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The Real You

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You always wonder what you were thinking when you agreed to be roommates with John Constantine. Okay, maybe ‘agreed’ isn’t the right word. It sort of happened on its own. Partly because John is known for his nomadic habits, and partly because you have a difficult time saying no to people. Well, him mostly.

Regardless, you and John are roommates, and it’s been working out surprisingly well. As someone who likes their privacy, John disappearing for stretches at a time works in your favor, so long as he brings rent money back. Which, he is usually pretty good about. Not giving you rent on time of course, but at least giving you money when he manages to return home.

It’s a comfortable arrangement, one that came naturally, much to your surprise. Sure occasionally you come home to John naked, covered in pig’s blood as he tries to learn a spell, but you learn to live with it. If for no other reason than you get to see John’s naked backside. A lot. The man doesn’t like to wear clothes when he’s home.

You unlock the door to the apartment and immediately trip over John’s shoes when you walk past the threshold. Cursing, you kick them aside and close the door behind you. It’s hard to be annoyed at him, mostly you feel relief. You hadn’t seen him in several weeks and was worried something bad had happened.

He’s sprawled across the couch, face down in the pillows, trench coat and everything else still on, except for one sock that hangs off his foot. It looks like he passed out before he could get undressed. With an affectionate sigh, you toss a blanket over him and make your way to the kitchen to get dinner started. You’re almost positive John hasn’t eaten anything, and it’s become a tradition for you to cook a big meal when he gets home.

You’re in the middle of pre-heating the oven when you hear him stumble into the kitchen. Turning around, you chuckle as you see John start to shed the blanket you had covered him with. It falls on the floor in a heap as he continues to walk toward you.

“Hi there, sleepyhead,” you tease.

John only mumbles a half-hearted greeting under his breath, as he shuffles forward. To your surprise, he wraps his arms around you in a hug, burying his face into your neck. “‘Lo, love,” he sighs.

You freeze, unsure of how to respond. It’s not that you were uncomfortable with the show of affection, it was just unexpected. After a second, you come back to yourself and carefully put your arms around him in a gentle hug.

“Hey there,” you say. “Everything alright?”

John lets out a non-committal grunt. “S’fine,” he says. “The job was a rough one.”

“I assumed as much,” you say. “Why don’t you go lay down until dinner is ready?”

At this John pulls away, breaking all contact. You’re surprised to find that you instantly miss the warmth of him pressed against you. “Nah, I’m alright,” John reassures you. He collapses into one of the chairs at the kitchen table.

You watch him fish a cigarette out of his pocket and slip the end between his lips. “Everything seems to be fine here,” he comments. “Any trouble while I was gone?”

“Nope, everything was pretty chill,” you tell him. “Besides, you know the trouble usually happens when you’re here.”

John chuckles as he lights his cigarette, before dropping the lighter onto the table. “Can’t argue there, mate,” he concedes. “What are you makin’?”

“A wonderful delicacy,” you say. “Frozen chicken tenders and fries.”

“You sure know how to spoil a bloke,” John teases. He takes a long drag and leans his head back, exhaling smoke into the air.

Annoyed, you walk over and take the smoke from him, despite his protests. “Come on, you know the rules, no smoking in the apartment, only in your room,” you scold.

John tries to grab it back. “I'm allowed one,” he reminds you. “Give it!”

Without warning, he grabs your hips and yanks you forward, bringing you crashing onto his lap. There's a pause. John smirks, waiting to see what you do next, and you're too flustered to say anything at first. Eventually, he plucks the cigarette from between your fingers with a triumphant smirk.

“I win,” he declares, slipping the end of the smoke back into his mouth.

You try to get up, but John's arms are like an anchor, keeping you in place.

“What’s the rush?” he asks. “Stay a while.”

“Depends on what you want,” you tell him. You're wary of his new handsy approach.

As much as you enjoy the feeling of John's hands on you, it hadn't happened before and you can't help but be suspicious. John almost always has a reason for acting the way that he does, and you wish you could say they’re good reasons.

