Author: Guede Mazaka and _emptyspaces
Human nature is to be restless and energetic. That is understandable. But if Constantine continues to move, not only will the design be ruined, but part of hell may also come chewing out of his back. He knows that. Yet when Midnite lowers the needle to his flesh, he twitches. “I offered to drug you. Maybe I should have forced it down your throat.”
“Feels like you’re trying to force it through my spine instead.” It takes more concentration than John likes to give to any one task, but he manages to hold himself still. There are things coursing through his blood that have nothing to do with magic--endorphins trying to manage the pain and mostly succeeding, leaving Constantine with an almost numb, buzzing feeling. Like he’s had too much to drink. “Fuckin’ tickles,” he murmurs, biting his lip to keep from squirming again.
Tickles. This is a working to bind forces that would barely notice a human life snapping between its jaws, and he claims that it tickles. If John were not as good a friend as he is, Midnite might scrawl a dedication to Marinette instead, let She of the Dry Arms carve this nuisance from his life. But John is a friend, and the long white slope of his back is a speaking of trust, and so Midnite instead draws a long, looping coil over the left shoulderblade. He spots the ripple in the muscle long before it becomes movement and slams his heel into the root of it. “Next time, I shall remember to truss you up first. If you insist on acting like a sacrifice, you’ll be treated as one.”
John just grunts and gives into the temptation to wriggle properly. Might as well, while that damned needle isn’t buried in his skin. His head is buried in his arms, hiding his grin. “You’re just looking for an excuse to tie me up. If you wanted to play rough, you could have just asked.”
“Some days I wonder why I bother. I could scribe these spells till not an inch of your skin is showing and you'd still manage to have someone kill you,” Midnite sighs. He switches out the ink and runs his hand over the pots of ink, waiting for the buzz that will tell him what next to use. This is no cookbook spell, but one that comes as he works, and the strain is making the sweat ooze from his skin. His sleeves where they bunch around his upper arms are soaked through, and as he lifts his arm, a drop leaks from one to land on the newest black curl scratched into John’s skin. Midnite freezes, mind racing to comprehend how that might alter the web of magics he is spinning around them.
Midnite’s unexpected stillness passes to John, whose chest suddenly feels too tight to breath. Then he shivers it off and his eyes squeeze shut. Whatever it was--whatever it is--it’s too late to change now, so John doesn’t bother worrying about it.
“You’re good, Midnite, but you’re not good enough to keep me alive forever.”
A fact of which Midnite is very aware, and none more so than when that strange, knowing chuckle slips into John's voice, when the lines blur to show the deep dark fire cradled inside of the man. He begins to lower his needle, then stops with the tip against the bump of John's vertebrae. “True enough. And I reckon the day will come when I won't want you alive forever.” John moves his shoulders, starting to get up, and very quickly Midnite turns his hand over and runs a knuckle down the line of John’s spine. “Don’t tempt me into making it sooner.”
That touch is a mixture of pain and warmth where it drags over bloody skin and further down, melting him. John stops moving, except to turn his head sideways to where he still can’t see Midnite. “Thank you,” he says, quiet and more honest than he usually allows himself to be. He’s staring at a wall so he can’t see the look on Midnite’s face, but it doesn't matter. John knows that eventually he’ll lose the ability to trust even Midnite, so he says his thanks now, while he still can.
Surprisingly enough, it is moments like this for which Midnite most wants to kill John. Kill him and bind him in the old ways, the dark drum-beating lost ways that would make a mockery of his heaven and hell. The desire is thick and hot in the back of Midnite’s throat, a clot of fire that will not be swallowed or quenched.
What will not be ignored must be faced. He bends over and rolls it out of his mouth, presses it into the bleeding crack of the last scratch his needle made.
Magic melds with want and power, and John knows deep down that giving this much to someone like Midnite is exactly what will get him killed someday. Not today, though, so he gives back by pressing himself upwards, his shoulders grinding painfully against Midnite's tongue. He takes that pain and keeps it with the primal anger he can feel coming from the other man, binding them both instinctively.
