Slade accepted two forms of payment: USD and favors, the latter rarely. The contract would have to be particularly compelling, and the client particularly interesting for Slade to accept a favor over the much more liquid promise of American cash.
John Constantine was that sort of client.
But Slade wasn’t unfamiliar with Constantine and he had little patience for glorified con artists. The blood of the mark (an amateur occultist, running amok and bringing forth too many of Constantine’s friends from down under for Constantine’s preference or safety) hadn’t even dried before Slade turned to Constantine, lifting his sword so that the tip pressed into the skin of Constantine’s throat. Constantine’s Adam’s apple bobbed.
“None of that now, mate. We’re friendly here,” Constantine cooed, holding his hands up, palms out.
“I’d like to cash in that favor,” Slade growled. “Now.”
“Now, now. Lower your stick, before this all goes to pot, and we can get started on that favor, yeah?”
Slade moved the sword, dragging the broad side of the blade across Constantine’s trenchcoated waist to wipe away the remaining blood before sheathing it.
“Brilliant,” Constantine muttered, pulling a dark blue pouch, bulging and tied tight, from his coat. “Alright, mate, I have a summoning spell, swiped from that gutted bloke over there. The ingredients are packed tight, all I’d need to do is cast a circle, say a little Latin, and you’ll have yourself a demon. Tied and bound to you and you alone. A devilish assist to your devilish work. Satisfactory?”
Slade considered the pouch and then Constantine. The task had been quick and cheap, even if the spell didn’t yield, Slade wasn’t at a terrible loss. And if the spell backfired on Slade, he would leave Constantine’s dismembered body in San Francisco for Zatanna Zatara to find. He told Constantine as such, and Constantine winced.
“Leave Zee be, you’ve already got my bollocks in a vice without bringing her into this. The circle will prevent any unintentional shenanigans, we just need somewhere quiet and private, preferably an abandoned warehouse or a private wine cellar.”
“Or this. This will work too,” Constantine conceded, when Slade pulled up to the abandoned fairground. A tattered Big Top slouched, unattended to in decades. The two had to step through brush that licked up to their knees, but once they entered the tent, the space proved to be stable, quiet, and broad. Well suited to their unholy purpose.
Constantine dropped the bag he’d insisted Slade allow him to retrieve before their arrival onto the grass and pulled out a can of white spray paint. “Step back, then. Let me work,” he chided. Slade obliged, retreating several paces before planting himself, arms crossed.
Even Slade had to admit that watching Constantine work was intriguing. Constantine sprayed a circle into the dirt and sparse grass, filling it with a pentagram and lining the pentagram with symbols that Slade didn’t recognize as anything other than occult gibberish. As he painted the symbols, Constantine murmured Latin incantations with a furrowed brow. When finished, he tossed the spray can aside and pulled out the pouch lifted from the dead occultist. He pulled the string from the pouch and laid the pouch, open and contents exposed, in the middle of the circle. Then, he left the circle and lifted a sizeable, ornate, rather blunt knife from his bag.
“Come into the circle, will you? I need some of your blood to bind you to the beastie.”
Slade hesitated, and Constantine rolled his eyes. “It’ll only take a minute and then we’ll both be out of the circle well before the demon rents it. Don’t act shy now, I just watched you gut a man.”
Slade unclasped one of his gloves and strode over, entering the circle and offering his wrist up. Constantine followed him in, and lifted the blade, “Shite knife, sublime athame,” Constantine cheerfully offered before driving the point into Slade’s wrist. It took that much force just to pierce Slade’s skin deep enough to bleed, and Constantine removed the knife as soon as blood began to well.
“Alright, drip it over the offerings there. That’s it,” Constantine murmured, gently guiding Slade’s wrist over the contents of the pouch. Slade let him, if only to scrutinize the debris laid out.
“Is that cereal?” Slade asked, gruffly.
“Ah, yes. The sugary kind,” Constantine murmured, glancing down. “Every demon has their kicks. Special lot, like snowflakes. Bloody rude snowflakes, who hold grudges.”
Aside from cereal, there was a single bird feather, a worn paperback, and assorted herbs and spices. Slade considered breaking Constantine’s neck.
“Robin Hood?” Slade asked, as his blood dripped onto the feather. Constantine lit a cigarette procured from his coat.
“The spell’s very specific,” Constantine offered. “These are offerings to a particular demon, one the occultist must have researched. It may not be the book itself, but something about the book that the demon appreciates. Same with the cereal. Demons are creatures of id, they want. So much of them is want, it isn’t hard to find what makes them tick. You’ll see. And that’s enough, best leave the circle.”
