"-and it has to be tall! So tall. But not too tall or else the angel won't fit and you have to cut off the top and Dad's really ba-"
"Wait, slow down." Lucifer grabbed the back of Beatrice's coat, bringing her to a stop before she could run off through the gates and disappear. When he realized what he'd done, he let go so fast she stumbled forward a few steps from the change in momentum. He heard Chloe laugh quietly behind him, and sent a mock-glare over his shoulder. "An angel?"
He tried to squelch the bitter resentment in his chest over the thought of one of his brothers or sisters — even a generic facsimile of one of them — getting pride of place on the Decker Christmas tree. He knew it would never be him up there, in a figurative sense. He would never be important to them, the way they were to him, so getting resentful over it was foolish. And yet...
"It was Dan's great-grandmother's," the Detective said, bringing him out of his musings. She came around the car and touched his arm, her hand warm and solid against the chill of the air. "I always had a star growing up, but..."
But Daniel's traditions overrode hers and became Beatrice's traditions. He was familiar with the problem, even if the Detective didn't see it as one. Was the Star of Bethlehem really any better than a bloody angel? His father had created the star, the only one at that time that was created by a hand other than his own. The one that shone the brightest, overwhelming his creations. And Lucifer had hated it.
But at least it wasn't one of his siblings, watching over the household from atop a tree.
Beatrice was waiting impatiently in front of them, nearly vibrating with excitement over tromping through rows and rows of trees that all looked the same to him. "It's really old, so I'm not allowed to touch it yet, but that's okay because the top of the tree's too high up for me anyway," she said in one breath.
She took the Detective's hand, and surprised him by grabbing his own with her remarkably un-sticky little fingers. A jolt of anxiety went through him at her touch, but he firmly squashed it down into the tiniest ball of feeling he could. If Beatrice wanted to hold his hand, she could. A one-time deal. He didn't want to do anything that would make the Detective regret bringing him along with them, and he thought that treating Beatrice with revulsion just might do that.
"And it has to be bushy, with lots of branches," she was saying as they walked through the gate, "so we can hang lots of ornaments on it. And no empty spots even though Dad says you can just hide them against the wall."
The Detective made a discontented sound at that. "Only if they're all on one side, Monkey, and your dad never picks out nice even trees."
Beatrice gave the Detective an "I know, Mom" look, one Lucifer had become adept at recognizing as she grew older. He wasn't sure when it had happened, but he seemed to know quite a bit about her, and he didn't know how he felt about that.
"It's just gotta be Christmas tree-shaped." She stopped there, apparently concluding her explanation of what the perfect tree would look like, even though that was no conclusion at all.
"What does that mean?" he asked as it became clear she was content to swing their arms and not continue with any explanation.
She looked up at him like he was an imbecile, which was rather rude. "You know, like a Christmas tree."
"No, I don't know. What are you talking about?" He looked up and to the Detective, hoping he would be able to get answers from her when Beatrice just stared at him. "Detective, what is she talking about?"
The Detective just laughed and said, "You know. Christmas tree-shaped."
He couldn't tell if she was making fun of him or if she really thought that repeating the phrase would make him understand it better. Weren't all evergreens shaped like Christmas trees? Didn't that make it redundant?
"Haven't you seen a Christmas tree before?" Beatrice asked quietly, far too quietly for his liking.
"Well not up close and personal," he said, eyeing her warily. If she was going to start crying he was going to start being at least ten feet away from her, minimum.
But she just frowned at him, and when he looked up, the Detective was frowning too, watching him with something in her eyes that was close to sadness. She needn't feel sad for him. It was't like he'd never been invited to a Christmas party, he'd just chosen never to accept an invitation. The last thing he wanted was to be thought to be celebrating the season.
It was easier with the Detective, because he didn't have to pretend to be enjoying it. He had to be polite — she was, after all, doing him a favor — but he didn't have to enjoy it. As much as he wanted to pretend different, wanting to be shown the joy of Christmas was just an excuse to spend time with her, even if it included her little urchin. They had been... distant, lately, and he sorely missed her, so much so that it was an almost physical ache.
"We need to get you a tree too then," Beatrice decided without consulting him.
"I don't think-" he started, but the Detective spoke over him.
"That's a good idea, Trix. Lucifer definitely needs one for his house, and his ceilings are really high."
Beatrice's eyes grew bigger and rounder and she whispered, "He can get a really tall one." Then she let go of both their hands and was racing ahead, yelling, "Like this one!" back at them.
