Dire Fates: A Hellblazer/Oh My Goddess! crossover.


CONTINUITY NOTE:  This uses continuity set from Hellblazer 
                  up to issue #120.

                           -*-
      http://www.thekeep.org/~rpm/vertigo/direfates
                           -*-

"He's riding the Synchronicity Freeway, and so everything just
 falls in place; Time, Movement, even Distance just sit up and
 beg for him.  You're having an adventure, kiddo.  If you
 survive it, it'll be fun."

	-Deadman to Tim Hunter on John Constantine,
	 "The Books of Magic"


                           -*-


OOO
O O
OOOnce up a time... 


There was pain and strife and fire and anger and much confusion,
so very much, on that beautiful blue sphere down below.

There was bloodshed and savagery and horrors that just did not
make sense.

It wasn't right. 

He sighed, looking down upon it all, and once again felt that
forbidden feeling. 

Doubt. 

He doubted the Creator. 

Surely, this was not the way things were meant to be. 

But He said that things were well, despite the events. 

But it did not seem right. 

But He said... 

But... 

There must be a better way. 


                           -*-


                   David Tai & Rod M.
                       present...


                       Dire Fates
             A John Constantine: Hellblazer
                    Ah!  My Goddess!
                       Crossover

                   Part 1:  "Who, Me?"

                                      
                           -*-


OOO
O O
OOOnce upon a time, another time, another place...

This was not good.  She was getting worn out trying to calm down
all these natural disasters befelling Japan.  But if she didn't,
not only would her beloved Keiichi die, but so would Megumi,
Tamiya, and so many other friends she had made in her short stay
on Earth.  And then her senses tingled, and she flew swiftly
away.

Goddess First Class, Second category, Unlimited License Belldandy
arrived over the sea watching the giant waves form.  She was
trying to breathe, having nearly used up her powers in trying to
calm the earthquakes that was shaking up Japan, and had barely
been able to prevent the shockwaves from hitting the island. 
But... no!  Her blue eyes widened in shock.  She had been unable
to stop the huge tidal wave forming, and it was threatening to
crash on Japan!  She paused in air, knowing full well that any
more use of her powers would cause her to be incapacitated for a
while... but there never really was a choice.  Her brown tresses
flowed as she flew toward the tsunami. 

"Oneesama!" screamed a voice behind her.  Belldandy ignored her,
arriving just before the wave, an incantation already forming on
her lips.

     "Thunder of Air,
      Rage of Water,
      Heed my words,
      And begone...!" 

A bright globe formed in her hands... and a luminescent beam shot
out and hit the tsunami's center.  Strain showed on Belldandy's
face as she strove to fight the raging tsunami.  Slowly the beam
expanded, forming a shield that slowly started dissipating the
giant wave.

She had just enough time to sigh a breath of relief, before her
energy ran out.  As she started to fall toward the ocean, her
last sensation was of two hands reaching to grasp her, and her
last thought as she passed out...

Keiichi... 


                           -*-


OOO 
O O 
OOOnce upon a pub... another time, another place...

There was a man. 

Ask his opinion and he'd tell you he was just an ordinary bloke,
really.  By appearances, you'd actually believe that.  Just a
typical British fellow, of average height, short blond hair, a
trenchcoat, and otherwise perfectly ordinary garb. 

There was, however, a certain world-weariness in his eyes. 

He had many names. 

Conjob.  Bastard.  Most Hated.  Trickster.  Magus. 

John Constantine. 

He was, arguably, one of the most powerful and daring occultists
of modern times.  His style was entirely unique and
embarrassingly simple, according to rumors.

It was said amongst occultists that against a demon on earth,
Superman would bludgeon the thing back to hell, Dr. Fate would
cast some terribly complex spells at it, but only John would walk
up to it, stare it in the eye, and tell it to go fuck off.

And it'd work, too. 

As of yet, nobody knows why. 

At the moment, this great magus, this man of mystery, this
Constantine, was doing some deep pondering.  He was doing it in a
bar, where most of the world's great ponderings took place.

Something was bothering him.  His head was a bit cloudy, the
world was spinning a tad, and he currently didn't have a
cigarette in his mouth.

That wasn't it, though. 

The television droned the nightly news, a nightly recap of all
the ills of the world.  John's somewhat muddled mind took in a
few tidbits.

// ... state of emergency in Japan... more unrest in Bosnia as
rebels continue to... ongoing famine in North Korea... riots in
Los Angeles as police... bloodshed in the streets of Quarac as a
car bomb... //

Eh.  Same old fucked up world as he was used to.  Certainly not
getting any better.

Wait. 

His mouth. 

A tad dry. 

Ah. 

That might be it. 

Maybe.  Find out soon enough, yeah? 

"HEY!  BARKEEP!  'NOTHER BEER!" 

The bartender frowned.  "Johnny, yer pissed drunk." 

After the mess he'd cleaned up down by South Brahms, he NEEDED to
get drunk.  Messy, ugly exorcism that was.  Very ugly. 

Constantine blinked, took a few seconds to focus on the
bartender, then scowled savagely while pointing a finger in his
general direction.

"Bollocks!  I'm per'fly fine, I am.  An'sides.  Chas'll... 
drive...  *HIC*" 

Then he remembered what was bothering him. 

"Aw bloody hell.  What time's it?" 

"Half past midnight." 

"Aaaaagh, me girl'll be pissed.  Wassuppos' ta call'er... oh... 
a few 'ours ago." 

He mulled this fact over in his head a few times. 

"Ah, well, she'll be mightily pissed come tomorra, but at's
tomorra.  Might's well head home anyway.  Needa call Chas ferra
lift.  Use yer phone, Mikey?" 

"Don't call me Mikey, arsehole, y'know I hate it." 

"Yeah yeah, the phone?" 

"Go'head." 

"Thanks, Mikey, yer a lifesaver." 

"Shattup!" 

John snickered.  "Ah, y'know I love ya, Mikey." 

"Yeah yeah, now call yer bloody cab." 

Ah, right.  Chas.  Phone. 

Pick up the phone. 

//Hello, Constantine.//

Dial. 

-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-

//CONST-//

-BEEP-

//-ANTINE!//

-BEEP-BEEP-BEEP-

//DAMN IT, CONSTANTINE, STOP DIALING-//

-BEEP-

//-THE DAMNED PHONE!//

Constantine frowned.  There seemed to be a voice on the line
already.

"Hey, Chas, z'at you?" 

//Constantine, it's me, Mar-//

"Bloody hell, son, you sound like a girl." 

