What they don’t tell you about power is that in turn for making it your bitch, power makes you its bitch in return. It was three in the morning. I should be sleeping. I would be sleeping if Astra could stop screaming. I might be sleeping if I knew for sure that it was just my imagination I was hearing and not the girl herself burning in hellfire.
I lit a smoke and picked up the bottle that had loved me to sleep just a few hours before. Empty. It was like a mirror. I threw it against the wall and incurred another seven years of questionable luck.
I grabbed my head and willed myself to reach that itch deep inside my skull. The one that kept telling me to go to New Orleans. I had been hearing it for days now.
That was how synchronicity worked for me. It nagged like a wife I never wanted until I bent to its will. In my darkest thoughts I was only a bloody puppet who danced when it called the tune, but that was the worst. The best was when she opened her legs for me like the wanton whore that she could really be, taking me home and giving me something that I wanted and needed. Sometimes before I even knew what that thing was.
That was Synchronicity. She was my bitch and I was hers. I slammed the door as I walked out of the hotel room, pulling on my coat and lighting another smoke. She was calling me to the den of Papa Midnite. Last time I saw him he promised to spill my blood. I would probably beat him to it. As much as he seemed to want my demise my actions indicated I wanted it more.
I knew something he didn’t. I planned to take some of his kind with me when I went.
When I got to New Orleans I stopped at the first bar I passed that made the itch in my head ease up. I could always use a drink and anything that made that feeling pass was more than welcome. I was on my third drink when she came to the bar and ordered a double vodka rocks. She barely looked old enough to drink. I glanced at her over my shoulder, my elbows on the bar, and lit a smoke. Her blue eyes met mine and I felt the itch in my brain fade away.
I was here to meet her.
There was power in her eyes, power and great pain. She had lost something that she cared about deeply and it was very recent. “Put the lady’s drink on my tab,” I said to the bartender when he placed it on the bar in front of her. She looked at me, a glimpse of a trapped animal and then she pushed it back down and met me with a challenge that made me chuckle and look back at the mirror behind the bar. Still looking at her I took a drag from my smoke. After a moment she took the stool next to mine.
“You’re English,” she said turning her glass up, nearly emptying it. “Can I bum a smoke?”
“You old enough to smoke, luv?”
“Probably,” her lip curled in disgust at my question or maybe her answer. I handed her the pack. Her hair was dark brown and she had curves that went on for years. Hard to believe any bloke would break this one’s bloody heart. She closed her eyes for a moment, listening to something that I couldn’t hear. “John Constantine,” she said when she opened her eyes, sending a chill up my back. She had just lifted the lid on my head and taken a long look.
It said something that she was still sitting here.
She put the cigarette between her bee stung lips and pinned me with eyes that held enough shadows already. There was no room for mine in her head. She had looked but had not yet touched. I was surprised to find that I wanted her to touch me, more still that I wanted to touch her.
I was usually kinder to strangers.
Those I called friends all wound up dead eventually. Sometimes it was even me that killed them. I offered her a light. After she took a lung full of the smoke she picked up her drink and finished it, wincing only a little at the burn on the way down. “That is some fucked up little life you’ve had there, John Constantine.” She said it softly but it didn’t soften the blow of her words. They fell like hammers on my tattered insides.
It’s never pleasant to be judged.
“Oh, I’m not judging, John. I never judge.”
“What do you do then, luv?”
“What I can. Same as the rest of you.” You then not us. She held herself outside the human race as I did. Problem was she thought I was one of them. Maybe she didn’t look as deep as I thought she had. I was definitely not part of that nine to five rat racing pack of innocents that glutted this world. “You’re not the same as me either,” she said, motioning for another drink.
I was intrigued. That didn’t happen often. It never happened with people. They were too predictable, and often too cruel to garner my interest. I was about to ask her name when she told me.
“I’m Joan Bryant. I think I’m supposed to help you.” The itch in my brain flared once and I knew she was right.
“And just how might that work?” I stubbed out my smoke and reached for the pack to light a new one.
