Chapter 1: Yea, Though I Walk
I Will Fear No Evil
Yea, Though I Walk
Dan woke to his alarm blaring at 5:00 in the morning. His arm was stretched across the bed, his groggy mind confused for a moment at finding it empty and cold. He hadn’t been with Charlotte long enough to say he’d developed the habit of his side of the bed because of her, but the other side was hers all the same. He hugged her pillow to his chest, but even her scent was gone now. His vision misted, and he blinked hard to be rid of it. He would not start the day crying into his pillow. He wouldn’t. With a shout, he punched the mattress, then flung himself into his day.
It was rote. Once he passed the danger of waking alone, the mechanical repetition of shave, dress, choke down a protein shake and bar, check his kit, grab his gym bag, and drive to work came automatically. He could do it on auto-pilot. He did do it on auto-pilot. Had done it on auto-pilot every morning since Charlotte died. He arrived at the station at 6:30, his early habits avoiding the worst of LA’s traffic. Hit the station gym, work until he hit the exercise wall and earned the endorphins that would let him tolerate his job for another day. Shower. Dress. Try not to look himself in the eye while he styled his hair.
Get his cup of coffee and a pudding before roll call. Sit through the cold shoulders, the name calling at just high enough volume to be sure he heard them, wait for the shit assignments that were still always his even after two years of doing the right thing, even though there were three younger detectives who should have been assigned at least some of it. Remember to smile. Do the job. Hope that today would be another day when that smarmy bastard, Lucifer, would forget they all existed here.
Of course he couldn’t be that lucky today. Before he even got to his desk under the stairs, Lucifer, loud and obnoxious as always, came prancing through the bullpen. Dan kept his head down. He had phone records to examine for Brodie, paperwork for Terrell, and follow-up calls to make for Daniels. Maybe if he was quiet, Lucifer wouldn’t even notice him. No new cases had been assigned today. If he was lucky, the guy would get bored and go home.
Lucifer started regaling Ella and Chloe about his most recent sexual exploits with his girlfriend and Dan decided that now would be a good time to be on the phone. He’d heard enough about Lucifer’s sex life to last a lifetime in the first week of them dating. Two months in and it just made him want to put his fist through Lucifer’s smarmy face, especially seeing how it made Chloe cringe when Lucifer wasn’t looking, as if he needed another reason to hate the bastard. He’d just made the last phone call when the new Lieutenant handed Chloe a case.
“What, Satanists again?” Lucifer sounded annoyed, shading to angry. Then he looked at Dan. Dan wasn’t even looking at him, but Lucifer’s gaze bore into the back of his head. “You don’t have any other murderous friends like Malcy you’d like to tell us about, do you, Daniel?” The tone shifted lighter, teasing almost, but Dan felt the intent and anger sitting behind them.
He turned, his own anger rising. Lucifer stood directly behind him now, even though his voice had been fifteen feet away only a second before. Lucifer held up a picture of a dead man inches from Dan's nose, the posed and cleaned body at the center of a pentagram, very like one of the bodies Malcolm had left. The symbols carved into the poor bastard's chest had had time to get infected before he died. Red streaks radiated across his chest and down his sides. His eyes were sunken and his lips had cracked and bled. No ligature marks, so the man hadn’t been restrained, but his fingernails were torn and had been bleeding before he died.
Dan shoved the picture away. “Get that out of my face.”
Lucifer flounced back to Chloe’s desk. Dan gripped the edge of his desk until his fingers ached. Then made himself take deep breaths until he regained control. That bastard wasn’t going to win. Today or any day. He hastily finished the phone records while waiting for the others to get ready. The paperwork for Terrell had to wait.
Lucifer droned on in the background about what the symbols could be, including several lewd comments that made it harder and harder to concentrate on the job at hand, but he was determined to carry through, and get his work done.
Chloe placing a folder on his desk startled him. “We’ve got a name, Dan. Can you do the background check, while we go to the morgue? Lucifer can’t identify the symbols with all the swelling.”
“You sure he doesn’t just want an excuse to look at the body? Take pictures for his Instagram?”
“Dan.” She reached for his arm, but he shrugged away from it. She sighed, and said, “I need whatever you can find on the victim. The initial detective didn’t get very far. Call me if anything urgent pings.”
Dan looked away. She didn’t deserve his anger. “Sure,” he muttered.
As soon as Lucifer had left, the bands in Dan’s chest loosened. He hadn’t even realized how hard it had been to breathe freely with the man present. He opened the folder and saw a DMV picture blown up and a copy of the victim’s driver’s license. His name was John Collins. Dan stared at the picture. John Collins had had black hair, brown eyes, artful stubble, and a big nose. Dan glanced at the license. Collins’ height was listed as six-two, his weight as 190. Add in the occult symbols...and the guy clearly wasn’t Lucifer, but the broad strokes were all there. Had they already talked about this while he was ignoring them? Shit.
He tapped his pen against the phone. Chloe and Lucifer were headed to the morgue. Traffic would make that an hour drive easy. Research first, then. John Collins had lived a quiet life on paper. No arrests, not even a traffic ticket, marred his record. He’d been married and divorced-no children. His parents had died in an accident five years prior, and he had a sister in Oregon who had already been notified. He put off calling her until he’d done all the preliminary work; no need to disturb her twice. The listed address matched Collins’ parking permit and was in a moderate income rental area.
He had worked as a software engineer for a local company. No one seemed to have missed him for however long it had taken him to die, at least not enough to file a missing person’s report on him. Dan stared at the screen. John Collins impacted the world so little. He apparently went to work, lived his life alone. It was uncomfortably familiar.
He swallowed hard. Would anyone miss him enough to file a report on him? Chloe had picked up and disappeared to Europe on a moment’s notice with their daughter. The department all looked at him like they expected him to snap at any minute even while they kept grinding their heels in. His fists clenched under the desk. Lunch break. It was definitely time for lunch break.
About halfway to his favorite sandwich shop he remembered to call Chloe.
“Hey, Dan. What'd you find on the victim?”
“I finished the preliminary background on John Collins. Nothing pops on him. Barstow native. UCLA for computer science.” He gave her the rest of what he’d learned then asked, “Did you notice who the victim resembled?”
“Yeah, I did. The features, the symbols, it would be an awfully big coincidence if it isn’t related,” she said, her voice going flat with seriousness.
He heard Lucifer in the background saying, “I fail to see how anyone could mistake that poor blighter for me. No resemblance at all. Are we sure that Malcolm was the only murderous dirty—”
“We’re checking all angles, Dan.”
“Good luck with that." He shook his head. Lucifer was still talking in the background. "Do you want me to re-canvass the apartment after lunch?” Dan stopped outside Sergei's.
“Sure, Dan. We’ll take his office and meet at the crime scene after.”
"See you there."
Dan stuck the phone back in its holder on his belt.
“Detective Espinoza! Your usual?” Sergei shouted as he entered. The man was best described as boisterous. He was a constant. Someone Dan could always count on to be cheerful and pleasant. Dan ate here nearly every work day. He needed someone who didn’t feature in the voices shouting at him when he closed his eyes at night.
“Hey, Sergei! Usual it is.”
Dan leaned on the counter and watched Sergei work. The shop was tiny. There was only room for four tables in the dining area, and the fully visible kitchen only had room for Sergei and one assistant, his son Ilya. By 11:30, the line would be out the door, but at 10:45 Dan had the place to himself.
Sergei handed him his plate with a flourish and returned to work. Dan sat at the table. He relished his time in this place: simple, friendly, but no expectations, just an exchange of money for food. Sergei always remembered his favorite order and asked no questions about his past. It was nice.
People started trailing in and the line began to build, so Dan cleared his place and shuffled out. He stopped by the precinct door. Walking back in, facing the gauntlet again; Dan dreaded it every day. With a deep breath, he opened the door. He filed his itinerary and checked out a cruiser.
Collins’ apartment was in Van Nuys. Dan alternated between cursing the traffic and cursing the fact that he would be spending the late afternoon on scene with Lucifer. He didn’t take the aggressive moves that would get him to Collins’ apartment sooner, but it was like the universe hated him and despite his best efforts, traffic aligned to get him there in record time.
The initial officer had already obtained the key to the apartment, so he only had to let himself in. It was a tiny studio apartment. The floor space was minimal but the ceiling was high, and tall shelves and multiple levels had been built in to take advantage of that. Upon entering, there was an alcove to the right large enough to store a bicycle. Built-in shelving went to the ceiling above the bike. On the left wall, shallow built-in shelves contained books, mostly on the occult. A door opened onto the small bathroom. A ladder to the sleeping loft hugged the wall next to the bathroom. Dan climbed up. The ceiling was claustrophobically close. He couldn’t even sit upright.
John Collins had tacked posters above the bed. Demons, Satan, Hell, all from classical paintings interspersed with pencil drawings of the same demonic, horned beast in different poses. Dan catalogued and removed all the items, again cursing Lucifer and his own shitty luck. He checked the mattress for suspicious lumps or damage, then underneath it.
“Jackpot.” He catalogued and bagged the login names and passwords list.
Dan climbed back down and searched the rest of the apartment. The initial officer had taken the laptop and submitted it to the forensic IT guys. There was a smattering of other occult and demon related items and a desk dominated by art supplies and incomplete pictures similar to the ones Dan had already collected. John Collins’ one interest seemed to have been demons, especially the one he drew again and again. Dan found two books among the art supplies that were worn from use, one about demons and the other proclaiming that it would teach the reader how to protect against demon possession. Dan sighed as he catalogued and bagged them.
This was the universe punishing him. Not that he didn’t deserve it, but damn. Lucifer would be insufferable throughout this case. Dan uploaded his photos to the department server and tagged the IT officer on the one with the login info. Now to deal with Lucifer.
When he arrived at the crime scene in Lakeview, Chloe was talking to a shop owner. Lucifer was nowhere to be seen. Of course. When did he ever stick around for the hard work?
Dan took a longer look around the scene. The unlicensed vendors who usually lined the streets in West Lake had fled long before he arrived. A rickety table leaned haphazardly against a wall half a block down the street. A shiny, new, empty shoebox and brightly colored leaflets littered the sidewalk. Not a single person was visible on the streets, including Lucifer. Some of the tension sapped out of him. If he was lucky, the consultant had gotten bored and left.
“Thank you for your help, Mr. Reyes.”
The small man nervously picked at the hem of his shirt as he said, “No problem, Detective. No one wants that devil stuff here in this neighborhood.”
She turned to Dan after Mr. Reyes stepped back inside his shop. “Did you find anything interesting?”
Dan gave her a rundown of all the demon bullshit he’d found, and her expression grew more serious.
“John Collins died of sepsis from infected wounds. He starved for at least a week, maybe longer before he died, which means he had access to water for at least part of his captivity, but he was also severely dehydrated. The ME said he’d have been only semi-conscious at most for at least a day before his death.”
“That’s a brutal way to go. What did Lucifer say about the patterns?”
“He recognized some of the symbols, said, ‘Someone got a bit carried away with the symbolic syncretization,’ and then refused to give me a straight answer about anything.”
