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burn with your faith or don't even bother

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After her first meeting with Agnes, Jude thinks about fucking her. Of course she does. Agnes is a direct extension of her new God — and she is both beautiful and suffering. It lurks in the lines of her mouth and the angle of her wrists as she holds the boiling tea she never drinks. So Jude bets she would look beautiful suffering, too, with three of Jude’s fingers buried in her.

She’s right, of course.

Agnes calls Jude to her one night. Jude has been hungry, itching to fuck someone over and leave their life a smoldering wreck. But this? This might be better. Getting to touch her God, proxy or no proxy.

Agnes is sitting on her metal bed in her metal room when Jude walks in. She’s wearing a nightgown as old-fashioned as her name, and her hair hangs loose into her face because she is too perfect for curlers. Jude covets that hair. She wants to pluck out one of the curls and burn it to ash. It would smell awful. She’d let it stain her fingers so it would always be part of her — untouchable.

Agnes would not let her if she asked.

Jude folds her hands behind her back. She is a servant of their God, nothing more. Unspeakably and unfailingly devoted, yes, but a servant all the same. And Agnes thinks they all have too much fun with their service already. Jude can’t understand her. It’s as if she can see nothing beautiful in the act of breaking something down so far it ceases to exist, leaving only the outlines of ashy fear behind.

Agnes thinks they should suffer the same as the miserable humans they destroy. She thinks it should be penance.

That’s what tonight is. For Agnes, of course, not Jude. For all that she purified with the rest of them, Agnes was strangely principled.

So when Jude tells her to undress, she does. There are hints of pink flesh as Agnes pulls the thin, ruffled thing over her head and drops it on the floor. It starts to melt slowly into goo. Agnes doesn’t seem to care. The floor is already hot, and grows hotter still, though the metal isn’t yet liquefying. Two months ago, it would have bubbled Jude’s feet. Now the roiling pain only adds to her steadily growing arousal.

She rolls her fingers over her clit. Agnes watches her, and Jude preens. She can treat this as punishment all she likes, but Agnes can’t do anything to hide the way her soft lips part and she doesn’t look away.

Jude does not question the mechanics of her body — it was a gift from her God, after all — but some times, she thinks it’s a shame that they have no blood. Like this, she can’t see Agnes’s surely beautiful blush.

Agnes is still sitting, one leg tucked over the other so Jude can’t see her cunt, but her hips are rocking in a tell-tale motion. Good. Jude has been wanting to burn that out of her. She slowly and deliberately strips. By the time her pants drop to the floor, Agnes is lying on her back against the not-quite-burned sheets. Her legs are spread. Her eyes are closed, but her fingers twitch against the sheets.

Jude straddles her, and the sheets promptly burst into flames.

“Off,” Agnes orders, and heat rakes through Jude’s stomach until it starts to approximate the towering inferno of her transformation. She huffs, but lets Agnes push her off so that she can drop the sheets to the floor. They stay there, still burning. Jude pushes her back down. It’ll be fine. It’s not like they have smoke alarms.

Agnes lets Jude pin her to the still-solid metal frame of the bed. She rocks their hips together. She’s already going soft, and Jude’s thumb sinks deeper into her than she intended. Agnes might actually need this more than Jude does.

Jude swipes her thumb over Agnes’s clit once more, enjoying the way she twists in a helpless movement, smearing herself against the bed. Then she pins Agnes’s arms above her head. Agnes takes it as the order it is, letting her hands run and stick to the bed in a functionally useless puddle.

With Agnes’s thighs pressing into her hips, Jude concentrates, letting herself melt. She’s not good at it yet and she knows it. The anger is counterproductive, and it makes her lose control. They fuse together, irreparably tangled from the waist down like a really fucked-up mermaid. There’s wax running everywhere, and Jude is suddenly aware of the texture of the comparatively cool floor as she spills over the edge of the bed.

Agnes kisses at her neck, leaving little gifts of herself, and Jude lets herself calm. Whatever. She can work with this.

