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Like a Restless Wind

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1. Vertigo

It’s a slow night at the bar at Long Journey’s End. But time’s a bit odd this far out on the fringes of existence.

John Constantine, condemned soul and one-time saviour of the universe, has lost track of just how long it’s been.

Funny thing — he always figured that when his luck finally ran out and he went down in a blaze of glory, he’d either get booted back into the world on the karmic wheel of fate, or spend a painful-but-interesting eternity on a spit-roaster in Hell. He never thought he’d be one for the cozy-slippers-hot-toddy-by-the-fireplace-dness of being put out to pasture.

But here he is all the same, sat on a stool at the end of a grimy bar counter, glass full of the kind of top-drawer vintage Laphraoig he’d never been able to afford in life. He’s surrounded by strangers more familiar than old friends or enemies, no one's actively trying to kill him, and he’s actually learned to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Then again, it’s never quiet for long at Long Journey’s End; not for the likes of the original Hellblazer.

This hour brings with it the square jaw and broad shoulders and slightly unhinged grin of an old friend and enemy: one man among many whom John screwed, and then screwed over, and who didn’t live to tell the tale.

“Fancy seeing you here,” John says, lifting his glass to S.W. Manor.

Stanley’s wearing bulletproof black, like his counterpart in all the known worlds across the multiverse. His face is as beautiful as ever, beautiful as it’d been in the moment before John made him cut out his heart.

“They don’t let just anyone in,” Stanley remarks. He slings his lean, dangerous bulk onto the nearby stool, broomstick-rigid posture conveying disdain for the grimy surroundings in general and for John in particular. “But it seems I’m even more known around here than you are.”

“You always were, love. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

John’s gained some perspective from his down-time in these remote parts. Not for the first time, he wonders why his world had sent him this particular flavour of billionaire vigilante — the one who had been broken by the tragedy in his past, who’d turned to crime and orphans instead of crime-fighting, and let black magic and loneliness eat him up from the inside.

That said, the multiverse had never missed an opportunity to fuck with each and every single flavour of John Constantine.

Stanley grins his crooked grin. “I’m mostly finished with wanting to see you dead. Look, I even kept the fake clock you and your friend Leslie sold me because it reminded me of you. There aren’t many places for people like us, John.”

Time was, that gravelly tone would have made him seethe, or shiver; it now mostly makes him sad. The thing with having peace and quiet and nothing but time is that there’s now an expanse of moments for second-guessing, even if you’re John Constantine, aspiring trickster god.

“And what are people like us doing here, then, with all them other gin joints in all the towns in all the worlds?”

Stanley puts his blunt, scarred fingers over John’s. The Rasputin clock, shrunk to watch-sized, shines golden from his wrist — a monument to that brainless scam that Les and the other members of the late, great Mucous Membrane pulled on Stan in the ‘80s that started off this spiral of revenge and blood and death; a scam that John would’ve taken back if he’d been at all the sort of man to feel regret.

The familiar touch feels good, much better than anything ought to feel in this place out of time itself.

“We’re waiting, of course. To see what’s next.”

John knows he should know better, but he’s holding his breath anyway. Maybe things could have gone differently for them, if Stanley had been different. If John had himself been different.

Or maybe it’d always end the same way: in death and blood and a blaze of glory.

John raises his glass and grins fiercely. “Mate, I’ll drink to that.”


* * *


2. League


Most nights, Gotham is a fug of lurking waste and sordid back alleys, populated with crooked cops and homeless ne’er-do-wells, its underbelly as squalid as the gargoyles that perch overhead. That’s the way John likes it — it reminds him of London’s dirty magic, in the way that nothing else does in this shiny-new country, and makes him forget the curse he’s under which stops him from going home again.

But this summer night has put a different lustre on downtown Gotham. The urban streets and Gothic skyscrapers are polished to a high sheen, its air is warm and mild and halfway-breathable, and its society folk are all turned out in their Saturday best.

John Constantine hates every fucking thing about it.

Posh people are the same everywhere, across the Atlantic and all the different planes of existence: Tories and Tony Blair and the in-bred upper-class lisp that belongs in the outer rings of Hell. But posh New World people, with their tans and their perfect white teeth and their careless new money, are in a special circle all to themselves.

What was it that one of their all-American heroes once said, before he’d found himself on the wrong end of a bullet? Don’t get mad, get even.

As it happens, John Constantine is an old hand at both.

