“For goodness’ sake, Daniel, would you relax? You’re shaking the whole building.”
“Sorry,” Dan mumbled, forcing himself to stop tapping his foot. Chloe was supposed to be on this stakeout with him, not Lucifer, but when he’d arrived at the abandoned apartment building where their suspect was due to meet his clients later that night, Lucifer had already been in the upper level apartment they’d commandeered, cheerily informing him that there’d been a change of plans. So instead of waiting for a hitman to show his face with the cop he trusted most, Chloe was outside in the surveillance van, and he was here with Lucifer.
With the Devil.
Who was currently lounging with his feet up on the folding table, crunching loudly on cool ranch puffs.
Dan wasn’t sure which one of them he should blame. He hadn’t been avoiding Lucifer, exactly, but he also hadn’t been alone with him since that night at Chloe’s reunion, when he’d seen his eyes turn red and glowing, like two coals. Just for an instant, but it had shaken Dan to his core.
He’d believed in things like heaven and hell and the devil when he was a kid, but he’d given up the idea that there was any kind of divine order to the universe long before he’d finished Catholic school.
He realized he’d started tapping his foot again. With an effort, he stopped.
Lucifer eyed him, his eyes their normal shade of brown—black in the semidarkness. They’d left the lights off to conceal their presence, and the room was illuminated only by the lights filtering in from outside. “Daniel,” he said, in what he might have thought was a soothing tone. “I’m not going to hurt you. If I was, you’d be, well, hurting.”
Dan let out a strangled laugh. “Forgive me if I don’t find that very comforting.”
Lucifer tossed another puff into his mouth, frowning as he chewed. “Why not?”
“Why not?” Dan repeated, dumbly. “You’re the Devil.”
“So? I’m still me.”
“What?” Lucifer raised an eyebrow, his tone getting sharper. “Evil? Are you afraid I’m going to hurt the detective? Your daughter? Because I wouldn’t. Not ever.” He dropped his feet back down to the floor, eyes glinting. “I hope you know that, at least.”
“Of course I know that,” Dan said quickly, and he did, but— Evil was exactly what he’d been going to say, and Lucifer knew it. Dan could see it in the stiff set of his shoulders, hear the hurt in his voice. He sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ve worked with you long enough to know that you—you’re not evil.” Careless, self-centered, violent, but he cared about bringing justice to evildoers. He wasn’t one himself. And he’d put himself in danger to save Chloe multiple times, not caring that he was vulnerable to injury himself when she was near. Dan didn’t quite understand that part, but it was enough to know that he’d put himself in harm’s way to keep her safe, no matter what.
Lucifer relaxed. “Thank you.”
“Sure.” Dan fidgeted, looking sidelong at his companion. It wasn’t that he’d been afraid of Lucifer himself, exactly, Devil or no. Something else had been eating at him, ever since he’d seen that flash of red in his eyes. Because he’d done things. Things he wasn’t proud of. “I—um.”
“Do you know?”
“Do I know what, Daniel?”
Dan swallowed hard. “Do you know who’s going to Hell?”
Lucifer let out a breath, as though the question had knocked the wind out of him. “No. Not definitively, anyway.”
“How—” Dan cleared his throat, not sure if he wanted the answer to the question he was about to ask. “How do you decide?”
“I don’t.” Lucifer’s eyes shone in the moonlight. “You do. It’s your guilt that sends you to Hell.”
Dan flinched and looked away. So. That was it, then. His guilt would damn him.
“Worried for your soul, Daniel?” Lucifer asked.
Dan barked a laugh. “I haven’t exactly led a life free from sin.”
Lucifer was silent for a long moment, and then he reached over, awkwardly, and patted Dan on the shoulder. “Well. You’ve changed your ways, Daniel.” He hesitated a moment. “I’ve seen true evil, and believe me, you’re not it.”
“Thanks.” Dan shrugged his shoulders, oddly moved. “I’m trying.”
Lucifer quirked an eyebrow at him. “Is that what all that improv is about?”
Dan rolled his eyes. Chloe’s voice crackled over the radio, providing a welcome distraction. “Hey guys, heads up. Our target is approaching the building. On my mark.”
Outside the SWAT team would be moving into position through the shadows, surrounding the building. Dan drew his weapon and motioned for Lucifer to stay behind him.
“Ready?” he whispered. Lucifer nodded, tense and watchful, and Dan reflected that it wasn’t so bad having the Devil at his back after all.
Lucifer followed Daniel down the darkened hallway to the stairwell, trying to shake off the uneasy feeling their conversation had left him with. It had been his idea to take Chloe’s place at the stakeout, ostensibly because their suspect’s latest client owed Lucifer a favor, and being inside the building rather than in the surveillance van would put him in a better position to call it in, but that was just an excuse for him to get Daniel alone.
He knew that Chloe had explained things to Dan, but if anything, the fear in his eyes had gotten even worse after that. Chloe had said to give him time, and Lucifer had tried—but patience had never been one of his virtues, such as they were. The other detective had been distressingly adept at finding somewhere else to be every time Lucifer had wanted to talk to him over the last few weeks.
He didn’t know if he felt better or worse after their conversation. Dan wasn’t afraid of Lucifer so much as he was afraid for his own soul, and Lucifer couldn’t do anything about that, save to hope that when his time came, his guilt wouldn’t weigh on him too heavily.
They emerged onto the ground floor to find their backup team already in place, black clothes blending in with the shadows. Dan motioned them to wait while he and Lucifer crept to the one door on the hall with a strip of light under the door. Lucifer touched the knob and the lock released. He pushed it open.
The gun that swung toward him made Lucifer very glad for the kevlar vest Chloe had insisted on, even though it did nothing for the lines of his suit.
“Oh, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said, flashing his most dangerous smile at the gunman—one Andrew Cole, wanted for at least half a dozen murders and a suspect in four more. “I’m afraid we have you surrounded.”
Beside him, Dan leveled his gun at Cole. “LAPD,” he said. “Drop your weapon.”