“Why do you put up with that nonsense, Chloe?” Dan turned away with a huff. The dynamic between Chloe and Lucifer had changed, and he didn’t like it. He rubbed his hands down his face and turned back to her.
She turned her head, her shoulders hunched. “He’s my partner, and there are things you just don’t understand.”
And there it was. Chloe had held her head high through all the shit he’d put her through, and somehow Lucifer had managed to do this? “What don’t I understand? That he’s the Devil? Or do you buy that load he’s selling about being a wounded bird with a tragic past?”
Her head snapped up, and she had steel in her voice. “That’s enough, Dan. You don’t like him. I get it, but I work with Lucifer, and so do you. You will find a way to be civil.”
“If he’s such a great partner, then where is he? Huh?”
“He’s waiting in the car. I sent him out. The owner kept muttering about the Devil.”
“Uh, that car?” Dan stepped aside and pointed at Chloe’s empty patrol car with a flourish.
Chloe sighed. “I’ll call him,” she said pulling her phone out and dialing.
Am I only dreaming or is this burning an eternal flame?
Dan held a hand up. “Wait. Do you hear that?”
“Yeah, ‘Eternal Flame.’ Where is it coming from?”
The sound cut off. “Call it again.” Dan followed the ring tone, and on the third call, found Lucifer’s phone with its screen destroyed, almost kicked down the storm drain. He edged it out of danger of falling and waved Chloe over. “We could be interviewing the witnesses, looking at traffic cam footage—”
“Dan, Lucifer would never leave his phone. Something’s happened.”
“Yeah, he dropped his phone, and left it laying here. Remind me to give him a citation for littering.”
“Chloe, he wandered off. It’s what he does. He called an Uber. He walked away. He’s shacked up with the first random stranger that walked by. And now you can’t contact him, because his phone is busted.”
“I was only in the store five minutes before you pulled up. He wouldn’t leave, he knows I need him for this case.”
Dan sighed. She should be furious at Lucifer over all the shit he’d pulled. She had been furious at Lucifer until she wasn’t, and Dan didn’t understand it. “Unlike any of the other times he’s ditched you when you were depending on him.”
She bit her lip. “You might be right…. Wait, do you see that?”
She pointed to a beer bottle in the gutter near where they’d found the phone. “Blood.”
Dan squatted and inspected it. “It’s fresh. You didn’t see or hear anything?”
“Yeah, Dan. I saw people kidnapping Lucifer, but I thought, ‘You know, I’ll deal with that later.’ No, I didn’t see or hear anything. I’m calling for back-up.”
“Are we sure this isn’t like the time we were trying to find that fake kidnapping company and he subbed himself in without telling us?”
“You’re out of line, Dan.” Her tone of voice hit him like a slap.
He shuffled his feet. “What do you need me to do?”
“You go that way, check those warehouses. I’ll check the area closer and meet the back-up.”
“Sure.” He called in his status and set off at a jog to the warehouses.
The first one was noisy with work sounds, machinery whirring and clanking, motors running. He peeked through the window and saw a small industrial manufacturing setup. He’d come back to it if he found nothing else. The next was full of shipping crates, much like the one Lucifer’s ‘wings’ had been stolen from. Nothing seemed obviously off about it. The door was locked and the windows intact, so he moved on.
In the alley between the second and third warehouse, he saw drag marks. He stopped and sent a quick text to Chloe that he might have something, to standby. Moving more cautiously, he slowed his pace. He was nearing the corner when he heard metal screeching and the sound of a body thudding into a warehouse wall. He glanced around the corner and saw Lucifer in the middle of a group of masked men. No weapons were visible, but blood trickled down the side of Lucifer’s face. He scrunched his eyes and shook his head, hands out as if for balance.
Dan drew his weapon, and keeping to cover he said, “All of you, hands where I can see them!”
“Detective Douche! How nice of you to join the party!” Lucifer’s voice was as unsteady as his stance.
“Shut up, Lucifer! Come on, hands. Now!”
“That’s right kiddies! You’ve all been very naughty and Detective Douche is going to put aaaallll of you in jail.”
“You won’t shoot at us. We’ve got a civilian right in the middle of us.”
Dan scoffed. They assumed he didn't want to shoot that civilian, but he said, “I don’t have to shoot you. Back up is on the way. You’ll be surrounded and outnumbered. On the ground now!”
Lucifer stumbled back a step, banging into the man behind him. The man shoved, and Lucifer staggered into the speaker in front of him. That one threw a punch, and blood sprayed from Lucifer’s nose as his head snapped back. It was as if a dam had broken, and they mobbed him. Dan shook his head. Back up wasn’t far away, but he couldn’t stand here and watch them beat a civilian to death.
He ran in, yanked one of them away and kidney punched a second one. He took a grazing punch to the temple, but got inside the third man’s reach and grappled him. He rammed his knee into the man’s groin and let him fall. Something heavy and solid landed across Dan’s shoulders, knocking him to the ground and briefly winding him. He thought he saw a man fly through the air as Lucifer struggled to his feet. Dan shook his head to clear it and made it to his knees before a wooden plank caught him in the ribs, knocking him onto his side.
“Have you got it yet, Rygel? We’re running out of time!”
Dan grabbed the nearest bad guy’s leg and yanked. The man came down beside him, and Dan scrambled forward, the plank missing him and hitting the man he’d brought down.
“Got it! Got it! Got it!” a man shouted.
Dan swung around trying to locate the man with the weapon, when Lucifer screamed. Everyone froze, the sound was inhuman with multiple frequencies overlapping causing building pressure in Dan’s ears and behind his eyes. Then, the terrible sound stopped as if someone flipped a switch and Lucifer hit the ground like a dead man, limp, eyes open and unmoving. Dan lurched toward the consultant, forgetting for a split second his situation. A tackle slammed him into the ground with enough force to knock the breath out of him.
By the time he could breathe again, they had trussed him up like a turkey, hands behind his back and ankles secured. Lucifer! He craned his neck around until he spotted them shoving the consultant into a panel van. Think, Dan! License plate. The men shuffling around climbing into the van obscured the plate.
A hard shove to his ribs, rolled Dan over. “What about the cop?”
“You said my name, idiot! We can’t leave him here.” This must be Rygel. He clutched an object that reminded Dan of that rock from Indiana Jones. Glowing purple light shone from it.
“Throw him in the van. They knew each other. He could be infected.” The voice was deep, gruff, and had that edge to it of someone used to having their commands obeyed.
They tossed Dan into the van, his face sliding across the rough floorboard. One man held onto the back door, keeping it closed as they took off. He glimpsed Lucifer lying on his side at the front of the van, one arm stretched out behind him at an awkward angle, the other flopped forward. Dan focused on his chest, trying to see if he was breathing, but they forced a bag over his head.
The bag smelled like sweaty gym socks, but Dan ignored that and called out, “Lucifer? Lucifer? Talk to me, man.”
A booted foot on his shoulder blade pressed him to the floor. “Shut up.”
“Did you kill him? Is he breathing?”
The pressure from the foot increased until Dan couldn’t draw in a good breath. “Do you want to keep breathing?”
Dan gasped out, “Is. He. Alive?”
The foot left but a knee and a man’s full weight cut short Dan’s relieved breath. Flashes of light sparked against the darkness as Dan tried to answer his brain’s demands that he breathe. Dimly, Dan heard a scuffle. He could breathe again, but everything had an underwater quality to it. They lifted Dan and flung him into something soft.
When the fog cleared he had a raging headache, but he recognized that his head and shoulders were on someone’s stomach. A breathing someone. He squirmed until he found an arm and pushed on it. There was no resistance at all. He sagged with relief. Whatever they had done to Lucifer, at least he was alive.
Dan lost track of how long they were driving. It felt like hours before the van stopped. Hands dragged him out, and when he landed on Lucifer again, this time it was in an enclosed space, a car trunk, he decided. With a slam, the lid closed shutting them in. Lucifer’s rate of breathing picked up.
“Lucifer? You waking up?”
His breathing sped up ragged like a panic attack, but when Dan pressed his head against Lucifer’s arm, there was still no resistance at all. A horrifying thought crept into Dan’s mind.
“Lucifer, have you been awake this whole time?”
The panicked breathing hitched, stopping for just a moment before picking up even faster.
“Was that a yes?”
His breathing stopped longer this time.
“Okay, okay! Keep breathing! We will get out of this. Chloe will find us.”
Chapter 2: Therefore, Their Path Will Become Slippery
Chapter by Miah_Arthur
Thank you to Obliobla for her help and feedback on this chapter!
Therefore, Their Path Will Become Slippery
Dan talked. About nothing. Everything. His mouth grew drier and his voice raspy, but he kept talking. He didn’t know what else to do. Lucifer was breathing and conscious, but not talking or moving. Possible causes ran through his mind as he prattled on, none of them good. Lucifer’s breathing was good and at least a little under his control, but he hadn’t made a sound. Could a spinal injury do that? He’d looked and sounded almost drunk before the fight broke out. Dan wouldn’t put it past the ass to have been sitting in Chloe’s car getting high while he waited, but they might have drugged him with something weird. He’d been bleeding from a head wound. Could this be a head injury complication?
Dan shuddered at the memory of Lucifer screaming before he fell. Rygel had shouted he had ‘Got it!’ just before. He hadn’t seen anyone touch Lucifer before he screamed, but he’d been more than a little busy. The car made a sharp turn, throwing him in full contact with Lucifer. Tremors vibrated against Dan.
“We’ll be okay. I’m sure Chloe is right behind these guys.”
He paused for a response from Lucifer.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know I’m grasping at straws. Can you feel your body?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just barreled ahead talking. “I know, I know. You can’t answer that. Trixie got an A on her last math test. She’s thinking about joining the drama club. Did you know she’s actually nervous about telling Chloe?” He kept it up the inane babble interspersed with serious questions he knew Lucifer couldn’t answer as long as possible, but eventually he couldn’t suppress his revulsion of who he was talking to any longer, civilian or not. “Ugh. Why am I even talking to you?”
Dan fell silent. Lucifer trembled and his breaths quickened, as if Dan’s silence allowed the panic to seep back in. Dan sighed. “I hate you, you know? You use people. You’ve got Chloe all twisted up in knots. The last year’s been hard enough on her, and you withheld information, let her take a murderer into her home with my daughter. You’re a real piece of shit, Lucifer, but no one deserves what happened to John Collins.” The car slowed, then stopped. “I don’t like you, but I’m still a cop and you’re still a civilian. I’ll do whatever I can to protect you.”
The trunk popped open. They dragged Dan out and dumped him on the gravel-covered ground like a sack of potatoes. A few seconds later, Lucifer landed on his legs, pressing his knees into the gravel. They pulled Lucifer away, and Dan heard Velcro straps being opened and closed.
“You two take the first turn. Go on ahead while we deal with the cop.”
A man grunted and then footsteps faded. Other footsteps crunched over to him, and he sensed a man squatting over him. “Pay attention.” A slap punctuated the demand. “You have two choices, cop. You can walk on a lead like a good little piggy, or we kill you here and throw your body down the outhouse hole.”
Dan gritted his teeth. Playing along gave them more time for Chloe to find them. He just had to keep them alive until then. Focus on that. “I’ll walk.”