Damn the man, he always was not knowing but prescient, too far ahead. Midnite tosses aside the needle—he’ll need both hands for this to work--and pins Constantine back against the table. He gets a knee up on the top as his tongue drags a triangle from the top of one shoulder to the bottom of the other and then across, and when John moans, he bites off the line. The shape of it flares white against John’s white skin, not blending in but starkly bright, before charring black. “Never should have bothered calling on Ogoun. I don’t know which the Ghedes would want your cocky idiocy, though.”
“The only ones that want me are the ones I’ve no desire to be around.” John wants to growl, but his voice is too breathy. This is a different marking, something he’s not prepared for and that makes him punchy, but Midnite’s too strong to shake off. The feeling he’s left with is like the nicotine addiction, leaves him burned and helpless and too fucking hot to care about the weakness it shows.
He’s moving again, back arching and elbows beating against the table, but absolute stillness isn’t necessary for this one. In fact, movement strengthens the working. As long as one of them keeps his head, and though Midnite’s beginning to feel the haze of a half-ride coming on, the loa are sitting back, letting him do the working and just feeding him the power. And the occasional suggestion, like to corkscrew the line to cover up that scar, that marking from a demon that’ll have to sign his prey elsewhere. Midnite lets his thumbs slide from John’s wrists to his elbows as he works his tongue in a zigzag around the main design, lapping up the sweat and feeding it back into the spell. He belatedly drags up his other knee and straddles John for leverage. Just in time, since Constantine’s finally remembering something about self-preservation.
John’s eyes are shut tightly, but that doesn’t keep him from feeling the spirits that he doesn’t want to see. Still, when his body twists this time, it’s less like a fight and more like a dance. As if he could feel Midnite erasing any previous marks and replacing them with his own, all the marks except the ones that really matter. The ones that assure him that, in the end, this is all useless.
Erzulie is in his head--no, she’s kind and comforting. Maybe Maman Brigitte’s been at her man’s bottle, because Midnite can feel the flesh curling away from him, the infolding of the great Constantine into a passive lump, and there's a laugh rolling through his head. It’s not his laugh. He wants John to start fighting again, to do something besides lie here and let Midnite write suggestion after suggestion into his skin. Knowledge. Scent of grave-dust in Midnite's nose as Baron La Croix guides his mouth. Protection. Blood mixing with his spit as he bites off the knotted end he has just drawn below the nape of John’s neck. And next it’ll be Possession unless John gets up and stops acting like he wants to be horse to the loa. Like he wants Midnite to slide fingers into his hair and yank back his head to put the pulse in his neck against Midnite’s teeth. “Lo, tell my horse that your skin tastes like despair, your sweat reeks with failure,” croons an old, lazy woman-voice through Midnite’s lips. “Your death is written on you with your own hand.”
That better bring out the backhanded rebelliousness in the man, because that is the only warning Midnite can squeeze out before the spirits are suddenly slamming against his head, tired of teasing and now only wanting to devour.
“I am nobody’s fuckin’ horse, old woman.” John’s eyes open at the same time that he pushes against the table, muscles bunching and shoving brutally at the weight on his back. “My head is my own to rule, and you're not welcome here.” Power and anger swirl together, mixing into John’s own furious brand of hatred as he finally, really fights back. Midnite he can handle, Midnite he trusts, but this isn’t Midnite and John’s pissed off too many spirits to offer himself up for possession.
Clack goes something in Midnite’s head. He tastes dull copper in his mouth, but after a moment it’s sharp and cutting through him and he gasps against John’s back, hands skidding from John’s arms. They knock over ink and needles , and the world’s cares slam back into Midnite as he panics. Briefly. Long enough to shake off the lady’s ghostly grip and find his own self again, long enough to understand what almost happened is already flowing in the past. Long enough to curse between his teeth at John. “Damn you.” He falls on his elbows and rests his forehead between the other man's shoulders. “This never happens with anyone else.”
“I could say the same, you know. Then again, it’s not like I let that many houngans decide to work their spells on my skin.” John’s still vibrating with hyperactivity, his subconscious still searching out possible threats, but all he finds is Midnite. So he wriggles again, just to dislodge Midnite's heavy head. “Next time you decide to try to protect me, let’s try to avoid any possible possessions, all right?”
