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Lounge Lizard

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Zhu Irzh hadn't meant to do more than tease when Detective Inspector Chen ordered him to take a room for the two of them at a demon lounge. His hand was paining him too much to allow him to give in to his usual baser instincts. Besides, the other man was married, and though Zhu Irzh himself normally worked in promotion of vice, he somehow didn't think that to do so now would improve his working relationship with Chen.

Still, he thought, it might be a nice distraction from the pain, not to mention the sacrifice of yet another item of his wardrobe. A badly-timed kiss was all he'd been able to share with the beautiful Leilei and that seemed like years ago. Certainly no recompense for having needles stuck in his hand.

Though his usual preference was for the dark, tempting delights of demon girls, he had, on occasion, dallied with his own gender. It was just a shame that there were so few male demons worth bothering with, given, as they were, to powermongering and mind games that bored him. And they always insisted on drinking blood, which he didn't care for. The resulting migraine inevitably spoiled the mood, leaving him trying to talk his way out of an assignation gone bad and hoping that he hadn't annoyed someone important.

No, the women were much easier to please, even spirited ones like Ren Ji. It was simply a matter of knowing what they wanted. Demon women might have varied tastes but as a vice officer, he knew all about that.

Human women, he preferred to avoid. It wasn't as if he ever found himself so desperate as to have need of one, after all, and they were such fragile creatures. They didn't care for his tail much, either.

Human men were equally fragile. Not to their own kind, perhaps, but to a demon's senses all humans were a delicate concoction of blood and bone, held together by layers of soft, thin skin that was easily torn. Their lives could be measured by their heartbeats.

Chen, he considered, was not like other human men, and not just because he had chosen a demon for his wife. The mortal policeman called upon the power of immortals and walked side by side with fiends, behaviour that did not endear him to his colleagues. Yet he continued to do it not out of a sense of rebellion but because his duty required it - his loyalty to his work, not his superiors. Of necessity he was flexible about his working conditions - how many other officers would be willing to travel to Hell on a case? - and it was evident that he had no problem working with Zhu Irzh simply because they happened to be of different species.

How far might that flexibility extend? Zhu Irzh was curious. As Chen worked on healing his swollen hand, the demon distracted himself from the sight of the needles by watching his saviour from under nearly-closed eyelids. There was something comforting about the frantic movement of Chen's lips as he murmured the healing mantra over and over again, striving to save Zhu Irzh's "life". It was only fair, since he had saved Chen a few times now, the demon's cool, hard body acting as a shield for his more vulnerable mortal counterpart.

The scar tissue marring Chen's palm was rough against the tender skin of Zhu Irzh's hand but he didn't flinch from it. Rather, he made an effort to relax, letting his arm lie limp across Chen's knee and pretending the excruciating agony from the wound inflicted by the salamander meant nothing to him. Screaming in a demon lounge wasn't unusual by any means, but prolonged bouts of it without at least some matching sounds of pleasure would attract unwanted attention. If Chen's healing failed, Zhu Irzh would be in no shape to dispose of intruders, and he rather suspected Chen wouldn't be at full strength, either.

But he had nothing to fear on that score. The needles embedded in his hand burned away, leaving it healthy, no thanks to the Ministry of Epidemics. His fever had gone too, though he felt a delicious heat inside that had nothing to do with the salamander. Zhu Irzh thought he knew the reason. His arm was still resting on Chen's knee and the human seemed in no hurry to rise from his crouch.

It was too bad they couldn't afford to stop for a while. Unfortunately, the longer they remained in the demon lounge, the greater the risk that they would be found, betrayed by some greedy street rat desperate for Hell money. There was no time to make use of the soft rugs on the floor and show Detective Inspector Chen his gratitude.

Instead, he had to settle for a verbal thank you, as sincere as he could manage, and a brief squeeze of Chen's wrist. Later, if they both survived, Zhu Irzh might take the opportunity to learn if Chen was as gentle a lover as he was a healer, or if the steel he'd shown in their first meeting ruled him in bed as well as in fights. He thought not.

And that small part of Zhu Irzh, that care and conscience so unbecoming to demonkind, warmed to the idea.