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Sir, Spare Your Threats

Chapter Text

Wild Card, Lilith Demos, Replaces Esteemed Director of the Hudson Valley Playhouse’s Winter’s Tale, Following Wardwell’s Nervous Collapse

In any other circumstance, Lilith might have rejoiced at a project such as this falling so unexpectedly into her lap. The cast was star-studded and likely to drum up huge sales. The location was idyllic, with a mesmerizing view of the Hudson Valley. The producers were offering her twice what she would expect to be paid for directing regional Shakespeare, and she hadn’t even had to apply for the position; she was stepping in for a woman named Mary Wardwell, who had apparently suffered a nervous breakdown and quit after just a week of rehearsals. Lilith couldn’t imagine passing up an opportunity like this to work with such high-profile actors on a piece as engaging as The Winter’s Tale. It really was a perfect job, on paper.

If only her leading actors hadn’t just come out of a nasty, excruciatingly public divorce.

Spellman vs. Blackwood would go down in infamy as one of the most memorable divorce cases in recent history. The press had had a field day with it, milking the story for all it was worth. After all, it wasn’t every day that a beloved and critically acclaimed actress battled an equally famous actor for custody of her stepchildren.

While Faustus was a talented and powerful actor in the industry, it didn’t surprise Lilith one bit that he was also a terrible choice for a husband. She had heard horror stories about his mercurial nature and his dark moods that tended to play out onstage. There were whispers in her theatre circle that he believed that women should not be directors, and so he was especially difficult whenever he was forced to work with one.

Perhaps Mary Wardwell, her predecessor, simply didn’t have what it took to handle that kind of misogyny on a daily basis. Satan knew Lilith had no tolerance for it, and planned to make it very clear to Faustus that he ought to get over his prejudices immediately if they were to be working together.

What worried Lilith the most, however, wasn’t Faustus’ temper, but the fact that the cast of Winter’s Tale was made up almost entirely of the Spellman and Blackwood family members. The producers had explained to her that the casting decisions had been made with the hope that this production would be a reality-tv level goldmine for the theatre, and pay for many seasons to come. Certainly, once the press had received the casting notice, there was no end to the free marketing and publicity. No one could believe that Zelda Spellman would agree to work with her ex-husband after she failed to gain full custody of her stepchildren in the divorce, let alone that her extended family would also join the cast in supporting roles.

It was hard for Lilith to believe herself, though she knew that the producers were paying everyone handsomely for their troubles. It could all just be a matter of money, though she doubted that an actress of Zelda Spellman’s caliber could ever be bought with such dirty money, when surely, she knew that the producers would be profiting off her pain?

It left a bad taste in Lilith’s mouth, but there was nothing to be done about it. If the producers wanted a cash cow, then by all means, she would give them one. She just hoped the paparazzi wouldn’t distract from the actual artistic work they were creating. As it was, she had had to beat her way through a crowd of cameras just to get into the theater.

“All right, you lot,” said Lilith, looking around at her actors, who were seated in the audience of the otherwise empty theater. “I know this production has gotten off to a rough start, but I’m here to make sure the show goes on without a hitch.”

Lilith heard a scoff towards the left side of the group.

“Mr. Blackwood, do you have something to say?”

Faustus eyed her with derision. “Oh, I have plenty to say, but you wouldn’t want to hear it.”

Dad,” said a young boy, who couldn’t be more than six years old. This must be Judas, then, Lilith thought. His twin sister, Leticia, sat to his right, fiddling with the early pieces of her costume. Due to child labor laws, the casting director had contracted both children to play Mamillius, the Prince of Sicily.

“You think you can step in and save a doomed project? Fine. But the producers are going to have hell to pay for putting us all up to this farce.”

Lilith saw several cast members shift in their seats. Clearly, this was a sore subject for many of them.

“You signed a contract, Faustus,” said Lucifer Morningstar, who would be playing Polixenes.

Lilith’s stomach flipped. She and Lucifer had dated for four years when they had just graduated from college, but the relationship had been a toxic one, and she’d made it a point to avoid working with him ever since. Agreeing to do this project had come with the knowledge that she’d have to see his devilish smile again, but she was certain she could handle it. Over twenty years had passed since those days, and though she could never forget what it felt like to be under his control, she was certain she had the strength to face him, now.

“I agree it’s an…unconventional cast list, but you could have refused,” continued Lucifer, but when he said it, he wasn’t looking at Faustus—he was looking at her. Lilith stared right back, refusing to be the first one to break eye contact.

“Unconventional? It’s practically incestuous,” said Ambrose Spellman, a stand-up comedian who would be playing the Clown, whom Lilith recognized from the tabloids. He was always stirring up trouble in Hollywood, which resulted in him spending a lot of time in and out of prison for minor offenses. Lilith was surprised that he would take time off from his comedy circuit to do a production of Shakespeare in New York.

“Ambrose, please,” said Hilda Spellman. Lilith could already imagine hearing: what studied torments, tyrant… filling the theater. It was a truly inspired decision to cast Zelda’s lesser-known sister in the role of Paulina, even if the casting director had an ulterior motive that was not at all talent-based.

Placing a hand on her nephew’s arm, Hilda continued, “You know the producers were going for a ‘real’ family angle.”

Lilith had to bite her tongue at that. Yes—so long as the “real” family was famous and worth their weight in gold.

Sabrina Spellman, a spoiled child star if there ever was one, pulled a face. “I don’t see why they think casting a ‘real family’ will change anything. It’s not like I’m even Auntie Zee’s real daughter.”

Silence fell in the theater, as everyone pointedly looked away, in case Zelda Spellman reacted poorly to that comment. But Zelda just sat quietly, clutching the long scarf around her neck with a white-knuckled grip. Her chin quivered slightly before she straightened in her seat. Lilith didn’t have to imagine her as Queen of Sicily; she already radiated regality.

“Oi,” said Hilda, turning to her niece. “Show some respect to the woman who raised you.”

Lilith took a deep, steadying breath. Was this why Mary Wardwell had run for the hills? Was the cast so uncooperative, nothing could get done? She wasn’t about to tolerate domestic squabbles in her theater.

“Look, as Mr. Morningstar said, we’ve all signed our contracts. So, let’s make the best of it, shall we?”

There was a murmur of agreement from the cast, but Lilith had eyes only for Zelda, who had remained remarkably silent through all of the unpleasantness. The stoic woman didn’t show any sign that she agreed, or even that she was listening, besides the stiffness of her spine.

“Ms. Spellman?”

Zelda’s eyes were sharp, but tired, when they met Lilith’s gaze. Her long red hair had been flat-ironed so that it fell in a straight curtain down her back and in front of her chest. Lilith mourned the loss of the wavy curls that she remembered from the last time she saw the woman in London (in a riveting production of A Doll’s House, which earned Zelda an Olivier Award) but caught herself in the middle of that thought. It was deeply unprofessional to be thinking of her leading lady in that way. Zelda could style her hair however she pleased—or rather, she could style it however the hair and makeup designers decided.

“Would you and our young Mamillius care to start us off with Act II scene i?”

Zelda’s eyes blinked twice before she nodded. When she stood, she did so slowly, carefully, with her script tucked under one arm, and it was only then that Lilith began to wonder if her leading lady might be ill. She was moving sluggishly, as if it were a considerable effort just to stand, and she had yet to speak.

Judas, in contrast to Zelda’s slow pace, moved as fast as a bullet, beating his sister to the punch. He launched himself from his seat, ran to his stepmother, and grabbed her by the hand. Lilith refrained from smiling at the enthusiastic boy as he tugged Zelda up the stairs, onto the stage, because Satan knew she needed to keep up her reputation as a “shrew,” and couldn’t afford to let her actors see her softer side, especially if the cast was going to be as difficult as their discussion had just implied.

“Prudence? Agatha? You too, ‘Ladies.’ And Faustus, we’ll have you wait in the wings, stage right, with your Lords.”

There was a general mumble of compliance as everyone got on their feet, with scripts in hand. The producers had informed Lilith that Mary Wardwell had managed to block the first two acts before abandoning the project. Lilith was eager to see what she was working with, and how much damage control she’d have to do.

“Whenever you’re ready,” said Lilith, nodding to Zelda to begin.

Zelda Spellman sat center stage, using a black box for a chair. She smiled as Judas pulled on her hair, climbed up her back, and slung his arms around her neck. Zelda then made a show of placing her hand on her belly, which would soon be fitted to have padding to make Hermione appear nine months pregnant. The boy nearly kicked her stomach in all of his rough-housing with his mother, and so the Queen said:

Take the boy to you: he so troubles me,

'Tis past enduring.

Zelda’s voice filled the theater with ease. Lilith wasn’t surprised. She had seen Zelda perform before, and had never doubted her ability to project into the large, empty space. A shiver went down Lilith’s spine. Zelda was putting on a very deep and melodic voice to play Hermione, and it was having a surprising, if incredibly unwelcome and highly distracting, effect on the director.

Prudence, playing the First Lady, moved to help disentangle the boy from the Queen:

Come, my gracious lord,

Shall I be your playfellow?

Judas refused to allow Prudence to take him, and instead climbed into Zelda’s lap, pulling on her scarf as he said to the First Lady:

No, I'll none of you !

Well, that blocking needed to change. Judas would never be able to fit in Zelda’s lap when a pregnancy belly was there. And so, the scene continued, with Lilith making mental notes of what to change and what to keep. It wouldn’t do to change too much, since they had already lost of week of rehearsal.

It wasn’t until Faustus entered the stage that she was struck by a sense of foreboding. She couldn’t quite put her finger on it, but it was as if the energy in the room and on the stage had completely shifted from the warm, domestic scene it had previously been to something…else. When he went to take Judas away from Zelda, it felt like the cast, both onstage and in the wings, were collectively holding their breaths.

Give me the boy: I am glad you did not nurse him:

Though he does bear some signs of me, yet you

Have too much blood in him.

Zelda clutched Judas to her like her life depended on it, her voice gone slightly higher in Hermione’s confusion:

What is this? sport?

Faustus turned to his Lords, all fine, young, strapping men:

Bear the boy hence; he shall not come about her;

Away with him! and let her sport herself

With that she's big with—

One Lord grabbed Judas and wrenched him from Zelda’s arms; the other forced Hermione to stay seated while the boy was taken away, the actor’s hands heavy on her shoulders as she struggled to break free. But it was Faustus who had Lilith’s attention, as he advanced on Zelda with nothing but malice in his eyes and said:

—for 'tis Polixenes

Has made thee swell thus.

He spat the name “Polixenes” as if it were a curse, and brought his hand to Zelda’s stomach. He pushed it hard into the fabric covering her abdomen on the word “swell,” and Lilith almost called for the scene to stop when Zelda flinched back into the actor behind her, who was still pinning her in place by the shoulders.

Was the flinch for the audience’s benefit, or was it real? Was Faustus really hurting her, or had Mary Wardwell directed them to do it this way? As the scene continued, Lilith got more and more worried that she was bearing witness to something dark and twisted—and not entirely just because it was what Shakespeare had written.

She would have to speak with both Zelda and Faustus, Lilith thought as she watched Faustus rant and rave about the supposed affair Hermione had had with Polixenes, while Hermione insisted that she was innocent. It wasn’t the blocking that made this scene difficult to watch; it was the way Zelda’s eyes were shining with fear and panic, rather than righteous indignation at being falsely accused of a crime.

Yes, she would have to speak with Zelda, because that look was one she had seen in her own mirror, in a life that seemed so far away, though it grew closer by the minute as Lilith caught sight of Lucifer’s smirking face in the wings.

He was watching her. Why was he watching her, when every other actor in the theatre seemed fixated on Faustus and Zelda? Nausea settled in her stomach when Lucifer winked at her before disappearing behind a curtain.

What on earth had she gotten herself into?

Chapter Text

After eighty minutes of work, the actors were entitled to a ten-minute break, per Equity guidelines, so, while Lilith didn’t really feel the need to break up the flow of the rehearsal so soon, she had to abide by the union’s rules. She decided to spend her ten-minute break in the garden behind the theater, which had a breathtaking view of the valley below, though she couldn’t quite see it in all of its majesty from where she sat on a bench, sipping lukewarm coffee and making notes in the margins of her script.

“Miss Lily?” said a small voice to her left.

Leticia was struggling to climb onto the bench beside her. Lilith, though never very fond of children, gave her an approximation of a smile, and helped lift her up onto the seat beside her.

“My name is Lilith, dear. Lil-ith.”

“Miss Lil-if,” said Leticia, confidently, and Lilith didn’t have the heart or the patience to correct her again.

“Close enough.”

“Can I ask a question?” The six-year-old’s eyes were big, brown, and trusting. How wonderful to be a child, Lilith thought, and expect adults to have an answer to everything.

“Of course.”

“When is the baby coming?”

Lilith nearly choked on her coffee. “What!?”

“Mama’s baby.”

“Oh? Oh.” The realization that Leticia was talking about Hermione’s baby took longer than it should have. “You mean Perdita? Your mother isn’t actually having a baby, Leticia. It’s just pretend.”

“But then where will the baby come from?”

“It’ll be a fake baby. Like a doll. Do you have dolls?” Lilith really didn’t interact with many children, but this seemed like a fair question to ask.

“I don’t like dolls.”

… Perhaps not.

“What do you like to play with, then?”

“Swords.”

Lilith tried to keep the surprise from showing on her face. “Swords? That’s...fun!”

“Wait!” Leticia shouted, unexpectedly, standing up on the bench and nearly knocking Lilith’s script out of her hands in her excitement. “Is Mama going to have a sword instead?!”

“No... no. Hermione doesn’t have a sword.” Lilith took a deep, steadying breath. She really wasn’t cut out for entertaining a child. “She is getting a baby, but it won’t be a real one.”

“That’s silly. Everyone else is real. Why isn’t the baby real?” Leticia’s pout was equal parts adorable and frustrating.

Lilith should know better than to try and appeal to a six-year-old’s logic, but she still made a feeble attempt as she said, “Babies cry a lot. They wouldn’t like being in a play, not like you do.”

“But I don’t like it!”

That was certainly news. There were plenty of child-actors whose parents forced them into showbusiness, she was sure, but Judas seemed to be having the time of his life. Was Leticia truly unhappy being a part of the show?

 “You...don’t?”

“I don’t like that my Mama looks scared all the time,” said Leticia, very quietly, as if she wasn’t sure she was allowed to say these words out loud. Her eyes were wide and wet and held way too much knowledge for a girl of her limited years. Lilith felt completely out of her depth, now, whereas before she felt simply…inadequate.

“Of course not,” Lilith said, settling on the most diplomatic answer that occurred to her, “but it’s all pretend, Leticia.”

“It doesn’t look pretend.”

Satan, this child was going to kill her with these terribly astute observations.

“That’s because your Mama is very good at what she does.” At least, that was what Lilith sincerely hoped. “Speaking of which, where are your mother and father? Why are you out here alone?”

Leticia at least had the sense to look guilty at that. “Daddy told me to stay inside but I followed him because he was following Mama and I wanted my Mama. But then I saw you and remembered my question!”

“Well—”

Just then, a shout could be heard through the garden.  

“Stop!”

Lilith thought it sounded suspiciously like Zelda, and Leticia seemed to agree, because she said, “Mama?!” as she tried to get down off of the bench.

Lilith listened for any other words, but couldn’t hear anything. Regardless, she had the sense that Leticia shouldn’t be the one to investigate.

“Leticia,” said Lilith, putting a gentle hand on the child’s arm to stop her efforts. “I want you to go back inside and stay with your Aunt Hilda. Can you do that for me?”

“But Mama—!”

“I’m going to go see what’s wrong. We don’t want your dad to find out you disobeyed him, right?”

Leticia looked simply terrified at that thought. “Right.”

Lilith helped Leticia off of the bench and watched to make sure the girl made it all the way inside before turning in the direction that the voice had come from. The garden had many paths lined by hedges that could be followed to idyllic sitting areas among the flowers. The trick was choosing the right one.

In the end, she didn’t have to, because Lucifer Morningstar came strutting down the path farthest to the left, clutching his jaw. Lilith’s mouth went dry as she walked towards him.

“What did you do?” Lilith hissed, her mind running wild with possibilities. Surely, he wouldn’t try to work his charm on Zelda, of all people?

I did absolutely nothing. It’s Faustus who has lost his bloody mind!” said Lucifer, brushing passed her.

“What happened?” Lilith asked, but Lucifer was already halfway to the door of the theater. “Lucifer, what happened?”

Lucifer didn’t respond, and slammed the back door to the theater so hard the sound reverberated through Lilith’s bones. It would seem she’d have to find answers herself. Turning around, Lilith took off down the path that Lucifer had exited, hoping beyond hope that whatever altercation had occurred wasn’t nearly as bad as her mind was making it out to be.

She didn’t have to go very far at all before she heard Faustus’ raised voice.

“He’s doing it just to provoke me.”

“Well, it looks like it worked,” said Zelda, her voice quiet in comparison.

Lilith still couldn’t see them, but she knew exactly where they were in the garden. While eavesdropping was generally a terrible idea, Lilith suspected that she would learn more about the situation if she listened out of sight than if she asked them directly.

“I don’t like the way he looks at you.”

“He looks at me the same way you do.”

I’m your husband—”

“—Ex-husband—”

“—and I don’t want you alone with him.”

“You don’t get to decide what I do anymore, Faustus.”

“So, you’re telling me you’d let him have you for ten minutes in the garden, like a cheap whore?”

“What?! No.”

“I guess I should’ve known you can’t keep your legs closed for very long.”

“There’s no talking to you when you’re like this. We ought to be getting back to rehearsal,” said Zelda, with a note of finality.

Lilith heard footsteps coming closer to where she was hiding and panicked, wondering how she could possibly explain her eavesdropping behind the bushes, but then she heard a second pair of footsteps, a pained gasp, and sounds of a struggle.

“We’re not done here,” said Faustus, menacingly, sending a shiver down Lilith’s spine.

“Yes, we are. Get your hands off of me,” said Zelda, her voice sharp and cutting.

“I won’t let my children be raised by a whore.”

Lilith was at war with herself. On the one hand, she couldn’t let this go on, but on the other, she didn’t think she was strong enough to take on Faustus in one of his rages. If Lucifer had been knocked around by him, she certainly couldn’t do much better.

“I swear if you don’t let me go, I’ll scream so loudly they’ll hear me in Manhattan.”

“Go ahead then.”

“What?”

“Scream. I want to hear it.”

“Faustus—"

“Do you know who will come running? The paparazzi. They’ll get a nice photo of the two of us to run in the morning papers, but do you know what they won’t do? Stop me.”

“Faustus, for Satan’s sake—”

“You said you’d scream, so scream. Unless you want to admit you love this twisted little dance we do?”

Lilith heard more sounds of a struggle, the rustling of fabric, a noise somewhere between a grunt and a whimper, until finally she decided that however foolish it was to interfere, it would be far worse to stand by and do nothing.

“Is there a problem here?” said Lilith, loudly, before rounding the hedge.

The sudden interruption shocked the actors enough that Faustus released Zelda purely from surprise. Zelda took a couple steps away to put space between them, her hands anxiously running over the fabric of her dress that covered her thighs.

“This is a private conversation, Lilith,” said Faustus, his fists clenched, his eyes hateful.

“The ten-minute break is over. You can imagine how we can’t go back to work without the King and Queen of Sicily,” Lilith tried to catch Zelda’s eyes, but the woman was looking pointedly away.

“Do Act IV. Satan knows, that’s where your weakest actors are featured.”

“Don’t tell me how to run my rehearsal, Mr. Blackwood. I want you back in the theater, now,” said Lilith, hardening her voice so that it was clear this was not subject to debate.

Faustus advanced on her. It took all of the courage she had to stand her ground.

“I don’t take orders from you.”

“Well, until I suffer a nervous collapse, like poor Ms. Wardwell, I am the director, and I do have authority over this production. So, if you please, go check in with the stage manager, and explain exactly why you are late coming back from your break.”

Faustus stared at her as if he hoped she might burst into flame just from the intensity of his glare, but eventually complied, brushing past her with unnecessary force. Zelda moved to follow him, but Lilith put her hands up to stop her, blocking her path.

“Are you…all right?” said Lilith, quietly.

Zelda scoffed, staring off at a point over Lilith’s shoulder. “You’d love it if I weren’t, wouldn’t you?”

“What?” said Lilith. “What on earth do you mean by that?”

“You should be ashamed of yourself,” said Zelda, her voice pitched low.

Lilith was sure she had done a great number of things in her life worthy of shame, but couldn’t, for the life of her, think of any that would have involved Zelda Spellman. “Why?”

“I’ve always admired you as a director, you know,” said Zelda, her lips stretched into a thin line. “If someone had told me a week ago that you would agree to do something like this, I would’ve said: ‘Never. She has too much dignity to stoop so low.’”

Lilith was well and truly perplexed now, with the added bit of anger brewing in her stomach. “How exactly have I lost my dignity in your eyes?”

Finally, Zelda met her gaze, and Lilith was momentarily distracted from their conversation by how exhausted and pale the woman looked.

“Accepting blood money. Using my own personal hell to further your career. Agreeing to this—this—” Zelda waved her hand, “hostage situation of a show.”

Lilith sucked in a sharp breath. “But you’re a free woman, with plenty of other options. Why on earth would you agree to this if you felt so strongly about it?”

Zelda closed her eyes. Lilith took the opportunity to move slightly closer. The woman’s whole body was wound tight as a spring. Lilith wished she could offer some physical comfort, but doubted Zelda would accept it from her.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Zelda breathed, as if the words themselves had robbed her of oxygen.

“Try me.”

Zelda opened her eyes. For a moment, Lilith could see terrible pain and distress in them, before the actress threw her head back and laughed. It wasn’t a small laugh, either; it was loud—too loud for the short distance between them—and shocking in its suddenness.

“So you can turn around and offer the story to whatever newspaper will pay you the most? I don’t think so.”

The jab hurt, though Lilith didn’t know why it should. Zelda Spellman’s opinion of her meant very little, in the grand scheme of things, but for some reason the comment felt like a knife between her ribs.

“I would never do that. You can trust me.”

“Trust you?” said Zelda, letting her gaze wander over Lilith in a way that made her skin tingle. “A woman who listens behind hedges? I don’t think so.”

Lilith and Zelda stood, suspended, as electricity sparked between them. Zelda seemed to register Lilith’s proximity only after three full seconds of blatant staring.

“If you’ll please excuse me, it would appear I am late going back to rehearsal,” she said, trying to move passed her, but Lilith grabbed her gently by the arm to keep her in place.

“Ms. Spellman, wait,” said Lilith, earnestly. “If something is going on, you can tell me. No project is worth feeling like…like a hostage.”

“Says the woman restraining me?” Zelda snarled, a challenge in her eyes.

“I’m not—” Lilith began, but then she looked down at the offending hand, and it was like having a bucket of cold water dumped over her head, suddenly seeing how this encounter could be construed from Zelda’s perspective. She removed her hand quickly, as if it had been burned. “I’m sorry. I meant you no harm.”

Zelda didn’t immediately turn to leave, but instead tilted her head, looking at Lilith with curious eyes. She brought one of her hands up to cover the place on her arm where Lilith had grabbed her. It was an unconscious gesture, but it made Lilith’s stomach twist with shame.

“I wish I could believe that. But experience has taught me that there isn’t a single soul in this business that wouldn’t sell their own child for more power or fame.”

“Is that what Faustus Blackwood is doing?” The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them, and she immediately regretted it when Zelda flinched back, as if Lilith had slapped her.

“You really are trying to get information out of me, aren’t you? At least the paparazzi have the decency to be open about it. You, on the other hand,” said Zelda as she backed away, “are no better than a snake.”

With that, Zelda turned on her heel and hurried down the path. Lilith stared after her, uneasy. Nothing could’ve prepared her for this play within a play. But now that she was its unwilling audience, what was to be done to put an end to it?

Chapter Text

Having finally resumed rehearsal after the ten-minute break had turned into a twenty-minute one, Lilith was having a hard time focusing on Act II scene iii, despite the fact that Hilda Spellman was giving a brilliant performance. Lilith was pleasantly surprised to see that the woman was certainly a match for Faustus. It was a good thing Mary Wardwell had already blocked the scene, and that she had very little to say by way of changing it, because Lilith hardly felt she could speak passed the lump in her throat.

Hilda stood center stage, appearing tall despite her small stature, with a plastic baby in her arms. Cerberus, playing Antigonus, stood beside her. The two of them made a striking pair, thought Lilith absently. She knew that they were lovers in reality, too, but somehow this casting seemed sweet, rather than unseemly. Hilda held the doll in her arms like it was the most precious thing in the world, caressing the baby’s miniature features with a gentle hand. Lilith couldn’t help but spare a brief glance at Leticia, who was behind her in the audience and making a face at the plastic babe as if it personally offended her.

Paulina went through each detail of the babe’s appearance, insisting that each and every one proved the baby to belong to Leontes, but Leontes refused to look, and instead berated Antigonus for not having better control of his wife:

A gross hag

And thou art worthy to be hang'd,

That wilt not stay her tongue.

Cerberus looked to Hilda with love in his eyes before turning back to Faustus to direct his lines:

Hang all the husbands

That cannot do that feat, you'll leave yourself

Hardly one subject.

But Lilith’s mind wasn’t on the play—she was thinking of the sound that Zelda had made in the garden, the one that was somewhere between a grunt and a whimper. The more she thought about it, the more Lilith felt like she was going to be sick, but she couldn’t very well do that in front of her cast.

Her cast, that was very much still working, while she was letting her mind wander.

Faustus stalked over to Hilda, his voice heavy with a threat:

I'll ha' thee burnt.

When she responded, Hilda seemed to fill the entire room with the strength of her character and voice:

I care not:

It is a heretic that makes the fire,

Not she which burns in't. I'll not call you tyrant;

But this most cruel usage of your queen,

Not able to produce more accusation

Than your own weak-hinged fancy, something savours

Of tyranny and will ignoble make you,

Yea, scandalous to the world.

Lilith heard footsteps and whispers somewhere behind her; it was utterly rude and distracting, to say the least. But when she turned around to glare at whoever was making noise in the audience, she realized it was Zelda, several rows back and to the right, handing an ice pack to Lucifer to put on his jaw.

Well. She couldn’t very well berate someone for applying first aid, though she thought it was vaguely ridiculous that Lucifer was being tended to by Zelda, in this moment. She knew she ought to focus on what was happening onstage, but her eyes were fixated on the unlikely pair.

She wasn’t the only one staring. Sabrina, who was properly miffed that she had been told to spend the morning running lines with Nick Scratch, the dashing Florizel, was also openly staring at her aunt from the row farthest to the back of the audience. While Lilith was being subtle about her quiet observations, Sabrina most certainly was not. She and Nick were gesticulating wildly at Zelda and Lucifer, as if they thought being so far away from the stage granted them some sort of invisibility.

Lilith could certainly see why Mary had abandoned this production so soon; there wasn’t a single person who seemed to be interested in being professional. Turning back to the stage, she made an effort to focus on the task at hand, though it took a great deal more willpower than it probably should have.

Finally, the lunch hour arrived, and the actors were dismissed. They all dispersed in different directions as they left the theater.

Lilith decided that she had at least one way to get the information she wanted, but it was not exactly ethical. Not illegal, per se—in fact, the law would be on her side—but definitely not something she should do on her first day as director if she wanted to gain the trust and respect of her cast. But burning bridges had never particularly bothered her, and the specific bridge she planned to burn first was one she had soaked in gasoline twenty years ago; the only thing left to do was light the match.

“Mr. Morningstar, a word?”

Lucifer looked momentarily annoyed. It was his lunch break after all, and he was already the last to leave, because he had been returning the ice pack to the first aid kit. When he caught her eye, however, his expression changed into a sly smile. “You just can’t get enough of me, can you, Lilith?”

Lilith refrained from cursing at him, but only just, as she sat back down at her table and rifled through Mrs. Meeks’ binder of important papers until she found the right one. “I need to take down your version of events for this incident report.”

Incident report?”

“You were injured today. Injuries require reports.”

Lilith didn’t think she had ever seen the man look as shocked as he was right then. “What?”

“You are aware that you have a bruise on your face?” Lilith was very careful to keep her tone as professional as possible.

“You can’t be serious, Lilith?”

“Oh, but I am, Mr. Morningstar,” said Lilith, opening the binder’s clamps so that she could remove the blank document and show Lucifer that she was, indeed, holding an incident report in her hands.

Lucifer stared at it in disbelief. “I don’t want to file a report.”

“Luckily, that is not your decision to make,” said Lilith, realizing that she was only going to get through to him if she pulled rank.

Lucifer narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?”

“I assure you, I’m not,” said Lilith, and she wasn’t—not really—because no matter how much she hated Lucifer for all that he had done to her, and how much she would like to never have to look at him again, this wasn’t about him; it was about the safety of her lead actress. “How did you get that bruise on your jaw?

“Piss off, Lilith.”

“How were you injured, Lucifer?” Lilith repeated, her voice rising only slightly, despite the overwhelming urge to shout at him. While the theater was currently empty, since everyone was at lunch, she was still wary that anyone could return at any time.

“My face made the acquaintance of a bush,” said Lucifer, suggestively, though his sarcasm ruined the effect.  “Put that in your report.”

“Lucifer, I’m giving you a chance to tell your side of the story. I’ll be speaking to Faustus next, so you better start taking this more seriously.”

It was an empty threat; she didn’t plan on asking Faustus anything, since she suspected that would be a waste of time. But Lucifer certainly didn’t need to know that.

“You’re playing with fire here, Lilith. Trust me, you really don’t want to get involved in this.”

Lilith nearly laughed at the idea that Lucifer would be looking out for her by withholding information. After all, he had never been particularly interested in protecting her in the past. His avoidance of her questions was really starting to irritate her.

It was time to be more direct.

“Who punched you? Zelda or Faustus?”

“Lilith, I’ve told you, I don’t want to file a report.”

“Who witnessed the injury?” Lilith carried on, as if she hadn’t heard him.

“The bush.”

“Lucifer, I swear, if you don’t start giving me some answers—”

“I’ve given you my answer.”

Lilith and Lucifer stared at one another, both suddenly remembering the last time that phrase was spoken between them: when Lucifer (hoping to convince Lilith that he could change for the better) had proposed marriage, and she had to refuse him multiple times before he finally gave up. Lilith thanked her lucky stars every day that she had had the strength to turn down the proposal. If she hadn’t, she couldn’t imagine what their life together would’ve been like.

Snapping herself out of the memory, Lilith changed tactics, once again. She lowered her voice to nearly a whisper, so that even if someone did come in, they wouldn’t be able to catch what she was saying.

“I heard Zelda Spellman yell, ‘Stop.’ That will go in the report whether you explain it or not. I’m giving you a chance to clarify what you were doing with Ms. Spellman in the garden that resulted in a bruised jaw.”

“If you think filing a report is going to help her, it won’t,” Lucifer said, also lowering his voice to a near-whisper. Lilith was struck by the honesty in his eyes. She could sense no deception from him, in this moment, which concerned her. He had always been an incredibly talented liar, but by the same token, she had always had a knack for catching him in lies.

“And why is that?”

“Trust me.”

“Trust the Great Deceiver? I don’t think so,” Lilith scoffed.

Lucifer began to pace, his voice rising once more. “Don’t you understand? Filing an incident report will only make things worse!”

“Make me understand, then. What were you doing in the garden with her? What did Faustus see that sent him into a rage?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“You’re probably right, but tell me anyway.”

Lucifer stopped his pacing in order to lean over the table.

“Zelda’s sworn me to secrecy. I won’t break her trust.”

Again, Lilith was shocked by how sincere he seemed. Had he actually changed in the twenty years since she’d known him, or was this just another one of his tricks? “Lucifer, I need to know, did you…proposition her?”

“You’re beginning to sound like Faustus,” Lucifer said between gritted teeth.

“I’m starting to think Faustus might be the only one who will give me information, and that would spell disaster for you, I’m sure,” said Lilith, standing up so that he would stop leaning over her. Even standing, he was still taller than her by at least a foot, but it felt much better to be on her feet for this conversation.

“Faustus is a jealous bastard.”

“Just tell me the truth about how you were injured, and we can be done here.”

Lucifer looked to his left and right, as if checking to make sure they were truly alone. “If I tell you, you have to swear you won’t tell anyone. It doesn’t go in the report, you understand?”

“I can’t promise that.”

“Then I have nothing more to tell you,” said Lucifer as he turned on his heel and started to walk away.

Lilith warred with herself for a moment before she had to admit that her bluff had backfired. “Fine! Fine. I won’t put it in the report.”

Lucifer paused before slowly turning around. There was a glimmer of empathy in his eyes that seemed entirely unlike the man that she remembered.

“I’m helping Zelda find a new lawyer.”

Whatever Lilith had expected him to say, it wasn’t that. “…What?”

“She’s going to appeal the judge’s joint custody decision.”

Lilith was struck silent by that revelation. She remembered the story that had run in the evening newspaper on the day the ruling had been made. While she had never been very interested in celebrity gossip, she had followed the case, at least peripherally, over the six months it had lasted, since she was familiar with the work of both actors. She distinctly recalled a front-page picture of Zelda Spellman leaving the courtroom looking utterly defeated, which had confused Lilith at the time, because she would’ve thought a stepmother would be glad to get any custody of the children at all. But then again, Zelda had adopted the twins as her own, so legally, she had a legitimate claim to them… It was all very complicated, Lilith knew, but she had a hard time believing that any mother would want to put themselves and their children through a second agonizing trial that could take months—even years—to come to a decision, and even then, it might not be the decision she would want.

Recovering from her brief introspection, Lilith asked, “Why?”

Lucifer kept looking over his shoulder, as if he was worried the walls had ears. “She thinks the children aren’t safe with Faustus. Especially the girl.”

Lilith felt slightly dizzy at the thought of Leticia being hurt. She had only known the precocious child for a few hours, but that was enough to know that she would happily murder anyone who tried to hurt her. “If Zelda thinks they aren’t safe, she ought to go to the police, not search for a lawyer.”

Lucifer stared at her, as if expecting her to understand something without him having to say it, but in the end, he must have decided that words were necessary. He shook his head, and then said, “She doesn’t have enough evidence to do that. At least not yet. That’s why the first judge gave them joint custody. Unless she can show the judge indisputable evidence that he’s an unfit parent, the court will never take the children away from their biological father.”

So much for justice, Lilith thought. But something was still bothering her about his explanation. “Why do you care what happens to her children?”

“I don’t.”

“Then why are you helping her?” she said, unable to keep the suspicion from creeping into her tone.

“It’s complicated.”

That was much more like the Lucifer she knew. “You still haven’t explained how you got the bruise.”

Lucifer threw his hands into the air in exasperation. “Why is this so important to you, Lilith? Why can’t you just leave it alone?

“It’s interfering with our rehearsal process,” said Lilith, and it wasn’t entirely a lie, but it admittedly wasn’t even close to the full truth. “Are you telling me Faustus hit you because you and Zelda were just… talking?”

“More or less.”

“Was it more or was it less?”

“We’re done here,” said Lucifer, pointing a finger at her. “No more questions. And if you know what’s best for everyone, you’ll leave that paper blank.”

With that, Lucifer swept out of the theater. Lilith watched him go, with a sense of dread churning in her stomach.

Chapter Text

Lilith didn’t feel hungry at all after her conversation with Lucifer, so she spent her lunch hour in deep thought, contemplating everything that had happened in so little time. The puzzle pieces were starting to fall into place, but Lilith felt as if she had only figured out the border of the picture. She didn’t trust Lucifer as a matter of course, Faustus was undeniably cut from the same cloth, and what was to be made of Zelda?

With fifteen minutes left of the lunch hour, Lilith decided that stewing in her own thoughts wasn’t going to fix anything, and made her way to the restroom. She chose a stall all the way to the far end of the bathroom, which was a habit she had developed in childhood. The farther from the door, the safer she felt, though she had yet to understand the logic behind it.

Just when she was about to finish up in the stall, the door of the bathroom banged open, and two sets of footsteps could be heard coming in.

“Sabrina, you can’t keep this up, love.”

Lilith inwardly cringed as she realized that she was once again in a position to eavesdrop on a conversation she wasn’t meant to hear, but in this case, it was absolutely not her fault. She intended to let Hilda and Sabrina Spellman know she was there, just as soon as—

“It’s not my fault Aunt Zelda has terrible taste in men!”

