Lucifer stood at the top of the stairs leading down the dance floor, drink in one hand, unlit cigarette in the other, and surveyed his kingdom.
Hell had been bigger but so much darker, and where screams of agony had torn through the place, Lux pulsed with hedonistic abandon. When he came to Earth, this tiny corner of Los Angeles was all he wanted. No Heaven, no Hell, just desire, pleasure to fill the emptiness he didn’t realize was inside him.
It was different now. Los Angeles had gotten bigger, and at the same time smaller, since he met the detective and ventured out of the world he had built for himself. He still loved Lux, loved presiding over his world of pleasure and desire, but he had so much more now. So many more things he loved. So many more people.
One person, in particular.
He smiled thinking of Chloe, who, somehow that he couldn’t quite comprehend, loved him. Loved him, not what he could do for her or give her—though he would do or give anything for her. Had chosen him, again and again, even when he couldn’t see it. She made him feel vulnerable and invincible at the same time. He didn’t know how that could be possible, but it was—real and true and undeniable. Nearly dying yet again had driven that home; wanting her close even though he knew she made him vulnerable. Somehow she made him strong, too.
Miraculous, perhaps, but he didn’t like to give his father that much credit. He was happy, and that was his. His and Chloe’s. Dad could bloody well stay out of it.
His gaze wandered over the packed dance floor and booths below, people coming together, laughing, smiling, dancing or kissing and drifting apart again, or hurrying away to someplace more private, in twos or threes or fours. Occasionally someone’s gaze would find him, longing, and Lucifer felt a pang—not his own longing so much as theirs. He’d been having fewer parties upstairs, and had invited no one into his bed in months—even before he and the detective were together. He’d tried to get back to normal after Candy, but the sex and the partying, while fun, left him cold, searching. A woman caught his eye now, hopeful, and he gave an apologetic shrug and a firm shake of his head. Disappointed, she vanished into the crowd.
Tossing back the last of his drink, he made his way back to the bar for a refill and stayed there, listening to the flirting couples, the earnest, slurred conversations. A man down the bar made him frown at the way he was standing, predatory and possessive as he talked to the woman beside him. As Lucifer watched him, the man slipped something out of his sleeve and dumped it in his companion’s drink as he took it from the bartender to pass to her. He did it with a smooth, practiced motion. The bartender, who would have been watching for that kind of thing, didn’t notice.
Lucifer went cold. There weren’t many rules at Lux, but consent was ironclad. No one should be afraid in his club, and no one should have their free will taken away. He was at their end of the bar in seconds, stumbling into the woman and spilling her drink down her dress before she could take a sip. She yelped as the cold liquid hit her, jumping back.
“Oh, goodness, how clumsy of me!” Lucifer grabbed a handful of napkins and handed them to her. “I’m so sorry, darling, are you all right? I must have tripped.” He made a show of looking around for the offending foot or piece of furniture.
“Oh, I . . .” The woman laughed, flushing, her irritation fading quickly when Lucifer smiled at her. “It’s all right.” She laughed again, blotting at her dress. “It should come out.” She didn’t notice him surreptitiously grab her companion’s arm and squeeze to keep him from edging away, or hear his strangled cry.
“Of course.” Lucifer beckoned to the bartender. “Why don’t you go clean up in the staff bathroom? It’ll be more private. Corinne can show you where it is.” He drew a card from his pocket, offering it to her with another apologetic smile. “And do send me the cleaning bill, darling. I’m terribly embarrassed.”
She blushed again as she took it, stammering her thanks as she followed Corinne to the back. As soon as she was out of sight, Lucifer turned on the man, who was prying fruitlessly at Lucifer’s hand, clamped tight around his arm. An entirely different kind of smile spread across Lucifer’s face as he looked down at him.
“Now.” His eyes flashed red. “What am I going to do with you?”
The man whimpered, and a wet stain spread down his pants.
Lucifer wasn’t much in the mood for the crowded club after he’d dealt with the would-be rapist. He retreated to the penthouse after a word with the bartenders and bouncers to keep a sharp eye out and took his whiskey out to the balcony.
It was a hazy night, the city lights reflecting off smog and cloud cover to turn the sky a dull yellow-gray. He dropped his head back, looking for the stars, but not even the brightest broke through.
He couldn’t see them, but he could hear them, faintly. Musica Universalis, the old philosophers had called it. Music of the spheres. Inaudible to mortals but apprehensible in the mathematical order of the universe.
Not that Lucifer had any inclination toward mathematical precision. He’d created the stars with an ear for their music, created melodies and patterns that were pleasing to him, that moved and danced and could never really be stripped down to numbers and equations. One of the worst parts of Hell had been being cut off from them. Their light, their music.
Impulsively, he tossed back the last of his whiskey, unfurled his wings, and launched himself off the balcony to soar above the haze that hung over Los Angeles. Up here, the light and the music came through more clearly and he bathed in it, riding the updrafts, letting the cold, thin air wash away his lingering rage at the man who’d tried to take advantage of the sanctuary he’d created at Lux.
He flew higher, his wings catching celestial currents as well as earthly ones, until the lights of Los Angeles merged into a blurry splotch on the curve of the Earth below. He didn’t attempt to broach the border to the Silver City but drifted in between, listening in the dark. He’d been using his wings more, recently, tentative at first, as though to use them would be giving in, but it hadn’t taken him long to remember the joy of them. It had been Chloe’s suggestion, and Linda had encouraged it, that he claim them as his instead of trying to pretend they didn’t exist. He still didn’t think of himself as an angel anymore, but his wings, well—they didn’t make him an angel, and they gave him what he craved, what he’d always claimed as his: Freedom.
Maybe it doesn’t matter, Chloe had said, after he’d told her everything. We can do what we want. And maybe they could. Maybe he could. He looked deeper into the dark, toward the border with Heaven, toward his father. Maybe you don’t matter, he thought, defiant.
The only answer he received was silence—not that he’d expected anything different. He rolled onto his back and drifted lazily, gazing at the densely packed wash of stars that formed the swirl of the galaxy, letting their music wash over him.
But something was wrong, he realized as he listened. There was a faint discord, notes and rhythms that tripped up the music like a clumsy dancer stomping through a waltz. Fingers of shadow plucked through the divine light and sound.
Lucifer spiraled deeper into the sky, listening, watching. The shadow seemed to follow, dimming the light around him. Curious, wary, Lucifer watched it draw closer, until it brushed by him and a burning cold seized and held him, plunging him into darkness.
He gasped, struggling. Cold fingers burrowed into his mind. Lucifer tried to slam down his mental defenses but it was too late. The intelligence—whatever it was—dug deep.
It whispered to him. Lucccciifffffeeerrrr. A long hiss. Lighttttttbringerrrrrr.
The sibilant whisper, more felt than heard, spiked terror into him. Lucifer fought, wild, and suddenly he was back in the soothing light of the stars. The shadow and the discord were gone, but he couldn’t be sure if he had expelled it or if it had let him go. He hung there for a moment, trembling, then folded his wings tight against his body and dove.
He landed on the penthouse balcony in a shivering heap, drenched in cold sweat and gasping for air. The night was warm but he was freezing, his joints stiff with bone-deep—soul-deep—cold. He stumbled to the outdoor fireplace and fumbled to turn it on, huddling close to the flames with his wings wrapped tight around him.
The cold didn’t start to melt away until the sun crept above the horizon.
Chloe was surprised to see Lucifer already at the downtown hotel dispatch had summoned them to when she pulled up. She’d had to delay to drop Trixie off at school, but it was still early. He stood leaning against the Corvette and looking at his phone, looking uncharacteristically rumpled.
She raised an eyebrow at him as she approached. “Good night?”
He glanced up at her, tucking his phone into his pocket as he pushed away from the car. “Awful.” He reached for her coffee and gulped half of it down.
Chloe raised her other eyebrow as he handed it back, annoyance fading to concern. Standing close to him now, she could see the dark circles under his eyes, the tension in his shoulders.. “What happened?”
“I’m not sure.” He reached for her coffee again and Chloe handed it over. He flashed a quick smile, part thanks, part response to her worried frown. “Bad dreams. I’ll tell you later.”
The smile didn’t reassure her, but she nodded slowly. “Okay.” She reached for his hand and squeezed as they headed inside, and found his fingers cold. He squeezed back, flashing her another smile, but pulled his hand away, clasping it around the warm coffee cup. Chloe bit her lip, trying to put her worry aside. His hands were never cold.
She gave herself a shake as they reached the taped-off hotel room on the 10th floor, and Lucifer somehow smoothed away the haggardness that had seemed so prominent a few minutes ago. She focused on the scene. The hotel room was clean, middle-of-the-road, looking lived-in enough to suggest their victim had been staying there for a few days, at least. He lay on the floor near the bed, facing away from them. Blood soaked into the carpet around him.
“What’ve we got?” she asked Ella as they approached.
“Dead guy.” Ella straightened, letting her camera rest on the strap around her neck. “Single wound, right through the heart. Whatever it was ripped him up pretty good.” Her mouth twisted in pity. “Poor guy.”
“Weapon?” Chloe asked.
Ella shrugged. “Sharp and jagged,” she said, gesturing as Chloe stepped around the body to see the ragged hole in the man’s chest. “But that’s not the interesting part.” She squatted, beckoning to Chloe to follow, and indicated his face, half buried in the carpet. “Look.”
Chloe ducked her head so she could see better, and couldn’t stop her sharp intake of breath. Where the man’s eyes should have been were two blackened, disintegrating coals. She could see the bones of his skull around the edges of his eye sockets, black and shiny. The skin around his eyes bubbled with blisters, stained with soot, but an inch or so beyond the skin was untouched.
“A message?” Ella wondered aloud. “He saw something he shouldn’t have?”
“Maybe,” Chloe murmured. She looked up at Lucifer, still standing a few feet away with a disconcerted frown on his face as he stared at the corpse. “What do you think?”
He glanced from the body to her, walking slowly around it to stand behind Chloe and Ella. “I know this man,” he said at last.
Chloe got to her feet. “You do?”
“I ejected him from Lux last night,” he said, eyes still on the man’s ruined face. “I caught him trying to drug a woman’s drink.”
Chloe squeezed her eyes shut, willing herself to patience. She rubbed her temples. He’s doing his best, she reminded herself, before she said, “Lucifer.”
“Why didn’t you call the police?”
He blinked. “I—” He closed his mouth with a click, looking like a chastised schoolboy. “Well—um.”
Chloe sighed. “If he tried that once, you can bet it wasn’t the first time. You can’t just handle things like that yourself.” Though no doubt he had before, dozens of times.
They all looked down at the dead man.
“He can’t do it again now,” Ella observed darkly. Chloe glanced at her, surprised at the hardness in her voice.
“No,” she agreed.
“Bastard got what he deserved, if you ask me,” Ella bent to take another photograph and frowned, sniffing. “Do you smell urine?” she asked, sitting back on her heels.
Now that Ella had pointed out, Chloe noticed it. “Yeah,” she said, wrinkling her nose.
“Looks like he pissed himself,” Ella said, indicating the edges of a dried stain on his pants.
“I made him do that,” Lucifer volunteered. He glanced at Chloe, saw her scowl, and raised his hands defensively. “I didn’t kill him! I simply put the—well, the fear of me into him and sent him on his way.”
Ella grinned, bouncing to her feet, and high-fived him. “Nice!”
“It was rather easy,” Lucifer said, preening. “Men like him are usually cowards.”
Chloe rolled her eyes, though privately she agreed that the man had gotten what was coming to him.
“Well, at least we have a possible motive.” She glanced at Lucifer. “Could you identify the woman he tried to drug?”
He frowned. “Detective, surely you don’t think she killed him? She didn’t even know what he had done.”
“No,” Chloe said. “But it’s a place to start. Once we get an ID on him we’ll see if he has a record. I imagine quite a few women have good reasons to want him dead.”
“Very well. I told the staff to make sure she got home safe. They may have gotten her information, or at least have the name attached to her tab.” He turned toward the door, then hesitated and turned back. He reached down and squeezed Ella’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Miss Lopez. There’s a special place in Hell for men like him.”
Ella sat back on her heels and gave him a wistful smile. “Sometimes I wish you really were the Devil, and then I could know for sure.”
Lucifer opened his mouth to protest, but Ella laughed and went back to her work, waving him away. “I know, I know. You really are.”
Chloe couldn’t help chuckling as he tried to process Ella’s dismissal. He shook himself and looked down at her when she slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow and gave his arm a squeeze. “Detective . . .” He trailed off. “About last night . . .”