“It’s what I am, not who I am that will make the difference here, John.” She kept saying my name like we were friends. It was a level of intimacy that made me itch in other places besides my brain. She said it like we had already been fucking for weeks and she knew how I liked my eggs.
“And what are you, Joan Bryant?” she rolled off my tongue naturally and speaking her name called to mind the ripeness of summer berries fresh off the vine having grown wild, fighting to survive on their own in a small patch of light in the dark woods.
I knew already I had never in all my time seen or dreamed of one such as her. The newness of her made me fall just a little bit in love. I could stay here forever if I didn’t think that Midnite might show up at any minute to try and haul me off. Her eyes slipped shut again for a moment even her hand reached for her drink.
“Midnite won’t touch you as long as you are with me, Constantine.” Her eyes opened then, and I saw them alight with some power from within her. “He wouldn’t dare.” I felt a chill up my spine as I mentally stepped back and reassessed this creature before me.
I had thought her just a girl, and maybe she was that, but there was more. Midnite was no joke. After selling his sister’s soul he had gained immortality and great power. He crossed lines that so far I had yet to even find. I would never show that doubt to him, or the admiration I had for someone so completely untethered from humanity. He was my hero and my watch light. He was the person I would never let myself become.
Tell that to Astra, my own darkness called out from inside me. I squelched that, hiding in the fact that what had happened to her had been an accident and not a willful action to gain me power. Is there a difference if the end result is the same? Yes, there has to be! I assured myself. There had to be!
“You know Midnite, luv?” She laughed and shook her head, finishing her smoke. I noticed that she purposefully burned her fingers when she put it out. She didn’t make a sound when she did it.
“He knows of me,” was all she said and then finished her drink. She rose then and held her hand out to me. I looked from it to her. She didn’t speak and I sensed that this had to be my choice. Free Will and what not, I reckoned. I wanted to go with her. I let that pull me off the stool. I wanted to touch her. I let that be the reason I took her hand.
When she threaded her fingers through mine like a lover I sighed in pleasure. I had not been touched so in a long time. It was more than I remembered. She was more than I had thought. I had no idea what was going to happen next.
She took me to her room a block away. She was traveling light and had not been here long.
“A week,” she spoke behind me as she closed the door. “I have been waiting for something to make up my mind.”
“About what, Joan?”
“Going forward or going back.”
“Shreveport. I left someone there that means more to me that anything else in the world.”
“Why leave him then?”
“To keep him safe. Surely you understand that, John Constantine.” Better than I would ever admit. “Still I wanted to go back and was about to do it, no matter the cost when you showed up.”
“And what do I have to do with that?”
“You reminded me that I have a job to do. A job that places the one I love in more danger than anything else in the world ever could.” She laughed then, the bitter sound hurt my ears. “Imagine, my love is more dangerous than even a stake or sunlight could ever be.” Something clicked for me then.
“Oh, John. If I don’t judge you for a succubus can you not be more compassionate to me?” her tone was chiding and teasing and correct. Who was I to judge anyone’s love life? “We all take love where we can find it. It is the light that guides us through the dark that surrounds us even on the sunniest day.” Her words echoed to me, their truth ringing in all my empty places. “What love have you snatched and then given up to walk the path you have chosen, Laughing Magician? What price too steep to remain The Constant One?” I gasped as she pried me open, more from the sensation than her words. There was nothing I could hide from her.
“You have no right!” She laughed and this time she was amused.
“Of course I do. You are here because you need me. That gives me the right.” She moved toward me then slowly, sensuously, her hands coming to rest with her palms on my shoulders, her body almost touching mine but not quite. I swallowed already imagining how soft her breasts were going to feel when they were pressed against my chest. “That is why you try so damned hard to never ever need anyone,” she was leaning closer at every word touching her lips to mine as the last one was said. Her hands moved to my neck and I felt a shift in the energy between us.
There was a slight draining sensation that I buried in the kiss between us as I took her mouth my tongue slipping between her lips coming back with more of the taste of berries and sunlight. Ripe, dark, fat berries, her taste bursting across my tongue making me want to eat her alive. She moaned and pulled back gasping.