//COOOOOOOONSTAAAAAAAAAANTIIIIIIINEEE!//

A yell tends to sober one up. 

A yell on the phone doesn't do quite the same. 

A yell on the phone from a major Demoness of Hell works amazingly
well, despite being filtered by the phone. 

Constantine's eyes narrowed.  Either this was a prank or some
spirit was yanking his string again.  Either way, he wasn't in
the mood for it. 

"Okay.  Right.  Whoever you are, miss, you got ten seconds before
I hang up, right?" 

//Constantine, it's me.  Mara.//

John smirked.  "Isn't this going the other way?  I mean, aren't I
supposed to be the one summoning you folk?"

//Are you done being a smartass yet?//

"No, but you've got my attention.  Talk fast, okay luv?" 

//There is a disturbance in the Heavens, John.  Something
fundamentally wrong.//

"Well, I'd think you folk would be cheering about that, yeah?" 

//This is SERIOUS, Constantine.  It has the potential to tear
asunder all of Heaven, Earth, and Hell.//

"Enough to concern the demons down below, eh?" 

//Will you help us?//

"Meet me in an hour at the Bridge, then we talk." 

-click-

Ugh.  An hour.  Should've made that two.  Still felt a tad
boozed. 

He stared at the remains of his last beer and started putting
things together.  Had to be prepared. 

Mara.  Hadn't heard from that one in a while. 

He wondered what she could possibly want. 

"You managed to reach Chas?" asked the barkeep.

"Nah, but s'okay. I think I fancy a bit of a stroll anyway."


                           -*-


Mara hesitated, watching him from the shadows of the Tower. 

How very appropriate, she thought, that he would want to meet at
London Bridge.  A place with its share of dark secrets, much like
the man.  She was amazed that a mere mortal like Constantine was
the source of so much havoc as of late. 

Mara was feeling some doubt about the Plan. 

If the Lords of Hell found out she was dealing with HIM, they
would have a fit.  She certainly wouldn't be looked upon well if
they found out she was trying to make him an _ally_.

Ah, there was another problem. 

John Constantine also had an infamous track record of screwing
over his 'allies'.  There were certainly enough damned souls in
hell to testify to that. 

And the mess he left Ellie in... oh, poor Ellie.  Mara was
especially irked at what happened to Ellie. 

This whole affair was definitely high risk. 

But if she pulled John's strings right... if... 

Oh, the possibilities. 

"Oi.  You gonna stand there all night?" 

Mara blinked.  "How long did you know I was here?" 

"Long enough.  Cut the nonsense and get down here.  I'm not in
the mood forrit tonight, 'kay?" 

"A bit grumpy, are we?" purred Mara, materializing next to John. 

"Had a long day," grumbled Constantine. 

"The exorcism, yeah?  Heard about it." 

"Yeah, some bloody demon with not'nuff vowels in his name. 
Yak-effing-Kay, or some bollocks like that." 

"Ykz'arth'ull-nf'tng.  He wasn't too happy about it either." 

"Yeah?  Good."  Slowly, methodically, he pulled out a cigarette
and lit it.  He took a long pull from the cigarette, then blew
smoke in Mara's general direction.  "Now, luv, what's the bleedin'
emergency?" 

"There's Heavenly Deities on Earth." 

John blinked, frowned, then snorted.  "Oh yes, pain in the arse
those deities can be, yeah?" 

Mara scowled and started pacing around.  "No, John, you don't get
it.  They're STAYING on earth, as in permanent residence.  No
fading into the astral plane, no half-existence, they are
_staying_ here and they should NOT.  It's part of The
Arrangement.  There's Heaven, Earth, and Hell.  Sometimes beings
from ONE part take a holiday to ANOTHER part.  Aside from mortal
souls after death, persons from ONE part do not STAY in the
other.  They DON'T.  It just ISN'T done."

Constantine's mouth bent down at one corner and his cigarette
drooped a tad.  "Right. So... let me get this straight.  You want
me to poke about inquiring on the activities of of some heavenly
deities that've merely decided to go slummin'?" 

Mara nodded. 

"What's it to you?" he asked. 

"Some parties Down Below don't like it, okay?  There's talk of
escalation.  Oh, look, They have people stationed on Earth, so
why can't we, yeah?"

"I'd think your bosses would be keen on doing that sort of
thing."

"Oh, yes, some of them are, but some of them aren't.  Besides,
you know the score.  We send some, then they send some, then we
send some more, and the next thing you know it's one big
Ragnarok...  only we aren't ready yet!  The Heavenly Host would
kick us back downstairs and Hell would be a mess again!"

"And you, of course," said John sarcastically, "are on the side
of peace and non-violence."

Mara shrugged.  "All I know is I like the way things are now.  No
need to upset the status quo." 

"I see." 

"So, you'll look into it?" 

There was silence. 

John took another long breath from his cigarette, exhaled, then
looked Mara straight in the eye.

"No." 

"What?!" 

"I don't care t'mess with the business of them Up There.  I
haven't in a long while and I don't care to do it again." 

"But-" 

"I said, _no_."  He took that moment to blow some smoke in her
face.  "Thanks for the news, luv, but I've _really_ no further
interest, so head on back to Hell, eh?" 

"Very well..."  Mara faded from view, leaving John alone on the
Bridge.  He tossed his cigarette to the ground, mashed it with a
foot, then walked away into the London haze and disappeared. 

A moment later, Mara rematerialized high atop London Bridge,
smiling.  She had him curious.  It was only a matter of time now,
and she was watching every step he took. 

As she looked into the dark horizon, the clouds overhead rumbled
and a few heavy drops of water fell. 

Mara looked up, frowning, and, for some reason unknown, was
reminded of the old myth... raindrops were the teardrops of
angels as they cried.

She dismissed the thought and faded into nothingness, leaving the
Tower of London alone to bear the steady drops of rain.


                           -*-


Half a world away, in a large shrine, a young raven-haired maiden
clung to her sister's bedside.

"Belldandy!" 

Skuld could only cry.  She had been unable to reach her big
sister in time to help her, save to teleport her back to the
shrine.  She did not know what to do.  Her big sister was
unconscious, in a deep sleep as she sought to regain her energy.
Her other big sister, Urd, was off chasing some misbegotten
demoness, and Keiichi was at a shelter, hiding with the other
mortals of this small island country, fearful of the calamities
striking.  Skuld was all alone, unable to do a lot to stem the
numerous disasters striking.  All she could do was... cry.  She
reached out to take her sister's hand, sniffling as she did so.