“I know. Just—call the cops the next time, okay?”
“Come on, let’s go see if we can track this woman down.” She wrinkled her nose at him, teasing. “And maybe get you a shower and a change of clothes while we’re at Lux.”
To her great relief, he gave her a cheeky smile. “Oh, are you going to join me?”
She waited until Ella was out of earshot before she answered. “If you ask nicely.”
He grinned, a real smile that made his eyes gleam with mischief. “Pretty please?”
Chloe talked to the bartenders while Lucifer went upstairs to shower, pouting at her refusal to join him. Sure enough, there was a message for Lucifer with the woman’s name—Margot Vincent—an address in Echo Park, and a note about cab fare.
She pocketed the note and puttered around the penthouse while she waited for Lucifer. She made herself another cup of coffee and took it outside on the balcony, noticing as she went that his bed didn’t look slept in at all. She frowned. Hadn’t he said he’d had bad dreams?
Something caught her eye when she went outside, a gleam at the base of the balcony railing. She bent look more closely and found a feather, brilliant white in the bright morning air. She picked it up, troubled.
“What happened last night?” she asked when Lucifer came outside, impeccably coiffed and dressed. He saw the feather and paused in the act of fixing his cufflinks in place.
“Honestly? I’m not sure.” He joined her at the railing.
“You said bad dreams.”
“I can’t be sure it wasn’t.” He took the feather from her. “I . . . encountered something.” What he described made Chloe shiver: a material darkness moving through space, a darkness that seemed sentient, that had grabbed hold of him and wouldn’t let go.
Mostly, it frightened her that he was frightened.
“What do you think it means?” Chloe asked when he had finished.
“I don’t know.” He tilted his face toward the sun and closed his eyes, basking in it. “Maybe it was just a bad dream,” he repeated, sounding unconvinced.
“Maybe.” Chloe watched him absently twirling the feather between his fingers while he let the sunlight warm him. She hesitated. “But I’m glad—I’m glad you were flying.”
He opened his eyes and hitched one shoulder up in a shrug. A smile pulled at his mouth, somewhere between pleased and uncomfortable. “You and the doctor seemed to think it would be a good idea.”
“And?” Chloe asked. “I mean, last night notwithstanding, how has it been?”
“Actually—good.” He smiled. “Last night notwithstanding. I’d forgotten how good it is.” He looked back up again, eyes open this time, squinting into the pale blue.
Chloe smiled back and reached for his hand. It was warm again. “I’m glad.”
Margot Vincent opened her door to their knock with an uncertain frown. “Mr. Morningstar?” She glanced back and forth between the two of them. “Is, um, I mean--” she stammered.
“Ms. Vincent.” Lucifer smiled at her and she seemed to relax, the way that people so often did around him. “So sorry to bother you. How are you doing this morning?”
“Oh, um, fine. Is this about last night? It really wasn’t a big deal, there wasn’t even a stain—”
“Ms. Vincent?” Chloe cut in gently. She reached for her badge. “I’m Detective Decker with the LAPD. Can we come in?”
“LAPD?” she repeated faintly, looking back and forth between them again.
“It is about last night,” Lucifer said, catching her eye and smiling again, gently. “We have a few questions about the man you were with.”
“Oh.” She stepped aside and let them into the tiny studio apartment. “I’m not sure how much I can help. I just met him last night.” She perched on the edge of the unmade bed, gesturing for them to take the two chairs by the cluttered kitchen table. “What happened?”
“Can you tell me about last night? How did you meet him?” Chloe asked, ignoring the question for the moment.
She shrugged. “I took a break from dancing with my friends and went to the bar for a drink. He came over and started talking to me. He said he was in town for a few days on business.”
“What did he say his name was?”
“Brett.” Margot shrugged again. “Honestly, I didn’t really like him. I was just going to have the one drink to be polite. He was really . . . intense. Aggressive.” She hesitated. “Did he do something?”
“He tried,” Lucifer muttered. Chloe gave him a dark look, then nudged him. He cleared his throat. “Right.” He turned back to Margot, who had been watching their exchange curiously. “Miss Vincent, I spilled your drink because I saw him slip something into it.”
She paled. “You—oh. Wow. Did he—? I mean, to someone else?”
“Not last night,” Lucifer said.
“He was found dead early this morning in his hotel room,” Chloe said.
Margot went even paler. “Oh, God.”
“I don’t think he had anything to do with it,” Lucifer said. Chloe kicked him.
“Did you see him again after that?” Chloe asked.
Margot shook her head. “No, I . . . The bartender took me to the staff bathroom to clean up, and she gave me cab fare.” She glanced at Lucifer, who nodded encouragingly. “I went home not long after that, around 1. I was out with my neighbor. We shared the cab home.”
Chloe took out her pen and notepad. “It’s just routine, but I’m going to need verify that. Can you give me her name and number?”
“Of course.” She was stammering again as they got to their feet to leave, walking them out. “I guess, um, thank you, for stopping him,” she said to Lucifer.
He waved her thanks away. “It’s quite all right. I don’t condone that sort of thing at Lux.” He gave her a brilliant smile. “I hope you’ll come back sometime.”
“I . . .” She smiled back, tentative, clearly dazzled.
Chloe rolled her eyes and gave his arm a tug. “Come on.” She nodded at Margot. “Thank you for your help. We’ll let you know if we have any other questions.”
“What?” Lucifer asked, letting himself be pulled along. “I can’t let that scoundrel leave her with a poor impression of Lux!”
“Or of you?” Chloe teased.
Lucifer scowled. “No one commits rape under my roof.” He got in the car, slamming the passenger door hard. “Lux is a den of sin, not violation.”
Chloe touched his shoulder, trying to ground him. “No,” she agreed. “It’s not.”
They spent the next few days running down leads to one dead end after another. Brett Kelly came to LA frequently to manage his real estate business, and had a long list of complaints against him, though a cadre of expensive lawyers had kept anything more than a restraining order from sticking. He had a reputation in his professional life for trying to cheat clients and partners on deals.
All in all, no one seemed sorry to see him dead, but anyone with a motive had an alibi that checked out, and by the end of the week Ella still hadn’t been able to identify either of the weapons—what had stabbed him or burned out his eyes. Chloe was frustrated enough to call it quits and join Lucifer at Lux as soon as 5pm hit on Friday, though she’d been working late all week, trying to find some sort of lead on Kelly’s murder that would stick. Lucifer saw her stomping toward the bar and had a shot of whiskey waiting for her when she got there. She knocked it back, held it out for him to refill, and downed the second as quickly.
He raised his eyebrows. “Rough day at the office?”
She scowled at him. “You’d know if you were there.”
“You said I was getting in the way,” he pointed out, refilling both their glasses and setting the bottle back behind the bar. Not that he hadn’t had things to do—a set to practice with a musician he’d agreed to do a favor for (she won’t be another Delilah, he told himself, he’d look out for her, as best he could); auditions to hold for dancers; squaring things with a new tailor who’d tried to hoodwink him with subpar fabrics. None of it was terribly important. Mostly, he was occupying himself until he could be useful to the detective again.
She grimaced. “Sorry,” she muttered. She perched on a stool and leaned her elbow on the bar, sipping from her glass more slowly, now. “Lots of people hate this guy, but it doesn’t seem like anyone killed him. And I can’t find anything to suggest that he saw or knew something he shouldn’t.”
“Just your average, everyday sleaze.”
“Pretty much.” She closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. Lucifer slipped an arm around her shoulders.
“You look exhausted, darling. Perhaps a night off is in order, hm?”
“Mmmm.” She leaned against him, some of the tension leaving her. It still felt astonishing to him, the way she let go with him--as astonishing as the first time she’d reached out to him for comfort, after they caught her father’s murderer. That embrace had unraveled him, and every one like it since. Her warmth, her trust—he didn’t think anyone had ever embraced him like that, without expectation or demand.
“Night off sounds good,” she said. “I want pizza.”
“Done.” He kissed her temple, breathing in the hint of coconut and citrus from her shampoo. “Where shall I order from?”
Before she could answer, a hesitant voice interrupted from behind him. “M-Mr. Morningstar?”
Lucifer stiffened, turned, and scowled at the interloper, a young man with dirty blond hair, hunched in a baggy hoodie. When the man—boy, really, he looked barely old enough to get into the club—only gaped up at him, Lucifer prompted, “Yes, what is it? You can see I’m busy.” He looked him up and down. “How did you get in here, anyway? The only person the bouncers should be letting in dressed like that is my brother.”
Chloe snorted, turning away to hide her laughter in her glass. The young man flinched, but drew himself up. “I’m—I’m here to ask for a favor,” he said. “You—you do that, right?”
“Sometimes.” Curious now, Lucifer leaned back on his elbows. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Chloe cock her head, listening with her back still turned. “Well? What do you want?”
The boy cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “It’s, um, my ex. I want you to make him—make him love me again.”
“Do you?” Lucifer sipped his drink, amused. “I’m afraid that sort of thing is out of my hands.”
“But—” The young man looked crestfallen.
Lucifer sighed, pitying the young man despite his annoyance. “Tell you what, I’ll give you some advice. For free.” He waited for the boy to look up at him through his dirty hair. “Get a shower. Get a job. Pull yourself together. If you want him back, you need to do the work. And if he still doesn’t want you once you have, then move on.” Good deed done for the day, he turned back to Chloe. “Shall we?” he asked offering her his arm.
“Wait!” The young man grabbed his sleeve. Lucifer wheeled around, pulling away sharply. The boy shrank away from his gaze, but he kept his feet planted. “That’s it?” he asked.
“But—what if I ask you for something else?”
“What if you do?”
“If you can’t make him love me again, then—” He licked his lips. “I want you to kill him.”
Lucifer went very still. Beside him, Chloe did as well. They exchanged a sidelong look. Lucifer turned fully to face the boy and brought the full force of his gaze on him. “Is that really what you want?” he asked softly.
The young man’s face went slack, and his eyes filled with tears. “If I can’t have him—yes.”
Lucifer stared at him for another moment, then shook his head. “My dear boy. I won’t commit murder any more than I’ll infringe on someone’s free will. Also”—he stepped aside and gestured to Chloe—“This is Detective Chloe Decker with the LAPD. She’s had a difficult week, and I believe you’ve just annoyed her on her night off.” He gave him a pitying, tight-lipped smile. “You really should have taken my advice.
The boy looked back and forth between him, and his tears overflowed. He barely seemed to notice when Chloe handcuffed him.
The next morning, officers found the young man dead in his cell, a bloody wound in his chest and his eyes burned to ash in his skull.
NB: Any resemblance of the name of our fist vic and general scumbag to that of a certain newly-confirmed Supreme Court Justice is purely coincidental (I started writing this well before the allegations against him came to light), but no less satisfying for that.
I forgot to add at the beginning of the previous chapter, a big THANK YOU to PixelByPixel for the beta. :)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I didn’t kill this one, either,” Lucifer announced as he and Chloe joined Dan, Ella, and the forensics team in the taped-off cell.
Dan rolled his eyes. “No one thinks you did.”
“I have an alibi.”
“So? We know you didn’t—”
“I was having sex—”
“Enough.” Chloe cut in, scowling at both of them.
“With the detective.” Lucifer smirked.
Chloe pinched the bridge of her nose. “We know, Lucifer.”
“You know. I was just making sure everyone else was up to speed.” The smirk widened to a grin, and Chloe closed her eyes for a moment, willing herself to patience. They were going to need to have a conversation about boundaries.
“Why would we think you killed this guy?” Ella asked, from where she knelt to take photographs.
“He asked Lucifer for a favor last night.” Chloe stepped carefully around the body to crouch beside Ella and get a better look at his face.
“He wanted me to murder someone.”
Dan snorted. “Right in front of Chloe? Smooth.” He looked down at the young man sprawled in a pool of blood on the cement floor, shaking his head.
“You didn’t kill them, but right now you’re one of the only things the two victims have in common,” Chloe observed, straightening.
“Me, and a desire to commit violent crimes.”
“Yeah.” Chloe chewed her lip, thoughtful. “I mean, the MO fits with a kind of punishment . Both vics were killed after they tried to hurt someone.”
“In my club.”
Ella chuckled. “Someone’s taking your job again, huh, Lucifer?” She looked up at him with a cheeky grin. Dan shifted uncomfortably, glancing at Lucifer and then at Chloe, but Ella didn’t seem to notice.
“Yes,” Lucifer agreed, displeased. “But why?”
“More to the point, how?” Chloe asked, gesturing at the cell around them.
