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A Refraction of Light

Chapter Text

"It's all true," Chloe breathes, her eyes wide.

"Detective?"

"It's all true." She shuffles back, stopping only when a boot heel collides with the bottom-most stair.

Lucifer steps forward, a hand outstretched in concern—and this is when he sees it, the telltale crimson. His very own Mark of Cain.

"No," he croaks, his hands flying up to his cheeks. Why now?

Chloe stumbles back, draping herself on the stairs. She never takes her eyes off him as she leans farther away. Farther from him.

"You're—"

"Terrifying?" He drops his hands back to his sides, giving up all pretenses of normality.

"—the Devil."

Emphasis on the. The one, the only, please give a round of applause for.

"I have always told you the truth."

"You don't lie," she agrees, trembling.

"Now you're getting it." A grim smile twists his monstrous mouth.

This is wrong. Even though she's somehow able to form complete sentences—how? it took Linda a week—this is still so very wrong. Assuming there was ever any good way to reveal himself to her, it was decidedly not in a broken room, standing next to her ex-fiance's cooling corpse.

He knows how it looks, what he looks like and in fact is: a sanguine grotesque in Italian wool. For so long, he's reveled in this face, all the power it affords him, especially among mortals. After all, if he's to be the poster child of evil, why not be it in spades?

Now, though, a deep shame gnaws at his insides as he scrambles to stuff the monster back into Pandora's pretty little jar. Again and again he tries, but just as his wings have grown and regrown of their own accord, the leathery, red skin now persists. Here I am, it says. Take a damn good look at my sins.

A small voice whispers inside of Lucifer, What if it never goes away? After all, he's killed Cain, a human.

What a punishment that would be. Like something straight out of his own toolbox in Hell.

They stare at each other in a wild-eyed standoff, spiraling down their own living Hell loops. They breathe raggedly, as if there's not enough air in the cavernous room, as if gale-force winds aren't blasting through the floor-to-ceiling window he's blown to bits.

Chloe breaks the silence, surprising him. "I'm not afraid of you."

"You're an awful liar."

She surprises him again as she forces herself to stand, arms folded over chest, fingers white-knuckling elbows. "I'm not lying." She breaks their hypnotic staring contest and takes in the surrounding room, the chipped columns and destroyed mezzanine. "This is bad."

Welcome back, Detective, he thinks. If he could forget what face he is wearing, the exchange would almost feel normal.

"There's a lot to explain," she says.

Too much, really. For example, the unexplainable: a Hell-forged blade, enough feathers to build a divine goose from scratch, not to mention Satan himself, letting it all air out. The whole bloody trifecta.

She looks at Cain with a thousand-yard stare. "Is that one of Maze's knives?"

"It is, actually." And how did crafty Cain come to have it, Mazikeen? It certainly can't go into evidence. "Right," he sighs. "You're taking this far better than you should, so, in for a penny, in for a pound. I suggest you look away, Detective. I'm about to disturb the dead."

Without further preamble—because, really, how can he smooth over desecration with a face like this?—he bends and yanks the blade from Cain's chest. The depth of the wound and the force of the tug lift Cain's torso off the floor. The body falls back with a heavy thud that's music to his ears. Ding-dong, the bastard's dead. Only took thousands of years and a trail of bodies.

Chloe watches without blinking or commenting.

There's nothing to do about the remaining knife wound or the feathers, except to call in favors later that will make such problems go away.

It's possible Amenadiel is taking calls and would feel inclined to pop in for a time-bending cleanup session. Unfortunately, Amenadiel's abilities come as part of a package deal that includes meandering theological discourses Lucifer has no stomach for today. There's also the chance that Chloe would lose what is left of her mind if she had to deal with two supernatural beings right now.

Lucifer scratches at his face, grinds his teeth. His devilish skin remains locked in place. "Well, it would seem I'm stuck. This has never happened before."

"You...you can control it, usually?"

"Well, I don't bloody well go walking about like this all the time, do I?" he snaps, and immediately regrets it when she flinches. More gently, he adds, "Nobody would have a thing to do with me, Detective, least of all you."

She draws an unsteady breath. "I know this isn't you, Lucifer. And, well, even if it is, it's only one side of you. Right?"

"How do you not get this?" he laughs. "This. Is. Who. I. Am. What will it take for you to see that?" He scoffs, "You won't see it even when it's staring you in the face."

"I—"

Sirens wail, interrupting her. The warped bubble they've found themselves in bursts.

"Chloe... I don't want to leave you, but I..." Lucifer indicates his face with a disbelieving huff.

She nods. "Go."

"I'll make this right. You have my word."

"It's okay," she says, and gives him a watery smile.

Lucifer knows it's not, but he flees the scene. A concrete stairwell spits him out into a back alley that smells of motor oil and rotting cabbage from the garbage of an adjoining Korean restaurant. Stumbling to a shadowed space between two close-set buildings, he leans against a graffitied wall and tries one last time to put the Devil away. But Cain is right. He can't outrun what he's done. He's been a fool, believing he could be anything else.

Police cars surround the block, their sirens screaming, and, well, that's that. He must go. With a muffled cry, he unfurls his broken, bleeding wings and soars high on a lightning strike of pain. Loose feathers drift to the ground behind him.

The air thins above the sprawling, sun-kissed streets of Los Angeles. He zigs and zags low over the city, lower than he should in these days of planes and drones and zoom lenses. It's all his battered wings, all the ache beneath his ribs, will allow.

Soon, his building comes into view. He dives forward, aiming for the penthouse balcony until he remembers Dan and Ella may be inside with Cain's underling. Slowing his descent with a groan, he changes course for the rooftop. When he lands, it's on tiptoes, and his knees buckle beneath him. He collapses onto the hot concrete and stays down, panting as he draws his wings in one last time.

Before darkness consumes him, he crawls into the shadows. He weeps silently and wonders if, like so many things in this endless existence, Chloe Decker's presence in his life has come to an abrupt, unsatisfying end.

Chapter Text

There is only one law God built into his creation: kill or be killed. Hunt the lion before he eats you. Destroy your neighbor before he makes war. Smash your brother's skull before he slits your throat.

Cain aims and squeezes the trigger. This is his calling, to raise the sword and axe, to blow the dart, to strangle with rope and pummel with rock. Thousands of years, hundreds of weapons, the same end result. Time and again.

The world slows as first one, then two bullets exit the chamber. The projectiles spin, piercing the air in endless pirouettes as they hunt their target. The archangel Amenadiel, afflicted with divine hubris, never sees what's coming, never thinks to be aware of his surroundings. But his companion, Charlotte Richards, knows evil. She looks. She sees.

She does not sit idly by, and this changes everything.

The bullets meant for God's favorite son sink into human flesh. A mistake, a simple mistake, one of many, but how far will these ripples spread? Will this be his undoing?

The ground swallows him. He's born again into a black room. No walls, no floor, no ceiling. A void.

Chloe Decker stands before him, naked. She holds out her hand, a diamond engagement ring resting on her palm. "I can't marry you, Cain. I'm sorry."

She never suspects the depths of his evil, but the brightness in her shines on the dark truth that is in him. Her allegiances lie elsewhere. A pentagram is carved above her left breast. Fresh blood drips from the star-shaped wound, which is backlit by fire.

The gun is still in his hand, and, suddenly, his arm has a mind of its own. "No!" he screams. He uses all his strength to try and stop it, but his arm raises straight and true. His hand turns the gun sideways. Chloe begs for her life as he presses the muzzle between her blue eyes.

"He can't have you," he growls. "You were supposed to fix me."

Cain squeezes the trigger, and Chloe crumples, blood and bone exploding from her head. This is his calling.

There is only one law God built into his creation: kill or be killed. Hunt the lion before he eats you. Destroy your neighbor before he makes war. Smash your brother's skull before he slits your throat.

Cain aims and squeezes the trigger.

Cain aims and squeezes the trigger.

Cain aims and squeezes the trigger.

This is his calling.

Chapter Text

Chloe is naked, or, at least, that's what it feels like when she hands over her badge and gun.

"See you in ten days, Decker."

"Yeah. Ten days," she echoes, shoulders slumping.

Rodney Garcia, the bald, hulking Latino who's serving as acting lieutenant, shrugs behind his desk. "Consider it a vacation. You know this shit always blows over."

It certainly did for Dan after Palmetto Street, but then Dan's Dan, and Chloe's...well, Chloe has never been one of the boys.

They're threatened, she remembers Lucifer saying, on the very first day they met. You're clearly smart and have notable instincts.

That's still probably one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about her skills as a cop. Does the meaning change, knowing it was said by the Devil? Don't think about it, she chastises herself.

She makes her way through HQ. Even in her current fog, it's impossible to miss the stares and stage whispers. She's back to being the precinct's favorite pariah.

Ignore them, he'd said. Trust yourself.

Oh, but it's hard. And it's not as if she doesn't deserve some side-eyeing this time. She disobeyed a ton of protocol, going in that place "alone." Worse, her story, that Pierce and his men turned on each other at the most convenient time possible, is flimsy—ludicrous, even. Especially since it's coming from Pierce's ex. Especially since Dan and Ella just happened to bring in Pierce's lackey, John Barrow, on the same exact day.

Barrow. She hates knowing she'll never get to question him, or better yet, watch him squirm under Lucifer's mojo. And his statements may yet prove detrimental to her career.

The only thing keeping the suits from making an example out of her is the baseball-sized bruise that's blossomed two inches below her collarbone, a souvenir from being shot. Again. Making an example out of a cop is one thing. Making an example out of a cop who got injured in the line of duty is another. Getting shot is something all cops fear and grudgingly respect.

Thank God for Kevlar—well, thank someone. Probably a wild-haired inventor in a basement somewhere.

And thank the Devil. She's no idiot. She may not remember everything that happened, much less how it all happened, but she knows Lucifer is the only reason she's alive.

Why does the Devil keep saving her life? As he's told her many times before, he's immortal. The concept alone boggles the mind. He can't honestly care about one little human, can he? And if temptation's really his angle, well, what a long game this has all been.

Chloe scoffs at what her life has become and jabs at the elevator button for the first floor. Now she's thinking about the metaphysical again, which, no, just no. She needs a break. She already spent all night contemplating her place in the universe while cuddling Trixie.

She's always been a both-feet-on-the-ground kind of woman. If she couldn't see it, couldn't gather enough evidence to support it, it wasn't real or it wasn't worth her time. No exceptions. Now there's evidence of the divine within driving distance. Huge ecclesiastical questions plague her at every turn.

Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil. Angels, demons, and who the hell knows what else. All real.

What bothers her most is how she is both surprised...and not surprised at all. All the baffling things Lucifer has said and done during their partnership click into place like LEGO bricks. The complaints about his otherworldly family, the magnetic charm and hypnotism, the sleight of hand, the endless wealth and questionably-legal wheeling and dealing, the superhuman strength.

It all seems so obvious that she wonders if she should just do the LAPD a huge favor and tender her resignation. How is it that the Devil has been strolling around L.A., solving crimes by her side? Why does he own a nightclub? Most importantly, how is it that she's never seen him for what he is, even when all the signs have been there, even when he's told her the truth every day?

How on earth did he become her best friend? At least... He was her best friend. Now, who knows? Is it really possible to be friends with the Devil? What are the eternal consequences of that?

Does she care?

In the lobby, she stops beside a trash can. Her constitution has been pretty touch and go. After not eating for nearly twenty-four hours, the coffee she forced down her gullet this morning is threatening to revolt one way or another.

Breathe, she tells herself. Nausea and cramps roll through her for several long moments before blessedly subsiding.

A "vacation" is the very last thing she needs when her mind is racing like a hamster on a wheel. The thought of sitting at home with all these thoughts and fears... Forget food. A stop by a liquor store is in order. She'll take a page out of Lucifer's book and subsist on stimulants and depressants. Caffeine, alcohol...calories are calories.

Outside, she climbs into her car, cranks the engine, and dares to merge into L.A.'s clogged arteries. She drives even more carefully than usual. One bad accident could throw her into an eternity she never believed in before now. Worse, without more answers to Life's Biggest Questions, there's really no telling where she's headed in the afterlife.

What does it take to get into Heaven, to be relegated to Hell? She's fired her share of bullets over the years, disobeyed her parents, lied; let her eyes wander when she was married, even if she never, ever considered acting on those feelings. Oh, and Hot Tub High School looms, topless as always. Ugh.

She falls behind a red Honda Civic that's seen better days. Lucifer's crimson skin swims before her mind's eye, making it difficult to focus. Memory or dream? It's almost hard to be sure. Almost.

The Devil, it turns out, is more and less disturbing than Hollywood imagines. Hornless, still standing tall and proud in a man's lithe body, in that damn tailored suit, Lucifer wasn't nearly so alien. Instead, it's the memory of the pain carved into his flesh that troubles her, for he looked like a scarred burn victim whose only treatment had been sunshine and saltwater. Who had no hope of healing.

Does his face feel as raw as it looks, or is it an illusion? A visual representation of what Lucifer has always said Hell is: endless torture, agony without panacea. Et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum.

Though she didn't grow up in a religious household, culture has nonetheless taught her the gist of the Biblical Fall. That there was an angelic rebellion, that pride cometh before. She can't imagine Lucifer leading a rebellion, but she knows firsthand how stubbornly proud he can be.

But even assuming a Heavenly bloodbath, she struggles to see how eternal punishment could ever be fair, which is worrying when she considers some of the killers she's helped put away over the years. She's not sure anyone, even Warden Smith, who killed her father, deserves eternal damnation.

Lucifer's existence is proof of God, but his existence also raises many questions about God. Questions, such as, Is God good and just?

What does it mean if the answer is no?


***


At home, it's so quiet that she doesn't know what to do with herself. Maze is still gone. Trixie is at school. She's never been one to sit around, but she also can't go far because the precinct may call her in at any time for more questioning during the investigation into Pierce's crimes and death.

No. No, not touching that today, either. Every time she thinks about how she had sex with him, how he is literally Cain, the world's first murderer, she wants to claw her skin off in a hot shower.

She pours a glass of cheap wine and glances at the door, half expecting Lucifer to waltz in and scold her for having poor taste. He certainly could bypass her deadbolt if he wanted. It wouldn't be the first time. What does a little lock mean to the Devil? No wonder stopping him from doing inappropriate things is like trying to hold back a tsunami with a fishing net.

Did he make it back to Lux? What face is he wearing now?

Biting her lip, Chloe grabs her phone. There's nothing wrong with checking up on him, is there?

But of course I'm fine, she imagines him crooning. I'm the Devil, darling. I'm immortal.

She shudders and unlocks her phone, only to cringe when she sees she has new messages from Dan and Ella. From Dan, a simple "Call me." From Ella, a plaintive "Heyyy, let me know when you're around." They have questions—lots of them. Some of them she can answer, but most she can't, or at least won't, not yet.

They barely managed to get their stories straight before they gave their statements. Chloe knows it was easier for her than it was for them, though they all received ten-day suspensions. Easier for her, because she knew what was truly at stake.

"You can't tell anyone Lucifer was there."

And they didn't. Whether they lied blatantly or by omission, they obstructed justice for her. If there's one good thing that's come from her warped love life and the unrest at the LAPD, it's been finding out who will "ride or die" with her. It's a small list of people, but a damn fine one.

She will talk to Dan and Ella. Soon. For now, she taps on Lucifer's cheeky grin in her contacts. Their message history is long, amusingly mundane, and laden with more innuendo that she cares to admit—and not all of it Lucifer's, either. Few days have passed in the last two years when they haven't teased each other or shared something funny, although the messages turned far more curt and coolly-professional during her ill-fated relationship with Pierce. Chloe scrolls up to simpler times.

Chloe: Mind gracing us with your presence? We have a case.

Lucifer: Be there soon. Gluttony called and I of course answered.

He'd attached an image of an open box of a dozen assorted doughnuts. One long, slender finger pointed to the powdered, lemon-filled doughnut at the center of the box. Her favorite.

A small thing, but Chloe's heart squeezes at the memory, which conjures several others like it. How bad can the Devil be if he remembers your favorite doughnut? Sure, he sometimes has selfish, ulterior motives, but not always. Sometimes he slow-dances with you simply because you missed out on prom.

Hey, are you okay? She sends the message before she can overthink it.

And then she waits. And waits. And waits.


***


On the third day of her suspension, Chloe stares blankly at the Bible in front of her, unable to focus on the dull cadence of Deuteronomy's endless shalls and shalt nots. It's her first time reading the holy book, and so far it's both a drag and an acid trip that can't possibly offer much insight into the truth. Right?

Unable to cope with the boredom of suspension and the thoughts rattling around in her brain, she's given into studying, or at least trying to. Anyone who sees her now might think she's dived headlong into church life.

Stacks of religious tomes, apologetics, literature, and academic ponderings tower on her kitchen table, most courtesy of the Los Angeles public library. She can't help but notice the majority of the books are in excellent condition. No one ever borrows them.

Unfortunately, studying religion feels a lot like doing paperwork, perhaps worse, and she finds she has nearly the same attention span for tedious reading in her thirties as she did when she barely got a C in English literature in high school.

She can almost hear Lucifer: "Why waste your time on that rubbish when you can go straight to the source?" How apocryphal.

Even if she's ready for that—and it's hard to say if she is—two days have passed and Lucifer still hasn't responded to her messages. Is it wrong or stupid for her to worry?

Could he have been injured without her realizing it? For all his claims of immortality, she's seen him get hurt. He bleeds like any other man.

"I don't wanna go to school."

Chloe blinks out of her trance. She's slipped down another rabbit hole, and her coffee's grown cold beside her copy of the King James Bible.

She opens her arms for her daughter. "Why not, monkey?" she asks as neutrally as possible. The past few days haven't been easy for Trixie, who's had to learn that both Charlotte and Pierce are dead, not to mention the PG-rated version of her own mother's latest brush with death.

Trixie weasels onto her lap, all gangly limbs and warm, reassuring weight. Chloe buries her nose in daughter's hair and breathes deep. It won't be long before Trixie doesn't want to climb all over her like this.

"Brayden's being mean to me."

Brayden, Brayden, Brayden... Try as she might, Chloe can't remember the boy's face, and wonders if that makes her a bad mother.

"What's he doing, baby?"

"He told everyone you're not a cop anymore because you..." She whispers, "Because you killed somebody. That's not true, is it?"

"I didn't kill anyone." Not for lack of trying, but still. "But I'm on a little break during the investigation. Tell you what, I'll talk to Miss Rawlins about Brayden when I pick you up this afternoon."

"I want Lucifer to do it."

Chloe frowns. She can imagine how Lucifer might "talk" to Rachel Rawlins, who is pretty, perky, and barely old enough to drink. She refuses to think about why that bothers her so much.

"Baby, Lucifer can't—"

"But he always fixes it."

That stops her short. "Since when?"

Trixie gasps and throws her hands over her mouth. "It was supposed to be a secret," she says through her fingers.

"Well," Chloe starts, eyes narrowing, "there aren't any secrets between Lucifer and me." She's such a liar, but Trixie hasn't figured that out yet. "So you can tell me."

Burying her face into Chloe's shoulder, Trixie mumbles against her neck, "He sometimes talks to the other kids for me. I'm not good at it."

That...can't be right. Lucifer hates children and only tolerates Trixie because he grudgingly respects her burgeoning negotiation skills. The thought of him speaking to other children on her Trixie's behalf... Well, she isn't sure whether to cackle or cry.

"I tried texting him, but he didn't reply," Trixie adds morosely.

Chloe's dumbfounded again. Since when do Trixie and Lucifer text one another? She really should be more diligent about monitoring cell phone use.

Suddenly, she's desperate to see Lucifer, even knowing what she knows. And what's stopping her from going to Lux, anyway? Her gut decides it for her. She'll see him. No more hiding, no more agonizing. Grow a pair, Decker.

"I'll talk to him, monkey, see what he can do. But you're going to school, okay?"

"Okay," Trixie grouches.

"Go on. Get dressed or we'll be late."

Hopping down from her mother's lap, Trixie makes her way back to her bedroom. At her doorway, she turns and points a small finger. "He owes me a favor." At that, she disappears into her room.

Jesus, her daughter's been making deals with the Devil.


***


After dropping Trixie off at school, Chloe navigates to Lux, her hands clammy against the wheel. She calls Lucifer on speakerphone, but the connection rings several times before going to voicemail.

"Hello," the latest version of his answering message purrs, "I'm rather busy at the moment, but do feel free to tell me what it is you desire."

Chloe rolls her eyes. That recording isn't any better with context.

"Look," she says, her voice high and nervous, "you can either talk to me now or in twenty minutes. I'm on my way over."

He doesn't answer or return her call, but she stays the course. A strange sort of anger builds in her chest as she nears Sunset Boulevard. The situation—this whole Lucifer Morningstar is literally Satan thing—is no reason for him to ignore her and leave her assuming the worst. That is not what partners do.

Still, that sentiment doesn't stop her from groaning and lightly bashing her forehead against the steering wheel in the parking garage below Lux. What is she doing here?

But, then, somewhere deep down, she knows, doesn't she? If she plucks at that dark part of her soul, she knows exactly what has drawn her. Lucifer has been the biggest mystery of her life, and she loves a good mystery, will dive headfirst into danger for the sake of solving one. And now that she's so close to understanding him... Well, there's a lot she's willing to risk.

A gun and a badge do not a detective make. Instead, as Lucifer tends to suspect, the key ingredient is desire. Good detectives desire to know the truth, no matter what it is. That's either in your blood or it's not. It has always burned in Chloe Decker, and so she finds her bravery and climbs out of the car.

"Hey, Detective Decker! That you?"

Chloe turns. One of Lux's bouncers, a big teddy bear of an old white guy named Henry, waddle-marches across the lot. Eager to be on her way, she smiles tightly. "Hey, Henry."

"Mr. Morningstar's closed everything up for the week."

"Oh, I'm not here for the bar." Her brow furrows. Shutting down Lux isn't like Lucifer.

Henry stops a few feet away and clears his throat. "No private visitations, either."

"Private visitations" is very loaded, but the rejection stings a little, especially after years of easy, line-skipping access to the building. But then she rolls the idea around in her mind and decides refusing all guests makes sense if Lucifer looks anything like he did a few days ago. He wants to run a nightclub, not a haunted house.

Maybe the edict isn't meant to include her, and maybe it is. It doesn't really matter. She's here now, feeling ballsy enough to look the Devil in the eye. She's not in the mood for his bullshit.

Digging into her back pocket, she produces her parking ticket and waves it. "No problem. Can you validate my parking before I leave?"

Henry's immediately sympathetic to her plight. Got him, she thinks, and feels only slightly guilty for the manipulation. The flat thirty-dollar fee to park under this building is a crime against humanity, especially when you consider Lux has a cover charge and overpriced drinks.

"Sure thing," he says, and takes the ticket. "I'll be back in a minute."

She watches him retreat. When he's halfway across the lot, she turns and bolts for the elevators. Her heeled boots pound on the concrete, echoing loudly.

"Hey!" Henry shouts. "Stop!" He breathes out in giant puffs as he gives chase.

"Sorry!" she cries, slapping the elevator call button with the flat of her hand. "I promise I won't let him fire you!" And then a hysterical laugh bubbles out of her as she wonders if the Devil might actually be able to fire someone quite literally. Who knows? Anything seems possible now.

By some stroke of luck, the elevator is already on P1, so the doors open immediately. She throws herself inside, heart racing. Henry is a mere fifteen feet away when the doors slide closed.

Using the small panel above the building's generic floor buttons, she punches in the four digits that will carry her to the penthouse. In recent months, and for reasons known only to him, Lucifer changed the PIN from the intentionally-insecure 0000 to something more exclusive and difficult to remember. But Chloe knows the number by heart, and the elevator jerks skyward.

"Oh my God," she laughs, collapsing against the back wall. And then again, "Oh my God." Busting in like the Kool-Aid Man isn't part of her usual repertoire. If this were any other situation involving any other people, Lucifer would be cheering on her temerity, but it's only her and her resolve comes and goes in sickening waves.

The elevator shakes to a stop, and the doors open with a ding. No going back now. She steps into the penthouse.

"Lucifer?" she calls quietly. "It's me."

Sweat beads at her neck, and gooseflesh prickles across her arms. She's not sure what she should expect, but is relieved to find no white sheets covering the furniture. Maybe she's crazy, but the thought that Lucifer might leave has been more terrifying than the truth of who he is.

She looks left and right, taking in the extravagant bar, piano, library, and living area. Recent discoveries put the penthouse, with its numerous Old World artifacts, in a different light. Suddenly, it looks far less like expensive replicas and far more holy-shit-authentic. Just look at those old books, at that stained glass leading into the bedroom. Wow.

Chloe rounds the tan, leather sofa and freezes, holding back a gasp. Lucifer lies flat on his stomach in nothing but black boxer-briefs. His skin is still that unnatural, ruinous scarlet, from his eerily bald head, to his bare feet. Dark veins twist beneath the surface, and bright red, braided cords of scars layer his back, shoulders, and thighs, as though he's been whipped many times.

He is the definition of a monster, but knowing this doesn't diminish the strange sense of protectiveness that grabs hold of her lungs and tugs. "Lucifer," she whispers, and steps closer. His face is turned toward the back of the sofa, nearly buried into the crevice. "Are you okay? Are you awake?"

No response.

Empty scotch bottles are strewn about the floor. Orange pill bottles and drug paraphernalia litter the glass coffee table: half-smoked joints, pipes, and what looks suspiciously like the biggest brick of heroin she's ever seen. Just laying right out there.

Any other time, she'd be appalled. But nothing here reminds her of Lucifer's hedonistic benders. This reeks of self-medication.

Whether he's asleep or deep in narcosis, he doesn't stir. Far from being terrified of the Devil, she is terrified of his stillness and the dried bloodstains that have soaked into the fine leather. Now that she knows who he is, what could possibly reduce the force of nature that is Lucifer Morningstar?

She kneels beside the sofa, careful not to disturb the glass bottles. "I'm going to sit with you, okay?" She considers turning him over and checking for wounds, but worries she might do more harm than good. What does she know about supernatural injury or pain?

Her palm damp and fingers trembling, she places a hand on Lucifer's bicep, careful to avoid what looks like a half-healed knife wound. The muscle twitches, startling her, then settles. His devilish flesh is rough and granulated, like fruit leather or animal hide, and feverishly warm.

"Please be okay," Chloe murmurs.

She doesn't move for a long time. Her feet fall asleep beneath her. As she watches the shallow rise and fall of Lucifer's maimed back, she is strangely out-of-body, everywhere and nowhere.

As she waits, she has time to think again about all the signs there have been over the years, all the clues. A mantra cycles through her brain: He's the Devil, the Devil, the Devil. But somewhere else, somewhere deeper, she thinks it doesn't matter. He is more than the stories others have made up about him. He is more than his hair-raising family. He deserves someone on his side. Why not her?

Shadows shift beyond the penthouse, until high noon arrives and devours them. Sometime later, Lucifer stirs and releases a deep, troubled groan.

"Shh, shh, shh," Chloe hushes, like she does when Trixie's sick and buried beneath blankets. "I'm here."

Lucifer mumbles incoherently. And then, "De-Detective?"

"I'm here," she says again, caressing his rough skin.

Lucifer breathes quietly. She thinks he's fallen asleep again, until he says quietly, "I don't want you to see me like this." His words are thick, but intelligible.

"Too bad," she whispers.

"This face isn't meant for you."

"I can handle it."

Slowly, careful not to move his body, he turns his head. She forces herself to look at him, and he regards her with eyes lit by dancing hellfire. As much as he may say he doesn't want her here, there's a challenge in his gaze that she thinks he wants her to meet. He expects her to run away, screaming, but he hopes she doesn't, too.

"Why are you here?" he rasps.

"Because you're my best friend." Chloe dares to touch his bare head. The burnt flesh there is uneven and shifts disconcertingly under the weight of her hand. "I told you. You don't scare me."

"But how?"

She shrugs, a tender expression softening her. "I know you." Swallowing hard, she blinks away tears. "Why didn't you tell me you were hurt? I would've come sooner."

"I'll be fine. I'm just...healing slowly."

"Are you supposed to heal fast?"

"I wouldn't have been the lord of Hell for long if I'd ended up like this every time some upstart tried to off me."

"Right," she breathes, trying desperately to keep from falling down that rabbit hole. Of course there's violence and politics in Hell. Lots of politicians, too, no doubt. "What do you need me to do?" She glances around his apartment, as if by looking she might conjure a hospital room and doctor schooled in the supernatural. "I know some first aid."

"I'm all right. Go home."

"And leave you all alone? Not a chance."

"Don't be stubborn. Maybe I won't look like...this, next time you see me." He flashes her a fragile, awkward smile that sends a chill down her spine. "There's no denying I'm much more dashing normally."

"I couldn't care less what you look like right now," she admonishes, her voice sounding unnervingly like her mother's on the brink of meltdown. "I just want you to be okay."

He searches her face. "You're not lying, are you?"

"Of course I'm not lying," she retorts.

"Fine." Rolling a shoulder, he winces. "Light a joint for me, will you?" He squints. "Take a drag while you're at it."

Chloe turns to the coffee table, flicks open a nearby Zippo lighter, and brings one of the half-smoked blunts back to life. She doesn't hesitate to take a puff before handing it to him. Twenty years have passed since she last smoked up—once, back in her acting days. Her throat and lungs burn with a vengeance until she hacks into the crook of her elbow.

The sofa shudders beside her. It takes her a moment to realize Lucifer is laughing. It's a chilling sight in his devil face.

"You're an asshole," she sighs, and then laughs, too. This situation couldn't be anymore bizarre. If she looks too closely at it, she fears she might fall apart.

"I'm going to sit up," he says.

He waves her away when she leans up on her knees to help him. Her heart lurches when she realizes he was warning her, not requesting assistance. As if she's a deer that might dart away from any sudden movements.

Sitting on his sofa in nothing but his underwear, the Devil is somewhere between larger-than-life and so oddly incongruous as to be cartoonish. His long legs settle beside her, where she still kneels on the floor. She doesn't miss how he digs his toes into the plush rug to hide charred-black nails.

Lucifer affects sobriety. Forced as it is, he does look more whole for it. There are no gaping wounds on his torso, no signs of where all the bloodstains have come from. So, where is he injured?

The room begins to smell of marijuana, thinly-veiled with vanilla. He expertly puffs smoke rings before offering the joint to her again. "No, thanks," she says. "I drove here."

He refrains from poking fun at her, like he normally would. "Henry wasn't supposed to let anyone in," he remarks. "You weren't even supposed to make it into the garage."

"Don't blame Henry. It's not his fault I made it up."

"That I don't doubt," Lucifer sighs. "I should've changed the code, but I didn't think—" He looks out the window, smoke billowing out his nose.

"You didn't think I'd come see you," she finishes.

They're quiet for several moments before Chloe puts a hand on his knee, which is endearingly knobby in a way that helps her accept the color of his skin. He twitches, his eyes darting to the point of contact, but he doesn't move away. "Let me help you," she pleads.

"I told you, Detective. You can help me by going home." But when he leans back against the sofa, a barely-controlled panic contorts his already-warped features.

Her fingers dig into him. "What's wrong?"

He hesitates before admitting, "My wings. It's always the bloody wings."

"Your..." She frowns. "Your wings?"

If he has any, Chloe doesn't see them, but even so, more LEGO bricks snap together. All his complaints about his wings these past few months... Oh, and the loft. In her eagerness to put that day behind her—and her inability to think of much other than Lucifer's face and Pierce's corpse—she somehow forgot about all the feathers.

She sits back on her heels, her jaw slack. "We flew, didn't we? Up to the rooftop. Those were your feathers."

"Yes."

"You saved me."

"No, I brought all of this into your life," he corrects.

What a ridiculous belief. "Just let me see them."

As uncomfortable as he is, her bossiness seems to amuse him. "Detective," he chuckles weakly, "at least buy me a drink first." The skin where his brows normally are lifts high on his forehead. Licking his thumb and index finger, he snuffs out the remaining nub of cigarette and tosses it back onto the coffee table.

"I'm not going to let you sit here in pain when you saved my life."

"Do you think you owe me?" he snaps. "Because you most certainly do not. Anyway, don't you suppose you're getting enough of an eyeful as it is? Let's not push it, shall we?"

"I'm looking right at you, aren't I? And I can handle your wings. I already saw the replica, remember?"

"It isn't the same. I've no desire to turn your brain into mush."

"Don't flatter yourself."

He snorts, taken aback. Despite his fiery gaze, he regards her coolly, hunting for some sign of weakness. "Very well," he acquiesces a moment later, and pushes to his feet with a grunt. "It's your own mind, I suppose. Stand back, please."

Chloe rises and takes several steps back. When he's satisfied with her distance, he bends and grips his knees, his shoulders rolling. A gruesome crack resounds, and he lets out a string of curses, some in English and others not.

One minute, the Devil stoops, dark and snarling. In the next, Chloe shrinks away from the explosion of raw matter that has taken shape. Her ears lightly pop around a soft flutter.

Lucifer was right. No replica could ever prepare her for his true wings, which span at least ten feet on either side of his body. The pale feathers, though coated in a layer of dust, still seem to catch all the light in the room, mirroring it back with a warm glow. Heat rolls off him in waves, as if he's burning some fuel from within.

"Happy now?" he quips.

"Holy shit."

"Literally that, yes." He flashes a grin before his head lolls and his wings droop.

Chloe rushes forward, snagging him around the waist as he topples. She's unable to ignore the cat-tongue roughness of his skin as his size and weight draw her down to the sofa with him. He moans in agony as his wings are crushed beneath them. His body gives one last defiant twitch before going slack.

Scrambling away, she openly gawks. There's nothing remotely human about the devil-angel hybrid before her. It's almost impossible to see the man she knows beneath all these layers. Yet, isn't this exactly who he's always said he is, deep down—the Devil, a punished and punishing angel?

Awe wears off in increments, until she can finally recognize how damaged the feathers actually are. What a second before looked like pink and red patterns in his feather vanes is now obviously dried blood.

Circling him, she finds the source of at least some of the blood, where his wings peek up above the back of the sofa. These are not just any wounds, either. She knows a gunshot wound when she sees one, even among all the plumage.

What she can see of his back is a minefield of dried blood and torn and blown out feathers. The wounds have clotted, but the surrounding flesh, which is clearly meant to be pale white, is nearly as angry and red as the skin on the rest of his body.

It's only now that she realizes how dire the situation with Pierce was, the great price Lucifer has paid for her life. He used his own body to shield her. It's the ultimate gesture a cop's partner can make on the job. Tears sting her eyes.

"How could you be so stupid," she chides, unsure whether her ire is directed at herself or the unconscious angel.

Cleaning these wounds will be a very big job, one that's she's not at all equipped to handle, even at the best of times. But who else does he have? Who else knows the truth—and, more importantly, believes it? She glances at a clock on a nearby wall and feels like she's being torn in two. Trixie's school will let out soon, and there's still Brayden to deal with.

She rounds the sofa again and leans forward to touch Lucifer's shoulder, which she carefully shakes. His eyes snap open immediately, and she stumbles back, her calves bumping against the coffee table. They stare at each other.

"I have to pick Trixie up," she says, apologetic. "I'll be back as soon as I can."

Lucifer, eyes half-lidded, looks away. "There's no need. As I've explained, I will heal."

"But you'll heal faster if I help you, won't you?"

He grimaces, but doesn't lie. "The bullets are a problem. But—"

"No buts." Chloe can tell he's mere moments away from banning her return altogether. "Can we make a deal?" she blurts out.

Even if he knows she's playing him, he can't help perking up. She barely contains her shudder as his red eyes swivel back to her. The way his wings splay around him, it almost looks like he sits upon a throne, a red lord of otherworldly origins. How she ever missed the authority built into his bones, she'll never know.

"You have my attention, Detective. What is it you desire?" He quirks one of those hairless brows. "And what will you offer in exchange?"

"I'll clean you up if you'll do whatever it is you do for Trixie at school."

He snorts, disappointed. "That's hardly your desire. In fact, I believe I already owe your offspring. More importantly, why hasn't she learned to keep secrets? No one likes a gossip."

How is she having this conversation with Satan?

"She's ten, and I'm her mom."

"Yes, well."

"She's having trouble with a boy named Brayden." Oh, God, is it wrong to bring down the Devil on small children?

"Ah, yes, Brayden McNeil. A repeat offender." Chloe feels less guilty now. "Foolish boy, but then he is the son of a rather spectacularly amoral solicitor, so what can one expect? Say no more."

"So, it's a deal?"

"It's a deal," he affirms. "Tell Beatrice it will be taken care of by tomorrow. Remind her I will not owe her after this."

"There's no rush."

"You've my word, Detective. Now, be a dear and fetch me another Dalmore before you go."

As she hands him his absurdly expensive whisky, she forces herself to stare into the yawning abyss of his eyes. It's getting easier to do. "You have my word, too," she says. "I'll be back tonight."

Lucifer raises the bottle at her snidely. He doesn't believe her at all.

Chapter Text

Cain aims and squeezes the trigger.

Cain aims and...a man takes the gun away.

The man's slender form towers, so that Cain must look up into his eyes—one crystal blue, the other a black abyss. He is disconcerting to look at: pale white and bald, his arms far too long for his body.

"I am Balor," the man, the creature, says. He grins, revealing broken, yellowed teeth. "Do you wish to be free, child?"

"Free?" Cain asks. "Free from what?"

Balor, who is dressed in nothing but tattered corduroys, lifts a skinny arm, indicating the world around them. It's nighttime, and they're deep in Griffith Park, at an overlook of Los Angeles. Behind Balor, Cain can make out the archangel Amenadiel, where he sits upon a park bench.

"I need to kill him," Cain growls, grasping for the gun Balor has taken.

Balor laughs, snatching the weapon out of reach and holding it high. "You have killed him before, many times. This world is a lie."

To prove it, Balor rests the gun on his palms and whispers a guttural word. The weapon fades into nothingness, there one second, gone the next.

Cain takes a step back, the hairs on his arms standing to attention. "How did you do that?"

"I am the archdemon who rules over this corner of Hell," says Balor. "I do as I please."

"I'm dead?" Deep in his gut, Cain knows it's true. Panic seizes him. It wasn't supposed to be like this. "I can't be in Hell!"

"Oh, but you are." Balor offers Cain his hand, mismatched eyes gleaming. "Come, child. I will free you from this nightmare."

Cain hesitates, sensing the gravity of the decision. He's so certain he's never been here before, but something gnaws at him, some sneaking suspicion that he no longer knows himself. Perhaps... Perhaps Balor knows best. They stand there for what may be minutes or hours, until finally Cain puts his hand into the thin man's waiting grasp.

"Yesss," Balor hisses, his uneven grin euphoric. He clamps cool, spindly fingers around Cain's wrist. With an unnaturally strong pull, he yanks Cain off his feet and begins to drag him across the dirt, toward some unknown destination.

Cain cries out, his shoulder burning in protest. He scrabbles against the ground, kicking up dust as he tries to regain his footing, but Balor is strong and doesn't slow enough for him to gain traction.

"You are mine now. I do as I please with you."

A giant, wooden door stands beside a dry shrub, walled in by nothing. Balor holds up his free hand, palm facing outward, and the door bursts open with a resounding crack. Searing heat blasts through the doorway, taking Cain's breath away and drying out his eyes. Balor drags him into a world made gray by smoke and falling ash.

"Where are you taking me?" Cain asks, and chokes on the cloying scent of rotten eggs.

"You may call me Master," Balor responds.

"I am not your slave!" Cain yanks his arm back with all his might and manages to pull free from the other man's grasp. He scurries backward, putting distance between them.

Balor leaps through the air like a frog, closing the gap in an instant. He grips Cain's shoulders and draws him close, until the shorter man is at his mouth, smelling his putrid breath. "You have no bargaining chips here, sweet. This is my domain, and you belong to me. You took my hand. We made a deal."

"I didn't know it was a deal! Put me back," Cain pleads. "Please, put me back."

But Balor keeps him.


***


"Welcome home!" Balor announces.

The tall man has alternately dragged and yanked him along for what feels like days, only to bring him to a cave tucked into a black mountainside. The room within is appointed with a lone cot and table—and four chains, one for each limb, bolted into the surrounding rock.

There's a tussle as Cain fights with the strength of one who fears for his life. But, as clever as Cain is, Balor is older and shrewder.

Giggling, Balor puts his hands around Cain's neck and squeezes. Cain claws at Balor's fingers, but it's useless. The inescapable sulphurous scent dissipates as no air is drawn into his lungs.

The world goes black.


***


When Cain wakes, he's naked and chained, his wrists and ankles stretched so wide that he looks like a starfish. He leans into the cuffs, swallowing around the pain of a bruised windpipe. He needs a plan, any plan, but eons of clever maneuvering on Earth have not prepared him for Hell.

Balor pulls a knife from his pants pocket. Its sharp edge gleams. Hell-forged.

"Please, let me go," Cain whimpers hoarsely. "We can make another deal."

Instead of replying, Balor touches the blade to Cain's chest and begins to carve. Cain screams, while Balor hums a merry, off-key tune.

When the engraving is done, Balor leans forward and licks the blood away. "Your pain is beautiful," he says, rangy fingers caressing the planes of Cain's body. "Think of all the lovely things we'll do together."

It's hard to read the sloped letters upside down, but Cain eventually makes out what has been carved into his flesh: SINNER.


***


Demons visit the cave, having their fun. They delight in torture, pricking with needles, paddling with wood boards, drawing blood with dull knives, and still they come for more because there is always more to destroy in him. His body heals from any injury not done with a Hell-forged blade. His mind, though... Oh, they come for that, too.

It's worst when they pet him like an object and laugh when they turn his body against him. He rides waves of pain and waves of unwanted pleasure, his psyche adrift.

In these moments, long-repressed memories from his earthly life resurface. His mother's face, how she smiled at Abel most. Abel's blood, drying beneath his nails. The beat of Amenadiel's wings as he cornered him by the river and laid God's curse upon his life. And, later, watching his loved ones die, watching their children die, their children's children die. And on and on.

He remembers wars and plagues, the rise and fall of empires. The horror of the atom bomb, and the wonder of Armstrong stepping onto the dusty face of the moon.

Balor kisses his mouth, leaving behind fetid spittle. "I'm so glad I freed you."

Chapter Text

Chloe kneels and hugs Trixie. "Be good for Dad, okay?"

"I promise."

"And brush your teeth before you go to bed."

Trixie scrunches her nose. "Okay." She smiles, waves, and mumbles a "Bye, Mom" before dragging her backpack into Dan's apartment. A moment later, there's a cry of "Cake!", and Trixie can be heard running.

Chloe straightens. "You're going to ruin her dinner."

Grinning, Dan leans against his teal doorframe. "Calories don't count at her age."

"Thanks for taking her on such short notice. I know, with Charlotte and everything..."

Dan shrugs a shoulder. "Trixie's a great distraction. Anyway, you know I never mind."

It's true, he doesn't. Dan is a much better single father than he ever was a partnered one. He shows up, usually on time, no excuses or complaints. It's a fact that sometimes makes Chloe's heart hurt, and at other times makes her want to spit in his face. Why was he so bad at those things when they were married? What is it about her that inspired such mediocrity?

Not that she wishes they were still married. They're better as friends, and, as much as the word makes her want to gag, co-parents. There are whole days that pass where Chloe forgets, or at least doesn't quite acknowledge, that she created a new human with the man. The thought of having sex with him now is a little too weirdly incestuous.

He's made a life for himself in a one-bedroom apartment situated in Ocean Park. He pays too much for too little space that needs renovating, but it suits him, and Trixie returns to Chloe with tales of Xbox sessions, friendly street vendors, and sand castles on the beach.

Dan clears his throat. "Hey, I know it's none of my business, but this last-minute schedule change, it, uh, doesn't happen to have anything to do with Lucifer, does it?"

She stands a little taller and adjusts her shirt, preparing herself for the argument that's brewing. "I'm going to see him, yeah."

"Right," Dan grunts. "Think he'll explain why he left you high and dry and expected the rest of us to lie for him?"

"Is this why you've been calling me?"

He shrugs. That's a yes.

"You don't know everything that's going on." And can't. He'll never believe it. Just, she thinks, like she never believed it. In that way, she and Dan are alike: to see is to believe. If there's nothing to see, de facto atheism, it is.

"Enlighten me." Stepping out of the apartment, he shuts the door behind him. "We've known him for almost two years, Chlo, and while I know he's done some good work, and, hey, he can be an okay guy sometimes, he also does shady shit. Never been able to prove it, but we both know it."

Lowering his voice, he hisses, "That crime scene was a goddamn mess, there's a murder weapon missing, and now, like some stupid rookie, I've committed a felony. For a guy I don't even always like."

She almost pours salt into old wounds. Almost. Almost asks how covering for a man who's had her back more times than she can count is worse than stealing evidence or gaslighting your wife until she thinks she's crazy.

Instead, she puts a soothing hand on her ex-husband's arm. "All I'm going to say is he saved me. Again. And now he needs me, so I'm going to be there for him."

He sighs. "I get it. He's your partner, and you've got this...weird thing together. Just be careful. You know, Pierce—"

"Lucifer is nothing like Pierce," she snaps.

Dan lifts his hands in surrender. "Sorry."

"It's fine. Look, I'll pick up Trixie from school on Monday, okay? Don't forget she has a spelling test tomorrow."

Then she turns on her heel and leaves.


***


"Back already?"

Chloe pulls a box of medical supplies from the back seat of her car. Banking it against her hip, she smiles at Henry sheepishly. "I promise I'm supposed to be here this time."

"Mr. Morningstar texted me."

"Great. Sorry about earlier."

"Part of the job," he says, shaking his head. "You wouldn't believe the crazy things people do to get into that penthouse."

"I bet," she says dryly, and heads toward the elevator.

The penthouse's living room faces east and is dim when she enters, lit only by the glow of afternoon in the distance. She sets the box of supplies on the bar and turns on the overhead light. Lucifer has vacated the bloodstained sofa, having managed to move to his bedroom, where he again lies face down, sound asleep. This time, his battered wings are unfurled and drape down to the floor on both sides of the bed. The tip of his right wing spreads out so far that it touches the top step of the small set of stairs that lead into his bedroom.

Chloe tiptoes around the feathers carefully. Turning on his bedside lamp, she takes a moment to assess the damage. His skin is as scorched as before, still red, still raw. But his wings... As broken as they are, they're breathtakingly beautiful, stretched out like this. She can see how they might be powerful and deadly when whole, but right now it looks like a harsh wind could strip him bare.

It's far worse than she thought. Single, bloodied points of entry, damage done by pistols, pale by comparison to the ghastly scattershot patches left by rapid-firing submachine guns. Lucifer's body is riddled with lead.

Because of me, she thinks.

As if sensing her presence, Lucifer blinks awake. "You're here."

She hates how surprised he sounds.

His flaming eyes are bright in the low light of the room. Strange how quickly they've come to seem normal, just another part of Lucifer, who Chloe has always known was more complex than his rich playboy trappings. Not that she ever could have guessed he was this complex.

"Detective? Why are you crying?" he asks, his head raising an inch from a black, silk pillowcase before dropping back tiredly.

Chloe wipes at her face. "It's really bad, Lucifer."

"I do feel a bit like swiss cheese," he jokes.

If only. That'd mean the bullets went through. As it is, she can tell they're embedded, deep. Getting them out is going to be ugly.

"Is there no one better who can help?"

"Well, Mazikeen might have helped once, but I don't feel inclined to trust her with sharp objects right now."

"Oh," she says, a little faint as realization dawns. "Maze really is a demon."

"Yes," he replies, oblivious to how unsettled she is. "And, well, there's only one doctor who knows what I am, and she's made it abundantly clear she's not helping with this sort of thing anymore. Not after last time."

After last time? "Who?" Chloe asks, curious.

"Doctor Linda, of course."

"Wow." Old conversations with her therapist friend take on new meaning in her head. "Okay. I'm just worried I might...make things worse."

"Oh, you will," he says in that sarcastically-cheery way of his. "The pain is excruciating around you, but you are right, the wounds need cleaning if I'm not going to walk around with heavy metal for an age. And I can't bloody well reach the buggers myself."

She frowns, mindful of his feathers as she steps closer. "What do you mean 'the pain is excruciating' around me?"

He smiles bitterly. "I once told you that you make me vulnerable. I meant that quite literally. Under normal circumstances, I'm nearly invincible. With you by my side, I'm almost as meaty as any other human."

"Is that... Is that why you were so surprised that you bled when I shot you?"

"One of the greatest shocks of my life."

Chloe leans against the bedroom wall. "So, I'm basically the worst person for the job."

"You don't have to do it," he says, his voice soft.

She swallows and pushes off the wall. "I just don't want to hurt you." An apparent impossibility.

"I'll be fine. You'll find I'm very good at handling pain. But I won't fault you for backing out." He tilts a wing back with a grunt and reaches a hand toward her. Seeing his inflamed skin, he grimaces and lets his arm drop.

"I brought supplies," she says awkwardly, and slips out of his bedroom.

When everything she brought is set out on the floor beside the bed, she wonders if she has enough rubbing alcohol. Enough of anything.

Lucifer seems to follow her concerns and snickers. "You and your plans," he teases. "Everything will be fine. I will have a few of those Percs I see there, though. You may make me bleed, but, never fear, you do wonders for my highs, as well."

"I think they're expired."

"Don't care."

"They're leftovers from a back injury Dan had." She shakes two pills from the bottle into his hand. He flexes his fingers greedily until she adds two more to his palm. "I'll get you some wat—" she starts, then sighs when he downs the pills with scotch.

"Judge not, Detective."

Standing at the foot of the bed, she stares at the carnage. "I'm not sure where to begin," she admits.

"Wherever inspiration strikes. It's all going to bloody hurt."

Knowing this, Chloe works left to right across his body, weaving back and forth to give him small breaks. She plucks feathers, cleans exposed flesh, digs into torn tissue with forceps, sweat dripping down her back and beading across his. When she reaches for the sewing kit, Lucifer stops her, his eyes glassy and wild.

"It'll heal," he croaks.

"You're losing a lot of blood, Lucifer." As though they're in some grindhouse horror, it's begun to seep into her jeans and drip onto the floor. Discarded feathers drown in it.

"Leave it. Please. I can't take it."

She works more quickly then. The blood flows freely to the tune of Lucifer's agonized moans and the tink of bullets dropping into the Pyrex dish she found in his kitchen cabinet. Twice, she changes sterile gloves when they become too slippery.

Hours later, when what she believes is the last bullet fragment joins the others in the glass dish, she leans back from where she sits across his bare, red thighs and tears off her gloves. His wings, the feathers painted a scarlet that matches his skin, look worse than when she began. Her face is wet with sweat and tears.

Rising, she goes to the side of the bed and kneels by Lucifer's head. His eyes are screwed shut, and he breathes hard and fast, as if he's in shock.

Chloe touches his cheek, and he opens his Hell-filled eyes. "I'm so sorry."

"It's all right," he whispers between shivers. "I... Thank you."

It's so strange, hearing and seeing that dulcet voice come out of this ravaged version of her partner. He speaks to her in the tone he reserves for their most quiet, intimate moments: soothingly, gently. It helps her see past the nightmarish visage, to whatever it is in him that always calls to her. His soul, maybe.

Because souls are real.

She slowly leans forward and presses her lips to the too-warm, leathery skin of his forehead. When she leans back, he searches her face, and she smiles at him softly. "What are partners for?"

Chloe watches, spellbound, as his devilish form fades and melts into his body, leaving smooth, pale olive skin in its wake.

"Oh," she breathes. "There you are."

Lucifer gives her a bemused expression, then looks at his hand. Relief smooths some of the lines in his face. "It would seem you took the red right off the Devil. I was afraid that killing..."

"That was self-defense."

"No, it wasn't. It was—"

"For me," she whispers. "It was for me. Thank you."

He says nothing in return, only reaches out and tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ear.

She's a cop and not supposed to feel so comfortable with extrajudicial killings, but there's always been a barbaric protectiveness between them, a willingness to wipe out each other's enemies, as if they are threats to themselves. It started with the record producer Jimmy Barnes, and she doesn't suspect it will end with Pierce. It should frighten Chloe, this connection they have, but it doesn't. Not at all.

Shaking herself from her thoughts, she considers Lucifer's wounded wings. Just because he looks more like himself doesn't mean he's out of the woods yet. "You said you're vulnerable only when you're around me. Does that mean it'll help if I leave?"

He takes some time to answer her, but finally sighs, "It would."

"Okay." She stands and begins cleaning up the mess she's made. The bloodied floors beneath his flagging wings will have to wait.

Lucifer grabs the bullet-filled Pyrex from where she left it on his nightstand. He gives the contents a rattle. "Fancy a pair of earrings?"

Clutching at the necklace that's found its way back around her neck, she looks at him like he's grown another head. "What I want is for you to never be shot again, by me or anyone else."

He lets the dish fall back to the table with a clunk. "Good thing we don't go rushing into harm's way all the time, then, isn't it?"

Chloe huffs tiredly. "Can I get you anything before I go?"

Lucifer sighs into his pillow. If she ignores his wings, he's very easy to look at now, all deep, dark eyes, black wavy hair, and thickening scruff. Tempting might be the word, and Chloe realizes she and most of the metropolitan area might be forgiven for thinking it. He wouldn't be much of a devil if he didn't inspire things he shouldn't. She averts her eyes.

"Will you..." he begins. "Will you return tomorrow?"

"Of course. Okay, well, take it easy tonight."

She turns to leave, but he calls her, "Chloe." She turns back. "You've taken this better than I could have ever hoped. I'm not entirely sure how to tell you... Well, how grateful I am."

"Yeah, well, don't get comfortable yet. I have a lot of questions that need answers."

Lucifer hums in agreement, already sinking into sleep.


***


It's almost eleven when Chloe parks in her assigned spot outside her complex. The nearest street lamp is several buildings away, which means the path to her complex is bathed in long shadows.

She hesitates outside her car. Even as a child, she was never afraid of the dark or of monsters under her bed, but the dark is different when you know supernatural beings roam the Earth, when there's no Glock resting at your hip.

Holding up her phone, she pierces the darkness with her flashlight. One deep, fortifying breath, and she makes a mad dash for her front door. She laughs nervously when she fumbles and drops her keys.

Inside, Chloe secures all the locks—for what little good they can do—turns on all the lights, including the one in Trixie's room, and turns on the television. A news anchor says the words "Marcus Pierce," and though she should probably listen to the segment, she flips channels until she finds a buxom woman kneading dough. Baking is about as much excitement as she can take right now.

And then, suddenly, she's running into the bathroom to throw up. She's not been eating enough, and bile comes out, then dry, acidic heaves that make her throat burn. She gasps raggedly, pressing her forehead against the cool porcelain of the toilet seat.

Learning and accepting the truth hasn't been easy, but today was too much, too real, too fast. She can still feel the warmth of Lucifer's blood through the nitrile gloves, the wet, spongy sounds his flesh made as she cut and dug. Despite the Percocet and alcohol, he was awake for it all, as evidenced by his moans and the way his feathers twitched, fanned, and contracted around her hands. Living parts on a living man.

To see the divine, to touch it, is overwhelming enough. But to carve into Lucifer? It was like carving into herself. Even if it was what had to be done, it makes her sob now.

When her stomach settles, she peels off her blood-soaked jeans and sweat-dampened top. After changing into pajamas, she wraps herself in a blanket and returns to the living room. Beneath the yellow glow of lamps and the blue light of the TV, she sleeps fitfully.


***


The Los Angeles Telegraph headline fills a third of her mobile screen. Bleary-eyed after a rough night on the couch, Chloe reads through the steam coming off her coffee.

Mayor shakes up LAPD following lieutenant scandal, death

Olivia Monroe, the LAPD's former lieutenant and L.A.'s first female chief of police, is out. The former deputy chief, a man by the name of Ezra Mitchell, is in, having been promoted. A new deputy has been instated. Garcia has officially replaced Pierce.

Other changes are rumored to be afoot, with the journalist writing the article calling it a case of "administrative musical chairs." Yesterday, activists held a demonstration outside City Hall, where they clogged up Spring Street as they demanded explanations.

When Dan calls, Chloe answers on the first ring. "Have you seen The Telegraph?" he asks.

"I was just reading it. Looks like Monroe had to fall on her sword." Chloe sighs, "I never liked her, but she wasn't the problem."

"Yeah," Dan agrees. "You notice how there's no mention of the FBI or DOJ getting involved?"

Chloe frowns. "You're right." Something is very suspect about that. Pierce's network of minions stretched far beyond the walls of the LAPD, and with John Barrow in custody, there should be something to go off of. "No way there's no corruption case here." The feds should be crawling all over it.

"Robbie says they're smoothing everything over, that it'll be like nothing's happened when we get back."

"But the evidence—"

"Might be getting destroyed while we're stuck on asses at home."

"You think the mayor's involved?"

"Anybody could be involved. I'm not even talking to most of the guys until we know more. We gotta keep our heads down, Chlo."

"And let Pierce get away with everything?" Chloe sputters.

