that ticked all the boxes and was entirely insincere. "Not really with names."
Beeman nodded happily, and patted Chas on the shoulder. "Very useful young man. Helps me a lot. With the physical side of things. Not as young as I was and this business... well, you know. Or maybe not." He prodded at his glasses again, though Angela doubted they'd slipped much in the past two minutes. "What was it you needed again?"
Time to look pointedly at John again; Angela hadn't a clue. He didn't look back at her, of course, leaning against a bench piled high with boxes labelled cigarrillos. "Information. Someone who knows the lay of the land." Someone who hasn't been locked away for six years. Angela heard it, even if he didn't say it. He glanced at her then, just quickly before looking back at Beeman, his eyes black and blank. "She got attacked."
Nothing more, but Beeman nodded as though he'd been given an entire dossier and ample grist for an investigative mill. "Not really our line, of course," he said. "You'd be able to get more out of Midnite."
John didn't smile, just one corner of his mouth twitching up. "Midnite says he isn't taking sides."
A tisk, a little grin, a twitch of Beeman's head that could be a shake. "That Midnite," he said. "Both ends against the middle." He chuckled. "Do what we can, then. You'll want a hand, of course, with the--"
"No," John stated, unhurried and flat.
Beeman blinked at him. "Tricky business, John, and like I said, Chas is very--"
Interrupted again. "No one else," John said. He wasn't looking at Angela; wouldn't look at her. He didn't cross his arms, didn't shift his weight. "No one else gets involved in this."
Beeman prodded his glasses again. "Oh."
It had been John's 'non-negotiable' tone of voice. Quick learner, this Beeman guy. Angela had known John her whole life, and she still tried to argue sometimes. Then again, wasn't that her job?
"I'm hungry," she said, back on the sidewalk, and held out her hand. "Keys." When he lifted an eyebrow at her, she said, crossing around to the other side of the car, "Do you know where we're going?"
He pegged them at her head, but she'd been expecting that, and caught them.
She took them to an Italian place a few blocks from her apartment, a food factory with an unimaginative menu and a cheap winelist. The waitress sat them at a cosy little table with a pink rose in a fake crystal vase.
John ignored the menu and looked around. "Come here often?" She shrugged, and he gave one of those knowing little huffs, a little smirk. "Yeah, it's your favourite, isn't it?"
Too many tables for intimacy, waitstaff on constant rotation, no need to pretend friendliness with someone who saw her every week and thought that meant something. "It's OK," she said.
She had carbonara and he had gnocchi and ate like a man released from prison. She had to admit, compared to hospital food, it was manna from heaven.
The waitress cleared their plates, asked if they wanted to see the dessert menus. John ordered black coffee, and tartufo.
"Tartufo?" Angela asked as she left.
"That's for you," he said, and she felt her eyebrows go up. "You love it," he added.
"When I was seventeen." She'd also loved Van Halen, and guys with tattoos, or letterman jackets, or both.
John shrugged, like that wasn't his problem.
The tartufo came with two spoons, but he sipped his coffee and refused to have any, until she dropped some into his cup, and then he glared at her like they were six and she'd just eaten his play-dough. He did have some, after that, and she drank the last of his coffee, bitter and black with an odd note of chocolate ice.
She went up to the counter to pay, and he went outside for a cigarette. The woman who ran the bar and the register was the only fixture in the place, but she called Angela bella and never recognised her so it was fine, great, like helping an old lady across the street. All the good feeling and none of the responsibility.
Turning around, she ran into last month's blind date. "Angela!" he said, sounding surprised, but pleased.
She went dredging for his name. "Marcus." God bless her cop's memory. "Hi. How's things?"
"Good," he said. "Great." He stepped aside, waved the guy next in line ahead of him. "What about you? Are you--? I mean, Paula said you'd been, well..."
"Shot." Paula, the cousin. Mother's family had never really approved of a girl being a police officer, and that's what Angela always was to them, a girl. Funny how that attitude could rub off, or something. "I was. Still off work."
"Damn," Marcus said. "Criminals these days, huh?"
"Yeah. Look, I should let you get back to--"
He waved a hand over his shoulder. "Just my brother." Then he hesitated. "Are you...?"