Ella sat back on her heels. “That’s the $64,000 question.”
The officers on duty overnight all told the same story: one moment the prisoner was fine, the next, he was bleeding out on the floor. None of them saw or heard anything.
The CCTV wasn’t much more help. For about five minutes around 3 a.m., the tape went dark. Not erased, just—dark, like the lights had been cut, or the lenses of every camera in the precinct covered. Before, the young man was alive in his cell. When the picture came back, he lay dead, blood pooling around him.
None of the officers could account for the lost time. They had no memory of a loss of power, or anything unusual during the night. It was as if that five minutes hadn’t existed.
The next few days’ work didn’t yield much. The other thing the attempted crimes had in common was Lux, But when Chloe pulled the surveillance footage from the club on the nights of the two murders, no one stood out in the sea of faces. All of the bartenders’ alibis checked out, and none of them remembered anyone suspicious hanging around. It seemed their killer could materialize out of thin air, and vanish back into it. Which was impossible.
Unless . . .
Unless it wasn’t.
She sat up straight, looking around for Lucifer. She fumbled for her phone when she remembered that he had left to run an errand.
“Detective.” Lucifer sounded surprised on the other end of the line. “I was just about to call you.”
“Yes, I . . . it seems we have another victim. My new tailor.”
Chloe’s mouth went dry, fear taking hold of her. She knew it was probably irrational, if the theory that was starting to take shape in her mind was correct, but she couldn’t dispel it. “Don’t move. I’ll be right there.”
She arrived at the address Lucifer sent her just as officers were taping off the scene, and was relieved to see Lucifer looking annoyed but unhurt, leaning his hip on the Corvette.
“Are you all right?” She reached up to touch his cheek, trying to catch her breath.
He frowned, puzzled. “Of course.” His hand covered hers. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
She looked past him into the shop window, where she could make out the outline of a body in the dimness. “I was thinking,” she said at last. “Maybe we’ve been coming at this the wrong way.”
“Maybe—” She glanced around and lowered her voice. “Maybe the killer isn’t human.”
He looked at her sharply. “What makes you say that?”
She shrugged. “The second victim, mostly. I don’t know how else to explain how he was killed like that in his cell, with no sign of forced entry, no trace evidence, nothing. And the tapes, and the gaps in the guards’ memories.”
“An inside job, perhaps?”
“Maybe,” Chloe agreed. “We’re looking into the guards. But I don’t think so. That’s not what my gut says.”
“What does it say?” He asked the question seriously, never doubting her instincts. He never had, from the day they’d started working together, and the knowledge steadied her. The theory she’d been working on as she drove over sounded ridiculous, even in her head, but something told her she was on to something.
“All the victims are connected to you,” she said. He nodded. “They all insulted you in some way. Brett Kelly insulted Lux—your home, your sanctuary—by trying to commit rape there. That kid last night insulted your integrity by asking you to violate someone’s free will and then to kill them. And your tailor insulted your, um—“ She broke off, losing momentum. “Clothes?” She hadn’t gotten quite worked out how this murder fit into the pattern.
“He tried to pull one over on me. Made my suits from inferior wool,” Lucifer said grimly. “But that’s hardly a capital crime.”
“No,” Chloe agreed. “But maybe someone--or something--thinks it is.” Lucifer raised an eyebrow, skeptical but encouraging her to continue. “A demon, maybe? One of your, um, subjects? Come to, I don’t know, defend your honor?”
Lucifer frowned, watching the forensics team come back and forth with equipment and evidence. “Odd thing for a demon to do,” he mused. “They shouldn’t even be able to get up here. If one’s come up and gone on a murder spree on my behalf . . .” He trailed off.
“It’s not your fault,” Chloe said.
“I know. But if there are demons running amok topside, something may be very wrong down below.” He sighed, looking unhappy. “I suppose I ought to go make sure everything is locked up tight.”
Chloe grimaced. She hadn’t thought through to the implications of her theory, but she supposed it was the logical next step. She didn’t like it, though. She only knew a little about Lucifer’s last trip to Hell—he’d been tight-lipped about the details—but she knew he’d nearly been trapped there, and she knew how much he hated the place. And she knew that he’d gone to save her.
She opened her mouth to ask if there was another way, but when she turned to him he had his phone out and was scrolling through his contacts. “Who are you calling?” she asked, instead.
“Maze. And my brother.” He glanced at her. “If there is a demon running around up here killing people it imagines slighted me, I don’t want to leave you alone. It might try to kill you for eating the last piece of pizza.”
“You ate the last piece of pizza,” she pointed out.
“I don’t need—“ she began, but Lucifer cut her off before she could get her protest out.
“Humor me. If I have to go down there, I’ll feel better knowing you’re being looked after.”
She scowled, but supposed he had a point.
“In fact,” he went on after a moment, “He should really keep an eye on Ella and Dr. Linda, too. And Daniel and the offspring, I suppose. Maze won’t like being asked to babysit.” Chloe smiled at that. He’d added them to the list casually, as if they were an afterthought, but Chloe saw through him.
“Take my brother out for a drink,” Lucifer suggested. “You can have a girls’ night.”
Chloe raised an eyebrow, amused. “With your brother.”
“And Daniel.” Lucifer smirked. “Don’t worry, Detective. They’ll fit right in.”
Ella edged carefully through the crowded bar, managing not to spill from either of the two martini glasses she carried.
“All right, buddy,” she said, sliding one of the bright blue cocktails over to Amenadiel as she sat down, “If you like cosmos, you’ll love these.”
He wrinkled his nose skeptically at the color. “What is it?”
“Delicious.” Ella took a sip of hers to demonstrate.
Still looking unconvinced, Amenadiel followed suit. His eyebrows rose in surprise. “Oooh, it is good.”
“See?” Ella grinned, sitting back in her chair. Chloe, sitting across from her, chuckled. She’d declined a cocktail and was having a beer, as was Dan. Linda had a glass of red wine sitting in front of her.
It was, Ella thought privately, sort of a weird gathering. Maze was babysitting Trixie, and Lucifer hadn’t joined them—had, in fact, asked them to take Amenadiel out to cheer him up, because he’d been down about their mom leaving L.A. and blamed Lucifer for it, at least partly. Ella barely knew him, but she was happy for the opportunity to spend some time with Lucifer’s (frankly yummy) brother. And she would have been enjoying herself more, except for the odd tension in the air, which didn’t seem to have anything to do with Lucifer and Amenadiel’s mom. Still, she tried gamely to do what Lucifer had asked, and keep the conversation light. Meanwhile, the rest of the group’s drinks were sitting on the table barely touched, and as the evening went on, Amenadiel and Chloe were checking their phones more and more frequently.
“I don’t like this,” Chloe said finally. “We should have heard from him by now.”
“I’m sure he’s fine,” Amenadiel said, not sounding sure at all. “It probably just took longer than he expected.”
Ella looked back and forth between them curiously, but didn’t interrupt, not sure she would get an answer even if she did. Something else was obviously going on, which she hadn’t been clued in on.
“Maybe we should go to the penthouse,” Linda suggested.
Chloe nodded. “If he’s not there—”
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Linda said, soothing. They all pushed back their chairs.
Ella followed, piling into the back of Chloe’s car with Dan and feeling forgotten. When she asked Dan what was going on, he looked uncomfortable. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I feel like Lucifer has to be the one to explain it. It’s not my thing, you know?”
“But he wanted to make sure that, um—” He broke off, looking apologetic. “There’s some stuff going on and he was worried that we might get hurt. That’s why he wanted us to hang out with Amenadiel.”
“Oh.” Ella sat back in her seat, letting that sink in. Dan’s cryptic answer made her feel even more uneasy. She wondered, suddenly, if she was on the wrong side of the law all over again, without even realizing it. What was Lucifer involved in? And how could Chloe, of all people, be okay with him being involved in something that might get his friends hurt?
But then again, she trusted Chloe. Deeply. And Lucifer, for that matter. She didn’t even know why, exactly, but something told her that she could, and should--something as deep and sure as her faith. She had no doubt that Lucifer was a good person, despite all his claims that he was the Devil. Which meant that whatever was going on, whatever had his friends so worried about him, Ella would stand by his side.
No matter what.
Lucifer landed heavily on the penthouse balcony, pausing only long enough to turn on the fireplaces on his before he poured himself a drink. He emptied his glass quickly and refilled it, suppressing a shiver at the cool air in the penthouse. It always felt cold up top after he’d been down below.
The afternoon had left him exhausted. Both Maze and Amenadiel had insisted on arguing with him—Amenadiel wanted to run to Father, of course, and Maze wanted Lucifer to take her with him to Hell, until he’d convinced her that the offspring might be in very real danger from an escaped demon running around—and a trip to Hell inevitably entailed dealing with a thousand petty grievances from its denizens. The actual business of Hell ran itself, more or less, but the demons were another story. They got bored, they formed factions, they fought, they got distracted. They wanted his attention, his direction.
And every one of them was accounted for. Which left him and the detective staring down another dead end.
He leaned on the bar and swirled the whiskey in his glass, hugging himself. In a few minutes he’d call Chloe and tell her the news (good? bad?), but for the moment he needed to get his bearings again, shake off the unsteadiness that being in Hell had left him with. Side effect of traveling too fast between realms, he told himself. It had nothing to do with the pull of the door he knew was his, and what he knew lay behind it. He’d find his feet in a moment.
The penthouse felt dark, even the golden lights behind the bar seemed muted, like the gloom of Hell clung to him and cast a dirty pall over everything. He rubbed his eyes, trying to blink the sensation away. And why was it so bloody cold in here?
There was a clicking sound, like a high heel on the tile floor. Likely someone had wandered up from the club below, hoping for a rendezvous with him. He really had to see about changing the code to the lift. Entirely too many people knew the current one. He was in no mood for uninvited guests.
“Whatever you’re selling, I don’t want any,” he called.
The clicking stopped, then started again, but not retreating in the direction of the lift. It sounded off somehow, hollow and chitinous.
“I said, I’m not interested.” Lucifer turned around and peered into the darkness on the other side of the penthouse, somehow thicker and more opaque than it had been a moment ago. The firelight didn’t penetrate it.
He scowled, ignoring the sliver of fear that slipped in between his ribs. “Whoever you are, show yourself. I’m not in the mood for games.”
It was the same sibilant whisper he had heard in the sky, nearly two weeks ago now. A shape broke away from the darkness, a pulsating mass that radiated cold. Lucifer’s hands ached with it as it drew closer. He swallowed. His tongue felt like sandpaper.
Hearing his name again in that hiss jarred something loose; it reminded him of his terror, which in turn made him angry. “Who are you?” Lucifer demanded.
It made a guttural, incomprehensible sound that Lucifer supposed must be its name. Even his gift for languages couldn’t quite reproduce it.
“What are you?” he asked.
The thing didn’t have a face, but Lucifer felt it smile nonetheless. It scuttled closer. “Old.” It spoke this time, rather than whispering in his mind. It’s voice was somehow deep and shrill at the same time, like nails on a chalkboard in octaves. “God.”
Lucifer scoffed. “You’re not my father.”
“No.” Somewhere under that gelatinous mass were claws that rattled against his floor. “He wassss not alone, before he created this universssse.” A pause. “We were enemiessssss.”
“My father has lots of enemies.”
Lucifer watched the thing warily. He remembered its cold touch all too clearly. “What’s it to you?”
“I can help you. We bothhhhh want the sssssame thhhhing.”
“To dessssssstroy your father.”
The words struck icy daggers into him. Fear. Desire. It would be a lie to claim he wasn’t tempted. And Lucifer never lied.
Sometimes, he didn’t even lie to himself.
The creature made a noise that sounded like it was supposed to be laughter.“Did you likie my giftssss?”
“Enemies?” Lucifer frowned. “You killed those people? For what? To impress me?”
It hissed and skittered, which Lucifer took to be a yes. His lip curled. “Like a cat leaving mice on my doorstep.”
“I dessstroyed them.”
“I noticed. Why did you burn their eyes out?”
“Ffffragile. Not like yooouuu.”
“What do you mean? Not like me?”
“Ssssssoooo much light.” It lurched toward him and Lucifer backed away, but it kept its distance. Something glinted in the black mass, eyes—or perhaps teeth. “Help me,” it said. “I can givvvve you the power you never had. We will dessstroy him. Together.”
“How?” Lucifer asked, intrigued despite himself. He knew this creature was nothing good—but then, neither was he.
“Dessstroy. His Creation.” It made a wet sound, like lips smacking in anticipation of a meal. “His Light.”
