The sound of fists striking flesh is a far more accurate indicator that Constantine is heading in the right direction than a dowsing rod could ever provide.
Gotham at night is a maze of dark, grimy roads, dead ends, and layers of steam and smog covering the streets like mist. Neon signs blaze in the shadows, hookers stand on the corners hawking their wares with their pimps lurking not far behind them. Oil and water run across tarmac in equal measure, and everywhere he looks, John either sees people walking determinedly with their heads bent down low or fixing him with a decidedly unfriendly gaze.
It also stinks.
Maybe more than any other American city, this wretched place reminds him of home, of England; London in particular, at least before all the rich tossers started buying up the old corners and gentrifying them, turning character into branding. Gotham seems to have escaped that fate, if only because any outside company would have to be crazy to try and set up shop here with all the nutjobs running around and Wayne Enterprises looming over everything.
Turning down the alley away from the street, he picks a stretch of wall that seems relatively clean compared to the rest and leans in against it to watch the end of the fight.
Not that it’s much of one. The kid he’s come to see clearly has the upper hand. Four bodies are already lying on the ground by the time he gets there, and three more join them in quick succession, much to John’s amusement.
He doesn’t even have time to pull out and light up a fag.
Which is probably just as well, considering he’s on a tight schedule here, and from what he knows of this particular superhero, reeling him in could already be a job and a half before he can actually get to what needs to be done.
John pulls away from the wall, checking his sleeve for noticeable grime before giving it up as a bad job and ambling forwards. Ahead of him, Jason Todd, the man otherwise known as the Red Hood, is picking his way over his fallen foes, producing zip ties with which to bind ankles and wrists ahead of the arrival of law enforcement. A far cry from the lethality John heard he used to use before with even the small time crooks.
It doesn’t take long for Jason to notice him — not that John’s trying to hide. He looks up quickly, the dim reflection of a nearby lamppost glinting off his helmet. His hand moves back to one of the guns strapped to his thigh, and John is quick to raise his own in response.
“Easy, mate,” he says, with what he hopes is a friendly grin as he shows off his empty palms, “I’m not here looking for trouble.”
“Yeah?” Comes Jason’s reply, spoken in a synthesised growl thanks to the fancy headpiece. “Then keep walking. Back,” he gestures, “In the other direction.”
Well, someone clearly learned their social skills from Dad.
Shaking his head, John continues to stand, keeping his stance nice and casual despite how the gun admittedly makes him a little nervous. Physical confrontation is not at all his strong suit. “Said I wasn’t looking for trouble. Didn’t say I wasn’t looking for anything else.”
That gets the kid’s full attention. Has Jason standing up straight and turning to face him head on. He rests one hand on his hip, while the other continues to dangle next to the holster. “And what’s that?”
“Your help.” John says, nice and plain. He’s learned that with Bats it’s good not to beat about the bush.
An electronic snort is a weird sound to hear. “Don’t know what town you’re from, ‘mate’,” Jason replies, “But in Gotham sneaking up on anyone for anything is a pretty bad idea.”
“Sorry,” he grins, “Just thought I’d try to talk to you in a language you’d understand. It’s what you lot excel at, right?”
If his eyes were visible, John is sure he’d be able to see Jason rolling them. “Who are you?” is the next pointed question.
“Name’s John.” He says easily, “John Constantine.”
And there it is. Jason’s shoulders are suddenly a little more tense. “Constantine… I’ve heard of you. You’re a magician or some shit like that, right? Hang around with Zatanna.”
“Zee’s a great girl,” John nods, unsurprised and a little pleased with the recognition, as much as that can sometimes backfire on him. His reputation is… varied, depending on who you ask.
Jason tilts his head, still radiating impatience, “So what do you want with me?”
Straight to business as he expected. John flicks his eyes around the men lying on the ground, “Mind if we chat somewhere a little more private? Before the Old Bill turns up.”
The sound of sirens in the distance lend credit to his request, but still Jason takes a moment to consider him suspiciously before jerking his head back over his shoulder in an indication for John to follow him. “Fine, c’mon.”
He leads the way further down the alley, and taking care to hop over the unconscious gang members rather than trip, John hurries to keep up. Water runs down the gutters, and the smell of pot gunks up his nose before, with an agile leap, Jason bounces off a metal bin and up to catch the bottom of a nearby fire escape.
Right. Of course. Bloody vigilantes.
“Problem?” Jason asks, leaning on the railing as he looks down at Constantine with an amused tilt to his head. Of course he knows what he’s thinking.
“No, course not. Dab hand at this, me.” John heaves himself up onto the lid of the bin, grimacing at the muck that gets on his hands as a result. “Parkour and all that.” After a couple seconds rubbing his fingers together, he manages to jump and get his hand on the lowest rung. It’s far more slippery than Jason made it look, but John still manages to pull himself up — with no help from the kid — and roll onto the rusty metal grating. “Oof.”
Dignity, where art thou.