“Your gun is pointed at your head, in case you get any ideas about trying anything. Stay still.” The handcuffs released and Dan suppressed the groan of relief at the easing of pressure on his shoulders. “Roll over and put your hands together.”
Dan complied, and they replaced the handcuffs with his hands in the front. Something clipped to the connecting chain of the cuffs, then they cut the zip tie around his ankles and Dan was hauled up onto his feet. Hands on his elbows kept him steady until he had his feet underneath him. Then they retreated and the man who had been speaking to him said from several feet away, “Follow me.”
Dan took a hesitant step forward, touching the ground with his toes before shifting his weight. A sharp yank on the cuffs pulled him to the right. His next step was more sure. The ground was level here, so he managed well even without sight. The man began walking, pulling on Dan’s arms. They made steady progress out of the parking lot, but the trail seemed to be poorly maintained, or maybe even non-existent. Loose stones shifted under Dan’s feet, roots and uneven ground caught him off guard and he fell several times.
He was on the ground, trying to catch his breath and decide if his knee was injured or just bruised when they yanked him to his feet again. They didn’t let go of his elbows this time, dragging him forward, keeping him upright when he stumbled. The disorientation built until he was dizzy and carsick.
“I need to stop.”
The one on his left shook his arm. “You’ll stop when we tell you to stop, cop.”
Dan swallowed the acid creeping up his throat and planted his feet. “Going to puke. Need to stop.”
They shoved Dan to the ground and pulled the bag off his head. He blinked in the sudden brightness, his eyes drawn to the bright red dog leash clipped to the handcuffs. He was being led by a cheap dog leash. Bastards. He looked around wildly for Lucifer. He spotted men with a rescue board ahead of them on the trail. Scrubby vegetation and stunted trees surrounded them, and the trail hugged a steep hillside.
The fresh air settled Dan’s stomach. The remote surroundings did not settle his mind. The wilderness near LA was riddled with caves and mines.
“Look at the city-boy. Just leave the bag off. He’s lost without us, anyway.” The man speaking was average height, had a neatly trimmed beard and was dressed like he'd expect of an average hiker: layers of clothes, a floppy hat, a hiking stick.
"Take five. Get a drink. Michael help Rygel," said a man older than any of the others. Dan recognized the authoritative voice from the alley. This was clearly the leader.
They all stopped and were taking the chance to drink from Camel packs or water bottles. Dan's mouth ached with dryness.
"Hey! I need some of that water." Dan called to the men.
A quick glance showed all the men to be white and similarly dressed. He counted eight of them, all much younger than the old man in charge. They left the rescue litter ahead on the trail, and the top of Lucifer's head was the only thing visible from his angle. Lucifer still wasn't moving.
Dan picked out Rygel—small man, face twisted by some kind of palsy, light brown hair, brown eyes—still clutching the glowing stone. Michael—short height, dirty blonde hair, brown eyes, round, baby-face—held the hose of his camel pack for Rygel, who drank, but kept his focus on the stone. The muscles in Dan's legs and back ached. He thought he was in pretty good shape, but the long hike on the bad terrain after the confinement, multiple falls, and nothing to drink was taking a toll on him.
The men stood, stretching. Michael helped Rygel to his feet and held onto his elbow. They dragged Dan to his feet and prodded him into moving. He walked slower. Out in the open, they had a chance of being spotted. A vicious yank on the leash jerked Dan forward, almost making him lose his balance. One man walking beside him—average height and weight, brown hair, blue eyes, clean shaven—laughed, and said, “Keep moving or we’ll put you through ‘obedience’ training.”
“Shut up, Jackson," the leader snapped. "You two go switch out on litter duty. Bastard’s heavier than he looks. We can't miss the witching hour unless you want to take turns holding the sigil all day.”
That lit a fire under Jackson and the other dumbass, a tall, reedy-looking man with brown hair and a sharp, hooked nose. Jackson handed the leash off to a tall, burly man with blond hair, and rushed forward to change places with the men carrying the litter. Dan glimpsed Lucifer while they were shuffling around. Smears of dried blood covered the side of his face in dark contrast with how pale he was. The men shifted and he was hidden from view again. A yank on the lead forced Dan to pay attention to the placement of his feet.
They walked another half hour as the sun set and it rapidly got darker and colder. Dan's foot dragging became less an act. He was exhausted, hungry, and desperately thirsty. The sense of tension in the men around him rose and they swapped litter carriers every ten minutes. Finally they stopped in front of a cave entrance.
“Careful there! Mind the entrance,” Jackson said to the other man carrying the litter.
“Get the lights on!” ordered the old man.
Electric lights surged to life, making Dan’s eyes water. They had just walked at least an hour and a half through wilderness, carrying Lucifer and ended up in a place with electric lights? Was this place that remote or was it another misdirection like switching cars?
The cave was a bluff overhang partially enclosed by a stone wall. Benches made from stacked stone capped with large slabs formed a semi-circle around a large stone altar. A fireplace was built into one corner of the original opening. Lights dangled from metal rings set into the stone. Smaller rings held the wiring aloft. The workmanship looked old, similar in style to pictures Dan had seen of Civilian Conservation Corps work done during the Great Depression.
The dumbass with the hooked-nose strode to the fireplace and stoked the coals banked in the fireplace, feeding it as rapidly as he could without smothering it. The blond man dragged Dan, stumbling, to an area behind the altar. The ones carrying Lucifer left him on the front side and Dan couldn't see him.
“Kneel,” the Blonde holding leash said.
“No fucking way.”
Another man—large, heavily muscled, black hair, long beard—hefted a long metal rod. “Kneel, or we’ll make you.” Dan recognized the voice as the man who'd smothered him in the van.
Dan slowly sank to his knees. “Good boy. Now, hold your hands out.” Blondie snapped a second set of cuffs onto the chain and jerked hard. Dan’s chin hit the stone floor, rattling his teeth. The man snapped the other side of the cuffs onto a heavy ring set into the stone.
“Stay. Be a good little cop, and if it goes well, the demon will be expelled, and you and the man you know as Lucifer Morningstar’ll be free by morning," said Jackson.
Dan pulled his knees back under himself. “Free like John Collins? You tell him you’d let him go in the morning, too?”
The Leader stepped close. “‘For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’" He sighed dramatically. "Collins’ demon was too strong.”
“So you think Lucifer is a demon? What, because the idiot calls himself the devil? You know that’s just him trying to get attention, right?”
“We saw his eyes. His eyes flashed with Hellfire when he woke up. He burned through the sedatives in a block!” Panic edged at Jackson’s voice, and Dan swallowed. If they were dealing with true believers on some crusade, they were so screwed.
“It’s dangerous. You don’t get how lucky you are that no one has gotten killed because of this demon yet.” Blondie said, his voice high and tight.
The leader put a hand on each of their shoulders. “Prepare yourselves. Be strong brothers, we must soon begin.”
Several of the men went to a stack of supplies against the wall across from Dan. They changed into albs and cinctures like he had worn as a torch bearer as a kid at his abuelita's church. While some changed clothes, a couple of others set out candles and lit them. Dan tested the bolt holding him in place. It had no give. They converged on Lucifer and Dan heard the Velcro straps being released. They'd said something about 'witching hour' earlier. If that meant midnight, maybe Dan could distract them past their self-imposed deadline and buy another day.
"Hey, you goat-loving Devil worshipers!"
Blondie stopped to glare at him, but Jackson bumped his shoulder to get him moving again.
"So, this is your demon summoning circle, huh?"
Dan didn't see the blow coming. The heavy, jarring impact on the back of his head thrust him forward as far as the restraints would allow, and then his face smashed into the floor. Pain flared in his nose and wrists. A knee ground into his back again, stopping him from taking a breath.
Muscles leaned in so close, the facial hair tickled Dan's ear. "Stop talking or I'll stop you. You got it?"
Dan nodded, the need for air overpowering all else. Then the weight was gone and Dan could breathe again.
The men hauled Lucifer up onto the altar and ripped his shirt open. A button rolled across the floor and bumped Dan’s fingers. Dan picked it up and gripped it as they stretched thick cables across Lucifer’s ankles, thighs, waist, under his arms, and across his throat. The men bolted them to shiny new anchors set into the floor, tight enough to dig into Lucifer’s skin. His arms dangled over the sides of the altar. Cables were clamped to his wrists, and those were bolted to the floor, too.
Five of the men—Jackson, Muscles, Blondie, Beard, Michael—positioned themselves around the altar, standing on sharp-edged lines cut into the stone in the form of a pentagram. Dumbass was still busy with the fire. Rygel sat on a bench still holding the stone in both hands. Rygel's hands had shifted down and Dan could make out runes in the purple glow. Rygel was sweaty and shaking, staring at Lucifer with extreme concentration. The Leader took a permanent marker and stencil and began drawing on Lucifer’s chest. He started at the top and drew around the edges, counter clockwise while the five chanted in a language Dan didn’t know.
When the man began drawing in the center, Lucifer started to shake. Rygel screamed and fell to his side, but kept his grip on the stone. Lucifer’s breathing was faster than it had been when they were thrown into the trunk, and his face was red. Sweat dripped off him and the shaking in his limbs turned violent. The chanters picked up volume and speed.
“Stop! He’s having a seizure! What did you give him?”
Lucifer’s jaw clenched, foam squeezing from the corners of his mouth. His whole body went rigid, his chest not moving at all as the leader traced a clockwise circle encompassing all the areas he had drawn on Lucifer.
Dan yanked on the cuffs, trying with all his might to loosen the bolt holding him. “He’s not breathing, you bastards! He’s not breathing!”
The man finished the circle and placed his hand in the center, his other hand raised high in the air, adding his voice to the chant. Lucifer was still rigid. Still not breathing. The chanting reached a crescendo and Dan fell forward. If he had cooperated less. If he had dragged his feet more. Fought harder. With a final, shouted word, and a bright flash of light the chanting stopped.
Rygel dropping the stone to the floor broke the silence. Lucifer lay limp on the altar, completely still. Dan opened his mouth to beg them to let him try to save him, when Lucifer gasped. His shoulders shook and tears slid down his cheek. Dan didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or join Lucifer in letting some tears escape.
A whimper was his only answer.
That got his attention. Lucifer tried to turn his head, but when the cable restricted his movement, he began to struggle. The muscles in his arms corded, pulling against the cables. A high-pitched whine cut off with a strangled sound as he tried to lift his head.
“Lucifer, stop. Wh-Why can’t he open his eyes? What did you do to him?”
The leader put a hand on Lucifer’s forehead, keeping him from choking himself on the cable. He pulled something from Lucifer’s eyes. Tape. It stuck to his fingers, and he had to wave his hand to get rid of it. Lucifer stopped struggling.
“What have you imbeciles done?” Lucifer rasped.
“We have challenged the demon and won.”
Blood dripped from Lucifer’s wrists.
Dan swallowed. He may not be much of a cop, but he was still obligated to protect an injured civilian. Even an ass like Lucifer. “Hey, leader guy. It went well. No demons here. You can let us go.”
The man’s voice wavered—uncertainty, exhaustion—Dan didn’t know. “We must protect him permanently or the demon could re-enter his body.”