Hot rage rose up in Lucifer’s chest, burning away any hint of temptation. Never, in all his days, had he sought to destroy his father’s creations—not humanity, not the universe, certainly not the stars that Lucifer himself had set there. He had simply wanted the freedom to live his own life within it. To make his own choices, free of manipulation.
His eyes flashed red, and then white.
“How dare you,” he breathed, advancing on it. His wings spread behind him, radiating white light, shrinking the thing in front of him. “Insolent godling. You can’t destroy my father without me, can you?”
It made a noise of rage and pain. “I will give you. What you dessssire.”
“I have what I desire.” Lucifer flared brighter than the sun. The thing screamed, and folded in on itself until it finally vanished, and left only ordinary shadows behind.
“Whoa.” Ella shielded her eyes, squinting up at the bright light coming out of the penthouse windows as they pulled up outside Lux. “What’s that?”
“I don’t know.” Chloe leaned over the steering wheel to peer upward. They got out of the car, eyes still fixed upward. “I don’t think it’s anything good.”
“No,” Amenadiel agreed, coming up beside them, looking grim.
The light flared bright as day, eliciting gasps from the clubgoers waiting to get in around them, and then abruptly went out.
“Definitely not good,” Linda said, coming up on her other side.
Ella looked down at the tiny blonde woman. “I don’t understand what’s going on,” she said.
Linda gave her a sympathetic smile and squeezed her shoulder. “I know.” She glanced up. “I think you’re going to get an explanation soon, though.”
The first thing Ella noticed when they got to the penthouse was how cold it was. There was a bite to the air that made her half expect to see frost on the shiny black floor.
The second thing she noticed was the pair of brilliant white wings spreading out from Lucifer’s back.
The penthouse was cold, but he was flushed, pacing, crunching over broken glass on the floor. Was that . . . ? Ella blinked, shaking herself. For a moment, she could have sworn his eyes glowed red as he swung around to face them when the elevator opened, but then he blinked and the red was gone.
“Lucifer!” Chloe pushed past the rest of them and ran to him, reaching up to cup his face in her hands. “What happened? Are you okay?”
Amenadiel followed close behind, anxious but hanging back. “Luci?”
“I’m fine.” Lucifer clasped Chloe’s hands between his. She relaxed a little, though she didn’t look entirely convinced.
“What happened?” she asked again. She shivered. “Why is it so cold in here?”
Lucifer’s mouth twisted. “That . . . thing.”
Chloe’s eyes widened, but before she could say anything Amenadiel asked, “A demon?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Lucifer released Chloe’s hands and walked over to the bar, seeming only to just notice the broken glass at his feet. He poured himself a drink and turned around. “Only not the kind from Hell.”
“What other kind is there?”
“The kind that claims to be an old enemy of Father’s.” He took a swig of whiskey and bared his teeth. “It wanted my help to destroy him.”
Amenadiel looked alarmed. “Luci—”
“I’m not going to. Have a little faith, brother.”
Amenadiel relaxed, marginally. He looked around. “Is it gone?”
“For now.” Lucifer scowled. The glass in his hand cracked, sloshing whisky over his fingers and onto the floor. He dropped it with a surprised curse. They all jumped at the sound it made when it shattered on the floor. Lucifer glared down at it, shaking his wet hand off. “I intend to make sure it stays away.” His wings ruffled, punctuating his words.
Something about the gesture shook Ella loose from the shock that had kept her rooted to the floor through the whole exchange. She remembered Chloe coming to her when she first started at the precinct, asking her what she would do if she had the chance to prove it was all real. And now—
“Oh my G—” She broke off, swaying. Linda caught her arm to steady her. “Holy shit.”
Lucifer, Chloe, and Amenadiel looked up, reminded suddenly that they weren’t the only people in the room. “Miss Lopez,” Lucifer said, dismayed. He fell silent when Ella pulled away from Linda’s supporting arm and stumbled toward him. When she got close enough, she reached out to touch one of the long flight feathers, easily wider than her hand and longer than her arm. They trembled slightly with his breath.
“Careful.” Lucifer’s voice was gentle, almost tentative. “They’re sharp.”
Ella looked up at him. He was standing very still, looking at her with--fear? Why was he afraid? “It’s all real,” she breathed.
“You’re—not a method actor.”
A huff of surprised laughter, his familiar smile. Some of the tension in room eased. “No. Not a method actor.”
Behind them, Linda cleared her throat. “Why don’t we sit down,” she suggested. She looked meaningfully at Lucifer. “I think you have a few things to explain.”
1 more chapter after this? Maybe 2? I know where it's going, but not long it'll take to get there. :P
At last, an update (real life, blah blah blah.) Many thanks for your patience and lovely comments, and happy holidays to all!
“In the beginning,” Lucifer began, “the universe was without form, and void.”
They had gathered on the leather sectional, and Lucifer felt caught somewhere between wanting to play to his rapt audience and wanting to send them all packing so he could finish recovering from the trip to Hell and his second encounter with the dark creature in private. Well, all of them except for Chloe. Her quiet presence at his side warmed him, steadied him.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’” Ella supplied. She perched on opposite end of the sofa, clutching a heavy glass with two fingers of whiskey in her hands. She kept glancing at his shoulders as if she expected to see his wings, now safely folded away. Her awestruck gaze made him want to squirm.
“Yes, well. My father always did like taking credit for other people’s work. Especially mine.”
Amenadiel’s features puckered in disgust, like had just sucked a lemon. “Luci. Don’t be so self-righteous.”
“I am the Lightbringer,” Lucifer retorted. “And your mouth is blue, brother. What have you been drinking?”
Amenadiel started, touching his knuckles to his lips and looking at them in consternation, and Ella giggled. “Sorry. I should have mentioned that about Blue Curaçao.”
“Blue Curaçao? Really, brother?”
Lucifer smirked at Chloe. “I told you he’d fit right in.”
She elbowed him. “Don’t get distracted.”
“What? Oh. Right. Father created the heavens and the earth, blah blah blah, if not quite so simply or quickly as your Bible tells it. He might have said ‘Let there be light,’ or some such grand nonsense, but I was the one who created the stars and set them in the sky.” He was the one who’d set them dancing.
“What does that have to do with your, um, demon?” Dan asked.
“When the universe was born—a literal Big Bang, thanks Mum and Dad—”
Amenadiel made the lemon-suck face again. “Ugh, Luci, don’t—”
“Everything was chaos,” Lucifer continued over him. “Light, darkness, life, death, matter, energy, different planes of existence, all swirling together, joining and separating and changing shape every second, every nanosecond—except time didn’t exist yet, either. Everything happened all at once, and nothing happened at all. Past and present and future were bound up in the chaos.
“Father didn’t particularly like that. He separated past and present, and light and darkness, and life and death.”
“The first day,” Ella said, her voice soft. If it was possible, her voice and expression had gone even more awe-struck.
“For a certain value of ‘day,’ I suppose,” Lucifer agreed.
“So your parents brought order to the chaos,” Linda said.
Lucifer nodded. “They created the Silver City—Heaven—at the center of it all, above everything. But I think . . .” He paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He had been putting it together, bit by bit. The discord it had brought to the complex dance of the stars when it touched their light, it’s biting cold, its claim of age. “I think what I encountered is a remnant of that chaos.”
“How can that be?” Amenadiel asked, skeptical. “Mom and Dad brought order. They destroyed the chaos.”
Lucifer opened his mouth, but Ella spoke up before he could answer. “You can’t destroy chaos. Order can’t exist without it.”
“No, it can’t,” Lucifer agreed. “They banished it. Father used it to create Hell, for one thing. The rest, I think . . .” He trailed off as he veered into speculation. “Pushed to the edges of the universe.”
“And this creature?” Amenadiel asked.
“It called itself an old god, an enemy of Father’s. But it’s not much of a god, if you ask me.”
“It can’t destroy father without me, for one thing.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Why would it come to me for help if it didn’t need it?”
“Luci.” Amenadiel sat forward on the cushion, elbows resting on his knees, and looked urgently at his brother. “Just because it’s not a god doesn’t mean it’s not powerful.”
“I know that, brother.” Lucifer heard the petulance in his voice and took a silent breath, tamping it down. “But if it isn’t a god,” he continued, with appropriate gravity, “then I can destroy it.”
“You don’t know that,” Amenadiel protested again. “What if you can’t?”
Lucifer sat back and sipped his whiskey. “I find your lack of faith disturbing, brother.”
Ella snorted, covering her mouth to smother her giggle. Lucifer smirked and winked at her.
Amenadiel stood up abruptly. “Can I have a word, brother? In private?”
“Oh, very well.” Lucifer got to his feet and followed him out onto the balcony.
“Lucifer, think about what you’re doing,” Amenadiel hissed when they got outside.
“You don’t know what this thing is, or how to kill it, or even if it can be killed—”
“What do you expect me to do? You can’t help.” Amenadiel flinched. “It doesn’t just want to destroy father, it wants to destroy his whole creation. I can’t let that happen.”
“Do you imagine he doesn’t know about it?” Lucifer cut him off again. “If he was going to do something, it would be done.”
Amenadiel was silent for a long moment, studying his brother’s face. “Since when are you so keen on protecting Father?”
“I’m not protecting him.” Lucifer felt suddenly exhausted. He crossed to one of the chairs and dropped into it. “Don’t you see, brother? If it succeeds, there’s no more of any of this.” He gestured. “No more Los Angeles. No more Lux. No more—no more Chloe.” His throat closed around those last words, and they came out in a choked whisper. Involuntarily he glanced inside, reassuring himself that she was still there. She noticed him looking and gave him a questioning look, as if to ask, do you need me? He shook his head, his chest still tight, and turned back to his brother.
Amenadiel sighed, dropping into the chair beside him. “Oh, Luci.”
“I won’t let that happen,” Lucifer said.
“No,” Amenadiel agreed. “But—”
“It can’t be you.”
Amenadiel sighed. “No. I guess not.”
“And I don’t see any of our other siblings lining up to help.” He looked out over the city, the thick air lit with twinkling lights. “It has to be me.”
“Do you have a plan?”
He shrugged. “I’ll think of something.” He looked at his brother’s anxious face and clapped him on the shoulder. “Relax, brother. I’m the Lightbringer, remember? And I think my new friend is afraid of me.” He glanced inside again. “There is, however, someone who I’d prefer not to be afraid of me, and I think she has some more questions she’d like answered.” He got to his feet, not waiting to see if Amenadiel followed him back inside.
“So wait.” Ella began, and then promptly forgot what she’d been going to say. She squinted up at Lucifer, who had been patiently answering her questions all night, and wondered if she maybe shouldn’t have had quite so much to drink. The room was spinning rather alarmingly, and she didn’t want to forget this. Then she remembered why she’d been drinking and reached to refill her glass, only to have the whiskey bottle gently pushed out of her reach.
“I think you’ve had quite enough for tonight, Miss Lopez,” the Devil said kindly.
Ella frowned at him. “I thought you were supposed to tempt people.”
“Not my friends to self-destruction. Come on.” He put his arm around her and steadied her as she slid off the barstool. “Why don’t you sleep it off for a couple of hours?”
“Oh, it’s that kind of temptation.” She grinned up at him, swaying. The Devil was very handsome, after all. She wouldn’t mind being seduced by him.
“Not that, either.”
Right. The Devil was also rather adorably in love with Chloe. She couldn’t stop herself from giggling as he steered her across the room, up several stairs, and she collapsed onto something soft. She sighed. “You tempted Eve,” she mumbled into the pillow she lay on.
There was a pause. “Yes, I suppose I did.”
Was it her imagination, or did he sound sad? She forced her eyes open and looked at him through her swimming vision. “Did you really turn into a snake?” she said, remembering what she’d been meaning to ask him.
He chuckled. “No. That was a bit of rubbish invented by someone who didn’t like me. Or snakes.”
“Hmm.” The weight of a blanket settled over her, and she sighed, letting her eyes close. “Was it really an apple?” she asked.
“No.” He paused. “It was . . . rather more complicated. A story for another time, Miss Lopez,” he said, and retreated. Ella drifted off to sleep.
“She seems to be taking it . . . well,” Linda observed cautiously when Lucifer rejoined them.
Lucifer glanced over his shoulder, where Ella was sleeping, open-mouthed, on his pillow. She had begun to snore lightly. “Yes, I suppose,” he said. In a way, it was a relief for her to know the truth. He had intended to tell her, eventually, but he’d been putting it off. He’d been afraid of her rejection, but also afraid for her, afraid of what the knowledge would do to her. He didn’t particularly care for her worship of his father, but he didn’t want to see her faith destroyed by knowledge, either.
