Dr. Linda Martin was well-versed in most things celestial, even before she’d died. Like how Nephilim didn’t get their wings until they hit puberty or that they continued to age until they were at their strongest, much the same as their angel parent. Or how not all angels were versed in written or spoken human languages, depending on what their job in Heaven was and whether they still received human prayers.
The one thing she hadn’t been able to understand was all their obsession with their Father. Of course, as a trained therapist, she could give a few educated guesses, though the gaping chasm of difference between cultures kept her decisions at bay.
But, for the years she’d been up close and personal with divinity, she’d struggled not to show her eventual husband her annoyance with his Father. Sure, He was God, Creator of All, but that didn’t mean He was right in all things. The thing that infuriated her the most were the mind games rather than clear, concise communication.
So, as she opened her eyes to the most beautiful city she’d ever seen, surrounded by angels and some of her loved ones—Uncle Edwin had absolutely gone to Hell—she made a decision: she was going to talk to God.
What felt like an eternity later, she convinced Remiel to guide her towards the throne room. Her sister-in-law laughed as she left her at the base of the stairs, murmuring, “Father will be beyond the doors. Beware; Michael is His gate keeper and he may not be feeling magnanimous towards the human doctor who befriended Lucifer.”
Linda flinched at the spiteful way that Remiel spat Lucifer’s name, letting her heart hurt for her friend for just a moment before she channeled it towards her mission.
If she were still a practicing therapist and mediator, she would have saved her opinions until she had heard both sides. Obviously, as a professional, that was the fairest way to go about things. And, with humans, it was the only fair way to move forward; there was never one completely in the wrong and another completely in the right.
Straightening to her full height as if she stood eight feet tall, the doctor started up the seemingly never-ending steps, surprised to find that her path opened itself readily for her.
Probably something to do with being in the Silver City.
“Halt,” a deep voice intoned from her left as she stopped in front of the tallest doors she’d ever seen. There was movement at her side and she turned to find….
“Lucifer?” she questioned incredulously, though her brain reminded her where she was and the fact that the man beside her lacked the British accent she’d become accustomed to.
But it was eerie to see such a striking resemblance when Amenadiel had once explained that genetics and familial resemblance didn’t matter when it came to creating angels. Maybe because Michael was born at the same time as Michael? Not born, she reminded herself absently.
The longer she looked at him, though, the more she realized how very different the two were. Michael stood with his back stick straight, two flared eagle wings erupting from behind him. His arms were crossed formidably over his armored chest, feet braced apart in his sandals. Where Lucifer’s hair was always meticulously styled, this angel had let it grow out to shoulder-length, tied back with a tether at the nape of his neck. Instead of the general liveliness and mischief that always seemed to be such a part of Lucifer’s features—at least since his return from Hell nearly fifty years before—there was a hardness in the man’s gaze, his smooth jaw clenched as he glared down at her.
“You,” he hissed, recognition coming to his gaze, already threatening to run her through. “You are the Devil’s therapist.”
She almost backed down right then. Lucifer and Amenadiel had described their brother in vivid detail. The Lightbringer had always described his brother as the “power” of Heaven, where he was the “will”.
And the power of Heaven was seething at the sight of her.
She had figured this would happen—not necessarily Michael himself, but certainly one of the angels—and had tried to drill it into her head that she was already dead; what more could they do? Besides, God didn’t want angels harming humans, so she could safely assume that meant their souls as well.
So, even though she bristled at the vehement hatred blazing from him, she responded, “Yes, I’m Dr. Linda Martin.” Once upon a time, Amenadiel had told her that her official title amongst his siblings was Mother of Nephilim, but she had a Ph. D., damnit, and they couldn’t take that away from her just because she’d given birth to a child. “I’ve heard quite a bit about you, Michael of the Demiurge.”
His head snatched back, shock registering briefly on his face before he covered it with contempt. “You may have created a child with the First Angel, but you also consorted with the Devil.”
Turning fully towards him, she crossed her arms over her chest in a mockery of his warrior stance. “After you angels and your Father gave him more complexes than a property management firm, I stepped in to remind him that he’s more than what you’ve all made him out to be.” When his lip raised in a vicious snarl, his mouth opening to probably hurl insults at her—or his brother—she raised a hand. “I’m not going to fight with you, Michael, since we both are aware it would ultimately end in a stalemate; I can’t overpower you and you aren’t allowed to hurt me.” He clenched his teeth together behind thin lips, veins pulsing at his temples. “Besides, I’m here to speak with God, as you know.”
