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[personal profile] charybdis
Title: Retribution (aka we need some lady-monsters up in here, stat!)
Characters: Arthur, Eames, movie!John Constantine, other Inception characters, Mazikeen was supposed to carry the later parts of the fic
Summary: Once upon a time, I filled an inception kinkmeme prompt for Arthur and movie!John Constantine as brothers. This is the EPIC CROSSOVER fill that didn't work out. (for those interested, here's the fill that did.)


ONE
***

John shows up at Arthur's front door at two in the morning, spitting blood. He takes a swig out of the bottle in his hand. It looks like vodka and he makes a face, coughing as if it burns going down, but the scent is all ash and no alcohol.

John stumbles into the living room as Arthur locks the door behind him, drawing a few protection sigils on the doorframe with the white chalk he keeps in a bowl next to the door.

"Smells like angel in here," John slurs. He collapses onto the couch and chokes down another gulp of his drink. "And where'd you learn those?"

"Eames," Arthur answers shortly. "Who's after you? What are you drinking?"

"They already got what they wanted," John says, making a vague gesture that might be meant to indicate the unfairness of the world. "Ugh. That smell. Is he still here?" Before Arthur can answer, John slumps sideways until he's reasonably horizontal and mutters, "Can't hurt, I guess."

He takes another drink, more carefully this time, so it doesn't pour all over his face. Arthur notices that there are three crosses scrawled in permanent marker on the clear glass of the bottle. "Is that holy water?"

"From the River Jordan, yeah," John says, "I'd offer you some, but believe me, right now I need it more than you do." He takes another slug of it, like a shot.

"Why are you drinking holy water?" Arthur goes to grab his med kit -- the full one that he keeps in the bathroom.

"Because there's nothing like a glass of holy water to help one get over a bit of demonic possession, is there?" Eames comes out of the bedroom, wearing nothing but a pair of boxers.

John laughs, a disturbingly throaty sound, and says, "Damn right." He takes another drink and then, "You know how fucking hard it is to exorcise yourself? Really fucking hard. Practically impossible. We're talking like, the Kobayashi Maru of exorcisms, here."

"Your brother is speaking in tongues," Eames reports. He goes over to the couch, looming beside John's head in his boxers and tattoos and midnight-scruff, like the least reassuring guardian angel ever.

Arthur opens the med kit on the coffee table. "Very funny. Is the blood just from being punched in the face, or do you need a hospital?"

John drains the last of the holy water and flicks him off, but amiably. "Some of it's not even mine." He settles more deeply into the couch and closes his eyes, still clutching the cross-bedecked bottle.

"Whose is it?" Arthur asks.

There's silence as John considers the question. "Prob'ly Nergal. Half-breed demon asshole."

Eames sucks in a breath. "Jesus, mate, you're going to need a lot more than holy water to get over that."

"Holy flesh and blood would help." Opening his eyes, John smiles gorily at Eames. "You offering to donate?"

Arthur says, "No," before the sniping can get started.

Except it makes John glance from him to the huge hickey on Eames' collarbone, and he grins with all the blurry duplicity of a man high on the warring combination of demonblood and holy water when he starts to say, "C'mon Arthur. He's already-" before Arthur's I will throw you out on your ass glare registers, and he shuts up.

Eames tactfully ignores the exchange and sifts through the med kit, handing John a communion wafer and a tiny glass bottle of holy water. "Perhaps a bit of transubstantiation? It is traditional."

"Don't you need faith for that to work?" John says, voice dripping with sarcasm, but he opens the bottle anyway and places the wafer in his mouth.

"Faith might help," Arthur says.

"Just try not to sick it up," Eames tells him, putting his hand on John's forehead as he tips the holy water into his mouth, swallows it down.

For a moment, John lies still, eyes closed, and Eames stands over him, cupping John's face between his hands and whispering blessings that have probably been out of favor with the Church for centuries. In the dim light, Arthur imagines that he can see the outline of wings, fanned out from Eames' shoulders, dark and protective.