He picked up his glass from the bar and took it outside. A few minutes later Linda joined him at the railing. “How are you doing?” she asked. “You’ve had quite a lot thrown at you tonight.”
She raised an eyebrow at him. He could feel her scrutiny, even though she didn’t say anything. He scowled sidelong at her. “That’s very annoying, you know.”
“Looking at me like that.”
She laughed, and leaned on the railing. “This . . . thing,” she said after a moment. “It wants to destroy your father.”
She looked up at him. “Isn’t that what you’ve wanted?”
Lucifer’s throat tightened. He shrugged again and sipped his whiskey. He felt Linda’s eyes on him, not demanding, just—curious. Open. Compassionate.
No one used to look at him like that, like he mattered. Like his choices mattered. He could choose to answer, or not, and she would still be there, ready to listen to whatever he did want to say, or to simply be silent if he chose to say nothing. It nearly undid him.
“I want . . .” He trailed off. Linda waited patiently for him to get his voice under control. “I want him not to matter.”
Her hand covered his on the railing. “That’s progress,” she said.
“Wanting to destroy him makes him matter quite a lot.”
“Yes.” He looked out over the city. “Yes, I suppose it does.”
“Do you think . . .” She cleared her throat. “Can you stop this creature from—what it wants to do?”
“I don’t know.” He could admit it to her, even if he couldn’t to his brother. He looked up into the night sky, tuning into the divine music of the stars up above through all the interference of distance and atmosphere and human life. “But I’m going to try.”
She squeezed his hand, and smiled. “Thank you.”
“Lucifer!” Maze’s voice cut through the silent penthouse like a whip, jolting Chloe out of sleep. Beside her on the couch, Lucifer stirred, blinking awake and frowning.
“Wha’ is it?” he mumbled.
Maze strode into the darkened living room with a terrified Trixie clinging to her hand. Trixie broke away and ran to Chloe as soon as she saw her.
Chloe caught her daughter in her arms and hugged her close. “What’s going on?” she demanded.
“I was about to ask you the same thing.” Maze looked at Lucifer. “I thought you said everything was fine for now.”
“What?” He sat up, pulling his fingers back through his hair and making it stick up. “It is. I banished the—thing.” He glanced at Trixie.
“Then why is it so dark?” Maze demanded, gesturing to the window.
They all craned to look out the window at the dark sky. “It’s 7 A.M.,” Maze said.
Chloe frowned. “Are you sure there’s not just a storm rolling in?”
“Of course I’m sure!”
“Guys?” Ella emerged from Lucifer’s bedroom, yawning as she came down the stairs. “What’s going on?”
“The sun didn’t come up,” Maze said.
Trixie sniffled against Chloe’s shoulder. “It’s okay, baby.” She bent to kiss the top of her daughter’s head, keeping her close as she stood up with Lucifer. Dan joined them on her other side, his hand falling protectively on Trixie’s shoulder.
“What?” Ella peered outside. “That’s not possible.”
Lucifer gave her a sharp glance. “After what you saw last night, I should think you have a greater sense of what is and isn’t possible.”
“The sun can just be . . . gone?”
Lucifer and Amenadiel shared a troubled glance. Lucifer shook his head, ever so slightly. “I can’t hear it,” he said.
“Can’t hear what?” Chloe asked.
“You can, um, hear the sun?” Ella asked.
“Usually.” Lucifer stepped back and unfurled his wings. The room filled with their soft glow.
Amenadiel took a step toward him, reaching an arm out but keeping his distance. “What are you doing?”
“What do you think, brother? I’m going to go put a stop to this.”
“What? Luci—” Linda reached out a hand to restrain Amenadiel from going after him.
Chloe extricated herself from Dan and Trixie and followed Lucifer outside. Things were happening so fast, she could barely keep up, couldn’t process it, so it was with a strange sort of detachment that she thought, This is it, I may never see him again. This creature could destroy them, destroy all of them, and she couldn’t grasp the moment. “Lucifer . . .” She didn’t know what she wanted to say. Her eyes stung, her throat hurt.
He stopped, turned, and seemed to waver. “Detective. Chloe.” His shirt was rumpled, his hair wild. He looked beautiful, radiant. Angelic.
Chloe felt hot tears roll down her cheeks. She reached up to touch his face. He pulled her close, pressing his forehead to hers, embracing her with arms and wings. Light surrounded her, not only from his wings but from him. It trailed from his skin, and when he looked down at her his eyes were aglow with golden white fire.
It gave her a little hope. He was the Lightbringer, after all. Who better to fight a creature of darkness?
“Come back,” was all she could say.
In answer, he pressed his lips to her forehead, to her mouth. His light flared brighter, so bright she had to close her eyes against it, and then he was gone in gust of wind. She blinked in the sudden darkness. He hadn’t made her any promises he couldn’t keep.
Chloe grabbed hold of the railing to steady herself and looked up into the sky, her throat aching and tears rolling down her cheeks. “Please come back,” she whispered, and for good measure she sent a prayer his father’s way, too. You fucking bastard, make sure he comes back.
Lucifer shot upward, toward the silence and darkness where the sun should be. He slipped easily free of the Earth’s gravity, riding celestial currents, crossing space faster than thought. He had no plan, no idea what he could to stop what was happening, but he tried not to dwell on that. He was the Lightbringer. Perhaps that would be enough.
When he got close enough, he was relieved to find that the sun was still very much intact. But it was shadowed, its music muffled, its light slowly dying, smothered by the creature that had visited him in his penthouse.
Stars died, Lucifer knew that. He’d set their long lives in motion, created the nebulae that birthed new ones, so that the dance and the music had changed over the millennia in ways that Lucifer never could have predicted. Even their deaths were beautiful.
This was an abomination, a perversion of his creation.
Not his father’s creation. Lucifer’s creation. He may no longer be the person who had set the stars in the heavens so long ago, but they were still his.
The creature had told him its name. Lucifer bellowed its impossible, earsplitting sounds, sent them echoing into the vacuum of space with his rage.
He felt the creature smile.
The grotesque darkness that had seemed so precarious in its physical form was larger on this plane, expansive, dense, cold. Lucifer’s light flared brighter in response. He reached out to the surrounding stars, light-years away as humans reckoned it, but close enough for him to draw on their strength.
Beneath the smothering darkness, Lucifer could feel the sun straining to respond to his light as well, but while the creature couldn’t destroy the whole of creation, a single star was well within its grasp. The sun’s light flickered, fading.
Lightbringerrrr. You’ve come.
“Don’t worry, I haven’t had a change of heart.” Lucifer sneered. “I know you can’t destroy my father without my help. You can barely manage one little star.”
An important sssssstar. The shadow on the sun darkened and squeezed. Its music, already muffled, became painful, desperate. To you and your father.
“They’re all important to me. They’re all mine. And you won’t destroy this one or any other.”
Laughter. That. Wasss never. My innnnnntention.
Too late, Lucifer realized he’d been baited. The shadow surged toward him. Behind it, the sun flared back to life. Lucifer reached out for it, establishing a connection just before the creature enveloped him in cold blackness. He fought against it, holding fast to the light of the sun and the nearby stars and his own inner fire, burning himself a circle of light at the center of the blackness, even as his adversary sought to smother it.
He didn’t know how long they struggled like that; it could have been hours, or days, or mere seconds before he tired of the stalemate.
“What are you playing at, anyway?” he asked, pretending nonchalance, hiding his growing desperation. “Why come after me?”
The shadow pulsed around him and Lucifer burned brighter, trying to ignore the way his light wanted to flicker.
“Yes, yes, I’m the Lightbringer, we’ve established that. What do you want?”
There was a pause. Light.
“Light?” Lucifer repeated.
“You want my light.” Lucifer laughed, scornful. “You want to be the Lightbringer?”
Lightbringer, it repeated, hungrily. Bringer of darkness. Master of all.
Lucifer laughed again. “I don’t bloody think so. You’re a creature of darkness, chaos. You couldn’t contain my light even if you tried.”
He didn’t think so, anyway. He hoped not. He was weakening, his light flickering. He hoped he could hold as much as he needed.
He opened himself to the connection he’d formed with the sun, and fire poured into him. He reached beyond it, opening the conduit past the nearest stars to the whole galaxy, a web of of light connecting the whole of the heavens, whose light he had made. They fed him, growing brighter when he touched them, as he grew too bright for this creature of darkness from before the beginning of time to touch.
It still tried.
It was searingly cold, impenetrably dark. Lucifer screamed, fire and ice, light and darkness coursing through him. The creature screamed as well, it’s terrible voice filling Lucifer’s consciousness. He couldn’t see, couldn’t tell if he burned from heat or cold. He heard the sound of something shattering, felt its splinters pierce him. He couldn’t feel his connection to the stars anymore, couldn’t see their light or hear their song. There was only darkness, and pain, and then nothing at all.
Chloe stood at the railing for a long time after Lucifer left, watching the sky as though it could tell her something, anything, about what was happening. Please, just let him be okay.
“Mommy?” Trixie slipped her small hand into hers, and Chloe shook herself. She couldn’t just stand here and mope, she had responsibilities. And Trixie had just seen—oh, God.
“Did Lucifer go to fight the monster?” Trixie asked.
Chloe blinked, trying to sort through what her daughter had seen. Lucifer, with his wings open, flying away. Had she seen the flash of red in his eyes when he’d realized what was happening? What had she heard them say in the penthouse, what had she understood?
“Yeah, Monkey.” Chloe settled with her on one of the lounge chairs by the outdoor fireplace. “Yeah, he did.” She mustered up a smile and took her daughter’s hands. “I bet you have some questions, huh?”
But Trixie shook her head. “Maze told me.”
“Oh yeah?” Chloe felt the strange combination of gratitude and worry that the demon often brought out in her, especially where Trixie was concerned. And guilt, too, this time. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I should have been the one to explain.”
“It’s okay.” She sounded like she meant it, but Chloe knew they would return to the subject some other time—when the world wasn’t ending, when Lucifer was safe.
“What did she tell you?”
“That Lucifer used to be an angel and the devil, and he has superpowers.” Her eyes glowed. “She didn’t tell me he has such cool wings, though!”
Chloe couldn’t help laughing. It was a pretty good explanation, actually; accurate and simple. “They are pretty cool, aren’t they?” she agreed. Her voice wavered, and she looked up at the sky.
“Don’t worry, Mom.” Trixie turned around and leaned against her chest so they could both sit back and look up. “Maze said he was the most powerful of all the angels, and he has devil powers.”
Chloe laughed. Whatever Maze claimed, she was still deeply loyal to Lucifer. “You should tell him that, Monkey,” she said. “When he comes back.”
When he comes back, she repeated to herself. A shadow fell over the two of them, and she glanced up to see Maze silently emerging from the penthouse. “He’ll be fine, Decker,” she said, and leaned on the railing to keep watch.
The darkness lasted almost two days. Los Angeles—and everywhere else—seemed to grind to a halt. The news was full of government officials telling people to stay calm and scientists trying to explain what had happened, as if it were rational—some kind of atmospheric phenomenon, it would dissipate on its own; meanwhile, NASA was frantically combing through data from the last year to figure out why they hadn’t seen this thing coming. There was the expected unrest, though nothing the LAPD couldn’t handle. Mostly, people huddled in their homes, not leaving unless they had to.
The group that had gathered at the penthouse stayed as much as they could. Chloe, Dan, and Ella got called into the station to help staff extra patrols and investigations—it was all hands on deck, regardless of rank. Dan went back to Chloe’s apartment and returned with clean clothes and books and toys for Trixie. Linda left to reassure her patients.
They watched and waited, tense and quiet.
The evening of the second day, gold and pink bloomed on the western horizon, creeping up the sky to a pale blue and then the navy of the coming night. Chloe was sitting on the penthouse balcony. She gasped, sitting up straight, and shouted for the others to come outside.
Up above, where the sky was darkening again to night, a ball of light appeared. It streaked across the sky, bigger and brighter than any meteor or comet she had ever seen. They watched it shoot toward the western horizon and vanish.
“That was him, wasn’t it?” Chloe whispered. She didn’t need Amenadiel’s nod to confirm it. She knew.
“We have to find him. We need a—a boat, or—a helicopter—” How? How were they going to find him? He was probably hurt, unconscious—could he drown? And it would take hours, days to search the Pacific for him, and that was after they got a helicopter or a boat or something—
“No,” Maze said. Chloe frowned at her. The demon was standing behind her with her hands on her hips, scowling. She jerked her chin towards Amenadiel. “You can find him faster,” she said.