"That asshole didn't get away with anything. He's dead," Dan says firmly. "But there may be a power vacuum in the Sinnerman's wake. We have no idea who we're up against. Maybe we'll get lucky and nobody will take his place."

Neither of them believes that, in which case it will be hard to know who to trust when they return to work.

A knock on the door startles Chloe so thoroughly that she nearly spills her coffee. Setting the mug aside, she stands and tiptoes to the front window, where she peeks around her curtains.

To her surprise, Lucifer waits at her doorstep. He's his usual sharply-dressed self, lean body neatly tucked away in a crisp, white shirt and black three-piece suit. No red skin, no wings. Save for a little paleness that makes the skin beneath his eyes appear darker, he is the picture of health. She's almost sick with relief herself.

"Hey, Dan, I gotta go," Chloe announces, and hangs up before he can say goodbye.

She opens the door. "You've gotten a lot better about knocking."

Lucifer folds his hands in front of him, at least somewhat contrite. "Yes, well, in light of recent events, it seemed appropriate."

"I was going to come see you." She's shocked he's out of bed. She hasn't even showered yet. Then again, it's almost ten, so that's on her.

"Right. But why bother when I can save you the trip? Unless..." He looks distraught. "Do you not want me here, at your home? I can leave."

She waves him in. "What? No. Don't be stupid."

If the Devil ever wanted to do her harm, there were a million times he could have done something. Not that he looks like the Devil now. He's just...Lucifer, and the warm familiarity of him makes her want to wilt.

Closing the door, she turns to him, her eyes narrowing, as if squinting might help her find the Devil and angel beneath his skin. He leans back and regards her in return, brows raised in question.

"Detective?"

"You really do heal fast." Understatement of the century.

"Of course." He smiles, relaxing. "It helps that I was in very capable hands, as well. Though I do hope the next time we play doctor, it's under different circumstances."

The casual innuendo sucks the air out of the room.

Pointing a finger skyward, Lucifer pleads for patience. "To my credit, I realized as I was saying it that you would find it inappropriate."

Chloe's snort is loud in the room. "Do you want breakfast?" Suddenly starving, she turns and heads into the kitchen.

Lucifer stays where he is. "Actually, I'm only here to make sure you're all right."

"Why wouldn't I be?" she asks, ignoring how her pulse leaps into a gallop. "I wasn't the one bleeding out."

"Yes, but even you have to admit there's been a lot to take in. I mean, all women must admit that about me at some point, but still."

He must be feeling better.

Rolling her eyes in mock dismay, she pulls a cutting board and paring knife out of a drawer. She plucks an apple from the fruit bowl and begins slicing it into eighths. "So, you think I should be freaking out."

She is, at least about his familial connections, but she's not going to admit it to him. If there's one thing she understands, it's that you don't get to choose your family.

Lucifer's face lights with amusement as she hands him an apple slice. "Freaking out does tend to happen when one eats from the tree of knowledge." He bites into the fruit with a devious grin.

Chloe waves her knife at him in conversation. "The Bible doesn't say it was an apple that"—oh—"that you tempted Eve with."

"Mm, it wasn't. It was a pomegranate. And tempt is a very strong word. Adam was always dead from the neck up. I brought Eve a basket of fruit, and she threw herself at me. Really, I'm the victim in that whole fiasco." He steals another apple slice and looks pointedly at her kitchen table. "Been doing some light reading, I see." He huffs in disgust. "Is that the Divine Comedy?"

"So Eden was real?"

"Hmm?" He turns back to her. "Oh, not exactly, though the people were very much real. Not made of dust, though, I can tell you that, and the dinosaurs were long gone by then." He hesitates, eyeing her carefully. "Do you remember what I told you about Pierce, Detective?"

Chloe doesn't want to talk about this, but knows they must.

"About Cain," she says tightly, nodding. She leans back against the edge of the sink. This, far more than anything having to do with Lucifer, she's been trying to avoid. "I didn't believe you."

"No one ever does," Lucifer says with a sad smile. "Not since the Age of Enlightenment, anyway."

"How was I supposed to believe you, Lucifer? You've always said the strangest things. It just seemed like you were making up some story about him because you were—"

"Certifiably insane?"

"Jealous."

He pauses. "Be that as it may, I didn't lie to you."

"No," she agrees bitingly, "but you didn't do anything to make me believe you, either. You know I need proof."

"Well, how the bloody hell was I supposed to give it to you?" he snaps. "I didn't have my devil face until I pierced Pierce."

"You had your wings, though! That's all you've complained about for months. Why didn't you just show me them? I would have believed everything you said."

A dark expression pulls at his mouth. "The wings aren't me—or, well, I didn't believe them to be. I haven't always considered them mine, exactly. As I told you in the past, I cut them off. But they were pinned on me again by my father, or maybe for some other reason having to do with my own ridiculous beliefs. At any rate, it didn't feel right to show them to you. It would have felt like a lie, and for the millionth time, I. Don't. Lie."

"You really cut them off?"

"Oh, several times. I was a right feather factory for a while there."

The thought is horrifying after the trauma of last night. "Don't you ever do that again," she admonishes. "They're a part of you."

Lucifer looks uncomfortable. "I plan to keep them now. They've proven useful."

She nods, knowing this is the most she'll get from him on that subject. "Why do you think it would have been a lie to show them to me?"

"I'm no angel," he tells her, shrugging.

"Well, you're not a monster, either."

He huffs, but says nothing.

"I wish you had shown me," she repeats quietly.

"Yes, well, I do, too, now, don't I?" he replies, crestfallen. "Would've apparently saved us a great deal of bloody trouble. Figuratively and literally."

"I just..." Chloe fidgets, balling her hands into the old, stretched Lakers shirt she slept in. "I just don't get how you could let me be with him."

Tears well and spill over, falling to the hardwood. She's beyond tired of crying, but she doesn't try to hide her pain. There's a fragile part of her that feels betrayed, not by an angel or the Devil, but by her best friend, by someone who, at times, has felt like so much more. And she realizes she desperately needs him to understand this. Needs him to know that all the miscommunication and secrets pale by comparison to this: that he didn't protect her heart when he could, when, at some unknown point, she very foolishly gave it to him for safekeeping.

Lucifer rounds the counter and stands before her, his face tight. "I drove you to him," he despairs. "And then you were...happy."

"But it was a lie."

He winces. "He was a very good liar, good enough to trick the Devil. For a while, I thought— Actually, I thought I saw myself in him. Which is precisely what he wanted me to see."

At her bemused expression, he continues, "You have to understand, Cain murdered his brother, which was evil, certainly, but then my father punished him for thousands of years. Deserving or not, a punishment of that length will...change a man, turn him into something he never expected to be.

"He was the Sinnerman, but then, I am the Devil. And then, well, he met you. And I thought he was changing, that you were changing him, because, whether you realize it or not, Detective, you do have that effect on people. It seemed wrong of me to judge him when...when a second chance is all anyone wants. I wanted to believe a man like Cain could deserve a second chance." He frowns. "I should have known better."

They're quiet, then, as the confession settles over them, reshaping their perceptions. Chloe wonders how much of Lucifer's understanding of Cain was pure projection. He is always searching for, and sabotaging, his own redemption.

"I apologize for any hurt I caused," Lucifer says. "It was never my intention to—I would never hurt you, if I could help it."

"I know that." He has a funny way of going about it sometimes, but Chloe knows it's true. She draws in a deep breath and scrubs at her face. "At least we don't have to worry about him anymore."

"I almost wish I was back in Hell," Lucifer rumbles, and a chill skitters down Chloe's spine. A moment later, he clears his throat. "Well, despite the drama I've brought into your life, you seem to be of sound mind and body, so I should be on my way. Lux has a shipment of—"

"Do you have to be there for it?" Chloe interrupts. Giving into impulse, she reaches forward and grabs his hand.

"No," he answers quickly, looking at their fingers.

"Then let's do something together."

He lifts a suggestive brow. "Such as?"

"I don't know," she laughs, feeling shy. "I'd just like to get to know you. No more secrets."

"No more secrets," he ponders. "I think I'd like that, Detective."


***


There are no stars over L.A., or at least not any that can be easily seen. The sky is a dull, mud-mottled purple. Instead, L.A.'s twinkling stars are its lights, which spread for miles to the north, south, and east. To the west, the Pacific is cold and black.

On the rooftop of Lucifer's building, Chloe leans back in a plush lounge chair, breathing in the night air, her hair shifting in the breeze. Beside her, Lucifer reclines similarly, his long legs stretched out, ankles crossed.

The day has gone well, even if it has been emotionally and mentally draining. For the first time in a long time things almost make sense to Chloe. Maze is a demon. Lucifer's brother Amenadiel is an angel. Charlotte Richards, for a time, was a literal goddess. (Talk about a notch in Dan's bedpost.)

She's not that bothered by the truth, crazy as it is. Knowing is better than not knowing.

That doesn't mean it isn't a lot to take in, but she's managing. After years of compartmentalizing Lucifer's, well, Luciferness, it's not so hard to compartmentalize more. Lucifer's the Devil? Sure, let's throw in her former roommate, a demon, while we're at it. Why not?

Of course, as much as they started the day with the goal of "no more secrets," she also senses they've barely brushed the surface of what there is to know. With basic facts covered, they stuck to illuminating, but rather safe, topics, like how on Earth Lucifer has been solving crime in his own, devilish way all this time. Cleverly, it turns out, but also fiendishly. Maybe a little illegally. Or a lot.

It should bother her more than it does.

"Ah, someone needs a top-up." Lucifer leans over and whisks her wine glass out of her hand before she can protest. He fills it to the halfway point, then shrugs, tips the bottle back, and chugs the remaining contents.

Chloe watches his throat as he swallows. Even after everything that's happened, she's still attracted to him, and the liquid courage flowing through her veins makes her open to acknowledging it, at least to herself. If his devil form was supposed to throw a wrench into her desires, it didn't work. That wasn't him, not really. This, the Prince of Drunken Revelry, this is Lucifer.

"No more. I've had enough," she says, her words bunched close together. But she accepts the glass without further comment and finds herself sipping the heavy Merlot again. It's good, very good, and no doubt costs a small fortune—which, she thinks, means it costs more than it should. She doesn't have it in her to be a snob over such things, but she is amused by Lucifer's snobbery.

"Doctor Linda would be very proud of us, Detective," says Lucifer. "Well, me especially, but you, too, I imagine."

"Oh?" she snickers. "How come?"

"Well, it may be hard to believe," he starts, his tone jocular, "but I've not always been very good at expressing myself, and yet here we've gone a whole day baring our souls to each other. I believe she would call this a breakthrough."

Chloe laughs before sobering slightly. She understands Lucifer in a way that she has, heretofore, assumed to be impossible. More than anything, she now understands how he can be so world-weary and clever, but also youthful to the point of naiveté.

Lucifer is many things: charismatic, overly confident, ingenious, funny, and purportedly devilishly good in the sack. But he is also stunted from eons spent in Hell, a place she can't think of as anything other than cruel and unusual punishment. It's one of several subjects he's been circumspect about today.

And even though it's a little terrifying to think she might be going against the Almighty Himself by aligning herself with the man beside her, she knows she's still Team Lucifer. God's never spoken her, and so remains a touch unreal, but the Devil almost never shuts up, and well... He gets a bad rap.

She watches as Lucifer's eyelids droop under the influence of alcohol and no doubt some lingering physical exhaustion from yesterday's bastardized attempt at surgery. The same protectiveness she felt when he lay red and broken has only grown as they've spent the day together, untangling the past. It's far from perfect, but it's real and theirs, and it's a start.

They roamed the city on foot, talking as they toed through sand and slipped down alleyways. They stopped for burgers at a food truck, and then ice cream, when the sun was high. On a street corner, they watched a young woman strum her guitar and sing "Rocket Man." Lucifer thanked her and stuffed several hundred dollars into the hat at her feet.

It was the most time Chloe ever spent with Lucifer outside work, and she regrets how she waited so long to do it. He's easier to talk to than she imagined. Or perhaps it's that his lips are looser now that he can speak the truth and she has ears to hear it.

By the time they arrived at his penthouse, wine and pizza box in hand, Chloe felt good, deep in her bones.

"I can hear you thinking from over here."

Chloe stirs from her thoughts. She almost makes a joke about Jedis, but there's something in his tone that suggests he's worried about what's on her mind. "I enjoyed today," she says sincerely.

Lucifer sinks into his chair a little more, his eyes crinkling at the corners with his grin. "And how do you plan to enjoy tonight?"

She laughs. Now he's teasing her; there's no heat behind his words. "I—" Her phone rings. She grabs it from her back pocket. "Trixie," she announces, showing him the screen.

"And I thought I was the Devil," he murmurs. "Your spawn has positively evil timing."

She snorts and answers the call. "Hey, Trixie-babe! How'd you do on your spelling test?" For the next several minutes, Trixie's chatter washes over her, and she supplies all the requisite oohs, ahs, and questions.

"Dad says you're with Lucifer."

Chloe glances at him. "I am."

"Can you put me on speakerphone? Please?"

Chloe takes the phone away from her ear and looks at Lucifer pointedly as she says, "All right, monkey, I've got you on speakerphone."

Translation: Behave, Satan.

"Hello, urchin," Lucifer says into the night.

Trixie giggles delightedly. "Hey, Lucifer! Thanks for taking care of Brayden for me."

"No thanks required. Only remember we're even...unless you have a new deal in mind."

Chloe's eyes widen. Taken care of is a terrifying phrase. "What happened to Brayden, Trixie?"

"He's moving next week!"

"Huh," Chloe says, squinting at Lucifer. "How...sudden."

After she ends the call on a river of goodnights, sleep tights and I love yous, she turns to Lucifer, who looks disturbed by the open affection. "What did you do?"

At this, he smirks. "The Decker women made a deal with the Devil. Services were rendered. Neither of you ever said how they should be rendered. In the words of Sinatra, I did it my way."

"Trixie said you talked to her bullies."

"The unrepentant require special treatment. Surely you can appreciate that."

"Did you pay the McNeils to leave L.A.?"

Lucifer scoffs. "Darling, you have a lot to learn about favors. If I paid money to everyone I wanted something from, I'd be a poor man, and"—he waves his wine glass around, indicating the rooftop—"I am certainly not that. Likewise, if I only ever demanded money in return for favors, I would be wealthy, but powerless. But, don't worry, nothing too illegal transpired."

"Too illegal," she echoes.

"Kidding," he says, dark eyes twinkling. "A prestigious law firm in Chicago offered Brayden's father a position."

Cain wasn't the only one with far-reaching connections.

"I'm guessing that was no coincidence."

"You guess correctly."

"Great, so you unleashed an 'amoral' lawyer on Chicago."

"Uh, yes. It's Chicago. He'll be welcomed with open arms. Though I don't imagine it will be a very permanent position. I may have gotten him in the door, but his ineptitude will have him out on his arse within a year."

There's a lot that's bizarre about this conversation, enough so that Chloe suddenly bursts into laughter and struggles to stop.

"Are you all right?" Lucifer asks, but he knows she is, and he's chuckling, too.

Wheezing another laugh, Chloe says, "You'll have to explain this favor business to me one day. I feel like I'm sitting with L.A.'s biggest mob boss."

"Oh, my ledgers would scandalize you." He grins. "The mob bosses owe me."

"I'm a cop," she laughs into her hands. "You have the right to remain silent, you know. I shouldn't know this stuff."

"Say the word, and I'll open my books. I'm not one to hide my sins." He folds his hands primly over his crossed knees and leans toward her. "And I always comply with law enforcement."

"Bribes don't count." She holds up a hand. "Okay, seriously. Don't tell me if you've ever successfully bribed a cop."

"Why, bribing isn't necessary. I have an in with someone at the department."

"Oh? And what if your connection stops putting up with you?" The grin on her face makes her cheeks hurt.

"Well," Lucifer says, his voice rich like warm honey, "if she wants to cuff me and punish me, I won't deny either of us the pleasure."

Chloe exhales shakily, suddenly aware of how close they are. She hears the blood rushing through her veins, feels the flutter of her heart. Her gaze settles on Lucifer's parted lips. What would it be like to throw caution to the wind and kiss him, now that she knows the truth, now that she's seen his darkness and his light?

But Lucifer suddenly breaks the spell, clearing his throat and leaning away. "Right. Shall I drive you home?" he asks, tugging on his sleeves.

She blinks at him and sits back, feeling as though he's thrown her into a vat of ice water. She's not sure whether to feel bereft or grateful. Maybe they are moving too fast, all things considered. Of course they are. What's wrong with her?

It's just...it feels so good to know more. Between that and the wine, it's clouded her judgment. Yeah. That's it.

"It is late, I guess," she says.

Lucifer's up so fast, striding toward the stairwell, that she has to jog to catch up.

Chapter Text

In the cave, Cain loses all sense of time and place and self. He is no longer Cain, Earth's first, accursed murderer. He is Sinner, Balor's most-prized toy. His world is small, and he says little, speaking only "yes," "thank you," and "Master."

A favorite among Balor's demonic horde, he is rarely without visitors. Some who come to play with him look like men, and some look like women, but they could never be mistaken for human. They have claws for hands, exposed muscle and tendon, organs that sit outside the body. He has kissed fork-tongued mouths and stared into the slit pupils of feline eyes.

And, oh, how he loves what they've made him into—because what else can he do, but embrace his fate? How they cut into his flesh and use his body, then soothe his pain so they can do it again. "Thank you," he says, as Balor has instructed. "Thank you."


***


Years pass, and Balor releases Sinner from his chains. The sensation is so foreign that he gasps and falls to his hands and knees. He trembles under this new, terrifying freedom.

"How lovely you are," Balor coos, running bony fingers through Sinner's hair, which is long and stringy. "You'll stay here for all eternity, won't you?"

"Yes, Master. Thank you."

For the first time in a very long time, Balor leaves him alone and no one visits. Whether it is a test or not, Sinner doesn't know and doesn't care. He simply sits, watching the ash fall beyond the mouth of the cave. The world outside is endless. The cave is familiar and safe.

Many days later, a demon he's never seen before climbs through the entrance, her white-blond hair cascading over her shoulders. When she stands and faces him, the braided cords of a cat o' nine tails rustle by her side. She holds it with a skeletal hand.

"Your master has left you unattended," she observes.

"Yes."

"And unchained."

"Yes."

"I don't serve your master," she tells him, and leans in to caress his face with the whip's handle. "You would look better in my collection. How do you feel about a change of scenery?"

Sinner doesn't have the words to respond to such a question. What does he want? He has no wants other than to please Master.

When she drags him from the cave, he weeps. Oh, how angry Master will be, how disappointed. Sinner cannot disappoint Master. He won't.

At the foot of the mountainside, he finds enough strength in his agony to tug himself free from the demon's grasp. She stumbles back with a hiss. She is smaller than he is and didn't come prepared for resistance.

"Stop!" she commands.

But she is not Master. Dropping low, he seizes a large stone from the ground and raises it above his head with a roar. Her whip strikes out, but he ignores the stinging pain and smashes the rock into her face with the momentum his larger body affords him. Her head snaps to the right with the impact, but she is strong and stays on her feet. She rounds on him with a snarl.

The weight of the stone wakes something in Sinner, an old, old memory. He has been here before, in another time and place, with another person. With many other people. This...this is his calling.

The demon lunges at him, but he uses his size against her, bringing down the stone again and again and again. It is nearly impossible to kill a demon, but it can be done—temporarily—with enough force and repetition, enough will. When his arms grow tired, he pants and gazes upon the pulpy mess that remains of her face. She won't be getting up any time soon—days from now, maybe.

"Sinner!" Balor barks.

Sinner's head jerks up, a shiver of anticipatory pleasure and pain rippling through his body. Balor's gangly arms swing wildly as he marches forward, bare feet kicking up ash. His eyes are narrowed in suspicion.

When Sinner, and later Cain, looks back on these moments, he will never know what compelled him to raise the stone against his master. Muscle memory developed over thousands of years, perhaps, or that boundless human drive to stay alive, even on a plane made for the dead.

Maybe it's just how God made him.

After years of captivity, he is weak, but acutely motivated. Adrenaline floods his veins, giving him strength he will pay for later.

It takes hours, but he incapacitates Balor, using rocks and fists and teeth and nails. Panting, he stands, triumphant, over the two battered bodies, one petite and blond, the other long and misshapen, wearing only corduroy pants. Blood and sweat cut through the ash that is caked on his body.

With Balor incapacitated and caught in some deep sleep for bodily repairs, a spell is broken. It is in this moment that Sinner—Cain—is hauled away by some invisible rope. He stumbles along, helpless and unable to ignore the pull.

Although Balor had frequent visitors, they came from far away. As Cain is driven forward, he sees no souls or demons roaming the barren landscape. Only ash heap after ash heap, one dark mountain after another, until he finds himself in a rocky passageway filled with doors.

He hisses. Even after all this time of losing himself in pain, the large wooden door ahead is unmistakable.

"No!" he cries for the first time in many years, the word strange on his tongue. But still he staggers forward.

The door flies open, and a vortex draws him in, to Griffith Park and Amenadiel and Charlotte Richards and Chloe Decker. A gun appears in his hand. Cain aims and squeezes the trigger.

Chapter Text

Morning light filters through closed blinds, bathing Lucifer in thin bars of rose gold. Stretched out on Linda's couch, he searches the popcorn ceiling for pornographic patterns in an effort to ignore the heavy weight resting beneath his breastbone.

After seeing Chloe to her home, he tried calling Linda for an emergency, late-night session. Unfortunately, the doctor has developed a nasty habit of putting her phone on silent after ten o'clock. It's as if she doesn't care about her clients at all, really.

He nearly went to her home, but a brief spark of empathy made him realize this would not please Linda. Excepting their brief stint as lovers, she tends to keep her private life separate from her professional life. She may delve into the lives of others, but she rarely volunteers information about herself—her deepest, darkest desire, to give a famous, inspirational TED Talk, being a natural exception.

And so, he has waited, albeit impatiently, while grappling with an eternity's worth of disturbing thoughts. It doesn't suit him. Self-flagellating, retrospective nonsense is more Amenadiel's jam. Lucifer chases highs and thighs to avoid thinking about his feelings or the past, but lately...

Well, lately the distractions haven't exactly worked, have they? Not since Cain got in the way, and certainly not since Chloe saw his true form—devil face, angel wings, and all. And now the detective is acting strange, the complete opposite of how she should behave, and... He draws in a shuddering breath. Can the Devil have a nervous breakdown?

A few minutes after eight, the office door swings open, and the doctor is in. Linda struts to her desk in cream-colored stilettos, ever a fellow paragon of good fashion sense.

He claps his hands together and sits up. "Finally!"

"Oh my Lord!" Linda cries, a stack of binders flying from her hands as she spins to face him.

Lucifer catches a folder before it slams into his face. "Good morning, Doctor. No need to call me lord, you know."

Linda holds a hand to her heart. "Lucifer, what are you doing here? You missed your last session, and then you didn't reschedule. I don't even make appointments this early. I've not had my coffee yet." She stares at the floor. "I need coffee for this, don't I?"

"Mm, well, I wouldn't be here if it weren't a bit of an emergency, so can we get on with it? I'll pay you double. Bring you coffee after? How's that sound?"

"That's not what—" Sighing, Linda falls into the chair across from the couch, scattered binders forgotten. "Okay. Fine." She draws in a deep breath through her nose. "What seems to be the problem, Lucifer? I was worried about you when you didn't show. You didn't return any of my texts, either."

"I've been a bit busy." He tilts his head. "Have you seen the news recently?"

"I saw that Lieutenant Pierce—Cain—died." She narrows her eyes. "Do I want to know the whole sto—"

"I bloody well killed him."

"Ah, you—" She looks taken aback before forcing a more neutral expression. "Okay. I thought you weren't allowed to kill humans."

"I'm not, am I?" he laughs, somewhat unhinged. "But I suppose some rules are made to be broken. He tried to kill me and, more importantly, the detective. What's that rubbish you Yanks say?" He affects an American accent and says, "I stood my ground."

Whether Daddy dearest sees it that way or not, only time will tell.

"Are we talking self-defense here or something a little more...sinister? Actually, don't tell me. Um, so, you're feeling...residual guilt, then? Maybe?"

"What? No, no, no, I'm not here because of Cain. The detective knows, Doctor."

"Oh!" Linda says, surprised and struggling to keep up. "Oh, you told her!" She scoots to the edge of her seat.

"Not exactly. More like my devil face came back at the crime scene and got stuck."

"Stuck. Wow, okay. I can see why you missed your appointment. Thank you for...not subjecting me to that. Again."

"Mm. Think you're supposed to call a doctor if it lasts for more than four hours, but not many specialize in celestial cockups, now, do they?"

Ignoring his evasive humor, she says, "So. How's Chloe?"

"That's just it," Lucifer grouses. "She's fine and fucking dandy. Saw my burnt arse, bloody wings, and everything. Patched up my wounds, even, and that was a right grisly affair, believe me. And then"—he leans forward, as though he's about to reveal a secret—"yesterday, she spent the entire day with me."

"Oh. Well. It sounds like...like she accepts you. That's wonderful, Lucifer."

He falls back against the couch again, his expression skeptical. "But why?"

"Why not? You've been friends for a long time now. And you're a charming fellow. Handsome. Funny. You can be thoughtful."

"Yes, but none of that works on her, does it? Not really." Sometimes he believes it does, but mostly he sees how often he fails her, both as a partner and as...well, whatever they sometimes seem to be. "Also, I'm the Devil. Bit of a mark against me."

"From all of our sessions together, it's never sounded like Chloe wasn't open to knowing the real you. In fact, it often seemed like that was exactly what she wanted. You were afraid of sharing yourself until very recently. It's okay to discover your fears weren't warranted. It's okay to feel happy about that."

"But what does it all mean?"

"Only Chloe can answer that question. But, what do you hope it means?"

Lucifer looks down at his hands. "Well, I suppose I hope... Well. But I'm left wondering again: Can she really control what she's feeling, or is it a manipulation?"

"We went over this, Lucifer," Linda reminds him gently. "You can't know what your father's plan is for Chloe or for you. Who's to say there even is a plan! Maybe Chloe was placed in your path, or maybe she's here to be used against you, or perhaps you were brought here for her."

What a load of bollocks.

"You don't know," Linda stresses. "You may never know."

"It's just Dad's not exactly a big advocate of consent, now, is he?" Lucifer laments.

"You want to be sure Chloe's feelings are real, that she has free will."

"That's the idea." It's a point of pride for the Devil, that all in his company enthusiastically choose to be there.

"Okay, are you willing to entertain a scary idea for a minute?"

"What could possibly scare me?"

She looks at him doubtfully. "For just a moment, let's imagine Chloe has been placed here for some reason, that she doesn't have complete control over the situation or her feelings. Have you ever considered that that might still turn out okay? That it might not even conflict with her free will?"

"I don't bloody well see how," he seethes.

Linda raises a placating hand. "Free will is very important to you, I know, but it's also a very tricky subject. Sometimes what we believe we're choosing, our minds and bodies have chosen for us before we ever became conscious of our decision. Is that still free will?"

"Where are you going with this, Doctor?"

"Let me put it this way: We don't choose to sleep. We're built to sleep. Now, we can choose to deprive ourselves of rest for a time, but not forever, and that's okay. That's a constraint, not the complete absence of free will. It just means we work within the context we've been given. If Chloe is truly made to be a certain way, Lucifer, that is real for her, just as real as needing sleep.

"And that's where you may need to be careful with her. If she's here for a reason—whatever the reason—contradicting that to soothe your own philosophical conundrums may not help her. It may actually hurt her, just like forcing her to stay awake for days on end would."

"So I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't. As always."

"I didn't say that. But, what's the harm in not worrying until you need to, until you have more information? What's the harm in...accepting her acceptance?"

Lucifer is quiet as he considers her words. "So, tell me what I should do next."

"I think you need to tell Chloe what you know, which is that Amenadiel blessed her mother so she could conceive. Leave it at that. Let Chloe draw her own conclusions and make her own judgments. But don't hold back if she asks questions."

"And if she wants nothing more to do with me after this?" he asks ruefully.

"If that happens, I'll be here. It's not something you would go through alone."

Lucifer clears his throat. "Right. Thank you, Doctor." He rises to leave, his chest hollow. He'll never admit it aloud, but he knows nothing, no amount of therapy, liquor, or easy lovers, would ever mend the damage Chloe Decker might yet do.

"Lucifer?" Linda calls before he leaves her office. He turns from the hallway. "Have you spoken to Maze?"

"No." He narrows his eyes. "Have you?"

"Oh, nope." Interesting. She's lying. Horribly. "No, just wondering if you had."

"Mm. Well, if you do happen to see Mazikeen, tell her to be very careful, would you? I am still the Devil, and she's earned a reckoning."


***


There's no parking available on Chloe's narrow street. There never is if you don't hold a permit; sometimes there isn't, even if you do hold a permit. Building a city where cars are a necessity, but then not bothering to offer enough parking: a very special corner of Hell, that. No wonder L.A. feels like home.

Lucifer blocks a driveway with his Corvette and gets out of the car. Bending, he peeks at himself in the side mirror. His hair sits at odd angles on his head, curling up, out, and away. Dark circles surround his eyes. His suit is a mess of wrinkles. "You look bloody knackered," he tells his reflection. Why didn't he stop by the penthouse?

But, he thinks with a sigh, this can't wait. He won't let this be another secret revealed at the worst possible time. Fingering a cufflink, he cuts his eyes up to the blue sky, whether out of defiance or wariness, he's not sure.

At Chloe's door, he's just raising his fist to knock when it swings open, leaving him knuckling air.

Ella Lopez stops short on her way out. "Oh my God," she gasps.

Lucifer sighs. "The Devil, Miss Lopez."

She sputters nonsensically.

Chloe peeks around Ella's head. "Lucifer. Now's really not a good time." She squeezes Ella's shoulders. "It's all right. Come back inside." She gives Lucifer a pointed look, which he chooses to ignore.

An awed, slack expression paints the typically bubbly forensic scientist's face. He'd know that look anywhere, but he rarely sees it without purposely revealing divinity. It's a look of complete recognition.

"Well, well, well." Grinning, he tilts his head and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "You've figured something out, haven't you, Miss Lopez? Good for you! Maybe you should be a detective. I'm sure I could make a few calls and get you Daniel's job."

"You're...not a method actor."

"Goodness, no. Just the Devil. And a consultant for the LAPD, of course."

Ella shakes her head, as if she might dislodge the truth. "Holy shitballs, I made you go to church."

"You what?" Chloe laughs.

"She did indeed," Lucifer confirms. "Don't worry, though. All is forgiven. Your church was absolutely crawling with deviants. I had a wonderful time."

"This. Is. Crazy," Ella exclaims, her hands animating her thoughts. "Like, I've been praying for proof, right? My whole life. And I know God works in mysterious ways and all, but, uh, you're not exactly the sign I had in mind, you know? No offense."

"None taken! Let me guess, I'm more handsome than you expected? Better-dressed?"

"More like a narcissist," Chloe interrupts. She tries to drag Ella away from the door, but the smaller woman digs in her sneakers. "Just give her a break, Lucifer. No—"

"Devil business?" he quips. "Tell me, Miss Lopez, what's made you a believer all of a sudden?"

Ella raises her right hand, in which she clutches a plastic evidence bag. The single feather within catches the light, its long, translucent quill poking against one corner of the ziplock. "I found this at the crime scene before they suspended me. I...took it home. And looked at it under a microscope."

"First cars, now evidence. Whatever will you nick next?"

"I couldn't help myself! But, here, do you...want it back?" asks Ella, holding it out to him.

He snorts. "I've no use for the thing, but..." He grabs the bag and unzips it to remove the feather. "Put it in something nicer, would you? Something silk, preferably in black."

"Uh, okay. Is that important?"

"Good taste is always important." He twirls the feather between his thumb and forefinger, his expression thoughtful, before handing it back to her.

"Oh," she exhales. "I hadn't touched it before now. It's so soft."

"Keep it on you at all times. If you're ever in a bind, it may prove useful. It's good for healing life-threatening wounds—one-time use, of course."

"Wow. I—" She blinks and then stops speaking, her eyes glued to the feather.

"Oh, dear," Lucifer sighs. "I suppose touching it directly is a problem."

"What did you do to her?" Chloe asks, her nose scrunched. She gives Ella a small shake, which goes unnoticed.

"It would seem I've rendered another woman speechless," Lucifer replies. "Oh, don't worry, Detective. She's just a bit high on divinity. Should right itself in a few hours."

"High on divinity." Chloe frowns. "That didn't happen to me."

"Yes, well, we've already established you're a freak." Saying as much reminds him of his reason for visiting. Taking Ella by the shoulders, he guides her out of the apartment. "Right. Time to be on your way, Miss Lopez. Enjoy the prezzie."

"She can't drive like this," Chloe protests.

"Very well," he says, fishing his cell phone from his breast pocket. "I'll organize an Uber. Do you have her address?" Chloe searches her own phone before rattling it off.

In a daze, Ella gazes up at Lucifer. "Thank you, Lucifer."

"Er, yes, you're quite welcome. Perhaps it's best if you—" He reaches out and tucks the feather inside her jacket, then presses her arm toward her body to hold it in place. "Can't go about, showing it to everyone."

"When will I see you again?"

"As soon as the detective has a poor soul for you to pick at, you little vulture." He gives her another gentle shove. "Trevor and his blue Prius will be here for you soon!" The door swings shut.

"Will she be okay?" Chloe worries. "She's been...existential for the last hour."

"Oh, she'll be fine. It's not like she saw my wings. One little feather won't fry her."

"Aren't you concerned that she knows?"

"Whatever for? I go about telling everyone the truth all the time. It's refreshing to have a bevy of believers for once. Perhaps I'll start a proper cult for once. How novel."

"You could have believers any time you wanted, if you went around showing people the truth."

"That's how you start a religion," he says with distaste. "I prefer the intimacy of a cult or nothing at all."

Chloe looks him up and down. "You're wearing your clothes from last night."

"Uh, yes." He pats at his suit, then runs a hand through his hair. "It was a long night."

"Does this have anything to do with why you freaked out on the roof?"

"I did not freak out. I was merely concerned for your well-being." Timidly, he puts a hand between her shoulders and guides her to the couch. "But there is something else you need to know."

"Hah, great." Chloe laughs nervously as she sinks into the cushions and draws a pillow to her chest. "What, is a plague coming?"

He pauses, considering. "Probably not."

"Probably not," she echoes.

"That was more Mum's doing. Dad's very fond of you lot. And, as you're about to learn, he still occasionally tinkers with Creation, as he sees fit, so you can't say he's lost interest yet."

For a moment, they don't speak. Then Chloe reaches across the cushion between them and takes his hands in hers. "It's okay. Whatever it is."

"You don't know that," he scoffs. As if she should be comforting him. Sighing, he says, "This isn't about me, Chloe."

"Then who's it about? Your...dad?" He can see how much Dad = God bothers her. That makes two of them.

"Actually, it's about you."

"Me? What about me?" Her hands break into a sweat around his.

"What do you know about your conception?"

She makes a small sound of amused disgust. "Not much, I guess. Thankfully. Why?"

He forces himself to look her in the eye. "Your parents struggled to conceive."

"Did they? They never told me." She tilts her head. "How do you know that?"

"Because my father," he says, "took a special interest in their woes. He sent Amenadiel down to bless your mother, your mum and dad shagged, and, bam, Penelope Decker became Mama Decker."

Chloe takes her hands away from his, leaving him cold. "Is that something that's done?" she asks. "Like, some sort of supernatural IVF?" Her joke falls flat over both of them.

"To my knowledge, it's never happened before or since. You are...a miracle."

She snorts. "That's what my mom always called me when I was little." Her mouth forms a hard, stubborn line. "But, no, I'm not. And even if I am technically, I don't know what to do with that info."

"Neither do I," he admits, taking some comfort in that, as Linda keeps suggesting he should.

"You think I'm here for a reason?" she asks.

"Who bloody knows what Dad's on about? But maybe."

She frowns. "Well, if I am, I don't know what it is. Do you have any ideas?"

Oh, how he wants to lie. But he doesn't. "Nothing concrete," he stalls.

Chloe squints at him. "Just spit it out, Lucifer."

"I don't want to say anything," he says tightly, "because, as has been pointed out to me, I have no evidence to support any claims. You're always telling me not to come to hasty conclusions, Detective."

"Okay, sure, but humor me, just this once."

He swallows hard and wishes his flask weren't bone dry. "There are several possibilities. The timing is suspicious, what with our crossing paths during my retirement." He reaches for the most positive assumption. "It's possible there's a reason I'm here for you, that there's something important you must do that I can help you with."

"Uh-huh. My own personal Devil support system." Chloe folds her arms over her chest. "And what are the other theories? The opposite of that, I'm guessing? That I'm here, for you?"

"Well, you are quite the curveball, aren't you? What with how I can be mortally wounded in your presence. Perhaps Dad's trying to off me once and for all."

"That's... I know he's God, but if that's true, or could even be true, that's not okay." She glances up at the ceiling in concern.

"Yes, he's a right tosser."

"But there's no evidence for any of this?" she says, and he can sense her pinning items to a mental investigation board.

"None other than knowing Amenadiel blessed your mother."

Chloe blows out a long breath and shrugs. "Okay."

"Okay?" Bloody hell.

"Yeah. Okay. What else am I supposed to say? It's like Hell. I get that that's a real place now, but it's not like I understand it personally. This is no different. What's it mean to me that Amenadiel blessed my mom? I'm here. That's all there is to it. I'm still me."

Lucifer throws his head back and laughs. It's a high, tired sound that matches his rumpled clothing. "Here I've been fretting over telling you this, over what it all means, and you..." He shakes his head. "You simply accept it and move on."

Perhaps she's here to drive him insane. That would be quite the warped punishment.

"I guess that's just part of being human." Chloe shrugs. "We wrestle with huge, unanswerable questions, and we don't have the luxury of time to get any answers."

Lucifer studies her face. "You know, you're very strong." Headstrong, too. Part of the appeal, really.

"Thank you." She sweeps her hair over her shoulder. "Is this... This is everything?"

"Everything of note. Oh! Actually, I suppose Candy's related to all this, so let's hash that out, shall we?"

Chloe's eyes narrow. "The stripper you married."

"One," he says, lifting a finger, "not a stripper. Owns a lovely little nightclub and occasionally dances exotically."

"Of course, how could I be so wrong?"

He raises a second finger. "Two, that whole thing was annulled, so we were never married." Chloe scoffs as he lifts a third finger. "Three, I did all of that for you. My mum was here at the time and up to her usual manipulations. And I was worried your feelings weren't yours, that Dad was making you feel a certain way."

"So, you forced yourself to plow into a hot blond for me. Gee, thanks."

"We had a business arrangement," he insists. "There was no sex involved, I assure you." Though it had certainly been on the table. No need to mention that.

She laughs. "You'll forgive me for not believing that."

"She was merely there to help cool things down between us and help me figure out what my mum was up to. I don't lie to you."

"No," Chloe growls, and stands suddenly. "You don't lie, but you...you dance around the truth." Her hands land on her hips, and Lucifer doesn't know whether to be worried or turned on. "And I don't know if God can manipulate my life and feelings, but you did by marrying her."

He deflates. "I suppose I deserve that."

"Yeah, you do. Now, I need you to leave."

"Detective?"

"Go. I need some space."

He staggers to his feet. Of all the things he thought might upset her, Candy was very low on the list. "I didn't—" he starts.

"No, you didn't," she snaps, shoving a finger into the middle of his chest. "Didn't talk to me, didn't let me make my own decisions. Nope, none of that. The usual."

"As if you would have believed me!"

She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. "Sometimes you really piss me off."

"Oh, what? Because I'm right?"

"Don't push it." But she smiles faintly.

Ah, a smile. There's hope yet. "I propose we make a deal," he says, a beat later.

"And what deal would that be?"

"I'll refrain from marrying strippers for you, if you'll refrain from marrying absolute knobheads for me."

"So, you admit she was a stripper. And I didn't marry Cain."

"I didn't marry Candy, either," he says gleefully. "But Cain was a knobhead, wasn't he?"

Chloe snorts. "Fine. Deal."

"Come now, Detective, you have to do it proper." He holds out his hand.

They shake on it, holding a little longer than necessary.


***


The next day, Lucifer finds himself loitering on the veranda outside Montgomery Funeral Home, a cigarette wedged between his lips. It's a warm, sunny Friday, perfect for happy hours and sex-filled siestas, so of course the humans are set on ruining it with pointless death rituals.

Charlotte Richards was well known and controversial. Her visitation has brought out the masses. He doesn't count himself among them. He's only making an appearance because Linda nagged him to do so.

"It's important to the people in your life," she told him in a phone call.

And, bloody hell, he sure has people in his life now, doesn't he? Chose them of his own free will and everything. A true earthside experience. Not exactly how he always imagined it would be. Far more inconvenient, far less naked calisthenics.

He watches as people dressed in shades of black and gray file in and filter out, some to grieve, most to rubberneck, and a few to no doubt spit at the foot of Charlotte's solid mahogany casket. No good lawyer goes to the grave without her share of admirers and enemies. Charlotte was a very good lawyer.

As earthly as a funereal experience may be, it's making Lucifer feel fidgety and more removed from this plane than he has in a while. They're like ants, really, rushing about their business, utterly incapable of seeing how limited their perspective on the universe actually is.

Before the detective, he would have had some fun with these grieving fools. He wants to laugh at them openly, make them face the reality of their inevitable afterlife. A hundred billion souls have come before you, he would shout. What does this one little soul matter when your own mortal coil is desperately trying to unwind with each passing second? Carpe diem, for Dad's sake.

And what's with Charlotte's made-up, chemical-bloated body? That isn't her. Even the humans can't quite pretend it is. It's expensive refuse slated to be chucked in the ground because it no longer sparks joy.

Lucifer scowls at a smarmy man as he enters the building. He may yet burst in and make a scene. It's very tempting. But even he knows that's poor timing so close to revealing himself to Chloe, thus his restrained loitering and contemplative chain smoking.

As if she's sensed him thinking about her, there the detective is, finding his eyes from thirty feet away. Actually, all "his" humans are there. Three lovely women and a cake-obsessed imp, all flitting about Daniel as if he hasn't only recently learned how not to be a complete douche.

And what a sad sack Daniel is today. Lucifer would openly sob, too, were he dressed in that off-the-rack suit. But, my, what a support system he's got in spite of it. Chloe is pressed up against her ex-husband's left side, his arm thrown over her shoulder. Trixie follows along on Chloe's left, clutching her mother's black dress, her concerned gaze fixed on her parents. Ella is pressed against Dan's right, that silly crucifix back around her neck. And walking in front of them all, as if she might bat away anyone who dares interfere with the grieving process, is Linda, her chin held almost as high as her heels.

Lucifer's chest spasms uncomfortably at their united front. His family doesn't rally like this, never has. Although, perhaps Amenadiel, of all angels, might be on his side now, might actually appear if he prayed to him, and not just because he's been the "misbehaving" black sheep, either.

With Trixie near, Lucifer drops his cigarette to the ground and stamps out its embers. He steps forward to join them, but Chloe shakes her head before refocusing on her ex. Lucifer remains in place, frowning. Is she still angry about Candy? He thought she was over that.

Chloe, Daniel, Trixie, and Linda enter the funeral home, but Ella hangs back. She meanders over to him, a sad smile on her face. "Hey, Lucifer."

He quirks a brow at her. "No longer drunk on divinity, Miss Lopez?"

"Sober enough to drive," she assures him. She nods to a coworker from the precinct before saying, "Bet all of this seems really dumb to you, huh?"

That's a trap of a question, if he's ever heard one. "I can't say your rituals aren't...puzzling." He waves a hand. "All this is for the living, who collectively pretend it's for the dead. Now, the Vikings, with their pyres and feasts and drinking... That was a party I could get behind. None of this dour bollocks."

"Come on," she says, nudging his arm with her shoulder as she leans against the veranda's railing beside him. "You gotta feel a little sad. You liked Charlotte."

Lucifer gives a long-suffering sigh. "She's not gone, Miss Lopez. She's relocated. You'll see her one day."

"It doesn't feel that way to us. I mean, I've always believed in Heaven, and"—she glances at him meaningfully—"now, more than ever. But life is looong, dude. I know eighty years is nothing to you, but to us, it's everything. It sucks that we go can go decades without seeing someone we love because of some freak accident or cancer or diabetes or some other BS. And, then, I mean, not all of us...go to the same place."

"Never waste your time on guilt. You'll go to Heaven. You'll see her. It's that simple."

"I hope so. I'm aiming for it, or I'll die tryin', right?"

He smirks, sharing in her gallows humor. "But what does any of this have to do with such a costly charade?"

"People just wanna say goodbye. Whether they think they're saying it for forever or just for a little while." She looks out toward the rolling hills of the connecting cemetery when she says, "It's gonna be pretty hard for you to see Charlotte again, isn't it?"

"Try impossible," he answers with false amusement.

"That blows. Well, maybe you should say goodbye, too. Could be cathartic. You never know." Standing straight, she claps a hand to his shoulder. "I'm gonna head in. Let me know if you wanna come say goodbye and need some moral support. I know how you feel about all the"—she lowers her voice—"G-O-D stuff. I totally get it now." She winks dramatically.

He watches her walk away and marvels at how he has not one, not two, but three humans who know and accept him, the real him, to varying degrees. What is happening?

When she's gone, he turns and rests his elbows on the white railing. He resumes his chain smoking and stares at the rows of stone teeth that are occasionally broken up by garish statues and obelisks. He's made his appearance. Chloe's seen him. He should go. But he lingers, some part of him troubled by Ella's words, by the absurd finality of it all. Just more of Dad taking the piss out of his creations.

A gentle tug on his pants leg makes him twitch.

"Can I stand out here with you?" the detective's spawn requests.

Lucifer sighs and tosses his cigarette. "Really, I just lit this, Beatrice."

"Smoking causes cancer."

"So does the sugar in chocolate cake. But still we have our vices, don't we?"

As usual, the detective's daughter doesn't mind his prickliness. And, if he's honest, he doesn't mind her presence. She's a clever little minx, much like her mother. How she's made up of fifty percent of Daniel, he'll never know. Broken clocks and all that, he supposes.

"I don't like funerals," Trixie gripes.

"What's to like? They're boring, earthly affairs, urchin."

She leans half her weight against his leg, and hangs the rest of it over the railing, much like, well, a monkey. "Charlotte was nice."

"She did have her moments." Once the fear of Hell was in her.

"I think my dad wanted to marry her."

"Well, your father has had a track record of marrying above his station, hasn't he?" They're silent for a moment, until suddenly Trixie begins to sniffle. "Dear me," Lucifer sighs, "let's not bring Niagara Falls into it, child. You couldn't have even known her that well."

"Mommy's always getting hurt," Trixie sobs, her little, round face scrunching. "I don't want her to die, too."

Oh. Oh. Lucifer's world tilts alongside Trixie's as he imagines Chloe's body lowered into a hole in the ground, her soul forever beyond reach. His heart stutters. But she's alive now, he reminds himself. That has to be enough.

In one smooth movement, as if he's done it a million times before, he lifts the little girl onto the railing to face him. Her black dress swishes and bunches around her. Holding her arms tight, his long fingers stretching all the way to her bony shoulder blades, he bends and looks her in the eye.

"Beatrice, listen to me. So long as it's in my power—and I've a great deal of that, never you fear—your mother will live long and well. She will watch you drive a car and graduate and kick some undeserving wanker to the curb. Do you understand? I will upend Hell before I allow your mother to die an untimely death."

"But I don't want you to die, either," she wails.

How strange. He clears his throat uncomfortably.

"No need to worry about that." Not now that he has his wings back. "I came back last time, didn't I?" he challenges quietly, daring to remind her of Malcolm and her kidnapping. "Only died a bit."

Trixie hiccups and nods, but the tears still flow. Exhaling shakily, Lucifer yanks his purple pocket square free and wipes at her face. "There now," he says. He hands her the square. "I believe you can blow your nose for yourself." She honks into the fabric, then has the gall to offer it back to him. He grimaces. "No, no. That belongs to you now."

Sighing, Trixie throws her arms around his neck. Lucifer shudders, trying not to think about the snotty fabric trailing down his Prada, but he also makes no move to untangle himself from the child's embrace. Instead, he pulls her closer and palms the side of her head.

"Can I tell you a secret?" Trixie asks, her voice wobbly with fatigue.

"Of course." He strokes her hair. "I do love a good secret."

"You look different from how you used to," she whispers. "More like Mom."

Lucifer's brows furrow as he looks down at her head. Aren't children supposed to speak less obtusely by this age? "Whatever do you mean by that?"

"Your light," she says, as if this explains anything.

Before he can quiz her any further, Chloe rushes up to them, a look of relief, then shock, on her face as she takes in the sight of them together. "Trixie! I was looking everywhere for you! You were supposed to stay with Dad." She looks up at Lucifer, suddenly flustered. "You didn't have to— You could have brought her to me."

"Ah, well," Lucifer says, putting distance between himself and the little girl. "We were perfectly fine, Detective." He glances at Trixie pointedly. "We have mutual interests, your spawn and I."

"That so?" With a groan, Chloe picks Trixie up from the railing and puts her back on her own two feet. "Have you been crying, baby? You're really gonna miss Charlotte, huh?"

Trixie sighs. "I'm okay now." Then she grins up at Lucifer fondly. He forces himself not to return the smile. He has a reputation to keep. The Devil doesn't smile at children, no matter how precocious.

Chloe clasps one of Trixie's hands in her own, and then laces the fingers of her other with Lucifer's. He looks down at her, surprised. "Thank you," she says, and does the unthinkable as she rises to tiptoe and kisses his cheek.

He clears his throat, confused, but pleased. "If I'd known this was the reaction I'd get from embracing your offspring, I'd have done it ages ago. What do I get for a piggyback ride?" He shudders at how eager Trixie is about the prospect.

She laughs softly. "Do you want to come back with us? Have some lunch, maybe?"

Lucifer would like nothing more, but he shakes his head. "I think I... Well, I might need to go say goodbye. To Charlotte."

"Oh," she says, surprised again. "Okay." She gives his fingers a squeeze. "You'll be at the precinct when I start back?"

He pauses. Even after the day they spent together, even after she welcomed him back into her home, he hadn't dared hope for this much. "You need the eggs?" he says quietly.

"That," she admits, "and my partner." She smiles. "Don't be late."

Lucifer watches them leave. He feels things he is too frightened to give words to, even deep in his own mind.

When he finally enters the funeral home, visitation is nearly over. Save for a few clusters of softly-speaking humans, he is alone. There's Daniel, too, sitting in a chair off to the side, staring blankly at the floor. Charlotte's ex-husband and children left long ago.

Lucifer stands before the casket and looks at Charlotte Richards' pickled body. A violent burst of anger rushes through him as he takes in her golden hair. Charlotte, oh, many of these humans will see her again. But Mum... Mum, who'd used this shell to walk and talk and embrace him with? Bloody gone forever. By his own hand.

He holds the edge of the casket, struggling not to crush the wood. The depth of his bitterness is shocking, even to him. How could he possibly care after all these months? It's not as if Mum were some shining example of motherhood. She was a manipulative, all-powerful bitch. And, he thinks, his teeth setting in a snarl, she tried to kill Chloe.

And yet she also held him, many, many eons ago, when she was pure, disembodied light, and he was a winged boy, a light-bringer, who took after her. Always playing pranks on siblings who liked him well enough, but never quite understood him. Always bending rules and incurring his father's wrath.

How many times did she intervene on his behalf? Often, as far as he can remember, and perhaps more than he knows.

He hasn't forgotten what she told him, that he was only sent to Hell because of her pleas, that his father intended to destroy him. Maybe it's the truth. She seemed to believe it was. But he'll never know now, will he?

"Hey, man," Daniel says, tearing him from his thoughts. "I'm surprised you came. I know you didn't always get along with Charlotte. Must've been weird having her for a stepmom."

Poor sod. Always so dreadfully out of the loop.

"Yes, well, I'm realizing I may actually miss her." He swallows. "More than I expected." In his mind's eye, he sees his mother pulled apart, her shining light drawn into that other place and time, a place he hopes she has made her own. He feels the weight of Azrael's blade, the burden of free will and responsibility.

"Charlotte had a bigger heart than a lot of people gave her credit for," Daniel says. "Maybe she didn't always know how to show it, but I'm sure she loved you, man."

She did. She loved her children fiercely, if imperfectly.

So few have loved him.

Lucifer can't speak, can barely breathe, around the knot in his throat. Blindly patting Daniel on the shoulder, he turns away, taking long strides out of the funeral home. His hands fumble in his suit jacket for his flask, cigarettes, and lighter—anything, anything, to turn off these ghastly emotions.

Chapter Text

Charlotte Richards dies a thousand times, a million, then more. Every time, Cain is eaten by guilt. Until...he isn't. He isn't at all.

He aims and squeezes the trigger. Charlotte guards God's favorite son with her life. She collapses to the ground, bleeding. And Cain throws his head back and laughs. Because who gives a fuck about Charlotte Richards?


***


Hell is a well-oiled phantasmal machine. It runs on autopilot, adapting to guilt and fear with the finesse of an experienced, attuned lover. When Cain no longer feels guilty for taking Charlotte Richards' life, Hell doesn't implode. It merely yanks on a pulley and pushes at a lever, extracting from his Hell loop that which no longer torments. It isn't personal. It's how the infernal algorithm works.

Whether by nature or nurture, Cain has always kissed the edge of a psychopathic spectrum. He doesn't feel guilty about much, or for long. But Hell searches the Rolodex of his dark heart and finds one deep regret, a what if involving a homicide detective on the earthly plane.

What if he hadn't ordered his men to shoot her?

Could she have forgiven him?

What if he'd been a better lover?

Could she have turned against the prince at her heels?

What if he'd accepted mortality by her side?

Could she have made him whole?

Hell leaves him in the void with Chloe, her simulated face soft and open, her flesh on display, a diamond ring in her outstretched palm. She dies many millions of times more than Charlotte Richards. Each time, remorse and uncertainty plague him.

If he had been different, if he had loved her right and true, she wouldn't have his symbol carved into her flesh. He wouldn't feel the immense personal loss as he squeezes the trigger.

His hand turns the gun sideways. Chloe begs for her life as he presses the muzzle between her eyes. He practices this move again and again and again.

Until, he wonders...

What if he doesn't have to shoot her?

What if he could have her still?

What if it doesn't have to be this way?


***


Hell is calibrated to house tortured souls, freewheeling demons, and creatures of the night. It is not intended for souls who break free from their loops. Because no human soul ever has. Billions have never even tried.

Cain is a bug in the system that Hell struggles to function around. His soul has known limbo for too long. It is neither a human soul nor that of an immortal. It is merely Cain's.

His internal questions are the beginning of the end. Unbeknownst to him, his soul is playing a game of chess against the machine. Each time he makes an unexpected move, the machine tries to adapt and learn, but with every new move, he introduces entropy.

The machine hands him a gun, but he doesn't raise it.

The machine places a diamond ring in the detective's palm, but the sheer force of Cain's will slides it on her finger.

The machine stamps her with a five-pointed Mark of the Beast, but Cain sees only a lopsided incision that matches his own: SINNER.

The machine shuffles and reshuffles the simulation, searching for a possible move, a way to right the game. But it's too late. There is too much entropy, too much noise in the signal, for it to hold Cain.

Chloe Decker stands before him in an endless void, and he realizes she isn't real, that none of this is real, that he feels no remorse whatsoever.

Checkmate.

He turns. The large, wooden door stands afloat in the pitch black. It's unlocked.

Chapter Text

The bullpen is a living creature. It has a sound and flow that Chloe feels in her gut. This is how she instinctively recognizes the changes to the precinct, even before she's able to catalogue them more consciously. Certain voices are missing from the usual din, and an undercurrent of distrust sours the room.

She passes fellow officers on her way to her desk. For every "welcome back" murmured, three other officers follow her silently with their eyes. She raises her chin higher, trying to tap into a well of confidence she fears has run dry. She survived Palmetto and Warden Smith, she can survive Pierce.

At least, she hopes she can. There's still no way to know who here might have been in the Sinnerman's pocket. No way to know, yet, if his criminal organization has collapsed.

Chloe sinks into her office chair and boots up her computer. A stack of folders has been left on the corner of her desk in her absence. There's always more paperwork—and paperwork for the paperwork. Digitization is a slow process here, and there's lots of redundancy.

An hour later, Lieutenant Garcia exits his office and makes a beeline for her desk. He waves a case file in the air. "Ready for your welcome back present, Decker?"

Anything to pretend things are normal. Anything to put off paperwork.

"Yes, sir," Chloe answers eagerly, rising and rounding her desk. "I'll get in touch with Lucifer and be on my way."

Gripping the file folder in one hand, she whips out her cell with the other. She's just typed We've got a case! when she feels the flow of the bullpen shift again. She looks up and locks eyes with none other than Lucifer himself. His lips pull back in a mischievous grin as he strolls her way.