Jude is good at keeping her body solid because it is the shape her mind still wants it to be, but Agnes is a master. As Jude starts to work three fingers into her — and that’s one of the things she loves about her God, that she can damage Agnes as much as she wants to, but the next time Agnes summons her she will be perfect and whole again — Agnes starts to soften around her. Not like Jude had before, but just enough so that she melts space where none should be. Enough for Jude to fit her whole fist into, if she wanted to.

She does want to. Her skin is solid but heat surges off it, and Jude knows that if Agnes were flesh — if she were Gretchen — Agnes would be cooking around her with that lovely meat smell. Jude twists her fist, pushing up to her cervix. Agnes moans, lifting her hips up as she is split apart. The sound could be either pleasure or pain. Jude doesn’t care. It has been forever since they’ve been separate sensations for her. She neither remembers or cares what it was like.

“Who do I belong to?” Jude says in a voice that borders on a growl. The words come out strange, because her vocal cords have partially fused, but Agnes hears her. Agnes will always hear her.

“The Desolation.”

“And who,” Jude says, in that sweet voice she knows Agnes hates because of how much she loves it, “do I serve?”

“Me,” Agnes chokes out. The word sounds suspiciously like a sob.

Jude tongues a burning kiss into the skin of Agnes’s stomach. “Good,” she says simply.

Perhaps Jude isn’t as gentle as she could be when she pulls her fist back out. Bits of variously softened wax break off of Agnes and come with her. Agnes wails, head turned into her arm. There’s wax on her tongue.

Jude fuses her left palm to Agnes’s clit, providing an endless loop of stimulation as she pushes herself up and plunges her right hand through Agnes’s breast and the space where her heart isn’t. Agnes’s running face twists with something akin to grief as Jude’s palm hits the table.

And then she’s coming, and Jude grinds down, letting herself follow suit. “My God,” she moans as pleasure shudders through her and into Agnes. It tugs at the wax edges of her body. Her eyes melt across her face, running slowly down like sweat, and Jude doesn’t know herself who or what she is referring to.

She lays there, sated and running down the sides of the bed while puddled into Agnes, until Agnes starts to move, reforming through sheer willpower. Little drops of wax start to coalesce onto the unmelted wax at the center of the bed. This is the part that Jude hates, much as she would never admit it. For all that Gretchen and all the nameless women before her could never have understood the brilliant elation of destruction, Jude never wanted to stay with them. She used to be the cruel one.

Jude resists structure for as long as possible, but then Agnes’s hands are in her hips. Agnes is nearly whole herself, though she looks different now, as she does every time. Only the hair is the same. She clumps Jude’s flesh together and pats it into place. Jude slowly emerges like Galatea, formed by the will of Aphrodite. Jude reluctantly submits to the will of her God, and does not resist as Agnes directs her new body.

And then she is whole. Not a drop of wax has been missed, and she and Agnes are completely apart. Agnes does not give Jude the intimacy of wrinkling her new skin. Like this, there is a plastic, factory perfection to the two of them. Jude knows from experience that Agnes herself will only start to carve out her former imperfections after Jude leaves.

Like her hair, she keeps them the same each time, and Jude wonders who Agnes thinks she’s fooling.

Jude doesn't speak as she tugs her singed clothes back on. She knows Agnes is watching her with a blank face. It’s creepy, is what it is. Closer to the Stranger than Desolation should ever get. Her feet are hanging over the side of the bed, an almost perfect mirror of before. Jude had only made the mistake of looking back once.

She leaves. Agnes says nothing.

Jude walks straight out of the building and gets on a bus, going nowhere in particular. She isn’t being careless.

No one can figure out how the fire started, or why the doors were faulty. It makes the front page the next day, but the police admit there isn’t much they can do. The victims haven’t yet been identified. They can’t pull dental records that quickly.

Jude imagines Agnes reading about it as she plays human and doesn’t drink her tea, the way her eyebrows would raise. Her face wouldn’t otherwise change, and then she would flip the page. Jude waits.

Agnes doesn’t call her that night. Or the next.

Jude does nothing so pathetic as hope.