Lucifer laughed, a low, throaty sound. “You think you can banish the Devil?”
Idiot! Never could keep his damn mouth shut.
The leader jerked his hand away from Lucifer like it had scalded him.
“You will leave that body, demon.”
“Since this is my body, the only way I leave it is death, and that is such an inconvenience.”
“Shut up, Lucifer!”
“You have no power here. You are bound or you would have broken those chains. We have contained your evil power. If this man must die to send you back to Hell, then so be it!”
“You seem to be confused. I am the Devil. This is my body not a borrowed vessel.” Lucifer’s voice grew weaker as he spoke until Dan could barely hear him.
“You grow weaker already, demon. You will not win. The first binding!”
The man at the fire approached the altar holding a metal rod with a shape bent into one end. Dan saw heat waves coming off it. He swallowed. It was a branding iron. He hadn’t gotten the full autopsy report, but he’d seen the gruesome crime scene photos of the wounds John Collins had suffered. The five men at the points of the pentagram resumed chanting.
The leader took the iron and held it over Lucifer’s chest. Now Lucifer was quiet. Of course.
“Don’t!” Dan shouted, straining against the bolt again. “Please, don’t do that.”
The hot metal touched Lucifer’s skin with a sizzle. Lucifer jolted and bit back a cry. The leader rocked the branding iron side to side before ripping it away. Lucifer jolted again and a louder sound escaped. His breaths came in sharp bursts.
The leader approached with a second iron, and Lucifer gasped out, “You will not defeat me.”
The man’s response was pressing the metal to Lucifer’s chest.
The smell of burning flesh hit Dan. The scent and the earlier sizzle made grilling steaks flash through his mind and heaves tore through his gut. He got control of himself, only to have the smell hit again and start it over.
“No.” Lucifer tossed his head side to side, rubbing against the tight binding. “No.”
The leader approached with another brand. How many marks had been on Collins? Dan didn’t remember. This was three, right? He hadn’t missed one while puking? Collins survived this. He died of infection. Lucifer would make it through—
Lucifer howled, a ragged, desperate sound. Dan turned away, eyes clenched shut, but nothing blocked the sounds. Blind panic took Dan. When he came back to himself he lay on his side in the vomit, shaking. Lucifer was screaming. The acrid, clinging smell filled Dan’s nose. The sticky liquid matted his hair to his head and soaked through his jacket to skin. He jerked away from it.
He tried to jerk away from it. His body didn’t respond. Just. Just roll to the side, Dan. Move your head. But nothing happened. Vomit oozed between his cheek and the floor, spreading and he wasn’t gagging. Why wasn’t he gagging? Fingers. Just wiggle a single finger... He tried. He tried to open his mouth to speak, to shout, to cry out. He couldn’t move. He couldn’t even gasp and panic and breathe faster. The air was heavy like pudding and his lungs dug through it at their own pace.
He could only watch as Lucifer’s scream trailed off, lost in a hoarse squeak. Through a veil he catalogued that Lucifer was trembling, sweating, pale. The room grew dimmer; the veil thicker with the drone of the chanting, forming a wall around him. He floated in the chanting, watching them approach Lucifer with another brand. Lucifer was jerking and twitching like he had as they had drawn on him. His body went rigid again when the brand pressed into him, but no sound reached Dan’s ears. If he closed his eyes, he could float away, forget where he was.
No. Dan told himself. He was a witness. Testimony would be required at a trial. He had to see it through. Focus, Dan. You’re a cop. You have to do this.
Lucifer’s chest heaved as Dumbass pulled a bigger brand from the fire and sauntered toward the altar with it. His eyes squeezed shut as the brand descended to his chest. They flew open and his mouth opened with no sound when it pressed into him. His body was rigid again, no movement of breathing, even after the iron was pulled away. Part of Dan gibbered in a corner of his mind, begging him to close his eyes, to make it stop, to just fucking move, but he couldn’t. Couldn’t do any of it. Tears trailed down his face, tickling, one more thing he couldn’t fix.
A ribbon of flesh dangled from the iron as they carried it back to the fireplace, and Dan noted it with the part of him that wasn’t a gibbering wreck. The part that was squeezed his eyes shut and send a prayer toward Heaven before retreating again. Lucifer’s face had shaded through red into purple, and still he was rigid, chest unmoving. The leader dragged a straight bar in a circle around the other burns.
Please God let this be over, played on repeat in Dan’s head. Tears and snot dripped to the floor. The chanting pounded into him, short circuiting any logical thought. Lucifer turned blue-ish grey.
Lucifer collapsed. Limp.
The leader accepted a fresh iron from the fire attendant.
Move! Damn, you, Dan! Move! Words tumbled out of his mouth unbidden, a jumbled, broken pile of shit that didn’t even make sense to him. The leader pulled the rod along Lucifer’s chest and the sound of sizzling flesh hit Dan again louder than any other sound in the room. Louder than the chanting. Louder than his own babbling. Searing into his brain.
The leader completed the circle and dropped the iron. He pressed a hand to Lucifer’s chest and lifted the other into the air as he had before, shouting in whatever bullshit language they were using. Light glowed, under his hand, spreading across Lucifer’s chest, building, brightening, until Dan had to squint his eyes closed or be blinded.
The men shouted a final word; the light flashed even brighter, and Dan heard them all hit the ground.
Silence reigned as Dan opened his eyes. Spots and afterimage flashes of color danced in his vision. He blinked trying to clear them away. Lucifer’s chest rose and fell steadily. Relief washed Dan away to a welcome nothingness. His senses were all silent, and he drifted almost without thought.
The impact of a booted foot against his ribs shattered the blankness, and yanked Dan back into the cave, into his body, into the cold, congealed puddle of vomit and the smell of cooked meat, the pain in his wrists and arms, the panicked thought that he might be next, all jumbled by more kicks and cursing from the cultist.
Dan scrabbled back, away from the man. The guy didn’t follow him, but kept yelling, gesturing in disgust at the mess Dan had made of himself. The guy was disgusted at puke as if he hadn’t just taken part in barbecuing a man alive. Dan shied away from that thought. He didn’t have time to fall apart again. He had to survive this.
The jumble of sensory input sorted itself into something that made sense. Behind him, cult members surrounded the altar, Lucifer’s arm was free on the side Dan could see, and two of them were using heavy bolt cutters to free his legs. Blood dripped to the floor from his wrist, and he wasn’t moving, but he was still breathing steadily.
“Get over here and help us,” the leader shouted. The man who had been kicking Dan—Muscles—gave him one more disgusted sneer and trotted over to the altar. Together they picked Lucifer up, carrying him by his arms and legs, letting his head hang back, dragging along the stone floor. As they passed Dan going deeper into the cave, he got his first glimpse of Lucifer’s chest. Charred grey and white flesh surrounded by peeling blackened skin, and red blisters formed a near continuous mass of ruin that obscured whatever design they had been trying to sear into him.
Dan froze. He was next. The cultists made it to the back of the cave and swung Lucifer back toward him and then forward, tossing him over a ledge that Dan hadn’t known existed.
Dan heard Lucifer’s body hit with a distant thud.
The men turned as one to Dan.
Chapter 3: They Will Be Banished to Darkness
Chapter by Miah_Arthur
I couldn't wait a whole week to post the next chapter!
They Will Be Banished to Darkness
“He puked everywhere.” Muscles, the guy who’d been kicking him, whined.
“Get a bucket of water,” the leader ordered.
“What? You can cook someone alive, but only when they’re clean?” Dan clamped his mouth shut. That had been more terrified squeak than bravado.
The leader crouched, looking in his eyes. “Do you have a demon within you?”
Beard placed a bucket of water in front of him.
“No. And neither did Lucifer. He’s just a rich idiot playing a game. Call an ambulance. There—”
A fist snapped Dan’s head to the side. He was blinking, trying to clear his vision when they grabbed him from behind and shoved his head down. He sucked in water and came up coughing and spluttering. Before he caught up to what was happening, one of them scrubbed a rag hard over his face. He held his breath the second before they forced his head back into the bucket.
They held him under longer, waiting until he panicked. Spots filled his vision when they hauled him back up, and he couldn’t even muster up a protest when they pulled his shirt and jacket over his head, leaving them tangled on his handcuffed wrists. They dragged him toward the altar, and Dan tried. With everything he had left in him, he tried to stop from getting put on that altar. Hobbled and half-drowned and surrounded, they easily overpowered him.
“I’m not a demon! I’m not a demon! I’m not possessed!”
They lifted him onto the altar. The overwhelming smell of burnt, cooked meat set Dan to gagging again. He had nothing left to expel, but the gagging didn’t stop. Hands pressed his head down onto the altar and a finger jammed against his nose, up his nose, smearing Vick’s all around. With the scent blocked by the salve, Dan’s stomach finally settled. The cult leader appeared with the stone that had been glowing earlier. It looked like a regular brown rock now, but Dan figured it must be some kind of plastic with a light inside it.
“We will test you. If you are lying, you will be banished, and this body sealed against demonic power.” The leader held the stone over Dan’s chest and mumbled words.
Sealed. Branded. Dan's heart raced. He couldn't breathe.
A spark of light flared within the stone and died. The man looked surprised and redoubled his efforts, his arms shaking with the force of his grip on the stone. Dan took in the faces of the other cult members, the ones holding him in place. They looked uneasy, and a ray of hope rose in Dan. The light in the stone flared and died again.
The leader passed the stone to someone behind him and patted Dan on the shoulder. “You are clear, my son. It is unfortunate that you were so enthralled by the demon within that man as to aide it.”
“We’re all clear of demons, so let us go.”
“Oh no. We have cleansed the other, but he is weak-minded. Susceptible to possession. We must ensure that his demon can never return to him.”
“It is better to die an early death as a free soul than one shackled to a demon in hell for all eternity.” The man gestured at the others. “Hold him tight.”
The hands holding Dan tightened painfully, and the leader pulled a marker out of a pocket.
Dan squirmed in their grip, the panic rising in him again. “I thought you said, I was clear. No need for all that burning stuff.”
The man began drawing. “This sigil is for your own protection. The demon will try to enter you if it returns to find itself blocked from him.”
No chanting or flashes of light this time, only tickling from the marker being drawn over his chest. The leader capped the marker and nodded to the others. They lifted Dan from the altar and dragged him toward the back of the cave where they had taken Lucifer. They stopped in front of a dark space bracketed by broken safety railing.
“We have ensured you will die free of the demon. Know that your sacrifice will save many souls,” the leader said.
The men holding Dan shoved, and he had a moment of panic, long enough to pull his arms up over his head before hitting the stone floor. His feet hit first, and he folded with the impact, trying to let his body roll with it as much as possible. His left side hit the floor, and it knocked the breath out of him. His ears rang and panic clawed at him as he choked and gulped for air. When he could breathe, the rest of his body started shouting at him. The pressure of his head on his arm strobed a white hot point of pain with every heartbeat.
