Merry Christmas Hellblazer, it's a Wonderful Life for Christmas Caroling
by Grey Bard
Disclaimer: These characters are all stolen from DC/Vertigo, except for the ones I stole from Tatsuya Ishida. Ishida, you are the king of online comics. Go visit www.sinfest.net, people, it's utterly worthwhile. No money making here, folks, so don't sue. This one's for you Carmen. I want to wish you a merry Christmas and tell you that I've been a good girl and am waiting for Christmas to open your present.
Goldenboy was dead to begin with.
Not that that's any surprise seeing as I killed him and all. Both times.
Still, I wondered what his head was doing on my door with the spyhole stuck between his teeth on a stinking cold December night.
Now, it was Christmas eve and two thousand years or so of mumbled masses and singing housewives can stir up a good bit of thaumaturgical energy, but haunted doorknockers and such are a bit over the top.
Back to my brother's head on the door. "I'm here to warn you," says he. "You're going to get haunted."
"And what's this?" I ask him. "Our Lady of Perpetual Frustration's vesper choir?"
So my better half purses his lips and does the saintly thing. I still have trouble believing this one is an honest-to-God Constantine, and I do mean that in every possible way."
"Look," I say. "I'll cut the cute back talk. Just tell me what I'm in for, right?"
"We have decided," he states grandly, "that it is time that you face yourself once and for all."
"Are you talking about my dark side?" I ask, incredulous and trying not to think to hard about this 'we' stuff. "Because I've done that before. Lots of times."
"No," he says. "Everything else. You have to face not only your past, but its implications as well."
"Implication?" I sniff. "What, there are more of them?"
Apparently even Mr. Goody-goody can get a bit miffed. " Whatever happened to cutting all the back talk? I just came to say that you're going to be haunted by three spirits. Don't try any exorcisms, either, because there's no point."
I raise an eyebrow. "No point?"
Goldenboy sighs. "I'm here because you'll trust me when I say they aren't going to hurt you. Sit back, shut up and watch the show, and the whole thing will go like clockwork, okay?"
"Fine." I say. "But if I so much as smell brimstone, you are an even deader ghost. Now get off my door."
"See if I do you any more favors," grumbles my late lamented brother, and then he vanishes.
Now a smart magus, or even a fair to middling one with a spot of sense, would start preparing after a run-in like that. Me, I sit down to wait with a bottle of my strongest and a disgusting old paperback in my chair by the radiator.
Around twelve, a pair of helpful little cherubs pop in through the window. The halos are absent, but I can tell a cherub when I hear one. The way their giggles may your teeth ache with the overpowering sweetness thing is a bit of a tip off.
"You're here to help me, right?" I ask glumly. Might as well get on with it.
They nod eagerly. "We're going to show you why you really belong on our side, aren't we, Ezekiel?" chirps the floating little girl in the nightgown.
"But of course, sweetums!" beams the floating little boy in the night shirt. "With all the superduper stuff that Mr. Constantine has done in the past, despite trying to be a despicable sinner, I'm sure he's got a heart of gold."
I sigh. This is going to be a long night. "Right, then." I say. "Let's be going."
They shake their heads. "Oh, no. That's old fashioned and soooo wasteful," says Ezekiel. "Ariel, do show him what we brought."
This time the girl cherub beams. She brings a suitcase out from who knows where. Cherub-space or something. Who cares. The two of them open it and whip out a movie projector. With gold trim, of course. "You'll love this!" chirps Ariel, and turns out the lights.
The film starts and the guy on screen is Chas, my mate the cabman, only in the old days before he was a cabman or anything else.
"I owe you," says a shocky Chas on flickering celluloid, and I realize this is from the *real* old days.
"You saved him," says Ariel solemnly. " And you were glad you did, weren't you?"
"Course I am!" I say. "But are you sure you approve? You do know what happened to that monkey, right?"
Ezekiel stoutly refuses to be troubled. "It was done in the spirit of true friendship. Of course we approve."