Then John convulses and Eames loses his grip and the prayer stutters as John's body jerks, once, twice, and he rolls to the side and vomits a red mess on the floor.

"Holy flesh and blood?" Arthur raises an eyebrow at Eames.

The metallic scent of blood fills up the room, and Arthur is kind of surprised that the blood of Christ smells the same as any human blood, though that's kind of the point, he guesses.

"I need an exorcism," John announces, sitting up so that he can spit blood onto the carpet, and wipe his mouth on the back of his hand. "Ugh. I’d like to believe that that's the most fucking disturbing miracle in the Church’s arsenal, but I know my history." And then he slides sideways, his eyes fluttering shut.

"Hey, hey." Arthur tries to prop his brother up a little higher on the couch. Passing out before an exorcism is bad news -- makes it hard to tell who's in control when you wake up. "Don't pass out on me, John. You haven't even told me what these bastards want."

John cracks an eye and says something that sounds like 'Satanists', then shakes his head and goes under. Arthur swears.

"What, you don't have an exorcism kit, too?" Eames asks, sounding almost amused.

"Not one good enough for this," Arthur says. It's one thing to drive out the suggestions of half-blood influence peddlers, but with demonblood as a physical anchor, it could disappear into the body for weeks, even years, resurfacing again and again.

Eames stands up abruptly. "Make sure it doesn't wake up," he says. "I'm going to contact a professional."

"Who?" Arthur asks.

"Bring the PASIV," Eames tells him, instead of answering. "I've an idea."

"Are we talking a good idea?" Arthur asks, going to get the PASIV device from the bedroom. "Or are we talking the kind of idea that will probably end in insanity and destruction for everyone involved?"

Eames manhandles John's body into the backseat of the car, and he says, "All things considered, darling, it's probably both."

Of course it is.

***

"I'm not going to like this, am I." Arthur took the PASIV out of the back seat. Eames had motioned for him to leave the knives in the car, and so he had. He felt strangely naked without them. "Who the hell are we coming to see here?"

The building used to house a club, and it didn't look like a derelict, but it was definitely abandoned, boarded up windows, signs and scaffolding across the entrances. It would be hell to get out of in a hurry. There was an old sign over the big double doors in the front; it said 'Lux' in cracked and broken lights. There were no lights on anywhere in the building, but Arthur knew his demons well enough that he didn't expect it.

"Who lives here?" he tried again as he and Eames wrestled John's unconscious body out of the car.

Eames looked pained. "Listen, please treat the lady of the house with just a bit of respect."

"This is like Midnite's club. Except with demons." Arthur didn't like the sound of that.

"No, no." Eames hauled John's arm over his shoulder, and attempted a few steps toward the barred door. John's body dragged and slumped along, in spite of Arthur's help. Halting, Eames sighed and slung John's body over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. "It's just her in this building."

"But?" Arthur prompts.

"Well, she has a lot of ghosts," Eames says. "Sometimes it feels a little crowded, is all."

The woman who meets them at the top of the staircase is well-dressed, considering the surroundings, Arthur is surprised. She's wearing a figure-skimming dress, black silk with a brilliant gold satin slash across the front. A porcelain half-mask covers the left side of her face, and she's wearing a gold cowl that doesn't quite cover her straight black hair. Eames nods to her, and steps into the hall ahead of Arthur.

Arthur wonders if she is one of the ghosts that Eames was talking about. 

She smiles at them when she sees John; it's an uncomfortable smile, since only the right side of it can be seen. The room that she leads them into looks more like someone's actual living room than an old demon hangout. There's a dark blue futon in the middle of the room, she opens it up without any difficulty, though the wood frame is dark and clearly heavy, and gestures for Eames to put John's body down on it.

"We need a professional exorcism," Arthur says to her. The eye that he can see is the color of a tiger-eye, striated gold, and she doesn't speak a word, but she nods gracefully.

"For him," Eames gestures at the futon where John's still-empty body is breathing shallowly. 