But that’s not why he’s here, rubbing shoulders with the great and the good on the polished staircase of the Gotham Opera House, wearing a penguin suit he’d won off a CEO in a card game, together with five years of the wanker’s life.

His is an unlikely mission of mercy. His old mate Les Chandler, fetched up in America last year, has somehow managed to get himself snared by some blue-blooded New York heiress. Les is Chas’ cousin, a good bass player and a decent magician with truly terrible taste in women; in London, he’d last dated a succubus who’d been slowly sucking his soul dry via his sorry excuse for a prick.

When he heard the news, John parked the House of Mystery on Stuyvesant Square and went to pay Les’ new Second Avenue digs a visit. Well and good if the new Mrs Chandler isn’t a voracious sex demon in disguise; on the other hand, if she’s a magical being using Les for more than just sex, then Les would definitely need help showing her the door.

But not only did the bastard refuse to see him, both in person and on the astral plane, he actually raised a barrier or two — with skills he didn’t use to have — to keep his old mate John away from Manhattan.

Since then, Les has kept off the grid, and John himself had his hands full sorting out Nick’s latest mess with the Cult of the Cold Flame. But word eventually got out that Les’ missus would be chairing the Gotham Opera fund-raiser on Saturday night, right in the Justice League Dark’s back yard.

John’s halfway up the opera house staircase when he realises something else that’s in the Justice League Dark’s back yard — billionaire philanthropist Bruce Thomas Wayne, patron of the Gotham Opera.

Bruce’s aura precedes him: more complex and guarded than the steel vaults and highfaluting defences of the Federal Reserve. A beat later, that tall, characteristic frame looms into view, square-jawed and broad-shouldered, classic all-American tan and perfect white teeth, filling his sharp designer tuxedo as admirably as if he’d been hand-stitched into it by a harem of nubile seamstresses.

John has a split-second to wonder how the man gets his hair so perfectly pressed; with all the time it spends under that pointy-eared reinforced cowl, it has no business being this thick, fetching coif. Then the second’s over, and the unofficial patron of the Justice League Dark catches John’s gaze dead-on.

Bruce’s steely eyes narrow and abruptly he changes direction on the stairs to intercept John, in a purposeful stride that plans to take no prisoners and conceives of no escape. The sea of Gotham socialites part in a glittering wave before him.

“Evening, squire,” says John, and tugs his forelock for good measure.

“John Constantine,” Bruce says brusquely. “Are you here on business?”

The Batman’s eyes are always obscured by the mask; for the first time, John realises Bruce’s eyes are blue. Bruce’s uncovered gaze is as direct and judgmental as the Batman’s always is, but in this place, surrounded by Gotham Brahmins and the stink of money, John is much less inclined to submit.

“Well, a bloke like me wouldn’t be ‘ere for pleasure, amirite?”

A small muscle in Bruce’s cheek twitches; perhaps it’s from the deliberate coarseness of John’s accent. “The party’s this way,” he says. “Walk with me.”

John opens his mouth to protest and finds his elbow grasped in the Batman’s massive iron-fingered grip. He lets Bruce propel him back downstairs and through the throng of partygoers, muttering, “You know, I could scream?”

“They’d never believe you.” Which is sadly probably true: posh bastards always seem to get away with all kinds of harassing shit.

“I bet you say that to all the girls,” John says, grimly. His arm is starting to hurt: the Batman might technically be the boss of him, but if Bruce Wayne isn’t careful, John is going to kick him in the bollocks.

Bruce lets go abruptly, as if John’s conjured up a defensive blaze. “No, never,” he says; his classic features take on a look that might be charitably interpreted as wounded.

John isn’t in a particularly charitable mood. Bruce has steered him into a corner beside the programme stand, away from the main flow of traffic; it’s private enough for him to let fly. “I’m not looking for trouble, sunshine, unless you’d like to make some. If you’re done shoving me around, I’ll be on my way.”

“One moment.” Bruce reaches out, and then thinks the better of it. In a slightly more conciliatory tone, he continues, “Why don’t you tell me why you’re here? Maybe I can help.”

That’s likely as much an apology as John is going to get. Still: “Bruce Wayne, offering help to the likes o’ me? Suppose I should be bleedin’ flattered?”

Bruce glares, and John subsides. He’s never been a team player, but he supposes he’s willing to fake it for the sake of the team.

“I’m here checking up on a mate of mine, a magician from Croydon. He’s a magnet for the wrong bird, and recently got hitched to your opera fund-raising chair, Ava Chandler.”

