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this is how we rebuild

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John may have gone into Ravenscar Asylum as a broken man, but he left a shattered one. Fragile pieces of sharp glass heaped together with thin wit and an even sharper tongue, wrapped up in a trench coat. He smelt of hospitals - the wrong kind of combination of bodily excretions and industrial strength bleach. But today was the day he got to be released and so he smiles at his psychiatrist. and bullshits through an aching grin, that he feels 'just fine, squire'.

Truth be told, Chas wasn’t even aware what had happened to John after Newcastle. He’d simply dropped off the map until a month ago when he’d called him. He sounded tired, alone, and scared. Chas had only ever heard the man speak like that when he was confronting his father after a particularly bad night of drinking; even at eleven and twelve, they were inseperable. A scared John terrified him to the core; worse than any demon.

Chas pulls up outside the pick-up bay of the institution. There were no other cars and it rubbed him the wrong way.

“Not a lot of people leavin’ this place, eh?”, he mumbles to himself as he tugs his cabbie hat over his hair. He checks his wallet for ID and then starts the walk into the main reception of the building. The walls are a yellowing-white and Chas tries not to make the connections between old horror movie asylums and this place. After all, that was a bad mentally ill stereotype. He had thought John told him everything, but even growing up together John had kept secrets. Chas supposed there was no proper way to say ‘hey, mate, I see and hear things that aren’t there and not in the psychic way’. Sure, the anxiety and depression Chas knew about; he had coaxed a drunk John out of suicide many times over the phone. But this? This was new and slightly scary.

Chas clears his throat as he locks eyes with the catatonic nurse who manned the reception desk.

“I’m, uh, here to pick up John Constantine,” he says, “He’s getting out today.”

A spark of recognition flickers behind her lifeless eyes and she stops chewing her piece of gum to mumble, “Geez, are they really releasing that child killer?”

Chas’ fuse was short, but this snarky twenty-year-old held the key for his best friend’s release. He tries to be civil.

“They could never prove that. He just needs help. I’ll get him some a bit more... closer to home.”

‘Less fucking abusive’, he thinks to himself.

The woman shrugs, “He’ll be out in a minute. I’ll get the things he checked in with.”

Chas is pleased to see her go and he forces his shoulders to relax. He gets lost in his own thoughts while staring at an old painting of a the cliffs near Ravenscar. John had almost thrown himself off them. She returns with a cardboard box marked J. Constantine, the contents of which Chas was intimately familiar with. A trench coat, a tie, a white shirt with a stain near the left shoulder from an ink-spitting demon, black trousers, and combat boots. There was also various necklaces with protective symbols on them, all of John's piercings, and the silver rings John wore on occasion. Chas scoops up the box and carries it out to the car. Better to pass the time doing something useful than sitting in a stuffy waiting room with that bitch. He whistles an old punk rock tune to himself as he meanders towards the reception doors again. God, he hoped John was okay. He hoped that he wasn’t going to come out of this a drooling, mindless vegetable.

Chas shivers as he enters the waiting room again and impatience burns in his stomach worse than acid. He wanted to see John bloody fucking now! The woman at the front desk shuffles papers to get his attention and Chas raises his eyebrows at her.

"You need to get him to sign this. Mail it to his insurance provider within a week from today. It's all the out-of-pocket expenses."

Chas takes the forms, frowning down at words which he is sure absolutely no one can understand. They wrote it that way so you handed the money over without question.

"He, uh, he doesn't have that kinda money," Chas mumbles, "To pay, I mean."

She shrugs, "Then you better hope he has good insurance."

Chas clenches his jaw and stuffs the paperwork into his jacket. John didn't have good insurance, in fact, as far as he could tell, John was just scraping by when it came to his financial situation. He decides to keep the expenses secret from John until he was settled back in his apartment; it would be less stressful that way.

John is skinny, tired, and shaking as he makes the first few steps into the reception area. He's dressed in the white asylum uniform, has a medical ID bracelet on his wrist, and his hair is longer than usual. It's strange to see him piercing-free. 

"John!" Chas calls excitedly, which makes the other flinch.

Carefully, like a mother lion holding her cub, Chas coaxes John into his arms. He squeezes him tightly and doesn't question when John buries his face into his chest, taking comfort in his scent. Chas was, in John's opinion, the best bloody hugger there was, and he would be damned if he didn't stay in the taller man's arms for as long as he could.

"I got everything in the car, mate. All we gotta do is walk outta here," Chas assures him.

John lets out a shaky breath, his words even shakier, "Thanks, mate."

John spends a few more precious moments in warm arms before he braves the bitterly cold wind outside Ravenscar. The cold came as a shock and a comfort to his system after so long locked away inside. He breathes deeply, running his fingers through his hair, "Shit, Chas, s'good to be out."

"S'good to bloody see you again. I was... I was really worried, John."

"I know. I-I'm sorry, Chas. I wasn't in the right mind to reach out," John says, picking at his dirty nails and leaning against the cab for support.

He raises his eyebrows, "Oh? What's this? An apology now, innit?"

"Shove it up your arse," John barks, a playful grin on his face, "Jus' drive me home."