“You are so…much!” she was panting, her pupils dilated like she was high on me.
“What are you?” I asked her, holding her shoulders now trying to see more than just the young woman before me. She smiled at me then for the first time since we met. It was the smile of someone who had seen too much and not experienced enough to know what she was holding in her arms.
“I’m what you have walked to needing with every step you have ever taken. Something you need more than your next breath of air. I am the Sin Eater.” Her voice was doing something to me, my heart was racing, and my cock was throbbing. Sin Eater? Were there such things? Had I found one if they did exist? “I can take the pain away, John. I can lift the weights that make it hard to go on. Let me help you.” That last was a plea.
I shoved her away and fell back onto the unmade bed. I needed a smoke but couldn’t make my hands work to find them in my pocket. She moved and knelt at my feet, looking up at me she licked her lips. “I have heard your music, the sounds you make as you move through this existence. I have tasted your pain and I want more, John, please.” Her hands started taking off my shoes and then moved to unbutton my pants. I wanted to do this. I needed to know more. My hands moved to stop hers.
“Not the best idea right now,” I said brushing her off. She sighed and sat back on her knees at my feet appearing the supplicant. Deceiving me because she clearly wanted me to be the one to submit.
“I see threads of possibility and I read the vibrations of your life force. It sounds like music to me, a concert that the universe only plays for me. I can see the strings of your life force connected to…” she laughed and crossed her arms over herself. “Well, I don’t know what the strings are connected to, only that every living thing has them. They are tied to the possibilities of your life and its many potential outcomes. I drink from the strings. I taste your pain, your anger, your hatred, you love. All of it. It is from these things that I draw sustenance. It is from this drawing that I can take your pain and make it my own.”
“Why would any sane person do that?”
“I don’t process it the way you do. There is a residual affect to me, yes, but only until I have processed the energy that I take. It doesn’t hurt me like it does you. It strengthens me.”
“My pain strengthens me, too!” I told her fiercely. Now digging for that smoke in my pocket. She didn’t speak until I had taken a soothing drag and was starting to feel ridiculous sitting here on her bed, my shoes off my pants half undone.
What the fuck was I thinking coming here with her?
“Your pain gives you strength, yes, but too much paralyzes you, John. Too much will weigh you down, slow you down when you need to think clearly. You pride yourself on being the canniest dog in the fight. Can you do that if all you have the strength to do is argue with yourself over the choices you made in the past?” I was huffing the smoke, taking a drag at every reasonable response she hit me with, fighting to keep my head when I was torn between wanting to do this and fearing to do it at the same time.
“I will only make it better, John. I will take only the pain and the doubt. Trust doesn’t come easy to you. I know that from what I see in the strings. I can take what I want. I will if I have to, but it can be more than that if you find the courage to embrace me.” She stood then and showed herself to me, her true face. Slowly she removed her clothes, her eyes never leaving mine as her milky skin revealed itself in her every move. Her eyes were glowing with a faint light behind them. It seemed that all the dim light of this room was focused and reflected there.
When she was naked she held her arms up at her sides. Her body took on the same glow as her eyes and for a moment I thought I saw the strings that she had described to me they danced around her and through her.
She was a goddess and she was here to heal me.
Maybe somebody somewhere liked me more than I thought.
I stubbed out my cigarette on the night stand and removed my own clothing before opening my arms to her, surrendering like I had wanted to do since the moment I had seen her. She stepped into my arms and I felt her take a deep breath as her lips touched my neck sucking gently on my skin. I felt it leave me then.
The guilt of New Castle, the pain of my friends being so damaged from my actions. The doubt I felt over the course I had set for myself, it all just slipped away as she drank me down. We moved to the bed where she lay me down and kissed a path down my chest. Each touch of her lips made me feel lighter and new. When her lips wrapped around my cock I felt her dig deeper into me.
Lovers past, the endings that haunted me, she pulled from me with each tug of her lips, every swirl of her tongue that made my cock weep for her. She hummed her pleasure as she took me deeper and deeper into her mouth swallowing me and my sins, her body glowing as she fed. When she slipped a finger in my backside, pressing in just the right place I gave her everything I had left coming in hard jets deep in her throat as she purred around me. She pressed a soft kiss to my softening cock before lying next to me and pulling my head to her breast. They were even softer than I had imagined.
