Loz (lozenger8) wrote,

Another Day of Knowing of the Path I Fear to Tread

Title: Another Day of Knowing of the Path I Fear to Tread
Fandom: Eternal Law
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,400 words.
Notes: For taurenova, because it’s not a word of a lie when I say I adore her. Happy belated birthday, my sweet. Zak/Richard not-entirely-happy-making-I’m-so-sorry-what-is-my-brain post-apocalyptic fic. Title from the song "Possession" by Sarah McLachlan.
Summary: He doesn’t know who he was or what he was thinking when he asked Richard to meet him up here.

One thing he has always prided himself on is how well he knows himself. It doesn’t matter that he looks and sounds different from one decade to the next, that he’s had hundreds of names and occupations. He knows who he is, deep down. He’s aware of his weaknesses and his strengths. He has a keen idea of how to get around them, when the need arises. He’s never really wavered in his convictions. He’s always had his mask of realism and ambivalence; to shield from his insane levels of hope and disgustingly over-developed sense of what people these days called ‘social justice’.

He doesn’t know who he was or what he was thinking when he asked Richard to meet him up here.

He’d blame it on demonic machination, if he wasn’t aware it was impossible for Richard to exert any magical power over him. The very worst Angel-specific thing Richard could do is transfer some of humanity’s pain, a touch of his own darkness, just to make him feel a little bit crap. But Richard doesn’t bother with that anymore and he’d need to be holding his hand anyway. Zak invited him here over the phone, just before the reception died, once and for all. No, Beelzebub and Lucifer themselves --- as the humans liked to call them --- would be incapable of compelling Zak to do anything against his will.

So he must have wanted this. He must have needed to see Richard. He must have --- does he? Here, at the end of all things, is Richard really the one he most wishes to spend his last day on Earth with?

Tom is off above, keeping demonic forces from uprising, and Mrs Sheringham was painfully mortal. Hannah is gone. For good. Forever. Perhaps. Yes. Even if it wasn’t for their shared history, their secret admiration for one another, Richard is all that’s left. And he may be an enemy, but he’s been one for so long, they’ve circled back to being friends.

“Isn’t it glorious?” Richard purrs, preening himself and smirking, but there’s a shadow of something else in his eyes and Zak knows his mask isn’t fully in place.

Richard’s pointing at the green-tinged sky, the blackened buildings. The corpses littering the road.

“If you really believed that, you’d be down there amongst the debris, dancing,” Zak intones, and he just sounds world-weary. Shame there’s no world to be weary of.

“Debris? Your precious wards are now nothing but debris? You’re colder than I am.”

“Of course. I’m not going back to fire, sulphur and brimstone.”

The shadow settles fully into Richard’s eyes. They’ve gone black, but he doesn’t look like evil, he looks like defeat. Richard is the victor and he looks as if he has been bested at a game of his own devising. He settles next to Zak at the top of the Minster, staring around at Paradise Lost. Well, all right, York lost, but Zak’s not above hyperbole.

“For all I’ve dreamed of this moment,” Richard says, sounding too broken for both their goods, “I never actually wanted it to happen. You weren’t supposed to summon the Apocalypse, Zak, you were only ever meant to come close. And here we are, at Armageddon, and at best it was a popular tourist spot, with narrow roads and railway-related industry. You know they didn’t call it ‘Chocolate City’ because of the confectionery.”

Zak wills himself not to snort. He sighs out a deep breath and apt observation. “At worst it was home to Vikings. That’s fairly spectacular.”

“I was amongst the Vikings in question. They were complete pissants.”

Zak does laugh, then, and when he glances at Richard, he’s smiling too --- more open than Zak has seen in years. Almost human.

“I’ll never understand how you don’t consider yourself a demon,” Richard says, sobering quickly. “Not when you’re like that.” He waves a hand. “Not when the alternative is working for Mountjoy.”

“I’ll never understand why you didn’t stay to fight from within,” Zak counters.

“You know why.”