“Ava Lowell,” Bruce says. “Her family’s originally from around here, I’ve known her since she was a girl.”

“Huh.” John considers this. Trust Bruce Wayne to be familiar with every eligible society woman in Gotham. “Any chance she might be a sex demon?”

Bruce raises his eyebrows. “Not to my knowledge,” he says. “Not that I’ve had the pleasure, of course.”

“Really? That’s not what the gossip rags say,” says John, because he can’t help himself; and sure enough, there’s that wounded look again, as if the scion of the Wayne business empire would never romance any lady out of turn, or be so crass as to kiss and tell about it.

“It’s a useful cover story,” Bruce says neutrally, “but it’s almost entirely false.”

There’s something under that too-polished veneer, and John is more fascinated by it than he ought to be. “Sandra Bullock?” he asks, referencing the latest issue of Hello! Gotham. “Silver St. Cloud? Scarlett Johansson?” Then, slyly, reaching even further back: “Superman?”

“None of them,” Bruce says, evenly; “not even Kal. Believe me, John, I don’t know Ava in that way, but I do know that, fifteen years ago, she was a real girl. Though of course I can’t rule out subsequent demonic possession, or magic, which are more your areas of expertise.”

All this talk of demons and magic and dating reminds John that the one magician whom Bruce has known since he was a boy, whom the Batman probably once dated in one universe or other, is someone whom John is currently not-dating. It feels strange to share this connection with this blue-eyed, blue-blooded man, with whom he has almost nothing else in common.

John knows he should put the thoughts of Zatanna firmly to one side, together with his other much crasser thoughts. Bruce Wayne clearly doesn’t get out much, reputation with the ladies and some gents notwithstanding, and the Batman doesn’t seem the kind of bloke that likes to share.

But in this moment, standing toe to toe with the Bat’s alter ego, John can’t help wondering what it’d be like if he did.

“Bruce, there you are! I’ve been looking all over for you!”

A cultured female voice, speaking in the kind of upper-class East Coast accent that makes John want to chunder over Bruce’s patent-leather Guccis, and blow him if it’s not the bird he’s here to see, darkly beautiful in a long black gown, on the arm of one recently-acquired down-on-his-luck-but-still-alive-and-kicking British husband. She has on one elegant wrist an ornate watch so large it could almost be a clock, one which John knows he ought to recognise.

“How lovely to see you, Ava,” Bruce says, going in for the air-kiss favoured by people too posh to actually lock lips.

John makes do with the proletarian equivalent, which is a mock-playful feint to the chin. “Les, me old china. How’s tricks?”

Les’ skin is cold to the touch, and his eyes are even colder. There’s a simmering edge to his aura that definitely wasn’t there a year ago, something he’s trying to keep hidden. “John, I thought I made it clear right enough — you were gunna leave us well alone!”

“Nonsense,” Ava says. “Any friend of Bruce Wayne’s is always welcome.” Underneath her gorgeous smile is a groundswell of raw power that hits John right below the belt.

Smoothly, she switches gears, and turns her smile several degrees to the left. “Bruce, I don’t want to interrupt your conversation, but I would like to discuss the new fund-raising campaign while I’m in town. Do let me know when works for you.”

Bruce, who had been starting to say, “He’s not my —”, stops when John raises his eyebrows, and instead turns it into, “…I will have Alfred set something up?”

“Fantastic. Bring John as well, if you like.” Ava shutters her gaze, and sweeps Les away.

When they’re alone, Bruce asks, “Demon?”

John shakes himself. Magical backlash will do that, even if the magician isn’t trying to make an impression, and this magician was certainly trying to make an impression. His trousers feel uncomfortably tight and his ears are ringing; he’s not sure if it’s from her power, or Les’, or it’s just his old instincts for trouble kicking in. Don’t get mad, get even.

“Not sure. Powerful, though, even if not. Our Les is clearly out o’ his depth.”

“Who isn’t, when it comes to affairs of the heart?”

There’s a faint, uncharacteristic smirk on Bruce’s handsome face: clearly, he enjoyed watching the posh bint shake John up a bit. Maybe it’s bleed from the backlash, but this makes John suddenly want to smack the smirk off Bruce’s mouth in a totally non-mock-playful way.

Abruptly, Bruce switches gears as well. “Anyway, it sounds like I should schedule the fund-raising discussion she wants, so we can continue this line of investigation.”