Ignoring their standoff for a moment, Lucifer turned to Cole’s latest client and tsked, disappointed. “Really, William. I didn’t help you to your success so you could go around hiring hitmen. I’m going to be calling in that favor, now.” William Tucker, who Lucifer had helped to a very lucrative career in the restaurant business, paled. “You’ll lose everything, but you’ll get to live. Understand?”
William’s eyes darted from Lucifer to Dan to Cole, who still stood pointing their guns at one another. He gave a jerky nod.
There was a third person in the room, a slim, dark-haired woman who had arranged the meeting between Cole and Tucker. She put her hands up the moment Lucifer and Dan had walked in, perfectly calm.
None of them noticed when she tapped out a message on the smartwatch at her wrist as the backup team swarmed into the room.
The night outside was cool and starless, the tiny pinpricks of light drowned out by city lights and the bright floods that had been set up outside the building by the time they emerged, Dan leading Cole in handcuffs, William and the woman escorted by other members of the backup team. Lucifer leaned against a squad car and watched appreciatively as Chloe made her way over to him, stopping along the way to talk to various members of the police force who had joined them that evening. He loved watching her work, seeing the way the officers and other detectives deferred to her, her easy confidence as she moved among them.
“That was almost too easy,” she commented when she reached him.
“Don’t say that,” Dan said, coming up on Lucifer’s other side. “You’ll jinx it.”
Lucifer raised an eyebrow at him. “I thought you weren’t one for superstition, Daniel.”
He grimaced. “I wasn’t. Then I found out that you’re—you know.”
“Yes?” When Dan didn’t answer, Lucifer sniffed. “I can assure you, Daniel, that while my father is a right manipulative bastard, jinxes are a bit too small-time for him.” Lucifer bit back the words that almost tumbled out next—how jinxes were more Uriel’s thing, and Uriel, well—
He didn’t want to talk about Uriel. Or think about him.
“That’s reassuring,” Dan muttered.
Chloe eyed them both, concern on her face. “You guys okay?” she asked. “How was the stakeout?”
“Fine,” Dan answered quickly, flashing a scowl up at Lucifer.
Lucifer grinned slyly in return and slung an arm around Dan’s shoulders. “We had quite an insightful talk,”
Dan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, whatever, man. I’m just glad you’re on our side.”
Chloe looked back and forth between them with a fond expression that set warning bells off in Lucifer’s head. “Detective, if you call us ‘cute,’ I’m going to—”
“What?” She grinned at the two of them. “You’re adorable.”
Dan shrugged Lucifer’s arm off and moved away. Lucifer opened his mouth to reply, indignant even as he relaxed into their banter, but Chloe’s sudden frown made him turn and follow her gaze over his shoulder. A pair of headlights was swinging around the corner, a large black SUV slowly rolling up the narrow street to them.
“That’s odd,” Chloe murmured. “The street should be blocked off.”
A window rolled down.
“Gun!” Chloe yelled, dropping down into a crouch and pulling Lucifer and Dan down with her in the shadow of the car’s bumper. Other voices echoed her cry, and the sidewalk around them erupted into chaos. Gunshots rang out. Chloe drew her weapon and edged forward, peering around the car’s bumper. Lucifer stayed close to her, looking over her shoulder.
The car swerved and barreled into the staging area, accelerating as it came toward them.
Time seemed to slow.
Lucifer moved without thinking, pivoting around her and pushing her back, away from the oncoming car and into Dan. He shoved them both hard enough to send them flying, out of harm’s way. He had just time to hope that they would land safely in the overgrown bushes that grew along the building’s brick wall before the car slammed into him.
He heard more than felt the impact: a scream of metal and rubber as the SUV hit the squad car, a muffled crunch that seemed to reverberate in his core, his own truncated grunt as air was forced out of his lungs.
He gasped for air, pushed against darkness closing in at the edges of his vision.
Sound, rushing back: shouting, footsteps, sirens. Lights flashed and spun, made the street around him tilt and whirl dizzyingly. He rolled to one side and tried to push himself up, make the world around him right itself, but pain bloomed down his side, hot and sharp. He curled around it, unable to stop the strangled cry that escaped his throat.
“Lucifer!” Chloe’s voice. A familiar pair of shoes appeared on the sidewalk in front of him.
“‘tective?” She knelt in front him, swimming in and out of focus. Was she hurt? He couldn’t tell.
“I’m right here, I’m fine.”
“Daniel?” His voice came out thin and choked. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath. He tried to push himself up again.
“He’s fine, too. Don’t try to move.” She shrugged out of her jacket, slipped her hand behind his head and tucked it under him. “Hold on, there’s an ambulance coming.”
“No.” He shook his head, or tried to. Someone was holding him still. Not Chloe. Her hands patted him down gently, making pain flare across his ribs, his belly. Feebly, he tried to push her away. “No hospital.”
“What’s he saying?” Dan’s voice. He was kneeling on the pavement beside Chloe. His jeans were torn.
Lucifer pushed Chloe’s hands away again. “Go,” he gasped out. “I’ll—heal.”
“Not if you’re dead, you won’t,” Chloe snapped. To Dan, voice low and tense, she said, “He’s not bleeding, at least.”
He blinked up at them, trying to focus against the stars that danced across his vision. Not bleeding. Of course he wasn’t. He couldn’t bleed. Except he had, that time Chloe shot him, and again, when Malcolm had, so he could after all, because Chloe made him mortal. He had died once—twice. And now maybe again. He gulped air, fighting unconsciousness. She had been in danger, he had—what? Headlights, blinding him, a screech of metal and breaking glass. There had been a car, and then nothing, and now this. Pain. A feeling like a great weight sitting on his chest, knives piercing him every time he tried to take a breath. His heartbeat, rapid and fluttering. And spinning, everything spinning around him, until he felt he might be flung out into the dark.
“Hey.” Chloe bent towards him, her face filling his vision, hands on either side of his face. “Hey, look at me, Lucifer. Stay with me, okay?”
