It had taken years to arrange this meeting. Not years, exactly. Years were an ersatz measurement. But even by Heaven or Hell terms, glaciers melted faster.
Michael was in the body of a broken-down lumber worker who came to this bar every night on his way home from work, who stayed until closing. Who looked into a glass like it was going to give him some wisdom. Who was waiting to die, who prayed every night. And when he said "Yes", it was like a breath was being punched out of him.
Lucifer had gotten into a redhead, late 30s, starting to flake. She'd seen better days, but she wouldn't again. She put out her Marlboro Red in Michael's scotch and flicked it on the ground.
"Always the diplomat," Michael said gravely. The smug smile didn't go with the tired face and turned it into a grotesque mask for three seconds.
"Fuck you," said Lucifer, but sounding flat, not angry. "Talk."
"It's back on the table."
Lucifer's redhead sat up straighter. "What?"
"It's back on the table," Michael repeated, slower. "I can write it on the napkin if you're having trouble with the words."
"There's no back on the table," Lucifer spat. "None. This isn't happening."
Michael smiled, the mask even more grotesque. "It is."
"The vessels —?"
Lucifer looked like he was going to knock everything off the bar, but the murmur of the other patrons swelled around them, and he stopped. "If I had known I could use my true vessel again…"
"That sounds like a personal problem," Michael said softly, letting the scotch burn down the throat of the lumberworker, hearing the lumber worker's soft gratitude from deep inside, like hearing something through concrete, through glass, through a cocoon. "But that's so you, isn't it? So short-sighted. 'Can't use my vessel this one time? I know, I'll break it.' Like a petulant child, urinating in a sandbox so no one else can play in it."
"Fine, then I will work with the vessel I was destined, and I will still hand you your ass."
A laugh now. "You're talking like my destined vessel. Have you been spending time with him?"
No response to this. It was a real question, too.
"What do we do?" Lucifer asked. The redhead looked so determined.
"As my vessel might charmingly phrase it, we bend space and time over, and we fuck them in the ass."