“Absolutely not,” he growled, leaning threateningly over her. “Our Father doesn’t welcome human souls at the foot of His throne, least of all those that wish to speak on the Devil’s behalf!”
“You seem to have a problem with calling your brother by his name,” she noted, watching as something akin to grief flashing in his eyes. “Are you attempting to distance the brother you loved from the man he’s become?” Silence met her words, and she nodded sternly. “That’s what I thought.”
For a moment, he eyed her warily before straightening, muttering, “I see Amenadiel has found human woman worthy of birthing the Nephilim.”
Smiling gently, she answered, “I like to think I found an angel worthy of raising my child.” She looked back towards the gargantuan doors. “But we can talk about Charlie after I’ve spoken with God; there’s a lot to discuss.”
Michael shook his head, immediately returning to his gatekeeper role. “There is nothing to discuss. If He wishes to speak to you—”
Suddenly, there was a great scraping of wood against marble, the doors creaking as they widened. The light was so bright beyond them that she had to squint, awestruck at the myriad of colors in the kaleidoscope of the room, some of which she wasn’t sure even existed on Earth.
“I would like to speak with My daughter-in-law,” intoned a voice from deep within, settling around her. It gave her visions of her and Amenadiel’s daily routine of sipping coffee on their front step in silence, just enjoying each other’s presence. “Let her through.”
In surprise, Michael glanced towards the room, looking as if he might argue. Then, he shocked her, kneeling and dropping his head low to the voice. “Yes, Father,” he replied, one knuckle planted on the ground. “The mortal will pass.”
When Linda remained planted for a moment, the archangel brought his head up just far enough to raise an eyebrow impatiently at her pause, silently willing her to go.
Taking a deep breath, she strode across the threshold. As the doors slid closed behind her, she realized that she was holding it, wondering what she would see.
The Goddess had been pure light, spilling out of Charlotte Richards and her wounds. Would God be the same? If she was already dead, could the sight of Him kill her as the Goddess had done to Chet? Was there life after life after death? Could a soul in Heaven be harmed?
“Daughter, there will be more than enough time to satisfy your analytical need for answers, but I doubt you have come to My throne for directions to the library.”
She jumped, twisting around, trying to find the source of the voice, only to remember whose privacy she was invading. “I suppose You’re right,” she mumbled, glancing around to take in her surroundings.
There was…nothing. Just whiteness everywhere, like she’d walked out of the real world and onto an artist’s empty canvas. She stopped herself from looking too much into it, though the hair on the back of her neck began to stand on end.
“I should have known that this would be a bit much for you, Daughter,” the voice said quietly, as if to Itself. “But have no fear; it shapes to My will, as does my form.”
Suddenly, they were in her old office and her chair appeared behind her. The windows flooded with sunlight, flashing across the spines of her books, glinting off her awards and certifications on the walls. Across from her was the couch she’d so carefully picked out, wanting comfort over style in the later years of practicing. Where her desk had once been artfully decorated with meaningless knickknacks stood photo frames that crowded every available inch of space, from Charlie’s drawings to pictures of her family and friends. Ignoring the psychiatry side of the room in favor of her personal space, she picked up the picture of her, Amenadiel, and Charlie at his college graduation, recalling with a grin when her son had accidentally slowed time in his excitement at throwing his mortarboard in the air.
“You have done well with My grandson, Dr. Linda Martin. He will visit here often but prefers to do what he can for the humans on Earth. As we speak, he is working hard on his new dissertation to get another doctorate so he can stay for a few Earth weeks. Won’t that be lovely? It must be his fifth.”
She spun on her heel, so lost in memories for that moment that she’d almost forgotten where she was. Standing in front of her desk was an older black man, smiling serenely at her. “Sorry,” she said quickly, not knowing what the proper protocol was to address God face-to-face was. “I just…forgot myself for a moment.”
He continued to smile at her, understanding sparkling in His eyes. “It can be very hard to draw oneself away from the times we have with our children. Especially when it simply isn’t enough.” He motioned behind Him to the couch. “Do you mind?”
