“You like it? Quality English craftsmanship, this."
“Where’d you get it?"
"’s a gift."
He snorted, and gently folded the collar of the coat down. “Does the previous owner know that?"
“Well,” a pause, and a casual smirk. “I s’ppose by now, he must."
Chas stumbles over it on the way out of his bedroom, and sighs.
Stoops to pick it up off the floor, frowning as he imagines the kind of sordid circumstances that might’ve led to it being discarded in such a thoughtless rush. He shakes it automatically, performing a cursory inspection: no blood today, no mysterious stains. A tear to the lip of the pocket, not really requiring repair, but he lays it careful on the dining table anyway. Smooths out the thick fabric, reaches for the sewing kit, and goes to work.
He's almost done by the time John skulks out of his room, unshaven, alone, and looking terminally hungover. “What’re you doin’ with that, mate?”
“You left it on the floor last night. Almost tripped over it, by the way."
John's brow furrows. “Right. Sorry ‘bout that, won’t happen again."
Chas doubts it. “Anyway. You ripped the pocket, so I just figured I’d…” he shrugs, and keeps at it, pushing the needle through the fabric with as delicate touch as he can manage. Looks up to see John staring at him, eyes narrowed in suspicious curiosity.
“What?” he says, suddenly wary of the scrutiny.
John blinks. “Nothing,” he says, ducking his head, and retreats.
Frayed edges meticulously mended; brutally sliced ends joined together. Whole again, stronger than before.
Hands along sleeves, across body, gliding over silk-smooth interior, smoothing down hardy tan fabric — fingers broad but nimble, quick but careful. Not hasty, not reckless, not callous.
"For fuck's sake, John."
He stops pacing. "Hm?"
Chas pushes off from the counter he's been leaning against and walks over to him. John raises his eyebrows, and Chas sighs, handing him the cup of coffee he's been sipping. "Turn around."
John does, more out of curiosity than anything else. "Why?"
"You need to do a better job with this," Chas says, neatly folding the ends of the belt over each other. "You keep dragging it through god knows what, and then I'm the one who has to wash it." He punctuates with a firm, almost possessive tug of both ends, so they hang at about an even length, then quickly runs his palms down the sides of the coat, smoothing the wrinkles out of it.
John hums in vague gratitude, and takes a loud gulp from the mug he's been handed as he turns back around. He smirks at Chas. "Just the way I like it."
"Oh I'm so glad," Chas says, rolling his eyes as he goes to get himself another cup.
Chas worries, John said, rolling his eyes.
—hands tying up tails, running down sides —
—fingers folding down collars, fastening buttons —
—soaking stains, scrubbing out spots —
Chas, John — ungrateful, impatient, uncaring — sneered. He worries.
They're a mess, all three of them: Chas' shirt soaked through with his own blood, Zed pale and trembling as if she'd just been dunked in ice-cold water, probably because she had, and John, in addition to the blood on his hands and the large green stain across his chest, only managing forward motion due to Chas' arm around his waist and Zed's hand under his elbow.
"' m all right, 'm all right, fuck off, you two, can walk by meself."
"Sure, John," says Chas, weary but eternally patient. "Maybe I need the help, huh? Ever think of that?"
John leans heavily into his side. "Don't say I never did something for you, mate," he slurs.
"I would never." Chas glances at Zed, who's lost her grip on John's arm and seems to need a moment to steady herself. "I got this."
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah. I've got to get him out of all this, and you look like you need some sleep."
"It's nothing I haven't seen before,” she says, which was unfortunately true — it’s something of an occupational hazard, sharing a home with John Constantine, but there’s no reason for Zed to have to get used to it. Chas, unfortunately, already has.
"Don't worry about it," Chas says, shaking his head as John’s knees buckle. He grabs at Chas' sweater to keep himself upright, and Chas tightens his grip around John’s waist without thinking. “I got you,” he murmurs, soothingly as possible.
“Sod off,” John mumbles into his chest, getting the green ooze that still clings to him onto Chas' shoulder.
Zed raises her eyebrows, and Chas just shakes his head. After a moment, she seems to accept it, and goes, but not before mouthing good luck at him.