He focused on her with effort. “I can’t—can’t breathe.” There were scratches on her face. Blood dripped from a deep one above her eyebrow. Was that because of him?
“Sure you can.” Her fingers stroked his temples. “Come on. In and out. Nice and steady. Okay?”
He tried, heard the whimpering sounds he made with each labored breath, and couldn’t make himself care.
“They’re here.” Dan’s voice, faint and far away. Chaos bore down him, voices and hands jostling him, more flashing lights and pain sparking with every touch. Chloe vanished from his field of vision and he looked around in vain for her. He made a sound, tried to form his lips around her name.
“I’m right here.” Chloe’s voice broke through, steady and reassuring. Darkness was closing in but he found her looking down at him, felt her hands on his face, fingers carding through his hair. “They’re going to do something to help you breathe, okay? Hold on.”
Air on his skin. Something cold on his chest, and then a hot stab of pain and a rush of air into his lungs. His inhale was agony but finally, finally, he could get enough air. The next one was easier, still sending piercing pain down his ribs, but it was dulled by a sensation of warmth flooding through him, muffling him in grayness. Something hard pressed against his cheeks, the bridge of his nose.
Chloe found his hand and squeezed. “I’m right here,” she repeated. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Everything that happened after that was a jumble of confusion, bright lights and strange voices and a chill seeping into him, but he held onto the sound of her voice, even when she couldn’t go with him. I won’t be far, I’ll see you soon, she said, and he believed it, because she never lied to him.
Linda met Chloe at the hospital not long after she got there with the ambulance, found her in the ER waiting room, and pulled her into a tight hug.
“I’m sorry,” Chloe said as they broke apart. “I didn’t know who else to call. Maze is out of town, and Dan had to stay and—”
“Of course you should have called me,” Linda cut in. She looked her over, taking in Chloe’s scratches and bruises. “Any time. How is he? What happened? Are you okay?”
“Our perp’s organization didn’t want him talking,” Chloe said with a grimace. She sat beside Linda in one of the molded plastic chairs along the wall, recounting the events of the evening. “One of our guys shot the driver and the car came right at us,” she concluded. “Lucifer pushed me and Dan out of the way, and . . .” She trailed off, remembering the twisted up cars, sirens and alarms blaring, and Lucifer lying crumpled on the sidewalk, struggling to breathe.
Linda patted her arm. “He’ll be okay,” she said.
Chloe nodded, but she wasn’t really paying attention. She couldn’t shake her last glimpse of Lucifer as they’d wheeled him away, looking up at her with eyes full of confusion and trust over his oxygen mask.
Trust that she didn’t deserve.
She knew better than to hold herself responsible for things that she had no control over, but it had been her decision to stay with Lucifer, knowing her presence made him vulnerable. It was her fault that he was hurt—her fault that he was still hurt, instead of back at Lux knocking back whiskies and playing the piano while the sun rose outside.
It was too dangerous to leave him, she told herself for the zillionth time. She didn’t know how far away she had to be before he’d start healing, and he’d already been in shock, pale and sweating as he struggled to breathe. She was afraid he’d be dead before she got far enough away. But that meant prolonging his pain, and leaving him with strangers while she waited out here.
“Chloe?” Linda’s voice cut into her thoughts.
Chloe shook herself and gave a weak smile. “Sorry. I just . . .” She swiped at her eyes. “I’m not sure if I did the right thing. He wanted me to go, so he could heal, but . . .” She trailed off again, sniffled. “I was afraid to leave him. I was afraid he’d die before I got far enough away.”
Linda put her arm around her, rubbing circles on her back. “It’s okay. He’ll be fine,” she assured her. She hesitated. “Have you tested it? I mean, do you know how far away you have to be from him for your . . . effect to wear off?”
Chloe shook her head. “Didn’t think to. I suppose we should, once he’s—” Her throat closed again.
“Once he’s healed,” Linda finished for her, her voice calm and soothing. Grounding. “After they get him stabilized I’ll stay with him and you can go to the penthouse and get him a change of clothes, and he’ll be fine by the time you get back.”
“Right,” Chloe said. He’ll be fine. Unable to keep still, she jumped up and began pacing the length of the waiting room. The buzzing of the fluorescent lights overhead set her teeth on edge. He’ll be fine.
I swear, she thought, eyes drifting toward the ceiling. Whatever plan you’ve got for him, whatever reason you wanted me near him, you better not let him die.
Unless he’s supposed to die, and that’s why I’m near him.
The nagging thought made her scowl. I won’t let that happen.
The time crawled by. She paced, and then sat, and paced some more, until Linda suggested they go see if the cafeteria was open. It wasn’t, so Chloe ate a bag of peanut M&Ms, choked down a cup of weak vending machine coffee, and paced some more.
Finally, a nurse appeared at the entrance to the waiting room and called Chloe’s name. She hurried over to her, Linda close behind her. “Right here. Is he okay? Can we see him?”
“We’ve just got him settled in a room. I’ll take you up.”
Chloe only half-listened to the nurse explaining his injuries as they walked, the tests they would do tomorrow, the likelihood of spinal trauma, how lucky he’d been. She peered into the darkened room they stopped in front of. She could just make out the shape of him in the bed. “Is he awake?” she asked impatiently. “Can I see him?”
The nurse nodded, gesturing her into the room. “He’s been drifting in and out. He’s a little disoriented.”
It was strange to see him so still, Chloe thought. He looked small and vulnerable in the hospital bed, tubes and wires trailing from him, but she was relieved to see his breathing was easy and unaided, eyes closed and features relaxed. He stirred when she took his hand, eyelids fluttering.
She perched on the chair next to the bed, reaching over the rail to stroke his forehead. “Hey. I’m right here.”
Lucifer blinked at her, eyes focusing slowly. He gave her a dreamy smile. “ ‘lo.”
“Hey,” she said again, carding her fingers through his hair. “How are you feeling?”
“Like ’m floating.” He squinted at her. “You’re floating, too.”
She chuckled. “I think that’s the drugs.”
