“A real vacation.” Jason says, he’s lounging on an expensive bed with two plane tickets in his hands, and a towel wrapped low around his waist. “You know, the kind where there’s sun and beaches, and no demons or gun runners.”
It’s been hard, the last few months, for the both of them. Jason’s got a long pink scar along his stomach from catching a blade to the side. It was a run of the mill Gotham gangster with alien tech, but it had cauterized and left an eight inch pink infected scar regardless. It had been night after night of intercepted shipments and fallout from some kind of back alley deal that was heading south.
John, well, John’s month hadn’t been any better. Stirrings in the underworld tended to be rapturous, and this month had been no different. Demons clawing their way out of hell and into the minds and bodies of innocents everywhere. The words you can’t save everybody have always rung true, and John’s never been one to get turned inside out by failing to save them all. But, there’s something entirely different about having to feed someone to the darkness. To hand them over to waiting hands without question, and accept that it’s for the greater good.
He never tells Jason about any of it, afraid, cowardly, ashamed. He unpacks the feelings one at a time before he crams back into their boxes and decides he just can’t be bothered to care. Sometimes, it’s just harder to keep that box shut than others, and it’s starting to grind him down.
Standing at the edge of the bed in nothing but a pair of briefs, John watches Jason, tries to ignore the little flip his stomach does when he catches sight of the towel riding up his legs. Swirling ink peaking around his thigh, the itch in John’s hand to reach out and touch it. To peel the towel off and settle right between those legs again.
Instead, he settles on the bed and plucks a cigarette from the pack on the night stand. Jason’s, not his, but they’ve long since gotten over sharing brands. It’s tucked between his fingers, pressed against his lips. “There ain’t no rest for the wicked love.” He sounds so tired, wrecked from the inside out, and Jason frowns at him. Sits up and rests his chin on John’s shoulder, tuck the tickets into his hand.
John hasn’t slept in days, at least. Looks like it could be weeks from where Jason is perched. The dark under his eyes, the restless way he shifts at night. The way Jason catches him running runes into his skin with his fingers like he’s warding Jason away from something he won’t talk about. He’s worried, he hasn’t seen John this bad in a long time. He has half the mind to call Zee and ask her what to do, but it’s a whole can of worms he’s not quite prepared to try and explain.
Instead, he presses a kiss into John’s neck and says “Think about it?”
: : :
“I’m never letting you pack my bags again.” John whines while at the hotel. He’s flipped his suitcase over on the bed to showcase a plethora of varying khaki shorts, and about a dozen hawaiian shirts he never owned. One of them has little dogs on surfboards, another is covered in pineapples. There’s one he’s ninety-nine percent sure is from Magnum PI but doesn’t want to say anything in case Jason is too young to know what the hell it is.
John’s too polite to ask if Jason got the hotel on one off Bruce’s credit cards, or if he’s running off of some transaction money from his Red Hood anonymous account tucked away in a Swedish bank. Used for buying weapons, new tech, and making three sizeable donations a month; one to the St. Thomas church in Park Row, another to Leslie Thompkins, and the last to the food bank in Crime Alley. Not that John is supposed to know any of that.
There’s a king sized bed adorned in fresh white linen sheets, with plush pillows. It’ll probably be the most comfortable bed John has ever slept in, if the way his suitcase bounced on the top layer is any indication. Rich dark wood floors lead the way out to the living room, glass furniture and white, with a kitchenette that lets them stay in or go out. Off of the bedroom is a set of large glass doors that open out into a small deck and then beyond a fence to the beach. John can hear the waves lapping at the shore, the room smells like Jason’s body wash from his shower and salt from the sea.
Jason swings around the corner, toothbrush hanging out of his mouth. There’s mint gathered at the corner of his lips, and the humidity has already made his hair start to curl around his ears, looking all the part of the vacationing tourist. It’s hard to believe that 48 hours ago he was jumping around rooftops and threatening to shoot pimps in the face. “What? They’re cute.”