“I apologize again!” she cried helplessly, moving back towards her own chair. “Please, have a seat!”
She watched as His large frame sank onto the cushion, noting how He seemed to avoid the spot of prominence that Lucifer had always taken. Was it because He preferred to distance Himself from His son or because He was less inclined to be the center of attention? Somehow, she believed it was the former, even though they weren’t truly in her office.
Taking a seat, she easily shifted into therapist, adjusting her glasses as she folded her hands delicately over her crossed legs. She tried to think of what to say, how to begin. Somehow, she didn’t feel like yelling or scolding, as she had only moments before meeting with him. But how did she tell the Creator of All that He was a less-than-stellar Father?
“I am omniscient and omnipresent, Dr. Martin; there is no way to ‘begin’ with Me, seeing as I am already aware of all you would like to say,” He said stiffly, pulling at the lapels of His tan suit and avoiding her gaze. “I know that you are not impressed by Mine or My Wife’s treatment of Our children and that you would like to…’tear Me a new one’. There is nothing you can say that I haven’t already heard.”
Blinking at the knowledge that God had allowed her in knowing exactly how it would go, Linda replied, “Well, it would make me feel better to get it off my chest.”
He nodded sagely, shifting further against the cushions. Resting His elbow on the armrest, He held His jaw in His hand, one leg crossed over the other. Definitely agitated. His body language is the same as Lucifer’s, too, she noted, watching hurt spread across His features.
Clearing His throat, He broke the tension by saying, “If you could avoid stabbing a finger into My chest, I would appreciate it. I knew Charlotte Richards would do it, but I had no idea how sharp her nails were when I allowed it to happen.”
Her snort rang through the room. “Of course, she did,” she laughed, stopping when He lifted His brow at her. “That doesn’t mean it was right or what I’m going to do; I’m not as hotheaded as Charlotte.”
“It was a bit entertaining; I was almost caught off-guard. But I couldn’t do anything to the namesake of My grandson.”
She grinned at that, picturing the shark of a lawyer using that fact to her advantage as much as He would allow.
But she wasn’t here for a trip down memory lane, she reminded herself, and shifted in her seat to don her therapist hat once again. “Well,” she started, barely keeping her foot from tapping, “I can assume that since You knew why I was coming that I can speak freely?”
He nodded slowly. “If I couldn’t bring Myself to harm My grandson’s namesake, I certainly wouldn’t dare attack his mother.”
Bristling at the insinuation that she was little more than a womb, but letting it go, she said, “Good. Then we can get started.” A pen and notepad appeared in her hands, giving her a little shock that she quickly shook off. Opening to a fresh page, she eyed God carefully, taking in all the signals He was putting forth. “I was close with Lucifer on Earth. He wasn’t just my patient, but a close friend, and not just because he is Charlie’s uncle.” God’s eyes clenched shut, but she pushed on. “What You did, he has never recovered from, may never. He explained to me that his ‘Devil face’ was what he looked like after You ordered his wings broken and for him to be thrown through dimensions into Hell. He says the burning seemed to last eternity before he finally received the relief of pulverizing every bone in his body when he hit the ground. How do You feel about ordering that particular burden of memories on him?”
“He disobeyed Me, rebelled against Me,” He answered easily, though His hand tightened at the material encasing His knee. “If he’d had the Flaming Sword, he might have killed Me.”
“I think we both know that isn’t true,” she responded, making a quick note that He was as stubborn as His children. “From what he’s told me, it was an argument that escalated only when You ordered Michael to attack him.”
More tension, a subtle clenching and unclenching of His fingers. “He wanted to incite a full rebellion against Me,” He insisted.
“No, he wanted free will, preached it to his siblings.” When God opened His mouth to retort, she added, “Amenadiel said that the siblings just laughed it off as Lucifer’s usual ridiculousness, something he would tire of eventually.” God said nothing, so she pressed on. “In Lucifer’s own words, he only asked You for free will and then questioned why You refused. Is that true?”
He glared at the window, unable to meet her gaze. “It wasn’t his place to ask Me why I do things the way I do,” he muttered.