“Mmph? Drugs?” He picked his head up, peering curiously around the room and then down at himself, studying the IV in his arm. “Good drugs,” he mumbled, laying back with a satisfied sigh. “Why’m I in th’hospital?”
Chloe winced. Metal and breaking glass sounded loud in her memory. She bit her lip and closed her eyes against the tears that wanted to fall. “You got hit by a car. Remember?”
Recognition flickered across his face, and a flash of something that looked like fear. His focus turned sharp and clear for a moment. “You’re all right?”
“I’m fine.” She squeezed his hand.
“He’s fine, too.”
“Good.” His head relaxed on the pillow, his gaze turning vague again. He reached up with his free hand to touch the scratches on her face. “ ‘m sorry.”
Bewildered, Chloe took it, running her thumb along the ridge of his knuckles. “Sorry? What are you sorry for?”
“Didn’t mean to hurt you.”
She wasn’t sure if the sound she made was a laugh or a sob. “Hurt me? Lucifer, you saved me. You’re the one who’s hurt.”
“ ‘m fine.” He let his hand fall back to his chest.
“No, you’re not.” Chloe blinked against the stinging in her eyes, swallowing the lump that rose in her throat. He would be, but he wasn’t right now, and it was at least partly her fault. She made him vulnerable.
And he’d been protecting her. Again.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “If it wasn’t for me . . .” She trailed off, swiping at her eyes with the back of her hand. Stop it, she told herself sternly. This isn’t helping. She took a deep breath and forced herself to smile at him. “Linda’s here. I’m going to go so you can heal, okay? She’ll stay with you.” She looked around for the doctor, found her standing back near the doorway, and beckoned her over.
Lucifer looked back and forth between them as Linda came to stand beside Chloe, a confused frown on his face. “You’re leaving?”
She reached over the rail and cupped his cheek in her hand, stubble rough under her fingers. He leaned into the touch. “You won’t heal if I’m here.”
“‘m fine.” His eyes were growing heavy. He blinked a few times, fighting a losing battle.
“Shh, I know.” She leaned down and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “Sleep. I’ll see you when you wake up.”
He mumbled a reply that Chloe couldn’t make out, eyes closing, finally. She waited until she was sure he was asleep before she got to her feet, but she couldn’t quite make herself move. She stayed where she was, clutching the bed rail with both hands and looking down at him. Linda’s gentle touch on her shoulder made her start.
“Go on,” she said gently. “I’ll call as soon as it’s safe for you to come back.”
“How long do you think it’ll take?”
Linda looked down at him. “I don’t know. A few hours? Maybe longer. He’s hurt pretty badly.”
Chloe nodded. The longer she lingered, the longer it would be before he could heal. She wiped the tears away from her eyes and forced herself to put one foot in front of the other until they carried her out of the building.
She managed to hold herself together for the entire ride to Lux, with a blessedly taciturn Uber driver, through the emptying club and into the elevator.
It was the empty penthouse that made her fall to pieces.
The elevator doors had barely closed behind her before her throat closed and the tears came hot and fast, blinding her. She groped her way across the familiar space, up the stairs to the bedroom and to the bed. She curled up there, burying her face in his pillow and breathing in the scent of him, and sobbed until she fell asleep, the necklace he’d given her for her birthday clutched in her fist.
It was nearly dawn by the time Dan left the precinct, aching and exhausted, but instead of heading home he stopped for coffee and drove to the hospital. He knew Linda was there with Lucifer, and he could go home, but— Lucifer had saved his life, and Chloe’s, and Dan didn’t think he could sleep anyway, tired as he was. He owed it to him to stay awake and with him until he recovered.
He grimaced at the thought. He did feel he owed Lucifer, but it wasn’t obligation that drove him now. He liked Lucifer, despite himself, and he’d actually missed him these last few weeks, at the same time as he’d been terrified of him.
Well. Not terrified of him, exactly. Terrified of what he represented. Terrified of what it meant that he was really the Devil.
Dan wasn’t sure that he felt any less terrified, now that he knew that it would be his own guilt that sent him to Hell, but their conversation during the stakeout had had the effect of restoring some equilibrium. He couldn’t forget that Lucifer was the Devil, but he could remember that he was many other things as well—annoying, infuriating, oddly charming, and an unexpectedly good, if strange, friend to have.
A point Lucifer had proved when he’d gone and stepped in front of a car to save Dan and Chloe.
His memory came in vivid, disjointed flashes: the car turning down the alley, Chloe’s shout, the sharp cracks of gunshots, trying to disentangle himself from Chloe and the bushes they had landed in, disoriented and breathless.
The pavement had been cold, seeping into the knees of his jeans as he knelt and held Lucifer’s head still to keep him from hurting himself more. He’d been gasping, unable to get enough air to make more than strangled sounds of pain when Chloe touched him, checking for open wounds, and he’d looked up at the two of them in confusion and fear, lips forming words Dan couldn’t make out but Chloe seemed to understand.
Fear. Dan’s hands tightened on the wheel as he pulled into the hospital parking lot. The Devil had been afraid. Somehow, knowing that, Dan couldn’t leave him alone.
Lucifer was his friend, after all.
He knocked softly on the open door to Lucifer’s room, startling Linda out of her doze. The brightening sky outside washed the room in pale light.
“Hey,” he said, his voice low. He glanced at Lucifer, felt a release of tension he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when he saw him breathing on his own, deep and slow, one hand resting on his chest. “How’s he doing?”
Linda sat up and stretched, rubbing her neck, and glanced at the monitors above the bed. “Better.” She took the cup of coffee he offered. “Thanks,” she said, sipping it.
“Has he been awake at all?”
“In and out. Mostly out.”
“Yeah.” Dan scrubbed his hand through his hair, and then tucked it into his back pocket. “I, uh, I can take over, if you want.”
Linda eyed him, taking in his torn jeans, the scratches on his hands and face, the dark circles under his eyes. “Are you sure? You look like you could use some rest.”