The sound she makes is more like a scoff than a laugh, more like choking than anything else, but her slick red lips part, and her eyebrow goes up in disbelief, and after a moment, she leans forward, bracing her entrails-red manicure on her thighs and she shakes her head lightly like she thinks Eames is joking.

"Come now, my lady," Eames says. The title catches Arthur by surprise -- he should know better by now -- but he keeps his reaction to a raised eyebrow. "It would be worth your while, to grant us aid. Since we'll be consorting with you people come morning."

She gives Eames a frankly lascivious look, top to bottom, and this at least, is something that Arthur's used to. He watches Eames lean into it just barely, and he feels his own skin prickle in response as she rakes him over, and he lets the smirk slip out onto his face. Yeah. I know what I've got.

When she speaks, it's short, and her voice is the buzzing of flies and the hissing of snakes passed through a filter of rotting flesh. Between the hellish voice and the distortion, Arthur can't make out half of what she's saying, and he feels a momentary flash of guilt. As if he's somehow insulted her.

Eames nods, and they follow her to the dining table, though Arthur glances back into the living room, there's a clear view of John from where he's sitting.

Eames puts his hand on Arthur's thigh under the table, and for a moment, Arthur thinks it's an apology for the way the demon looked at him, or for the way he smiled back, sleek and knowing. Then she starts talking again, and the buzzing-hissing echoes of her voice fill up the space between them, crawling slowly between Arthur's bones like a writhing, living saw, and he can't understand even a quarter of what she's saying. Arthur thinks he's going to have to excuse himself, go to the living room and sit next to his brother, a child too young and inexperienced for the proceedings. But Eames' hand is still on his leg, warm and not reassuring, but demanding -- Eames is translating the demon's speech, tapping out Morse code in frenetic bursts to define the shape of what she's saying.

It doesn't sound anything like hellspeak.

I'd rather have him owe me a favor, she says, tilting her head towards the living room where John lies.

"You're in no danger of being sent back," Eames replies, "Why do you need a favor from Constantine?"

She leans forward, It can't hurt. The sulfur on her is barely noticeable. Mostly, she smells like dust and steel and -- oddly -- of fresh flowers.

"Too right," Eames murmurs. "But that's not what you really want."

You can't get me what I really want, she says, I'll settle for the Exorcist's favor.

Arthur lets Eames negotiate the price, because he's better at it than anyone, and if anyone's going to talk a demon into asking for something she might never be able to collect, it's Eames.

Eames says, "Melchior fed him blood -- ichor, perhaps I should say."

She does not seem impressed by this. The favor.

"What do you really want?" Arthur asks, finally. She whips around, as if she'd forgotten that he was there.

None of your business, mortal, she hisses.

Eames leans back in his chair. "She wants Satan." Even though she glares at him like she's ready to rip his limbs from his body.

"Eames, if you had to guess," Arthur says, leaning back in his chair likewise, "What it was that Melchior and his Satanists wanted from John... What do you think it was that they got?"

A slow smile works across Eames face, more devious than any angel has a right to be. He says, "What sort of knowledge would make the possession of the Exorcist worthwhile? What would he know that could not be got from anyone else?" He allows the questions to hang in the air for just the right amount of time. "Perhaps the means to find and free Satan?"

"It's not impossible," Arthur says, exchanging a look with Eames.

"Likely, even," Eames says. "What with the way that they think, the sort of thing that they're obsessed with."

Across from them, the demon makes a noise that is, this time, unmistakeably disgust, but she stands up gracefully, and when Arthur looks back at her, both sides of her face are still and smooth. Then that is my price, she says. Everything you know about Samael.

"That's not his name," Eames points out.

She smiles at him with the china side of her face and says, It is the only one that matters.

***
TWO
***

It's the New Castle club again. Of course it's New Castle -- four dreams out of five are fucking New Castle. (The fifth one is invariably prophetic. You can't really decide which you prefer.)

