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Caterpillars and Rocket Ships

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Lucifer sits sulking at Chloe’s desk, color coding her paperclips and darting loathing glances at Pierce’s door. The Detective is having lunch in the Lieutenant’s office again, which means they’re probably kissing. She was so eager to join him, she forgot her phone, and now it’s ringing. Lucifer glances at the screen. It’s the child’s school. His name is on file as an emergency contact, so he answers it.

 

A few moments later…

 

“Detective!” Lucifer’s voice blares out as he barges through the door without knocking.

 

Pierce and Chloe jump apart guiltily. The sour-cream laden veggie chip he was in the act of feeding her breaks under its burden and falls down inside her blouse. Glaring at Lucifer, like it’s somehow his fault, Chloe turns away to fish it out, ignoring both the paper napkin and the silk pocket square that are instantly offered.

 

“Your offspring’s school just called,” Lucifer explains to Chloe’s hostile, annoyed spine as he neatly tucks the crimson silk back inside the breast pocket of his gray Armani suit. “If you’re too busy snogging this overstuffed man-ham and fishing chips and dip out of your brassiere, I can go since I am on the emergency contacts list. And I have nothing else to do, I’ve already color coded everything inside your desk.”

 

“Lucifer!” Chloe whirls around to face him. “I told you to stay out of my desk! If you’ve been building log cabins with my tampons again, I swear, I will kil—Wait a minute! What did you say? Is Trixie alright? What happened? Is she hurt?”

 

“Now, now, Detective,” Lucifer says soothingly, “your spawn is perfectly fine, though I gather she is rather upset, being sent to the principal’s office, under threat of expulsion, and all that.”

 

“Wha—” Chloe is about to ask another question when she feels the firm grip of Pierce’s hand on her arm demanding her attention.

 

“Lucifer is Trixie’s emergency contact? Oh no,” he shakes his head adamantly; “you’re going to have to change that!”

 

Chloe doesn’t miss the way Lucifer flinches. He bristles furiously and yet he looks startled and hurt, like a child who has just been unexpectedly struck.

 

“We’ll talk about this later, Marcus,” Chloe jerks her arm away. “Right now, my daughter needs me. Come on, Lucifer, let’s go.”

 

“Lovely,” Lucifer flashes a triumphant grin back at Pierce and follows her out the door.

 

“Did Principal Tate tell you what Trixie is supposed to have done?” Chloe asks in the elevator on the way down to the parking garage.

 

“She brought lollys shaped like caterpillars and rocket ships for all her classmates,” Lucifer explains while calmly adjusting his cuffs.

 

“Huh?” Chloe frowns. “What’s wrong with that? I don’t understand! It’s Friday, they’re allowed to bring treats as long as they bring enough for the entire class. Is this about a food allergy, dietary restrictions, or…that boy Otto! His parents are really big PETA members! Did he complain about the ones shaped like caterpillars? He pulled that same stunt about chocolate bunnies last Easter!”

 

“No, Detective, it isn’t that…” Lucifer sighs and shakes his head, and Chloe can tell by his expression that he really doesn’t want to tell her. “Maze gave them to her…” he says gently and pauses again, hoping that it’s enough, but when it clearly isn’t, he continues, “she got them from Lux…”

 

“Okay,” Chloe nods. “And?”

 

“The only lollys we have at Lux are shaped like…” For once, Lucifer is delicate rather than blunt, and his dark eyes dart meaningfully down to his crotch.

 

Chloe’s jaw nearly hits the ground.

 

“We have two kinds actually,” Lucifer continues, “the ones in a relaxed state, I assume, are the caterpillars, so the ones standing at attention must be the rocket ships.”

 

“No, no, no!” Chloe wails and slumps against the wall, for a moment Lucifer fears she’s about to start banging her head or tearing her hair out.

 

“Well, Detective, it is the only logical explanation! Granted, these children do seem to be a trifle anatomically backward. I mean, caterpillars and rocket ships, really?” he scoffs. “There are boys in your child’s class, yes? And at that age they are mostly housebroken and able to dress themselves, correct? So it only stands to reason that they should recognize…”

 

“Lucifer, please!” Chloe moans. “You’re not helping! This is bad, really bad!”

 

“No, Detective, I assure you, it’s very good candy! I only buy the best! The flavors are all premium gourmet blends!”

 

But this quality assurance doesn’t comfort Chloe the least little bit. Lucifer frowns. She looks like she’s about to burst into tears.

 

He reaches inside his pocket and pulls out a small bottle. “Would you like an Advil, darling?” He shakes it enticingly. “I wasn’t sure whether I should color code them by the pills or the label—what do you think, autumnal colors or boring basics?—so I put them in my pocket while I was debating. Organizing your desk is no easy task, you know, it is a true labor of love.”

 

“Thank you, Lucifer,” Chloe says halfway between sarcasm and tears as she takes the tiny bottle from his hand.

 

“Anything for you, Detective,” he smiles and watches her dry swallow two tablets. Quickly, he offers his silver flask. “Vodka?”

 

Chloe declines with a withering stare.

 

Lucifer shrugs and unscrews the cap. “Cheers!”

 

***

 

In the hall outside the principal’s office, Trixie sits huddled on a red plastic bench, her little chin quivering with the tears she’s trying so hard to hold back.

 

“Trixie, babe, it’s okay, Mommy’s here…”

 

Trixie leaps up, rushes past her mother, and latches onto Lucifer’s legs.

 

Lucifer cringes and braces himself against the assault.

 

“Now, now, Child,” he pats her head awkwardly and looks helplessly at Chloe.

 

Chloe shrugs and ducks inside the office to let the secretary know that she’s here.

 

“Sit, sit!” Lucifer tries to usher Trixie back to the bench. “No, no, not on me!” He cries, shrinking back in horror, when she climbs onto his lap. But Trixie ignores him and wraps her arms around his neck. “Dearie me, do all children cling like leeches? Child, if I weren’t immortal, I would be dead of strangulation by now!”

 

Chloe can’t help but smile, and while pretending to check her phone she quickly snaps a picture. This moment is priceless! A quick glance at her messages reveals that there are thirteen texts from Pierce, all complaining about Lucifer being her daughter’s emergency contact, and how highly inappropriate it is for Chloe to allow him to play with her tampons like Lincoln Logs. Chloe rolls her eyes. Does Pierce really think she gave him permission to do that? Or that she wasn’t totally embarrassed when she walked in and saw the tableau he had created on her desk? But at least they were still sealed inside the wrappers, so it’s really not as bad as Pierce makes it sound. He just doesn’t get it. Lucifer is like a big kid. Yeah, he’s a pain in the ass and dealing with him requires a lot of patience sometimes, but… He actually smiled up at her and asked if she could buy some with different colored wrappers next time so he could have more variety for his cabin walls. He was trying to make a dog out of a Tootsie Roll and paperclips! It was…oddly adorable. She rolls her eyes and pockets her phone as it beeps to announce the fourteenth text. Whatever! She’ll deal with it later!

 

“It’s okay, just tell me what happened, Monkey,” Chloe says, sitting down on the bench beside Lucifer and reaching out to stroke her daughter’s hair and back.

 

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do anything wrong…” Trixie tearfully begins. “Maze gave me the lollipops. I thought it meant that we were friends again…”

 

It quickly becomes apparent that Trixie is the innocent victim of a mean and spiteful prank perpetrated by a demon with no regard for the possibly serious consequences. And Lucifer discovers that this really is no laughing matter. The school obviously considers the candy pornographic and Children’s Services might even become involved; the child could even be removed from her mother’s custody pending an investigation.

 

Trixie never had a clue anything was wrong. She thought the lollipops were neat, she’d never seen any shaped like that before.

 

Lucifer wants to ask at what age little humans traditionally learn the below the belt difference between boys and girls, but Chloe freezes his tongue with a “Don’t you dare!” look.

 

Trixie was certain her friends would love all the cool flavors, whereupon Lucifer interrupts and proudly recites: “root beer, hot pink bubblegum, pop-a-licious cherry, naughty green, and wicked red, apple, passion fruit, pineapple, peach, blue raspberry, red hot cinnamon, cotton candy, coffee-and-cream, chocolate-strawberry-swirl, vanilla-fudge-ripple, cucumber-melon-medley, banana cream, watermelon, pickle juice, pomegranate, and black-licorice-honey-twist.”

 

Chloe tries not to roll her eyes; the flavors are entirely irrelevant, but he obviously thinks he’s being helpful.

 

“Maze said they were special,” Trixie continues, “she said people pay $5 each for them every night at Lux though they only cost Lucifer 99 cents because he buys in bulk. Mommy, can Lucifer go to Costco with us next time? He must know where all the cool stuff is!”

 

“We’ll see…”

 

“I’ve never been to Costco in my life!” Lucifer huffs.

 

“Well if you don’t want to go with us, fine!” Chloe retorts.

 

“I didn’t say that! I want to go everywhere with you!”

 

“You do? Really?”

 

“Yes, really!”

 

Trixie forgets her troubles for the moment and giggles at the starry-eyed way her mother and Lucifer are looking at each other, just like two people in a movie who have suddenly realized that they love each other.

 

But her daughter’s laughter breaks the trance and Chloe quickly shakes herself. “Okay…and then what happened?”