“Thought I wasn’t your friend, mate,” John says, but his heart isn’t in it, distracted by the pulse of the Chandlers’ power, and wanting to do something to the upper-class curl of Bruce Wayne’s lip.

“Nonsense,” Bruce says briskly. “Your business is the League’s, and the League’s business is the Batman’s.”

“Fair enough.” John makes himself take a mental step backwards. Remember, this is an old-money bloke too posh to lock lips — or at any rate, to lock lips with the likes of him.

Then he shrugs: if business is all there is between them and all there can ever be, in this universe, anyway, that’s entirely fine with him.

More than fine, really. He’ll never be a team player, but he’s actually looking forward to facing off against Ava and Les again with the Batman at his side.


* * *


3. Injustice


In this world, there was a war. Like all wars fought by powerful, arrogant motherfuckers who think they know what’s best for the planet, a lot of people died. And the death toll just keeps rising, even though Gotham and Liverpool and everywhere on this particular world are now supposedly at peace.

In this world, out of all the worlds in the multiverse, the Superman is evil.

The Batman sees through Superman’s facist regime, sees Superman for what he is. Thanks to him, insurrectionists have come from across the globe, filling the Tower of Fate and the House of Mystery and safe-houses across the mundane world — joining him in the fight to do what it takes, to take his best mate down. It’s what makes him so useful to a bloke like Constantine.

John Constantine always has a secret and a plan; on a good day, he’s got thirty in the fire at one go.

Today is not one of those days.

Constantine has to hand it to the Bat — he must be something like ninety percent painkillers, but you’d never know it to look at him. Tall, massive and stoic, every inch the invincible battle-wagon he’d always been, nothing to show that it’d taken a year to recover after the Superman had broken his back.

For weeks, he's led his troops out into the field and into every back-alley brawl and never missed a beat. Unlike the other insurrectionists, Constantine hasn’t been very good at taking orders. They crossed swords during the battle with the Spectre, and blow him if the bastard hadn’t smacked Constantine a good one in the middle of the bloody fight. Still, he'd apologised afterwards, even though Constantine had tried to goad him by taking his shirt off and showing the Batman his bruises. And since then, he'd been a constant Bat-shaped shadow on all of Constantine’s missions to seek out allies across the globe — half-minder, half-overgrown bodyguard.

Which is how the poor sod found himself trapped with Constantine in this particular, Constantine-typical predicament.

Constantine mounted a successful campaign to the Swamp Thing in Louisiana, and a less successful one to Papa Midnite in New York. Nathan Arcane ran both him and Batman out of his house in Oxfordshire, which would have been embarrassing if Constantine had any sense of shame left.

He hadn’t expected any trouble when he called on his old mate Les Chandler in Croydon on the way back. He figured he’d just collect a couple of the artefacts he’d left there for safe-keeping, and maybe get to show off his celebrity chaperone a bit; Les always used to tease him about his thing for tall, dark and brooding. He’d let Les pour him several drinks and reminisce about their punk rock days, watching Batman stonily ignore their increasingly outrageous stories about the Sex Pistols and sexually voracious roadies.

But when the Rasputin clock on the mantel struck eleven and their guard was down, Les dropped his glamour, revealed the succubus attached to his dangly bits, and tried to bloody rip Constantine’s nuts off.

Batman came to the rescue. Constantine, dazed from the drinks, hit back with the spell-knife of Khusa. There was a supernova of human and demon fluid, the veil between realms ripped from top to bottom — and when the dust settled, they found themselves trapped in the succubus’ private dimension.

The dimension is vast and at the same time little more than a wooden room. The sky above them is painted with garish mirrors. The air smells of sex and sulphur. The ground beneath them is made of old-fashioned panelling, and the entryway has vanished. All around them is an insistent ticking sound, like the mechanism of a clock.

“And I thought Croydon was bad enough,” mutters Constantine, fighting his way out of his trenchcoat and stomping on it before the sex demon gore makes it catch fire. He’s unsteady on his feet; his head is aching something fierce.

His trousers are soaked through — with what he’s gratified to discover is blood, and not anything else more embarrassing.

“It got you in the thigh,” Batman says. He’s calmer than anyone covered in corrosive demon goo has any right to be, even though the armour is also starting to smoke a little.

“You think? Shit, it hurts.” Constantine unbuckles his belt and cautiously lowers his trousers enough to inspect the damage. Thank fuck, the thing missed what it was aiming for, but the ragged teeth marks are high enough up the meat of his thigh to be a near thing indeed.