By the time he’s up on his feet, Jason’s already climbing the steps higher, making his way up to the roof. John follows him, and as always when it comes to stairs, promises himself he’ll cut down on the cigs from now on, though he never actually means it. Finally, they’re up on the roof, safe from prying ears, and hopefully eyes. He leans down with his hands braced against his thighs to catch his breath.
“So I’m guessing cardio’s not big in magic circles.” Jason snorts.
John lifts his hand and flips him off with two fingers. “About as popular as roof hopping, yeah.”
“So what do you want with me?”
Again direct and to the point. Despite his annoyance, John can’t help but like it.The kid is clearly a chip off the old block, though from what he knows of Jason’s relationship with his ‘father’ he wouldn’t appreciate being told so. Discretion is the better part of valour in this case, especially considering what John did last night, and what he’s here hoping to do now.
“Your help, mate, as I said.”
“Yeah, I got that part.” Jason says impatiently, “I meant, my help with what?”
Finally, John straightens up, repressing a shiver at the bite of the icy cold air up here against the bare skin of his face. Reaching into his pocket, he slides free his pack of cigarettes. “Oh nothing much, just averting natural disaster and all that. See,” he taps one free of the carton, “There’s this whole deal with a bloomin’ great big nethergate about to open up under Gotham’s arsehole and I’ve got to seal it before the city, you, and every other poor sod inside goes down to Hell.”
It’s hard to tell for sure, but John gets the impression Jason is staring at him through that helmet. “You’re joking.”
“Hardly, Hell’s no joke.” John pauses, “Well, most of the time, anyway. I could tell you a few funny stories about a couple demons I know, but we haven’t exactly got time for that.”
“How… I mean, how?”
“Again, long story I don’t have time to get into,” he waves his hand. “But to put it bluntly; ancient curse, demon with nothing to better to do, and the people who founded this place being a load of scummy wankers. That’s all you really need to know. Fag?”
Jason’s gaze shifts down to the packet as John offers it out, then back up to him. He doesn’t take one. “Okay, say I believe you, Constantine; what exactly do you expect me to do to help you with something like that? I don’t do magic, just bullets. Fuck, I don’t even have superpowers. There’s gotta be better people you can ask to help you.”
“All very true,” John says, bringing his arm back, “But in this case you got something else I need. Y’see…” And here’s the awkward part. At least with the big Bat he could easily appeal to the man’s pragmatic nature, as much as he didn’t like it, but with Jason John’s not so sure. He might need a little more cajoling. “The spell I need requires a certain element I don’t have access to myself, but you do.”
“Yeah?” Jason says skeptically, “And what’s that?”
“A connection. To this place, this city.” He turns and gestures grandly off the edge of the roof to the sprawling gothic nightmare-scape of Gotham. “Its life force, if you will.”
This time the kid’s definitely staring. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
John restrains a sigh, twirling the cigarette between his fingers without lighting it. “Look… you said it yourself, I’m not from round here. This curse that’s coming for Gotham is tied into her life, and it’s got to be her power that fights back against it. Like a body expelling a virus.”
“You talk about Gotham like it’s alive.” Jason says, clearly flummoxed.
“She is. All cities are. All that energy, all that consciousness in one place? It builds up. Develops personality, presence. I daresay you’ve felt it from time to time — though maybe you never consciously realised it.” John answers easily, before continuing, “Now, if there were a magician from around here with the capability necessary to channel it themselves, this’d be easy, like. But there’s not. There’s only me, with zippity doo da connection to this place, so I need an in to make it work.”
“And that’s… me?”
“Right you are, son.” John nods encouragingly, though unfortunately not to much end.
This time the response he gets is a laugh, of the sort somebody gives when they don’t know any other way to react. Jason shakes his head, “Look, I don’t know who you’ve been talking to but… that can’t be right. I don’t have anything like that. And if I did, I think I would’ve noticed it by now.”
“Rune stones don’t lie, and they’re a lot more reliable than people are.” John shrugs in response, “I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t, it’s not exactly magic in the sense most would recognise. More like…” He thinks how to explain it in terms Jason might understand, “More like having a lady’s favour. Y’know, a blessing and helping hand from time to time.”
Jason snorts derisively. “Yeah, right. Gotham never helps anyone.”
“She is a tough old bird, I’ll give you that, and hard to please,” John acknowledges with a knowing air, “But you need to trust me on this one, Jason,” and he uses his name pointedly, taking small pleasure in the resultant flinch, “Take it from someone with experience in these matters; this city likes you. I don’t think you’d be standing here right now if she didn’t, what with your line of work.” And the stink of old death hanging around him like a rotten cloud, but John wisely doesn’t say that.
Jason cocks his head at him. It’s hard to tell exactly what he’s thinking under that helmet and with the voice filter disguising his tone. John thinks he’s starting to bring him around, though. “You’re really serious.”
“Serious as can be.” John smiles cockily, “What you say, luv; want to help me save the world?”