 

“Herschel’s dad is a urologist, and Herschel wants to be one too when he grows up, and he said they weren’t caterpillars and rocket ships at all, and that I was a stupid baby because I didn’t know that they were…something else…” Trixie blushes and bites her lip, too embarrassed to say the actual word.

 

And that was when it all went so horribly and humiliatingly wrong. Miss Benson, still smarting over the pot brownies incident, hustled Trixie, Herschel, and the offending lollipops out of the classroom and straight to Principal Tate’s office.

 

“And now Miss Benson hates me, and I’m going to be expelled!” Trixie wails. “She said I used to be such a nice girl, but now I’m a no-good, mean little troublemaker!”

 

“You are no such thing!” Lucifer hotly declares, clasping Trixie’s back protectively as she dissolves in tears against his shoulder, heedless of his Armani. For an instant, Chloe could swear she saw the angry glint of red in his dark eyes.

 

Miss Benson again, Chloe sighs and covers her eyes. Why did it have to be Miss Benson?

 

Dan had requested that their last Taco Tuesday be strictly family; there was something serious he needed to discuss with her. After Trixie went to bed, he told Chloe all about the marijuana-laced brownies Maze had “helped” Trixie make to give to her favorite teacher on Teacher Appreciation Day, and the dreadful and frightening effect they had had upon the elderly schoolteacher. The paramedics had carried her out of the school on a stretcher screaming hysterically that she couldn’t feel her legs. The poor woman thought she was having a stroke. When Dan confronted Maze about it, she tried to make a joke of it and then lashed out in anger, acting like everybody was against her. She called Chloe a “goody-goody” and Trixie a “stupid brat.” Unfortunately, Trixie heard her. Dan tried to reassure her that angry people often said things they didn’t really mean, and that Maze was obviously upset about something and taking it out on other people, but it didn’t really help. Dan took Trixie to visit Miss Benson in the hospital the next day after school, bearing a pudding gift basket and a Get Well card Trixie had made, but Miss Benson screamed at them to get out and a nurse had to come in and give her a shot. Chloe had promised to go talk to her; she just wanted to give Miss Benson a little time to calm down first. She wasn’t counting on candy penises following hot on the tail of the pot brownies.

 

While her daughter sobs on Lucifer’s shoulder, Chloe tells him about the brownies and Maze.

 

“Mazikeen!” Lucifer quietly seethes. “This is all my fault, Detective…”

 

“No! It’s not! Lucifer…”

 

“It is!” Lucifer insists. “She’s clearly taking her anger at me out upon the child. This has to stop. I promise I’ll fix this, whatever it takes. Children’s Services will not be called. I refuse to let this child suffer or be punished for something that is not her fault. In my own time, in my own way, I will deal with Maze.”

 

“Lucifer…” Chloe lays her hand over his on Trixie’s tear-shuddering back.

 

“There, there, Child, there’s no need to cry, you’ve done nothing wrong,” Lucifer says gently and uses his crimson silk pocket square to dry her eyes. “Come, look at me, Beatrice, look at me,” he cradles her cheek in his hand and strokes a stray wisp of hair back behind her ear. “This is not your fault. You are the innocent victim of a cruel and malicious prank—actually, two—and, I promise you, I will make sure that Miss Benson knows that. Some women find peni—I mean caterpillars and rocket ships,” he hastily amends at Chloe’s frantic headshaking and hand-waving, “intimidating, even when they’re made out of candy, and Miss Benson was clearly rattled and not thinking clearly when she said those things to you, and I’m certain she will realize that she owes you an apology very soon. And you are not stupid; this Herschel is clearly an imbecilic dick!”

 

“Lucifer!” Chloe hisses. “Language!”

 

“Oh, are we doing the Swear Jar again?” Lucifer starts to reach for his money clip. “No, on second thought, I’ll just call American Express and have you added as an authorized user on my Black Card. I’ll have them overnight a card to you. That should suffice, yes?”

 

“No!” Chloe groans and slaps a palm over her eyes. The Advil isn’t helping; her headache is pounding and raging like a boxer on steroids.

 

“You prefer cash? Very well,” he shrugs and reaches for his money again.

 

“Lucifer, no,” Chloe puts out a hand to stop him, “just…please…watch your language. Okay? This is a school, there are children present, and we’re in enough trouble already!”

 

“That’s Herschel over there.” Trixie nods towards the snotty-nosed, freckle-faced boy in the big owl-eye spectacles and polka-dotted bowtie sitting opposite them with a little leather briefcase across his skinny knees. He’s smiling at Trixie like a smitten Cheshire cat.

 

“Ginger!” Lucifer practically shouts, nearly causing Chloe to fall off the bench. “What did I tell you, Detective? Never trust a ginger! Soulless, creepy little bast—”

 

Chloe claps a hand over his mouth.

 

As if on cue, the dreadful child rises and comes towards them. He plucks a “rocket ship” lolly from his pocket, and launches into an anatomy lecture as Lucifer and Chloe sit and stare in speechless horror. It’s creepy hearing words like erectile tissue, glans, prepuce, mucosa, smegma, sebaceous secretion, and urethral opening roll so smoothly off the tongue of a nine-year-old child.

 

“He always talks like that,” Trixie yawns and rolls her eyes in a near-perfect parody of her mother.

 

When it’s finished being an illustrative tool, the rocket ship alters course and heads straight for Herschel’s mouth.

 

Chloe quickly reaches out to stop him. “Please…don’t put that in your mouth, honey!”

 

“But it’s root beer,” Herschel says, neatly sidestepping her hand.

 

“Well you can’t argue with that,” Lucifer shrugs.

 

Chloe buries her face in her hands and groans. This day just has to be a nightmare, it just has to, and very soon she’ll wake up and everything will be alright. The kitchen smoke detector will be screaming and Pierce will be scraping the burnt toast before serving her breakfast in bed.

 

Herschel calmly opens his briefcase and hands Lucifer a very generous assortment of pamphlets from his father’s office along with several business cards offering a 10% discount for each new patient referral.

 

At the sight of a grinning cartoon “rocket ship” dancing below puffy blue letters cheerfully spelling out “Your Foreskin and You” Lucifer finally loses his patience. He lifts Trixie off his lap and sits her on the bench, then he stands, and, with a flourish, sends the pamphlets flying.

 

Great, just great, Chloe groans, her daughter is in trouble for distributing erotic candy to her classmates and now her partner is flinging cartoon penises all over the floor of a public school. Can this day really get any worse? Yes, she knows it can, and it probably will.

 

“YOU! Vile, disgusting imp! SIT!” Lucifer thunders with majestic authority. “No, not on the floor! I don’t want you within touching distance of me! Over there!” He indicates the far corner of the opposite bench. “Now, one word more out of you, ginger lad, and I will tell you exactly what the demons in Hell are going to do to your urethra! Need a hint? Think sailor’s knots and pretzels!”

 

Herschel immediately falls silent and scurries away, dragging his little briefcase behind him, dangling by one handle, scattering pamphlets, business cards, and anatomical charts in his wake.

 

Chloe finds a cartoon “rocket ship” with an icepack strapped to its swollen head and a thermometer in its mouth frowning woefully up at her from the floor and brushes it away with her boot. But that only makes things worse—there are two more pamphlets hiding beneath about “How To Wash Willy” and “How to Dress Willy,” showing the same cartoon character enjoying a shower and pulling a ski-cap-like condom over his head. She uses her heel to shove them underneath the bench.

 

“And take that lolly out of your mouth,” Lucifer commands Herschel, “you’re upsetting the Detective! You may have already traumatized the poor lady; thanks to you she may need years of therapy before she’s ever able to enjoy root beer and a rocket ship together again!”

 

Frowning, Herschel obeys and reluctantly puts the glistening wet brown sucker into his shirt pocket so that next time it emerges it will be covered in lint. Though Lucifer thinks that’s unlikely to deter a creepy ginger lad like Herschel.

 

“Lucifer! Sometimes less really is more!” Chloe snaps.

 

“Detective?” Lucifer frowns uncomprehendingly. Yet again, she looks perilously close to tears. Despite her recent protestations about how happy she is, she doesn’t look happy at all. And she doesn’t look like she’s been sleeping well; there’s a tired, strained look about her face and eyes. Lucifer is experienced enough to know that it’s not ecstasy—the narcotic or the carnal kind—that has been depriving her of rest. The Devil knows internal torment when he sees it. He may not always understand it—that’s one of the things he relies on his therapist for—but he recognizes the symptoms.

 

And he’s worried that she’s not eating properly. She’s still buying those vile vending machine sandwiches. Pierce has seen her do it several times and never said a word about it. Clearly, he doesn’t know how to take care of her properly! Last night, when they were sitting in front of the penthouse fireplace eating caramel-cheddar-jalapeno-ranch popcorn mixed with candy corn and candy-coated peanuts, Lucifer mournfully confided to Amenadiel that he was afraid Pierce was feeding Chloe canned soup. He was certain he’d caught a glimpse of a red and white Campbell’s can peeping out of the cupboard the last time he was in her apartment. But Amenadiel patted his shoulder sympathetically and said, “Surely not even Cain would do that, Brother!” Just thinking about it upset Lucifer so much that he actually let Amenadiel hug him.

 

Chloe shakes her head and waves him off. She’s clearly not in the mood for conversation. Lucifer suspects she’s probably suffering from the early stages of malnutrition. She’s wilting right before his eyes just like that miserable plant on her desk, and not even top shelf vodka could revive it. Perhaps she needs some vitamins or a blood transfusion?