"Ooooh, gettin' me outta all this, are you?" John snickers, sounding more drunk than anything, though Chas knows it's mostly exhaustion and pain talking. "Hell of a time for an attack on my tender virtue, mate."
Well. Exhaustion, pain, and John's latent asshole tendencies.
"What can I say, John?" he mutters, guiding him back into the bathroom. "This half-dead look just really does it for me, y'know?"
"Don't be an arse," John says, letting himself be leveraged down onto the toilet seat.
"Never," Chas promises, slipping the coat off John's shoulders and going to unbutton his shirt. The green ooze stings his fingertips.
"What's the damage?"
"Tie's a goner," he said, wincing as he dumps it in the trash. "Shirt too. You've got one hell of a rash."
"Swell," John groans, then sighs as Chas slips the shirt off his arms and bundles it into a ball.
"Coat'll be good after a wash."
John leans back and shut his eyes. "Huzzah for English craftsmanship."
Chas surveys him carefully: aside from the rash and the bruises on his arms, John looks better than expected, and mostly intact. "You can say that again."
John smirks without opening his eyes, as if he knows he's being looked at; he always does seem to.
Chas clears his throat. "You need help with the pants?"
"Dunno," John drawls, spreading his legs slightly. "Do I?"
"No," he says, pulling the coat out from behind John. John opens his eyes to glare at him. “Gonna go soak this before the stains set. Try not to drown in the shower, okay?"
"Oh, I'll do my very best," John sneers, and sets about opening his fly.
John — did not worry.
John mucked up.
Tred through grime. Acted without thought. Left wreckage behind, forgotten on floors, flung over chairs.
Torn and sodden and filthy — blood and refuse and grave dirt and more, seeping in between fibers, creeping through the tightest cotton weave.
Stroked and laundered and tended to, eventually. Mended, eventually; rescued, eventually, but— never by John.
Never quite the same again.
"How do you keep doing this?" Chas says, frowning at the third long tear of the fabric in as many days.
John shrugs, taking a loud bite from the apple he's snagged from the kitchen before coming to watch Chas mend his coat. "Dunno," he says. "'s like it's got a mind of its own."
Chas sighs. "You need to take better care of your clothes."
"Whatever you say, daddy," John says, chewing noisily and smacking his lips into a happy smirk.
Chas looks up, and what he's about to say is lost to the wince and sharp "Fuck," he hisses as he pierces the sensitive skin of his thumb instead of the fabric. He yanks his hand back instinctively, shaking it a little as if to displace the pain.
John laughs, grabbing at Chas' wrist, catching him before he brings his hand back to his mouth to suck at the wound. "Try not to bleed all over our nice clean coat there, mate."
Chas gives him a fundamentally displeased look, and tries to pull his hand away. John's grip is tighter than he'd have expected, and his fingers are sticky with the juice from the apple.
"Let's have a look, then."
"It'll heal by itself," Chas says, because it will, either way; sometimes smaller, insignificant wounds like this don't, at least not any quicker than they would've before.
"Hmm," says John, letting his hand slide further up Chas' forearm, and leaning over to get a closer look.
"What are you doing?"
John glances up at him, dark eyes suddenly, inexplicably uncertain. Then he blinks, and the smug smile returns, as he bends his head and brings his mouth to Chas' thumb. Presses a light kiss to the tip of his finger, and, when Chas doesn't pull his hand away, lets his tongue flicker and swirl. Chas, more surprised than upset, makes no move to stop him, not right away, not even when John makes a loud, filthy slurping noise around his finger.
John looks up.
Their eyes meet, and hold.
Chas seems to be asking a question, brow furrowed, lips pressed thin; John answers with a careful shrug, squeezing Chas' wrist again. Chas extricates it from John's grip, and drops his hand back to the table. His palm presses against the smooth tan fabric of the coat as he leans over. He wraps his other hand around the back of John's neck, draws him closer, and kisses him soundly.
