The Devil You Know

Somewhere down the line, it has come to dawn on Paul Edgecomb that he is hopelessly, quite impossibly, in over his head. It is a stark revelation, one which has never been so clear to him as it is now, in this very moment as he stands at the open window on the far side of Percy's bedroom. The Louisiana summer midnight is hot and damp, the air thick and stagnant with the threat of rain. Violet lightning races across the sky and Paul can make out the tall columns of cumulonimbus clouds looming at the line of the horizon. He closes his eyes and fills his lungs with the August air. Thunder rails in the distance, ominously warning, and Paul can't help but think that if he'd any manner of common sense, he would take the fast-approaching storm as his cue to leave.

Then again, he thinks grimly, had he employed the use of said common sense, he would not be here at all. Had he half a mind, he would be at home with his wife, in their bed, and not here. Not in Percy's home, not in his bed, with the heavens outside raging their disapproval at what he and Percy are doing. He thinks briefly of Jan at home in bed alone-he had told her he would be staying late at the office, catching up on some overdue reports-and pushes the notion just as quickly to the back of his mind.

He turns from the window, lets his gaze come to rest on the bed where Percy is waiting for him, the perfect portrait of all the debaucheries mothers warn their children about to avoid the fiery pits of the Devil's damnation. Paul knows it is too late for that, for him. At the very most, he could leave now and escape with some shred of dignity (even if it were false) intact.

"Percy, it's late." He hears the words, and he does not believe them himself, does not buy for an instant their loosely-forged conviction. "I really should be getting on before the storm hits." Even as he says this, he is sitting back down on the edge of the mattress by Percy-Percy, who is looking at present much like the dangerous feline with some defenseless canary in his sights, even from his prone position on the bed.

"But, dear, we were just having fun," Percy replies with a devilish smirk. He props himself into a sitting position and drapes himself against Paul's back, one arm snaking itself loosely around him from behind. "You don't have to go." His lips find the juncture of Paul's neck and shoulder and the contact is enough to jolt Paul's senses like a live wire, making him bite back a groan.

"If I'm any later, Jan's going to worry-"

"Then tell her you didn't want to get stuck driving in the storm. That wouldn't be a complete lie, now, would it?" There is a momentary pause before Percy's voice purrs directly into Paul's left ear, "I promise I can make it worth your while."

He feels the warm weight of Percy's body at his backside subside, and then Percy is sliding around to his front, imposing himself upon his lap. One delicate hand finds its way to Paul's cheek, fingertips just barely brushing the line of his jaw, and Paul is all but instantly held captive by those too-blue eyes-clear azure, the color of an autumn sky just beginning to go dark-that meet his own. "Stay," Percy says, and his voice is sweet as sin. "Please. I don't want you to leave just yet." He bites his lower lip and lets his arms wind around Paul's neck with a wicked little smile. Sometimes, Paul can't help thinking that he has fallen into bed with the Devil himself.

Invariably, Paul folds.

It is easy for him to slip when Percy is like this: open and beguiling and almost innocent-even if that innocence is an outright lie and Paul knows it. It is in these moments, when Percy is in his arms and pleading with him not to go, that Paul is (nearly) able to forget who Percy is, what he really is, especially when Percy is looking up through his eyelashes at him like that, or when the sweetest of insincerities tumble from those pretty lips of his. Words like want, need, love-words that are almost enough to absolve all the ugly things that so often dart from his tongue without forethought.

None of that matters to Paul now.

In the end, Paul knows that he will stay. He will be gone before dawn wakes Percy alone in bed the next morning, but he will stay the night. When he goes home to Janice, he will look into the eyes of his devoted wife and fabricate to her some shell of a lie to explain what kept him at the prison all night, and she will believe him. It is, by no means, the first time he has had to do this.

Something tells him that it will not be the last.