“I’m fine.” His gaze lingered on Lucifer’s sleeping form for another moment, and then he looked away. “I, um.” He gestured, feeling awkward. “He saved my life. I want to.”
“Ah.” Linda made a sound of understanding. She started to reach for her jacket, then hesitated. “Do you want to talk? I don’t have any patients until this afternoon. I can stay.”
“Thanks.” Of all the people who might understand, it was Linda. But— “I think . . . another time, maybe,” he said.
“I know how frightening it is.” She nodded toward Lucifer. “Finding out it’s all . . . real. My door’s always open.”
He nodded, grateful. “I appreciate that.”
Once she’d left, he sat down in the chair and propped his feet up on the corner of the bed. He didn’t mean to fall asleep, but in the early morning quiet, after the adrenaline rush of the last several hours, sleep didn’t take long to find him.
The dream was familiar, vivid and immediate as memory, which of course, it was. Dan sat on the cold concrete floor of a dirty basement, his hands bound behind him around a post, desperately trying to work his way free. Malcolm had left him there and gone to kill Lucifer, and Dan could feel the time ticking away. He hated Lucifer, but he couldn’t let Malcolm murder him.
He didn’t want to have the man’s death on his conscience.
The plastic knife he’d swiped from Malcolm cut through the plastic zip tie with agonizing slowness. Dan gritted his teeth, working steadily, until frustration finally drove him to try to muscle his way out and, to his surprise, the thick plastic snapped open. He looked at his free hands in disbelief for a few seconds before he dashed up the stairs and threw his shoulder against the flimsy door.
He tore through the formal party at Lux, barely registering the guests gathering around him. No one seemed to notice him in his filthy jeans and disheveled hair as he smashed the button for the elevator impatiently, breathing hard as much from anxiety as exertion. “Come on, come on,” he muttered, watching the lighted numbers slowly tick down.
The ride up to the penthouse seemed to take twice as long as it should have. Two gunshots sounded in quick succession just as the doors opened. Malcolm looked up at him from across the room.
“Oh, no,” Dan whispered. “Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh no. No, no, no.” He staggered out of the elevator and almost fell, barely catching himself against the bar.
Malcolm grinned. “Too late.”
“No!” Dan shouted, grabbing furniture to support himself as he made his way over to him, dropping to his knees beside the two bodies at Malcolm’s feet.
Red stains bloomed on their chests, blood spreading out beneath them. Chloe’s face still wore a surprised expression, eyes wide, mouth open in an “O” of surprise, or pain. Lucifer’s eyes were closed, as if asleep, one hand reaching toward her.
Dan extended a hand toward each of them, the woman he loved and the man he thought he hated, but who didn’t deserve to die. He looked up at Malcolm, vision blurring. “Why?” he demanded.
Malcolm shrugged. “Why not?”
With a roar, Dan launched at himself at him—or tried to. A hand grasped his shoulder, holding him back. He fought against it, frantic, while Malcolm stepped back toward the elevator, laughing.
“No!” Dan yelled again, trying to go after him as the doors closed.
“Daniel!” The voice was dimly familiar: deep, refined, with an English accent. Dan growled and tried to pull away, but the hand on his shoulder gripped tighter, shaking him. “Daniel! Wake up.”
Lucifer’s voice. Dan looked around, frantically, blinking in sudden bright sunlight. It was day, the penthouse was gone. Light streamed into the hospital room from the window behind him.
Hospital room. Right. Lucifer sat up in bed, leaning over the rail to grip his shoulder. Dan blinked at him, still trying to shake the remnants of the dream. “You’re awake,” he observed, stupidly.
Lucifer released him and sat back. “So are you.” He raised an eyebrow. “Bad dreams?”
“Yeah.” Dan raked a hand through his sweaty hair. And then, for some reason, he felt compelled to explain. “It was about Malcolm. About—when he tried to kill you. I was too late to save you, and—and Chloe. In the dream, he kills both of you.”
For a moment, Lucifer looked like he was going to say something flippant, but all that came out of his mouth was, “Ah.” After a moment he went on, “You do realize, Daniel, that Malcolm didn’t kill either of us, even though you were too late?”
Dan snorted. “Thanks for the reassurance.”
“He didn’t kill me,” Lucifer repeated, insistent. “I talked him out of it, and Chloe wasn’t anywhere near me at the time. Remember?”
They were both silent for a moment, Dan still trying to get control of his trembling, Lucifer looking uncharacteristically thoughtful.
“You know, also, that you’re not like him?” Lucifer asked.
Dan blinked. “What?”
“You’re not like Malcolm.”
Dan opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again, but no sound came out. Finally he shook his head. “I helped him. I covered for him. I . . . it was small stuff, at first, you know? A little cash from a crime scene, a few bags of weed. We were friends, and it wasn’t hurting anyone, but then . . .” he trailed off. “Then it was, and I was in too deep. I couldn’t stop him without incriminating myself. So . . . I didn’t do anything.”
“You tried to make things right. Ineptly, but you did try.”
Dan smiled, humorless. “My intentions were good?” he asked. “‘Cause we all know where those lead.”
Lucifer shrugged. “Sometimes. I’m not saying you didn’t do bad things, Daniel, but you weren’t the same as him then, and you aren’t now. You said you wanted to redeem yourself, didn’t you? I’d say you’ve at least begun.”
Dan flushed, suddenly embarrassed, and looked away. “Oh,” he said. And then, “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Lucifer’s grin flashed, self-satisfied as ever. “And since I so bravely saved you from getting run over by a car last night, you have plenty of time.”
Dan huffed a laugh, half-annoyed, half-embarrassed. “Yeah, um. Thank you. I’m not ready to go to Hell just yet.”
Lucifer eyed him. “How about we work on you not talking like you’re inevitably going, hm?” He clapped Dan on the shoulder. “Maybe start seeing a therapist. I know a good one.”
Dan was a big enough person to concede that neither suggestion was a bad one. Maybe he’d take Linda up on her offer to talk. “You’re being oddly insightful,” he said.