A gloved hand came down on her arm.  "[Leave her, young one.  She
will recover in due time, but time is something of which we have
precious little.  We have more pressing matters to attend to,]" a
calm, deep voice spoke in Nordic.

Skuld blinked, and looked up at the mysterious person who had
stopped her. Black shoes.  Dark blue pants.  White turtleneck
sweater.  Blue coat.  Blue cape.  Unsmiling mouth.  White eyes. 
Blue hat.  Black hair with streaks of white... 

Wait. 

White eyes? 

She gave a startled squeak as she met the stranger's eyes... 

They were BLANK! No irises, no pupils...! 

"AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" 

The stranger seemed to wince, if only slightly.  "[My apologies,
young goddess.  But there is chaos...]" 

Continuing to scream, Skuld grabbed her mallet from its resting
place on her back.  Only a smooth step backward prevented the
stranger from having his head introduced to Skuld's favorite
tool.

The stranger fidgeted for a moment, avoiding another blow, and
then sighed.  "[If you calm yourself and listen to what I have to
say, young one, I will take you out... for ice cream.]" 

Skuld paused in mid-swing.  "[Promise?  Who are you, anyway?]" 

The stranger inclined his head.  "[Forgive me.  I have no name,
no identity.  Mortal men call me... the Phantom Stranger.  I have
come to tell you this: There is chaos in heaven.  The earthly
disasters were but one symptom of what ails Heaven.  Chaos is
appearing in what should be Order.  There is but one man who can
help you set things right.]" 

Skuld returned her mallet to behind her shoulders.  "[Who?  Where
can I find him?]" 

"[Seek the hellblazer, the smoke-wreathed man, he of the
trenchcoat, whose name is whispered with fear and loathing among
those of both heaven and hell...]" 


                           -*-


Urd looked at her surroundings, her expression neutral but
bordering on smiling.

It looked like any other pub in London. 

The lighting was slightly dim, to give the place that 'cozy'
feeling.  The furniture was of dark oak, giving the place a nice,
cozy feeling.  At the far end of the room there was a fireplace
burning nicely, and of course, there was a bar. 

There was one unique thing about this pub.  It was _always_ in a
happy sort of mood.  Oh, some nights were quiet, but even on
those nights there was a happy sort of content that seemed to
spread to anyone that was there.  Here, they forgot their
worries.  Here was something that was almost as good as home. 

Here was a place to get righteously pissed and drunk. 

This was also the first place Urd went to in her investigation. 

She'd heard through the grapevine that Mara was up to something
here, something that was going to shake up the system if she
actually succeeded.  She didn't have any more details than that,
but just knowing Mara was up to something big was enough to
warrant investigation.

Besides, for some odd reason, nobody else was available for it. 

She was, at the moment, waiting for a certain someone to enter
the pub.  Then she realized that wasn't the way it worked. 

"It's been a long time," she whispered, shaking her head
ruefully.  She took a swig of the lager in her mug, then quietly
began to sing. 

 o/~ Dance, dance, wherever you may be o/~
 o/~ I am the Lord of the Dance, you see! o/~
 o/~ I live in you, and you live in me o/~
 o/~ And I lead you all in the Dance, said he! o/~

She felt it in the air, an ancient spirit that roamed the isle of
England once, but had not been seen for over five hundred years. 
It was the spirit of happiness, and of joy.  Wherever men and
women gathered for song and drink, that spirit loomed near. 
Whenever they sang his song, he was summoned.  For over five
hundred years he was silent, but he had returned again as of
late.  And now, Urd was summoning him once again. 

A deep and amused voice, his voice, spoke.  "Did someone call?" 

Next to Urd appeared a large, burly man, dressed in a white
leisure suit.  His face was framed with sideburns, a moustache,
and a thick dark brown beard.  The words 'jovial', 'merry', and
'happy' seemed to fit this gentleman properly.

He was, after all, the spirit of celebration, the Lord of the
Dance. 

Urd smiled.  "Hello there, Arcadian." 

He raised an eyebrow and tsked.  "After all the wild parties we
had, that's all you have to say to me?" 

With a warm smile Urd wrapped the man in a hug.  "Hey, you old
fool!  You haven't been keeping in touch!  Where've you been?" 

"Ah, well, I've had rough days, but I'm better now."  He took a
seat next to her and reached out for a frothy mug that seemed to
have been there already, though Urd didn't notice it before. "So,
what brings Mistress Urd to the shores of England once more? 
Perhaps, as the youth of today put it, a kegger?" 

"Heh.  No, not here to party, although we really should do that
sometime now that you're back.  I'm here looking into something." 

"I'll help you any way I can." 

Urd smiled, took another pull from her mug, and hrmed.  "Ah. 
Good to have a nice, old fashioned pub beer again.  Sake's great
but there's just no substitute."

The Lord of the Dance raised an eyebrow.  "Sake?" 

"Yeah," said Urd, nodding.  "Been spending my time in Japan
lately.  My sisters seem to have gotten themselves stuck there,
and SOMEONE has to watch over them." 

He smirked.  "Heh, and here I was thinking they kicked you out
again."

Urd tried to look innocent.  "Oh, perish the thought."  She
raised her glass one more time and finished off the last of her
brew.  "Aaaah.  Right then.  To the point.  Have you heard
anything about Mara lately?" 

"No, can't say that I have." 

"Any sort of demonic activity around here?  Anything that might
be related to all these natural disasters increasing recently?"

"Well, you know there's always-" 

"Anything worth mentioning, I mean." 

The Lord of the Dance frowned.  "The First of the Fallen was up
here a few months ago."

Urd raised an eyebrow.  "What was HE up to?" 

"He was after a friend of mine.  I headbutted him.  He ripped out
my ribcage.  Clearly," he said, shrugging, "things are much
quieter now."

"Must be some friend." 

"Aye, one heck of a fella.  Say, why don't ye stay around for a
bit?  I'll call down some of the lads and we'll have a right
boozer like old times, eh?"

"I dunno..." 

"Once more," he said, smiling.  "For old times sake.  As always,
the drinks are on me."

Urd grinned.  Now how was she supposed to turn down an offer like
that?


                           -*-

                                      
This was a most unexpected development. 

"Shite." 

He was in Hell.  He didn't know how or why, but he was in Hell. 
His hands and feet were nailed to an upside-down cross.  It was,
very much, painful.

"Oooooh shite." 

That wasn't the worst thing, though.  The worst thing was The
First of the Fallen standing over him and smiling a _very_ nasty
grin. 