“Oi, you need to watch your mouth!”

You’re the one always telling me that I should speak my mind. Do you think Uncle Faustus is a good man? Or Lucifer Morningstar, who’s been hanging around her since before the trial?”

Lilith closed her eyes. Oh…this wasn’t good at all. But how to reveal herself without making her actors think she was always lurking around, ready to insert herself into any conversation?

“Zelda is a grown woman who can make her own choices—”

“I don’t want another uncle like him. Prudence doesn’t like Lucifer either. And what about Judas and Leticia? Do they get a say in it, because they’re her real children?”

Lilith opened the stall door an inch, just in time to see Hilda’s face transform into shock.

“What do you mean, her real children?”

“She’s not my mother! She didn’t adopt me. Or Prudence, for that matter! She only likes kids when they’re little and they have to rely on her for everything and they don’t talk back and—”

“Sabrina, stop right there. Your Aunt Zelda loves you more than anything in the world. Just because she adopted Leticia and Judas doesn’t mean she loves you any less.”

Sabrina was on a rampage, though, and clearly wasn’t listening. She paced in front of the sinks. Lilith was really starting to worry that one of them would see her.

“And what happens if she has a baby with Lucifer? Then she’ll have what she’s always wanted—a child of her own—”

Hilda shook her head, suddenly looking very tired. “I think you can put that thought right out of your head. Zelda has enough on her hands with the twins. What on earth has gotten into you? I hope you haven’t said any of this to her. You don’t realize how much your words hurt her—”

“What about my hurt? What about how all of this has hurt me? The paparazzi are hounding me every minute, trying to get me to say that I saw Uncle Faustus—” Sabrina’s voice cracked on the name “Faustus” and she broke off her sentence there to recover. She braced herself on the sink, hanging her head.

Hilda moved to put a hand on her back. “I know it’s hard, love. But when you feel like this, you can’t take it out on your aunt. I know that’s easier said than done, and I know I’m asking you to be a lot older than you are—to handle this like an adult—but it’s important to remember that your Aunt Zelda is not the enemy here.”

“But Auntie Zee told me to stay away from Uncle Faustus, so I can’t very well take it out on him. And whenever I’m near Lucifer he’s always touching me and being gross—”

Lilith felt her stomach drop all the way to the floor. Then she experienced a wave of nausea so severe it made her grateful that she was currently in the bathroom, though throwing up would definitely make it obvious that she had overheard their entire conversation.

What?!” said Hilda, her raised voice bouncing off the walls of the bathroom.

“Forget it,” said Sabrina, pushing off the sink and refusing to look Hilda in the eye. “We should go back.”

“No, Sabrina, if Lucifer is bothering you—”

“Forget I said anything, okay? He’s just a man,” said Sabrina, trying to walk past her aunt but Hilda blocked her path.

“No, Cerberus is a man. Lucifer is a pig if he’s pestering you.”

“Just drop it, okay? He’s clearly interested in Auntie Zee, not me.”

“That doesn’t make whatever he’s doing right. What is he doing?”

“It’s nothing, Auntie. I can handle it.”

“You’re sixteen. You shouldn’t have to be handling anything from a man like Lucifer.”

“It’s not that bad, okay? It’s just like…little touches here and there. On my waist or lower back or shoulders. It makes my skin crawl but it’s not like it’s even that sexual.”

“You don’t have to make excuses for him. If it’s making you uncomfortable, that’s that,” said Hilda, her voice suddenly very hard. “I’ll make him stop.”

“No!” said Sabrina, her face going red with embarrassment. “I don’t want to make a big thing of it. It’s no big deal. I just don’t want him to be my new uncle, okay?”

“When I tell Zelda, she’ll kill him, not date him.”

“No, Auntie, please,” said Sabrina, a bit of desperation creeping into her voice. “I don’t want her to think I’m making things up just to break them apart.”

Hilda’s face fell. “Do you really think she wouldn’t believe you? Sabrina, your aunt would never think you’d make something like that up. She’d want to know. All she’s ever wanted is to keep you safe and happy.”

“Just…give me a chance to handle it on my own,” said Sabrina. “I don’t want to bother her. She looks sick enough as it is.”

Hilda sighed. “She does, doesn’t she? I’ve told her she needs to take better care of herself or she’ll really drop dead during the court scene, but she isn’t listening to me.”

Just then, the door to the bathroom swung open, and heels could be heard clicking on the tile. Lilith nearly cursed out loud when she saw Zelda Spellman appear around the corner.

“Zelds!” said Hilda, unable to hide the slight hysteria in her voice from her sister’s unexpected appearance.

“What are you two up to?” said Zelda, eyeing her sister and niece with suspicion.

“We were just on our way out!” said Hilda, ushering Sabrina forward.

“I hope you had a good lunch, Auntie Zee,” said Sabrina sarcastically over her shoulder as they left. Lilith could hear Hilda admonish her as the door closed behind them.

Lilith watched as Zelda let the blow wash over her, then entered a bathroom stall.

Should she make a run for it now? Or would that be too suspicious? Lilith was still warring with herself when she heard the unmistakable sounds of someone throwing up.

Oh dear. That couldn’t be good.

Chapter Text

Lilith was hyper-aware of the echoing click-clack sound her shoes made on the bathroom tile as she came to stand outside of Zelda’s stall. There would be no more hiding behind bushes or stall doors. From now on, all conversations would be had face-to-face. Or, as it was, door-to-face.

“Miss Spellman?”

She received no answer—but then, the woman did presumably have her head in the toilet.

Nothing to do but wait. Lilith checked her watch. There wasn’t much time until rehearsal would start. She took out her phone and shot a quick text to her assistant director, Stolas, telling him to get started on Act IV. They weren’t about to do the court scene with Zelda in this state.

At least young Sabrina Spellman would be occupied, for the time being. That girl might be stubborn and mouthy, but Lilith could very clearly see now why she was acting out. Lilith still didn’t know the whole story surrounding the Spellman-Blackwood divorce, but she was starting to suspect that the “irreconcilable differences” cited in the papers and gossip magazines hardly scratched the surface of the truth.

There was another wretch, followed by a small splash. It didn’t sound like there was much, if anything, left in the woman’s stomach.

Lilith had no idea how she was going to approach this situation. She didn’t want to make any assumptions that could sound like accusations. Hilda and Sabrina implied that Zelda was ill, and Lilith had seen for herself that the woman didn’t look her best, but what exactly was the nature of this mystery illness? Surely, she wouldn’t come to work if it was contagious…?

The sound of the toilet flushing brought Lilith out of her thoughts. She leaned against the bathroom counter, trying to appear calm and in control.

If Zelda appeared pale before, she was positively ashen as she opened the door and paused a moment to take Lilith in.

“What are you doing?” said Zelda tiredly as she made her way to the sink.

“I can assure you, I didn’t follow you into the bathroom, seeing as I was here first.”

Zelda inclined her head as she washed her hands. “I meant, why are you just standing there like you don’t have anything better to be doing? Shouldn’t you be directing?”

Lilith turned her body towards Zelda, watching as the actress reached into her purse and pulled out her lipstick. Zelda’s right hand shook as she attempted to reapply the deep shade of red that had been wiped off at some point during her time bowing to the porcelain altar. Lilith had no idea why she felt the urge to take the lipstick from Zelda and apply it to the woman’s lips herself. She really needed to reign in these unprofessional feelings.

“Is it contagious?” said Lilith, her eyes still drawn inexplicably to Zelda’s newly-painted lips.

“Is what contagious?” said Zelda, returning the lipstick to her bag.

“Whatever has you throwing up your lunch.”

“I didn’t eat lunch,” said Zelda, casually, as if it proved a point, and they were done discussing the subject. She then retrieved a tin from her bag, which Lilith would’ve guessed was meant for mints, but when Zelda opened it, she was surprised—and mildly alarmed—to see pills, or perhaps vitamins, where the mints should be.

“That settles that, then,” said Lilith, leaning more of her weight on the counter and giving Zelda’s body a once-over. She was trying to provoke Zelda into giving her some reaction besides steely coolness, and seduction was as good a bet as any to get a rise from her. “I’m making you dinner.”

“What?!” said Zelda, nearly choking as she dry-swallowed the pill.

“You haven’t eaten all day, you’re sick, and I make a terrific chicken noodle soup,” said Lilith, smirking. The truth was, she actually was a decent cook. But from the way Zelda was looking at her as if she had grown an extra head, it wasn’t likely that the woman thought she was being serious.

“Is this some sort of…trick?” said Zelda, running a hand through her hair to hide its trembling.

“Can’t a woman make dinner for her sick friend?”

“We aren’t friends,” said Zelda, immediately, her voice sharp.

“Can’t a director make dinner for her sick actress?”

“Let me make one thing clear, Miss Demos,” said Zelda, and the combination of her last name on the woman’s lips and the deep timber of her voice went right to Lilith’s core, even when she knew it shouldn’t. “I’ve just ended a truly terrible marriage. I have the wellbeing of two adopted children, a stepchild, a niece, and nephew to put before my own. Whatever it is you’re after, I assure you, you won’t be getting it.”

Lilith kept her gaze, trying to radiate earnestness. “I may not have known you personally for very long, Miss Spellman, but it only took me half a day to know that you shouldn’t be pushing people away right now.”

“That is exactly what I should be doing.” Zelda shook her head, bringing up a hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. “Everything has a price. I’m not interested in finding out what yours will be.”

Lilith felt thoroughly horrified that Zelda Spellman expected her offer of dinner to be the prelude to some sort of…deal. “I swear to you, Miss Spellman, I just want to make you some soup. I have no ulterior motive. I’m asking for nothing in exchange except your company.”

“My company,” Zelda repeated, a muscle working in her throat. “I don’t know what Lucifer has been telling you…but I don’t bargain with my…company.”

Lilith felt the peculiar sensation of falling, even though she could still feel the counter hard against her hip. “Miss Spellman… what exactly do you believe Lucifer has told me?”

“I know about the two of you,” Zelda carried on, as if Lilith hadn’t asked a question at all. Her expression was curiously blank. “You’re the one who got away.”

Lilith closed her eyes against the feeling of Lucifer’s hand beneath her chin, tilting it up with a gentleness he only used when he was trying to control her. She should never have agreed to work with him again.

“Getting ‘away’ was the best decision I ever made, and it wasn’t an easy thing to do,” said Lilith, opening her eyes. “I don’t know what he’s told you, but he should be rotting in prison for what he did to me. He’s lucky I never went to the police.”

Zelda seemed shocked by this honesty. She averted her eyes, rummaging once more in her purse. “You don’t have to…to tell me. I shouldn’t have…”

Zelda pulled a cigarette, lighter, and holder out of her bag in rapid succession. The lit cigarette was halfway to her lips before she paused, suddenly aware of what she was doing.

“I don’t think you’re allowed to smoke in here,” offered Lilith, but Zelda had already thrown the cigarette into the sink with much more force than was strictly necessary. She turned on the tap; both women stood in silence, watching the cigarette be doused with water.

“I’m sorry,” said Zelda, staring at the last wisps of smoke curling up, but clearly not talking about the cigarette.

“No harm done,” said Lilith, also aware of the subtext at work between them.

“I didn’t mean to—well. I should know better—” Zelda’s words were stilted but contrite.

“Let’s drop it, alright? All I’m interested in is getting you to agree to come to dinner. No strings attached. I just don’t want my leading lady wasting away.”

“There’s no danger of that,” said Zelda, under her breath.

Lilith looked at her curiously. Was Zelda finally going to admit what was wrong with her…?

“Hilda keeps me very well-fed. Ever since I moved back in with her, she’s been trying to fatten me up,” Zelda said, quickly, by way of explanation. Lilith eyed her, not quite convinced this was the truth, but in the end, she decided to leave it alone. At least for now.

“So, she won’t mind me continuing her efforts?” said Lilith, smiling.

Just then, the bathroom door swung open. Hilda Spellman appeared, once again, from around the corner.

“Zelds…?” she said, eyeing the two of them suspiciously. “I was getting worried. You’re terribly late…but clearly the director is aware of that.”

“You ought to stop worrying so much, Hilda,” said Zelda, slinging her bag over her shoulder. “I’m fine.”

“You’ve been in the bathroom for twenty minutes,” Hilda said, but her eyes were trained on Lilith, not Zelda. “We skipped Act Three and went straight to Act Four. Stolas is directing. All things considered, I think I was within my right to be worried.”

“Well, as you can see, I’m fine—” said Zelda, fiddling with her scarf.

“—Actually,” interrupted Lilith, “I was just telling Miss Spellman that she could go home. We won’t be doing any more of Hermione’s scenes today, and she was feeling a little sick to her stomach.”

Zelda glared at Lilith as if she was planning the details of her murder, but Lilith was distracted from it by Hilda’s concerned voice echoing in the bathroom.

“Zelda, why didn’t you tell me you were ill—?”

“I’m not. Ms. Demos is mistaken—”

“You ought to do as Lilith says and go lie down. I’ll make you some medicinal tea and soup when rehearsal is over,” said Hilda, reaching out to her sister, but Zelda shook her off.

“That’s not necessary—”

“Actually,” said Lilith, interrupting once again, “I’ve invited Miss Spellman to dinner tonight. I’ll ensure she gets some of my finest soup in her before the day is done.”

Hilda looked thoroughly taken aback by this. “Zelda? You didn’t tell me you had a…date?”

“It’s not a date,” insisted Zelda, baring her teeth in Lilith’s direction, “and I never accepted the offer.”

“Well, I think it sounds lovely,” said Hilda, changing her tune on a dime. Lilith looked at her, perplexed. What was with the Spellman family and their mercurial moods? “Zelda never lets me take care of her these days. Maybe you’ll have better luck.”

“I’m a fifty-one-year-old divorcee, not a child. I don’t need taking care of.”

Lilith and Hilda exchanged a look, united by a common goal.

Zelda looked back and forth between them, before finally sighing in defeat. “Fine. I’ll go home, but only because I don’t want to spend the rest of the afternoon watching my niece ‘modernize’ Shakespeare’s verse.”

“And you’ll come to dinner?” pressed Lilith, knowing that Hilda’s presence offered her greater power when it came to winning the woman over.

Zelda remained silent for a few moments. She seemed a bit lost when she eventually said, “If you insist.”

Lilith’s stomach fluttered in happiness. Hilda looked unduly smug for someone who had entered the bathroom looking like she thought Lilith had kidnapped her sister.

“Wonderful.”

Chapter Text

The rest of rehearsal went by relatively uneventfully. Never before had Lilith been so grateful for the beautiful monotony of drilling scenes over and over again. She didn’t even mind that Sabrina only seemed to listen to every third word that she said; she would take an angsty teenager with authority issues over the adults and their problems any day.

 “Lilith?” said a voice on her right after she dismissed the cast and began packing away her belongings. Lilith looked up to see Hilda Spellman shuffling her feet awkwardly. “May I have a word?”

“Of course,” said Lilith, slinging her bag over her shoulder. “Do you mind if we walk to my car as we talk? I want to get started on that soup.”

Hilda nodded, remaining quiet as they made their way to the exit.

“What’s on your mind, Miss Spellman?”

Hilda took a moment to scan the parking lot, as if checking to see who had dilly-dallied before going home. It was mostly empty, but at the far end of the lot, Prudence, Agatha, and Dorcas were sitting on the hood of Ambrose Spellman’s car, passing something that looked suspiciously like a joint between them as Ambrose stood a few feet away, using his whole body to tell a story. Hilda didn’t seem especially interested in the sight, and brought her attention back to Lilith.

“Your date with my sister.”

Lilith opened her mouth, but had trouble finding the words. “It’s not…a date. It’s dinner between colleagues.”

Hilda gave her a look that said very plainly she wasn’t buying it. “Whatever you want to call it, I don’t have to tell you that she’s going through a lot right now. If you’re looking for a fling, she’ll give you one, but it won’t be good for her, do you understand?”

They came to a stop beside Lilith’s car.

“Miss Spellman, I assure you, I have no untoward designs upon your sister.”

“Good,” said Hilda, placing her hands on her hips. “But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have them on you.”

“What?” said Lilith, sputtering.

Hilda smiled. “You’re just her type. And if I know anything about my sister, she’ll be looking for a distraction.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” said Lilith, unlocking her car to put her bag down. “What exactly are you saying?”

The smile fell off of Hilda’s face as quickly as it appeared. “I’m saying that she’s going to be looking for an escape, and she has a history of ‘escaping’ by way of sex with beautiful women in positions of power.”

“With all due respect,” said Lilith, crossing her arms, “Zelda is an adult. She can have sex with whomever she wants, and I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation when you were encouraging us to have dinner together only a couple of hours ago.”

Hilda sighed, taking another glance around the parking lot as she did. She had a clear view of Sabrina hanging off of Nick Scratch’s arm as they came from the direction of the gardens. When Hilda spoke again, it was with a tone Lilith had never heard the woman use before.

“Look… it’s Faustus’ week to have the twins. Whenever he has them, she doesn’t eat, she doesn’t sleep, she just…worries until she can take care of them again. I want her to be distracted, but not too distracted. I know she can make her own decisions, but she isn’t in a good place right now, and I wanted you to understand that before you—”

“Hilda,” said Lilith, holding up a hand to halt the rush of words. “I promise, it’s just dinner. If Zelda wants it to be more than that, that’s her business. I refuse to make decisions for her. But I wouldn’t worry, because she made it very clear to me that she doesn’t trust—or even like—me.”

Hilda let out a hollow laugh. “Zelda rarely trusts or likes the people she sleeps with. That’s what worries me.”

Lilith felt her intestines twist at that, but tried to keep it from showing on her face. She herself had gone through a period of time after she was with Lucifer when she didn’t care who the person was—she would sleep with anyone to erase the feeling of his hands on her. It hadn’t worked, but she didn’t blame herself for trying.

“Hilda, I know your heart is in the right place, but I really don’t think Zelda would appreciate you telling me all of this.”

“You don’t understand,” said Hilda, shaking her head. “Keeping her safe is more important than her opinion of me. I couldn’t protect her from Faustus, and now Lucifer is toying with her like a cat with a mouse. He’s holding something over her—I just know it. These are the kind of people she lets close to her. The difference here is that I think you might be a decent person, and I’m asking you to at least consider that now isn’t a good time.”

Lilith let Hilda’s words sink in before nodding. “I understand. Now, I did promise to make your sister soup, and I’m a woman of my word, so I ought to be going.”

Hilda stared at her for a few more moments, as if sizing her up, before giving a curt nod. “I’ll drop her off at seven and come by to pick her up at ten.”

“Can’t she drive herself? Or take a cab?” said Lilith, losing patience. It was absolutely absurd that Hilda was acting as if Zelda was a promiscuous, reckless teenager in need of discipline.

“I’ll ask how she’s feeling when I get home,” said Hilda, inclining her head to acknowledge that she understood what Lilith left unspoken.

“Asking her sounds like a great idea,” said Lilith, no longer caring if she came off as rude. “Have a good night.”

With that, she got into her car and drove away. She could see Hilda in her rearview mirror, watching her as she turned out of the parking lot and onto the street.


 

Lilith’s apartment wasn’t much to look at. The producers had offered it to her after Mary Wardwell left the production, and Lilith was still finding the occasional trinket or item of clothing that had been left behind in the woman’s haste to leave. Lilith herself had learned to travel light, so there wasn’t much by way of decoration, and now that she was having company, she wondered if she should have put more thought into making the austere space a bit more…cozy.

But there wasn’t time; the soup was still simmering on the stove, and she needed to decide on which wine paired the best with it. Although, Zelda seemed more like a whiskey drinker than anything else…

Lilith was drawn out of her inner debate when she heard the buzzer sound. She walked quickly over to the pad on her wall and pressed down on the button to unlock the door.

“Come on up,” Lilith said into the pad, taking off her apron. The last thing she needed was to answer the door in something she’d bought at the Goodwill down the street for sixty cents. Checking her appearance in the mirror that hung in the hallway next to the door, Lilith decided she looked decent for someone who had had been cooking over a hot stove for two hours.

There was a knock on her door, and Lilith moved to open it. She smiled as she took in Zelda’s classic 1940s ensemble, complete with pearls. “Wow! I feel underdressed. Come in, come in.”

Zelda hesitated a moment before stepping over the threshold. “I wasn’t sure what to wear. Or what to bring. I hope you like merlot.”

Zelda held out a bottle of wine, covered in shiny silver wrapping and tied with a bow.

“You didn’t have to bring anything,” said Lilith as she accepted the wine.

“Hilda kept pestering me about being a good guest. It’s like she thinks I’ve never had dinner with someone before.”

Lilith chuckled at that. “Did she drop you off?”

“No,” said Zelda, suspicion creeping into her tone. “Why would she?”

“No reason,” said Lilith, quickly, turning towards the small sitting room. “The soup is almost done. Why don’t you have a seat—”

“Did Hilda talk to you?” interrupted Zelda. She stood beside the couch, but refused to sit down. “Did she tell you she would be my chauffeur? My chaperone?”

Lilith took a steadying breath. “She might have mentioned—”

“I’m going to kill her,” said Zelda, though the venom in her tone was mitigated by how tired she sounded. “She’s been treating me like a child ever since the trial started.”

“You can’t blame her for caring,” said Lilith, walking towards the kitchen to place the wine on the counter. “Would you like a glass of wine while we wait for the soup to finish?”

Unexpected silence greeted her question.

“Zelda?” Lilith said, popping her head around the corner.

“I would love some,” said Zelda, having finally sat down, but she wasn’t looking in Lilith’s direction. “But I think it’s best to go twenty-four hours without throwing up before you begin imbibing.”

Lilith was a bit taken aback. “You brought wine…but you don’t want to drink it?”

“Hilda insisted. I wanted to bring dessert, but she thought that might insult you, since you take pride in your culinary ability.”

Lilith almost laughed at that. “I don’t think my ego would’ve been bruised by a gift of baked goods.”

“Good to know,” said Zelda, her eyes flitting about the room, as if taking in how bare the walls were.

“I haven’t managed to decorate yet,” said Lilith, bringing Zelda a cup of water to drink instead. “I only just moved in a couple days ago."

“I know,” said Zelda, accepting the water with a grateful look. “Mary left on Friday night, so you couldn’t have been in here before then.”

Lilith raised an eyebrow at Zelda’s casual use of Miss Wardwell’s first name as she sat down beside her on the couch. “Were you close with Mary Wardwell?”

Zelda took a drink of water, as if to stall for time. When she was done, her eyes had a faraway look. “We used to be, before I was married.”

Lilith waited for more information, but none was forthcoming. “Did she really have a nervous collapse?”

Zelda closed her eyes for a moment. “I suppose you could call it that.”

“What would you call it?” This suddenly felt like vital information. Lilith hadn’t pried when the producers offered her the job, but she had a feeling that there was more to the story than they had given her.

Zelda opened her eyes, her face suddenly wiped blank. Lilith was shocked by how impenetrable her expression could be when she didn’t want to talk about something.

“Did the producers lie to the press?” said Lilith, pressing further. She wouldn’t be surprised if they had, but that was concerning for a number of reasons.

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” said Zelda, shifting uncomfortably.

Lilith didn’t like the direction this was going. “Was there an incident like the one we had today?”

“What incident? There was no incident,” said Zelda, waving her hand in dismissal.

Lilith gave her a meaningful look, but kept her mouth shut.

“Mary…” Zelda started, but then broke off. The silence stretched and stretched.

“Yes?” Lilith encouraged, wanting to reach out and place a hand on Zelda’s knee, but knowing that might be seen as too familiar.

Zelda looked completely lost as she said, “Mary… got on the wrong side of Faustus… and Lucifer.”

Lilith couldn’t begin to imagine the implications of that sentence. “What does that mean?”

“It’s complicated.”

Lilith was really starting to hate that phrase. “Then explain it to me like I’m a child.”

Zelda almost laughed at that. “I wouldn’t tell a child anything about those men if I could help it.”

Lilith had to concede that point.

“Anyway,” said Zelda, lifting her glass to her lips again. “Thank you for inviting me for dinner. It was entirely unnecessary, but I admit, it is nice to be socializing with an adult that isn’t my ex-husband, my sister, or a lawyer.”

“What about Lucifer?” said Lilith, and she nearly kicked herself for how tactless that question was.

“What about him?” said Zelda, placing the cup down with enough force to make a rather loud sound.

“He’s not your ex-husband, your sister, or a lawyer.”

“Well spotted,” said Zelda sarcastically. “I’ve known him for nearly twenty years. He’s practically a brother, and an unwanted one, at that.”

Lilith was thrown off by this description. She hadn’t realized their relationship went back that far. “Forgive me, but I accidentally overheard quite a bit of your conversation in the garden—”

Accidentally?” said Zelda, her voice suddenly brittle and cold. “You were hiding behind bushes like a particularly indiscreet paparazza.”

“I deserve that,” said Lilith, nodding, “but nevertheless, I overheard Faustus imply…that your relationship with Lucifer is…not ‘brotherly,’ if you understand my meaning.”

“I understand perfectly well,” said Zelda, sharply, “but I didn’t come here to be interrogated.”

With that, Zelda moved to stand, but Lilith could tell from the moment the woman was on her feet that something was wrong, and that she had stood up too fast. She saw Zelda tilt alarmingly, and Lilith was up in an instant, trying to steady her. It was no use, however, because the moment Lilith had a grip on Zelda’s arms, the woman’s knees buckled. Lilith was glad they were so close to the couch, because all she had to do was ease Zelda back down onto it, rather than pick her up off the floor.

“Should I call an ambulance? A doctor?”

“No, no,” said Zelda, her voice faint. “It’s just my blood pressure.”

“You need to see a doctor,” said Lilith, firmly. “You can’t keep pretending you’re alright when it’s clear you aren’t.”

“I’ve learned to live with a very flexible definition of ‘alright,’” said Zelda, weakly. She leaned her head back against the couch. “I just need a minute.”

“I’m calling your sister, at least,” said Lilith, moving to grab her phone, but Zelda stopped her with a feeble hand on her arm.

“No…please. Don’t.”

Of all of the things that were scaring Lilith in this moment, the most terrifying was the look of desperation on Zelda’s face.

“Zelda, your sister practically threatened me this afternoon. I’m not going to let her think I stood around and did nothing while you were seriously ill.”

“She did what?” said Zelda, her voice breathless.

“I’m calling her,” said Lilith as she gently took Zelda’s hand off her arm, “and we’re taking you to the hospital.”

“Please,” said Zelda, and the tears in her eyes were what finally stopped Lilith, with the phone held in her hand, ready to be dialed. “I’m not sick.”

“Are you hurt? Should I call the police instead?” Lilith’s mind was running wild with reasons Zelda might not want to go to the hospital, and none of them were good.

“No!” said Zelda, trying and failing to get up once more.

 “Stop, stop, for Satan’s sake!” said Lilith, moving back to her and placing her hands on the woman’s shoulders to keep her sitting still. “Please tell me what’s wrong, so I can help you.”

Zelda refused to make eye contact. Her shoulders were shaking beneath Lilith’s hands. Something was wrong—very, very wrong—but nothing in the world could’ve prepared Lilith for when Zelda finally met her eyes, looking for all the world like she had just been given twelve hours to live.

“I’m pregnant.”

Chapter Text

“Pregnant?” said Lilith, letting go of Zelda’s shoulders immediately. Zelda didn’t repeat herself to confirm it; she just sat there, blinking up at Lilith with her wide, watery eyes. Unbidden, Leticia’s voice echoed in her ears: when is the baby coming?

Suddenly, the oppressively loud sound of the oven timer declared the soup was finished simmering. Lilith and Zelda looked at one another for a moment longer, the air between them near unbreathable.

Eventually, Lilith couldn’t stand the shrieking of the timer going off. She ran a hand through her mane of dark hair before saying, “Sounds like the soup is ready. You just sit there for a minute while I bring everything out of the kitchen.”

“I can help you,” said Zelda, though the palm pressed hard against her forehead told a different story. “It was just a dizzy spell. I’m fine now.”

“I’m telling you to sit still because you’re a guest, not because you’re…” Lilith wanted to kick herself for the way her eyes were drawn to Zelda’s stomach.

“You really ought to silence that heavenly racket,” said Zelda, waving a hand in the direction of the kitchen as her eyes darted to the side, avoiding Lilith’s rude stare.

“Right,” said Lilith, tearing her gaze away. “I’ll just…go do that.”

Once the timer was turned off, Lilith busied herself with puttering around the kitchen. Her mind was going a mile a minute, but she tried to focus solely on bringing the soup to the table, along with some fresh bread and cheese.

Are pregnant people allowed to eat cheese? Lilith suddenly felt overwhelmed by her ignorance. She’d never been around many pregnant women, and the subject of having a family of her own was a sore one, as Lilith had decided in her 20’s that she wanted a career more than a child, and very few people respected that choice. She’d grown tired of defending her independence over the years, to reporters and partners alike. It was unlikely she would have gotten far in the industry with a child in tow, and yet, interviewers never failed to bring up her lack of a family.

The fact that she’d had her tubes tied after Lucifer made it clear that he would love nothing more than to make her his broodmare was a secret for herself alone.

“Is everything alright?” said Zelda, calling from the couch.

“Of course,” said Lilith, with more confidence than she felt. She walked back into the living room, trying to keep her eyes trained on Zelda’s face. “What would you like to drink? Obviously, wine is out of the question… and I haven’t really done much food shopping yet, so I think all I have is milk, water, or orange juice.”

“Water is fine,” said Zelda, but her face darkened. “Wine would probably be fine, too.”

Lilith’s eyes went wide. “What… what exactly do you mean…?”

“Forget it,” said Zelda, waving a hand. “I’m morbid when I’m sober. Is the soup served?”

Lilith was still thinking about the wine, flummoxed by the notion that Zelda might not be interested in staying sober for the baby. “…Yes?”

Zelda took a deep breath, before scooting to the edge of her seat.

“Do you think you can walk to the table?” said Lilith, eyeing the distance between the couch and the dinner table with uncertainty. 

“Of course. I’m not an invalid.”

Lilith felt a smile curling at her lips at the woman’s stubbornness. At the risk of offending her, she offered a helping hand anyway. “Her Majesty still deserves an escort.”

“An escort to the table? You’re just as bad as Hilda.”

Despite the harsh tone of her words, Zelda allowed herself to be lifted into a standing position. Lilith was shocked by how easy it was to pull Zelda up; the woman was light as a feather.

“—and don’t call me ‘Your Majesty.’”

Lilith tucked Zelda’s arm into her elbow before starting towards the table. “Why not? You’re playing a queen. If I were you, I would milk it for all it’s worth.”

It was slow-going—Zelda was still weak and unsteady on her feet, though Lilith would never point it out—but they made it to the table without too much trouble. Lilith pulled out Zelda’s chair for her and helped her into the seat.

“Being Queen didn’t do Hermione any good, did it?”

Lilith didn’t like the bitterness that laced Zelda’s words, but she was right, nevertheless. “You have a point.”

Fetching two fresh cups of water, she returned to the table to see Zelda eyeing the food like it was a battle to be fought, not a meal to enjoy.

“Is something wrong?” said Lilith, putting the glasses down before passing Zelda the plate of bread and cheese.

“This looks lovely,” Zelda said, though the look on her face was a great contrast to her words. “It’s just that I haven’t been able to keep any food down in…awhile.”

“You should probably see a doctor about that,” said Lilith, ladling the soup into Zelda’s bowl.

“I can’t,” said Zelda with a sigh. “If the press finds out that I’m seeing an obstetrician, I couldn’t begin to imagine the scandal.”

Lilith sat down more heavily than she intended, after filling her own bowl with soup. “But isn’t your health—and the baby’s—more important than what the newspapers print?”

Zelda stared into her soup, not making any attempt to eat it. “You have to understand—this cannot get into the papers. I should never have told you.”

Lilith burned her tongue, forgetting to blow on her spoon before putting the soup into her mouth. “Well, I’m glad you did. I hope you don’t think I’d leak the information?”

Zelda looked up, her eyes glassy. “I’ve come to the conclusion that if you were instructed by the producers to secretly feed them scandals amongst the cast in order to drum up sales, you’re doing a rather terrible job of it.”

Lilith didn’t know if she should be relieved or insulted by that. “I can assure you, I’m just another pawn on the board.”

Zelda nodded, before reaching for a piece of bread. “I should’ve known, once I realized you were Lucifer’s ex-fiancé.”

Lilith felt a roaring in her ears. She slammed the cup of water she had been lifting to her lips back down onto the table. “We were never engaged. I turned him down. It was Lucifer who couldn’t accept ‘no’ for an answer.”

Zelda held up her hands. It was hard to remain angry at her when Lilith could see the tremor in the woman’s fingers. “I know. I’m sorry. It’s just… now I’m certain he was the one who convinced the producers to hire you.”

Lilith felt as if the walls were closing in on her. “He what?”

“He got Mary Wardwell fired specifically so that they could hire someone else. It was just his luck that Faustus had reason to want her gone, too. Lucifer and Faustus rarely agree on anything, but the producers couldn’t ignore their very expensive leading men demanding a replacement.”

Lilith watched in stunned silence as Zelda ripped off a tiny piece of bread and brought it to her lips.

This was bad. Lucifer was toying with her, but why? Not that he ever needed a reason in the past, but she was so certain they had put the past behind them. “What could Lucifer possibly gain by bringing me into this production?”

Zelda’s eyes flit about the room before coming to a rest on Lilith. “I haven’t the faintest idea. As it is, you’re challenging him at every turn. You’ve surprised him in some way.”

Lilith didn’t want to think about Lucifer while she was eating. So, she cleared her throat, and brought another spoonful of soup to her lips. “If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not talk about him right now.”

Zelda nodded, before taking a conciliatory, if small, sip of the soup. “My sentiments exactly. I’m sorry I brought it up.”

“You don’t have to apologize,” said Lilith, before changing the topic. There were more pressing matters than the nature of her appointment as director. “If you don’t mind my asking, when did you discover you were…”

“Pregnant?” Zelda was in the middle of tearing off another piece of bread when she looked up.

“Yes.”

Zelda looked down and away. She didn’t seem happy with the new subject of discussion. “At first I thought it was menopause. At my age, that was far more likely. But the symptoms didn’t exactly line up.”

Lilith just looked at her, unsure what to say. She didn’t feel comfortable asking for more details; they barely knew each other. But something inside of Lilith was whispering that Zelda might need to talk to someone, and Lilith could be that someone. After all, the woman looked terrified, not elated, by a geriatric pregnancy.

“How far along are you?”

“Ten weeks,” the answer came, quiet but certain.

“Does anyone else…know?” said Lilith, standing up to refill both of their water glasses with the pitcher in the center of the table.

Zelda looked at her then, her lips stretched into a grim line. She brought her right hand up to finger the pearls around her throat.  “If he’s managed to keep it to himself, then… Lucifer is the only other person who knows.”

Lilith felt the need to sit down immediately once those words registered in her brain, though it meant abandoning her water glass mid-pour. She’d suspected Zelda wasn’t telling the truth about the nature of her relationship with Lucifer, but it was still disturbing to be proven right. She took in Zelda’s pale and fragile appearance, and wondered just how she could possibly address this fact without distressing her. It seemed talking about Lucifer and his “charms” was unavoidable.

“Are you saying Lucifer is the father?”

Zelda’s face drained of any remaining color. “I…”

Lilith wanted to break something. Or scream. Or perhaps break something while she screamed. But this wasn’t about her, and she needed to get those feelings under control if she was going to get answers.

“Zelda, you can tell me. It might’ve been twenty years ago, but I still remember what it’s like to be under his control.”

“I’m not under anyone’s control—now,” said Zelda, shaking her head slowly, “and I want it to remain that way.”

“But is Lucifer the father of this baby?” Lilith repeated, her water and soup forgotten. She didn’t think she’d ever eat again if she thought about the kind of deal Lucifer might have offered Zelda. Lilith could see tears beginning to form in the corners of Zelda’s eyes, but they had yet to fall.

“That depends on who you ask,” said Zelda, finally, as she fiddled with the napkin on her lap.

“I’m asking you,” said Lilith, feeling lightheaded. No matter Zelda’s answer, she knew that it wouldn’t be good. Hilda had put it in Lilith’s head that Zelda was prone to self-destructive behavior, and getting involved with Lucifer was certainly the quickest way to self-ruin.