The breath Jason hauls in is audible. His shoulders rise minutely, then fall as he shakes his head. “I still don’t know if I completely believe you but… say I do agree to help you, what does that involve, exactly? How do I—” he gestures back and forth between them with a gloved hand, “—give you this connection you say you need?”
This time the smile John gives is definitely a victorious one. He pops the cig between his lips finally before gesturing back at the fire escape. “How about we go somewhere a little warmer and I’ll explain? Trust me, luv, you’ll be wanting to sit down for this one.”
Jason follows him suspiciously back down from the rooftop, but at least he follows.
“You want me to what?”
“Easy!” John says, lifting his hands up as his eyes dart back and forth across the ratty little bar in which they’ve parked themselves. “Whole bloomin’ neighbourhood’ll be in on it if you say it much louder.”
Across the table, Jason’s face — now devoid of helmet — is flushed pink. His expression reeks discomfort as much as the clenched fingers around the beer John bought him do (because he’s a gentleman, who can at least buy a man a drink before he gets down and dirty with him). And it’s a handsome face too, John had been pleasantly surprised to find. Not as pretty as some, but the crooked nose, pleasantly defined lips, sharp jawline and mixed blue and green eyes framed by long eyelashes are more than enough for him. As is the tumble of dark hair interspersed with white where Death had run her fingertips through Jason’s fringe.
“Fuck you,” Jason says at once, like it’s a defence mechanism for him to do so. “You’re seriously saying you want me to… to…”
“Have a good time? Shag me stupid? Make the beast with two backs? Hop on the good foot and do the bad thing?” John meant to stop after just two, but the longer he goes on the redder Jason’s face gets, and he honestly can’t help himself. It’s bloody adorable. “Take a roll in the hay. Do the horizontal—”
“Okay, okay! All right, you’ve made your point.” Jason grimaces, blush now spread to his ears. It highlights the lightly dotted freckles across his cheeks. “Jesus.”
“Sorry.” John says, not actually sorry at all and enjoying himself far more than he should. “But yeah. To put it simple, that’s what I need you to do.”
The lad taps his fingers on the glass, squirming uncomfortably on his seat. “Yeah, I think I’ll have that smoke now.”
Deciding this is the time for a little showmanship, Constantine twists his hand, producing a cigarette seemingly out of thin air.
Jason raises an eyebrow as he reaches out to take it, “Magic?”
“Nah, sleight of hand, almost the same thing.”
He gets a glare for his trouble, as Jason sticks the cigarette between his lips and starts to search through his pockets for a lighter with seemingly no concern for their surroundings. Either he’s counting on being intimidating looking enough even without the guns and helmet that no one will bother them, or more likely than that, this the kind of place where the No Smoking sign is there purely for show when the health inspector turns up. Looking at the surrounding dirt and cluster of grim-faced men gathered at the end of the bar, John doesn’t find that particularly hard to believe.
“Shit,” Jason mutters, apparently unable to find what he’s looking for.
“Here,” John uses that moment to lean forward, extending his hand out towards Jason again. “That might not have been magic but,” he snaps his fingers, carefully drawing from the reserve of power already gathered within him to spark a flame, “This is.”
Jason’s eyes stare down at the dancing flame, for a moment almost childlike in their wonder before the defensive wall snaps back into place again. “Thanks.” he says, leaning forward to touch the tip of the cigarette to the fire until it catches. John can’t help but notice that his pupils are slightly dilated when he draws back, nor the swallow that bobs down his throat when he takes his first drag.
A lot of ‘magic’ is knowing how to read people, surprisingly enough.
“Look, I…” the smoke seems to settle Jason’s nerves enough for him to talk. “There’s gotta be another way. Or someone else you can ask to do this. I’m not… I don’t do shit like that. I don’t. Fuck, I… how do I even know you’re telling the truth about this?”
“You’ll have to trust your instincts on that last one, mate.” John shrugs, exterminating the flame with another twist his hand. “You don’t know me from the next bloke on the street, I get that, and my reputation’s not the best by a long shot. I’m a bastard and I’ll never pretend otherwise, but I’m not that much of a bastard that I’d make up a lie just to sleep with someone. As to the rest of it...” He leans back in his seat, “Maybe. Maybe there could be someone else. But I followed the signs and they led me to you. You’re the one with the best chance of making this succeed. You’re the conduit this bitch of a city thinks most fondly of. You.”
Jason breathes in sharply, “No.” he shakes his head, “There’s got to be someone else. One of the other…”
“Other superheroes?” John raises an eyebrow through the haze of smoke between them. His fingers itch to light up a fag of his own but he needs to stay focused. “Doubtful. Whassit… that Nightwing fellow? He weren’t born here. And the two who were,” he snorts, easing into the lie, “Rich kids aren’t they? Born all up above it all. Not like you; you come from her dark bleeding heart and she knows it. Forged on the streets, fought tooth and nail to get where you’re at. That’s what a place like Gotham respects.”