The one good thing about the New Castle dream is back then you still smoked, so at least you've got something to keep your hands occupied while you stand inside your chalk circle and watch Belphegor divvy up the girl's entrails among the damned. While you survey the wreckage of the club, broken furniture, torn cushions, fresh arterial spray, and broken bodies. It's not a sin to stand around and watch a murder that's already happened, but guilt fills up the air around you regardless. It smells like ruptured intestines.

Sixteen hours ago, you had Belphegor at gun- well, crossbow- point, and he smiled at you, leaned in so that the bolt nicked the soft skin of his throat. "Do it, Constantine.” But you couldn’t, because the son of a bitch was wearing a kid, couldn’t be more than twelve years old, not even old enough for his voice to crack when he shouted, “Do it, or I swear upon the name of the Morning Star, you'll regret it."

You regret it alright, but probably not as much as the girl does. Her intestines are being shredded and eaten, the damned screeching and fighting over them like a murder of crows over carrion. Her screams of anguish are barely audible over the cacophony, but you can see her face contort in agony and terror. They exsanguinate her body, a brawl starts up over who gets to devour her eyeballs, and her cracked lips form the words, “Please god, help me.” They take out her liver, her lungs, her heart, and she keeps crying. Damned souls don't need bodies to suffer.

You were late for the exorcism because of a fucking traffic jam. You could have been here. You should have been here. Around you, the rest of the people in the cafe start to rise, nothing more than ghosts, leaving behind bodies that are no more than pulp and ashes. Brian and Frank and Judith were the only ones you even knew. But no one should die like this.

Belphegor is a lovely child, even with his hands dripping with offal, his smile is endearing, contagious. He offers you a twist of the girl's entrails. Your guilt smells like someone vomited up a sewerful of rotting meat, and he tells you, "But this is your portion, Constantine. You've earned it."

Even over the sulfur-smoke of Hell, your guilt fills up your lungs, and your ghosts — yours because you could have saved them — surround you, demanding retribution.

In the end, the circle cracks under the strain of your murdered friends and your own guilt, and you flail yourself awake, still suffocating, gagging on the smell of shit and bile and brimstone.

There are no cigarettes in the house. You pour yourself some whiskey, and try to shake off the disorientation that always gets you when a prophetic dream spits you out of its whirling, burning horrorshow ride. Just your fucking luck; your prohetic dreams and nightmares are turning into the same damn thing; you finally quit smoking and you really need a cigarette.

You're on your second drink before the ringing shouts and screams in your head resolve into words.

The Serpent is free.

***

You are a demon, so naturally, you dream in miracles.

You dream of the long Fall, slipping down after him, scrabbling in the blood-wet mud of the Valley of Gehenna, looking for a sign. But he was gone.

Your dream of miracles is of Him, first cast out of Heaven, hunched over himself and screaming as Michael tore out his divinity and buried it far away, wrapped in chains of fire and sleep. He was cast out of Heaven, they took away his divinity and put it somewhere no one would ever be able to recover it.

He was called another name, after that. He welcomed you, he remembered you and he promoted you to the office of his left hand because you were more loyal than a demon had any right to be. He let you dwell at his side, and he granted you favor that others could only dream of. It would have been enough. Or you thought it would be enough. But you could still feel the pull of him, the part of him that you loved, pulling you away.

Your dream of love is one of the way that you followed him into the Pit, only to find out if he might still want you. You followed him down, and he welcomed you with open arms, without suspicion, and even then you knew he wasn't the one you wanted, but you let him put his hand on you. The left side of your face you gave to him in offering, hoping that he might someday become yours again.

You dream about his son, about the way you found him a good virgin girl and turned her into a vessel for his seed, kept her too close to do anything but she was told. He made you keep an eye on her. And you would have been honored to watch the child grow in her, would have been pleased to oversee the birth -- you would even have opened her womb yourself, if Lucifer had asked it of you. But he named his son Mamon, and he spent days gloating over the prophecies that appeared writ in the Living Word in Hell.