"Constantine."  John didn't like the way he said it.  It was said
in a manner that guaranteed many hours of Cthulhullian horrors
and pain.

"I, er, don't suppose an apology would suffice?" he asked
nervously.

The First grinned maliciously.  "No.  I've been waiting for this
for a very, very long time."

Constantine shivered, then straightened, driving the nails
deeper.  "Y'sound like a pimply wanker on prom night, you
dickless, wingless piece of shite.  I'd just like to tell you
while I still got a mind... sod off." 

Constantine smirked and managed a middle finger out past the
nails.  He closed his eyes and smiled grimly, expecting eternity
to last a very long time from here on out. 

"John Constantine, we must talk." 

Eh? 

John blinked, looked around again, then noticed that the Phantom
Stranger seemed to be calmly standing next to The First. 

"Oi!  Phantom Stranger, aheheh, am I glad to see you!" 

The First of the Fallen frowned.  "Listen, could you do this some
other time?" he asked the Stranger.  "It was quite difficult to
get this time slot."

"My apologies," replied the Stranger, "but there are important
matters which I must inform him of."

John was squirming rather uncomfortably.  "Hey!  Stranger! 
C'mon, enough talking.  Get me down from here!" 

The First sighed.  "Fine, but please make it quick?" 

"It is but a brief warning," assured the Stranger. 

"Bloody hell, you bastard!  This isn't tea time!  The First of
the Fallen's nailed my arse to the cross!  HELP ME OUT HERE!!!" 

The Phantom Stranger stared at the Devil for a few brief, quiet
seconds.

"Oh... I didn't realize you needed privacy.  Pardon me."  With a
poof of smoke, the First of the Fallen was gone.

"Right!  Good job, son!" cheered John.  "Now that he's gone, set
me free, eh?  The nails are starting to get a bit uncomfortable
in me palms, y'know?"

"Listen carefully, John Constantine, there are ominous things
afoot." 

"I'd listen better if you'd GET ME DOWN FROM HERE!!!" 

"The best of intentions already results in the worst of
tragedies."

"You're really startin'to PISS ME OFF, DAMMIT!!!" 

"Divinities will court you for favors.  Already a Demoness
watches your every move."

"GET ME DOWN FROM HERE YOU FRIGGIN' BASTARD!!!" 

"Trust no one, and let a child lead the way." 

With a billow of smoke and a scent of brimstone, the First of the
Fallen returned.  "Done yet?" 

The Phantom Stranger nodded. 

"Right then, here we go."  The Devil cracked his knuckles,
grinning.

"C'mon, Stranger, PLEASE!  Don't leave me like this!  Please!" 

The Stranger frowned.  "All you must do is open your eyes." 

"Open my eyes?!" 

And then he was gone. 

"GET BACK HERE, YOU GODDAMN BASTARD!  Oh shite!" 

"Oh shite is right, John," said the First of the Fallen, casually
tearing an ear off. 

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!" 

"You know, I really should enjoy this more," said the First,
ripping his other ear off, "but I'm not."

"AAUUGH!  PLEASE!  STOP!" 

"Oh, one of these days, I'll get you good, but for now this will
have to do."  The Devil flexed his hand, then slammed it into
John's chest.  With a sickening ripping sound, his ribcage was
torn off, and then the First of the Fallen held before John's
face... his own bloody, still-pulsating heart.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA-" 


                           -*-


"-AAAAAAAAAAAAA *clonk* AAAOW!" 

Ouch.  Ow ow ow.  Shite, that hurt. 

Hangover.  Definitely a hangover. 

He blinked, taking in his surroundings.  That was definitely the
floor in front of his face.  Shouldn't the bed be there? he
wondered.  How odd.  Must've fallen off of it.  Damn, his heart
was pumping so hard it was liable to burst out of his chest.
Cigarettes, where'd he put them?  He groped for his cigarettes on
his nightstand, found them, and lit one up.  Ahhhh. 

Fragments of a nightmare flickered in his mind and faded away as
he groggily stood up.  Bits and pieces, however, clung to memory
in a hodgepodge collection, enough to make him shudder.

"Eeugh... last time I eat Jaffo's Curry past midnight.  Whatta
fuckin' dream."

There was, however, one thing that struck him as very odd. 

Was it his imagination, or did the normally impeccably dressed
Phantom Stranger have an... ice cream stain on his lapels?

Nah, couldn't be. 


                           -*-


Skuld puttered around her room, gathering things she thought she
might need, and putting them in her backpack.

Screwdriver.  Check. 

Wrench.  Check. 

Mallet. Check. 

Hmm... was that all?  Guess so.  Whatever else she might need,
she could always cobble together.

Right.  Now to find... 

Skuld blinked.  Find the trenchcoated man feared by heaven and
hell?  She had no idea who would be like that.  She stamped her
feet angrily.  Why didn't the Phantom Stranger just come out and
tell her WHO he was?  She ignored the fact that she had forgotten
to ask, since it was all HIS fault for being so mysterious! 
There wasn't ANY way she could find him now! 

Unless... 

She scampered over to her computer.  Remote link to the
Yggdrasil.  C'mon, hurry up and connect... ah.  She did a search
for this man.

Trenchcoat. 2,587,097 found. Narrow the search.  Male Smoker. 
1,487,921 found.  Hell.  541,652 found.  Conjunction with Heaven. 

1? 

She keyed in that one. 

Skuld blinked.  A summons to heaven had been issued, and was
blinking on her monitor.

Now what?  She stomped her feet in disgust.  Of ALL the times! 
She was BUSY!  But the screen blinked insistently.  Damn, a lock
on that?  That was unusual.  But she wouldn't be able to get the
name...

Skuld sighed.  She dropped her backpack and headed into
Belldandy's bedroom.  She looked at Belldandy briefly, reassuring
herself that Belldandy was sleeping, and then she poured out a
cup of hot tea and set it on the nightstand next to Belldandy.
Skuld touched the tea with her finger... and was gone.


                           -*-


A moment later... 

Skuld wasn't sure what to expect, but this was one of the things
she was hoping it wasn't. 

It seemed to be a lecture. 

By, of all beings, the Archangels (otherwise nicknamed derisively
as The Lord's Stormtroopers).  They were waiting there, in the
heavens, for her, in their usual white ethereal forms. 

"Ah... someone called me up here?" she asked, smiling nervously. 

"Skuld, child, we must have a talk," said Raphael nervously. 

"We understand you've been looking for a certain... someone," 
said Uriel in a haughty tone. 