Does he notice how people turn a little towards him, as though they're compass needles and he's true north? He must. Sometimes the repositioning is conscious, followed by a friendly smile or leering appreciation, but often it's not. Often, it's only a small turn toward his magnetic pull. And is she so different? So often, she gets pulled in, too.

"Speak of the Devil," she laughs when they face each other.

"And he shall indeed appear," he finishes. "Is that a case I see?" He rubs his hands together.

She grins with him. "It is."

"Well, what are we standing around here for? Lead the way, Detective."

Nothing will ever really be "normal" again, now that she knows the truth. But as they fall into what they know best, it's easy to leave the difficulties of the previous week behind. It's easy to pretend nothing's changed at all.


***


Dan and Ella are already on the scene when they arrive at Cedarwood Heights. Dan glances up as they duck under the crime scene tape and enter the dim, one-bedroom apartment. Dark circles surround his eyes.

"Vic is David Yates," he announces, rubbing at his jaw. "Twenty-seven. Unemployed. History of minor drug offenses for dealing."

The dank living room is furnished only with a TV and a torn, plaid recliner. The place smells of mold, fish, and decomposing body.

"Not one for personal cleanliness, was he?" Lucifer tsks.

"Dude had serious problems," Ella agrees, staring at the victim.

David Yates, pudgy, pasty white, and already balding, sits stiff and cold, a precarious tower of dirty dishes on the stained carpet beside his recliner. Clothed only in threadbare briefs that he soiled in death, the dozens of shallow, horizontal cuts that cover his arms, legs, and torso are on full display, each mark one to two inches long. The cuts oozed blood before he died, leaving him and his underwear painted with streaks of red and pink.

Chloe swallows back the memory of Lucifer's blood-tinged feathers as she bends to take a closer look. "Self-mutilation?" she asks.

"Oh, yeah. Big time." Ella points her pen at the dish tower's topmost plate, where there rests a razor blade in a pool of dried blood. "But COD is—"

"The bloody ginormous butcher's knife sticking out the poor sod's middle?" Lucifer guesses.

"Well, yeah," Dan answers. "No fingerprints on the murder weapon, by the way. Time of death estimated to be 16:00 on Monday. Neighbor called in the smell this morning."

"Any leads?" Chloe asks.

"Other than the neighbor—he only had the one on his right—not really. We caught her before she left for work, but she claims to have never talked to him outside of a hello in the hallway. My best is the guy was a total recluse. Landlord's coming in for a statement later today, but it didn't sound like she knew much, either."

"Next of kin?" Chloe asks.

Dan shakes his head. "Only child, mom died last year."

"And no girlfriend or wife?"

Lucifer scoffs. "As if this retched chap brought any girls to the yard."

"None that we know of," Dan answers more diplomatically.

They wander the compact apartment, weaving around the other officers and techs on the scene. Bills, most stamped with past due and late notice, are laid out on the kitchen counter. More plates tower in the sink, but the cabinets, fridge, and freezer are empty, save for red pepper flakes in the former and a few beer bottles in the latter. The trash can overflows with paper cups, takeout boxes, and wrappers from fast food joints.

Ella hovers around the trash can. "If you're wondering where that fish smell is coming from... Looks like Yates was a big fan of Poke'n Around."

"Ah, the poke bar near the Orpheum," Lucifer says. "It's very good. We should pop in for lunch, Detective."

Dan looks at him incredulously. "Man, how can you think about eating right now?"

"It might not be a bad idea," Chloe says absently. "Maybe someone there knew Yates."

In the bedroom, they find a urine-stained mattress on the floor. No sheets. No clock or lamp.

"Super depressing, right?" Ella remarks.

"Yes, our little drug dealer partook in his product," Lucifer says with discordant cheer. "Classic heroin addict Hell loop."

Chloe makes a choked sound as she lifts one corner of the mattress with a gloved hand. She'll ask about "Hell loops" some other time, when her brain can afford to accommodate more supernatural madness. Maybe Lucifer will even be willing to talk about it.

Dan rolls his eyes. "We haven't found any evidence of drug use."

Lucifer spreads his arms wide, as if to say, Look around, douche. Is this not evidence enough? Aloud, he says, "Well, he'd already used everything he had, hadn't he? That's why David was such a sad sack."

Chloe tunes out their bickering and drags Ella back into the living room, leaving the two men to trail behind. Ella and Chloe stand in the doorway into the apartment and stare at Yates from a distance. It's always worth trying a new perspective.

"Hey," Ella whispers with a nervous glance around, "we've got a problem." Chloe looks at her. "Things, uh, have gone missing. From evidence." She holds up her hands and flaps them like wings. Lucifer's feathers.

"Dan was worried more evidence might be tampered with in...that investigation." Though something tells her he wasn't exactly thinking of feathers when he was talking about it.

Ella nods. "He told me to keep an eye on it. I thought you should know and maybe tell Lucifer. I didn't know if that would be, like, a sensitive topic or whatever."

As if she knows herself, and that's after plucking dozens of feathers from him. "I'll talk to him."

A moment later Dan and Lucifer enter the room. Ella tilts her head. "There's no sign of struggle," she says, interrupting whatever their current back-and-forth has devolved into.

"Maybe he was too intoxicated to know what was happening," Chloe guesses.

Ella shrugs. "Tox screening should be interesting."

"It will confirm heroin," Lucifer says with confidence. Dan grunts in frustration.

Yates looks strangely relaxed, despite the full-body cuts and the butcher knife protruding from his gut. Both feet are flat on the floor, and his arms rest gently at his sides, palms up, fingers curled in a combination of repose and rigor mortis.


***


It's lunchtime, and Poke'n Around is so packed it might be violating safety codes.

"Popular place," Chloe sighs, eyeing the line of people stretching outside the trendy, teal-stucco eatery.

"I did say the food was excellent, didn't I?"

"This is going to take forever," she grouches, as they fall behind the last person in line. She peels her black shirt away from her waist. June gloom has passed, and now it feels as though an especially warm summer is ahead of them. "How are you not dying in that suit?" she continues. "You're not even sweating, are you?"

Lucifer glances at her, amused. "Wool breathes, darling. That, and you do tend to build up a tolerance to heat in Hell."

Chloe lowers her voice to ask, "So, it's actually hot there?"

"Mm. Pervasively so, and not in a good way." Clearly eager to change the topic, he nods his chin at the line of people in front of them. "What good is your badge if you won't speed and can't cut lines?"

"I could since we're here on business, but I hate being that cop."

"Oh, live a little." When she doesn't move, he rolls his eyes. "Right. Fine. Lucky for you I'm not opposed to a bit of queue-jumping."

And off he goes.

"Lucifer," she hisses, grabbing for his arm. His long stride immediately puts him just out of reach. Cursing, she follows him into the restaurant. "Sorry, sorry," she mutters to the irate people they leave behind.

Inside, modern swing music lilts in the background, all peppy, jazzy horns and upbeat piano. She grabs onto the back of Lucifer's suit jacket. "What are you—"

"Lucifer!" a giant Hawaiian man booms from behind the counter. His round face lights up with a cheeky smile. "Here for the usual?"

"Double it if you would, please, Will. And well done on the crowd! Is business always so good these days?" A devious smile lights his face.

"It's all thanks to you," Will gushes, and Chloe gets the distinct impression he's a little bit in love with the Devil. Like thirty percent of L.A. Maybe more.

Will spots her at Lucifer's side. "Hey! Is this the detective?"

Her eyes widen. "I—"

"Indeed, it is," Lucifer says, placing a hand on the small of her back to push her forward. "Detective Chloe Decker. You can rest easy knowing she's after L.A.'s miscreants. Like a pitbull with a tiny woodland creature, this one. Doesn't give up until the job is done."

A laugh bubbles up out of Chloe, coupling uncomfortably with the hot burn in her cheeks. Tamping the hysteria down, she reaches across the counter, offering her hand. "Nice to meet you, Will." They shake, and she feels a little more in her element, instead of like she's been pulled into the unpredictable currents of Hurricane Lucifer.

"Do you have time to answer some questions about"—she brings up Yates' license photo on her phone—"this man? We think he was a regular here."

"Uh, sure, of course." Will glances at the photo. "Can't say I remember him, but let me get your food, and we'll talk."

Several minutes later, the three of them are seated outside, under a navy-and-white-striped umbrella. Lucifer digs into his poke bowl with gluttonous abandon, fork in one hand, flask in the other. The food is delicious, but Chloe finds the faint smell of fish off-putting after the crime scene, and only picks at the ahi to be polite. It was free, after all.

She shows the photo to Will again. "This is David Yates. If you or any of your staff can tell us anything about him, what he was like, when you last saw him, that'd be great."

Will stares at the photo for several long seconds. "I have the memory of a goldfish. And so many people come through..." He flashes another grin at Lucifer.

"What about security cameras? Any watch the register?"

The big man shrugs apologetically. "I've been meaning to install one... Theft isn't a big concern for a small restaurant like mine." He pats the table with a hand. "Tell you what, let me get Theresa. She's at the register most." He rises and claps Lucifer on the shoulder. "I've gotta get back in. Come by any time. And good luck with the case. Nice to meet you, Detective." He turns and reenters the restaurant.

With Will gone, Chloe smacks Lucifer's side. "Is this another of your favors?"

"Such abuse I suffer," he says, rubbing his ribs. "But of course. Will needed the real estate to show off his culinary talents, and in exchange I get poke whenever I want. And the playlist is mine." He lets out a particularly pleased moan around his fork. Several patrons at nearby tables turn to look at him, some with far more interest than is appropriate. "Love me some poke salad."

She scowls at him. "Obviously."

A young, red-haired woman whose pale white skin is smattered with freckles steps up to their table. "Hi, I'm Theresa. Will said I should talk to you?"

"Detective Decker, LAPD," Chloe introduces herself. She nods to her left. "Lucifer Morningstar, my associate."

Theresa smiles familiarly at him. "Hi, Lucifer."

"Why, hello again, darling," he purrs.

Though she doesn't mean to, Chloe bristles. "Theresa. Have a seat. We're investigating a murder. Do you recognize this man?"

Theresa sits primly, takes one look at the license photo, and grimaces. "Oh, yeah, I know him. He came here often. Total creep."

"Always go with your gut," Lucifer says sympathetically. "Chap was deep into blood play."

"Notice anything about him?" Chloe continues. "Anyone he ate with?"

"Nah. He was a loner. Always ordered the same bowl and a California roll. Sat by himself. Was pretty obsessed with his phone when he ate here, which he only did sometimes." She shrugs.

Interesting. They found no phone at the crime scene.

"Eating alone while using your phone isn't a crime," Chloe says, just a tad too defensively. Lucifer snorts.

"Oh, no, I'm on my phone all the time," Theresa admits. "But he watched porn. I had to ask him to leave a few times when he wouldn't keep the volume down."

"Oh. Yeah. That's different."

"Exhibitionism is far more common than you humans think." Lucifer drops his napkin into his empty bowl and leans back. "What did he wear typically?"

Theresa frowns. "I... T-shirts? Jeans? Like anyone else."

"Long-sleeve or short-sleeve?" He grabs Chloe's unfinished food and digs in again.

"I don't know. Short-sleeve, I think. When it was warm enough."

"Anything else you remember about him, in particular?" Chloe adds quickly, "Other than his...sexual proclivities, that is."

"Honestly, he didn't stand out from the crowd otherwise. He just had horrible manners. It's not like he's the only one, even." She shrugs. "Sorry, I don't really know anything about him."

"He wore foul manties," Lucifer reveals. "Best of luck excising that from your brain."

They thank Theresa for her time and leave. When they're seated inside the squad car a few minutes later, Chloe cranks the air conditioning up all the way and leans against the steering wheel, waiting for it to kick in.

"What was with all the fashion questions?"

"Merely trying to determine whether our David was a cutter. Most of that lot hide their scars."

Chloe nods. "So maybe the self-harm was a recent development." She sighs and edges out of their parking spot. "No witnesses, no loved ones, no social life."

"Explains all the self-hate and self-love," Lucifer quips.

"Feels like we're hitting a dead end."

Those are the truly sad cases, the ones where bad people literally get away with murder because their victims live lonely existences. No one misses these people when they're gone because no one even knows they're gone in the first place. David Yates clearly had problems, but that doesn't mean he couldn't have gotten help and turned his life around. Now, there's no chance of that.

"You'll figure it out, Detective."

"We don't find every killer," she argues. Glancing at him, she adds, "And there's a lot right under my nose that I never see."

Back at the precinct, David's landlord, a Botoxed baby boomer named Jessica Plant, proves to be another dead end.

"I haven't interacted with him since he signed the lease. I own the building, but, well, you saw it's not in the best part of town. I only visit once or twice a year. And I bring my Taser."

"He did quite a bit of damage to your awful nest egg, didn't he?" Lucifer taunts. "Were you having trouble evicting him, perhaps? Found a more expedient way to do it?"

Chloe doesn't bother pointing out a butcher's knife to the gut isn't exactly expedient.

"Look, in that dump, I was just glad he paid his rent on time most months. No one ever complained about him, and I had no idea what kind of shape he'd let the place get in. Those apartments are old, but they're not rundown. I'll have to tear out all the carpet." She shudders. "And thoroughly fumigate."

"Any cameras in the hallways or parking lot?" Chloe asks.

"This isn't some luxury apartment we're talking about. There are a couple outside, but there's a huge blank spot between the parking lot and David's door. I'll send over what I have, though. Hopefully it will help. I'm never going to get full rent on the place until you catch the killer."

After Jessica leaves, Chloe sits at her desk with a sigh. "We're off to a great start."

Lucifer steals a nearby chair and sits beside her. "It felt good, otherwise, didn't it? Everything's back to normal."

They're both trying to figure this out, trying to determine what they can keep of their relationship, versus what they've lost. It's too early to know what they've gained.

He looks so worried and hopeful at the same time. She touches his wrist, her fingers sneaking beneath his shirt cuff to find skin. "This isn't normal. We're not normal. But maybe that's okay? At least we're working on it." He relaxes. "Hey," she says, looking around the precinct and lowering her voice, "you didn't do anything to any of the...um, more awkward evidence from the loft, did you?"

He leans back in his chair and snorts. "I bloody well tried, didn't I? But this corrupt little organization of supposed justice beat me to it. The LAPD is filled with greedy imbeciles, darling."

"So someone took your..." She swirls a finger over her shoulder.

"Mm. Not ideal. No telling where they are now. Do you know, the last time I lost a few feathers in America, some Iroquois bloke got hold of them right before your country's not-so-Civil War. Couldn't even be mad. Looked better on him, really." He frowns, thoughtful. "Wonder whatever happened to that headdress..."

Chloe stares at him. "Somehow, I don't think I've really thought about how old you are until this exact moment."

"I prefer experienced." There's no mistaking what "experience" he's referring to.

Clearing her throat, she returns to the matter of his stolen feathers, saying quietly, "I don't know who to trust here."

"Me, of course."

"Other than you," she laughs. "And Dan and Ella."

"Are we sure about Daniel?"

"This is serious, Lucifer. Cain's enterprise may still be up and running."

"Yes, well, I may already have some people looking into that," he admits guiltily.

"Good." She learned long ago to accept at least some of his private scheming. "And can you trust them?"

He barks a laugh. "No, they're scoundrels, the lot of them, but they're not foolish enough to cross me." He stretches. "Well, enough of this boring nonsense. We're not figuring any of it out tonight."

"You're right," Chloe sighs.

"Hmm? Say that one more time?" He touches an ear. "I must be going deaf in my old age."

As they make their way to their cars, Lucifer flashes a roguish grin that seems more forced than natural. "You know," he says, his voice turning to honey, "Lux is reopening on Friday. You should put on a slinky dress and join me."

"I'd really like to," she starts, and means it. "But I can't. You probably don't know, but today was Trixie's last day at school. Summer vacation has officially started. I told her we could stay up and watch movies on Friday."

A look of wistfulness passes over his face. He really did enjoy Monopoly, of all games, didn't he? And he held Trixie at Charlotte's funeral. Somewhere along the way, her monkey weaseled her way into the Devil's life. It was hard to know whether to feel proud or worried. The teen years were going to be interesting.

"If you think Lux can run itself, you could join our party at some point," she says, smiling. "There'll be pizza and Zootopia. Probably some nail painting." She wags her fingers. He's comfortable enough in his motley sexuality that she can already imagine him with at least black nail polish.

Instead, his open expression hardens. "Sounds like a terrible way to spend a Friday," he bites out, and turns toward his car.

"Hey!" she calls, her voice echoing. He glances at her from the driver's seat of the Corvette. "Don't do that. Don't act like movie night with my kid isn't part of who you are. It is."

Maybe. She hopes.

But all he does is grunt and crank the engine to life before tearing out the parking lot.

Chapter Text

Cain roams Hell, hunger chewing at his belly and hatred burning in his veins. This world is misery come to life, and the Devil alone is to blame for why he's here.

Time is strange in the underworld. There is no sun or moon, no rain or birdsong. There exists nothing by which to count the days or months or years, and he has seen no one since escaping his loop. But he senses years have passed. Many.

There is only grim silence and dull, inescapable grayness. Gray sky, gray smoke, gray ash. He is naked, as Balor left him so long ago, and even his light skin and blond hair are gray, coated in a thick layer of ash and grime. If not for the occasional tangerine lake of bubbling, molten lava, he might believe himself color blind.

Hell's landscape is equal parts flat and mountainous. In clear areas, he can see for miles, but as often, the flatness is interrupted by tall, black peaks, some with the telltale puckered mouth of a volcano.

It's within these dark ridges that the doors are wedged. They rattle ominously against their chains, churning their recurring nightmares.

Wandering these door-filled passageways, Cain feels both claustrophobic and lonely, much like when he was a cursed man on Earth. So many souls. Millions, billions. Everyone who has ever died with guilt. All untouchable, all alone. So self-absorbed that they will never know they are part of a crowd.

Perhaps it is this loneliness that leads him to try opening one of the doors. Perhaps, deep down, he has begun to wonder about the door he left behind. Surely it, like all the rest, was chained closed? And yet he opened it, and before him, Balor opened it. What makes him different?

Eager as he was to escape the loop, he never thought to examine his prison on the way out. Now, he can't imagine he will ever find it again. Direction is meaningless here.

The first door he tries to open is heavy and ornately Gothic, all twisting, thorn-covered roses etched into iron. Cain inhales sharply when the heavy chains crisscrossing its face shimmer and disappear beneath his touch. An illusion, one of Hell's many parlor tricks, or something else?

He opens the door. Color and light blind him. Verdant, tall grasses; bright sunlight; a sea salt breeze; fresh air. How is paradise tucked into Hell? He crosses the threshold, wondering if it's possible to become sucked into another soul's misery, but too curious to care. Besides, he'll break free, if he needs to.

When the wind blows a certain way in this false world, he can hear a girl keen. He doesn't have to go far to find her, which makes him realize how small these simulations are, how narrow, but all-encompassing, the torture is.

Down a meandering trail against a craggy cliff face, he comes upon a slip of a girl standing knee deep in the ocean. The bottom of her rose-colored dress floats around her legs, turning dark crimson in the water. Her face is upturned to the sky as she wails, the white bonnet on her head set askew.

He nears her, stepping out onto the sand, and then into the water. It's only when he is close, when he can see around the undulating fabric of her dress, that he spots the infant, bobbing, face-down, like a blue-skinned apple in the barrel of the sea.


***


Cain opens other doors. Each loop is unique, specially crafted for the soul imprisoned. Though patterns of human behavior quickly emerge, the details surrounding the sin can include anyone from anywhere and anywhen.

Most loops contain one of two sins: murder or rape. But the tortured aren't always who Cain expects. Sometimes, it's not the perpetrators the loop torments. Sometimes, it's the victims. Hell isn't a place of justice. It is a machine that punishes guilt, whosoever feels it.

Of course, the list of things humans can feel guilty about is endless, and no guilty person is safe. Paupers and princes alike are tortured.

There are couples shouting over divorce papers. Brides and grooms weighed down by the gold on their ring fingers. Gay men fathering children with women they've married, lesbians having children with their husbands. Infidelity cleaving homes in two.

Women crying in abortion clinics. Women crying over children they didn't want. Men fathering and leaving children. Men fathering and bitterly caring for children. Siblings at each other's throats, as Cain had once been at Abel's, vying for their parents' affections.

Addicts giving in to drugs, to alcohol, to sex, to porn, to love, to binging, to purging, to gambling, to fame and fortune, spiraling on and down until lives are ruined. There's sex wanted and unwanted, all of it tainted by shame. There's the pain of awkwardness, of jilted lovers, of the bullies and the bullied.

There are men and women who failed themselves and others. Faith healers, midwives, beak-nosed plague doctors. Parents and grandparents and priests and teachers. Politicians, lobbyists, bankers.

All the while, the suicidal kill themselves over and over and over again, that brief flash of regret prior to death amplified and lengthened for maximum agony. If only the noose weren't so tight, if only the blade hadn't cut so deep, if only the bridge were closer to the water, if only the gun had misfired, if only, if only, if only.

God's creation is no longer young. There is nothing new under the sun—just new spins on old tales. Every possible regret is housed here and played on repeat.

How long Cain visits these nightmares, he cannot say. But when he closes the last door he ever intends to open, he vows to himself that he will never be as weak as these fools again.

Guilt is useless. Embracing every desire, every action, without regret, that is power. With that knowledge, he will rise, not only out of his Hell loop, but higher and higher still, perhaps out of Hell itself.

He knows what it will take to do that. Somewhere here, there is a crown to claim.

Chapter Text

Since accepting the truth, restful sleep hasn't come easy to Chloe. Most nights, she climbs into bed, only to pick apart the past. All the clues she missed. All the misunderstandings. All the hurt, both felt and caused. All the lingering confusion.

For every answer she's gotten in the last two weeks, more questions have surfaced. It isn’t that life made perfect sense before—in her work, she’s always asking herself why people do the things they do—but there’s no denying life made more sense.

Trying to understand the complexities of the afterlife and immortal beings is akin to staring into a bottomless pit, hoping to find solid ground. During the day, she sets it all aside to focus on Trixie and work, but at night everything resurfaces as a headache felt right behind her eyes.

Already, she's given up on the religious studies. When the texts aren't boring, they're too hard to understand. And when they're understandable, they're boring. Mostly, she just doesn't believe the old men who wrote them knew what they were talking about.

Nearly all of them think the Devil is evil. She knows better.

She wants to grill Lucifer more, wants to dive deeper into who he is and What It All Means, but the timing is never right. They've found some weird equilibrium since she extracted bullets from his wings, shared pizza with him on his rooftop, and mostly forgave him for his stupid, pointless marriage to Candy.

Okay, she's still working on that one.

How healthy this equilibrium is, she doesn't know. They're doing what they do best: dancing around each other, working cases. They don't talk about the rest, unless it's couched in wit and sarcasm. In some ways, it was easier those first few days, when the truth was fresh and bold, red and winged, and they had to address it head on. Now, they each have their own space, and neither is willing to encroach on the other's. It's very polite, as elephants in rooms tend to be.

The red numbers of her bedside clock read 2:00 a.m.

Linda would know what to do, how to slow this racing hamster wheel, but she's avoided her friend, even at Charlotte's funeral. At first, Chloe thought it would be good to talk to her. She's known the truth longest, picked at Lucifer's impossible brain more than anybody else.

But Chloe is a little afraid of being analyzed herself, of having to face all the uncertainties and truths lurking deep inside. Linda is a therapist in the same way Chloe is a detective. Even when they're out for drinks and fun, neither of them quite turns off their professional selves.

Groaning, Chloe turns over and yanks the sheets over her head.

In the morning, with only a few hours of sleep to tide her over, her body is a livewire, running off adrenaline and caffeine as she launches into The Routine. Get up. Shower. Look presentable. Feed Trixie. Make sure Trixie is dressed. Send Trixie to school. Drive without getting herself or others killed. Check emails. Return calls. Power through paperwork. And on and on.

An hour later, mere seconds before falling asleep at her desk, a coffee cup plunks down before her. She startles and looks up.

"One tall, nonfat almond milk latte, with sugar-free caramel drizzle," Lucifer says. "Disgusting, just the way you like it. I've not even turned it Irish." He frowns. "Though you look like you could use it."

He's one to talk. Though dressed impeccably, he also appears frazzled, a hair off-kilter in a way she can't quite place. Maybe he didn't like how they left things yesterday, either. Or, well, she tries not to think about all the other ways his sleep might have been disturbed.

"Thank you," she says, hands folding round the hot paper cup. "If we weren't on the clock, I'd take you up on the whisky."

Lucifer grins and leans forward, one hand flat against her desk, the other slipping inside his suit jacket. "I won't tell if you won't, Detective."

Despite her amusement, she forces herself to give him a disapproving look.

"Hey, Decker—" Ella comes to an abrupt stop as she rounds the corner. "Whoa. Oh, man, I'm interrupting something, aren't I?"

"What? No," Chloe says, the din of the bullpen rushing back into her head. She shoves away from her desk and Lucifer, who shrugs and resettles his flask in his jacket pocket. She clears her throat. "Is the toxicology report in?"

"Uh, yeah," Ella replies, drawing them into her lab. Dan is already there, leaning against the central station. Ella grabs a tablet from a desk and announces, "We found heroin in David's system."

"Why, Daniel, isn't that what I said would happen?" Lucifer taunts.

"Whatever, man." Dan shakes his head. "You couldn't know."

"We also found trace elements of some other substance."

Chloe pipes up, "His heroin was laced with something?"

"Probably not intentionally. It really is just trace amount—maybe some material from the manufacturing process. Either way, something is right." Ella shrugs. "That part came back inconclusive." She sets the tablet aside and raises a gloved finger in the air. "But! I did find something else." She turns to another table. "Drumroll, please!"

Lucifer obliges, rapping his forefingers on the edge of the lab station.

When Ella turns back, she holds high one of the dirty plates from Yates' apartment. "Ta-da!"

The drumming peters out. "Ah, what, that's it? We've already seen his filth and appalling taste in china."

"Yeah, but did you see what he was eating, like, all the time?" Ella brings the plate close to her face and breathes deep, ignoring the horrified groans the others make. "Smells like my abuelita's cooking. You know, if it was scraps that had been left out to rot for weeks."

Dan rubs a hand over his face. "So, he liked Mexican food. Welcome to L.A. What about the butcher's knife?"

"No bueno. It's your garden-variety, made-in-China Walmart buy," Ella says, shrugging. "You probably have one in your kitchen."

"I most certainly do not," Lucifer says, offended.

"Okay, maybe not you. But, you know, everyone else."

Chloe frowns. "David's trash didn't contain any wrappers or receipts from Mexican restaurants, did it? It looked like he mainly ate at Poke'n Around."

"Exactly!" Ella howls, pointing at Chloe. "That guy loved his poke. But he also ate a lot of Mexican food, which he didn't seem to buy out. And he wasn't one to cook, either."

"So, someone brought him food," Chloe says. "A lot."

"Someone old is my bet," Ella adds. "This dish design is straight outta the seventies."

Lucifer scowls at the offending pattern of yellow flowers. "Something went terribly wrong with that era." His lips lift suddenly. "Freddie was a delight, though."

"Freddie Mercury?" Ella exclaims. Lucifer looks at her with a smug, arched brow.

"Why do you guys encourage him?" Dan sighs. "I'll call Jessica Plant. See if she knows of any kind old ladies who'd have taken pity on Yates."

Chloe smiles, relieved. "Thanks, Ella. Looks like we're finally getting somewhere."


***


Maria Rosales lives in a west-facing apartment on the first floor of Cedarwood Heights, placing her at the opposite end, and three floors down, from David Yates. But Jessica Plant is sure she's the most likely candidate for neighborly cooking. Most of the complex's tenants are young families or single moms.

Chloe knocks on the woman's door. When no one answers after a few moments, she calls out, "Ms. Rosales, we're here with the LAPD. We just want to talk."

A moment later, the door opens a crack. They look forward, then down, on Maria, who is in a wheelchair. She fumbles awkwardly with the door, trying to wheel backwards. Depending on her disability, it's unlikely she makes trips upstairs, Chloe thinks. There are no elevators at Cedarwood Heights. Maybe David came to her.

"What do you want?" Maria barks, her accent thick. She manages to shift back enough to swing the door open wider, revealing a full, heavy-jowled frown. Maybe not the kind old lady they were expecting.

Chloe answers, "We'd like to ask you some questions about your upstairs neighbor, David Yates."

"Didn't know him. Heard he got killed. Didn't murder him." She indicates her wheelchair wryly.

"Yes, yes, quite the alibi," Lucifer says. "So you just happened to shower a stranger with food?"

"Is that a crime?" Maria challenges. "You gonna arrest me?"

"Yes," Lucifer says at the same time Chloe says "no."

Chloe glares at Lucifer before reiterating, "We just want to talk."

"Fine," Maria grumbles, and wheels into her living room, leaving them to follow. "So talk. But make it quick. My show's on soon."

Maria's home is like most any other grandmother's: dated, adorned by knick-knacks, religious kitsch, and photos of grandchildren. Chloe elbows Lucifer when he snickers at a figurine of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus.

"Thank you for talking to us," Chloe says after they've sunk deep into a lumpy, canary yellow loveseat that presses them hip to hip. Sometimes it's best to start with thank you.

Maria settles in an adjacent corner of the room that is clearly her spot. She eyes the Mexican soap opera playing on the muted television before folding her hands on her ample belly and regarding them shrewdly. "Didn't know my neighbor," she states again, "but my grandson did."

Chloe nods, pen scribbling. "And what's your grandson's name?"

"Eduardo Rosales, but he goes by Eddie." Her thick wrinkles twist with her grimace.

"How did Eduardo know David?" she asks, making a point to use the name Maria prefers.

"Think they met at a baseball game."

Lucifer leans forward, homing in like a shark. "Now, now. No need to be dishonest, Ms. Rosales."

Maria narrows her eyes, one hand gravitating to the saint medal hanging around her thick neck. "I'm not lying. Said I think they met at a baseball game."

"Okay," Chloe placates. "So, they were friends?"

"Yes."

"Did your grandson happen to share your cooking with David?"

"Yes." Good, at least they have the right person.

"Where might we find Eduardo today? We're hoping he can tell us about what was going on in David's life more recently."

"He works at Dalton Paints and Hardware down the road."

Before Chloe can ask another question, Lucifer stops her with a hand on her wrist. He leans forward even more, catching Maria's gaze. "What is it you're hiding, Maria?"

"I'm not—"

"Oh, but you are," he says with a wolfish grin. "What do you desire, right this moment?"

Chloe watches, mesmerized, as Lucifer works his magic, which turns out not to be magic at all, but some innate snake-charmer quality belonging to the Devil. He's done this by her side countless times before, and she's not above admitting she's come to rely on it in a lot of their work. But this is the first time she's watched him do it with the full knowledge of who and what he is.

She knows she should have her eyes on Maria, but she can't look away from Lucifer's face. Tempting humans must be easy when you can crack them open like books and riffle through their pages to find the juicy bits. But it must also be isolating.

Not for the first time, she's glad he can't open her book. What would he learn, if he could? What would she learn about herself? Facing his voodoo would be far worse than talking to Linda.

"I don't..."

"Go on," Lucifer coaxes, his fingers twitching against Chloe's wrist.

"I don't want you to catch Eduardo," Maria gasps. "He won't always sell drugs. He's promised me." She deflates when Lucifer releases her from his mental grasp. "Dios MÍo, what have I done? What have I done?"

"Trust me when I tell you Dad doesn't care one whit."

"It's okay," Chloe soothes. "We're not after your grandson. We just want to talk to him. David's death is our priority."

"Eduardo didn't kill him!"

"And we're not accusing him of murder." Not yet, anyway. "Do you know if he sold drugs to David, or if he had David sell drugs for him?"

"No. I don't know. He doesn't tell me anything," Maria whispers, no longer the grouchy powerhouse they first met. "But Eduardo's a good boy."

"Well, he's certainly providing a valuable service," Lucifer says. "Where would the world be without drug dealers? Far more boring."

Chloe narrows her eyes at him. Pointing her pen at the row of family pictures displayed on the table next to Maria, she asks, "Are these recent? Can you show us what Eduardo looks like?"

With trembling hands, Maria picks up one of the framed photographs and hands it to Chloe. "Thank you," Chloe murmurs, as she stares into warm brown eyes.

Eduardo Rosales has a charming smile, but he's also a walking stereotype of a Mexican drug dealer, all tattoos (including on his sweet baby face), tight tank, low-riding jeans. The kind of guy who loves his abuela's cooking, sure, but also likes making a quick buck off the never-ending Drug War.

She hands the photo back to Maria. "Okay, I think that's enough, Ms. Rosales. Thank you for helping us."

When they're at the doorway, the old woman says quietly, but loud enough for them to hear, "Be good to my Eduardo. Even if I can't keep an eye on you, don't forget God sees all!"

"Nope, nope, nope," Chloe mutters, shoving Lucifer outside before he can open his big mouth. "Thank you!" she calls again, and slams the door shut behind them.

"So pushy," Lucifer teases, straightening his suit jacket. "I like it."

She laughs. "Just get in the car, Lucifer."

Dalton Paints and Hardware is a mere four blocks south. Wedged between a pawn shop and a payday lender, the store is a relic of a more prosperous yesteryear and one of the last businesses on the street that isn't part of a national chain. It's a miracle it's survived.

A bell rings as they open the iron-barred door. Though Chloe has never set foot in Dalton Paints, the sheets of plywood, cans of paint, and hanging tools drown her in nostalgia.

"What is it?" Lucifer asks, sensing the change in her mood.

She shakes her head. "Just thinking of my dad. He used to bring me to a store like this on the weekends."

"What, as punishment?"

"No," she snorts. "When Mom bought the beach house—the one I was living in when we first met—it was really rundown. On his day off, Dad was always fixing something. He'd bring me along on his errands to places like this."

She remembers trailing behind him, babbling on like Trixie does now, brandishing a paint stick as though it were a lightsaber. How he'd look back at her and wink or tug on her ponytail. How she'd hang off his arm, and he's swing her down the aisle and call her a monkey.

"So, it's a good memory," he clarifies.

"It is," she says, and smiles.

Sometimes she wonders what her dad would think of Lucifer, if he was alive. He'd probably hate him. At first. But the Devil grows on you, once he lets down his more repulsive façade, which is thankfully more emotional shield than reality.

A scrawny young black man clears his throat from behind the register. "Can I help you guys find something?"

Chloe smiles, glancing at his name tag. "Hi, Anton, we're with the LAPD." She flashes the badge at her hip and introduces herself and Lucifer. "Is Eduardo—Eddie—Rosales here? His grandmother told us he works here. We'd like to ask him a few questions."

Anton's eyes widen. "I'm sorry, but Eddie didn't come in today."

"Likes to play hooky, does he?" Lucifer asks.

"No, sir," Anton answers. "Eddie's great. Always on time. Real chill guy."

"Chill. Right." Lucifer nods knowingly and puffs an imaginary spliff.

"I don't know nothin' about that," Anton says, expression neutral.

"Did he call in sick?" Chloe asks, ignoring Lucifer's antics.

"He didn't even reply to my texts. But I know his girlfriend's in town." Anton shrugs. “He’s never himself when she’s around.”

Sounds like a healthy relationship.

"Okay, well, do you have his address?"

"Uh, yeah. Wait here a sec." He wanders into the back of the store.

Lucifer removes his flask and takes a long swig of its contents before going to prowl the narrow aisles. He touches at least half of what he sees. Chloe watches him, amused and unable to shake how much he looks like a lion trapped in a cage. He's never going to be good at this part of police work—the standing around and waiting. Unfortunately, that's what a lot of police work is.

When they first met, she thought Lucifer was impatient because he was an eccentric and coddled trust fund baby, used to getting whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. She knows better now. It isn't that he's used to the world handing him things, although it certainly does that sometimes. It's that he's used to shaping the world as he sees fit. He holds back that part of himself around her, letting her take the lead, but she sees how the tedium of protocol drives him mad.

Though she'll never admit it, she gets it. There are many times she would like to do things his way, if only to get the job done faster. He thinks she loves protocol, but she doesn't. A lot of it seems pointless, even to her. It's just adherence isn't optional.

She remembers that first case they worked together, back before they were partners, when his friend, the pop singer Delilah, was killed. No matter what lead Chloe followed, Lucifer was one step ahead of her, thanks to some devious shortcut involving money, favors, threats, or something much darker, or maybe, come to think of it, redder.

The memory of Jimmy Barnes slamming his head into the psychiatric prison's Plexiglas floats to the surface of her mind.

He's the Devil! He's the Devil!

He really is. And while she's sure that was a bloodcurdling revelation for Jimmy, right now the Devil's holding bright orange plastic funnels up to his chest and chuckling to himself.

"Lucifer," she sighs, mostly to hide her mirth.

"Look, Detective," he says, beaming, "I'm like a virgin."

"More like a walking, talking STD. Can you put those down?"

Lucifer's on his best, cop-like behavior when Anton returns a minute later.

"Here you go," Anton says, handing Chloe an old, misprinted receipt. On the back, Eddie's address is scribbled in slanted block letters. "Anything else I can do for you?"

Chloe looks at the address, her brow furrowing. "Wait. He lives in Palos Verdes Estates?"

Lucifer snatches the slip of paper from her. "Well, well, Eddie's doing very nicely for himself, isn't he?"

An understatement. Homes on the peninsula start at two million. They also happen to be a half-hour, to hour, commute away from Rancho Dominguez, where Dalton Paints and Cedarwood Heights are located. While it might make sense for the citizens of Rancho Dominguez to commute to Palos Verdes for work, the reverse makes no sense at all.

Anton laughs. "Yeah, Eddie's got it made. Some aunt left him that house."

"Bit gullible, aren't you?" Lucifer shakes his head.

"Hey, I'm just telling you what he told me."

Before he can reveal too much about their case, Chloe thanks Anton and grabs Lucifer by the elbow. "Give us a call if you see Eddie," she says.

Anton holds up a hand in bewildered farewell. "Sure thing, Officer."


***


It's late afternoon when they park on the street outside Eddie Rosales' house. Lucifer lets out a low whistle as he eyeballs the red Lamborghini in the driveway.

"Seems our devious dealer has good taste."

"Yeah, and just look at the house."

Although Eddie's home maintains the neighborhood's cookie-cutter style of cream-colored stucco and terracotta roof tiles, it's one of the more sprawling, ostentatious properties on the street. Impossible to miss, by design, in the way of all things new money.

Chloe shakes her head. "Why's Maria stuck living in Cedarwood Heights when Eddie lives here? So much for being a good grandson."

"He hasn't exactly shared the wealth, has he?" Lucifer agrees. "But then there's no end to what you humans will do for money." Chloe's agitated look makes him snort. "Present company excluded, of course."

She leans over to peer up at the second story, where wrought iron balconies jut off from what are probably bedrooms as large as her apartment.

"Dispatch said there's nothing on Eddie in the database."

"You think there should be."

"I don't know," she admits. "But if this is Eddie's house, it isn't the house of a small-time drug dealer. Narcotics usually has guys like this on their radar. Apparently, they don't know anything about him."

"Or perhaps they do," Lucifer says dryly.

"Yeah."

When Chloe entered the force, she always knew she'd meet some dirty cops, the so-called "bad apples" that make a sizable percentage of the public hesitate to call for help during an emergency. She also knew the boys in blue were part of a brotherhood—with less than twenty percent of the force made up of women, it's never a sisterhood—and that the brotherhood didn't turn on its own, even when it should.

If she ever had rose-tinted glasses, they were smashed to pieces several scandals ago. After Palmetto, Warden Smith, and "Marcus Pierce," Chloe knows anything is possible.

"Detective?"

"I'm okay," she says, puffing out a breath. "I just didn't expect this case to escalate." Whatever happened to a crime of passion over good old fashioned infidelity?

"Well, shall we pay dear Eddie a visit then?" Lucifer nods to Rosales' front door, which is painted a bold burgundy. Perhaps the paint came from Dalton Paints.

"Yes, but one more thing before we go: No breaking and entering if he's not home or won't answer his door."

Lucifer pouts. "But that's how you and I solve cases. You play good cop. I play Devil cop who doesn't mind massaging the rules a little."

"Yeah, okay, but we're not going to do that this time. We go through the proper channels and get a warrant if Eddie's not home. We're being watched—I'm being watched—after what happened at the loft. And unless you want to be stuck on desk duty with a ton of paperwork..."

"Very well," Lucifer huffs, and climbs out of the car.

The threat of paperwork is real, even if he'd never be the one to do any of it. He's smart enough to know the more she's stuck at her desk, the less they get to drive around L.A., catching bad guys.

Three knocks to the burgundy door later, it's obvious no one's going to answer. Worse, if there's any movement inside, it can't be heard over hysterical dog yapping. They peek into the windows nearest the door, past gaps in the curtains.

"More expensive tastes," Chloe remarks over the barking. Angling in such a way that she can see the living room past the foyer, she spots what looks to be a real oil painting mounted above a sleek leather sectional. She leans back. "Dalton Paints must be Eddie's cover for—"

She gasps when a small dog slams into the window nearest Lucifer, who only laughs. A black, curly-haired poodle dances on hind legs, head jerking left and right as it snarls.

"What a menace," Lucifer says brightly, bending to stare the miniature poodle in the eye. "What is it, girl? Has Eddie fallen down a well?"

The dog rams the window again, but this time its muzzle and paws discolor the curtains and smear red across the glass.

“Oh-ho, I don’t believe that’s tomato sauce.”

"Oh, God," Chloe mutters.

Lucifer cuts his eyes up at her before straightening. "You do know who you're with now, don't you?"

Ignoring him, she calls for backup and an ambulance. This is all the time Lucifer needs to be his usual self. She watches as he puts a hand on the door knob and taps a finger against the keyhole. There's an audible snick as the door comes unlocked.

Well, that answers a few questions—and raises hundreds of others.

"Lucifer, we agreed to no B&E!" Chloe hisses before he can open it.

"Ah-ah-ah," he says, wagging a finger at her. "The door is unlocked, isn't it? No breaking required, Detective. Entering is just a bonus. Besides, looks like poor Eddie could use our help."

Then he waltzes inside like he owns the place, like there couldn't possibly be a killer lying in wait. Yanking her pistol free from its holster, she raises the weapon before following. "Lucifer, stop acting like you're bulletproof. You're not, remember? I just got those bullets out of you, you idiot."

He grins at her cheekily. "While I appreciate the concern, there's no one here. Who would live in this mess?"

"Assumptions like that can get you killed."

"Mm-hmm," he responds dismissively as he snaps his fingers at the dog nipping at his dress shoes. The poodle instantly calms and sits back on its haunches, pink tongue flopping past bloodied chops.

She's still reeling from the magical lock picking, and now he goes and charms a dog like it's nothing. This level of openness is going to take some getting used to.

"Since when is the Devil a dog whisperer?"

"Since Dad gave all his children and notably bipedal hominids dominion over Earth's pesky beasts. How else do you think Noah got even a fraction of them on that Bronze Age yacht of his?"

Sure. Okay. She'll think about all that later.

"Don't step in the blood," Chloe instructs. It's not an easy task. The dog has spread it all over the house.

"Right, or any of the other fluids." Lucifer sidesteps a large yellow stain.

Soon, it really does become obvious no one else is in the house. No one who's alive, anyway. There's no mistaking that smell, not to mention the signs of a pet left to its own devices. Still, Chloe keeps her gun held low in both hands. What she told Lucifer is true: sloppiness gets you killed.

They clear the first floor methodically, passing from one room to the next, the poodle traipsing blood behind them. Upon closer inspection, the house contains more expensive pieces, but is overall less spectacular than she expected. And far emptier.

"Not much of a den of sin, is it?" Lucifer says, echoing her thoughts. He turns up his nose at what really is a sad excuse for a game room. A pool table stands in the center of the room, clearly unused, as evidenced by the thick layer of dust that sits atop its cover. No pictures adorn the walls.

They ascend the stairs to the second story. It's there that they find Eddie in the master bedroom, his body crumpled at the foot of the bed, dressed in jeans and a plain white T-shirt. The cause of death isn't immediately apparent, largely because his face and hands have been gnawed clean to the bone, which itself presents chew marks. His body is haloed by bloody paw prints.

"Had a bone to pick with him, did you?" Lucifer jokes, looking down at the obedient poodle. "Bad doggie."

Chloe holsters her weapon and digs into her back pocket for nitrile gloves. As she pulls them on, she squats next to Eddie's corpse and tilts her head one way and then the other. If she looks past all the carnage, she can make out a single, straight line visible on the side of Eddie's neck that the poodle hasn't completely destroyed.

"See here?" she asks Lucifer, pointing to the red cut. "Somebody slit his throat."

"Doesn't seem like something our furry friend would do."

But how does this fit into the Yates case? Does it at all? Here's another knife wound, and Eddie had access to drugs, some of which he may have sold to David. But it could also be a coincidence. Just because Rosales is their only lead for Yates doesn't mean he had anything to do with Yates' death, or that talking to him would have gotten them anywhere on that case.

Lucifer wanders the spacious room while she continues to inspect the body, careful not to touch it until backup and the forensics team arrive.

"Oh, hello." Chloe looks up in time to see Lucifer's bare hand hovering over a bedside table.

"Whatever it is, don't touch it!"

"I haven't," he whines as he straightens, as if he wasn't mere nanoseconds away from doing just that. "But look what I found."

Chloe joins him. He points to the phone still connected to its charging cable. Chloe picks it up and turns it on, only to sigh. "Password protected." Lucifer makes a frustrated sound. More waiting.

Before giving up and putting it back on the table, she picks at the edge of the phone case. Sometimes important notes or even items, like keys, are hidden between a phone and its case. After a couple of tries, the case's edge peels back, and she's able to dislodge the phone. Two small, thin ziplock bags fall to the floor.

Lucifer grins. "Well done, Detective."

Each bag is printed with a squat, red-winged insect on the outside. One contains a sliver of white powder. The other is empty, but a white, dusty residue clings to the inside of the plastic, suggesting it contained the same substance. Lucifer bends to pick up the empty bag. She grabs hold of the back of his shirt collar and reins him in.

"If you want to touch something, we're taking pictures first, and you're wearing gloves."

"This is starting to sound very kinky." He snickers. "Fine, give me gloves."

She smacks a pair into his outstretched palm. While she snaps a picture with her cell phone, he makes a big fuss about dragging them on. "Can't you carry a larger size?" he complains.

"Do I look like a purse? I've already told you I'm not carrying gloves for your hands. You have pockets." The very thought of it seems to offend him.

"Happy?" he says a moment later, waving blue jazz hands.

"Thrilled. You've done the bare minimum."

He picks up the empty bag. Before she can even think to stop him, he opens it up and stuffs his nose inside.

"Your nose isn't any better than your hand, Lucifer!"

"Do you want it inspected or not?" He sniffs.

Ugh. Fine. No going back now. The evidence is already tampered with. Why not dig her professional grave a little deeper by letting Lucifer be Lucifer? At least she might learn something.

"Well?" she prompts.

Frowning, he sniffs again before making a sound of disgust. "What is that?"

"So much for your career as a drug-sniffing dog," she says wryly. "It looks like heroin."

"Heroin has no odor. When it's pure enough, anyway. This..." Grimacing, he holds the bag out to her. "What is that smell? It's familiar."

"Are you crazy?" Yes. Yes, he is. "I'm not sniffing that. It could be whatever was in Yates' system, assuming Eddie is even where David got his drugs. Or maybe it's laced with fentanyl and you'll drop dead in a few minutes."

"I bloody love fentanyl," Lucifer cheers, and stuffs his nose into the baggy with renewed interest. "Does a bang-up job of getting even me high."

"Okay, that," Chloe says, pointing a finger, "that's something you're never going to say at the precinct."


***


Hours later, the house is crawling with cops and technicians. It's all hands on deck for a place of this size, for a crime this gruesome, in a neighborhood this affluent. Even animal control is called for the poodle.

"Man's best friend can really turn on him, huh? Like this dude didn't have it bad enough, getting a knife to the throat," Ella says, miming the gruesome murder over Eddie's mangled corpse. "It's like we're in a Stephen King novel."

Lucifer grins at the forensic scientist. "Think our killer is a man in black who's fled across the desert?"

"I love The Dark Tower series," Ella gushes.

"Can we focus?" Chloe snaps, unable to quell her irritation, or apologize for it. The afternoon has stretched into night, and there's more work to be done yet.

They find no murder weapon in the house, which is little more than a lightly, if expensively, furnished shell. Cabinets, closets, and drawers are empty. There are no trash cans, no paper trails; the mailbox only contains advertising. No one's been able to crack the cell phone password yet.

There's no strong evidence Eddie or anyone else ever lived here for any significant length of time. None of the neighbors knew him, not even the busybody HOA president.

But they do find a few of what look to be Eddie's hairs on a pillowcase. And there are two sets of fingerprints on nearly everything—light switches, faucet heads, door handles. One set they confirm is the same as the fingerprints on Eddie's phone case. The other set isn't in the database, but could possibly belong to the girlfriend Anton mentioned.

When the evidence is bagged and tagged and Ella has left, having already worked well past her shift, a team from Narcotics arrives to throw their weight around. Upon hearing the familiar, booming laugh of one of her least favorite people in the LAPD, Chloe steps out onto Eddie's balcony in search of solace.

Even out here, though, she's caught in a texting war with Trixie's babysitter, who is pissed that it's going to be another late night. Chloe's pissed it's another late night, too. Not that she was likely to sleep through much of it.

"Are you okay, Detective?"

She looks over her shoulder at Lucifer. He's silhouetted by the golden light spilling from the bedroom.

"I'm fine." When he doesn't join her on the balcony, she nods to the space beside her in invitation. "You could go home, you know. We can't do much else until tomorrow. I have to talk to the Narcotics team, though." It's a task she's dreading.

"I'll stay, if it's all the same to you."

"I could use the company," she admits.

Something in her eases, knowing he'll remain. Typically, Lucifer makes a quick exit as soon as the excitement dies down. He bounces from cases to parties and women and men and drugs and alcohol.

But something has calmed in him since she saw his burned skin. He's still wild in a way she suspects he always will be, but, paradoxically, he's also more grounded and consistent. He sticks around, mostly, unless something scares him off—that something usually being when she pokes at a weak spot in his thick armor.

What has his father, what has God, done to him? What has God planned for her? Does God even make plans?

Wind blows from the west, tossing her hair. She shivers, and Lucifer drifts nearer, his arm hesitantly settling around her shoulders.

"Is this all right?" he whispers. For one who's always stumbling into a new person's arms, he's often strangely uncertain about physical affection with her.

In reply, she huddles closer, one hand sliding inside his suit jacket, to grip the vest underneath. He draws in a small, shuddering breath.

"You're so warm." Being against him is like curling toward a crackling fire, and she marvels again at how he's not been miserable during the heat of the day. "Is that because of..." She hesitates.

"Because of Hell?" he says. "No." He doesn't elaborate, and she knows to drop the subject, at least for now.

"Hey, Decker! When you're done eye-fucking Richie Rich, why don't you come do your job?" The "joke" is followed by several officers' laughter.

Chloe jerks from Lucifer's embrace and turns toward the house. Narcotics Detective Matthew Morrison stands just inside Eddie's bedroom, a smirk peeking out from his thick, salt-and-pepper beard.

The nearly all-male Narcotics team is prone to such comments, and Morrison is the worst offender of them all. He leers or sneers at all the women in the LAPD, even Monroe, when she was chief of police. There are rules against sexist behavior and sexual harassment, but, really, who watches the watchmen?

Damned if she doesn't feel she needs to prove herself to this asshole, though. Prove she isn't weak, isn't leaning on L.A.'s notorious playboy, like some foolish, besotted girl. Even when she was married to Dan, she kept a wall between them at work to be taken more seriously by men like Morrison.

"Be right there," she says, and feels dirty for being agreeable.

Lucifer straightens his vest, looking more than a little irritated as they reenter Eddie's home. Some officers stop what they're doing to watch them as they pass.

"He's a right wanker, isn't he?" Lucifer doesn't bother lowering his voice.

He has no idea.

They find Morrison downstairs, at the dining room table, several file folders spread in front of him. The table is large and obviously expensive, being made of solid wood, but the room is under-decorated and unused, like so much else in the house.

"More paperwork," Lucifer admonishes. "The LAPD is personally contributing to climate change."

"You brought him?" Morrison says, one bushy brow raised. He's old school and a boy of the brotherhood. "Civilian consultants" don't jibe with him.

Chloe sits in the chair across from the middle-aged detective, her spine rigid. "He's my partner. Lucifer, this is Detective Matthew Morrison." Lucifer remains silent as he settles in the chair beside her and turns a fierce grin on the other man.

"Uh-huh." Morrison sifts through the papers until he finds one in particular. "All right, tell me about the paint store."

"There was nothing too special about it. I mean, there aren't many Mom and Pop stores like it anymore, but it's what you'd expect." She describes its layout and location, and Anton, the one employee they met.

Morrison nods. "Gonna see if we need to go undercover there. Trying to figure out if Eddie used them for money laundering."

"Are you mad?" Lucifer barks a laugh. "You don't launder money through a shop like that. It's not a bloody strip club or bar." Chloe eyes him suspiciously. "I'm just saying."

"Sounds like you know a whole lot about it," Morrison drawls. "Hey, don't you have a club? Maybe we should be looking into you, Mr. Morningstar."

"You can look all you like," Lucifer says serenely.

"With all due respect," Chloe jumps in, "I think we should focus on Eddie Rosales. The job at the store was probably a cover. Once we get into his phone—"

"Well, with all due respect, you're not in Narcotics, are you, Decker? We're looking at the big picture here."

The way he says it, it's heavily implied she doesn't have the capacity to see the big picture.

Beneath the table, Lucifer's hand clamps down on Chloe's thigh, sending a pleasant shock through her system. He leans forward and hooks Morrison like a fish.

"What is it you want most in life, Matty?"

Morrison relaxes into his chair. "I wanna retire early."

"Naturally. You deserve to retire early, don't you?" Morrison nods. "And what are you doing to ensure your early exit?"

"I'm playing both sides," Morrison giggles as much as a thick-bodied brute can. "I seize and I sell."

"Ooh, got your hand in two cookie jars, have you?" Lucifer laughs. "Naughty boy. Very risky, you know. And very illegal, isn't it, Detective?"

Chloe nods, her mouth agape. Morrison just went from disgusting to dangerous in the span of thirty seconds.

Morrison shakes himself free of Lucifer's charm. "What the fuck?" he growls.

Lucifer bares his teeth in a grin. "A hypocritical narc. Who could have ever guessed?"

"Eddie Rosales couldn't have been an informant," Chloe says, pushing past her shock. "You told dispatch that Narcotics knew nothing about him. But you could have known him."

Is Morrison buried under a pseudonym in Eddie's contacts? Where is this case taking them?

"I may take advantage of a few loopholes—"

"Is that what you call stealing and selling evidence?"

Morrison laughs. "I call it a loophole," he repeats. "Works about the same as a woman your size miraculously surviving a knife fight with Marcus Pierce, I'd guess." He leans forward and sneers, "Where is that knife, by the way?"

"Careful," Lucifer warns, his voice dark and low.

"Now, I didn't fucking know Rosales," Morrison says, ignoring him. "And I'm not suspected of anything, Decker, so save your third degree. You and I, we're on the same team, and don't you forget it. All I wanted to know was what the store was like. Guess me and my guys will figure it out for ourselves."

Why has she ever wanted this man's approval? The world, the universe, is bigger than she ever imagined, certainly bigger than Matthew Morrison. The Devil's sitting right beside her, for crying out loud.

"You do that," she says, and pushes away from the table. "Just keep in mind Eddie was a possible suspect in another homicide case of mine."

"Hey, don't step on my toes, and I won't step on yours. Fair?"

With Lucifer on her heels, Chloe leaves the house and goes straight to the driver's seat of the squad car. The Devil rides shotgun, and she's very grateful for it.

"That...took a turn," she says, her voice wavering.

"Mm. If the Sinnerman's operation is still kicking, I'm guessing Matty there is rather involved, wouldn't you agree?"

"Did Cain peddle drugs, though?" She makes a U-turn on Eddie's street, happy to put distance between herself, the crime scene, and Morrison.

Lucifer shrugs. "Cain was in the business of favors, at least before he met you. Trust me when I say it's very difficult to avoid drugs when you're working in the shadows."

Chloe grips the steering wheel a little tighter than necessary. "I take it you don't avoid them?"

"Darling, the Devil loves a good time, and no matter what D.A.R.E. taught you in school, drugs are a very good time. Pop a Molly with me someday, and I’ll prove it." He licks his bottom lip suggestively. "But I do try to be careful with cartels and such. There's quite a nasty overlap between trafficking drugs and trafficking people. One is the epitome of free will, which I wholeheartedly support; the other is slavery, which I abhor."

"Drugs hurt a lot of people, Lucifer."

"As I told your spawn, so does sugar."

"You were talking to Trixie about drugs?"

"Only if you consider tobacco a drug," he defends. "You'll be pleased to know she told me smoking causes cancer."

"It does."