She let me rest there for a while before she tilted my head back and kissed me. My body started responding immediately to her touch. She moved to my neck and her whisper made me cling to her in fear as much as desire. “We have to open the box, John.”
“No,” I said in her hair afraid to look her in the eye. I knew the one she meant. It held my childhood innocence. It had been my first spell, to box it up and keep it safe before it was stolen from me by a father who blamed me for the death of my mother, by the gangs who beat me after school, by the demons who haunted my dreams. Demons that I had since learned were real and that I had set myself a course to fight. “Not the box,” I begged her.
I felt raw from her love, stripped and left in the sun to bake when she had taken my guilt with my pride and my wrath. She ignored me, reaching deeper inside me to find the magic that had made it and sealed it away. Despite my fear her touch had made me hard for her again and just as she found the box in the heart of me she slid her tight hot body onto my shaft taking me deep into her. When I was fully sheathed inside her she opened the box only a fraction catching a small piece of my pure innocence in her hand like a firefly caught in a waning summer evening.
She closed the box back tight and then brought her closed hand to her nose. She moaned in delight as she breathed deep. “So sweet,” she said and I thought she would eat it then, but it wasn’t sin and by closing the box she had shown that she was not that kind of goddess. I caught just a glimpse inside her as she held the essence of me in her hands. A flash of fang and blue eyes and a feeling of perfect love washed through me. Her vampire, her love.
“Yes,” she whispered to me in the dark, opening her hands as she moved her hips on me. “He taught me what it is to love and trust. To be the kind of person we all should be.” She placed her hands on me and I felt that tiny bit of innocence flow back into me soothing all the raw places that she had left moments before.
My body convulsed beneath her, thrusting up deeper into her as she worked her magic on my wretched self. I sat up and pulled her to me, my hands going to her hips pulling her down harder as I thrust up into her heat. She felt so good to me. I felt so good to me.
Her head fell back as her orgasm came upon her suddenly, squeezing me so tight inside her that I came with her screaming her name as she rode me. I fell back to the bed and into darkness.
Perhaps it was the closing of the door that woke me. I don’t know but when I sat up she was gone. I went to the balcony of her room and looked down into the street to see her emerge from the side door. I was about to call out when Papa Midnite stepped from the shadows and called her name.
She stopped and looked at him, her body doing the same thing I had felt mine do a million times, that lanky relaxed hip cocked fuck you attitude. I smiled and I thought of how she had said she would take on my sins until she processed them. She was definitely showing my pride, so different from the girl I had met in the bar a few short hours before.
“You should show me the proper respect, coming to my city and then slinking out without so much as drop in.” I saw her lip curl.
“And who are you that I should owe you anything?” He bristled. No one had challenged him in some time, let alone a slip of a girl like Joan Bryant.
“This is my city, girl. You owe me tribute!” She laughed, and then she stopped and came closer to him, her eyes glowing again. When she spoke her voice echoed like a chorus and I could feel her power even from up on the balcony. She was so fucking beautiful and terrible at the same time. I wanted to be inside her again.
“We are vulnerable in these meat sacks, these prisons of pain from which we are waiting to be born, to bloom to thrive. You may bring me to my knees but you will never make me your bitch. I am what you long for in your deepest soul Papa, a child of the gods that you grovel before lapping scraps like a dog under the table. That’s all you’ll ever be because that is all you can see yourself as, a dog.” He drew back as if to strike her. If he did I was going over the balcony after him. She stopped him with a look.
“You don’t dare, Midnite. The Loa would revoke your power and leave you begging under someone else’s table.” After a moment he dropped his hand and stepped back. She turned and walked away. I scrambled for my clothes and threw them on as I ran out to catch her.
By the time I got to the parking lot all I saw was her black corvette convertible peeling down the street. When she turned the corner and drove out of my life I wondered if I would ever see her again. The way things went for me having a Sin Eater on standby could only be a good thing.