She had a moment, one blinding moment where she wondered if she'd been wrong, if he hadn't been uneasy around her. If maybe she'd imagined it or maybe it had just been her being uneasy around him and maybe the problem wasn't guys at all, it was her.
And then John was at her shoulder, with the tinkle of the entrance bell in his immediate past and the stale stench of nicotine still clinging to his coat. "We should be going. Sorry," he said to Marcus.
"Oh," Marcus said. "Right, sure." He took half a step back, and gave a little wave. "Say hi to Paula for me, next time you talk."
They were out on the sidewalk by the time Angela realised he'd thought John was a date. Then again, the cozy table, two spoons with dessert; he hadn't been the only one.
Someone loomed up on her left, and she only just had time to glance up before they knocked her shoulder - her injured shoulder, and it jarred like something had torn open, a jagged white rip across her vision gone when she blinked, pain tingling in her fingertips. And a face in her memory, a pinstripe suit and a smile, a sneer, a look that said he knew her like he'd watched her grow. John was grabbing her other shoulder, saying her name, and she gasped, "Him."
But when she whirled around, out of John's grip, there was no one on the sidewalk behind her that looked like him at all.
John stepped in front of her. "The hell?" he demanded.
Angela tried to look past him, but there wasn't anything to see anyway. She was still holding her injured shoulder, the pain dissipating now like a dying alarm. "It was him," she said. "The guy, the other guy, the second guy. The one who shot me." The one who really shot me.
But that didn't make any sense, because Weiss said they'd got him, arrested and arraigned, she'd seen him, picked him out of a line-up, and there'd only been one. All the eye witnesses agreed; there'd only been one.
John didn't say any of that. Just stood there as she gaped up at him, and when she closed her mouth he slid his arm around her - carefully, tenderly like she'd almost forgotten he could be - and walked them home, holding her close against his side. And even though she really didn't need it, the pain gone like it had never been, she let him.
She woke up in the night, tied up in her sweaty bedsheets and parched. She got up to get water, and had almost forgotten John was on the couch - midnight amnesia - until she startled at the unfamiliar pattern of light and shadow there. He was curled up, face to the couch back, like he was hiding from the world. She tiptoed through the room to the kitchen.
When she came back out he'd rolled over, flat on his back, one arm falling off the couch and trailing his knuckles on the floor. She thought he was probably awake, and he hadn't made a noise, but with John that didn't always mean he hadn't been having a nightmare.
She set her glass on the table when she knelt beside the couch. Laid her hand on his bare chest, the slight tackiness of sleep-sweat where the blanket had slipped down. Laid her head on his shoulder, felt the faintest brush of his hand against her hair.
They'd lain like this as children, when one of them had had a nightmare and no one else in the house needed to know. Angela had never known if it helped. John had never said. It helped her, but she'd never said that either. Before they got too old to admit that the nightmares needed helping.
Too old now. She stood up, picked up her glass, went back to bed.
Next morning the buzzer went while she was in the shower. Angela had shut off the water, reached for her towel, before she realised John should get it.
It cut off. John had got it. She could hear the low burr of his voice, but no specifics. She towelled off brusquely, never one to linger in the bathroom, and cracked the door as she heard the intercom beep off. "Who is it?" she asked.
"Chas," John called back from the hall.
Angela shrugged into her robe and came out still cinching it at the waist. "What does--?" was as far as she got before she practically ran into John. Fuck it. This apartment was entirely not big enough for both of them.
John's hand was up, hovering, reluctant to settle when she didn't actually need steadying. "Says they've found something."
"Already?" She wasn't going to step back. She wasn't afraid of him.
John shrugged. "Coffee?"
She sat at the kitchen table with her coffee and the newspaper, not really paying attention to either. John drank his like it was serious business, leaning against the sink, halfway through by the time Chas knocked once and walked straight in. "In here," John called, and Angela looked up.
Chas paused in the kitchen doorway, looked at her in her bathrobe and John in his shirt and suit pants, same as yesterday; the only clothes he had now. He had a bit of a cocky little smirk, and almost without thinking Angela realised she was giving him her I know what you're thinking and stop it look, honed over years of dealing with delinquents.