The sins of the father will only be exceeded by the sins of the son.

"You see that, Mazikeen? I'm raising up a real Hellspawn," he said. "He's going to bring me up, my boy is. He's going to rip open the sky for me."

'My son.' As though you had not overseen the entire production. You knew then that you were just another pawn in his campaign against Heaven, in his fight for vengeance against Heaven. You knew then that the part of him that thought bigger -- that would have sat back and realized that there was no way out, that the Word was not about power, but about belief -- that part could never be recovered.

Your dreams are not ones that you wake from, they are dreams that you live.

***

You’re dreaming. Well, really, that goes without saying, since you’re asleep, and you sort doesn't sleep without reason.

The place is called Lux, an upscale club, and your waitress is the lady of the house, her face half-covered by a white china mask. Your table companion is in the middle of some explanation that you've half-missed by now. The lady of the house places your drink in front of you and lets you know that it's "ong zh hsh". She’s just a projection, but you smile at her regardless, fighting down the sudden urge to slide into her skin.

"I can't believe you're into him," the archangel is saying, and you wish He would recorporate him properly, give him a bloody body, and see if he doesn't form earthly attachments. "I mean, not that there's anything technically wrong with it, I guess. Just. Man, he kills people. In real life."

"Listen, pet. I've been at this considerably longer than you have. I'm sure I know how to conduct myself."

You can see the gleam in his eyes, the club lights flickering off the nictitating membrane, all green, and his wings fill up the booth, blocking out the sounds of the club around you.You can taste the sympathy coming off of him. Under normal circumstances you wouldn't have anywhere near this much trouble staying away from Wrath. 

"You know his brother's an ass, right? I mean, a great soldier, the best in the world, probably. But an ass. It runs in the family, I think."

He was promoted because he was a martyr. Died in a battle against the Evil One and the renegade Gabriel. You could not care less.

Gabriel was messy, a piss poor planner, and you don't wonder that its rebellion failed before it ever began. Lucifer did rebellion better, and Azrael did it with far more style. You were there -- you don't need this child’s advice, how ever well-intended.

"All I need is love and sacrifice," you tell him. "And I would give Him both in an instant."

"Yeah?" he says, too shrewdly, "Which 'him' are we talking about here? because I think only one of them is an acceptable answer, honestly."

There’s nothing you can really say in response, and after a moment, he seems to give up.

"Here." He slides a bulging brown envelope across the table. "Give this to Constantine."

Whatever is in it is swaddled in layers of bubble wrap. You tuck it into the inside of your jacket. "Anything else?"

Yeah," he says, "one more thing. You should stay away from Arthur -- he's not good for you."

As you get up to leave, you tell him to read First Corinthians thirteen. Love is not selfish, Love is not cruel. If angels could pray, you would pray that you are right. Instead, you just have to have faith.

The weight of your own love is heavy on your shoulders, but you have carried it for almost a decade, and in any case, you wouldn't know how to put it down now.

***
THREE
***

Mazikeen gives them the plans for the maze, bows to John and demands that she be allowed to go with them. To say goodbye, she buzzes, Because I have never seen the being that I love so well, outside of prophecies and dreams that are only half-lies.

It's Arthur, not John, who gives her a line and lets her come under. Arthur holds the sword in his other hand, but she is not afraid, merely regards him as one regards a fellow audience member, at a theater production. He holds out his hand, and she hands over her mask, without  a word ever passing between them. Distantly, John sees Cobb turning his top in his fingers, and Ariadne is looking away. But there is a thickness in the air between Arthur and the demon, and the hiss of the PASIV does nothing to cut through it.

They open their eyes in a field that is more sweetly cloying than John could have believed, if he'd been able to consider, he'd never known, he'd never have guessed that Gehenna used to be so fertile, even though the bible certainly says something to that effect. The sun is shining, and the grass under his feet is cool and crisp. The air is warm and humid, winding around them in the breeze, like a playful serpent, gentle and blithe. The smell of angel is thick enough to cut, and John tries not to inhale too deeply.

