The Devil's in the detail

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When you're dating the devil, you gotta be careful not to get burnt.

AN: Thank you to my astounding Beta Narq!!

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If anyone had ever told her she'd be dating the devil himself, she'd never have believed it.

With other boyfriends, her mother had often told her she had, or something similar anyway: "You're playing with the devil, girl," she remembered her mother muttering as she brushed her hair 59 times before a date, her neck cramping with holding the phone to her shoulder. "Put your faith in the devil and you're putting your hand in the fire. You'll get burnt, my dear, see if you don't." And if it wasn't that, it was ranting about her devil may care attitude. But as it turned out, he did care. Quite a lot in fact. And she couldn't ignore the sinking realization that she was falling for him too. Damn. That was the problem with the handsome ones. It was so much harder to keep a level head.

It hadn't started out that way. It'd started when the police had called her to advise a suspect. Well, 'suspect' was a kind word for it. He'd been caught red-handed breaking in to the lock-up of a cop shop.

"What kind of idiot tries to break into a prison?" the cop muttered, shaking his head. He closed the door behind him, leaving them to it.

The suspect's presence filled the interview room like a movie star. And, like a star, he even managed a warm, almost fiery glow under the pale blue fluorescent lights that made everyone else seem sickly and two dimensional. From across the flimsy table, she could pick up a faint but insidious smell of smoke. Like an autumn afternoon mixed with sweaty fireman.

She sat opposite him, easing into her plastic seat carefully. He looked remarkably at ease for a loony. Loonies, she thought with distaste. She knew she'd regret taking on the afterhours public defenders cases. She'd only been covering for a colleague, just for a week. It was her first night, and already she'd bagged a loony. Luck of the devil.

"Call me Luc," he'd said. She ignored him til she had her notepad and favourite pen ready.

"Well?" she asked, sighing in resignation. And not a little irritation, at that.

"Well what?" he asked, smiling a devilishly handsome grin. Her eyes narrowed.

"What kind of idiot does try to break into a prison?" she asked, deadpan.

His head tilted just slightly as he studied her. Though she told herself she really couldn't care less, she hated to think of what the insipid lighting was doing to her complexion. Geez, I hate cop shops. The thought buzzed around in her head, filling the silence while she waited, inspecting her fingernails for blemishes.

"You are stunningly beautiful," he murmured, his eyes glinting darkly. "A beauty that men would die for. Kill for. Even, sell their souls for."

Isn't it weird how flattery never fails to improve your mood? His words had her ego purring with pleasure. She tried to ignore it.

"Cut the crap. Answer the question."

He shrugged, his grin unperturbed. "I needed more minions. It's generally a good place to find criminals, the offices of the law."

Minions. Her loony radar was beeping at the rate of a ventricular fibrillation.

"Yes," he said, not flinching even a little. "Minions."

She leaned forward, her gaze steely. "What you need, is to drop the cool guy attitude, and be straight with me. Anything you say-"

"Yeah, yeah." A slim, tanned hand waved her away. He leaned towards her, his dark eyes drawing her in. "Actually, what I really need, are more minions."

"More minions?" she murmured.

"The last lot had no sense of humour. You'd think they were eternally damned or something, the way they moped about."

She sat back in disgust. Frikkin. God damned. Loonies. "So, what: you've got some kind of a God complex?"

"Satan, actually," he said casually.

She'd laughed in his face, a short bark of derision.

"You don't believe me," he replied. She didn't notice the edge to his low tone.

"You got that right, mister."

"Go check the cells."

Her raised, unmoving eyebrows conveyed her thoughts on that suggestion.

"See if you can figure out how I got in," he went on. "The police can't."

"They don't care," she explained with fake patience. "It doesn't matter how you got in. The point is, you were caught in a restricted zone-"

"Oh, but it does matter," he said, the corners of his mouth lifting slightly evilly. "It matters to you, doesn't it? It's gonna bug you til you figure it out. Go on, have a go."

"Go to hell," she'd said, straight and steady as poker player.

A chilly start, but things had hotted up quickly after that. Hell was known for its persistently warm weather. He knew she liked the mercury over 30, and kept it that way just for her. Just one of those little things a guy does when he likes a girl. That, and holidays to anywhere on earth in the blink of an eye. The trip to his private island in the Seychelles last weekend, a case in point. It bugged her that he knew, and could gratify, her every desire. But it didn't bug her that much. She was happy to let him admire her, and to accept his gifts.

Still, she resisted his attempts to slip slim bands of demon gold round her fingers. She would not repeat the mistakes of her mother. In her mind, marriage definitely equalled hell. But without marriage, there was the distinct possibility that sleeping with him would be wrong. As in, soul-imperillingly wrong. As much as she liked him, it wasn't a risk she was prepared to take. Of this, she was sure. Yes, she thought, while her eyes glazed over his infernally handsome body, the red light cast by the fires of Hell only accenting his lean musculature. Absolutely. Bright red highlights and deep red shadows. Her fingers quivered. She held them together harder.