She didn't know what he was thinking, but he looked a bit abashed anyway, turned away and dumped the ratty old gym bag he'd been carrying on the counter. It made a variety of slumping metallic sounds. "Some stuff Beeman thought you'd need," he said. "And look, we really don't mind helping--"
"You said you'd found something?" John interrupted. Brusque, unwelcoming. Give it, and get out.
"Yeah," Chas said, crossing his arms over his chest. "Yeah we have, but look man, these guys, they're not people you want to mess with, are you sure you wouldn't--?"
Chas shrugged, like he'd never really cared anyway and whatever the fuck John did was no skin off his nose. Then he darted a glance at Angela and she rethought; no, actually, he didn't like something about the situation. "She's a threat to them," he said. "They've got a grudge; she's killed too many of 'em."
Bodyless pronouns, like they were talking in some sort of code she didn't know and fucking hell, John had been cut off from the world for six years, he wasn't allowed to have codes she didn't understand. "What the fuck?" she demanded. "I haven't done a thing."
There was a moment of stillness, and in it, clear as if he'd said it just now, she heard John saying, Two of them; one bullet each; Dead-Eye Dodson.
It alarms the patients to hear about violence.
Neither of them had said anything. Angela blinked. "What is it?" she asked. "Some crime syndicate we didn't know about?" How did they know about it?
"No," John said, pushing off the sink. He drained the last of his coffee, and gave Chas a business-like nod. "Thanks for your help. But we'll take it from here."
Chas gave a little shake of his head. "What, is this some sort of personal or something?"
"Some sort," John said.
"Whatever," Chas said. "We'll be rooting for you."
The front door closed after him, and the only noise was John rinsing out his mug. There were seething piles of questions Angela thought she should be asking John. (Then what was it; how did he know about it and not her; just how were they supposed to handle it.) But she had unease twisting in the pit of her stomach, like she didn't actually want the answer to any of those questions.
So instead she asked, "Why did you stay in there all that time?"
John set the rinsed mug on the draining board, carefully, and shut off the water, leaning against the faucet with his back to the room. "I thought it would keep me safe," he said to the sink.
She just stared at him, because like fuck he did. He'd had screaming episodes in Ravenscar, she'd been there for some of them, just heard about others from the nurses, the worse ones that she hadn't been there for. He'd been a thin, drawn shell of her brother in there.
He looked up at her. "I thought it would keep you safe."
The first time Angela denied seeing what John had seen they were ten and she was angry with him. She couldn't remember why, just how burning hot it had been inside her, how good it had felt to say, "He's making it up," to their mother and feel John's glare rake across her.
He stopped asking for her support after that; stopped talking about it to Mom at all. Didn't really talk about it themselves either, but then they never had. But Angela started wondering whether he was still seeing it, whether it was still there, until half a dozen years later John had disagreed more strenuously than ever to one of Angela's boyfriends (he always did, always) and in the fight he'd shouted, "Can't you see it?" and she'd yelled, up in his face because they always were, "No, because there's nothing to see."
She'd been right, hadn't she? Because the next time she saw the guy he was entirely normal.
After that she never even imagined she saw. And when John started screaming at night, she was the first into the room next door to try to hold down his sweat-slick shoulders in the dark, he'd be sobbing, "Go away, go away," but she knew he wasn't talking to her, but to him. Until John started locking the door and all Angela could do was hammer at it until he went silent. All she could do was leave.
It started happening in the day, and she never even bothered looking for the dark man, just wondered why John was resolutely imagining someone so awful.
When it all got too much and they signed him into Ravenscar permanently, it was Angela's name on the paperwork, Angela the only one who visited, who cared enough to say, "John, is he still--?"
"Go away," he'd said, staring at the wall.
Chas's gym bag was full of armaments - a pair of knives, a box of shells and a sawn-off shotgun for them to go in, along with a couple of books and sports bottle full of water. The door buzzer sounded when John had them spread all over the coffee table, doing something with the shotgun that Angela had gone into the kitchen to avoid knowing about. She came through to get the buzzer and he was sighting along the truncated barrel out the window.
It was Weiss. "Came by to see how you are," he said, and then when she hesitated, added, "Can I come up?"
