Sir Kay tried to rest. Fidgeting was unknightly and therefore ungodly, and no soul should be ungodly on this holy Crusade in God’s name, bringing the light of the Lord to the Holy Land and cleansing the-
…the pope had decreed that this was righteous work, granting forgiveness for all those who participated in it. Kay must steel his heart against weakness. No matter how piteous their faces, infidels were infidels. That was God’s law and God’s justice.
Still, Kay wished the rest of the tent treated this as the solemn duty it was, rather than an excuse for rambunctious war stories. But the crusader camp is full of… rough men, perhaps, and Kay had the same need for forgiveness as they.
He reassured himself with these thoughts until he heard a voice, sibilant like the hiss of a snake. He’d heard it before at a trial for unforgivable crimes and there, at the centre of the war stories, talking about a… hideous incident involving a helpless child, was him. The same man, no older and no less foul.
Blond hair dirty with ash. A pockmarked marble face. Boyish blue eyes disgraced by the lear beneath them. Kay drew back, aghast.
John Constantine not imprisoned in England but here, to pillage his way through new lands. Surely there must be some limit to acceptance-
“Watch who you’re talking to there!” Sir Kay called. “The man’s a villain! He should be hung, drawn and quartered! He is wanted for heinous crimes against man and God!”
Everyone stopped speaking and nervously watched Constantine as slowly and surely as grace the ash-blond hair turned to face Kay, eyes sparkling like sapphires.
“Be not afeared.” Constantine leered. “I am here to do good works.”
“I heard your story.” Kay said. “You call harming a defenceless child-”
Constantine leaned back and winked. Winked, like this is all a bit of fun. The words are out of Kay before he can regret them.
“I’d rather stand beside a heretic or mooslem than by you, sir.” He said. “Men, we’re leaving!”
His men stood to attention. “But-“ one said.
Kay leaves the tent with Constantine’s laughter following him, certain in the knowledge that wherever forgiveness was it stood opposite Constantine. When commanded to slaughter infidels, he remembered Constantine’s leer and stood against his brethren.
Kay died. Over thirty defenceless souls lived because of him.
“Constantine’s part of this? I’m out.”
“It’s twenty thousand-“
“It’s Constantine. You know what they’re like. You’ve heard about the things they do. They-“
The speaker notices that everybody is looking over her shoulder and slowly, very slowly, turns. There, right beside their face, grinning like a sin, is the smug, superior face of John Constantine.
“Oh, don’t mind me, love.” Constantine says. “Carry on with what y’saying. Frightening stories, were they?”
“Right trembling you are. Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you. You’re on me side. It’s other people who’ve got to worry about me.”
He winks, and suddenly the speaker isn’t only afraid but angry as well.
“I’m out.” She snaps. “Not with you. Not with him. I’ve done work before that requires… hardness, but I can’t fucking believe anyone would think I’d go so low as to work with you.”
Constantine’s laughter is mocking. “Afraid?” He says. “Well, anyone else who’s too chicken to make themselves money can stand up and go with her. Anyone.”
He leers around the table. Five or six people look uncertainly at one another. One or two get up and, hangdog under the glares of the others, leave with the objector. Constantine scoffs as they go.
“Right, we’re rid of the pansies.” He said. “It’s just us lot. Now… let’s do some crime.”
The job is over. The city is abuzz with the news. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and everybody involved in the job was arrested.
Everybody except one.
Constantine whistles his way through the gaslit streets, carrying a suitcase full of twenty thousand dollars in his hand. He stops underneath the shelter of a bridge and puts a waterlogged cigarette into his mouth, and waits.
A few minutes later, there is a presence beside him.
“Be not afraid.” The angel said.
“Right.” Constantine mutters. “No worries there. I’m very unafraid, me.”
The angel moves like they are cut from glass. Their wings are three feet wide but their shadow covers the entire back of the street. Human they ain’t. Next to them, Constantine looks normal.
“Good day’s work, I felt.” Constantine said.
“You were not supposed to do that.”
“We’re not to fiddle with anyone’s free will. That’s the rules.” Constantine said. “And I didn’t. Everybody did what they did of their own choice.”
“You’ve taken them further away from the light.”
“God, you’re sanctimonious.”
“Do not take the name in vain-“
“I mean it. Two people there walked out of a cool twenty payday because they couldn’t bring themselves to work with Constantine. Five or six thought that what they were doing was wrong because Constantine was doing it. And the beauty of it is that none of ‘em thought that because I put it there or said something – no, it’s theirs. They decided to be better people out of sheer desire to be less like John bloody Constantine, entirely of their own damn free will.”
“You cannot make people better by acting the devil.” The angel said wearily.
"Watch me, feathers.”
“They remain sinful souls.”
“But a bit less than before, eh? Sinners need their angel too. We can’t all be like you, Uriah – doing the heavy work of turning saintly souls into saints. Some of these contrary bastards need an actual bit of skill to convince.”
Uriah glared. “You are hardly an angel.” They said. “Crude, leering, sarcastic. There is a word for souls like you - you are a bastard, Zauriel.”
“Ain’t I just.” He said.
In a huff of angelic music and feathers, Uriah was gone. Constantine winked at where it had been, lit his cigarette with a snap of his fingers, and walked off whistling. It was night where dark things prowled – perfect place for old Johnny Constantine to inspire some good deeds.
He turned the corner. A few moments later, a beggar holding her hands out for change was astonished to find herself richer by a suitcase and a whole twenty thousand dollars.
Angel Zauriel disguises themselves as a born-into-sin devil in human skin asshole to improve human souls - mostly by acting as someone so self evidently foul and infernal that even the worst human will become better just to convice themselves they’re not like John Constantine.