Tonight, though, he hadn't had a choice of tactics. He pulled the unused gun out of the holster with three fingers and threw it on the bed, then grimaced. Shit. That was careless. The way things were, it'd go off, and a stray bullet would take out the poor bastard next door. He wondered whether sins he committed now would count against his next life.
If he got one, that is.
If he even wanted it. A life. The job, Rosalyn, the two-and-a-half kids they'd always wanted but he'd kept putting off--
Zeke walked to the sink and turned the faucet on with his wrists. He shoved his hands under the tepid, brownish water. The stream loosened the gore from his thumbs and it pooled around the drain. There wasn't all that much, really. They had been such small eyes.
"Kids! I love 'em. So natural and unspoiled. All that savagery and greed."
Zeke didn't turn around. Red and white and clear, thick, viscous, clinging to the metal. The mockery of life that wasn't theirs. "Then you must have enjoyed watching that."
"I always enjoy watching you work, Detective."
"He was eight years old."
"I don't make the rules. I just mete out the consequences for breaking them."
Zeke turned the water off and started a hand for the single greyish towel. "So, what you're telling me is that you're really just a cosmic bureaucrat."
Lucifer reached past him and reduced the towel to ashes with a brush of his fingers. "A little respect, if you please," he said dryly. "After all, what are you but a tiny cog in the same great wheel?"
"I'm a cop," he said, and then glanced away from the reflection in the mirror.
"No." Now the Devil was leaning against the sink. "You were a cop, Ezekiel. A minister of justice. And a good one, too, despite those flaws we've discussed. But you threw that away, and now you're just another minion...of...Hell." He accompanied each word with a poke to Zeke's chest.
"Fuck you," Zeke muttered, and crossed the room to the bed. He sat down and rested his head in his hands. "You didn't have to make me take the eyes out like that. There was no reason not to let me use the gun."
"Oh, come on. You were a member of the NYPD! You ought to be used to the gritty side of justice." Lucifer dropped down next to him. "Besides, think of all the people he would have killed if you hadn't sent him back. He was already on his third family, you know."
"Don't try to tell me that you care about his victims."
He pursed his lips, considering it. "No. Not really. Human suffering isn't of much interest to me. Unless I'm causing it, of course. But it is to you."
Bastard. Always in his head. "When are you going to stop trying to manipulate me and just let me do my job? I mean, what the hell is the point?"
"Why, Ezekiel," Lucifer said with wounded earnestness, "our whole relationship was founded on manipulation. The pain, the visions, the dreams...For fifteen years, I had you writhing in the palm of my hand. I thought it worked for us. You don't agree?"
It had been so simple then. No separation, no freedom. His soul surrounded on all sides with agony. With the other. It hadn't had that face then. It hadn't needed one. It had been...everything.
There hadn't been any hope then, either. Nothing that would make him drive his thumbs through the innocent green eyes of a child and let the hellfire out.
"Yeah, well, you're not as good at it without the brimstone to help you out. Maybe I don't want to do this anymore."
"Is that despair I hear? Tsk, tsk."
"I live in a dump, I can't contact anybody I ever cared about, and I spend my days and nights wading through the worst of human filth, trying to--to slaughter my way to a second chance to be part of it again. What do you think?"
"So you're giving up on that second chance because you don't want to get your hands dirty. Goodness. What would Rosalyn say?"
Normally, that would make him mad--he never wanted, ever, to hear her name in his mouth--but now..."You know, maybe she wouldn't care. Aren't you the one who's always telling me she's moved on?"
"I say a lot of things, Ezekiel. I would have thought you had better sense than to believe me all the time."
"Well, I know her. I'm not sure she'd want a man who's done what I've done. I never told her what I did to Jax. If that was too horrible..." He shrugged. Dead priests and poets and choirboys. Was he going to track all that blood into Ros's house?
The Devil shifted impatiently. "This is all very self-indulgent, and I don't think I like it. I didn't bring you back from the bowels of hell to have you sit around and brood. In fact, as your employer, I forbid it."
"Yeah, well, every man's soul's his own."
"Oh, no, Ezekiel." His voice was low, serious. "Your soul is still mine. Never forget that." He ran his finger over Zeke's wrist. "I may not be able to flay you right now, but I can still get under your skin."
"You really think so?" Staring. Just staring at the dingy carpet.
"I know it." The finger on his chin now, turning it so he faced Lucifer. Hollow cheeks, deadly eyes. The Great Dragon. Kissing him. Devouring him, and the only way to prevent being swallowed whole was to devour right back.
The Devil tasted the way he should, bitter and ashes. Now he was thinking about Ros, a little, but this wasn't a pretty girl in the park, this was two damned souls in a stinking rathole and Ros, Ros didn't exist in this context, he didn't even want her to. Lucifer's skin was warm under his mouth, and that was only right, except--except...wasn't that just what he thought it should be like? Was he tangling himself up with a shadow of his own mind--
"Not a shadow, Zeke." He laughed softly. "Don't you think I'd be a lot more beautiful then?"
"And a lot more woman." Zeke sat back, struck by that. He'd never once--
"You don't need a woman, in particular, any more than you need scrambled eggs." Lucifer's hand was on his thigh, pinning him. "That's not what this is about."