Batman has taken his cowl off and is wiping the worst of the gore away with treated cloth from his utility belt. He glances over to where Constantine’s muttering and swearing to himself. “That doesn’t look pretty. Can you take care of it?”

“That’s not how magic works, mate.” Besides, John’s running on empty — the succubus had tried to take his power, and, judging from the current onset of post-battle tremors, that’s another damn near thing.

Batman catches him when his legs fold, as if Constantine weighs nothing at all, and settles him impersonally on the uneven flooring of this realm. Equally impersonally, he pulls Constantine’s pants down to mid-knee.

Maybe it’s weakness from the succubus’ wound, or maybe it’s the sudden proximity to the Batman’s unmasked gaze, but Constantine starts to laugh, even though it hurts like the bollocks. “Aren’t we being a bit forward, love? We haven’t copped off enough for me to want to drop trou’.”

Batman gets supplies out of his belt: a spray and some kind of sticking plaster. Neutrally, he remarks, “I could kiss you if it makes you feel better about needing my help, but if you can’t take care of this yourself, then we’re doing this my way.”

“Never figured you were such a romantic.” Batman’s hands are skilful, though, and there’s something numbing in the spray, and in no time at all Constantine does indeed feel better, enough to actually wonder what it’d be like if he was to take the big lug up on his offer of a kiss.

Constantine gives himself a mental shake: damn sex demon magic is messing with his head. He should have remembered what a soft touch Les was; should have cut short on the ridiculous Constantine-esque peacocking, which always gets him into scrapes like this. Still, there’s nothing else for it — they need to get out of here before his power runs out completely.

He pulls his trousers back up, gets on his knees with some effort, and draws his circle into the wooden ground. His hands are shaking badly; he’s very conscious of Batman sitting silently on his haunches at his side.

When he finally gets it together enough to push outwards, the news is bad. The succubus and Les are gone, thanks to the Bat-whammy and the Khusa, and they’re somehow trapped inside the Rasputin clock in the Croydon flat. The door to this private hell-hole is sealed shut; there’s only one thing that’ll open it from this side.

“Well, technically, it’s two things,” Constantine mutters, when he comes back to himself and discovers he’s collapsed sideways in the circle, held upright solely by way of Batman’s armoured chest.

“Tell me.” From this position, Constantine can both hear Batman’s voice and feel it though his cheekbone where it’s pressed against that Bat-symbol; it’s unaccountably arousing.

“Well, a sacrifice would work. It always works. But you’d have to be dead before there’d be enough energy to open the door, and I’m not sure I could get you back to the Tower of Fate in time for Zee to resurrect you.”

“Mm. And what’s the other thing?”

Constantine takes a steadying breath. “You’re so not gunna like this, sunshine.”

“Tell me,” says the Batman, calmly. This close, closer than they’ve ever been, his eyes are a deep well of blue. Against Constantine’s cheek, under the impenetrable armour, his heart is a slow, bedrock-solid metronome.

Constantine’s own heart is hammering like the clappers. Bugger everything, a rank amateur would have it more together than this. “The thing with succubi, their bolt-hole’s always this kind of sex pad. And there’s another kind of sacrifice that works for a sex pad.”

Constantine has to hand it to the man — the steady heartbeat doesn’t even flicker, nor do those steel-blue eyes. Behind that stoic face, the world-class mind weighs the evidence and turns over the alternatives, of which there are not many.

“Sex magic?” Batman says, eventually.

“The up close and personal kind.” Constantine rubs his hand over his face. “If I was by myself, I’d be pretty much toast. Hand-jobs might work, but getting two people through the door usually needs them to be as close as possible.”

Batman’s jaw tightens minutely; from this angle, Constantine can see the small muscles around his eyes contract as he thinks hard.

“Can you get a distress signal out? My own comms are down.”

“Yeah, I’d be surprised if you got a signal out here, in this armpit between Earth and the first circle.” Constantine makes another attempt to rummage up the spark of magic, but the only thing that’s catching fire is his succubus-enhanced libido. “ Me neither; I’m working on less than five per cent as it is.”

Batman asks, “Would it make a difference if you got some rest? Here, drink this.”