Jason holds himself still, but John can see the edges of him softening, lulled by the picture that’s being painted by his words. There’s a part of this kid that yearns for that sort of belief. The knowledge that someone, something out there thinks of him that way. Like something of value, because he can never look that way at himself.
And maybe there’s a part of John that empathises a little too much with that. He’d pried into Jason’s past just enough to understand him. Working class, wasted sod of a father; mother gone far too early. Some things they have in common.
Only difference was, John had inadvertently taken care of his old man himself, and never found or needed a new one the way Jason clearly does. Never had a talent for keeping those who do care about him alive either.
He shakes himself back from those kind of thoughts, needing to keep on before he loses the thread he’s began to spun. “I know it’s awkward, and I’m not the best looker out there, but…” he gives a crooked smile, “I still know how to show a bloke a good time. That’s all it needs to be. A good time. No feelings or consequences — ‘cept saving the city, of course.”
Jason looks like he’s making a meal of the inside of his cheek before he takes another drag of the cigarette. “You’re not that bad.”
“That bad, of a… looker.”
John grins, picking up his bottle of beer (have Americans never heard of a proper pint glass?) and tips it towards Jason before taking a swig. “Thanks, guv’nor.”
He doesn’t say anything else, lets Jason stew over it and reach his decision on his own terms. Free will’s an important part of it.
“No one else knows?” he says eventually.
Funny, Wayne had said the exact same thing, except with him it was a threat and not a question.
“Cross my heart and hope to die.” John replies, making the motion as he says the words.
Jason draws in a deep breath, then lifts his own bottle to his mouth and swallows down what’s left. “Okay. Then let’s do this.”
The motel room John’s rented is nice. Not fancy, but nice. The kind of place where a few extra dollars bought privacy and no questions, though he’s still been sure to do a little mental finangling on any of the cleaning staff who came through the door just in case.
The reason why is proven after Jason steps through the door and comes to a rapid halt, staring around the room. “This is… kind of creepy.”
“Magic, innit?” John answers, like that explains everything. Which to him it really does, though maybe not to most anyone else.
“I think I saw something like this in a movie once,” Jason says, poking his toe dubiously at the edge of the magic circle enclosing the bed. “Right before a girl got murdered by a cult.”
John laughs as he shucks off his coat and drapes it over a nearby chair, “Just remember, most of what you see on the telly is total codswallop. Promise, luv, none of this means any harm to you. Quite the opposite in fact. Just don’t break the circle, aye?”
“You say that…” Jason trails off before shaking his head.
He’s all kinds of tense still, which is not what John wants. Stepping past him, he brushes his hand over Jason’s shoulder. “Drink? Something harder than what we had in the bar maybe?”
Jason pauses, then follows his example, sliding the leather jacket off his shoulder. “Sure. Why not.”
Underneath he’s wearing a long sleeved shirt, covering what looks like an underlayer of body armour. Makes sense given the profession he’s in. As John heads over to snatch the bottle of whisky he stashed in the bedside cabinet yesterday, he also unfastens the gun holsters he’d put back on for the ride over here and sets them to one side next to the bed, though conspicuously still in reach.
“Take a seat, luv,” John waves at the bed, “No point standing on ceremony.”
Jason huffs even as he sits down, “I thought ceremony was why I’m here.”
John chuckles, “Truth be told, I hate the whole formal ritual side of this shit. Most of it’s just pomp and nonsense meant to make those involved feel important; if I can keep it casual, I do.”
He hands Jason a small glass full of amber liquid, then sits down beside him with his own. Not quite close enough to touch, but near enough that it’s a bit beyond mere friendliness. “I heard you were unorthodox.” Jason says.
“Yeah? I heard the same about you.” John takes a sip, watches as Jason takes a generous one of his own. “Not a bad thing, though. Unorthodox gets things done, I tend to find.”
That earns him a quirk of the lad’s lips, “I’ll drink to that.”
Taking him up on the offer, John raises his glass, and they clink them together before this time drinking in unison. The whisky burns going down, as all good whisky should, enough to take the hair off a nun’s chest. Jason coughs a little, though he does an admirable job of covering it. Glass now empty, John is quick to pour him another one.
“You trying to get me drunk?” Jason asks, equal parts amusement and wariness.
“Relaxed,” John corrects him, allowing his eyes to trail over the lines of Jason’s jaw, the shape of his lips. Finally, the gorgeous swirl of blue and green in his eyes, though he can’t help but be drawn to the flecks of the latter colour that are less than natural. This kid has led a life, that’s for sure. “It’s better, for the magic.”
Magic John can already feel stirring under his feet as it picks up on the mood in the room. Thrums of it pricking at his nerves, the tender lashes of ligaments holding his bones together.
“For the magic.” Jason echoes, still with that trace of skepticism in him.
“And you.” John adds, “Much better for you.”