“Well, unfortunately, I… haven’t made a decision on that score just yet.” Zelda began to tear her napkin into tiny pieces, making a small pile of strips next to her bowl.

Lilith was so distracted by the anxious behaviors that she was observing that Zelda’s words didn’t immediately make sense. “I’m sorry. What?”

“I… I think… there is a possibility… that Lucifer is the father.”

“Possibility? Meaning it’s also possible that he isn’t?”

Zelda jerked her head in a sharp nod. Lilith had a terrible feeling she knew who the other ‘possibility’ was. The puzzle pieces were all starting to come together, and she didn’t like the picture one bit.

“I understand if you don't want to talk about… the circumstances. But I think you should tell someone. Maybe Hilda?” Lilith suggested, trying to make her voice sound as soft and encouraging as possible.

“No,” said Zelda, quickly. She stopped tearing apart her napkin and looked up with panic in her eyes. “Hilda can’t know. She already looks at me like I’m going to break at any moment. If I told her, she would—well. I can imagine what she would do, and it wouldn't be good for anyone involved.”

“Then…do you want to tell me why you aren’t sure…?”

Zelda brought her fingers to the bridge of her nose and pinched hard, as if she had a migraine. “I… I don’t want to even think about it, let alone talk about it.”

Lilith could understand that sentiment. But the fact of the matter was that a baby couldn’t be ignored. The secret was only going to grow bigger by the day, and the longer Zelda kept it, the harder it would be to make a plan of action.

“Okay. Well… what if I did the talking, and you could just say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if I get the story right?”

Zelda didn’t look too enthusiastic about this idea, but she eventually nodded in agreement.

Lilith took a deep breath. She’d had to go to therapy for years before she was able to process what happened between her and Lucifer. The idea that he had hurt more women after she broke up with him was unpleasant, but not surprising.

“Did Lucifer offer to help you appeal the judge’s decision in exchange for sex?”

Zelda sighed. “I’ve told you: I don’t bargain with my…company.”

“I wouldn’t judge you if you did.”

Zelda’s eyes met hers and for the first time, Lilith felt like they were actually seeing each other.

“That’s…kind of you. But it isn’t like that. He has other…leverage.”

Lilith could feel her heartrate increase exponentially. “What kind of leverage?”

“Lilith—” Zelda said, and despite the seriousness of the situation, she couldn’t help but feel a flicker of joy at finally hearing her name on the woman’s lips, “you don’t understand. I have to take this secret to my grave.”

Whatever joy she felt was quickly replaced by horror. “What information could he possibly have over you that would warrant such devotion?”

For a moment, it looked like Zelda was debating answering the question, but it was clear by the increasing panic in the woman’s eyes that Lilith wasn’t going to get the information she wanted.

“I have to leave,” said Zelda, standing so abruptly that she had to grab onto the table to keep from falling right back into her chair. “I can’t. Nobody can know. Edward would kill me.”

“Edward…your brother?” Lilith’s brow furrowed. She knew enough about the Spellman family to know that of the three famous siblings, the brother was long since buried in the ground. “Zelda, I think you need to lie down. Edward Spellman is dead.”

“Of course—I know he’s dead,” said Zelda, pushing away from the table and stumbling towards the door. “I meant… I meant Lucifer. He’d kill me.”

Lilith leapt from her seat, nervous that Zelda would collapse the moment she left the apartment. She grabbed her by the elbow, trying not to be too rough, but the woman was deceptively strong. “Zelda, slow down. Why would Lucifer want to kill you? Especially now that you might be carrying his child? You’re not making any sense.”

“Let go!” said Zelda, trying to wrench her elbow free. Lilith could only guess that it was the adrenaline that was fueling her.

“Zelda, stop,” said Lilith, pulling her around so that she could take a hold of both elbows. “Look at me. No one is going to try and kill you. Not while you’re here with me; I won’t let them. But you have to calm down, and explain to me what has you in this panic.”

“I can’t.”

“I know you’re scared—frankly, you’re scaring me. But I can’t let you leave like this. You nearly fainted standing up. You’re in no condition to drive.”

“I’ll call a taxi,” said Zelda, still trying to tear herself away from Lilith. “You can’t just keep me here against my will.”

“I don’t intend to—I just want you to calm down before you go. This stress isn’t good for the baby.”

Zelda wilted beneath her hands. Lilith was shocked by the sudden lack of protest.

“It won’t matter,” Zelda whispered. Lilith had to lean closer to hear.

“Zelda?”

“The baby is going to die anyway.”

Lilith wasn’t sure if Zelda meant that she was going to have an abortion or a miscarriage, but either scenario made her nervous. “Zelda?”

“I need to sit down,” she said, her voice still very faint.

Lilith happily led her back to the couch. “I think that’s a good idea.”

“I hate feeling like this,” said Zelda, putting her head in her hands.

“I’m sure.”

“I’ve been pregnant before,” Zelda explained, her voice muffled by her hands, “and every time it ends the same way.”

Zelda’s shoulders began to shake. Lilith decided that the line that should be drawn between colleagues was long since crossed, and wrapped her arms around the crying woman.

As the top of her shirt was soaked with tears, Lilith was overwhelmed by a single thought: I’m going to kill Lucifer.

Chapter Text

Lilith let Zelda cry for what seemed like an eternity, though Lilith knew it was probably just her own racing thoughts that were creating the illusion that so much time had passed. She was trying to organize what she knew about the situation vs. what she had assumed, and the two categories were terribly hard to reconcile.

Lilith knew that Zelda’s baby had at least two possible fathers; she knew that Zelda hadn’t intended to get pregnant; she knew that the woman crying into her neck was afraid of Lucifer—but no—that was an assumption. When Zelda had gone into a panic, it was Edward Spellman (a man she knew to be long dead) that she had cited as the source of her fear, not Lucifer. What on earth could that possibly mean?

Then there was the fact that Lucifer knew about the baby, but the other potential father didn’t. Why would Zelda tell one but not the other? Surely, if she’d had sex with Faustus even after the divorce was finalized, he would be the more obvious person to tell first? As it was, Lilith was certain Faustus at least suspected something, if his behavior at rehearsal was any indication. But then, why tell anyone at all, if Zelda was so certain the baby was going to die that she would risk not seeing a doctor?

Eventually, Lilith felt the woman’s tears subside. Zelda’s body was still shaking beneath her hands, but at least the uncontrollable sobs had stopped.

“Zelda? Are you alright?” said Lilith, whispering into the woman’s hair. Even in such a distressing situation, Lilith couldn’t help but notice how nicely the woman smelled, and how good it felt to hold someone in her arms again. She hadn’t been touched in so long, she almost forgot how much she missed this kind of intimacy.

“I’m fine, thank you,” said Zelda, pulling away. Her face was wet and blotchy, but her eyes were bright and focused once more. “I’m sorry—I should never have let myself fall apart like that.”

Lilith longed to pull the woman close once more, but it was clear Zelda was already erecting invisible barriers between them from the stiffness of her body. “You don’t have to apologize.”

“But I do,” said Zelda, insistently, crossing her arms as if to hug herself in place of Lilith. “I have no right to drag you into this. We hardly know each other.”

“That may be,” said Lilith, standing up to retrieve their waters from the table, “but no one deserves to struggle through something like this alone.”

Zelda looked as though she might disagree when Lilith passed her the glass. She took a careful sip, her throat raw from crying. “I’m better off alone. I always have been.”

Lilith sighed as she sat back down. “Just because you’ve been hurt by the people you trusted, doesn’t mean you’re better off alone.”

Zelda looked at her over the rim of the glass, eyes wide. “I never said anyone hurt me.”

Lilith didn’t want to push Zelda too far, but she also didn’t like the idea of the woman remaining in denial. “Zelda, you begged me not to tell your sister that you’re pregnant. Why would that be, unless it has to do with how the baby was conceived?”

“Maybe I just don’t want my sister prying into my business,” said Zelda, her hands shaking as she put the glass down onto the coffee table.

Lilith nodded. She had lied to herself about her own abuse for so long, it became so easy to just pretend that Lucifer really did love her, and that she had overreacted to all of his casual cruelty and possessive behavior. But there was only so long that lie could keep her safe from the truth, and she didn’t want to see Zelda hurt when inevitably the same reality check shattered her carefully constructed lie.

“Then let’s talk about Leticia,” said Lilith, changing tactics. She knew where to press to make a woman admit her situation was intolerable. She didn’t go through years of individual and group therapy not to have picked up on a few things.

Zelda looked like she didn’t know whether she should be relieved or suspicious of the sudden change of topic. “What about her?”

Lilith didn’t feel any remorse about breaking Lucifer’s confidence, especially if he was one of the men who hurt Zelda. “Lucifer told me you’re afraid that she isn’t safe with Faustus.”

Zelda’s mouth fell open before she collected herself long enough to find her voice. “He had no right to tell you that!”

“I agree,” said Lilith, holding up her hands to indicate she wouldn’t dispute that fact, “but for once, I think he’s showing a little bit of humanity. If you think Faustus is abusing her, you need to tell Child Protective Services.”

“And let her be taken away?!” snarled Zelda, and Lilith knew that if the woman had been feeling better, she would have stalked right out of the room. But lacking the energy or ability, she was forced to remain in her seat. “I won’t let the government have her. She’s my daughter; she might not be my blood, but she’s my daughter, and I’ll die before I let some stranger decide what’s best for her.”

Zelda was breathing hard; Lilith was starting to worry she really should have called a doctor, especially since Zelda had admitted that she hadn’t been to see one yet.

“Zelda, what matters more? Leticia’s safety, or your pride?” said Lilith, quietly, fully knowing the weight and consequence of her words.

Zelda flinched back, as if Lilith had struck her hard across the face. “How. Dare. You?!”

“Zelda—” Lilith began, but Zelda cut her off quickly.

“How dare you say that I would put anything above my daughter’s safety? This isn’t about pride!” said Zelda, her voice bordering on hysterical. Lilith couldn’t blame her; she had chosen her words specifically to illicit this kind of reaction.

“Then why didn’t you tell the judge that Faustus was abusing you? He never would’ve been given custody of the twins in the first place if there was domestic violence in the home,” said Lilith, trying to keep her voice calm and unemotional. This was how you made a woman confront her own demons, Lilith knew, but she couldn’t help but feel guilty even as she did it.

Tears began to slip once more down Zelda’s face. The sight made Lilith long to take her into her arms again, but she doubted that would be happening any time soon; not after she accused Zelda of putting her own wellbeing over her child’s.

“I did tell someone; I told Hilda, and I told my lawyer—who, by the way, advised against that line of prosecution, despite the fact that I’m sure he turned right around and sold exclusive rights of the ‘abuse’ story to The Inquirer. But no one even believed the article, anyway. Faustus’ loyal followers were very clear on that count.”

Lilith sucked in a sharp breath, closing her eyes. She hadn’t heard about that; but then, she wasn’t one to keep track of the tabloids. “Zelda—I’m sorry.”

“No, you aren’t,” said Zelda, her voice the coldest Lilith had ever heard it. She opened her eyes to see Zelda angrily wipe at her tear tracks with the edge of her sleeve. “You wanted me to talk, so fine, I’ll talk: Faustus is a charming misogynist—I’ve known that since we were teenagers, and I never should have married him, but I had my reasons. I had no way of knowing it would escalate the way it did.”

Wary that Zelda might slap her for even trying to touch her, Lilith laid her hand in the space between them on the couch, testing the waters. “What escalated?”

“Everything,” said Zelda, vaguely.

“Like what?”

“Do you really want to know all of the sick little details? Are you enjoying this?” said Zelda, pushing her palms into her eyes as if the tears could be forced back inside that way.

“I’m not,” said Lilith. In fact, she was quite certain she wouldn’t sleep a wink tonight. She didn’t think she’d sleep at all until either the play was shut down, or Faustus was in jail. “All I really want to know is if this baby was conceived consensually.”

“Why do you care how it was conceived?” Zelda pressed, bringing her hands down from her eyes and turning them into fists where they laid on her lap.

Lilith didn’t truly have an answer for that. She hardly knew Zelda Spellman except from afar before today; she had no idea why she had such a sudden, uncontrollable urge to protect her from harm.

“I care because I think someone hurt you—is still hurting you—and that unless someone else does something to stop him—them—you’re just going to keep letting it happen until you and your baby are dead.”

This declaration was met with a long silence. Zelda’s face, which had been red and blotchy only a moment ago, was starting to lose its color once more.

“I’m not a child, Miss Demos. I can fight my own battles,” said Zelda, though her voice was barely above a whisper. Lilith noticed that she had gone back to calling her by her last name instead of her first, which meant she was trying to rebuild the distance between them.

“You shouldn’t have to do it alone,” said Lilith, ignoring all signs that Zelda wanted to be left alone and placing her hand on the woman’s knee.

Zelda stared at the offending hand for a long time, not pushing it away, but also not making any indication the touch brought her any comfort.

Finally, Zelda looked up. All emotion had been wiped from her face. Even her eyes were completely blank as she said, “I’ll be fine, Miss Demos. Once the request for appeal is announced, Faustus won’t dare to touch me.”

Lilith didn’t want to sound overly cynical by telling Zelda she didn’t think that would be the case. Instead, she said, “And Lucifer?”

Zelda stood up, refusing Lilith’s help as she did, despite the trembling of her legs. “I’ll handle him. He’s not the only one with leverage.”

With that rather chilling statement, Zelda bid Lilith goodnight, thanking her for her hospitality—and for the soup, which Lilith thought was vaguely absurd, considering Zelda had hardly eaten any of it. Lilith watched as the woman swept out her apartment door, trying to quell the rising fear that Zelda had just spoken some very famous last words.

Chapter Text

After only five days of directing The Winter’s Tale, Lilith had already had enough. She’d worked in difficult environments before—the television set of a certain internationally successful British science fiction show had seen her nearly driven to insanity from the madcap actors, designers, and crew who hardly ever listened to the words coming out of her mouth, so as to make her wonder if she were speaking in tongues—but she had never once worked with a group of such high profile people whose history had so much latent, unspoken animosity that even the civility between them was disturbing. By Friday afternoon it had gotten so unbearable that Lilith contemplated quitting, just like Mary Wardwell, and letting the producers scramble once more to save the production, but she couldn’t imagine walking away after what Zelda Spellman had disclosed to her.

Even so, ever since their dinner, Zelda had noticeably been avoiding her. An impressive feat, considering they rehearsed six to eight hours every day. Faustus, too, had been giving Lilith a wide berth, putting on a show of being on his best behavior. It was unsettling. He was no longer petulant and aggressive; instead, he seemed to have decided to use his considerable charm to combat her every note, which made Lilith suspicious more than relieved.

It was Lucifer, however, who had her attention this afternoon. He had been following Zelda around like a dog all day, so much so that Lilith had momentarily debated the ethics of working only on scenes that would require the two of them to be onstage, so that there was no possibility of them being alone together. While Lilith knew she had no control over whatever problems Zelda might have with her ex-husband, she damn well could make sure that Lucifer left the woman alone—at least at work, where he was under Lilith’s direct authority. But when Lilith called for a half hour break in order to keep herself as much as her actors from collapsing under the tension, she realized that both Zelda and Lucifer had disappeared immediately after the words, “Thank you, thirty!” had been echoed in unison by the cast and crew.

Unable to shake the feeling that something was wrong, Lilith decided that she ought to get a fresh cup of coffee before she let her thoughts get too far away from her. But first, a brief pitstop was in order.

“You sick son of a bitch,” said Lilith intensely but quietly when she discovered Lucifer loitering outside the women’s restroom. Today he was dressed in a dashing black suit that cost at least half of Lilith’s salary. His arms were crossed and he was leaning back against the wall, only three short steps away from the lavatory door.

“Someone’s in a mood,” said Lucifer, smirking. “Are you on the rag, or are you always this angry and quick to judge these days, Lilith?”

Lilith let the fury she felt at his comments fuel her. “Why are you hanging around the women’s restroom?”

“It’s a free country, Lilith, and we’re on a break, remember?”

“I know we’re on a break,” said Lilith through gritted teeth. “That doesn’t give you the right to harass women in your free time.”

“Do you see any women? How can you accuse me of something when I’m just standing here, minding my own business? If anyone is being harassed, it’s me,” said Lucifer, showing her his hands, as if the fact that they were empty proved his innocence.

“So, you’re telling me the fact that you’re spending your break outside the women’s bathroom is just a coincidence?” said Lilith, quickly losing her patience.

“As it happens, I’m waiting for someone,” said Lucifer, raising an eyebrow at her. “Not that that’s any of your business.”

“I swear, Lucifer, if you hurt her again, there’s not a judge in this whole state who will let you get away with it,” Lilith threatened, lowering her voice and moving into his space.

Just then, the door to the bathroom opened. Sabrina appeared, drying her hands on a paper towel and clearly having heard Lilith’s threat.

“Is something wrong?” said Sabrina, stopping in her tracks when her eyes landed on Lucifer before she turned to Lilith with a worried expression.

“Not at all, Sabrina,” Lilith responded immediately, backing away from Lucifer to give Sabrina room to pass them.

Who did he hurt?” said Sabrina, her voice suddenly sounding very young. It was easy for Lilith to forget the girl was only sixteen, what with the tabloids having over-sexualized her since she was practically still in diapers, but in this moment, she sounded every bit her age.

“Lilith was making a joke,” said Lucifer, now laser-focused on Sabrina. “But as you can see, I’m not laughing.”

Sabrina eyed them both suspiciously. “I’m not stupid. That didn’t sound like a joke.”

“Sabrina,” started Lilith, but then she stopped. She looked between the girl, the bathroom, and Lucifer, and put it all together: it was the girl Lucifer had been planning to corner outside the bathroom, not her aunt. Thinking on her feet and trying to keep her tone even, she continued, “Sabrina, I need you to go practice your lines with Mr. Scratch. You keep adding syllables where there aren’t any, and it’s messing up the iambic pentameter.”

“But we’re on a break,” Sabrina whined, even as she moved to do as she was told. “Nobody notices that stuff but you.”

“I assure you, everyone notices,” said Lucifer, teasingly, as he raked his eyes over the girl. Lilith only just kept herself from punching the lecherous smirk right off his face.

Sabrina shot him an uncomfortable look over her shoulder as she passed them, which confirmed to Lilith that she wasn’t oblivious to his flirtation. Once Sabrina was out of sight, Lilith rounded on Lucifer with new purpose. She shoved him hard against the wall, unable to keep her anger in check with the thought that now he might be casting his net younger—much younger.

“And you used to say I had a temper,” said Lucifer, chuckling, as if her violence was amusing to him.

“You listen to me very carefully, Lucifer,” said Lilith in a harsh whisper. “You even think about touching that girl and I’ll have the cops down here so quickly you won’t even know what hit you.”

“You can’t press charges on a person’s thoughts, Lilith,” said Lucifer, smile still firmly in place despite Lilith’s accusing finger only inches from his nose. “For instance, I could undress you with my eyes right here, pretend I’m having you rough and fast against the wall just like old times, but if you call the cops, all the police can prove is that you made slanderous, baseless accusations, and attacked someone under your authority. Sabrina witnessed you threatening me, after all.”

Lilith cursed at him. “Since you’re so interested in the letter of the law, what do you call forcing someone to have sex with you?” said Lilith, spitting the words right into his face. “What do you call getting a woman pregnant through coercion?”

Lucifer’s eyes darkened, his voice lowering to nearly a growl, “I assume the woman in question wouldn’t want you saying these things in public. You’re lucky most of the cast is spending their half hour at the café down the street.”

“So, you admit it?” pressed Lilith, not caring that he had a point about the issue of secrecy; not after seeing the way he looked at Sabrina. “You admit you forced her?”

“I didn’t have to force her, Lilith,” said Lucifer, pushing off the wall so that she had to take three rapid steps back to avoid him. “She worships me. I’m like a god to her. She kisses the very ground I walk on. Literally.”

Unbidden, a memory of Lucifer forcing her to kiss his feet came to mind, but she quickly shook herself out of it, feeling a bout of nausea bubbling in her stomach. “I don’t know exactly what you did to her, but I do know Zelda is a wreck, and you made her that way.”

“Her husband made her that way,” snarled Lucifer, clearly beginning to lose his cool demeanor. “You’ve got the wrong man, Lilith. Do you know how many scars he gave her? I’ll count them for you the next time I take her from behind.”

Lilith could feel her body flooding with adrenaline at the image that his words put inside her head, but she also knew it was possible he was being vulgar just to rattle her. “You stay away from her. Do you hear me? You leave her and the baby alone.”

“I’m telling you I didn’t rape her. She submitted willingly. It was practically a religious experience. Besides, she’ll let anyone have her—just ask Mary Wardwell—” said Lucifer, “and you have no right to tell me to stay away from the mother of my child.”

Lilith briefly debated revealing to him that it was equally possible the baby wasn’t his, but thought better of it. If Zelda hadn’t told him yet that he wasn’t the only potential father, it wasn’t her place to do it, no matter how much she wanted to wipe that superior look off of his face.

“I don’t care how many people she’s had sex with,” said Lilith, trying to keep her voice carefully measured and utterly failing. “I’m telling you, if she ‘submitted,’ it was because she was afraid of what you’d do if she didn’t. That’s not consent.”

Lucifer scoffed, “She’s a sadomasochist, Lilith, not a blushing housewife. She gets pleasure from being hurt. She has the scars to prove it. Who am I to deny a lady her preferred method of sexual gratification?”

“All that the scars prove are that Faustus abused her,” said Lilith, clenching her fists in an effort to keep from punching him, “and don’t pull that crap with me. I have scars too, you know, and I sure as hell never wanted them.”

Lucifer didn't answer right away. Instead, he made a show of loosening his tie, and then tightening and straightening it once more. The movement had the desired effect; Lilith was momentarily struck dumb by the memory of him using his ties for the sick bondage games he used to play with her.

“Are we done here?” said Lucifer, his eyes sparkling with victory.

“No,” said Lilith, shaking her head to dismiss the memory. “You can come up with as many excuses and explanations as you want, but I need one thing to be clear: if you keep this up—if you hurt her even a little bit—she’ll lose the baby. If that happens, I swear a jury will never hear your side of the story. I will shoot an entire round of bullets between your eyes and between your legs, not necessarily in that order. Understood?”

Lucifer didn’t seem intimidated by the threat one bit. In fact, more than anything, he seemed amused by the whole situation. “She’s had three miscarriages and one stillbirth. If she bloody sneezes, she’ll lose the baby. Besides, I owe my legacy to Spellman women. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.”

Lilith was about to respond with something scathing, but then the full meaning of his words finally registered, and her mouth fell open. “What do you mean, ‘Spellman women?’”

Finally, Lucifer reacted with something other than smug superiority. His eyes lost their sparkle, and his jaw clenched in obvious displeasure. He raised a hand, as if he were intending to take hold of her by the chin, but Lilith slapped it away before it could reach its destination.

“Your questions are boring me, Lilith, and you know what I’m like when I’m bored.”

With that, Lucifer walked away, but not before giving her a final, threatening look. Lilith felt her heart begin to race, thinking of all of the ways Lucifer could punish her for everything that she had just said, but no, those days were over. She was free. His cruelty would not be visited upon her, but rather on Zelda—or worse, Zelda's sixteen-year-old niece. If ever there were a time to ensure Lucifer was stopped for good, it was now, but the question remained: how to do it?

Chapter Text

Lilith was still reeling from her encounter with Lucifer when rehearsal started back up again after their break. It was late on a Friday afternoon, and everyone was clearly no longer in the mood to work, especially after being given a tea break. Since they had managed to block the entire show over the course of the week, Lilith’s original intention had been to stumble through the whole play before going home to a much-needed bottle of wine, but as the actors gathered on the stage and in the wings for Act One, Lilith couldn’t shake the feeling that their first full run-through of the play was going to be an unmitigated disaster.

Lilith watched in curiosity as Zelda took Leticia by the hand and walked her gently up the stairs and into the wings. It was Leticia’s turn to play Mamillius, as the twins traded places every other time that the young prince’s scenes came up, and Judas had had his turn already this morning. Truly, the fact that the children were twins did not at all ensure that there was consistency in the role. While Judas played Mamillius as he was written—as a rambunctious young boy who was the spitting image of his father—Leticia played the role as if the six-year-old boy had already been to a war and back. She had the potential to be a wonderful film actress, if the girl stayed in the business, because her acting was already subtle and nuanced like her mother's, but Lilith highly doubted that Leticia would follow in her parent's footsteps.

Lilith stood from her seat as Act One, Scene One, gave way to Scene Two. Lucifer, Faustus, Zelda, Leticia, and Lucas Chalfant, playing Camillo, entered the stage. When Lucifer-as-Polixenes announced his intention to return to Bohemia after having spent nine long months in Sicily, Faustus-as-Leontes insisted he stay. Polixenes was not swayed by Leontes’ request, however, and so Hermione attempted her own method of persuasion.

HERMIONE

You'll stay?

POLIXENES

No, madam.

Lilith watched as Zelda slipped her arm around Lucifer’s elbow, leaning into him in a way that was decidedly more coquettish than Lilith had ever known Zelda to be herself. The action had the desired effect; even as Lucifer’s mouth continued to express his desire to leave, his body was clearly going to remain in place as long as Zelda-as-Hermione was touching him. Leontes was meant to misinterpret her actions as sexual, rather than playfully platonic, and Lilith had no trouble at all reading those emotions on Faustus’ face as the scene continued.

HERMIONE

Nay, but you will?

POLIXENES

I may not, verily.

Even as he refused, Lucifer placed a hand over Zelda’s, as if to prevent her from removing it from his elbow. Zelda leaned into him, her flirtation within the bounds of friendship, but Lilith’s attention was focused on Faustus, whose face had darkened considerably.

HERMIONE

Verily,
You shall not go: a lady's 'Verily' 's
As potent as a lord's. Will you go yet?
Force me to keep you as a prisoner,
Not like a guest; so you shall pay your fees
When you depart, and save your thanks. How say you?
My prisoner? or my guest? by your dread 'Verily,'
One of them you shall be.

Lilith had to keep reminding herself that Zelda was just doing her job as the woman’s teasing voice filled the theater. She was so incredibly convincing as Hermione; if Lilith had been Polixenes, with Zelda’s charming voice tickling her ear, she would’ve happily abandoned her throne and country, if only to stay in the glow of the woman’s attention a while more. But she could certainly do without Lucifer positively leering in response, like the cat who got the canary, which was enough to make her shudder.

POLIXENES

Your guest, then, madam:
To be your prisoner should import offending;
Which is for me less easy to commit
Than you to punish.

HERMIONE

Not your jailer, then,
But your kind hostess. Come, I'll question you
Of my lord's tricks and yours when you were boys…

After a few more witty exchanges, and several lingering touches, Faustus seemed to have had enough. His voice barely contained his fury as he said:

Is he won yet?

HERMIONE

He'll stay my lord.

LEONTES

At my request he would not.
Hermione, my dearest, thou never spokest
To better purpose.

Lilith made a note in her script to talk to Faustus about pulling back on his anger and resentment. It was too soon for Leontes to reveal to the other characters that he was suspicious of the nature of his wife’s relationship to Polixenes. But the scene continued, with Leontes clearly coming apart by the second. When he addressed the audience, Faustus made a point to look directly at Lilith as he delivered his monologue. Lilith felt a shiver run down her spine at the manic fury within his eyes.

LEONTES

[Aside] Too hot, too hot!
To mingle friendship far is mingling bloods.
I have tremor cordis on me: my heart dances;
But not for joy; not joy. This entertainment
May a free face put on, derive a liberty
From heartiness, from bounty, fertile bosom,
And well become the agent; 't may, I grant;
But to be paddling palms and pinching fingers,
As now they are, and making practiced smiles,
As in a looking-glass, and then to sigh, as 'twere
The mort o' the deer; O, that is entertainment
My bosom likes not, nor my brows!

Suddenly, Faustus turned away from the audience and beckoned to Leticia, not quite hiding the madness from his voice now that he was addressing his child:

Mamillius,
Art thou my boy?

Leticia nearly jumped out of her skin at being addressed so intensely, despite knowing that this was a part of the scene. Lilith had explained to Leticia and Judas, as gently and appropriately as she could, that Leontes suspected Mamillius might not be his child. Lilith left out the finer details of adultery, and how a baby is conceived, but the children still seemed to understand that Leontes wasn’t angry at them, he was angry at the Queen. Even so, Leticia looked terrified as she responded to her father in a tiny voice that was far too quiet for the stage:

Ay, my good lord.

LEONTES

What, hast smutch'd thy nose?
They say it is a copy out of mine.

When Faustus reached out to wipe the nonexistent dirt off of Leticia’s nose, Lilith was alarmed to see the girl flinch back to avoid his touch. Something primal stirred deep inside Lilith. She wanted to stop the scene and take the child immediately into the protection of her arms, but Faustus was already speaking again:

How now, you wanton calf!
Art thou my calf?

MAMILLIUS

Yes, if you will, my lord.

Lilith watched the rest of the interaction with bated breath, but Leticia seemed to warm up to the scene as it unfolded, and Faustus, too, was calming down as he interacted with his child instead of Lucifer or Zelda. Eventually, Camillo, the King’s most trusted advisor, announced that Polixenes had decided to stay, and that it was Hermione’s abilities of persuasion, not Leontes', that had done it. Faustus seemed poised on the razor’s edge between composure and utter lunacy. It was making Lilith’s stomach bubble with uneasiness.

CAMILLO

I think most understand
Bohemia stays here longer.

LEONTES

Ay, but why?

CAMILLO

To satisfy your highness and the entreaties
Of our most gracious mistress.

LEONTES

Satisfy!
The entreaties of your mistress! satisfy!
Let that suffice.

Faustus gestured wildly at Lucifer and Zelda, who were carrying on an animated, mimed conversation in the downstage left corner of the set, in full view of both the other characters on the stage as well as the audience. The simulated conversation was meant to appear overly flirtatious, to give credit to Leontes’ increasing jealousy. The interaction was unscripted and mostly improvised every time, which is why Lilith’s mouth went dry as Lucifer reached up to stroke Zelda’s cheek. That was definitely not her idea of platonic flirtation.

Faustus seemed to agree, because he proceeded to launch into his most aggressive rendering of the monologue, “Is whispering nothing?” yet:

Is whispering nothing?
Is leaning cheek to cheek? is meeting noses?
Kissing with inside lip? stopping the career
Of laughing with a sigh?—a note infallible
Of breaking honesty—horsing foot on foot?
Skulking in corners? wishing clocks more swift?
Hours, minutes? noon, midnight? and all eyes
Blind with the pin and web but theirs, theirs only,
That would unseen be wicked? is this nothing?
Why, then the world and all that's in't is nothing;
The covering sky is nothing; Bohemia nothing;

Faustus came dangerously close to breaking character as he ignored his blocking and headed downstage left, clearly intent on interrupting Zelda and Lucifer's pantomime. He stopped just short of touching Zelda, whose back was to him as she pretended to laugh at something Polixenes had said. Lilith could sense the tension in the room skyrocket; it felt as if not a single person in the whole theater were breathing.

My wife is nothing;

Rather than shout these words, as Faustus had tended to do in previous rehearsals, he instead leaned very close over Zelda’s shoulder and whispered them into her ear. Lilith felt her blood freeze in her veins. No one dared to move or breathe. Even Lucifer, who was facing Faustus and clearly furious at the deviation, remained frozen in place.

Eventually, Faustus was the one to break the spell. He gave Zelda one last look, which promised something sinister, before turning away and walking back to center stage. Lilith’s eyes flickered between Zelda, who had not moved a single muscle in her body since Faustus had advanced on her, and Faustus himself, who seemed to be waiting to have Lilith’s full attention before he finished his monologue:

Nor nothing have these nothings,
If this be nothing.

Faustus’ eyes dared her to say something, anything, about his choice to blatantly disrespect her blocking and put all of his castmates on edge. Luke seemed to have forgotten that Camillo was meant to respond to this monologue, as he was thoroughly distracted by Faustus having gone rogue. The silence fell like a heavy fog around them as no one knew what to do to keep the play going.

It was Leticia who shocked them all out of their daze. The girl, who had exited the stage not too long ago, came running back out of the wings, and flung herself into Zelda’s legs. "Mama!”

Zelda’s soul seemed to return to her body now that Leticia’s tears were soaking into her dress. She looked up at Lilith, as if to apologize for the interruption her daughter had caused, which only solidified Lilith’s intention to give Blackwood a piece of her mind.

“Take five, everyone. Except you, Mr. Blackwood. You are to meet me in the green room. Now.”

Chapter Text

The green room was a dreary concrete box with a couch, an armchair, a mirror, and a costume rack all placed very close together, so as to make the room crowded, not cozy. The moment they were alone, Lilith tore into Faustus like she had never done before.

“What the hell was that, Blackwood?”

“That was called ‘acting,’ Lilith. Perhaps you should learn to recognize it,” said Faustus, sitting down cockily in the armchair as if it were a throne.

That,” said Lilith, her fury rising by the second as she pointed in the general direction of the stage, “was not acting. You blatantly ignored my directions in order to harass your ex-wife in front of the entire company—not to mention your children.”

Faustus scoffed. “I never even touched her.”

“You didn’t have to touch her,” said Lilith as she curled her hands into fists. “The threat was clear.”

I wasn’t threatening her. Leontes was,” said Faustus slowly, as if he were speaking to a particularly dumb child. “I am simply performing the role as it is written.”

As much as Lilith wanted to keep insisting that Faustus was out of line, his reasoning was starting to eat away at her resolve. “Nowhere in the script does it say that you perform the ‘is whispering nothing’ monologue in the Queen’s ear.”

“They’re not even supposed to be on stage, Lilith,” said Faustus in a bored tone. “Hermione and Polixenes are supposed to exit. You’re the one who kept her on the stage for that monologue, so if you want someone to blame for this whole situation, you can blame yourself.”

Lilith’s breath was coming in heavy gasps as her anger reached an intolerable level. “I’m not changing the blocking solely because I can’t trust you to be around your ex-wife.”

“The person you really shouldn’t trust around her is Lucifer,” said Faustus, finally showing a flicker of emotion other than smug superiority.

Lilith didn’t like the blame being constantly passed around like a hot baton, but she couldn’t help the dread that filled her upon hearing those words. “Why do you say that?”

“He hurt her badly enough to warrant a trip to the hospital,” snarled Faustus, slamming his fist on the arm of his chair. “We might be divorced, but I don’t want him killing her. Especially when the court of public opinion would convict me. Can you imagine the scandal—what would’ve been printed in the papers two months ago—if I had taken her to the hospital in the state she was in?”

“What I’m hearing is an admission that the only one allowed to abuse and intimidate Zelda is you," said Lilith, not allowing herself to dwell on the idea that Lucifer had hurt Zelda badly enough to need a doctor, and that apparently, she hadn't seen one in order to preserve Faustus' reputation.

Faustus’ eyes flashed dangerously. “You couldn’t possibly begin to understand what Zelda and I have together. She came crawling back to me after Lucifer had had his fun. She didn’t speak for twenty-four hours—and when she did speak, it was only to say that her brother would have killed her if she didn’t make things right.”

Once again, Lilith found herself three steps behind, but all roads seemed to lead to Edward Spellman.

“I thought her brother was dead?” said Lilith as Faustus stood from his chair.

“He is.”

He stepped closer, invading her space, but Lilith stood her ground.

“Then why is Zelda afraid he’ll hurt her?”

“Some secrets go beyond the grave, and Zelda has always had her secrets,” Faustus made a show of picking a piece of imaginary lint off of his sleeve. “The baby, for instance.”

That was enough to send Lilith's heart into her throat. “You know about... how?”

“She’s my wife,” Faustus said, as if that was the beginning and end of it all. “We’ve lost three children in six years. I know when my wife is pregnant.”

Lilith’s mouth went dry. “And yet, you would threaten a pregnant woman in full view of her family and children? Let’s not forget, that’s why we’re here.”

“Is it?” asked Faustus, tilting his head, a malevolent gleam in his eye. “I thought we were here because you hate Lucifer as much as I do, and you need my help.”

“I don’t want your help,” Lilith spat. “But what… what are you after?”

“I don’t have to tell you that secrets are weapons, Lilith,” Faustus’ eyes were far too knowing—but how could he possibly know…? “The one that Zelda is keeping is catastrophic enough that she is willing to give her body and sanity to a man she has never trusted, not even for a moment. What does that tell you about the secret, hmm?”