The next shot is of the beautiful Abby Holland holding her baby girl while her hubby the plant monster looks on dotingly. "Thank you, John," she whispers.
"Let me guess," I speculate. "It isn't adultery if you let the husband's spirit possess you? Because right there at the end, that failed."
They look at me pointedly.
"I get the point, I get the point," I say. "Spirit of friendship and all that."
It goes on and on. Brendan's spirit looking on and thanking me as I free his soul by conning the devil. Little Timmy Hunter losing himself happily in the magic that I helped introduce him to. Various grateful innocent bystanders. The usual. Finally the lights go on again.
"Wasn't that great?" chirps the boy cherub. "I know it gave me warm fuzzies all the way up. Don't you want to do good stuff all the time so you can always feel like that?"
"I think he does, snugglebunny." chirps the girl cherub. "I think he's just a big old teddy bear and someday he'll join our side!"
"Real sweet," I say, shooing them toward the door as their ethereal AV equipment vanishes into thin air. "Now isn't someone else due? It would be selfish to keep me all to yourselves, wouldn't it." So they leave. I go back to drinking and reading.
"ArEN't yOu GOiNg toOOo SaY evEn HeLLO?" I hear, and I spin to see a girl who looks more like something I vaguely remember from my clubbing days, than someone from the source I suspect. I think it's the hair that throws me, what with the way it can't decide which length to be and all.
"Sure thing, kid," I say. "How'd they rope you into this anyway?"
"ThEY haNDEd mE tHIs scRipT And MAyBE, I dON'T kNow AsKEd Me." she said, clenching some papers tight in one hand and picking up a piece of cellophane from the trash can with the other and staring through it. "i'M SUpOSed To dO tHis thiNg aNd TheY wEre ALl sHinY LiKe dISco bAlLs or SomEthinG, BUt it CouLdn'T HAve bEEn DiSco BaLLs because they didn't look like they liked that kind of party."
"What are you here for, again?" I ask her.
"sOmeThing WitH PaaAAaaRties i Think," the multicolored changing girl said. "aND HapPiNess aNd AreN't You SoRRy You doN't hAve a SiNless Life So peOPle wILL inVite YOu WiThout wOORrying aBouT stamPedeing AardVarks oR sometHIng." she shrugs.
I shrug too, and we're off, walking through walls and floors and so on. She's right, it must have to do with parties, because we see enough of them for a year's worth of bad holiday specials on the tv.
There's a lot of drinking and dancing and consumption of questionable substances. I doubt these were the parties my benefactor had in mind. My guide, however seems right at home. Her attempts at following the script are half-hearted at best.
We're walking through party number 378 or 62 or something and it's this junior employees boozer when I see someone familiar. "Roooonnaaaallddd....." moans a twenty-something woman's voice. "What did you do to the punch!" It's my niece, and she's utterly toasted.
I laugh and wave at the girl who can't see us. "Hello, Gemma. Taking a page out of your old Uncle John's book, are we?"
"Come on, Gemmers..." sniggers a disgusting young prat, who I'm sure is Ronald. "Why don't you come home with me tonight? I've got the nicest bed."
That's it. A little drink never hurt anyone, but now the boy's asking for it. My guide is busy blowing bubbles and watching distorted reflections in the punch. "Why don't you use your magic stupid dust on Ronnie there?" I ask.
"I dOn"T THinK ThAT's vEry fAIr," she says, mixing punch and fishy crackers together absently in a cup.
"It doesn't have to be," I say, patting her on the back. "The people you're here for don't care about fair anyhow. It's a good deeds they're after, right? So let's do one."
She looks at me like she's trying to remember something, but she does blow Ronnie a kiss that sends him off babbling nonsensically. Suddenly his eye focus, and he sees us. "Hey, Gemmmmma," he croons, "D'ya have a dad or something? Cause there's this guy and he's here and he looks kinda like you and he's got this Wieeeeeeerd chick with him!"