Slade put his glove back on without bandaging the wound and stepped out just as Constantine back peddled away as well.
After a few more incantations, Constantine flicked his cigarette into the circle and the whole thing immediately erupted into blue flames. Slade grunted and Constantine grinned.
“Well, let’s see what that slimy bloke picked out for you, eh?” Constantine said as the flames began to wane. As the flames dissipated, a hunched figure took shape amid silky, climbing smoke. Then, before the figure was fully revealed, a gust of wind shook the tent so violently that Constantine cursed, and Slade drew his sword.
By the time the wind died down, it had carried away the last of the smoke. And in the circle lounged a raven haired, long legged creature with massive wings so black that they shone blue. Its naked skin was bronze and olive with symbols, same as those in the circle, etched onto the skin of its arms in black and blue ink. An ethereal, shimmering ring of blue circled the creature’s neck. The creature’s eyes fluttered open, revealing cobalt eyes that were all iris, no pupil, no whites.
Constantine whistled, and the creature stretched, reaching high and rolling its shoulders. It let out a pleased sigh at the resulting crack. It looked to Slade, frowned, and then turned its attention to Constantine. Constantine locked eyes with the creature, and the creature smiled. With the grace of a cat and the smoothness of a stream, the creature poured itself into a crouch, wings extended just enough to reveal the arch to his back. Slade had an inkling that the creature couldn’t extend his wings any further, they were brushing against the boundary of the circle as it was.
“Let me out?” the creature crooned to Constantine, eyes taking on a shine. “It’s so cramped in here, and you’re so far away. Please?”
Constantine blinked, eyes hazy. Slade prepared to grab him, but then Constantine threw his head back and laughed. The creature made a disgruntled noise and sat back on its haunches, closing its wings tight.
“Well, you don’t have to laugh,” it muttered grumpily, crossing its arms.
“I’m sorry, but, love, did you really expect that to work?” Constantine asked, wiping under his eyes and smirking. “I’ve got you locked so tight you can’t sneeze without those etchings boiling whatever it is you have that passes for blood.”
“Constantine,” Slade barked. Constantine looked over at him as if just now noticing him.
“Oh, right, of course,” Constantine murmured. To the creature he said, “This here is Deathstroke the Terminator. That ring around your neck? It means you’re his now. Until death do you part, and all. You’re paying my way out of a sticky situation, mate.”
The creature narrowed its eyes. “I ate my last master,” it murmured. “But you knew that, didn’t you, John Constantine?”
“You know it?” Slade growled, lurching towards Constantine. Constantine stumbled back, lifting his palms again.
“We’re not well acquainted, no. I know of him. And of his kind.”
Slade grabbed the collar of Constantine’s shirt, lifted him so that their eyes were level. Once again, wind picked up in the tent, tossing Constantine’s hair as the creature leaned forward in interest.
“Elaborate,” Slade ground out. Constantine glanced towards the creature, who smirked.
“This here’s Dick,” Constantine explained. “He’s a lilitu. A wind and sex demon if you will. Feeds off the libido of humans until he essentially shags them to death. Eats babies sometimes. Tastes change depending on the weather and all.”
“I haven’t eaten a baby since I ate the first born of a corrupt Sumerian king,” Dick retorted. The sudden wind ceased, and Slade shook Constantine.
“Is he doing that? He’s bound, how is he doing that?” Slade demanded.
“Christ, take it easy,” Constantine muttered. “His power’s limited, I can’t erase it. Rest assured, he’s bound to you. The symbols on his skin, they keep him on the mortal plane. That band around his neck? That’s your blood, mate. He cannot harm you, he cannot defy you.”
“You’re paraphrasing, John,” Dick sing-songed. “Tell him the truth.”
Constantine winced. “He can harm you, but only if you grant him the ability to do so. Say, if you give him permission to feed from you. Give him an inch, he can swipe a mile.”
Slade grunted and released Constantine, who dropped to the ground with the grace of a drunk. He picked himself up from the ground, dusted the dirt from his ass.
“Let a bloke finish, would you?” Constantine muttered. “I can add an extra charm to this whole affair, an extra layer of protection, if you will. Mark you both so that you can put a cap on his powers. Parental controls, if you will.”
Dick hissed and scrambled as far away from them as he could given the confines of the circle. Slade considered John for a moment.
