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Of Perfect Afternoons and Purposeful Encounters

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They are arguing about ducks.

The spring weather is perfect. Blue sky just clear enough, the sun shining bright and warm, and fluffy clouds rolling by like a true Pareidolia effect. It is a picturesque afternoon only heard of in fairy tales and children's books, and John Constantine trusts it as much as he does the blokes he's watching.

Which is to say, not at all.

Dropped off from the Waverider, he returned to present day London not a week ago when he was accosted by his once feathery shadow. John would have paid a pack of smokes to see Manny as ruffled as he was, if it did not come with the news there that had been an Apocalypse while he was away.

"Almost an apocalypse," Manny had corrected, though he was being rather tight lipped about everything else concerning the near destruction of planet Earth.

It irritated John more than usual, partly because he lived on said planet, but mostly because he worked very hard - read: scammed, murdered, sent to Hell, tricked, etc - to keep Earth from being destroyed, let alone overtaken by a bunch of feather minded twats.

"I couldn't disobey orders, Constantine," and of course that was his excuse, all pompous righteousness and conviction. "We could not let Hell win."

But what about Earth?

John was fairly sure his bland look said as much and kept it steady as he lit his cigarette and blew smoke into the berk's face. "So, what made it almost an apocalypse instead of a real Apocalypse?"

And really, he did not think Manny could be even more ruffled, but boy, was he in for a treat.

An angel. A demon. And an Antichrist.

It sounded like a set up for some terrible joke a youth minister would tell his teenager audience as he tried to seem likeable to the younger generation.

Oddly enough, John found himself greatly amused by it. Or maybe by the fact that Manny was so unamused by it. Either way...

After a titch more prodding and being generally annoying, John was able to get enough information to find the culprits who helped avert the almost apocalypse. He thought it would be difficult, that they would have been in hiding or off world and into the stars.

But, nope. Here they are.

All three of them enjoying the perfect afternoon out at St. James Park. The antichrist, literally just a child for Chri- Someone's sake, is running around playing fetch with his dog, whilst the angel and demon, looking incredibly human if not for their aura, are arguing on the proper diet of ducks.

"Because bread isn't what they eat naturally, my dear. They need the nutrients of oats and corn and the like."

"I don't think bread is naturally consumed by anyone, it's just consumed, angel. And where did you get all this from, all this duck knowledge?"

The angel - Aziraphale, Manny had called him - flusters under the scrutiny, but holds his head high when he says, without an inch of irony, "The interwebs!"

"Oh, for Some-!"

"You kept insisting I try the dreadful thing and now-!"

"And the first thing you did was look up what to feed ducks?"

John can think of several better uses of his time than listening to them bicker like an old married couple. As of right now, he is having a complicated time wrapping his head around the fact that these two are even here right now.

Not that they are an angel and demon that disobeyed orders. Not even that they did so because they vastly prefer each other's company. He can understand all that, see, because it happens all the time. John's even known a few outliers much the same.

It's the fact that these two are alive and well and not utterly snuffed out.

John knows this star-crossed lovers bollocks doesn't last. That it doesn't end so much in Shakespearen tragedy as it just ends, painfully and no lesson learned besides the cold truth of Love Doesn't Win. There are no happily ever afters, no driving away into the sunset, not for Tali and Ellie, and not for these three currently on both Heaven and Hell's shitlist.

He regards them with cool distance as he places a cigarette between his lips and snaps his fingers to light it. He almost feels sorry for them, if sympathy didn't mean getting his own neck-

"Those are bad for you, you know."

"Jesus Christ!" For how much he has been watching them, John is surprised the kid snuck up on him. But then again...

"I reckon I'm the opposite of him, actually." The boy, and he does look just like that, a human child, stands next to him under the tree's shade. His small dog yaps at John as if he poses a smidgen of a threat to the Antichrist. Manny said his name is Adam.

"Yeah," John starts as he settles himself back down, taking a deep inhale and blowing it away from the boy. "Suppose you are."

"Like I said, those are bad for you. My dad tells me all the time never to pick one up, they tar your lungs and smell bad." A thoughtful expression passes through on his deceptively charming face as he finally quiets his dog. Then he continues, in that blunt, oversharing way children do. "But then he sneaks off sometimes when my Mum's parents are over. My name's Adam, by the way, Adam Young."

"I know. John Constantine, petty dabbler of magic," he says before he can stop himself from being honest. Something tells him that he can trust the kid, something very persuasive is insidiously persistent on it. John doesn't like that. Not the boy's innocent face, not the disarming calm about him, and definitely not this desire to be honest. But still, John can't stop himself from saying, "Plenty of ways to die out in the world. I don't believe this will be what does me in."

"No, Mister Constantine, I reckon not. Still, they don't seem like they taste very good." And there is a strange tilt to his head, his golden locks shifting as he stares curiously at the trailing smoke.