He sighed, looking miserable, helpless. “Maze, you know I can’t.”
“Yes, you can!” She stepped up close to him, daring him to back away. “You used your powers to save Linda, remember?”
“That was a one time thing, Maze, a fluke—”
“Bullshit,” Maze sneered. “You did it because you wanted to. You can do it again.”
“Amenadiel,” Chloe broke in. Her voice was gentler but no less urgent. Her hand closed around his wrist. She hadn’t been aware of stepping close to him. “Please. If you can find him . . .”
“I can’t!” He all but roared, stepping back and shrugging his shoulders the way Lucifer did when he was about to unfurl his wings. “Look!”
Amenadiel’s wings were silvery gray, luminous like his brother’s but not so bright, and built for power more than grace and speed. The sharp edges of the flight feathers glinted in the fading light. The effect was like armor, impossibly light and strong.
“Oh, shit,” Ella breathed, and steadied herself on the back of one of the chairs. “Right, you’re brothers. You’re an angel, too.”
Amenadiel looked stunned. “I—”
Maze smirked. “Look pretty good to me,” she said. When he didn’t move, she gave him a shove. “Well? What are you waiting for? Go find him!”
So, Lucifer thought. This is the end of the universe.
It wasn’t so bad, really. There was no pain, no torment of punishment. It was just dark, and cold, and silent. He felt hollow, a burned-out husk drifting through the blackness. He had held starlight, once, but it had all burned away with the rest of him.
He had lost. The creature had touched him, and—
He drifted, trying to remember, for what seemed like a very long time. But there was no time here, no time anymore, because the universe had ended.
What had happened?
Something had shattered.
He remembered dazzling splinters breaking through the darkness that had surrounded him, the shards of blackness that impaled him as the creature broke apart.
He wondered why he still remembered pain, if he didn’t exist anymore. Shouldn’t he be gone, too? Was it just him, or were there others, floating blind like him? His siblings, his friends—the detective?
The thought made him want to weep, if he’d been able to. He didn’t want to think of any of them, alone in the dark. Especially Chloe. His chest ached with grief.
It was an odd sensation, because he was quite sure that he didn’t have a body anymore.
He opened his eyes.
He had eyes to open, and more than just the memory of pain. Agony seared through every vein, bitter cold. His throat was raw from screaming. But there was light behind him, warm, golden, familiar. He was falling, fast, faster as gravity took hold of him.
It was still there. Earth. The sun.
He had just a few moments to marvel at it before he hit the atmosphere and flame engulfed him. He curled into a ball, wrapping his wings about himself. If he was stronger he might have been able to control his fall, but every part of him was too fragile, too brittle, burning and freezing at once. The blue expanse below rushed toward him.
The impact knocked the breath from him. Icy water stung his eyes and nose. He plunged deep beneath the surface, where no more light reached, and pressure beat against his skull. He drifted again, his ears aching, fighting unconsciousness.
Something caught hold of him and he flailed, fighting blindly and ineffectually, but it held firm, dragging him—up, he registered vaguely, before he blacked out again.
His head broke the surface and he coughed up mouthfuls of saltwater. He was alone. Nothing but water in every direction. He laughed. “Thanks, dad,” he wheezed. He coughed again, bringing up more water, and nearly went back under.
Somehow, he managed to roll onto his back and lay there, gasping. “Fat lot of good this does me.” He was spent, freezing. It was all he could do to float there, wings spread behind him, catching on the currents.
Still. He was alive, and the universe was still there and he was—grateful. Not to his father, or anyone or anything, really, just—for the fact of things. The sky was gold, fading to dark blue, and stars were winking into view as the sun sank. Their music reached him, clear and true. He smiled faintly up at them. A real smile, meant only for the stars and himself.
A wave rolled over him, and he knew no more.
Cold. Cold. Darkness, but a different darkness than before. There was faint silvery light, and a rocking motion. He drifted through space—no. The rocking was too rhythmic, and there was the sound of water lapping. He’d fallen. Again. No lake of fire, this time. This time, the landing had been cold. He felt frozen solid, too cold to shiver, even when a breeze rippled over him.
“You just have to make a grand entrance, don’t you, little brother?” The voice came from above, familiar, fond, more amused than annoyed.
Lucifer blinked. He still floated somewhere in the middle of the ocean. Amenadiel smiled down at him, hovering in midair. His wings shone silver in the moonlight.
Lucifer squinted at him. “Brother?” His throat was too raw to admit more than a hoarse whisper.
“I’m here. I’ve got you.” Amenadiel reached for him.
“You’re . . . real?” Lucifer half expected the apparition vanish before it touched him, but his brother’s arms felt warm and solid. He felt his body grow heavy as he was lifted out of the water. Everything felt slow, dreamlike.
“I’m real,” his brother assured him.
“You got your wings back,” he mumbled, looking up at them as they beat, steady and powerful. His own waterlogged wings hung limp from his back. He tried to pull them in to ease his aching shoulders. “How?”
If Amenadiel answered, Lucifer didn’t hear him. The wind roared in his ears. The blue waves dwindled below them, stained pink with the rising sun. They rose up through wispy clouds and turned east, toward the light. Toward home.
A painful jolt brought Lucifer back into consciousness with a groan. He fell awkwardly onto a hard surface, tangled in his brother’s limbs. He tried to extricate himself, but his own frozen appendages wouldn’t obey him. “Forget how to land, brother?”
Amenadiel pushed himself up to a seated position with a grimace. “I’m a little out of practice.”
Amenadiel glared at him. “You didn’t help.”
“Lucifer!” A rush of footsteps distracted him from ribbing his brother, and Chloe dropped to her knees beside him. Her warm hands cradled his face. She looked beautiful, lit in the soft early morning light.
He smiled at her, or tried. “Hello, Detective.” He tried to move again, to sit up and reach for her, but only managed to flop his arm in her general direction.
She took his hand, smiling past the tears that ran down her cheeks. “Hey.” She stroked his cheek. “You’re back.”
“‘Course I’m back.” The words came out slurred.
“Of course,” she repeated. She squeezed his fingers. “God, you’re freezing.”
He laughed, unexpectedly tickled at her invocation of his father. “Right, for once. Dad dropped me in the ocean.” Now that he’d started, he couldn’t stop laughing. He felt giddy, lightheaded. “I fell. Again.” It was a good joke, the best he’d heard in a long time. Dad tricked me into saving him and dropped me in the ocean. Punishment or reward?
“Human scientists are going to be combing the ocean looking for whatever fell out of the sky last night,” Amenadiel said.
Lucifer laughed again at the thought. “Poor bastards. ‘m right here.”
“Yes, you are.” Chloe patted his cheek. “Let’s get you warmed up, okay?”
“Okay.” He closed his eyes. Warm. He tried to remember what that felt like and couldn’t. Light stained his eyelids red and he blinked them open again. The rising sun had cleared the buildings, sparkling off glass and concrete. He smiled. “Sun’s out.”
Chloe stroked his hair again, following his gaze up over the railing. “Yeah,” she said, smiling. More tears spilled down her cheeks. “Yeah, it is.”
The light felt good on his skin, and he closed his eyes and turned his face toward it. Warmth? Was that what that felt like? He drifted, dimly aware of more people, low familiar voices, hands peeling away layers of cold wet clothing; of being lifted and carried and laid on something soft; and then nothing for awhile after that, until he woke shivering in the dark.
His first instinct, in the dark and cold, was to panic. Something was weighing him down, binding him, making it hard to breathe. He thrashed against it, getting tangled and more panicked as he did. He hadn’t destroyed the creature after all; he’d lost, it had all been a dream, a hallucination, wishful thinking: the sun, his fall, Amenadiel rescuing him, the detective, all of it. None of it had been real.
“Lucifer.” Hands touched his cheek, grasped his hands. He tried to pull away, but they held him tighter. “Lucifer, stop.” He froze. The voice was familiar, he realized. Safe. “Open your eyes, it’s okay.”
Silvery moonlight filtered in through the windows, and it blended with the golden light from behind the bar. He lay in his bed, tangled in a pile of blankets, nothing more sinister. Chloe knelt in front of him, her face level with his. She smiled when he focused on her, carding her fingers through his hair. “That’s it, look at me.” She helped untangled him from the blankets, tucking them around him securely. “You’re okay, you’re safe.”
He let out a breath. Shivering overtook him again as his body relaxed. He curled into a ball on his side. He felt warmth near his skin, but it didn’t seem to penetrate. “C-cold,” he chattered.
“I know.” Her fingers combing through his hair kept a slow, comforting rhythm. “You’ll be warm soon.”
“I thought—thought I’d l-lost.”
“Shhhhh.” Her hand moved to his cheek, his shoulder. She stood up, moving out of his line of sight, and he almost panicked again but her hand stayed on his shoulder, keeping him anchored in reality. The mattress shifted under him and she climbed under the blankets beside him, wrapping her arms around him from behind. “Shhh. You didn’t.”
“It’s real. I’m real.” He felt the heat of her breath on his ear. She rested her chin on his shoulder. “I’ve got you.” He closed his eyes, leaning into her, soothed by her warmth. His fragmented memories fell into place, slowly.
“How—how long was I gone?”
Two days. He let out a small surprised laugh. “F-felt longer.”
“To me, too. Hey.” Her arm tightened around him. “Maybe you can try to not almost die again for a little while, okay?”
“I’d l-like that.” He clenched his teeth against their chattering. “You might have to t-take it up with my f-father, though.”
“Oh, I have.”
Her dark tone made him laugh. “I’d like to hear your prayers sometime, Detective.”
“They’re not appropriate for church.”
“I hope not.” He even managed to put a note of suggestion into his voice, making her laugh.
They lapsed into silence. Chloe stroked her hand up and down his arm and he sighed, her touch and the gentle rise and fall of her breathing against his back lulling him into a doze, and finally, as the sun rose again and his shivers subsided, a deep sleep.
It was day when Lucifer woke again, to the sight of his brother’s smug expression. He closed his eyes and buried his face in the pillow. “I take it back,” he groaned. “I should have let the universe end.”
“You did it.” Amenadiel said.
Lucifer reluctantly opened his eyes again. His brother was smiling, annoyingly beatific. “Did what?” He had a sneaking suspicion Amenadiel wasn’t talking about the thing he’d actually done.
Amenadiel stretched his wings ostentatiously. They shone in the late afternoon light. “Father has forgiven us.”
Lucifer snorted. “That, brother, is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say.”
That at least had the desired effect of wiping the smile off his brother’s face. “Then how do you explain—”
“I can’t, and neither can you.” Lucifer pushed himself up to seated, shivering as the cool air in the penthouse touched his skin. “Besides, what makes you think I’d want his forgiveness, even if I had it?”
Beside him, the detective stirred. She’d fallen asleep curled up against his back, for once the warmer of the two of them under the covers, and Lucifer ignored his brother in favor of her. “Fell asleep on the job, Detective?” He raised an eyebrow, mock stern. “Aren’t you supposed to get in bed naked to keep someone warm?” He’d been divested of his wet clothes and tucked into bed with nothing on, but she was wearing a set of pajamas that she kept at the penthouse. Not even the sexy ones.
She rolled her eyes and gave his shoulder a gentle, affectionate shove. “How are you feeling?”
“Cold,” he admitted, flexing hands and feet.
She frowned, covering his hand with hers. “Maybe you should get in the hot tub, or the sauna,” she suggested.
“I can think of some other ways to warm up,” he purred.
Amenadiel made a choking noise. Chloe rolled her eyes. “Maybe later.” She got out of bed and tossed him his robe. “Here. Hot tub or sauna?”
He sighed. “Hot tub.” He’d never particularly liked the sauna. It had seemed like the sort of extravagance the penthouse demanded, but it reminded him too much of Hell, and today in particular he wanted to be where the sunlight could reach him.
“Luci . . .” Amenadiel trailed after them outside.
Lucifer glowered at him. “What? You got your wings back, congratulations.”
“But—” He stood just outside the doors, looking forlorn. “What does it mean?”
Lucifer scoffed. “Your guess is as good as mine, brother.” He turned his back, ending the conversation. Ignoring Chloe’s frown and his brother’s stare, he shrugged out of his robe and dipped a foot into the hot tub, letting out a hiss when his skin touched the water. He eased himself down into it carefully, the sensation somewhere between pain and pleasure.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Chloe look at his brother and shrug helplessly. Amenadiel sighed, nodded, and departed with a soft whoosh.