Les’s spiked something-to-drink was the thing that got them into this fix in the first place, but Constantine lets Batman help him to some fluid wafers, and does feel somewhat the better for it. Still: “Saying it again, mate, that’s not how magic works. This place is an energy sink, I’m not gunna get any stronger. I’m sorry to say that we’re on the clock here.”

“Well, then,” Batman says, evenly, and changes his grip around Constantine’s shoulders, and draws him in closer.

Batman’s mouth, usually set in thin, straight lines, tastes more lush than Constantine would ever have imagined. A brief press of lips, and it’s enough to bestir filthy instincts already roused by the succubus’ magic, bringing Constantine to full attention under his half-open trousers.

Constantine has no inkling why Batman would do this. Is he such a hardened warrior that he’d do anything to survive, such a practical leader that he’s willing to take this bullet for the team? In the moment, Constantine doesn’t much care. A second before, his arms been almost too weak to hold onto the magic, but somehow they’ve found their way around the Batman’s armoured neck.

“Hell of a time to make good on that offer, mate.”

Batman holds him easily, steadily. “I decided to trust you the night I got into your friend’s cab.” One side of his mouth crooks upwards. “The way I see it, the ride isn’t over, not until one of us calls it, and I don’t see you tapping out.”

“I take it back: this is very romantic,” Constantine mutters, and Batman kisses him again, open-mouthed, a careful lowering of the man’s legendary defences.

This time, Constantine can’t stop himself from kissing back. The slow slide of tongues makes him so hard that even grinding against Batman’s rigid armour is starting to feel good to him.

“Tell me what you need me to do,” Batman says against Constantine’s lips. He’s as cool and focused as he’d been when they’d gone in to the Green, when they’d faced down Arcane together.

Constantine’s own focus is pretty much wrecked, because all he wants to do is push up against Batman’s powerful body and rub himself off in the groove between hip and armoured crotch, and that would absolutely bugger up the spell. He concentrates with some effort. “Does any part of this come off?”

Batman draws back; in the low, mirrored light his teeth flash fiercely. “Of course. It all comes off, one way or the other.”

“Nifty. You, uh, take off the part that lets you piss, and then you can help me get ready.”

Constantine sits back painfully, and tries not to stare as Batman strips off his gloves, unclasps his utility belt and unfastens the padded codpiece that covers his groin. He pauses when he’s done, raising one perfect eyebrow. “Is there an optimal position?”

Constantine pulls his attention away from Batman’s thick, girthy cock. It’s only half-hard, but it’s already so big it’s making his mouth water. No false advertising on that thing, that’s for goddamned sure.

“I’m not fussed, and neither is the magic? But, no offence, you don’t seem like much of the bottom kind of bloke, Batman.”

“I’m not,” Batman says, evenly. “But I’ll do what’s needed, Constantine. Tell me what you need.”

The thought of those muscular thighs spreading for him, that powerful body opening inch by inch under him… Constantine groans out loud. “Jesus, don’t say things like that or I’ll shoot off too early and we’re screwed. We need to both get there from the sex, as close together as we can manage. Does that work for you?”

“It does,” Batman says. “What about protection?”

“Christ, what else d’you have in that belt of yours? No, don’t answer that. The magic don’t mind rubber, which is a good thing — you don’t want to know half the things I’ve got.”

“Anything contagious?” Batman is smirking as he takes hold of Constantine again, lifts him into that armoured lap, and starts to undress him, piece by meticulous piece.

Batman has already seen all of this — the sigils inked across Constantine’s chest and arms, the unabated package straining thickly against his H&M y-fronts — but he pauses anyway; either to drink it all in, or to reconsider this plan of action. Constantine hopes it’s the former. This might have started out as just another bit of magic, to get out of yet another classic John Constantine screw-up, but it’s rapidly devolving into something else, something fierce and aching and hungry that lives underneath the wisecracking veneer.

“No, unless you count a death wish and actual half-demon blood. But you can’t be too careful about things.”

Batman snorts again, pulling the y-fronts down. “When have you ever been careful?”

Constantine bites back a groan; those blunt, calloused fingers feel incredible around his prick, and even better circling the rim of his hole. Seems the Bat’s belt of ever-preparedness has a vial of lubricant, too — all the better to get into all manner of tight spaces, including the one behind Constantine’s balls. “Me? Never. Batman, though…”

“True enough,” Batman agrees, and hauls him in for another less careful kiss. His tongue thrusts into Constantine’s mouth, hot and insistent; his thick fingers shove into Constantine’s arse, and a high-pitched whining sound wrenches itself from Constantine’s throat.