He reaches over before Jason can say another word, thumb brushing his cheek and lower. It must be a day or so since he last shaved, because John feel the sharp points of stubble beginning to emerge from his skin. Jason stiffens slightly, but likely the building atmosphere in the room is affecting him too, because his breath also comes a little shorter. “Then again,” John says, “You seem like the sort of lad who appreciates action more than anything, so maybe I should just get to it, eh?”
Jason swallows thickly. “Yeah, that might be… might be an idea.”
He’s still a mite tense when John kisses him. Stiff as a cold fish before, with gentle coaxing, John starts to ease him out of it. The first press of his lips back is almost endearingly shy before steadily growing in confidence. He’s not a bad kisser either. Actually a pretty good one in fact, responsive to the press of John’s lips, and then the slide of his tongue as the kiss becomes deeper and more intimate. Whisky and smoke are tangled up together in the taste of his mouth — a taste John is rather fond of, as it happens, given that it defines much of his life.
He moves the hand on Jason’s jaw down to his neck, then over his shoulder to press against his back. “Lights on or off?” he asks, as an extra allowance of comfort.
“Down,” Jason says after a moment’s consideration, “But not off.”
John grins, he’s got the perfect fix for that.
Another small push of gathered power has the light clicking off, and in its place the candles John placed at the points of the star inside the circle flicker to life. Nice, low ambiance. Almost romantic as a matter of face. That is, if there were any romance involved in this, instead of just a necessary exchange.
“Show off.” Jason mutters. Then, before John can confirm or deny that fact, he leans forward and kisses him again, this time with an edge of teeth.
The more they go, the bolder Jason becomes; barriers broken down by the force of sensation. John pushes his hand in more firmly against his back, holds the other to his waist, and laughs when Jason bites him almost hard enough to bleed. “Sharp little blighter, aren’t you?”
“Don’t appreciate being treated like I’m some delicate flower, that’s all.” Jason replies, but there’s a light and a heat in his eyes that John recognises as the magic doing its work. The spell reacting to their energy, linking into Jason’s aura and Gotham’s vested interest in him.
“No fear of that, luv,” John says to reassure him, “No fear at all.”
He plucks the glass from Jason’s hand. Whisky almost spills over the rim as he raises it to his lips, takes a generous mouthful and then sets it aside. Before Jason has chance to question the action John kisses him again, and catching on quick the lad parts his lips, allowing the liquid to pass into his own mouth. It’s not quick or clean, half of the mouthful spills down their chins before they’re done, but it’s still pretty fun. The whisky burning just as good now as it did the first time around.
John makes sure to bend his head down and lick those stray drops from Jason’s chin and throat. No sense in wasting a good drink, after all.
“Fuck,” Jason swears.
“Yeah, luv, that’s what we’re going for.”
Moving his hands down, John slides them in under the bottom of Jason’s shirt. Underneath he feels the mesh of the armour and grimaces. That could be a problem. “Am I gonna need an instruction manual to get this off?” he jokes.
“Does this?” Jason replies, snagging the bottom of his tie and pulling it almost hard enough to take his head off.
John grins against his neck, “Fair enough.”
Stripping takes but a minute. Haste built in by the sense of urgency underpinning the situation. Tugging Jason’s shirt over his head sends the curls of his hair flying every which way, and for a moment John thinks of an old girlfriend he once knew. “You got any Irish in you?” he asks.
“Hell if I know.” Jason replies, with an edge that suggests it’s not a line of questioning he favours. An edge that’s emphasised by another hard tug to John’s tie.
The body armour follows, as does John’s shirt and tie. All of it ends up in a mixed pile on the ground, quickly followed by their boots. Then — clad only in trousers and underwear — John shoves Jason down to lie on his back on the bed and climbs over him.
“Cor,” he says, “You’re a regular work of art.”
He’s referring of course, to the mapwork of scars that cover Jason’s torso; burns and bullet wounds and cuts — though the chiselled musculature of his body doesn’t hurt either, making John feel a bit flabby and old in comparison. No, who’s he kidding? He is flabby and old, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t have it where it counts. Even compared to a spry young thing like Jason.
Jason rolls his eyes at the compliment, but the returned flush to his skin and warming of his aura in response contradicts the action. “Shut up.”
“Demanding too.” John grins but still is happy to put his mouth to work in other ways, kissing and nibbling at Jason’s neck while his hands explore the lad’s arms and chest. The rough lines of his scars are intriguing, and if some of John’s caresses take the shape of ancient runes across them, well, he’s the only one who has to know.
Jason, not to be outdone, touches back, fingers grasping and pulling like it’s a fight, rather than just a casual fuck. John wonders if there’s any part of him that doesn’t have a sharp edge, and reaches the swift conclusion that if there is, then he (a stranger) won’t be anywhere near privileged to see it tonight. Though to be honest he doesn’t much mind, particularly when Jason’s thighs bracket his hips and squeeze. Hard.