Chloe sat down on the edge of the hot tub and dropped one leg into the water, wrapped her arms around the other and rested her chin on her knee. “He saved you,” she said.
Lucifer scoffed again. “I can’t drown.” He glanced at her. “Most of the time.”
She pressed her lips together, displeased. “It would have been days before we found you, without him. Or—longer.” If we found you at all, seemed to be the unspoken addendum. He looked at her, questioning. “You were out in the middle of the ocean. It might have been days before we could even get a boat or a helicopter to go looking for you.”
“I might have drifted into shore by then.”
“Maybe.” Her voice was tight, and he grimaced.
“You don’t have to apologize to me.”
He sighed. “Still.” He rested his head on her thigh and looked up at the blue sky. She ran her fingers through his hair. He closed his eyes, feeling the sun on his face. Something had pulled him to the surface, out there. A joke on his father’s part, he’d assumed, dropping him in the ocean and leaving him there to float for eternity. But maybe he had been saving him. Maybe he’d been planning—
Lucifer opened his eyes, scowling. And so what if he had? It was still cruel and manipulative, and Lucifer wanted no part of it. He’d done what he’d done for his own reasons, and he would have stood by them even if he’d drifted out to sea for a year, or sunk to the bottom for the next century.
Chloe smoothed her fingertips over his forehead, and he relaxed. Not that he objected to Amenadiel saving him, to being back home with the detective and the rest of his friends, and yes, even his brother.
Maybe dad had saved him for his own reasons, too.
“He’s just trying to understand,” Chloe murmured. “We all are.”
“I’m not,” Lucifer said, feeling mulish. When she didn’t say anything, he insisted, “I really don’t care anymore, detective. I just want to”—he stumbled—“to not care about what he wants.”
A smile tugged at her lips. “That’s progress.”
He snorted. “That’s what Doctor Linda said, too.”
“She’s right. You should listen to her.”
“I always listen to her.”
Chloe raised an eyebrow.
She laughed. “Eventually,” she agreed.
One more chapter after this! As always, many thanks for reading, commenting, kudosing, and for your patience as I write verrryyyy sllllowwwllyy.
Lucifer fell asleep again after he got out of the hot tub and he slept into the afternoon, curled up on the chaise outside in the sunshine. Chloe got her laptop and settled on the chair beside him, thinking she would catch up on some work, but—not surprisingly—couldn’t concentrate. Instead, she found herself staring off into space, her gaze drifting from the blue sky above to Lucifer’s sleeping form.
Despite two days of darkness, it felt oddly unreal that the world had almost ended. She hadn’t seen the creature, and although she had seen what it could do, it felt remote, at once mundane, with its petty murders, and impossibly huge and far away.
What felt real was waiting all night for Amenadiel to return with Lucifer, not knowing if he had survived his battle with the creature. What felt real was watching Amenadiel laboring toward the penthouse with Lucifer in his arms and the heavy dread that had seized her as she watched them draw closer, searching for some sign of life in the limp form and finding none until they landed in a heap and she heard Lucifer’s voice, low and weak but full of familiar mischief as he ribbed his brother.
What felt real was the long day that followed, keeping watch over him while he slept, looking paler than ever against the dark bedding. She’d wondered if she should leave, once they’d gotten him settled, worried her presence made him weak. It was the car crash all over again, only worse, because she didn’t know what had really happened, how he’d been hurt, what it meant.
Amenadiel, at least, didn’t think she needed to leave. “His injuries aren’t physical,” he’d said as the two of them stood over his sleeping brother, bundled under as many blankets as they could find in the penthouse. He hesitated, then added, “Besides, he feels . . . safe, with you.”
Chloe glanced at him. “Does that help?”
“It can’t hurt.”
And maybe it had helped. He’d slept all day with the curtains thrown back, still cold but seemingly warmed by the daylight, even when the sun wasn’t shining in through the windows. Once night came and he began shivering, nothing seemed to help until she climbed into bed with him. He’d seemed to feel her warmth in a way the electric blanket and hot water bottles couldn’t touch.
Side effect of being a miracle? she wondered, surprised at the wryness of the thought. She looked up again, directing her thoughts to a god she had never really believed in, and put little stock in now. What is this? Some kind of test? What for? What’s this about?
She shook her head, knowing she wouldn’t get an answer. She glanced at Lucifer again, still sleeping peacefully. He’d gotten most of his color back, though she thought it might be a few more days before his energy came back with it.
How much power did his father really have, anyway? That he was manipulative, she believed, and she knew what Lucifer would say—his dad was the almighty, all-powerful, he just chose not to intervene—but then, that’s how most parents seemed to their children, at some point. Lucifer was not, perhaps, the most reliable source of information about his father. Nor was Amenadiel. Or anyone else, for that matter.
Why would he let this creature attack Earth, knowing Lucifer was the only one who could stand in its way, knowing he would be injured, maybe killed, in the process? Did he still harbor that much anger for his rebellious son? Had he known what Lucifer would do?
Or did he really not know, or care? Or—was there something else, something Chloe couldn’t begin to fathom?
She sighed, shaking her head to clear it. Insufficient evidence for her to get any closer to whatever it was she thought she might be glimpsing. And obsessing about what god might or might not want hadn’t gotten anyone she knew anywhere good. One thing Lucifer was right about: no one knew what his father really wanted.
A noise behind her made her start. Her hand went to her hip for the gun that was safely locked away in the car, and it was only Linda stepping through the doors onto the balcony. “Sorry,” she said, freezing just outside the doorway. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”
Chloe took a deep breath. She was more tightly wound than she’d realized. With an effort, she relaxed, smiling in greeting. Linda stepped farther out onto the balcony. “I just wanted to check in on you. Both of you.” She nodded toward Lucifer. “How’s he doing?”
“Okay,” she said. “Whatever happened . . .” She trailed off. “He’s exhausted. He’s been sleeping most of the day.”
“Understandable,” Linda said, her eyes still on him. “I can’t really imagine . . .”
“Me, neither.” Chloe looked up. The sun was starting to sink toward the west, but it was still a bright, warm afternoon. “The sun seems to help.”
Linda smiled. “That’s good.” She beckoned. “Let him sleep. I brought food. Are you hungry?”
Her stomach growled, answering the question. When was the last time she had eaten? Chloe set the laptop aside and got to her feet. “Starving.”
Linda had brought a spread of Chinese food, enough to serve half a dozen people, though Chloe suspected when Lucifer woke he’d eat enough for three.
“So,” Linda said, once they’d filled their plates. They’d settled inside, so they could talk without waking Lucifer. “How are you doing?”
“Me?” Chloe couldn’t help feeling surprised at the question.
Linda smiled. “You.”
Chloe picked up a piece of chicken with her chopsticks and contemplated it. “Honestly? I don’t know.”
“It’s been a big year.”
Chloe laughed. “It’s been a big week.” Had it only been a year since she and Maze drove out to the desert after Lucifer vanished? Since she’d been forced to face the truth of who and what he was?
Of course, she knew the answer to that. It had been just over a year since everything changed, and nothing had.
They ate in silence for a few minutes. Finally Chloe said, “I’m afraid.”
She snorted. “No.”
She laughed again, without humor. “I don’t know!” She looked outside. “Of losing him, of hurting him.” Every time things had seemed to settle down this past year, something else happened to remind her just how precarious her world was. Perhaps had always been. “Of everything I know, now.”
Linda grimaced. “I hear that.”
“How do you deal with it?”
“Well, I freaked out for about a week, and then—well, Maze talked some sense into me, of all people.” Chloe chuckled, and Linda smiled. “I try to remind myself that nothing’s really changed. I may know more, but . . . all of us are just guessing. Even Lucifer.”
Chloe laughed again. “Especially Lucifer.” The thought did make her feel better. But things were different for her than for Linda. She looked outside again. “I make him vulnerable. I hate that he could be hurt because of me.” And he had been. For a moment she was back outside that abandoned building, kneeling beside him while he struggled to breathe, hoping she was making the call by staying close, terrified she wouldn’t get far enough and then he’d die anyway, alone—
“You know,” Linda’s voice cut into her thoughts, bringing her back to the present. She sat back in her seat, toying with her chopsticks. “When Lucifer told me he realized you make him vulnerable, I told him that’s what intimacy is. I thought he was talking in metaphors—but even knowing that he was telling the literal truth, what I said was true. It still is.”
Chloe frowned. “What?”
“Intimacy.” She sat forward, catching Chloe’s gaze and holding it. “You make each other vulnerable. You give each other strength, too.”
Chloe nodded, thoughtful. “Amenadiel said I make him feel safe.” She thought again of how he had relaxed when she held him, his shivers slowly subsiding.
“What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Does he make you feel safe?”
“Of course.” He had for a long time. Even in those periods when she hadn’t been entirely sure she could rely on him, when he disappeared or went and did something inexplicable and impulsive, she had felt better when he was with her, when he had her back. And not just that, she felt emotionally safe with him. As though she could be her whole self. “I couldn’t be vulnerable with him if he didn’t,” she added.
Linda smiled. “That,” she said, “is intimacy.”
It was irritating being so tired, Lucifer thought as he watched the sunset from the penthouse balcony. It was the fourth day since that creature of chaos and darkness had tried to extinguish the sun. He was quite sure he’d destroyed it, but he thought he’d be keeping count—and keeping watch—for quite some time.
Life around him was getting back to normal. Human society had, unsurprisingly, managed to explain away the two days of darkness and seemed to mostly have forgotten it already, though Lucifer suspected at least a few doomsday cults had sprung up around it. Chloe, Dan, Linda, and Ella returned to work and Trixie to school, but it seemed that over the past few days someone was always stopping by with gifts of food or films for him to watch or simply to check in. Only Miss Lopez and his brother stayed away, and Lucifer supposed he couldn’t really fault either of them. Miss Lopez had sent a basket containing sweets, a teddy bear wearing a cast and carrying a crutch, and a mylar balloon that said Get Well Beary Soon!, and he felt fairly certain that she would come around when she was ready. As for Amenadiel, well . . . Lucifer had intended to chase him away, and apparently he had gotten the message.
For his part, he spent most of the last few days sleeping. He still felt drained, and he got cold once it got dark, though never so badly as that first night. The sun was the only thing that really helped—and Chloe, who had been spending the nights curled up next to him at night. Because she was a miracle, he wondered, or simply because he loved her?
A few months ago he would have assumed the former without a second thought, but now he wasn’t so sure.
He wasn’t so sure of anything, anymore.
He sighed, resting his head back on the cushion, and looked up at the sky. “I can’t believe I’m saying this,” he muttered, “but I could really use a chat right about now, brother.” He closed his eyes.
A few moments later a whoosh of air blew across his face. “Now you want to talk.”
Lucifer sat up, surprised. Amenadiel stood beside the railing, scowling, his arms folded across his chest. “You didn’t have to come,” he said mildly. He smirked. “Unless you wanted to.”
Amenadiel looked long-suffering. “What do you want, Luci?”
Lucifer opened his mouth, then closed it. “I’d’ve thought you’d be back in the Silver City by now, brother.” Amenadiel shrugged. Lucifer got to his feet and went inside, trusting his brother to follow. It wasn’t that he was stalling, exactly, he just needed some time to sort out his thoughts. He hadn’t actually expected his brother to show. “Are you hungry?” he asked over his shoulder, heading toward the kitchen. “People keep bringing over food. I think that’s what humans do when someone’s been ill.”
“Or send balloons, apparently,” Amenadiel observed, nodding toward the basket Ella had sent on the counter. “How do those help?”
“Oh, they’re quite therapeutic. You suck the helium out and it makes your voice go all squeaky. You should try it sometime.” He pulled his head out of the refrigerator to gauge his brother’s reaction, and found him frowning. Lucifer frowned back. “Put those away, brother, you’ll break something.”
Amenadiel’s frown deepened, but complied, folding his wings away, but his frown remained. Lucifer returned to the contents of the fridge. “What would you like? I have Indian, Thai, and I think there’s still some lasagne somewhere in here.”
“I’m not hungry.”
Lucifer shrugged and pretended nonchalance while he took his time heating up vindaloo and rice, uncomfortably aware of his brother’s eyes on him while he did. When he’d sat down at the table, Amenadiel asked again, “What do you want, Luci?”
“Why didn’t you go back to the Silver City?” Lucifer countered. “You could have all your questions answered.”
Amenadiel sighed, finally dropping the frown he’d been wearing. “You know that’s not how it works. Besides, I’m not—” He hesitated. “Not certain I’d be welcome.”