Midnite flicks at one of the scabs--the one by the old scar--to hear John hiss. On one level he’s relieved that John seems no worse for the wear, but on another he’s...he wishes he could find another word besides ‘irritated.’ That was what almost led him off the path in the first place. And he still can feel the seeds of his straying beneath his own skin, itching and murmuring and asking. The muscles in his thighs and groin and arms are tight with tension and he needs to work them loose again, regain his sense of perspective. Only not that way. “I think we’re done for today,” he mutters, using his fingertip to seal off the last glowing spiral.
Then he lets his elbows and knees slide so his weight traps John against the table. His hand brushes up against John’s tie, coiled like a snake guarding the corner, and their idle chatter from earlier returns to whisper in Midnite’s ear. “If you’d stopped moving, I could have finished it the way we’d agreed upon in the beginning.”
John’s laugh sounds almost genuine, a sure sign that things have gone in a way he hadn’t previously imagined. “Or maybe if I'd moved in a different direction?”
This time he moves with a purpose, lifting and rubbing his ass against Midnite. His back is sore, but he can’t bring himself to actually object to the man’s weight against him. Especially not with Midnite's heat curling through his body.
“The only oil in this room is the oil I use to anoint the dead.” While John’s distracted by that, Midnite twists one end of the tie around the man’s wrist. The lazy press of John’s ass against his hips slowly massages the tension into his cock, which welcomes it and transmutes it into something slightly less dangerous. Though that isn’t to say that, as he runs a fingertip along John’s arm tattoos, Midnite’s thoughts have lightened. He still has echoes of the wild lust of the ghedes running through his blood, and it doesn’t incline him to be sensitive as he yanks John's arm up behind his back. The action throws the muscles in John’s back into sharp relief, cracks a couple of the scabs, and Midnite laps up the blood with all the pleasure of a black cat strolling through Kalfu’s night.
If John was inclined to look for an excuse, which he’s not, he’d say that Midnite's strength, his power has always been alluring. Right now, though, his hand is too busy scrabbling at the edge of the table, holding on as his other arm is wrenched behind him, to worry about excuses. John bucks up, enough fight to make his back bleed that much more as he grits his teeth. “I suppose it’s fitting that I’m already a dead man, then, isn’t it?”
“You should watch—“ Midnite cracks his head into the back of John’s “--what you name yourself.”
He takes a last lick at the red smearing over the fresh black lines and the white skin, and somewhere somebody drops their jaw in a wide, savage smile. The oil should be near enough to the table for him to reach without getting all the way off John, but things do have a habit of...and the oil flask instead turns up right by his left knee. His lips stretch of their own accord into a cat-grin and he sinks back down, draws back John’s other arm and binds it while whatever’s decided to come along for the ride with him has a good long whiff at John's vulnerable spine. Up and down, sniffing and whuffing while John twitches and rubs his bound wrists against Midnite's crotch and has a think about whether Midnite’s lost it again. Still lively for a dead man.
“This is like trying to fuck someone with multiple personality disorder.” Not that it’s slowing John down much. Neither’s the taste of blood in his mouth nor the dull throb at the back of his head. His fingers are stretching as far as they can, feeling for Midnite along the heat there, but the breath along his spine is distracting and makes him twist hard to try to see who’s looking down at him.
“Thought you appreciated variety.” There are echoes in Midnite’s voice, echoes he can trace back for generations, if he were of a mind to do so right now. His shirt has twisted out of his pants and he claws it open, irritated by the feel of the cotton weave against his skin. The next time John cranes about to look, Midnite drops the shirt on top of his head. He lets John fight with that phantom while he slicks up his fingers with oil. “You know voodoo. Ancestors always with us, never stop watching their blood. A continuation.”
John mutters obscenities that have nothing to do with slick fingers on his skin as he throws his head from side to side, trying to rid himself of the shirt. His senses are blocked off, except for the smell and feel of Midnite. He finally catches the cotton in his teeth and pulls until he can throw it off and gasp, arch up. “As long as they’re voyeurs and not participants.”
Midnite doesn’t bother answering that one. He thinks it might startle John in entirely the wrong way to hear what his great-grandmother has to say on that, and that is the last thing he wants to happen when his hands are slipping beneath John to undo John’s fly. Typical, he thinks when he touches nothing but coarse sweat-damp hair and bare skin beneath the warmed teeth of the zipper. Typical and helpful, for once.