 

Trixie tugs on Lucifer’s lapel to get his attention and whispers, “I think he likes me.” She jerks her head over at Herschel.

 

Lucifer stares at her for a long horrified moment. Finally he asks, “Child, you do realize that you can do better?”

 

“Grandma says he’s a doctor’s son,” Trixie whispers back.

 

To which Lucifer counters, “Has your grandmother ever spent five minutes with Herschel?”

 

In spite of herself, Chloe has to bite her lip to keep from laughing. Unlike most adults, Lucifer doesn’t talk down to children. He actually listens to Trixie and takes what she says seriously. He isn’t just humoring her. He doesn’t just nod and smile or pour the cold rain of doubt on her dreams. When Pierce asked Trixie what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said “The First President of Mars” he responded with such a longwinded scientific lecture about how unfeasible such an ambition actually was that both mother and daughter nodded off at the dinner table.

 

Principal Tate pokes his head out of his office, “I’ll see you now, Detect—” he gasps at the sight of the cartoon phalluses cavorting all over the brown tile hall.

 

“Ginger lad!” Lucifer levels an accusing finger straight at Herschel.

 

“Herschel,” Principal Tate sighs, “you’ve been told several times not to bring these…” he winces and massages his balding pate like he already has a headache, “…things to school. I think it’s time I had a talk with your father…again. And this time I am not going to let him sidetrack me talking about my prostate, we are going to have a serious discussion about you. Now, I want you to pick every one of these pamphlets up before the next bell and make sure you don’t miss a single one. Detective Decker…” he holds the door open wide for her.

 

“No, no, no, let me handle this!” Lucifer insists. “You stay here, Detective, and make sure that ginger does as he’s told! But don’t turn your back on him for a moment, you have it direct from The Devil’s mouth—gingers, they’re not to be trusted! Do you see this, ginger lad?” Lucifer ducks behind Chloe and gathers up her jacket and shirt to reveal her holstered weapon. “She’s not afraid to use it; she shot me once!”

 

“Lucifer!” Chloe swats his hands away from her hips. And the moment they’re withdrawn is the same moment when she realizes just how good they felt there.

 

“Well it’s true!” he says defensively.

 

“It’s okay, Herschel,” Trixie smiles reassuringly, “Mommy only shot Lucifer because she likes him.”

 

“Now, Monkey, I…” Chloe suddenly finds herself blushing. She’s still feeling the warm ghosts of Lucifer’s fingers grazing her skin.

 

Lucifer just grins adoringly at his Detective.

 

“No, I…she just assumed that because…there was this boy in her class…and he kept throwing French fries at her, and I told her that could mean that…he…liked her.” Chloe sighs and gives up.

 

“What an…interesting…life you lead, Detective Decker,” Principal Tate says, gesturing for Lucifer to precede him into the office. It doesn’t escape Chloe that he’s staring at her partner with unabashed fascination. It’s enough to make her decide that if he’s not out of there in five minutes she’s going in after him.

 

***

 

She’s never known five minutes to pass so slowly. Each second seems to stretch into an hour. She sits and fidgets and stares at the clock on her phone and the increasing number of texts piling up from Pierce. Finally she gets up and starts pacing back and forth, stepping carefully around Herschel still crawling around on his hands and knees picking up his precious pamphlets and lovingly smoothing them out before putting them back inside his briefcase. He pauses for a moment, kneeling at her feet, to offer Chloe a coupon to give to her boyfriend. It’s for 15% off a prostate exam—“Bring a buddy and save 20%!” Chloe politely declines.

 

“But regular prostate exams are important!” Herschel persists.

 

“Yeah, okay, thanks!” Chloe thrusts the unwanted coupon in her pocket just to get him to shut up. This kid really is creepy! So creepy that she’s hoping his crush on her daughter will peter out very soon. And what kind of doctor sends his kid to school to hand out coupons for discounted prostate exams?

 

What are they doing in there? She glances back at the door. Does she even want to know? What is Lucifer saying? Is he doing his eye mojo thing? When she knows she can’t endure it a moment longer without going mad or her head exploding she yanks open the door, and, ignoring the secretary’s startled glance, strides straight into the inner office.

 

“Hello, Detective!” Lucifer turns around and smiles at her from his perch on the edge of the principal’s desk. His crimson shirt is unbuttoned and hanging open, fully exposing his smooth, perfectly tanned and toned chest. He’s sitting with his feet propped up, the red soles of his shoes resting lightly on the arms of Principal Tate’s chair, while the short, roly-poly principal, pink-faced and perspiring profusely, sits blissfully trapped between Lucifer’s spread legs, staring up at him in drooling adoration. And Miss Benson! The elderly spinster has let her long gray hair down out of its no-nonsense skin-straining bun and taken off her horn-rimmed glasses. She’s blushing like a schoolgirl as she sidles up against Lucifer and coquettishly twirls his dark hair around her bony, arthritic fingers.

 

No, this is not happening! Chloe groans inwardly. She shuts her eyes and shakes her head vigorously and then opens them again, but the scene remains the same. Yes, this really is happening!

 

“Don’t worry, Detective, everything’s fine, just like I promised it would be,” he purrs smoothly, sensuously. “I’ve explained everything, and your child’s reputation is fully vindicated. Both Miss Benson and Principal Tate realize that she is the innocent victim of a cruel prank, and there’s no need to chastise her or take any further action. We’re just going to forget this ever happened, and the brownie incident too. But first…Beatrice deserves a wholehearted and sincere apology, which she will be receiving very soon, before the school day ends. Isn’t that so?”

 

“Oh yes!” Principal Tate and Miss Benson collectively breathe, unable to take their eyes, or their hands, off Lucifer. They’re like moths about to burn themselves to death by getting too close to a flame.

 

“Sweet, adorable, wonderful child!” Miss Benson sighs. “So radiant, so beautiful, so bright! Detective Decker, you must be so proud!” It’s not really clear to Chloe whether she’s talking about Trixie or Lucifer, but, since her hand has just timidly lighted on his thigh, it’s a safe bet that she probably means Lucifer.

 

Oblivious to the pudgy pink and crepe-wrinkled white hands pawing him, Lucifer looks at Chloe with heart-melting eyes that seem to beg for confirmation that she is indeed proud of him.

 

Chloe stares back at him incredulously. He really expects her to be pleased about this?

 

The moment passes quickly and Lucifer looks away, leaving Chloe with the inexplicably sad feeling that he didn’t get what he needed.

 

“As for the rest…” Lucifer shrugs and pauses meaningfully, “Detective, you might want to wait outside while I…”

 

“What? Oh! No, no, uh-uh, not happening! Lucifer, that is not the way we are settling this! Your sexual favors are off the table, I mean desk! Put your feet down!” She slaps his knee and begins briskly buttoning up his shirt to the supreme dismay of Miss Benson and Principal Tate. There’s a big, silly grin on Lucifer’s face while he watches her fingers moving swiftly over his chest, the knuckles sometimes brushing against warm, bare skin as she shoves the buttons through the holes. He seems mesmerized by her hands. “I’m glad they realize that my daughter is innocent, she didn’t even know what those lollipops were supposed to be, and if we need to discuss this further…call me…but…no, Lucifer, you are not…” She snatches up his jacket and the bag of confiscated lollipops; she’s not about to leave the evidence against her daughter lying on the principal’s desk. “Put your jacket on! Let’s go!”

 

Both Principal Tate and Miss Benson look as though the light has just gone out of their lives.

 

“But Detective!” Lucifer glances apologetically back over his shoulder and shrugs helplessly as Chloe drags him towards the door. “Miss Benson wants to lose her virginity! She’s been waiting for me all her life, or so she tells me, and the poor dear is seventy! And Principal Tate wants to…”

 

“Don’t tell me, I don’t even want to know! Whatever it is, you’re not doing it! Just a minute,” she stops abruptly in front of the door and turns back to look Lucifer up and down.  “Fix your hair! I don’t want Trixie to see you looking like this.” When he doesn’t do it fast enough, she does it for him. Then she reaches out and adjusts his collar. “Tuck your shirt in! Are your pants zipped? Is your belt buckled? I’m not looking; you take care of that yourself right now! Go on—check!”

 

“I assure you that they are,” Lucifer smirks. “Things hadn’t advanced that far before you came in. Why, Detective, you’re blushing!”

 

“Out!” Chloe thrusts the sack of suckers into Lucifer’s arms then shoves him through the door ahead of her.

 

“Marry him the moment he asks!” Miss Benson calls after her.

 

Chloe just rolls her eyes. Maybe they should consider another school for Trixie next year? She’ll talk it over with Dan next Taco Tuesday.

 

As soon as the door closes behind them, Herschel is there, asking “Can I have another lollipop?”

 

Both Chloe and Lucifer answer with an emphatic “No!”

 

“Trixie says you’re The Devil,” Herschel stands his ground, eyeing Lucifer like a scientific specimen.

 

“The one and only!” Lucifer purrs silkily like a dangerous Persian cat eyeing a mouse.

 

“…but I told her you must be delusional,” Herschel finishes.

 

“Oh, really, did you now?” Lucifer smiles and takes a menacing step forward. Herschel bleats like a frightened sheep and backs away. Lucifer advances another step and that’s enough to send Herschel scurrying back to the far edge of the opposite bench.