Jason’s got a pair of chino’s low on his hips, and a white linen shirt open. Tan skin for miles, the lean lines of his stomach making John’s heart do a little pitter-patter he’s still not quite used to. He looks like something out of a men’s magazine, and John is suddenly acutely aware of how old he’s feeling, how old he actually is.
“I really didn’t think you’d want your trench coat and button ups in the Caribbean.” Jason shrugs, leaves the toothbrush abandoned on the bathroom sink and pads his way out next to John. “‘Side’s, I didn’t pack your bags.” Jason hums as he looks at the contents of the suitcase, a sideways grin on his face.
It’s the same look Jason gets on his face when he’s kissed lady luck and ducks out of the way of danger. The kind that says he knows he’s running on borrowed time and beat death again. He slides up close to John, wraps his arms around his waist and rests his chin on his shoulder. “Alfred and Dickie did.”
He gives John a small tap on his ass, throws a rare and dazzling, smile when John turns to face him. This close, John can see the smattering of freckles across the bridge of his nose. The pink of his scar on his side, the other silvers ones from knives, burns, bullets, all scattered across his body. John reminds himself that Jason needs this as much as he does, rests his hand over the particularly nasty scar on Jason’s neck and kisses him slow and sweet.
“You’re a right brat.” Jason snorts.
“You love it,” He turns away and grabs a pair of sunglasses off of the dresser. A pair of knock off Raybans he bought at the airport that are a bit too small for his face. “Now come on, we’re gonna hit the beach before it gets too late.”
John looks back at the water, at the orange sun dancing across the waves, white sand going for miles. Not another living soul within eyesight. He wants to be excited, to be grateful, he thinks of France, and Europe. But there’s a gnawing in his gut that he can’t seem to get rid of, a shake in his hands, and a prickling in his spine. He’s faltering, and he knows, he knows that he should be alone for this.
But then Jason is looking at him with stupid 80’s sunglasses over his eyes and he looks like he belongs in a John Hughes movie with a towel strung around his neck and John’s peeling out of his clothes and into the swim shorts that were packed for him. The ones with little pizza slices all over them. John keeps his eyes on Jason, on the excitement radiating off of him, even when he can catch silhouettes in the mirror to the bathroom, can feel phantom hands around his neck and hear them in his ears.
: : :
The beach is a nice change of pace, John digs his too pale feet into the warm sand as he watches Jason try and navigate the waves coming in. He looks like a kid, for once. Looks his age when he gets wide eyed after a wave dumps him backwards into the blue. It’s hard to remember that he’s only in his early twenties. That he should be laughing and having a good time like this, like everyone else his age.
That he shouldn’t have died, and lived again already.
There’s the sound of Jason flopping down on the sand beside him, sucking in deep breaths and dripping cool water everywhere and John tries to let the sight distract him. “Read to me?” He asks, then leans back against his towel with his hands behind his head and tries to soak up the moment.
By the time the sun starts to dip on the horizon, Jason has pink painted across his nose in a sunburn, and John’s sure his shoulders are lobster red, despite the liberal amount of sunscreen Jason poured all over him.
It’s nice, and he thinks of how unfair it is that he has this. That he has Jason, head on his chest while he reads through passages of Fahrenheit 451, letting John card his fingers through his wild and wet hair.
His mind wanders, and it wanders, and he’s lost in thoughts he’s usually so good at burying. Of Zatanna, of his death. Of John’s part in it. He thinks of his mother, and his brother, and their deaths as the start of everything. He feels that sinking, deep part of himself, and it pulls him lower and lower.
“Hey, earth to mr. magic?” Jason waves a hand in front of John’s face. He’s got a pinched look on his face, green eyes sharp and concerned. Like he’s trying to pull John apart without him noticing. All bat, that stare, and it makes John feel vulnerable in a way he doesn’t like.
“Just daydreaming love, must be the jet lag.” he rubs his eyes for effect, and Jason has the decency to pretend he believes him.
“Wanna hit the water? It’s really nice, and the sun’s about to go down.” Jason asks, he sounds hopeful, but gentle in a way that has John’s hackles raised. He doesn’t want Jason caught in this part of his life. It’s selfish, and its stupid, and with how mixed together they already are, he knows it’s too late. It was too late the first time he saw him in that club in London.