“Why do you automatically assume I want something?” he asks with a pout.

“Because I know you.”

John doesn’t seem insulted. In fact, he chuckles but doesn’t release you. “Been having a rough go of it,” he says. “Bein’ with you comforts me.”

You can feel your cheeks burn as your stomach explodes with butterflies. It was the first time John had even broached the topic of how he feels toward you, and hearing that he finds your presence soothing makes your heart flutter. Tentatively, you slide your arm around his shoulders in a loose hug.

“Better?” you ask.

John’s mouth spreads into a lazy smile and he melts into your embrace, resting his head on his chest as he removes the cigarette from his mouth. “Ta, love.”

There are a few moments of silence as you adjust to the new closeness. But before you can enjoy it, the alarm on the oven beeps.

“Pizza is done,” you mutter.

With a disappointed sigh, John pats your thigh and draws back, letting you get to your feet. And just like that, the moment is broken. Even still, you can feel his phantom touch.

You can also feel his eyes watching you as you set about preparing dinner. “Do you want to watch TV or something?” you ask, trying to act like you aren't shaken by his mere presence.

“Whatever you want, love.”

You glance over at the table a few moments later, but John has disappeared. In the living room, you hear the television turn on, and you allow yourself a slow exhale. Normally it’s very easy for you to keep your feelings in check, but this time it's different. Clearly, his job got to him, and you wanted nothing more than to wrap your arms around him and give him all the comforting he needs.

Instead, you bring the pizza into the living room and set it and two beers on the coffee table. John seems to be back to his old self as he solemnly watches whatever garbage show he was able to find.

Your meal is done mostly in silence, John seemingly too drowsy to say much. When he’s quiet, you never force him to open up, learning very early on it only achieved the opposite. After a couple of slices and a half a beer, your own eyelids start to droop. John doesn’t look like he’ll be moving any time soon, so you decide to head to bed early.

You get to your feet and stretch. “Alright, I’m off to bed,” you say. “Don’t stay up too late. You could use some sleep too.”

For the first time since he left the kitchen, John gives you a smile. As you walk by him on your way to your room, his hand comes out to touch yours, making you pause. It looks like he wants to say something, and you hold your breath, waiting for him to speak.

Eventually, John sighs and gives your hand a squeeze. “Night, mate,” he says.  

You squeeze his hand back and smile, masking your disappointment. “Good night, John.”

In your room, you strip off your clothes and slip into a pair of loose-fitting pajama pants. As you climb into bed, you hear the TV turn off and John’s footsteps walk toward his room. However, as he pauses just outside your door, and once again you find yourself holding your breath. You can’t help but hope he knocks. But a second later his footsteps continue, and you hear his door open and close.

With a disappointed sigh, you roll onto your side. Your heart will hurt for a little while, but eventually, you’ll move on. It’s going to be a bitch until then, but you knew you’d work through your feelings.

It takes time, but you eventually fall asleep.

Normally you are a heavy sleeper and don’t wake up until morning, so when you find yourself wide awake a few hours later and the room is bathed in darkness, you know something is wrong. As your foggy brain catches up with reality, you realize there’s a noise in your room.

Slowly you roll over onto your back, only to find John standing at the foot of your bed. At first, you think its a dream. He’s standing in nothing but his underwear, framed by the faint light coming from the streetlamp outside.

“John?” you ask, voice hoarse with sleep. “You okay?”

He doesn’t answer. With a frown, you sit up, and hesitantly rise onto your knees. As you draw closer, you realize he’s not looking at you. He’s staring straight ahead and doesn’t react until you carefully reach toward him. Before your hand makes contact with his shoulder, he blinks and shakes his head.

“What are you doing here, mate?” he asks, confused.

“It’s my room, John,” you point out, filled with worry.

John frowned and slowly spun in a circle, seemingly taking in his surroundings for the first time. “So I am,” he muttered. “How the bloody hell did I get in here?”

Gently, you reach out to take his hand, tugging him forward to sit on the edge of the bed. “Have a seat,” you say. “You look pale.”

