I haven't had the time that I hoped I would to devote to The Company We Keep the second half of this semester. However, having the itch to churn out something, I delivered this . . . well, I'm not sure what it is. Sort of a drabble/slice of life/bit of PWP, I suppose. I hope you can get some little enjoyment out of it.

One note: You might notice a certain person's name does not appear anywhere in this fic, but really, now-who would most likely fancy himself a god? :D

In an increasingly godless world, He has become God. He tells himself this. He tells other people this, punctuating the declaration with mounting violence until no one dares shout Him down. He has left myriad scarlet footprints in His wake on His way to the highest throne.

No shouting, then. No shouting, and the wails cease with the general outcry. His subjects bemoan Him in private, and He allows it, because He is a tolerant god, cutting down only those who really have it coming. Like empaths.

No shouting, but there is much whispering where the rebels run. They won't call Him "He" at all. In their subdued but insolent words, He is an it, complete with a diminutive "i"—little more than a petulant child wielding an unholy power to wreak a despair that it cannot possibly understand with its tiny, immature mind.

Somewhere—maybe in one of the few unleveled, abandoned warehouses standing in Texas, maybe deep down in the dirty darkness beneath the cracked streets of Old New York—She struts with all the impertinence of a queen shirking her duties. His rightful goddess: leader of that rag-tag group of dreamers who plot their laughable plots and scheme their impossible schemes.

He admires Her moxie.

[] [] []

"I killed your boyfriend," He tells her, putting His hands in His pockets as He looms over Her.

"He's not . . . he wasn't my boyfriend," She monotones without looking at Him. She's sprawled on a huge, luxuriant circular bed, on Her side with one thigh drawn up, golden in its bare glory. Reaching out, He draws the tip of one index finger up its smooth length.

"But you fucked him," He conjectures, bending down as He grips Her small shoulders and turns Her onto Her back. Their faces are inches apart now; They breathe the same air and mist it across each other's lips.

"I fuck a lot of people," She informs Him, shrewdly aware of the control He exerts over His features to ward off a flinch of displeasure. "You gotta give 'em some kind of incentive, you know? Less stick, more carrot."

She smiles dryly.

"You don't know much about that, do you?" She asks. "You're alllll stick."

He smirks for a moment, then glances to the side of Her ear to the white-gold colored fabric upon which She lies, coming so close She can feel the tiny, almost microscopic hairs on Their noses brush.

"Do you like the sheets?" He asks, suddenly cordial.

"Like I give a shit about sheets."

"They're your sheets. They're silk."

"Oh, they're my sheets?" She raises a disdainful brow.

"It's your room."

Her face darkens.

"It's not my room," She denies.

"It is," He insists.

"I don't live here," She points out, with an entirely mirthless, animalistic grin.

"It's yours anyway."

She stares up into His dark eyes. All traces of mischievous twinkle has fled them; He speaks now with grave sincerity.

"Thanks," She forces out through Her teeth.

The amusement returns at once, and He laughs.

"I didn't really kill him," He reveals. With a slow blink, He adds, "Yet."

She echoes his laughter, doing Her best impression of a cold-hearted cynic.

"He's just a tool," She says with a shrug, but He knows Her better than that.

"What's his name?" He wonders.

"A cog," She emphasizes, dodging the question. "You know something about cogs, right? He's just part of the wider mechanism. That's all."

"What's his name?"

"He's replaceable."

"I've been calling him Jack. I don't know why, really, he just looked like a—"

"You're not gonna do this. You're not gonna use him against me."

"You wanna save Jack?" He murmurs this into the butterfly pulse beating visibly in Her throat. "I'll tell you how. . . "

He's joined Her on . . . Her bed now, His knee between Hers, and His palm flat beside Her right arm. She imagines an enormous black spider crawling over Her, probing and tickling its petrified meal with poisonous, seeping mandibles.

He tastes Her, then, and She shuts Her eyes, overwhelmed with disgust and some primal response that eats at Her deep in Her body, gnawing with manifold, tiny teeth. When His tongue retracts from the hollow of Her throat, She opens Her eyes, stares at the high, elaborately frescoed ceiling, and takes the bait.

"How?" The word emerges on a hoarse croak, and He feels it with His lips.

He raises His head, a panther coming up from the pool where it slakes its thirst, and turns His predatory eyes upon Hers once more. She has barely time to see the smile of satisfaction twist His mouth before He brings His hand up, places the back against Her cheek, and gently knocks Her face to the side.

"Stay with me," He answers directly into Her ear.

The hairs along Her body stand at once, but the reaction has little to do with His words. She saw that one coming. It's the way He's devouring Her earlobe that sets Her abuzz; it's the touch of one hand at the back of Her neck, pushing Her hair aside, while the other draws at the scant underclothing He allowed Her to keep when the servants stripped Her upon delivery.

"You're my goddess," He tells Her, awash in lust and His own vanity. "Accept it."

Accept me.