Hips lift to help Midnite even more as John’s legs skid against the table and look for some purchase. His forehead is pressed against the table, using everything he can for some sort of leverage. Then that hot hand is on his cock and he’s shuddering, rubbing against Midnite like a reckless, hungry pet.
If Midnite were cleverer, he’d take the opportunity to scrawl some private, only for his own advantage spells over John's thighs, hips, buttocks. But his fingers stay pressed to John’s flesh, kneading and stroking without any intent except to work more deep groans from the other man, to indulge in the simple hard friction of body against body. He presses his mouth to the edge of John’s shoulder, slides his free hand around to press the end of his thumb along the curve of John’s ass till it just slips inside. His prick is pulsing with heat, rough cloth of his pants tormenting it, and he would free it except his hands are full. “John. Stop lying there and return the favor.”
“Sorry, my hands are a bit tied at the moment,” John snorts and grins, teasing with bare touches again before wrenching his arms further up and reaching blindly for Midnite’s fly. He’s nearly growling in frustration by the time he gets the zipper down, trying to concentrate on the task at hand and fuck himself on Midnite’s finger at the same time. It’s taking too long to do both, and John’s never been a patient man.
“Thank you kindly, sirrah.” John stiffens for a second before he figures out that no, that’s not possession. That”s simply Midnite getting drunk enough on the tingling swirl of magic the other man throws off to relax a little. He hitches first one hip, then the other to ease down his pants; his thumb roots about in John's ass, feeling for the one point that’ll twist physical and spiritual into a superheated conflagration. But it’s too short. He’ll have to use his fore- and middle fingers. Not that it seems John minds much.
John’s rambling string of curses is cut short, muffled as he goes face first into the table. When he remembers to breathe again, it’s so he can scrabble at Midnite’s thighs and demand more. “Let me up,” he hisses, trying to get his knees under him so he can move, push back against Midnite.
It takes a moment for Midnite to comprehend the words. He blinks slowly and looks around them, only now noting the thin threads that wrap their bodies together. Most of them coil around the half-done tattoo on John’s back, and when Midnite leans down to look closer, a few tendrils brush teasingly against his nose and mouth and eyes, making his head swim. He absentmindedly flexes both hands, forgetting that he’s got to have them free in order to get a proper read off the power. John’s ass clamps down around his fingers and the other man bucks hard, knocking into Midnite’s jaw so his teeth click together hard and painfully. “Think I didn't tie it off right,” Midnite mutters, voice fuzzy as his head is thick.
Now is a really bad time to be bringing this up, John thinks. What he does, though, is to arch back and turn so his teeth can catch at Midnite’s skin. He’s too close to see where he’s biting and doesn’t care, just wants the taste on his tongue. “So finish it,” he finally answers, his whole body writhing.
Sweat. Sweat and blood, two of the five most powerful substances magic can use. God damn John and his mesmerism that can cause such a lapse in Midnite. This is going to end badly in the future and the knowledge of that is strong in Midnite’s bones, but still he doesn’t care when there is warm flesh humping beneath him and teeth scoring the fire out of his skin. He drags himself along John’s leg, rubbing down his trousers further, teasing John with the slide of the sticky tip of his prick. His fingers he takes out of John, but he waits a moment before he replaces them with a closer, more primal connection.
Everything goes black with that solid slide, and it takes John a moment to realize that he’s closed his eyes again. When he opens them he realizes he can see those silvery strings himself, feel them snaking down his back and around Midnite’s thighs, and he wonders how much he’ll have to pay for this later. Later, when he’s not so caught up and lost in the feel of the spirits around them, when he’s not quite so busy sticking his hand in the fire just to find out if it burns.
It’s one way of ending things. The spells have gotten all tangled up in them, and if Midnite ties them into the frantic demands of his body then they’ll follow the end of physical matters. He does the best he can under the circumstances, pulling his head back from the offered curve of John’s neck, lifting his mind clear of the pleasure he finds in forcing himself deeper and deeper into John’s body. The last thing he needs is for something out there to take advantage of this opening and take them both. But John’s not helping—he’s going to pieces beneath Midnite and dragging them both along, as always.