“Must be the morphine.” Lucifer looked regretfully at the IV in his arm. “Though it doesn’t pack nearly the wallop it would if the Detective were here.”
Dan sat up straight at Lucifer’s mention of Chloe, fully awake now. She’d want to know the second she could come back. He paced over to the window while it rang, trying to stretch out the kinks from his legs and neck from sleeping in the chair.
Behind him, an alarm went off at the same time as Chloe’s sleepy voice answered the phone. Dan turned to see Lucifer pulling the heart monitor leads from his chest. “Don’t—” he started, then winced as Lucifer found the tube sewn in between his ribs and gave it a sharp tug. He looked away.
“Dan?” Chloe asked, urgent and alert, the sleepiness gone from her voice. “What is it? Is everything okay?”
Dan glanced back at the Devil. Lucifer was wiping blood away from unbroken skin with his hospital gown. “Everything’s fine. Lucifer’s awake.”
Footsteps pounded in the hallway outside and a nurse burst into the room, looking frantic. Lucifer gave her a dazzling smile. “Completely back to normal.”
“Tell her I need some clothes,” Lucifer said, raising his voice to be heard over the shrill beeping.
“Did you hear that?” Dan asked Chloe.
Chloe chuckled. “Yeah. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Tell him I said to behave himself.”
A second nurse ran into the room, pushing an equipment-laden cart, followed closely by a doctor with a no-nonsense air about her. Lucifer’s smile flashed again. “I don’t suppose one of you could turn these off?” Lucifer asked the three women who stood, stunned, in the doorway. “They’re making a terrible racket.”
The doctor was the first to react. She shook herself, edged around the cart, shooed the two nurses out of the room, and turned off the machines, glancing every few seconds at Lucifer with disbelief and curiosity.
“How?” she asked, when the room was quiet again. She was tall, with light brown skin and dark hair pulled into a tight bun. She looked him up and down, shaking her head. “You—you were—”
“Was I?” Lucifer cocked his head to the side, smirking. “It’s a miracle.”
“No such thing.” She pushed the hospital gown aside and pressed her hands to his sides, palpating his ribs.
Lucifer sat up straighter. “Oh, hello,” he purred. Dan rolled his eyes, but the doctor ignored him, fitting her stethoscope to her ears. Lucifer flinched at the touch of the cold metal and opened his mouth to say something else, but the doctor shot him a glare so sharp he closed it with a click and obeyed when she told him to take a deep breath.
If Dan hadn’t been a little terrified of the woman, he would have laughed. Or applauded. Or both.
“Impossible,” she muttered when she’d finished, hanging the stethoscope back around her neck.
Lucifer raised an eyebrow. “Hardly.” He gestured to his bare torso. “Gorgeous, god-like, but not impossible, I promise you that.”
“I’d like to run a few tests—”
He frowned. “Really? This doesn’t interest you at all?” He peered at her. “Are you a miracle, too?”
“You’re a patient.”
“I’m a lesbian.”
“Aaah.” He sat back with a smile, leaving the hospital gown around his waist. “Six on the Kinsey scale, are you? I usually have at least some effect, even on people who don’t usually like men.” He winked at Dan, who definitely did not blush.
The doctor pressed her lips together. “As I was saying, I’d like to run a few tests. Whatever happened—”
“Oh, no, I’m afraid I don’t have time for that,” Lucifer interrupted. He even managed to sound regretful. “Parties to attend, banks to rob, you know.” He grinned. “All that cocaine isn’t going to snort itself.”
“Lucifer.” Dan sighed.
“If you could just stay for a couple hours so we can make sure—” the doctor tried again.
“Hours!” Lucifer repeated. “I should think not.” He turned to Dan. “Where’s the Detective? I’d’ve thought she’d be here by now.”
“It’s been five minutes,” Dan pointed out. He turned to the doctor. “I’m assuming there’s some paperwork he’s going to need to fill out?”
She looked back and forth between them. Finally she settled on Lucifer. “You were admitted last night with multiple fractures and massive internal injuries, and now you’re sitting here like nothing happened. You’re not even bruised. Aren’t you even a little curious?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, darling,” he said blandly.
She stared at him, looking like she wanted to argue, then sighed. “I’ll send someone in with the paperwork.”
Lucifer watched her go, then turned to Dan, frowning. “What was that all about?”
“You did recover overnight from having your chest bashed in by car,” Dan pointed out, unsympathetic. Lucifer pouted.
He brightened a little when the young woman who brought his paperwork blushed at his smile, and then proceeded to hand the clipboard over to Dan with barely a glance at it.
“Does this room have an en suite?” he asked, tossing his blanket aside.
“It’s not a hotel, Lucifer.” Dan winced and shielded his eyes from the open back of Lucifer’s hospital gown as he got to his feet. “Dude, no one wants to see that.” He definitely didn’t check out the Devil’s ass. Even if it was an extremely shapely ass.
Lucifer grinned over his shoulder, wiggling his butt in Dan’s direction. “I beg to differ, Daniel. Quite a few people find this view quite enjoyable.” He winked at the nurse, who blushed. “Is there a bathroom?” he asked.
“Just—just over there.” She pointed.
“Lovely.” He smiled at her again, and quirked a sardonic eyebrow in Dan’s direction.
Dan dropped back into the chair and rested his head against the back. “Chloe’s on her way!” he called after him, and added silently to himself, Thank God.
Chloe arrived at Lucifer’s room breathless, having white-knuckled her way through L.A. traffic and raced through the corridors, and stopped short in the doorway. He was sitting up in bed, looking innocent while Dan tried to explain something to him in an exasperated tone, but Chloe didn’t pay attention to what he was saying. She drank in the sight of him—his hair mussed, face pale under his beard, and not a mark on him to indicate that a few hours ago she’d been holding his hand in an ambulance, listening to his ragged breathing while he slipped in and out of consciousness.
He saw her and smiled, whatever he’d been doing to annoy Dan forgotten. “Detective!”