Lucifer raised his eyebrows. “I think I’m the only one unwelcome back home. Not that I’d go even if I was,” he added.
“Of course not,” Amenadiel agreed, and Lucifer pretended not to hear the skepticism in his voice. He leaned forward, resting his forearms on the table. “Luci. What did you want to talk to me about?”
Lucifer avoided his gaze, pushing a potato around with his fork. “I never said.” He cleared his throat. “You saved me. Thank you.”
“Oh.” He looked up to see an unexpected softness on his brother’s face. “You’re welcome.”
“And—” Lucifer shifted uncomfortably. “When I fell into the ocean, father—saved me. Before you came.”
Amenadiel frowned again. “What do you mean?”
“Something grabbed hold of me and pulled me to the surface.”
“How do you know it was Father?”
“I was alone in the middle of the ocean. What else could it have been?” Lucifer asked, puzzled by his brother’s skepticism. Amenadiel usually leapt at the chance to believe the best of dear old dad.
Amenadiel took on the expression of a person thinking very hard. Lucifer resisted the urge to make a quip about not hurting himself. “It could have been a . . . a dolphin,” Amenadiel said at last.
“They’re very intelligent creatures.”
“I think I would have noticed dolphins.”
“You were barely conscious.”
Lucifer opened his mouth to retort, and then closed it. “Fair.”
They sat in silence for a few moments. Lucifer went back to his food.
“If it was Father,” Amenadiel ventured after a moment, “why do you think—?”
“I don’t know.” He sighed. “That’s not even really what I wanted to talk to you about.”
“I’ve been thinking.” He licked his lips. “That what’s happened to me—to both of us, is more about us than about father.”
Amenadiel’s eyes narrowed. “How so?”
Absently, Lucifer rubbed at his leg, where Chloe had shot him what felt like a lifetime ago. “The detective makes me vulnerable,” he said. “But she also makes me feel . . .” He trailed off, not sure of the word he wanted.
“Safe?” Amenadiel suggested.
Lucifer glanced at him. “Safe,” he repeated, tasting the word. “Yes, I suppose.”
“What does that have to do with—?”
“She makes me vulnerable because she makes me feel vulnerable.”
“Emotionally. And when my wings returned, it was when I was feeling, well, better about myself. Less like a monster.” He took a deep breath. It was more difficult to admit some what he was saying to his brother than he’d anticipated.
“So you’re saying . . .”
“That things are affected by the way I feel.”
“I don’t follow.”
Lucifer closed his eyes. Amenadiel could be rather thick sometimes. “I gave myself my wings back. You took yours away. Not father.”
“You’re suggesting I . . . punished myself?”
“Humans punish themselves in Hell. Their guilt sends them there, and their guilt creates the punishment.”
“But this isn’t Hell.”
“We’re celestial beings, brother. Don’t you think there might be different rules?”
“I suppose.” Amenadiel looked thoughtfully out the window. “But then . . . that would mean I gave my wings back to myself?”
Lucifer smirked. “You care about me that much, brother.”
Amenadiel shook his head, poorly concealing the smile that pulled at his lips. “Nah, that can’t be it. I don’t like you that much.”
Lucifer looked for something to throw at him.
“I suppose it makes a certain amount of sense,” Amenadiel admitted after a moment. “But where does that leave Father pulling you to the surface before I came?”
“If it was father,” Lucifer said.
“They are very intelligent creatures, after all.”
Lucifer was asleep when Chloe got to the penthouse that evening. He lay stretched out on the couch in the golden light slanting in through the windows, rather like a cat, Chloe thought with a grin, imagining his objection to the comparison. The TV was on but silent, white text across the dark screen asking, Are you still watching Bones?
Chloe chuckled and set the paper takeout bag she was carrying on the coffee table. Lucifer stirred as her weight shifted the cushion beside him. He smiled up at her sleepily. “Hello, Detective.”
She smiled back. “Hey.”
He pushed himself up, looking around with the disorientation of someone who had been sleeping deeply. “What time is it?”
“A little after six. Have you been sleeping all day?”
“On and off.” He stretched, then noticed the bag on the table and reached for it, grinning. “Burgers and fries?”
“Only the best.” Chloe took the wrapped burger he handed her and watched him flatten the paper bag and dump the fries out on the table between them and digging in with his usual enthusiasm. Chloe ate more slowly. He’d seemed to be getting steadily better over the last few days, but she couldn’t help worrying that some irreparable damage had been done that she couldn’t see.
“Detective? Is everything all right?”
Lucifer’s voice drew her out of her thoughts. She started to assure him she was fine, and then paused. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “I still don’t really understand what happened to you. Up there.” She waved a hand.
“Ah.” He wiped his hands on a napkin and carefully set it aside. He swallowed, visibly preparing himself. “Would you like me to tell you?”
“Only if you want to,” Chloe said, reaching for his hand. “Only if it’s not too much.”
He toyed with her fingers. “I don’t know if I can describe it,” he said.
A few moments passed in silence. Finally Lucifer said, “It wanted me. The sun . . . it was a trap. It wanted to consume me.”
Chloe’s chest constricted painfully at the thought, even as she couldn’t begin to imagine it. She pressed his hands between hers, trying to convince him—both of them—of his solidity, of her presence. She swallowed her questions—why? how?—and waited for him to continue.
“It thought it could take my abilities and . . .” he trailed off and shrugged. “I don’t know, exactly. I think it thought it would make it powerful enough to hurt my father.”
Chloe swallowed hard. “But you stopped it.”
“Yes.” He sat back, pulling away from her. He looked out the window, watching the sun sank behind the buildings.
Chloe hesitated before she asked, “How?”
He glanced at her. “I’m the Lightbringer,” he said simply.
“That doesn’t tell me anything.”
He didn’t respond right away. His gaze turned inward, thoughtful. “It couldn’t consume me,” he said at last, “because I’m connected to all the light in the universe.”
Of course, he was choosing now to be cryptic, Chloe thought. But then, maybe he had to be. At some level, what he was saying was beyond comprehension. Being connected to all the light in the universe had protected him, but— “But it could hurt you,” she said aloud.
“Yes.” He looked out the window again at the darkening sky and Chloe saw a shiver run through him. He’d complained of being cold the last few nights, as though the darkness drained the heat from him, even illuminated by stars—such as they were in the middle of the city.
“Would it help,” Chloe began, speaking slowly as she put the thought together, “to fly at night?”
He frowned at the non-sequitur.
“If sunlight helps, starlight should, too, right?” She shrugged, spreading her hands. “It seems like you need to . . . I don’t know, recharge.”
“I’m not a battery, Detective.”
She laughed. “I was thinking more like a tree. Blooming after the winter.”
He sniffed, half offended and half conceding. “Perhaps.” He looked up at the sky, shrugging his shoulders in a way that made Chloe think that he must be flexing them, wherever they were when they weren’t visible to her. “I suppose you could say it drained me,” he said after another moment. “I created the stars. Their light came from within me, but when I placed them in the sky they became larger.” He glanced at her, noticing her frown. “I’m connected to all the light in the universe,” he explained. “I created it. But I can’t hold it all within me.”
Chloe contemplated for a moment. That the man sitting beside her—disheveled, unshaven, in wrinkled silk pajamas—was also the being who had created the stars, the sun, was almost beyond comprehension. And yet, she had seen the flash of white hot starlight in his eyes, the soft divine glow that emanated from his wings. She didn’t have to grasp it to know its truth in her bones.
“Perhaps it would help,” Lucifer said, and yawned. He leaned back against the cushions and reached for the TV remote. Chloe curled up next to him. His arm draped over her shoulder and she felt him relax against her. “I’d rather be here with you,” he said.
Chloe smiled. “I’d rather have you here.”
He shivered, and she reached for the throw over the back of the sofa and tucked it around them both. Whether it was being a miracle that gave her the ability to penetrate the cold that still clung to him, or simply because of the intimacy that made him—made them both—vulnerable, she couldn’t really bring herself to care.
“Lucifer, what are you doing here?” Chloe’s voice filtered through to the lab, and Ella froze, still bent over her microscope.
“Good to see you, too, Detective.”
“I saw you this morning. You should be resting.”
“Resting is boring. I’ve been through nearly the entire series of Bones.” His voice had a hint of a whine to it, and Ella swallowed a giggle at his tone. The Devil, whining.
“Oh yeah? How much of it did you manage to stay awake for?”
“At least half.”
The Devil. The thought brought up a wave of panic as she realized that he was here, at the precinct, and possibly about to be in her lab. And the last time she had seen him she’d gotten so drunk, and then Amenadiel had brought him back half-drowned and— She fumbled for her keys, thinking she could slip out the back way. She wasn’t avoiding him, not exactly, she’d just been letting him rest, but, well, she hadn’t not been avoiding him in the week since the world almost ended either, and she wasn’t quite ready—
There was a knock on the open door to the lab and there he was, one hand in his pocket, the other still raised from rapping on the glass, as meticulously put together as ever in a navy suit and crisp white shirt. “Hello, Miss Lopez,” he said.
“I made you go to church,” she blurted.
He blinked, nonplussed. “Yes, I recall. I owed you favor.”
“You’re the Devil. And I made you go to church!”
“A little bit louder, Miss Lopez, I don’t think they heard you in San Bernadino.” He stepped into the lab and closed the door.
She clamped her mouth shut and sat down on a stool, trying to get hold of herself. She had promised herself she wouldn’t do this when she saw him, but he’d caught her by surprise, she hadn’t been prepared, and now here she was.
“Miss Lopez,” Lucifer said, more gently. He pulled another stool out and sat down, keeping some distance between them.“Ella. I simply wanted to make sure—well, that you’re all right. After—” He gestured.
“Oh.” She took a deep breath, trying to relax. “Oh, um. Yeah, it’s just a lot, you know?” She toyed with the cross around her neck.
“I do.” He gave a small, sad smile that made her melt inside. “I’ll stay away, if you want me to. Well, as much as I can, with—”
“No!” Ella said quickly. She’d never wanted him to stay away from her—not any sort of permanent basis, she’d just needed time—and especially not now, when he was looking at her like that. “No, I don’t want you to stay away from me.”
“Really?” The smile turned pleased, and surprised in a way that squeezed her melted insides painfully. The Devil had been a story all her life, just an idea, about what happened to someone who was punished without the possibility of forgiveness. She’d pitied the creature in the story, thought she understood him, but Lucifer was, well, more. More complicated, more broken, but stronger and more full of the capacity for goodness and love than she suspected even he imagined. Maybe even more than his dad did.
“Really.” She grinned back at him. His smile was still tentative, hopeful, like he wasn’t quite sure he believed her.
She knew how to fix that. “Come here, big guy,” she said, hopped off her stool, and threw her arms around him.
“What? Oh.” His body went rigid, but after a moment he relaxed and patted her back. “Are you . . . quite sure you’re all right?” he asked.
“You know what?” Ella stepped back, smiling up at him. “I really am.”
“You’re not, I don’t know.” He gestured. “In a crisis of faith, or something? Not that I condone the worship of my father, but . . .”
She laughed. “I mean, I admit, I’m still processing it all. But . . .” She toyed with her cross again. “Faith is about questions. And uncertainty.” She shrugged. “I just have different questions, now.” And more than anything else, Lucifer was still the person she had thought he was, grappling with his place in the universe, hiding his vulnerabilities behind humor and anger and showmanship—if all on a grander scale than she’d ever realized.
He nodded, looking thoughtful. “Yes, there are always plenty of those,” he agreed. “My father never talks to anyone, so you can be assured that that won’t change.”
The door to the lab opened and Chloe stepped through. She glanced back and forth between the two of them, landing on Ella. “Everything okay?” she asked.
Ella smiled and gave her a double thumbs-up. “A-OK.”
Chloe raised an eyebrow in the way she had that told Ella she had said something weird, but she also smiled and gave her a nod before she turned to Lucifer. “Looks like we’ve got a case. Are you up for it?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” He bounded to his feet and gestured her out the door ahead of him. “After you, Detective.”
Ella grinned, watching them go, then grabbed her kit and followed.
It was a bright, warm early summer day. Up ahead, Lucifer raised the crime scene tape for Chloe as she flashed her badge to the officer standing just outside its perimeter. Ella smiled, and turned her face up toward the sun.
At long last, it's finished! Many thanks for all the lovely comments and kudos, and for your patience. I've never been the fastest of writers, and over the past few months I moved to a new city and started a new job, which slowed things down considerably. Thanks for sticking with me! <3