"Sure," she said, and hit the door release.
John just looked at her when she turned around. "You going to clear this lot up?" she demanded.
He had the shotgun cracked open again, across his lap. "Wasn't planning on it."
The urge to roll her eyes was pressing, and infantile. "He's a cop."
"So are you."
"I'm also your sister."
He tilted his head, the angle so instantly familiar that she could feel just it alone tweaking her annoyance higher, like a Pavlovian response. "Gee," he said, "really?"
"John," she said, standing over him.
He set the gun aside, on her couch, and stood. She hated the reminder that he was taller. "What?" he said. His own unique breed of belligerence, nothing like any other guy who'd ever thought he was better than her. Maybe because he never seemed like that's what he thought. Somehow John always made it look like he was just holding onto what was his due. "What?" he repeated, softer now, leaning down just a little to her. "What are you ashamed of, An?"
A knock on the door. Angela glared at John, but he just glared back, and she went to open the door.
"Hey Angie," Weiss said, smile on his face and a hand on her uninjured shoulder, not quite an embrace. "Not looking so bad."
"Hey yourself," she said, standing back to let him in. "Told you, I'm fine."
"You're preaching to the choir," Weiss said, and stopped. He was behind her, as she closed the door, but she felt it anyway.
"I think you've only ever seen my brother John in photos," she said, turning around. John was still standing by the couch, and she didn't need to watch Weiss take him in, just saw him with her cop senses - shirtsleeves rolled up, tie lazily knotted, shotgun lying on a cushion, two shotgun shells and a dark-bladed knife on top of Satanism and Witchcraft on the table. Trouble. "John, this is my partner, Xavier Weiss."
Weiss didn't hesitate. Stepped forward, hand out. "Nice to meet you," he said.
It was actually only a moment before John nodded, lifted his own hand to shake. "Yeah, likewise."
"So you're out, then," Weiss said, as reasonable a facsimile of friendliness as Angela could have possibly asked for.
John still wasn't giving anything, of course. "Coming up on a week now."
"Well, good for you."
Enough. "You want a drink?" Angela asked, stepping up to the coffee table, breaking into their circle.
She got a little sidelong glance from Weiss for her trouble. "Wouldn't say no to a beer."
"Sure," she said, stepping back towards the kitchen. "John?"
"No," he said, "thanks. I've things to see to."
Weiss followed her into the kitchen, leaning against the counter as she crouched behind the fridge door, excavating beer from behind the cheese. He waited until she straightened up, closed the fridge, handed him a bottle before he gave her the look - that look, the 'are you sure about this?' look - and said, "Ange."
"What?" she said, and decided to ignore just how much she sounded like John in that one syllable.
If Weiss had been easily put off by a bit of challenge in her voice they wouldn't still be partners. "He's in your living room now? Tell me this is temporary."
She hadn't even thought about things like how long. Was still grappling with the fact of his presence. With what it meant. What it might mean. "I don't-- He's family, Xavier."
"I know that."
But he didn't. Angela had been to Thanksgiving with the family Weiss, all the laughs and the chaos and the fond jokes and a dozen children running roughshod over the indulgent adults. He didn't understand how one person could be everything she had that was worth having. Even a person like John. Especially a person like John.
So she didn't say anything, just picked at the label on the bottle of beer she hadn't even opened yet. He hadn't opened his either, just set it on the counter. "Angela, you can... if you're frightened..."
He was looking at her very seriously when she looked up, and she almost laughed. "What do you think, that he's threatening me? Holding me here against my will or something?"
Weiss leaned forward, his voice dropping lower, closer to a hiss. "He has a sawn-off out there."
"And a box of ammo, and two knives," Angela told him. Steadily, no defensiveness. She felt calm. "This is..." She hesitated, and felt a little smirk twist at her upper lip because he'd misconstrue this, but there was no other way to put it. "This is family business."
He watched her as the seconds ticked by, and finally he shook his head, stepping away from the counter. "Fine," he said. "Whatever. Just..." The hand on her shoulder again, a steady grip. A good man, Weiss. She'd probably never deserved him, really. "Be careful, OK?"
