The sun was rising in a cloudless blue sky over San Francisco and the Halliwell Mansion was quiet for the first time in days. Then door opened in the back and a black-haired man in his early thirties walked out. He was dressed in jeans and a shirt; he was holding a cup of hot milky coffee; he bore a look of deep bewilderment on his face. Looking out over the garden and down the hill he sat down on the grass, his arms encircling his knees.
After a moment he took a sip of his coffee and then squinted in amusement at the yellow, bald-headed cartoon on the side of the mug. "I wonder what 'Doh!' means?" he muttered and then looked back out down the hill.
"What the hell do I do now?
Arriving back at the house had been chaotic. Cole shimmered in with Phoebe, Piper, Theresa and Molly all holding his arms. A second later Paige, Leo and Tom orbed in, clutching the still-unconscious figure of Tethos. Cole leapt to help and between them all they lowered him gently onto a sofa and covered him with a blanket.
The former demon's skin was scorched in several places, and he was pale and breathed slowly. Cole gently tugged at the remains of his cloak, the hood coming away as he pulled it off. Bits of black cloth fluttered to the carpet and he scrunched the whole thing up, collected the fallen pieces and then turned for the waste bin in the kitchen. When he came back, he found everyone looking at the figure on the sofa.
"Leo," asked Paige, "Are you absolutely sure that he's de-demonised?"
The Whitelighter sighed and sat down on the edge of a chair. Rubbing a thoughtful hand around his chin, he looked up. "I can't feel anything demonic about him. Pure human as far as I can tell."
"Yeah honey," drawled Piper, "But you couldn't feel anything demonic about Cole at first, either." She looked over at the demon and flicked an eyebrow. "Feel anything?"
He shook his head. "He's not evil. I could feel it, even if it was buried pretty deep down in him. There's no demon left in him. That's not Tethos any more. It's Constantine." He looked at Leo. "I think you should find out what the Elders have to say about all this. Make sure you've got the prophecy and the Hammer with you; I don't think that we could fight off any of the Source's bounty hunters at the moment. I don't know about you guys but I'm exhausted."
"Good idea," said Leo and, kissing his wife, he orbed out.
Piper looked at the clock on the wall and gave a start. "Well, so much for me arranging breakfast while he's gone," she said wryly.
Looking around, Phoebe blinked. "Wow, it's almost 1 in the afternoon. Well, we were all so hyped up to rescue you, I guess that we kind of lost track of the time."
Piper sniffed the air. "I can tell. I hope you didn't leave any potions on the boil."
Making a face, Molly shook her head. "Ah, no, but we did use up your stock of wolfsbane. And you're out of essence of garlic. I'll replace everything before we leave."
Piper waved a hand. "Oh what's a little wolfsbane between witches." Then she paused. "I didn't know that we had any essence of garlic anyway. Garlic, yes, essence no."
"I improvised," said Molly and then turned to look at the still-unconscious ex-demon on the sofa. "We need to keep an eye on him until Leo comes back."
It was a low groan that first alerted them to the fact that Constantine, as they were just starting to refer to him, was waking up. He moved slightly, one hand emerging from under the blanket to rest on his forehead. There came another groan and then, with a suddenness that made them all jump back, he sat up, swaying slightly from side to side and staring blearily ahead of him.
"I didn't know that oblivion came with a staircase," he said, and then frowned. Looking down he gasped as he looked at his hand. "It's not there anymore," he said in shock. Then he looked up and for the first time registered the presence of the others.
"What happened? Why aren't I dead? Why can't I feel... it... anymore?" he demanded.
"It?" asked Phoebe.
"My... demon side. The dark part of me. I don't understand, did the Ritual reverse itself?" he asked, tried to stand up and then abruptly realised that he wasn't wearing anything beneath the blanket, sitting down again hurriedly.
There was a sudden light in the corner of the room and Leo orbed in. He looked over at Piper questioningly and his wife shrugged. "He just woke up," she told him.
Leo nodded and, walking over to the bewildered figure, squatted down in front of him. "Congratulations," he said, smiling. "You're human." Constantine stared at him, uncomprehending. "I'm what?" he asked eventually.
"You asked the Hammer to destroy Tethos, and it did. Tethos – your demon side, the evil that was within you – has been destroyed. You're Constantine again. According to the Elders it's your reward for your time in hell. You've redeemed yourself so many times over, down the centuries. They know what you've done, the battles you've thought, the demons you've killed. They know all about Vienna and what you did in Dunkirk. They know all about the lives you've saved.
