Lucifer’s not certain why the Detective’s so fixated on what others think of him but, for the time being at least, he’s willing to humor her. She has, after all, had something of a trying several months. Her current fixation on his behavior is a small enough price to pay to have her accept him—
Or, if not precisely accept, at least allow him to remain at her side. The … flinching has ceased. He supposes he’s the affair with the axe to thank for that.
Still, when they exit the car into a neighborhood that reminds him uncomfortably of Hell—the stench, for one thing, and the distant sound of voices raised in argument and screaming—he begins to question the Detective’s sanity once again. Humans, dazed and drug-addled, shamble along the streets like zombies. None raises their eyes; they are too far gone, too lost in their misery even to sense him. They don’t need him. As in Hell, these humans are quite adept at punishing themselves.
An uncomfortable certainty begins to uncoil in his abdomen, fueled by the tenor of the day’s conversation—Have you ever considered donating any of your vast fortune to charity? He’s met more than his fair share of proselytizers. Currently, the Detective bears a striking resemblance. It sets his teeth on edge. It feels like a fist closing around his heart. Or, perhaps, like an axe pushed deeper instead of removed.
“Detective?” he asks sharply. “Where are you taking me?”
A faint flush rises in her cheek. “Lucifer, I know this isn’t your usual scene—”
“I beg your pardon,” he interjects as they turn a corner and he sees the mobile soup kitchen doling out spoonfuls of some substance that might generously be called food by someone with no discernment whatsoever. “I’m intimately familiar with this ‘scene.’ Not quite as hot, though.”
The Detective blinks. Her eyes narrow. The flush, he fears, is no longer embarrassment but anger. “Seriously? You’re just going to … dismiss them? All of them? Because they’re not as fortunate as you are? Because they need to ask for a handout?”
“What do you take me for, Detective?” He shakes his head, too dismayed to bother minimizing his reaction. She reaches out, and it’s his turn to step away, frowning down at her hand. “What I have was not taken from these pockets. I’m no more to blame for this situation than you are.”
“But you could make it better. You could change so many lives—”
“Could I?” He can’t swallow his affront at her assumptions, at the accusations hiding between the words she speaks. “By … what is that saying? Giving a man a fish?” Another volunteer slops another helping of repugnant, so-called sustenance into a waiting bowl. “Or, rather, giving him some refuse you wouldn’t serve your own child and calling it dinner?” Lucifer crosses his arms. “Is this about doing something good, Detective, or about assuaging some guilt of your own? I most certainly won’t be a party to that.”
Before she can protest, he turns to a group of humans dutifully spooning their gruel into their desperate, waiting mouths. “Hello,” he says to the first, a gentleman of middle age whose destitution has aged him beyond his years. “Sorry to interrupt your … meal. Tell me, what do you desire?”
He waves a dismissive hand in the Detective’s direction, never taking his eyes from the human in front of him. “Well?” he presses. “Go on, then.”
“More,” says the man.
“A touch more specific, if you please.”
“I want … more.”
Lucifer looks away, but the man seems unaffected. He returns to his meal. “Well,” says Lucifer. “Should you decide what, precisely, you would like more of, there’s a church you might visit. Mention Father Frank Lawrence; they’ll know what to do in his name.”
He rattles off an address. He senses the Detective freeze beside him. Well, bully for her.
The man swallows another mouthful of food.
Straightening to his full height, Lucifer raises his voice. “The offer stands for any of you. Perhaps it’s not the charity some might expect, but I’ve absolutely no qualms facilitating any of you … learning to fish. As it were.”
Chin lifted, spine stiff, he rounds on the Detective. Perhaps his eyes flash; he’s angry enough for it. In the back of his mind, a voice disturbingly like Dr. Linda’s says, Hurt enough, you mean. He ignores it. “You haven’t any idea what I do with my vast fortune,” he says, sneering the final words. “You’ve never asked.”
Her eyes are damp with unshed tears. Lucifer looks away before they can affect him. His stomach churns. Tonight, he expects, will be one involving the consumption of inhuman amounts of alcohol.
She reaches out again. He steps away. Again.
“But I see you’ve certainly judged.”
He walks away, seething. Aching.
He doesn’t wait for her to follow.