He didn't wait for a response. Headed out, through the living room - she heard his voice and John's, but couldn't pick out the words. Angela put the beer back in the fridge, closed the door as the apartment door closed behind Weiss.
And then she went back into the living room, where John had his feet up on the table beside the shotgun, flicking through the pages of one of the books. He looked up at her as she stood over the coffee table, arms crossed. Didn't say a thing.
Finally, she said, "So, what's the plan?"
The same guy was on the door at Midnite's, looking like a rejected extra from a vampire bondage movie. He held up a card in each hand, ridiculous and blasť, like John wasn't carrying the sawn-off openly. Angela's gun was holstered at her hip again; she was carrying the sports bottle.
"Crow with a gold ring," John said, and she looked sidelong at him.
But the bouncer lowered one of the cards, and looked at her. She stared at the card blankly, and realised. "Oh, you have to be kidding."
The bouncer didn't say anything, and neither did John. She shifted, folding her arms across her chest. It was supposed to be her 'I'm very unimpressed' cop routine, but the water bottle was bulky against her elbow and it ended up feeling more like she was fifteen again, sulking at being caught sneaking in at 3am. John silent beside her didn't help any.
She stared at the card back - stupid rat-faced thing in a dress - and she couldn't. It wasn't possible. John had been here before, he knew or something. He couldn't have seen. He couldn't. She couldn't. She couldn't.
Her fingers were white around the nail, digging into her arm. The bouncer lifted a lazy eyebrow. And Angela said, "Frog prince on a throne."
He lowered the card and stepped aside, and John was pushing past when Angela said, "No, wait." Grabbed the bouncer's wrist, above the leather band. "Show me," she demanded.
"Ange," John said.
But she shook her head, and twisted her grip. "Show me," she repeated.
The bouncer shifted his hand beneath hers, turning the card over. It was upside down from the way she was looking at it, the heavy gold peaks at the top of the throne pointing at her. The frog had a crown, and a large, red, malevolent eye.
She let go of his wrist. Let John's hand curled around her elbow draw her away and into the club. It was dark and full of bodies and the music beat against her like a palpable force. She looked around once to find someone watching her with burning eyes, and she stumbled against John's side as he forced a way through, drawing her in his wake.
The back corridor again, where she'd seen John for the first time since his release. Where she'd met her brother again. The door swung open as they neared it, silent and without apparent propulsion. When they stepped through, Angela following John, Midnite was sitting behind his desk, leaning back in his chair and grinning around his cigar.
"Return of the family Constantine," he chuckled, rich and dark like molasses. He was familiar, and yet it was like Angela was seeing him for the first time. She'd barely been paying attention to him the last time. There was a scorpion on a thong in the open neck of his shirt and more than just the typical air of a big, capable man around his broad shoulders.
The door swung shut behind them. There were two chairs in front of Midnite's desk, and when John took one, Angela took the other. "Thought we might try this conversation again," John said, setting the shotgun on the edge of the desk.
"Is that supposed to frighten me?" Midnite asked.
John shook his head. "It's not for you."
"Good." Midnite tapped his cigar into an ashtray, and turned his consideration to Angela. There was something in his gaze she thought would usually fire her instincts, make her bristle, but it was as though she'd left part of herself outside. Become someone else. That someone else met his gaze blandly, tracing patterns in his dark eyes, and he smirked and turned back to her brother. "I told you the rules last time, John Constantine."
"Fuck the rules," John said, the sort of casual disregard that Angela had never managed, for all her rebellion. "They aren't playing by the rules."
"A scurrilous accusation." A new voice. Cold and hard and bright as steel, urbane, dripping sophistication and a sardonic amusement. Behind them, and John was on his feet, Angela turning fast enough to give herself whiplash because that voice, she knew that voice.
It was him. The other man, in his pinstripe suit, with his perfect hair and perfect smile and burning eyes. With his knowing, contemptuous look like he had her mettle, like he'd watched her grow, like he'd forged her himself.
So fucking familiar. The man who'd shot her. The dark man.
"Balthazar," John said, growled around and spat out like a bit of gristle.
He preened, like he was wallowing in the hatred in John's voice, like that spite was what put the sheen on his hair. "So it's true, absence does make the heart grow fonder." Balthazar blew a kiss. "Missed you, John. But you have a lovely family."