He rolled onto his back, and new pains shouted at him. His ankle shot fiery spikes of pain up his leg, and his back protested moving at all. He clenched his teeth hard against the scream that wanted to come out. Focus on what he had to do. Get out of the cuffs. Get his flashlight. Scan the area for dangers. Assess Lucifer’s condition. He was in pain, but none of his injuries were life threatening. Those burns were. Get moving, Dan.
Every move of his right arm, put extra pressure on his left. He gritted his teeth and inched his fingers over to his magazine and flashlight holster. Thank god they hadn’t taken that when they took his gun holster. He teased the cuff key out and made sure he had a very secure grip on it before trying to find the keyhole. The key slipped, jolting his broken arm. He gasped then lay there panting through the pain, working up the control to move again.
“Daniel?” Lucifer’s voice was quavery and so quiet Dan almost missed it.
“I’m here.” He slid the key carefully along the cuffs.
“What is?” If he kept Lucifer talking, then at least he knew the guy was still alive. Dan’s hand was shaking from keeping a too tight grip for so long when the key slid in. He turned it and the pressure snapped free of his wrist. The relief almost unsettled his stomach. Step one down. The cuff still on his right arm shifted, heavy and pinching. Half done then. He shoved the key deep in his pants pocket. He didn’t trust his broken hand to not drop it, and he needed light to find the tiny thing if he did. He carefully sat up and slowly shifted until he found the position that hurt the least.
“Lucifer?” He waited, listening for sound, movement, breathing, but heard nothing over the distant noise of the men moving and urging each other to pack faster in the cavern above. “Hey, Lucifer, what did you mean, it’s wrong?”
The words slurred together, but Dan breathed a little easier. “I’m coming over there. Just hang on.”
Step two. Get the flashlight. You can do this. His right hand was still shaking as he reached over and tugged on the flashlight. It was seated firmly, as it should be, but right now, it was just pissing him off. Ah! There. He yanked, and the flashlight cleared the holster...and flew from his weak grasp.
It rolled loudly across the room.
Dan didn’t stop to think; he launched himself after the flashlight. His back clenched, the muscles spasming against each movement. All he managed was a clumsy commando crawl. His world narrowed down to drag himself forward, pat around for the flashlight, catch his breath, and do it again. The room was bigger than he had thought it would be, and the floor became more damp the further he crawled. There might be water down here. If so, their chances of survival just jumped.
Dammit, where was the flashlight?
His next move forward, his fingers brushed the cold metal of the flashlight. He clutched it tightly, laughing in relief. He schooled himself. Enough of a moment, Dan. Get to work.
He clicked the flashlight and squinted in the sudden brightness. Close to him, a column of rock jutted out from the wall. Soft moss clung to it in a trail from the ceiling to the floor and covered a shallow indent in the floor where a tiny pool of water had collected. The water trickled over the rim of the indent and disappeared into a tiny cleft in the back wall. Dan got close enough to touch the water. It didn’t feel oily or have an off color. He sniffed. No off odors, so probably not some leaking outhouse tank. He scooped a handful to his mouth. It was cool and sank into his parched tongue. His body screamed at him to drink more and keep drinking until the pool had run out, but he controlled himself. If he didn’t get sick from it, he’d give it to Lucifer. Burn patients lose a lot of water, and Lucifer would need it more.
Damn it, he’d forgotten to keep Lucifer talking. “Lucifer?” Silence.
Dan pushed the surge of worry down. “Step three. Step three. There is a plan. Follow it,” he muttered to himself as he sat up and scanned the room. Lucifer. Dan shook his head. Assess for danger, first. He had made it nearly to the back wall in his crawling. The floor was very smooth and free of rocks and other large litter items. Almost like someone had swept it, as odd as that sounded. The wall was about fifteen feet high and smooth. Sheared away metal posts jutting out just below the intact section of safety railing, might have once supported stairs. Gone now, and way too high for him to scale. Sitting up and moving around stirred the air and now he got an outhouse whiff. There in the farthest back corner, opposite where the spring water disappeared. At least John Collins had been polite with his mess.
And then what he had been avoiding. Lucifer lay on his side, limbs tangled. His shoulder moved slightly with each steady breath, which lowered Dan’s tension. There was blood under Lucifer's hands, and an image of it dripping to the floor flashed through Dan’s mind. He needed to get over there.
The flashlight clattered to the floor.
Dan stared at his fingers for a moment before he realized they were numb. The cuff had to come off now.
He worked at his pocket, trying to find the key, until he pulled the pocket inside out in frustration. The key clinked on the floor beside him. Looking at his fingers, he could make them move the way he wanted them to, and he soon had the key. He swallowed hard. He could do this. He placed the key in his left hand and did it as quickly as possible. Blood rushed to his fingers. He bit his lip and held both arms still until the pain settled into something tolerable.
He opened and closed his fingers. They tingled and his pinky stayed numb, but good enough for now. Dan mapped his moves out, set his goals, and using the dry section of the wall as a support, he worked his way to his feet. The ankle was bad, but he’d make it.
Four steps to his coat and henley. No more sounds were coming from the cave above.
They had been abandoned.
The department had offered the opportunity for certification in advanced first aid last year. The training was screaming at Dan that what he’d seen wasn’t likely to be survivable without serious medical intervention in a burn center, but he’d give it his best shot, anyway. He could at least not let Lucifer die alone in the dark. Even an asshole like Lucifer didn’t deserve that.
Five steps to Lucifer. Dammit, his steps were getting shorter, the room wavering around him.
Dan lowered himself to his knees. “Lucifer.” Dan waited for a response then gripped Lucifer’s shoulder and repeated himself, louder. He got a low moan in response. Lucifer was breathing steadily, with no signs of difficulties. Dan checked his pulse. It was normal, strong and steady. Now that he was closer, he saw that the wounds on Lucifer’s wrists had already clotted. Then there was the burn. This close, Dan smelled it, even over the Vick’s and his stomach clenched spitefully.
He had to roll Lucifer. If this was a normal situation, Dan would stabilize the head and wait for an ambulance with its cervical collar and backboard. He glanced at the high wall behind him. They were on their own. He emptied his jacket pockets. He placed the supplies—duct tape card, paracord, Swiss Army knife, gloves, mini first aid kit, CPR shield—to one side and, after checking for wounds on Lucifer's back, he rolled the jacket up against Lucifer. Okay. Here goes, Dan.
“Lucifer, I’m going to roll you onto your back now.”
He waited, holding a ridiculous spark of hope that Lucifer would gasp and jump up and be fine. He had done it before, in his penthouse, but there was nothing, and he couldn’t do this one handed. He clenched his teeth, took two deep breaths, and gripped Lucifer at the hip and shoulder and pulled him onto his back. Spots danced in his vision, but he kept moving. He shifted his grip to Lucifer’s other hip and shoulder, rolling him up against Dan’s thighs, and tugging the rolled up part of the jacket out flat, so that when he lowered him again, he was on the jacket.
Tacky blood coated the side of Lucifer’s face and matted his hair. A head shaped puddle of it remained on the ground. Dan brushed the hair back and saw a small cut sluggishly trickling blood. Dan pressed a gauze pad to it and held pressure. After a minute, he let go, and the bleeding didn’t resume.
He flipped open Lucifer’s shirt and got his first good look at the burns. The sight hit Dan’s stomach like a brick, even though they weren’t as extensive as he’d feared from that glimpse. There were definite third-degree burns everywhere they had drawn on his own chest, but the first and second-degree burns weren’t as extensive as he’d thought. Dan swallowed hard. Dirt stuck to the wounds that had been closest to the floor.
They needed to be cleaned.
His vision swam, and he swayed. He gritted his teeth and took slow, deep breaths until it passed. Something hard in Lucifer’s jacket was pressing into Dan’s knee. He started searching, and found the flask, half full of something nose burningly strong, a lighter, drugs. Of course there were drugs. Why was he surprised? Pocket square, condoms, lube, make-up, cash, hand sanitizer, wallet, fancy pen. Added to his own supplies, they were only missing the little things like food and water.
Lucifer gasped, his eyes flying open. “Daniel?” his voice was breathy.
“Did-did they”—his eyes found Dan’s bare chest, covered with the marker design, but no burns—”good." He swallowed and closed his eyes.
“No way. You keep your eyes open and talk to me.”
Lucifer’s only response was to make a humming sound. Dan opened the flask and positioned it over the contaminated wounds.
“I have to clean the dirt out of these burns.”
He didn’t give Lucifer time to form a protest before pouring. Lucifer twitched his fingers and hissed his breath between clenched teeth when the alcohol hit the burns, but he didn’t move, and that was getting damn concerning. With the debris washed away, Dan spread the pocket square over Lucifer’s chest and buttoned his shirt over it. The best thing he could do now was keeping the burns free of dirt.
“Lucifer,” he said, taking Lucifer’s hand, “Can you feel this?”
“H-holding hands on a f-first date, Daniel?”
“Yes or no is plenty,” Dan said. “Squeeze my hand.” Lucifer’s fingers twitched, then he slowly curled them into a loose circle. “Are you having tingling or numbness?”
“I feel them,” Lucifer snapped. He squeezed his eyes shut and his hand shook. “Why isn’t it working?” His other hand shook too and his breathing sped up.
“Lucifer. Hey, Lucifer!” Once he made eye contact, Dan said, “Calm down, man. Breathe. Come on, in and out, in and out.”
Lucifer’s breathing slowed and a smirk spread. Damn it. Walked into that one, Dan! Lucifer opened his mouth, but Dan spoke first.
“And no jokes about in and out. I’m on the edge here. Any blurred vision, double vision, anything like that?”
“No. This is so much more….” Lucifer’s voice trailed off.
Dan had been moving toward Lucifer’s feet, but stopped, swaying in place. “Lucifer?”
“Tedious without innuendo,” finished slowly.
The dreamy quality to Lucifer’s voice worried Dan. He palpated down Lucifer’s leg as he moved, and whether it was because Dan had told him not to, or he was fading out, Lucifer didn’t comment when Dan checked for genital injuries. Either was bad, because since when did Lucifer miss an opportunity like that?
“Lucifer.” No response. “Lucifer!”
He squeezed the toes on the foot nearer to him. “Can you feel this?”
“Can you do yes or no for me?” Exhaustion swept over Dan.
Lucifer’s answer was too long in coming, but finally, he said, “Yes.”
“Can you feel this?”
Dan let go and repeated the question.
“No. Are-are you?” Lucifer sounded so much smaller and lost than he had any right to, given his normal obnoxious swagger.
Dan blurted out. “No, no, I was just checking. I wasn’t touching you then. Can you press against my hand with your toes?” His feet moved like his hands: slow and very, very weak.
You had to move him. No choice. He kept repeating it to himself, but he couldn’t drown out the voice that was screaming spinal injury to him. He would have to keep moving him, too. If he didn’t get liquids into Lucifer to replace what he was losing through those burns, he wouldn’t make it long enough to worry about a spinal injury.
Back near his supplies again, he spread the silver emergency blanket over Lucifer. Lucifer’s eyes were closed. Dan needed to rest. Just a second. Then he’d get some water. He scooted a few inches and leaned against the wall. He clicked the flashlight and closed his eyes. Just for a moment.
Just for a moment.
And There They Will Fall
“Daniel. Daniel. Dan!”