Richard is angry, now. Zak can tell in the set of his shoulders, the tick in his jaw. The way Richard has turned his back, damn near imperceptibly, casting his gaze on the ruined streets below. See, Zak has always prided himself on how well he knows himself. The only creature he knows almost as well is Richard, no matter his many faces, voices, names, and occupations over thousands of years.

For a moment, more, Zak thinks they’re going to fight, just as they did months ago, haloed by stained glass. For a minute, more, Zak wants them to. He wants the physical connection. He wants to feel something other than numb.

“I’m sorry,” Zak says, quietly. It is everything he has wanted to say to Richard since he fell. It is never enough.

There’s a beat of silence. Two. Richard shudders out a breath.

“You’re not actually to blame. Not for this. You know that as well as I do. He is the one who decided to stamp on all his toys.” Richard turns to him again, imploring. He walks into Zak’s space, grips his shoulders. His wings are unfurled. “Join me in this battle. Pick the right side.”

Zak wanted to feel, but he is shocked by how rapidly emotion could overcome him. His throat chokes up and he flails. Eventually his hands settle against Richard’s waist. They feel so natural there.

“I can’t. You know that.”

“He hates you, he pushed the big red button just to spite you!”

“I might be able to change his mind. Nothing is certain.”

“Death and taxes, and this was both. You would sacrifice yourself rather than fight him?”

“I wouldn’t be fighting him, would I? I would be fighting my friends. Our friends. That’s the choice I can’t make. Maybe you’re braver than I am, maybe you’re just ruthless, but I am not you.”

“More’s the pity. I thought we were friends. You’ve fought me.”

“You struck me first.”

“Lies. The damage was yours. Your rejection cut as deep as any knife. And now, what do you do? You twist, dearest Zak, you turn.”

Richard isn’t lying. His head is pounding and his eyes beginning to sting, because it’s true. Mistakes have been made, and most by him.

They haven’t moved apart. If anything, they are closer, mere inches from one another. This is when the heavens open and it begins to rain. Even the rain is limned with green. Zak wonders whether it’s acid. It would be just like Mountjoy to be watching and decide to break this up, when Zak teeters at the precipice, close to tumbling down. Go to Heaven, go directly to Heaven, do not pass Hell, do not collect 200 whippings. The arrogant prat would probably think he’s doing him a favour, not counting on Richard’s potential as a Get Out Of Hell Free Card.

It doesn’t feel like acid. It tastes of nothing at all. Zak leans forward, pressing their foreheads together.

“I have to right my mistakes. And you know you want me to, really. You miss your playthings. You miss the sport. Mountjoy is the only one who can reverse this decision.”

“So you will suffer at his hand for a mere possibility?”

“Rather than suffer at yours? I should jolly well say so.”

Zak cradles Richard’s jaw, exhaling against his cheek. Richard closes his eyes, grips tighter against the juncture between Zak’s neck and shoulder.

He knows himself well. He’s aware of his weaknesses and his strengths. He has a keen idea of how to get around them, when the need arises. He also knows when he has to admit to them, when he has to bow down and concede defeat. Being long-suffering, world-weary, bitter to his very core because he is always the one paying the price, raging from within? That is Zak’s lot in eternal life.

“Toss me off, then,” Zak says, matter-of-factly. Richard gives an undignified snigger.

“You haven’t asked for that in ninety-three years.”

Zak grins, beatific, faltering for a moment when he realises he’s grinning against Richard’s kiss. It is vicious and tender, all at once. Desperate and searching. It is complication and desire. He licks against Richard’s teeth, seeks deeper entry, claims all he can claim.

And then he is falling, but not the way Richard wants. Not the way he wishes he could go down, in his heart of hearts. He reins in his wings, doesn’t let instinct take hold. Zak plummets.

And at the end, when all is gold, and he’s staring up at Mountjoy’s smug triumph, Zak rises and punches the bastard right in the mouth. And while he who overcomes by force, hath overcome but half his foe, Zak knows he could be content with small victories, by dint of the shock in Mountjoy’s eyes.
Tags: eternal law, writing

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