His eyes slipped back to Angela, and her anger spiked, cold and vicious, making her hand close firm around the water bottle, so when John said quietly, "Ange," she didn't even have to wonder what it was he wanted, just flipped her wrist up and tossed the bottle his way.
John snatched it out of the air, flipping the cap off with his thumb even as he jerked it in Balthazar's direction, the first full burst of the contents catching him full in his pretty, smug face. He bellowed, more surprise and anger than pain, as his skin sizzled, came up like paint under a blowtorch, dripped and flaked and peeled away. He started forward; John dropped the bottle, swung the shotgun up to his shoulder; Midnite lurched to his feet, hands like claws and Angela realised she was up as well, her gun out and aimed. "Back the fuck off," she snapped. She could almost see it already, the bullet hole between those dark eyes, the simple, sweet, short line of its flight shearing through all the layers of power that Midnite had gathered around him.
Maybe he could see it too. He stopped, glowering at her like a thunderstorm waiting to break. At her shoulder, John's, touching just enough that she could feel his voice as well as hear it as he said, "This ends now."
Balthazar's voice wasn't nearly so smooth now, the honey roughened with charcoal and a serpent's hiss. "I've heard that before," he mocked.
"I mean it," John said, implacable. "Leave us alone."
Balthazar laughed. "Or what?"
John fired. Both barrels, right beside her, and Angela let the noise pass through her as though she wasn't there, not twitching, not even blinking from watching Midnite steadily. She couldn't even hear it past the remembered echo of every time she'd heard her brother scream. There was a hot puff of breeze at her back, and she smelt sulphur and stale ash, hot bitumen and rust.
"Fine," John said. "We'll do it that way, then."
He turned beside her, the hand that wasn't holding the shotgun sliding across the small of her back. But Angela didn't even blink because Midnite hadn't flinched, hadn't spared a second thought for whatever had just happened behind her and thus she couldn't either, not with threat knotted around his fingers like botched cat's cradle.
"Get out," he said, two pebbles dropped into a dark well.
"We're even now," John said, and the hand touched her hip, urged her back.
Angela walked backwards to the door John shouldered open, stepping over a swathe of crumbled ash and a singed pinstripe suit that she didn't even see, just knew was there. She didn't take her aim off Midnite's glowering face until the door swung shut between them.
Then she thumbed the safety on. But she still held the gun, loose and ready in her hand, as she followed her brother out through the club, long easy strides, head high, and her hands not trembling even a little.
Until they got home, and she was in the shower, the water too hot, but she couldn't make her hands work on the taps, couldn't stop the tears, couldn't make her knees hold her up, couldn't breathe for it, for the weight of all this time. All this time.
He'd been right all this time.
She reached out, trying to hold herself up, but she just jarred her elbow against the faucet, knocked the soap to the floor with a clatter, but she didn't even hear it for the sound of the door opening, the curtain rattling back.
The hands catching her before she hit the floor.
When it all went crazy, when John hit rock bottom, Angela was back home for a high school friend's engagement. Middle of the party, she'd taken her date's keys, driven home (twenty minutes, the speed she did it). Had to break the laundry window because she'd left her purse back at the bar and the house was dark, their parents out somewhere.
John in the upstairs bathroom, that only he and she used. In the bathroom with the bath running and the door locked. She knocked, and shouted, and hammered with her fist and the heel of her hand and finally she just ripped off her stupid yellow stilettos and kicked the damn door down.
John in the bath in his pyjama pants. Parts of the dismantled shaver on the floor. Bare razorblade in the hand she forced up against the wall, her hand around his wrist. Blood under her fingers, in the water, soaking into the taffeta of her stupid fucking cocktail dress, the skirt ballooning in the water around them as she wrestled him, screaming at him, screaming right in his impassive face.
Screaming, "I hate you."
Because she'd liked the dress, her date, her life.
Because it was their bathroom, and she would have been the one to find him.
Because he'd leave her all alone. How could he leave her alone in this world?
How could she have left him alone in his?
Same by dee
This is entirely for Sloane (except for those parts that are still entirely by Sloane).