The bitch of the bunch is John isn’t a good man, has never been a good man. He wasn’t even a good soul, he’s the kind of thing that comes out of the womb rotten and broken. That brings nothing but heartache and misery with him, like a suitcase filled with rotting corpses that he insists on thrusting onto everyone who agrees to stay with him for more than a night.
Most days, most nights, John can come to terms with that part of himself. That he’s just a roach, and he can fix some things while he’s relegated to wandering around this earth. He can try to make some things right. But for the most part, he’s wrong. He’s been wrong since the day he was born, and its selfish to let Jason stick around having not figured it out yet.
But selfish he is, and maybe that’s even worse.
“That sounds real nice.” He hums, catches Jason under the chin and kisses him. Slow and long, like he can memorize this moment and come back to it a hundred times over. He follows Jason to the water, hand in hand, watching the sunset as the waves lap around them. Some waves bigger than others, almost knocking John over, Jason laughing next to him.
It feels still for a moment, when they get deep enough that their feet lose the soft sandy bottom of the water. Treading with Jason’s hand still in his. “I think we needed this.” Jason huffs out, moves so he’s facing John, hands find his hips. “A bit of a break.” He kisses John like something out of a movie, and the fears subside when he lets his eyes close. Just focuses, on Jason’s hands on his hips, on the weight of another person. An anchor almost. Then his eyes flutter open, and they’re there. Right behind Jason, watching, waiting. Like they know something John doesn’t, and he ignores them, tries to get lost in that shimmering green. Ignore the fact that he can see Gary Lester’s face filled with flies, and Emma’s broken body on the street.
: : :
John doesn’t know how Jason manages to convince him to head down to the resort club. But, it’s after they’ve showered and changed, and they’re prepared to go to bed when Jason hears the sounds of music and drags John down to the bar.
It’s out on the beach, under a straw roof, with a makeshift bar and rows of twinkling edison lights painting out the dance floor. Squares of wooden floors linked together to make a square, ocean in the background and latin music thumping in the air. It’s beautiful, brings John back to that club in London, with Jason stretched out and waiting, needing.
He looks so different tonight though, at ease in a way that John hasn’t seen in a long time. He’s dressed in a button up short sleeve, tucked in a pair of navy skinny slacks, hugging his ass and waist and thighs in a way that makes John’s mouth go dry. He’s not the only one who’s noticed though, and from behind his whiskey glass he watches Jason at the bar.
He’s got a Carona in his hand, and he’s whispering into the ear of a woman there. She’s older than he is, but younger than John. Her brown hair falling around her shoulders in rich curls, long slender arms and legs, a tiny waist, wrapped by a scarlet short dress. They’re speaking Spanish, John can hear Jason’s accented voice carry over the crowd.
When he turns and walks back to the table, he looks at ease. He’s had a few drinks and shots, and John can tell he’s a bit drunk already.
“You wanna come dance?” The perfect Spanish is gone and replaced by his slightly more apparent Gotham twang. John grins up at him.
“No, you go ahead love.” Jason looks a bit crestfallen, looks back at the long haired brunette who keeps eyeing him.
“You sure?” He asks, and John can hear the hesitation and concern in his voice. The fear of rejection that he hides so well when he’s sober, but comes blazing to the surface when he’s drunk. John nods and grabs Jason’s wrist, lets his hand wrap around his wrist for a moment.
“Of course, show the girl a good time.” John points to the direction of the girl watching them with his whiskey glass. “I’ll watch from the sidelines.” Jason gives him a toothy smile, and sets his beer on the table and heads over to the dancefloor as the music changes. John gives a small nod to the unsure girl, and she follows suit, laughing when Jason gives his best dirty dancing impression and the music changes.
John watches as Jason brings the girl close, as they move to the music. It’s not the kind of mindless grinding that John had thought, as a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. Jason grabs the girl by the waist, leads her with the music. His hand on the small of her back, bringing her close and way to the music. His hips moving against hers. John takes a long sip of his whiskey, as he watches.