 

Chloe kneels down in front of Trixie.

 

“It looks like everything’s okay now, Monkey. You’re not going to be expelled or punished or anything, and you can go back to class now. We’ll talk some more about what happened later, but it’s nothing for you to worry about. Just do me a favor, don’t take any more candy from Maze, okay?”

 

“No, Mommy, I won’t! Cross my heart!” Trixie promises with a huge sigh of relief and hugs her mother. “Thanks, Lucifer!” she smiles up at him from over Chloe’s shoulder.

 

“My pleasure, Urchin,” Lucifer awkwardly smiles back.

 

“Mommy, can Lucifer come to dinner tonight?”

 

“Sure, if he wants to…”

 

It’s been months since they played Monopoly. Chloe had hoped their game nights might become a regular thing, the three of them really had fun, but then…Pierce happened. They had tried Monopoly one night, but it just wasn’t the same; it was awkward and strained, it just wasn’t…fun. “Strategic” was the word that kept bubbling to the surface of Chloe’s mind. Pierce played the game like it really was a ruthless business transaction. Maybe it was just the wrong game for them? Maybe they should try something more lighthearted next time like Candy Land? Maybe, in time, when they’re all more used to each other, things will get better? And if not…well there are more important things than board games.

 

“May I cook?” Lucifer asks hopefully.

 

“Yeah, sure, if you want to…”

 

“Lovely, I’ll make lasagna.” Lucifer is already envisioning a nice, hearty, nourishing meal for his Detective.

 

“Oh, that sounds good!”

 

Well it could hardly be worse than canned soup! Lucifer almost tells her, but bites his tongue at the last instant. She might think he’s being overly, and unjustly, critical of Pierce and un-invite him.

 

“Well…um…why don’t we go get the ingredients, and by the time we’re done at the store it should be time to come pick up Trixie.” Chloe glances down when she feels a hand tugging at the tail of her jacket.

 

“Can I come to dinner?” Herschel asks.

 

“No, absolutely not!” Lucifer grabs Chloe’s arm and ushers her firmly towards the exit before she can answer. “Bye, Urchin!” he calls back over his shoulder.

 

“Bye, Lucifer!” Trixie waves.

 

“Is your mommy going to marry the crazy scary man?” Herschel asks Trixie as he yanks the sticky lint-coated lolly out of his pocket.

 

“Yeah,” Trixie nods, “she just doesn’t know it yet.”

 

***

 

“Let’s sit down here a moment,” Chloe says, taking Lucifer’s arm and guiding him towards a bench outside the school. “I want to talk to you…”

 

“Very well, Detective,” Lucifer obediently sits down beside her.

 

“Lucifer...” Chloe glances down but ignores the persistent beeping of her phone. She and Pierce really are going to have a talk soon, and they’re going to start with the subject of phone etiquette. This is ridiculous! Enough is enough!

 

“Don’t you want to answer that, Detective?” Lucifer asks, indicating the phone.

 

“No, I really don’t. Right now, I want to talk to you, I think this is more important. Lucifer,” Chloe begins gently, “I’m not taking your name off Trixie’s emergency contacts list…”

 

“You’re not? Really?” He seems surprised.

 

“No!” Chloe reaches out a reassuring hand. “And I want you to know, I never even considered doing that. Trixie loves you, she trusts you, and… She says she likes Marcus, but…I think she’s only saying that to please me...I just…” She shakes her head and decides not to say more, not to give voice to the doubts gnawing like rats inside her brain. “The only reason I told him that we would talk about it later was because getting to my daughter was more important than standing there arguing about it. And I’m sorry if that hurt your feelings or made you think…”

 

“It’s fine, Detective, I understand, and…thank you,” he flashes her a timid smile. “I’m glad you trust me with your offspring…”

 

“I do, but you’ve got to promise me something, okay?”

 

Lucifer is all too aware of her hand on his sleeve. How can she not know that even her most casual touch is like a caress to his soul?

 

“Anything for you, Detective!” he readily agrees. “Ask and it’s yours!”

 

“Good!” Chloe nods happily. “So, if you’re ever called to the school again, there will be no more bartering of your sexual favors.”

 

“But, Detective!” Lucifer interrupts. “It was the easiest way! And what about Miss Benson’s virginity?”

 

“That’s not your problem to solve,” Chloe says firmly. “Miss Benson will just have to deal with that herself, without you, and preferably after school hours. And the same goes for Principal Tate and whatever he wanted too. Understood?”

 

“Very well, Detective, if you insist…”

 

“Lucifer, the easy way isn’t always the right way or the best way. And you should have more respect for yourself,” she reaches up to brush back a stray lock of dark hair from his forehead, “I do…”

 

The phone beeps again and Chloe snatches it up angrily.

 

Enough with the texts Pierce we’ll talk later! She fires back then thrusts the phone deep inside her pocket.

 

“Come on, let’s go shopping,” she stands up and reaches down a hand to pull Lucifer up after her.

 

“With pleasure!” Lucifer smiles and eagerly follows her to the car.

 

***

 

Lucifer seems fascinated by the grocery store. If Chloe didn’t know better, she’d think he’d never been in one before. He watches, enthralled, as a small boy throws a tantrum, flinging himself down on the floor and hammering it with his fists while howling like a mortally wounded werewolf, when his mother refuses to buy him a box of breakfast cereal. The poor woman looks like she’s ready to cry and rip her hair out. When she finally manages to drag her flailing and wailing child away, Lucifer picks up the brightly colored cereal box and studies it like an archaeologist gazing at some rare, precious Egyptian artifact that it’s taken him a lifetime to discover.

 

“Detective…for that child to carry on so…this must be the most wonderful cereal in the world!” He quickly adds the box, then two more, to their cart. He’s about to go back for another when Chloe stops him.

 

“Lucifer, I really think three is enough, it’s actually three too many. That stuff is nothing but sugar and calories, it has no nutritional value.”

 

“But, Detective, it has marshmallows shaped like space lizards, unicorns, squids, robots, and little green men, and crunchy chocolate spaceship puffs, strawberry asteroids, vanilla stars, and peanut butter laser guns! And look!” He points to the loud yellow and red banner screaming across the top of the box, “There are now 30% more rainbow candy planets—30% more! And there’s a free glow-in-the-dark toy inside every box!”

 

“Lucifer, that cereal costs nearly $7 a box, so any toy inside it is definitely not free!”

 

In answer, Lucifer points at the big red FREE printed on the box beside a picture of a glow-in-the-dark rubber fish that supposedly tells fortunes.

 

“Whatever!” Chloe rolls her eyes. She’s not about to fight this battle.

 

An elderly woman and her adult daughter standing by the Shredded Wheat are watching them as though they’re an afternoon soap opera.

 

“Poor dear,” the woman remarks with eyes full of pity, “her husband must have a traumatic brain injury, like that lady we read about in Reader’s Digest. You know, the one whose husband fell off a rollercoaster and is now the mental age of seven.”

 

Her daughter agrees, “We should pray for them at church tonight, Mother.”

 

Great! Just great! Chloe decides then and there to avoid the candy aisle, and maybe they should skip the chips too. With an awkward nod and smile directed at their audience, she takes Lucifer’s arm, determined to steer him away from that awful cereal.

 

“Don’t we need some spices or herbs for your lasagna?” she asks.

 

“We do indeed,” Lucifer says smoothly as he adds another box of cereal to their cart. “Lead the way, Detective! Oh look! There’s a whole rack of gummies here at the end of the aisle! Ten bags for $10! Detective, maybe we should get a second cart?”

 

For a man who habitually drinks bottles of wine that cost more than her rent, Chloe is surprised to find Lucifer doesn’t turn up his nose at mainstream, popular food brands like McCormick spices, Barilla pasta, and Kraft cheese. Perhaps he just realizes that these are what she’s most comfortable with? He doesn’t make a single snobby comment, not even on the wine aisle, though he does want to unleash all the wrath of Heaven and Hell and blast the entire canned soup section from this earthly plane. It must be some sort of Sodom and Gomorrah metaphor combined with a deep-seated gourmet prejudice against condensed soup. “This foul, vile slimy slop,” he declares, jabbing a furious finger at a shelf of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars “is the worst abomination ever created by man!” To calm him down before the manager comes and asks them to leave, Chloe points to an end-cap and says “Look, Lucifer, more gummies!” And the soup is forgotten, but not forgiven, as several bags of sweet-and-sour snakes and gummy soda bottles join the various worms, sharks, frogs, bears, dinosaurs, peach rings, berries, cherries, strawberry puffs, and alphabet letters already in the cart.

 

 Lucifer must make lasagna a lot to have memorized the recipe’s long list of ingredients and their exact quantities, Chloe marvels as she watches him carefully selecting spices, cheeses, vegetables, and meats. Even when Chloe assures him that she has things like olive oil and eggs already at the apartment, he insists on buying them anyway, saying she can always use whatever’s left over for other things. Before they leave, he insists on stopping by the store bakery to buy fresh-baked bread, the nicest chocolate cake they have, and a beautifully decadent Limoncello cake that he chooses just for her saying, “if you like lemon bars, Detective, you’re certain to love this!” On the way out, they stop at the coffee shop in front where he thoughtfully orders a hot chocolate with extra whipped cream for Trixie along with their lattes. At Lucifer’s urging, this time Chloe indulges and has regular instead of sugar-free caramel drizzle. That seems to make Lucifer really happy.

