“So that’s how I came to be back here.” Constantine spread his arms wide, encompassing the pretty shitty looking dive bar they were in and beyond the brick walls, the city of London. “Following the words of some half bit loony old bird.” His companion swayed his head from side to side, shrugged his shoulders.
“Seems reasonable. Ignoring a bag lady’s prophecy. Bad business there.” He said, picking at the label on his beer bottle. His still full beer bottle, while Constantine himself had gone through two and a half in the telling.
“You gonna drink that, mate? Or just make faces at it all night?” The man smiled sheepishly at him.
“Alcohol doesn’t…react well with us.” He spun the full bottle over to Constantine, two fingers around the neck. “All your’s.” Constantine squinted suspiciously at the man, with his bright blue blue eyes and his strange way of speaking in both the singular and plural pronouns. Seemingly at random.
Constantine’s not stupid, he knows whoever his companion is, he’s not entirely human. For starters this wasn’t a normal bar.
He’d brushed shoulders with an off duty police constable on his way in, one with a distinct tang of magic to him. (A flash of jazz, of trains rattling through the underground, the muted roar of a riot all woven together with the flow of a river.) In the bar itself, a vampire gang had a rowdy game going at the pool tables. A few petty magicians engaged in hands of poker, where everyone was cheating in the back corner, a couple local boys from one of the paint clans yelling at the match four seats down from them. So no, a normal guy his drinking mate was not.
But there was much more going on than just that.
Part of the reason Constantine had chosen to sit next to this man was that everyone else was giving him a wide berth or ignoring him. He looked harmless enough, big long coat, jeans, ratty sneakers, a faded t-shirt. Only a sweating glass of water topped with ice cubes in front of him on the bar, eyes idly tracking the match on the tv behind the bar. Normal enough, with messy brown hair, the eyes though, were a bit distracting. The bluest eyes Constantine had ever seen, the kind of blue that looked completely out of place on the rest of the man’s face.
But normal enough. Quiet enough. Left alone enough. It had seemed like the best plan, sit down with the social leper, since he wasn’t in the mood for interacting with the public masses more then he already had today. (Chasing down dead ends, following leads that went nowhere. Just another fairy tale among thousands but this one was important. It was frustrating to say the least.)
The man had been amiable, quiet. Pleasant enough to talk to when he had thought to do so.
He had a way of encouraging talk, probably because he didn’t really say anything, a good listener and Constantine found himself telling the strange man everything.
Well, not everything exactly. But everything about why he was back in London, chasing fragments of stories and legends that led absolutely nowhere.
There was quiet when he was done. The two of them staring at the screen, Constantine in a half aware kind of doze and the man as though he was contemplating something. Finally, the man nodded to himself, just as Constantine finished the last of his beer.
“How about...you walk me back.” He said, standing up. Constantine squinted at him again, trying to decide what the stranger meant by that.
“Sorry mate, I don’t know your name and my mother always told me not to go anywhere with strangers.” The man laughed, sliding off the bar stool and tugging a battered back pack off the hook under the bar.
“Not like that.” The tv went fuzzy, blinked an image that was too quick for Constantine to catch beyond the suggestion of wings and blue, and was back to the game in the space between one breath and the next. The paint clan boys cheered wildly at a goal, clearly they hadn’t noticed the blip. Echoes of laughter were still in the man’s tone as he continued. “My name is Matthew Swift, one of the last Sorcerers of London.” Those blue blue eyes were glowing in the dim bar lighting, pinning Constantine in place. “Trust us, you want to walk us back.”
If asked why he followed Swift out of the bar and into the cold clammy night, Constantine would blame it on the beer.(It wasn’t. Gut instinct could get you both far and killed in this line of work.)
“Fucking don’t even know anymore.” Constantine mumbled, running a hand down his face. Apparently the ranting in the pub hadn’t cleared up entirely. He didn’t quite know where they were going, Swift just plodded on, walking close enough that their arms brushed every now and then. “The Midnight fucking Mayor doesn’t exist. He’s a goddamn fairy story, make believe,” Constantine gestured with his hands, poof, trying to convey how very not real the entity he was looking for was.
“The kind all venerable masters of magic use to scare their little apprentices into good behavior.” Swift snorted, hands comfortably shoved into his coat pockets. “You know? Be good or the Midnight Mayor will getchu. Play nice, don’t dabble in black magic or demonic summoning or the Midnight Mayor will see you disa-fucking-ppear.” Constantine spared a thought to wonder about who trained Swift, and if they’d ever used the Midnight Mayor as a boogeyman. He thinks maybe he might have had one beer too many, but Swift manages to knock him back down to hard sober earth in a single sentence.
“That’s the thing I find strange about you, mister John Constantine.” Constantine froze; he hadn’t given his real name at the bar. Hadn’t introduced himself at all in fact. Swift grinned at him, the particular kind of grin that screams ‘I’m being an asshole and I know it.’ “You’ll exorcise the demons, argue with the angels, know every spell in the book and the names of all the fairies, but the Midnight Mayor is where you draw the line?” The man stopped at the back door of an office building, next to the loading dock.(This was not even remotely in the same neighborhood as where they started, how had they walked so far without him noticing?) Swift quirked an eyebrow at Constantine. “Not terribly surprising actually, now that we think about it. I was the same way.”
“Who are you?” Constantine snapped, blood like ice in his veins, but refusing to step away from the man. “What are you?” Swift only smiled wider, but not meaner, there’s no malicious intent in his body language. Just general amiable amusement.
(Which could either mean he meant no harm, or he meant a lot of harm.)