Then Jason spins her, out just a little bit, laughing the two of them when she spins back. Back to his chest, and they keep moving to the music. Jason’s hands on her hips as they sway together, he whispers something in her ear and she laughs.
It’s mesmerizing, watching Jason, pulls John away from himself. Away from the moment as he watches Jason’s hips move, his hands slide down her sides. Move from one song to the next.
“You’re going to ruin him you know.” Emma’s voice catches John off guard, and he looks next to him. She looks the way she did the last time he saw her, when she died. Forlorn and sad in a way that he hates, she’s always been so honest in a way he’s no good at dealing with. “Dead twice over before twenty-five isn’t a good look John.”
John turns and catches Jason craning his head back and laughing, he’s got the girl by the hands now. Moving to a slow dance that has all the young people on the dance floor fleeing. Leaves Jason hand in hand with this woman and the oldies of the resort. He points a hand over to John, and he feels caught. Tries to ignore the knot that’s forming in his stomach.
“Well, that’s not going to happen.” John says, and when he looks over, Emma is gone, and he’s left making the promise to thin air. Despite that, it still sits in his gut like he swallowed a brick.
: : :
The breeze from the outside is what wakes Jason up. It dots his bare arms and legs with goosebumps, and when he shimmies over in the bed, across king sized sheets, his long legs don’t come into contact with a warm and sleeping John Constantine. HIs eyes open at the feeling of dread and fear in his stomach. The first thing Jason realizes, is that they didn’t leave the window open when they stumbled into bed. Jason was pleasantly drunk, and John was warm with whiskey. They kissed until they passed out under blankets, John tracing his finger across Jason’s scarred skin.
Now the scent of cigarette smoke was thick when Jason sat up. He let his eyes adjust to the dark and half expected to see John sitting across from him on one of the chairs. Instead, the room was empty, fan in the bathroom spinning away. Jason pulled himself out of bed, padded into the adjacent living room. It was empty, and the feeling of frustrated worry grew. Then he saw the bottles scattered across the counter, little singles of vodka and rum.
Jason moves back to the bedroom, peers out the patio door and squints to scan the beach. That’s when Jason sees him, John’s form standing on the beach. He’s not still, but stumbling, drunkenly close to the water. It’s nipping at his ankles, and Jason thinks of the million stories he’s heard of and read of drownings.
He peels the duvet off of the bed and wraps it around his shoulders. Sparing a glance at his cellphone, he sees that it’s three in the morning. He wonders if this has anything to do with whispers of a witching hour he remembered as a kid, and frowns as he makes his way outside.
“John?” He approaches carefully, can hear John talking, but can’t make out the words. He’s got a cigarette in one hand, and a bottle of vodka in the other. Jason has no idea where he got it, but he ignores the part of him that wants to ask. John’s eyes are red rimmed, puffy even under the moonlight with nothing but the soft glow of their porch light to guide them. He’s got dirt and sand clinging to his face, and he looks at Jason like he might not actually be there.
It knots a pit in Jason’s stomach that he hasn’t felt in a very, very, long time. The same kind of growing dread that he had when his mom started taking longer and longer to wake up. As she became less and less coherent, as drugs took over her life. That knowing dread that something’s happening that is beyond his control.
“John, what’s wrong?” Jason’s voice is small, fear ebbing at the edges and he can’t hide it. He’s been so good at it, but maybe it’s the charged energy. Or, maybe it’s just because Jason has never seen John like this, broken and muttering.
He’s heard things, everyone who’s worked in their cirlce has heard things about John Constantine. You didn’t touch magic without hearing an earful from Bruce about the dangers of getting swept up in his ploys. There’s an extensive, albeit spotty file in Bruce’s database. Bits and pieces of a colorful history that Jason wasn’t even sure was true. But, this right now, tonight, it makes his brain go through each detail to try and find some kind of magic cure.
“You’re freaking me out.”
John wipes his nose on his sleeve, and he looks at Jason, looks past Jason, behind him, to something, somewhere else. Jason resists the urge to turn and try to see something that he can’t. John takes a few steps past Jason, falls down onto the sand, and Jason’s there in a heartbeat, kneeling in front of him. The blanket acting like a barrier to whatever’s going on and John looks up at Jason and there’s something on his face that scares the shit out of him.