Lilith didn’t like being played. “Just tell me what you want, so I can say ‘no,’ and we can go back to rehearsal.”

Faustus just continued to smile, though his eyes had hardened to stone. “I want Lucifer gone, and so do you.”

His words were like having a block of ice slipped into the neck of her blouse. The icy sensation crept down her back as she said, “Do you mean fired? Arrested? Or do you mean… dead?”

Faustus looked around the green room, as if to check that they were indeed alone. “What do you think? I know for a fact that that baby is either mine or his. You can think whatever you like of me, but if you’d seen Zelda after just one weekend with him, you would know that it would be better for everyone involved if she said that the baby was mine and only mine—especially if Lucifer wasn’t in a position to contest it.”

Lilith was still trying to wrap her head around the idea that Faustus wanted Lucifer dead—and that she was meant to help him do it—when two sets of feet came running down the stairs that led from the green room up to the stage

“What the hell is taking so long?!” said Ambrose as he came thundering around the corner.

“How dare you!?” added Hilda, following close behind. When she advanced on Faustus, Lilith was tempted to let her at him, but her duty to preserving the peace meant that she stuck out a staying hand instead.

“I’m handling it, Hilda—” Lilith began.

“Lovely to see you, sister,” Faustus interrupted with a smirk.

“I’m Zelda’s sister, not yours,” spat Hilda, completely ignoring Lilith as Ambrose stepped forward.

“I swear, if you don’t leave Auntie Zee alone, you’ll wish you’d never been born,” said Ambrose, passing Lilith and Hilda in order to shove Faustus hard enough that he fell back into the armchair.

“It’s not me you should be worried about,” said Faustus, shrugging his shoulders, as if this whole situation bored him. “I know I’m the easiest target, but you’ll see soon enough that you have it all wrong—every single one of you.”

“Hilda, Ambrose, go back upstairs. I’m handling it,” Lilith insisted, dragging Hilda bodily back toward the door and beckoning for Ambrose to follow. “You’re not helping anyone by coming down here halfcocked—”

“Leticia won’t stop crying. She can’t be consoled, no matter what Zelda tries,” said Hilda over Lilith’s shoulder as she was dragged away, towards the door. “I hope you’re happy. You’ve finally shown your true colors in front of everyone, and there will be hell to pay for it.”

“I cannot stress this enough: I was acting,” insisted Faustus as he abruptly stood up, causing Ambrose to stumble backward. “Zelda understands that. But all of you nitwits are up in arms about it—why?—because I frightened a six-year-old girl who still believes there are monsters in her closet?”

“There might not be monsters in her closet, but there sure as hell is a monster in her house,” growled Ambrose.

“Prove it,” said Faustus, lifting his palms to the sky. “Oh right—you can’t. So, get out of my way, boy.”

Ambrose didn’t move. Faustus took another step forward, moving so close that their chests were hardly an inch apart. “You like to pretend you’re the man of the house, eh? But you are nothing. You can’t see farther than your nose. A real man would know when he’s being played for a fool—no, a clown—fulfilling your role in this godforsaken play.”

Suddenly, Ambrose swung his arm in a sharp right hook, landing squarely on Faustus’ jaw. Hilda screamed as Lilith launched herself towards the two men, who had fallen to the ground as a result of their brawl. Fists flew as Lilith attempted to separate them, and Hilda yelled for them all to stop. Lilith caught an elbow to the eye as she grabbed Ambrose by the arms and hauled him away from Faustus, but she had hardly separated them when a sharp voice rang out:

“Stop! Stop this at once!”

Everyone froze. Lilith held Ambrose in a half-nelson, while Faustus laid panting on the floor, massaging his jaw. Hilda was the first to move.

“Zelds! You shouldn’t be here,” said Hilda nervously as she moved toward her sister, her hands held aloft, as if preparing to placate her.

“Faustus, I thought you might like to know that your daughter has finally calmed down,” said Zelda with a piercing gaze directed towards her ex-husband lying on the ground. “But it appears you would rather tussle with my nephew than tend to your children.”

Faustus scrambled up, straightening his suit and tie as he did. “Oh, so we’re acknowledging that they are indeed my children, now, are we?”

All of the oxygen was promptly sucked from the room as everyone stared in awe of the spectacle.

“Leticia and Judas are as much my children as they are yours, Faustus. I delivered them into this world. I have nursed every fever, soothed every tantrum… I have protected and cared for them as a mother should,” declared Zelda, her eyes flickering from Faustus to Ambrose, who was still being restrained by Lilith’s stronghold. Eventually, her eyes returned to her ex-husband, her gaze as cold as the tip of a witch’s nose. “I wanted to wait to tell you this, until we might be given some privacy, but it appears that might not be in anyone’s best interest. There’s going to be a retrial. The judge is allowing new evidence. You’re in for the fight of your life.”

With that, Zelda turned on her heel and swept up the staircase, leaving everyone behind her frozen in place, with only the hint of her perfume and the echo of her words to remind them that she had ever been there.

Chapter Text

Lilith wanted to just cut her losses and send the whole cast home after the horrific stunt Faustus pulled during his monologue, but there was still an hour and a half left of rehearsal, and she knew that sending them all home was exactly what Faustus wanted. She was beginning to see the truth beneath the layers and layers of lies, and so at least one thing was certain: Faustus would love nothing more than to see the production cancelled. He was sabotaging the show, moment by moment, day by day, and the question of “why” was becoming frighteningly clear.

Well, if there was one thing Lilith knew how to do, it was to persevere. She wasn’t about to be manipulated into doing exactly what Faustus wanted. She had worked too long and too hard to make it in the theatre industry as a female director; she wasn’t about to let that all go to hell in a handbasket just because Faustus was a little bitch.

(Those weren’t her words—she’d overheard Hilda call Faustus a “little bitch” after he left the green room earlier. Lilith rather liked that description. She was enjoying a number of fantasies where she said those words to his face after kicking him in his privates).

Pulling herself together and taking a deep breath, Lilith addressed her cast once more. “Back to work, everyone! Seeing as our Leontes needs some time to reexamine his blocking, we’ll skip to Camillo’s ‘O miserable lady’ monologue. Lucifer, be prepared to enter stage left.”

As Lucas Chalfant walked to the center of the stage to begin his speech, Lilith turned so that she could briefly check on the actors in the audience behind her. Hilda and Zelda were sitting to her left, with their heads together, whispering. Various others were strewn about the audience, working diligently to silently memorize their lines. The younger cast was huddled in the back of the theater, clearly doing not a lick of work, but rather gossiping about the drama of it all.

Faustus was nowhere to be seen.

Lucas looked considerably lost as he began his speech. During previous rehearsals, he’d always spoken with the confidence of a boy freshly out of drama school, with a fancy degree in a shiny frame to prove his skill. But now, it seemed that the uncomfortable truth of the speech was finally sinking in. He suddenly understood what Camillo was trying to convey to the audience, and the speech was no longer just a way to show off his talent, but rather the words were fraught with a strange dose of reality:

O miserable lady! But, for me,
What case stand I in? I must be the poisoner
Of good Polixenes; and my ground to do't
Is the obedience to a master, one
Who in rebellion with himself will have
All that are his so too. To do this deed,
Promotion follows. If I could find example
Of thousands that had struck anointed kings
And flourish'd after, I'ld not do't; but since
Nor brass nor stone nor parchment bears not one,
Let villainy itself forswear't. I must
Forsake the court: to do't, or no, is certain
To me a break-neck. Happy star, reign now!
Here comes Bohemia.

When Lucifer walked out onto the stage, it was with the arrogance of a peacock. Luke’s eyes went wide, as if he were seeing Lucifer-as-Polixenes for the very first time, as the King might see him. Their exchange was charged, Luke walking the razor’s edge of staying in character and falling to pieces. Lucifer, for his part, played an innocent man very convincingly. After the required back and forth, where Camillo withheld the information of the King’s orders until he couldn’t anymore, Luke said in a rush:

I am appointed him to murder you.

POLIXENES

By whom, Camillo?

CAMILLO

By the king.

POLIXENES

For what?

CAMILLO

He thinks, nay, with all confidence he swears,
As he had seen't or been an instrument
To vice you to't, that you have—

Luke paused, though doing so completely ruined the rhythm of the line. Lilith didn’t need to turn again to know that Luke was staring in Zelda’s direction. It sent a chill down her spine, knowing that Faustus’ behavior had caused such a public humiliation—that even the younger members of the cast were suspicious of her having cheated on him.

Luke stared at Zelda for about three moments too long for Lilith to tolerate. She cleared her throat, indicating he should continue, but it only prompted him to keep speaking; it did not end his staring.

touch'd his queen

Lilith’s anger rose inside her chest at the way Lucas leant on the word “touched.” She turned to look at Zelda, to see how she was taking the sudden spotlight, just as Lucas added the final word of his line with far too much weight:

—Forbiddenly.

Zelda, for her part, did not dignify his choice to direct the words at her in the audience with any acknowledgment besides lifting her chin. Lilith was impressed by her composure. She certainly wouldn’t have remained calm in the face of a tactless twenty-something sticking his nose where it didn’t belong.

Lilith was torn from her thoughts as Lucifer began to speak:

O, then my best blood turn
To an infected jelly and my name
Be yoked with his that did betray the Best!
Turn then my freshest reputation to
A savour that may strike the dullest nostril
Where I arrive, and my approach be shunn’d,
Nay, hated too, worse than the great’st infection
That e’er was heard or read!

As the scene wound up, Lilith decided that she had had quite enough tension for one day. Not wanting to make Zelda and Leticia get back up onto the stage for the next scene, Lilith called it a night. The whole cast seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief, though that relief was incredibly short-lived, as Leticia began to cry, refusing to go home with her father.

“No! No!” shrieked Leticia as Faustus tried to pick her up.

“Really, Faustus, it’s only one night. Why not let her stay with me?” reasoned Zelda as she ran her fingers over Leticia’s hair in a soothing motion.

“We switch on Saturday afternoons, and not a moment earlier,” growled Faustus. “You might think the appeal will go through, but until it does, they’re still mine and only mine, every other week.”

The argument was beginning to draw a number of stares, though most of the eyes belonged to members of the Spellman-Blackwood clan; the rest were pointedly pretending not to listen.

“Faustus, be reasonable—”

“I am a reasonable man. It is you who wants to break a binding contract.”

Zelda bent down to cover Leticia’s ears. In a harsh whisper, she said, “She’s a child, Faustus. She doesn’t understand that legally, you have her for a certain amount of time. All she knows is that she wants her mother, and you’re keeping her from me.”

“I’m doing nothing of the sort,” insisted Faustus, which prompted Hilda to scoff in disbelief. His eyes narrowed at her before turning to his ex-wife once more. “The girl will learn. This is what a divorce means, unless, of course, you would like to come home with me tonight. Then she would have both of us, like it ought to be.”

There was a moment of silence, in which Lilith was shocked to see that Zelda was actually considering this ultimatum, before Hilda intervened.

“She’s not going home with you,” growled Hilda.

“Yeah,” said Sabrina crossing her arms.

Leticia tore Zelda’s hands off of her ears. “I want to stay with Mama!”

Judas ran to her, trying to wrap his arms around his sister. “Tomorrow, ‘Ticia, we just have to wait ‘til tomorrow!”

Leticia tore herself away from her brother’s embrace. “No!”

Ambrose was next to try and reason with the child. He kneeled on the ground, so that they were at eye-level. “Leticia, remember the book we read last Sunday?”

Tearfully, Leticia nodded her head.

“Remember the invisible string?”

Leticia seemed to understand what he meant, though no one else in the circle of onlookers seemed to.

“But what if it gets cut?” cried Leticia. Lilith looked to Zelda, wondering if she was making any sense of this, but the woman’s face was scrunched up in confusion.

“It won’t,” said Ambrose, motioning to the rest of the Spellman clan. “We won’t let it, ok?”

“What nonsense have you taught my daughter?” spat Faustus, moving towards Leticia, but Lilith blocked his path.

“Can’t you see that he’s finally getting through to her?” said Lilith under her breath, hoping Leticia couldn’t hear.

Zelda moved to kneel beside Ambrose, sensing that this was what Leticia needed. Lilith was concerned by how slowly Zelda moved her body, though she figured there were things about pregnancy and how it changed your body that Lilith simply didn’t understand.

“I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon, Leticia, and then we’ll have the whole week together, darling,” said Zelda, brushing her fingers against the girl’s cheek.

“Promise?” said Leticia, and oh, Lilith could cry at how resigned the girl looked to her fate.

“Promise,” said Zelda, leaning forward to kiss her on the forehead.

“Let’s go,” ordered Faustus. Leticia went to him, with no further protest. Watching Faustus leave with Judas in one hand and Leticia in the other made something primal twist in Lilith’s chest.

When Lilith turned back to the group, Ambrose, Sabrina, and Hilda had already moved to gather their things. Zelda remained kneeling on the floor, looking at the space where Leticia had been only moments ago.

“Zelda? Are you alright?” said Lilith carefully as she went to stand in front of her.

“Of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” said Zelda, though she still made no move to stand up. Lilith wondered if it was because she physically couldn’t.

“Do you need a hand?”

Zelda glared at the offending appendage, but eventually accepted the help. Lilith noticed as she stood that her body seemed to flinch, as if the motion pained her. Zelda’s right hand ghosted over her lower abdomen before she appeared to remember that she was in public, and could not be seen touching her stomach.

Looking around to make sure that the rest of the cast was busy, Lilith leaned in to whisper in Zelda’s ear, “You need to see a doctor.”

Zelda gave her a look that plainly said this was not the time nor the place to have such a discussion. “I’ve told you, no.”

“What if I took you to see a trusted friend instead?” Lilith said in a rush, keeping one eye on their surroundings to make sure no one was taking too much interest in their conversation.

“Is this ‘friend’ also a doctor?” said Zelda scathingly, but the exhaustion in her eyes undercut her tone.

“She’s a kind of… medicine woman,” said Lilith, not knowing exactly how to explain Mambo Marie’s talents. “I know that she has knowledge and skills that might help you.”

Zelda’s eyes flickered to her sister, who was busy arguing with Sabrina and Ambrose over what they should have for dinner. “Are you sure she can be trusted?”

“Absolutely,” said Lilith. If there was one person in the whole universe that Lilith trusted implicitly, it was Mambo Marie LaFleur. “Please, will you meet her? You don’t have to tell her anything, or let her… you know. But I think you’ll know the moment you see her that she’s just the kind of person you need.”

“Zelds! How does a bit of yummy pizza sound for dinner?” called Hilda, interrupting their conversation.

Zelda jumped at being so suddenly addressed, but recovered quickly. “We can have pizza on one condition: no pineapple.”

Lilith smiled at the seriousness of Zelda’s tone as she said the word, “pineapple,” as if even the idea itself were offensive to her.

“As you wish, Your Majesty,” said Hilda teasingly.

Zelda sighed, running her hands over her face. Lilith put what she hoped was a comforting hand on her shoulder. “Sleep on it, okay?”

“I will,” Zelda said as she dropped her hands. “Thank you… Lilith.”

Lilith smiled, and was about to say, “You’re welcome,” but then they were interrupted once more by Sabrina cheering, “Pepperoni! Yes!” while Hilda was on the phone, making the order.

“I would ask you to join us for dinner,” said Zelda, a shadow of a smirk creeping across her face. “But I doubt ‘Friday night pizza’ is your idea of a second date.”

With that, Zelda moved to join her family, leaving Lilith standing there, speechless, and thinking: “Second date?”

Chapter Text

When Lilith got home, she went directly to the wine on the counter that Zelda had brought as a dinner gift. It was a Friday night, after all, and she’d had one hell of a week. It was difficult to uncork, as the wine was vintage and the stopper was practically disintegrating as she shoved the screw in. Cork bits scattered everywhere as she yanked it out with a loud: “pop.”

Lilith lifted a large wine glass down from the highest spot in her cabinet. She liked to put things that weren’t exactly good for her health just a bit out of reach, so that she’d be less inclined to use them. But all week the wine had felt like it was burning a hole in her counter, so she thought it was high time to give into temptation.

As she poured far more than a single serving into her glass, Lilith’s mind wandered. She’d need to get in contact with her dear friend, Marie Lafleur, though the woman was notoriously impossible to reach. Perhaps she could just show up in the morning with Zelda in tow; in all the time that Lilith had known her, Marie had never turned a guest—or a patient, for that matter—away.

Lilith brought the wine up to her nose to smell it before swirling it to see if it had any legs—it did. She expected it would, as she imagined Zelda would never bring subpar wine to a dinner party. What was more curious was the fact that merlot was indeed her favorite type of wine; how had Zelda known?

Taking her first sip, Lilith appreciated the notes of blackberry, plum, and raspberry. She knew she ought to eat something for dinner first, but she wasn’t particularly hungry after the events of the day. She could feel a bruise forming around her left eye, where Ambrose’s elbow had made solid contact as she tried to pull him off of Faustus.

Lilith closed her eyes and let out a long sigh. Why was nothing ever easy?

Walking into her bedroom, Lilith cast her gaze around the mostly empty space. She’d lived a vagabond lifestyle for the last thirty years or so. She was in a new city practically every six months, which was just fine by her—Lilith never liked to stay in one place for very long, lest she begin to grow roots. The irony of it all was that the constant traveling had been partially to avoid Lucifer, whose unwelcome presence she could usually avoid by ignoring London, New York, and Vancouver—an unfortunate choice when it came to her career, but wonderful in terms of maintaining her sanity.

But after thirty years, Lilith had thought it was high time she stopped running.

Lilith’s thoughts were interrupted by her phone ringing. Putting down her wine on her bedside table, she pulled out her phone from her pocket and answered it without looking at the caller ID, knowing exactly who would be on the other end.

“Hello?”

“Lilith?” said Zelda. “I’m sorry to bother you—I know it’s late—but I thought we might need to discuss our… plan for tomorrow.”

Lilith smiled as her body flooded with relief. “So, you’ve decided to see Marie, then?”

There was a long pause before Zelda responded, “I think… if she can be trusted…”

“She can,” Lilith insisted, sitting on her bed and taking up her wine once more.

“Then I suppose I’m in no position to refuse. I’m already farther along than I expected to be. My… well… most of my miscarriages happened within the first eight weeks. I haven’t made it past ten weeks since… since…”

Lilith sucked in a deep breath, hearing Lucifer’s mocking voice inside her head: She’s had three miscarriages and a stillbirth. If she bloody sneezes, she’ll lose the baby.

“…since I was younger and far more in control of my health,” Zelda finishes, her voice suddenly hoarse with emotion. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to unburden myself.”

“Don’t apologize,” said Lilith, a lump forming in the back of her throat. “I’ll pick you up early tomorrow. We can tell your family we’re getting breakfast.”

Some lightness came back into Zelda’s voice at that. “How scandalous!”

Lilith chuckled. “It’s not nearly as scandalous as what we’re actually doing.”

“True,” said Zelda around a yawn.

“You should get some sleep,” said Lilith, eyeing the clock. It wasn’t particularly late, but the events of the day would put a strain on anyone, pregnant or not.

“Lilith?” Zelda said, her voice soft.

Lilith held her breath, not remembering a time when her name had been spoken so softly. “Yes?”

“Thank you.”

With that, Zelda promptly hung up, leaving Lilith alone with her thoughts and a half-finished glass of merlot.


Pulling up to the Spellman townhouse was a strange experience. While the producers had found modest accommodation above a flower shop for Lilith, the needs of the Spellman clan were much greater, and so they’d been given a quaint brick townhouse that overlooked the Hudson Valley.

Zelda was already waiting on the steps, garbed in a loose-fitting, dark-blue summer dress, despite the slight chill in the early-morning air.

Lilith debated getting out of the car to open the passenger-side door for her, but thought better of it; such unnecessary chivalry might only serve to embarrass them both.

“Good morning,” Lilith said, her eyes drawn to the slit in Zelda’s dress that went all the way up to her thigh.

Noticing this, Zelda rearranged the fabric as she sat down, lifting her eyebrow. “Good morning to you, too.”

Lilith tore her gaze away in favor of checking her mirrors. She was just about to pull out of the driveway when Zelda’s voice interrupted her efforts.

“Wait,” said Zelda, stopping Lilith’s right hand from shifting gears. Stick shift rental cars were much cheaper, and so Lilith had opted for one upon arriving in New York. Lucifer had been the one to teach her how to drive a stick, but she promptly shoved that memory to the back of her mind.

“Did you forget something?” said Lilith, confused.

Instead of answering, Zelda reached out, slowly so as not to spook her, and turned Lilith’s head with a gentle touch to her jaw. Lilith was completely shocked and frozen by the gesture, though she found she relished the tenderness of it.

“You have a black eye,” Zelda said, her voice thick with emotion. “Did Faustus do that to you?”

“No,” said Lilith, taking Zelda’s hand gently off of her chin so she could squeeze it in reassurance. “I was trying to break up the fight, sure, but this bruise was from Ambrose’s elbow. He didn’t mean to do it.”

Zelda didn’t look convinced. “You should never have gotten involved. Ambrose can hold his own in a fight—and Satan knows Faustus has a violent temper. You could have been seriously hurt.”

Lilith was touched by this concern, even if it was unnecessary. She’d suffered far worse than a bump to the eye at the hands of Lucifer—though she would never say that out loud. She didn’t think Zelda needed to hear about any past pain right now.

“I’m alright. I promise,” said Lilith, dropping Zelda’s hand so she could shift gears.

Most of the ride passed in silence. As they drove south towards New York City, Lilith noticed Zelda becoming more and more visibly uncomfortable.

“Is everything ok?”

“I didn’t know we would be going into the city today…” said Zelda, pulling the sun visor down in the hope of blocking some of her face from view.

“I’m sorry—I didn’t think to tell you,” said Lilith, not having considered that Zelda might object to the location of Marie’s…practice.

Zelda reached into her purse, pulling out a scarf and sunglasses. Lilith watched out of the corner of her eye as Zelda took pains to hide her golden-red curls from view. While she was meant to keep her hair straight for the production, Lilith was amused by the fact that clearly all it took was a night’s rest and the curls were right back to their natural state.

“I should’ve known,” said Zelda, putting on her sunglasses. “You mentioned your friend is a bit… unconventional. That sort of thing is much more accepted in Manhattan than in the Hudson Valley.”

“Marie is a unique woman,” Lilith agreed as they went over a bridge. “Back in Haiti, she was an important religious leader in her community, but then she moved to the French Quarter of New Orleans after the 2010 earthquake destroyed her home, killing most of her congregants—and family.”

“How awful,” said Zelda, taking in the Manhattan skyline. It was a bit foggy that morning, so it was harder to see the distinct lines of the skyscrapers. “How did she wind up in New York, then? And how was it that you two came to meet each other?”

Lilith chuckled. “I did some work a while back organizing musical and theatrical performances for the military. Marie had enlisted as a field medic in the Air Force when she couldn’t make enough money with her shop at first. Those days—and this was nine years ago, mind you—it felt like we might be the only women who weren’t career military people on the entire base. We became close.”

Silence fell for a while as they traveled nearer to their destination on the upper west side.

“How close?” said Zelda, so long after the conversation had ended that Lilith almost forgot what she’d said.

“We didn’t date, if that’s what you’re asking,” said Lilith, smiling, “but we almost did. You’ll see for yourself in a few minutes—Marie is one of a kind.”

Lilith pulled into a parking garage—which had to be one of her least favorite things about driving in New York City—handed her keys to the young valet, and made it around the car to Zelda’s door in record time, not wanting her to struggle to get out in front of a stranger.

“I’ve told you, I’m not an invalid,” Zelda said, though she took Lilith’s offered hand without further protest, which Lilith found incredibly charming.

The walk to the shop was slow-going. Zelda was quite fatigued even from a short walk, though Lilith thought it best not to point it out. Besides, it was nice to walk arm-in-arm, taking in the sights and smells of a Saturday morning in the city.

When they reached the shop, Lilith could sense the moment Zelda read the sign as she tore her arm out of Lilith’s grasp.

“Haitian Vodou? You’ve brought me to a witch doctor?” Zelda whispered harshly, aware that Marie could see them through the shop window.

“She’s not just a vodouisant. I told you, she was a highly-trained military medic when I knew her.”

Their conversation was interrupted by Marie opening the door.

“Welcome! Bienvenue! Come, come mes amies. You are here at last!” Marie reached to take Zelda’s hand and practically dragged her into the shop. Lilith had to stifle a laugh at the scandalized look that Zelda shot over her shoulder as she was ushered into the Haitian house.

Rather than remain in the front of the shop, with all of its windows, Marie ushered them into the back room. It was a beautiful place, filled with talismans, tapestries, and sacred objects from all over the world.

Enchanté, chérie!” Marie said, kissing Zelda’s hand as she directed her to sit on the table—which looked a bit more like an altar covered in a sheet than anything else. “Je suis Mambo Marie LaFleur. I am, how you say, at your service!”

“It’s good to see you again, Marie,” said Lilith, offering her hand, which Marie immediately used to pull her in for a hug. There was a brief moment when she thought Marie might comment on her black eye, but it passed as quickly as it came, as Marie seemed to think better of mentioning it. 

“It has been too long, mon amie, too long!” said Marie, kissing Lilith on both cheeks. In her peripheral vision, Lilith saw Zelda’s face change to an expression of surprise—and was that… jealousy?

Lilith noticed that she’d taken her sunglasses off, now that they were in a private room without windows. Zelda's eyes were astonishingly green.

Turning back to Marie, Lilith said, “I know, I know, I don’t get to the city as often as I should. But can you blame me? The Hudson Valley—c’est magnifique.”

“Eh? I see you remember some things,” said Marie, arching her brow at Lilith’s terrible French accent. “Tanpri, who is this goddess you have brought to me?”

Zelda blushed at the compliment as Marie came to stand in front of her, placing her hands provocatively on either side of Zelda’s knees.

“This is Zelda Spellman. She’s the woman I was telling you about,” said Lilith, her eyes narrowing a bit at how red Zelda’s face had become as Marie leaned into her space. Maybe bringing Zelda to Marie wasn’t the best idea she’d ever had.

“I do not need instruments to tell me you are pregnant, madame. The two souls have intertwined,” said Marie, placing a hand on Zelda’s stomach without asking, but Lilith marveled at the fact that Zelda didn’t seem to mind—or else was too shocked to react.

“I’m afraid I don’t know much about… vodou, Madame LaFleur,” said Zelda nervously as she looked to Lilith for support.

Lilith came to stand beside Zelda as Marie clicked her tongue. “That will not do, chérie. You must call me Marie. And I do not do that hoodoo-vodou bullshit. I am a licensed medical professional, n’est-ce pas?”

Zelda nodded, placing her hand over Marie’s on her stomach. “I didn’t mean to offend. It’s just… I'm in need of a medical exam, but I couldn’t possibly go to an obstetrician without it becoming public knowledge.”

“I can feel you have a strong hatred for the father. That is why the baby will look too much like him,” Marie said, wagging a finger in front of Zelda’s eyes before moving to find her tools.

Lilith’s mouth went dry. “Marie! I told you this was a… delicate situation.”

“She is not delicate, mon amie. Her met-tet is strong. She will be fine if we talk woman to woman, right, chérie?”

Zelda looked between Marie and Lilith with mild alarm, as if she didn’t know what speaking “woman to woman” meant.

“What would you like to know?” said Zelda as Marie came towards her with a pen light to check her pupillary response.

“I know all I need to know by touching the child. I can feel the question inside you, chérie, and so I will tell you: he will live.”

“He?” said Zelda, looking faint. When Zelda turned to look at Lilith with a frightened, baffled expression, pain sliced through Lilith’s chest like a hot knife through butter.

Je suis désolée, chérie! My manners—they have abandoned me. I have let the cat out of the bag, as you say,” said Marie as she produced a hammer-like object out of her pocket and began checking Zelda’s reflexes despite the other woman having not yet recovered from the revelation.

“How do you know it’s a boy?” said Lilith, feeling slightly sick at the idea of a miniature Faustus or Lucifer running around. “Even with your powers of intuition, Marie, that’s something you have to see on a sonogram—and even then, I don’t think you can see that…sort of thing… until much later in a pregnancy.”

Marie sucked her teeth as she observed an extreme reflex response in Zelda’s right knee. “I cannot explain my ways to you. You will not understand. Stick out your tongue, chérie.”

Zelda did as she was told, though she was still stunned at the thought that she’d be having a boy.

“You can hear this on both sides equally, yes?” said Marie as she snapped her fingers on either side of Zelda’s head.

Zelda didn’t respond. Her eyes were staring right at Marie, but clearly seeing nothing. Lilith pushed Marie a bit to the side so that she could put her hand on Zelda’s shoulder.

“Hey? Are you alright?”

Zelda blinked a few times before her eyes were able to focus again. “Of course. I’m sorry. What was your question, Madame—I mean—Marie?”

“Never mind that, chérie.”

Marie produced a stethoscope as if from thin air. “May I listen to your heart and lungs?”

“Of course,” Zelda said, though she shifted uncomfortably on the table as Marie came closer. It was clear that Marie intended to snake the stethoscope under the fabric of her dress, and so Lilith became hyperaware that the exam was only going to get more intimate from there.

“I should go,” said Lilith as Zelda shivered from the cold press of metal against her chest. “I’ll just be—you know—out there.”

“Wait,” said Zelda, which caused both Marie and Lilith to stop in their tracks. “I… I’d rather you stay. If—if you’re comfortable staying, that is. You don’t have to… you know… watch. I just…” Zelda lost her words for a moment. “I don’t know. I don’t want to do this alone.”

Lilith wasn’t sure if she was even a little bit comfortable, but seeing the earnest, pleading look on Zelda’s face as Marie told her to take a deep breath made the decision for her. “I’ll stay.”

“If you are to stay, you will be put to work, mon amie,” said Marie as she moved to Zelda’s back. “There is a machine in the corner over there. I’m sure you can figure out how to bring it here and turn it on, yes?”

Lilith nodded, almost relieved to be given something to do.

Mon dieu, what is this?” said Marie, her face scrunching up in surprise as she removed the stethoscope from beneath the back of Zelda’s dress and instead replaced it with her hand to feel the marred skin herself. Zelda let out a sharp gasp at the unexpected fingers going down the back of her shirt.

Lilith turned around from where she was in the corner, concerned by the sound that Zelda had made.

Désolée. I should not have touched. I was surprised by the… by the scars,” said Marie, her voice genuinely sorry as she immediately removed her fingers once she identified what the uneven flesh under her stethoscope meant.

“No harm done,” said Zelda, but her voice sounded strained, like she was forcing herself to verbally forgive Marie, lest silence imply weakness or shame.

Lilith felt another stab to her chest. Lucifer had told her about the scars on Zelda’s back and how she’d most likely come by them. She felt guilty for being privy to this information without Zelda’s permission.

Marie immediately returned to listening to Zelda’s lungs with the stethoscope, visibly repentant for having overstepped.

“Your heart and lungs are clear, ma petite puce,” said Marie softly, hooking her stethoscope around her neck. “Will you lie down, s'il vous plaît? I would like to listen to your abdomen, but I will have to lift your dress to do it. May I?”

Zelda nodded, accepting Marie’s help to lower her back onto the table. Lilith brought over the machine, relatively sure she’d turned it on properly despite being quite distracted.

“Do you know how many weeks you are?” asked Marie as she pressed her stethoscope to Zelda’s abdomen, listening for bowel sounds.

“Eleven,” Zelda said, staring at the ornate design on the ceiling and trying very hard not to float away.

“I will not be able to hear the bébé’s heartbeat with this,” said Marie, holding up her stethoscope. “Not yet. In eight or nine more weeks, it would be possible, but not today.”

“Here’s the machine,” said Lilith, averting her eyes from Zelda’s bare, slightly rounded stomach.

“Merci!” said Marie. “You did not think I would be without the proper tools, eh?”

It was then that Lilith realized it was an ultrasound machine. “Marie, I thought you were done with medicine? Why do you have an ultrasound just sitting around?”

“It is not ‘just sitting around,’ mon amie,” said Marie as she moved to set up the machine. “I still have a license, do I not? And sometimes women come in here in need of a midwife or a doula. I do not just read tea leaves, eh?”

“I’m not sure I…” Zelda began, but her voice trailed off.

Marie and Lilith stopped what they were doing with the machine to turn to her.

“Not sure of what, Zelda?” said Lilith, aware this wasn’t exactly what she’d thought this visit would involve when she first suggested it.

“I’m not sure I want to see it—him—” Zelda struggled for a moment before repeating: “…it.”

“That is ok, ma chérie, you do not have to look,” said Marie, “but it is important to do the sonogram to see if the baby is healthy, n’est-ce pas?”

“Marie, if she doesn’t want it done, she doesn’t have to—”

“There is no harm if I take a look, but perhaps much harm if I do not,” reasoned Marie, already prepared to slather Zelda’s abdomen with gel.

“But you said—” Zelda began, before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. When her eyes opened again, they were unreadable. “You said that ‘he’ would live. That he’d grow up to look… too much like his father. If you know—if you somehow feel that the baby will survive—that’s… that’s enough for me.”

Lilith held her breath, not knowing what to say. Luckily, Marie was the one who broke the silence.

“Zelda,” Marie said, leaning down so that she could look Zelda in the eye without towering over her. “I am a vodouisant, yes? I see things others do not. I have ways of knowing things impossible for your people to know. But this?” Marie waved the transducer in her hand. “This is the proof, without the vodou, eh?”

Zelda looked from Marie to Lilith with the appearance of a rabbit trapped by a pair of foxes. Lilith wasn’t about to let that continue.

“Zelda,” said Lilith, moving to take her hand. She was surprised at how readily the woman accepted it, considering the circumstances, “it’s okay to not want to see the baby. If you don’t want to know anything about it, you don’t have to. But if you’re still worried that something might be wrong, it could give you some peace of mind to let Marie take a look.”

Zelda’s eyes were wet, but Lilith could see the decision in them.

“Alright, Marie. I’ll do it.”

Just as Marie was slathering Zelda’s stomach with gel, a phone went off.

“That’s mine,” said Zelda, lifting her head up from the table to look for her purse. “Lilith, could you get it? It’s right at your feet. Front pocket. No one ever calls me unless it’s an emergency.”

Lilith did as she was told, retrieving the phone. She was a bit surprised to see the name across the screen:

PRUDENCE

“Is there a reason Prudence would be calling you?” asked Lilith just as Marie pressed the transducer to Zelda’s abdomen.

“Would you be able to answer it?” said Zelda, shutting her eyes. “It might be something about the twins. Faustus is always especially difficult on days when we switch custody.”

Deciding she would much rather take a phone call than intrude on a sonogram, Lilith walked out of the back room and into the front of the shop before accepting the call.

“Hey, Prudence, this is Lilith. Zelda’s a little busy at the moment—”

“Miss Lily?!” came the unmistakable voice of the six-year-old girl who had wormed her way into Lilith’s heart.

“Leticia?” said Lilith, her brow furrowing. “Why do you have Prudence’s phone?”

“Prudence gave it to me and told me to run, so I did! I’m a really good runner.”

Lilith’s blood froze in her veins. “Why did she tell you to run, Leticia?”

“Daddy was being really loud and scary. She told me to run and to call Mama and tell her to come find me!”

Find you?” said Lilith, unable to catch her breath as her heart raced.

“Yeah, I’m hiding! I’m a really, really, really good hider too!”

“I’m sure you are, Leticia,” said Lilith, hurrying back to Zelda and Marie, where she registered that Zelda was indeed looking at the sonogram before returning her full attention to the call. “I know you want your mama to come find you, but she’s a little far away right now. Can you call your Aunt Hilda instead? Or the police? Are you in a safe place, Leticia?”

Zelda’s eyes went wide with panic, motioning for Lilith to hand her the phone, but just then she heard what sounded like the phone on Leticia’s end clatter to the ground. “Leticia? Leticia, are you alright? What was that noise?”

Lilith took the phone away from her ear to look at the screen and was dismayed to discover that the call had ended.

“What did she say?” said Zelda, terror in her voice. “Why would Leticia be calling—what’s happened?!?”

Chérie, calmez-vous, le bébé—”

Lilith redialed Prudence’s number, praying Leticia would pick up, but the phone just rang and rang until it went to voicemail.

Hi. You’ve reached Prudence Blackwood. Leave a message—or don’t. I probably won’t listen to it anyway. Text me, bitch.

Deciding not to leave a message, Lilith hung up before rushing over to Zelda to help her off the table.

