John Constantine had been laying low since the autumn in which he and his twin brother had apparently merged into the magus they were both meant to be. But his life had since become more complicated. Recently, he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In order to mentally prepare himself for what would come, John took a tour of a cancer ward, where he met a man named Matt Higgins, whose bawdy gallows humour appealed to John. They became friends, and John promised to come back and visit. Still, with little hope, John promised himself that he would go along with any harebrained scheme to get out of dying - especially if it meant avoiding going to Hell.
John decided to visit his friend Brendan Finn in Ireland, but Brendan's own health seemed to be deteriorating. Brendan was something of a drinker, and he had amassed a vast collection of wines in his cellar. He led John down into that cellar, where he revealed that he had discovered a hidden chamber underground in a connecting wall. He assumed that the chamber was once visited by St. Patrick, and that the spring within was filled with holy water. At John's confirmation, Brendan used magic to turn the water into the best beer that either of them had ever tasted. John admitted, after many drinks, that he had come in the hopes of finding a cure for his cancer. Brendan began laughing, because he had hoped that John could help cure his liver disease. Brendan's condition was certainly not helped by the magic beer, and he died that night. Lucifer appeared to claim Brendan's soul in exchange for having helped to amass his wine collection. However, there was a condition in the agreement that if the soul was not collected by midnight, it would go to Heaven. John used the holy water to distract and injure the devil, and Brendan was saved. John, on the other hand, was promised that vengeance would be visited on him.
John decided to take a different approach. He called on his acquaintance Ellie for a favour, but curing his cancer was beyond her means. As a demon herself, she warned that Lucifer's wrath would come at the moment of John's death, and it would be most heinous. With no help from Ellie, John was forced to turn to the one he called the Snob. The Snob was in fact the angel Gabriel, whose club was so exclusive as to require that John use magic to get in. Naturally, Gabriel was unhelpful, noting that John's cancer was earned over years of smoking and his sentence of suffering in hell was deserved. John made a failed attempt at blackmailing the angel, but eventually retired, defeated, to a bar. There, a plan suddenly began forming in his mind.
Feeling that his end would come soon, John returned to Liverpool to say goodbye to his sister Cheryl. He wouldn't go into much detail, but she understood that she may never see him again. He returned to London, then, to be picked up by his old friend Chas. Chas was none too pleased to see him, given the poor betting advice John had given him at their last meeting. They got into an argument, and John grumpily got out of the car early. Chas realized too late that John had left him some money and a letter explaining that they would not see each other again. Next John visited Matt Higgins in the cancer ward to say goodbye to his recent acquaintance. Finally, John prepared his final stab at a chance. He laid out his runes and charms, and then summoned Beelzebub. He promised the demon his own soul, in a binding contract. Then, he summoned Azazel and promised the same to him. Finally, he slit his own wrist. With his death inevitable - from blood loss or cancer - Lucifer himself appeared, just to watch John suffer.
As John began to die, Lucifer was surprised by Beelzebub and Azazel's appearances, who each believed they had greater claim to John's soul than the other. Lucifer soon realized that they had all been duped. With each of the three rulers of hell holding a legitimate claim to John's soul, they would have to decide who got it before he died. John warned that they could not simply allow his soul to pass into limbo, because the contract had to be honoured. Likewise, they could not go to war over it, because the forces of Heaven would surely step in and take both the soul and Hell from them. Angrily, the three demons came to the conclusion that they would have to keep John alive for as long as possible, and so Lucifer reluctantly removed the cancer from John's lungs. Finally recovered, John turned to the three demons, and gave them the finger.
After three days of celebratory (or conciliatory) drinking, it began to dawn on John that he had not actually tricked the demons into keeping him alive. Instead, they would be waiting for him to make a mistake, so they could rain down upon him their most horrible punishments. Taking a walk, John bumped into Brendan's ex-girlfriend Kit, who was quite happy to see him. They caught up over coffee, and happened to bump into Chas Chandler. The encounter caused John to realize that he forgot to tell his friends and family that he wasn't going to be dying after all. Remembering that Matt Higgins was likely to succumb to his own cancer soon, John rushed to the hospital. He managed to speak to his friend, who reminded him to keep close to his real friends, before passing away. John felt responsible and ran away. Kit, a true friend, found him, and refused to leave John on his own.
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