 

***

 

Chloe sits at the kitchen table and helps Trixie with her homework while Lucifer rolls his dark red shirtsleeves up, puts on her apron, and moves confidently around the kitchen, browning meat and preparing the sauce. It’s already starting to smell mouthwateringly delicious. Her tummy rumbles with anticipation, reminding her that she had nothing for lunch except a couple of Pierce’s veggie chips with sour cream dip, and the latte Lucifer bought her, and yeah, okay, she did give in and sample a couple of his blue raspberry gummy sharks in the car while they were waiting for Trixie, but that hardly counts as a real meal. And burnt toast isn’t a proper breakfast, especially when you’re afraid to bite down on it for fear of breaking a tooth, and Pierce uses practically a whole stick of margarine to conceal the brick-hard blackness.

 

She realizes then that though she’s shared many a meal with Lucifer, and even tasted his cooking the night of their almost kiss when he made her a burger and fries, she’s never actually seen him prepare a meal. He’s very comfortable in the kitchen, focused but relaxed. And, unlike Chloe herself, he never once pauses to use his phone to consult the internet about whether it’s a teaspoon or tablespoon of this or that. She always has trouble keeping those two straight, sometimes with disastrous results if she doesn’t take time to look the recipe up. Chloe only ever attempted lasagna once—the night Dan’s parents first came to dinner. She’d never met them before and she was really nervous because they were going to announce their engagement, so nervous in fact that she accidentally picked up the green canister of Comet Cleanser instead of the grated parmesan cheese she intended. Dinner was certainly memorable, though definitely not delicious. Chloe cried all night afterwards, but enough time has passed that she can laugh about it now. It’s one of Trixie’s favorite stories; she once wrote a paper about it for school. And Lucifer thinks it’s hysterically funny, especially the part about Dan’s parents insisting on going to the emergency room to have their stomachs pumped even though they only had one or two bites.

 

Their phones sit side by side on the counter, chirping like a pair of bickering lovebirds, first one and then the other, sometimes overlapping. Finally, Lucifer dries his hands and picks up his phone to see who keeps texting him with such annoying regularity.

 

“Oh, it’s Amenadiel!” he groans and, with a gleeful grin, shows Chloe the screen.

 

Brother, did you send my photo to PorkyPig1963? He keeps texting me that he likes what he sees and wants to take a bubble bath with me.

 

“Lucifer!” Chloe lowers her voice, mindful of Trixie’s proximity. “Is he talking about Principal Tate?”

 

“He is indeed.” Lucifer leans closer. “Since you were quite adamant that you didn’t want me to oblige him, I suggested a substitute. And I happen to know that Amenadiel just adores bubble baths. He once ruined a suite at the Waldorf Astoria by pouring an entire box of Mr. Bubble in the bathtub. However, I did make it clear that whatever happened was beyond my control and that Amenadiel might very well say no.”

 

Chloe is surprised by the frisson of desire that ripples through her whole body at the feel of Lucifer’s warm breath against her ear.

 

“What am I going to do with you?” she shakes her head, unable to suppress a smile.

 

“A bubble bath might be nice?” Lucifer suggests.

 

“Go stir your sauce,” she rolls her eyes and gives him a playful little push.

 

“What does he want now?” he sighs when his phone beeps again.

 

Chloe glances down at the screen. “He wants you to call him after his art class and tell him about—Lucifer! Did you arrange a date between your brother and Miss Benson?”

 

“I might have…”

 

“Lucifer! I can’t believe…no, actually, I can!”

 

“Well, I felt bad for the poor lady, to be seventy and to never have experienced…”

 

“Lucifer!” Chloe jerks her head in Trixie’s direction, a silent reminder for him to watch what he says.

 

“Mommy,” Trixie looks up from her homework, “isn’t Amenadiel too young to date Miss Benson?”

 

“He’s older than he looks, Child,” Lucifer is quick to assure her. “He’s several minutes older than I am.”

 

To steer the conversation back to safer ground, Chloe asks, “So Amenadiel is taking an art class?”

 

“Yes, Advanced Portraiture. He likes it even better than the cake decorating class he took last month. He’s the most artistically talented of all my siblings, and that includes me. Let me show you some of his work,” he leaves the sauce to simmer and returns to Chloe’s side and picks up his phone.

 

Chloe stares at the blotches and squiggles of bright colors framed by long yellow zigzags. “Did you say Abstract Portraiture?”

 

“No—Advanced. Come now, Detective, surely you know who this is?”

 

“A…bowl of fruit?”

 

“No, I said who not what! A bowl of fruit, really, Detective! Oh! My apologies, it’s upside down! There now! Don’t you see? It’s Dr. Linda!”

 

“Oh…” Chloe tilts her head from side to side, “um…yeah…sure…of course it is...Linda.”

 

Trixie grins at seeing her mother and Lucifer huddled so close together over his phone. Though she would like to see the pictures too, she knows it’s even more important to give them their privacy. Her mother needs to wake up and realize that it’s Lucifer, not Pierce, who truly makes her happy, so they need moments like these.

 

Lucifer scrolls to the next photo. “And this is his first wedding cake…also his last.”

 

“Oh, a topsy-turvy cake! That’s kinda cute! Why are there purple spiders all over it? Is it for a Halloween wedding?”

 

“Those aren’t spiders, they’re anemones! And it’s only…slightly topsy-turvy, depending on how you look at it. Really, Detective, perhaps you should have your eyes examined?” He furrows his brow and gazes at her with the utmost concern. Perhaps the malnutrition is blurring her vision? The evils of canned soup cannot be underestimated!

 

“No, I think I’m good,” Chloe assures him. “Anemones, huh? The sea creature or the flower?”

 

“Well…” Lucifer nibbles his lower lip thoughtfully and tilts his head, “I think he intended that intentionally to be open to interpretation. Amenadiel can be rather vague at times, sometimes maddeningly so. But that’s the beauty of this cake—it’s equally appropriate for a beach wedding, a garden, or even a lighthearted Halloween nuptial celebration at SeaWorld…or the arachnid exhibit at the zoo. Now, I really must show you his masterpiece.”

 

To Chloe, it looks kind of like a long, skinny tan ampersand scribbled sloppily on a streaky black background. Perhaps it’s a pretzel gone horribly wrong?

 

“Me, of course,” Lucifer says, thankfully before Chloe has to ask or hazard a guess. “Lying on my bed…naked,” he whispers the last word softly, silkily, letting his lips briefly graze her ear.

 

Chloe’s breath catches and she shivers. There’s that ripple of desire racing through her again.

 

“I’m…speechless…”

 

“Oh, Detective! May I tell him that? He’ll be so pleased!”

 

“Sure!”

 

“When he showed my portrait to his instructor, side by side with the photo of moi, Professor Leigh was astounded; he said he’d seen nothing like it in all his thirty-three years of teaching!” Lucifer says proudly. “Here, so you can compare just like the professor did,” he scrolls to the next image. “Now isn’t that breathtaking?”

 

Chloe almost falls off her seat at the sudden sight of Lucifer lying stark naked on his black bed, arms pillowed behind his head, one leg extended, the other bent and crossed beneath the other, so that his large, uncircumcised penis is fully displayed, at rest in a nest of short black curls. Oddly, the photo isn’t lewd at all. Lucifer looks relaxed, peaceful, almost innocent instead of lascivious. His eyes are half-shut, as though he’s drowsing. He isn’t “on,” ready to give someone the best night of their life, he’s just resting.

 

 “Why don’t you text him right now and tell him what I said?” Chloe suggests, gently pushing the phone away while she tries to get a grip on her emotions. “Maybe you can catch him before his class starts and it will inspire him.”

 

“That’s a very good idea, Detective!” Lucifer agrees and Chloe quickly turns to Trixie, hoping a little parenting will help distract her.

 

“So, Monkey, how’s your Social Studies homework going? Need any help?”

 

“I have to ask three adults what their first job was,” Trixie says. “I want to ask you, Daddy, and Lucifer. Mommy, are you alright? Your face looks really red.”

 

“Does it?” Chloe presses her hands against her cheeks. “Oh, it…um…must be the onions Lucifer was chopping. I’ll just go splash some cold water on it. Here,” she pushes her phone towards Trixie. “Why don’t you call Daddy and ask him about his first job while I go upstairs for a few minutes.”

 

Upstairs in the bathroom, Chloe splashes so much water on her face trying to cool and calm herself down that it’s practically a cold shower and a wet t-shirt contest. Her mind’s eye just can’t stop seeing that picture of Lucifer, and she keeps remembering his hands on her hips, and the warmth of his breath against her ear. As she changes into a baggy tunic-length tee she keeps telling herself that it’s no big deal, she’s seen Lucifer naked before. It obviously means nothing to him; he’s so casual about it, Amenadiel’s whole art class has seen that picture and who knows how many other people, so why should it bother her?

 

When she comes downstairs again, Trixie is watching Lucifer expertly layer the lasagna noodles with meat sauce and cheese.

 

“Mmmm, that looks so good!” Chloe says, admiring the lasagna as Lucifer sprinkles some more cheese on top just before putting it in the oven.