"Not if you're immortal."

"Well, she's not, so can we uphold the narrative?"

"Right, of course. More commandments with which to bore everyone to death. Drugs are bad. Nicotine is bad. Alcohol on the clock is bad. Sex is bad."

"I never said sex is bad."

"Well, it's very good with me." Lucifer grins when she snorts. "Speaking of, you've seen me at my worst now, and somehow managed to come out the other side. You should try me at my best, too. Seems only fair."

"Lucifer, I'm not having sex with you." Though the thought alone seems to wake her up more than all the caffeine she's had today. "There's a lot we still need to talk about."

"I can think of much better ways to use my mouth."

Chloe nearly runs a red light. Nearly. Instead, she slams on the brakes so hard that they both jerk forward—Lucifer more so, since he refuses to wear a seat belt.

"Would you please buckle up?" she snaps, flustered.

He laughs as he complies. "Struck a nerve, did I? Maybe several, south of the border?"

"If you're horny, I'm sure there's someone who will keep you company. Or several someones."

Lucifer is quiet for a long moment before he says, "My bed has been cold for weeks."

She glances at him. "I'm sure it didn't have to be."

"No. It didn't." He fiddles with a cufflink. "Well, other than when I looked like the devil I truly am."

"So, what's changed?"

"Me, I suppose," he answers, and sounds surprised, and maybe a little disturbed.

Chloe doesn't reply as she pulls into an empty parking spot next to Lucifer's Corvette. She turns off the engine and shifts her body in the driver's seat, so she can look at Lucifer straight on. He shifts his body toward her as well.

"You know I'm not...trying to, I don't know, cramp your style, right?"

It's the right thing to say, but she's lying. Oh, how she's lying. She's always felt more possessive of him than she had any right to, and she's honestly thrilled to hear his bedroom has become as boring as her own. If he picks up on the lie or the underlying personal conflict, he doesn't say anything.

So, he must not pick up on it.

"The only thing you're bloody well cramping is my hand." The joke surprises Chloe, and her laugh is jarringly loud in the car. "Oh, yes, laugh at my carpal tunnel. I haven't had this long of a dry spell since the Fall."

Chloe gets out of the car, still laughing, her heart floating in her chest. A lot's gone wrong today, but it's easy to forget that as she looks at her partner over the roof of the squad car.

"Good night, Lucifer."

His smile is easy. "Good night, Detective."

Chapter Text

Twisted manifestations of storied beasts hide in the shadows and burrow beneath the ash, lying in wait. Familiar spirits appear as wild dogs with needle teeth and squealing pigs that sport half-human faces. Wraiths dance atop the lakes of fire, and bloodthirsty locusts swarm past Hell's black peaks, searching for flesh.

But Hell is a large and ever-expanding plane. It is possible to go many days or months or years without seeing any one of these creatures, without even seeing a demon.

For years, Cain has traversed the ashen lands, seeing no one, save for the lost and tortured souls behind the innumerable doors. Despite his best efforts, he has yet to figure out how to navigate the underworld and sometimes suspects he's going in a giant circle. He will never rule here if he can't find his way around—or anybody to rule.

How did Balor and his demonic minions travel this place? They seemed to have no trouble.

Puzzling over this question changes everything, though indirectly. One minute, Cain is wondering about the power of blood—if there is power in blood here that can be used—and in the next, he missteps and falls, slipping down a steep mountainside, tumbling left and right and heel over head.

The foot of the mountain, hard and punishing, rises to meet him. Cain lands in the dirt with a thud, air blowing out his lungs. Ash flies up around him and fills his mouth. He coughs dryly, wincing at the sharp, pinching pain that runs along his spine. For a moment, he lies there, feeling the ache in his bones, accepting defeat and the stench of spoiled eggs that forever sits at the back of his throat.

When he overcomes his self-pity, he tries to sit up, but he's too weak. He collapses back to the ground with a groan. Closing his eyes, he rests, waiting for his body to heal.


***


At first, he believes he's hallucinating. The white-skinned hag approaching him can't possibly be real. For so long, he's been the only person, only creature, walking this godforsaken place.

She doesn't walk, however. Where her legs should be, she glides on a swirling coil of ebony smoke. White, wavy hair floats around her head like Medusa's snakes, and the torn rags she wears flap as she careens left and right on her legless body. A long, droopy breast is bared to the world, the nipple hideously long and black.

"Hello," the hag purrs. She leans over Cain's prostrate form, her head tilting so far to one side that it's as if her neck is broken.

Distant memories of Balor flash before Cain's eyes. He scrambles on the ground, attempting to rise, but whatever has happened to his back hasn't yet healed. Again, he collapses into the ash.

The hag wheezes her laughter, as though she has a smoker's lungs. "I've been watching you, Son of Adam."

"I won't make any deals," Cain growls.

"You remind me of another who haunted my doorstep. So full of wrath," she moans in pleasure. "But he was still filled with light," she says with distaste. "You are only shadows."

Cain's heart pounds in his chest. "Who?" he croaks. "Who came to you?"

"Oh, it was more of a fall, really," she says. "Perhaps you've heard of him. When he first arrived, he was called Samael. He has had many names since. Some he has even earned."

Samael. Lucifer.

The hag grins. Unlike Balor, who had yellow, broken teeth, hers are simply missing. "You hate him, don't you?"

"Yes," Cain breathes, burning under the fire of his animus.

"And what price will you pay to destroy the Lightbringer?"

As frightened as he is of deals made in the bowels of Hell, he doesn't hesitate. "I'll do anything." He will survive torture, enslavement, anything for a mere hint of revenge.

The hag leans closer. The irises of her eyes are white, the pupils large and black. "I can give you great power, Son of Adam. Enough that you might rule the demon hordes and defeat the false Prince of Darkness."

"What do you want in return?" Nothing in Hell is free.

"Your heart," she says, as if it's nothing. "I am hungry."

"How can I survive without a heart?"

"I will make you a creature of darkness, so that your body is aligned with your soul," the hag promises. "You will not need the heart."

Cain is silent for the space of six heartbeats. "You can have it," he says.

Quivering with anticipation, the hag carries Cain into her house made of bones.

Chapter Text

Ella hands Chloe a printout across the lab station. "Eddie's heroin and David's heroin? Same exact stuff."

Lucifer leans over Chloe's shoulder, eyeing the report. She glances at his stubbled chin, never certain how she should interpret the way he invades her personal space, if he even realizes he does it, or knows how it affects her.

He's the Devil, she tells herself. He's had thousands of years to perfect his "game." Of course he knows. She feels her face grow hot.

"But what is it laced with, Miss Lopez?" he asks.

Okay, maybe he doesn't know.

"Still trying to figure that out," Ella answers with a shrug. "But there's not really enough of anything that could taint the product. It's definitely smack."

"It reeked of impurities," he insists. "Shouldn't you be able to toss the sample in one of those machines of yours and have it tell you what it is?"

"Eh, sorry, bud, doesn't work like that. Anyway, shouldn't you be able to do some heavenly sleuthing of your own?" She wags her eyebrows up and down.

"I beg your pardon? I haven't been in Heaven for an eternity."

"Come on, you've gotta have some tricks up your sleeve, right? X-ray vision, superhuman hearing—ooh, telekinesis? Oh, man, could you throw me across the room with your mind?" She says it like she hopes he'll try.

"Oh, what, being able to suss out desires isn't cool enough for you now?"

Chloe watches them, envying their easy banter over his otherworldly origins. How is Ella able to do that without Lucifer clamming up? Is it because she hasn't seen more than a feather?

Setting aside the drug analysis, she says, "Okay, so, what are we missing? Eddie either sold David this drug, or he gave it to David for him to sell, but then David used it."

"Or David stole it," Lucifer suggests. "Addicts tend to develop rather sticky fingers when they need to support their habit. And he certainly didn't have much to sell."

"Or he stole it," Chloe agrees, thinking of the pile of late bills in David's kitchen. "Then what? David didn't have a lot in his system, so Eddie killed him over, what, maybe a dime bag? Seems unlikely."

"Still doesn't answer who killed Eddie, either," Ella says.

"Right. Or why, on all fronts." Chloe picks up a photo of the heroin they found in Eddie's phone case and frowns. "Narcotics said they didn't know Eddie. What about the logo?"

Ella reaches over and turns the photograph. "I think it's supposed to be a firefly. See the bottom of the bug's body? It's a slightly different shade. Like it's lit up."

"Well done, Miss Lopez."

"Morrison says they've never seen it," Ella adds.

"Of course he did," Chloe says, her tone dry.

"Whew, sensing some animosity, Decker."

"Perhaps because Morrison's selling evidence," Lucifer quips, shaking a small jar of orange-colored solution. Chloe snatches it out of his hand and returns it to its original place.

Ella's eyes are wide. "Uh, that's super illegal."

"Shh, keep your voice down," Chloe instructs.

I seize and I sell, Morrison revealed. From David, from Eddie, from someone higher up? And to whom? Too many pieces are missing from the puzzle.

"We gotta tell Lieutenant Garcia." Ella makes for the lab door, but before she can exit, Lucifer grabs her by the elbow.

"Ah, ah, ah, far be it from me to remind a reformed thief that snitches end up in ditches, Miss Lopez, but, really."

"We can't tell anyone," Chloe says. "For all we know, Morrison has stepped into the Sinnerman's shoes and has a crime network at his beck and call. And how well do you know Garcia? He joined the force last year."

"Yeah, okay. You're right." Ella frowns. "You guys, both of them sometimes had lunch with Pierce."

"See? Not exactly a ringing endorsement, that," Lucifer says.

The door to the lab swings open beside Ella, and Dan pops his head in. "Good, you're all here." He slips inside and shuts the door behind him. Shoving his hands in his jacket pockets, he nods nervously. "Bad news," he says. "Barrow's skipped town."

"What?" Chloe pales. "How?"

Lucifer's brows raise. "Yes, I thought he was in custody."

"He was," Ella replies, "but a guy named Juan Otero posted his bail last week."

"And none of you thought to tell me?" Lucifer gripes.

"What would you have done?" Daniel asks. "Besides, he was supposed to be under surveillance."

Lucifer glares at him. "I bloody well could have done quite a bit more than you." He turns to Chloe. "Why didn't you tell me?"

She glares at him, not appreciating his accusatory tone. What was she supposed to do, cross one of the invisible boundaries they've erected and ask for the Devil's help? One, she's not even sure what that entails. Two, those walls have helped them pretend everything's gone back to normal, even though it hasn't and can't possibly.

Instead of replying to Lucifer, she asks Dan, "Did we ever find out who Otero was?"

"He's not in the system, and now we can't find him, either," he answers. "But I'm looking into it. He's gotta be another one of Pierce's. Bail was set at half a million. Not just anyone has that kind of money." He glances at Lucifer skeptically.

"No need to start a class war with me, Daniel. I'd sooner burn hundies in a roaring hellfire than see that degenerate freed. He did lead the Detective and me into a trap, if you'll recall."

"Yeah, one you somehow left unscathed."

Lucifer scoffs in disbelief. "I hardly—"

"You know, none of this would have happened if you'd just told us Pierce was the Sinnerman, right?"

"This again," Lucifer groans. "You think I'm an absolute nutter, Daniel. As if you'd hear a word I said to you!"

Chloe touches Lucifer's side and feels his muscles relax beneath her fingers. "Dan, remember what we talked about?" Lucifer looks between them.

Dan relents, taking a step back from Lucifer. "Fine."

"It's like Pierce is still screwing us from beyond the grave," Ella laments. "This place is getting crazier than Detroit. Do you guys know the kinda stuff I saw in Detroit?"

"Lots of hookers and gangbangers?" Lucifer suggests, his ire already softening.

"Sometimes one in the same, dude. That, and a ton of crumbling infrastructure."

"Do we know if Barrow was involved in any drug rings?" Chloe asks, tapping the photo of Eddie's heroin.

"We don't know anything," Dan complains. "We were holding him on conspiracy charges, and he wasn't talking."

Chloe rubs her temples as a familiar ache pulses behind her eyes. "Okay, well, let's try to find him. Quietly."

"There's an APB on him already, but, yeah, I've got a few guys we can trust on it, too," Dan says. "Hey, Lucifer, you know where Maze is? We could use her bounty-hunting skills. I messaged her, but she didn't get back to me."

"Leave Mazikeen to me, Daniel. She may not be the best fit for this assignment."

"Uh, sure."

Wrath isn't a word Chloe has ever associated with someone, but it crosses her mind as Lucifer speaks about his oldest friend. She remembers the bitter twist of his scarlet mouth as he yanked Maze's knife from Cain's chest. Maze betrayed them, but how and why are questions left unanswered.

For once, she has no intention of getting in Lucifer's way when he doles out his punishment. She hasn't forgotten how eager Maze was for her to marry Cain. The thought of Maze pushing her toward him, with full knowledge of the danger it might bring into Trixie's life... Lucifer isn't alone in his anger.

Is that hypocritical? She wonders. Hasn't she brought the Devil into her daughter's life? But she knows it's different, that Lucifer would move mountains for her urchin.

When she thinks of Lucifer in Trixie's life, it's not his burned skin or questionable choices that come to mind. It's a unicorn painted on his cheek. It's him staring down tween bullies and encouraging ultimately harmless mischief. It's his hand, which she's seen lift grown men by their throats, cradling her daughter as though she's made of fine crystal.

"So, what do we do if we get to Barrow first?" Dan asks, drawing her back into the room.

Lucifer's teeth bare a sharp grin. "Why, you let the Devil have a turn with him, of course."

In the past, Chloe would have rolled her eyes, as Dan does now, but this time she shares a look with Ella and feels the ghost of a smile tug at her own mouth.


***


The walls of Cedarwood Heights are so thin that Maria Rosales' weeping can be heard outside her apartment.

"Would you listen to her," Lucifer tuts. "Should we pop back in and tell her Eddie was a selfish git not worth the waterworks?"

Chloe grabs him by an elbow and pulls him away.

Death notifications are one of the worst parts of being a homicide detective. Chloe can look at a thousand dead and disfigured bodies and feel sorry for what the victims went through, but it's the living who walk around with person-sized holes in their hearts, who suffer long after the dead are given a proper burial. She should know.

At least, that's what she's always believed. Before. When she thought this life was it, here and gone. When she believed she would never see her father again.

Now, she stops so abruptly in the parking lot that Lucifer, busy as he is toying with his cell phone, runs right into her.

"Bloody hell!" He penguin-waddles around her legs and grabs hold of the back of her shirt to steady her. "A little warning with the brakes next time."

"Is Eddie in Heaven or...?" she blurts out, stumbling as she turns to face him. "Is David?" It's just hit her, in a very real way, that the living aren't the only ones who can suffer.

Lucifer smooths nonexistent wrinkles from his suit. "There's no way for me to know here."

"Here? As in, you only know if you're..." She points at the ground. "Down there?"

"Hell isn't down anywhere," he grunts. "But, no, I don't happen to know the fate of every soul on the planet, Detective. Would be rather tiresome, don't you think?" Jamming his cell phone into a pocket, he brushes past her and stalks to the squad car.

"Wait, are you mad at me?" Chloe asks, following him. "It was just a question."

"I'm not mad at you. Don't be absurd." He yanks the passenger door open and stares at her over the roof of the car, his expression guarded. "Honestly, Detective, it would be good if you could focus. We've a killer to punish, potentially two." At that, he slips into the car and slams the door hard enough to shake the vehicle.

"Right," she mutters, eyes narrowed. The King of Distraction is telling her to focus. What she really hates is she can't argue with him. Murder cases grow colder by the hour. Worse, Eddie and David's cases are chock-full of dead ends, some probably manufactured by corrupt cops.

Dropping into the driver's seat, she cranks the engine and redirects the air vents. Lucifer makes a show of fastening his seat belt.

"Well, chop, chop," he says, and she has to resist the urge to smack him. "We'd be there by now if you'd let me drive."

"Only because you'd break the law."

"All for the greater good."

Gripping the uncomfortably hot steering wheel, she pulls onto the road. "What you're doing right now isn't working, by the way."

"Oh? What is it you think I'm doing?"

"Trying to avoid a difficult conversation."

"I am not," he scoffs.

She looks at him askance.

"Has it occurred to you that you're not exactly ready for Hell 101? Being able to say the word Hell happens to be a prerequisite." He has a point, but she's not about to admit it. "Then again, Hell's irrelevant. I'm retired. I don't see how picking apart my past counts as our moving forward."

"Being able to talk openly is moving forward, Lucifer. We can't walk on eggshells forever."

"Oh, don't be dramatic," he snickers. "It's been two weeks since you saw my true face. That hardly counts as forever. Trust me on that."

"That wasn't your true face," she argues.

"And how would you know?" he sneers.

Chloe chews on her lip, supposing she doesn't know, but believing she does. "You've always told me to follow my instincts."

"Well, it would appear I was mistaken, wouldn't it?"

She knows Lucifer well enough to know all the humor, bravado, and rudeness cover up fear. He is terrified of who and what he is—or at least was. Terrified of how she'll react to the truth. The burned skin was bad enough, he seems to imply—dare they rock the boat by exploring what lies beneath?

What does lie beneath?

She wants to reassure him, but maybe she isn't ready to learn the intricacies of Hell or his time there. Something tells her Guantanamo Bay might seem like a vacation getaway compared to the torment the Devil knows.

But, as horrible as the truth may turn out to be, she wants to know him.

Not that Lucifer's talking now. When they arrive at Dalton Paints and Hardware, he unbuckles his seat belt and launches himself out of the squad car before Chloe even finishes parking. She sighs and watches his long, black-suited legs eat up the short distance between the car and the store. He turns at the last minute, deciding to wait for her, a frustrated scowl pulling at his mouth.

"What a chicken," she murmurs, removing the key from the ignition.

The bell above the door rings as they enter the store a minute later. Anton steps out of the backroom, a tentative smile on his face. "Hey, Detective Decker, I told Grandpa to come like you asked. Come on back." He nods to the room behind him.

Chloe and Lucifer round the register and follow Anton to the back of the store. The space is cramped, little more than a large closet. A squat mini fridge, piled high with papers and magazines, stands between a desk with an astonishingly ancient CRT monitor and a table with three chairs.

Seated in one of the chairs is Robert Dalton, who looks like a much, much older version of Anton. Dressed in brown slacks and a plain white button-down, he glowers beneath a Vietnam War veteran cap, his lips set in the flat, smooshed way of one who has few, if any, teeth left.

"Grandpa, these are the officers who were looking for Eddie yesterday," Anton announces.

Chloe smiles, while trying to ignore Lucifer's amused grin. "I'm Detective Decker. This is Lucifer Morningstar. He's not an offi—" At their disinterested looks, she sighs, giving up. "He's my partner." Lucifer's so charismatic nobody cares about his job title. "Thanks for seeing us today, Mr. Dalton."

The old man shrugs a bony shoulder. "What's this about?" he rasps, as though he's smoked for seventy of his eighty-odd years.

"We're here to ask a few questions about your employee, Eddie Rosales."

There's something awkward about a table with too-few chairs. While Lucifer has no problem making himself comfortable in one of them, Chloe stands at the back room's doorway, board-straight, her arms hanging stiffly at her sides. Worse, Lucifer notices and, judging by the way the corners of his eyes crinkle, delights in her discomfort.

She asks, "How long has Eddie worked for you, Mr. Dalton?"

"Three years, give or take. I'm guessin' he's gone and done something stupid."

"Ooh, he's very close," Lucifer says to Chloe.

She counters Robert's question with one of her own. "In that time, do you ever remember seeing this man visit your store?" She shows both Dalton men David Yates' license photo.

Robert shakes his head and looks to his grandson. "Anton runs this place more'n me now. You seen this man?"

"No, sir," Anton answers from where he stands next to Chloe, clearly troubled by the same chair dilemma she is. The perils of not being a dick.

"I saw you have security cameras," Chloe says. "Do you mind sharing your footage from the last week?"

Anton gives his grandfather a perturbed glance. "We have them, but they don't work. Grandpa's too cheap."

"We only need a deterrent," Robert argues. "Nobody's gonna steal from me."

"Okay. This is David Yates," Chloe sighs, showing them David's photo again. "He was a friend of Eddie's. David was found dead in his apartment at Cedarwood Heights a few days ago."

"You can't think Eddie killed him," Anton sputters in disbelief.

"Boy, you be quiet," Robert chastises in his broken growl. He narrows his eyes at Chloe. "Ask your questions. But I know my rights."

"Of course," she soothes. "So, you know I have to ask: Where were you and your grandson on Monday afternoon?"

Anton answers despite his grandfather's command, "We closed the shop. We were at Kayla's softball game." He smiles fondly. "Kayla's my baby sister."

"We done now?" Robert queries.

"What's the rush?" Lucifer purrs.

"My prostate," Robert barks.

"Oof, that old chestnut again—or golf ball, as it were. Frequent complaint. You can blame Dad for the dodgy design."

Robert looks at Lucifer like he's got a screw loose. "Just you wait until you're old," he says, pointing a slightly arthritic finger. "Balls down to Mexico, and you'll be getting up all night, tryin' to piss."

"Thankfully not a problem I'll ever have," Lucifer says.

"Just a few more questions, Mr. Dalton," Chloe promises before things can get any further out of hand. "What about later that night? Where were you both then?"

"Me and my parents went out for pizza with Kayla's team," Anton says. "Grandpa went home."

"I go to bed at eight," the old man explains with a smack of his lips. "My wife Clara can vouch for me."

Chloe nods. "And were either of you aware that Eddie sold drugs?"

"Goddammit," Robert says. "I told that boy no bullshit when I hired him."

"Did you have reason to believe he was involved in something he shouldn't have been, either before you hired him, or when you hired him?"

"He has face tattoos," Robert says, as if this is evidence enough.

"It does scream poor life choices, doesn't it?" Lucifer muses.

"Where is he now?" Robert asks. "You already book him?"

"Would you believe a poodle got to him first?" Lucifer says.

Chloe clears her throat. "I'm afraid we found Eddie dead yesterday in his home."

Anton reels back. "Eddie's dead, too?"

"He is, indeed," Lucifer responds. He shifts to the edge of his chair, and Anton falls into his dark gaze. "What do you really think of that, hmm? Perhaps you desired to work alone?"

"I liked Eddie," Anton says in that relaxed, sleepy way Lucifer's victims do. "I'll miss him."

Lucifer lets him go with a bored sigh. Robert squints at him suspiciously.

"Do you know of anyone who would want him harmed?" Chloe asks.

"No," Anton says, blinking out of his stupor. "Nobody."

"Anton didn't know him outside work," Robert adds quickly. "Did you, Anton?"

"No, sir. Only saw him here."

"Yesterday you said his girlfriend was in town," Chloe prompts. "Did Eddie ever tell you her name?"

"Shay, I think."

"No last name?"

The younger Dalton shakes his head, shrugging apologetically.

"You made it sound like they had a rather stormy relationship," Lucifer says. "Think Shay might have had it in for Eddie? Bit of a lovers' quarrel gone wrong, perhaps, with a little too much knife to the throat, not enough hot makeup sex?"

"Oh, God, somebody stabbed him?"

"Don't expect my father to tell you who did it."

Chloe closes her eyes, searching for patience. "Please, answer the question, Anton."

"I don't know. It did seem rocky. He'd sometimes come in angry over her. But he was pretty quiet about his personal life."

"We know why now," Robert says dryly. Using the table for support, he pushes to his feet. "All right. We've told you all we know." The dismissal is obvious.

Chloe backs down, not wanting to sour the relationship. "Thank you both for your time. We'll be in touch if we have any further questions."

Lucifer trails behind her as they exit the store. "No need for a more thorough interview with Robert?" he asks, brows raised. "Though I think the only thing he desires is serviceable plumbing."

"I think we've worn out our welcome for now. Besides, I can't think of a motive here, can you? I'm guessing their alibis will check out."

Before Lucifer can reply, Chloe's cell phone rings. She holds up a finger. "Decker," she answers.

"Hey, it's me," Ella says on the other end.

"Let me put you on speaker."

"We've got a name," Ella says a beat later, her voice tinny, "but you're not gonna like it."

"What do you mean?"

"The house we found Eddie in? Turns out...not his house."

"Well, at least that makes more sense," Lucifer says.

"Did it belong to someone named Shay?" Chloe asks hopefully, while climbing into the squad car.

"Nope. Try Victoria Imler."

"Victoria Imler?" Chloe frowns. "What have we got on her?"

"Not much. Probably 'cause she's been worm food for eight years. The Lamborghini was Eddie's, but there's a white Honda with an expired registration belonging to Imler at that address, too. We've put out a BOLO on it."

After relaying what little additional information they've come by, Chloe ends the call and leans her head back against the headrest. Cool air conditioning filters across her face.

"So, if that wasn't Eddie's house, maybe Morrison wasn't lying. Maybe Narcotics weren't aware of Eddie. And maybe Eddie wasn't a big-time dealer." She rubs at her temples tiredly.

Lucifer watches her closely. "You know I'm all for punishing those who deserve it," he says, "but you're looking quite burned out. All work and no play makes for a dull detective."

"I just got back from being suspended."

"And did you go anywhere during your alleged time off?"

She turns her head toward him. "You know I didn't." Couldn't, really.

"Not exactly a vacation then, darling. Especially what with your being knee-deep in celestial rubbish."

"I didn't mind," she whispers.

He hums noncommittally and asks, "When was the last time you traveled somewhere for fun, because you desired to?"

Chloe chuckles. "You're not going to believe it."

"Please tell me you've left L.A."

"Does Big Sur count?" she baits.

"It most certainly does not," he answers, appalled.

"But it's not in L.A." She grins.

"Fine. Outside California is more what I had in mind, you pedant."

She snorts. "Well, I've been to Mexico."

"Potentially respectable, assuming you didn't merely cross the border for cheap dental work."

"It was before Trixie was born. Dan and I went to Mexico City for our honeymoon."

He grimaces. "Bloody hell, that long ago? No wonder you're so boring," he teases. "You know, I could take you anywhere you like, any time you want."

She rolls her eyes at the double entendre, and a grin stretches his mouth wide. "Okay, I'll bite. If I said, I don't know, let's go to...Japan, you'd—"

"Have tickets booked within the hour. You'd be drunk on sake and belting Aretha in a karaoke box in less than twenty-four hours."

"You're crazy."

"That's what uptight people call anyone who dares to enjoy living." His expression turns serious. "My father's done a lot of things wrong, but, on the whole, this planet isn't one of them. You've all too little time here," he says, his voice thick. "If you're not experiencing pleasure every day, you're doing it wrong. See the world. Go get absolutely sozzled. Have a snog in a dark corner that leads to a dirty weekend—preferably with yours truly. Regret nothing."

"You know I'll never really be Lucinda, right?"

He smiles faintly. "She's in there somewhere."

Chloe feels herself retreat behind her own walls. He has no idea how much she sometimes yearns to get caught up in his storm.

She would never, ever trade Trixie. Not for anything or anyone. But what might life have been like if she had met Lucifer years ago, when she was young and less afraid of the wildness in her heart? The wildness that wants fast and fun and free, and isn't afraid to run with the Devil.

It's still there, beneath the surface, a beast yanking on its chain. But the chain is strong and old and braided in a layer of fear.

"But is partying enough?" she asks, crashing back down to Earth, as she taught herself to do from a very young age. "Is it meaningful?"

"Sometimes," he answers, more thoughtfully than she expected. "With the right people."

"I like my job." She shrugs and finally drives out of the depressing strip mall that contains Dalton Paints. "I get tired or frustrated sometimes, and want a break, but I don't mind spending my time on it. I like helping people."

"Well, you're very good at it," he compliments. "But, truly, don't forget to live a little, Detective."

"I won't." She smiles. "Movie night with Trixie, remember?"

"Ah, yes, the height of entertainment in the Decker household."

Her smile falters. After the way he shot down her invitation, she's not sure if he's making fun of her or not. "What about you?" she asks, unwilling to start a feud. "Got big plans for Lux's reopening?"

She doesn't ask about all Lux represents in his life: the endless parade of alcohol, drugs, and sex.

"Of course. I always know how to have a good time." He speaks easily, but she can't help but notice his tone rings strangely hollow.


***


"Can we watch Moana next?" Trixie asks. "Pleeease? It's only nine!"

"I said you could stay up, didn't I?" Chloe laughs, pulling at one of Trixie's pigtails. "Go ahead and get it started. I'm just gonna clean up a little."

She wanders into the kitchen, two plates balanced atop an empty pizza box. After loading the dishwasher, she pours the final dregs of pinot into her wine glass. Elsa may "let it go" by singing to herself, but Chloe needs a little help tolerating hours of Disney.

As she's rinsing the wine bottle for recycling, a knock sounds at the door.

"Who's that?" Trixie sits up on her knees and leans over the back of the couch. During the day, she's a brave, outgoing girl who runs to greet visitors. At night, she's learned to be more cautious. There are people she can't trust in the dark. People who've taken her and hurt her mother.

Chloe feels on edge herself, though she hides it beneath a layer of practiced nonchalance. "I'll get it, Trix. You stay there, okay?"

For some reason, she imagines opening the door onto Cain, allowing his calculated machinations into the heart of her home and the warmth of her bed. She still hears his whispered promises of love and family and safety. Everything was an ugly lie she should have seen through. Disgust and self-loathing ripple through her as she opens the door.

Of course, it isn't Cain haunting her welcome mat. It's Lucifer who stands on the other side, a paper grocery bag in his arms. Chloe stares at him, all fear and thoughts of Cain vanishing.

"I thought you were busy with the reopening."

"I made an appearance. Everything's running smoothly."

"Uh-huh." Agitation stirs to life in her gut. "So, now you think you're going to come here, to have a—what was it you called it?" She lowers her voice. "Oh, yeah, a terrible time?"

"I—"

"Is that Lucifer?" Trixie calls.

Chloe turns. "Hold on, baby. I'll be back in a second." Shoving Lucifer back a step, she moves outside and shuts the door. She crosses her arms over her chest, hyper-aware of the fact that she's trying to be taken seriously in a Star Wars parody T-shirt. "Why are you here?"

There are so many things she wants him to say. None of them are what he actually says.

"Well, it seems I may be more of a shoe than I realized," he answers. "I'm as surprised as you are. No doubt a nice Louboutin, of course, not some coal miner's rank work boot."

"If that's supposed to be an apology, and I don't even know if it is, I don't accept it."

He huffs. "Must we analyze my every behavior?"

"Believe me, if I were to pick apart your behavior, we'd be here all week."

Lucifer grins coyly. "Can't help that you find me so interesting." She rolls her eyes. "Fine. I suppose when I said what I did, I was letting others—my reputation, if you will—define me. I believe it's a bit of an old habit I didn't realize I had developed."

"You've been talking to Linda."

"I may have had a session, yes."

"So, what you're saying is the Devil shouldn't want to spend his time like this, but maybe you want to?" She frowns. "That's never stopped you before." If she discounts all the innuendo, he's spent countless downright-wholesome hours in her home.

"It's different now." He swallows hard. "Before... Well, before, you didn't know everything."

A part of her wants to argue. She doesn't know everything, and worries she won't ever make sense of his life, especially if they're both going to keep avoiding the difficult subjects. But she also understands this. Whatever is between them is more real now. They're both struggling to figure out who they are and how they fit into this new world they've stumbled upon.

"You're afraid," Chloe says. He scoffs, but doesn't refute it. She reaches for him, her fingers closing around his wrist. "You need to work on your apologies, but apology accepted. Come inside, Lucifer."

When Chloe opens the door, Trixie stumbles backward and grins up at them guiltily, hands behind her back. "Hi, Lucifer."

"It's not nice to listen in," Chloe reprimands, wondering what all her daughter has just heard or understood.

"At least learn how not to get caught," Lucifer says, shaking his head. Chloe looks at him disapprovingly, and he arches a brow. "Oh, pot, meet kettle. She gets her curiosity from you, not Daniel."

"What'd you bring?" Trixie asks, and Lucifer gives Chloe a dry, amused look, as if to say, See? Your offspring.

"Ingredients," he answers.

"Ingredients for what?" She grabs hold of his arm in an attempt to bring the bag down to her eye level. He doesn't budge.

"Ingredients for nothing if you don't unhand the Burberry."

Trixie lets go of him, her grin undiminished. "Are you here to watch movies with us?"

"Something like that."

Chloe smiles and pulls Trixie away. "Give him some space, monkey. Go watch your movie."

Sighing a world-weary sigh, Trixie trudges over to the couch and collapses dramatically on the cushions.

Lucifer sets the grocery bag on the bar and reaches inside. He lifts a bottle of bourbon with a grin. "Better than your swill."

"Perfect," Chloe laughs, taking the bottle from him. "I'm out of wine." She rounds the countertop and pours him a generous glass of the amber liquor. After she hands it to him, she drags the grocery bag closer and peeks inside.

Oh.

"This is what you need for a chocolate cake," she whispers so Trixie won't hear.

"Right in one, Detective," he replies, just as softly.

She looks up at him, her heart beating fast. He appears to be as nervous and eager as she feels. "I'm glad you're here."

Lucifer nods and raises his glass to her. "Right, then," he says, raising his voice. "Who's up for chocolate cake?"

Chocolate cake is to Trixie as blood is to sharks. "You brought chocolate cake?" she exclaims, skipping into the kitchen, Moana forgotten.

"Please." Lucifer rolls his eyes. "I do nothing by halves, child. No, I'm going to bake a chocolate cake." He begins emptying the grocery bag.

"Won't that take a long time?" Trixie whines.

Chloe watches a little too closely as Lucifer removes his suit jacket, rolls up his sleeves, and dons a cliched "Kiss the Cook" apron that he thought to bring with him. "I assure you Devil's food is worth the wait," he replies.

Shrugging, Trixie climbs onto a barstool. "Can I help?"

"Is that something she's actually capable of?" he asks Chloe, and Trixie giggles.

Chloe pulls a bowl and two round cake pans out of a cabinet. "You can mix, can't you, Trixie-babe?"

"Wash your hands," Lucifer demands, holding out liquid soap.

The night reshapes itself around them, finding room for one more in the Decker household. Chloe sits beside her daughter at the bar, sipping wine, and then bourbon from Lucifer's glass, which never runs dry. The room becomes warm and soft around the edges.

Lucifer makes a mess of the kitchen as he measures flour and sugar and chats amiably about a Brazilian cocoa farmer who owed him a favor. When he calls for Trixie to toss him eggs, she obliges with a squeal, and he snatches them from the air with ease. He makes a show of juggling several before cracking two on the edge of the mixing bowl. A moment later, he slides the bowl toward Trixie and urges her to stir everything quickly. He watches her handiwork with a skeptical eye, but seems satisfied.

When the cake pans go into the oven, it's ten, and Trixie retires to the couch and the final scenes of Moana. Like all growing children, she refuses to acknowledge or accept her tiredness, but falls asleep within seconds of making contact with a pillow.

The credits roll, and a peaceful silence settles over the apartment. Chloe rests her chin on the heels of her hands and watches Lucifer clean. He's extraordinarily fastidious, moving canisters aside to wipe at back corners no flour has touched. Honestly, there's probably a ton of dust back there.

"Surprised you know how to clean," she jokes, her words slurred together.

"Hmm?" He looks up suddenly, as if he's somehow forgotten where he is, or that she's here with him. He chuckles and shakes his head. "You're the messy one. Besides, haven't you heard? The Devil's in the details."

"But don't you pay people to do this sort of stuff?" If she was wealthy, she'd never do another load of laundry, ever again.

He rinses the washcloth and wrings it out. "I do." Turning, he leans against the sink, crossing his legs at his ankles. "I find it...relaxing, though."

"Really?" She turns up her nose and sips more bourbon from their shared glass. "I hate chores."

There's enough to do between work and Trixie, and she's been known to live out of the dryer for weeks. Has she even washed her sheets this week? How many pairs of underwear are left?

Lucifer stares at his purple-socked feet, having kicked off his Oxfords some time ago. "In He—" He glances at the living room and frowns. "Where my father sent me, it was very hard to keep clean."

The confession is difficult to grasp, but feels important. Even in her current state, Chloe knows he's in a confessing mood only because she's drunk.

Frowning, she stumbles down from her barstool and goes to stand before him. Reaching up, she cradles his face in her palms and caresses his stubbled jaw. His tremulous expression makes her heart ache. It's terrifying, that look. Maybe because of who he is, or maybe because of who she is when she's with him. Whatever the truth, it skates across the alcohol in her veins, hopelessly elusive.

"Thank you," she whispers.

"Whatever for?" he asks, his voice rich and low.

The thought slips. Sighing, she drops her forehead to his collarbone. "I don't know."

He chuckles. "You're such a lightweight."

Chloe relaxes, leaning her weight across the warm length of his body. It feels right, like it always has. As his fingers thread through her hair soothingly, she breathes in the faint, sylvan notes of his cologne and the bite of cigarette smoke.

Slowly, she looks up again, finding his dark eyes. Bracing herself on his chest and lifting up to tiptoe, she presses her mouth to his. He tastes like bourbon and chocolate, or maybe they both do. And this feels right, too, even after all that has happened.

Lucifer lets out a quiet groan as she runs her tongue along his lower lip. He pulls away reluctantly, and she sighs in frustration. "How can this be what you desire?" he whispers.

She takes a long time to answer, choosing her words carefully through the fog. Finally, she says, "It's not this I desire. It's you."

A ragged breath escapes him, and for a moment, she thinks he may cry. She wonders if she's strong enough to handle the colossal burden buried deep in his immortal soul. Because who is she? A speck along an endless stretch of unfathomable time.

Chloe waits for the first tear to fall, her fingers stroking gently above his heart. Waits, until suddenly the oven timer sounds, its loud, repetitious beep piercing the silence.

"Ugh," Chloe sighs.

Lucifer draws in a sharp breath and pushes her back gently. Turning, he stops the timer and opens the oven door. A blast of heat rushes into the kitchen as he uses a faded dish towel to pull the cake pans from the center rack. The cake is perfect: soft, smooth cocoa brown. He sets the pans atop potholders and turns to her with an amused smile.

"I believe your spawn's breakfast is taken care of."

The room spins slightly as Chloe shakes her head. "Probably." She shouldn't give in to such requests, but it's hard not to with Trixie, especially after everything that's happened these last couple of years. She's always trying to compensate.

"You're giving new meaning to the term legless," Lucifer teases, a hand on her shoulder steadying her. "Go sit down."

"Come with me?" she asks, then snorts loudly. "Not come with me." She covers her face, hiding from his grin. "Just...you know what I mean."

"Well, I do have to wait for the cake to cool before I frost it..." He smirks at her. "I'll come with you."

She grabs his arm, and pulls him along as she stumbles to the couch. Sitting in the middle of the three-seater, she yanks Lucifer down on her left and draws Trixie's legs across her lap.

Lucifer stretches his arm along the back of the couch and lets out a long, deep breath that contains multitudes. Chloe wants to ask him about it, ask him about everything, and she almost does. Almost, but the words stick on her tongue as she closes her eyes and sinks into his side. She sleeps well for the first time in weeks.

Chapter Text

Cain thought he knew suffering. On Earth, he died thousands of times—by the snarling maw of a wolf, in the hot belly of a volcano, under the chipper teeth of a chainsaw. In Hell, he was a slave, raped by sneering demons. On both planes, he recovered and transformed into something harder and stronger. This is his calling, too.

What physical pain, what anguish, could be alien to the world's first murderer? He has seen, committed, or survived all of mankind's most evil acts. Pulled the trigger, took the bullet.

But the hag is old and clever, predating Cain and even bright Lucifer's fall. When she pries open Cain's breastbone like a clamshell and splinters his ribs in half, she takes something more, something deeper, that invisible, but tangible breath God has bestowed upon all Adam's descendants.

Blissful darkness never comes to relieve him. Cain is awake for it all. He screams and pleads, and the hag writhes in pleasure on her tail of ebony smoke, beneath her roof made of bones. She claws at his muscles, shredding them to ribbons, and shoves aside his lungs until his screams turn to breathless whistles. Blood pools and overflows, making wet, sloshing sounds as it spills out his destroyed chest cavity onto the ash-covered floor.

How does this not annihilate him?

She finds his heart and drools onto his face in her hunger. Her fingers close around the organ, and she begins to chant in a language he has never heard, but immediately knows to fear. It is a Making language, and an Unmaking language, too. In another mouth, it might be beautiful, but it is perverse on her foreign tongue.

"St-stop," he wheezes, for Cain is always trying to take back that which he cannot.

The hag smiles and pretends not to hear him, the words flowing past her lips in a susurrus of tonal inelegance. And she pulls, pulls, pulls, floating high above his body until she is all he sees. Arteries and veins stretch, then pop wetly, and tear free, where they dangle like spider silks.

He is cursed to survive.

"I have waited so long for a heart like this," the hag moans, and yawns her mouth around the muscle.

She does not savor her meal. She wildly slurps and sucks and gums and picks apart with fingers trembling in ecstasy. When she has devoured every last fiber, she belches and drags a hand across her mouth, smearing crimson.

Leaning over Cain's broken body, the hag smiles close to his lips. "A deal's a deal, Son of Adam," she says, and he smells the metallic tang of his own lifeblood.

Again, she chants, and Cain must accept her depraved prayers, for there is no going back.

The change begins as a tingling sensation deep in his head, near that lizard brain modern man has come to call the amygdala. The crawling sensation spreads outward, down into his eyes and along his spine. And still the hag chants.

Then comes the fire. It burns through him, as though his blood is gasoline and his muscles are kindling. And for a short time, by Hell's standards, Cain ceases to exist. But the hag chants and honors her word and Makes him into something new.

"Rise," she commands an indeterminate time later. Days, maybe, but who can know here?

Cain sits up from where he lies on her skeletal table made sticky by his blood. The inferno has disappeared as quickly as it came upon him. He feels...different now. Sturdier. Slowly, he brings a hand to his chest, only to find a baseball-sized hole where his heart and flesh used to be—no blood or exposed muscle or bone, just a cavern.

"What—"

"I made you into a creature of darkness, as was our deal. Do not expect to be a man."

Fair enough. "Why did you help me?" he asks, even as he realizes help is a strange word to use.

"I was hungry," she answers, shrugging a shoulder. "For now, I am not."

"Who are you?"

"Those who survive me call me Grandmother."

He has no intention of calling her anything. "Why do you hate Samael?"

"So many questions, but I'll play. He wouldn't feed me when I was hungry, and then," she hisses, "he restricted my feedings." She pitches from side to side in her anger. "He was a boring, tyrant king. You will be more interesting, especially if he returns to reclaim the throne. My bones say he will."

"Not if I get to him first," Cain snarls. Lucifer won't return to Hell unless Chloe sends him packing.

"We will see what happens, Son of Adam." She holds out a bloodstained hand. "Come."

When he stands, his legs obey him. He feels no fear as he takes the hag's hand and follows in her trail of smoke. She draws him into a bedroom, to an oval-shaped glass. It's been so long since he saw a mirror outside a Hell loop that he forgot they weren't mere fantasy.

He walks to it. His old face stares back at him, round as always, but his eyes are now a solid black midnight that has transformed his appearance. He touches the hole in his chest and has no strong feelings about the man he sees, other than to think this body will be more advantageous than the last.

Maybe it should be disturbing, but it's not. Cain never has been one for deep introspection. This is simply who he is now, who he must be if he is to exact revenge.

"Do you feel pain in your back?" the hag asks.

"I—" He frowns. "Yes?" He has always been a man of few words; fewer still in Hell.

Her discolored gums show as she smiles. "Good. Imagine taking hold of it and dragging it away from yourself. Remove it like a splinter."

Cain closes his eyes and focuses on his breathing and the pain buried in his shoulder blades, which is less pain than aggravating itch. He follows the hag's advice and imagines tweezing it out from his skin.

A leathered flap sounds in the room. The still, rank air stirs, and the ash shifts at their feet. And Cain opens his eyes and sees.

Black, batlike wings rest behind him, the hidden metacarpals crowned by clawed thumbs. Below, the finger bones within the swooping leather wing membranes are finished with four more claws on each side. He is no angel, bastardized or otherwise. He is a creature of the night.

"I... I can fly?" Briefly, he remembers being human, the first time he flew in a plane and saw the blue-and-green Earth below. He always loved the sky.

"You are made for battle," the hag answers, and the memory fades. "Flight is useful for that here."

He struggles to command his new limbs, but after several minutes, he is able to spread the long fingers of his wings. His full wingspan stretches out, pressing against walls made of pelvises and rib cages.

"The Son of Adam is dead," the hag proclaims, her wiry white hair shoved to one side by the sheer power of his unfurling. "Behold, the true Prince of Darkness."

Chapter Text

Chloe sits up slowly, a pale yellow blanket falling to her waist. Squinting, she looks around the room and frowns. She slept on the couch? And, wow, her head...

Oh. That's right. The night before comes flooding back, the memories warm and rich.

The sound of a fork scratching across a plate draws her attention to the kitchen. Trixie is at the bar, her beanpole legs kicking from where she's seated on one of the bar stools. She sits at an angle, giving Chloe a direct view of the gargantuan piece of chocolate cake she's diligently working her way through.

"Hey, monkey. I see you're enjoying your cake," she says wryly.

Trixie flinches and looks over guiltily. "Sorry I didn't wait until you were up."

More like, I wanted to finish this before you caught me.

"It's Saturday," Chloe absolves, feeling magnanimous. This week, even she has Saturday off. "But only one piece, okay?" She rises from the couch and stretches, feeling well-rested, even if a little dehydrated. "Did you see Lucifer this morning?"

"Uh-uh."

Chloe grapples with her disappointment. It's silly, but she expected him to be here—wanted him to be here. But what did she think? That he'd sleep on the couch, too? She rolls her eyes at herself.

In the kitchen, she stares at the perfectly frosted, layered Devil's food cake, which is now missing an eighth. She could eat a piece of fruit. She should eat a piece of fruit. Even highly-processed cereal would be healthier. But...that cake.

Sure, he didn't tempt Eve. Right.

Sighing, she cuts a thin slice and slides it onto a plate. When she takes a bite, her eyes fall closed. It's the richest, darkest chocolate cake she's ever tasted. Not too sweet, the texture perfect, the frosting thick and smooth, the cocoa strong on her tongue. Wow. So this is what happens when you have ages to perfect things. She goes to cut a larger piece.

"It's really good, huh?" Trixie says, grinning around a mouthful. "I drew him a thank-you picture." She reaches to the other side of the counter, to where her colored pencils have exploded across the Formica. She snags the lone sheet of paper and presents it to her mother. "Think he'll like it?"

Chloe takes the drawing and struggles not to laugh. While Trixie's handwriting is sloppy and a point of frequent complaint among her teachers, she's gotten very good at drawing in the last year. The lines in her art are crisp and sure, the colors bold and cartoony, like those in children's books she's outgrown. She's good enough that there's no mistaking the slightly misshapen, aproned man haloed by golden lines. There's also no mistaking the chocolate cake displayed on the counter in front of him. Or the red pentagram Trixie added to its round top for a bit of flair.

"This is amazing, Trix." Her daughter smiles widely. "I'll give it to him as soon as I see him."

Someone knocks on the door.

"I'll get it!" Trixie shouts, though she's right next to Chloe and only a few feet from the door.

Dan is waiting on the other side. He lifts Trixie to him, hugging her tight and swinging her, side to side. She giggles loudly, her legs swaying. She's grown taller, and her toes hover more closely to the ground than they used to.

"Go get your stuff, kiddo," Dan tells her.

"Mom, can I take some chocolate cake?" Trixie asks first.

"Sure. I'll pack some for you."

Dan notices the cake plate. "Wow, where'd you get that?"

"Lucifer made it!" Trixie yells, running to get her bag.

"He made that?" Dan says, his skepticism obvious. "Sure he didn't buy it?"

"He baked it here last night," Chloe says, her lips pulling upward. She feels oddly proud.

Dan narrows his eyes at her. "Okay. Well, I want a piece, too."

"To make up for all the lost pudding?" Chloe teases, shifting cake into a glass container.

"He owes me a whole cake for that. Joke's on him, though. I've started bringing a cooler and keeping my pudding in my desk drawer."

Chloe snorts, wondering how long it will take Lucifer to find his secret stash. Not long, probably. He eats that pudding just because it's Dan's. Glancing at her ex-husband, she asks gently, "How are you?"

"Uh, I'm okay. Getting better." He's almost convincing, but anxious tics give him away. "I'll be glad when we catch Barrow and know things have cooled off at the precinct." He says it like he believes it'll happen naturally. "What about you?"

Dan doesn't know half of what's been going on in her life. "I'm fine."

"That bad, huh?"

"No, really. I'm fine." What other option is there?

"Uh-huh. Well, let me know if you want to talk about it."

Not gonna happen, she thinks, but hums in agreement because he means well.

When Trixie returns with her backpack, Chloe hands Dan the dessert container and hugs and kisses her daughter goodbye. After they leave, she sits and finishes her piece of cake, her eyes glued to Trixie's artwork. Whenever Trixie draws Lucifer, she throws in some devilish symbol—or, more blatantly, a red, horned devil. Sometimes Chloe wonders about that, but right now her head has no room for speculation.

In the shower, she leans against the tiled wall, enjoying the pinprick of hot water. She's procrastinating. When she dares to hand over case files for a day off, it's never to take an actual break. Any open cases stay rattling around in her brain, and there are too many chores and errands to catch up on for her to relax. Today, she doesn't feel like facing any of it.

So don't, she hears Lucifer say, as if he's by her ear. Live a little, Detective.

Chloe breathes unsteadily, one hand sliding over her breasts, down to the apex of her thighs. Lucifer's ego would be entirely unmanageable if he knew how often she thinks about him in the shower and late at night, how long ago this near-ritual began. At least it's easier to hide with Maze gone. The demon had a sixth sense for masturbation. Chloe closes her eyes and summons the echo of Lucifer's mouth, the heat of his body.

How can this be what you desire?

At the memory of his despair, her arousal screeches to a halt. She draws her hand away, her fingers slick. Lucifer has no idea how much she wants him—all of him, every light and dark thing. It feels wrong to enjoy the memory of him, when she knows he has such a warped perception of himself and her feelings.

She thought the truth would set them free, that, in knowing it, she could protect and heal him, maybe even save him from himself. But the truth is bigger and stranger than anything she could have imagined. It's changed everything—and nothing, too. He still thinks he's a monster, and she still knows he's not. Not really.

Chloe towels dry and stares at herself in the mirror. Subtle lines have begun to crease the corners of her eyes, and three gray hairs peek out from her scalp, but this is just natural aging. It's the scars lying beneath the surface that tell the whole story. In that, she and Lucifer are alike, despite the impossibly vast difference in age. Which, for now, she chooses not to think about.

There's only one way forward. If she wants to know Lucifer, wants to really know him and his past, he needs to see what's under her skin, too. All the fear and pain and loneliness. All the want and hope.

The only problem is, she's guarded her heart, too.


***


A wide-mouthed staircase leads into the old, brick Willox Medical Building. Chloe jogs up the steps, her sandals slapping against concrete. Having always avoided therapy on the principle that it's better to move forward than dwell on the past, she feels a little like Rocky before the big fight. But it's occurring to her that sometimes the past gets its claws in, without you even realizing it, and won't let you move forward.

Cool air embraces her as she enters the building. She punches the elevator call button in the narrow, sparsely-furnished lobby that probably hasn't seen a renovation since the early nineties. Because of a hill, the lobby is on the second floor, while Linda is on the first.

Moments later, the elevator shudders to a stop. The doors slide open, and Chloe strides forward—only to collide with a tall, black-clad body.

"Bloody—Detective?"

"Lucifer?" she gasps. His hands settle on her shoulders, steadying her.

"What are you—" they both start.

"—doing here?" Lucifer finishes. He's disheveled, still wearing his suit from last night. His eyeliner is smudged, and his hair is a curling mess she wants to touch.

"I— Hah." Blood rushes to her cheeks. "Uh, lunch? With Linda. You know, some girl time."

And for some cringe-worthy reason, she waves her hands and arms like she's dancing. Because that's what you do during "girl time," right?

"Oh, really?" Lucifer's mouth twitches as he leans away and stuffs his hands in his pockets. "Seems you're a bit late. I just watched her eat a rather unimaginative salad."

Chloe swallows. "Oh?"

"Give the Devil his due, hmm? No need to lie. You're here because it's finally cracked you."

"What?" She frowns.

"What else? All this divine baggage," he says, grinning falsely as he indicates to himself with his hands. "It was only a matter of time, really."

She looks at him like he's insane, which he is, in a way, even if his metaphors have turned out to be less metaphorical than expected. "We've seen each other almost every day for two weeks," she reminds him. "Worked together for the last several days. I think I'm putting up with your divine baggage just fine."

"And still you're here."

"Not everything's about you."

"Only the stories worth telling." He sniffs. "Right. Well, I'll be off then. If you're anything like me, you'll need a stiff drink after she's done with you."

At that, he draws out his flask and makes to brush past her, but now she grabs hold of his arm. She's so tired of the hot and cold between them. "What's with you today?" They were so close, only hours before. "Why didn't you stay last night?"

"Your sofa is dreadfully small for a man of my stature," he evades. "My bed's much more comfortable."

Knowing he's actually the Devil, Chloe has discovered she's able to read him better. He isn't putting on one long, uninterrupted performance, as she once believed, nor is he hiding trauma behind metaphors. He really is this prickly and clueless and immature. And sometimes very wonderful.

"Stay next time," she says. Though the words are there, waiting on her tongue, she isn't brave enough to remind him she has a bed, too. Though it's definitely not as comfortable. She can admit that.

Lucifer's face takes on that mystified expression it sometimes does, his guard faltering. "Very well," he replies quietly. "If that's what you desire."

"That, and more cake." She smiles, attempting to lighten the mood.

He returns her smile. "Liked it, did you?"

"Oh, yeah. We'll see what my hips think in a day or two."

He quirks a brow, glancing down. "Far be it from me to argue against perfection, but there's nothing wrong with a little extra to hold onto, either."

Chloe laughs, flustered. "Anyway... Everything's okay," she says, a beat later. Or will be, she hopes. "You know that, right? I'm not going anywhere, if you're not going anywhere."

"I already told you I'd not run off and marry another stripper." He kicks back his flask.

"And you'll stay," she presses, making sure there are no loopholes. "You won't run away at all."

He holds her gaze. "You've my word."

That's good as gold. Better, maybe.

Still, when Chloe watches him leave, her stomach is in knots.

Moments later, she walks through Linda's open office door. "I think I need help," she says.

There, a bold, brave start on the path to mental well-being. Well done, Detective.

Linda looks up, startled. "Chloe? Are you okay?" She waves a hand. "Come in."

Chloe swallows, her bravery vanishing as she stares at the hot seat that is Linda's couch. "I— Actually, no, you know what? I shouldn't barge in like this. I'm so sorry."

"You're not interrupting anything. I don't have clients on Saturdays. I'm just here to organize notes and deal with insurance claims."

"But Lucifer..."

"Ohhh. You bumped into him. Yeah, the thing about Lucifer's sessions is about half of them aren't scheduled at all. Trust me when I say you're not the one who barges in."

"I really shouldn't be here, though. You're my friend, not my therapist. And you're—you're Lucifer's therapist. Last time I roped you into trying to break into his safe with me."

"That was pretty fun," Linda says.

She smiles and nods, even as she begins backing away. "We'll, uh, get a drink sometime, right? You know, Ella, you, me—I guess not Maze since she, you know, almost got Lucifer and me killed. Okay, great. I'll just—" She points behind her with her thumbs. "I'm gonna go."

"Chloe. Wait." Standing, Linda holds up a calming hand. "Slow down. Why don't you have a seat? Would you like some water?"

"I don't think I can sit." Suddenly accepting that she's no longer leaving, Chloe begins to pace. "I'm sorry I've been avoiding you. I just—"

"Didn't want to be psychoanalyzed?" Linda chuckles. "It's okay. I know how I am. I've missed you, but you don't need to be sorry. You've been going through a lot and needed to work through that at your own pace. It looks like you're still going through a lot."

"Yeah," Chloe agrees, nodding. "You would know how that is, though, right? How did you even do this by yourself?"

"Well, it was..." Linda blinks, shaking her head. "Let's just say those were some dark days. But, you know, you've been handling things by yourself, too. And it's different for you."

She can't think about how it's different for her right now. "We're not alone," she says. "Ella knows."

"Oh? Lucifer hasn't mentioned... Huh, maybe she doesn't know that I know. So, she's seen his—" Linda points to her face. "Is she okay?"

"No, she just saw his feathers at the crime scene." Because, hah, Lucifer has feathers. Because that's the world she lives in now. "She just...put it all together from that." Chloe laughs a little hysterically. "I guess she's just always been a believer at heart. That's her baseline." She pauses, nodding. "Not like me. Or not like I was." The pacing starts up again, and this time it's even more ferocious. "It came so easy to her."

"That bothers you. Do you think you should have known sooner?"