Dan groaned and batted at the noise. His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth and his head felt full of cotton.
“Daniel, I need you to wake up, now.”
Dan pried his eyes open. They were gritty and dry. The dim light made deep shadows. He should be doing something…
Dan’s mind rebooted, and he bolted up—only to fall back to the cold, hard, stone floor. His back muscles were knotted into one solid, non-movable mass. His arm throbbed and pulsed.
“Daniel?” Lucifer’s voice held a note of uncertainty.
Voice trembling, Lucifer said, “It should be healing.”
Dan scrubbed at the crud on his eyelids with his good hand. “What?”
“It’s been hours.” Lucifer stated this like it should be significant and obvious, but Dan didn’t get it.
He gave up getting his eyes clear and turned to look at Lucifer. He was in the same position Dan had left him. A light sheen of sweat covered his face. His breaths came too fast and his skin was greyish.
“Fuck,” Dan muttered as he rolled to his knees. His ankle’s protest was a dim back note to the other parts of him protesting.
Lucifer’s eyes were unfocused. Dan snapped his fingers in front of Lucifer’s face. “Hey, man. Focus. Look at me.”
Lucifer blinked several times before his gaze settled on Dan. “Daniel?”
“It’s not going away. Why isn’t it going away?” It was plaintive and needy, and...Fuck was Dan tired of this game Lucifer played.
Dan’s temper rose higher than his groggy ability to control it. He raised his voice as much as his dry throat would allow. “Really? You won’t drop that stupid act, even now?”
Lucifer’s eyes drifted to the ceiling, losing their focus again and his hands shook. “The spell. They must have used actual magic.”
“Stop. Just stop, okay? Your crazy-ass nonsense is why we’re in this hole to begin with!”
Lucifer looked at Dan with a child-like expression. “But I am the devil.”
Dan sighed. “Okay, fine. You really are crazy. Be the devil for all I care. I’ll be over here trying to keep us both alive.”
He grabbed the flask from the pile of supplies. Cleaning the burns had taken all the liquor. He hobbled over to the corner and relieved himself, then to the pool of water and filled the flask. His mouth and throat burned for more than the half flask he allowed himself. He needed to get water into Lucifer before the guy went into shock.
“It’s not healing, Daniel.” Lucifer still sounded like a lost kid and it hit Dan in the dad part of his brain, which annoyed him at the same time as it urged him to be sympathetic.
“Yeah, I know. Magic blah, blah, blah. You gotta drink this.” Dan tried holding the flask in his left hand, but it wouldn’t grip it tight enough. “Can you move at all?”
Lucifer’s hands and arms shook again and his head lifted fractionally. “It-How did those imbeciles learn actual magic?”
Dan clenched his jaw. The man may be out of his mind, but he was an injured civilian. Dan needed to be a good cop here. He needed to prove to himself he could be the man he wanted to be, not the loser fuck-up he saw in the mirror. Steeled for what he had to do, Dan pulled and tugged on Lucifer until he had Lucifer’s head and upper back supported on his leg and the broken arm. The arm throbbed with his pulse and it took Dan a while to refocus on his task.
At least Lucifer cooperated by keeping silent through the moving and then drank the water without complaining that it wasn’t whiskey or whatever expensive shit Dan had poured out last night. He looked back at the water pit. Constantly lifting Lucifer was a bad idea on so many levels. With light the distance looked doable. If he dragged Lucifer to the dry side of the column, the water would be within his reach.
Dan pulled his jacket out from under Lucifer and stuffed everything into the pockets. “I’m moving you to the water,” he said and pulled Lucifer higher, against his chest. With both arms wrapped around Lucifer’s stomach, below the burns, he snugged Lucifer even higher, almost in his lap. Lucifer’s head rested on Dan’s shoulder.
“N-not taking me to dinner first, Daniel?”
“Shut up.” Dan kept his broken arm wrapped around Lucifer and using his good arm and his legs, he hauled them back. It jarred every part of him that hurt.
Lucifer’s voice dropped to a shaky whisper, forcing Dan to concentrate to make out his words. “I’m sure we could work something out.”
Another lurch back and the muscles in Dan’s back knotted up. The distance looked so much further now. The muscle gave way after a few seconds and Dan prepared to move again. “Seriously.” He heaved back again. “Shut the fuck up.”
Lucifer kept talking. “Unfortunately, it won’t be the premiere Devil Experience under these conditions, but when I break through this blasted spell, I promise to make the next time extra special.”
Dan gritted his teeth. Most of his body felt like it was on fire. He was out of breath and hot despite the coolness of the cave. He ground out, “I will never have sex with you.”
“Are you quite certain, my dear Daniel?” Lucifer’s voice had gone high and breathless.
Dan checked that he wasn’t pressing on the burns. “Do you need a break?"
“D-don’t tell me, you can’t get to com-completion. Was th-that the problem—”
“You really don’t want to finish that one, Lucifer.” He was quiet for the next two lurching moves, only breathing harshly.
Him not talking was too disconcerting. “Lucifer?”
“Say I did want to have sex with you?”
“Well. Daniel. I will happily accommodate you.” His voice trailed off in strength. “Did you bring the lube with us?”
“What the hell, man? Not here.” Dan pulled back again and his shoulder hit the wall.
Dan adjusted and squirmed until his back was solidly against the wall. “Come on, Lucifer,” he said, trying to adjust the man’s long limbs into something less uncomfortable.
Lucifer didn’t speak as Dan shifted and moved him, but when Dan finally stilled he said, “Even I need more than that to come.”
“Ha. Ha.” He spread the jacket and space blanket over them. “How’s that? Comfortable?” He dipped the flask into the pool of water. He wasn’t sure how long it had taken to move them, probably less time than he thought, but the pool of water hadn’t noticeably filled since he'd left it. His head buzzed and his throat hurt, but there was not nearly enough for both of them.
“Can you still feel your fingers and toes?”
Lucifer sighed. “Don’t be a fussbudget. I do not have a spinal injury.”
“Really? So you could have just walked over here?”
“Of course not. The spell is interfering at the moment.”
Dan picked up the filled flask. “I always thought this whole devil thing was a schtick. I even thought it was funny for a while.” He took a drink from the flask. “But you’re just crazy, aren’t you?”
“I could show you proof.”
Lucifer’s tone was exactly like the one Trixie used on him when she tried to sell him a load of bull and he wasn’t buying it, so he gave the same response. “Yeah? Go for it. Show me. Right here, right now.”
“That’s what I thought.” He thrust the flask up to Lucifer’s face. “Here. Drink. You need it.”
After Lucifer had drained the flask, he said very seriously, “If you still desire it when I have broken free of this spell, I will show you.” He cleared his throat, his tone changing into the one that so often irritated Dan at the station. “Maybe you’ll even find you do want to bugger the devil you know.”
Dan snorted. “Unlikely.”
“I know you like what you see.” Lucifer purred.
Dan took a deep breath. He’d had a good relationship with Lucifer once. Bonding over nineties action movies and joking around. He’d thought they'd been developing a better relationship after he’d called him on the doucheyness of mocking his improv. Then… He bit back on that line of thinking. “I’m trying here. I really am. You’re a civilian. I’m a cop. I’m trying, but damn it I’m done for now. Go to sleep or something.”
Lucifer drew in a deep breath. “Very well, Daniel.”
Dan did some breathing exercises trying to calm down. The next thing he knew, he was blinking his eyes open to the sound of Lucifer coughing. A small, soft cough with very little air behind it.
“Lucifer? You okay?”
The breathless tone made Dan sit up straighter. They had slumped over sometime while Dan had been sleeping, and Lucifer… Dan pulled him out of the folded posture he’d fallen into. Lucifer drew in several deep breaths.
“Much better. Thank you, Daniel.”
Dan reached for the flask in the pool of water. He held it up for Lucifer. “So, you still under a magic spell?”
He sighed. “Yes, Daniel. I know you don’t believe me.” He drank the water. “I am sorry that you were caught in this.”
Dan put the flask back into the nearly depleted pool.
It was silent for a couple of minutes. Then Lucifer said, “Daniel. Dan. Are you not going to drink as well?”
Dan’s head hurt, exhaustion weighed him down, and his throat ached, but he would survive without it. “Not thirsty.”
“Dan, how much water have you had?” Lucifer’s voice lacked his normal flirting tones. Dan had rarely heard him so serious.
“It’s fine.” He picked at Lucifer’s soaked shirt front. “I don’t have burns leaking fluids everywhere.”
Lucifer took several deep breaths before he spoke. “I can’t move, Daniel. I’m helpless. I need you to drink the water.”
Lucifer’s quiet, steady admission stunned Dan—Dan hadn’t thought he had it in him. He patted him on the shoulder and said, “Okay, Lucifer.” He took the flask and drained it. The pool of water didn’t have enough water to fill it again.
“Thank you ever so much, Daniel. If I let you wither away, there’s no chance of that buggering you mentioned earlier.”
The way Lucifer said helpless and earlier how small he’d sounded when he said it should have healed already; the reality that Lucifer wasn’t putting on an act for attention truly set in. He really believed he was the immortal devil. He believed that he wasn’t paralyzed. Dan tried to imagine how Lucifer’s psyche would cope with the cognitive dissonance of weeks of debridement and skin grafts, of physical therapy—Dan swallowed—of being manhandled and managed. He couldn’t even hold his head up on his own to keep his airway open.
Somewhere in that lunatic mind, he must know what these injuries meant. If it kept him calm and happy, Dan would play his game. “That was a hypothetical earlier.”
“Change that to theoretical won’t you, so we can put the theory to practice.”
Dan groaned. “Shouldn’t I be the one making dad jokes?” He checked that he had arranged Lucifer’s arms comfortably. If he’d paid more attention earlier to how they were sitting, Lucifer wouldn’t have almost smothered. He needed to remember to shift Lucifer’s position more often. They didn’t need to add pressure sores to their list of problems.
“Not at all dear, Daniel. I find a good-or bad-joke to be just the thing to aide in loosening some people up.”
“Loosening them up, huh?”
“Exactly!” Lucifer gulped a deeper breath and continued quieter, “Exactly, now you’re getting it.”
Dan grinned and leaned closer to Lucifer’s ear. “And how exactly would you go about loosening me up?”
Lucifer made a humming sound as he considered. Dan’s mind spun in lazy circles, unable to fully latch onto a plan. Should he look at the burns? The whole front of Lucifer’s shirt was wet and sticky with the burn fluids. He decided no.
“Scotch, I believe. Body Bags Four. Together on my sofa. Just close enough to reach out and encourage you.”
Lucifer’s voice was impossibly sultry given the circumstances, and Dan lost himself for a moment in imagining the scenario. He may not like Lucifer, but he had to admit that the guy had a great body. The view when they’d stripped in the Russian bathhouse had been very appreciated. Once, he might’ve entertained thoughts of letting this ‘theory’ be tested as Lucifer suggested, but now….
“Have I struck you speechless? If you’re doing naughty things to me in your imagination, you must share them.”
“A couple years ago, I thought we were heading toward friendship, Lucifer, one where that might have been more than a fantasy.” His throat burned and his voice croaked. Now he was the plaintive one. “You even gave me that desk fridge for my pudding that year for Christmas.”