"Kept on raping because it gratified his soul to hurt women. Not because of any biological urges. Don't worry, I don't think you're any less manly because you haven't had a hard-on since you came back." A leisurely lick in his ear. "Until now, that is. It's all in the mind."
And...he was right, Zeke thought, as Lucifer's fingers groped at the fabric between Zeke's legs. There was...he was getting hard, and he shut his eyes and told himself not to hump the guy's hand like some john getting a quick handjob on Avenue C, but it was touch, squirming and insinuating touch. Very familiar.
He'd been blind a lot in hell.
"Do you know why I like you, Ezekiel?"
"I always figured...it was my pretty face." Right, he told himself. Good work, Ezekiel. Mouth off to the Devil while he practically has your dick in his hand.
"Mmmm....no. Think how many times I ruined it. Several hundred, I'd guess. There was the acid, the rats, the hooks--"
"It's that defiant will, that pride. It's what brings all my best victims to me. The belief of something so lowly as a human being that he can be his own master"--Lucifer had gotten the zipper down and his hand into Zeke's jeans--"it almost brings tears to my eyes." He paused, then added, "Tears of laughter, of course."
"I don't know, is it that much funnier than an angel's thinking the same thing?" But even as he said it, Satan's fingers closed over the head of his cock and...snapped at the skin there. "Fuck," he hissed, and his hips jerked forward a little.
Away, towards, it was all the same in the end, and Satan stripped them with one gesture, pushed him down, and fell on him, suffocating as a sheet of napalm from the sky.
How weird it was to have a body that offered resistance, that put limits on where the other could go. That was the one thought that swam to the surface, above the chaos of feeling as Satan gripped his shoulders, pushed his tongue hard against the hollow of his throat. Zeke was not going to look to see if it was still a human tongue. He arched his spine, pushing back, and the hair on Satan's skin tickled and rasped against his cock to make him groan.
"Ezekiel, Ezekiel, what am I going to do with you?" he whispered, and that was a memory, hard-edged enough to cut, but he'd be damned if he'd let Lucifer beat him like that. This wasn't hell, it was Earth, and the Devil was just rough skin to work himself against, and mind--
Mind, of course, a will, not to be cowed, either (nobody beats me, Mr. Stone, nobody beats me--), and, yes, it was familiar, and it all tasted of sulfur, in him, around him, between them.
"Not as much fun...when you can't just take what you want?"
"I believe that's what I'm doing," and Lucifer arched himself, one hand coming free to snake down Zeke's body and wrap his hand around his cock. It was wetter, this time, and warmer, something else not to think about, but actually it was fairly easy not to think about anything except the slide and the singing of his nerves. Pumping, pressure bearing down on him, and Lucifer's mouth again, teeth on his lip, all pooling together. No offense to the Reggie bar, Zeke thought wildly, but this was--this was--
Nothing. The hand was gone, the mouth pulled away, and Zeke's eyes popped open. "What--"
Lucifer was still above him, but his eyes were ice, and then he pressed his fingers into Zeke's temples, so hard Zeke thought he'd punched holes in his skull.
And Zeke saw light.
Pure light, and they were right, white was all colors in one. Pure light, relentless as the fire had been. It stripped away flesh and bone and nerve; it dazzled and it blinded and it hurt, oh God, it hurt like nothing in hell ever had, because even as it seared him, he wanted it, he needed it, it was him, or it could be, should have been, and that it wasn't stripped tears out of him, and that it still touched him was making him come and come and--
He was lying on his back, completely dazed, eyes damp, thighs sticky, and Lucifer was laughing as he'd never heard him before.
Lucifer's hand covered his mouth as quick as a snake striking. "Don't blaspheme, Zeke. That was Heaven."
"But it fucking hurt!"
"Of course it did. You are a damned soul, not worthy to stand before the majesty of God. His glory obliterates you, as his justice did when you were with me."
Zeke reached up and wiped the back of his hand across his eyes. For the moment, he couldn't think of anything to say.
"But--" Lucifer laid a hand on his chest, almost caressingly. "There was something sweet in it, too."
He cleared his throat. "Yeah."
"Because you were made in his image, and there is something in you that could be saved. I felt it when you did."
Zeke blinked and looked down, realizing that Lucifer had come, too. "Don't--you...?"
"It doesn't matter. What you should be thinking about, Zeke, is yourself. That's your prize. Not your precious Rosalyn, not this stinking, albeit endlessly amusing, Earth, but the chance to be able someday to return, trailing clouds of glory to God, who is your home. That's what you should keep your mind fixed on."
Heaven. The glory of God. The things Father Horn talked about, wistfully. Home. Where there'd been nothing of him left. Whatever was...not righteous...in him gone, and it had felt like everything. "God, it wipes you out, doesn't it?" he said without thinking.
Lucifer laughed again. "You have no idea, Ezekiel. No idea."
He was so tired. Too tired even to get off some smart remark. He didn't know how much of it was some trick, how much of it was just good old-fashioned tiredness after a fuck. "I'm guessing you're not a cuddler," he said, rolling over, "so..."
"I'm hurt." He gave Zeke's hair one long ruffle. "But I do have some farmers to terrify in Kansas. I'll be seeing you later."
"Just don't bring flowers," Zeke muttered, but Satan was already gone.