“Leticia’s in trouble.”

Chapter Text

Zelda’s dress stuck uncomfortably to the gel on her stomach as they made their way slowly to the front of the shop. Lilith filled them in, explaining what Leticia had said just before the call had ended. While Marie was clearly disturbed by what Lilith had to say, she didn’t look convinced that Zelda should be leaving so soon.

“But we are not finished, chérie,” said Marie as she followed the frantic women out of her shop.

“It’s an emergency, Marie!” said Lilith, trying not to show her frustration at having to walk at such a slow pace as a result of Zelda not being in the best of health. Realizing she ought to just bring the car around herself, Lilith directed Marie to take over supporting Zelda while she ran ahead. “Wait here! I’ll get the car!”

This left Marie and Zelda standing outside of the shop alone, arms linked, uncertain what to do or say to one another. Zelda’s heart was racing in her chest, her breath coming in short, sharp gasps. Marie resisted the urge to put her foot down and insist they finish the medical exam. Zelda was clearly unwell, and Marie had hardly had enough time to do a visual assessment of the fetus.

“I know it is not easy, chérie, but you must try to stay calm,” said Marie, brushing a few stray locks of hair out of Zelda’s face.

“Calm? How can I be calm?” said Zelda, her voice faint. “I can’t bear to think why Prudence would… would tell Leticia to run away. If he’s hurt them—”

“Do not think of it,” said Marie, squeezing Zelda’s arm in reassurance. “Any child of yours would be clever and strong as they come. And there is still much risk for you and le bébé. Your spirit is troubled. Your body is weak. You must not allow yourself to panic.”

“With respect, Marie, you don’t know what my ex-husband is capable of doing,” said Zelda, placing a hand to her forehead and closing her eyes. She felt especially light-headed; she hated to admit it, but if Marie didn’t have such a strong arm around her own, she’d most likely have hit the concrete by now.

“I did not know you were married to le diable,” said Marie, a strange note of utter confusion in her voice.

“The devil?” said Zelda, opening her eyes as she wiped beads of sweat from her brow. “I’m not sure I understand. I wasn’t aware you’d met my husband, or even knew that I was married. Did… did Lilith say something about him being… the devil?”

“Lilith told me many stories of him when I was stationed at Fort Benning. She showed me les photos. I told her I would shoot him if I ever saw him. He is the devil, yes,” said Marie, scanning the street for Lilith’s car. “A handsome devil, but a devil still. The child might look like him, but he will have your heart, and that is what will keep him from being un petit démon.”

The full meaning of Marie’s words didn’t immediately register, but when it did, Zelda felt as if someone had just driven a live wire into her spine. Her whole body flinched as a sharp chill lanced down her back, from the crown of her head to the tips of her toes. “You can’t mean—you’re not saying—”

Chérie?” said Marie, an edge of fear in her eyes as Zelda began to shake. “Chérie, what is wrong? You must not panic, Madame. I do not mean to upset you. I did not know why mon amie brought you here until I touched le bébé and saw for myself, but there is no shame in it, eh? What did I say that has upset you so?”

Zelda bent over at the waist, forcing Marie to let go of her arm as she did. With her hands on her knees, Zelda heaved, as if she were about to be sick.

Tanpri, tell me what is wrong?” said Marie, placing a hand on Zelda’s back with alarm. “You must come back inside—”

Just then, the car pulled up. Lilith jumped out, but stopped in her tracks when she saw Zelda doubled over.

“What the hell happened?” said Lilith, rushing over to Zelda. “Are you going to be sick?”

“I think it is a spiritual sickness, not a physical sickness, mon amie. I did not mean to upset her. Je suis trés, trés desolée,” said Marie, trying to guide Zelda back into an upright position once the dry heaves stopped.

“I’m fine,” Zelda ground out, wiping the back of her hand across her mouth despite not having actually expelled anything from her stomach. “Just nauseous. We need to get back to the valley.”

“We don’t have time to waste,” agreed Lilith, taking Zelda’s hand. “But if you’re nauseous, do you really think you can stand an hour in the car?”

Between shuddering breaths, Zelda managed to nod. “Let’s go. Leticia needs me. I’ll be… I’ll be fine in a minute. I just need to sit down.”

“I’m coming with you,” said Marie, using a hand on Zelda’s shoulder to direct her to the backseat of the car so that they could sit together.

Lilith shook her head, still shocked by how she’d only been gone for five minutes, but Zelda was already much worse than when she’d left. “Marie, I don’t think that’s—”

“No time for arguing,” said Marie, opening the car door and ushering Zelda inside. “Allons-y.”

Zelda still looked a little green when Lilith adjusted her mirrors, but with Leticia’s voice ringing in her ear, she tore out of the upper west side like a bat out of hell.

“I should call Hilda,” said Zelda, already mid-dial.

Bonne idée,” agreed Marie, having gathered from their earlier conversation that Hilda was Zelda’s sister.

Lilith waited with bated breath, cursing when a minivan cut her off. She hated New York drivers with a burning passion. She’d never known more aggressive motorists in all her traveling around the world.

“Hilda?”

“Zelds! How’s your date going? Did you have a yummy breakfast?”

Lilith could hear Hilda’s cheerful voice without much difficulty in the confines of the car.

“Never mind that, Hilda. I need you to go pick up the twins right this instant.”

“Zelda, I know you miss them, but the switch doesn’t happen until 2pm—”

“You don’t understand, Hilda. Leticia called me earlier. Prudence told her to run away. Faustus must’ve been on some sort of rampage. I can only hope Prudence was able to talk some sense into him—but I need you to go there and make sure everything is alright.”

Stunned silence fell for a moment before Hilda seemed to recover from her shock. “Of course, I’ll go—but I doubt Faustus will hand them over early—and certainly not to me. You saw how he was yesterday. Where are you, love?”

“I’m…” Zelda’s eyes searched for Lilith’s in the mirror. “I…”

“It’s my fault,” Lilith shouted so that Hilda might hear her as she made an illegal right turn. “I took Zelda to my favorite breakfast place—in Manhattan. I thought it would be… romantic. We’re on our way back now, but it will be a while before we’re in the Hudson Valley.”

Zelda’s eyes widened at the lie, but she accepted the imaginative excuse with as much grace as she could muster. “Did you… did you hear all that, Hilda?”

“I did!” Hilda squealed. “I didn’t realize how serious you two were, Zelds.”

“There will be time to explain all that later, Hilda,” said Zelda, her voice as sharp as she could make it. “I need you to go now. I don’t want to get the police involved unless it’s absolutely necessary, but I have a feeling something is very wrong, sister. I need you to help me.”

Hilda’s voice noticeably sobered at that. “Right. I’ll hop to it, then. Safe travels.”

“Thank you, Hildie,” Zelda said, softening her voice before hanging up.

For several seconds, no one spoke. Lilith tried to focus on her driving, Zelda stared at the phone in her hand, and Marie looked at Zelda with increasing horror.

Chérie?”

“Yes?”

“This… this ‘Faustus’ you speak of… he is your ex-husband, yes?” said Marie, in a voice Lilith had never heard her use before.

Zelda didn’t respond, but the look on her face was an answer enough.

“I see,” said Marie. She opened her mouth to offer her sincere apologies for having assumed Lucifer was her ex-husband, but Zelda just shook her head, before inclining it in Lilith’s direction, as if to say: not in front of her.

“I am sure your sister will make him see reason,” Marie said instead, leaning in to pat Zelda on the knee.

“I hope so,” said Zelda, turning to look out the window, “but if she can’t, I will.”

Chapter Text

The journey to the Hudson Valley was excruciating. Lilith’s driving left much to be desired, though Zelda could hardly fault her for speeding, under the circumstances. Marie tried to keep a light conversation going, if only to distract them, but there were very few safe topics to discuss, considering she and Zelda had only just met, and under such strange conditions.

This didn’t stop her from trying, though.

“I wish I watched more American télé-vision and film, ma chérie,” said Marie, her voice light and teasing. “I am sure I would enjoy your work.”

Marie winked flirtatiously at Zelda, wanting to bring a smile to her lips, but the actress seemed surprisingly oblivious to her charms at the moment. She was squeezing the passenger assist handle as Lilith wove in and out of traffic, her eyes focused unseeingly out the window as they came very close to side-swiping a Honda.

Lest her nausea get the better of her, Zelda eventually turned back towards Marie and said, “I haven’t done much acting for the silver screen, I’m afraid. I’m a theatre actress at heart. I never did like having a camera shoved in my face.”

Lilith leaned on the horn as a truck failed to signal before changing lanes. Zelda jumped in alarm at the sudden sound, then let out a shaky breath as she closed her eyes, trying to calm herself.

Seeing this, Marie leaned over to smack her hand against the back of Lilith’s chair. “Mon amie, it will do no good if we crash on the way to find this child, eh?”

“I know, I know,” said Lilith, switching lanes to pass the truck on the left. “But the sooner I see Leticia safe and sound, the better.”

Marie eyed Lilith with curiosity, taking in the tension in her every muscle, before returning her gaze to Zelda, whose white-knuckled grip on the handle above the window was concerning, to say the least.

“I have never known you to be fond of children,” mused Marie, directing the comment to Lilith even as she watched Zelda carefully for any further signs of distress.

“Leticia is different. She’s… special,” said Lilith, glancing in her rearview mirror to check on Zelda, who looked no better than she had standing in front of Marie’s shop. Her face had a green tinge to it that didn’t bode well for the rental car’s upholstery. “I’ll be more careful, I’m sorry.”

Zelda shook her head, pressing the back of her hand against her mouth. “It’s not your driving that’s making me sick. I do want to get to them as quickly as possible.”

“You need a distraction, chérie.”

Zelda looked to Marie with pure disbelief. “I don’t think I can be distracted. I’m not just worried about the twins—I’m worried for Prudence, too. She’s been so strong through all of this, and she’s still essentially a child herself.”

“She’s a tough girl, Prudence,” said Lilith diplomatically. “If anyone can handle a difficult situation, it’s her.”

“But she shouldn’t have to handle it,” said Zelda, scrunching up the fabric of her dress with the hand that wasn’t gripping the bar above the window. The skin of her lower abdomen beneath her summer dress was still sticky with the gel that she didn’t have time to clean off before they left the shop. It was making her feel itchy and not quite right in her skin. “She’s only eighteen, and Faustus has her playing nursemaid to the twins whenever I’m not there—I’m sure of it.”

“Younger girls than her have been mothers themselves,” said Marie, her expression far away. “In my country, it is not so strange to expect daughters to help raise the children.”

Zelda nodded. “You’re right, of course. I was always…” The woman’s voice abruptly cut off, as if her mind had suddenly caught up to her mouth, and decided it was best to stop talking.

Lilith checked her rearview mirror, sharing a surprised look with Marie.

“You were always…?” prodded Marie.

Zelda shook her head in regret. “I’d rather not talk about it. But suffice it to say, I raised my brother and sister. Our parents weren’t… weren’t particularly fond of children. I think my relationship with Hilda would’ve been much… different… if I was only her sister, and not her mother by proxy.”

Lilith made a sound of understanding from deep in the back of her throat. Her own father and thrown her out of the house when she was just fifteen. It was a miracle she got into college at all, seeing as she finished high school without a proper home. NYU took a big chance on her. Winning that talent scholarship had completely turned her life around. Though it was also what brought her into Lucifer’s orbit.

Maybe it was time to open up a little bit about herself. They still had twenty minutes left to kill, and Zelda had been so open and vulnerable with her, she felt she ought to return the show of trust.

“Marie already knows this,” began Lilith, taking a deep breath. Her eyes were focused determinedly on the road, not wanting to see Zelda’s reflection in the rearview mirror as she spoke, “but I never had a mother. She skipped out on us the moment she could get away. She didn’t want children. In fact, she’d wanted to have an abortion, but my father forced her to go through with the pregnancy. I don’t understand why he did—he wasn’t much of a father. Kicked me out the moment I found the courage to disobey him for the first time.”

“Oh, Lilith, I’m so sorry.”

The shock and—was that pity?—in Zelda’s voice was too much, so Lilith immediately pressed on, “I think any kid would be lucky to have both you and Prudence fighting for them. Leticia will be okay.”

She has to be, Lilith added in her mind.

“Let us have no more talk of sadness,” said Marie, her voice low and sensuous as she reached out to take Zelda’s hand. “Tell me, chérie, what is your favorite thing to eat?”

Lilith rolled her eyes. Marie had tried much the same line of flirtation with her nine years ago. She checked her rearview mirror once more, surprised to see that Zelda was looking at her, not at Marie, and her face was decidedly redder than Lilith had last seen it.

“Soup,” said Zelda, her eyes unreadable.

La soupe?” said Marie, taken aback for a moment before turning on the charm once more. “Oui, that is a good choice, ma chérie. It makes you warm inside, n’est-ce pas?”

Tearing her eyes away from Lilith, Zelda smiled at Marie. “Yes. I find it makes me very… warm.” Zelda leaned into Marie’s space with a note of conspiracy in her playful, husky tone. “But I find I like dessert even more. I have a sweet tooth, you know?”

“Eh?” said Marie, quirking an eyebrow. Clearly, she thought her seduction was succeeding. “That is good to know.”

Lilith scoffed, shaking her head. She didn’t know why Marie flirting with Zelda was getting beneath her skin. For as long as they’d known each other, Marie had always been incorrigible when it came to pretty women. Why would Zelda be any exception? She was the most beautiful of all.

As Marie continued to flirt, Lilith stepped on the gas. They were only ten minutes away from Faustus’ apartment, but for some reason the closer they got, the more impatient Lilith became to get there sooner.

“Lilith, slow down. The speed limit is—”

Just as Zelda was in the middle of her reprimand, Lilith heard the unmistakable sound of sirens. “Shit.”

“No, no, no!” said Zelda, twisting in her seat to look behind them at the cop car on their tail. “I can’t deal with him today!”

“You know him?” asked Lilith as she pulled off to the side of the road. “Any chance he’ll give us a break?”

“Not likely,” said Zelda with a full-body shudder. “Just don’t… don’t argue. Just take the ticket and we’ll be fine.”

Lilith took off her seatbelt so she could turn around to properly look at Zelda. “What the hell is that supposed to mean? Who is this guy?”

“Put your hands on the wheel, mon amie,” said Marie in a far more serious tone than usual as they heard the door to the cop car slam shut. “My met-tet tells me this is not a man you wish to anger.”

Lilith didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She’d gotten hassled by cops plenty of times in her life and talked her way out of numerous tickets, from jaywalking to loitering to drug possession. She knew how to handle the bastards; she was just frustrated the ticket would delay them even further from getting to Leticia.

The cop banged his fist against Lilith’s window, making Zelda jump. Lilith rolled it down, not understanding why Zelda would be afraid of this man. He looked no bigger nor scarier than any other middle-aged man with a receding hairline.

“License and registration,” said the officer, his eyes shifting from Lilith to the women in the back.

“It’s a rental car,” replied Lilith, shoving her hand into her pocket to hand over her license.

“License and registration,” the man repeated, his voice a low growl. She could smell the distinct scent of alcohol on his breath. Was he driving while intoxicated…? If this cop was drunk, Lilith knew she had far less of a chance at sweet-talking him. Also, his hand was on his gun holster, which set Lilith’s teeth on edge.

“I assume the car’s registration is in the glove compartment. Can I reach for it without you shooting me?”

“Lilith,” Zelda hissed. “Just do as he says.”

Lilith handed over her license and registration without any further snark, but the man didn’t return to his police car to run them through the system. Instead, he motioned for Zelda to roll down her window as he moved in front of her door. Zelda complied without argument, staring straight ahead at the back of Lilith’s chair, as if to avoid looking at him.

“Afternoon, Mrs. Blackwood,” said the officer, a slimy smirk curling his lips upwards as he leaned in towards her. “Got any domestics going on I should know about?”

“As a matter of fact, Officer Kinkle, we have something of an emergency going on right now. Would you be so kind as to let us off with a warning? Lilith was speeding because we needed to get to my ex-husband’s apartment as soon as possible.”

“Is that right?” said Officer Kinkle, his smile a mocking, nasty thing. “Breaking your custody agreement again, are you? Should I just save myself the trouble and escort you home now? I could use some company in the back.”

Lilith’s eyes widened. She understood now why Zelda didn’t want her to cause any trouble. The man was a pig.

“That won’t be necessary, Officer,” said Zelda, her tone perfectly measured as she spun a lie, “Faustus knows I’m coming. You won’t be getting any calls from us today.”

“Shame. I coulda used some entertainment,” the officer’s eyes narrowed as he turned his attention to Marie. “Who is this? She doesn’t look like she’s from around here.”

“’She’ is not,” replied Marie, purposefully exaggerating her accent. Placing her hand on Zelda’s thigh, she leaned in to whisper in her ear, “Il est un cochon raciste, n’est-ce pas?”

What did you say?” said Officer Kinkle, his face growing red. “This is America. Speak English.”

“You are speaking to a veteran of the United States Airforce, sir,” Marie said, “I must tell you I am licensed to carry a weapon and I have one in my possession. I am good friends with the Police Commissioner, aussi; we served together. I do not think she would be happy to hear that you have failed to remain professional during a routine traffic violation, eh?”

Marie,” said Zelda, her eyes wide as she shook her head to indicate she should stop talking.

“Now, you listen here, little lady—” said Officer Kinkle, a vein pulsing in his forehead.

“I think it would be best if you let us ‘ladies’ move on. It will be far easier than having to explain yourself to the Chief of Police,” said Marie, the threat heavy in the air.

“I clocked this car going 75 in a 40, and Mrs. Blackwood, here, has just confessed to intending to trespass on her husband’s property. I see no reason I should listen to you. In fact,” said Officer Kinkle, reaching his arm through the open window to unlock the door, despite Zelda’s immediate protest. “I think I ought to take Mrs. Blackwood in for questioning.”

“You can’t do that! She hasn’t committed a crime,” exclaimed Lilith, her mouth going dry at how quickly the situation had escalated. “Are you insane?! This is illegal.”

But the Officer had already opened the door and grabbed Zelda by the upper arm, manhandling her out of the car. Then, just as Marie and Lilith prepared to follow her, an urgent voice came over the officer’s radio.

“Calling all available units. 10-66. Bear sighting on Sicily Drive. Respond with location.”

“Shit.”

With Zelda still in his grip, the officer threw Lilith’s license and registration on the ground in order to use his other hand to hold down the button on the radio.

“Dispatch, this is Patrol 2 on South St. I’ve got a 10-38 in progress—”

The dispatcher interrupted. “FIDO, Patrol 2. You’re the closest available unit. 10-53 on Sicily. Respond immediately. Copy?”

“10-4.” Officer Kinkle ended the radio call before cursing like a sailor. His grip tightened on Zelda momentarily before he pushed her back towards Lilith’s car, causing her to stumble and nearly lose her balance completely. Luckily, Marie and Lilith were both right there to make sure she didn’t fall.

“This is your lucky day, ladies. We’ve got a black bear loose in town again because the damn Feds can’t do their jobs. Go on—get out of here,” said Officer Kinkle as he climbed back into his car. “And drive the goddamn speed limit!”

The three women watched in silence as the cop car tore away, siren and lights blaring.

“Come on,” said Lilith after the car was out of sight. “He’s wasted enough of our time.”

“Are you alright, chérie?” said Marie, running her thumb over the place on Zelda’s arm where the officer had grabbed her. “You’ve dealt with ce cochone before, n’est-ce pas?”

“Yes,” said Zelda, letting out a long, steadying breath as Marie helped her back into the car. “He always seems to be on duty whenever Faustus and I… have a disagreement. I’ve never called the police myself, but the people living next door to Faustus are always complaining about the noise. They call the police at the drop of a hat. It’s become something of a joke among the squad that ours is never a ‘real’ DV. They can be quite rude about it, especially Officer Kinkle.”

Lilith picked up her license and registration from the ground, angry at how dirty they now were. “That man should be fired. He can’t just drag you out of a car like that! And I guarantee you he’s an alcoholic; I could smell it on his breath. He shouldn’t be responding to any situation right now, let alone a bear sighting.”

Zelda hummed her agreement before turning to Marie. “Were you serious about having a… a gun on you?”

Oui, chérie. Does that bother you?” said Marie, tilting her head as she patted her purse.

“No,” Zelda was quick to say. “No, I think it’s a good thing. I’ve thought of getting one myself, but I’m so worried one of the twins would find it and hurt themselves—”

“Sorry to interrupt, but I need directions,” said Lilith, furrowing her brow as the straight road suddenly twisted and turned with the landscape.


When they pulled up in front of Faustus’ apartment complex, Lilith was surprised to find such a quaint condo building in the middle of the woods. His commute must be the longest of all of the actors, which struck Lilith as odd, since she would’ve assumed the producers would make their leading man’s lodging a priority.

The Spellman sisters’ car was parked in front, but Blackwood’s Mercedes was nowhere in sight.

“That’s strange,” said Zelda, staring at the empty spot where her ex-husband’s car should be as she got out. “He’s not here.”

“Maybe Hilda sent him away? To cool off?” said Lilith, falling into step behind Zelda as she headed to the door and took out her key.

Marie placed a hand on Zelda’s back, rubbing it in a soothing motion as Zelda paused with the key in the lock. “What is wrong, chérie?”

Zelda looked up at the two women in surprise. “Nothing, nothing. I’m just surprised. Faustus told me he would change the locks after the last time…”

Zelda let her sentence trail off, shoving the door open without any further hesitation. “Hilda? Prudence? It’s Zelda. Where are you?”

“In here, Zelds,” said Hilda, calling from the living room.

The three women made their way down a short hallway and then turned to discover Hilda, Prudence, and Judas sitting on the couch. Hilda had her arm around Prudence, who looked distraught.

“Prudence?!” Zelda said as she rushed to her stepdaughter’s side, all frailty forgotten in a rush of adrenaline. “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” said Prudence, slamming the cup of tea she held in her hands down onto the coffee table with as much force as she could. “I just feel so stupid.”

“None of that now, darling,” said Hilda, rubbing soothing circles into Prudence’s lower back. “Finish your tea. It’ll help calm your nerves.

“Who are you?!” interrupted Judas to point rather rudely at Marie.

“I am Mambo Marie LaFleur, young man,” she responded, crouching down in front of him. “I am here to help.”

“You look like Prudence and ‘Ticia and me,” he said, his eyes wide with excitement. He hadn’t seen many other people who had dark skin since they moved to the Hudson Valley.

Oui, ma petite puce,” said Marie, offering her hand, which Judas eagerly shook. “You have a strong handshake, jeune homme.”

“Dad taught me!” said Judas eagerly, before he deflated at the reminder of his father.

“What happened, Prudence?” said Zelda, her heart in her throat.

Prudence seemed to want to look anywhere but at her stepmother. “I took the twins out for a walk, but then it got really cloudy, so we decided to come home early. Father was on the phone with someone important, and he got really angry that we were back.”

“Do you know who he was talking to on the phone?” said Zelda, her mouth going dry.

Prudence shook her head. “I couldn’t tell. But he was talking about you… a-and Mr. Morningstar. Saying such awful things. He was scaring Leticia, so I told him he shouldn’t talk about you like that.”

“Oh, Prudence,” said Zelda, putting a hand to her forehead and closing her eyes. “You don’t have to defend me to him. That isn’t your job.”

Prudence stood abruptly from the couch, making Zelda stumble a few steps back, into Lilith, who reached out to steady her.

“You don’t understand! The things h-he was saying w-were just awful—I can’t repeat them in front of Judas, but if you’d been there, you would’ve given him a piece of your mind, just like I did. But then he just got angrier, which made Leticia cry. He told her to stop crying or he’d give her something to cry about, but she didn’t stop, and he…”

Prudence’s hands turned into fists as she took a deep breath.

“It’s alright, love, you can tell her,” said Hilda.

Zelda looked from Hilda to Prudence with alarm. “What on earth did he do?! Where’s Leticia?”

Prudence met Zelda’s gaze with genuine remorse. “He… he started shaking her, and I was screaming at him to stop—she’s just a kid—and he wouldn’t, so I… I grabbed a kitchen knife—one of the big ones—and told him I’d use it if he didn’t stop.”

Zelda felt faint at the idea of Prudence pulling a knife on Faustus in front of the children. Her body felt like a wet towel being twisted and squeezed until all the water was wrung out. She needed to lie down—but of course, she couldn’t do that until Leticia was found.

“And then what happened?”

“He stopped, but he was still so angry, shouting all these terrible things at her, and so I told Leticia to take my phone and run. Judas, too. I didn’t know what Father was going to do, but he looked ready to explode, and I didn’t want them to be around when he did,” said Prudence, passing Zelda and Lilith so that she could pace around the living room.

“Did he hurt you, Prudence?” said Zelda, her voice barely above a whisper.

There was a long pause before she answered. “No. No, he just kept saying terrible things. And then he said he wouldn’t be disrespected in his own house, and walked right out the door.”

Prudence stopped pacing and turned on her heels to face Judas. “I ran out after him, so that I could go looking for the twins. There’s a creek not too far from here, with this big tree hanging over. There’s a ladder and a kind of platform built on it—not quite a tree house, but close enough. I figured the twins would go there.”

“We did!” said Judas, who was still staring at Marie in awe. “I swear. We climbed up the ladder and everything. But then ‘Ticia climbed back down and ran away. She said Prudence told us to hide, and the treehouse wasn’t a good enough hiding place.”

“It was such a stupid thing to say! I’m so sorry. Now she’s out there, lost and alone, because of me,” said Prudence, clutching her head.

“No,” said Zelda, moving to Prudence and taking her chin gently in her hand so she’d look at her. “No. You didn't do anything wrong, Prudence. You have nothing to be sorry for. Leticia is a smart girl. I’m sure we’ll find her.”

“We’ve looked, sister,” said Hilda, standing up from the couch as well. “We’ve searched everywhere and still haven’t found her. We only came back here to check if she’d come home while we were out looking for her.”

All at once, every smartphone in the room went off with the same notification. Lilith was quick to take hers out of her pocket, her heart sinking upon reading the headline.  

BREAKING NEWS: EPA AND POLICE EFFORTS FAIL TO NEAUTRALIZE BEAR THREAT—SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY

“We need to find Leticia,” said Zelda, rushing out of the living room in a burst of adrenaline. “NOW!”

Chapter Text

“Zelds! Wait!”

Lilith watched as Hilda jumped in front of her sister, who was already attempting to disappear into the forest, without a care for her own safety.

“We have to be smart about this, love. Prudence and I already looked everywhere we thought Leticia might’ve gone,” said Hilda, her tone soft, her gaze drifting to look over Zelda’s shoulder at the concerned faces of the rest of the group gathered behind the apartment.

“Yes, well. Maybe you missed something,” Zelda spat, trying to shove passed her sister, with little success.

Hilda Spellman is a force to be reckoned with, Lilith mused.

“We need a plan, sister,” Hilda insisted, continuing to block Zelda’s path whenever she tried to take another step around her.

Lilith exchanged a worried glance with Mambo Marie. The forest behind Blackwood’s apartment was massive, extending all the way down into the Hudson Valley. It would take hours—no, days—to search the ground that Leticia might’ve feasibly covered herself.

“Fine. I’ll give you five minutes to come up with a strategy, and not a moment longer,” Zelda breathed, her right hand pressed against her forehead as she turned to look at everyone else, whose expressions ranged from concern to utter despondency.

With such a short time limit set, it was quickly decided that everyone would split up to look for Leticia, but Lilith noticed that Mambo Marie looked less than thrilled by this prospect, as she kept hovering around Zelda like she didn’t want to be separated from her. While she understood the desire to stick close to Zelda’s side, Lilith worried that Marie’s flirtation and general irreverent energy might not be right for her at this moment.

(Lilith ignored the little voice inside her head that whispered she was just jealous, and that a crisis wasn’t the right time to be possessive of a woman who was currently pregnant with someone else’s child.)

Realizing they might need more manpower to ensure Leticia was found before nightfall, Hilda made several calls, urging everyone she knew to join the search effort. By the end of all their organizing, they had a decently large group ready to scour the forest, and arrangements had been made for Sabrina to look after Judas while the rest of them split up in different directions.

Zelda, not one to sit around and wait while her child might be in terrible danger, set off into the forest the moment she thought she could slip away unseen. Little did she know Lilith had been watching her like a hawk, and wasn’t about to let her trek through the woods alone.

Lilith watched in awe as the woman who’d been too fatigued to walk at a normal pace only two hours ago was suddenly running through a forest with a level of feverish intensity one wouldn’t expect from a pregnant woman.

“Zelda? Zelda, stop!”

“You heard Hilda tell everyone we should split up, Lilith. We have an entire forest to cover! Why the hell are you following me?” said Zelda breathlessly, just as her foot caught on an overgrown root that nearly sent her plummeting to the ground. Luckily, she was able to recover her balance, but Lilith immediately grabbed her arm to prevent her from continuing to run.

“We have a whole group of people out looking for Leticia. You’ll be no help at all if you hurt yourself trying to find her.”

Zelda wrenched her arm out of Lilith’s grip. Lilith was momentarily frozen in place by the fierce look Zelda leveled at her; there was white-hot anger radiating from her. Zelda’s posture was as tense and defensive as Lilith had ever seen it, with her hands gesticulating wildly in front of her.

“Who are you to talk about what is and isn’t ‘helping?’” Zelda said, her green eyes flashing as she spread her arms wide. “You know what wasn’t helpful? Taking me to Mambo Marie. She told me things today I never wanted to know—things I’d be better off not knowing. If that’s what your ‘helping’ looks like, I’d rather you didn’t help me at all.”

Lilith’s mouth opened and closed, not knowing what to say to defend herself. She watched in stunned disbelief as Zelda turned on her heel and resumed her earlier frantic pace.

Lilith shuffled her feet, trying to catch her breath and tamp down all of the emotions that were flooding her at once. The fact of the matter was, Zelda had a point; even though she’d discussed on the phone with Marie last night that the situation was delicate, she should’ve realized that her old friend wasn’t known for respecting boundaries, and it was wrong to assume that just because Lilith had asked her to be tactful, that Marie would change who she was overnight.

Marie came from a different culture—from a different way of life. She was proud of her gifts and rarely hesitated to use them. Lilith had never minded Marie’s eccentricities, though she often forgot that the time they’d spent together at Fort Benning was a crash course in culture shock for both of them. She needed to consider that everything that had happened today might’ve been avoided if Lilith had been clearer with Marie about her own trauma, and how it related to Zelda. Marie would never have dared to bring up certain things if she knew—

Realizing she’d fallen significantly behind, Lilith had to jog to catch up with Zelda, cursing herself for wearing boots that were more fashionable than functional.

“Look, I’m sorry. Marie has always been… different. I should’ve been clearer with you that she wasn’t the kind of doctor you’re used to, and that she wouldn’t act like one. There’s no excuse for the position I put you in today—”

“Not just today!” said Zelda, her voice cracking as she rounded on Lilith with fire in her eyes. Lilith stopped short and jerked her body to the side, worried that she'd gained up so much momentum, she wouldn't be able to keep herself from crashing full-force into Zelda.

Zelda ignored the moment, as if she hadn't nearly been accidentally tackled to the ground, “Though I’ll admit, today has been one hell of an experience—even putting Mambo Marie’s unconventional practices aside—what with you speeding and antagonizing a police officer even after I asked you not to.”

Lilith sputtered, thinking she'd taken quite enough responsibility without being blamed for things she couldn't control. “It’s not my fault the police officer was a corrupt bastard who dragged you out of the car like a drunk—”

“Nothing is ever actually your fault, is it?” said Zelda, her eyes narrowed, her jaw clenched. “You think as long as you mean well you aren't to blame. You divert and deflect and always come armed with a justification. You listen behind hedges and bathroom stalls; you watch silently from the audience as my ex-husband harasses me in front of the entire cast and crew; you air my secrets in places where my niece can overhear. You’ve made it clear time and time again that I can’t trust you—not with my body, not with my secrets, and certainly not with my heart.”

The word "heart" hung like a circle of cigarette smoke in the air, neither woman willing to acknowledge that something significant but unbreathable was suspended between them. 

For a few beats, they just stood there, squared off, breathing heavily, before Zelda seemed to come back to herself, and resumed the search, as if she’d never spoken.

“Leticia?” Zelda yelled, her pace slower than before. “Leticia, can you hear me?”

Lilith didn’t move. Self-loathing simmered in her stomach. Was it possible that everything she’d done in an attempt to help Zelda had only made things worse? She kept inserting herself into situations where she didn’t belong, sure, but it was all with the intention of ensuring Zelda didn’t come to any further harm.

But even as she justified her actions to herself, there was a nagging little voice in the back of Lilith’s head that whispered that she was being selfish—that she was only getting involved because they shared a common enemy in Lucifer. Could it be that there was a part of her that still wanted him to pay for what he’d done to her, and the quickest way to make that happen was through Zelda?

Lilith shook herself out of her thoughts, realizing that this wasn’t the time to question every decision she’d made in the past week.

There was a crisis at hand. Leticia needed her.

“Leticia, sweetheart, please come out of hiding. It’s time to go home, darling!” Zelda shouted, her voice growing hoarse by the time she said ‘darling.’ The adrenaline could only do so much, and Lilith could see that Zelda’s pace had already slowed considerably.

“Leticia? It’s Lilith. You’ve won the game! Hide and seek is over. Come out, come out, wherever you are!”

Zelda shot her a scandalized look over her shoulder, as if it didn’t occur to her that Leticia might think they were playing a game. While Lilith had never been a fan of children, she'd worked with enough child actors over the course of her career to know that in order to get a child to understand a direction, you needed to come down to their level and think the way a child does. Which wasn't to say that children were easily tricked; she'd known her fair share of shrewd toddlers who would condescend to her as if she were just a large toddler herself.

Lilith caught up to Zelda relatively easily, as the actress’ energy was flagging. Lilith had no problem taking the lead in the search, as she hadn’t wanted Zelda to be a part of it in the first place.

“What if we never find her?” Lilith heard Zelda whisper beside her, the misery and fear heavy between them.

“Don’t think like that. You can’t afford to think like that,” said Lilith, scanning the trees ahead before squeezing her eyes shut and letting out a long sigh. “Look, I’m sorry for everything. You’re right; my helping has only made things worse for you. I’ve overstepped again and again. I think it’s just…”  Lilith trailed off, turning to face Zelda, surprised to see that the woman’s right hand was ghosting back and forth over her lower abdomen, almost touching but not quite, as if the urge to touch her stomach and the desire to keep her hand away were starkly at odds. Her expression was one of anxiety, and dare Lilith say it, dread?

Looking at Zelda in such visible distress, Lilith felt a wave of guilt so intense it nearly made her wretch.

“I think… I think because I suffered so much with Lucifer, the moment I realized there might be something going on with you two, I felt like I was obligated to say—to do—something about it. I made myself out to be some knight in shining armor, when really all I’ve done is violate your privacy, and make your life more complicated than it is already. I’m sorry.”

Zelda tilted her head, one hand lifting to toss a strawberry-blonde curl out of her face. “I appreciate your apology, but now isn’t the time for emotional declarations.”

With that, they continued their search for another thirty minutes, winding their way down farther and farther into the valley. It was slow-going, as the terrain had numerous fallen trees and glacial deposits jutting out into their path. When Lilith slipped and fell on a moss-covered boulder as clouds rolled in overhead, she had to admit, things were starting to look grimmer by the minute.

“Here,” Zelda said, offering Lilith her hand.

Lilith looked at the hand for a moment before accepting her help. Zelda’s palm was soft and warm in hers. As Zelda lifted her back up with a surprising amount of strength, Lilith wondered at the power and endurance Zelda seemed to possess.

“Maybe we should rest for a bit,” said Lilith, as she took note of the beads of sweat on Zelda’s brow. “Who knows—maybe the others have already found her?”

Zelda shook her head, taking out her phone. “They would’ve called me right away—oh no.”

“What? What’s wrong” Lilith asked, her heart in her throat at Zelda’s tone.

“I don’t have any service,” Zelda said, turning the phone so that Lilith could see for herself. “How about you?”

Lilith shoved her hand into her jacket pocket, not expecting her own crappy service provider to be any better than Zelda’s. “No dice.”

Zelda closed her eyes, her lower lip caught between her teeth as her expression warped into one of pain. “I can’t believe this.”

