From the kitchen where chicken soup bubbled, his own recipe passed down and tinkered with until he was satisfied with the outcome, he kept his eye on her, curled up upon John’s old sofa where she had been since John had left for Boston hours before. He should have gone with him, should not have let John run headlong into danger alone, but danger was what John did, was who John was, and alone or not was not going to change anything. This time, with Zed down with the flu, Chas had been left home as caretaker and Chas didn’t mind in the least. John needed Zed, and this time, Zed needed Chas…if only to help her get well.
He was forced to admit he wished she needed him for something more. As he brought the cup of tea and bowl of soup on a tray to the coffee table near where she slept, curled beneath the plaid patterned blanket Chas had dug out of the closet for her earlier, her feet in their dark blue socks peeping out from beneath the tattered ends of the old blanket, he struggled with the realization of stronger feelings once again. Setting the tarnished silver tray down, Chas leaned forward and adjusted the heavy fabric to cover her feet, and her shoulder where the blanket had slipped down. He had to keep her warm. Had to keep her safe. Then he turned the nearby armchair, sat upon it facing her, and leaned forward with his elbows on his knees, listening to her struggle for breath, her expression pensive yet peaceful in whatever dreamland she traveled through. The aroma of steaming tea and savory broth swirled around them, lending a sense of home to the old mill house. It was home, of a sorts, but it rarely felt homey. Watching the curl of her lips as the twitched into a smile, right now, in this moment, the mill house was as homey as it could ever be.
He hadn’t told John of the matter upon his heart. Heaven forbid. And John was self-obsessed enough, his head wrapped up in his own world of worries, where demons fought a constant battle over his battered soul, that he would not have noticed anything unusual in Chas’ behavior. Chas took care of people. Chas was a helper. It was who he was. The attention he paid to Zed, getting her coat for her, taking care of her truck, giving her the first portion whenever they dined together, holding the door for her when he could…those things were all Chas. For Chas, however, the gestures were much more than that.
It was why he had relented perhaps too easily to John’s desire for him to stay with Zed and let John go off alone this time.
He didn’t think she had noticed the attention either. Zed’s focus seemed always to be upon John, on what he did, his words, anything that might be able to teach her how to best use the gifts she had been given. John Constantine was always the sort to attract attention, to be the center of it. Chas was the background man, and to be honest, he was happy with that position.
Except when it came to Zed. Whatever demons haunted her, whatever past she fled from, Chas wanted to drive them away, wanted to rescue her, wanted to keep her safe. He was no longer content to be in the background. But damn it, he was probably old enough to be her father. She would never notice him there, and if she did…well, Chas did not expect that to end well.
She mumbled something in her sleep, a half moaning sound as she shifted position, her brow furrowing as a dark curly strand of hair fell loose across her face. Expression softening, Chas brushed the strand back with gentle fingers, tucking the curl behind her ears, careful not to wake her. Damn she was beautiful. How could Chas not love her?
Before his hand could retreat, her brown eyes fluttered and opened, heavy with sleep and the burden of flu, and met his gaze with steady, warm intensity. Frozen he stared, guilty embarrassment at being caught splashed over his face in a flush of red beneath the dim lamplight, his heart pounding in his chest, her skin soft beneath his touch. For a moment nothing happened.
Then she covered his hand with hers and smiled. Chas’ breath released and his heart soared. Everything was going to be alright.