It’s nothing at all to grind back down against him, focus on the hot bolts of lust that shoot through his groin, stomach and up his spine. The air around them is growing thicker by the second, like an omnipresent fog clouding the room and swallowing them up. John can feel it rising up in the back of his mind, familiar now after the first time, and he knows the trick is to just let it happen. To surrender to what the spell wants.
“You ever kill a man with these thighs?” he asks Jason cheekily, sliding one hand down to squeeze in turn.
“Not yet.” Jason replies, and John only thinks he might be joking. “Constantine, this feels a bit—”
“Shh, all part of the magic, luv. Just let it happen.”
It’s a lot to ask of Jason, he knows. Control is something he and his cohorts thrive on. It’s what sets them apart from the mad, gibbering villains of the piece. Reason, control; rigid adherence to the rules (whatever rules they choose to follow). But John needs him to let go of that for a little while. It’s the only possible way for him to get Jason to open up; to give him the connection he so desperately needs.
Setting his teeth to Jason’s collarbone, John bites down, sucking and hanging on for a good thirty seconds before drawing back. Jason must like that, because his fingers dig sharp crescents into John’s back, and a restrained moan escapes his lips even before John makes his way down south to find a nipple and repeat the action there.
“Shit,” he groans, as those nails rake over his shoulders. Lower and lower he goes, kissing over Jason’s stomach, tasting the remnants of sweat on his skin. Distraction’s the name of the game, and he knows one foolproof method for that no bloke can ever ignore.
Snapping open the button of Jason’s trousers, John fairly yanks down his zipper. “Hips up, luv,” he has time to instruct, before pulling them down the lad’s hips along with his underwear. It’s a pleasure to see he’s nice and hard already from this, even if what he’d felt on his way down had already given him a clue.
John wraps a hand around Jason’s cock, stroking it roughly just to hear the kid curse, which he does after only a moment. Then he dips his head down, pressing a kiss to the tip before licking a strip down the side. Now Jason’s hips buck all the way off the bed, almost sending John off the way with them.
“Been a while, eh?” he asks with a laugh, “Or am I just that good?”
“Fuck you.” Jason groans, but his tone is all wrong for the words as he needily thrusts himself upwards again.
“Aye, aye. Don’t think too hard about it, will you?” John has time to chortle, before bending his head down and occupying his mouth in other ways.
Fingers go to his hair, grasping in vain at the short strands. John is glad he got it cut the other day, else he’d be in for a headache right about now. Then again, he’s never minded an edge of pain where it’s warranted, and with this kid maybe it is. He licks and sucks and groans around him as he bobs his head up and down, tasting bitter precum and male musk. Potent and eager. John lets his hand stroke over Jason’s thigh, the other go down to play with his balls as he lazily rolls his own cock against the bed to alleviate some of his growing need for friction. He coaxes Jason, works him harder, up and up to edge of coming and then back down again. Soft laps of his tongue before hard suction, never enough to let him boil over.
And the magic responds.
Sweat is on his skin like raindrops hitting tarmac. The slide of them tickling between his shoulder blades and pooling down the small of his back. Jason’s legs cross across his spine as he curses harder, head jerking back against the pillows. His throaty words of protest hold the undercurrent of aggression, of an engine revving in the night. The threat of violence in the air; youthful passion crossed with a sleazy underbelly.
John brings his head back up with a gasp, despite Jason’s efforts to keep him where he was. His jaw feels sore, his lips reddened. The fog in the air now has the weight of an oncoming storm added to it, waiting for the right moment to burst.
“Steady,” John says as he makes his way back up Jason’s body. As the kid writhes under him, frustrated by the lack of release. He’s not quite to the point of begging yet, but if John’s any judge he will be soon. “You want it bad, don’t you, luv?”
His assessment is backed up by the way Jason looks at him. His teal eyes are hazy, unfocused by lust and desperation. Teeth digging into his lip because he doesn’t want to make a sound. John reaches up, strokes his hair back from his face and kisses him, drawing back to just let him say “Bastard. Don’t… don’t do that.”
“Don’t do what, luv?” he asks, feeling every inch of him pulled towards Jason’s own personal well of gravity.
“You know what.” Jason’s teeth are in his lip again, hard enough this time to spill blood. “Don’t start and then… Jesus.”
“Same initials, wrong bloke.” John laughs, stroking his fingers over Jason’s cheek as he grinds down against him again. His own trousers are far too tight, and he’s thinking it’s about time he was rid of them. “Don’t get your knickers in a twist now. I’m not going to leave you hanging.”
He stretches out his right hand, fumbling under the pillow for the bottle of lube he left there this morning. Jason shudders as his left hand jumps back down lower, skittering over his thighs and then between them behind his balls. There’s no question asked if he’s all right with being the one taken, and if Jason’s reaction (an eager push back against his fingers) is anything to go by, he doesn’t exactly mind that.