Chloe's hands gravitate to her hips. "I don't know," she huffs. "The first time Lucifer and I worked together, Lucifer got shot and—and it didn't even hurt him. I was hit, too—he probably saved my life—and I told myself that I dreamed it all before I blacked out. That, of course he didn't get shot. Or he was wearing a vest. 'Cause, how could he get shot multiple times to the chest and not die? But I knew he was shot, deep down. I just chose not to know.

"And then when I went to see the man who shot me, or us, he'd gone totally crazy. Wouldn't stop screaming about the Devil. And I know what made him lose his mind now," Chloe says, her hands gesturing wildly as she imagines scarred, crimson skin. "And the thing is, shortly after that, I saw it, too—"

"Wait. His devil face?" Linda's brows draw upward. "Really?"

"Yeah. In a reflection."

"Did it scare you?"

"I nearly wet my pants," Chloe breathes out with a laugh. "I had nightmares for weeks."

"Yep. Yep, it's scary."

"And I knew, as soon as I saw it, something wasn't— He wasn't..."

"Human."

"Yeah. But then, right after, I shot him, because he just kept going on and on and bloody on about it, like he does. So, I did it! I shot him. And he bled, and I thought, well, of course he bled, you idiot.

"So then he had to be some kind of eccentric, rich stage performer, right? This is L.A. Because what else could he possibly be?" She stops pacing and turns to look at Linda, her face screwed up in anguish. "But then I saw him get shot again," she says, breathing hard. "When he came for me and Trixie. And he bled out. I know he didn't make it. But he came back."

Linda nods cautiously. "Yes."

"Where'd he come back from?"

They stare at each other knowingly.

"I just—I just moved on. Trixie was a mess, and I had to be there for her. My marriage was falling apart. And then there was my dad's case and that bimbo Candy, and more recently all this stuff with Lucifer's wings and Cain..." She realizes her face is wet. At some point, she started crying. "But he died, right? Because of me? Just like he got hurt in the loft, for me." Her heart pounds in her chest. "And then what? He went to... And he came back?"

Linda hesitates. "Chloe, I know it's hard, but I think some of these things you need to talk to Lucifer about. I don't even have all the details, and even if I did it's not my story to tell."

Putting her hands on top of her hand, Chloe lets out a frustrated groan. "He won't even talk to me about that awful place."

"About Hell?" Linda says, encouraging her to say the word.

"Yes, Hell," Chloe snaps, and drops her hands. "Not that half of this matters now, right? So much of this was ages ago. And now all this time has passed; all this other stuff has happened. I didn't believe him or anything I saw." She sighs. "So, all Ella needed was a pretty feather, but I needed—"

"You needed solid proof. That's okay. I did, too. And it's okay that Ella has faith. Lucifer knew you needed more proof. He just hasn't always known how to give it to you."

"Well, I have it now, don't I?" Chloe laughs harshly. "But what do I do with it? How do we fix all this? Lucifer's dad is God. What does that even mean? I mean, God's real?"

"So it seems."

"And," Chloe adds, looking to the popcorn ceiling, "he's a dick."

"Mm, well, consider your source for that."

Chloe's face turns hard. "These are my thoughts," she says, slapping a hand to her chest. "I didn't believe in God or Heaven or Hell because how could there be a creator who cared so little? And the Bible wants to call us his children?" She laughs in disbelief. "Like I'd ever treat Trixie this way." Her tears are fueled by anger when she lashes out, "Lucifer's father lets horrible things happen to good people, and good things happen to horrible people."

Hundreds of bodies flash before her mind's eye. Battered women. Broken children. Men shot and stabbed and burned to a crisp. Eyes plucked from heads, limbs sawn off. David's gut skewered by a knife, Eddie's face chewed down to his skull. Her father in a casket, cold and pale.

"It's unfair," Linda agrees.

"You're damn right it's unfair."

She sees Lucifer cradling Father Frank's dead body, rocking back and forth. Sees him standing among would-be worshipers, shouting, Someone killed this girl! She didn't deserve that. That is not what I stand for!

What does God stand for—anything?

They're quiet for a moment, and Chloe scrubs at her face under Linda's watchful gaze.

"I don't know what to tell you about God," Linda admits. "I hope he's misunderstood, like Lucifer." She smiles faintly. "And what about Lucifer, Chloe? How are you taking—"

"That my...my best friend's the Devil? That I'm the world's worst detective?" Chloe laughs. "Oh," she gasps, suddenly feeling breathless and dizzy.

Linda rushes to her side. Wrapping an arm around Chloe's shoulders, she guides her to the couch. "Come on. Let's just sit for a minute." They sit together, Linda breathing more deeply and loudly than necessary to help Chloe find her way back to calmness.

It helps. A little.

When Chloe's breathing is even again, Linda says, "You're not a bad detective. I was his personal therapist, and I never in a million years could have guessed he was telling the truth. Not until he showed me." She pats Chloe's shoulder. "Tell me, though, how have things really been between you two? Lucifer says you're still working together."

Chloe bends at the middle, elbows going to knees, face going into her palms. "They've been good," she mumbles.

"You don't sound too certain," Linda observes. "Or happy."

"I don't know. It's just... What am I thinking?" Chloe counters, looking up. "He's the Devil."

"Do you not want to be friends with him anymore?"

"He will always be my friend," she says firmly, knowing it's true. "But..."

"What is it?"

Chloe hesitates. There have been times she's hinted at the truth, but that was before. "I think," she starts, her voice small and shy, "I think I want...more. Still."

She's crazy. She has to be.

"More," Linda repeats. "As in, a relationship?"

"It's stupid, right? It's totally stupid. How is it even supposed to work?" There are some basic rules in the universe. You brush your teeth to avoid cavities, you don't turn tigers into pets, and you don't date the Devil. "He stands me up on dates," she sighs, hating how lovesick she sounds. "And women show up to his apartment to do things with him that not even pornographers have names for. He runs off and gets married. He's...he's just so..."

"Lucifer? Yeah, he makes some pretty interesting choices sometimes," Linda interrupts, proving she missed her calling as a U.S. ambassador. She pours two glasses of water before rising with one and moving to the chair across from the couch. "But I don't think Lucifer's the same man he was when you first met him, or even last year, or last week. Do you?"

He's not a man, Chloe almost says, and feels awful for dehumanizing him, even in her own mind. He is a man. In a way. He's just a little more, too.

A lot more, darling, she imagines him correcting her, and nearly rolls her eyes.

"No, he's changed," she agrees aloud, her shoulders drooping. She stares at the floor for several long moments. "Even if it could work out between us," she starts, feeling that small swoop in her stomach at the mere thought of it, "he's not exactly stepdad material, right?" And he's immortal. She can't even bring herself to talk about that part of it. "And I'm definitely not going to see a white picket fence."

Linda snorts loudly, then looks horrified when she realizes her professionalism has slipped. "Sorry." She tilts her head. "But, seriously, is that what you want from Lucifer?"

"You mean," Chloe says, slipping into her awful British accent, "Is it what I truly desire?" Now, she really does roll her eyes.

"It's not the worst question."

Sinking back into the couch cushions, Chloe groans. "Probably not. No."

"Trixie already has a dad," Linda says, her voice gentle. "Lucifer won't and can't replace Dan."

"I know. You're right."

"And I think if you wanted a picket fence... Well, something tells me you'd have one by now."

It's true. Chloe knows it is, because, honestly? She could have had that with Dan—Dan, who thinks he loves strong women, but really just wants to see them melt in his arms. She wasn't docile enough to fill that position, and though she'll never, ever say it, she knows Charlotte Richards wouldn't have been, either. Dan's the one who wants the picket fence.

Ten years ago, when they saw Trixie's sweet, squished face for the first time in a 3D ultrasound, he begged Chloe to leave the force, to become a stay-at-home mom "just for a little while" or to embrace the desk job the precinct assigned her to during her pregnancy. To him, it seemed only natural. After all, he loved his work as a detective, and she, of course, being a woman, would love being a mom.

She'll never forget winning that argument, weeks after it first began. How she stood on her toes and got in his face, as close as she was able with a belly rounded by seven months of pregnancy. How she hissed like a mad woman, "I will not be the barefoot and pregnant wife who stands behind her man." And then how she packed a bag and slept three nights in the nicest hotel she could afford, crying and ordering room service, and getting fatter, all while feeling like a weight had been lifted from her.

Because, as much as she loves Trixie, as much as she wanted to be a good wife, as much as she doesn't begrudge any woman who chooses a life vastly different from her own, there are mysteries to solve, adventures to go on, people who need a detective in their corner. She wants it all. She is Trixie's mom, and she loves being so with every fiber of her being, more than she could have ever imagined, but she's her own person, too.

Sometimes she feels guilty about that. About the broken home she feels it's created, all the babysitters and late nights away. About the scars that paint her body, that seem to grow in number with each passing year. Even if the Devil was evil—and she's sure he's not—how much more drama could he possibly bring into Trixie Espinoza's crazy little life? At least he shoos away her bullies and bakes her cake.

And still Chloe never considers changing professions. Can't bring herself to. And isn't that just like Penelope Decker? Ugh.

"I feel like I should want it," Chloe says, thinking of the idyllic fence. In her mind, it looks an awful lot like it contains a prison yard, rather than some suburban paradise.

Linda lets out a thoughtful breath. "Is that what you hoped Marcus could give you?"

Chloe looks down at her hands, to the edge of her left thumb, which she's taken to chewing on in the last month. The skin is red and peeling and catches on fabric. Really goes well with her disheveled chic and the bags she's been carrying under her eyes.

"I thought I could have it all with him," she says. "Everything I should want, and someone who believed in my work."

Dan never did, not while they were together, anyway. But Marcus had called her his best detective by day and made promises by night. In hindsight, she sees how empty that compliment and those promises were, how he played her masterfully.

"I'm really sorry he hurt you, Chloe."

"I just hate that I slept with him," she says, and feels the urge to take another boiling hot shower.

Linda nods. "If it makes you feel any better," she chuckles, "I have a list of men I regret sleeping with, too."

Not Lucifer, I bet, Chloe thinks, and loathes the jealousy that burns in her gut.

"But is that really all there is?" Linda continues. "You almost married him. The betrayal has to hurt."

"I guess." Unable to look her friend in the eye, Chloe takes to staring at a potted plant situated atop a set of filing drawers. "I feel like something's wrong with me," she confesses. Linda is silent while she gathers her thoughts. "Everyone eventually leaves me or turns on me."

"What makes you think that?"

"My dad died," she starts, ticking him off her pinky finger. "I mean, he was murdered. It's not like it was his fault, but—"

"You needed him."

"Yeah." Especially after Hot Tub High School, when, overnight, guys stopped seeing her as Chloe Decker and instead knew her as that chick who took her top off in that movie. Worse, the more objectified she felt, the more her mother called the role her "big break."

"My mom... She does her best, I guess, but she was always gone or wrapped up in some new role. Dan was so sure he handled things right in the Palmetto case that he manipulated me until I thought I was crazy. Everyone turned on me at the LAPD, and they've never really liked me since. They hate me even more since Pierce. Maze knew the truth about him, about Cain, and tried to push me toward him. And Marcus—"

"He seemed safe."

She laughs humorlessly. "I sure read that one wrong, huh?" She licks her lips and swears she tastes bourbon and chocolate and something wild and free and fun. Her heart aches. "More than anything, I think Marcus was there when I wanted to stop wanting things I shouldn't," she admits.

"Like Lucifer?"

Nodding, she shrugs a shoulder. She chews on the corner of her thumb until she notices she's doing it and sits on her hand. "I thought... I thought, 'Here's a man who has it all together. Good job, willing to at least try to work on his personal issues, seems to like me and my work and Trixie.'"

"Compared to Lucifer, who stands you up and runs off and gets married," Linda summarizes, repeating Chloe's words back to her.

It hurts to hear someone else say it. To be reminded of how much trusting others has cost her. Once, she told Lucifer that she felt comfortable being vulnerable with him, that maybe that was okay. But many times it hasn't been. Not at all.

"I want to know him," she tells Linda. "And I know he needs me to make the first move because of all that's happened to him. I know he's letting me call the shots. But I don't know how. I don't—"

"You don't want to be hurt again."

Chloe nods, hunching her shoulders and leaning into the arm of the couch, as if she might curl around the knots in her stomach.

"Chloe, can I speak to you more as your friend?"

"Please."

Pursing her lips, Linda seems to struggle with something within herself. "What I'm about to say is highly unethical, but I don't know what else to do. And, who am I kidding? It's not like my relationship with Lucifer started out professionally. It didn't.

"That was wrong of me. I've tried to make up for it, but there are some things I can't make right. It's gotten harder over time, too, as Maze and Amenadiel and Charlotte, and now you, have needed me. You've all been my friends, and I'm caught wanting what's best for each of you. In more normal circumstances, I would never, ever provide therapy for a friend, much less all of my closest friends at the same time."

"I'm sorry," Chloe says.

"No. No, you don't have to apologize. It's just the situation we're in." Linda shakes her head. "But because of our situation, I can't be impartial, and I make mistakes. Lots of them. In particular, there are things I shouldn't say, but do, including this: Chloe, if you truly want Lucifer, I don't think he will reject you or betray you. But he won't be perfect. Far from it. He, well, he is the Devil. You can be sure he'll make boneheaded mistakes. A relationship with him would take lots of work and would never be conventional. But things are different, now that you know the truth. I think he'd be willing to put in the work, if you asked him. And that's all I'm going to say about that."


***


Hours later, Chloe retreats to the beach after taking a page from Ella's book and hugging Linda tight. She walks barefoot through sea foam, her sandals dangling from her fingers. She feels...tired, but calm. Maybe there's something to therapy, after all.

Briefly, she wonders if everything that's happened, even this feeling, is by design, if Lucifer is right, and they have no control over anything. Maybe, grotesquely, her affection for the Devil is her "destiny."

But there's no way of knowing if God is a demented puppet master, so she sets the concern aside. It's enough to feel she's spilled her heart out to a friend and come out the other side of it, at peace. Feeling strong enough to take a risk on what her heart desires.

Her heart has always known.

Ocean waves peak and crash, immense and infinite, and she thinks about how much Lucifer has been through and seen, how much he must know. How often has he come to Earth? How does he leave Hell? What's his favorite dessert? Somehow, there are as many little things she doesn't know as there are big things.

So many questions. She's decided to start asking them tonight. No more avoiding each other. No more pretending the truth isn't exactly as it is.

When she's had enough of the sun and sand, she returns home, takes a nap, and rises to agonize over her closet. She's never been a partier, even back in her acting days, more because she didn't know how to be than because she didn't want to be. Motherhood, and then her promotion to detective, have made her even less inclined to cut loose. She does have a few dresses, most of which Lucifer has seen over time, but they all feel wrong for what she's about to do.

In the end, she can't be anyone but who she knows best to be, so she dons black jeans, a baby blue button-down, and her block-heeled boots. She pulls free the top three buttons of her shirt to display the bullet at her throat.


***


The temperature inside Lux rivals the temperature outside. It's only nine-thirty, but the club is filled to bursting with scantily-clad bodies and a bluesy bass beat that's bone-rattling enough to register on a seismograph. Strangers grind on the dance floor, their inhibitions lost either to alcohol or the far more illicit substances Chloe pretends aren't sold by the bartender.

The thought gives her pause. Is she that much better than Morrison? Worse, here she is, about to lay her heart bare to the man who's no doubt taking a cut, not to mention occasionally imbibing himself.

Well, he is the Devil, she reminds herself.

Descending the staircase into the heart of the club, she spots Lucifer almost immediately, where he weaves through the crowd. People tilt and turn toward him like schools of fish swept by a strong current. An expert host, he stops where he knows he's wanted, a smile here, a touch of the shoulder there, a casual comment. He doesn't linger, but everyone who desires to be seen feels seen. The world is fortunate Lucifer Morningstar wants to own a den of sin, rather than be an autocrat.

He looks up suddenly, and their eyes meet. The smile that lights up his face softens his features.

"You survived Linda!" he shouts over the music when they're face to face near the bar.

"So did you!"

"Yes, well, she's been probing me for quite some time, and not always how I like! I've learned to grin and bear it!"

Chloe's head falls back as she laughs, and Lucifer grins cheekily, standing a little closer. Leaning over the bar, he snaps his fingers at a bartender, and then points toward the floor several times. The bartender scurries off, and seconds later, the music drops to a level that is far less likely to damage hearing.

"Now, that's better, isn't it?" Lucifer says, pouring two glasses of whisky. "So, to what do I owe the pleasure, Detective? It's not like you to visit my humble abode on a Saturday night."

It's not is it? Not like her to visit on her days off at all. She regrets that, realizes she's lost time without meaning to. Her fingers curl around her glass, but she's careful not to drink. She's a woman on a mission. She needs a clear head. But getting the words out...

"I wanted to see you," she says, going for honesty.

He looks at her sidelong, intrigued. Turning, he leans against the edge of the bar. "Well, here I am, darling. You can look all you like. Or more."

Yes, here he is. Exactly as he wants to be seen: the beautiful, rich playboy, suited to the nines, hair perfectly coiffed, eyeliner black as night. He's disguised as an object of desires.

Her heart thumps hard in her chest as she asks, "Can we go upstairs?"

Lucifer's brows shoot up high on his forehead. She hasn't been in the penthouse since the day after she cleaned his wings. For some reason, as time with the truth has passed, it's felt acceptable having him invade her space and home, but his? Not so much. His has secrets. He may hide them in plain sight, but they're secrets, just the same, because no one ever asks him about them. But Chloe might.

"Very well," he says after a moment, and downs the rest of his drink in three swallows. He slams the glass on the bar and takes her hand.

Revelers openly leer at him when they pass, but Lucifer pays them no mind as they wind their way up the staircase and into the elevator.

It's the longest elevator ride of Chloe's life, maybe even longer than when she gave Henry the slip to come see Lucifer two weeks ago. Now, Lucifer stands beside her, his posture rigid, his hand gripping hers tightly. She thinks about that, how he could crush her bones if he wanted.

When they arrive on the top level and the doors slide open with a cheery ding, Lucifer stays rooted to the elevator floor, his expression troubled. He knows she hasn't come for sex.

Chloe squeezes his hand and pulls him to the leather sofa. Whether some poor cleaner was assigned the grizzly task or Lucifer bought an entirely new and identical sectional, there are no signs he ever bled here. She sits, her hand slipping from his in the process.

"Can I get you a drink?" Lucifer asks, suddenly reanimating.

"Lucifer, sit."

"Right." He sits at once and white-knuckles his knees.

"Would you calm down?" Chloe complains. "This is hard enough without you making me nervous."

"Sorry." He glances back at the bar. "If you'd just let me have a drink—"

"I want us sober."

"I assure you, my metabolism—"

"I don't care. No drinking."

His mouth snaps closed in a petulant scowl.

Chloe shrugs off the purse she brought and digs inside. Her hand resurfaces with the rolled sheet protector she placed Trixie's drawing in. She holds it out to Lucifer. "Trixie wanted to thank you for the cake."

Lucifer takes hold of the drawing with great care, as though it might disintegrate in his hands. "I wish I'd thought of the pentagram," he says, a fingertip brushing across the cake. "Beatrice shows great potential. You have every right to be proud."

"Admit it. She's grown on you."

"She is highly tolerable."

"So are you," Chloe says, bumping his arm with her shoulder. She smiles down at Trixie's drawing. "This is how I see you, you know." Lucifer remains silent, his brows furrowing. "You're funny and sweet. And you're good."

He scoffs. "I'm not."

She takes the drawing back and places it on the coffee table. Grabbing his hands, she argues, "You are. I wouldn't want you if you weren't."

For a moment, he's unnaturally still.

"You..." His dark eyes search her face. "You want...me."

She nods, her cheeks warm. "And," she laughs, "just so we're clear, it's you I want, not just"—she allows herself to look him over brazenly—"not just all of that. Not that I'm complaining. At all. I just, I want it all, okay? I don't know how we make it work. I don't know anything. But I wanna try if you're willing."

There. A leap of faith. She might throw up.

"Detective, you can't possibly..." Lucifer shakes his head.

"Why not?" she challenges gently.

"You've seen why."

"What I've seen is you have a lot of pain."

"Do you ever consider I might deserve it?" he asks, pulling free from her touch.

"I know you believe that, but it can't be true."

"No," Lucifer says. "No, on this one point, Cain was right. I can't outrun what I've done. What I am. I can't simply believe it away—or if I can, I shouldn't. I'm the Devil. Simple as that."

"But you're not evil," she insists. "You punish evil. That's what you've always told me."

"At some point, it's all the bloody same!" he shouts, jumping to his feet. She stands with him, and he stumbles back, as if intimidated. "You can't fathom what I've seen," he says, "what I've done. But that face—my face—is all the evidence you could ever need, Detective."

"So, help me understand," she pleads, her fingers closing around his forearm. "Tell me about—about Hell."

"Don't ask that of me," he whispers. Tears well in his eyes. "Please."

He said "please" to her once before in this room, shortly after they started working together, when her fingers graced the ragged scars left by his wings. Sometimes she wonders what might have happened if she had pressed him that night, if she had said to Hell with Carver Cruz and instead tried to unravel the mystery that is Lucifer. Probably nothing would have happened—or at least nothing good. They were different people then.

They're different people now, too, which is why she doesn't let the subject drop this time. "What are you afraid will happen if you tell me?"

Lucifer tilts his head, his breathing ragged. "Well, I'll lose you, won't I," he says. Not a question. A statement, a certainty.

"No," she says, shaking her head and stepping closer. "No, you won't."

"You can't know that."

"Have faith in me."

Lucifer breathes out a disbelieving laugh. "You're asking the Devil to have faith?"

"Try."

"Fine." He pulls away, putting distance between them. She watches as he expression hardens and his tears dissolve, and she thinks...this is what he's had to be, to survive. Unfeeling. He relocates to one of the leather chairs, where he sits and crosses his legs. And there he is, that creature she's only seen a few times before: the Lord of Hell.

"What shall I tell you about first, hmm?" he asks, drawing his cigarette case from his suit jacket. "The genocidal despots, the cannibals, Jack the Ripper? Pick your poison, Detective. I've drunk them all."

Chloe sits at the edge of the sofa's chaise piece. He's trying to scare her, but in his own fear he's forgotten all the horrible things she's seen. "Start at the beginning," she says.

"Bloody hell," he swears, "I need a drink."

"Fine," Chloe sighs, rising to go to the bar.

"Don't bother," Lucifer says, when her hand closes around a glass. Shaking her head, she carries over the bottle. "Cheers," he jests, his hand shaking as he brings it to his lips.

Chloe sits again and looks at him expectantly.

"Dad didn't tell me what to do when he threw me into Hell," Lucifer starts, taking a drag from his cigarette before gulping more whisky. "That's a common theme, by the by. Dad says bugger all, but woe unto you if you cross the omnipotent bastard."

"So he's abusive," Chloe says. Just what you want to learn about God.

"Well, he's certainly hasn't won Father of the Year yet." He blows out a smoke ring and cuts through it with a finger. "For context of my brilliant fall... You can think of Heaven as a kind of"—he waves his cigarette in thought—"celestial city and suburbia, if you like. Clean to a fault, lots of petty cliques, as boring as an HOA meeting. Hell is—well, more than Heaven's polar opposite."

"Did God create Hell?"

"Darling, my father created everything," he chuckles, "or was at least the catalyst. The initial lot of star stuff, including my siblings and me, Mum was involved in all that. But the rest of it? Dad's doing. Couldn't stop creating, if he wanted to."

"But why would he—"

"Well, he needed a place to store the rejects, didn't he?" he laughs.

"The rejects?"

"Your Bible leaves that one out, doesn't it? The whole universe simply must revolve around humankind." Lucifer smiles wryly. "Do you honestly believe humans are his first creation, his only one? Far from it." Chloe swallows back her discomfort. "There have been other creations. Other creatures. Some, he made too powerful, too headstrong. They tried to turn against him or nearly killed each other off. So, he cobbled together Hell in a pinch and chucked the lot of them there. You might say it's a dirty, stinking rubbish heap filled with misfits playing at war and torture."

"There's fighting?"

"Depends on who's ruling—if anyone is. There were no wars during my reign," he says with some pride. "But there's never any peace, regardless. Peace is more than an end to bloodshed."

Lighting a second cigarette off the remnants of the first, Lucifer launches into the basics of Hell's landscape and the simulated rooms of torture he calls Hell loops. Chloe struggles to keep up and take him seriously, even knowing who is and that he isn't lying. He might as well be recounting details about Hogsmeade or, maybe a little more accurately, Mordor.

"So, God felt you...disobeyed him, and he cast you out, into Hell."

"That's the gist of it."

"And then what happened?"

"Well, let's see... He shot me into the sunless space above Hell, for starters. Important detail. Normally wouldn't have been an issue, what with the wings and the way our bodies work, but, you see, he crippled me on my way out the heavenly gates. Made it so I could only slip between Hell and Earth and couldn't fly above planetary atmospheres. So, being far above Hell as I was, I burnt my winged arse to a bloody crisp on the way down; took a nosedive straight into the ash."

Like Icarus, Chloe thinks.

"I'm sure Dad thought something in Hell would finish me off. He nearly wasn't wrong. Before my wings healed, I got myself into a right mess. Landed in the backyard of some barking mad bird who likes to eat hearts and collect bones. She fancied having a pair of wings for her mantel.

"By the time, I got free of her, there was a whole host of creatures waiting to have a spot of fun with me. For a time, they had the upper hand, simply due to the sheer number of them that came running when they sensed something angelic. Slavery, by the way? I rate that negative one thousand out of ten, and they couldn't even hold me that long."

"Lucifer," Chloe gasps, her eyes filling with tears.

"Save your pity, Detective." He drinks. "I get my revenge, rest assured. We're just getting to the best bits."

But Chloe can't take it. Leaning forward, she rests a hand on one of his knobby knees. "You survived Hell, Lucifer. I don't care what your father thinks you did, it couldn't have been so bad that you deserved all that misery."

"Yes, well, worrying about who deserves punishment is my jam, Detective, not his." He snorts. "But of course I survived. I'm immortal. And you can go ahead and disabuse yourself of my innocence. I was no benevolent leader. I made Hell as much as Dad did, really. What he began, I perfected." He leans forward, until only a small space separates their faces.

His breath smells of smoke and whisky when he says, "He wanted me to be a punisher all along, so a punisher I became. First, I fought my way to the top—didn't take long, once my wings mended. Helped that I had no qualms destroying whatever got in my way. And then when the first human souls began arriving, well, I made sure to spice things up a bit, didn't I? As I said before, the Hell loops are automated—and where's the fun in that? Quite a clever torture device. But there's something to be said for taking pride in your work and doing things by hand, the old-fashioned way."

"You tortured souls." He's always said as much. Jokes, she once believed.

"I did," Lucifer confirms with a nod of his chin. "And I loved it. At first." He pulls on his cigarette, the ember burning bright in the dimly lit penthouse. And Chloe watches as his eyes, and then his skin, burn brighter, too.

He doesn't realize what's happened.

Don't be afraid, she commands herself, schooling her face. It's Lucifer.

But inside, she trembles for a little while.

"I walked into loops and terrorized the guilty," he says, his crimson lips smirking. "There were so many evil people to choose from—no end to the brokenness of humanity. I let demons have their way with the rapists of Nanjing. I drowned kiddie-fiddling priests in their precious holy water. I flew little, power-hungry lordlings high into the sky and dropped them, and caught them, and dropped them, until I didn't catch them and they plummeted. And they healed. And I did it again."

He tilts his head, looking alien. "Do you know how many bones you can break before a man tends to pass out? I do. Do you know what a spine feels like in your hands? I do because I've pulled a few out. I've bathed in a river of blood—no metaphor there, either, Detective. Every horrible, grotesque thing you can imagine, I've seen it, I've done it, or I've commanded another to do it in my stead."

Chloe swallows hard. "Like Maze."

"Oh, yes. Mazikeen is very creative. Gets right to the heart of your fears and insecurities and uses them against you. When I got tired of doing things myself, I let her take over the show." He smiles coldly. "You're free to leave whenever you want, Detective."

"I'm not leaving."

"Then you're as mad as I am."

Chloe forces herself to look into his red eyes. "Something must have changed over time. All of that... That's not who you are anymore." She points to Trixie's drawing. "That's who you are."

"You think I'm reformed," he scoffs.

"You know you're different," she argues. Treading carefully around the minefields of his past, she adds, "I believe you've been hurt and have done things you regret. But, Lucifer, soldiers do horrible things in war, and prisoners do horrible things to each other when the system isn't managed well."

"Who do you think managed the system?" Lucifer chuckles in anguish. "I was the warden," he stresses, hitting his chest. "You can't forgive me anymore than you can forgive Perry Smith for murdering your father."

Chloe goes very still as the words settle upon her. What if he's right? What if she can only forgive the Devil, if she first forgives the sins of one she hates? Whether she should be or not, she isn't that big of a person. She knows she isn't. If Perry Smith is rotting in Hell, she isn't sure he deserves an eternity of torture, but she certainly doesn't mind that he's suffering for now.

Plagued by the quandary, she yanks the liquor bottle from Lucifer's grasp and tips it back. To Hell with sobriety. The whisky sets her throat on fire. Lowering the bottle, she coughs and stares at Lucifer, at his resigned posture and the bitter set of his jaw. He won't meet her eyes. Even in this raw, scarred form that's driven men insane, it is far easier to see he has been abused than it is to imagine him ever being an abuser.

But he doesn't lie. He was a torturer.

Where is the justice in what's happened?

Slowly, she realizes the difference between Perry Smith and the Devil is that Perry Smith lived in a time and place filled with goodness and softness, luxuries and laughter. A world that had love. What has Lucifer known, other than that the home of his birth, his father, his siblings, have wanted nothing to do with him? Even Amenadiel, she remembers, has assaulted him, manipulated him, has been called the favorite. What has Lucifer learned, other than goodness and softness lead to destruction?

But he is good, deep down. She knows it.

Chloe sets the nearly-empty bottle on the floor and stands. Lucifer looks up, and the light catches the dampness on his red face. She didn't realize he was crying. He expects her to walk away, but she moves closer, her heart hammering beneath her breast. Sitting carefully on his lap, she pulls the latest cigarette from his fingers and shoves its glowing head into the ashtray on the side table.

"Detective?"

She takes his face in her hands, her thumbs caressing uneven, leathery skin. "You're nothing like Warden Smith. Or Cain. They didn't care what happened to people, whether those people were good or evil. It didn't matter. They didn't care about anything but themselves. Maybe you did monstrous things in Hell, but that's not like you at all, not here, where you have the chance to be who you want to be. You choose goodness and kindness all the time, Lucifer."

Gently, she takes his hand and uncurls his long fingers, opening his palm. He jerks in surprise when he sees his crimson flesh. "Forgive me," he says, trying to pull away.

"It's okay," she says, holding tight. "You don't scare me, remember?"

"But—"

Leaning forward, she presses her cheek to his, feeling the wetness of their tear-stained faces. "Whatever you've done, whatever you think that makes you, it's over, Lucifer." His past, her past. It's over.

He shakes his head and despairs, "Dad's toying with us. With me. This can't be real."

"No," she hushes. "I choose you."

"How can you be sure?"

She can't be, she supposes, but neither of them needs that uncertainty looming over them.

"I just am," she says.

Pulling away slightly, she catches his mouth with hers. He sucks in a shocked, pained breath. His lips are rough and taste like liquor, salt, and smoke; and he's warm, too warm, magnificently warm. All of this is a part of him, and she accepts it wholly, as he has accepted her.

It's as though a dam bursts when he begins to kiss her back, softly at first, then hungrily, his scarred hands buried in her hair, tugging on strands. And she feels, rather than sees, when his beauty returns, how softness melts into his body as he draws her closer.

When he pulls away, his smile is cautious, but hopeful. Endearingly boyish. "I'll find a way to be worthy of you," he promises.

"You already are," she tells him.

Chapter Text

The Silver City never sleeps. Day or night, there is always some project, some creation, blooming to life. A new tower of marble, ivory, or glass is erected in mere weeks by tireless cherubim who delight in advancing God's wonders. Seeds are planted, and new growth sprouts from rich soil within days. In the hanging gardens, sweet-scented flowers blossom in perpetuity, and fruits—ever abundant, ever perfectly ripe—wait to be picked from the trees that dot the city and flourish in the lush outer countryside.

Clean, crisp rivers wind through the metropolis. Elsewhere, fountains surge high, the water fanning, twirling, jetting; a cool mist kisses the air around them. No trash litters the streets, no homeless souls wander the alleys in search of comfort. Everyone here has a home and food. Entertainment is...less varied, but a far cry from illiberal.

In a word, Paradise. So, why does it feel wrong?

Amenadiel walks Heaven's gleaming, white marble pathways, warm lantern light reflecting off his bald head, which is bent in deep thought. After so many months in soft cotton henleys, hoodies, and jeans, the coarse material of his heavenly vestment chafes his skin. Everything is chafing.

"Feeling down, brother?" a voice queries from above.

Amenadiel glances to his left as one of his many younger siblings lands on leather sandals. "Barachiel."

The angel flashes a mischievous smile and falls into lockstep beside him. "I heard you'd returned," Barachiel says. His cream-colored wings fold neatly at his back, contrasting against his bright auburn curls. "Had to see it myself to believe it. You were gone quite a long time, Meni! There were rumors you wouldn't be coming back at all, that you were...less yourself."

To fall from grace: the angelic equivalent of can't get it up. The trite punchline in countless celestial jokes.

"Hate to break it to you, but I'm the same as always."

A blatant lie, and distantly, he can hear Lucifer's barking laugh. Amenadiel's world hasn't been the same since he realized Father gifted his children—all his children—with self-determination. No different from humans. It's a truth he wishes to shout from the Silver City's highest tower—and a truth he wishes to hoard, too. For, what does it truly mean? And when did this happen? When did Father relieve them of their divinely scripted purposes?

"Do you really have them now?" Barachiel taunts, reaching over to poke between his shoulder blades. "Surely you're not walking by choice."

"Like humans, you mean," Amenadiel says, jerking his shoulder away.

"Like Father's smelly little pets, yes."

Amenadiel remains silent. Is that how he spoke of God's earthly children? Silence is the best approach to Barachiel, at any rate. As the family gossipmonger—"confessor," Barachiel would claim—anything said to him might as well be said to everyone.

"Where are you headed?" Barachiel asks. "Want me to tag along?"

"No."

"Hmm, well, I guess I wouldn't like to keep going in this direction, anyway."

Amenadiel stops and turns to his brother with a scowl. "Then leave me."

"Keep your priorities straight, brother," Barachiel warns, his green eyes narrowed in accusation and morbid delight. "Don't be tempted like Samael." He grins. "Oh, and how is old Sammy, by the way? Still lying with demonic pigs and coming up smelling of brimstone?"

"He goes by Lucifer now."

"Who cares what he goes by?"

"I do," Amenadiel says, unable to mask his anger as he forges ahead.

Barachiel laughs behind him. A soft snap sounds as his wings unfold and he takes flight. "Your time among mortals changed you, brother!"


***


Turn a corner, and there's the ghetto. The moniker, an old angelic snub that stuck, sits uneasily with Amenadiel. The human district of the Silver City is no less a paradise, though it is certainly segregated like a ghetto—one with a mostly-respected no-fly zone and skyscrapers reminiscent of those found on Earth.

Humans brush past him on the street, talking amongst themselves in the temperate night. They all appear whole and hale, as they did on Earth during their prime, whatever age that may have been. Moreover, the infirm walk, the deaf hear, the blind see; prostheses were left at the proverbial Pearly Gates. The humans' many tongues—English, Chinese, Hindi, and all the dead languages, too—are gone, as well. Or, not gone, but translated by the very air they breathe, so that an Olmec might speak to a Swede.

With his wings tucked away, Amenadiel can pass for human, even in their neighborhood. After all, angels don't come here. But Amenadiel does. Now, at least. He never visited in the many millennia that came before.

He makes his way to Building 591, where he steps into a glass elevator. The view beyond the elevator, and then beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass in the forty-second floor's hallway, is spectacular, one deep blanket of blue-black night, brilliant stars, and glowing lantern light. But it's not exactly real. There's a visual trick these buildings employ to thwart division among the human masses. No two views are exactly alike, but every view is beautiful, be it at ground level or the uppermost floors. This is despite the district's compact urban planning. Somehow, no one ever faces the dismal wall of an adjacent building.

Tired of your view? You're free to move, of course. Want to holiday to a mansion in the countryside? Speak to your local cherubim.

Paradise. Why does it feel wrong?

Amenadiel knocks on a pale gray door. When it opens, a more youthful version of Charlotte Richards beams at him, relieved, and waves him inside. After months spent seated at the bar in Lux, he accepts the glass of wine she hands him more out of habit than interest. Alcohol isn't common in the rest of the Silver City, where absolute control over one's faculties is valued to a militaristic degree. A throwback to Heaven's civil wars, in the days before God's creations were numerous enough to keep all his children too busy to incite conflict.

"Sorry I couldn't visit sooner." She shrugs him off. "How are you settling in?" he asks, falling into one of the soft, white chairs in her apartment.

Charlotte's eyes dart left and right as she thinks. "I feel like I...cheated. Maybe. Just a little." She holds her thumb and index finger close together.

"You deserve to be here. You sacrificed yourself for me. That is the most selfless act a human can commit."

"Yeah, but I still felt guilty when you brought me here. You had to argue for my right to stay." She takes several long swallows of wine and shudders. "It's like I still have one foot in Hell. What was it your brother said? I reek of the underworld? That's a new one."

"Don't mind Michael. He isn't known for his tact," Amenadiel says. "He's a sword and not much else. The stench isn't that strong on you anymore—only an angel would notice—and you're here now. To stay. That's all that matters."

"Right," she sighs unsteadily. "I guess I should go to the—what did you call it?—Hall of Records, to find my relatives." She frowns. "Some of them, anyway. Probably a lot of them are in Hell, actually." More drinking.

Amenadiel has never been to Hell and never given it much thought until Charlotte returned earthside. Oh, he's flown to the gates at the portal and given the spiritual lock a good rattle, he's shoved Lucifer back into place over and over, but he's never passed to the other side himself. He always believed his brother was exaggerating about the awfulness of Hell. It wasn't like Luci didn't exaggerate about a lot of things, even if he wasn't exactly prone to outright falsehood. Hell couldn't be that bad because, if it were, that might bring into question God's infinite wisdom, a truly unthinkable heresy.

Self-determination seems a gift of great importance, but is there really no plan, much less a good one, to go alongside it? What about Chloe? Why did Father have him set her birth in motion if he didn't have a plan?

"Are you okay?"

Amenadiel blinks up from his wine glass. "Sorry. I came here to make sure you were all right, and I can't even hold a conversation."

"It's fine. It's just nice to see a familiar face."

Charlotte smiles gently, and Amenadiel struggles to imagine she was ever a mean-spirited lawyer. He feels sorry for Daniel, suddenly, knowing it will be a long time before he sees her again. Assuming Daniel has no significant regrets that will send him to Hell. The thought nags at him uncomfortably. Daniel is his friend. He's a good man. What if none of that matters in the end?

"It seems you're having just as hard a time adjusting as I am," Charlotte says.

"Everything here looks different now. I was with your kind for a long time."

Very little time, actually, in the grand scheme of immortal existence, but the time on Earth was...memorable. His lips twitch as he thinks of Linda's fiery brilliance. She made him into something better, something more whole.

What afterlife awaits her?

"You know," Charlotte starts, setting her empty glass aside, "I lived in France for a few years. Right in the heart of Paris. And when I went back home... It didn't even seem like the same place. It wasn't just that I no longer heard French when I walked down the street, or that I had to drive everywhere again. It was...the culture. Americans like it fast and hard," she chuckles, her brows raised suggestively. "The French take their time."

"But you stayed in L.A."

"I stayed in L.A.," she agrees with an elegant nod. "I liked fast and hard, in the end. But, well, look where it landed me. Anyway, experiences like that change you, but you adjust and get used to being home again."

"But should I?" he asks, and a chill runs down his spine to vocalize such uncertainty. Charlotte looks equally distressed as she glances around the room, as if she expects Michael to burst forth and cart her off to Hell.

"I— I'm sorry, but please don't talk like that."

He nods. "Of course. I shouldn't have—"

"Let's play a game. I bought—" She revises her statement. There is no money in Heaven. "I was granted a deck of cards."


***


Amenadiel stands in the Great Tower's round waiting room, bored to the point of irritation. Living alongside Lucifer for so long, he's come to expect debauchery or calamity—or, more often, some combination of the two—around every corner.

Expectations for entertainment aside, it is odd that he's the only one in the large, low-ceilinged hall. This room was built precisely because the lines to speak to Gabriel, Father's most trusted messenger and intercessor, were once formidably long. Fights used to break out between the siblings about who was next in line—an impossible thing to determine when flight makes three dimensions come into play. Airborne fighting tended to upset the inhabitants of the ghetto, which in turn upset Father. Thus, the construction of this waiting room and its purposely low ceilings.

Of course, Amenadiel hasn't been here for many years, either. There's no need. Gabriel sends daily memos by cherubim to all God's angelic children. There's even an empyrean newsletter of sorts, which no one reads. The truth is, he and his siblings, as highly-specialized, purpose-driven creatures, don't care about each other's works. Why worry about gifts of memory if your gift and purpose is planetary soils?

The one exception, of course, is any task having to do with Samael, and all those tasks have fallen on Amenadiel's shoulders for divine reasons unknown to him. Those are always the talk of the town. After such a long absence, the others have harassed him for stories. And, oh, the stories he could tell about their fallen brother—about their mother, too. But he says nothing. Mom fell from grace long ago, and if they care so much about Samael, they can go see him for themselves.

Only poor Uri seemed to take a real interest, believing, perhaps without any evidence, that God sent him to right a wrong. The rest don't care that much, of course. It's only that Samael makes for interesting gossip. The fallen brother, the traitor who would not fulfill his divine directive: Where is he now? The general consensus is that he should be in Hell.

What must be hours later, the door between the Great Tower and the waiting room opens. Gabriel walks through, his face soft and beatific as always. His pale blue wings shift with each step. Vitreous, brown eyes sweep across the hall and jerk to a stop on Amenadiel.

Gabriel blinks, swaying on his feet. "Amenadiel the Firstborn of Our Holy God the Father?"

"Uh, yeah." Amenadiel nods awkwardly. "Hello, Gabe."

"Why have you come calling?" Gabriel asks, and spins in place, a whirling dervish, his wings folded around his body.

The glory of God does strange things to those who behold it. As the sole angel who sees Father on the regular, Gabriel is forever drunk on the source of all divinity.

"I've come to petition Father."

"You've questions about your most recent missive?"

"No. I only—"

"Father is busy."

"Of course. But I—"

"No guests in the Tower of the Lord."

Amenadiel frowns. His chest puffs out proudly as he states, "I am Father's firstborn, his favorite son. I demand you let me see him."

"And I am Gabriel, the ears and tongue of the Most High. This is the Lord's message: There are to be no guests."

Gabriel makes to leave, his white robes flowing behind him. Amenadiel rushes forward, one hand outstretched. "Gabriel, wait! When was the last time Father saw one of us? How long has it been?"

His brother pauses at the connecting doorway. "Father sees me every day," he says, and shuts the door behind him.

Amenadiel stares, his questions haunting him.

Chapter Text

It's too hot, Chloe thinks, stretching beneath silken sheets. She blinks awake and stills, her breath catching in her throat.

Lucifer's wings have unfurled in the night. He rests on his side, one wing bent, tucked close to his back, the other folded over his shoulder and draped across the bed. It lies heavy on her body, like a weighted, electric blanket of pristine, pearlescent feathers. He sleeps, unaware of his own divinity, his lips parted as he breathes deeply.

Ever curious, Chloe gently untangles a hand from the sheets and reaches out to touch the arc of his wing. The luminous feathers call to her, so different from the fractured, gory mess she extracted bullets from. Her fingertips barely brush the soft, fanning vanes before Lucifer's eyes snap open. His hand darts out, fast as a cobra strike, and closes around her wrist. She lets out a small, surprised gasp.

"Detective." His grip loosens as recognition dawns. "Chloe."

"I'm sorry."

He scowls at the wing draped over them. "I've sprouted wings, and you're apologizing?"

"I should have asked. Just because I helped you before doesn't mean—"

"You—" he interrupts, then swallows, his thumb sweeping across her pulse point. "You can touch me anywhere you desire." Normally, he delivers such lines with a salacious smirk, but this is something deeper and stated as simple fact.

"Do you like being touched there, though?"

"I don't know."

She squints at him. "Someone has to have—"

"I told you I'm like a virgin," he jokes.

"Right," she snorts, letting him evade for now. "So, I can...?"

"Yes."

Cautiously, her eyes on his, she reaches up again. His fingers slide away from her wrist as she caresses the nearest slanted row of feathers. His wing twitches slightly, shifting across her body.

"Sorry," he murmurs.

"Was that bad?"

"It...tickles," he huffs.

"Oh." She increases her pressure, digging past vanes, barbules, and quills, to the warm flesh underneath. "Better?"

He hums his affirmative.

Having lived her life as an atheist, Chloe has rarely experienced that strange mixture of wonder and trepidation called awe, but she feels it now, for who is Lucifer, except one of God's first sons? And who is she to touch him? But then Lucifer lets out a long, pleased sigh, sounding only like a relaxed man, and the moment of doubt passes.

"I—" He sucks in a shuddering breath several moments later. "I'd like to put them away now."

Chloe nods and withdraws her hand. A look of concentration passes over Lucifer's face. The wing across her body pulls back suddenly, retreating to his shoulders and slipping out of sight in mere seconds.

"Wow." It's no less astonishing seeing them disappear than appear. "How does that work?"

"How much do you know about string theory?"

She squints skeptically. "How much do you know about string theory?"

"Not a bloody lot, but what I lack in technical knowledge, I make up for in God-given talent."

Chloe rolls her eyes, though she's not sure how much of what he said is a joke.

No longer hindered by his wings, Lucifer turns and rests on his back. He stares at the ceiling. Chloe folds her arm under the side of her head and looks at him.

"I like you in my bed," he comments, glancing at her.

"I like being here," she whispers.

"I thought there'd be more moaning."

She snorts. After their confessional evening, they stayed in the living room for a long time, silent and cuddled close. Mending. Though it was never addressed aloud, they both concluded she should stay. And so they stepped into his bedroom, and he handed her a dress shirt to sleep in, and that was that. They lay close in the night, their hands full of soft touches that held no fire.

Now, though, desire blazes to life in Chloe's veins. She shifts closer, her fingertips falling to Lucifer's chest. Sensing the shift in mood, he stares at her, unblinking, a hungriness about him that echoes in her body.

"We could, you know, change that," she says.

Then her phone rings.

"Oh my God," Chloe groans.

"Yes, it would be like Dad to interrupt our fun. Let it ring through."

"It could be about Trixie."

"It might not be."

"Just hand me the damn phone."

"Very well," he sighs.

Turning, he leans over to his bedside table, where they left her phone charging. He grabs it and looks at the screen. "Oh, I've been wanting to do this for ages," he laughs and swipes to answer the call.

"Lucifer, what are you—"

"Hello, Daniel."

Chloe makes a strangled noise and tries to snatch the phone away from him, but Lucifer holds her at bay with a long arm that's far stronger than it looks.

"Of course she's fine. She's here. In bed. With me. Oh, really? First time for everything, I suppose. I'll tell her that. Cheers." He ends the call and turns on his side to face her. He lets the phone drop to the sheets between them. "You're late for work, you truant."

"Wait, what? What time is it?"

"Ten," Lucifer laughs.

"Ten!" She scrambles out of the bed, kicking black sheets as she goes.

"Apparently this has never happened before," Lucifer marvels. "They were going to send in the cavalry. Dearie me, you really are boring, Jane."

"I am not, and don't call me by my middle n—" She stops and stares. The sheets have dragged down to his thighs, revealing his obvious arousal.

"Sure you don't want to stay?" he teases, folding his arms behind his head. The smug bastard.

She considers it, for far longer than she should, but then shakes her head clear and wriggles into her skinny jeans. Lucifer watches in amusement, unmoving. "Well, are you coming?" she snaps, and immediately regrets it.

"Alas, no," he sighs. "Stay in my bed, though, and we’ll see what happens."

She laughs, "This is about getting ready, isn't it? How long does it take you, anyway?"

"You can't rush perfection, Detective."

Rolling her eyes, she hesitates only for a moment before leaning across the bed and kissing him lightly. His seductive air slips as a small look of wonder relaxes the muscles of his face. She smiles and combs her fingers through the soft curls above his forehead. She's always loved touching him, always loved how he lets her pull him along—loves it now, especially, knowing it's always been his choice to follow. This kind of touch, though, is something new that's also natural and effortless.

“See you at work?” she asks.

"I’ll bring you coffee."


***


At the precinct, Dan pulls Chloe into an empty interrogation room mere seconds after she's put her things down at her desk.

"What the hell are you doing, Chloe?"

What the Hell, indeed. She holds back an inappropriate laugh, suddenly understanding why Lucifer relishes flaunting the truth. She could spout off any number of facts about Hell and the Devil right now and her ex-husband would become apoplectic over her unwillingness to take things seriously. It's a little tempting, honestly.

"Can we be adults about this?" she pleads instead. "Not that it's any of your business, but nothing even happened. I stayed the night at his place. That's it."

"Okay, can I remind you that you were just engaged to a criminal mastermind?" Dan says. "Pierce's body isn't even cold yet."

"It's not like I knew Marcus"—she almost says Cain—"was the Sinnerman."

"Yeah, because you got engaged two minutes after you met him." He throws his hands up in frustration. "I had to date you for two years, Chlo."

"I may have jumped the gun, but...I had my reasons. Why do you even care?"

"Because it affects Trixie!" he explodes.

She wilts. "I know that."

"Do you?" he scoffs. He sighs and rubs a hand over his face. "Look," he says, his tone gentler, "I don't know what it's been like, having to face what Pierce did—it's been hard enough facing what he did to Charlotte—but you haven't been yourself since you and Lucifer survived his trap."

Gee, wonder why?

"I know, I'm sorry."

"Have you thought about...talking to someone?" He grimaces. Like her, he's always been skeptical of counseling.

"I did. I'm okay now, really." With a shock, she realizes she's not just saying that. She does feel okay today. A little stressed by work and Morrison, worried about Trixie, but steady overall. For the first time in weeks, it feels like her head's on straight.

"Do you really want to be with a guy who knew who Pierce was, and didn't tell you?"

"He tried to tell me," she says.

"No. Oh, no. You're not going to rewrite what happened. You said Lucifer told you Pierce was immortal." He laughs, shaking his head. "I know you care about him—he's stupidly charismatic for an asshole—but he's kinda a nutjob, Chlo. Years of therapy don't seem to be helping."

She looks away, feeling hurt on Lucifer's behalf and ashamed of how many times she, too, believed he was crazy. As for him being an asshole...well, there may not be much that can be done about that. Arrogance likely comes with angel of God territory.

"He's grown a lot. And he's less crazy than you think."

Dan's hands go to his hips. "Don't tell me you're getting wrapped up in his bullshit stories." He grins and laughs, "He's the Devil, right?"

"It's not like that." They aren't stories, after all. "I just like him. I have for a long time."

"That's fine. Your business, so long as it doesn't affect Trixie. But what's the rush? It's not like you to be so impulsive."

As if he knows her. She almost laughs. It's moments like these that their divorce is least surprising.

The door swings open before she can reply. Ella looks between them. "Sorry to barge in, guys..."

"It's fine," Dan says. He points at Chloe. "Think about what I said." Shaking his head, he exits the room. Frowning, Ella watches him leave.

"What's up, Ella?" Chloe sighs.

"Oh! We just got word that Imler's car was found yesterday."

Chloe perks up. "Really? Where?"

"Just south of Fresno."

"Please tell me it's being towed here."

"It's not. But, hey, just think of all the, uh, fun adventures you'll have in Hayford."

"Hayford. Great." She's never heard of the place, probably for a reason. "I'm sure it'll be a blast."

Chloe moves to leave the interrogation room, but Ella stops her with a hand on her shoulder. "Hey, everything okay? Things looked pretty intense in here."

"Oh, Dan? Yeah, it's fine. He's just upset because—" She stops, uncertain if she should say more. Uncertain if she's ready to.

"You don't have to tell me if you don't want," Ella says. "Buuut, if you wanted to, I'm a really good listener. Sometimes I think I should have been a therapist, but, I don't know, I really like using microscopes."

"I think I'm dating Lucifer," Chloe blurts out.

"Whoa. Both did and did not see that coming."

"Yeah."

"Well, hey, if you're happy, I'm happy, Decker. And, you know, I really admire your optimism."

"Th-thanks?"

"Getting over Pierce, finding out God's real, going for what you really want, even though he's an immortal who's probably seen and done it all. Like, that'd totally intimidate me." Chloe nods along with her words, her eyes a little wide. "I mean, what's it gonna be like, when you're eighty and limping around with a cane, and he's still in his prime?" Ella shakes her head. "Oh, well, I'm sure God's got it all planned out."

Right. She feels a little less confident about the day now.

They exit the interrogation room, and Chloe feels that familiar, undulating shift in the bullpen. Seconds later, she sees Lucifer, weaving through all the unis and other personnel. He's dressed in his wine-colored three-piece, not a button or hair out of place. It's difficult to remember she saw his devil face only last night. It's...less difficult to remember him nearly naked in bed.

When he's beside her, he hands her a coffee cup and looks around, perplexed. "Gosh, it's busier than Grindr at a Republican convention." Chloe lets out a loud, undignified snort. "What's going on here?"

"The heatwave."

"Heatwave?"

She looks at him, more amused than disturbed. "Yeah, it's really hot outside, in case you didn't notice."

"And so...the cops...stay in...to avoid...heat stroke?" He shakes his head, confused.

"It means there's more crime. More homicides. All hands on deck."

"Ah. Well, you humans do get quite upset over a little heat. Does this mean we've a new case?"

"Nope, there's been a break in the Rosales case," Chloe says, grabbing her laptop bag from her desk. "Feel up for a road trip?"

"Ooh, where are you taking me?" he asks, his tone suggestive.

"To scenic Hayford," she says, starting for the exit.

He follows at her heels. "Is that as boring as it sounds?"

"It's near Fresno, so yeah."

"Right. We're taking the Corvette. If we can't enjoy the destination, let's at least enjoy the journey, shall we?"

She glances back at him, a mischievous glint in her eye. "Will you let me drive?"

"Really?" He stops in his tracks, and she stops and turns to him, smirking. "Who's dislodged your stick from the mud?"

"I like to have fun," she protests.

He narrows his eyes. "Will you drive the speed limit?"

"I'll go ten over."

"Twenty."

"Fifteen."

"Fine." He pulls his keys from his pocket and dangles them in front of her face. Her hand flashes out to grab them, but he lifts them high above his head with a laugh. "Actually, darling, how badly do you want this? Maybe we should make a deal."

Chloe jabs a finger into his stomach hard. He bends forward with a grunt, and she jumps up, snatching the keys from his fingers. "I win," she laughs, walking away.

"I'd have made the deal worth your while!" he grouches.


***


The Corvette devours the I-5 like the gas-guzzling, steel-bodied beast it is. Classic rock blasts from a bass-heavy, state-of-the-art music system, and before Chloe knows it the needle of the speedometer kisses eighty-five. Beside her, Lucifer taps his foot in time with the beat, a relaxed smile pulling at his mouth.

Chloe's glance is only that—a glance—but her want returns like a tangible thing. She keeps her eyes on the road, her fingers clasped tightly around the steering wheel's black leather encasement. But her mind is somewhere else, on all that bravado he may actually be able to back up. Clearing her throat, she rolls her shoulders and lifts her chin higher.

Lucifer reaches over and turns down the music. He shifts sideways and stares at her, his head tilted.

She glances at him again briefly. His relaxed smile has turned devious. "What?" she asks, but she already knows. Somehow, he knows.

"You want me."

While she finds it heartening that he's back to no longer doubting it, now really isn't the time. "I'm driving."

"We could stop for a few hours."

A few hours.

"No."

"Suit yourself," he sighs, settling back in his seat. "If you change your mind..."

"You'll be the first to know." He reaches for the volume knob, but she stops him. "Wait, can I ask you something?"

"Anything."

"Are we—" She frowns, struggling to get the last word out. "Are we dating?" Chloe feels, more than sees, how he stills. "We don't need to label it," she adds in a rush. "If there's an it. I just, I mean, it's okay."

"That's what you truly desire?"

She gives him an annoyed look. "Is it what you truly desire?"

"Dating is a very human concept. I'm not human."

"Right."

"But there's no one I like spending time with more," Lucifer muses aloud, and he doesn't seem to understand the sweetness of what he's said, which makes it only sweeter. "I want to make you...happy."

"I want to make you happy, too."

And, really, isn't that what a relationship is, no matter what you call it?

She looks at him in time to see him swallow hard and turn his head away. Letting up on the accelerator, Chloe returns to the speed limit and takes one hand off the steering wheel. Reaching across the console, she threads her fingers with his. He strokes her knuckles and looks at their hands as if he can't believe his luck.