"i tHink wE had BettEr go back, bEforE More StufF goEs on." says the changing girl to me as primly as living psychedelia can. "I tHinK You ReMind mE of My SiSter."
""Which one?" I ask as we walk through the wall back into my apartment.
"ALl oF tHem." she sniffs, and vanishes.
So far, not so bad, if only because of the incompetance of the spirits involved. According to the 75p copy of Dickens, though, there's one left, and all the stops are going to be pulled out on this one.
So the big looming figure standing over me a little later is hardly unexpected.
"Not real original," I say, "But style points for the firey stick thing. Film strip or field trip?" I ask.
He motions to me to come along, so field trip it is. When I get closer, though, a wind catches around us, and I can't see a thing until I find myself in another apartment. It's a lot like mine. Actually, it is mine. But the decor is better and I have house plants. I have house plants?
There's a party going on in the next room.
"HAPPY SOLSTICE, LEAGUE Of MAGICIANS" reads the banner strung from the ceiling, and even though the snack and drinks table looks promising, something seems off. I notice how respectable everyone looks. Costumes everywhere. The whole trenchcoat brigade is there and Zatanna, and a buch of merlin looking types. Everyone seems to know each other, and who is playing man of the house and life of the party, but me. But it's not me.
This guy is only a few years older, but he looks smug and well fed and lazy. He has a gleam about him that strikes me odd. He's wearing a blue striped shirt, of all things!
"I'm so glad that Mr. Constantine came up with this organization," says a mustached man who's whole body screams Cop. "It makes monitering supernatural ccrime so much easier."
"It has been a long time since I have seen a celebration here." Intones the Phantom Stranger to my other self.
"First of many more!" grins this Mr. Constantine in his too clean blue striped shirt. "That thing with your shoes, it won't happen again."
"John!" comes a familiar voice from the kitchen. It's Kit.
I groan and try to turn away, but that damn fire-wand won't let me. "Make yourself useful, lunk, and set the table."
"Sure, love!" calls Mr. Clean Cut, and I notice he's wearing a ring on a highly significant finger. The black-robed spirit leads me away and we leave the apartment.
Outside I break down sobbing. "I see the error of my ways," I wheeze. "You're right, spirit, I can be more, I'm so damn sorry."
My judge stands there and I can feel the satisfaction radiating off of him. I take advantage of the situation to spring forward and snatch off his hood, revealing a certain archangel just like I've always known.
"Right. And the First of the Fallen only wants me for my sparkling conversation," I snort, as unrepentant as I've ever been. "Michael, isn't it? The flaming sword gives you away. Get a new sucker, Mike, 'cause I ain't buying."
I pull out a smoke and light it off the Sword of God. "Happiness, hunh? You know what I saw? Stupidity. Every time, every damn time I listen to somebody when they tell me that they knew the score and I'm better off following their rules, I lose."
"All that good stuff your people are so happy I did didn't get done by being their happy little minion, and all the magical futuristic crimefighting Christmas parties in the world won't tell me different."
"Things work better when I just say sod this and sod you and sod your grand master plan. At least I'm playing by my rules." I say, looking up into the face of the being who probably hasn't been this confused for several centuries. "Yeah, I could be a better man. Especially, if I can stay away from all of that hero crap and stick to my instincts."
"So," I say, taking a deep breath off my cig, "Sod off and sod you and sodding Merry Christmas."
I open my door and I know that if I believe hard enough it'll be my door. Mine and not that disgusting Uber-John's. League of Magicians, my eye. Somebody steer me to the hopper, I think some vomit's on the way.
I turn around just once, and even though I don't see him anymore, I know a certain wing-man is listening. That kind always does. "Oh, and Mike?" I smirk. "Thanks. I've always suspected, but now I know. Have a good time breaking it to the boss."
I look out the window, stub out my butt on the sill, and head for the bed. I have a train to catch tomorrow. If I hurry, I'll have just enough time to crash Gemma's place as she recovers from a particularly gruesome office party hangover.