 

“Thank you, I hope it will taste even better,” Lucifer smiles. Look at her, the poor dear is practically salivating for a proper meal! A few more cans of Campbell’s and he might have lost her forever! “Amenadiel sends you his thanks; he says speechlessness is the highest compliment an artist can receive apart from tears. And your words have indeed inspired him—tonight’s subject is a marmalade cat discovering a baby in a cabbage patch. When it’s finished, he wants to make you a present of it.”

 

“Oh! That is so…nice of him! Be sure and thank him for me. Trix, did you call Daddy?”

 

Trixie puts down her pencil and looks up from her notebook. “He said starting when he was seven the old lady next door paid him a penny each for picking up fallen peaches and scaring the squirrels away from her peach tree. He had a little notepad where he kept tally of all the peaches and squirrels. And every Sunday after Mass she paid him and gave him a big piece of peach pie. He had that job until he was seventeen.”

 

“Oh, I didn’t know that! I thought peaches made your Daddy break out in hives?”

 

“They do, that was how he found out,” Trixie explains, “but he said the pies were really good. And once, sometimes twice, a month during peach season he saved up enough pennies to get gumballs out of the machine in front of the grocery store when it wasn’t broken.”

 

“Very enterprising of Daniel,” Lucifer sniggers.

 

“And what was your first job, Lucifer?” Chloe counters.

 

“When my father said ‘Let there be light!’ I illuminated the heavens, I created the stars, the moon, and the sun,” he says proudly.

 

“I’ll just put electrician,” Trixie picks up her pencil.

 

Lucifer frowns. “That sounds very…”

 

“Normal?” Chloe suggests, giving his ribs a playful little nudge.

 

“Distressingly so! And what was your first job, Detective?” He steps closer, into her personal space, and purrs almost seductively.

 

“When I was four-years-old I starred in a flea collar commercial,” Chloe answers.

 

Lucifer steps back and gives her the strangest stare. It lasts for so long that Chloe finally has to touch his chest and ask if he’s alright.

 

“I don’t understand,” he says finally, a deep and troubled frown furrowing his brow. “Detective, your mother has shown me your scrapbook, and you appear to have been a very clean child with excellent personal hygiene. Why would you need to wear a flea collar?”

 

He looks so earnest, so serious, so confused! He really thinks…

 

Chloe is laughing so hard she barely manages to blurt out. “Not me! It was the Saint Bernard dog…in the commercial…with me!”

 

The laughter is contagious and soon all three of them—Chloe, Lucifer, and Trixie—are cuddled together on the couch, convulsed with laughter.

 

That’s exactly how Pierce finds them. The expression on his face instantly murders the mood. Trixie suddenly remembers she has homework to finish and Lucifer feels an urgent need to check on the lasagna, leaving Chloe to explain that Lucifer thought she had to wear a flea collar when she was four and it was really funny, only Pierce doesn’t agree.

 

Lucifer tries to help, calling from the kitchen, “I thought it might be something that all human offspring have to wear at that age, like diapers.”

 

The two of them share a look and almost start laughing again, but Pierce quickly puts a stop to it. His fingers bite into the softness of Chloe’s upper arm to get her attention.

 

“Did you update Trixie’s emergency contact info?”

 

Chloe pulls away from him. “Not in front of Trixie,” she says softly. “Let’s go outside and talk for a few minutes, okay?”

 

He doesn’t look pleased, but he agrees and follows her out.

 

The words don’t carry but their voices do. Trixie puts down her pencil and frowns. Lucifer’s body tenses and he gazes worriedly towards the windows.

 

Trixie slips down from her stool and comes to stand beside him.

 

“It’s okay, Lucifer,” she reaches up and squeezes his hand. “Mommy will figure it out soon. She’s a very good detective, but maybe you should give her a clue? A really good one!”

 

Lucifer frowns down at her, clearly he doesn’t understand.

 

“That you love her,” Trixie explains. “Mommy loves you, but she doesn’t know that you love her. That’s why you should give her a clue, a really good clue.”

 

“But isn’t it too late?” he nods towards the windows and the now quieter voices.

 

Lucifer looks so puzzled and upset that Trixie just has to hug him.

 

“Don’t worry, Lucifer, it’ll be okay.”

 

“I hope so,” he pats her head uncertainly.

 

Outside the window, Pierce’s silhouette moves towards Chloe’s. He grabs her wrist. Lucifer takes a step forward but just then the door opens. Trixie quickly climbs back on her stool and Lucifer busies himself with the bread. He doesn’t notice her little hand darting out to grab his phone and slip it inside the vivid pink and red flowered backpack lying in front of her.

 

Please God, Trixie offers up a silent prayer, don’t let it ring! If Pierce makes Lucifer leave—and she knows he’s going to try, she can tell by the way he’s looking at him—Lucifer will have to come back if he forgets his phone; his Corvette is still at the police station, and he won’t be able to call his brother or Uber without his phone. If he leaves, Chloe will be upset, she’ll be mad at Marcus for making him go, and maybe she’ll make him leave too, then if Lucifer comes back they can be alone together.

 

“Trixie is just a kid,” Pierce is saying, “she doesn’t know…”

 

“Hush!” Chloe hisses. “So, how’s everything going in here?” She forces a smile and brushes a loving hand over her daughter’s hair. “Almost done with your homework, Baby? Mmmm…Smell’s delicious,” she says, casually brushing up against Lucifer and patting his back, below his scars, as she passes him. “You okay?” she asks. “You look worried.”

 

He hesitates uncertainly. “Are you okay?” he asks. He notices that she’s rubbing her wrist.

 

“Mmmhmmm, yeah, I’m fine,” Chloe assures him, quickly dropping her wrist.

 

“Of course she’s fine, why wouldn’t she be fine?” Pierce interrupts, pointedly walking between them, instead of around, on his way to the fridge to get himself a beer so that they both have to take a step back, away from each other. “Chloe, why is the garbage can full of soup? These haven’t even been opened! There’s nothing wrong with them; the expiration dates are still good! Chloe, there are a dozen cans in here!” He starts digging them out, slamming each can angrily down upon the counter, scattering coffee grounds, eggshells, and plastic strips from the zip-top packages of cheese all over the floor.

 

Chloe starts to give Lucifer a stern, scolding stare but she can’t help herself and a smile breaks through. She bites her lip, but it still quivers. He arches a brow at her and his mouth forms a saucy smirk. They’re standing there, just a few steps apart, staring at each other, trying hard to hold back their laughter, and then they melt, dissolving into laughter, and they’re hugging, clinging to each other.

 

“There’s nothing funny about wasting food!” Pierce grouses as he yanks several paper towels from the roll and wipes off the soup cans before shoving them back inside the cabinet and slamming the door.

 

Trixie smiles over her notebook. It’s only a matter of time now…

 

***

 

The food is wonderful, but the dinner is dreadful. Pierce keeps dropping hints that Lucifer should leave, while Chloe and Trixie are equally determined that he should stay, and Lucifer has no idea what he should do. He wants to stay with Chloe, but he hates seeing her with Pierce. He doesn’t like the tension. He doesn’t understand how she can possibly be happy with this dullard. Is he only being such a boor, behaving like a tomcat marking his territory, because Lucifer is there? If he leaves, perhaps Pierce will be gentler with the Detective? But just the thought of that makes Lucifer’s heart hurt. The thought of those big, hard ham hands on her soft, smooth skin disgusts him. He doesn’t want Pierce to touch her. But this is about her, her happiness, her choice, her free will.

 

Chloe suggests that since they all enjoy Italian food they should schedule a regular night for it, just like they do Taco Tuesday. Pierce is quick to point out that they don’t need Lucifer for that. There are lots of good Italian restaurants they can get takeout from, and he can cook; he made macaroni and cheese for Trixie once.

 

“The kind in the skinny blue box,” Trixie pipes up, adding that she found the box in the trash along with the one for the Betty Crocker lemon bar mix when she was looking for the little silver seahorse charm she lost off the bracelet her friend Landa made her.

 

Chloe can tell how slighted Lucifer feels, like he’s being sidelined and shoved out of her life. There’s this sad, miserable, lost look on his face. He’s fidgety and tense, like he’s fighting the urge to run away, and she reaches out a reassuring hand and strokes his arm, trying to calm him down.

 

“Lucifer is part of this family, he belongs here, and we miss him when he’s not here. Isn’t that right, Trix?”

 

“Detective…Chloe…” he looks at her with so much feeling in his eyes that Chloe feels like her heart is about to burst. Tears start to well up in her eyes.

 

“Yay! Lucifer can come and cook for us every night!” Trixie cheers.

 

“I don’t think your mother means every night!” Pierce slams his spoon down, splattering sauce all over Trixie’s favorite pink dress.

 

“Marcus, what is with you tonight? You’re getting sauce everywhere! Oh, Baby, your dress! Let’s put that in the sink to soak before the stains set!” Chloe hurriedly shoos her daughter into the bathroom. “Go on and take that off, I’ll get your pjs.”

 

When they come out of the bathroom several minutes later, Pierce and Lucifer are standing by the front door. Lucifer is rolling down his crimson shirtsleeves, and the plastic bags containing his grocery store finds and the naughty lollipops are on the floor by his feet.

 

Pierce slips a muscular arm around Chloe’s shoulder and smiles. “Lucifer was just leaving.”

 

“Lucifer…” Chloe starts to move towards him but Pierce’s arm is like an iron clamp, pulling her closer to his side.