“Do I?”

You’re not buying his innocent act. His expression is too schooled, too neutral. “John, come on,” you say softly.

He doesn’t say anything at first, but after several long moments of silence, his shoulders sag and he hangs his head. “I’m sorry I woke you, mate,” he says. “I had a bit of a nightmare of sorts.”

Unable to stop yourself, you slide your arm around his shoulders and draw him in. He follows through with the movement, resting his forehead against yours. “Just give me a minute an’ I’ll leave you be. Prolly won’t go back to sleep, but I’m sure I can find something on the telly.”

There was no way you could let John sleep alone. But you’re not sure how to ask him without sounding like you want to provide something more than comfort. Not that you wouldn’t mind, but it didn’t seem like the right time. Before you manage to say anything, John gets to his feet, breaking contact with you and head toward the door.

“How about you come and sleep in my bed?” you suggest. He freezes in the doorway. “I’ll watch over you while you fall asleep. I promise.”

John slowly turns to face you, his eyes softening. “That does sound like a better offer,” he says, a hint of a smirk playing on his lips. “What else are you offerin’?”

You roll your eyes affectionately and motion for him to get into bed as you return to your warm cocoon of blankets. John doesn’t hesitate to follow. He eases onto the other side of the bed, and there’s some rustling as you both shift to get comfortable. You wind up facing each other, a small space between you, but close enough to feel each other’s body heat.

As curious as you are about his dream, you keep your questions to yourself. John looks exhausted and it doesn't take him long to fall back to sleep.

You, on the other hand, stay up for longer. True to your word, you keep an eye on him for the next several hours. While you do doze off from time to time, you wake suddenly each time he shifts or rolls away. By the fourth time, you're so drowsy that you spoon up behind him, your arm draped across his waist.

After that, you don't wake again until mid-morning. All is still in the apartment. You find yourself on your back with John flung across your chest.

He must have sensed you were awake because he cranes his neck back so he can look up at you.

“Mornin’, squire.” His voice is hoarse with lingering sleep, his eyes still hazy.

“Good morning,” you say. “Feeling any better?”

John hums, nuzzling your neck. “Loads,” he mutters.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

He doesn't speak, but continues to cuddle close, leaving you to believe he's in a much better headspace than he had been last night.

“Don't remember much,” John confesses. “I was alone, walking through darkness. There was a faint light in the distance so I went toward it. Found meself in a tunnel.” He paused for a moment, face scrunched like he was trying to remember. “Light got brighter and warmer ‘til I stopped outside a door. When I opened it, you were there.”

“It was just a dream,” you say soothingly.

“The feelin's were real,” John argues. “That darkness, mate...it wasn't natural. It was cold.”

You feel him shudder at the memory and place a gentle kiss on his forehead. “Don't worry,” you say. “I'll keep you warm.”

“Fool’s errand, mate,” John says. “Plenty have given up trying.”

“What if I don’t want to give up?”

John looks up with wide eyes. You can see the uncertainty in his gaze, as if he’s not quite sure he heard you right. “Come again?”

“I know who you are, John, I know what you’re about,” you say. “I also know that I have feelings for you and after last night, I don’t think I can keep them to myself anymore.”

John stares at you with an unreadable expression and you try not to squirm, uncomfortable with his scrutiny. Slowly, he slides on top of you, his body now fully covering yours. “Sure you wanna go down that route, love?” he all but purrs, nuzzling your cheek. His lips brush your jaw line and suddenly your mind goes fuzzy. “This life...what I do...it’s risky. Everyone who’s loved me has either died or left.”

You slide your arms around his waist, hugging him close to your chest just as you had last night. “Fuck the risk.”

John chuckles at your profanity, mouth hovering over yours. “That a suggestion?” he teases. He shows no indication that he’s headed for the door, and you can tell by the look in his eye that he’s all in.

Heart soaring, you slide your hand up to cup the back of his head. “More like an invitation,” you say, and yank him into a kiss.