***


Victoria Imler's 2007 white Honda sedan may have outlived her, but it's seen better days. Chloe rounds the scratched and dented car in the impound lot, taking pictures with her phone camera. Lucifer, having already grown bored, wanders some distance away, nosily peeking inside the other towed vehicles. A bag crinkles, and he begins loudly crunching on chips. Chloe pauses and stares. She has no idea where he got them.

The Devil is weird sometimes.

When she opens the car, acrid cigarette smoke hits her hard enough that she leans back and coughs. Whoever's been driving this car, Eddie's girlfriend Shay or someone else, is on the fast track for lung cancer. She opens all four doors to let the vehicle air out.

There's nothing inside. Nothing hidden in the visor, center console, or glove compartment. She runs gloved hands along the seat backs and the leather interior, finding no obvious false compartments. There aren't even any hairs stuck to the seats or headrests. It's all clean, too clean. Hopefully the surveillance footage the local PD has agreed to email her will reveal something about that.

Having documented what she can without climbing inside, she sits behind the steering wheel and adjusts the seat, dragging her hand underneath. Her fingers snag on the custom, rubber floor mat, which she grabs and lifts. There, buried beneath it, is a business card for a computer repair shop.

As if sensing her elation, Lucifer reappears beside the car. She holds up the business card triumphantly. "Could be a lead," she says.

He returns her wicked grin. "Well done, Detective."

They drive three towns over, to an even smaller village with a population in the low thousands. It's the kind of place that only has a couple of bars, but fifteen churches, half of them competing to have the cleverest weekly sign.

I HATE THIS CHURCH. —SATAN

"Well, they're not bloody wrong, are they?" Lucifer vents, waving a middle finger as they pass. Chloe laughs to the point of tears.

The GPS leads them to an old, but pristine strip mall. Settled next to a grocery store, Bits & Bytes Computer Repair's darkly-tinted windows advertise a motley of technical services, from computer, phone, and gaming console repairs, to data recovery and website design.

"Imagine all the fetish porn this chap's seen," Lucifer says as they climb out of the Corvette.

"Gross."

"Everyone has their kinks," he admonishes, shrugging a shoulder. He looks at her, curious. "You'll not be an exception, I'm sure." Chloe feels her face burn as she her brain very unhelpfully summons memories of clichéd, horn-filled dreams. "Ooh," he snickers, "what dark desires are lying under that look?"

"Can you shut up?" she complains, avoiding his probing gaze. "Let's just talk to the manager and get out of here." Lucifer laughs and follows her as she enters the building.

A middle-aged white man at a raised desk looks up and smiles as they enter. "Dropping off or picking up?" he asks, setting aside a screwdriver.

"Neither," Chloe says, flashing her badge. "Is your manager in?"

"You're looking at him," the man chuckles. "I do it all." He steps up to the counter and stretches out a hand. "Name's Sean."

Chloe shakes his hand and introduces herself and Lucifer. "Do you have time to answer a few questions, Sean? We may be looking for one of your clients."

"I'd love to help," he answers, "but I won't let you search anything without a warrant."

"Of course," Chloe replies. "Can you tell us if you've ever done any work for a woman by the name of Shay?"

"Shay what?"

"We don't have a last name yet."

"That's...not a lot to go on. Doesn't ring any bells, though."

"Could we have a peek at your books? I'm sure you keep a log of your clients."

Sean hesitates. "I...don't know."

"Sean," Lucifer interrupts, leaning forward. "Maybe you need a little incentive. What is it you desire?"

"I want..."

"Yes?"

"I want to open a pot shop. If I have to tell one more person to try turning it off and on again, I'm going to murder someone."

"Huh, well, don't do that while the Detective's in town. You'll get caught." Lucifer grins and leans back. "As it is, though, it's your lucky day, Sean."

"Lucifer..." Chloe cautions.

"I know just the people," Lucifer continues. "They'll handle licenses, growers, lawyers, you name it. Just give us a gander at your books, and I'll make sure you're up and running in no time."

"Lucifer," Chloe growls more firmly. Grabbing his hand, she says to Sean, "Excuse us a moment."

She pulls him outside. "Whatever you're doing, stop. We can't—"

"No, you can't because of your pesky little oaths. But you need the eggs, don't you?"

She purses her lips and says nothing.

"Well, these are the eggs, darling," he says, spreading his hands wide. "This is what I do."

"I know," she says. "It's just—"

"I hid it from you before," he finishes.

"Yeah."

"Do you want me to do that again?" he asks.

The way he asks this is so odd that Chloe stands still and studies him, her brow furrowed. It's an honest question, and it's clear he won't judge her for saying yes, that he'll do exactly as she asks. And there's something very sad about that, because, in a way, he's asking a different question: Should I hide myself from you, to be more palatable?

"You don't have to hide anything from me," she answers, touching his waist.

"Lovely," he says, clapping his hands together.

In less than five minutes, Chloe's seated at a desk, sorting through Sean's client database. She does her best to tune out Lucifer as he explains the nature of California's burgeoning, legal marijuana market. This is almost as bad as when she found him at the Firehawk Ranch, high out of his mind on a horse.

There's a good chance Sean's database won't even turn up anything. She searches for Shay, and several alternate spellings, and comes up empty. Victoria Imler isn't to be found either. In the end, she resorts to scrolling through thousands of names.

"Any luck?" Lucifer asks several minutes later, when he's come to stand behind her.

"None. Do you think he'd let me take a copy?"

"If you want a copy, you'll have a copy. Don't worry about Sean."

What a moral gray area. Not that she hasn't operated in them before...

"You're really very useful." She grabs a nearby USB cable to connect her phone to the computer.

"I aim to please," he purrs.

As the database copies to her phone, she glances out one of the tinted floor-to-ceiling windows. The sun hangs low in the sky. "I think we have to stay here tonight. I've still got to go through the surveillance footage the Hayford police emailed me, and now there's this database. It's going to take a while."

"You want to stay here?"

"Well, here or Hayford—Fresno, if we can be bothered driving."

"There's nothing to do here," he complains.

She looks away from him, back at the computer. "I'm sure we can think of something."

If Lucifer catches her drift, he doesn't say anything about it. Instead, he says, "Fine, but we're not staying anywhere near the holy rollers."


***


"Palm Tree Suites?" Lucifer sputters, as Chloe turns off the highway and parks beneath the hotel portico. "You can't be serious. If this is about what the LAPD will pay for, bugger that. I've money. And dignity."

"Yeah, well, good luck finding a place you're willing to stay at, Your Highness. There aren't exactly any luxury hotels nearby."

She wonders, in passing, if he wouldn't want to fly elsewhere, but considering his complicated feelings about his wings, she keeps her mouth shut.

Lucifer scowls as they enter the lobby. "That's fake crystal," he sneers, gazing up at a garish chandelier like it's a bad omen.

Ten minutes later, Chloe pushes open the door to their room and flips the light switch. Lucifer has complained nonstop since they arrived, and he doesn't let up now.

"Oh, no, this won't do at all."

She can't quite contain her own grimace. "It's not that bad."

"No, it's worse."

There's a click behind her. A round purple light draws her attention to the floor. She looks back at Lucifer, confused. "Why are you traveling with a black light? When did you even have time to get one?"

"The real question is why don't you have one?" he asks, shining the light onto her left breast, then her right.

"Because I'm not insane," she says, slapping at his hand.

"I don't want to sleep in filth, and I'm the crazy one?" He shines the black light over the bedspread, which lights up like uranium ore. "Look at these stains."

"Oh my G—goodness. Why is that so high up on the wall?"

"Stuff of nightmares, isn't it?"

For all his love of partying, sloth, and shortcuts, never let it be said the Devil can't get a job done if he puts his mind to it. Chloe lounges beside the old outdoor pool, fast-forwarding through surveillance footage from a laundromat while thirty feet away Lucifer barks orders at hotel personnel. At some point, delivery trucks squeal into the parking lot. A new mattress and TV are lugged inside. What on Earth is happening?

Luciferness, Chloe decides, and refocuses on work.

She's nearly fallen asleep out of boredom when Lucifer looms over her, dark and lanky. "These people know nothing about hospitality," he says in a snit. "But we should be able to sleep here now."

"I could have slept here before," she says through a yawn. "Okay, maybe not after you brought out the black light."

Lucifer shudders and offers her a hand up from the lounge chair. "I've had quite enough of Hell, thank you. I make it a point not to live in it on Earth."

His words make Chloe feel sad, and she slips her arm around his waist as they walk back to their room. He stiffens at first, then relaxes. "You don't ever have to go back there," she says.

"Dad might disagree with you, I'm afraid."

"Well, we'll just have to fight him on it."

Lucifer stops hard and turns to her, real fear in his dark eyes. He takes hold of her shoulders, his fingers digging into her muscles. "You're never to fight my father, do you understand? Never, Chloe. The game's rigged, and I can't have him sending you to Hell."

"Okay," she says, her fingers stroking his arms. "Okay."

He nods, satisfied, and lets go. And, quietly, Chloe dislikes God a little more.

The hotel room doesn't look like it could possibly be the same room as before. Every surface is spotless, and all new furniture and linens fill the space. There's even new artwork on the wall. A sandalwood-scented candle burns on the round, glass table set by the sole window.

"How did you do this?" She glances at the time on her phone. "This only took you, what, an hour—two, tops?"

"I know every language," he brags, "but money speaks loudest."

"Wait, what do you mean you know every language?"

"Just what it sounds like. I have always told you I'm very good with my tongue."

She narrows her eyes. "Say something in Arabic."

He speaks in a string of guttural, flowing sounds. He smirks at her when he's finished. He definitely said something dirty.

"That sounded fluent," she says.

"That's because it was."

"Okay, smart-ass, what about Latin?"

"Which form? Old, Vulgar?"

"I don't even know why I'm asking you. I can't speak any of it."

"Voulez-vous coucher avec moi?"

"Okay, I know that one," she laughs.

Chloe kicks off her boots and collapses back onto the bed with her laptop. Lucifer joins her and turns on the widescreen television, flipping through channels until he stops on what can only be described as a very low-budget action film.

"I've ordered pizza," he says, off-handed, showing her his phone.

"Thanks," she says, somewhat absently. Sometimes she gets so wrapped up in work that she forgets to eat.

The linens and mattress hug her softly as she scrolls through Bits & Bytes' client database. Soon, she's barely paying attention. There's no in-between with evidence. Either there's too much or too little. And Sean has built this database for the last ten years. There are thousands of names.

"Stop," Lucifer says.

Chloe snaps to attention, blinking. "What'd you see?"

Lucifer drags his finger across the touchscreen, scrolling up. "There," he says, selecting an entry. "Juan Otero."

"That's..." Chloe sits up straighter, her mind struggling to bring all the pieces together. "If that's the same Juan Otero—"

"What are the chances it's not?"

"—he posted John Barrow's bond."

"So, Eddie Rosales and Barrow are connected," Lucifer says, frowning. "Which means these are Cain's men. Or they were."

"Maybe," Chloe answers, always hesitant to jump to conclusions. "Maybe we're not looking for Eddie's girlfriend, after all... Sean has Juan's phone number here." She runs a search for it online, locating a white pages entry that may or may not be up-to-date. "Address in Colinda. That's not far from here. I'll make some calls to the local police in the morning, see if we can't pay Juan a visit. We might need backup."

"You're traveling with the Devil," Lucifer laughs. "We could go now. It's only nine."

"You bleed just like I do, so no running in like an idiot. Besides, I don't want to get into anymore trouble, and we'll be able to see more during the day."

Chloe closes her laptop and sets it on the new, glass side table. On the television, a thickly-muscled man shoots up a warehouse full of vaguely-Russian enemies. Bored with the movie, she becomes keenly aware of Lucifer's long legs and the heat of his body, which she's always noticed in passing, but lately can't seem to ignore.

"I'm going to take a shower," she announces. As much as she hates the thought of putting on last night's clothes again, she needs to cool down.

As if sensing her dismay, Lucifer says, "There are clothes by the sink."

"What?"

"Clothing for you to wear. By the sink."

She can only imagine what he's picked out. "You can't know my size."

"Care for a wager?" he retorts, one brow lifting.

She retreats into the bathroom without a word. It's cramped—not even cold, hard cash could change that in two hours—but it's freshly clean and smells faintly of lemons.

True to Lucifer's word, two neat piles of folded clothes are laid out next to the sink. Nothing outlandish in her pile, either. A soft, gray T-shirt and jeans, all in the right size. Oh, but that little scrap of lace is barely a thong. Atop it all rests an extra dress shirt, definitely not in her size. It's likely it's never been worn by Lucifer, but Chloe touches the cotton gently, recognizing the sentimental gesture for what it is.

The shower heats the small room and fogs the mirror. And she wonders...what's stopping her from inviting him in? She's wanted him all day. He's wanted her. They're here, together. Maybe not in some fancy-schmancy hotel like he'd prefer, but he's certainly made it cleaner and more comfortable.

She strips down and stares at the door while chewing at the edge of her thumb. Come on, Decker. Just rip the Band-Aid off. Dive in. She yanks open the door.

"Don't tell me there's no hot water," Lucifer gripes. Wine glass in hand, he looks up from the pizza box he was opening and stares. "Chloe?" His Adam's apple bobs as he swallows. "Is everything all right?"

"Do you... Do you want to join me?"

"Oh." He blinks. "Oh. Yes, of course." He stands quickly, setting aside the wine, loosening shirt buttons, yanking free his belt.

He isn't suave in this moment, and Chloe feels herself grinning. When he stands before her in nothing but boxer briefs, she takes his hand and draws him into the tiny bathroom.

"Are you sure you this is what you want?" he asks.

She almost laughs, except she knows his reservation comes from fear. Lucifer isn't this cautious with anyone else. Instead of speaking, she hooks her thumbs under the elastic of his boxers and drags them down. As she kneels before him and he steps free, she keeps her eyes on his face.

"What a temptress," he whispers, touching her face. "I'd eat any fruit you gave me right now."

Chloe stands and drags him into the shower. There's hardly enough room for the two of them, and only one of them ever gets any water at all.

"This would be much better at the penthouse."

"Next time," Chloe promises, and reaches up to touch his face, her thumbs following his jawline. He breathes loudly, his hands at his sides, his erection wedged between them. "You can touch me, you know," she says, because she senses he needs to hear it. "You don't have to wait for me to give you permission all the time."

"I don't want you to regret—"

"I won't." He studies her face, searching for falsehood. "I won't," she insists. "I want to be with you."

"Very well," he says.

And then he's on her, one hand cradling her head, his tongue in her mouth. He presses her close, his fingers trailing the vertebra of her spine as hers follow the muscles of his chest and the ridges of his ribs. Chloe's never been with a man who was very vocal, but Lucifer moans wantonly across her lips, making her feel wanted and powerful.

"Hot Tub High School didn't do you justice, darling," he says, cupping her breasts.

She rolls her eyes, then groans as his thumbs drag across her nipples. "I hate that movie."

"We could make our own," he offers, one of his hands dropping down. His fingers slide between her legs, spreading her open, exploring. "You do want me," he says against the shell of her ear. "I always knew."

"Shut up," she laughs, and then sighs in pleasure.

"Oh, no, I think I'll bask in this for a moment. In being right." Leaning back, his eyes on hers, he lifts his hand and draws his finger into his mouth. He raises his brows at her.

Two can play at that game, she thinks, wrapping a hand around him and starting a gentle rhythm. His head falls back, and water runs down the long column of his throat. She works him slow, her lips dragging across his skin. Some minutes later, he stumbles rather inelegantly, falling back against the wall of the shower.

"Why's this so bloody different?" Lucifer gasps, his tone almost accusatory as he stills her hand. "Gosh."

"Because I've seen everything, and I'm here to stay," Chloe says.

"Are you?" he asks softly.

"Yes."

Their hands return to each other, exploring, sliding, gripping. Below, their legs tremble against each other, and Chloe wonders if it's so smart for them to be standing.

But, oh, she's too far gone to care. She's not sure she'll ever admit it to him, but the damn braggart has a right to brag. There's no fumbling, like there has been with other men. No awkward search for her clit or even the slightly more elusive G-spot. He brings her close and pulls back expertly, over and over, and she hears herself make sounds she's not sure she's made before.

When she falls apart, her mouth full of his name, he has to hold her upright against his body. And, then, as if the sight of her own unraveling is too much, she feels him twitch beneath her fingers. She moves her hand more slowly, watching the way the clear fluid drips down across her knuckles.

They descend from their high, and he kisses her lazily. "I always knew we'd be amazing together," he says, brushing wet strands from her face. "Imagine what it's going to be like when I'm in you."

"When?" she asks, too addicted to care how pathetic she sounds. She thinks, he did warn you, didn't he? Walking heroin.

His head tilts as he thinks. "I'll admit I feel a little like I'm going in blind without being able to tap into your desires."

That was going in blind? Heaven help her.

"So, let's say we'll have sex when you beg me for it," he says, his tone casual and amused. "It's really the only way I'll know for certain it's what you desire."

"That's not happening." She has a sneaking suspicion she's lying. She lifts her chin. "Maybe you'll be the first to beg."

"We'll see," he says, and she's pleased when a look of uncertainty crosses his face. He grabs shampoo from a shelf. "Now, turn around, you rascal," he commands, gathering her hair in his hands.


***


The next morning, Chloe gets the go-ahead from the Colinda PD to visit the address associated with Otero's phone number. They drive westward, into the township of fifteen thousand, then keep going, deep into the rocky scrub of Fresno County.

In what's a true testament to the heatwave ravaging most of the Golden State, the Corvette's convertible top is up, and the air conditioning is set to high, but still struggling to cool the car. Lucifer wears only navy dress pants and a white shirt, and periodically shoves his sleeves closer to his elbows. Even the Devil thinks it's too hot.

Chloe melts in the passenger's seat, and the discomfort reminds her of when Lucifer waltzed into the precinct, insisting he had been kidnapped and left in the desert. She frowns, thinking. "Cain was the one who hired Snatched to kidnap you, wasn't he?"

"He was, indeed," Lucifer says, his tone cheery, even as the steering wheel creaks beneath in his hands.

"Lucifer... I'm so sorry. I never would have dated him if I'd—"

"Well, and I should have had the balls to ask you out. But, alas, as you've seen, I'm really quite average in that department." He grins cheekily. "But no need to feel guilty. Justice was served. That murderous little maggot is rotting in a Hell loop like he deserves."

They turn off Highway 198, onto a narrow, single-lane road, and Chloe feels herself go on high-alert. Even under the clear, blue sky, the space has an almost claustrophobic quality, caged in as it is by clusters of rocky hillsides. Then, seconds later, the landscape changes, yawning open, wide and flat. Rock faces and flat scrub, back and forth. More desert than developed land.

Wood posts for useless wire fences tilt precariously in the dry earth. Beyond them, dilapidated and abandoned houses and trailers dot the countryside in a classic game of "Is it poverty or is it crime?" And, of course, sadly, it's often both.

"Nice area," Lucifer quips. "Okay, Google," he commands, "play 'Dueling Banjos.'"

"Please, no," Chloe snorts, stopping the track before it can start.

"You have arrived," the GPS announces a minute later. Lucifer pulls off to the side of the road.

"This can't be right." Chloe looks around, hoping to spot a dirt road or mailbox. She sees neither.

They climb out of the car, holding up hands to shield their eyes.

"There's a house in the distance," Lucifer says, pointing south.

"I don't see it." She squints. "Is your eyesight better than mine?"

"Do you know, I've never thought about it. It'd be just like Dad to cripple you needlessly, though. But, well, the world's not flat, either, and you're short," he teases. "Want me to hold you up? Can settle the pesky sight question now."

"You're so funny," she bites back, marching ahead in the direction he pointed. Her hand hovers over her holster. "I don't like how open we are here. If this is Otero's home, he clearly doesn't want visitors."

"We can head west to those boulders and come around the back," Lucifer suggests.

It's a long walk in the noonday sun. The brush crunches beneath the soles of their shoes, and once Chloe sees a kingsnake dart away in fear. When they reach the tan rock face, they stop for a rest, mainly for Chloe's sake.

"No vehicles," Chloe notes. "Surely no one's living here." The small house, which is now only a few hundred feet ahead, leans slightly on its foundation, its yellow paint faded by the sun. "Ready?" she asks.

Lucifer touches her back. "Lead the way, Detective."

She creeps toward the house, mindful of every rock and twig under boot. Lucifer stalks behind her.

They start at the back of the house, looking for signs of life or other disturbances, and finding neither. There are no windows, only four concrete steps leading up to a lone door.

Chloe rounds the house, her heart pounding. She knows full well she's breaking the law. The local police gave her permission to question Otero if he was home, not to walk his perimeter, peek into his house, or have the Devil voodoo locks open.

But if Otero is connected to Barrow, that means he might have been connected to Cain, too. They can't trust any of the Sinnerman's network will be caught unless they handle it themselves. Internal Affairs failed the LAPD. The FBI and DOJ, if they were ever even notified, backed off before Chloe's suspension ever ended. If there are clues here, Chloe has to find them.

They step up onto the front porch and lean close to the two windows set on either side of the door, attempting to peer around thick, blue curtains.

Lucifer whispers in annoyance, "I can't see a bloody—"

A bullet smashes into the front door. Splinters burst out from cracked wood.

"Down!" Chloe screams, reaching across the punctured door to yank Lucifer to the porch floorboards.

Three more shots pop-pop-pop in the distance, and three more bullets eat into the small yellow house. Lucifer scrambles, low to the ground. His wings unfurl in one mighty snap, covering them. History is repeating.

"Do you trust me?" he asks.

"Yes."

Chloe becomes a living rag doll as Lucifer lifts her, twisting her in his arms as if she weighs nothing. He leaps out of a squat off the porch steps, and they rocket high into the air, soaring dozens of feet in mere seconds. Her ears pop, and all around her is light, the light of the sun, the light of Lucifer's feathers set aglow.

Bullets whiz past.

Until one doesn't.

Until one hits.

Chloe feels when it makes impact with Lucifer's body. He lets out a strangled cry, and she screams with him as they begin to drop. Hard. Spinning sideways and end over end. She feels his panic, sees the way his wings flap erratically, how his right wing barely moves at all.

In the end, he gives in to the fall. With a howl, he cocoons her. His left wing wraps around her body. His right tucks close, but flutters slightly to the side, sounding like a torn tarp blowing in the wind.

They collide with the earth, Lucifer's spine taking the brunt of the force. There is a distinct and meaty crack as air bursts out of their lungs in one great, unified gust.

For a moment, Chloe lies on him, dazed. But then she scrambles away, shoving back a heavy wing. "Wh-What do I—"

"Shoot me...hide," he wheezes. "Will...come back." He gives a lopsided, red-toothed grin. "Promise."

"You're not going to Hell," Chloe growls, and another shot sinks into the house. "If-if I leave, you'll heal. Find me when you can."

Lucifer groans. Wild, dark eyes search for her, unseeing. He's dying. He can't die. He can't go back to that place. Not because of her. Not even for a little while.

Chloe jumps up on unsteady legs, her ribs and left hip screaming in protest. Ignoring the pain, she begins to run, weaving left and right to avoid sniper bullets. She must get far away—how far, she doesn't know.

She curses God as she runs.

Chapter Text

The underworld is a flat plane that steadily expands to accommodate exponential occupancy requirements. As a result, most of Hell is barren outside of the macabre loops it constructs for human souls. It is only at its center that there beats a dark heart, a sprawling, bustling city that's had many names. Youdu. Dis. Naraka. Ignis. Pandemonium. In recent eons, it is simply called Nox.

A city of millions, Nox is cosmopolitan by nature, teeming with demons, changelings, and other creatures of darkness. It is an improbable city, cobbled together by sheer force of will. Arguments, many of which come to blows or all-out war, are common between the different factions, but so, too, is commerce, bawdy laughter, gambling, and the occasional orgy.

In the heart of Hell's heart, the Black Tower stands tall, its spires reaching toward the muted, gray sky. The tower could have been hideous—and long ago it was—but the hellstone has been polished smooth over time, into a black glass that mirrors the surrounding city. It is the only structure in Hell that might be called beautiful, if the word beautiful were used in Hell at all.

The residents of Nox have nothing positive to say about the tower in their midst, but they also never damage it in times of discord. This alone is enough to make Cain want to destroy it. Instead, he must live with it, and in it. For now.


***


When Cain woke in his new body, Hell was no longer directionless. He knew, instinctively, where its four corners lay. As soon as he could fly, he flew to the two giant, spiked doors that serve as Hell's gates. They were barred and locked, but not like the doors into Hell loops. When Cain shoved at them, they held. The Goddess had managed to escape, he knew, but his form is too corporeal. Lucifer comes and goes as he pleases, but God must have given him keys.

Cain would have to find another way out, and so he flew to Nox, Hell's pulse point.

Anarchy flourished there in the Devil's absence. When demons did dare sit upon the Black Tower's black throne, others usurped them within days. Creatures of darkness revel in chaos and do not take kindly to a yoke around the neck—though they do enjoy yoking others.

Taking the throne wasn’t easy, as such, but it wasn't Cain’s first time threading a needle. He took Nox and the Black Tower's throne the way he learned long ago to take anything else he might want: by questioning strengths and emphasizing weaknesses, by whispering a poisonous question here and making an accusation there. Divide and conquer. Sun Tzu knew it. Adam's scorned son knew it first.

Cain gambled favors and flooded the streets with Hell-forged metal, and then he let the chips fall where they might. When war came to Hell's one and only city, every combatant was already wounded, internally, where it always matters most.

Even Hell's creatures have a sense of self-preservation. Naturally, the only end to the bloodshed, to the dire extermination, was to instate a ruler, one strong enough to restore and maintain order. They didn't want him. They needed him.

As the only powerfully-winged creature in Hell, Cain's advantage is as much symbolic as it is physiological. Out with the old wings, his presence suggests, in with the new.

Still, there's no escaping the long shadow of the retired king. Lucifer's fingerprints are pressed upon every part of this loathsome city because he was its architect. He is in the streets and marketplaces, the currencies and gambling halls. There are stories about him, some true, most not, but then truth doesn't matter here.

In every alleyway, in every bar, in every tower spire, Cain smells the Devil's weakness: that effeminate desire to please, to build, to be good, even in Hell itself. Cain suffers from no such weakness.

Might is right in Cain's kingdom.


***


Lucifer's fingerprints may be found throughout Nox, but evidence of his soul is in the Black Tower. No ash enters the black, windowless structure, which is filled with many rooms, all made for torture or pleasure, or some wicked combination of the two. At one point, hundreds must have lived, played, and squabbled here. Now, Cain orders all stragglers to leave and destroys those few who refuse.

The Black Tower is ground zero, the key. It holds secrets. It must.

He searches each floor. How might Lucifer hide something? Surely in plain sight. He studies every room; pushes against walls, stomps on floors, rattles chains, lifts torches. Nothing. He grows impatient.

But then, he realizes, of course the tower holds secrets...in places others can see, yes, but never reach. He returns to the Black Tower's topmost floor, which he knows belonged to Lucifer, though others have come and gone since his reign. Hubris wouldn't allow Lucifer to have any other room.

Like the Devil's penthouse on Earth, the topmost floor is large and open. Unlike his penthouse on Earth, it is filled with torture devices: a rack, a wheel, a Judas cradle, a knee splitter, an iron maiden, and all manner of pointed pokers, serrated knives, and pliers.

That raised a red flag the first time Cain entered this room. Thorough by nature, Cain kept tabs on the Devil for the last thousand years he was alive on Earth. If Lucifer popped up for a debauched weekend, Cain knew about it within days; knew, too, how Amenadiel inevitably forced Lucifer back to Hell. For quite some time the rumor had been the Devil no longer handled torture in Hell, didn't have the stomach for it, and instead left it to Mazikeen of the Lilim, who always delighted in pain.

So, if this room truly belonged to Lucifer, why are these torture devices here? It's the high, domed ceiling that draws Cain's attention now. Deep inside the tower, it's easy to believe the spire ends where this ceiling begins, but that could be an illusion. There are no windows, after all. Climbing up to the ceiling would be difficult, but flying? Flying would be easy.

Cain takes to the air, his black wings carrying him high. When he reaches the ceiling, he hovers in place like a long hummingbird, running his hands over the shining, black surface, hunting, as always, for weakness.

There. A line in the smoothed hellstone. Cain presses above it. It's heavy, even for this much-improved body, but the squared, convex door eventually gives, sliding to the right on a track.

"Yes," Cain breathes, gripping an exposed handle to draw himself inside.

The room he enters is pitch black and musty, and it's in that familiar, earthy mustiness that Cain knows what lies within before he even flies out and returns with a torch. He laughs loudly when the room is lit.

If the Devil was ever the Dragon some called him, well, here is his lair and his hoard. The hidden room is filled with earthly treasures. Soft cushions and blankets. Shelves overflowing with everything from priceless, leather-bound books, to cheap paperbacks and gossip rags. Artwork, most of it stolen or believed to be lost on Earth, adorns the walls. Black garment bags hang from a long rack; the metal rod bends at its middle, sagging under the weight. Beneath this, polished dress shoes from several centuries. In one corner, a hand-crank gramophone and hundreds of records.

It will take a small age to explore this room, but Cain believes it will be worth it. There must be something here that will get him out of Hell or teach him how to unlock its gates.

Because, the problem—for Lucifer, not him—is that the Devil, Beelzebub, Samael, has always cared too much. About what God thinks. About what humans do. About what Chloe Decker wants. And with all those desires comes fear, too. Fear of loss, fear of being burned. Wherever fear exists, there are always secret contingency plans.

Cain opens a book and tears through its pages.

Chapter Text

Chloe runs, scrambling over desert brush. How far did she go when she chased Jason Carlisle—one mile, two? Uncertain, she runs harder, farther, until she loses track of time and distance. There is only her ragged breathing, the dry crunch of the earth beneath her feet, and the merciless sun bearing down from above. Only her silent rage against an even more silent god: Why would you send your son to Hell?

When she can't run anymore, she drops to her knees in the middle of a vast, scrubby field. Her left hip and ribs ache from the crash landing, she may have a concussion, and now her ankle won't stop throbbing. Her heeled boots were definitely made for walking, and she vows to toss them into the back of her closet as soon as she's home.

Shelter. She needs shelter. Already, she's dehydrated and sunburned.

Another outcropping of rocky hills lies some two hundred feet away, providing a sliver of reprieve from the sun. She forces herself to stand and limp forward.

Not good, she thinks, once she's settled in the cool shade. Adrenaline has worn off, and she's begun to tremble. She almost feels cold, though she knows it must be one hundred degrees out.

She's a little lost, but the sun suggests she ran southeast. Even if she knew exactly where she was, though, her ankle won't survive long distances. Already, she's removed her boot to relieve the painful swelling. She has no phone—likely, it slipped from her back pocket as they spun toward the earth—no watch, and most importantly, no water. In the California desert during a heatwave. Good job, Decker.

But Lucifer will come for her, when he can. She knows that, deep in her bones. Hopefully she won't die stupidly before then.


***


Hours later, Chloe feels herself being lifted from the ground. Her body gives a great, hypnagogic jerk that yanks her from fitful sleep. Arms tighten around her, and she looks up into Lucifer's concerned face. Behind his wild curls, purple streaks the blue sky during sunset.

"You're safe," Lucifer says, his voice gentle. "I've got you."

She touches his face, feeling the coarse stubble, marveling at his wholeness. "You didn't go back?" Her throat is so dry, the words come out as little more than a rasp.

"No. I stayed."

"Good."

"Got to stay awake for the entire healing process, even." He grimaces. "Can't say I recommend being shot in the spine. Paralysis was bloody inconvenient."

She almost laughs. Paralysis. Inconvenient. She wriggles in his arms. "Would you put me down? I can walk."

"Can you? Ankles aren't supposed to look like grapefruits."

Anchoring herself on his shoulder, she leans forward to look at her foot and groans. She'd forced her boot back on before lying down. Even unbuckled, the edge of the leather warps around the swelling.

"Yes, that's what you get for running a marathon," Lucifer says. "Made yourself a right needle in a haystack to find, too."

"I didn't know how far to go."

"I know," he says, and there's a catch in his throat. "At any rate, should probably get that seen to. Which reminds me, you weigh nothing to me, and I can walk us back to the Corvette, but...well, flying would be far faster." He looks at her uncertainly.

Chloe swallows hard. She's never had a fear of heights, but she might have developed one today. Before deciding how she feels about angelic transportation, she asks, "Did you find the snipers?"

"They stopped shooting once you left." He frowns. "I was worried they were going to follow you, but I've checked the area. There's no sign of them."

"We need to go through Otero's house, see if there's anything he was hiding there or if the whole thing was just a trap." And if it was a baited trap, how did their assailants know they were coming when they did?

Lucifer is incredulous. "The only place you're going is a hospital. I'd offer you a feather, but they take their toll. Best for mortal wounds."

"It's just a sprain," she argues. Unconvincingly, judging by his expression. "Really. Let's go to the house. We can...we can fly."

"You're in no shape to go walki—"

"It's what I desire."

"That's low."

"But is it working?"

"Mostly," he says, eyeing her in amusement. "But only because it would be just like you to have a desire that pedestrian. Fine. We pop in, we pop out, and then we're done with this Dad-forsaken place."

"Agreed." The last thing she wants is to get stuck here all night.

He adjusts his grip on her. "Close your eyes."

She obeys, and although she smiles when she hears the rustle of his wings, she doesn't open her eyes again until they touch solid ground.


***


"A little help?" Chloe twists the locked doorknob at the back of the old yellow house. Lucifer sighs dramatically, waves her aside, and wraps his—for once, gloved—fingers around the metal. She gets a little thrill when she hears the lock snick free. "How do you do that, anyway?" she asks.

Lucifer places a hand on her shoulder, stopping her from entering the house. Contrary to how they usually operate, he steps inside before her and quickly wanders through the dwelling. When he returns, he lends her his arm to help her make the last step into the house.

"With the locks, let's just say I can tap into things you can't," he answers.

"Like, molecules?" she asks dully, squinting at him.

They enter a small kitchen. The walls are covered in a white-and-blue, grossly faux-Parisian wallpaper that's yellowed after what smells like decades of indoor smoking—not unlike the overwhelming smoke scent found in Imler's car.

"This is like trying to describe color to a blind man," Lucifer gripes.

"Try, anyway?" Chloe says.

Using the countertops for support, she eases around on one leg, opening cabinets and drawers, only to find them filled with typical kitchen sundries. It's a very lived-in space—a safe house, it looks like—though there's no fresh food in the fridge to indicate how recently anyone has lived here.

Lucifer leans against a wall, looking disheveled, but still far more attractive than he has any right to after the exhausting day they've had. It's only when he turns, revealing the disturbingly bloodied back of his white dress shirt, that the image truly falters. Chloe can only imagine what she looks like.

Finally, he says, "There are things in your world—nay, in the universe—that humans have tools to detect and change, but I can detect and change simply by virtue of being myself. You might think of me as your friendly neighborhood conductor. Not the musical kind, though I'd be quite good at that, too."

She rolls her eyes. "Okay, so you can...sense and change the properties of some things?" Turning on the tap at the sink, she leans sideways and drinks as much water as she dares. She's still thirsty when she backs away, but any more, and she might throw up.

"That's probably as much as your human mind can fathom." She glares at him as she hobbles into the tiny living area, where she begins pulling cushions from a tattered, beige loveseat. "What?" he says indignantly from where he hovers nearby. "It's not my fault Dad didn't give you lot the same abilities. If it's any consolation, I'm sure he was rather surprised when you made it to the moon."

"Whatever. So, what about your desire"—she waves a hand—"thing?"

"Closely related to photoconductivity."

Chloe blinks at him, then shakes her head and continues into the lone bedroom. She's tired, her body hurts, and she can barely follow a word he's saying. All she wanted to know was how he unlocked doors. She wasn't prepared for physics.

"Look, you read Genesis, didn't you?" Lucifer asks as she pokes her head into the closet.

"Kind of," she calls out, because already she's forgotten huge portions of what she read.

"It really is dreadfully boring, isn't it?"

She peeks her head out of the closet. "It totally is." They grin at each other.

Men's and women's shoes line the floor of the closet. Sneakers in a size twelve, and two pairs of women's leather biker boots in a size eight. If they had a working phone between them, she'd take pictures, but as it is, she'll just have to remember as much as she can and note it down later. Or they'll have to get a warrant, somehow, and come back. Unfortunately, she has a sneaking suspicion they would return to an empty house.

"That book's an atrocious retranslation of a retelling of an approximation of events, I assure you, but there are bits of truth here and there."

"Like Cain," she says, and points to the mattress.

He lifts the mattress for her. "Yes, like He Who Must Not Be Named." His lip curls. "Anyhow, do you remember when Dad said, 'Let there be light'?" She waves for him to drop the mattress again.

"Uh-huh." She nudges past him, finally stumbling her way to the bathroom. "And God saw the light, and it was good," she quotes, rolling her eyes. It was all so simplistic.

"Yes, well, who do you think carried out the task? Like all tyrannical bastards, Dad delegates more than he actually does."

Her hand freezes above the bathroom light switch, so that she stands halfway in darkness, and halfway in the light of the living room. Lucifer's voice has taken on a strange quality—not arrogance, but affected arrogance. His body language suggests something entirely different as he stands with his side facing her, his shoulders rolled forward, as if he's ready to protect himself from some onslaught. She feels drawn to him, but also can't bring herself to move. He's about to tell her something big.

"So, the whole...Light Bringer thing? I saw that mentioned a few times in the books I checked out. That-that's true?"

He looks away. "In a fashion, yes."

Chloe's heart races as she slams into more evidence of his otherworldliness and agelessness. "Are you saying you... You can’t be saying you made the stars. Can you?" She digs her nails into the palms of her hands. "Did you?"

"Long ago," he whispers, and she struggles to breathe. "Before Dad more or less clipped my wings for being a naughty boy."

"Even our sun?"

"Not bad work, is it?" She leans into the door frame for support, and he regards her once more with a sad smile. "Do you know the origin of the word desire?"

This topic feels safer, and she feels herself unknot, if only a little. "Should I?"

"It's simple Latin, really." He shrugs and stuffs his hands into his pockets. "De sidere," he says, pronouncing the words in a warm, fluent way. "It means from the stars. In the admirable pursuit of knowledge, humans have forgotten it's all related. Your Carl Sagan was right. You really are just star stuff—energy that can be pushed and pulled at. And that's still my domain, to a degree."

"So, if it's just a matter of, I don't know, chemicals or photons or whatever, why can't you do your thing on me?"

"That," he says, "I have no answer for, but it makes you very fun and very frustrating to be around."

"I'm so glad I entertain you," she jokes. The awkwardness between them dissipates, and she flips on the bathroom light. She looks straight into the mirror above the sink, her jaw going slack. "Oh my God."

Lucifer leans his head in behind hers, making her less-than-stellar appearance that much more obvious. "You do look a bit like a tomato," he says, grinning. He pushes back stray curls of hair and rubs the line of his jaw, looking mostly pleased with what he sees. "Between your face and your ankle, you're a right cornucopia today."

She glares at him. She has white, raccoon-like circles around her eyes, where the sun—Lucifer's sun, apparently—failed to burn her. Yanking her hair free from her ponytail holder, she struggles to regather it with her gloves on before giving up altogether, and letting it fall in unkempt waves. Some days, you just can't look your best.

The mirror has a medicine cabinet behind it, which she opens. Inside, the shelves are mostly empty. Two toothbrushes, floss, perfume, some basic over-the-counter pain meds. Sighing again, she slams the cabinet shut.

"Now, wait one minute," Lucifer says, nearly elbowing her face as he reopens the cabinet. "Are you really going to overlook that Chanel, Detective?"

"It's expensive, right?" She shrugs. "So are the leather biker boots in the closet."

"You honestly don't know anything about luxury, do you? This isn't some plebeian Chanel. No, this little bottle is a limited edition that costs more than five grand."

"Seriously?" Chloe looks at it in disgust. "How do you even know that?"

"I know about a lot of things," he huffs.

Like the sun, she thinks again, and struggles not to freeze up, as in those first few days of knowing the truth. How can he be billions of years old?

Don't think about it, she tells herself.

"Okay, so, what's a perfume like that doing here?" she says.

"Precisely. Perhaps Otero was with Eddie's girlfriend, Shay? That would explain dear Eduardo's irritability at his day job, and the house in Palos Verdes did suggest expensive tastes, even if it was unlived in. If one or all of them is near the top of a drug enterprise, money would not be hard to come by." He glances around the bathroom. "Although, that leaves one to wonder why they wouldn't at least renovate."

"Maybe, but we need evidence, and we still haven't figured out who Shay actually is, much less if she's involved in all this." She scowls. "We need fingerprints. Maybe we can find a match with those in Imler's house."

"We could pinch something small for Miss Lopez. No one would notice."

She closes the cabinet again and looks around the bathroom and the connecting living room. "I can't even log any of this officially." She stares blankly at the small TV set across from the loveseat. "We're here illegally. What am I thinking, dragging us here?"

"Well, I flew us here, but what's the harm done? At least you're breaking the law for a good cause, unlike several of your colleagues."

"The law only works if those tasked with upholding it obey it, too."

"Newsflash, darling, they don't." Lucifer smirks and taps her nose with a gloved finger. "And neither do you, not all the time. Let's not pretend otherwise. You get the job done, which is what I quite like about you. And Daniel and Miss Lopez cut corners, as well. You're all delightful miscreants, which actually says nothing of your goodness, which is indisputable. Take it from the Devil, very little in life or death is clean if you want to get the real work done."

"And what is the real work?"

"The same as always, Detective. Punishing those who deserve it."

This overly simplistic moral philosophy doesn't sit well with Chloe, but that doesn't stop her from leaving with a pen they find in the kitchen.


***


It's half-past nine when they enter L.A.'s city limits. All Chloe wants to do is go home and sleep, but the sooner Dan and Ella know what's happened, the better. Certainly, the precinct can't know the real story, which means they'll need to get their stories straight again.

"Dan says they just made it to your place," Chloe announces, staring at the screen of her new phone as they turn onto Sunset Boulevard. They managed to find her old phone thirty feet away from the safe house, the screen smashed to bits. Luckily, she was able to retrieve all her files and photos from it.

"Lovely. Tell Daniel to pour me a drink, would you?"

She doesn't.

Lucifer parks in his reserved spot below ground. Chloe smiles when he rounds the Corvette to lend her his arm. They bypass the steady thumping of Lux's small Monday night crowd as they send the elevator straight for the penthouse. When the doors slide open, Dan and Ella turn from where they wait at Lucifer's bar. Their mouths fall open in unison.

"Holy shit," Dan says.

"Whoa, Decker."

Lucifer snickers as Chloe leans against him and yanks off her boots, wincing when her ankle complains. "I know," she sighs, tossing the offending shoes to the side. "I look like a tomato." Lucifer helps her limp to a bar stool. "I'm fine, though. Just a little sunburn. And an ankle sprain."

"What the hell happened?" Dan asks. "We've been calling you all day."

"Our phones met a rather calamitous end," Lucifer says, handing Chloe a bottle of water and pouring three drinks.

"Things are crazy at work," Ella explains. "I just did a twelve-hour shift. Bodies are drop-ping. We've had five homicides in the last twenty-four hours. No connection between any of them yet."

"Is that quite a lot?" Lucifer asks.

"Uh, yeah," Dan says, looking at him oddly.

"There's usually less than one a day," Chloe says.

Dan glances at his phone. "I can't stay long, Chlo," he murmurs, apologetic. "I'm on the clock."

"What a pity," Lucifer says, sauntering toward his bedroom.

"Hey," Dan snaps, pivoting on his bar stool. If he intends to say something biting, he stops short. "What the— Is that blood?"

"Oh, this?" Lucifer laughs, twisting to look at the large, dried bloodstain on the back of his shirt and pants. "Yes, got shot again, didn't I?"

"Oh my God. Are you okay?" Ella asks.

"Right as rain, Miss Lopez." He glances at Chloe, his expression full of mischief. "Ask the detective all about it, if you like." Then he disappears behind the stained glass partition.

"He's okay, though—really?" Ella asks. Chloe raises an eyebrow. "Riiight. Of course he is." She nods, a little wide-eyed.

Dan looks between them curiously before shaking his head. "Just get us up to speed, Chloe."

She gives them an abbreviated and slightly altered version of events, sans flying, paralysis, and supernatural healing. When she's done, she slides the ziplock bag with the pen from the safe house toward Ella. "I know it's not great, but this is all I felt we could take. Hopefully there are fingerprints on it."

"I'll see what I can do," Ella says. "What's the cover story for your absence?"

"I was thinking we could say the Corvette broke down," Chloe says, shrugging. "It's not a great story, but it's simple." So long as they don't need Lucifer to lie directly at any point.

Dan frowns at the bar counter, one finger tapping against the glass. "What I don't get is, how did they know you were coming?" Dan asks.

"We don't know," Chloe answers.

He glances at the entryway to Lucifer's bedroom. "Are you sure you don't?"

Lucifer chooses that moment to reenter the room in nothing but a silk robe.

"Put some clothes on, man," Dan groans, while Ella openly ogles his legs.

Lucifer pours himself another drink. "You're in my home, Daniel. You're lucky I'm dressed at all. Now, are you accusing me of being part of the Sinnerman's dodgy little network?"

"You did know Pierce was the Sinnerman before the rest of us."

"Dan—" Chloe starts.

"Fair enough, but then why would I invite snipers to shoot me, hmm?"

Unbidden, Chloe remembers a time when he did beg a sniper to shoot him.

"You wouldn't be standing here like nothing happened if you got shot in the back." Dan looks at Chloe. "You get that, right? He didn't get shot this time, just like he didn't get shot the last time you thought he did."

Lucifer huffs and takes another swallow of his whisky. "You're veering toward douchedom again, Daniel. I had such high hopes for you this time."

"You're not helping," Chloe says, glaring at him. She isn't sure whether to stay quiet or to back Lucifer up, which will force her to further defend and explain the truth. In the end, Dan decides it for her.

He slams a hand on the bar and slides from his stool. "I can't do this." He turns to Chloe. "We'll find Otero. We'll find Barrow. We'll end all of this. And then I'm done." He takes long strides to the elevator. "You coming, Ella?"

"Dan, wait," Chloe sighs.

"Sorry, guys," Ella says, backing toward the elevator. "I, uh, hitched a ride with him." She waves the ziplock bag. "I'll do what I can with this." As the doors squeeze closed, she shouts, "I'm glad you're okay, Lucifer!"

"Thank you for caring, Miss Lopez! Unlike some people!"

When it's just the two of them again, Chloe frowns at Lucifer. "Why do you do that?"

"Do what?"

"Poke at him. He can't help that he doesn't know the truth. He's confused and hurt. You just made it worse. You get that we have to work with him, right? Dan is one of the few people we can trust at the precinct."

"All I did was tell him I got shot. Did you think I'd lie about it?"

"You also called him a douche."

"Not directly," Lucifer insists. "Besides, I deserve some perks in this long life of mine, and irritating your ex is one of my favorite pastimes. Do you know he's started hiding pudding in his desk drawer?" He laughs delightedly. "I'm letting him think I don't know for now."

"Yeah, well, can you please irritate him less? He's going through a lot."

"Aren't we all?" At her annoyed look, he relents with a sigh. "Fine. I'll play nice. For your sake, not his."

"Thank you."

"Right, now that that's all sorted..." He unties his robe and lets it drop to the floor. "Let's have a proper shower, shall we?"

For one who loves fashion as much as Lucifer does, clothing certainly is optional. Her gaze dips low before returning to his smirking face. "I'm pretty tired, Lucifer."

"So stay the night," he says, ambling closer. "I can do all the work."

"I don't know..." If she's honest with herself, she almost feels as self-conscious as she does exhausted. "I'm kind of a mess right now."

"What rubbish. You're a lovely shade of red." She groans, and Lucifer leans close, his mouth close to hers. "Stay."

And she thinks about sleeping against him, as she has for two nights now; the ease of it. About his warmth and the way he curls against her like a parenthesis. About how, if this is what it means to get caught up in his storm, she's in the eye.

"Okay," Chloe whispers, and closes the distance with a gentle kiss. He deepens it until she flinches. He pulls back in concern. "Sunburn," she sighs.

"Right. Stay below the neck," he chuckles. "Not a problem."

She laughs as he lifts her from the bar stool, holding her flush against his bare skin. He carries her into his palatial bathroom, which rivals the size of his bedroom.

Lucifer does nothing by halves, and time is meaningless to him, so that all his boldness and innuendo turns soft and lazy when she least expects it. He removes her clothes slowly and draws her into a black marble shower made for multiples, where he seats her on a tile bench beneath the warm spray. He kneads her ankle and washes them clean.

In the six and a half years he's lived in L.A., how many others have been in this shower with him? Countless, and yet it's different with them, she knows. Different by how they connect, how, for once, he truly is naked.

Later, when he dries her off and hands her lotion to soothe her burned flesh, she knows he's thanking her. For who has ever cared if the Devil went to Hell? She wants to tell him there's nothing he has to thank her for, that of course she's got his six, just as he's got hers. But she knows he won't hear it.

She twists the top back onto the jar of moisturizer and looks at him in the mirror. He stands behind her, his hands resting low on her hips, confusion knitting his brow. "What is it?" she asks.

"You look good against me," his reflection says, though his tone is slightly distrustful. The unknown troubles him as much as it does her. She watches him stare into his own dark eyes and wonders what he sees, what haunts his long memory that stretches back to a time without stars.

Chloe pries one of his hands away from her hip and limps backward with a laugh toward his bedroom. "Come on."

Lucifer kisses her at the foot of the bed, then gently shoves her back with a mischievous grin. She falls, feeling light.

For a minute, he looks down at her, simply to look. Then he leans over, his palms flat beside her head, his knees between hers. And she almost gives in, almost begs him for more right then, but his mouth finds hers before the desire spills free.

He dips down her body, trailing fire on slopes and curves, on bruises and scars and lightning strikes of faint stretch marks. He shows her all the things he doesn't know how to say, and as her thighs tremble against his shoulders, she feels a little like a lock snicking free.

"You make great sounds," he later sighs, climbing up beside her, and he's hard against her thigh. He startles when he looks down at her. "Chloe?" He catches a tear on a fingertip. "You're a crier?"

"No," she whispers. "You're just good."

"Well," he breathes out on a laugh, "that's what I've been trying to tell you all this time."

She smiles. As is often the case, he misunderstands her.

Chapter Text

Cain snarls and throws a record into the stone wall. The vinyl snaps in two and crashes to the floor. He's torn through everything. There is nothing in this hidden room. Nothing. Only the inane pleasures of a narcissistic hedonist.

His hands pull at his hair as he stomps across the floor, screaming his rage. He can't be stuck in Hell. He can't be. Not because the Devil sparked a crumb of guilt. He pulled the trigger, and Charlotte Richards died—so what? He'd do it again. And this time he wouldn't miss Amenadiel. This time, he'd fire a second time, if necessary.

Fury vibrates down his limbs. He balls his fists and strikes out with clawed wings. His right wing blows through a wooden bookshelf, shattering oak into a million little chips and splinters. He grunts bullishly, his breaths loud in the room. Loud and...

Cain tilts his head and stares at the wreckage, sable eyes narrowing. He hears it more than sees it, how the acoustics of the room have changed. He claps his hands once, hard, and listens to the way the sound travels throughout the room—and beyond.

There's a secret room nested within the secret room. Cain laughs.

Flinging aside the remains of the bookshelf, he reveals a narrow, open doorway that leads into darkness. He claps again. The sound travels far and deep. Grabbing the torch from the wall sconce, he carries it to the threshold of the passageway. A seemingly endless hall awaits.

Cain enters, his wings folded close to his back, his booted feet lightly tapping across the polished hellstone. He's Jonah, traversing the intestines of a great, cold fish, except he intends to eat the fish from the inside out.

The hallway ends abruptly, opening into a tiny, claustrophobic room that isn't large enough to fit his wingspan. A black baby grand piano stands in the center of the room. It's nearly camouflaged against the black hellstone floor.

He secures the torch in the lone wall sconce and steps forward to circle the piano. Standing behind the bench, he lifts the fallboard and presses down on middle C. The note rings out, dull and flat after years of neglect.

The piano lid is down, and he raises it, fixing the the prop into place. He peers inside the instrument. More secrets lie within. He smiles, baring teeth.

Three items rest atop the baby grand's cast iron plate. A knurled lump of hellstone sits beside a curved, Hell-forged blade. Old, red blood cakes the knife's sharp edge. Finally, there is a wooden, rectangular box, no larger than his hand. On its top, a highly-detailed sheaf of wheat has been carved deep into the wood. The symbol is ancient and familiar. The harvest feast. Shavuot. Pentecost.

Cain thumbs open the box and sucks in a breath. He thought he knew all there was to know about the Devil's coin—that there was only one, that it was recently spent, the end. But here, here lie other Pentecostal coins, handmade, and in various stages of completion. Eight, to be exact. A bloody, maroon fingerprint stains the most rudimentary piece, which is more raw, lumpy hellstone than smooth, engraved and embossed coin.

Tears crawl down Cain's cheeks as he lifts a coin to his face. He runs his thumb across the bumpy texture of the satirical goat's head, dark dreams of revenge filling his head. When he breaks free, he's going to destroy Lucifer Morningstar. His reputation, his beauty, his joy. Everything.

Cain's fist closes over the perpetually warm metal.


***


Hell's gates stand tall, black, and spiked between two fat-bodied volcanoes. Cain stares up at the doors and draws his wings into his scarred body. He carries with him nearly all his meager possessions: roughly-spun shirt and pants, uncomfortable boots, a Hell-forged knife, and three Pentecostal coins.

Paranoia drives him. He looks over his shoulder before pulling the first coin from the pocket he's stitched to the inside of his shirt. Trembling, he presses the coin to the seam where the two gates meet.

There is power in the Devil's blood. With an explosive roar, the doors blast open on their hinges, revealing a portal of pure, white light. The coin disintegrates, and a great force draws upon Cain, lifting his body and hauling him forward to extract him from the depths of Hell.

Behind him, the gates slam shut.

Chapter Text

Lucifer stuffs his shirttail into his trousers, his eyes glued to Chloe's sheet-covered backside. She's taken to sleeping naked, just, he believes, to destroy him. A week has passed, and she still hasn't given in—and neither has he, but it's a near thing. Last night, she almost had him, and bloody hell, she knew it. Why they're continuing to play this game of cat and mouse, he's not sure, but he's never felt more intrigued, pent-up, or determined in his life.

If only he could tap into whatever that naughty little desire of hers is... No matter how much he assures her it won't shock him, she refuses to utter a word. It must be good to make her blush like it does. It wasn't feet. He learned that the hard way when she nearly kicked him in the face for tickling her. Ropes, maybe? Some kind of deliciously deviant roleplay? Nantaimori? He has no bloody idea, and it's driving him mad.

He glances at Chloe's alarm clock and clicks his tongue. Time to go. The prevailing rule is he must be dressed and out the door before the offspring is awake. Suits him fine, really, as it means there are no sticky hands to dodge before he's had a coffee. He buttons his shirt while dashing down Chloe's stairwell on light, silent feet.

"Lucifer!"

Not silent enough, apparently. He freezes at the foot of the stairwell. Slowly, he turns toward the kitchen, his fingers caught up in buttons and placket. "Hello, Beatrice. You're up suspiciously early."

"Hi," Trixie says, grinning and looking an awful lot like her mother does when she's caught a criminal in the act. "Did you sleep over?"

"Ask your mum." He frowns, noticing the lump of processed food resting on the plate before her. "What are you eating?"

"Sausage and biscuit."

"That is neither a sausage nor a scone, child." Shaking his head, he marches into the kitchen and yanks open the fridge door. "What is wrong with your mother?"

When Chloe enters the kitchen twenty minutes later, Lucifer has a small stack of pancakes growing beside the cast iron skillet he found buried deep in a cabinet. The woman hardly ever cooks.

"Lucifer," she sighs. "We agreed you—"

"Yes, I know, but don't start," he says, pointing the spatula at her. "Your progeny was starving." He grins a little. "You're welcome to thank me later, if you like."

Chloe rolls her eyes and runs a hand down her daughter's dark, wavy hair. "Trixie-babe, time to get dressed."

Lucifer flips a pancake. "Ooh, I believe I'm about to get quite the scolding, urchin."

"That sucks."

"Trixie..."

"Oh, I don't mind," Lucifer assures her.

Trixie looks between them, grinning. "Are you guys dating?"

"Go get dressed," Chloe says, "and come back and eat. Brittany will be here soon."

"But—"

"Go."

Trixie flings herself from the bar stool and stomps away. Honestly, how are there children in a time of birth control?

Lucifer pours more batter into the skillet before glancing at Chloe uncertainly. "What's this Brittany's last name?"

She snorts. "I'm sure she's never been to Lux, if that's what you're asking. Did you even know the Brittanys' last names?"

"Would you believe two were Smiths?" he says, and is pleased when it amuses her as much as it amuses him.