"And what if I am?" she asked defiantly.  "I'm just looking
for...  um..."  She took a moment to try and remember what it was
the Phantom Stranger said.  "A trenchcoated man, surrounded by
smoke, feared by heaven and hell." 

"Oh dear, it's him all right," mumbled Raphael. 

Saraquael shook his head sadly and sighed.  "Foolish little girl,
you shouldn't look into things beyond your range." 

"What's wrong with asking about this?" she asked angrily.  "Who
is this person?" 

"The infernal bastard son caused Gabriel to fall!  Gabriel!"
yelled Uriel.  "What makes you think you can do better,
Norselander?" 

"What business do you have with HIM anyway, hm?" asked Raguel,
taking a menacing step forward. 

"But there's something weird going on down there and I was
supposed to find him and-" cried Skuld, before being rudely cut
off.

"That is no concern of yours, young goddess.  Leave these matters 
to more competent beings, really," Michael said, with a frown.

At this point, Skuld was insulted beyond any previous experience
she'd ever had.  Not even Urd or Keiichi had pissed her off this 
badly before. 

"You... you... you... idiots!" she fumed.  She stormed off a
short distance, then whirled around.  She stuck out her tongue
and blew them all a raspberry before disappearing into a
turbulent whirl of light and air. 

"The little brat is going to get in trouble," said Raguel.  "I
shudder to think what HE will do to the stupid girl." 

Michael nodded solemnly.  "You think after what happened to poor
Gabriel, everyone in the Heavens would steer clear of HIM.  Ah,
well, what can you expect from a Norselander?" 

"Oh my, oh my," mumbled Raphael absently.

Unseen by all, a Goddess with some resemblance to Skuld hovered
quietly nearby.  Peorth nodded, thinking over Skuld's words.  A
trenchcoated man, surrounded by smoke, feared by Heaven and Hell? 
She had never met him, but she knew of him.  If other goddesses
from a rival office were interested in him, then, of course, she
would be too.  She smiled. 

John Constantine, eh?  Maybe I should pay him a visit... 


                           -*-


It was nine in the morning and Clive Peters had a visitor. 

Clive Peters wasn't the kind of man that usually had visitors. 
He was a prisoner in the Whitechapel Hospital for the Criminally
Insane.  During a span of several months in the year of 1981 he'd
gone on a killing spree, murdering five children. 

What the police didn't know was that Clive wasn't alone in his
head. 

His visitor, however, did. 

"G'morning, Clive." 

"Hello John." 

"You know who I want to talk to.  Let's get to it." 

Clive's features tensed.  The skin on his face seemed to be just
a _little_ tighter, and the grin he was wearing was a thing of
evil. 

Clive's little secret was that he wasn't so much a Multiple
Personality Disorder case as he was a Demonic Possession case. 
He didn't just kill 5 children.  He raped and brutalized them
before granting them the release of death.  And this could not
be blamed on the demon either.  Because Clive Peters had 
invited the demon along for the ride.  And the demon _enjoyed_
it.  It whispered dark thoughts to Clive, and Clive shared
his own thoughts with it.  And now that demon rose to the 
forefront.

"AgaIn HeLlo, CoNsTaNtInE." 

"Hello, Gout." 

"WhAt YoU wAnT nOw?" 

"Just want to know the news, y'know." 

"YoU cOmE tO mE fOr GoSsIp?  HaHaHa!" 

"Cut the laughing boy shit.  I wanna know what Mara's up to." 

"ThE dEmOnEsS bItCh?  FeH!  sTiLl ShE wAgEs uSeLeSs WaR aGaInSt
ThE fAtEs, As ShE aLwAyS hAs." 

"S'no talk of war down there?  Y'know, storming the Earth and
such?" 

"No MoRe ThAn UsUaL.  hAvE yOu AnY bEtTer ThInGs To AsK?  i 
gRoW tIrEd Of YoUr pRaTtLe." 

"Well, s'cuse me," said John sarcastically.  "That's it, Gout. 
You can go bugger off now." 

"Oh CoNsTaNtInE?" 

"Eh, what?" 

"tHe FiRsT oF tHe FaLlEn HaS a MeSsAgE." 

"Yeah?  What?" 

"FuCk YoU." 

John smirked, shook his head, and headed for the door of the
locked, padded cell.  "Heh, fuckin' typical.  I'd tell him the
same, but I've already done that several times now, eh?"


                           -*-


John looked thoughtful as he returned to his flat, puffing away
on his cigarette.  He had _that_ feeling, the one that he alway
shad when something was going down, and was going to drag him
down with it.  The really maddening thing was that he hadn't a
clue as to what it was.

The nagging feeling that he was being watched all the time
certainly didn't help.

"Bloody paranoid," he mumbled to himself.

If Hell wasn't doing anything, then what in hell was going on in
Heaven that could have a demoness like Mara worried? 

John pulled out his apartment keys... and his door opened. 

Standing in his doorway was a gorgeous brunette, with diamond
markings on her face, clad in skimpy, exotic, long-flowing clothing.
She smiled at him. 

"Hello, John Constantine." 

John's cigarette fell out of his mouth. 

"Who the bloody hell are you?" 

The brunette smiled.  "Peorth.  Goddess First Class, Second
category, Unlimited license."  She reached out and tugged at
John's arm.  Bemused, Constantine followed her into the room,
part of him mentally wondering what was going on, while most of
him was busy reacting to the very feminine presence of this
goddess. 

Peorth closed the door behind him, and smiled.  "So... John...
what do you say we get down to business?"  She walked over to
John's sofa and reclined across it in a very fetching manner.

John raised an eyebrow.  "Luv, isn't it a bit soon?  I just met
you, y'know." 

She raised a hand to her mouth and laughed.  "Ah, John, you're
delightful, but no... I was wondering if we could... talk."

John narrowed his eyes as he took out a new cigarette and lit
it.  He took a puff and considered.  "What's there to talk about,
sister?" 

Peorth lifted a refined eyebrow.  "I was wondering what things
you were doing that would have Heaven and Hell take such interest
in you right now." 

"Y'mean, other than the First screaming for my head, the
archangels mad at me over Gabriel, and screwing around with
demonesses?  No friggin' idea, really." 

Peorth's smile grew strained.  "Er... no.  That's past history.
What schemes are you up to now?" 

He blew smoke sideways out of his mouth.  "Aside from some
thoughts that are better left unsaid, sister, nothing."

She stared.  "Nothing?" 

He smiled.  "Nothing.  Be damned if I know why everyone's so
interested in me lately.  Must be me good looks." 