 

“It’s alright, Detective,” Lucifer says gently as he puts on his jacket, “it’s best that I go.”

 

“But what about dessert? You bought the cakes; you should stay and have some with us.”

 

“Please stay, Lucifer!” Trixie reaches up to hug him even as Lucifer shies away and chides her about clinging like a barnacle.

 

He insists that he really can’t, so she reluctantly says “goodnight” and stomps gloomily to her room with a scathing look back over her shoulder taking in all the adults before she slams her door.

 

Lucifer is the only one she really has any sympathy for, he’s kind of kid-like and he’s clearly confused and hurting and doesn’t know what to do. But her mother should know better. What’s happening to her? She’s usually so smart! Why doesn’t she fix this? Lucifer’s soul needs a Band-Aid, how can she not see that and help him? He needs her to kiss him and make it all better! Pierce doesn’t know how to love, not really, but Lucifer does, he just doesn’t realize it. Pierce is a lot like those rocks he’s always showing them, hard and dark. He only pretends to be nice when it suits him, he always makes Trixie think of school art projects—the glitter looks pretty at first, but it doesn’t stick, it’s always falling off showing the ugly dried patches of glue underneath, the nice is only a thin sparkly temporary layer on top.

 

“I think Lucifer has dessert covered,” Pierce says scornfully. “He can suck dick all night!” He bangs the toe of his boot against the sack of illicit lollys.

 

“That’s far better than being one, Pierce,” Lucifer replies softly.

 

“Stop it!” Chloe steps between them. “But you don’t have your car,” she turns again to Lucifer, laying a hand lightly on his chest. “You rode with me, remember?”

 

“It’s alright, Detective. Amenadiel’s class will be ending soon, I’ll have him pick me up; that will give us a chance to talk about his upcoming date with Miss Benson…and possibly Principal Tate.”

 

“Lucifer!” Chloe smiles and shakes her head.

 

Pierce pulls Chloe back to him and drapes a possessive arm heavily across her shoulders again. He’s clearly sending a message. Chloe knows it and doesn’t like it a bit and shrugs out of his embrace.

 

“You should go too, Pierce. After what happened at school today, I need some time alone with my daughter.”

 

He starts to speak again but Chloe cuts him off.

 

“Goodnight, Pierce.” She steps away, raising a hand, warning him off.  “Goodnight, Lucifer,” she gives his arm a gentle pat, then turns and walks back towards Trixie’s bedroom. There’s a weighted sadness in her steps, and when she opens the door, she glances back once, at Lucifer.

 

“After you,” Pierce holds the door open wide.

 

“No, after you,” Lucifer insists.

 

With a “Go to Hell!” look Pierce brushes past him.

 

“You don’t belong here, Lucifer,” he says as soon as the door closes behind them, “and the sooner you realize that the better!”

 

“I could say the same thing about you,” Lucifer says and takes a sudden step forward and slams his forehead into Pierce’s, just as hard as he can, sending him tottering backwards down the cement stairs. It hurts, the Detective is too near, and for a moment he sees stars, but at least they are his own creation. He’s probably just given himself a concussion, but he doesn’t care, it’s worth it.

 

“There are 206 bones in the human body, and I think you just broke all of them!” he calls down, raising his voice to be heard over the symphony of crackling and groaning coming from the twisted form lying at the foot of the stairs. “That was for the Detective’s wrist; bruise her again, and I will break you again!”

 

With a playful hop, like a child winning at hopscotch, he leaps triumphantly over Pierce’s body.

 

“I won’t let you hurt her,” he adds softly and seriously. “That’s a promise, Cain.”

 

With a glance from side to side, to make sure they’re quite alone, Lucifer unfurls his wings and uses them like a big white dustpan to sweep the battered and bloodied, moaning and miserable immortal into the bushes. The former King of Hell takes great delight in noting that they’re covered in long prickly thorns. He frowns at a smidgen of blood staining the tips of his feathers and fastidiously plucks the crimson silk from his pocket to wipe it away before he takes flight.

 

From a safe distance, he watches as Pierce slowly crawls out of the bushes and climbs on his motorcycle and rides away into the night.

 

***

 

‘What’s the matter, Baby?” Trixie is curled up on her side and looks close to tears. Chloe lies down on the bed and wraps her arms around her daughter. “Is it about what happened at school today?”

 

“You shouldn’t have let Lucifer leave,” Trixie tells her bluntly.

 

“No, I really shouldn’t,” Chloe agrees, and Trixie feels a teardrop trickle down from her mother’s eye into the crook of her neck above her lime green pajama top. “I tried…”

 

Chloe sits up and whisks the tears from her eyes, but they immediately fill up again. She’d thought Pierce was perfect for her, he wanted her when no one else did, there were moments when it was all so good, and seemed so right, they had so much in common, he had all the qualities every woman hopes for in a husband, but…her heart knows it isn’t really right. The cracks are already starting to show and she can see the light shining through them. There’s a hardness, a rigidity and brusqueness, about him, a roughness, like the rocks he collects… And tonight…he treated her like a possession, like a prize he’d won and that Lucifer had lost. It was like he was gloating over his victory, glorying in his role as man of the house and rubbing Lucifer’s nose in it. Every woman wants the man in her life to take pride in her, to prize her above all else, to be a little jealous, but… Not now! She’ll probably lay awake all night thinking about these things, but not now. She pushes the worrisome thoughts away and turns back to her child.

 

“It’s Friday night, there’s no school tomorrow, don’t you want to stay up and watch a movie with me? We can have some of that cake Lucifer bought. We’ve never tried the lemon, and he got chocolate for you.”

 

“No, Mommy, that’s okay, I don’t feel like it,” Trixie rolls up into an even tighter little ball. “I just want to go to sleep.”

 

“Don’t you want a story first?”

 

“Not tonight.”

 

“Okay,” Chloe says, trying not to let her disappointment show. She presses a goodnight kiss onto Trixie’s cheek and turns out the light. As she walks out the door she’s wondering if maybe storytime has just become a thing of the past without her even realizing the end was in sight. She’s been so preoccupied lately…with Pierce and…everything…

 

She’s upstairs, changing into her favorite comfy old plaid sleep shirt when she hears the door open downstairs. Please, don’t let it be Pierce! She thinks, stumbling against the bed as she fumbles her leggings off, then immediately starts scolding herself for having such disloyal thoughts. No relationship is easy, there are always bumps in the road, every couple quarrels, and if they’re going to make a life together, they’ll be living under the same roof…they need to learn to handle things better, and to compromise. And there she goes again, like a determined toddler with one of those wooden puzzles, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Why does she keep trying? She takes a deep breath, wipes the tears from her eyes, and steps out onto the landing.

 

“My apologies, Detective,” Lucifer looks up at her, unable to keep the gleam of admiration from his eyes at the sight of her bare legs, “but I left without my phone. It was just here, right next to yours…” He sets his bags down and begins to search for it.

 

“Oh,” Chloe hurries down the stairs to help him. “Here,” she picks up her phone and dials his number.

 

A muffled ringing issues from inside Trixie’s backpack.

 

“How ever did it get in there?” Lucifer wonders.

 

“I think I know,” Chloe darts a knowing look back at her daughter’s door, but she can’t help smiling. “It’s Friday night, since there’s no school tomorrow, Trixie and I usually stay up late and watch movies and eat junk food, but she didn’t feel like it tonight. Do you want to stay and keep me company?”

 

“Yes,” Lucifer feels like his heart is in his throat and he has to swallow it down again before he can get the words out. “Yes, I do.”

 

Chloe gets two plates and spoons and cuts a generous slice from each of the cakes so they can share and swap plates while Lucifer phones Amenadiel. She listens with some amusement as he glosses over the bubble bath with Principal Tate and arranges for his brother to be at the school Monday afternoon with a bouquet to surprise Miss Benson.

 

“But nothing too phallic like Anthuriums or Calla Lilies, Brother,” he cautions, “Miss Benson finds such shapes alarming…A certain delicacy is required. No, no, just don’t go at her like you’ve got a baseball bat inside your trousers and you should be fine! There was an incident at the school today involving the penis lollys from Lux…I’ll tell you all about it later…Yes, yes, not to worry, we still have several of the vanilla-fudge-ripple, I know that’s your favorite and I always order extra. What?” he catches sight of Chloe’s startled expression. “They’re just candy, Detective! Now about the flowers, Brother, I would suggest something pure and simple like daisies, Miss Benson is rather old-fashioned. I don’t know, possibly…Miss Benson might find a box of chocolate covered cherries suggestive—you know, virginity/cherry. Better to play it safe, Brother, and get caramels instead…Unless of course Miss Benson has dentures? I’m really not sure. Well I had other things on my mind, Brother, like saving the Detective’s spawn from unjust punishment for instance, so forgive me if I didn’t take note of Miss Benson’s dentition! Well…she does seem rather the nervous, high-strung sort…so I suppose she might think mints a commentary on her breath even though you’ve never met her before and I’ve said nothing upon that subject. Yes, now that you mention it, Jordan almonds are a tad ovary-ish in shape, so I suppose those are out too, besides, if she does indeed have dentures that might be a hard nut to crack. Yes, yes, I really think a box of assorted chocolates is the safest and wisest course. Look, if you’re going to over-think this, just go take a bubble bath with Porky Pig, I assure you he’ll be far less demanding and won’t be expecting candy and flowers from you! Lovely, after the final bell Monday afternoon, her classroom is number B-13. Oh for the love of…it doesn’t matter what color shirt you wear, you probably won’t be wearing it very long anyway if Miss Benson has her way! Goodnight!”