Nodding slowly, Linda underlined “stubborn” harshly in her notes before adding “God complex actually started with God?” Coughing lightly to clear the feelings rising in her throat, she mentally counted to ten before continuing. “You don’t believe he deserved to know why You asked things of him? If I recall correctly, Your Wife—ex-Wife—begged You to spare his life. Are You saying that he deserved to stop existing entirely just because he questioned You?”
There was a pregnant pause before God’s eyes slid to hers, narrowed and flaming. “I knew this conversation would go this way, yet I’m here speaking with you. Isn’t that enough answer to that question?”
“Actually, no,” she admitted sternly, keeping her gaze level as she would any other emotional patient. “If You don’t say it aloud, it doesn’t mean anything. Communication is key, You’ll find, and the hardest conversations to have are the ones that need to be said the most.” She leaned forward, wondering if it would be too much to put a sympathetic hand on his knee. “There isn’t always time, even for immortals. There will be a day when there is no coming back from the past, no matter how long You might…exist. Do You really want to lose Your son completely?”
“I have many children and many projects,” He immediately replied, though she could see the regret flashing across His features. Suddenly, He looked nearly as old as He most certainly was, His eyes weary. “I have made many mistakes in My life, Dr. Martin.”
She smiled kindly, rising from her seat. “Well, we have all the time in the…universe to work on them.”
For a moment, she just stood in front of Him as He looked up at her, wondering if He was trying to figure her out. Omnipotent and omniscient, Linda, she reminded herself as she turned to the door of her old office.
“I know everything that’s going to happen,” He confirmed from behind her as she turned the door handle. “Which is why I know that I will be seeing you very often in my throne room.” He glanced back at the couch. “That couch works wonders.”
“Does that mean You’ll let Lucifer come back to Heaven?”
He shook His head slowly, eyes becoming distant. “Not just yet, Doctor. There are many people coming to the Silver City that have words to say to Me that would lose their luster if I’d already done what they demanded.”
Her heart caught in her throat. If He knew everything that was going to happen, and nothing could change His mind….
“Oh, you misunderstand Me,” He said softly, putting a hand on her shoulder with a comforting squeeze. “I have known about the possibility of this day since I put Chloe Decker on Earth. Now, it’s My reckoning day. So, I’ll listen to Ella talk to Me about her disappointment. Then Charlotte will reappear with Dan, only to take over his ‘come on, man’ speech for round two. Amenadiel will come back and talk with Me about the good in Lucifer. Mazikeen will find a way to lure Me to Earth to try to kill Me but will ultimately fail and take Eve with her to Hell to rule over the demons.
“And then it’s Chloe’s turn.” He gave her a genuine grin then and, suddenly, she could see the familial resemblance between Him and Lucifer in the mischievous twinkling in His eyes. “She will demand to go to Hell, then tell Me to go there, then rant and rave about how My son is better than Me.” He gave a soft chuckle, eyes far off while He pictured it. Then He looked back to her. “I think she should be the one to ‘change My mind’, don’t you?”
Not knowing what to do with the information, Linda slowly nodded, awestruck by the unbelievable expanse of His knowledge. How long had He known that this would be the outcome? Had He essentially…put Lucifer on time out?
“I wish I could use that excuse, but I don’t like to be dishonest.” She raised an eyebrow at that, making Him hold up His hands in defense. “I cannot claim that I never lie, but I can say that I don’t like it.” Chuckling as she relaxed, He added, “I always knew there was an option, but the more free will out there, the less I am able to know exactly what will happen.”
She breathed in softly, wishing she could ask more questions, learn more from Him before her family came to visit. But there was a tug in her chest, a voice whispering, “Charlie and Amenadiel,” in her head. An overwhelming urge to go to them overtook her, nearly knocking the breath out of her lungs.
Tears—whether of sadness or joy, she couldn’t tell—tightened her throat before she felt a gentle hand at the small of her back.
“Go,” God murmured in her ear as her office began to fade away around them. Feeling His hand disappear, she clenched her eyes closed against the light beginning to seep from Him, remembering the pain of the Goddess burning her. “The Silver City is pulling you to your loved ones. Besides, we’ll be speaking about My ex-Wife next week. I assume we’ll need more than an hour.”
She shuddered thinking about the Goddess and could have punched Him when His laughter echoed in her head.