It's strange thinking of the Brittanys. How delightful they were, and no doubt still are, even the one with the overbite, and yet he couldn't be less interested in what they're offering now. Oh, he has eyes, and he'll always see how others look at him. He'll always flirt and play. Desire, after all, is his jam. But only one person has peeled back his onion layers and not run away weeping.

He flips another pancake and clears his throat. "Sorry. She was awake when I came downstairs."

Chloe steps close and touches his back. "It's okay."

Lucifer glances at her sidelong. "It is?"

"Yeah. I think so." She gives one of his belt loops a gentle, sideways tug that goes straight to his groin. "Especially if you're going to make breakfast like this." Her hand snakes out toward the towering pancakes, but before she can pick at one, he lightly slaps her knuckles with the spatula. "Ow!" she complains, glaring at him. "Fine, I won't have any yet."

He squints, watching her closely, before sighing and mentally scratching one more thing off the list of possible kinks. "Not until I've done the fruit compote," he says.

"We might get an earful from Dan about this, just so you know." She removes plates from a cabinet and laughs. "Don't look so excited about it."

When Trixie returns, dressed in an atrocious amalgamation of stripes, polka dots, and all colors of the rainbow, they sit at the breakfast table and eat pancakes. He watches, peripherally, as the Decker women dig in, and he feels... Well, he's not sure what, exactly, but it's lovely and hurts, all at once, and he desperately wishes to hoard it away somewhere dark and safe. Because surely none of it can last.

"We should get going," Chloe says, dragging the final bite of her pancakes through a pool of syrup. "We've gotta close up the Hooper case today."

With the Rosales and Yates cases gone cold—officially, anyhow—Chloe was handed a new case this week, one of the many homicides that's occurred during the long heatwave. It was an easy case to solve involving a horny housewife, a libidinous landscaper, and a passionate pool boy. The three conspired to kill the dullard of a husband and turned on each other in a matter of hours. All in all, a rather anticlimactic week after getting shot from the sky. The paperwork, however, persists like syphilis in an eighteenth century whorehouse.

"No can do, I'm afraid," he says, standing and taking their empty plates to the sink. "Big night at Lux."

"It's a Monday..."

"Ah, but the heatwave is supposed to break tomorrow, so we're throwing a bit of a farewell party in its honor."

"To the heatwave."

"Did I stutter? Yes, to the heatwave. Business has been booming. You humans can't get enough of my backup generators during the blackouts. You'd think you lot had had air conditioning for thousands of years with the way you carry on. But far be it from me to deprive you."

"For a price."

"Everything has a price, darling."

She blinks at him. "You realize a lot of people have"—she glances at Trixie, turns away, and covertly grabs her throat and rolls her eyes back in some comical approximation of death—"because of the blackouts, right?"

"Do you mean died, Mom?" Trixie asks, and Lucifer grins.

"Yes, honey," Chloe sighs. "A lot of people have died. It's sad."

Lucifer tsks. "If you sold the heatwave as a weight loss plan, L.A. would love it. Too hot? Visit Lux or go skinny dip in the bloody Pacific." She glares at him, but her glare burns with that playful ire that doesn't run deep. "Come out tonight," he purrs, leaning his hip against the counter. "The Devil will show you how fun a little heat can be."

And maybe, just maybe, if he winds her up just so, she'll break in the best way. Which is to say she'll break first, and he'll be able to tease her about it for the rest of her days.

"I can stay with Daddy!" Trixie volunteers, her shrill voice a bucket of ice water to his libido.

"See," Lucifer says, waving a hand toward Trixie, "even the child knows you're boring and need to get out. Come on, it's not as if Miss Lopez has even lifted any prints from that pen yet."

Chloe laughs. "I'll think about it, okay?"


***


Why a nightclub? It's a question Linda and Chloe have asked him more than once.

Lucifer's go-to answer: Why the hell not?

Of course, there's more to it than that, but he's a poker player at heart. Best to hold your cards close, lest anyone discover you only have a pair of twos. Put on an expensive suit, a little makeup, and a charming smile, and the world assumes you've a royal flush in hand.

The truth is Lux is an expression of free will, his and others'. It's a place where people are free to make any choice—good or bad—in any moment, so long as it doesn't harm another. (You're welcome to harm yourself all you like.) And if you've regrets, relax. There's a loophole to be found in more alcohol or drugs or stomach pumping or antibiotics or Plan B. Most importantly, there's closing time, when all is forgiven and reset in preparation for a new day.

When he enters Lux now, it's to workers balanced atop ladders and otherwise rushing to and fro. With the nightclub now being part of a historic building, getting the city planner to allow him some...minor adjustments had been tricky, especially without the aid of sexual bartering, but it all worked out in the end. She got her trip to Bali.

At his pre-dawn request made from Chloe's bed, temporary fans and a water misting system are being installed. Usually even a temporary setup like this takes a week to install, due to all the electrical, fire safety, and water damage concerns, but the work team's leader, Nate Gardner, owes the Devil a favor. It helps, too, that Nate would do just about anything to sleep with him again.

Lucifer watches from the bar as Nate directs a tradesman on hose placement—a process that is far less erotic than it should be, all things considered. The tragically dull task does nothing to diminish how Nate's hindquarters are a work of art in his faded jeans, however. He's got that wiry, sinewy body Lucifer always favors in men—fit as a whip. Not to mention he gives head like he's a hoover.

But then...none of that is enough anymore, is it? Nate, despite being quite nice, never was one to ask Lucifer how his day was or quietly bring him ranch crisps or tease him for liking B movies with awful catchphrases. He never picked Lucifer's feathers clean or kissed his burned mouth or ran into the wild, California desert to save him, the Devil, from Hell.

Nate is a lovely young man, a very good time in the sack, but as Lucifer looks at him, he hears the faint echo of his former lovers at the precinct, extolling his skills, naturally, but also suggesting he's only good for one thing. It reminds him of being in the Silver City, where he was only ever wanted for what he could do. And, when he wouldn't do, well, he was no longer wanted.

Lucifer looks away and pours more bourbon. Chloe's ruined him. He feels happy and terrified, all at once, not to mention horny out of his Dad-forsaken mind. Linda assures him it's all normal—healthy, even—but feeling this much is disturbing. He can't quite shake the belief that it makes him weak.

And, of course, that little notion might explain why he becomes a tad mortal in her presence, wouldn't it? He scoffs into his glass and shakes his head.

"Lucifer?"

"Hmm?" He turns on his bar stool and smiles. "Well, hello, Nathaniel."

"My guys should be done in a few hours," Nate says, his brown eyes raking downward. "I could stay back, though. If you need me."

"You always have been a bold and beautiful one, haven't you?" Lucifer downs the last of his bourbon. His glass clanks against the bar counter. "You know, I do loathe throwing a spanner into your desire, but I'm afraid I only require the tools you use for work."

Nate steps forward, pressing between his legs. "Are you sure?" he asks, his mouth close to Lucifer's neck.

"Quite." Lucifer places a hand on Nate's chest and pushes him back slightly. "There is such a thing as too bold, my dear."

"Sorry," Nate breathes, taking another step back. He glances over his shoulder, as if he didn't realize how openly forward he was being. "I didn't—"

"No need to be embarrassed." Lucifer flashes a grin. "I know I'm wickedly tempting." Reaching out, he grabs Nate's callused fingers and gives them a gentle squeeze. "We had fun, you and I, but I'm... Well, I'm spoken for now." Taking a deep breath, he lets go and proceeds to tug on his sleeves.

"Really?" Nate says, eyes wide.

"Believe me, no one's as surprised as the Devil."

"Well, that's nice." The sentiment rings genuine. "I-I hope you're happy."

"Disquietingly so," Lucifer admits.

Nate nods. "I get that. Oh, uh, by the way, thanks. You know, for paying off Christie's student loans."

"Christie can thank her brother. You're doing all this for free."

"This isn't a hundred grand's worth of work."

"Isn't it?" Who can keep up with the cost of things?

"Not even close."

Lucifer shrugs.

"Anyway," Nate says with a snicker, "I'll find a way to write it off."

"Good man."

"Your friend Mazikeen taught me," Nate laughs, and walks away.

Friend. Right.

Lucifer watches him return to his team. Nate will never know him, not really, but suddenly the reality of that doesn't sting quite so much. Doesn't leave him feeling hollow and alone. He had a good time with Nate...and that was enough for who he used to be.

Perhaps it's all right to want more than what the Nates and Brittanys of the world are willing to offer.

As he jogs up the stairs to the elevator, he texts Chloe: Come have fun with me tonight.


***


It's not quite as hot as Hell outside, but it's close, so it's no surprise when another blackout makes the City of Angels sweat. Even with it being a Monday night, the line to get inside Lux wraps around the block.

Everyone who's anyone wants to be here, and not just because of the backup generators. They're drawn in, as always, by promises of bacchanalian madness and rumors about the eccentric, piano-playing club owner, who will either have mind-blowing sex with them or make sure someone else does. Twitter says the sex god's throwing a party? You'd be a fool not to go.

The aptly named Blackout Party hasn't even begun yet, but already Lux is raking in more cash than the Catholic Church during Lent. The IRS will never know it, of course, or, if they do, they'll never follow through on a tax audit.

Lucifer sits before his piano, his suit jacket tossed aside, so that he's down to a black vest and gray shirt that's rolled up at the sleeves. His fingers fly across the ivory and ebony from one song to the next. Below, red-soled shoes stretch toward the pedals as needed, flawlessly modulating sound as if the piano were an extension of his body. In a way, it is. Practice indeed makes perfect, and he's been playing since the instrument was invented in the sixteen hundreds.

He carries Lux's patrons through an eclectic musical tour of the twentieth century, from 1920s boogie-woogie, to 1930s swing, forties jazz, rock 'n roll from the fifties and sixties, seventies Motown, eighties glam rock, and even a few piano renditions of nineties pop and grunge. If anyone thinks the choices odd or out of place and time, they don't say so—can't quite get the words out—as the Devil's music drives them to the dance floor.

This is his wheelhouse, and he's a Pied Piper who knows exactly what he's doing. Not to say he's in control of everything, not exactly. As he plays, he keeps one eye on the entryway in anticipation. He's confident she'll pass through that door. It's more a matter of when than if. A month ago, two, he never would have believed it. Wouldn't have dared expect so much unless a case required it or he did a lot of begging. The detective didn't have fun, and when Cain entered the picture, she certainly didn't have fun with him. She didn't even need him for work.

But things are different now. They're real, as partners, as lovers. And as much as she grounds him, he sees how he unwinds her, so that they're always dancing, pushing and pulling. She'll be here, but he keeps an eye out.

Is dear old Dad behind the ease of it all? Will he take everything away in the blink of an eye? Lucifer doesn't know, but he's in too deep now. Couldn't go back if he wanted.

And then suddenly, Chloe's there, winding down the stairs. Her hair falls in golden waves, skimming the edge of a black, curve-hugging dress that leaves little to the imagination. Black straps encase her feet and wrap round her ankles and calves. And Lucifer knows she's playing their game, that she's set out to wreck him.

It may work, too. But then, the Devil is old and has tricks of his own.

He grins at her and shifts seamlessly into Carol King on the piano, because, really, doesn't the Earth tremble just a little when Chloe Decker comes onto a scene? Is that simply how he sees it, or is it something more, something written on the code of her blessed double helix?

Chloe slides onto the piano bench beside him and nudges his shoulder. As he closes out the song, she smiles and moves with the rhythm. When he's finished, he brings down the fallboard, which is the subtle cue for the DJ. Music blasts to life from speakers suspended in the corners of the club.

Turning to Chloe, he grins. "You're here."

"I'm here." She grins with him.

"And you look bloody amazing."

He pulls her close, his mouth descending to hers. As he deepens the kiss, her hands sneak along his chest, up his neck, into his hair. He longs to tap into her desire, to ask her what she wants most in this broken world, even as it thrills a part of him that he can't, that he has to work for it. That she's always bloody making him work. What a taskmaster.

They part on a ragged breath, and he leads her to the bar. Staff rush out to the piano, throwing a cover over it and wheeling it away through the crowd. Chloe asks for whisky, neat. She used to ask for beer, like some commoner, but her eyes have seen the glory of the top shelf.

He admires her as she sips her drink, her smoky eyes scanning the crowd. There's no taking the detective out of her, which is precisely why she's so good at what she does.

"How many of these poor people know I'm the only one going upstairs with you tonight?" she finally asks, turning to him.

Lucifer laughs, enjoying her possessiveness. "Am I being gawked at?"

"Um, something like that."

He looks out at the crowd with her, and, oh, yes, there are eyes glued to him, but no more so than usual. Does she notice how many look at her, as well? They make a very nice couple, he thinks, and feels warmed by the thought.

"I suppose we'll just need to make it clear to them I'm going to be rather busy tonight," he says, enfolding her hand in his. "Come on." He uses his other hand to steal her glass and kick back the rest of the whisky before dragging her to the dance floor.

"Lucifer..." she protests, always shy about dancing.

"Chloe," he laughs in response, and yanks her close, enjoying the soft press of her breasts, the way the bullet slides along the chain at her neck. He moves her with him, feeling the rhythm of the crowd. "What did you think would happen at a nightclub?" he chuckles against her mouth.

Slowly, she gives in, letting the music take over with his help. The temperature rises in the room, fueled by movement and desire, and when it becomes almost unbearable, Lux's staff flip a few switches and Nate's brilliant work kicks in. People squeal in pleasure as mist trails down from the ceiling, cooling, though it barely touches.

Chloe's dancing slows. She glances up and frowns. "That can't be up to code, Lucifer."

"Bloody hell," he complains, "don't your wheels ever stop turning?"

Bending, he grabs her rear, pulling her even closer, so that the heat between her legs presses against his right thigh. She looks at him, startled, but far from protesting. He smirks briefly before she yanks his head down and slips her tongue into his mouth.

The night becomes an intoxicating blur of dancers pressed close, of bass reverberating up through the floor and Chloe grinding against him until he's forced to hide his erection between their bodies. The mist falls and settles, until dresses and shirts cling to skin. Alcohol flows, and Lucifer can tell when the Molly's come out from behind the bar when a woman in a cobalt blue dress can't seem to stop working her jaw around hard candy.

It's around this time that Chloe yells above the crowd, "Can we go upstairs?"

She doesn't wait for him to answer, but turns and pulls him by his hand. He follows without complaint, watching her calf muscles strain against the black leather cage of her sandals as she walks. She really does have bloody fantastic legs.

In the elevator, she pushes him so suddenly that it catches him off guard, and he falls against the back wall. "Hello," he purrs before she's on him madly, fumbling with buttons. His belt buckle clinks as they rocket upward. "Are you giving in?" he gasps at her mouth. "Is this you begging?"

Chloe freezes, her hand halfway down his trousers. "Are you giving in?" she asks.

Lucifer stares at her as the elevator shudders to a stop. The doors slide open behind her, revealing the penthouse. Her skin is dewy with mist and sweat, hair curling at the ends, mouth red from rough kisses. She's beautiful, and so much more than that, too.

He holds her face and kisses her. "I might be," he admits, his voice hoarse.

"Me, too," she whispers. Her fingers grip around him, and he pushes his hips forward with a groan.

Grinning, he bends and hefts her up, squeezing her to him. She lets out a delighted squeal as her hand slips from his trousers. She grabs hold of his shoulders and wraps her legs around his waist as he walks them into the penthouse.

"You're about to have a very good night," he tells her as he settles her atop the bar counter. It's as far as he can get before he loses his mind.

She kisses him hard. "I've been having good nights."

"This one will be better." He stretches her knees apart, driving her short, fitted dress high up her hips. He groans when he sees blood red lace. "You look like sin, darling."

"That's what I was going for." Her chuckling dies in her throat as his finger slips past the edge of the lace. She's so worked up she trembles.

"You poor thing," he says. "What have I done to you?"

"Oh, God, you're such an ass," she laughs.

"Now, don't bring him into it."

"Sorry," she whispers.

He shrugs and drags the lace down her hips, past her knees and strapped sandals. He licks his lips and thumbs her clit, but he can't keep his mouth away for long.

There are few things Lucifer enjoys more than going down on a woman. There's just so much exquisite variety in appearance, taste, experience, and desirous need. All the wonderful challenges of finding the spots that make a woman sigh and moan and keen and quiver, of learning when to stop and when to keep going—all challenges that not nearly enough men are interested in meeting.

Don't they know there isn't much better than seeing a woman come undone?

Lucifer is an excellent multitasker when he wants to be, but most especially in the art of sex. He knows how to crook a finger, how to speak in tongues, and he never has a free hand. Much of his knowledge of human anatomy may come from dark places, but it serves him well in more pleasurable pursuits.

When Chloe comes, her back arching off the glass counter, he watches hungrily, greedily, from between her thighs, as if this might be another moment he could hoard. She tries so hard to bottle up her sounds, but always fails, and making her fail is its own kind of high.

Her eyes find his several moments later. Sitting up, she pulls him to her and kisses him deeply, sucking on his lower lip. "My turn?" she breathes, quirking a brow as her hand brushes over the front of his trousers.

Lucifer thinks of her on her knees the night before, her blue eyes cutting up to his as her cheeks hollowed out. He's not sure he can survive that right now, but he finds himself asking what he so often does: "Is that what you desire?" A habit, the blueprint for so much of his behavior, especially in the bedroom, where desire reigns supreme.

Chloe's expression softens as she tilts her head and brushes her fingers through his hair. "What do you want? I want you to feel good."

"I do feel good."

She lets out a small, frustrated huff. "Okay, but tell me what you want."

"You," he answers easily.

"How?"

Any way you'll have me, he thinks.

But inside, he's spiraling. He's so used to being the inquisitor that her questions unnerve him, so that he has an almost overwhelming urge to go in circles with her. What do you want? No, what do you want? And so on, forever.

"Lucifer?"

He's stared off into the distance without realizing it—dissociation, Linda once called it, though he's skeptical of the whole concept—but his eyes return to Chloe's. She caresses his face and watches him like she sees him, whatever, whomever he is. Something eases in him, just a little, and he sighs.

"I'm usually the one asking these questions," he says.

"I know." For some reason, her eyes fill with tears, and he pulls her closer, worried he's upset her. "I want you to have me how you want me," she whispers.

It feels a little like a dream. "I don't—"

"I'll tell you what feels good. I'll tell you if I don't want something." She kisses his cheek sweetly. "I trust you." Then she smiles. "How bad can it be to let you take over? You're always saying you're the best."

He laughs, his forehead dropping to hers. "I'm not lying."

And yet he freezes again, like some inexperienced sod. Answering the question of what he desires is both easy and difficult. He desires Chloe, has since those early days when he couldn't stop himself from barging onto her crime scenes and into her life. But how... Well, how doesn't he want her? Only in the ways she doesn't want to be wanted.

Chloe waits for him, her touch soft. She kisses the corner of his mouth. "Maybe it'd...it'd help if I told you my dreams."

He perks up at this. "Dreams, hmm? What do you dream about, Detective?" Tentatively, he slides the straps of her dress down her shoulders. She wears no bra underneath.

"Being with the Devil."

Lucifer pulls back sharply. Eyes narrowed, he hunts for deception or unkindness, but only finds the red on her cheeks, which runs down her throat. He's seen embarrassment in enough humans to know hers runs deep.

"I don't understand," he says. "But tell me." He wedges himself closer between her thighs. "No judgment."

She licks her lips and swallows. "I like what you are." Her hands skate up to his biceps. "That you're powerful."

He stops breathing, stops moving. Everything hangs on her words.

"Your burns make me sad," she says. "I'm sad you've been hurt. But everything else..." She laughs uncomfortably. "I think I'm into it."

"Into it," he repeats, disbelieving. "Into it?"

This is her desire? Truly? To have him?

She shrugs and looks to the side, her blush darker, deeper. "So, I guess when I say...you can have me as you want me, I really mean it. Just be yourself."

And who is the real Lucifer Morningstar? There are so many pieces of himself, scattered between the heavens, the stars, Hell, and Earth. Is he able to fit them all together, into one person she can know?

"You'll tell me if you're uncomfortable with anything," he says, drawing her chin forward, so she's forced to look him in the eye.

"Yes."

"Promise me."

"I promise," she says, her eyes boring into his. She looks...excited.

"You're a freak," he says, with great affection. "You realize that, don't you?"

"Maybe? But I think you like it."

"I most certainly do."

Running his thumb over her bottom lip, he sighs as a dam he didn't know he had built begins to crumble. He catches her lips with his, one hand in her hair, the other running along her side, gathering the fabric of her dress in his fist. Biting her lower lip, he yanks, hard. The seams tear apart easily, as if he's torn tissue paper, and he pulls the dress free from her body. Chloe laughs loudly as she's left stark naked—except for her sandals—on his counter.

He might leave those.

She looks at him with hooded eyes.

"You are into this," he says, his fingers trailing her hip.

"You have too much on," she complains, leaning back on her hands and spreading her legs.

"Bloody hell."

The urge to tear off his own clothes is great, but he can't quite bring himself to ruin this particular bespoke ensemble, so he settles for making quick work of his vest and dress shirt before tugging his unbuckled belt free and letting it drop to the floor.

Never one to miss something, Chloe says, "Oh, of course you don't tear your clothes."

He snorts and kicks off shoes and socks, drops his trousers and boxers, and then stands before her, his arms spread, his erection comically obvious. "Well?"

"Very nice. Seen it already, though," she snickers.

"Seen it already! Like it's old hat!"

They're both laughing when he picks her up from the counter. She hooks her sandaled feet behind him, and he groans, feeling how wet she is against him, as he walks her into his bedroom and puts her on his bed.

Even with more than a week of play, of seeing her naked and writhing, he still can't quite believe what's happening. That, in a way, she's here because she's his, and of course he's bloody hers.

When he leans over her, he feels...unencumbered in a way he hasn't for a very, very long time. He kisses her and palms her breasts, his thumbs dragging over her rose-colored peaks. He moans in pleasure when she tugs his hair, and her hips lift up from the bed.

Lucifer trails kisses down her throat, to the faint scar at her shoulder, to her breasts.

"You're sure you're clean?" she asks.

He snorts where his mouth hovers above a nipple. It's a completely reasonable question—one an astonishingly small number of his partners think to ask—but she's already asked several variations of it this past week because, in her words, he's "been a slut." Which he's rather proud to say is entirely true, but a little faith would be appreciated. It's not as if he's lying.

"I really can't get human diseases," he assures her. Again. "And you've really had a tubal ligation?" He's teasing her, but, truly, having some Satanic offspring running about is far more terrifying than a case of the clap.

She nods.

"Lovely."

They stare at each other for a long moment before she reaches between them and touches herself. When she takes hold of his length, her fingers are wonderfully slick and he lets out a shuddering sigh.

"I'm ready if you want me this way," she whispers.

If he wants her this way. How absurd. He wants her every way.

"You're sure?" he asks, pressing his hips forward slightly. She wants him now, of course, but the thought of her regretting it later... But she nods and kisses him, and he relaxes before he can worry himself too much.

In the end, this really is what he desires, the most boring of positions, all so he can look upon her face when he enters her for the first time. There will be time for other things, maybe even tonight.

He slides into her slowly, and though he's been here before, with countless women and men, it's different, so different it makes his chest hurt. He takes his time as he moves, savoring the sounds their bodies and throats make together.

With a hand wedged between them, his thumb never far from her clit, he carries her up and over the edge of her desire. Only then can he tolerate the thought of letting go. Release hits him hard, tearing through his entire body. And when he feels that familiar ache between his shoulders, he lets that go, too.

Chloe kisses him, her fingers buried in his feathers.


***


True to the weather forecasters' predictions, the next day proves to be much cooler, at least by summer-in-L.A. standards. But Lucifer hardly notices any of it as he waltzes naked through his penthouse. He feels like a new man, like he could throw open Heaven's gates with a whisper.

Chloe Decker wants him, all of him, and has him thoroughly ensnared in a most pleasurable way. His thoughts keep returning to the night before and to the early hours of dawn, when she woke and climbed atop him like a wet dream come to life. He grinned and lay back, arms behind his head, as he enjoyed the ride.

Despite his protests, she left for the precinct shortly thereafter, running about, dragging items out of her corner of his closet. Watching her go had been difficult. He almost went with her, but, well, he really does enjoy his morning routine.

He showers, cleans up his stubble, and moisturizes. For a while, he stares at himself in the mirror, trying to understand why he feels so different, but it's all too big for him, and he shelves it for his next session with Linda.

Wandering out to the bar, he reaches for his finest bottle of whisky when the elevator dings to the side. He smirks and pours his drink.

"Come for another hit, darling?" He drops his robe, his body already responding at the prospect. "Very well. I suppose I'll let you climb aboard."

He turns, grinning—and is immediately thrown into a cold shower. The glass cracks in his hand before he drops it to the floor, where it shatters.

"Hey, Lucifer."

"Mazikeen."

"Uh, yeah," Maze says, her eyes dropping low before returning to his face. "You should probably put your dick away. You know I don't care, but Decker gets weird about this stuff. I know you two are a...thing now. Or whatever."

Lucifer strides forward, anger building in his chest. "You've quite a bit of nerve, showing up here."

"We need to talk."

"What?" he scoffs. "So you can spin more lies? More like, I should cut your tongue out and feed it to you. How sad that will make all the boys and girls."

Maze raises her chin, but makes no move to defend herself as his hand closes around her throat. He lifts her off the ground and slams her into the nearest wall, sending fissures through the sandstone.

"The cost of your little games has grown too dear, Maizie."

"Cain—" She gasps in a breath. "Stole my blade."

"Ah, but why was he able to steal it in the first place?" He gives her a rough shake, like a cat with a rodent. "You forgot the first rule of scheming, Mazikeen: Never make a deal with a liar."

"I'm...sorry." She claws at the fingers of his hand, trying to pry them away. He tightens his grip.

"I could end you, you know," he whispers, almost sweetly, and tilts his head. He feels Hellfire flare to life in his eyes.

"I'll fight...back," she hisses.

"Wouldn't be fun otherwise." His smile is sharp.

They stare at each other, eons of history between them—some good, some bad, most expedient. And for the first time in their very long relationship, Lucifer sees sorrow in Mazikeen, an emotion demons aren't meant to have. A fat tear rolls down her cheek and drops onto his forearm.

"Oh, well done," he says cruelly. "Been going to acting classes?"

She says nothing, simply lets him look at her pain, her breath uneven beneath his grasp.

Scoffing, he drops her, and she crumples to the floor. She doesn't get up, choosing instead to rest her arms on her leather-clad knees while she gasps in air. She watches him warily from the corner of her eyes.

"Punishing you is no fun if you're going to be such a sad sack," he snaps. "Bloody hell, I at least expect you to kick me in my dangly bits."

"Look, things got out of hand, and I tried to make it right, but it was too late. I... I didn't come here to fight."

"Yes, well, forgive me if I can't take a thing you say seriously. Might have something to do with that little stunt you pulled with the angel wings."

What a week that was. He barely remembers it and thinks in passing that he really should rewatch Bones.

Rounding the bar, he picks up his robe from the floor and slips it over his shoulders. He ties the sash around his waist and returns to stand before his best torturer and erstwhile lover.

"Why did you do it?"

"I just wanted to go home, Lucifer."

"Hell was never home."

"Maybe not for you, but that's where I'm from."

"Well, I'm from the Silver City. Doesn't mean it's home." He shakes his head. "No one wants to live in Hell, Mazikeen, not even demons." Not really.

She looks away and shrugs a shoulder. "Maybe. Linda says I was"—she uses air quotes—"'running from my emotions.'"

"Yes, you're very lucky the doctor took you in."

"You knew, huh? You went looking for me?"

"Of course."

"To kill me?"

"I hadn't thought that far ahead yet."

Maze nods, accepting it. "Staying with Linda..." She rolls her eyes and blows air past her lips. "Let's just say she's been trying to help me become a 'well-adjusted individual.'" She spits the words like they're a curse. "Turns out that's not even a euphemism for getting laid."

"Is it working?" he asks wryly.

"Do I seem well-adjusted to you?" she spits out. "All this feeling crap." She sighs loudly. "But I guess not all of it's bad. Some of it's...nice. Sort of."

"Sometimes," he agrees.

"I'll make things up to you."

"I doubt it, but I agree you owe me."

She grimaces, but accepts this, too.

He turns away, back toward the bar. "Would you like a drink?"

Lucifer doesn't know why he asks. If anything, he wants her gone, far away from him and Chloe, but old habits die hard, and there are few habits as old as sharing a drink with Mazikeen.

"If you're gonna pour it," she says. He hears her scramble upright. "Actually, wait, I'll pour my own drink."

"Worried I might poison you?" he asks cheerfully, two glasses rattling between his fingers. "You know that's not my style."

He hands her an empty glass, and they take turns pouring expensive liquor. They stand on opposite sides of the bar, staring at each other.

"You're to stay away from Chloe and her offspring," he says, his glass held close to his enrobed chest.

"But—"

Before she can reply, they hear the loud flap of angel wings mere seconds before Amenadiel lands on Lucifer's balcony.

"Hello, brother."

Lucifer struggles to school his shock. "Bloody hell, fancy seeing you here," he complains, slamming his drink down. "Did I send out a bat signal, calling all immortals? I've places to be."

"Nice to see you, too," Amenadiel says.

Maze huffs a laugh and folds her arms over her chest. "You're wearing that dress again?"

"It does his legs no justice, does it?" Lucifer quips.

Amenadiel's scowl deepens. "Father's not seeing anyone, Luci."

Lucifer shares a look with Maze. "Right, and your point?" He finishes off the whisky in his glass before opting to hang on to the bottle. This morning is really putting a damper on his post-coital bliss. Well, all the more reason to get Chloe naked again.

"Gabriel won't let me into the Great Tower. I've been asking around... No one's seen Father in decades."

"Try millennia. You learn to live with the radio silence, I assure you." He heads toward the steps into his bedroom before stopping and turning back. "Wait," he says, waving his whisky bottle as he points an accusatory finger. "Does this mean Dad wasn't the one making you pop down and muck up my good times so I'd go back to Hell? Do you realize how many perfectly innocent men and women have left my company unsatisfied because of you?"

"Luci, I didn't even talk to Father when he sent me to bless Penelope Decker."

Maze lets out an excited, disbelieving laugh. "Oh, shit, I came at just the right time."

"And you never bloody well thought to mention that before?" Lucifer snaps.

"Blessing Penelope was just part of my daily missive. We've always taken them to be orders from Father."

"Daily missive."

"That was started long after you—"

"Dared to question the Almighty?"

"It was more than that, Luci."

"Was it?" Lucifer challenges.

"Anyway, Gabriel sends out daily tasks now. We don't speak to Father directly. I just... I didn't realize how long it had been since any of us had heard from him."

Maze rummages behind the bar until she locates a bag of mixed nuts. She tears it open, makes herself comfortable on a bar stool, and begins stuffing her face.

"Gabby—send out daily tasks?" Lucifer laughs. "Maybe Dad has a sense of humor, after all. So you're saying you got a letter that told you, 'Pop down to earth and wave hello to Penelope Decker's uterus,' and you didn't so much as stop to ask why?"

"It is not for God's servants to ask why."

"We're his bloody children, not his slaves!"

The room goes silent, save for Maze's enthusiastic crunching.

"Luci," Amenadiel sighs, "I know you and Father haven't gotten along for a long time, but—"

"He sent me to Hell," Lucifer interrupts. "Whatever nonsense you lot get up to in the Silver City is none of my concern. I couldn't care less if the old man is giving you the cold shoulder while he tinkers with some new toy. Now, if you're here to take me back to Hell—"

"I'm not."

"Good. Because, whether of your own accord or at the behest of Gabriel or Dad himself, I won't go, and you can't make me. So, if you'll excuse me, Chloe is expecting me at the precinct."

A pause. "Chloe, huh?" Amenadiel tilts his head and grins.

"Oh, yeah," Maze laughs.

"Yes, Chloe," Lucifer says, a little too defensively. "Detective Decker. My partner."

"Uh-huh," Amenadiel says. "A lot's happened since I left, hasn't it?"

"Yes, well, it may come as a shock, but the world doesn't stop turning simply because you flew the coop."

"Chloe knows," Maze says through a full mouth. "And they're totally boning." She looks around the penthouse and nods. "Recently, too, huh?"

Demons.

"Chloe knows?" Amenadiel says.

Lucifer feels himself smile. "Yes, and she still quite likes me." Likes him, in fact, partly because of what he is. "Also, Cain's dead." On that note, he jogs up the steps to his bedroom.

"Wait, what?" he hears Amenadiel ask. "Who killed him?"

Maze chuckles. "Who do you think, dum-dum?"

Amenadiel crosses into Lucifer's room and stops at the edge of his closet, where Lucifer is busy yanking on black trousers.

"Tell me you didn't."

"Oh, but I did."

How he'd loved it, too, watching smug Cain succumb to his own weapon. Never bring a knife to a fight with the Devil.

"There will be consequences, brother."

"Will there?" Lucifer scoffs, sliding a belt through his belt loops. "Dad's MIA according to you, and I thought we decided we have the reality we think we deserve. Well, I think I deserve an eternity free from Cain." He spreads his arms wide, his unbuttoned shirt flapping at his sides. "Oh, look, I've got it. End of discussion."

"What about Chloe?" Amenadiel challenges. "What if the consequences of your sin befall her?"

"They won't," Lucifer insists, his heart drumming in his chest. He would never allow that to happen. He watches Amenadiel's face as he buttons his dress shirt and shrugs on his suit jacket. "Why did you come here, really? Why apprise me of Silver City drama?"

Amenadiel's face softens. "Perhaps I missed you, brother. Heaven looks...different, after my time here."

Lucifer looks away, busying himself with the drawer where he keeps his pocket squares. Once, very long ago, he enjoyed being around his big brother, but letting his guard slip now, with all their history, is a dangerous, foolish thing. Their camaraderie is only ever temporary.

"Well, you certainly didn't lead with that, did you? No one's stopping you from staying a while, you know," he says. "Your apartment's still empty." He stuffs his square into his breast pocket.

"I... That's very thoughtful."

"Just honoring our deal," Lucifer says gruffly. "You watched over Chloe while I was in Vegas. The apartment's yours, so long as you need it."

"I'll think about it," Amenadiel says. "For now... I suppose I'll return to the Silver City. Someone must make sure Father's all right. I just thought you should know."

Lucifer turns and nods. "Yes, well, good luck with whatever bollocks Dad is up to. A bit of advice? Don't involve me much, lest you want to incur his wrath."

Amenadiel leaves. A half-eaten bag of mixed nuts is the only sign Maze ever visited. Lucifer sighs, fills his flask, and enters the elevator. He almost forgot how much the metaphysical still dictates his life.


***


At the precinct, Lucifer rounds the corner to Chloe's desk and stops in his tracks. A young man bends over the desk, his shaggy, honey-colored curls falling forward as he pulls case files from her sorting shelf.

"Whatever do you think you're doing?" Lucifer snaps.

The man looks up, startled. "Uh, hi. Just grabbing my cases."

"I beg your pardon? Those are the Detective's cases."

"Oh, there's probably just some confusion," the man says, smiling broadly and revealing slightly crooked teeth. "I'm the newbie detective—Detective Webb." He holds out a hand. "Wow, nice suit... Are you my partner? The lieutenant said he was assigning someone to me so I can learn the ropes."

"I would sooner gnaw my own fingers off," Lucifer says, staring at the proffered hand. "Not a detective, the Detective. Chloe Decker. I'm her partner, not yours." He looks around the room, hoping to spot her.

Detective Webb's face lights with understanding. "Oooh, uh, yeah, Decker. I think she's in with Garcia now."

"Right," Lucifer says, immediately turning to leave. He pauses and looks back over his shoulder. "By the by," he says, pointing at Chloe's mess of papers, "if you value your limbs, I suggest you not touch anything else on this desk."

An uncertain laugh bubbles out of Detective Webb. "Is this some kind of 'haze the new guy' thing?"

"No, that was a threat," Lucifer says, adjusting a cufflink.

At that, he strides toward the lieutenant's office, fully intending to barge inside. The door swings open as he reaches for the handle, and there she is: Chloe Jane Decker, looking like she's ready to lay waste to humanity.

"You look positively terrifying right now," he says, delighted.

"I've been demoted," she growls.

"Demoted? Whatever for?"

She drags him into an empty interrogation room, where she hands him her phone. On the screen is TFF!, the skeevy paparazzi website they encountered in the early days of their partnership.

"Oh, Dung Beetle," Lucifer murmurs. "I thought he gave this up."

"He sold the company, but it's still thriving without him," she gripes in disgust.

Lucifer frowns at the homepage. "I get that Kim's bum implants are a slowly-deteriorating travesty, but I've no idea what they have to do with your demotion."

"Oh," she says, peeking over his hands. "No, go to the second picture in the slideshow."

He taps the right arrow, stares, and grins widely. It's them, making out on the dance floor.

"Look how filthy hot we are," he cheers, and gently bumps into her. "Oh, but what a dreadful headline."

Back Again?! Chloe Decker Stars in New, HOT Role with Lux Nightclub's Lucifer Morningstar

Utter trash. He immediately clicks on it, scanning the several shots. They really should film themselves. The entry ends on a screen capture from Hot Tub High School. He snorts at the small black bars hiding Chloe's nipples. Humans get hung up on the strangest things.

"Yeah, well, Chief Mitchell doesn't think we're hot. Not to mention every time I show up on these websites, undercover work gets that much harder."

"Not the only thing that gets harder, I'm sure."

"Gross."

Lucifer looks up from the phone. "Wait. Don't tell me this is why you've been reprimanded. What, for a snog at a party? I didn't even have your knickers off yet."

Chloe closes her eyes and lets out a breath. "Can you take this seriously?"

"I assure you I take your knickers very seriously—and your career, of course."

She glares at him. "Apparently the Los Angeles Telegraph is running another story on the Pierce case," she tells him quietly. "Someone told them I used to be married to Dan and that I was engaged to Pierce."

"Daniel aside, that temporary engagement insanity only lasted two days," Lucifer says, perturbed.

"And now there's this, making it clear I'm with you, an LAPD consultant."

"Came to your senses." He grins. "But, yes, I see the angle they're going for: Detective Chloe Decker, office slag. What bollocks. If that were true, we'd have been shagging ages ago."

"Can you keep your voice down?" she whispers harshly, and looks around, even though they're alone in the interrogation room.

"What? Don't want people knowing you had the best night of your life?"

"I never said that."

"A picture's worth a thousand words, isn't it?" He zooms in on her face in one of the pap shots and turns the phone toward her. Gosh, she looks incredibly turned on there, and why wouldn't she? She was with the Devil, after all. He invented several techniques for the bedroom. "Since TFF!'s already blown the gaff, can I post one of these beauties to my Insta?"

She snatches the phone from him. "What do you think my answer to that will be?"

"Yes?" he quests. "Hashtag relationshipgoals? Don't use the Gingham filter?"

"The answer's no. Not just a little no, but a hell no."

"Right," he says. "Of course, Jane. Wouldn't want the world to know you had fun."

Letting out a frustrated sigh, Chloe heads for the door. He grabs hold of her wrist, stopping her.

"We shouldn't even be in here together," she says. "Everyone's going to think—"

"Darling, people will think what they want, pictures or no." He draws her hands to his chest, where he covers them with his. "Were you planning to keep me hidden? I'm rather noticeable." He grins.

"No," she sighs, a finger fidgeting with one of his shirt buttons.

"Then, do you want me to take care of this?"

"What, with some deal?" He arches a brow, and Chloe frowns. "Your whole favor system doesn't always work the way you'd like it to..."

"It has a very high success rate, I assure you."

She considers it, for a long time, but finally she shakes her head. "I'll earn my spot back. It'll make the Yates and Rosales cases harder, but...we'll figure it out."

Sighing, Lucifer leans forward and presses a kiss to her forehead. "I know you never weary in doing good, Detective, but surely you're aware you don't always reap what you sow."

Chapter Text

With a gasp, Cain grabs his chest, feeling a distant echo of sharp pain, of a blade sinking deep. There's no blood, no wound, but his fingers dip into a depression beneath his shirt, into that gaping hole where his heart once beat. It eases him, this crater in his body, for he knows his survival depends on the darkness it represents.

Get up, he tells himself, but he stays where he is, feeling tired and overwhelmed. The room he's in is hot and bright. He blinks up at the familiar mezzanine and vaulted ceiling, recognition slowly dawning. He's returned to the loft where he died as a man.

He rises to his feet as a creature of darkness and takes in the damaged surroundings. Signs of the fight with Lucifer and Chloe remain: chips in columns from gunfire; a large tarp where once there stood floor-to-ceiling glass; the jagged and broken, egg-shaped finials on both sides of the stairwell.

Unease coils, serpentine, round his spine as he's thrown back into his final human moments on Earth. He sees the Devil circling him, toying with him—and smiling, always smiling. As if to taunt, I've seen your kind before, many times, and I'm still standing.

All those months of playing lieutenant, of watching Lucifer squirm and panic over his identity... Cain had begun to believe him foolish, a bogeyman who had more lucked into his position of power than earned it. But Cain can see now that he was the only fool, that Lucifer held an impossible throne for an impossible amount of time, and that his human flesh never stood a chance against the Devil. He was an ant crushed beneath a fine leather shoe.

This time will be different, Cain thinks.

When he turns to leave the marred room, something catches the corner of his eye. He changes course, walking toward a marble pedestal. A small, downy feather, no larger than his thumb, is wedged in a crevice of a clay bust's sculpted lines. The feather delicately reflects the light, drawing attention to itself. Ella Lopez must have been interrupted from scouring this scene, he thinks, or it never would have been left behind.

Cain pulls the feather free from the bust's grooves and stares at it. Half of the down is stained pink with old blood that brings a faint smile to his face. He grinds the tiny quill beneath his fingers, feeling the fragility of the soft barbs, before slipping it into his hidden coin pocket.

Yes, this time will be different.

He exits through a stairwell, into a narrow back alley. At the doorway, he cowers from the bright, golden-white daylight that blasts into his obsidian eyes. There is so...much to Earth that he has forgotten. A mere fraction of it hits him in one great sensory overload, but it's nearly enough to shatter him. How different from Hell, how beautiful, how alive Earth is.

It is a world of dualities, of light and shadow, loud and quiet, hard and soft. A world of reds and greens and blues. Of rumbling cars and singing birds and laughing children and tender silence. Wind whispers, cooling him beneath the warm blanket of the sun. And there is no ash, no rotting egg suffocating him, no doors rattling on their hinges. The creatures here—human, as he once was—rush about, with no thought of what they have, of what might be taken away, the moment they pass their expiration.

Lucifer took everything from him.

Cain leans against a graffitied wall and allows himself a small moment of weakness, to feel the full weight of this world, and of how much he has lost by being a part of it and apart from it. To feel, for a moment, the painful ache of his yearning. What might he have been, if his father had loved him more, enough? If his mother had held him, embraced him a little longer? If he hadn't suffered thousands of empty lives? If Chloe had loved him more than the Devil?

She should have. She will one day, when it's all over.

The thought of her jolts him. There's work to be done, and these thoughts won't help him. He sucks in a breath, locking away old, useless feelings. After all, God's creations, beautiful and terrifying alike, obey but one law: kill or be killed. Should Lucifer find him here, earthside, before he is prepared, Cain knows he will die, even in this stronger body, and that the Devil will destroy all means of his ever escaping Hell again. No, Cain will have to play this cleverly, quietly, which means returning to more human tactics. He'll strike when the time is right.

Straightening, he steps from the alleyway, onto the nearest sidewalk. A man in a suit passes by, his eyes darting toward Cain, then away, in that universal human way that screams, I want no trouble.

Cain can only imagine how horrifying he must look. Despite living in the windowless shelter of the Black Tower, his body and clothing are covered in ash and dirt, and he knows his eyes look anything but human. But he does what he knows from experience works, even in the greatest depths of despair, fear, and loneliness: he acts normal, as if, of course he's meant to be here, looking just as he does. It's not an easy sell in a business district, but this is Los Angeles. Costumes appear, from time to time.


***


Know your mark. That's the first rule of all cons. Pick someone by his gender, her height, their clothes, walk, and talk. Lean into some things, and pick at others. Know that while some want to be flattered or fucked, others want to fall in love, and some want to be rich and famous. And know that fear is the easiest lever of all to pull: fear of getting hurt, fear of being found out, fear of being misunderstood, fear of the law, fear of missing out.

But at the end of the day, the Devil's right. Deep down, it's all about desire, which governs everything.

Cain chooses a woman—a tourist, by the looks of it—who's only just stepped into young adulthood. She has the nervous canter of one affecting self-assurance, rather than embodying it. He picks her, too, because she looks a little soft, a little sheltered, like she might have been brought up in loving arms that caught her when she fell.

"Excuse me?" he calls.

The young woman turns and gasps, stumbling away while clutching her large, red purse. "I'm not interested," she says hastily.

Cain dresses his face in his best smile, pushing past the grime. "Gosh, I'm sorry," he says, laying on a thick, old American accent. "I know I must look awful." She continues to back away, and he slowly follows, one hand raised in a calming gesture. "I hate to bother you, but I'm an extra on this new show"—he indicates his black eyes and bedraggled clothes—"and my jackass friend thought it'd be hilarious to drop me off here after lunch. All my stuff is back at the studio. Can I borrow your phone and call my friend to pick me up? I'll give it right back."

She hesitates, and he relaxes his posture and bends his knees to make himself shorter, friendlier. He rubs the back of his head, as though, golly, he's the nervous one. And that's when he has her. Her shoulders slump beneath the soft cascade of her straight, brown hair. A smile brightens her face. Her teeth are perfect and white.

"That costume's crazy. And your friend's a total jerk," she chuckles, digging into her purse for her phone.

"Don't I know it?" She unlocks the device and pulls up the dialer. "Thanks for your help," Cain says, working hard to maintain his smile. He couldn't care less about her if he tried.

As he dials, he notices in his periphery how the young woman admires him. Amazing. Even smelling of brimstone and looking as he does, she's reevaluating him beneath it all. After all, it's just Hollywood magic. If anything, maybe this "get-up" suggests he's aspiring toward something. She reminds him of all the fools stuck in their Hell loops.

Otero answers on the third ring. "Yeah?"

"Hey, man, I need a ride."

There's a pause at the other end. "Who gave you this number? Who is this?"

A stranger come to town, from a very, very far-off place.

"Peter Avery." Just one of many aliases.

"Jesus Christ. Holy. Shit."

"Can you come get me?" Cain asks. "I'm outside FIDM, on the corner of Ninth and Grand."

"On my way," Otero says. He doesn't bother with goodbyes.

"Thanks, man," Cain says to the dead silence, then makes a show of ending the call. He hands the phone back to the young woman. "Thanks again."

"No problem. So, what show are you gonna be in?" she asks with that sweet, too-white smile.

Instead of responding, Cain turns away and never looks back. He goes to stand on the corner, near a yellow fire hydrant. Although he wonders how long it will take for cops to escort him away, no one pays him much attention, or, if they do, they're quick to move along.

Otero pulls up to the curb some time later in a black SUV. He honks three times in quick succession. Cain jerks the car door open and drops into the passenger's seat.

"Take me to a safe house," Cain commands.

"Which one, boss?" Otero asks, white-knuckling the steering wheel.

"Do I look like I fucking care?"

"Got it." Otero is a squat man with the thick, corded muscle of a wrestler. Beneath his fitted, black t-shirt, his muscles are tense, as though a well-timed Boo might spook the man enough to launch himself out of the moving vehicle.

"What's the date?" Cain asks. He forgot to look on the woman's phone.

Otero tells him.

"That can't be right," Cain snaps.

"Uh..." Otero weaves around a vehicle trying to parallel park. "I'm pretty sure it is." He stuffs a hand into his back pocket and pulls out his phone. "Here," he says, handing it over.

Cain swiftly checks the date. "I've only been dead for three days?"

How? How? He's been gone for years—maybe a decade or longer. For a moment, he thinks he's going to faint as the entire meaning of time itself warps and wobbles inside his brain.

"We, uh, didn't expect you to come back this time," Otero says. "We had guys waiting outside the coroner's until yesterday. When you didn't come out, we thought..."

"I didn't come from the morgue."

Otero's quiet for a moment, save for his loud, uneven breathing. "Yeah."

Cain wonders about his old body. Does it still exist here—can it? Does his soul truly reside in a wholly different version of himself? He may not have come from the morgue, but he decides he'll go there later.

"I need money," Cain says, ignoring the other man's discomfort. "And everything we've got for Peter Avery's identity."

"You staying in L.A.?"

"For now. I also need to know what's going on at the police department. Contact Barrow, and he'll get in touch with Morrison."

"Barrow's in custody."

"Fuck," Cain breathes. "See if you can't bail him out. Chances are they won't be able to hold him for long. What about Chloe?"

"Suspended. Ten days, we heard."

"And Lucifer?" Cain can't quite smooth out the anger from his voice.

"No sight of him, but we suspect he's at his penthouse. He's shut down the nightclub."

Interesting. "Have they been seen together at all?"

"Not in the last few days."

Something's going on there. Most of his time in L.A. was spent prying them apart. "What about Espinoza and Lopez?"

"They're suspended, too. Ten days."

As Otero drives, Cain mulls over his options, what few there are. Although he'd heard rumors of a hellish time zone, they had always been just that, rumors—little whispers from half-reliable sources. He never could have imagined how extreme the time difference was.

Three days out from his earthly death means investigations are just getting started. Everything's too hot. Best to lie low and regroup, even if his wings pinch beneath his skin, longing for action. With a few calls and a few favors, he can start making inconvenient things go away. Revenge will have to come later.

Otero drives him to a nondescript, single-family dwelling buried in a Brentwood subdivision of other, similar little boxes. He parks at the edge of the driveway, his eyes glued to the curving cul-de-sac ahead.

"Anything else, boss?"

Cain stares at him. "Look at me," he says.

Slowly, Otero turns his head. He maintains his vise-grip on the steering wheel, and Cain gets the distinct impression that he's staring at his forehead, rather than into his eyes.

"Do I scare you?" Cain asks.

For a moment, Otero is silent. "I don't scare easy," he says finally. A non-answer.

"Yeah, but I am different now, I know," Cain says, his lips lifting in a small, vicious smile. "Nothing's changed for you, though. You still work for me. You still owe me."

"I know."

"Good. I'm glad you understand."


***


Cain stands alone in the morgue, the refrigerant of the open cold chamber chilling the area around him. To look upon his former self is to look upon a clone he never expected to have. In the right light and circumstance, the average person might not be able to tell them apart, but he sees and feels the differences.

Some are obvious—the wings hidden beneath his flesh, the black eyes, the hole in his breast, the carved remnants of SINNER, which never completely healed. Other changes are less obvious. He's stronger now, as evidenced by the way his muscles run down his arms and legs. And his face is harder, narrower, his eyes a little more sunken, as if food can't quite satiate his hunger.

Hunger... The sensation hit him hard shortly after he showered at the safe house. For the first time in a very long time, he could fill his gut with something other than sour air. What little food had existed in Hell, existed only in Nox, and tasted unsurprisingly of ash. Now, though, having eaten, his stomach bloats painfully, and he wonders at the wisdom of feeding this changed body of his. There is no guidebook for what he has become.

No matter what you tell yourself, you can't outrun what you've done. What you truly are.

Cain brushes his fingers across lifeless skin and wonders who and what he is now. If it's enough to survive.

The door to the morgue opens, and Cain shoves the cold chamber closed on his old body and old life. It's late. The medical examiner's office closed many hours ago, but the Sinnerman's network has always operated at odd hours and in dark shadows.

Narcotics Detective Matthew Morrison swaggers inside and freezes. "Pierce?"

"Morrison." Cain stares at the man, noting, as always, his soft, round middle, which speaks of a comfortable life free from hardship.

"I..." Morrison flinches beneath Cain's black gaze. "Everyone's being told you're dead."

"Yet here I am."

Morrison looks around the room, as if only now considering the odd choice in meeting place. "I brought the feathers," he says, lifting a large, navy shopping bag at his side.

"And I brought cash," Cain says, offering a thin smile. He pulls a wad of bills from his back pocket and waves them at Morrison, who hesitantly plucks them from his fingers. Morrison hands over the shopping bag.

Inside are three large evidence ziplocks, all nearly bursting with bloodstained angel feathers. There must be hundreds.

"We good?" Morrison asks, folding his arms across his chest. He's eager to leave.

"One other thing," Cain says. "Watch out for Decker. Lopez, too. They're good, and they're going to be on high alert."

"What about that idiot Decker works with? What's his name—Morningstar?"

Cain sneers. "Leave Lucifer to me."

Chapter Text

Lieutenant Garcia stacks more papers onto Chloe's file sorter as he passes her desk. Lucifer's hand darts out, narrowly preventing the towering pile from sliding sideways to the floor.

"Bloody hell," he murmurs. "This is quite the punishment."

"Yeah," Chloe sighs, not bothering to look up from the report she's working on.

She's only five hours into an unknown number of days or weeks or months of her demotion, but it already feels like much more time has passed. How did Dan survive this for months? How did she, when she was pregnant?

Another half-hour crawls forward to the tune of the bullpen's noise and Lucifer's ceaseless fidgeting. He tears into two bags of chips from the vending machine, plays a game on his phone (volume on, until she insists he mute it), screws and unscrews the cap on his flask at least five times, and keeps touching everything. Finally, Chloe drops her pen and stares at him, exasperated.

"What?" he asks, one seasoning-covered finger hovering near his lips.

It's frustrating how distracting that finger is, now that she knows a little of what it can do. Now that she's eager to learn more.

"You're being a lot right now."

"When am I not?" he snickers, before sucking his finger into his mouth suggestively. As if they're not in the middle of the precinct.

"Are you bored?" she asks dryly.

He pops his finger out of his mouth. "Of course I'm bloody bored," he retorts. "This is boring. We should be out catching deplorables. Instead, they've turned you into a glorified paper-pusher."

"No one's making you stay."

"Well, what am I supposed to do if I'm not here with you?"

"I don't know. How have you spent the last several years without me?"

He arches a brow.

"Okay, maybe I don't want you to do...that."

"Except with you." He smirks.

She pretends not to have heard him. "Can't you do whatever you usually do when you leave in the middle of one of our cases?"

He couldn't have always been sleeping around and doing drugs. Could he?

"I'll have you know I've only ever left when there's been Devil business to attend to."

Chloe rests her chin in her hand. "Isn't any business you have Devil business?"

"Touché, Detective."

"So, do you have any Devil business to attend to now?"

"Not particularly." He brushes at the knee of his pristine, charcoal-colored suit.

She softens a little as she realizes he doesn't want to be sent away. "Look, there's just not a lot you can help me with right now, okay?" She reaches toward the hand on his knee, only to back away as her desire for professionalism overrides all else. "It's going to be like this for a while," she continues gently. "I don't know how long. At best, another detective will make me log evidence at a crime scene or question witnesses. Not exactly exciting stuff. There really isn't a good reason for you to stick around, not unless you want to partner up with another detective."

"Don't be absurd."

"It was just a suggestion." But inside, she's pleased he's hers.

"It's not right what they're doing to you." He frowns.

"It's not entirely wrong, either, though," she argues, shrugging. "I've made some unprofessional decisions that could reflect poorly on the department."

Lucifer looks like he's about to comment on that when Dan appears around the corner. "Hey, Chlo, can we take a rain check on Taco Tuesday?"

"I was going to suggest the same thing," she says, nodding toward the mountain of paperwork. "I've...been demoted."

"Yeah," he says, glancing between her and Lucifer. "I...heard."

Saw, too, judging by the uncomfortable expression on his face. Her cheeks heat. They both know she never looked with him like she did in those pap shots. Theirs had been a steady, comfortable sex life. O-face-on-the-dance-floor wasn't exactly their style. Turns out it might be hers.

She clears her throat. "How about pizza on Friday?"

"Works for me," Dan says, tapping a folder against her desk.

"Ooh, shall I bring my pizza stones?" Lucifer asks. Chloe knows by the look on his face that he's reveling in the awkward tension between her and her ex-husband.

Dan crosses his arms over his chest. "Taco Tuesday is family night."

"Ah, but this is Pizza Friday," Lucifer quips.

"You can't just go around—"

"Ella!" Chloe pipes up as the other woman comes to stand next to Dan. "You free on Friday? Pizza at my place." She looks at Dan and Lucifer pointedly. "Trixie would love to see you all."

Lucifer smirks at Dan.

"Oh, man," Ella groans, "I'd love to, but me and a few friends just started a new D&D campaign." She curtsies in her skinny jeans and vintage Back to the Future t-shirt, and says dramatically, "I'm Qixina, elven warrior princess from Arrentgar. I narrowly survived the coup my cousin Beihorn orchestrated with the help of the greedy merchant class."

"Elves?" Lucifer scoffs. "As if the fae would tolerate such competition."

Chloe boggles at him a beat too long before nodding at Ella. Confused as she is, she tries to be supportive. "Wow. That... You'll have fun with that."

"Yeah, totally," Ella agrees, grinning. Then she seems to realize what Lucifer's said, as well. "Wait. Hold on. Dude, faeries are real?"