“Look on the bright side,” said Lilith, though her voice sounded hollow even to her own ears as she shoved her phone back into her pocket. “There’s no way the judge is going to let Faustus retain custody after this.”

Zelda opened her eyes. Lilith was momentarily distracted by how the color of her summer dress made the green of her irises all the more prominent. “I would give anything for Leticia to be safe right now. I’d even drop the appeal if it meant she was safe and sound.”

Lilith’s mouth went dry. “You can’t drop the appeal! Prudence is lucky the fight didn’t end worse for her. The court needs to take those children away from Blackwood as soon as possible. None of this would’ve happened if he wasn’t a terrible father.”

Zelda turned away, looking up at the cloudy sky as she tried to blink back her tears. “You’re wrong; none of this would’ve happened if I hadn’t divorced him.”

“No—”

But Zelda didn’t pay any attention to Lilith’s reproach, she just rushed on, as if she were afraid Lilith would stop her if she didn’t get it all out at once.

“When we were together, I could keep the children safe from him. All of his anger and frustration was focused on me, which was fine, because I could handle it. I’ve always been able to handle it! But now that I’ve left him, he’s taking it out on Prudence and Leticia, and they can’t—shouldn’t… They’re just kids! I… I can’t believe how selfish I’ve been.”

Lilith felt a wave of anger like no other crash over her. “No! Now you listen to me, Zelda Spellman—”

She reached out and grabbed Zelda by the shoulders, forcing her to look her in the eye.

“Don’t you dare do that—don’t you dare say that what you did was selfish. You did the right thing. If you even think of going back to him, I swear I’ll… I’ll…”

“What?” Zelda said, shrugging out of Lilith’s hold. “What will you do?”

A rope of tension pulled taut between them. The air felt electric, like the moment just before a lightning strike. There was even the distinct smell of ozone tickling Zelda’s nose and filling her lungs as she tried to even out her breathing.

Lilith clenched her fists, wishing she knew how to talk to Zelda in a way that would get through to her. “Look, I know I’m interfering where I shouldn’t be. But I saw the way he treated you on the stage, and the way he spoke to you in the garden. And I can’t believe he didn’t take you to the hospital after Lucifer—”

Realizing what she’d just let slip, Lilith stopped herself mid-sentence, horror filling her at how she’d run her mouth.

Fuck.

All the color drained from Zelda’s face. “How the hell do you—? Who told you about?”

Zelda was having trouble forming complete sentences. Her green eyes widened with fear and disbelief.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything—”

“No, please, by all means recount to me all of the private information you’ve been gathering,” said Zelda, her eyes turning glassy. “How is it you always seem to know more about my life than what I’ve told you? I’m a fool for ever trusting you. How could I be so stupid?”

With that, Zelda took off, but not without giving Lilith one last look of horror and suspicion.

“Zelda? Zelda, wait!” said Lilith, running after her. “You’re not stupid. I give you my word—”

“Your word is worthless,” Zelda hissed over her shoulder as she picked her way down the rocky mountain side.

Lilith tried to follow the same way, but she was unused to hiking, and had very little experience in choosing the right place to step. Looking up, she planned to yell for Zelda to stop, but the woman had already disappeared out of her sight behind a group of trees. Distracted, Lilith’s foot settled in the exact wrong place, and the ground beneath her crumbled right out from under her.

Lilith let out a long scream as she tumbled, head over heels, down a particularly steep part of the mountain. As she fell, she wondered if this was it for her. Was this how she was going to die?

She wasn’t particularly afraid of death. She’d even longed for it, sometimes, when she was still with Lucifer. But it seemed a cruel trick of fate for her to have survived so much, only to die in a freak accident.

It felt like she was tumbling for a long time, when really it was only a few seconds before she landed in a mercifully soft bed of moss. As Lilith laid there, her head spinning, she did a mental assessment of her body. It didn’t feel like she’d broken anything, but her body felt like one big bruise.

She groaned as she sat up, trying not to think about how close she’d come to slamming her head on the jagged rocks that flanked her to the right and left.

“Miss Lilly?” came a small, worried voice. “Miss Lilly!”

Lilith felt relief like no other as she turned her head to see Leticia behind her and to the right. But the relief was immediately replaced by ice-cold fear as she realized Leticia wasn’t alone.

She was standing outside the mouth of a shallow den, with her arm slung over a bear cub.

“Leticia!” Lilith said, scrambling to her feet despite the pain that accompanied the movement. “Leticia, why don’t you come away from there? Quickly, now.”

Leticia shook her head, her face breaking out into a wide smile. “This is my new friend! Come pet her!”

Lilith’s eyes widened as the bear cub sniffed Leticia’s hair before licking a long stripe along her cheek. Leticia laughed, her voice echoing happily through the trees. It was a black bear cub, at least 50 pounds even in its youth. While it seemed friendly enough, Lilith was certain that could change at the drop of a hat if it felt threatened.

“Leticia, honey, I know you’re having fun, but that’s a wild animal, and you really need to come over here. Now,” said Lilith, beckoning urgently with her hands even as she tried to keep her voice as calm as possible. “It’s not a puppy, Leticia. It’s a bear. It’s not meant to be played with.”

Leticia’s face tilted in confusion as she continued to pet the bear cub. “But she’s just a baby! And we’re having fun. Daddy won’t let me have a puppy or a kitty.”

Lilith took a step closer, her hands held aloft. “Leticia, I’m serious. Listen to me. You need to move away from the cub. Right. Now.”

“But I don’t wanna!” said Leticia petulantly, crossing her arms.

Just then, Lilith heard the crunching of leaves and the unmistakable sound of Zelda’s voice. “Lilith? Are you alright? I heard a scream.”

Lilith turned just in time to see Zelda round a particularly large tree trunk.

“Mama!” squealed Leticia in delight, though she didn’t make any indication that she was going to leave the bear cub’s side. “Come meet my new friend!”

“Leticia,” Zelda breathed, frozen in place about ten feet behind Lilith, “come away from there. Now.”

“No!” said Leticia, wrapping her arms around the bear cub’s midsection. “I don’t wanna go back to Daddy’s house! I wanna stay here.”

“You don’t have to go back,” insisted Lilith, her hands still motioning desperately for Leticia to come to her. “Your mother’s here now. Don’t you want to say hello to her? Give her a kiss?”

“No!” said Leticia, stroking the bear’s snout. “I don’t wanna. I’m mad at her.”

“I understand, Leticia,” said Zelda, still not moving closer. She seemed to share Lilith’s worry that any slight movement might result in agitating the bear cub. “It was wrong of me to make you go home with your father. I promise, you’ll stay with me from now on. Won’t that be nice?”

Leticia eyed her mother with suspicion, as she let go of the bear cub. “You promise?”

“I promise.”

But just as Leticia was about to move, her eyes widened at something behind her mother. “Mama! Mama! Look! Behind you!”

Lilith turned to look at the same time Zelda did. At first, Lilith didn’t understand. They were in a heavily wooded area, with all sorts of bushes, boulders, and trees blocking her line of sight. But her confusion was short-lived as she heard Zelda make a noise somewhere between a gasp and a scream.

It would seem the cub had a mother, and that mother bear was directly behind Zelda, raising itself up onto its hind legs to let out an almighty roar.

Chapter Text

Lilith watched in horror as the bear rose to its greatest height, making itself appear as large as it could. The mama bear was posturing as if her life and the life of her cub depended on it.

“Don’t move, Zelda. If you run, it might…” Lilith stopped herself, trying to keep her voice calm despite the panic rising inside her, “just… don’t move.”

Lilith didn’t know much about bears. In fact, she’d only ever seen a bear one other time in her life, and it was when she was directing at a theatre conference in Valdez, Alaska. The town was smaller than any she’d ever known, and so she thought it was relatively safe to go walking outside at night when she couldn’t sleep. Little did she know, that was when the bears liked to go scavenging through garbages and dumpsters.

Luckily, she noticed the grizzly before it noticed her, and she just backed away quietly without any trouble. When she later told the story to a local, they said she was lucky she didn’t run; running can trigger a chase response, and no one, no matter how fast, could outrun a bear.

But looking at an agitated bear in a full-blown fighting stance, Lilith had no idea what to do besides pray to every god she didn't believe in that the bear wouldn't kill them.

“Mama!” Leticia cried.

Lilith sensed what the girl was about to do, and turned just as Leticia started running towards her mother. “Leticia, no! Don’t move!”

The bear let out another roar just as Lilith lunged for the girl, managing to catch her by the arm before she got any closer to her mother, who was still frozen in place in front of the bear.

“Leticia, no, no, no,” Lilith whispered as she hugged the girl close, struggling to hold her back. “Stop fighting. Stay still, Leticia.”

“Lilith,” Zelda said, her voice eerily calm as the baby bear rushed passed her to join its mother. She still had her back to Lilith, as she continued to face off with the mama bear. “I need you to take Leticia and run.”

Lilith’s blood froze in her veins as Leticia increased her struggling tenfold. “We’re not leaving you.”

The mama bear dropped back down onto all fours, sniffing at her cub frantically to confirm the humans hadn’t hurt it. For just a moment, the bear seemed distracted, and Zelda turned her head to address Lilith.

“Lilith, listen to me. I’m going to distract the bear, and I want you to run. I need you to run, and don’t look back. Not even for a moment.”

Lilith sputtered, not believing what she was hearing. “T-That’s insane, Zelda. There has to be some other way—”

“There’s not,” Zelda said, as the mama bear finished her sniffing of the cub. Leticia stopped struggling, seeming to realize what her mother was saying as Zelda’s gaze turned to her. “Leticia, I love you so much. I know this is scary, but I need you to listen to Auntie Lilith, ok? Be a good girl and do exactly as she says.”

“But Mama—”

Zelda’s gaze moved up to Lilith once more. Lilith couldn’t breathe. There was as much resignation as there was determination in the woman’s eyes.

“Take care of her.”

With that, Zelda bolted, taking a sharp diagonal path away from where Leticia and Lilith stood, in the hopes that the bear would follow her. Lilith’s mouth went dry as the bear did just that, but not before letting out another agitated roar.

Unable to fully process what had just happened, Lilith acted on adrenaline alone. She scooped Leticia up into her arms and took off in the opposite direction, fighting back tears as Leticia screamed over her shoulder. “Mama! Mama!”

It was incredibly difficult to navigate the forest with a struggling six-year-old in her arms, but all Lilith could think of was that they needed to get as far away as possible. Zelda had made the choice for them, and there was nothing to do but see it through.

Lilith tried to blink the tears out of her vision; everything was blurry and she had no idea where they were. All she could do was pray that she was running in the direction of Blackwood’s apartment, and not just leading Leticia deeper into the forest.

They’d only been running for a few minutes when a shot rang out, causing the birds in the trees to take flight above them. Lilith paused in her running, her eyes wide. The gunfire had sounded awfully close.

“Mama?” Leticia whispered. Lilith tucked the girl’s head further into her shoulder.

“We’ve got to keep moving, Leticia.”

“But what if Mama’s in trouble?!”

Lilith’s elbow swiped at her eyes. “Leticia, your Mama did something very brave to protect you. That’s why we have to keep going.”

Just then, Lilith heard the sounds of heavy footsteps coming towards them. Officer Kinkle appeared, his eyes wild as he took his rifle down from his shoulder upon seeing them.

“You seen the bear?” said Kinkle, looking pissed at being interrupted from his hunting. “The tracks lead this way. What in Sam hill are you doin’ out here, anyway? Don’t you know there’s a damn bear on the loose?”

“Are you the one who just fired?” said Lilith, her eyes trained on the gun. “Please tell me you didn’t shoot a gun without seeing what you were aiming at? You could’ve hurt someone.”

Officer Kinkle cocked his head. “That wasn’t me. Some hunter must’ve got to him before me. But I want that prize. Gonna skin it and turn it into a rug.”

“NO, you can’t!” screamed Leticia, fighting so hard against Lilith’s hold that she had no choice but to put her down. “The mama bear was just protecting the baby bear! You can’t kill her, you just can’t. Then the cub won’t have a mama, just like me.”

Lilith’s heart clenched.

“Now listen here, little lady,” said Officer Kinkle, squatting down to be closer to her eye level. “That bear was too close to town earlier. That means it’s not afraid of people. And when bears stop being afraid of people, they need to be taken care of, because they might hurt someone like you.”

“But you can’t kill it, you just can’t!” said Leticia, starting to cry. “You’re a mean, mean man and I hate you! I hate you! I hate you!”

“Leticia, that’s enough,” Lilith said, coaxing her away from the police officer for fear of the tantrum making him angry. “Officer Kinkle is just doing his job. We need to let him find the bear and help your mother.”

“What do ya mean by that?” said Kinkle, rising from his squat. “What the hell is Mrs. Blackwood doin’ in the forest? What are you doin’ out here?”

“We told you we had an emergency to take care of, which was why we were speeding,” Lilith spit, but didn’t elaborate, knowing that if by some miracle Zelda survived, she wouldn’t want the police to know what had happened. “You need to go find her. Zelda might be hurt. We saw the bear a few minutes back that way,” Lilith pointed. “Zelda… Zelda was trying to distract it. You have to go help her.”

“Jesus, it’s one thing after another with that lady,” said Kinkle, before nodding to them. “I’ll take care of it.”

Suddenly, they heard rustling from the same direction that Lilith had just pointed. Officer Kinkle was quick to raise his rifle, “Get behind me, ladies. This isn’t gonna be pretty.”

“Lower your weapon, monsieur,” came a familiar French voice.

Lilith couldn’t believe it for a moment—it was too good to be true. But sure as the sun rises each day, Marie emerged from behind a boulder flanked by shrubbery, with Zelda Spellman’s arm slung over her shoulder and an arm around her waist.

“Mama!” Leticia cried, running to meet them.

Lilith didn’t know why she felt like crying. Her eyes burned as she looked at Zelda, dirty and bedraggled but clearly whole, with no evidence to suggest she’d been mauled.

“Zelda?” Lilith breathed, unable to believe that only a moment ago, she’d assumed the woman was lost to the world forever.

“Marie saved me,” Zelda said, her voice breathless as Leticia latched onto her. “I fell while I was running away from the bear. I thought that would be the end for me. And then Marie appeared out of nowhere and scared the bear off with a gunshot. I owe her my life.”

“It was nothing, chérie. It only took one shot and the bear was, how you say… spooked!” said Marie, before she addressed the police officer once more. “The bear will not come near a human again, I think. She was just doing what any mother would. I could see it in her eyes.”

“With all due respect, Madame,” said Officer Kinkle, his lips curling, “you don’t know what you’re talking about. That beast needs to be put down.”

With that, Officer Kinkle took off in pursuit of the bear, leaving the women to exchange relieved glances that he was gone.

“Are you alright?” said Lilith, coming to stand in front of Zelda, who had stopped leaning on Marie in order to take Leticia into her arms.

“I’m not sure,” said Zelda, her eyes a bit unfocused. “I’m alive, and that’s what matters.”

“We need to get you home, chérie,” said Marie, her eyes worried. “I need to examine both of you. It is not so good to fall when—”

“Yes, I know,” Zelda warned, gesturing to Leticia to remind Marie that little ears were listening. “But I’m not stepping foot in Faustus’ apartment. I’m taking Leticia home and that’s where she’ll stay.”

And so, they began the slow walk out of the woods, with Marie leading the way. Lilith was at the back of the group, still trying to wrap her head around the idea that Zelda was alive, when only minutes ago, she’d given her up for dead. Her eyes were still stinging, which made Lilith grateful that no one could see her face. She was sure there were tear tracks, though she couldn’t remember when the stinging had turned into actual tears.

She also couldn’t remember the last time she’d let herself cry. Zelda must mean a lot more to her than she originally thought, or was it just the stress of the day? Surely, she couldn’t possibly care so much for someone she’d only just met?

As they scaled back up the side of the mountain, Zelda briefly turned to look behind her. Lilith quickly rubbed her sleeves against her face to hide her tears, but all Zelda did was smile, her own eyes wet with tears as she held Leticia close.

A rush of affection shot through Lilith even as her heart twisted at the sight. She had come so close to losing both of them today. Lilith attempted a small, relieved smile of her own, and waited for Zelda to look away before she let it fall off her face.

Is this… is this what love feels like? Lilith wondered, wiping her runny nose against her sleeve. She wished she had a tissue, and contemplated asking Marie or Zelda for one, before firmly deciding against it. Marie would never let her hear the end of it, insufferable as she was, though Lilith had never minded the good-natured teasing much in the past.

But this was different. This felt different.

This felt… new.

Love or no love, Lilith realized that she’d never fallen so hard or so fast for someone in all her life. It scared her. It felt like a part of her had nearly been lost today, a new and precious part, and she felt silly for becoming so attached so quickly. Lilith had always known that love was a dangerous business, which is why she’d guarded her heart against it for over twenty years.

But as she picked her way up the mountain, she realized that against her better judgment, she’d let her guard down. Leticia had wormed her way inside it almost instantaneously, and through those cracks, affection for Zelda had followed suit.

Pausing a moment to get her bearings, Lilith let out a shaky breath as the truth settled like a physical weight on her chest.

She wasn’t just using Zelda to get to Lucifer. It was becoming clearer by the moment: against her will, she’d fallen in love.

She was in love with Zelda Spellman.

Chapter Text

“Thank you.”

Lilith looked up. Hilda was standing in front of her, with a steaming cup of herbal tea outstretched between them. There was a cinnamon stick poking out of it—Hilda’s personal touch, no doubt—but Lilith found it hard to reconcile the image of a warm cup of tea with the echo of a bear roaring in her ears.

“For what?” Lilith asked, accepting the tea despite not having asked for it. She wasn’t much of a tea drinker; in her youth she’d survived on coffee and cigarettes. She couldn’t have afforded fancy herbal tea even if she’d wanted it. “I didn’t do anything.”

Hilda tilted her head in confusion before casting her gaze around the room. The Spellman townhouse was packed to the brim with people—the entire cast and crew of The Winter’s Tale was there, as they’d all been called in to help search the woods for Leticia—though two prominent men were noticeably absent.

“I think just about every person in this room would disagree,” said Hilda, a smile tugging at her lips despite the exhaustion on her face. “I heard my sister owes you her life.”

“You heard wrong,” said Lilith, shaking her head before lifting the tea to her lips. The cinnamon was overpowering to the extent that it was almost undrinkable, but she tried not to show it on her face. “Marie saved her. All I did was take Leticia and run in the opposite direction.”

Like a coward, Lilith silently added, aware that saying those words out loud would spark yet another protest from Hilda.

As it was, a sad look came over Hilda’s face. She motioned to the space beside Lilith on the worn loveseat, clearly asking if she could sit. Lilith briefly scanned the room, to see if there were any other available seats, but there were so many people in such a small room, Ambrose had even laid a picnic blanket down on the floor for those who hadn’t managed to procure a spot on the furniture.

The fact that no one had requested to take the one remaining seat next to Lilith was something she dutifully ignored, not wanting to read too deeply into it. Besides, she was sure the Weird Sisters preferred the floor, as that was where all the dashing young men had thrown themselves. Young Nicholas Scratch had even taken out a guitar, and was strumming a rather distractingly melancholic melody while the girls swayed and hummed and murmured lyrics in counterpoint.

Hilda sat down with a heavy sigh of relief, clearly grateful to get some time off of her feet. Lilith waited for her to say something with an almost physical weight pressing down on top of her chest, not wanting to be forced into talking about the stress of the day—especially if she was going to be lauded as some kind of hero, when she couldn’t feel less deserving of that praise.

 “You saved Leticia. You protected her with your life. That’s not nothing,” said Hilda, her voice low but firm.

Lilith made a noncommittal noise in the back of her throat as she placed the teacup down on the coffee table. “Anyone else would’ve done the same.”

Hilda put her hand on Lilith’s thigh, which prompted the director to look up. Hilda’s eyes were wet with unshed tears, which immediately made Lilith feel guilty for trying to brush off her thanks. “You must understand by now, love… that not everyone would have done what you did. Faustus surely wouldn’t have. You did more for that girl today than her father has done her whole life.”

Lilith’s mouth went dry. “It was Zelda who was the brave one. She… when she tried to distract the bear, all I could think was…”

Lilith bit her lip, willing herself not to cry again. She couldn’t let the entire cast see her sobbing on the sofa. As the director, there was such a thing as maintaining an image of always being in control, even when things were falling apart.

Especially when things were falling apart.

Rallying herself, Lilith continued, “…all I could think… was that she was gone. One moment she was alive in front of me, and the next, she was almost certainly dead. And she did it without even blinking. It was like she was ready to…” Lilith lowered her voice, wary that there were so many people around, “…like she wanted to die.”

Hilda reached for Lilith’s hand. Lilith allowed the touch, though she hardly felt it. It seemed like her soul had shifted slightly. Like she was hovering just a few inches outside of her body. Not above or below it, but almost… to the side.

“Ever since we took in Sabrina,” said Hilda, her voice quiet as she found the girl in the crowd, leaning on Nick’s shoulder as he played the guitar, “I’ve known that my sister would die for her. She’d die for any of her children. And I know plenty of mothers would do the same, but…” Hilda sucked in a sharp breath, before brushing away an errant tear, “like you said, it feels… different with Zelda. Like she wants to die for them. It worries me.”

Lilith nodded, not knowing how else to respond.

“Well,” said Hilda, making a show of shaking off the darkness and slapping a smile on her face, “what matters the most is that things turned out all right. All’s Well that Ends Well, as the bard would say.”

Lilith scoffed, almost despite herself. “That’s a ‘problem play’ if there ever was one.”

“So is this,” Hilda parried, though what, specifically, she was referring to—The Winter’s Tale or their lives—Lilith couldn’t tell. “I imagine Marie must be done looking them over by now. I ought to check in on my sister and niece before I scrap together a supper for all these hungry mouths.”

As Hilda stood, Lilith got the sudden urge to stop her. The last thing Zelda needed right now was for Hilda to barge in while Marie was checking on the baby. “Why not let me?”

Hilda eyed her with curiosity. “I know your date this morning got interrupted, so you might be eager for some alone time, but it’s early stages yet, isn’t it, love? And hardly the time or place—”

Lilith’s face flushed with heat. She knew she’d actively encouraged the cover story that she and Zelda were dating, but she hardly thought having breakfast together was as amorous an activity as Hilda was suggesting.

Making a point to look about the room to ensure no one was paying them much attention, Lilith then leaned in and whispered harshly into Hilda’s ear, “I’m not planning some sort of seduction…? I just want to see with my own two eyes that they’re okay, and then I’ll leave.”

A dark shadow fell across Hilda’s face. “You mean, you aren’t…staying?”

Lilith tried not to show her surprise. “Why would I stay?”

Hilda took a deep breath, as if to steady herself. Lilith sensed something shift between them, though she couldn’t, for the life of her, figure out what it was.

“Of course, you aren’t staying. How silly of me to think you would,” said Hilda, straightening her posture. “Well, if you change your mind, I imagine it’ll be pizza or Chinese food for supper. But we wouldn’t want to keep you. You’ve done enough.”

With that, Hilda shuffled away, leaving Lilith to wonder, briefly, what she’d said that had so offended the woman, before walking out of the living room and up the stairs, in search of the bedrooms.


When Lilith reached the top of the stairs, she realized she didn’t know which room was Zelda’s, but didn’t want to appear to be snooping. She listened carefully, hoping she would hear Marie’s distinct French accent, but there was no sound coming from any of the rooms—at least, as far as she could tell from the outside.

At the far end of the hall, she could see a glimpse through an open door, but as she got closer, it became clear that there was no one inside. It was a bedroom decorated for children—the twins, no doubt—with two small beds and lots of toys to be found. The room was yellow, with pink accents. It looked almost like the inside of a doll house; everything seemed almost idyllic, as if it were the kind of room you looked at, but didn’t live in for too long, before everything got cleaned up and put back into its proper, perfect place.

It was somewhat strange, to look at a child’s bedroom, and yet be unable to tell that a child actually lived in it, it was so tidy.

“Mon amie?”

Lilith jumped, tearing her gaze away from the twins’ bedroom with a small sense of guilt. It felt like an intrusion, though she doubted Leticia or Judas would mind her looking—they were just kids, after all, and the door was open…

“How are they doing?” Lilith asked urgently, seeing that the door behind Marie was still open just a crack.

Marie shrugged her shoulders in a way that spoke more of fatigue than dismissal. “Only time will tell. The girl is physically fine… but I suspect her mind is not. She is clinging to her mother like a—what is the word?—koala.”

Lilith nodded, but kept herself from commenting, as she was waiting with bated breath for news of Zelda’s condition. Marie, however, didn’t seem eager to share that information. She walked away, towards a third door, which she opened, revealing a tidy bathroom that had more of Hilda’s touch than Zelda’s. The hand towels were blue, with a pattern of rainbow-colored fish swimming across them. There were two sinks, with a collection of toothbrushes, soaps, and lotions scattered around them.

Lilith followed Marie into the bathroom, ignoring all signs that her friend might need a moment alone, in her haste to know more about Zelda’s condition.

“And Zelda?”

Marie began to wash her hands. It wasn’t until the water turned slightly pink that Lilith realized there was a small amount of blood on them.

“Holy shit—is she having a miscarriage?! We should call an ambulance—!”

Non, non,” said Marie, shaking her head as she methodically washed every inch of her fingers. “The child survives. But I do not think it is right to speak more about le bébé without Zelda’s permission, n’est-ce pas?”

Lilith’s mouth snapped shut. Of course. Zelda deserved her privacy—a point she’d failed to observe up until now.

But that didn’t stop Lilith’s stomach from twisting as she watched the pink water swirl down the drain.

“Is it alright if I go in? I just want to talk to them before I leave.”

“Leave?” said Marie, looking up as she finished washing her hands. “Why are you leaving?”

Lilith once again felt like she was missing something. First Hilda, now Marie? What was she meant to do? Invite herself to stay the night, when she hardly knew these people, and the house was filled to the brim with guests as it was?

“Why would I stay? I’ve only been here for a week. They hardly know me. Wouldn’t it be wrong to take advantage of their hospitality during a crisis?” said Lilith, finding the reflection of Marie’s eyes in the mirror. Lilith was usually good at reading people, but Marie’s dark eyes seemed to have been wiped blank.

“If that is what you believe, I will not argue,” said Marie, taking one of Hilda’s towels off the hanger in order to dry her hands. As she did, she turned her body back towards Lilith, so they were face to face. She’d never noticed before that Marie was at least two inches taller than her. When they’d both been wearing combat boots, there’d hardly seemed to be any difference at all.

Lilith felt small. She hated feeling small.

“If you have something to say, I wish you’d just say it,” said Lilith, crossing her arms and propping her hip against the counter. “You’ve never been one to dance around a subject before.”

Marie sighed as she returned the towel to its holder. “Zelda asked for you. Before I examined her.”

Lilith turned to cast her gaze in the direction of Zelda’s door. “That’s strange. Why?”

Marie let out a short laugh of disbelief. “Do not sound so surprised, mon amie. You saved her daughter from a bear. That is quite something, eh?”

Lilith wished people would stop phrasing it like that. All she really did was run away, leaving Zelda for dead.

“You would’ve done the same.”

Oui,” Marie nodded, before putting a hand on Lilith’s shoulder. “But you are the one she wants.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Lilith, shrugging Marie’s hand off her shoulder. “She doesn’t even like me. At least, she didn’t, right before the bear showed up. She was running away from me, before that. And for a good reason.”

“Have you never run away from something you wanted?” asked Marie, quirking an eyebrow.

Lilith sputtered, not knowing how to respond. The idea that Zelda wanted her… it was too ludicrous to imagine. Sure, Lilith was having… tender feelings… herself, but if it weren’t for the traumatic events of the day, she hardly thought Zelda would be open to reciprocating them, and the last thing she’d want to do would be to take advantage of Zelda’s vulnerable state.

“I do not mean to push you,” said Marie, the knowing smile slipping off her face as Lilith tried to recover herself. “But you have been running from other things, too. And I think it is time for you to stop running, mon amie.”

The unwanted image of Lucifer loosening and tightening his tie flashed across her mind.

“How?” said Lilith, her voice suddenly hoarse. “How do I stop?”

Marie brought both of her hands up to rest on Lilith’s shoulders. “Do you think the gods would bring us all here, together, if they did not have a plan?”

Being agnostic herself, Lilith had trouble wrapping her head around the idea of divine intervention in her life, but she had to admit, in the privacy of her own thoughts, that it was odd that she should cross paths with Lucifer for the first time in decades, at the precise moment he was tormenting another woman—and poised to get away with it, yet again.

Taking Lilith’s face into her hands, Marie pressed a kiss to her forehead, before playfully turning her and giving her a slight nudge in the direction of Zelda’s door. “Allons-y.”


Lilith took a deep breath before knocking on the door. She vaguely heard a sound acknowledging her knock, but wasn’t sure if that was the same as someone saying, “Come in.”

“The girl might be asleep,” suggested Marie, standing a respectful distance behind Lilith. “I suggested a nap. Perhaps she has listened.”

Lilith nodded, before pushing the door open just a little bit more. “Zelda?” she whispered. “May I come in?”

Through the crack in the door, Lilith could see that Marie was right; Leticia was fast asleep on the bed, cradled in Zelda’s arms. Zelda brought a finger to her lips to indicate they should be quiet as they entered the room.

As Lilith walked closer to the bed, her body flooded with warmth. It was such a comforting sight to see—Zelda with her arms wrapped around a sleeping Leticia. For just that one moment, everything felt right in the world.

Both mother and daughter had clearly showered, taking care to wash the woods off, and were already dressed in their nightclothes, despite the early hour. Zelda was wearing a black and white kimono paired with a blue nightgown. It had a plunging neckline that was positively… distracting. Lilith briefly wondered why Zelda wouldn’t have gotten dressed again, as there was a whole crowd of people downstairs who were surely waiting for her to make an appearance, but her current attire was certainly… beguiling.

And, after all, she could hardly blame Zelda for preferring the privacy and comfort of her room to the crowd of well-wishers, as mother and child looked so peaceful, there on the bed. Lilith had the sudden urge to take a picture, though she immediately dismissed the idea as being too invasive, despite the inexplicable urge to capture the moment forever. Even in her sleep, Leticia was clinging fiercely to her mother’s nightgown, her little fingers creating small indents in the satin fabric.

Chérie, the child should sleep in her own bed,” Marie murmured gently as she came to stand beside them. “I know you do not wish to be apart, but you need your rest, too, n’est-ce pas?”

Lilith wanted to argue that one night of co-sleeping after a traumatic event surely wouldn’t hurt anyone, but Zelda was already opening her mouth to respond herself.

“I just want to hold her close a little while longer. I don’t want to let her go,” said Zelda, rubbing her hand softly over Leticia’s back.

“Bien sûr,” said Marie, inclining her head. “But you must also eat. You have not eaten all day, and you must keep up your strength. When I return with the food, we will put her to bed, yes?”

Even as Zelda squeezed her arms tighter around the girl, she nodded her agreement.

Marie hummed her approval, before turning to Lilith. “You will watch over them while I go?”

Feeling the urge to lighten the mood, Lilith wanted to make a joke about the only bears inside the house being teddy bears, but the humor died on her tongue as she realized there were dried tear tracks on Zelda’s face.

“Of course,” Lilith said, her heart skipping a beat when Zelda’s eyes met hers.

With that, Marie breezed out of the room. Lilith shuffled awkwardly on her feet, not knowing what to say now that they were essentially alone, what with Leticia still fast asleep in Zelda’s arms. Suddenly acutely aware of the fact that Zelda was in her nightclothes, Lilith averted her gaze.

Casting her eyes around the room, she took in the vanity table, covered in makeup and lotions, before her curiosity was piqued by the framed picture that stood propped against the mirror.

The photograph was old and worn, the colors faded from too much exposure to sunlight over the years. At the center stood a stern-looking man with a fine moustache and an expensive suit, with his hand resting firmly on a young girl’s shoulder. There was no doubt the girl was Zelda—though the resemblance was mitigated by the fact that the girl was looking shyly at the camera, as if she’d like very much for it to disappear. She was a skinny waif of a thing, swallowed by her school uniform, and there was a swaddled babe in her arms, held tightly to her chest. To her right stood a boy, the spitting image of his father. He had an extremely cocky expression, as if he were daring the camera to ask him everything he knew.

Lilith heard Zelda shift in the bed before a quiet voice said, “Our father died not long after that photo was taken.”

“I’m sorry,” said Lilith, turning away from the picture after taking one last look at young-Zelda’s shy—almost fearful—expression.

“I’m not,” said Zelda, her expression unreadable. Leticia mumbled something in her sleep, distracting Zelda for a moment before she added, “I only keep the photo out because of my brother.”

Lilith’s brow furrowed. “Your brother… Edward?”

“Who else? I only have one brother,” Zelda said, gently lifting Leticia’s head so that she could scoot her body out from under the girl. Leticia made a noise of displeasure, but settled back against the pillow Zelda pushed beneath her head without further protest.

Lilith pondered the use of the present tense. “Were you close?”

Zelda pulled the sides of her kimono closer about her chest before crossing her arms, effectively hiding her blue nightgown from view. “Thick as thieves.”

Lilith tried to remember what had caused Edward Spellman’s untimely death, but her mind came up empty. “How did he die?”

Zelda’s face was exceptionally pale without her makeup. “They were in a car crash. His wife, Diana, was in the passenger seat. She died instantly. Edward… lingered. But not for long.”

“And Sabrina?”

Zelda shuddered, as if someone had walked across her grave. “There wasn’t a scratch on her. The car seat did its job. She was barely two months old.”

“Wow, she’s a lucky kid,” said Lilith, before looking to Leticia to make sure she was still fast asleep. “What caused the crash?”

Rather than answer immediately, Zelda gestured to the end of the bed, welcoming Lilith to sit down before she continued. Once Lilith had sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, Zelda murmured, “It was an accident.”

An uneasy feeling settled in Lilith’s stomach. That didn’t quite answer the question. “Did the people in the other car survive?”

“There was no other car,” Zelda said, fiddling with a loose thread on the kimono that was unraveling.

Lilith’s mind ground to a halt. “I don’t understand. Then what caused the accident?”

Zelda looked up, but it was no longer Zelda’s face—rather the stoic mask of the Queen herself—that gazed upon her. “Mechanical engine failure.”

Lilith had trouble wrapping her head around that. She was about to ask several follow-up questions, when Marie breezed through the door with a serving tray full of mouthwatering Chinese food.

Bon appétit!” said Marie, passing the tray to Lilith with no further fanfare before rounding the bed to stand beside Leticia, all business. “It is time, yes?”

Zelda nodded, running her finger along Leticia’s cheek to wake her up. “Leticia, darling? Let’s get you into bed.”

“There is no need to wake her. She is not so heavy,” said Marie. “You must eat, chérie. I will put her to bed, if you will allow me?”

Zelda hesitated for a moment, before accepting Marie’s offer. “I am rather hungry. I haven’t eaten since last night. But only if you’re sure…?”

Marie was already lifting the child into her arms, as easily as if Leticia weighed no more than a feather. “I will watch over her while you eat. I will sing her a lullaby and all will be well until you are ready to say good night, chérie.”

“Thank you,” Zelda said, her voice thick with emotion. “I don’t know why I trust you after so short a time… but I do. I know she’s safe with you.”

Marie smiled widely. “It is the Fates, yes? We were destined to meet on this day. You have nothing to fear; your met-tet is telling you that I am to be trusted, because we were brought together by forces beyond our control. It is not for us to understand, eh?”

Leticia’s eyes blinked open. “Mama?”

Immediately, Zelda was on her feet. “Yes, Leticia?”

Leticia blinked sleepily at her, before looking up at Marie. A drowsy smile drew her lips upwards as she realized who was holding her. She reached out to play with Marie’s chunky blue jewelry. “Can Miss Marie read me a bedtime story?”

Zelda rubbed Leticia’s back, chuckling despite herself. “You were fast asleep a moment ago. Are you sure you’re awake enough for a story?”

“’mmm awake,” said Leticia around a yawn before laying her head on Marie’s shoulder. “Please?”

Zelda looked between Leticia and Marie with a soft smile. “One story can’t hurt, can it?”

Leticia’s smile lit up the room. “And will you come tuck me in before you go to sleep?”

“Of course I will, sweetheart,” said Zelda, taking Leticia’s hand and kissing it. “I’ll be there before you know it, alright?”

Leticia’s drowsy eyes found Lilith. “Miss Lily?”