“We have to say, it is bloody entertaining to be on the other side of this finally.” Swift held open the door and waved his arm in an exaggerated ‘come in’ gesture. “Come on, come on. You want to see the Midnight Mayor, right? You’re not going to get a better chance than this.” And that’s when Constantine sees it finally. The cross brand burned into the hand Swift was waving him in with.
Constantine narrowly resists the urge to slam his head against the brick wall several times. Narrowly. All that wasted time today, chasing lead after lead, and he stumbled drunkenly into break in a rundown pub in the basement of set of dodgy row shop fronts.
The inside of the building is exactly as its outside portrays it.
An office building.
They’re in the back facilities section of an office building. Constantine’s not sure what exactly he was expecting, but this is not quite it.
It’s all very mundane and normal looking. Only a few lights are on and they don’t run into anyone on their way up the stairs.
“I’m not really a fan of elevators.” Was Swift’s only explanation before he started up the stairs.
“You’re an alderman?” Constantine tried, following his strange guide. Swift let out a quick bark of laughter. It echoed in the stairwell.
“Ha, no. They’d never let us be an alderman. They’d’ve kicked us out or worse.” He paused on the landing of the second floor to the top, to look over his shoulder at Constantine, puffing behind him, one unnaturally blue blue eye fairly twinkling in amusement and pride. “Probably worse. We are, after all, unique.”
It occurred suddenly to Constantine, as Swift turned to the card swipe on the landing door, patted all the many pockets on his coat, mumbled in annoyance, and finally just held his index and pointer finger to the lock, that maybe Swift wasn’t with the Aldermen or the Midnight Mayor and he might be helping a complete nut break into a perfectly ordinary office building.
There was a small blue sparking, the cardlock light turned green and the landing door opened with a click. No alarms went off. No guards came running. Swift walked through the door and into the hallway beyond as though he did this every night.
Maybe he did.
“Sorry, I lose my security pass as soon as they give me a new one. I am the despair of my assistant.” Swift said, walking down the carpeted hallway, passing closed and locked offices. Swift looked severely out of place in the clean professional surroundings. Laughably so even.
“You’re not an alderman, but you have the clout to take me to see the Midnight Mayor. After hours. With no appointment.” Constantine followed along behind, still on edge, but ready to see where this would go. “How do you even know he’ll be here?”
“We always know where the Midnight Mayor is.” Swift replied, stopping in front of a door at the end of the hall. Constantine was slightly mollified to see ‘Matthew Swift’ on the name card in neat engraved print. The same finger spark trick was repeated, no incantation or ritual that Constantine could see. Then again Swift had introduced himself as a sorcerer. So entirely possible he was a sorcerer who was good with electronics and happened to be in the employ of the aldermen. Stranger things had and frequently did happen.
“Originally, they wanted to give us the big fancy office on the tippity top floor, but that was not our style.” Swift said, brushing into the decently sized, normal office, flicking the lights on as he went. “Then we had a nice quiet tiny office, out of the way, but that,” Swift paused to frown at Constantine, “That did not work at all.” Constantine got the feeling there was more to it than that. Swift did not elaborate, just waved a hand to one of the two chairs in front of his desk. “This is the compromise.”
“You actually work here?” Constantine asked, not taking the indicated seat, but instead roaming around the office. There wasn’t anything in the way of personal effects, outside of a cheap looking wall calendar. Dates and times and appointments crammed into the small boxes. The window which would have a good view of the city had the blinds drawn tightly. A few piles of papers, forms and folders were stacked haphazardly on the desk top. Around the computer screen was an impressive amount of sticky notes, more dates and times and bits of phrases.
We be fire.
He blinked and peered closer at the electric blue sticky note that had caught his attention. On second look it was a perfectly ordinary name and a phone number. A firm shake of the head, Constantine turned back to the office. Everything else had a cool detached quality to it. Neat and tidy, not a speck of dust anywhere. Not at all what he expected of the workplace of the man in the large baggy trench coat and dirty sneakers.
“We try not to.” Swift watched him prowl, leaning against the front of his desk, arms braced on the surface, backpack slumped at his feet. “But there are things we cannot take care of from the streets. Kelly makes sure the cleaners do a bang up job after we leave.”
“You know,” Constantine said, calmly. Coming to a stop just in front of Swift. “You never did answer my question.” Swift raised his eyebrows, lips curling in laughter. Of course he hadn’t, he was going to make Constantine ask again. “What. Are. You?” He ground out.
“I am the sorcerer Matthew Swift, died once, resurrected once. We are the Blue Electric Angels. The fire in the wire, the voices in the static, the life that spilled over from all humanity’s many conversations, all the things said and unsaid.” The lights flickered above them but didn’t go out. The hairs on the back of Constantine’s neck and arms stood up in a prickling wave. It felt as though there was a mass of magical energy converging into a single point. A single man. One with normal brown hair and unnatural electric blue eyes. “We are also the Midnight Mayor. Protector of the City, the walker of its walls. And we heard of your coming before you ever set foot in our city.”
There were a lot of things Constantine could say to that, things that could help build this partnership that he needs, really set them out on the right foot so to speak, but when he opens his mouth, all that comes out is snark. Weak snark even.
“You really get a kick out of introducing yourself, don’t you?” It must have been the right thing to say though, because Swift grinned; it was a conspirator’s grin. One that said ‘clever, let’s be in on this joke together.’ His blue blue eyes gleaming in the fluorescent lights as he spread his arms wide, hands palm up.
“How can the Midnight Mayor be of service, Mister John Constantine?”