Summary: Sometimes, you see enough of hell to deserve a glimpse of heaven.
</font>A/N: This is the first Constantine fic that happened to me. Maybe it's a product of first watching the movie in Spanish, so the enduring image that burned itself into my mind was that of the angel watching over Father Hennessy.
lacewood? This is the one.
Beta'd by yukihyou, to whom I devote much love. </font>
far from heaven
Everyone finds their own demons in the end.
And we all find different ways of shutting them out.
Hennessy knows. He was a priest who cared, once. Still does, in a distant way, behind the alcohol, behind the agony of the whispering minds that plague his every thought.
John calls it “soul traffic”.
John has no idea.
Then again, maybe he does, what with his being able to see the half-breeds and all. But no one can ever truly know the private hell another person has to face.
Hennessy used to sit in confessional and listen to the tormented people who came to ask him and God for help. Asking God for help through the flawed conduit of another human being.
Father, help me. I cannot help myself. They’re children Father. I know. I know it’s wrong, and I try, but I can’t help myself. And someone told. Someone told and now the school board is holding an investigation and I’m going to lose more than my job.
Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. She was asking for it. I tried. God knows I tried. But she wouldn’t listen. I lost control. I lost control… lost control and only God can help us now.
Father, God promised not to send me more than I could bear. But I cannot do this any longer.
Father. I’m dying. I know that what I’m doing is killing me. But I can’t stop.
Father, why did this happen to me? I’ve been good all my life. I’ve tried. God knows I’ve tried.
God knows everyone tries. But the question Hennessy had never been able to answer, either for himself or for those who came to plead his guidance, was, why doesn’t he listen?
But the real question everyone’s asking is, why doesn’t he care?
Hennessy doesn’t know, and he can’t help them. And soon, he will be unable to help himself.
Too much suffering can twist a person. Even if it doesn’t happen to them. Enough compassion is enough to kill you, if you care enough. Especially if it makes you stop caring. Hennessy saw torment after torment confessed, secret after secret revealed. The reservoir of human pain seemed infinite to Hennessy. And even as each new confession gave him an increasing insensitivity to human suffering, another world, as if in compensation, opened up to him.
The world of the damned.
When God closes a door, Satan opens a window.
He could not see them, but they could see him. Knew that he could hear them. And soon the dead began to confess their secrets to him.
It was like being at confessional, only this time, he can’t run away.
The voices from the world behind the world find him everywhere. All the time. He can be sitting down for breakfast. Reading the paper. Asleep in bed. Visiting a parishioner. The dead lose all their dignity and they can’t figure out why you need yours.
He tries everything he knows. Incantations. Charms. Sigils. Wallpapering his apartment with aluminium to keep out the signals. Still they come, voices from the whispering world he can’t shut out.
And nothing, nothing, helps. Shrieking in agony, telling them to go away, go away, in the middle of mass, certainly didn’t. And after that incident, he was kindly but firmly told to leave. The Catholic Church had enough going against it without having to deal with its priests acting as if they were possessed.
Hennessy began unravelling then. Slowly, but surely. Like damnation, as he’d always warned. It starts slow and you never know that it’s gotten you until the jaws of the trap you’ve walked right into close over your head.
He’d always thought that if the devil gave you a way to damn yourself, God would give you a way out. But in all his life, he’d never felt as far from heaven as he did when the voices of hell began to speak to him, and God remained silent.
And so he took to drinking. He knew the rules. Increasingly, one haunted man’s voice came to him – Father, God said he would not give me more than I can take. But I can take no more.
Only, this time, the voice was his own.
He always bought his alcohol from the liquor store on the corner. A Hispanic clerk always seemed to be there when he visited, whether it was day or night, weekdays or weekends. He wondered if the clerk was ever given a day off, but it was no longer in him to care.
Sometimes, he wondered about the clerk, a man with sad, dark eyes, which always seemed to be asking, without words, why? In a distant way, he couldn’t help but be moved when the man tried, in subtle ways, to get him to talk about it. Sometimes it helps, the clerk would observe quietly. To talk. Even if I can’t help. I can listen.
Thank you, but no, he’s always replied. What can this man do after all? We’re only human, all of us. No more, no less.
Sometimes the desire to drown the voices is so strong that he’s shaking where he stands. But he is always polite to this clerk. This clerk, who always asks after him, who’s always concerned, who sometimes holds the bottle Hennessy’s paid for in a way which makes it seem as if he doesn’t want to hand the bottle over.
Somehow, it seems fitting that this clerk should be the one manning the store when he charges in, trying to forget the body of a beautiful young woman still and pale upon a gurney, with the sign of Mammon revealing its bruising corruption upon her wrist. The voices of the world below woke in him then, awakening his ever-present, desperate need to drown them out.
And now, as Hennessy lies soaked in the alcohol he only now realises has been slowly poisoning him, amidst the broken glass and the ruins of his faith, watching a man in a pinstriped suit move slowly and insouciantly towards him, without ever taking those eyes away, he hears a new voice, warm with triumph and sure in its sly satisfaction.
Where’s your God now, priest? Where is He who said he would deliver you from evil?
Slowly, the demon turns, and the elegant man in the pinstripe suit melts away to reveal the demon within, just as the clerk bending over the fallen priest raises his head.
Even if Hennessy had been at the height of his strength, this would have been a demon far beyond his abilities. Yet he draws an unusual strength from the presence of the clerk at his side. He finds strange comfort in the fact that at least, he will not die alone.
Hennessy thinks how strange it is – he has been buying liquor from this store, from this man, for years now, and he’s never known his name. Never thought to ask. And now, this man is here with him, by his side, his only companion as he lies dying, while the demon circles ever closer.
God is your salvation, the demon whispers. So where is your God now?
The clerk looks up. Hennessy feels a wild moment of panic. There is nothing he can do for himself now, but the demon might yet make away with this man –
And then he forgets everything – forgets the broken glass, forgets the mark etched in blood and agony upon the palm of his hand, forgets the voices in his head, forgets the whispering demon, forgets, even, that he is dying, because some miracles transcend everything that you are, and everything that you have ever been.
Above him, gray pinions unfold behind the unassuming man who’s served him faithfully at this store for years and years, through rain and sun and darkness and the fitful glare of the morning light. And the look in the man – the angel’s eyes – as he glares at the demon before them, wings bent protectively over Hennessy –
Almost, Hennessy thinks, this is worth every moment of suffering he’s ever had to endure.
He thinks of all the demons he’s seen, over the years, of all the monsters he’s pulled out of shrieking men, women and children, of all the voices who’ve ever laughed and cried and screamed their unending torment at him, of the demon who has brought about his end, and realises -
He has never seen an angel.
He will not have you, the angel promises. I will not let him. You belong to God now. And not even the Devil can take you from him.
Hennessy thinks of all his darkest hours, and he wonders how the last moments of his life can be so full of light when all his life was a struggle against the shadows. But he realises - as real as the evil was - in the end, His grace, too, was real.
As real as the dusky pinions which are an angel’s shield against Hell itself.
In the final moments of consciousness he wonders if the paths to salvation, like the roads to hell, are everywhere, if only mankind would open its eyes to see the choice it has always had to make.
Father Hennessy’s last thought is that God must have thought he’d seen enough of hell to deserve this glimpse of heaven.
Demons are everywhere.
But so are angels.
So are angels.
And then the light falls upon him.
Vaya Con Dios, the angel whispers.
And Hennessy doesn’t need to understand the words to know what that means.
Go with God.