“I can’t - I can’t stop it. I’m sorry.” John rambles, and Jason shakes his head. Tries to take up as much of John’s line of sight as possible. Whatever is happening, whatever is going on, it doesn’t matter. Jason just has to make sure that he’s there, that he can help John get through the worst of it.
“Its okay, its okay, just breathe. I’ve got you, just breathe.” Jason does a good show of breathing calmly himself, like that will help. Like John is just… Tim, or Dick, when the world gets to be too much and adrenaline wins the fight against their wits. The way he does when he’s sitting up in bed and trying to breathe away the gnarled visions of the night.
Jason drops in the sand next to John, tugs the duvet around them. John stinks like cigarettes and booze, and Jason doesn’t know how he didn’t see it before. How he thought a vacation was going to help, when John probably just needed a few days to figure this out. To breathe, to let whatever this is take its course.
Jason was so wrapped up in making sure this was good, that they enjoyed the sun, and relaxed, that he didn’t see what John was really trying to do. The month had been bad. It had been taxing and exhausting, and Jason had been blind to it. Had tried to solve what was a supernatural problem, with something natural.
“I’m a terrible person.” John finally says, and his eyes are out watching the water. Black as batman’s cape lapping at the shores. “It just catches up with me sometimes.”
“I am, Jason. I’m a terrible person. I let people die, all the time. I’m responsible for so much.” John shakes his head, keeps his eyes focused on the darkness on the horizon. “Not just death even, but damnation, hell and everything else.”
“I’ve almost killed my own brother, twice. I’ve killed so many people, I don’t think I could even tell you how many.” Jason tells John honestly, lets out a long breath and looks at John. “I’m not a good person, John. I know that. I wish I was, I wish I could just wave some kind of magic and wake up in that coffin and figure all of this out. Get it together before so many people got hurt.”
He turns and looks at John, wraps a protective arm around his shoulder. “Life isn’t black and white like that, it isn’t just good and bad. It’s choices. Sometimes, we get dealt a shit hand, and the options are just shit. Doesn’t make you bad, or good, just someone who does what has to be done.”
Jason looks out onto the water, tries to see if he can see what John is looking at, wishes that he could. “I’ll never fault you for that. It won’t change anything.”
“You could die.” John tells him, his voice solemn like this is fact. “Join the rest of my haunts.”
“I already did.” Jason reminds him, and shrugs. “Dying wasn’t bad. It was coming back that hurt so bad.”
John looks like he wants to argue, he has an intense jut to his chin but instead he just curses under his breath and turns away from Jason, turns his eyes back to the water.
“It’s been a long time since coming back feels right, like i have a reason to be here.” John turns to look at Jason, finally, eyes pulling back from their focus on the ocean. Jason watches John, watches as he winces, looking past Jason again.
Jason lets out a sigh, pulls John closer. “Anyone who’s hanging around ruining our vacation can kindly fuck right off.” Jason waves out to the beach. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Or whatever.” He makes a motion to make a wide cross across his chest and finishes it off by giving the finger.
“That’s one way to chase off some spirits.” John laughs, and Jason pulls him close. Tips his head to kiss him, slow and deliberate.
“We’re in this together, if I have to chase them off, I will.”
: : :
John wakes up to the sun shining down on his face, waves crashing onto the shore. He has the headache from hell, and his mouth tastes like a garbage can. Jason’s breath is soft below him, even, as he sleeps. Fingers brushing against John’s body, trailing familiar shapes in his skin.
They’re still out on the beach, and there isn’t a single soul around them. Just the two of them on the beach. John pulls back slightly, looks down at Jason. At his beach mussed hair, his sunburnt nose, the freckles and the fact that he’s starting to get a tan line around his glasses.
“Fuck,” he curses quietly, brushes a curl out of Jason’s eye. “I think I might love you.” He whispers, quietly. Feels his heart freeze when Jason tightens the hand around his hip and murmurs. “I love you too.”