There’s a darkness coiling inside the Batman's tightly-controlled body: a darkness that wants to suck welts along the line of arcane tattoos and bite into the soft flesh of neck until it tastes Constantine’s half-demon blood. Batman has less of a grip on it than he thinks. It draws out an answering hunger that, in Constantine, is never far from the surface. Batman’s not-quite-bruising grip isn’t enough; the fingers aren’t enough; he needs more, needs it to fucking hurt.

“Fuck, now, do it now —” He hears the pleading note in his voice, which would be balls-out humiliating if he could stop to think about it. Batman grunts in affirmation, and shifts his grip, and there’s an instant of tearing pain that’s indistinguishable from pleasure as the man’s massive prick rams itself into his body.

“All right?” Batman asks, hoarsely. Constantine can’t say anything for a moment; the Batman’s cock has claimed and impaled and invaded him so completely he can’t seem to catch his breath. Lightning streaks across his prostate, and fucking finally, there it is — the kindled spark of sex magic.

When he finally gets his wind back, it’s time to start the chant of opening.

He doesn’t have breath to spare to tell Batman what he needs, but that wily detective can tell anyway. He pins Constantine in place, one big hand making a fist in his hair and the other gripping his hip, and he drives into Constantine’ body steadily and excruciatingly slowly, in time with the bedrock rhythm of his pulse, and the throb of sex magic keeps time with them both.

Here is sex, and life, and joining. Open to us. Let us cross.

Under his skin, the darkness roars to life. Hunger, sex, the need to survive — clawing through his blood, building raw and fierce into something that could easily overwhelm him. Batman’s his anchor; a focal point in this storm — but he, too, has started to gasp and fight, struggling to hold on to that celebrated control, to hold off the gathering, inevitable threads of orgasm.

Open to us. Accept our sacrifice. Let us cross.

Constantine’s voice is cracking around the spell, the spools of magic are fraying. Batman’s cock is tearing him open, the crushing grip is digging bruises into his flesh, the pleasure is agonising and at once too much and not enough.

Open to us — “Fuck, I can’t — Bruce —

“I’m here, John,” Batman pants against his neck; “I know what you need,” and his fingers curl around Constantine’s leaking prick, and the sudden, shattering wave of ecstasy rushes up to meet him.

— Fuck you, here we are, crossing —

Fuck control; they’re out of control — the wave smashes into them, the world comes crashing down, the door rips off its hinges —

— there’s white behind his eyelids, there’s Bruce filling him to the hilt, and there’s the blaze that takes them both to the other side.

Eventually, Constantine manages to open his eyes. The ceiling and bland white walls of Les’ Croydon flat surround him. Beyond is all of south London: ubiquitous and mundane and not trying to kill them. On the mantel, the Rasputin clock is smashed to pieces.

Something that is not at all mundane — the motherfucking Batman, lying half-naked on a bad '80s carpet in the remnants of Constantine’s magic circle, holding him in a careful embrace.

“We made it. Nicely done,” he says, when he realises Constantine’s awake.

Constantine pulls himself up, stiffly. His bandaged thigh aches, and so does his arse. The rest of his clothes are missing; his somewhat worse-for-wear trenchcoat’s wrapped around his nakedness. It’s not the first time he’s emerged starkers from a mission and likely it won’t be the last.

Batman gets up too. His hair’s standing on end, his mouth is red and bitten, by rights he should look ridiculous with parts of his armour missing and other parts wrecked by demon fire, but he doesn’t, and Constantine can’t look away.

Constantine knows what this means; knows, also, why he can’t afford to give in. He has a secret which he’d die to protect, and he has five options in place to ensure his own survival. The Batman is critical to all of those options, and he’s also expendable in every single one.

Days earlier, in a moment of weakness, Constantine offered the man the chance to walk away. “I don’t do that,” Batman had responded. A real hero, not riddled with shades of grey; a better man than John Constantine will ever be.

Could there be an ending where both of them survived this? Maybe, in another world across the multiverse, there could be — if there was a Constantine out there who was soft-hearted enough to make the offer again, or, worse still, one who could bring himself to drop his guard and reveal his secrets and open his heart, and ask the Batman for his help.

Or maybe it’d always end the same. Because John Constantine would always be John Constantine, in all the gin joints in all the worlds across the multiverse, and especially in this one.

“Let’s get back,” he says, grimly, and lets Batman help him to his feet.