"I don't need a tree," he protested to the Detective, who just looked amused, even though he was being serious.
"If you're going to get into the spirit of Christmas, you need a tree," she said, the sternness of her voice belied by the smile on her face. It was soft and bright, and everything he wanted. If only he could taste it, just once, but that wasn't who they were anymore. He doubted it would be who they were ever again, not now that she knew.
"What would I put on it?" he asked, already knowing he was going to be capitulating to this, as though that had ever been in question. "I don't have any baubles to hang."
"That's okay," the Detective told him, and hesitantly took his arm. For a moment, he clasped his hand over hers, his heart breaking at the way she had hesitated before touching him, like she needed to make up her mind about whether she wanted to be close to him or not. She had never done that before she knew the real him. He needed her to know that it was alright to touch, that he would never hurt her or tell her no. That everything of him was hers, and the only way he could think to do it was by returning the touch.
"We can go shopping for ornaments and garland tomorrow," she said, her eyes on Trixie who was almost down at the end of the row. "For now, let's just pick out two trees and get them home."
They walked down the row arm-in-arm, following Beatrice as she rejected tree after tree. He found himself unable to concentrate on anything that wasn't the feel of the Detective against his side, the heat of her, the scent of her perfume mixed with the heady smell of evergreen in the air. He wanted to capture this brief period of time perfectly, so he could pull it up on long, empty nights to warm him.
He started at the sound of Beatrice yelping, eyes scanning the row until he found her glaring at a short, round tree with a blueish tint to its needles. She didn't seem to be in any danger, so he relaxed, the feel of the Detective squeezing his arm gently helping.
"That tree bit me," Beatrice yelled back to them, utterly incensed. He couldn't help but smile at her tiny fury.
"I told you in the car the blue ones are prickly," the Detective called to her. "Now you know not to touch them."
He could hear Beatrice grumbling about "dumb trees" as she walked on, more sedately this time, continuing to reject every tree she passed. Up ahead of her, he saw a tree that looked a little bit taller than him. Maybe that would make a good tree for his penthouse.
"What about that one?" he called, pointing it out to Beatrice. She took one look at it and dismissed it.
"Not tall enough," was all she said before moving on.
"This is going to take all day," he muttered, torn between dread and a funny kind of joy at the thought. Walking through row upon row of evergreen trees wasn't his idea of a fun day. But, he was with the Detective, and for the first time in months they weren't trying to solve a case. They were just... enjoying each other's company. It felt like something inside him was untwisting with every minute he spent with her, tension unspooling and leaving nothing but relief in its wake.
"I did warn you," she said, smiling up at him as though she could tell he wasn't all that serious about his complaining. Then again, of course she could. She had never had much trouble seeing straight to the heart of him. It made him feel bare in a way he never had before, both uncomfortable and the most comfortable thing he had ever experienced.
"Mom!" Beatrice came racing back,skidding to a stop in front of them. "I found one for us, come see." Then she raced off again, the Detective calling after her to slow down and wait for them.
The Detective smiled up at him and pulled him along, letting go of his arm only to catch his hand and twine their fingers together. His breath caught in his throat as she did, not expecting the touch. When she glanced back at him, concerned, he just smiled and squeezed her hand gently, reverently. He wasn't sure if he had ever just.. held someone's hand before, and he found it affecting him more than was warranted, his heart speeding up and his face growing warm.
He hadn't thought this was something he could have, especially not after... everything he had done. After everything he was.
"Hey," the Detective said, falling back to walk beside him. "You okay? You're supposed to be getting into the Christmas spirit, not-" she waved her free hand at him "-this."
"I'm quite alright, Detective," he said, unable to help the smile on his face and unsure if he wanted to. "Just lost in thought for a moment."
"Well let's go see what Trix found for us," she said. He liked the sound of that — that "us."
He wished it were true.
The tree Beatrice was standing by looked just like every other tree on the lot to him. He didn't understand the appeal of bringing a live tree into a house and putting it up for any holiday. Sure, it smelled nice, but you could get the same scent from a candle. Didn't it only result in a mess of needles that needed to be cleaned up and the extra responsibility of figuring out what to do with it after the holiday season?
But if Beatrice insisted on him getting a tree, he wasn't going to object. Especially since it meant more time spent with them, with the Detective, who was flagging down one of the teenagers working the lot.
Before they could head back to the car with it, she squeezed his hand to get his attention and then let go. He didn't have time to mourn the loss of contact, because she immediately said, "Why don't you and Trixie keep looking while I get this back to the car," and he was panicking.
