Not by Bread Alone
Written for Yuletide 2005. Thanks to Livia for many helpful suggestions and to Spike and Te for listening.

Zeke wouldn't have minded the wallet from the sky so much if it didn't always whack him right in the head.

"Thanks," he said to the sky, rubbing his temple ruefully before stooping down to pick it up from the street. As usual, it was bulging. He didn't even look inside them anymore; he didn't need the temptation.

In fact, it would be fair to say that he needed temptation less than any guy now alive.

At least he could turn in the wallet without going out of his way. As he walked down the street towards work, a hooker whistled at him from the shadows.

"Hey, baby, first taste is free!"

"Good morning to you, too," he muttered, catching a glimpse of her spectacular figure out of the corner of his eye. More cheating. He knew damn well from his time on the beat that hookers on the street never looked that good. Satan should have his own fashion magazine. If he didn't already. Ros always did say they were evil.

Three more hookers in the next five minutes. They should unionize. On the next block, a pretty housewife gardening. In a very, very short skirt. The gardenias needed a lot of attention, apparently. He just managed to avert his eyes, then spotted the pair of teenage boys walking towards him, taking up the whole sidewalk. Zeke sighed again and moved to the side, but one of them still managed to drive his shoulder right into him. Deliberately.

"Watch where you're going, old man!" the kid sneered, and they both laughed. Punks. In the old days, Zeke would've flashed the badge, roughed them up a bit, just to make sure they knew the facts of life. In the not-so-old days, he probably could've incinerated them, and he could've at least enjoyed thinking about it.

Nowadays...he looked down and laughed. It was actually becoming easier, as time went by. He got it now, why Satan always used to leave him in a swirl of laughter.

While he wasn't watching the street, a little old lady ran over his foot with her wheelchair. Clearly someone disapproved of that line of thought. He smiled at her beatifically. "Do you need help with those stairs, ma'am?"

Between that and filling out a found-property report, he was a good ten minutes late clocking in. His lieutenant yelled at him for at least fifteen minutes. Zeke tried hard to look chastened, apologizing over and over again. When the lieutenant started to speculate that he was late because he'd stopped for a quickie with the hookers, he did his best not to break out laughing. Like the rest of them, the lieutenant never remembered afterwards, but it went faster if he just went along.

It was another typical day of being alive. Suspects ran, requiring him to scale rusty metal fences that shredded his hands. Suspects' girlfriends slapped him and called him names he hadn't even heard in hell. Babies peed on him, then giggled and kicked him in the chin. His partner spilled coffee on him and pretended not to notice he'd done it. Dunkin' Donuts was sold out of French crullers. The car's air-conditioning flickered on and off all day. The clock even stopped--literally. Zeke was almost positive that he lived at least five hours between four and the end of his shift at six. But he chased and mopped and ate inferior donuts with a smile.

Finally, it was all over, and Zeke headed back to his desk to get his jacket before taking off.

"Hey," the civilian aide called, "there's a guy waitin' to see you, Stone."

Zeke glanced over. Satan was sitting on the bench in a very bad suit and spindly eyeglasses, the picture of a low-grade defense attorney--or a used-car salesman. As Zeke approached, he was enthusiastically advising a greasy little guy next to him, "Bribery! It's what's for dinner! I'm sure I can refer you to an associate who can--"

"Give me that," Zeke said, snatching the card out of his hand before the greasy guy could take it and glancing at it. "'Wolfram and'--you know, offering legal services without a license is a crime in this jurisdiction."

"Of course," Satan said, unruffled. "Evil always aspires to keep all the profits to itself."

"What do you want?"

Satan glanced around. The greasy guy edged away. The aide was buried in her fashion magazine. "To congratulate you, Ezekiel."

"Congratulate me? On what?"

Satan spread his hands. "It's been forty days since you got your life back. I was sure I could win you back, but you made it. All my temptations were for naught."

Zeke dropped down on the bench next to him. "You mean, this was a test?"

"A probation. There are precedents. I must say, I'm starting to worry about you. Forty days without a mortal sin--it just isn't natural, Ezekiel."

"It's not natural to go to hell and then get brought back to life for a second chance, either."

"No, I suppose it isn't." Satan stood, and Zeke could see that for once there was less--well, less verve there. "Well, I just wanted to tell you personally. You've defeated me, Zeke. Clearly, over the years we've worked together you've become something quite special. I'm off to lick my wounds now. And possibly one of those hookers you keep passing up. Toodle-oo."

"Thank God," Zeke muttered, slumping down before Satan could go. "I didn't think I could take it another day."

Satan stopped in the doorway. "Oh, my, my, my. You're such a disappointment to me."


"Not even a little pride, at the end, to trip you up?" He turned around, shaking his head. "You've become downright depressing."

Zeke stood up, half-irritated, half-amused. "Do you ever stop playing games?"

Satan considered it for a moment, then shook his head. "Not really. I have my responsibilities, after all." He sighed. "I will miss you, you know."

Then, without warning, he grabbed Zeke by the shoulders and kissed him. His mouth was soft and dry and surprisingly cool, like a breeze into an overheated room. When he let Zeke go, he was grinning again, sparks in his eyes. "Ah-ha!"

"What the--?"

"You enjoyed that! I felt it! My work here is done!"

"Hang on a sec," Zeke said, "I didn't kiss you, you kissed me. I'm not married anymore, and we didn't have sex. That's gotta be venial, at worst."

"But I'm a man, Zeke--or, at least, I'm wearing the form of a man you knew in those tender, charged years of your adolescence. You must know--"

"I've had some quality time with the Bible, thanks to you," Zeke said. "I happen to know that the new guy never said a word about it."

Satan grimaced. "It's actually getting annoying, how many people are figuring that one out."

"It really cuts into your wins via despair, huh?"

"You have no idea." Satan leaned close. "Tell anyone else about this, and there will never be another French cruller in this town until the day you die."

Then he was gone, leaving behind only a whiff of sulfur and a particularly undressed girl on the cover of the aide's magazine.

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