"We won't worship here," Arthur says, casually. For a moment, John is at a loss to figure out who he's talking to, but he's staring off into the distant sky, as though he's just talking to himself. Or maybe praying -- even with his hands tucked into his pockets and his head not the slightest bit bowed, Arthur could be praying. Then again, John doesn't think there's any difference between the two.

"We need to prove ourselves," Arthur goes on, "And we need to discover the truths that we are made of, that lie inside our own souls and can only be distilled by fire. But to do that, we need to live."

The sword is in the grass by his feet, and now, Arthur bends to pick it up. "We need to be boiled down to our purest selves. But there are things that we do not need, I will own."

It sounds more like Arthur's reciting something than like he's talking to anyone now. John squints at him in the bright sunlight, tries to make out if he's being possessed, being used as a vessel, as a voice, but there's nothing about him that can't be attributed to the light and the shimmering air of the heat, rising up from the ground.

Then, Arthur holds the sword up, in front of him, as if about to lead a charge into battle. And it goes up in flame.

Suddenly, around them, the air is rent by a hissing sound, and for a minute, John glances as the demon, thinking she's making some protest, but she is as bewildered as the rest of them. Only Arthur seems unperturbed.

"We have faith; we do not need miracles. We have hope; we do not need blessings. We have love, and we do not need a confessional." Arthur makes these proclamations, and the sky goes from brilliant cerulean, to blue-white to gold, and the hissing subsides, deepens into a voice.

Ah, let there be light.

Samael comes down to them like a saint condescending to the populace, the holy spirit come to bless the poor and the sick, come to cure the human condition.

There is no reason to fear. There is no reason to imprison me. You came here to fight me, but I will give you light instead. I will bless you and exalt you. I will deliver you from evil.

The clink of John's lighter being flicked is the first mechanical -- the first human -- sound that he's heard since they opened their eyes in the dream. The flame in John's lighter is too dim to compete with the brilliant lights surrounding them, cool silver and scintillating gold, it's almost invisible, but John unerringly guides the tip of his cigarette to the heart of the flame and lights up. He speaks in smoke, in lines that twist themselves across the bright clouds of light, so that his words can be read over the cacophony of the light.

"I can't say I'm tempted. Believe me, I've seen God, and I gotta tell you, you're no God." John takes another drag, and the ember of his cig burns with a small, belligerent red light. "Granted, most of humanity doesn't know better. They'd be all over themselves to worship you." Samael regards John with the air of an indulgent parent listening to a recaltriant child. John pays no attention, either not noticing, or more likely, not caring. 

"This light is pretty cool," John exhales, "but I'm not the worshiping type."

"Worship?" the angel says, the whole light filling up with his voice, so that they can feel it on their skins, in their lungs. "Worship is a salve for those who know that they are doomed." He smiles, and the light intensifies. "I don't want to make you worship me. I want to destroy you."

***

Mazikeen — she has earned the right to a name, if she is going to be sacrificed, if she is going to be made sacred — strips off her armor, and there, all over her body, the maze is drawn in ink on her skin. Black lines that stripe her flesh, crazed patterns that mark her as something entirely made new.

Turn me into a new world of fire she says, I want to devour and destroy, I want to burn and corrupt and flood. Let me make war; let me become your hand of power.

In the end, he turns her around and lifts the maze from her skin, as thoughtless as breathing, and he shakes it out, laying down under his feet.

He says, "No. However much you love, you were never made to lie down and give your body over to be shaped into a new world. For no matter how good and honest and true your intention, your deepest nature is war, and I could not love you if it were otherwise."

He takes something from his own back, a shining rope of power and light, and he coils it in his hands, careful and reverent. “Take this, Mazikeen. Take my title and my position, because they are all I have to offer you.”

Wordless, she takes them, and he says, finally, "Let this then be our union, that you will take up the duties of the Lightbringer, and I will take the paths of your love and change them into a new world."





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