"You- You want to leave her here?" he asked. "With me?"
She gave him a look like he was being dense, but he refused to take back the question. He was the Devil; it was foolish to trust him with a child and he didn't do babysitting, especially not out in the open where she could run off and disappear. Sure, he could always call up a hellhound to find her, but what if something else happened that a hellhound couldn't fix? What if she fell or got hurt or started to cry?
"You'll be fine," she said, and patted his cheek. "I'll come find you; go get another tree."
Then she turned to the waiting teenager and they walked off together, with the tree, going back down the row. Lucifer could only gape after her. He nearly jumped when Beatrice's small hand grasped his.
"Come on Lucifer," she said, more patient than a child should ever be. "It'll be okay. I won't let any of the trees bite you."
"Thank you, spawn," he said, decided not to point out that as long as he didn't touch one of the sharp ones, he would be fine, and that wasn't what he was worried about anyway.
He let her drag him down the aisle, only half listening to her chatter about school, and Christmas, and how much she wanted a Miss Polly Painter doll. He still needed to find one of those. He'd been around to the local stores early that morning, but no one had one hiding in the back anywhere, or any idea when they would be back in stock. He thought he might know someone who knew someone who worked at Mattel. Maybe they could get one, or at least tell him who he needed to talk to.
"Lucifer," Beatrice whined, pulling at his hand. They'd stopped in front of a rather large tree — taller than him by a good forty centimeters — and she had been saying something he didn't quite catch. "You aren't listening."
"I'm sorry," he said, and motioned for her to go on. She gave him a distrustful look so much like the Detective's that he had to smile, which seemed to put her at ease.
"I said, you need to get this one."
"Why?" he asked, looking it over. It seemed to meet all of the qualities she had mentioned, even if he still wasn't sure what "Christmas tree-shaped" meant. It was surrounded by empty space and stumps, the trees near it having already been bought and cut down.
"Because it's lonely," she said seriously, and pointed at the empty space around it. "Look, it has no friends."
He wondered if he should point out that it was a tree, and trees didn't need friends because they were plants. At the stubborn look on her face, though, he decided not to bring it up. It was going to be a beast of a tree to get into Lux, but he sighed and gave in without further argument.
"Alright," he said. "I'll get this one," and he winced when Beatrice cheered.
"You're gonna have the best Christmas tree of all," she said, grinning widely enough that he could see a missing tooth. "I'm gonna make sure of it."
He didn't doubt her for a second.
They got the tree back to the car, the Detective catching up with them halfway there. He paid a truly exorbitant amount on the way out, and they managed to get it tied to the top alongside the tree for her house. It dwarfed that tree.
"Now we go for hot cocoa," Beatrice said as they got back into the car. The detective confirmed it, telling him about a little coffee shop on the way back. He didn't recognize the name when they pulled in, but they were both right about the cocoa. It was wonderfully warm and creamy, with a sprinkling of nutmeg on top.
As they reached Lux, he found himself reluctant to have the trip come to an end. Beatrice was yawning in the back seat and even the Detective looked tired. She helped him get the tree up to his penthouse, but left Beatrice down in the car in the garage, laughing at him asking if they needed to leave the windows cracked.
"I can't stay," she said as they leaned the tree against the wall. She sounded genuinely regretful.
"I know," he told her. "Your spawn needs to sleep, I imagine."
"Mm," she murmured, turning to him and stepping close. "We can get a tree stand when we go shopping tomorrow, and then come back here and help you put the tree up. Decorating may have to wait until Monday."
He nodded solemnly. It all sounded good to him, as long as he was in her presence he would be happy. That had been the point of the entire deal in the first place, so making a day out of it was hardly a hardship. Sometimes he felt that was all he wanted — an endless series of days spent with her, and even her spawn. Even if they were merely existing in the same place, he wanted it.
"I'll see you tomorrow?" she asked.
"Of course, darling," he said, the endearment slipping out. But he didn't need to take it back, because she smiled softly at him, and then kissed his cheek.
"Store opens at eight," she said, "if you want to beat the crowds. Meet us at my place?"
"I'll be sure to be there bright and early," he said, reeling over the simple kiss to the cheek she had bestowed upon him. He wanted to reach up and touch the spot her lips had touched, to see if the skin there was as suddenly different as it felt, but couldn't bring himself to do it while she was there.
With a soft goodbye, she left him standing there, staring after her dumbly as she left.