Chloe’s vision blurred. She dropped the bag she had packed for him and threw herself at him, knocking him back against the pillows and wrapping her arms around him. “You’re really okay,” she said into his shoulder, her voice thick. She hadn’t quite believed he would be.
His arms came up slowly, returning the embrace more gently. “Of course I am, my love.” He shifted, pressing her back just enough so he could dip his head and look at her face, concern and confusion on his. “Did you think I wouldn’t be?”
“Yes!” She sat back and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “No. I don’t know. I didn’t know what to do. We never talked, we didn’t have a plan for if—I don’t know how far away I have to be—” She clamped her mouth shut. She was babbling, all the thoughts and fears that had been whirling around in her mind spilling out without any sense. She took a deep breath.
“Detective,” Lucifer said, gentle. He cupped her face in his hands. “I’m quite all right, I assure you.” She nodded, tears spilling down her cheeks again, and then gave a hiccuping laugh when his stomach growled. He grinned. “Famished, but otherwise perfectly fine.”
She laughed again, suddenly aware of her own empty stomach. “Me, too.” She climbed down off the bed and retrieved his bag. “Here, get dressed. We’ll go get something to eat.”
Dan cleared his throat, standing. “I think that’s my cue.”
Chloe started, her face coloring. She hadn’t even said hello to him. “Dan,” she began, guiltily.
He smiled. “It’s okay, Chlo.” He gripped her shoulder as he passed her.
She knew he meant it, but she followed him out anyway, pausing with him in the hallway. “Thanks,” she said.
He waved a hand. “Don’t worry about it.”
“I know, but—”
“He saved both of us. And he’s my friend, too,” he added.
Chloe smiled. “I’m glad.” Impulsively, she hugged him. “I mean it. I’m glad that you two . . . that you’re okay. With knowing about . . . everything.”
“I’m getting there.”
She released him. “I know it’s hard, Dan. If you want to talk . . .”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. He jerked his head toward the closed door. “Go on. I think he’s ready to get out of here.”
“Okay. But, Dan—”
“I’ll talk to you later, Chloe.” He kissed her cheek. Chloe watched him retreat, then went back inside.
By the time they finally managed to leave the hospital, Lucifer was thoroughly ready to be quit of the place. Trying to get a rise out of the doctor had been fun, as had flirting with the nurses and annoying Daniel, but the paperwork was boring and took forever, the sheets were scratchy and smelled of disinfectant, and he was starving.
He stretched his legs out alongside the booth they shared, enjoying the feeling of expensive fabric against his skin. He wouldn’t feel completely right again until he’d had a shower, but for now his own clothes and the smells of bacon and coffee at the hole-in-the-wall diner they’d found were more than enough to overpower his lingering sense of uneasiness. He wrapped his hands around his mug and sipped. It was nothing like what he stocked at home, but right now it tasted like the best coffee in the world.
He smiled at Chloe over the rim of the cup. She smiled back, but only briefly, sipping her own coffee. She was hollow-eyed, exhausted, and he knew that was because of him—because she’d been worried about him—but he couldn’t figure out why she still looked so tense, why she kept shooting him worried glances, as though she thought he might break.
“Detective,” he finally said. “What is it?”
“What?” She frowned and gave herself a little shake, seeming to come back from somewhere far away. “Nothing.”
“You keep looking at me like you think I’m going to crumble to dust.”
She tensed, her eyes going suddenly bright. She blinked rapidly, looking away, and didn’t answer.
He reached across the table and covered her hand with his. “Detective?”
“It’s because of me,” she said finally. She looked up at him, eyes still wet. “You get hurt because of me.”
“What?” He frowned. “Detective, don’t be ridiculous.”
“You do,” she insisted. “I make you vulnerable, and then you protect me, and—”
“Of the two of us, a speeding car is going to do a lot less damage to me,” he pointed out, unaccountably irritated. With her? That didn’t make sense. Why was he irritated with the detective? And yet, he couldn’t seem to quell the sense of friction rising in his chest.
“I know. I just . . .” She trailed off, falling silent when the waiter arrived with their food. Unable to decide, Lucifer had simply ordered everything and the menu that appealed to him, but now, as the waiter set plates of eggs and French toast and pancakes on the table, he didn’t want any of it.
Chloe picked up her fork and poked at her omelette, but didn’t take a bite. “What if all of this is a mistake?”
He felt like he had rocks in his stomach. “What?” His voice scraped his throat. “A mistake?” He choked on his next words, managed, “Us?”
“No, no,” she said quickly, eyes going wide. She reached for him across the table again. “I mean—our job is dangerous, and I make you vulnerable, and—you get hurt when you’re around me. This isn’t the first time . . .”
“You know that doesn’t matter to me.”
“It matters to me. Lucifer, last night, seeing you like that . . .”
“It wasn’t any fun for me, either,” he said, irritated again, not knowing why.
“We need a plan,” she said, repeating what she had said earlier at the hospital. “If it happens again.”
He scowled. “The plan is, if I get hurt, you get as far away as you can, as fast as you can.” He immediately regretted his sharpness when he saw her wounded expression, but he couldn’t seem to control his tone, either. He wanted to crawl out of his skin, still prickling with the discomfort of waking up with tubes and wires sticking in him, and the feeling of being watched under a microscope.
“We need to test it.” The hurt was gone from her face in an eyeblink, replaced with a determined scowl. “See how far away I have to be, so I know—” She broke off, her expression softening. “Are you okay?”
“What? Fine.” He shoveled a forkful of eggs into his mouth to prove it. They tasted like glue. He swallowed with difficulty, chased them with a gulp of coffee. What he really wanted was his flask, but it was in the bag with his ruined clothes in the car. He felt shaky, too hot and too cold all at once. His heart pounded in his chest.
“Hey.” Chloe slid into the booth next to him. “I know you were scared, too.”
He shook his head. “I’m fine.” He blinked, trying to clear his vision, and scrubbed a hand through his hair. His hand trembled, ever so slightly.
“Hey, look at me.” She took his hand, steadying it between hers.