“Roll over,” John says hungrily, stealing one last kiss before lifting himself off Jason just enough to let him do that. And God, the boy is gone, because now there’s not one word of protest before he’s turning over to settle on his stomach.
Eagerly, John lets his eyes track down Jason’s back. There are almost as many scars here as there are on his front, and the view is just as lovely. He kisses the back of his neck as Jason grabs one of the pillows, dragging it down towards him and tucking it in under his chest. “C’mon,” he utters, pressing his arse back again to John’s hand, “Christ, c’mon.”
For once John is almost speechless, “Yeah,” he grunts eventually, “All right.”
Lubing up his fingers is an easy job as he sits back on his knees, guiding Jason’s legs to spread further apart. The rest John lets drip down over the boy’s hole, swallowing as he tracks his index fingers around the rim before pressing one inside.
Shit, he’s tight, hot and needy around even one. John groans, bending down to kiss Jason’s back between his shoulder blades as he rubs it back and forth inside him. Jason, for his part, doesn’t even flinch, just makes this soft sound that’s half a sigh before gripping tighter.
“Not going to break,” he hisses, in an almost repetition of his words from earlier. That’s youthful impatience for you. John snorts before drawing his finger back and then pressing it in again with a partner.
“If that’s what you want, luv.”
“Promised me a goo—ah! A good time, Constantine.” Comes the hoarse reply, “S’what I get for helping you with your voodoo bullshit, so c’mon.”
“Not voodoo,” John corrects him, “But sure thing, sunshine.”
Whatever Jason’s next reply was meant to be, it’s swallowed up by a guttural moan as John curls his fingers slightly, questing deeper inside him. A glow, stronger than just the light from the candles, is starting to fill the room, but John barely notices it, focused as he is on the task at hand. He could almost forget why he’s here as a matter of fact, if not for the widening awareness he has in other ways.
Two fingers turn to three, barely able to keep up with the eager rolling of Jason’s hips. John licks more sweat from his back, groans at the taste, at the feeling. He needs to get on with this, needs it like air, like oxygen. Needs it like a plant needs the sun. He’s caught in a vacuum, and the only way forward is to give into that deadly pull.
He undoes his trousers; is vaguely aware of Jason kicking his all the way off. John grabs his hips, lifting them so he’s balanced on his knees and slicks up his own cock, feeling his heart beating behind his teeth even before he pushes the head in, fingers digging bruises into Jason’s skin.
And the world tilts.
With Wayne, it was the heaviness of foundations sunk deep into the earth. The building blocks of the city laid down centuries before him. It was a picture of wealth and guidance; it was pearls breaking and shattering in the dark. Fear and anger, impossible control. Old stone and running water, deep night; the weight of legacy that threatened to drag you under, never to let you go. It was history and everything terrible that came with it, endless cycles between madness and reason; progress warring with tradition, justice with vengeance. It was innocence lost and the yawning darkness of never ending grief; the city’s black black heart as she held all her citizens in her poisonous embrace and told them You are mine.
Jason is different. In some ways the same, but oh so different nonetheless. He’s youth and anger, a simmering rage. Ambition and a push for the surface. Hard tarmac on streets, neon lights and burning smoke. He’s the scent of fresh spilt blood, burnt rubber, gun powder and cold metal; the roar of an engine breaking free and oil resting in thick puddles. He’s the swell of something contradictory, fostered and broken a dozen times over only to be reforged. He’s life that refuses to be beaten down, that bites back at every opportunity. Sharp teeth and sharper eyes, sorrow and a desire for something better. He’s the feeling of change built into an inescapable wave. Clandestine and daring; protective overall. Bloody teeth and bruised knuckles. Need that won’t sit still.
A tire iron held in a small fist, and the gumption to prove the world wrong.
It’s no wonder this city can drown people, John thinks, with all that at her centre.
In the physical world, they move together, bodies entwined, breath ragged, ripping at cloth and bruising flesh. Jason pushes himself up onto his hand, reaches one back and grabs at John even as he turns his head in a blatant attempt to kiss him. It feels incredible, and as John obliges him, he can’t help but worry that if by the time they’re done he’ll burn through; be incinerated by everything he’s trying to take and contain.
Gotham is merciless to those who aren’t prepared for her, that’s for sure.
“Harder,” Jason pants, pushing back against him. “Don’t… ungh, don’t stop you bastard, don’t stop.”
John doesn’t think he has a hope in hell of answering him, just groans an assurance instead. His reward for the harder snap of his hips is a startled cry, Jason finally losing the battle to keep quiet now in the penultimate moments.
He shouts. Yells. Power in the air; power in John’s hands, polluting his soul. No man was meant to hold a city, but god, he’s doing it nonetheless. Gathering the minds, hearts, dreams, hopes and despair of millions until he feels liable to explode from it. Feeding that power into a locked box along with what he gathered from Wayne last night until finally he’s at his limit.
