by Chicago

Disclaimer: Characters owned by DC Comics, borrowed for fun, not for profit. Story written for a challenge I can't fully remember anymore, but it was fun to play with characters of ambiguous moral standing.

He turned his collar up as he left the brownstone and headed down the street. It was a cold night in New York City, made colder by a gale building up to a nor'easter. He crammed his hands deep into his trench coat pockets and picked up his pace. It wouldn't look suspicious, he knew. Anyone going anywhere on a night like this would be moving fast.

He had gone 15 blocks before the anxious knot between his shoulders began to ease. His instincts told him he was probably clear, even given the talents of his recent bedfellow. He had been surprised at how easy a conquest she had been, but then, desperation often made women easy. He had given her enough probable half-truths about her origin to earn her gratitude, and had shared enough drinks while they talked to make her trust too much. Trust enough to fall asleep in his arms.

Another few blocks, and he finally allowed himself to indulge in a post-coital cigarette. He ducked into an alley to get out of the wind, the flame of his match barely penetrating the inky darkness.

Although the inky darkness seemed to be having no trouble penetrating his clothing. He stared in horrified awe for a moment as the shadows wound around his legs and torso, twisting into his clothes - then yelped as the match burned down to his fingers.

It was worse when he couldn't see it, and he began to struggle. The dark pulled tighter around him, stroking up inside his coat, slipping past the buttons of his shirt. He felt it fish the disk out of his pocket.

"Son of a bitch!" he cursed, pulling against the shadow as he dimly saw the disk moving through the air away from him.

"Enough," a cultured voice said, and the shadow loosened its hold. "Good evening, Mr. Constantine. You've dropped your cigarette."

Constantine jerked his shoulder out of the hold of the shadow and resettled his coat over his shoulders. "Shade."

A faint light radiated up from Shade's cane, showing the sharp features of the immortal as he examined the disk the shadow had brought him. He glanced at Constantine. "You say that like a curse."

"I went to a lot of trouble-"

"You bedded a woman and plucked this from her headquarters like a sneak thief," Shade corrected. "Now I shall take it back."

Constantine bit back a scowl and reached into his pocket for another cigarette. "Fine. I don't need the gig anyway."

In the ghostly light of his cane, Shade raised an eyebrow. "No? You lie poorly, John Constantine. But you will find another way."

John struck a match. "Fuck you, Shade," he mumbled around the cigarette.

"Hm. I think my shadows might enjoy that, but no. I would rather not tempt the fortune that dogs you."

"You're in the same alley with me," Constantine pointed out.

"And that will be remedied once I have extracted a promise."

Constantine snorted. "You trust my word?"

"No. But I will savor what I will be allowed to do to you should you go back on it. I trust you to be pragmatic."

"My reputation precedes me?"

"And follows you like a bad scent."

"How droll."

"I wasn't trying to be." Shade fixed Constantine with a hard stare, boring into him with his coal black eyes. "You will leave the Justice Society alone."

"And if I don't?"

A decidedly nasty smile curved Shade's mouth. "Do you really want to deprive yourself of the safety of the shadows?"

Constantine took a deep drag from his cigarette and blew the smoke out forcefully. "Bloody hell. Fine, I'll stay the fuck away from the JSA. Although I can't see why the hell you should care."

The nastiness of Shade's smile faded to something more enigmatic. "Let's just say I've made a friend."

Constantine snorted, but the shadows were swirling, and Shade was gone. "Arrogant twit," he muttered. He dropped his half-smoked cigarette, ground it out with his heel, and headed for the subway. It would be better to be underground if Shade woke Powergirl up when he returned the disk.


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