“The theft of your property was getting out of hand.” Lucifer sounded more wheezy. Dan shifted them, hoping to help, hauling Lucifer into place. Lucifer huffed, but said nothing.
When Lucifer remained quiet, he asked, “So why all the pranks lately?”
“Whatever do you mean, Daniel?” Lucifer’s voice was stronger again, no more wheezing. It was also pure innocence, like sugar wouldn’t melt in his mouth, which reminded Dan of all the reasons he hated Lucifer these days.
“Moving my stuff around, stealing my reports and throwing them around as paper airplanes, stealing my coffee cup, post-it notes all over my desk, the three times my chair was loosened enough to fall apart when I sat in it.”
Dan fumed, but continued. “And the Chewbacca thing. Do you know how many phone calls I got with people screeching into the—”
Dan was too worked up to let Lucifer interrupt him. “Phone. And it’s my work number, I can’t not answer. I’m still getting calls!”
“Dan, I’ve not been pranking you.” Lucifer’s tone was the same quiet, serious one he had used earlier to convince Dan to drink. “You explained that it hurt you, and I respected that. I never meant to hurt you. Any of you.”
“But. But you laughed.” Dan spluttered. He’d been so sure it was Lucifer.
The jerk laughed again. “I’m not going to allow something as amusing as Star Wars furries howling at you over the telephone go unappreciated.”
Dan’s cheeks grew warm, and he was glad Lucifer couldn’t see it. “You haven’t been doing it?”
“Honestly, Daniel I have been rather preoccupied of late.” His tone shifted to sultry again. “Of course, I’d rather be occupying you.”
The room spun and Dan’s stomach felt queasy. “I...I think we need to lie down.”
“That is one way to do it. Quite possibly the only way for it at the moment, I’m afraid.”
“I’ll have to take a theoretical raincheck on that.” He shook his head trying to clear the room up and had to swallow hard to keep the water in his stomach. “I’m… I’m not sure I can stay awake, and I don’t want you to choke.”
“There are many preferable ways to choke.”
Dan pushed them over to their sides and arranged Lucifer into the recovery position before pressing close up behind him and sliding his good arm back under Lucifer’s head. He struggled to catch his breath and the edges of his vision blurred. He tried to focus, to keep Lucifer engaged. “I can picture some.”
“Wonderful! Now about negotiating that occupation.”
Dan forced his eyes open. He felt too heavy. His head pulsed, and his eyes burned, the lids dragging across his eyeballs with each blink. Fog clouded his mind. He was wrapped around… “Lucifer?”
“Oh, thank Dad. You wouldn’t wake.”
“Yes. Very. Turn on your flashlight?”
Dan nodded, the movement made his head throb. “You’re ‘fraid of th’ dark.”
“Perhaps. Light, please?”
Dan patted at his pocket for the flashlight, but cried out as intense pain flared up his arm. He tried again, and the pain flared brighter. He tried to focus past the pain and mental fog. “We need to drink.”
“We have to...sit up. I-I can reach the flashlight and water.”
“I’ll be no help there, I’m afraid.”
“Right. Right. Sorry, have to grab you. Know you don’t like being touched.”
“Under the circumstances, grab away, Daniel.”
Dan tried to haul them up. He barely budged them.
“Problems getting erect, Dan?”
Dan chuckled despite himself. “I can do this.”
“You can certainly do me.” Dan appreciated the effort, but it sounded hollow, like even Lucifer was just going through the motions.
Dan strained to move them. They inched upward. He pressed his back hard against the wall. “I can do it.”
Lucifer’s breathing had sped up and the way Dan had his arm threaded around to support Lucifer’s head, Lucifer’s rapid heart beat thumped against it.
“All night long,” Lucifer panted out.
Dan tensed himself and made one last laborious heave. They were more or less upright. Dan tried to catch his breath. Lucifer’s hands shook and his heart rate was still fast.
“Yeah.” Dan pushed Lucifer more solidly into place to free up his arm. The flashlight was in one of his jacket’s pockets. He hadn’t left Lucifer laying on it had he? He patted at the coat pocket on the side of his good arm. No. It was on the other side. The broken arm didn’t hurt now. That was bad, right? He fumbled through the pocket until he found the flashlight.
“Quite thorough on the pat down there, aren’t you?” The bravado was still absent from Lucifer’s voice.
Dan put all his concentration into gripping the flashlight. His fingers were stiff and uncooperative and numb, but he passed it to his other hand dragging nothing across Lucifer’s chest, so he counted that as a win. He clicked it on. With a sigh, Lucifer’s hands stopped shaking.
“Much appreciated, Daniel,” he said, and his voice creaked for the first time, like his throat had just now caught on that they were starving for water.
Dan grunted at him and reached for the flask in the tiny pool of water. It was about half full now. It might fill the flask twice.
“After you.” Lucifer said.
“Lucifer—” Dan began, but cut off. If he didn’t drink now, he wasn’t sitting them up again. The burning urgency of thirst woke in him again when the water hit his tongue. He wanted more. He needed more. He… The flask was full again and halfway between them. Lucifer was quiet for once, waiting, Dan realized, on Dan’s decision about the flask.
Dan held it to Lucifer’s lips and poured the water into his mouth, careful not to spill it or choke him. He placed the flask back in the water.
Dan’s mouth and throat and eyes burned. Even his skin hurt. They didn’t talk.
The flashlight grew dimmer.
Lucifer cleared his throat. “Water?”
Dan lolled his head toward the pool. There was a little. His arm was heavy, shaking as he reached for the flask. He fumbled it, dropping it back into the pool.
“S’ry.” His tongue was thick and heavy.
“Is it gone?” Lucifer rasped.
Dan peered at it blearily. “No.”
He tried again and dragged the flask to his lips. The water burned as it sank into his tongue. He gave the rest to Lucifer. The flask clanged as it hit the bottom of the pool.
Dan nodded, setting his head to pounding. He smacked his lips and chewed his tongue trying to work up enough moisture to talk. “Down now.”
Dan rocked to the side and let them slide down onto their sides.
“You did well.” Lucifer’s voice was raspy and weak, but he kept speaking. “You made mistakes in your life, Daniel, but you’ve tried, and when it comes to the important things, the good has come to the surface. Concentrate on that. In the end, you don’t deserve Hell.”
Dan fought to keep his eyes open. He had to. He had to… “Can’t leave Trixie.”
“You’re human. You can’t help it. Design flaw.” He chuckled wryly. “You’ll see her again someday—in heaven. Do say hello to dear Charlotte for me, won’t you?”
Dan’s eyes slid closed.
Chapter 5: Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
Chapter by Miah_Arthur
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
Dan felt hands pulling on him, rolling him onto his side with the hand of his good arm tucked under his chin and one knee in front of him. An emergency blanket spread over him with loud crinkles.
A man said, “That’s all I can do until I get more supplies. Help me up this wall. I’ll radio in an update to the medical team and be back in a few minutes.”
Dan heard footsteps and shuffling, someone grunting and then footsteps above him somewhere. He blinked his eyes open. He tried to blink his eyes open, his lids stuck together.
“Lucifer, you idiot! How did you let this happen?”
“They had a ghksdfkshedf stone, Mazikeen.”
The voices switched to a language of harsh guttural sounds and made rapid fire exchanges.
Dan pried one lid open. His vision was blurry, and his body felt like an elephant had decided to sleep on him. Maze was kneeling over Lucifer, spinning her knife back and forth as she and Lucifer spoke. An IV line snaked from Lucifer’s arm, and now that he thought about it he felt the cool sensation of liquid entering his arm, too. Lucifer’s face was pale, dark circles surrounded his eyes, and he still wasn’t moving.
Maze shoved on Lucifer’s shoulder, rolling him onto his back and exposing the injuries on his chest. They were pus covered and red lines spread around them. She growled at him with a quizzical expression and Lucifer said, “Do it.”
Maze raised her knife over Lucifer’s chest and began chanting.
“N-n—” Dan tried to yell at her to stop, but his tongue didn’t work. Maze glanced at him and kept chanting.
Lucifer didn’t move, but he said, “It’s okay, Daniel. She will break the spell.”
They were both crazy. Two people crazy together. That was a thing, right? Dan wasn’t tied down this time. He’d pledged to protect Lucifer because he was a civilian, and he’d tried so hard. Even though he’d failed every step of the way, he wouldn’t give up now. He flopped onto his stomach and with his fingers and toes, elbows and knees; he pressed himself forward. The room spun in circles; in spite of the pain, and the heaviness, and the queasiness in his stomach he kept moving
The knife flashed downward and Lucifer’s jaw clenched. He didn’t make a sound. Maze kept chanting, and the knife slashed again and again. Yellow, foul-smelling pus mixed with blood dripped down his chest onto the remains of his shirt. Dan kept inching closer. Maze’s voice took on a different quality, adding impossible layers of harmonics and a frisson of power that raised the hairs on Dan’s arms. Her blade plummeted toward Lucifer’s chest.
“No!” Dan threw his arm out, but he wasn’t close enough to stop her.
Maze’s blade stopped just short of stabbing Lucifer, instead carving a pattern into the center of his chest. Lucifer’s back arched off the ground, and he began shaking violently as he had when the cultists did their rituals. The muscles in his neck bulged and his face began to go purple. Dan dragged himself forward again, breathing raggedly and shaking from the effort.
Maze bore down on the middle of the infected, bloody mess that was Lucifer’s chest with her right hand and shouted out a short phrase. Dan’s fingers brushed Lucifer’s arm. There was a flash of blue and smoke and monsters surrounded Dan, all chanting and moving around and around him. Lucifer’s skin was red and leathery and his eyes blazed with fire. The monsters—demons—formed a whirlwind with Dan, Lucifer, and Maze at the center.
Those flaming eyes turned on Dan, and Dan couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t anything.
* * *
“Daniel? Daniel?” Lucifer’s voice drifted over him. Lucifer’s voice turned angry. “He wasn’t meant to see that!”
Dan heard the shrug in Maze’s tone. “Not my fault he dragged himself over here.” A finger poked him in the ribs. “He probably won’t remember.”
“Bring him closer.”
Dan’s stomach did a flip as she abruptly shifted him and rolled him back onto his side. A large warm hand stroked his cheek, then cupped his chin. With a small chuckle, Lucifer said, “Poor Daniel. Never on time, but you do try so hard. Definitely Heaven material. Rest. You’ll recover soon.”
Lucifer’s hand released his face and grasped his hand, giving Dan a much-needed anchor as he drifted in the void.
* * *
Dan remembered flashes after that. Flashes of movement, of being touched, of words, of nauseousness, of pain. When things started to make sense again, he was warm in a bed, uncomfortable tubes stuck in him, feeling heavy and weak. His arm was in a cast. A slight sense of floating told him he was on painkillers. He looked around. Someone would surely be—
No one. No one was waiting for him. No one had left personal items behind. Nothing indicated someone had held vigil. Dan sighed. Right. He’d almost forgotten. This was his life. He wasn’t a hero, no matter how hard he tried. He was just a douche, the guy who drove his wife away and didn’t protect the new love of his life, a dirty cop, washed up, the perpetual bottom bitch of the precinct who had no one but Trixie outside the precinct.