John snarls against Jason’s back, bites and swears like a sailor when he comes, burying himself deep into the boy’s body. There’s no need to touch him to make Jason come in turn either, as the feedback rebounds between them, sharing pleasure like the very best hit of a drug. John feels him come in the sudden contraction of muscles around his cock, the muffled scream barely held back by the way Jason buries his face into the pillow.
Then he collapses downward, spent, with John right on top of him.
Minutes drag by as they both come out of it. Pull themselves back from the abyss, lest she decide to turn her gaze on them once again. True to form, John’s the first to recover, managing to gather enough energy to pull out and then roll off to the side next to Jason, staring dazedly up at the yellowed ceiling until the edges of the world start to make sense again in the ugly sheen of paisley wallpaper lit by candlelight.
Jason’s the one who eventually breaks the comfortable silence, groaning as he manages to lift his head from the pillow. “What… what the hell was that?” he asks.
“That, luv,” John manages to say, reaching up to rub his hand across his face, “Was magic.”
“I mean, Christ.”
“That was… it…”
“Rocked your world?”
John grins as Jason glares at him, all flushed and pouty lipped, curls of his hair falling all over the place. Adorable. “Don’t oversell yourself, Constantine.”
“I’m not,” he says, refusing to be offended (mostly). “Told you, it’s the magic.”
He rolls over onto his side, reaching down the side of the bed to rifle through the pile of their clothes until he finds his fag packet and lighter. It’d be stupidly easy to conjure fire himself right now, simmering as he is with borrowed energy, but that’d be dangerous in itself. Far too easy to overblow it. Instead, he follows the more mundane route, sliding two cigs between his lips, lighting both, then offering one out to Jason.
The kid hesitates before taking it, sighing deeply after the first lungful. It seems to calm him, help him regain his equilibrium. He goes quiet again, turning his eyes to stare at the headboard in some kind of deep contemplation. John leaves him to it, moving only to pass the makeshift ashtray he’d conjured out of a side plate between them while he smokes.
Eventually Jason talks again, “So that was her. Gotham.”
John turns his head to look at him, tapping ash off his mostly finished cigarette. “Sure was.”
“She’s… a lot.”
“Course she is; she’s a city. Millions of people, all crammed into a relatively small space, like cells in one giant bloody organism.”
Jason doesn’t pay attention his less than flattering description. “She felt…” he darts a quick glance John’s way, gauging his reaction. “She felt familiar. I can’t describe it but it was like… like…” he chews his lip, apparently lost for words.
“Like finally turning your head and seeing that person who’s been looking over your shoulder all your life?” John fills in for him.
“Told you, luv; she likes you. Maybe even loves you, as much as she can anyone.”
He recognises the expression in the lad’s eyes now, a little bit of awe and wonder, like the child who’d crept downstairs Christmas morning to find Santa Claus was real after all. A piece of the world he didn’t know was missing slotting into place. Maybe even a sense of peace and contentment as he finds truth in the words John told him before. “I wish I could remember…” he frowns. “I’m trying to remember, but it’s like I’m grasping at straws.”
“Mortal mind’s not meant to hold something so big.” John confirms for him. “It’s best you let the details slip. Stay saner that way.”
Jason cuts him a sharp look, “And you, do you stay sane?”
“Don’t think I’ve been sane in me life, luv.” John jokes, stubbing out his cigarette onto the plate and trying not to think of Ravenscar. “Don’t worry, I’ll be letting all what I’ve gathered go soon enough.”
“I wasn’t worried.” Jason says a tad too quickly. “But you mean it, you’ll save her? Save everyone?”
“Sure as eggs is eggs.” John replies. Jason gives him a funny look for the expression, before following it with another nod and looking away again, plucking at the coarse bedsheet with his fingers after putting out his own cigarette. “Want another one?” John asks, holding up the packet.
Jason snorts, but reaches out to take it. “Think you might be the only person I’ve ever slept with who’s let me smoke in bed.”
“Yeah, whole world’s gone ruddy mad with the health and safety rubbish.” John agrees, waving his hand as he holds the lighter out to him in turn. “No smoking indoors; not too much of this, not too much of that. Mind your Ps and Qs. Think it takes some of the living out of life, I do. Nothing’s worth doing without a little risk involved, right?”
Jason’s lips twitch up into perhaps the first genuine smile John’s seen from him all night. “That your professional opinion as a wizard?”
“Magus.” John corrects him to sound more impressive. “And yeah, it is.”
He almost shivers when Jason’s eyes track up and down his body, bright and intense with glowing green heat. He shifts his body, staring at muscles still gleaming with sweat as Jason raises himself up onto his elbows to look down at him. The kiss, when it comes, is filled with smoke. “So,” the lad says, when he’s pulled back again, “Reckon you might have an even better chance of saving Gotham if we go one more time?”
John blinks. Call him crazy, but he’s got the sneaking suspicion Jason might actually like him underneath all that antagonistic bluster.
“Yeah,” he grins back, “I’d say so.”