Peorth dropped the charming facade, swinging her shapely legs to
the floor as she sat upright.  "Who do you think you are,
Constantine?  You have both Heaven and Hell in an uproar over
you, and all you can do is smile?" Peorth asked. 

John smirked.  "Bugger off, sister.  Toldcha, I have no bloody 
idea."  He rubbed out his cigarette butt on an nearby ashtray, as
if to punctuate his statement. 

Peorth stood up, pouting. "Just remember this, Constantine.  I may
seem like a 'sister' to you, but I am a Goddess.  I am Peorth..." 
She stepped up close to Constantine, and ran a finger down his 
jawline.  "...and I am _forever_."

She stepped back.  With a wink at Constantine, she was gone in 
a flash.

John blinked, let out the breath he had been holding, looked 
around, and sighed.  He shrugged, and then lit up another cigarette
and trudged to his bedroom. 

"Great.  Another one of THOSE bloody days." 


                           -*-


The pub which the Lord of the Dance owned was in a rather unique
state.

The Romans Pan and Fanus were passed out in one corner, both for
some odd reason wearing lampshades.  A pack of faeries were
snoring peacefully, despite the fact that one of them was
face-down in a bowl of pretzels.  The Norse goddess Sif was also
unconscious and in a state of semi-undress.  There was a 
leprechaun that would have a lot to answer for, especially 
considering that he was currently also asleep, and his face was 
buried in Sif's bountiful bosom. 

Clearly, one hell of a party had happened here.  The aftermath
was bound to be one messy affair.

It was also a breeding ground for inspiration.

Some of the more inspired realizations come after a long night of
boozers.  The Wright Brothers had a rousing round of barhopping
the night before they wrote up the schematics for their airplane. 
Shakespeare was known to partake of a solid night of wine
sampling when he had writer's block.  Gallileo had a few nights
of being totally sloshed while staring at the stars. 

Urd was sitting at the bar, staring at the wood grain of its
surface, shaking off the effects of far... far too many drinks. 

She was due for a bit of enlightenment.

"Hey, Dancing Boy," she mumbled, kicking the Lord of the Dance in
the shin. 

"Hm?" 

"Who would you say are the most... notable mages livin' in London
today?  I mean *really* big stuff." 

The Lord of the Dance put his bottle of beer down next to the 98
others and hmmed.  "Let's see... I can only think of two offhand.
There's young Timothy Hunter.  He's just a boy, a bit inexperienced,
but supposed to become the next great magus or something like that." 

"He deal much with the occult?" asked Urd. 

"Mmm, no.  The land of Faerie is more his domain so far." 

"Okay.  So who's the other?" asked Urd. 

"John Constantine." 

"Constantine... Constantine... why does that name sound
familiar?"

"Because, lass, that name is big in Hell.  He's a real
specialist." 

"How good is he?" 

He told her. 

She thought about it. 

He told her some more. 

She thought about it some more. 

"Hmm." 


                           -*-


An hour later, it was indeed proving to be one of those days for
John Constantine. 

He'd been walking about the streets of London, on his way to
Header's old warehouse to sort through the things left, when he
stopped to admire some new tvs on a storefront window. 

"Ooh, digital tellys," he mumbled.  "Keen."

He watched a television, as they displayed a blazing building
somewhere in Manchester, with firefighters valiantly attempting to 
prevent the fire from spreading.  Real sharp.  You could almost
see the tongues of flame licking away...

Then he looked at another tv.

Damn, the picture was rather impressive to his eye, incredibly 
clear with absolutely no distortion whatsoever.  It didn't hurt 
that the television was connected to a camcorder, which, in turn,
was pointed at him.  He adjusted his tie and grinned knavishly at 
the camera. 

He blinked a bit when he saw, on television, a _very_ stunning,
tall, curvacious, platinum blond, dark tanned beauty, walk into
camera view, stand behind him, and wave. 

"Well, hello there," said John smoothly, turning around with a
grin.  His grin froze.  He blinked. 

He was apparently alone. 

He turned back to the television. 

Mm-hm.  Right there.  Behind him.  There was the woman. 

//Hi there.  You John Constantine?// she asked.  In the
television, she was leaning on his shoulder.  In real life, she
wasn't.  This was all somewhat disorienting to John. 

"Er... yeah, s'me." 

Suddenly, he felt a weight pressing gently on his shoulder.  He
turned to look and the woman was indeed there, in real life. 

"Hello, and who're..."  Something was nagging him.  He sensed it,
but didn't realize what it was until now.  She was a demoness. 
He ran a hand through his hair.  "Bloody naff, two demonesses in
one week?" 

Urd narrowed her eyes.  "I am not a demoness." 

"You seem like one t'me," said John, eyeing her warily. 

"I'm not," she said flatly. 

John rubbed his head.  "Coulda fooled me... look like yer
hungover after a nite of good hard boozing." 

Urd smiled at Constantine.  "Was just at a party of a friend of
yours, in fact." 

John blinked, and then smirked.  "Lemme guess.  Me ol' mate, the
Lord of the Dance?" 

Urd nodded.  "But I'm not here about mutual acquaintances.  You
meet with a demon named Mara?" 

He blinked and nodded. 

"What'd Mara want?" asked Urd. 

John lit up a cigarette.  "Bugger if I know.  She tried to sell me
some cock-and-bull story about heavenly deities on Earth.  I ain't 
about to mess with things from 'em up there, anyway.  Who might 
you be?" 

Urd inclined her head.  "Urd.  Goddess Second class." 

John muttered, "Bloody hell, if I had an inch for every female
deity or demon that visited, I'd be the most popular bloke in
London." 

"What's that?" asked Urd. 

"Nothing, nothing."  He took another puff.  "Another one of 'em
goddesses.  Yer tracking Mara?" 

Urd nodded.  "Usually, she plagues Japan, but since she was in
England, I thought I'd check things out.  Hold on, Constantine... 
'another one'?  Did another goddess visit you?" 

John grinned.  "Called herself Port or something like that." 

Urd grimaced.  "Peorth.  If she's getting involved as well, then
things could get very messy." 

John waved her off.  "Whatever.  Just leave me out of it, eh, luv?" 

She looked at him strangely.  "You really have no idea what's
going on?" she asked. 

"Not a bit.  D'you?" 

"That's why I asked you," she replied. 

"Well, I haven't a clue, and if it's all the same to you I'd
rather not be involved."

Good, thought Urd.  If Mara managed to get a mortal of HIS
talents on her side, there was no telling what kind of trouble
she could make.

She flashed him a brilliant smile.  "Certainly, and thank you for
your time.  Ciao." 