He sighed and tried to shift to a position that didn’t light any part of him up with pain. Nurses came and poked and prodded at him, and fed him ice chips. One of them brought him a popsicle for ‘being such a good sport’. She told him he’d been in the hospital for two days now. Lucifer was in another room. Lucifer’s recovery was remarkable, the nurse said, like nothing anyone had ever seen. Unlike his. He had apparently babbled nonsense for hours yesterday until they sedated him.
She didn’t know of anyone visiting him.
Then he was alone again.
He stared miserably at the walls. Chloe could have at least brought Trixie. He’d brought Trixie when she was in the hospital. He sighed at the sheer whininess of his internal tone. It would’ve been pointless visiting earlier. He didn’t want Trix to see him delirious and looking like shit. He could call Chloe...but no. Not that he was above begging right now—he wasn’t—but it would be a visit based on guilt tripping, and he told himself he could, at least, never do that to Chloe again. He’d done enough manipulative shit for several lifetimes after Palmetto.
So he stared at the walls. He fell asleep. He woke up with people touching him places he usually reserved for the third date at least. He watched the clock as it ticked from 5:00 to 5:30. His hopes that someone would visit him faded. He thought about John Collins. Alone in that miserable apartment with no one to notice he'd been missing.
If he hadn’t been on duty, how long until someone looked for him?
He hadn’t been alone in the pit. He hadn’t been alone in the void. You hate Lucifer. Remember, Dan? He drowsily swiped the voice away. Thoughts floated through his mind as he drifted between wakefulness and sleep. Lucifer was claustrophobic, though he’d never admit it out loud. Lucifer survived burns that should have killed him. Lucifer, injured and immobile, had kept Dan functioning longer than he thought possible. Lucifer had transformed into the devil with glowing red eyes.
Dan’s eyes flew open and his heart rate spiked. Lucifer was The Devil.
Dan’s mind churned up images. Lucifer lying on the floor of his penthouse riddled with bullets. Not breathing—until he burst upright perfectly fine and offered Dan a drink. Lucifer bleeding, hiding a clear dagger that called to Dan and made him want to slaughter Lucifer over pudding. Lucifer getting the antidote formula from a dead man. Trixie telling him about Lucifer being shot and a massive pool of blood—until there wasn’t.
A magic spell for binding and expelling demons. The flashes of light. The demons. Lucifer was the Devil. The actual Devil told him he didn’t belong in Hell. The Devil who knew him, knew how bad he’d messed up had told him when he was dying that he would see Trixie someday in heaven. Told him to say hello to Charlotte. Alarms were going off around Dan. Charlotte was in heaven. He couldn’t breathe. He needed to… Nurses ran in and wrestled him back into the bed.
Dan lost track of things for a while, floating on clouds, everything fuzzy around the edges. Lucifer wasn’t crazy. He was the Devil. All the Luciferness. The pettiness, the snack theft, the mockery, the maturity of a twelve-year-old; all of that was an ancient being; an archangel before they cast him to hell.
The scars. His wings. He really had cut off his wings. What kind of pain would it take before he was willing to cut off body parts to stop it, Dan wondered?
Dan swallowed hard. The Devil stopped pranking him, because Dan told him it bothered him. Lucifer had always been the devil. All those times Dan had been angry over Lucifer lying about his identity…
How did Lucifer fit in with the image of the Devil his abuelita painted when he was little? All those times suspects had confessed everything or been gibbering wrecks after only a minute with Lucifer… That was the devil of his abuelita, and yet… The Devil was Lucifer. The thoughts chased each other around and around his head like a snake eating its own tail until Dan fell asleep.
The door to his room banged open, startling him awake. Small feet pounded across the floor as Dan was trying to get his eyes opened and focused.
“Daddy!” Trixie stopped shock still.
Dan smiled at her calling him daddy. She’d announced she was too old for ‘Daddy’ two years ago. “Hey, Monkey.” He tried clearing his throat. He didn’t want to sound like that in front of her.
She dove in for a long hug that threatened to choke him, then she slid back to the floor and said, “You want some ice chips? Mom always wanted ice chips.”
“That’d be great, Monkey.”
Trixie darted off, and Dan started raising the head of the bed and scooting over. He needed to just have her close for a while. His eyes pricked with moisture as he remembered his futile protest that he couldn’t leave Trixie, even while expecting to never open his eyes again.
Trixie’s footsteps retreated down the hall, and Chloe stepped into the room.
“How’re you feeling today?”
“Better, I think.”
“That’s good.” She took his good hand and squeezed.
"Did you catch those bastards?"
Her grip tightened. "No. We got lucky even finding the two of you. Someone found the van in the desert and we picked up the cars leaving the area on a security camera at a roadside gift shop."
"I'll take dumb luck over being dead."
"The FBI is taking over. They've got more victims with demon obsessions who were found in caves."
"So John Collins' body out in the open was an anomaly?"
"We think he was the initial target, and the group used his body to get to Lucifer." She rubbed his arm. "It shouldn’t have taken so long to find you. We were so worried we lost you.”
Dan shifted uncomfortably. “I’m still here.”
“I know, Dan." She shook her head. "This was so hard on Trixie. Then they wouldn’t let me bring her until they moved you into this room, and last night they said you were sleeping. She’s been—”
“Dad, look! This is Barry. He gave me a popsicle.” Behind Trixie, a nurse carried a tray.
“Good morning, Mr. Espinoza. I’m Barry, and I’ll be your nurse today. I’ve got a tray for you. Doctor says liquid diet for today. But you can have as much as you want, just press your call button and I’ll bring more.” Barry arranged the rolling table and helped Dan sit up higher in the bed. “I’ll come back in a little while to get your vitals. Anything else you need right now?”
“I’m good, thanks.”
Dan drank the tepid broth, the equally tepid ginger ale, and ate the red jello, while Trixie sat in the chair beside the bed, telling him about school and eating her popsicle. As soon as he finished, she carefully climbed into the bed, avoiding wires and tubes. He hated that his kid was so used to visiting parents in the hospital that he didn’t need to tell her to be careful. She snuggled up to his side and pulled markers out of her pocket.
As she drew on his cast, he held her tight, and he didn’t cry. He couldn’t, not when she had already been afraid for him. She drew flowers with smiley faces and Miss Alien and other unidentifiable creatures and she talked. About positive things. School. The drama club that, judging by Chloe’s twitch, Trixie still hadn’t mentioned to her mother. What they’d had for meals recently. Dan soaked it in, trying to keep up and make the right responses in the right places. His energy was wearing thin, though.
He focused on the cast again. Trixie was filling in the outlines of a red figure that looked suspiciously like the devil. Eyes filled with hellfire looking at him. He trembled.
Trixie stopped, all the childish chatter gone, and looked at him with eyes far too old for her eleven years. “Are you okay, Dad?”
Dan shoved the image away and nodded. He took several breaths until he had regained control. “I’m sorry, Monkey. I’m fine. I’ll be out of here soon and we can have a big weekend. You can bake some of your awesome cupcakes and we’ll get pizza and hang out together.”
She gave him a hard look, looking for lies. He’d taught her about tells and she was good at it. He passed muster, and she turned back to coloring.
“I think your dad may need to rest soon.”
Trixie looked rebellious, but Dan said, “I’m afraid so.” He hugged her tighter and pressed a kiss to her hair. “I’m so glad you came to visit. I love you, Monkey. More than anything in this world.”
Trixie froze, taking deep shuddery breaths. She twisted in his arms until she was hugging him tightly around the neck. “I love you, too, Dad.” She sniffled softly, as if trying to hide it. “Don’t get lost again. Please. Promise you won’t.”
“I promise I will try. As hard as I can. Okay? Deal?”
She gave him another long, serious examination, but finally smiled at him—despite her watery eyes—and said, “Deal.”
Barry came back with his instruments just then, and Chloe ushered Trixie off the bed and sent her into the hall.
Chloe leaned in and whispered. “Maze is on the trail, Dan. These guys will be found." She stood up and said in a normal tone, "They'll need to get your statement tomorrow. I’ll bring Trixie by again this evening.”
Dan nodded. After Barry left, Dan was alone again. He dozed. Thoughts of the Devil and Lucifer and Trixie and Charlotte, Chloe, magic spells, thirst, and burning flesh tumbled through his dreams.
Someone was staring at him. He blinked awake. Lucifer sat in the chair beside him, impeccably dressed. “Ah, Daniel. You’re awake at last.”
“Lucifer,” Dan rasped out. Lucifer held the mug of water up for Dan, who sipped at the straw until his mouth and throat felt less raw.
“Turnabout is fair play, I suppose,” said Lucifer quietly.
Lucifer set the mug aside and fidgeted with his cufflinks. He squirmed and kept his gaze anywhere but Dan’s eyes. His shoulders hunched forward, taking pressure off his chest, and Dan saw bandages peeking above his shirt. He was wearing make-up, but even Lucifer’s concealer game couldn’t hide the paleness and dark circles under his eyes.
“Should you be out of bed?”
“Hmm. Perhaps not, but I tire of the hospitality of this place. Really, hardly even three stars. How do they expect anyone to heal with these infernal buzzing lights and substandard food? They won’t even allow me a full night’s sleep!” His gaze raked across Dan, then he turned his head away and his tone softened. “Are you well, Daniel?”
The merry-go-round of Lucifer-The Devil-Lucifer-The Devil in Dan’s thoughts came to a screeching stop. The question wasn’t really about Dan’s physical health and, Lucifer feared the answer. Dan snaked his arm through the bed rail and grasped Lucifer’s hand. “Yeah, Lucifer. I’m good. We’re good.”
Lucifer’s eyes met Dan’s, and a small, hopeful smile appeared. “Truly, you are one of the complicated ones, Daniel.” Lucifer held the gaze for a few moments longer, then he abruptly stood up. “And now I am off to my penthouse where the lovely Eve knows a thing or two about how to properly treat a convalescing Devil.”
He stopped and stared at their hands, still clasped together. “Thank you, Daniel. Your presence made an intolerable situation far more tolerable, and while I am truly sorry you suffered, I am glad you were with me.”
“I’d say anytime, but screw that. No more kidnappings, deal?”
Lucifer’s grip tightened for just a moment, then he smiled toothily and said, “Deal.” Then he released Dan’s hand and strode away.
Two days later, Dan hobbled into his apartment, alone. Even taking the elevator, the trek down the hallway winded him. He locked the door, got a bottle of water from the fridge, and trudged to his room. He stripped and crawled into bed.
The ride home had been too much. He was exhausted, yet sleep eluded him. After tossing and turning he gave it up. He reached for Charlotte’s pillow. For the first time since her death, he wasn’t angry looking at her empty place. Sadness tugged at him, but the fury and the hollowness had faded. He remembered her looking at him from that pillow, remembered making her waffles, holding her, dreaming of their future, and a tiny spark of hope flared in him that he would see her again. That they hadn’t lost each other forever.
Dan was alone, and for the first time, it felt like he'd be okay.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope you enjoyed it!