 

Chloe just shakes her head and puts a hand over her mouth to stifle her laughter.

 

“You never did tell him how old she is,” she points out when Lucifer puts down his phone.

 

“Well Amenadiel is eons old; seventy is like a raindrop compared to that! Besides, a date should have some element of surprise,” Lucifer shrugs and smiles mischievously.

 

“Oh I think he’ll be surprised,” Chloe agrees as they settle themselves comfortably on the couch to watch the new, remastered, “Terrifying, Scandalizing Lost Scenes Restored!” DVD edition of Bride of the Lizard King, a gift from her mother, away on the convention circuit again.

 

It’s Chloe’s favorite of all her mother’s monster movies, mostly because the Lizard King reminds her of the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Out of all the old classic black and white horror movies it’s always been her favorite; Chloe’s always had a soft spot for the Gill Man. She’s astonished when Lucifer admits he’s never seen it.

 

“Then you’re not leaving here till you have,” Chloe declares, “even if I have to keep you here all night! We’ll watch it right after this!”

 

Lucifer is quite happy to comply and makes himself even more comfortable on the couch. He takes off his jacket and shoes and rolls up his shirtsleeves.

 

By the time the Lizard King has lost his most unwilling bride and lies dead with a sword impaling his heart, his blood staining their pure, untouched white marriage bed, and a beautiful, buxom young Penelope Decker is riding off into the sunset in a corset and skimpy sheer white lace petticoat on the back of a giant blue toad with the handsome Captain of the Guard, Lucifer and Chloe have had their fill of cake and are lying slumped against each other halfway to a sugar coma. But Chloe manages to find the energy to get up and put the Creature From The Black Lagoon disc in the player.

 

It happens so naturally, Chloe can’t pinpoint the moment exactly, but Lucifer ends up lying on his side with his head in her lap, and she finds herself stroking him as if he were a cat. She can feel the warmth of his skin and his stubble prickling against her bare legs and it’s a very pleasant sensation.

 

He’s unusually quiet as he watches, his eyes riveted to the screen during the underwater pas de deux where the Creature swims gracefully beneath the oblivious beauty in the white bathing suit swimming above him, unable to take his eyes off her, his yearning and desire palpable in every look and gesture.

 

Once the spell is broken and Beauty, still unaware of the Beast, is back on the research vessel, Lucifer rolls over and looks up at Chloe.

 

“The monster is lonely,” he says softly. There’s a quaver in his voice, and Chloe thinks she catches the shimmer of tears in his dark eyes.

 

“The Creature is lonely,” Chloe gently corrects him. “He isn’t really a monster, Lucifer, he’s just the only one of his kind left in the world; Time, or God, sort of forgot about him I guess. Then these people come along and he’s something new and strange they’ve never seen before, and it scares and fascinates them. And they’re scientists so they want to put him under a microscope and study him and all that without any regard for his feelings. He’s part man, part fish, and maybe they don’t realize that he has feelings the same as they do. Or maybe they just don’t care any more than they would care about the feelings of a fish? He’s scared and confused and he lashes out, and tries to defend himself; that’s natural and understandable. I mean, there are these strangers invading his home, this calm, peaceful lagoon that’s mostly untouched by man, and here they come with all their scientific equipment, and they try to capture him. And there’s this beautiful woman who makes him realize how lonely he’s been, and it stirs a longing for love deep inside of him that he’s probably never felt before. And he can’t tell anyone how he feels, all he can do is growl, and he’s got those fierce claws, so it really doesn’t help, it’s kind of intimidating, so you can’t really blame her for being scared of him. I think it’s very sad, and wrong. Poor Creature, he really should have a mate, he shouldn’t have to be alone.”

 

Lucifer holds up one of his hands and studies it, his piano player’s fingers are long and graceful, and the nails perfectly manicured. They’re beautiful hands, gentle and strong.

 

“Even with my Devil Face I don’t have claws,” he tells her, hoping this will make her feel better and maybe even be less scared when the day comes and she finally sees the full reality of him.

 

It’s late, and Chloe isn’t in the mood for his metaphors and devil-talk. “You have nice hands,” she says softly, letting her fingers brush against his and then entwine with them.

 

“Thank you,” Lucifer whispers and rolls back onto his side, tucking her hand against his chest, and they hold hands while they watch the rest of the movie.

 

Even though it’s after midnight, they decide to go ahead and watch the two sequels. As Chloe changes the disc she giggles suddenly, remembering the first time she saw the Gill Man. There was something about him that confused her and she turned to her mother and asked if he had “a thing” since it wasn’t out there and obvious like a human male’s.

 

It takes Lucifer a moment to realize what she means. “Oh!” His eyes light up with amusement. “Well, Detective, weren’t you a precocious child! But perhaps that is a question best suited to Herschel’s father?”

 

Both of them cringe at the memory of that awful child.

 

Chloe laughs, “Caterpillars and rocket ships again…that does seem to be the theme of the day, doesn’t it?”

 

She returns to the couch, and they switch places. This time, Lucifer guides her down to lay her head in his lap. He gently pulls the band from her hair and lets his fingers pet and play with the long golden-brown strands.

 

“But surely he must,” Lucifer thoughtfully considers, “otherwise he would die of uremic poisoning.”

 

“Yeah,” Chloe agrees, “it must be retractable or something.”

 

“Or like my wings,” Lucifer suggests.

 

Chloe isn’t sure whether to take this as meaning imaginary or invisible, so she just shrugs and says, “Maybe.”

 

As Revenge of the Creature unfolds and the Gill Man finds himself a prisoner, on display at a public aquarium, and being poked by scientists with electric cattle prods, Chloe begins to doubt whether watching the sequels really was a good idea. She can feel Lucifer’s body tense at times and his hands still in mid-caress. Even when the Creature escapes and runs amok, overturning a car, terrorizing teenagers and tourists, and snatching the beautiful blonde ichthyologist he’s enamored with, there’s a certain aura of sadness surrounding Lucifer, and she knows he isn’t really enjoying this, he’s feeling it too much.

 

She tries to talk him out of watching the next one, but he insists they have to finish the trilogy.

 

The third, and final, movie, The Creature Walks Among Us, is the worst. After fleeing Florida and returning to his peaceful lagoon home, the Creature is recaptured by scientists and accidentally set on fire. His gills are destroyed by the blaze so they perform a radical operation that makes him more human than fish, and even more of a misfit in a world where he doesn’t belong. All his nimble underwater grace is gone, and he becomes a hulking, lumbering sailcloth-suited prisoner kept in a pen with animals on a California sheep ranch. He spends his days staring longingly out at the sea, the home to which he can never return.

 

By then they’re lying on the couch like spoons nestled in a drawer. When Chloe complains that his belt buckle is biting into her back and starts to shift her position, Lucifer gallantly takes off his pants, even though she assures him that really isn’t necessary. But at least he’s wearing boxers, and, she has to admit, his bare legs pressed against hers feels really good.

 

“Don’t be sad,” Chloe whispers at the end of the movie, as the Creature stares despondently out at the sea and begins his slow, suicidal trek across the beach. She turns and kisses Lucifer’s cheek. “It’s just a movie.” She reaches for the remote and turns off the TV so that they’re all in darkness except for the firelight.

 

“I know,” Lucifer sighs. “It just made me think…about…certain things.”

 

“What things?” Chloe presses gently.

 

“The loneliness of monsters, that seems to be their preordained fate.”

 

“I told you, the Creature isn’t a monster, and neither are you—I know that’s what you’re thinking. It’s a horror movie, Lucifer, certain reactions are to be expected, but in real life…” she reaches up to caress his cheek, and he leans longingly into her hand, craving her touch more than anything.

 

“You think it’s possible that the Monster, the Creature,” he hastily corrects, “could have a mate? That he might not always be lonely, abandoned, rejected and feared? That he could…love and…be loved?”

 

“I think it’s more than possible, more like probable,” Chloe leans in and gently presses a kiss against his lips.

 

“I want you,” Lucifer whispers softly, tremulously against her neck. She holds him close and his whole body quivers. “I want you to be my mate.”

 

“That’s all I really needed to hear, Lucifer, I want you too.”

 

Chloe reaches up and draws the blanket down from the back of the couch to cover them in a warm plush cocoon. She gently unbuttons Lucifer’s crimson shirt, kissing his throat and neck as she eases it off his shoulders. He trembles beneath her touch and his fingers are fumbling and shy when she takes his hands and guides them to the top button of her shirt, inviting him to do the same for her. She glances briefly towards Trixie’s door; they really should go upstairs, but they’re so comfortable and warm here, and somehow it just seems right to stay.

 

Lucifer’s breath catches in surprise when she eases her hand inside his black silk shorts.

 

“Are you trying to turn a caterpillar into a rocket ship?” he teases.

 

“I bet I can,” she whispers as he hardens beneath her caressing hand.

 

“I know you can, your hands are magic.”

 

Forehead to forehead, they giggle like mischievous children together. They take their own sweet time and love each other quietly, softly, gently in the dark. And as the dawn breaks, they fall asleep, nestled heart to heart.