"So a human life is their reward. You don't deserve death. You deserve to pick up your life again, to live as a human, to live and love and grow old and die." He put a hand on Constantine's shoulder. "There are more battles for you to fight, but you don't have to battle your dark side at the same time any more. Welcome back to the side of light."
He stood up and then jerked his head at the others. Realising what he meant they quietly left the room, leaving Constantine to sit on the sofa alone, stunned, the tears gathering and running down his face as he wept quietly.
"Penny for your thoughts," came a voice behind him, and he turned to look up at the yawning figures that walked up next to him.
"Good morning, Leo, Cole. Just wondering what the hell I do next." He took another sip of coffee and then looked at the Whitelighter. "Your wife makes good coffee, by the way."
Leo nodded as he sat down on one side of Constantine while Cole sat down on the other side. Both were also holding mugs of coffee. There was a brief silence.
"What does 'Doh!' mean by the way?" asked Constantine after a while.
"Ah," smiled Cole, "Homer Simpson. You have a new world of television to absorb. I know that you kept up with current affairs and so forth, but leisure programmes have exploded since you last trod the surface. Buffy, Babylon5, The Sopranos."
Constantine looked baffled for a moment and then smiled. "I'm sure I'll get used to it."
He looked back down the hill and then held his hand out, palm up. A small globe of fire appeared in its centre and rolled around in a circle before it flicked out. "My power is still there, the undemonic part at least. I'm not sure what I'm capable of, but I have a few ideas. I just don't know what to do next."
"You're not still..."
Constantine cut Cole off. "Suicidal? No. That ended once I felt that my demon side had gone. I'd forgotten how light it feels not to have to battle my dark side every day." He paused. "Sorry," he apologised. "I guess if I'm going to learn to live as a human again I have to learn tact again."
Cole smiled wryly and drank some pf his own coffee. "No apology needed. I don't know what lies down my own road, but as long as I have Phoebe to remind me of the light, along with friends, maybe..." He shrugged. "There's a chance. You grabbed yours, even if it turned out differently from the way you figured. I need to grab mine."
"You need to recognise it when it comes," added Leo quietly.
There was another pause. Then Constantine said, heavily: "I know that I need to go home – just the once – and lay some ghosts to rest. I haven't been home in almost a thousand years. Perhaps they've put a bloody motorway through my old fortress, but..." he ran a hand through his hair. "I need to go home. After that... I have no idea."
"Come with us," said another voice, again from behind, and the three turned to see Tom, with yet another mug of Piper's best coffee.
"Now that we've had some sleep, we're going home, back to London. We always need good people at Room 42 of the British Museum. There are a lot of artefacts that we have no idea what to make of, that you could take a look at." He looked at Constantine. "Go home and then come and work with us for a while, until you sort yourself out."
And then, smiling, he added: "Fel y afon i'r mor yw bywyd dyn."
"Man's life is like the river flowing to the sea," translated Constantine, nodding. "You never know where the river will lead you." He stood up and nodded. "Maybe. Let me know where you and your friends work and... maybe."
As they walked back to the house Cole paused.
"By the way," he said, "What did you mean back at the warehouse, when you said that you'd added a few boobytraps to the shielding?"
"Oh, that," grinned Constantine. "Just a few surprises for the source."
The Source glowered at the wreckage that was strewn across this throne room. His defeat at the hands of Tethos had been bad enough, but the old renegade had added some sort of rider spells to the shielding in that building. Once he had shimmered back to safety they had activated themselves and it had taken a full day to get them all snuffed out. Well, almost all of them, he thought, directing a glare at the raven that was sitting on the back of his throne. The wretched thing seemed invincible.
"Nevermore," it said again, smugly, and wriggled its tail feathers in a way that suggested that it had just added to the small but growing pile of guano behind the throne.
There was a noise behind him and the Source turned to see Cortalyn enter the room. Bowing he said: "The last pink anaconda has been caught, lord, the howler monkeys that ruined your throne room have all been destroyed and the indestructible rhino has been herded up to the surface."
The Source clenched his fists and thunder cracked outside the window. He knew that Tethos was dead, he had felt the power of the Hammer from here, but this... humiliation was more than he could stand. Someone will pay for this, he thought savagely. Someone will pay.