“Detective, I can’t—” He took a shallow gulp of air. The feeling of steel bands wrapped tight around his chest was back and he was lying on cold pavement again, darkness closing in. What was happening? “I can’t—can’t breathe.”
“Sure you can.” Her voice was low, soothing. She slid her free hand under his jacket, pressed it flat against his ribs. Not like the doctor had at the hospital; that had felt invasive, clinical, however he had tried to play it off like he’d enjoyed it. Chloe’s hand felt warm and solid through his shirt, familiar and reassuring. “In and out, nice and steady.”
“I can’t—” He gasped, felt his throat constrict.
“Yes, you can,” she said. “Come on. With me.” She took a deep breath, and he did, too, following automatically. He felt his ribs expand against her hand. “Again. Focus on me, okay?” She cupped his cheek with her free hand.
He obeyed, focusing on her eyes, her touch, solid and grounding. The tightness in his chest began to dissolve. He drew another breath, swallowed convulsively. The diner came back into focus around him, but mostly Chloe filled his vision, looking intently at him.
“Better?” she asked.
He smiled weakly back. “A little.” Still trembling and too cold, now, but the room had stopped closing in on him, and he could breathe again. He realized he was clutching her arm and loosened his grip.
She stroked his cheek with her thumb. Her eyes were still bright, he noticed. “This is scary for both of us. We’ll figure it out together, okay?”
“Detective . . .” His voice came out plaintive. “Why didn’t you leave?” He felt he should understand, and yet he couldn’t fathom it. She knew he would begin to heal as soon as she got far enough away. Why hadn’t she gone? Unbidden, his vague memories of the night flashed before him again, bright lights and strange voices and no pain, but almost worse than pain—surfacing into consciousness to a body that wasn’t his, that he had no control over, and she hadn’t been there. He pushed the memory away before it could steal his breath again.
She gave him a small, tight-lipped smile. “I didn’t know how far away I had to be. You were—you could barely breathe. I was afraid—afraid I wouldn’t get far enough away in time and then—then you’d be alone. You’d—you’d die alone.” She looked up at him, gave a little, helpless shrug. “I was afraid,” she repeated.
“So was I,” he admitted. And then, because it was true: “I didn’t want you to leave.”
“It doesn’t make any sense.”
She surprised him by laughing. “Since when does any of this make sense?”
He blinked, and felt a smile pulling at his lips, as well. “I think we make perfect sense, Detective.” She made more sense than anything in his long life.
She smiled. “I suppose we do.” She glanced at the untouched food spread before them, then looked around and signaled the waiter. “What do you say we get out of here?”
He agreed fervently.
Chloe didn’t want to break contact with him at all as she drove them back to the penthouse. She kept reaching for him, needing to make sure he was still real, still there, still okay. He seemed to need the same reassurance, and rested his hand on her knee when she needed both hands to drive. She stole glances at him as they crossed L.A. back to Lux. He still looked dazed, his eyes a little too wide, skin a little too pale under his beard. His smile, when it flashed, lacked its usual cheeky sparkle.
He looked so lost. It had been there when she’d gotten to the hospital, a hollowness, though he’d hidden it behind his flirting with the nurses and declarations of boredom. Back in the penthouse he went straight to the bar, only pausing long enough before pouring a drink to deposit the stack of takeout containers from the diner in the fridge under the bar. He filled a tumbler and took a long draught.
Chloe sidled up to him and took the glass when he’d finished. She sighed as the whiskey burned down her throat, warming her. He looked down at her, raising an eyebrow, and she shrugged. “It was a long night,” she said.
A smile tugged at his lips. “I think I’m having a bad influence on you, Detective.”
“Shut up,” she said, and stretched up on tiptoe to kiss him.
For an instant he didn’t respond. She felt him tense in surprise, and then soften, his hands coming up to cradle her face. She slid her fingers into his hair, pulling him closer. She felt like she couldn’t get close enough to him, the layers of fabric between them too much distance. She wanted to touch every inch of him, assure herself that he was whole.
He tugged at her jacket, pulling it off her shoulders, and she let it drop to the floor, broke the kiss long enough to pull her shirt over her head and went to work on the buttons of his shirt. His skin felt warm and soft against hers, the motion of his breath expanding his chest and belly against her reassuringly solid and real.
“Detective, are you sure—”
“Yes.” She crushed her lips to his, stumbling backward with him to the bedroom, shedding clothes as they went. She fell backward onto the bed, sighing as the length of his body fitted to hers and she invited him further, inside. He shuddered against her, burying his head in her shoulder, his breath hot on her neck.
It wasn’t what she’d imagined the first time with him would be--there was a different kind of desperation in both of them, as though they might fall to pieces if they didn’t cling together. She ran her hands down his back, tracing the lines where his wings should be, feeling him whole and uninjured under her fingers. He shuddered again, finding release, and slid his hand between her legs to give her hers. She arched under him, whispering direction and encouragement until she came, too. He kissed her, whispered her name against her lips. Chloe, not Detective. And, Please stay.
She held onto him, not wanting to let go even as her breathing slowed and her body relaxed, languorous in the aftermath. “I’m right here,” she said, kissing him back. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Sleeping in Lucifer’s bed with him beside her was far superior to sleeping in it alone, Chloe thought as she drifted out of her doze and stretched luxuriously in the afternoon light filtering through the sheer curtains. Trixie was with Dan for the night, which meant she could stay right now, lazing in bed with the Devil—with her Devil—as long as she wanted. He lay sprawled beside her on his belly, facing away from her. She watched the steady rise and fall of his back as he breathed, then reached over and traced the outline of two teardrops around his shoulder blades, the lines of scars that had faded to a bare shimmer and bloomed into wings.
He stirred at her touch, picked up his head and turned to face her, blinking sleepily. He smiled. “Hello,” he said.
“Hey.” She stroked his cheek, carded fingers through his hair. “How are you feeling?”
He sighed, content, and ran his fingertips down her arm. “Like I’m floating.”
Chloe smiled back. “Me, too.”