She sneers even as She grips His shoulders. His hand has wandered low, pressing the narrow inseam of Her loose white shorts into Her thigh, and the pad of His thumb strokes downward over Her exposed crease, exploring.

"You're not a god," She argues, voice labored. She squirms Her hips, mussing Her fine silk sheets with Her toes. "You're the devil."

He doesn't even argue with Her on that point. It's a matter of perspective.

"That doesn't mean you're not—" His breathing is ragged, too, as He tries to press into Her despite the restrictions of His attire. "—a goddess. Maybe we balance; did that ever occur to you? Maybe we're fucking perfect."

And now that's in Her mind like the most viable, unstoppable seed in fertile soil, taking root and blossoming even as She tries desperately to smother it with the pesticides of Her hatred. A picture of astounding equilibrium—His evil to Her good, His darkness to Her radiance, the scales perfectly even—unfurls, awesome in its majesty.

Baring Her teeth, She tears at His hair, and then at His clothing, exposing Him in a frenzy of shredded threads and buttons.

He growls as She jerks His trousers open and hauls them down around His narrow hips. When in the next instant They are fitted together as snugly as any two immortals can be, He laughs breathlessly into the crook of Her neck, as exhilarated as She is despairing.

"What's his name, Claire?" He goads Her, rearing back to watch Her through heavy-lidded eyes, half-drunk on pleasure and triumph. "Huh? Come on . . . You can save him. Otherwise . . . otherwise he goes the same way as all the others."

That's no particular way, really. Agonizing and irreversible generally sums it up.

She groans, glaring at Him even as Her cheekbones flush a deep rose hue.

"You're—" She gasps and cries out. "You're fucking psychotic. You're fucking—!"

"Evil?" He guesses in a rasp. "You could temper it, you know. You could . . . With your goodness, huh? Your mercy. Why don't you stop playing? And do something . . . useful?"

She slaps Him, bringing Her arm around in a full arc. Her hand resounds like a firecracker across His jaw.

Electrified rather than abashed, He merely mutters, "Oh, my god"—which She finds deliciously ironic, given His assumed status—and grabs Her wrists. In a flash, Their positions are reversed, and She finds Herself riding Him, Her palms, one of them still burning, on His chest.

She wishes She would stop. She knows He won't.

She knows a lot about Him, and maybe more than She'd like to about Herself.

"What's his name?" He pries one last time, craning His head back. The bed, sturdy as its frame is, has begun to creak in arrhythmic, erratic protest.

"Shut up!" She screams. "I don't know his name, okay? I don't know anybody's—! I don't know anybody."

A sob breaks from Her throat.

"I'm so lonely," She keens. "I'm so fucking lonely!"

She falls forward slowly, knees unbending as She curls over His torso, face hidden between Her arms. He catches Her and rolls with Her once again.

"You're not lonely," He pants, cleaning her tears up with his rough jaw, his lips, his tongue, the angle of his nose, as He comes down from the high. "You're just stupid and stubborn as hell."

She weeps.

"Help me, God," She pleads in a hopeless, broken tone, and the man who holds Her blasphemes:

"I'm right here."

[] [] []

Claire opens her eyes.

For a moment, she is lost in that space between unreality and reality. Her legs are locked around a set of hips, and a warm, scratchy chin rests against her forehead. Someone puffs deep, even breaths down onto her scalp.

"Jack," she mumbles, the dream sliding at last off like an overlarge drop of water.

"Hm." The man shifts, pulls back, revealing a head of tawny hair, a muscular body bulkier than the one that overloaded her senses seconds ago.

"I had a bad dream," she says, her voice small, her eyes curiously wet.

"Did you call me Jack?" he asks, stretching.

They lie in a safe house, one of the last remaining in the Underground. Most of the others have been sniffed out and ransacked by His servants, those lesser specials so terrified into loyalty that they willingly cut down the few people who dare to defy their lord.

She watches a spider weaving many feet above her head in a darkened corner. It works steadily upon its silken mansion, hitching it to peeling gray wallpaper.

"My name isn't Jack," he persists sleepily.

"I don't want to know your name," she asserts hastily.

He's silent for a moment. Offended, possibly.

"We just slept together," Not-Jack says.

She draws in a long, deep breath. Releases it.

"I don't want to know anything about you," she explains, and then revises, "I don't want to know you."

Not-Jack is good people, apparently, because he responds to that statement with a reassurance that is all for his commander.

"It's going to work, you know," he tells her softly, drawing her toward him to kiss her cheek. "This is going to be the last hit, I can feel it. We're going to get him off guard. We're going to restore balance. You know that, don't you? You can feel it, too."

All she can feel is his nakedness, and it floods her with a cold dread of all that could be done to harm his fragile, mortal body. She thinks about what might be done to save him, and she marvels at how oversimplified the restoration of balance is in this man's expectation, how overcomplicated it is in her own. In the middle of the night before the final revolution, her mind is fuzzy with weariness, filled with hungry black spiders and silly, stubborn flies.