"I'm not letting you try it," John says. He doesn't know what he expected when engaging with the literal Antichrist, but it's become pretty clear to him that a brat is a brat, no matter their stock.

Adam pouts. "I didn't say-"

"Didn't have to."

The boy crosses his arms and glances towards the angel and demon couple, who have switched topics of conversation but are still very much bickering.

"Well, it's bad for everyone else around you," he says petulantly and the embers at the end of John's cigarette suddenly die out.

"I was enjoying that, you little-"

"And I'm supposed to be enjoying an afternoon with my Godparents. Not getting second hand smoke."

Bright blue eyes pin John in place. He feels his blood run cold, feels himself stuck like stone, unable to move away from under the child's accusing stare. No, not just a child. Never just a child. Immediately, his mind starts racing, trying to grab onto enough of a distraction that he can make his escape mostly unharmed.

He should've known stalking the Antichrist was a bloody stupid idea.

"Godparents?" John chokes out, tries not to let on how terrifying this is. "Those two your Godparents?"

Adam blinks and glances back at his supposed Godparents. John can breathe again.

"Of course they are. I already have human parents, but never Godparents. It's like having some really wicked uncles. They bring me gifts from all over the world, and Mister Fell let's me read in his shop and Mister Crowley let's me ride front in his car, and they both help me out when things happen and I don't rightly know what to do." Adam says this seemingly all in one breath, but he isn't gasping by the end of it.

He stands there, with his perfectly curled hair and his scuffed shoes and his ripped jeans and looks as at ease as ever. The dog sits dutifully between him and John, and they paint a lovely innocent picture. Except John knows who, what, he is and the deeper meaning to his words hidden just beneath the surface. Adam is a child, yet can already dominate a conversation, persuade you to be honest, and can hold his audience's attention just as easily as he can slip away in a crowd.

John knows he is going to be a dead ringer when he's older. If he gets older.

"They stood with me that day, said they'd stay and they meant it." When John doesn't reply, Adam looks up at him and that intense awe that struck him before resurfaces again, but not as intense. Like the kid remembered himself and is holding back. Adam is as every bit supernaturally charged as the Antichrist has every right to be, no matter disowning his own Father. "I won't let nobody hurt them. Not the other gangs, not their bosses, and not some nosy magician. Nobody."

John stares back at Adam and understands where they stand now. He understands why it took so long for him to get close, why Manny refused to join him, why Adam is talking to him now, why Aziraphale and Crowley get to have their happily ever after.

"Alright, alright," John says, hands up in surrender. "Message delivered loud and clear, boyo. I'm not here to cause trouble, I won't bother you lot none."

Adam stares at him some more, the creepy little bugger, before nodding his head in confirmation. Like either John is being truthful, or it doesn't matter if he isn't because Adam can make it true.

Strangely enough, or probably not, given his situation, John is telling the truth.

"That's fair. I gotta go now, they won't be distracted much longer, and Mister Fell wants to take us to a fish place for lunch. He calls it shew-sea or something, but he swears by it and I like trying the new foods he shows me," Adam says in that casual long windedness of his.

The youthful bounce in his step carries him away in seconds, his dog dutifully following, but not without a wave back at John. Like this was a friendly conversation, like John is some friendly neighbor.

"Goodbye, Mister Constantine! Don't light your smoke again till you're outta the park, please!"

And just like that, the Antichrist - Adam - is gone, returning to his safe little world that he guards and protects.

John watches as the angel and demon break from each other to gather their ward, their Godson. He doesn't move from his spot until they've walked out of sight. And even then, he remains under the tree's cool shade from the perfect afternoon's sunlight.

Depite what he was told, or really, in spite of it, John places his cigarette back between his lips and snaps his fingers. It relights to his delight. And just in time for Manny to appear beside him.

"For Go- Someone's sake! Can you lot not sneak up on me?"

"Well?" Manny leads, having absolutely no remorse for his actions.

"Well, what?"

"What did you learn?" Manny tries again, exasperated of the human's bullshit.

John stares at him sidelong as he takes a deep inhale. Mixed feelings turn in his stomach, feelings he doesn't want to sort through, but still bubble to the surface as he thinks of an answer. They burn bright in his mind.

He thinks about what Adam said, about Crowley and Aziraphale chattering to each other like love sick fools, about their odd little family. John thinks about almost apocalypes and how despite Manny saying he couldn't disobey, there were clearly some of his stock who did, who stood up for Earth against Heaven and Hell. John thinks about Cheryl and Gemma, about Chas and Zed, about the Legends. He remembers Tali and Ellie and their stolen child.

Finally, with an exhale of smoke to the angel's face, John says with distinct human stubbornness, "Fuck off, Manny."