Not that it should surprise Midnite—John’s never been very careful about what he does. He uses his cocky attitude as a poor mask to cover for the self-destructive urges that he’s never quite gotten over. Whether he’s seeking the demons out, smoking himself into an early grave, or quite literally fucking with the strongest houngan he can find--it all amounts to the same thing. He’s getting off on the danger as much as he is the pleasure, coming as close to sacrificing himself to it as he dares while holding back just enough to be able to save himself if he must. It’s a fine line that he’ll cross one day, and then it’ll be too late.
The skin feels like it is peeling off of Midnite’s skull, blistering in the heat whirling around them. He thinks his hands are slipping and scrabbles for a better grip, but they’re still in place, and what’s changed is that his mind is blowing out of his body. In a last burst of sanity, he hisses out a charm to keep them from harm. And then he flays them both open, tearing holes so anything that comes--and there is plenty awaiting--will scream through instead of sinking in hooks. It’s a risky trick. He only takes it because of John.
John howls right along with the frustrated spirits in the room, head thrown back and teeth bared. This is like being taken by a cyclone, being methodically shredded, and it’s too intense for John. He can barely feel Midnite’s hand on his cock anymore, but it doesn’t matter because he’s coming anyway. Leaving more of himself here on this table to be eaten up by anything that’s paying attention.
The beams of the room creak and groan as more and more pours into it, trying desperately to get at the reckless man keening beneath Midnite. He lets it all glide through him, offering no resistance. Though as the strips of himself that still hang together grow thinner and thinner, he starts to worry. Calls on the ancestors to watch over their foolish son, and...and they answer, just as the last thread snaps.
His elbows bang on the table and he nearly knocks himself out on John’s head. The other man slumps beneath him, and for once John is perfectly still.
In fact, John stays perfectly still even after Midnite’s untied his wrists and let his arms lie limply at his sides. He wants a cigarette more than he wants air right now, but that would require moving and he’s worked hard for this particular degree of relaxation. He settles instead for lying there and feeling Midnite fret on top of him until his voice croaks out, “You worry too much.”
“Maybe I do, but you don’t at all.” Midnite doesn't bother to add a comment about ‘balance.’ Even if it weren’t already hanging in the air, tense as John is slack, it’d be pointless. Instead he hikes up his pants and digs out his cigarettes, the ones he gets from an old mambo friend of his mother’s and that he never shares with John. And after he’s gotten one lit up, he holds it in front of John's mouth. “You still want to finish this?”
After twisting his head to the side so he can suck in as much smoke as possible, John relaxes back down and nods. “Yeah. Don’t want to go around with it only half-done.”
He doesn’t add that now’s the best chance Midnite is ever going to get, because John doesn’t plan on ever being this boneless around him again.
Most of the ink’s ruined on the ground, all mixed together, but a little bit of black has spilled off to the side, still pure enough to be usable. Midnite is careful to wipe everything off his fingers before he retrieves the needle and dips it into the ink. He smokes one-handed while he etches the last few curlicues, his earlier caution thrown to the winds. The spell is so clear on how it wants to be written that he could do it blind, not even see where his hand moves. But he keeps his eyes open. He can hear the future rumbling up on them, and he wants to see while he can, while his hands are still allowed--by either side--to smooth over John’s skin.
John stays motionless until Midnite is done, then waits until he can roll off the table and pull his pants back up. Once he’s fished out a cigarette of his own and is sucking happily on it, he moves to a dusty mirror and cranes his neck to look at the reflection of his back. It’s perfect, which he already knew. He redresses carefully, hiding his wince as the cotton wraps over his back, and contemplates what to do now. If he were someone else, he’d thank Midnite. Kiss him, maybe, because he hadn’t done that yet tonight. But he’s not, and Midnite’s not, so he just grins. Says “I owe you one,” and knows that Midnite will collect later.
“You do,” Midnite agrees. He leans against the table and watches John saunter off, new magic burning faintly through the back of his shirt. Collecting on this debt won’t be good for his health, but nevertheless he can’t help feeling a little frisson of anticipation.