“Yes?” said Lilith, placing the tray down on the bed so that she could give Leticia her full attention.

Leticia yawned again, clearly only half-awake. “Thanks for finding me. You’re a really good finder.”

Lilith tried to smile, but knew it probably came out as more of a grimace than anything else. “Thanks, Leticia. Let’s not play that game again for a while, though, okay?”

“’kay,” agreed Leticia, her eyes closing again.

“Time for bed, ma petite puce,” Marie said, moving towards the door, where she gave a final nod to Zelda and Lilith before closing it behind her.

For a moment, neither woman moved. They just stared at the place where Marie and Leticia had been, transfixed. Lilith hadn’t planned on staying for dinner—in fact, she really hadn’t planned to stay longer than it took to say goodbye—but now that they were alone, it felt as though it would be rude to leave.

In the end, it was Lilith’s stomach that ended the moment. It growled loud enough to wake the dead, making Lilith blush, though she didn’t know why she should be ashamed—she, like Zelda, had failed to eat as a result of the insanity of the day.

“That’s quite the spread,” mused Zelda, pointing to the tray laden with dumplings, lo mein, egg rolls, and miso soup.

Lilith was about to agree, when a thought crossed her mind. “Wait, can pregnant women eat Chinese food?”

Zelda quirked an eyebrow as she sat back down on the bed. “As long as it isn’t sushi… I think I’ll be fine. I’m sure starving the babe would be worse, at this point.”

Lilith felt a rush of guilt at that. “I’m sorry. We really should’ve gotten something to eat before we went into Manhattan…”

Zelda smiled as she picked up a container of soup. “It’s alright. There were… unforeseen circumstances. But I do think you owe me a breakfast… and a lunch.” Zelda hesitated, as if realizing how presumptuous that sounded. “That is… if you still want to keep up our… charade?”

Lilith’s stomach fluttered at that, before it let out another almighty growl. “I think your sister might kill me if I break up with you after only two dates, especially after a day like today.”

Zelda let out a chuckle at that. “No doubt, she’d have some...unkind words. I’m still getting used to her being so… overprotective.”

“She cares about you. There’s nothing wrong with that,” said Lilith, before reaching out to pick up a pair of chopsticks at the same time that Zelda reached for a napkin. Their hands collided, stealing the air from Lilith’s lungs as an electric shock ran up her arm.

“I’m sorry,” said Zelda, snapping her hand back. “I didn’t mean to—”

“No harm done,” Lilith managed to say despite feeling like every hair on her body was standing on end.

When Lilith didn’t move to pick up the chopsticks again, Zelda reached for them herself, handing them to her. “Here. You must be starving, too.”

Lilith felt the gesture as if it were a jab in the chest, rather than a kindness. Despite having realized she was falling in love, it felt less like a cause for celebration, and more like a curse, knowing that even if Zelda was being kind to her, it didn’t erase the fact that Lilith had absolutely no chance with her—and even if she did have a chance, it would feel wrong to take advantage of a woman who was currently pregnant and deeply traumatized.

Not wanting to seem like anything was wrong, Lilith dug into her food. For a while, neither of them spoke. They just sat on the bed, eating in silence. Lilith was quietly impressed by Zelda’s appetite; she’d finished her soup in record time, whereas only a week ago, Zelda had hardly taken a few sips before she claimed she was full.

“May I ask a question?”

Lilith paused mid-bite. She took her time, chewing the dumpling thoroughly, before she said, “About what?”

Zelda dabbed at the edges of her mouth with a napkin before straightening her spine. It made a rather peculiar picture—someone trying to seem regal while sitting cross-legged on a bed, eating Chinese food.

“In the woods, you… you mentioned you knew about…” Zelda trailed off, her eyes falling to her hands. “You knew that I needed to go to the hospital, after Lucifer…”

Guilt bubbled in Lilith’s stomach as Zelda lost her words again. There was no denying it, however much Lilith wished she could take those words back. “I did.”

Zelda looked up, her green eyes filled with a kind of dread that Lilith couldn’t name. “How did you know?”

Lilith could hear in the woman’s voice that she already knew the answer, but needed Lilith to confirm it.

Taking a deep breath, Lilith said, “Blackwood told me.”

Zelda’s hand reached up to scratch at her neck. Lilith took in the nervous gesture with no small amount of shame.

“I don’t understand. Why would he…?” The confusion in Zelda’s voice made her sound terribly young. “Why on earth would he tell you about… what Lucifer did to me?”

Lilith felt like a hand was reaching into her chest and squeezing her heart in its fist. “He didn’t tell me… details. Blackwood was just making a case for why I should pay less attention to his misbehavior during rehearsals and more attention to Lucifer.”

Zelda didn’t seem convinced. Her scratching continued, leaving long red streaks against her neck. Lilith wanted to reach out and take her hand, to stop her nails from causing more damage, but worried now wasn’t the moment to cross a physical boundary.

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t talk to others about my hardships,” said Zelda, her voice strained. “If you really must ask such private questions… I’d much rather you ask them of me, not Faustus or Lucifer.”

Lilith watched as Zelda flipped a lock of hair out of her face, and then went back to scratching. It seemed as though the woman was waiting for Lilith to take her up on this offer, but Lilith wasn’t sure she should.

When a drop of blood revealed that Zelda’s nail had broken through the delicate skin of her throat, Lilith reached across the space between them to gently take Zelda’s arm and pull it down to her side. Zelda allowed the touch, if only because she hadn’t seemed to realize she was scratching in the first place.

“I only have one question, but you don’t have to answer it,” said Lilith, her voice carefully controlled to keep from scaring Zelda off.

Zelda nodded, her body tensing, as if she expected the question to hit her like a physical blow. Seeing that reaction, the fist around Lilith’s heart tightened again—squeezed and squeezed until she could hardly get the words out, but she did.

“Are you going to eat your egg roll?”

Zelda made a strangled noise, somewhere between a laugh and a sob of relief. Her body shook as tears sprung to her eyes. Lilith immediately reached out to brace Zelda’s shoulders, as the woman was suddenly bending over, like the joke had set her free from an unbearable weight that had been pressing down upon her, and suddenly she was weightless, and unused to the feeling.

But the longer the woman struggled to recover, the worse Lilith felt, wondering if it hadn’t been the right call to make. Zelda’s body was shuddering like she’d been beset with a chill. Her strangled laughter had turned into heaving, like she couldn’t breathe, for all of the emotions flooding her at once. Her tears were flowing freely, tracking down her face and twisting at Lilith’s conscience.

And so, Lilith leapt from the bed, looking for a tissue box. She couldn’t do much, but she could help dry the woman’s tears. She found a box on top of the dresser, and rushed back to sit beside Zelda.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I was trying to do the opposite,” said Lilith in a rush as she frantically took the fancy tissues from the box, having to pull them out one by one. This only seemed to make Zelda’s shoulders shake worse; her sobbing laughter intensified even as Lilith pressed the tissues into her hands.

“Don’t—don’t—” Zelda hiccupped between breaths. “Don’t be sorry. I… I just wasn’t… wasn’t expecting… the joke. I’m fine—I just—just… need to… catch my breath!”

Lilith wasn’t so sure. Zelda didn’t look fine, but then, Zelda hadn’t looked fine for the whole time Lilith had known her.

So, Lilith sat there, rubbing Zelda’s back, waiting for her breathing to even out again. She’d put the box of fancy tissues into Zelda’s lap, because the more Lilith had frantically tried to pull them out, one by one, the harder her laughing sobs had become.

When Zelda’s breathing was finally under control, her face broke into a huge smile as she wiped at the last of her tears. “You have to warn me… next time.”

Lilith wanted to say there wouldn’t be a next time—clearly cutting the tension with a joke had been a terrible idea—but Zelda was looking at her with such gratitude in her eyes, she didn’t know what to say.

Luckily, Zelda did.

“Your soup is getting cold!” Zelda remarked, pointing to the container of miso soup on Lilith’s side of the tray with all of the dramatics of a Shakespearean leading lady announcing that a character was dead.

Lilith smiled, moving back around to the other side of the bed. “How about I trade you my soup for your egg roll. Sound fair?”

Zelda’s eyes were sparkling, even as she continued to dab under them with a tissue. “I did say it was my favorite food, didn’t I?”

Lilith’s face flooded with heat. Was Zelda flirting with her? Even after everything that had happened today?

As Lilith passed over the soup, Zelda placed her hands on top of Lilith’s, rather than take the container right away.

“Thank you,” Zelda said, her smile a soft and tender thing.

Lilith sensed they were no longer talking about the soup. Almost against her will, Lilith finally accepted that she was worthy of Zelda’s thanks.

“Any time.”

Chapter Text

By the time Lilith and Zelda were finished eating, the daylight had shifted into twilight, with the sky outside the window heavily threatening rain. They’d spent the rest of their meal talking of happier things, from favorite films to the best places they’d traveled. Lilith couldn’t remember the last time she’d felt so at ease talking to another person—usually she’d feel the need to embellish her life, to make all of the things she did to avoid Lucifer sound less difficult than it was, but Zelda never questioned the holes in her resume or the odd choices of projects based solely on obscure filming locations.

It wasn’t until the first clap of thunder rattled her bones and made Zelda jump clean out of her skin that Lilith realized they must’ve been talking for at least an hour or two.

“I really should leave before the storm gets any worse,” said Lilith, standing from the bed with an unexpected sense of reluctance. Usually, she couldn’t wait to be alone again after a long day of socializing, but despite all of the stressful events of the day, Lilith found that she didn’t want to go home.

Zelda’s face was neutral, but her green eyes were slightly glazed as they took in the storm through the window. “You really shouldn’t drive in this sort of weather. You wouldn’t want to be in a car when lightning struck.”

Lilith shrugged her shoulders before picking up the tray that had held their dinner. “I’ve driven in plenty of storms. It’s not a long drive. I’ll be fine.”

Just then, the room lit up with another lighting strike, followed by an almighty clap of thunder. Despite having expected it, Zelda jumped once more, her hands shooting up towards her ears, as if to protect her head from a blow.

Lilith frowned. “What’s wrong? Are you afraid of thunder storms?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Zelda said, though the stiffness in her body told another story. “The noise just hurt my ears for a moment.”

Lilith shifted her weight, not knowing how to redirect her questions in a way that would make Zelda feel more at ease. “Do you want me to ask Hilda to come up, so she can keep you company?”

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Zelda huffed, clutching the neck of her kimono to keep it closed. “It’s just a storm. I’m more worried about your reckless driving than I am about the lightning itself.”

Lilith accepted the jab, though she had to admit, the words stung a bit. “I promise I’ll be careful. I don’t want to intrude on your hospitality anymore than I already have.”

“Who said you were intruding? We Spellmans never turn our guests away. It simply isn’t done,” said Zelda, batting at her hair until the curls that had fallen into her face were behind her shoulder.

Lilith was caught off-guard by how much this reminded her of the scene where Queen Hermione asks Polixenes to stay. She had to give the casting directors credit; Zelda exuded a kind of old-world regality and sense of proper decorum that wasn’t the kind of thing you could just teach an actress—it had to be engrained from birth.

“Zelda,” Lilith said, her eyes flickering from the window down to the tray in her hands to avoid looking at the woman, “it’s not that I don’t want to stay. It’s just…”

Lilith searched for the proper words, but they didn’t come.

“I understand,” said Zelda, whose hands had unconsciously found purchase on her lower stomach. “You didn’t ask to be involved in any of this.”

Lilith was about to respond when another roar of thunder seemed to almost shake the room. She could feel the vibrations in her bones as she took in the way Zelda suddenly bent over, clutching her belly.

Lilith was quick to return to the bed. She put down the tray in order to reach out to Zelda, but she was waved off.

“I’m fine. Fine. Just startled.”

Lilith didn’t know what to do. Zelda looked more than startled, and she couldn’t get the image of the blood washing off of Marie’s hands out of her head.

“You’d tell me if you needed a real doctor, wouldn’t you?” said Lilith, unable to hide her concern. “I know you’re afraid of the story getting out, but I just wish you’d see things the way I do—that your life is more important than what the tabloids think of your pregnancy.”

Zelda immediately removed her hands from her stomach. “You don’t understand.”

“Then make me understand!” said Lilith, unable to hide her frustration. “You almost died today! You would’ve been dead, if it weren’t for Marie. Please tell me that means at least half as much to you as it does to me?”

Zelda looked away, towards the window. Lilith suddenly realized how much she might’ve overstepped with her outburst. “I… I’m sorry—”

“Stop apologizing,” said Zelda, biting her lip as she watched the driving rain hit against her window.

For a while, no one spoke. Lilith just watched Zelda watch the rain. The silence was strained, but not intolerably so.

“Marie told me something today,” Zelda said, her voice sounding as if it were coming from the bottom of a well. “Something that I can’t un-know, no matter how much I wish I could forget it and go back to not-knowing. Information that is not only dangerous, but will be devastating once it becomes public knowledge, and I haven’t figured out how I’m going to live with it yet.”

Lilith’s stomach twisted into a knot. “I’m sorr—”

“Stop. Apologizing!” Zelda insisted, her voice cracking. Her eyes snapped from the window back to Lilith. They were flashing along with the lightning, like there was a storm about to break inside her.

Zelda blinked, before taking a shuddering breath. “I thought you’d gathered by now that it’s not simply a matter of keeping things hidden from the paparazzi.”

Lilith bit the inside of her cheek, trying not to say anything that might stop Zelda from sharing whatever was weighing her down.

“If… if any of this becomes public before the trial, or through the trial, I can see exactly how I will lose my children. If Marie is right, I don’t have a chance of convincing a jury of my peers that I’m a fit mother. And how can I possibly argue against it all, once it’s out?”

Lilith was having trouble following what exactly was the cause of Zelda’s concern, and how Marie had been the one to reveal whatever it was to her. “Once what is out? Being pregnant after a divorce isn’t a crime. Is it that Marie told you the baby is boy? Why should that matter to a jury?”

Another flash of light. Another clap of thunder.

Another full-body flinch.

Zelda was biting her bottom lip so hard Lilith was afraid it would bleed. She reached out to take Zelda’s hand. She was surprised when Zelda took it without looking.

“You don’t have to tell me why. I just want you to know that I think if you were honest with the court about what’s going on, I don’t think they’d ever dream of letting Faustus have the children.”

Before Zelda had the chance to answer, there was a brief knock at the door. Hilda bustled in, despite the fact that no one had said “come in.”

Zelda dropped Lilith’s hand immediately, but her sister had already seen it.

“Look at you two turtle doves!” said Hilda, though her facial expression was less cheerful than her words. “I thought I’d come up to see if you needed anything. Most of the company is gone—they wanted to beat the storm. I told Prudence to stay; I didn’t think you’d want her going back on her own—”

“Of course not,” said Zelda, standing from the bed to put more distance between her and Lilith. “Prudence is staying here. She’s eighteen. He has no right to control her.”

Lilith looked from Zelda, who was now standing near the window, back to Hilda, who was picking up the serving tray with a smile on her face.

“That’s what I thought you’d say, Zelds. She and Sabrina can share a room. That just leaves Lilith and Marie to account for.”

“I’m not—”

“Lilith isn’t—”

There was a slight pause as both women looked at each other, before Lilith finished their sentence.

“…staying.”

Hilda quirked an eyebrow, but let the moment pass. “Leticia and Judas seem very taken with Marie. She’s teaching them some sort of rain dance. Prudence, Ambrose, and Sabrina are enjoying it, too.”

“A rain dance?” said Zelda, furrowing her brow. “I thought Leticia was taking a nap?”

Hilda shook her head. “Marie couldn’t get her to go to sleep. Now they’re all in the living room, making the most of the gloomy weather. It’s doing Prudence a world of good, I think, to have something to take her mind off the darkness of the day.”

Lilith looked between Hilda and Zelda, not knowing what to do. “Well, unfortunately, I think it’s time for Marie and I to get going. She can stay with me tonight. There’s no way I’m driving her all the way back to Manhattan in this weather.”

“You shouldn’t be driving in this at all!” said Hilda, her expression scandalized. “Our brother died trying to drive in this sort of weather. We’re not about to let the same thing happen to you!”

Lilith tilted her head in confusion before turning to Zelda. “You never mentioned there was a storm when…”

Thunder rattled the window. Zelda’s hands twitched, as if she wanted to protect her head again, but managed to get the reflex under control. “Edward didn’t die because it was raining.”

“Zelda…” Hilda admonished, but her sister was quick to interrupt her.

“Don’t ‘Zelda’ me, sister. It was a tragic accident; I’m not denying that,” said Zelda, crossing her arms as if she were cold. “But there was an independent investigation by the Scottish police. The Chief Constable told me himself: it was mechanical engine failure, not the bloody rain.”

Lilith suddenly felt like she was missing a big piece of the puzzle. “Wait. The Scottish Police? Why was your brother in Scotland when he died?”

“We were filming Mac…” Suddenly, Zelda stopped herself. She mouthed the rest of the name silently, her eyes blinking as if she were a deer caught in a bright light—and indeed, more lightning illuminated the room as she struggled to find her words. When the moment went on a bit too long, Lilith looked to Hilda for answers, but the younger sister was just silently observing Zelda with a mournful expression.

“…the Scottish Play. It was a big BBC Shakespeare production. My brother was playing Duncan; I was Lady M; Faustus was playing my husband. Lucifer was Macduff, and Diana was…”

Lilith watched with great concern as Zelda's voice became hoarse and tears suddenly appeared in her eyes. Hilda put down the serving tray before rushing to Zelda’s side.

“It’s ok, love. You don’t have to talk about it. It’s in the past.”

Zelda brushed the sleeve of her kimono under her eyes angrily, as if she were furious at herself for crying. “Is it? I’m not so sure.”

“What do you mean, Zelds?” said Hilda as she rubbed her hand soothingly on her sister’s back. “It’s been sixteen years, love. I know you miss him—”

“This isn’t about missing him!” said Zelda, tearing herself away from her sister’s touch.

Lilith was suddenly reminded of Zelda’s breakdown over the soup, when she said she was afraid of what her brother would do if she talked about… something. Clearly, there was a lot Lilith didn’t know about this situation—and by the looks of it, neither did Hilda.

Zelda’s breathing was labored as she walked to her closet. Lilith wasn’t sure if turning her back to them was Zelda’s way of ending the conversation or not, so she exchanged a worried glance with Hilda, who looked ready to cry herself..

“Zelda? Should I leave so you two can talk?” said Lilith, not wanting to intrude on a private moment, but Zelda didn’t respond. She was too busy tearing through her closet, presumably looking for something to wear in order to go downstairs.

Lilith wrestled with the idea of leaving, but there was something about the tense line of Zelda’s shoulders that made her feel she might still be needed to act as the referee between the Spellman sisters.

“What’s all this about, Zelds?” said Hilda, her concern a physical weight in the room.

Zelda paused in her violent rummaging, but only for a moment. “Diana has been on my mind, lately. That’s all.”

Lilith had well and truly lost the plot at that point, and it seemed so, too, had her sister, who was looking at Zelda like she’d gone mad.

“She was playing Lucifer’s wife when she died,” Zelda murmured, almost too quietly for Lilith to hear.

Lilith’s mind, which had previously been whirling with thoughts, ground to a halt. What was Zelda implying? She wouldn’t put it past Lucifer to harass any woman on a set who was within his general proximity, but murder? What on earth would Lucifer gain by killing a woman he hardly knew? In the middle of filming a movie, no less?

“Zelds, are you sure you didn’t hit your head when you fell in the forest? You sound a bit… out of sorts, love,” said Hilda, her normally cheerful disposition replaced by an alarmed look.

“I didn’t hit my head, Hildegard,” said Zelda in a tone that brooked no argument as she grabbed a black ensemble that looked more suited for a funeral than anything else, though Lilith would never say as much. “Now, would you leave me be so that I can get dressed?”

Hilda looked like she was about to refuse, but relented when Zelda turned back around with fierceness in her eyes, rather than grief. “You can trust me to dress myself, can’t you?”

Hilda was about to respond, but stopped when she saw Zelda turn to Lilith with a seductive smile.

“Although, I wouldn’t mind having someone to help me undress,” Zelda purred.

Lilith’s face flushed with heat as Hilda sputtered.

“I’ll just—head on out then—” Hilda grabbed the dinner tray and practically sprinted for the door.

Once they were alone, Lilith expected Zelda to stop her flirtation, but was taken completely by surprise when Zelda instead pressed the black dress into Lilith’s hands before letting her kimono slip off of her shoulders.

“I hope you don’t think me too forward,” said Zelda, in that same husky tone she’d used to scare Hilda away.

Lilith blinked three times, her brain unable to process how quickly the tides had turned. One moment, Zelda seemed to be in emotional turmoil, lost in a distressing memory, and the next, she was undressing in front of her…?

“I’m sorry,” said Lilith, as Zelda stepped into her space. “I don’t… I don’t think I understand what’s going on.”

“You wound me,” Zelda reproached, her eyes dropping to Lilith’s lips. “Usually when I take off my clothes, people don’t have trouble understanding.”

Lilith’s gaze went to Zelda’s red lips, and then back up to her eyes, incredibly worried by this turn of events. “Zelda, what…?”

Zelda reached for one of the straps of her nightgown, and was in the process of slipping the other off, too, when Lilith reached out to stop her.

“Zelda, why are you doing this all of the sudden? What’s wrong?”

“I’ve decided I’d rather have sex than talk,” Zelda said, slapping Lilith’s staying hand away. “The storm is raging outside. You can’t very well leave, and if you’re not leaving, we might as well enjoy ourselves. Are you saying you don’t find me attractive?”

Zelda let her nightgown fall to the ground, leaving her clad only in a satin bra and panties, but Lilith immediately turned her back, not wanting to take advantage of… whatever this was.

“Zelda, you’re upset. You’ve had an incredibly traumatic and exhausting day. You’re not thinking clearly.”

“On the contrary, I think you’re becoming the one thing I’m very, very clear about.”

Zelda pressed her body against Lilith’s back, wrapping her arms around her waist. Lilith was frozen in place, still clutching the black dress in her hands, and unsure what to do or say to ensure Zelda didn’t do something she might regret.

“Zelda, I don’t mean to insult you, because I am very much attracted to you, and would love to do this if it felt right, but it doesn’t feel right to me. You were just talking about Lucifer murdering your sister-in-law!”

Immediately, Zelda jumped away, as if she’d been burned. “I didn’t say that! That’s not… that’s not what I said. Don’t… don’t twist my words and then say that sort of thing out loud! It’s dangerous!”

Lilith turned around, focusing intently on Zelda’s face, and not her nearly-naked body. “Then what were you saying?”

“I wasn’t saying anything at all!” Zelda’s eyes were wide with a kind of abject fear that bordered on hysteria. “Just forget I said anything. I just didn’t want you driving in the storm. You never know what could go wrong with your car!”

Lilith’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Why would something go wrong with my car? Zelda, you’re not making any sense. Maybe Hilda was right—maybe you did hit your head. I should go get Marie—”

“No! No,” said Zelda, reaching towards Lilith to keep her from leaving. “Please don’t. I don’t want another examination.”

Zelda’s grip was so tight, it verged on bruising. “Zelda, there’s clearly something wrong—”

“I’ll do whatever you want!” said Zelda, her eyes pleading. “I promise, I’ll be good, just don’t tell anyone what I said about the car! Or Lucifer! Or… or any of it!”

Lilith’s chest hurt at the thought that Zelda still didn’t trust her, but she was even more concerned by all of the begging. “Zelda, I’m not going to tell anyone, because I don’t even understand what you’re trying to tell me—or what you’re trying not to tell me. If you actually told me what was wrong, I might be able to help you—”

At this, Zelda dropped very suddenly to her knees. Lilith was completely baffled as Zelda reached to undo Lilith’s belt. “You can help me right now. Just tell me what to do to make you feel good and I’ll do it!”

“Zelda, what the hell—”

Zelda had the belt off in record time, which prompted Lilith to throw the black dress she was holding to the side in favor of having both hands free to wrestle the belt back. Zelda was surprisingly strong for someone who had been too weak to walk unaided earlier in the day.

“I just want to forget. Can’t you help me forget?” said Zelda, eventually giving up and letting go of the belt, which had the unintended effect of making Lilith lose her balance, having not expected the sudden release.

Lilith’s back hit the floor only a moment before she felt a weight on top of her.

“I can make you feel very good, you know,” said Zelda, reaching behind her to unclasp her bra. “I’ve been told I’m a very… gifted lover.”

Not wanting Zelda to succeed in taking off her bra, Lilith flipped their positions, trying very hard to be gentle as she did it. She could already see bruises forming along Zelda’s arms and legs from her earlier fall in the woods. Lilith didn’t want to add to them.

Zelda was panting beneath her, clearly winded from their abrupt change in positions. Lilith took advantage of the moment to take Zelda’s hands in hers.

“Zelda, please, listen to me. I’m not saying ‘no’ because I don’t want to do this with you; I’m saying ‘no’ because you’re clearly only doing this because you’re overwhelmed by what you’re feeling, and you don’t want to feel it anymore.”

“What are you, a therapist?” said Zelda, struggling against Lilith’s hold on her wrists. “It isn’t a secret that I’ve had a lot of sex with a lot of people. I’m not ashamed of it, so stop psychoanalyzing me to try and make me ashamed.”

“I’m not shaming you!” said Lilith, frustration creeping into her tone. “I’m telling you this isn’t healthy, and it isn’t right. Having sex with me won’t fix whatever is going on inside your head.”

“Let go of me,” Zelda said, struggling harder against Lilith. “I don’t need a fucking lecture right now.”

“If I let you go, are you going to stop trying to seduce me?” said Lilith, loosening her grip when Zelda suddenly went limp in her hands.

“If you really want me to stop, I’ll stop. I’ll do whatever you tell me to,” said Zelda, her voice utterly defeated. “I’m sorry. I’ll be good. I promise.”

The food in Lilith’s stomach churned with revulsion. “I’m not... Zelda, you don’t have to ‘be good.’ You don’t have to blindly do whatever I tell you. Just in this specific case, I’m not comfortable having sex with you right now, and I’d really like it if we could talk about what’s making you feel like this instead.”

But Zelda was no longer looking at Lilith. She’d let her head fall to the side, and was staring off into space.

“Zelda? Are you listening?”

“I think I’m going to be sick,” said Zelda, and indeed, her pale face suddenly had a green tinge to it.

Lilith scrambled off of her, belatedly thinking about the fact that she’d just been wrestling with a pregnant woman.

Locating the tiny trash bin in the corner of the room, Lilith had barely finished setting it down next to her when Zelda lost her dinner. As Lilith gathered the waves of red curls away from her face, she was struck by how intimate it was to be sitting on the floor with a nearly-naked woman, holding her hair back while she was sick.

“I’m sorry,” Zelda breathed, once her stomach had begun to settle again. “Really, Lilith, I… I’m terribly sorry. I didn’t mean to… to pressure you, or make you uncomfortable. Sometimes I forget that not everyone is as… open to relationships… as I am.”

Lilith shook her head. “You don’t have to apologize. I get it—you’ve had a really, really bad day. It’s only natural to want some—uh—comfort, after all of that.”

“Even so,” said Zelda, her eyes filled with a mixture of sadness, sickness, and guilt. “I had no right to try and convince you to do something you’d already refused. It wasn’t right, and I hope you’ll accept my apology.”

Rather than answer right away, Lilith got up to retrieve Zelda’s kimono, so that she might cover up if they were going to keep talking. Lilith was also worried about Zelda catching a chill, as gooseflesh had erupted on her skin at some point during the retching.

Looking at Zelda’s genuinely remorseful expression as she accepted the kimono made Lilith’s stomach ache. In all her years of being violently abused by Lucifer, he’d never once apologized for any of what he did to her, and here Zelda was apologizing for a proposition that, in the grand scheme of things, hadn’t even made it very far in the first place.

“I accept your apology. And I’m sorry for flipping you like that. In retrospect, that wasn’t the smartest thing to do to a pregnant woman.”

Zelda’s face fell. Lilith had trouble deciphering the darkness that suddenly consumed her expression.

Eventually, Zelda spoke again, “I don’t know. If you’d done it harder, a lot of my problems would’ve been solved.”

Lilith’s mouth went dry. This wasn’t the first time Zelda had implied she might not want to keep the baby. But if that was the case, there was a dwindling window of time for that decision to be made.

“You don’t have to keep it, you know,” said Lilith, searching Zelda’s face for any indication that this was a subject that shouldn’t be addressed. “I know you’ve wanted a child of your own in the past, but if this baby is distressing to you, and putting you in danger… and the circumstances around its conception weren’t… weren’t good, it’s okay to not want to carry it to term.”

Zelda had a faraway look as she shook her head slowly from side to side. “I would never get an abortion. I can’t imagine what the consequences of doing that would be. I just… I just think that if I were to have another miscarriage…” Zelda trailed off, her voice small, “…it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. I would be able to make peace with it easier than I have in the past, I think.”

Lilith nodded. “I understand what you mean. I just want you to know that I’d support any decision you made.”

For a moment, they just looked at each other. Neither woman knew what else to say. After all, they were sitting on the floor, after a failed seduction that ended in Zelda losing her dinner.

Eventually, it was clear that something between them had shifted, and so Lilith reached out to take Zelda’s hand. She entwined their fingers, hoping it would offer her some comfort, but she was dismayed to see Zelda’s body begin to shake, almost as if she was about to start crying, but hadn’t reached the stage of tears yet.

“It’s okay. You can cry if you want,” said Lilith, squeezing Zelda’s hand. “If there were ever a day where it was okay to cry, it would be today. After all, it’s not every day you challenge a bear and live to tell the tale.”

Lilith had been trying to lighten things up even as she offered support for how grim things were, but Zelda didn’t seem bolstered by her words. In fact, they only seemed to make her shaking worse.

When Zelda spoke, it was through shuddering breaths. “I’ve come to realize… just now, in this very minute… that there’s something I have to tell you, that I never thought I’d tell anyone as long as I lived. Because what you just said—I think you’re absolutely right—I almost died today, and someone needs to know what I know, in case… in case I don’t make it through whatever is to come.”

Lilith’s heart leapt into her throat at the seriousness of Zelda’s words. “You can tell me anything. I promise I won’t breathe a word.”

“I’m not sure you’ll be able to keep that promise, once I tell you,” said Zelda, her eyes flittering about the room, as if she was afraid someone might be listening in. “That’s why I haven’t told anyone, because I doubt they would keep it to themselves if I did. It’s just… it’s not the kind of secret that most people would be able to keep for as long as I have.”

Lilith’s body filled with dread. She wasn’t sure she wanted to know this secret anymore. But Zelda seemed to be having a reckoning of sorts, and so Lilith would never try to stop her.

“The… the leverage Lucifer has over me,” Zelda’s wandering gaze eventually settled on the old family picture on the vanity that Lilith had observed earlier, “it’s related to… to Sabrina.”

Lilith’s mind went blank. Whatever secret she’d thought Zelda had been about to share, it wasn’t that. “What?”

“I c-can’t…” Zelda struggled to rally herself, “I can’t talk about the reason. The information would destroy my family, and possibly put them all in very serious and immediate danger,” Zelda jolted as another clap of thunder sounded, “but I want you to know that if I die… Lucifer might take that as an opportunity to… to express interest in Sabrina. If that happens, I need you to put a stop to it, no matter what he says—no matter what claims he makes… I need you to take care of it. I trust you to take care of it, because you already know what he’s capable of.”

Lilith felt incredibly lightheaded. Was the room spinning, or was she? All she knew for sure was that Zelda’s whole body was shaking with the weight of this secret, and so Lilith wanted to reach out to her, but couldn’t, because what the fuck did Zelda just say?

Lilith remembered the way Lucifer had been loitering outside the women’s bathroom, waiting for Sabrina to emerge with that disgusting smile on his face. She remembered the sexual innuendos he’d thrown the girl’s way, that very much hadn’t gone unnoticed by Sabrina. She also recalled Sabrina’s words to Hilda, about how he’d been pestering her with unwanted looks and touches.

What a sick fucking bastard.

Lilith tried to compose herself—to pull herself together, and tamp down on her rage—but fuck, it was hard to do. “I know you might not be able to tell me more, so I won’t ask for anything specific,” said Lilith slowly, choosing her words as carefully as she could even when she felt like screaming, “but is this why you spent that weekend with him? You did it to protect Sabrina?”

At this point, tears were once more flowing down Zelda’s face. “I made a deal with him, back when Edward and Diana died. But he’s… he’s not satisfied with it anymore. So, I was trying to… to persuade him to take a new deal.”

Lilith felt like she was going to be sick. “And was he? Persuaded?”

Zelda’s face turned green again. Anticipating what was about to happen, Lilith reached to gather Zelda’s hair back before she bent over the trash bin and retched into it once more.

Even with her body bent over the trash, Zelda managed to collect herself enough to say between heaves, “He… he was an animal. A beast. I’ve known my share of violent men, but he…”

Lilith shook her head, despite knowing Zelda couldn’t see the gesture with her own head in the trash. “You don’t have to tell me—”

Zelda gave a final retch before she lifted her head up, wiping her sleeve across her mouth. Lilith let go of her hair, sensing she might be done, and wanting them to be face to face if they were going to have this conversation.

“Did he…” Zelda’s voice was breathless after all of her exertion. “Was he like that with you?”

Lilith wanted to lie, despite knowing Zelda would see right through it. Her pain was private, and old… but she could tell that Zelda needed to hear it more than Lilith needed to keep her pain to herself.

“Not always. When we first got together, he was charm itself. The whole first year that we dated, I could’ve sworn we were soul mates,” said Lilith, shaking her head to fight off the memories. “But then he just… he changed. He became violent and controlling… and just so damn… cruel.”

Zelda nodded. “Faustus was the same. We were children together, so I thought I knew him inside and out… but I guess I was wrong.”

A question occurred to Lilith, but she wasn’t sure now was the time to ask, when so much pain had already been shared… but then again, they might not ever have this kind of heart to heart ever again.

“You don’t have to answer this question,” said Lilith, still struggling to control her rage at all she’d just learned, “but I’ve been wanting to ask since you told me there was more than one potential father…”

Zelda wiped at her face, trying to stem the flow of tears. Lilith nearly lost her nerve, but decided this might be the only chance she’d ever get to ask. “Did Blackwood… hurt you? Right after Lucifer did?”

Zelda didn’t immediately answer. Instead, she ran her fingers through her hair, as if to stall for time.

“I’m sorry, it’s none of my business—”

“He… it’s complicated,” Zelda quietly interrupted, her voice small. “He was furious at Lucifer. At what he’d done to me. I’ve never seen him so angry on my behalf, rather than at me. He doted on me for days. And then when he wanted to… do things, I still hadn’t recovered enough for… that sort of thing, but I didn’t say anything because he was treating me better than he had for our entire marriage, and I don’t think he meant to hurt me. For once, he was almost… sweet. It reminded me of when we were teenagers…” Zelda trailed off, but then blinked rapidly, as if she hadn’t realized she’d still been talking out loud. “So, no. Faustus didn’t hurt me. At least, not intentionally.”

Lilith was about to respond when there was a knock at the door. Not wanting to be found sitting on the floor next to a trash can full of vomit, Zelda shouted, “One minute!” as she struggled to stand. Lilith helped her up, before moving quickly to hide the trash can in the closet.

With that done, they both looked at the state of each other—with Zelda wearing a kimono with nothing underneath, and Lilith missing a belt—and seemed to come to the same conclusion, that they ought to make it look like they’d spent all of this time being romantic, rather than crying and baring their souls to each other.

Chérie? Mon amie? I can come in, yes?”

Lilith was the first to move. She reached out to Zelda, pulling her in for an embrace. Zelda accepted the hug without protest, allowing herself to sink into Lilith’s arms.

“You can come in,” said Lilith, as Zelda’s red and tear-stained face was buried in her neck.

Marie looked at them with a smug expression. “Hilda told me you wanted to be alone, but I thought I should come check you weren’t doing anything that would be bad for my patient, yes?”

Lilith knew her face must be red as a tomato. Though she hadn’t cried, she was sure she looked like hell, and yet, Marie seemed to be attributing this to romance, as she’d hoped.

“Is hugging on the list of acceptable activities?” said Lilith, slightly worried as she felt Zelda’s tears against her neck.