“That’s fine. Do what you will,” Slade finally said, comforted by Dick’s discomfort.
“Just—help me hold him down, will you?” Constantine asked, once again drawing the ceremonial dagger.
When all was said and done, Dick sported a new etching—a scar across his chest, in the shape of a bird. As crude as the blunt dagger appeared to be, it cut into Dick’s skin beautifully, and Slade made a note to find something like it just in case he needed one for his new pet.
Slade’s own mark was much simpler, his skin tougher against the blade. It was the same symbol as that on Dick’s chest, except much smaller, on Slade’s left peck. “What is this?” Slade asked, gesturing to the symbol and picking up his armor to redress.
“His, ah, coat of arms, if you will,” Constantine said. “Hell is quite structured, there are families and dukedoms. Its his crest.”
Dick trembled, curled up into a ball in his circle. Slade initially chalked it up to a weak pain tolerance, but then Dick’s scar glowed, the same blue as his collar, and Slade felt a rush as his own glowed in tandem. Wind picked up around them, and Slade felt it, in his chest. A cord, vibrating with energy. He frowned slit the cord with the same focus it took to adjust a rifle scope. The air ceased, and Dick let out a frustrated grunt.
“I’m going to leave,” Constantine said slowly, packing his bag and slinging it over his shoulder. “To release him, break the circle.”
“Gone so quickly?” Dick murmured. “And here I wanted to bond.”
Constantine winked at Dick. “Maybe next time, love. I’ve had your kind before, truly, you’re masters of the craft. You’re also worse than a black widow. Cheers.” With that, John disappeared.
Slade looked to Dick, who had uncurled and was watching him. Dick continued to watch him, as Slade strode closer, and even as Slade scrubbed away a portion of the circle with his boot. Dick did not move.
“Well?” Slade asked. Dick blinked.
“What does it matter. I’m bound nonetheless,” Dick spat. Slade crossed his arms and felt for that cord again, pulled just enough that he could feel the rush of power. Dick could too, his eyes closed, and he sighed as wind ruffled his hair.
“I am not unkind,” Slade offered. “Behave, and I will give you what you need. This arrangement can be mutually beneficial.”
“On your terms,” Dick shot back.
Slade nodded. “On my terms.”
“And if I don’t behave?” Dick pushed.
“Then I will keep you locked away in a cellar. No wind. No touch. You will languish alone, for as long as I live and our bond persists.”
Dick’s shoulders sagged, his wings splayed wide and limp. Slade knelt down, cupped Dick’s face, forcing him to look up. Constantine had said that demons were creatures ruled by id and want. This one clearly wanted for touch, for air. Slade could provide both. Slade would show that he could provide both.
Dick blinked up at Slade, eyebrows furrowed. Slade tugged at that cord again, let Dick’s power flow.
“You have my permission,” Slade murmured. Dick’s eyes widened and then he launched himself on top of Slade, ripping away Slade’s mask and kissing him deeply. Slade fell onto his back with the weight of Dick and nearly immediately felt the haze, slick as morphine, as Dick fed. Slade also felt the euphoria, the satisfaction that Dick experienced. It was consuming, overwhelming, both sensations entangled until Slade couldn’t distinguish which was his and which was Dick’s. In that moment, Slade was willing to give Dick anything he asked, would have slit his own wrists if Dick willed it.
And then Slade, forcefully and painfully, slit the cord. Dick jerked back, but not far.
The two panted into each other’s mouths for a moment as they caught their breath.
“You,” Dick murmured, eyes wide. “You’re human. You did that while….” Dick pressed his forehead against Slade’s, a grin spreading. Slade was absently running a gloved hand up and down Dick’s spine without even realizing. Idly, he wondered if, during the kiss, Dick felt Slade’s desire in the same way that Slade felt Dick. If Dick was, for even just a moment affected by his own allure. If this were a more compelling method of control than any threat.
“You’ll need clothes,” Slade murmured, letting his head fall back onto the ground. “Sunglasses, while we’re in public. I’ll have Wintergreen scrounge something together.”
Dick settled down on top of Slade, wings spready to their full length, adding to the weight curled on Slade’s chest. “Whatever you wish,” Dick murmured. “It’s not as if I have a choice in the matter.” Despite Dick’s bratty commentary, he was clearly content wrapped around Slade, and Slade had an inkling that this little demon had an affinity for authority, for power.
That was fine. Slade had no doubt he could satisfy his new pet.