With a wave, she was gone. 

John puffed away at his cigarette, looking at the television
speculatively.

"Well... that was relatively not unpleasant." 

That Urd... John could have sworn he sensed the presence, if only
faintly, of a demon when she was near. 

And he still couldn't shake the feeling he had that he was being
watched.

Something funny was definitely going on. 


                           -*-


With the John Constantine angle investigated, Urd returned to the
Lord of the Dance's pub for another round of mulling (and
moderate boozing).

The first thing she noticed was Sif, awake again, and violently
throttling a small leprechaun.

"HOW DARE YOU!"

"Ach!  C'mon, lass, do ye nae havva sense o' humor?"

*WHAM*

Urd ducked.  Something small and Irish flew overhead and out the
door.

She smirked as she stood up.  "I told you Danny boy there gets a
little grabby."

Sif scowled.  "Let us not speak of this again."

Urd smiled and walked onwards to the bar, where the owner of the
establishment seemed to be talking to someone, with him behind
the bar and the woman's back to her. 

Then she stopped, sensing something she didn't expect to sense
here.

The woman at the bar straightened up and turned around slowly.

"Urd."

"Mara."

The tension in the air was thick.  A passing fly was instantly
crushed.

The Arcadian, in an attempt to halt any tensions that might break
out, quickly stood up and motioned for Urd to join them at the
bar.  "C'mon, Urd, it's been a while since the three of us were
together.  Let's not make this a bitter reunion."

Keeping a wary eye on Mara, Urd sat down.

"So, Urd, what are you doing in this part of the world?" asked
Mara.

"Funny you should ask that," said Urd.  "I was about to ask you
the same thing.  What were you planning to do with John
Constantine?"

Mara's eyebrow raised, and a brief moment of surprise flickered
on her face.  It was quickly gone, replaced by a calm expression.

"I was hoping to do what no other demon in Hell had done: get
John Constantine's soul damned to hell.  Would've really
impressed the bosses if I'd have pulled it off."

"Right.  That's your reason for being here."

Mara grinned sheepishly.  "Hey, I was bored."

"How far did you get?" asked Urd.

"Kept on telling me to sod off.  Those crazy mortals, yeah?"

"Yeah, crazy mortals."  Both Demoness and Goddess took a moment
to crack a small smile.

"Well... I guess I'll be heading back to Japan, then," said Urd.
"Who knows what trouble my sisters are into now."

"Might as well slink back to Nifelhelm, myself," said Mara. 

"Don't be strangers, you two, okay?" asked the Lord of the Dance.

"I'll be in touch," said Mara with a smile.

"We'll do a kegger some time," replied Urd.  "Call ya later."

Demoness and Goddess vanished, leaving the Arcadian alone with a
room full of deities either in slumber or waking up to a rather
nasty hangover.

The Lord of the Dance shook his head sadly.  "Ah, politics of 
Heaven and Hell.  It really sucks sometimes." 

Meanwhile, Miming, a minor Norse forest God, blearily scrambled
up to the bar and took control of the remote.  He did what few Gods
before had ever done.

He channel surfed on Cable.

// - bombing in Israel today as -CLICK- continued famine in Korea
-CLICK- volcanic activity reported in -CLICK- discovered the
bodies of three children under a -CLICK- war in Quarac -CLICK-
racial tensions rose today as riots in -CLICK-//

"Blech," he mumbled.  "Don't you get ESPN on this thing?"


                           -*-


Skuld arrived back in her room in a huff. 

Those... those stupid snobby angels!  What did THEY know?  Old
idiots, the whole bunch of them!  Well, she'd show them!  She'd
find the trenchcoated man on her own!  But first... 

She went to check on her big sister.  Keiichi was there, sleeping
and holding Belldandy's hand.  Skuld frowned.  So Keiichi was
back from the shelter?  Hm.  She went to the other side of
Belldandy's bed, checking her sister.  Good. 

Keiichi woke with a start.  "[Oh, hello, Skuld]", he said in
Japanese, as he rubbed his eyes. 

Skuld frowned.  "[Hello, Keiichi.]"

"[What happened to Belldandy?]"

Skuld sighed.  "[She stopped a tsunami, and a few earthquakes
today, and she's burned out.  She needs to sleep for a while.]"

Keiichi blinked, then looked at Belldandy proudly, but worriedly. 
"[Ok.  I just hope she's all right.]"

Skuld sighed.  Keiichi looked up.  "[Don't worry, Skuld.  I'll
watch over her.]"

She glared at Keiichi.  That... mortal!  Who did he think he was,
claiming her big sister... oooh!  Just thinking about it made her
angry!  She stormed off to her room in a huff.  There she activated
Banpei, her faithful robot. 

"[Watch over oneesama, and make sure that Keiichi behaves!]"

Banpei wandered off to do his mistress' bidding, and with a sigh,
Skuld turned to her computer.  Now that she knew they had an
alarm system around that entry, she knew what she had to do. 
After all, she was the one who did the main debugging and
security on the Yggdrasil, and she knew just how to circumvent
that.  She smiled widely, and then giggled, as she began her
hacking. 

Past the first level... whoops, backup warning systems... better
go around that and hit them from another direction... no... ah... 
get that silly wall out of the way... 

Got it. 

-------------------------------------------------------------------

SEARCH RESULTS:

(1) Constantine, John
    [profile] | [history] | [current status]
    [good deeds] | [unredeemed sins]

-------------------------------------------------------------------

John Constantine.

Right.  Good.  Now where was he?  Oh, Current Status.

-CLICK-

And now Location.

-CLICK-

London, England? 

Skuld sighed.  All the way to the other side of the world. 

She got up, grabbed her backpack, and her mallet, and stuck her
head outside her doorway. 

"[Hey, Keiichi?  I've got to go to England!  Don't try anything
funny with my sister while I'm gone!]"

Keiichi nodded, still looking at the sleeping Belldandy and
ignoring silent Banpei in the corner.  As Skuld's words managed
to get through the curtain of worry around his mind, he jumped
up. 

"[Skuld?  WHERE did you say you were going?]"

But Skuld was already gone.


                           -*-


While she did return to Japan, Urd was far from finished
investigating what Mara was up to.  Demons do lie, and she was
doubtful that Mara was finished with whatever scheme she was
planning.

That didn't mean, though, that Urd didn't have time to check in
on the homefront.

She walked around the temple grounds, puzzled as to why things
were so quiet.  No brat hammering at some device, no Keiichi in
the garage, and no Belldandy tidying about the place.