John grins and kisses back, open-mouthed and aggressive, pawing at Chas’ shirt and practically pulling himself onto Chas' lap. Once there, he coils an arm around Chas' neck for support, and uses his other hand to cradle Chas' head, run his fingers through Chas' hair. Pulls back enough to change the angle, and Chas wraps an arm around his waist to steady him. They kiss for a while, discovery giving way to desperation, all shared, panting breaths and groping hands, until the door to the mill house bangs open above them, and they break apart like shrapnel.
By the time Zed makes it downstairs, John's leaning back in his chair and finishing his apple, and Chas's fiddling distractedly with the sleeve of his coat.
Neither John, nor Chas, nor Zed notice the bright bead of blood that glimmers red against the thick fabric for a moment, before being sucked down between the tan fibers, almost as if it'd never been there.
John’s pulse, warm skin against cold lining, quickened.
Not rare. Not strange.
But now — every prickle sweat at the back of John’s neck, quick puff of breath, twitch of his wrists — Chas, they said.
Chas, they screamed.
John lands flat on his back, hard enough to knock the breath out of him; Chas lands directly on top of him, covering John’s body with his own, shielding him from the debris and the sharp flare of light.
They lie there together, buzzing with adrenaline, as John struggles to catch his breath. Chas hoists himself onto his elbows and stays where he is, hips pressing down against John’s, his chest grazing John's with every struggling gasp. He runs a careful hand over John’s head, stroking his dusty, tousled hair. John leans into his touch, thoughtlessly, immediately, closing his eyes for a moment. Inhales, and the tension in his body eases. Chas' fingers trail down to the side of his neck. Checking his pulse, but John lets out a soft, pleased sound, and Chas glances back at his face: John's dark eyes are open now, calmer than usual, sharp as ever.
“Okay?” he says, and John nods. Licks his lips. Reaches up, both hands shaking but only slightly, as his fingertips curl over Chas' ears and trail along his jaw. The cuffs of John's coat feel warm, somehow, as they brush against the side of Chas' neck; from John’s body heat, from the explosion.
John blinks. Swallows. “You?"
“Okay.” Chas says, again; nervously, ducking his head. John’s fingers keep carding through his hair, and the cuffs of his coat keep brushing against his skin. When Chas looks up again he catches a glimpse of John's smile before it's pressed up against his mouth. More gently than Chas expects from him, given the last time, but still insistent, still impossible to ignore.
He tries: “John—"
“Don’t think about it."
And he doesn't, for a while.
Acts instead, pressing John down against the filthy warehouse floor, kissing him as hard as he lets himself. John doesn't complain, keeps running his hands through Chas' hair and panting into his mouth and sucking on his tongue.
He pulls back. John sighs, long-suffering, as if deprived of something. Shifts, slightly, raising his hips to rub against Chas.
"You've got to be kidding me."
John smirks. “Must I?” he almost purrs, rolling his hips again, arching his neck. Pulling out all the stops, Chas realizes, and it's almost flattering, in a way, but also strange enough to be off-putting. He draws back, not without some reluctance, but with finality. John tries to follow him, hands scrambling for purchase on Chas' arms, pulling at Chas' shirt. Leveraging himself up, so close that his breathes bloom against Chas' mouth.
"John? Chas?" Zed, from a distance, but apparently close enough to hear John's frustrated groan in response. “Are you two..." a pause, pregnant with skeptical judgement. "Done down there?”
John looks up at him, dark eyes strangely soft as he runs his fingers through Chas' hair. “Dunno,” he says, leaning up just enough to brush their lips together. “Are we?"
“Yeah,” says Chas, sitting up; John's erection twitches against the inside of Chas' thigh, but he rolls his eyes and lets himself drop back down onto the floor. “Yeah, we’ll be right up"
Chas’ hair was soft — like silk — dark and smooth, cool to the touch.
The rest of him was warm — was hot: the quick bursts of his breath, the wide span of his hands, brushing along tan cotton. His body, big and broad, too tall to fit — was hot, heavy, folding around John’s as they lay together, as their mouths fit and slid.
Don’t think about it, John said, panted — his heart quickened and his sweat beaded and his muscles twitched, from anticipation, desperation, desire.
And then Chas was gone, and everything was cold again.