Oui,” said Marie, a fond smile lighting up her face. “Also, I want to know if we are staying the night? The strange man with the weird clothes says he used to be the, how you say, weather-man, and the storm is here to stay. Hilda has fear of the car crashing. Her spirit is heavy as she says this, so I do not think we should weigh it down more by leaving, n’est-ce pas?”

“Where would we sleep?” said Lilith, even as she was momentarily distracted by Zelda’s fingers clutching tighter to her.

“Hilda says the couch turns into the bed. We have slept in worse conditions, eh?”

Zelda lifted her head off of Lilith’s shoulder at that. When she spoke, her voice was still thick from crying, but since she was facing away from the door, still locked in an embrace, Lilith hoped that Marie wouldn’t notice. “Lilith can sleep in my room. That is, only if she wants to.”

Marie tilted her head. “As a doctor I must remind you that only the sleeping should be happening, not—”

“Marie, stop. We don’t need a lecture,” said Lilith. She was surprised by Zelda’s suggestion of sharing a bed, but assumed it had more to do with how emotionally raw she was feeling, rather than the earlier seduction attempt. The storm continued to make itself known, illuminating the room every few minutes with a flash of lightning. “I think staying over tonight might be a good idea. I wouldn’t want to worry Hilda unnecessarily.”

Marie’s face broke into another huge smile before she nodded. “Fantastique. I will tell her we will stay.”

With that, Marie closed the door, and Zelda let out a long breath that managed to be both a sob and sigh. When they ended the embrace, Zelda looked marginally better than when it had begun.

“Are you alright?” Lilith said, reaching to push a lock of hair out of Zelda’s eyes, almost without thought.

“I think I will be,” said Zelda, offering Lilith a watery smile. “I hope you don’t mind me saying that you’d sleep here. I just didn’t want my sister to ask why you were sleeping on the couch when we supposedly just had a… romantic moment after she left the room.”

“I understand,” said Lilith, though she had to admit, her stomach was fluttering at the thought of sharing a bed. “But Marie’s right. We really shouldn’t do anything besides sleep. Not that I expect a second seduction, I just want to make it clear I’m only going to sleep in the bed if sleeping is actually what we’ll do.”

As if on cue, Zelda’s mouth opened wide into a yawn. “I don’t need to be convinced to sleep. I feel like I could sleep for a whole week.”

A second yawn followed the first, bringing a smile to Lilith’s lips. “I guess we should get you into bed, then?”

Zelda made a noise of approval, but started walking towards the door, rather than the bed.

“Uh, Zelda? Where are you going?” Lilith asked.

“I believe I told my daughter I’d tuck her in before I went to bed,” said Zelda, flashing a small smile over her shoulder. “And that’s a promise I never intend to break.”

Chapter Text

Lilith couldn’t sleep.   

It wasn’t that the bed was uncomfortable—to the contrary, Zelda’s sheets were Egyptian cotton, and Lilith had never known what that felt like against her skin until then (she was a lover of fine things herself, make no mistake, but her nomadic lifestyle didn’t lend itself to buying anything overly expensive when it would have to travel with her around the world). The room wasn’t too hot or too cold; it was a pleasant middle, and the beautiful night clothes that Zelda had given her were neither too heavy nor light. Perhaps it was the storm—the thunder had only gotten louder, and the lightning brighter, as the night continued… but Lilith had slept like the dead through plenty a nasty storm, so she wasn’t inclined to believe that her sleeplessness was related to that, either.

Lilith supposed it could just be the stress of the day, but that didn’t feel entirely true, when in the past she’d been capable of sleeping soundly even with Lucifer himself beside her. She would normally credit that as evidence of her ability to adapt and survive, and nothing more, but the truth was, she didn’t remember a lot of her time with Lucifer, so it could be down to anything. Entire years of her life were like blank pages in a book. Her mind had most likely shut down to protect itself from Lucifer’s constant games. All she knew was that if she hadn’t slept, she’d be dead… so it stood to reason, she’d conditioned herself to do it even with a monster in her bed.

Lilith shivered at the thought, despite the warmth and weight of Zelda’s comforter. She’d offered to sleep on top of the covers, but Zelda had dismissed the suggestion as unnecessary chivalry for chivalry’s sake; after all, they were both grown women capable of self-control. Lilith tended to agree, but sharing a bed was a kind of intimacy Lilith hadn’t experienced for some time now. Over the last two decades, whenever she felt the need to scratch an itch, she’d always left right after the deed was done, so as not to give her partner the wrong impression. She wasn’t interested in romance, or intimacy, or any of the emotions that some people connected to sex. At least, not since she’d had to end her non-engagement to Lucifer no less than three times.

Besides, Lilith wasn’t exactly a cuddler.

She was torn from her thoughts when a particularly loud clap of thunder made Zelda launch herself into a sitting position, pulling the covers with her. The room was lit up by a flash of lightning soon after, allowing Lilith to see the genuine panic on Zelda’s pale face before they were plunged back into darkness.

“This is some storm, huh?” Lilith said as she sat up beside her. “It hasn’t moved at all. Maybe Marie’s rain dance worked a little too well.”

Zelda was breathing deeply, like she’d just finished running a marathon. “I’m sorry. You must think I'm a fool for not being able to handle a simple thunderstorm.”

“Don’t be sorry. I haven’t been able to fall asleep. And I don't think there are many people on this earth who would dare to call you a fool,” said Lilith, waving off her apology. “Are you okay?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Zelda scoffed, but even in the darkness, Lilith could see the way she was hunching her shoulders and clutching at the blanket with an iron grip.

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

Zelda’s green eyes were luminescent as they focused on Lilith. “Do you control the weather? Can you do magic? Or perform miracles?”

Lilith leaned in closer, ever a fan of using her innate sense of mischief to lighten a situation. “If I told you I was an immortal being with divine magical gifts who was cast out of the Garden of Eden, would you believe me?”

A smile tugged at the corner of Zelda’s lips. “That depends.”

Lilith was momentarily taken aback by Zelda going along with the joke, but tried not to let it show on her face. “On what?”

Zelda closed the space between them, leaning in seductively. “On whether or not you plan to show me your… gifts.”

Lilith’s heart skipped a beat. Temptation, temptation. Against her will, her eyes dropped to Zelda’s lips. It would be so easy to just lean in and kiss her. 

Surely, one little kiss wouldn’t hurt?

Lilith knew it was the work of the devil inside her, telling her to give in to her carnal desires, but the urge was getting harder and harder to resist. Zelda looked particularly ravishing in her black lace lingerie set. She imagined Zelda was the kind to wear expensive lingerie even when there was no one else around to see it.

Biting her lip to keep control of herself, Lilith took a deep breath. Zelda smelled… clean. That was the only way to describe it. She didn’t have any particular scent—not after having washed any perfume she might’ve been wearing off of her—but she did smell vaguely of soap, and for some reason just that freshly-washed scent was driving Lilith to distraction.

Zelda was simply intoxicating.

But there was still that nagging voice in the back of Lilith’s mind, telling her that this was a terrible, no good, very bad idea.

Much to Lilith's relief, Zelda had no such reservations, it seemed.

Zelda’s hand reached out, ever so slowly, to cup Lilith’s jaw. Despite how much she longed for the touch, Lilith had to fight her natural instinct to flinch back, as her body unconsciously remembered how Lucifer used to hold her face in his bruising grip, but Zelda’s fingers were gentle, and her touch felt like barely a whisper against her skin. The gesture wasn’t controlling, but rather reverent, as Zelda brushed her fingers against Lilith’s cheek. Without thinking, Lilith nuzzled into the touch like a cat, relishing in the softness of the moment.

It had been so long since she trusted someone enough to let them touch her like this. For some reason, it made Lilith want to cry.

In fact, despite her best efforts to stop it, a rogue tear slipped out of the corner of her eye, and Zelda brushed it away before ending the touch altogether. Lilith found herself both relieved and disappointed as Zelda let her hand drop back down onto the blanket.

“I’m terribly sorry. I… I didn’t mean to upset you,” said Zelda, her face the picture of remorse. She looked ready to cry herself, her big green eyes wide and vulnerable and sad. Lilith hated to think she put that look in her eyes.

Lilith blinked several times to try to keep the rest of her own tears at bay. She hadn’t cried in years. She didn’t know why it was happening now. “You haven’t upset me. I promise.”

Zelda was about to respond when another burst of thunder erupted, causing her to suddenly guard her head with her hands just like she had earlier. It was a few more moments before the lightning came, telling Lilith that the storm was finally, at long last, starting to move away. But when the room lit up to show Zelda with her knees folded against her chest, and her head down, as if she were under attack... it struck a chord somewhere deep inside Lilith. 

“Do you have earplugs? Or headphones? Something you could wear to drown out the sound?” Lilith asked, concerned when Zelda didn’t stop clutching her head.

“No. I want to be aware of my surroundings. I hate sensory deprivation.” Zelda spoke with her face still pressed against her knees, which meant that the sound was muffled, but Lilith was still able to make out her words.

Lilith understood. But she was at a loss as to how else to help.

Without looking at Lilith, Zelda lifted her head away from her knees, before slowly moving to lie down on her side, facing away. Lilith took this to mean that their conversation was over—that their brief moment of deep connection had broken—and so, she followed suit, but rather than turn her back to Zelda, as they had been positioned before, she remained facing her.

She watched as Zelda pulled the blanket up over her shoulder, which meant that the comforter and top sheet were pulled slightly away from Lilith’s side, but she didn’t mind. There was still enough left for her to use, and even if there hadn’t been, she would’ve slept on the floor if it meant Zelda would be able to fall asleep faster.

Zelda's comfort was important to her. If that didn't prove Lilith was in too deep already, she didn't know what would.

Lilith closed her eyes, not wanting Zelda to feel like she was staring a hole between her shoulder blades. She tried to clear her mind, certain she wouldn’t be able to sleep until she did, but in the end, it was the pure and utter exhaustion that dragged her into unconsciousness.


“On your knees.”

Lilith observed the scene from above, detached from her body, almost… floating… outside of her skin as her body obeyed without thought. Obedience to Him had been driven into her until it was instinctual. As easy and thoughtless as taking a breath. Pure survival. 

The ground beneath her knees was cold, hard, unforgiving.

Much like Lucifer.

“You conniving, wicked, ungrateful bitch!”

Lilith didn’t recall what she’d done to incur his wrath. In the end, it hardly mattered. The result was always the same.

“You will suffer for the choice you made today.”

Lilith watched Lucifer grab her by the throat with both hands. It was a curious feeling, to both recognize one’s body was there, and yet, still feel entirely separate from it. She was choking, and yet she wasn’t. She was watching herself struggle for breath, and yet, from above, she could breathe just fine.

The sense memory was there. She remembered it in her bones. And yet, the pain was somewhere else, behind a veil.

Lucifer changed his grip. He grabbed a fistful of her hair and used it to drag her over to the bed as he continued to spit poisonous words at her. Lilith tuned it all out. She was too busy trying to find the sensation to match the scene, like the intense pain of her thick dark hair being ripped out by the root. She knew how it had felt, but when she tried to connect the sensation to what was happening to her body in front of her, there was too much distance.

Lucifer's powerful hands moved from her hair down to her arms. Her lack of response to his tirade was only further infuriating him. He wanted to see her reaction. He wanted to see her in pain. He wanted to see her fear.

When he shook her like a ragdoll, she couldn't stop herself from yelping like a wounded animal as hot tears filled her eyes. She doesn’t remember crying, but she can see the tears on her cheeks as she observes history repeat itself.

Suddenly, he presses his hand into her lower stomach. She shrieks like banshee.

Recognition stirs. She’d thought she’d locked up this memory and thrown away the key.

They’d had several blow-out fights about Lilith not wanting any children. It was an extremely volatile subject for both of them. Lucifer wanted an army of heirs. He was obsessed with his legacy. Lilith hated even the very thought of having children, and had made it extremely clear that she would never willingly give him a child. She didn’t want to be a mother. End stop.

For a while, Lilith thought that Lucifer had finally accepted her wishes, and so he dropped the subject. He was more charming than usual for months. He gave her presents and took her out to dinner and romanced her in a way that felt genuine, at the time.

Little did she know it was all a façade. An elaborate manipulation. A game.

Lucifer never loses at his own games...

Lilith fell pregnant, and shortly thereafter, she discovered he’d been sabotaging her birth control for months.

She was furious. Betrayed. Terrified. But most of all, she knew she couldn't be a mother. She understood exactly what she had to do.

At her first opportunity, while Lucifer was busy at a very important audition, she fled to the closest Planned Parenthood. They took care of her troubles for her, and not only that, but they gave her no guilt or grief when she immediately asked to have her tubes tied afterwards.

She knew she would never speak of it to a single soul. But there was no hiding it from Lucifer.

The nurses had told her there shouldn’t be that much pain after the procedures, but she doubted they had accounted for Lucifer’s brutality.

Lilith watched with glassy eyes as Lucifer began to punish her for killing his child. She could hear someone screaming, and it was with a jolt that she remembered that the person being attacked was her. There was a sudden sharpening of her senses, and then the memory lit up, the same way a room would be illuminated by a flash of lightning, and when darkness fell again, she was snapped back into her body below.

The distance dissolved. She was no longer floating above the scene. She was experiencing it.

The pain was excruciating. Her every nerve was on fire.

“Stop!” she said, but phantom-Lucifer would not. “Stop! Please!”

The pain was other-worldly. His hands were on her throat again. He was going to kill her.

She had never begged for her life before. Never.

“Have mercy!” she coughed, her airway constricted. But Lilith didn’t remember crying out for mercy. She would never have done that. Not even inches away from suffocation.

“Lilith?”

A voice that was decidedly not Lucifer’s echoed through the room.

“Lilith!” came the voice again. It was a woman’s voice. Familiar, and yet not.

The room flashed once more. A bright white light. Oblivion.

“Lilith, please wake up.”

Lucifer was smiling at her as he eased off her throat, just a little bit. He was still strangling her, but his grip loosened, so she wouldn’t die just yet.

He wanted her to suffer. He was going to torture her. There would be no mercy.

Suddenly, with the next flash, a figure appeared, sitting in the corner of the room. She was going to cry out to them for help, but as the image sharpened, Lilith realized who it was.

Blackwood.

Lucifer’s grip tightened, and Lilith was forced to look away. She closed her eyes, only for a moment, as the lack of oxygen was making her sleepy. When she opened them again, it was no longer Lucifer on top of her.

It was Blackwood.

Faustus Blackwood.

His weight was crushing her. His hands were around her throat. But that wasn’t all.

There was another figure. A small one. Right beside her bed.

The room lit up from another lightning strike. The figure sharpened.

Leticia.

“When is the baby coming?” Leticia wined.

Lilith became numb again. She hovered just an inch above her body as Faustus was rutting away.

“Leticia?” Lilith whispered.

“Everyone else is real. Why isn’t the baby real?” Leticia said, crossing her arms.

A thick fog rolled in. Lilith could barely see the outline of the girl. All she knew was that Leticia shouldn’t be there in the first place.

“Leticia, run!”

Leticia stamped her foot instead. Her voice pierced through the fog. “Where’s my baby brother?!”

Blackwood’s weight was too much. She wasn’t going to just lie there and take it; Lilith decided to fight back. She started flailing her limbs, hitting and kicking him wherever she could reach. But she couldn’t breathe. The darkness was closing in.

“Lilith, wake up!”


Cold water splashed across Lilith’s face, awakening her in an instant (with a curse on her tongue). Her hands went immediately to her face, one to wipe the water off, and the other to protect herself from any more.

“Lilith?”

It took a few moments for Lilith to register what was happening. Her chest was rising and falling with labored breaths, she was soaking wet from her face down to her ribs, and to top it all off, Zelda Spellman was sitting on top of her, in her bedtime lingerie, holding an empty cup, and looking for all the world like she’d just thrown acid, and not water, onto Lilith’s face.

“I’m so sorry,” Zelda said, her voice strained as she leaned over Lilith in order to put the cup back on the nightstand. Even in her semi-delirious state, Lilith was able to appreciate the view, if only because she was still so disoriented, she could barely string two thoughts together.

“You… you were having a nightmare,” Zelda said, her chest heaving as if she’d just finished a sprint. “I tried to wake you up in other ways but none of them worked.”

Lilith blinked three times, as if trying to erase the nightmare from her eyes. Zelda brought a hand up to her forehead as she said, “Are you alright?”

Lilith turned the question over in her head. The truth was, she was still in shock. For so long, whenever she’d tried to access that memory from her nightmare, her mind had simply drawn a blank. No matter how hard she tried, all she saw was a blur.  

“Lilith, please say something,” Zelda whispered, before her eyes widened, and she seemed to realize for the very first time that she was still straddling Lilith’s torso. Quickly, she scrambled off her, with a squeak of apology that sounded very un-Zelda-like.

Taking one final, long, steadying breath to calm her frayed nerves, Lilith sat up. Not knowing what to say, or how to say it, she wiped her wet hands on the blanket. “That was a lot of water.”

Zelda’s pale cheeks reddened a bit. “I know. I just… I really needed you to wake up.”

Lilith felt like it was her turn to apologize. “I haven’t had a nightmare like that in ages. I’m sorry.”

Zelda shook her head. “Don’t apologize. You were asleep. You couldn’t help it.”

Not particularly interested in talking about the worst night of her entire life, Lilith instead tugged at the neck of her nightshirt, which was also soaking wet.

“Could you…?”

“Of course!” Zelda said, jumping out of bed to fetch Lilith a new shirt.

Figuring that they were well past the point of false modesty, Lilith peeled off her top while Zelda rummaged through her closet. Goosebumps erupted along Lilith’s bare arms, despite the temperature in the room being perfectly comfortable.

“Will this do?” Zelda said, emerging from her closet with a red satin button-down shirt.

Using the edge of the blanket to dry the rest of her neck and chest, Lilith said, “Sure, as long as you don’t mind it getting a little damp?”

When Zelda didn’t respond, clearly distracted by Lilith wiping the last few beads of water off her chest, an amused smile tugged at the edge of Lilith’s lips despite the racing of her heart. Catching herself, Zelda’s cheeks flushed, before she walked back to the bed and handed her the shirt, which Lilith accepted with a slight smirk.

It was nice to have someone there to distract her and keep her company after such a terrible dream, Lilith thought. Normally, it would take her hours to recover from a night terror such as that, but with Zelda standing there, looking so beautiful in the moonlight, she could easily tell the difference between the nightmare and reality, so long as she just focused on what was in front of her.

Wordlessly, Lilith slipped on the shirt as Zelda walked back to her side of the bed and climbed in. Lilith listened intently to the sound of the rain—which had become a soft drizzle while she’d been asleep—in order to ground herself even further.

For a while, neither of them spoke; they just sat next to each other on the bed, taking in the silence. Lilith didn’t want to dwell on her nightmare, because dwelling wouldn’t solve anything, but it had all felt so real, and Zelda seemed to know exactly what kind of dream Lilith had been having.

Lilith wondered if she had screamed, or if she'd mumbled anything in her sleep that Zelda wasn't meant to hear? It was obvious Zelda was desperate to wake her, but what precisely had inspired that desperation? Lilith wasn't sure she wanted to know. It's possible she was flailing her limbs around, which meant that she probably managed to hit or kick Zelda, thinking she was Lucifer or Faustus trying to pin her down.

Lilith swallowed, not wanting to go there. Zelda looked well enough, physically speaking, despite the bruises that were still blooming along her ams and legs from having fallen in the woods. Was it possible Lilith had added to them in her sleep? She didn't want to think of it, and hoped Zelda would tell her if she'd done her any harm, however unintentionally.

Eventually, it was Zelda who was the first to break the silence. She gestured to the window. “It sounds like the storm is almost gone.”

Relieved to be offered a neutral topic, Lilith looked to the window. “I think you’re right.”

After another stretch of companionable silence, Zelda reached to take Lilith’s hand. Lilith let her do it, despite not really feeling right in her skin just yet. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” Lilith insisted, not wanting to have to revisit it. She’d never told a single soul about what she’d done to take back her freedom, and how severely Lucifer had punished her for it. She wasn’t about to start opening up now, no matter how heartbreakingly relatable the nightmare might be to the woman beside her. "But thank you. Truly."

"I understand," Zelda said, before her voice lowered significantly, as if she were admitting a grave secret she didn't want anyone to overhear, despite them being alone in the room. “I have those dreams, too.”

Lilith’s heart clenched as Zelda squeezed her hand in support. “How do you handle them?”

Zelda offered a half-hearted shrug. “To be honest, I don’t. I take a sleeping pill and pray that I don't dream.”

Lilith bit her lip. It had to be nearing 3:00 AM. She could feel exhaustion pulling all her muscles downwards, urging her to go back to sleep, despite how desperately Lilith never wanted to sleep again if it would mean being spared from returning to her worst memories.

“I know this might sound crazy,” said Lilith, “but I’m so tired… exhausted, really… that I think I just want to try to go back to sleep. I have too much on my mind, but I’m also completely spent... and I can’t possibly have a dream worse than the one I just had, so I think I’ll take my chances.”

Zelda tilted her head in curiosity, before getting distracted by the water stain on Lilith's pillow. When she’d thrown the cup of water into Lilith’s face, clearly it hadn't just found its target, but it had also gotten all over Lilith’s side of the bed. 

“You can’t sleep on that,” said Zelda as she inclined her towards the damp pillow. “Come here.”

Those words didn’t immediately make sense to Lilith. “What?”

“It’s my fault your side of the bed got wet. Come over here. We can share this side.”

Lilith wanted to refuse. She hadn’t… spooned… with someone in decades, and she was already feeling a bit out of sorts, and dare she say… vulnerable... but holding someone, and possibly being held in return… well, that wouldn’t be too terrible a thing, would it?

Zelda scooted all the way to the edge of her side of the bed, before patting the spot in front of her as an open invitation. Lilith was in awe at just how tender Zelda’s expression was. It stole the breath right out of her lungs. She’d never been on the receiving end of such a fond look.

Lilith felt completely out of her element. Lust, she could understand. She knew how to handle someone looking at her with lust. But affection? No.

Slowly, Lilith crawled over to Zelda’s side. She imagined she was meant to be the little spoon, as Zelda was facing towards her. But there remained in Lilith an instinct to never show her back to anyone in such a vulnerable state, even when she logically knew she could trust Zelda not to hurt her.

So, she laid down such that they were facing each other, with only a few inches between them. Needing to remind herself that she wasn’t dreaming—that this was her current reality—a reality where she was safe and sound, in the bed of a woman she’d fallen in love with in less than a week… Lilith reached out to push a lock of Zelda’s hair away from her eyes. 

Zelda hummed happily in response to the touch, the sound similar to that of a purring cat.

“Thank you,” Lilith said, her eyes drifting down to Zelda’s lips and then back up.

“For what?” Zelda murmured.

“For waking me up. For offering to talk. For understanding…” Lilith said, her voice trailing off as she realized the just how much Zelda did understand. She had felt so alone for so long, carrying the weight of what Lucifer did to her in silence, and now that she knew she wasn’t alone, it felt like some of that weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

Lilith watched closely as Zelda lifted herself up slightly to press a light kiss to Lilith’s forehead. “I wish I had a flower spell for you, like in Midsummer. That way we both could get some sleep.”

“You would make a wonderful Titania,” Lilith mused, entwining their fingers. “Maybe I should direct it just for you to play her.”

Zelda pulled a face. “I wouldn’t kiss an ass. Not even for you.”

Laughter bubbled in Lilith’s chest as a joke occurred to her. “You’re not a Bottom girl?”

Zelda’s answer came in the form of a playful, indignant slap to Lilith’s shoulder, before Zelda turned away from Lilith in a pretend huff. Zelda immediately tried to mold herself to fit the curves of Lilith’s body. She made a show of “accidentally” grinding her bottom into Lilith’s lap, before Lilith put a steadying hand on Zelda’s hip to stop her from winding her up.

“You’ve made your point,” Lilith whispered into Zelda’s ear, delighting in the way the woman shivered in response to her voice. Their bodies… well… they just fit together. When Zelda let out a happy sigh, Lilith felt a fluttering in her stomach. If Lilith hadn’t already known she was whipped, she would’ve known it that moment.

For the first time in nearly thirty years, Lilith fell asleep with a smile on her face.

Chapter Text

Lilith awoke to the chipper sound of a cardinal calling to its mate, and a stream of sunlight breaking through a small gap in the window curtains. Something was tickling Lilith’s nose, but she was too warm and comfortable to move. She let out a happy sigh, her arms briefly tightening around the source of the cozy heat, before she realized that the thing tickling her nose was a lock of strawberry-blonde hair, and that her arms were not wrapped around a pillow, but rather the waist of a woman who was sharing her bed.

Puzzled, but surprisingly not as alarmed as she ought to have been when discovering herself wrapped around a possible stranger, Lilith begrudgingly opened her eyes. Her face was pressed against a sea of red curls that fanned out across the pillow. As she blinked the last vestiges of sleep away, she realized exactly whom she was holding in her arms.

Zelda.

Lilith’s memory of the previous night’s events returned slower than she would like. She recalled being woken up by a splash of water and a beautiful woman on top of her.

There were certainly worse ways to wake up.

Lilith could hear Zelda’s deep, even breaths of sleep, as well as feel them in the slight rise and fall of her diaphragm against Lilith’s open palm. She found it unexpectedly soothing to focus on another person’s breathing.

Lilith raised her head just a little bit, to take in the position of their bodies. Lilith had both arms wrapped around Zelda’s stomach, as well as a leg slipped between Zelda’s own. She didn’t think their bodies could be any closer even if they tried, and Zelda looked so peaceful in her sleep—something that tugged on the strings of Lilith’s battered heart. Carefully, she laid her head back down, and nuzzled into the curls nestled at the base of Zelda’s neck in an act of pure, blissful indulgence.

Lilith couldn’t remember a time when she had felt this happy—and this safe—upon waking up. It was almost as if she were still dreaming, and all of this would disappear the moment she woke up for good. Though Lilith was certain Zelda was still asleep, she suddenly felt the other woman try to wiggle her backside deeper into Lilith’s lap. She then placed her hand over Lilith’s on her stomach, before letting out an endearing little noise of contentment. Lilith’s breath hitched as she had to fight the urge to squirm in response.

It appeared Zelda was still a little minx, even in sleep, and Lilith was noticeably... affected. Heat was pooling in her belly, and with her chest pressed against Zelda’s back, she was sure that if the actress were to wake up, she could feel her heart pounding, fit to burst out of her chest.

Lilith tried to focus her attention on their hands—and only their hands. Zelda’s palm was warm and soft against the back of Lilith’s hand. Against her will, Lilith imagined a large round belly in place of the small pouch of healthy fat where their hands currently rested.

Lilith disliked thinking about pregnancy, as it was so intrinsically linked to her days with Lucifer, and how he had treated her as if she were only valuable to him as a broodmare, but knowing that Zelda, too, had a complicated relationship to pregnancy, made everything all the more confusing. She wanted to help in any way she could, but how? She was woefully out of her depth when it came to pregnancy and its complications.

“Your thoughts are very loud,” came a sleepy voice.

Lilith jumped, but because she was currently entangled with Zelda, she didn’t accomplish much more than pulling Zelda closer.

“You’re awake?!” Lilith said, trying to recover herself.

Zelda hummed happily in response, snuggling her face deeper into the pillow.

“Did I wake you? I’m sorry,” said Lilith, removing her hand from Zelda’s stomach and untangling their legs, despite Zelda responding to the movement with a quiet noise of protest.

“If you did, I’m not complaining,” Zelda said as she turned around so that they were facing each other.

Lilith was about to respond when Zelda reached out to play with one of Lilith’s curls. Her breath caught in her throat. Lilith had always been self-conscious about her hair; she often joked that the only physical gifts that God had given her (if there even was a God—he’d certainly never made himself known to her) were sharp cheek bones, and enough hair for two villages. She never washed her hair unless she had to, because the process of blow drying her curls and flattening them into something resembling the texture of hair, rather than rope, took upwards of two hours.

It would seem that the water Zelda had splashed on her face last night had allowed some of her frizzy curls to make themselves known. The actress had one curl wrapped around her finger, and was idly twirling it as she smiled sleepily at Lilith.

“Penny Dreadful for your thoughts?” Zelda said, her voice still husky from sleep.

“That’s a strange expression,” Lilith remarked, trying to resist the urge to blush as Zelda stopped playing with her curls to lay her head down on Lilith’s shoulder.

“I’m a strange woman,” Zelda mumbled into Lilith’s shoulder while reaching for her hand to lace their fingers together.

For a moment, neither one of them spoke. Zelda’s body was like a warm blanket draped against her side. With their fingers intertwined, it all felt a bit too familiar—a bit too much too fast. In Lilith’s mind, actually having sex would feel less intimate than…whatever this was.

Zelda must’ve picked up on Lilith’s unspoken discomfort, because she immediately let go of Lilith’s hand and picked her head up off Lilith’s shoulder. A shadow had come over her face as she sat up in the bed, which made Lilith’s relief at being given space feel like equal parts disappointment and… something else.

“I’m sorry,” Zelda said, flipping her hair over her shoulder as her eyes lowered to the blanket. “I suppose I got carried away.

Lilith couldn’t help it. As she sat up as well, she let out a huge guffaw, much to Zelda’s bewilderment.

“What, exactly, do you find so funny?” Zelda’s acerbic tone and sudden shrewdness was mitigated by the fact that her hair was all ruffled up from the pillow, she was wearing nothing but her underthings, and her voice was still thick with sleep. Lilith felt awful for laughing, and for the way her eyes were being drawn to Zelda’s hand, which was now pressed between her breasts as a gesture of having been wounded by the insulting laughter, despite her not seeming to know the nature of the insult—and in fact, if there had actually been an insult at all.

Lilith waved her hands, trying to indicate her apology, even as she kept laughing. She felt bad for putting that injured look on Zelda’s face, but goodness, even in her haughty, righteous anger, all Lilith could see was a gorgeous woman with bedhead who had no right to look so cute in her anger.

“I’m not laughing at you—really, I’m not—” Lilith said between gasps of air. “It’s just—well—we almost had sex last night, but it was the hand-holding that was the ‘carried-away’ part?”

Zelda’s lips thinned into a line. “I already apologized for... trying to seduce you. When I held your hand, you tensed up. You seemed disturbed by what I was doing, however innocently I intended it, so I don’t see what’s so humorous—”

As a gesture of reestablishing the peace, Lilith reached out to take Zelda’s hand again, to reassure her it wasn’t an entirely unwelcome thing. Lilith finally got control of herself, swallowing the rest of her laughter as she said, “It’s hard to explain. I’ve had plenty of casual sex in my life, but I haven’t had many… any… people I trusted enough to…” Lilith’s voice trailed off, wary of saying too much.

Zelda’s face softened as she squeezed Lilith’s hand. “I understand. Really, I do. I just wanted to be close to you, in a way I thought you wouldn’t mind, but now I see that it was a mistake.”

Not a mistake,” Lilith insisted, “I didn’t mean to laugh about it. It was nice. I enjoyed waking up next to you. I’m just not used to it. That’s all.”

With mischief in her eyes, Zelda leaned into Lilith’s space, clutching their joined hands to her chest. “Well, if it’s just a matter of getting used to it, I shall endeavor to hold your hand until then, however scandalous it might be. I’m not sure Hilda will survive seeing me…” Zelda wiggled her eyebrows suggestively, “holding hands at the breakfast table, but I always did enjoy making her blush at my wickedness.”

“You’re not wicked,” Lilith said in a rush, without thinking. Zelda’s expression softened, before tossing Lilith’s hand away from her in mock-outrage.

“I take that as an insult. I’m a wicked woman if there ever was one, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Lilith’s stomach fluttered. “Someday, I should like to see you at your most wicked, I think.”

Zelda cocked her head, sizing Lilith up. “I’m not sure you could handle me at my most wicked.”

Lilith was about to offer a saucy response, but just then, the door burst open. Zelda let out a noise of alarm that made Lilith’s stomach flip, before a rowdy six-year-old girl jumped on their bed.

“Morning!” Leticia squealed, her face the picture of delight, before it scrunched up in confusion. “Mama, why don’t you have any clothes on?”

Zelda blushed a fetching crimson color, before leaping out of bed to grab her robe. She was in the process of tying the knot when Marie entered the room, looking a bit too cheerful to be genuinely apologetic for disturbing them.

Je suis desolée, mes amies. I was trying to entertain the child, and keep her from disturbing you… but évidemment, I failed.”

“Seriously, Marie?” Lilith leapt out of bed, too, just now remembering that she was wearing Zelda’s silk blouse. Marie’s eyes widened as Lilith crossed her arms over it in discomfort. “You’re a soldier. You’ve been in active combat. You’ve even been shot and carried on giving medical attention to the wounded. Are you telling me you couldn’t handle occupying a single six-year-old child for an hour or two?”

Marie’s face broke into a smile as she spread her arms. “What can I say? I would take an enemy army over this petite fire-cracker any day, mon amie.”

“Mama! I have something I have to tell you!” Leticia said, tugging urgently on Zelda’s robe. Zelda bent down to pick her up, which had Marie making a noise of displeasure, but Zelda silenced her with a meaningful look. “I had a dream! I had a dream about you!”

“Did you, now?” Zelda said, readjusting Leticia so she sat more squarely on her hip. “Was it a good dream, I hope?”

Leticia smiled as she played with Zelda’s hair. “Uh-huh! You were there, and so was Miss Lilly!”

Lilith shuffled on her feet, not sure where this was going. Her own nightmare was suddenly pushed to the front of her mind, but she immediately shook her head, trying to clear those images away. Marie turned to her in confusion, and no small amount of curiosity, but Lilith just mouthed the word “later” to keep Marie from prying.

“Her name is Lil-ith, darling,” Zelda gently corrected, but Lilith waved a dismissive hand to let her know that it was alright. “What happened in the dream, sweetheart?”

“There was a Christmas tree and a fire and lots of presents and there was even a PUPPY!” Lilith shouted the word “puppy” into her mother’s ear. Lilith was impressed that Zelda hardly even flinched.

“Well, that sounds like a lovely dream,” Zelda said, her eyes suddenly far away.

“Come, Leticia,” Marie beckoned to the girl. “Let us allow your mama and Miss Lilly to get dressed, yes?”

Leticia clung to her mother tighter for a moment, but eventually let go as she was passed into Marie’s arms.

“We can tell your mama all about your dream at breakfast, yes?”

“Ooo-kay,” Leticia said in disappointment, before getting distracted by Lilith’s blouse.

“That’s my mama’s shirt! Do you share clothes, like Judas and me?”

Lilith’s face was burning as she said, “Something like that.”

“Come, come, mon enfant. Let us go see what your Auntie Hilda has cooked for us. Can you smell the bacon frying in the pan?”

“Oui!” Leticia said, waving at Lilith and Zelda over Marie’s shoulder as she was carried out of the room. “That means, ‘yes,’ Mama!”

“Very good, Leticia,” Zelda said, waving back to her daughter before Marie closed the door behind them.

For a moment, Lilith didn’t know what to say, but luckily, Zelda did.

“I think I’m going to start calling you Miss Lilly, too,” Zelda said, winking as she walked over to the closet.

“Don’t you dare—”

“I think it’s cute. It suits you.”

“It does not.”

“Lilly dear, would you mind putting that shirt in the laundry basket?” Zelda teased as she removed her robe.

Lilith wanted to be mad at being baited, but for some reason, the teasing was making her stomach flutter. Again, she was struck by the intimacy of getting dressed (and undressed) in front of one another, even if it was in a completely non-sexual context.

“Here, you can change into this.”

Lilith didn’t have time to react before a red dress hit her in the face. Red blouse, red dress… was Zelda trying to tell her something?

It seemed Zelda could read her mind, because as the actress slipped a leopard-print blouse over her head, and followed that by dragging a tight black skirt up over her hips, she said, “Red is your color. It suits you. Now, can you help me zip up this skirt?”

Lilith’s fingers fumbled with the zipper, but Zelda mercifully didn’t comment on it. Instead, she walked over to her vanity, and sat down to brush her hair. In the reflection of the mirror, Zelda caught Lilith staring.

“What?” Zelda said, dragging the brush from the root down to the ends of her hair. “What’s wrong?”

“Oh, nothing,” Lilith said, but it was a lie.

Lilith was in love. That wasn’t nothing, not for her. She already knew she was a fool for falling for this woman. But the question remained, how could she stop herself, when Zelda was admiring her through the mirror, looking for all the world like a woman in love, herself?