"Admit it, we have fun together," he purred, handing her a mug of molten chocolate.

She sipped, a smile slipping out despite herself.

"Exactly how much fun can we have before I go to hell?" She was always conscious of his hunger for her permanent presence. Her soul. Most people assumed lawyers didn't have one. Maybe it was something you lost along with the expectations of doing good for society and actually making a difference.

"Aw, I thought you liked it here?" At the wave of a hand, the temperature rose a few degrees. "It's cosy… the new ventilation system has done wonders for that sulphur smell… the weather's always good…"

"Mm, not permanently, thank you very much."

"Oooh, well…" His hand flopped and the temperature began to descend perilously close to 29.

Her glare froze him quick as liquid nitrogen. "Don't make me slap you with my flip flops."

The temperature immediately shot back up. He was smiling, and the thought squirmed in her gut that he found her threat amusing. Then she realised he was simply trying to pacify her. So persuaded, she did feel soothed.

"So, where are we going to this weekend." She'd tried for a casual tone. Damn it, but damn it, she was antsy with anticipation already.

He held up a blindfold. "It's a surprise."

"Uh no, I'm never doing anything blindly with you again."

The corner of his lip hunched in disappointment. "I learnt that at the Mexican border."

"Twice," she reminded him.

"Let's make it three times."

In the wink of an eye, the ember-lit caverns of hell were replaced with the molten yellow sunlight of the Arizona desert at dawn.

He handed her a pair of Dolce and Gabanna sunglasses. He always looked after these little details. She had come to expect that.

"Must you wear that?" she sighed, slipping them on. He turned to her, an expression of mock hurt just visible beneath a sagging sombrero.

"What fun is it being cool, if you can't wear a sombrero?"

She shook her head. "You so need a psychiatrist."

"I'm quite happy with my lawyer, actually. Anyway, when in Rome…"

"We're not in Rome, bub. We're not even in Mexico. We're re in Arizona. Somewhere. I think." She looked around warily. "Well anyway, it's definitely not Rome."

"Arizona, sure," he chuckled, "now I am." He vanished, reappearing some twenty metres south, across the withered border fence. "Now I'm not." He repeated the trick for good measure. "Now I am, now I'm not."

She clapped slowly. "Wowee. Now get back over here." He obeyed with a glint in his eye that had her wondering if it was she who was playing with the devil, or him that was playing with her?

"Now, what I really need are minions," he said.

Oh, that old chestnut, she thought.

"Yes, most definitely," she muttered, rolling her eyes. Like he needed more toys to play with.

"Oh look!" he said, eyes lighting up. "Some likely candidates."

Creeping like corpses through mesquite and creosote that littered the border line, she picked out human forms with faces of dust. The morning heat was already enough to make her sweat. These were the last of the night's migration. The stragglers. The desperate ones.

The devil shot a flare into the air. After a few seconds, the faint wail of sirens could be heard. In seconds the people around them had scattered into the brush. But their tracks in the sand marked them out as easily as a spotlight.

"What the hell did you do that for?" she hissed, shoulders bent, ears still ringing from the shot.

"Practicalities, my dear," he replied easily, his smile growing with delight. "Now, what are you going to do?"

"Me?" In her confusion she stepped back and a cactus bit her elbow. She held herself carefully away from both him and them. The sirens grew relentlessly louder.

"You're about to be rounded up with a group of illegal aliens. You, the only American citizen. And a lawyer." He shook his head sadly. "It's not going to look good."

"What?" she spat. But his eyes remained steady, untouched.

"So, what are you going to do?" he said, leaning back on his heels, considering her options. "Pipe up, and the cops might let you go. Say you were held hostage, forced to get involved. Blame them. You'll get off." His hand waved in the general direction of the bushes around them. "These poor unfortunates, on the other hand…"

She chewed her lip. Putting her own freedom ahead of those less fortunate than her. God wouldn't look kindly on that. Definite soul-imperilling material.

"But stay silent," he went on, "and you're guilty of a criminal offense." She guessed God wasn't keen on criminals either. "I hear there's some drug runners in this lot, if that makes the decision easier. Though they had to feed their families somehow. And I hear jail isn't an easy place for lawyers."

Her face crumpled in confusion. She couldn't think. Her feet refused to move. Her thoughts were likewise paralysed. The desert sat around them and watched.

"So, what are you going to do?" The devil chuckled. "Either way…"

"Fuck you," she whispered.

"Damned if you do, and damned if you don't." Like the Cheshire's, his grin remained in her memory long after he'd disappeared.

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AN: This was written for La Campanella's monthly contest. The prompt was that the narrative has to include the five phrases:

What I really need are minions. Yes, most definitely.

Don't make me slap you with my flip flop

What fun is it being cool if you can't wear a sombrero

Ugh, no. I'm not doing anything blindly with you again. I learnt that at the Mexican border. Twice.

Exactly how much fun can I have before I go to hell