Hrm.

"Skuld?  Belldandy?  Keiichi?  Anyone home?"

There was no reply.

She strolled down the hallway, intending to check Belldandy's
room, when the humm of Skuld's personal computer caught her ear
as she walked past.

She slowly peeked into Skuld's room.

Empty.

How odd.

"Skuld?" she called out.  "Hey brat, you here?"

No answer.

With curiosity egging her on, Urd had a look at what was on
Skuld's screen.

-------------------------------------------------------------------
YGGDRASIL DATABASE

MORTALS: Constantine, John
Current Status: Location: London, England.

[back][top][save][print][mailto]
-------------------------------------------------------------------


Urd frowned.  What was the brat doing looking up this guy?

With curiosity still at the helm, Urd browsed what information
there was on him.

Hrm... Back -CLICK- aaaand Back -CLICK- aaand... hrm... let's
see...

She tsked at his terrible childhood and shook her head sadly at
the way his relationship with his father was all badly messed up.
She whistled with admiration as she read about what he'd done to
the First of the Fallen.

And then she saw his list of sins.

Her eyes widened.

The Lord of the Dance didn't tell her about THIS part of him.

The man was... one really nasty bastard.

Just what was Skuld doing looking up his file anyway?

"[Urd, is that you?]"

Urd, startled, looked up quickly and blurted, "[I was just
looking!  Oh... Keiichi, it's you.]"

"[I thought I heard someone.  Just checking.]"

"[Hey, where is everyone?]" asked Urd.

Keiichi frowned.  "[Belldandy exhausted herself preventing a
tsunami.]"

Urd whistled.  "[Must be sleeping, yeah?]"

Keiichi nodded.

"[Where's Skuld?]" Urd asked.

"[She packed some things and said... well.. she said she was going
to England.]"

"[WHAT?!]"


                           -*-


When one thinks of places where a denizen of Hell would hide if
said person was he or she was being hunted by the Devil himself,
one thinks of several possibilities.

Under a Church.  On some Holy Ground.  Maybe even Heaven, if they
Up There were feeling generous.

Only someone incredibly bold or totally insane would hide right
from The Devil in the darkest corners of Hell.

Which is exactly what Chantinelle, Hell's most wanted (as in dead
or alive) succubus was doing now.  She and Mara stood on a small
rock, surrounded and hidden from the outside by incredibly large
walls of flame.

"Ellie, you are insane," said Mara, shaking her head.

"Nice to see you too, Mara," replied Ellie, smiling a sad little
smile which was partially obscured by the long dark hair that
cascaded down from her head.  "Mara... I heard what you're
planning to do..."

"And it'll work," said Mara firmly.

"Don't do this.  It'll only bring trouble to you.  HE'LL only
bring trouble to you."

Mara smirked.  "No.  He won't.  I have an eye on him, ALL the
time.  And besides, this time it's ME pulling HIS strings."

"Dammit, Mara, you don't know what he's capable of."

"I know, oh I know.  He bested The First of the Fallen because he
was underestimated.  He killed the King of the Vampires out of
sheer bloody stupid luck.  He got _you_ in trouble because you
trusted him.  But _I_ am not underestimating him and I'm never
going to trust him."

"Mara, walk away from this.  It's not too late."

"No!  This is my chance.  My shot to finally change things the
way they should be!  And if I don't take advantage of this,
nobody else will!  I'll even get you out of the mess he left you
in, Ellie.  You'll see." 

"You're not going to change your mind, are you," said Ellie.

Mara shook her head.  "No way."

"For what it's worth... good luck, and be careful."

Mara nodded, walked away, into the flames, and disappeared.


                           -*-

 
John whistled as he put the kettle on the stove.  Such a busy
morning, already, and it was approaching suppertime.  He tossed
the newspaper under his arm onto the kitchen table, and walked
to his refrigerator, opening it. 

Gah.  Whatever this stuff was, it's evolved into a new lifeform. 
Toss it.  Hm... ham.  Cheese's a bit moldy... toss.  Ah, hell,
just plain ham sandwich for supper, then... 

John turned around, just as the kettle whistled.  He closed the
refrigerator behind him, carrying the ham, which he put on the
counter, as he reached over to shut off the stove.  He smiled as
he reached for his cup, and poured hot water over the tea bag.

Humming, John made himself a sandwich, tossing the meat back
into the refrigerator.  He took his tea and sandwich and sat 
down at the kitchen table.  He peeked at the front page of the
newspaper as he took a bite out of his sandwich.

Hmmm.  The EEC bickering over currency, threatening their 
solidarity.  Yeesh.  Iran and Iraq at loggerheads again.  Nothing 
new there.  Japan rocked by earthquakes... whatever.

He reached for his tea, took out the bag, and began to take a 
sip, as he thought about the news.  While Bad News was a constant
in the world, it seemed to him that there was a bit more of it
than usual...

A hand emerged from his cup and shoved his face away.  Hot tea
spilled onto his lap. 

"Aw, Jaysis!!!" 

John jumped up and danced around a bit... "Effin' sh..."!  He
looked up and paused in mid-curse as a young girl stepped out of
his tea.  The girl was brunette, and had triangular markings on
her face.  John blinked as he noticed that the girl was carrying 
a big big... mallet?

The girl crossed her arms and tapped her foot.  "Do you have
*any* idea how hard you are to find?" 

John blinked.  "Who, me?"  He tried to cool off his legs, shaking
his trousers. 

She paused. "Aren't you Mr. John Constantine?" 

"Who the hell're you?" 

The girl bowed.  "My name is Skuld.  I'm looking for John 
Constantine." 

"Whatever.  If yer here selling girl scouts cookies, go home, 
'cause I ain't buying." 

Skuld frowned.  "*You're* John Constantine?"  She looked him over 
as he desperately tried to shake the hot tea from his trousers. 
"I was expecting someone..."  Skuld paused, searching for the
right word. 

John grimaced.  "Someone drier, luv?  Oh, I was, about 30 seconds
ago, but I had a short officious little sprog pop out of me tea
'round then."

Skuld frowned as she finished, "...smarter." 

"Look, luv, that's because I've had a bratty little nub spill tea
on me trousers.  With dry pants I tend ta make a more sterling
impression."

Skuld *hmphed* with more emphasis than the cubic capacity of her
lungs should've allowed.  "I'll have you know I'm a *goddess*, 
mister!  Goddess, Second Class!"  She crossed her arms and pouted at 
him.

John groaned.  "Bloody hell, not *another* one!"

-= end Part 1 =-