"Unfortunately," Lucifer answers. "If you ever cross paths with one, back away slowly and don't look it in the eye."

Dan grumbles about "crazy bullshit" and turns away. Ella grabs his elbow before he can leave. "Hold up, I was coming to get you guys. Everybody have a minute?" She nods, none too subtly, toward her lab.

"We should be careful meeting like this," Dan says, once they've all filtered into the lab. "The suits are watching Chloe more closely than ever now." He glances at Lucifer, an accusation in his eyes. Lucifer smiles placidly.

"Did you get a fingerprint from the pen?" Chloe asks, all business when she's unable to deal with the men in her life.

"I finally got the time to work on it," Ella confirms. "I could only isolate half a print, but it was enough to find it matched one of the fingerprints that was all over Imler's house. It's not Eddie's, either."

"The unknown female," Chloe says.

"The one and only."

So, not Otero. Shay, maybe—assuming Shay, whoever she is—is actually connected to any of this.

Chloe sighs. "So none of this really helps us, and we can't tell Webb about it because the pen wasn't acquired legally."

"Oh, yeah," Ella says, "I forgot they took you off those cases today, what with your"—she raises her arms and gyrates her hips—"muy caliente pictures."

Lucifer eyes her hips appreciatively. "Salsa, Miss Lopez?"

"How'd you guess?" she asks, her body stilling as her face lights up with a grin. "My aunt was a teacher!"

"Is there anything else?" Chloe bites out, her face burning hot. She very intentionally avoids Dan's gaze.

"Uh, yeah, actually," Ella says, grabbing her work tablet from a desk. "Firefly heroin was found on the scene at two of last week's homicides."

"How's that bloody possible?" Lucifer gripes. "I've been trying to buy it for weeks. No one has any."

Chloe and Dan glare at him.

"It's for research," Lucifer defends, holding his hands up. "As if I'd use tainted heroin."

"Not helping," Chloe tells him.

"Where's Narcotics on all of this?" Dan asks.

Ella shrugs. "They say they're working on it."

"I'll believe it when I see it," Chloe huffs.

As they exit Ella's lab, Lucifer touches Chloe's back and bends to her ear. "Shall we see what our good friend Detective Morrison is up to, after hours?" he asks.

"It's tempting..."

"Well, you know I love a good temptation."

She flashes him a smile before sobering. "Lucifer, if I get caught following around another corrupt cop, I'm done. There are people here who still don't like me after Palmetto, and certainly not after Pierce—and now I've been demoted. I have even less of a right to go around investigating things."

"I can go alone."

"It's too dangerous."

He snorts. "Immortal, remember? At least when you're not around."

"I forget that." Chloe touches his waist. "I guess it's hard to wrap my head around. Even after what happened in Colinda."

Because what does immortality mean? Forever? Really? And a more painful thought always follows: They have so little time. She'll be ashes in a blink of his eye.

"I'm in far more danger with you by my side than I am on my own," he says. "But even then, well, I can always come back." He points his thumbs back toward his shoulders.

Like Hell is nothing to him. Like it isn't an exposed nerve that represents all the pain his family has caused him.

"I-I still don't want you to go without me," she says. "Stupid as that is. We're a team."

Lucifer's expression turns tender as he tucks hair behind her ear. "Okay."

Sighing, Chloe takes a step back, putting distance between them. Lucifer chuckles. "Afraid we might turn on your coworkers, darling?"

"Let's just...keep the PDA to a minimum," she says, as much to herself as to him. She frowns. "Actually, you need to go home. Really."

"But—"

"No, you're bored, and you're driving me crazy because of it. Go. Home."

"Very well." Leaning toward her ear once more, he says in a low, dulcet tone, "See me later if you want to unwind."

She watches him leave, her heart rattling against her rib cage. It's hard not to follow.


***


After her demotion, Chloe lives on tenterhooks. Every morning, she wakes early and, doing her best not to disturb the furnace of a man pressed against her, rises from bed. Retreating to the bathroom, she browses The Telegraph on her phone. Although she dreads the day they publish their article on the LAPD, its content can't be any worse than what she's imagined it might contain.

Maybe she really does deserve what's happened. She has been unprofessional while on duty, and that really could have repercussions for the LAPD. Lines have been crossed, time and again, with Dan, then Marcus. They're being crossed no less now. Just because your partner is a civilian consultant definitely doesn't mean you're allowed to sleep with him. Not that she has any intention of stopping.

So many questionable decisions, so much self-sabotage. And yet she's also worked hard to be taken seriously, to be seen as more than "barely legal" breasts. It took even more effort to escape her father's shadow and become her own detective. She's not sure what she'll do if a sensationalized—or, maybe worse, an accurate—recount of her love life destroys her career. To think what Linda's ex-husband, Reese Getty, might have done with all the salacious info.

And of course that line of thinking makes her realize Reese figured out the truth.

What else might clever Telegraph reporters figure out?

Then it happens. Three days after TFF! published the paparazzi shots, The Telegraph runs its article on the LAPD. Sitting on her bath mat, Chloe takes a deep breath as she selects the suspiciously benign headline.

LAPD's former lieutenant had history of cutting corners

The article is surprisingly short, but even so, she skim reads. When she doesn't see her name, she frowns, returns to the top, and reads more closely. There's nothing. Although the broader Sinnerman network is barely discussed, Marcus Pierce is dragged through the mud for his questionable work at the LAPD and in Chicago. Meanwhile, there's no mention of her or Dan, no mention of Lucifer or TFF!.

Confused, but also giddy with relief, she types in the address for TFF!'s website next. For some reason, looking at the paparazzi shots of them together has become part of her morning routine, even though, by now, she knows the pictures by heart. (As does her mother, disturbingly, if all the emoji exclamation points in her text messages have been anything to go by.)

In one photo, Lucifer's dark eyes are on her mouth, while his hands bunch fabric at her hips. In another, his fingers are buried in her hair, tilting her head back so he can kiss her throat. Her hands are no less busy in the photos, caught beneath the open collar of his shirt, resting low on a hip bone, or carding through his hair. In all of the photos, they're pressed so close that there's no space for light to escape between them. Their want is palpable.

And then there's her face, which tells a story of its own. To anyone else, she probably looks like just another woman caught under the Devil's spell. But there's something strong and wild about her, too, that she's not seen in herself in years, and maybe never to this degree. Visual evidence that she knows exactly what she's getting into with Lucifer Morningstar—and likes it. A sort of "take the Devil by his proverbial horns" look.

But this time when she visits the TFF! website, she discovers it no longer exists. A simple landing page has replaced the pink, flashy, celebrity-filled design. An old promotional image from the show Bones fills the page as a background. Dr. Temperance "Bones" Brennan and Special Agent Seeley Booth are pressed back-to-back as they dance with skeletons. Layered atop the image is a quote, presumably from the show:

"Every society has its bottom-dwellers, and every society fears its bottom-dwellers, because they are a symbol of what happens in that society if you fail."

There's only one person who would be so dramatic and corny.

Chloe scrambles to her feet and yanks open the bathroom door. Lucifer looks up, from where he stands next to the bed, getting dressed in one of the suits he's shoved into her overstuffed closet. She launches herself at him, throwing her arms around his middle. He embraces her with ease, no longer hesitant to return touch.

"You're in a cracking good mood," he laughs, his hands warm through her shirt.

"The Telegraph published their article today."

"Ah. Did they now?"

"I'm not in it."

"Lovely."

"You're not in it, either. Or Dan."

"Hmm."

She leans back enough to look up at him. He's not quite smiling, but his eyes have crinkled at their corners in pleasure. "And TFF! doesn't seem to be in business anymore."

"Someone was bound to buy them eventually. They owned prime real estate on the Strip."

"The new owner seems to really like Bones."

He grins. "It's a bloody good show."

"Thank you," she says.

"Ah, well, your desire was obvious." He shrugs a shoulder. "I would have been remiss not to fulfill it. Besides..." He looks away, avoiding her gaze. "I couldn't have you regret being with me."

"Hey," she admonishes gently, turning his face toward hers. "I haven't. I wouldn't."

They stare at each other for a long moment before Lucifer turns his head and presses a kiss to her palm. His expression is haunted, as if he can't quite accept what she's said. Chloe knows there's no arguing with that feeling. She'll just have to prove it to him over time—that she's not his parents or siblings, that she won't turn against him. Unfortunately, time is the one thing she doesn't have a lot of, at least compared to someone who will live forever.

"You used favors?" she asks.

"Of course." He arches a brow, challenging her to argue with his methods.

She nods. What's done is done, and she's grateful for his unorthodox meddling this time. But there's just one thing...

"Did you, um..."

He tilts his head in interest. "Did I, um, what, darling?"

"Did you save a copy of the pictures?" She asks so quickly that the words come out bunched together.

Lucifer's head falls back as he laughs. "Who do you take me for? Of course I bloody well have copies. The RAW files were part of the real estate deal." His eyes narrow playfully. "So, you want copies, as well, do you?"

"I... Yeah."

"And, pray tell, why do you want them?" he asks. His voice slips into that richness that she has an almost Pavlovian response to now.

"I like seeing us together," she admits on a whisper.

"Good. I do, too." His thumb sweeps across her lower lip. "Dearie me, you're quite red. Why are you so embarrassed?"

"I don't know." Which is true, mostly. She's no blushing virgin, not by a long shot, and it's easy to be physical with Lucifer, but speaking openly about her desires to one who's seen and done it all is sometimes intimidating. How boring and vanilla she must seem, getting off to fully-clothed pictures of them together.

But then, as if he senses this, Lucifer leans forward, dropping his forehead to hers, and says, "Don't you know your desires are mine, too?"

It's the truth. He doesn't lie.


***


Chloe knows she's hit rock bottom when she hides in the bathroom. Sitting atop a closed toilet lid, she blows out a shaky breath. This morning, she felt so hopeful after what Lucifer had done. The Telegraph article laid no blame on her. TFF! was gone, even if pictures on the internet never really disappear. She'd hoped—stupidly, maybe, but hoped, just the same—that it would be enough for Chief Mitchell and Lieutenant Garcia to reconsider her demotion.

But promotions don't work that way, and with the addition of Zack Webb, the department has no need for more homicide detectives right now. She's stuck doing grunt work. Stuck listening to Webb, who sits two desks away, ask all the wrong people, all the wrong questions—often over the phone, no less—as he flounders through his new job. He seems well-intentioned, just...very green. His partner, Detective Hopper, is retiring in six months and doesn't care about any of it.

There's a good chance the soonest she'll be back to work is when Hopper retires.

What happens to her cases? How is she supposed to do anything now?

You could do things Lucifer's way, she thinks, and immediately shies away from the notion. That way lies a slippery slope. They already cut corners together. What happens if they cut even more? At what point does a good cop become a bad one?

Unrolling several fistfuls of single-ply toilet paper, she dabs at her wet face before choking out another tired sob. A second later, the bathroom door creaks open, and footsteps slap across the tile. Chloe stiffens.

"Hey, Decker? You in here?"

She relaxes marginally. "Hey, Ella."

"You okay? You sound...not so good?"

Chloe palms her forehead and breathes a half-hearted laugh. "I don't know. Just not sure how long I can do this." She looks down at the black sneakers that have replaced her black boots ever since she sprained her ankle in the desert. "It's only day three, and I just feel so...useless."

And she misses Lucifer, which is foolish and clingy enough to make her cringe. She has him at night. It should be more than enough. In fact, they should want space. But, really, if she's honest with herself, she misses working beside him almost as much as she misses working cases altogether.

"The suits'll come 'round," Ella says. "They have to, right? You're the best detective we've got."

"What if they don't?" Chloe asks, voicing a fear that's been brewing over the last three days. "If someone's replaced Pierce, and they still have people here, demoting me, which gets rid of Lucifer, too, is a smart move. I mean, I know the pictures were bad—"

"Also hot."

"—but, I don't know, why didn't they just suspend me? I mean, the crime scene with Pierce was way worse." Or is she too biased to see the truth about her own behavior? "Why'd they demote me and immediately hire on Webb?"

"You think he's in on it?"

"No, but he'd be a really useful idiot." She winces, feeling mean. "I shouldn't say that. I don't know him."

Ella's phone chirrups with a message. "Oh, yeah," she says a moment later. "I was just coming to get you. Apparently you're not replying to Lucifer's messages?"

"So he's complaining to you?" she laughs. "Do you know how many messages he sends me now? I wouldn't get any work done if I replied to them all."

"Yeaaah, I can imagine. He won't stop sending me gifs. But...he's kinda here? Waiting for you."

"What? Since when?"

"Since, like, a half-hour ago? He said he was picking you up for pizza night?"

That wasn't the plan, and whenever Lucifer goes off script... Chloe jumps up from the toilet and unlocks the stall.

"Dude," Ella says, eyes wide as she takes in Chloe's appearance. "I had no idea you were this upset! You totally need a hug, don't you?" She throws her arms around Chloe tightly.

Over Ella's shoulder, Chloe sees herself in one of the mirrors above the sinks. She's definitely looked better. Once Ella lets go, she scrubs at her skin, drying the remnants of her tears.

When she reaches for the bathroom's door handle, Ella stops her with a hand on her shoulder.

"Is he still the same old Lucifer?" Ella asks. "He's good to you?"

"He's good," Chloe says, meaning it in more ways than one.

Ella's face lights up with a smile. "Good. Great. I thought so. I just...had to check, y'know? After Pierce and all."

Chloe nods. "Thanks."

"No problem. Hey, you think he'd ever show me his wings?"

"Ask him to fly you somewhere sometime," Chloe snickers and exits the bathroom.

To her great surprise, Lucifer has actually behaved himself. She expected to find him intimidating Detective Webb or causing some other trouble, but he waits for her in the parking lot instead, leaning against the Corvette, tapping away on his phone. When she nears, he looks up.

"Detective Decker," he says, emphasizing her title with a smile, "you're late."

"Am I?" she laughs. A soothing warmth seeps into her bones as she takes in the sight of his black-clad form.

"Oh, yes." His smile broadens. "It's"—he glances at a nonexistent wristwatch—"five o'clock somewhere. Quitting time, laborers call it."

"It's a quarter past four."

"I said somewhere, didn't I?"

"I really should keep working..." Especially after all the time she wasted in the bathroom.

Stepping one leg forward, he leans and grabs her hand, drawing her to him. She looks around uncertainly, torn between wanting to be close and fearing being seen.

"Let me tell you a story about thankless tasks and ungrateful taskmasters," Lucifer says. "So long as you're obedient, more tasks will magically appear. And they'll get worse."

"That's not true. Dan was reinstated."

"But you're not Daniel, are you?"

"No," she agrees. She's not part of the brotherhood. Can't be, due to a quirk of birth. "I just don't want to lose my job. If I just knuckle down and get through this demotion, they'll—"

"They'll still have no idea what they've got in you," he interrupts. "Trying to top from the bottom won't work here, darling. You've no means with which to control this situation, except through a little good old fashioned disobedience." He smiles slightly. "So, let's skive off, shall we?"


***


Two hours and three glasses of wine later, Chloe is glad she skived off. She stands in her kitchen, making pizzas with her daughter and the Devil, and it's good, even if it's far from simple.

Beside her, Lucifer shudders in disgust while watching Trixie. "Must you touch your face every thirty seconds?"

Trixie giggles and rubs her cheek flagrantly.

"What is wrong with her?" Lucifer complains. "Cheeky mite."

Chloe glances at him while grating cheese. "I guess you'd know a rebellious kid when you saw one, huh? You realize her cooties are basically my cooties, right?"

"Half of them are Daniel's. I did not sign up for those."

"Be nice," she sing-songs, and then laughs at the incongruity of saying that to a retired torturer. She may be a little tipsy.

"You're no bloody help at all, are you?" Lucifer lets the bell pepper slices he was holding drop to the cutting board.

Chloe yelps when he jams a damp hand into her right, back jean pocket. "What are you—"

"Trust you to carry gloves when those fools aren't even sending you anywhere," he says, triumphantly lifting nitrile, which he foists upon Trixie. "If you're going to be foul, put these on before you handle the food."

Trixie grins and drags the gloves on. "They're too big," she says, waving floppy, blue fingers.

"They'll do. Don't even bother asking your mother to carry a size that will fit you."

Chloe rolls her eyes as a knock sounds at the front door.

"Daddy!" Trixie makes a run for it, droopy gloves swallowing her wrists. A moment later, she squeals, "Aunt Izzy!"

A cherry tomato rolls out of Chloe's hand and falls to the floor, where it bounces before settling. "Oh, shit."

"My delicate ears," Lucifer laments. "Where's your little swear jar run off to?"

Ignoring him, Chloe rushes around the kitchen counter, to her front door. Trixie's wrapped around her aunt, who wears her trademark flowing black lace. Dan walks into the apartment behind his sister, a silent apology written on his face.

"Ooh, I didn't realize you had a sister, Daniel," Lucifer says at Chloe's back.

"Well, I do," Dan says. To Chloe, he says, "Ozzy thought she'd come for a visit. Unannounced."

"Showing up on your doorstep is the only way I ever get to see you," Izzy laughs and reaches over to poke his side. "If I tell you I'm coming, you find a way to leave town."

"Maybe take that as a hint?" Dan says.

"Izzy? Ozzy?" Lucifer says, looking confused. "Surely you've a real name."

Izzy smiles, her dark eyes roaming over him in a way that sets Chloe's teeth on edge. A few years older than Dan, age has done little to diminish the beauty of her heart-shaped face. Dark brown, nearly black, hair falls in thick waves to the middle of her waist, framing her lace-covered curves. She really does look like the beguiling witch she claims to be.

"Isabel Espinoza," Izzy says, stepping forward and extending a hand. "Most people call me Izzy. Except Danny, who's embarrassed by his roots, and so feels the need to call me names."

"I'm not embarrassed," Dan grunts.

"Isabel is a perfectly good name," Lucifer says, shaking her hand. "I'm—"

"Lucifer," Izzy interrupts. "Morningstar."

Lucifer's mouth stretches into a delighted grin. "My reputation precedes me, I see."

"Danny may have mentioned you once or twice." Her eyes sparkle with mischief. "The cards have mentioned you more times than that."

"Cards?"

"Izzy," Chloe sighs. This is precisely why she rushed in.

"Can you not?" Dan says. "Just this once?"

Izzy smiles at them sweetly. "After dinner, then."

"Wait, are you referring to tarot?" Lucifer barks a laugh, his gaze becoming sharp and shark-like.

"Aunt Izzy's psychic!" Trixie says.

"Not bloody likely. Cold or hot reader, more like," Lucifer says darkly, and Chloe watches as he takes Trixie by the shoulders and pulls her toward him. Trixie tilts her head back and grins at him. "Also known as a charlatan who's not to be trusted, child."

"Says the dude who calls himself the Devil," Dan says.

"He is the Devil," Trixie insists, and Chloe frowns.

"See?" Lucifer says, smirking. "Out of the mouths of babes."

"We'll see if you still think I'm a charlatan after I've laid your future bare," Izzy says, and Lucifer's smirk falters.

"Okay," Chloe interrupts, clapping her hands. "Let's finish putting the toppings on the pizzas and get them in the oven."


***


Dinner is less awkward than Chloe imagined it would be with Izzy present, but a far cry from the relaxing evening she was hoping for. Dan, who really is the most normal of the Espinoza clan, handles his sister expertly, steering her away from unsafe topics, like the summer solstice. Lucifer glares across the table at Izzy and broods over his pizza, both of which strike Chloe as preferable to the Devil opening his big, fat mouth. Trixie, too excited by her aunt's visit, for once fails to notice the tension in the room, and instead chatters on about the day she and Brittany had at Super Silly Fun Land.

When Dan slides the last piece of pizza off Lucifer's pizza stone, Chloe stands up. The room gives a pleasant tilt, and she realizes Lucifer may have refilled her wine glass a few times too many.

"Time for bed, monkey."

"But—" Trixie's protest is cut off by a yawn.

"Right," Dan laughs, ruffling the hair on her head as he pulls her into a hug. "Past your bedtime, kid."

"But I wanna stay up with Aunt Izzy."

Izzy smiles. "Tell you what? Why don't I come and stay with you tomorrow?" To Chloe and Dan she says, "No need to have a sitter when you have a sister in town."

Just how long is she planning on staying?

Dan narrows his eyes. "Not happening, Ozzy."

Chloe says more diplomatically, "We'll see." She gives Trixie a firm look. "Bedtime."

When she returns from tucking her daughter in, she finds Lucifer scrubbing at the kitchen countertop with barely-contained violence. Dan and Izzy's voices carry softly from where they sit round the table on the terrace.

Chloe touches Lucifer's wrist, stilling his hand. "You're going to wear a hole in my kitchen." He drops the rag. "What's wrong?" she asks in a whisper.

"I'm very close to doing something bad, and you're not going to like it. I should probably leave."

Her eyebrows raise high on her forehead. "What are you wanting to do?"

"I want to show her my face."

"Oh. Yeah. Maybe don't? Izzy's harmless."

"I hate liars, Chloe."

"I lie sometimes. You don't hate me."

"That's different," he huffs. "You lie for selfless reasons."

She rolls her eyes. She's his blindspot, which is as frustrating as it is flattering. "Would it help to know Izzy's not lying?"

Lucifer looks at her sharply. "She's conned you, as well?"

"No," Chloe soothes. "No, she hasn't 'conned' me. I just mean, Dan's family... They're into witchcraft, I guess? I don't know. He stays away from his family, mostly. But Izzy believes what she does is real, so, in a way, it is real. To her, at least."

That gives him pause. "Manifests her own reality, does she?" he scoffs. "There may be some truth to that, I suppose."

She knew that'd hit home.

"And some of her readings turn out to be pretty uncanny, anyway," Chloe says. Before accepting the truth about Lucifer and all he represents, the general cogency of Izzy's readings was one of the few things Chloe could never explain. She typically filed them under coincidences and self-fulfilling prophecies, but now she's left to wonder...

"Hmm." Prickly and unconvinced, Lucifer fiddles with his cufflinks. "Let's see how well she can read the Devil, shall we?"

Oh, no.

Lucifer strides out the door to the terrace and drops into one of the wooden outdoor chairs across from Dan and Izzy. "Let's make a little wager, shall we?" he says to Izzy, interrupting whatever Dan was in the middle of saying. "If you can tell me what I'm going to do in the next five minutes, I'll...buy you Aleister Crowley's house."

"A house," Dan echoes.

"Yes. Here"—Lucifer's face is set aglow as he taps his finger across the surface of his phone—"I've written what I'm going to do. Best of luck."

"Lucifer..." Chloe warns, standing behind his chair. She grips his shoulder, feeling how the muscle beneath her fingers is bunched tight.

"No, no, it's okay." Izzy raises a hand. "He's right to be skeptical." To Lucifer, she explains, "But it doesn't work that way."

"Then what good is your craft?"

Dan tilts his beer bottle in Lucifer's direction. "That's my question. If you can't tell me the winning lotto numbers..."

"I just read the patterns the universe gives me," Izzy says, unperturbed.

"What bollocks. I assure you that's not your function," Lucifer says, his voice hard. "The universe isn't talking to you. It's a load of hydrogen and helium, and I should bloody well know. I led the planning committee."

Dan stares at him. "Welp. I'm gonna need another beer," he announces, rising from his seat and wandering back inside.

Chloe sits in the chair beside Lucifer's. "Maybe we could talk about something else?" She nods hopefully at Izzy. "Like politics?" A safer subject.

But if Izzy hears her, she doesn't respond. Dragging a finger along the thick wrap of lace at her waistline, she pulls out a worn deck of tarot cards. She looks Lucifer in the eye as she begins to shuffle them. "I've been led here for a reason."

"Bloody hell," Lucifer murmurs, drawing his flask from his jacket pocket, "now you sound like my brother. Am I some sort of test for you, too?"

Chloe touches his knee. "Do you need to go?" she asks softly.

He turns his head toward her, his eyes dark with mischief or something much, much worse. "I believe I'll be staying, darling."

She's aware he didn't answer her question.

Dan returns and sets the rest of the six pack between his chair and Chloe's. He settles in, popping the cap off a new bottle of beer. From where Lucifer sits across the table, watching Dan, he jams a finger in his mouth, leans over, and pokes it into Dan's ear.

"Oh, what the fuck?" Dan cries, leaning sideways.

"Too straight to enjoy a wet willy?" Lucifer jests.

Chloe snorts loudly before descending into laughter.

Dan glares at her treachery. "Keep your hands to yourself, man."

"Blame your witchy sister for not warning you. I planned this minutes ago." He flashes his phone's screen as proof.

Izzy shakes her head. "Focus, Lucifer."

"On what, your poppycock?"

"On whatever is plaguing your heart, whatever question you want answered."

Before he can spout off another catty remark, Izzy draws a card and slaps it down in the middle of the table. It's The Star. On the card, a larger-than-life, naked woman kneels, one foot in a body of water, one on land. She pours water from two clay jugs, one into the ocean and one onto the earth, to form rivers. High above, in the sky, seven white stars surround a larger, golden star.

"This is who you are," Izzy announces.

"Alas, I've no breasts."

"You delude yourself into thinking you are something else, but time and again, you will return to this, your true form."

Light Bringer, Chloe marvels, and scoots to the edge of her chair. She props her elbows on the table and leans forward.

Izzy draws a second card and places it to the right of the first, a half-card's height above it. The card's illustration has landed upside-down, so that it faces Izzy instead of Lucifer. Chloe knows from past readings with Izzy that this means the card is "reversed" and that it should be interpreted differently than if the illustration were upright.

On the Knight of Wands, a knight, bedecked in military accoutrements and a golden surcoat patterned with salamanders, rides on his warhorse into an unseen battle. His garment's fabric flies behind him in rippled flames. Beyond, desert sands and three pyramids lie in the distance.

"Your recklessness has held you back—and may continue to do so. Any cruelty you have visited upon others may be visited upon you."

When Lucifer doesn't reply, Chloe looks at him. He scowls at the card, as if a hard enough glare might destroy it.

Could he have destroyed matter, once, long ago? Can he now?

"Karma's a bitch?" Dan offers.

"Something like that," Izzy says.

She draws another card and places it a small space below the second. It's another Wands card, the Ten of Wands. A peasant bends beneath the heavy weight of a thick bundle of ten wooden poles.

Izzy taps the card. "This is a force outside of your control. It may be a burden of your own making, but it has taken on a life of its own. Whether you can survive it will depend on the rest of your growth—or regression."

When her hand returns to the deck, Lucifer finally pipes up, "How many bloody cards are you going to draw, witch?"

"Oh, we're doing a pentagram spread," Izzy replies with a hard smile. "Didn't you figure that out yet?"

Chloe laughs again, and this time Lucifer glares at her. "What? It's funny."

"I'll deal with you later."

She grins and his lips twitch.

Izzy places a fourth card on the table, on the lower left side of the central card. The Seven of Cups is packed with meaning that Chloe knows is lost on her. A silhouetted man gazes upon seven gold chalices resting on gray clouds. A symbol floats above each chalice: a human head, a shrouded body, a snake, a tower, a mountain of jewels, a laurel wreath, a dragon.

"The universe offers you many options, some light and some dark, but you can't choose to have them all. You can't be them all."

Lucifer gives a rude, slow clap. "Delightfully vague. You've missed your calling writing rubbish horoscopes for the chronicle."

Choosing to ignore him, Izzy lays down the fifth card above the fourth. Lucifer smirks at the nude Adam and Eve of The Lovers card. The couple stands in the Garden of Eden, beneath a blazing sun and a giant, red-winged, white-robed angel whose arms are spread wide. Behind Eve, a serpent wraps around the trunk of the fruit-laden Tree of Knowledge. On the right of the card, Adam stands in front of a tree whose leaves are flames.

"You're supposed to be the snake, right?" Dan asks, his words slightly slurred. Chloe is shocked by the growing collection of empty beer bottles beside her ex-husband. Izzy will have to drive him home tonight.

"No, I'm not supposed to be the bloody snake, Daniel. That's simply more propaganda my siblings started to turn mankind against me." Looking back at Izzy, he says, "Go on, then. Tell me about my sex life." Eyes widening, Chloe stills at his side awkwardly as he leans back in his chair and crosses his long legs. "Spoiler alert: It's quite brilliant, really. Highly flexible."

Izzy laughs, the sound smoky in her throat. "The card's not called The Sexcapades. It's called The Lovers."

"Your point?"

"This is the way forward. The storm ahead that you must survive, the needs you want met—all of these things are possible through partnership. It's about more than sex, and you know it."

The hairs on Chloe's arms prickle and raise as the wet beating of her heart rushes in her ears. She doesn't look at Lucifer, and she's aware, from the corner of her eye, how he doesn't look at her, either.

Because so what if she's some kind of miracle or the cards are screaming their names or they're good together? The elephant in the room is that there is no happy ending for them. She grows old and dies and goes where he cannot follow.

"And the final card?" Lucifer asks, withdrawn, as if he's spent all his humor.

"It better not be The Devil," Dan says.

It isn't. Izzy lays down The World at the top and center, completing the pentagram. A large, green wreath surrounds a naked woman who holds two short staffs. A purple scarf wraps loosely about her shoulders, winding down to her hips, and behind her legs. At each corner of the card, there's a figure's head—a man's, an eagle's, an ox's, and a lion's—settled, bodiless, against white clouds.

"This is the culmination of your journey, Lucifer—what all the other cards are leading to. Embrace your true self, shun the old habits that harm you and others, and find the strength necessary to fight the demons of your past by giving in to your desires fearlessly. This is the only path that leads to the wholeness you seek. Perverting it leads to destruction."

"Well," Lucifer says, his jaw tight, "this is quite the show you've put on."

"It's just for fun," Chloe says, trying to convince herself as much as she's trying to convince him.

Suddenly, Lucifer stands, plants his palms on the table, and leans over Izzy, snagging her with his gaze. "Why are you here, Isabel? What is it you desire?"

"I—" Izzy's eyes shift uneasily, trying to break free.

"Hey, man," Dan slurs, "don't pull that weird crap on my sister."

But Lucifer doesn't listen as he bears down harder. "Why are you Espinozas so bloody hard to tap into?" He snaps his fingers at Izzy. "Listen to me. What. Is. It. You. Truly. Desire?"

Chloe gasps when Izzy goes slack in her chair, her eyes glued on Lucifer. "I want to heal what is broken. The cards sent me."

"Let her go," Dan barks, and shoves at Lucifer's shoulder, breaking the hold he has on Izzy.

Lucifer falls back into his chair as Izzy sits up slowly and shakes off his spell.

"You truly believe in all this," Lucifer says.

"I wouldn't be here if I didn't." With trembling hands, Izzy drags the cards from the pentagram spread back into her deck and reshuffles. "What about you, Chloe?" she asks.

Chloe startles and looks between Izzy and Lucifer, uncertain how she should interpret his outburst or ensuing listlessness. "Maybe we should call it a night."

"He'll be fine." Izzy shoots Lucifer a wry look. "Once the shock wears off."

Chloe's eyes drift to the cards in Izzy's hands. Once, this was a fun, if occasionally mystifying, way to pass the evenings when her sister-in-law barged into their lives. Now, she's not so sure...

"What is it you want in life right now?" Izzy asks.

Answering that is easy. "I want my job back."

Lucifer stirs to life beside her. "I've told you, darling, you need only say the words, and I'll see to it."

Dan squints at Lucifer suspiciously as Chloe sighs in frustration. "We've talked about this, Lucifer. As much as I know your way works—"

"I'm glad you admit that. Finally."

"—I can survive this demotion. Even if it lasts...a while. No cutting corners." Chloe nods her head firmly, trying to forget how she hid in the bathroom just hours earlier. "I do this the right way, the official way, or I just, well, I just shouldn't even be a cop if I can't do that, you know?" She shrugs, frazzled.

Izzy hums thoughtfully. "Okay. So, it's not stability you're after. You want to make sure you don't cross the wrong line, that you're able to seek the truth in your work with a clear conscience. It's justice you desire, for yourself and others."

"Don't presume to know her desires," Lucifer gripes, and Chloe glances at him sidelong.

"Why?" Izzy challenges with a smirk. "Do you know them?"

"How dare you?"

"Let's have a look at your past, present, and future," Izzy says. Turning to face Chloe, she taps the edge of the deck on the table.

On the left, she places The Tower in the Past position. On it, lightning strikes a sky-high, gray citadel, setting its lone spire ablaze. Two panicked royals, having jumped from the burning tower, face certain death by gravity.

"Boring," Lucifer comments. He looks Chloe up and down. "I can draw far more interesting things out of you, you know."

Dan makes a sound of disgust.

"Shut up," Chloe says.

The second card Izzy draws is reversed. She sets the upside-down Devil, with its illustration of a bat-winged, Sabbatic goat, in the Present position. From Chloe's perspective, it looks as though the devil hangs by his feet from an altar, while two naked, horned, and chained captives, one female and one male, stand on the ceiling. Each captive has a tail: the female, a tail made from a grape bunch; the male, a tail made of pure, red flames.

"Hah!" Lucifer barks. "But why must they insist on depicting me as some rank goat? If I ever find the slanderous gobshite who started that rumor, I'll merge him with livestock."

Finally, Izzy places the last card in the Future position. It's the bizarrely-illustrated Sun. A bright yellow sun stares, aloof, above a nude, blond-haired infant, who rides atop a white horse. The child wears a crown of flowers, plumed by a tall red feather, and bares a flowing banner of the same red. In the background, sunflowers tower above a fence.

Izzy stills, falling silent. Chloe looks up at her uncertainly, only to find the other woman has paled. "What is it?" Chloe asks, glancing back and forth between the cards and Izzy. "What's wrong?"

"These are all Major Arcana cards," Izzy breathes.

"And that means what, exactly?" Lucifer leans forward in concern.

Dan sits up as well, his eyebrows raised. "Huh, never seen that happen, have you, Ozzy?"

"No."

"What?" Chloe snaps.

"The odds of drawing all Major Arcana cards are very slim," Izzy says.

"How many cards?" Lucifer asks, abrupt. "How many Major Arcana?"

"Seventy-eight cards," Izzy answers. "Twenty-two Major."

"Two percent chance," Lucifer says, nodding toward the cards.

"Since when are you so good at math?" Dan says, leaning his face against his beer bottle.

Lucifer rolls his eyes. "It's a universal language, Daniel."

Izzy stares at the cards. "You've experienced great turmoil," she explains, one finger hovering above The Tower. "Your entire world was destroyed by change. I feel..." She looks up. "I feel a part of you died here, Chloe."

"Don't be preposterous," Lucifer snarls. "As you can see, she has a pulse."

"But you aren't the same, are you?" Izzy asks, her brown eyes boring into Chloe.

The question crawls down her spine. On her right, Dan frowns.

Sensing Chloe won't answer, Izzy moves to the Present. "This is where you are now. A time of freedom," she explains, tapping on the inverted Devil. "You're finding control here, as well. Learning how to live in your changed world and mindset."

"Why, Isabel, I think I'm beginning to like this tarot nonsense." Folding his hands over his crossed knees, Lucifer gives Chloe a rakish grin. "You can find your control with me all you want."

Chloe shakes her head. "What's The Sun mean?" she asks.

"It represents freedom, as well, but more in a sense of...wholeness. Happiness. Contentment. You will find your purpose by embracing your present. Stay true to what you are becoming, and all will be well."

But what am I becoming? Chloe wonders, searching within herself.

Lucifer tips back his flask. "Well, now that you've—"

A blood-curdling scream cuts through the night.

Trixie.

Chapter Text

After meeting with Morrison at the medical examiner's office, Cain returns to the safe house in Brentwood. Having found more ash beneath his nails and a lingering scent of sulfur on his skin, he showers a second time since returning to Earth, scrubbing until his flesh is raw. He turns off the water and dries with a towel, taking care to rub inside the uneven bend of the hole in his chest. He still doesn't understand how only three days have passed since his death. It will take longer than that to get the stench of Hell out.

Once dry, he sits in a t-shirt and boxers on the sofa, punching the channel button on the TV remote. Tap, tap, tap, tap. He stares at the screen, unseeing, his mind caught up in past lives, in Hell, in scheming.

A new mask is settling over him. He's Peter Avery. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to much older parents, both long dead. Forty-one. Single. Outdoorsy. College graduate. An accountant. His hair and eyebrows, now dyed black, contrast against his pale flesh. With a pair of custom contact lenses, he will almost pass for human again. He could maybe even disappear and start yet another new life on Earth. But it's not to be. Inside, his wings itch. There's a score to settle, a girl to get.

The feather-stuffed evidence bags taunt him where he set them on the coffee table. He hasn't decided what to do with them yet, but he is well aware of their value, unlike Morrison, who only demanded a thousand dollars for the theft. The man had no idea he was in possession of divinity worth more than platinum and gold. But that has always been the benefit to Morrison: he never asks questions. He's only there for the cash.

Meanwhile, there's no shortage of people who will give all their life's savings for one angel feather. All told, it's not a bad deal. Unlike the usual snake oil, feathers live up to their reputation. The sick are healed. The lame walk. The blind see.

A thought crosses Cain's mind. What might a feather do to him?

Curious, he rises from the sofa and wanders to the fire safe tucked inside his bedroom closet. He's stored one of the Pentecostal coins there, alongside the Hell-forged demon blade. He unlocks the safe and bends to retrieve the knife. Once he's resituated himself on the sofa, he takes a breath, counts to three, and stabs his thigh.

The blade, preternaturally sharp, sinks deep, like a diver sliding into the smooth expanse of an Olympic-sized pool. Pain flares instantly, but he breathes through it. What's one knife wound compared to thousands of horrific deaths and the tortures of Hell? This will heal.

He yanks the knife out of his leg. With no heart pumping inside his chest, no blood geysers from the wound. He sets aside the blade and presses his thumbs to either side of the laceration. With a hiss, he stretches it wide. The fluid inside is thick, black, and still. For the briefest moment, he is repulsed by his own body, but in the next he files the feeling away.

Leaning forward, he digs into one of the evidence bags and withdraws a small feather that is sure to be less valuable, one so coated in dried blood that it crunches between his fingers. With another deep breath, he shoves it into the gaping stab wound.

Bright, golden light blasts outward from the feather, blinding him and burning a fire into his blood and bone. He struggles to hold back a scream as agony consumes him. He claws the remnants of the feather away before his body can fully absorb it.

The feather doesn't heal, but injures, leaving behind black, necrotic tissue. Huffing and nodding to himself, he probes the tender flesh tentatively. There was a chance his body would react this way. After all, the Devil, as much as he denies it, is still an angelic child of God, built to oppose and control the very chaos which forged Cain's new body into existence.


***


Thick, scleral contact lenses cling to Cain's eyeballs like glutinous shells. His thigh burns as he depresses the gas pedal in his SUV. He drives, one hand on the steering wheel, trailing Chloe's gray Charger. Even with two cars wedged between them, and surrounding lanes busy with morning traffic, following her is a risk he shouldn't take. If anyone checks behind herself, it's Decker. But Cain can't stop himself. There's something about her he can't resist—something as alluring as it is infuriating.

For a short time, he believed she could purify him, burn away his sins and wash his hands clean until he stood before her, a new man. She had these soft moments, as soft as her skin, that she blessed him with. A kind, caring heart, a clever sense of humor. But whenever her lips found his in the dark, they were firm with hungry displeasure, firm with a point to prove—to him, to herself, he didn't know. He fucked her, but she never quite fucked him. When she looked at him, he knew she tried to mold his face into someone else's. That's how it's always been for Cain: People look at him, hoping to see another.

It was easy for her to pull the trigger in the loft. He knows that. In a way, he respects her for it. Wants her even more, because of it.

Chloe's turn signal flashes, and she edges into the drop-off lane outside Trixie's school. He slips into the adjacent lane, avoiding the line of cars, and hangs a right at the next corner to make the block. When he comes around, he catches the tail end of Trixie making a show of dragging herself up the stairs to the main doors.

He won't miss dealing with the kid when this is all over. Half the time, all she did was talk about Lucifer—what he said, what he did, why he wasn't coming around as much, and Mom, why can't we invite Lucifer? Marcus is going.

No, he won't miss her at all.

Yanking his baseball cap lower over his forehead, Cain falls back into the line of cars behind Chloe's Dodge. It doesn't take him long to realize where she's headed. The precinct is farther east, her apartment southwest. She turns north. While there are any number of places she might go in that direction, he knows she's going to Lux.

When she pulls into the underground garage twenty minutes later, he turns left, into the parking lot of the old chophouse across the road from Lucifer's building. Killing the engine, he shuffles lower in his seat and waits.

Neither Chloe's Dodge nor Lucifer's Corvette leaves the garage any time soon. She stays for hours, long enough that his casual stalking turns into a full-blown stakeout. By hour six, he can only imagine one thing they could be doing, and he idly wonders if she was cheating on him with Lucifer the whole time. But she couldn't have been, not least of all because infidelity wasn't her style. Lucifer was turned every which way by their relationship. Nearly gone mad between it and Maze's machinations.

A new development, then, he decides, seething. Didn't take her long to get over his death.

At two-thirty, the Dodge rolls out of the garage. Cain hastily cranks the engine to life and resumes his surveillance, following Chloe as she picks Trixie up from school and drops her off at Espinoza's apartment in Ocean Park. She runs errands afterward, going to the nearest pharmacy, where she spends a half-hour, only to exit with at least ten full shopping bags. Cain frowns, suspicious.

He expects her to go home, then, but she surprises him, instead driving back to Sunset Boulevard and Lux. She returns to the garage, and he returns to the chophouse parking lot. Hours pass again. Ludicrously, he imagines her shopping bags filled with condoms. Imagines Lucifer buck naked—a sight he's all too familiar with after their stint as a couple in the suburbs—plowing into Chloe. With a snarl, he slams his hand on the dash, denting leather and plastic.

The desire to confront them in this body is almost unbearable, his wings on the verge of exploding to life. But Cain breathes deep and beats his emotions into submission. You don't live thousands of years without learning how to be patient.

It's half-past ten when Chloe resurfaces.

Traffic is light, making it both easier and more challenging to trail her car, but he doesn't think he has to worry about Chloe seeing him right now. Something has happened. She drives erratically, sometimes speeding, sometimes dropping far below the limit. She forgets basic road rules, like signaling, and sits so long at a green light that the person in the car behind her is forced to honk.

When it becomes obvious she's headed home, Cain turns into a dark alleyway a few miles from her apartment complex and parks Peter Avery's navy SUV. Stepping out of the vehicle, he looks both directions down the alley. Spotting no one, he flexes his shoulders and lets his wings unfold onto reality. He shudders in pleasure. Holding them within is difficult, the near-constant tingling beneath his skin almost impossible to ignore.

Ensuring he's alone one last time, he stretches his wings wide and high. He bends his knees and leaps, driving his wings downward to catch currents of air that will lift him high. He climbs the sky to soar above the city, where he glides only briefly before diving down into Chloe's quiet subdivision.

Drawing his wings close to his back and then drawing them within, out of sight, he blends into the shadows between two trees that grow across the road from Chloe's complex. He waits for her in the darkness, his breathing so faint that he might be mistaken for a statue, were anyone to notice him at all.

A few minutes later, Chloe arrives. She parks poorly, the Dodge's front right tire wedged against the curb, the back left of the car swung too far out into the road. If she notices, she doesn't care.

Cain watches as she stumbles from her vehicle, as if drunk. His eyesight is unnaturally good in the dark, and he sees how her hand trembles against the door handle, sees the dark discoloration on her jeans—red, like blood. He squints, curious.

She stays rooted in place beside her car and looks longingly at the street light down the road, her chest heaving. Briefly, she turns and looks right at him. He stares back, his lips twisting in a smile, but then she turns away, her eyes too weak to see him.

The light on her smartphone flares to life. He hears her take a deep breath, and then she's running—running from the shadows, to the light.


***


Even two hours later, the television and lights remain on in Chloe's apartment, but there's a stillness, too, that suggests she's fallen asleep. No matter if she hasn't—what is she going to do if she catches him? Shoot him? It's good to be powerful again.

Cain picks the lock to the apartment and slips inside. It's just as he remembered it. Warm and lived-in, bursting with little shots of color. For a moment, he stands at the doorway, struck by how close he was to having it all. To having her and a normal, human life, free from running and turmoil and violence.

But Lucifer was always in the way.

He walks on silent feet and finds her asleep on the couch. She rests on her side, curled in the fetal position around a silver pillow. Her face is pinched, and her eyes swing right and left behind her closed eyelids, playing out dreams. Cain watches her for several long minutes, his eyes hungrily roving the curves of her body, before he turns away.

In the upstairs bathroom, Chloe's day clothes are knotted in a pile on the tiled floor. They smell strongly of sweat and the rusty earthiness of dried and drying blood. He frowns at the massive bloodstain on the jeans. It's honestly past the point of being a bloodstain; it's more like a dye job.

He rearranges the clothes as he found them. Returning to the living room, he looks Chloe over as closely as he can without touching her. She doesn't look to be injured. Though circles darken the underside of her eyes, even in sleep, her flesh is healthy, not so pale as to suggest she's lost blood, much less a lot of blood.

So, whose blood is it?

It can only be Lucifer's. Cain smiles and slinks from the apartment.


***


Adrenaline, or whatever the equivalent is in this body, floods Cain's nervous system as he stands at the foot of the Devil's bed. Lucifer sleeps deeply, his wings, limp and battered and stained, droop on either side of the mattress. The room reeks of putrid infection, but Cain knows better than to let his guard down. Celestials heal quickly. The Devil will rise.

In Cain's palm, the hilt of the Hell-forged blade is warm to the touch. He glances at the ceiling, as if he might look into the eyes of God. Like Lucifer, like Amenadiel, like every human who's honest about his place in the universe, Cain's never been able to understand God's plans—if he has any. But he wonders what El Shaddai would think if his brightest son was snuffed out, once and for all. Would he know? Would he care, if he did?

A glass bowl full of spent bullets rests on the nightstand by Lucifer's head, confirming how Chloe spent her day. Confirming, also, that she finally knows the truth. About Lucifer, perhaps even about Cain himself.

Why would she come to the Devil's aid?

But it's obvious why, isn't it?

She chose him. She fixes him. And Cain is rejected once more.

He remembers his Hell loop, how Chloe stood naked before him and pressed the diamond engagement ring into his palm. The star-shaped wound carved above her heart glowed, aflame, branding her in a way no ring ever could.

Shaking his head, Cain returns to the present. None of those simulations were real, and yet it's as though he can feel the grit of ash between his teeth. As though he knows this is worse because it is real. Chloe may not be branded so literally, but she made it very clear who she chose, even before she shot him. His lip curls. She chose the creature who sent him to Hell.

Cain folds the blade closed and returns it to his pocket. He breathes through his teeth, struggling to contain his anger. Even if the only law in the universe is to kill or be killed, it's isn't enough to kill the Devil.

Only Lucifer's suffering, only his torment, will be enough.

Chapter Text

Trixie's cry is a call to arms. Lucifer's chair rakes against the terrace concrete as he rises beside Chloe, Dan, and Izzy. A sharp spasm ripples between his shoulder blades. Before he's able to rein in the familiar urge, his wings unfurl in one powerful crack, upending a chair in the process.

Chloe is oblivious to the feathered mayhem as she rushes inside the apartment.

"Whoa!" Dan yells, stumbling back into the table. "You're-you're—"

"The Devil, Daniel," Lucifer finishes, "as I've explained many times before." He narrowly avoids smacking the man with a wing as he folds his limbs against his back and follows Chloe.

At the doorway to the apartment, Lucifer sees Izzy catch Dan around the middle as he swoons drunkenly. Dan's stupor is brief, though, before he shakes himself and scrambles to catch up. "Trixie—"

Inside, Chloe strides through the kitchen, to the living area and sliding door that opens into Trixie's bedroom. She shoves it aside, revealing the small, colorful room, lit by soft lamplight. Trixie sits up with her knees tucked to her chest, her brown, wavy hair hiding her face as she weeps into the stuffed toy she calls Miss Alien.

"Oh, monkey," Chloe whispers brokenly, going to her daughter at once and enfolding her in a tight embrace. Trixie latches onto her mother, wailing.

Lucifer eyes the closed window and the shadows of the room. His shoulders relax when there's no sign of an intruder, but his wings remain at his back and his heart continues to thunder.

An uncomfortable pressure squeezes at his lungs as he looks at Trixie and remembers her paltry weight. She's much bigger than when he first met Chloe, but the world—Earth, Heaven, Hell, all of it—is much bigger still. The thought of any harm coming to Chloe's daughter... Well, he would put the fear of the Devil in anyone who dared try.

Swallowing back a much darker side of himself, Lucifer says, "You were louder than Gabriel's horn, urchin." Trixie doesn't look up as she continues to sob uncontrollably.

Behind him, Dan shoves at a wing. "Outta the way, man. You're blocking the damn door with those-those things."

"Apologies," Lucifer murmurs. He supposes the child shouldn't see the blasted wings, either, come to think of it. Stepping back, he watches Dan go to Trixie. Like Chloe, he huddles close, and still Trixie is inconsolable. If Dan gives any more thoughts to the celestial evidence he's faced tonight, he doesn't share them aloud. "Are you quite all right, Daniel? Not feeling a touch woozy or anything?"

Dan glances at him briefly, blinking hard before shaking his head. "Look, man, my daughter needs me, okay? That's-that's all that's on my mind." With a shuddering sigh, he returns to rocking Trixie.

On Trixie's other side, Chloe offers soothing words. "It was just a bad dream, baby. A night terror. You remember when you used to get those? You're safe. It's okay."

With no burglars or demons to war with, Lucifer is out of his depth. He backs away from the familial scene, uncomfortably full of disquiet and a sense of longing he doesn't wish to examine. Drawing his wings even closer to his back, he unravels them into nildimensional space.

He turns toward the kitchen, his mind on the cabinet he's annexed for hard liquor, and comes face to face with Izzy. She leans against the counter, watching him with pensive, brown eyes.

"Nice wings," she says.

Lucifer huffs. "Yes, you don't seem the least bit surprised by them, do you?" A note of suspicion colors his words.

"Well, I am a witch."

"Perhaps," he allows.

"No perhaps about it," she says, as he drags a bottle of scotch from the cabinet. "And, no, nothing I've seen has surprised me."

He pours amber liquid into a glass, not bothering to offer her one. "Shouldn't you be in there?" he asks, nodding toward Trixie's room. "Seems a very human affair."

"I'm not leaving any time soon. I'll start helping her tomorrow."

"Seems she could use help now."

"She's coming into her second sight. Nightmares are par for the course. She needs guidance, but right now she needs her mom and dad."

Lucifer's brow furrows as he looks down at his glass. That the child might be special comes as no surprise to him. Chloe is a miracle, after all. How might that be passed on? And Daniel apparently comes from more colorful stock than he ever imagined.

When he turns away from the counter to face Izzy, he wears a coolly neutral expression. "And what second sight might that be?"

"Danny will never admit it," Izzy replies with a small smile, "but Trixie's just like our abuela. Always has been. She could see people's true natures. How much light and dark they carry within."

"Auras, you mean?"

"Something like that." Izzy shrugs. "Not my gift, but you're so bright, even I can see it."

Lucifer's mouth thins into a hard line as he swirls the scotch in his glass. "The child may have said something similar recently," he says.

"Makes sense. You're The Star, remember?"

Oh, but that's not all he is, is it? "Your cards lie," he says.

"No, they don't."

He sniffs, downs the last of his drink in two swallows, and lets the glass drop to the counter with a hard clank. Stepping close to Izzy, he says, mere inches from her face, "You don't know me, witch."

Izzy holds his gaze. "I know you're tearing yourself in two. You must decide who you're going to be."

Lucifer stands back with a disbelieving huff. Shaking his head, he rounds the counter, snatches his suit jacket from the back of Chloe's couch, and walks out the door.


***


In the penthouse, Lucifer tries not to think about the cards. Tries to sleep, and when that fails, tries to distract himself with television, with video games, with an A-bomb that his metabolism burns through in annoyingly short order.

Chloe texts him at two in the morning: Are you okay? Why'd you leave?

He's not sure how to answer either question, and so he evades, lest he lie in the process of trying. He texts: Is Daniel all right?

Chloe: He'll be okay. We talked a lot.

Lucifer: And the child?

Chloe: I don't know. Tell you about it tomorrow?

Lucifer sends a thumbs-up emoji, and they say nothing more. A part of him aches to be with her. He's grown so used to being with her at night—his place, her place, it doesn't bloody matter—that he's keenly aware of her absence. In bed, he lies on the side that's become hers, smelling her in the sheets. Why doesn't he go to her? She would open her arms. But something holds him back.

At dawn, after a long, sleepless night, he retreats to his bathroom for a scalding hot shower. The room is thick with steam when he steps out nearly an hour later. He dries off and wipes the mirror with a hand towel. Lingering condensation warps the shape of his face in the glass.

Embrace your true self... This is the only path that leads to the wholeness you seek. Perverting it leads to destruction.

The damned witch got to the heart of it, didn't she? As well as if she had drawn out his desires.

He does want to be whole. Yearns for it, more than anything. It's not as if he doesn't pay Linda a boatload of money for a reason. There are pieces of him that don't fit with the rest. The trouble is knowing which pieces to keep and which to discard.

Sometimes, now, when he's with Chloe, he feels he is whole, or something very near to it, but only because he forgets who his father wanted him to be, forced him to be. It's often in those moments when he can pretend he is only a man, his own man, enjoying the company of a woman who's too good for him, but somehow hasn't figured that out yet.

With Chloe demoted at the precinct, the fantasy quavers while he stays behind. When they're apart, Lucifer remembers the truth: that he's an angel, yes, but that he's the Devil, too. The position may have been forced upon him, but he earned the title. Reconciling that with the person, even the celestial, he wishes to be in Chloe's life is difficult, if not impossible.

Who is he truly? Who does he desire to be?

The simplest truth he knows is he loves a mortal detective, and has for a long time. But whenever he reaches for the word, to give life to the truth, it turns to ash on his tongue. Surely love isn't a word a punisher from Hell is allowed to keep in his vocabulary. Not when he remembers peeling off fingernails, pouring literal salt into literal wounds, and pulling out teeth. Not when he remembers laughing and taking pleasure in screams. Remembers he's a murderer—of Uriel, of Cain.

Sometimes, when he runs his hands across miracle flesh, he worries he defiles with his touch. Chloe accepts him, believes him to be good and worthy—he knows that now—but should she?

He reaches inside himself and calls forth his devilish eyes with ease. Staring into the hellfire, he feels nothing of the terror it inspires in others. Hellfire doesn't frighten one who's come to embody it. Still, he knows what others see, the torment that awaits them, and it's a horrible thing, knowing torture is built into every fiber of his being—that, on some level, he wills it to be.

Lucifer searches for his full, monstrous visage next. It's harder to find recently, but it's there, in a dark corner of his heart. He drags it forward and stares at the grotesque, scarred flesh in the mirror. The face remains because he believes he deserves it. And why shouldn't he? Murderers, torturers, they deserve punishment—he should know. Why should he be any different? And what a punishment it is, to be reminded of how he looked, those first days he plummeted into Hell.

Finally, he looses his wings. They stretch out in the bathroom, the left wingtip spilling past the open doorway.

Time and again, you will return to this, your true form.

The wings came first—a true "gift" from Mummy and Daddy dearest—but does that mean they're his true form? He's unsure, but he no longer desires to cleave off the feathered extremities. They're too bloody useful, for one.

He grips the counter with char-black nails. The incongruity of his devil form set against his bright, angelic wings nauseates him. The pieces don't fit. He'll never understand how Chloe looked upon him like this without running away. How she came back and tended his wounds.

The universe offers you many options, some light and some dark, but you can't choose to have them all. You can't be them all.

But isn't it dishonest, to choose the light, to pretend there's no darkness inside him?


***


Linda regards him with a slight tilt of her head. "This tarot reading upset you a lot, didn't it?"

"They're just bloody cards," Lucifer grumbles, as if he hasn't barged into her office, unannounced, because of them.

She looks at him doubtfully, and he holds her gaze with great difficulty. "I have a friend who dragged me to a tarot reading once," Linda says. "It's pretty subjective stuff, Lucifer."

"Yes, but Isabel is an actual witch."

Her professionalism slips. "What, like a real one?" She holds up a hand and chuckles tiredly. "What am I saying? Never mind. Leave it to the Devil to find a real witch."

Lucifer shrugs a shoulder as he pours himself another glass of water. "The most shocking thing of all is she's Daniel's sister."

"Really?" She blinks. "Dan Espinoza's sister?"

"Mm." He leans back into the couch and nurses his water. "As much as I hate to admit it, she's right, too. Or at least one of the cards was. I-I do wish to be...whole, Doctor."

"That's good," Linda says. "That's progress."

"But that's the thing. I don't know if I can be." He swallows back the rest of his water and shoves the glass onto the coffee table between them. "I mean, how do I reconcile all this?" he asks, waving his hands at his body.

"Is this about your wings?"

"And my devil face."

"I thought you wanted to have that back."

"Well, yes, but I regained it in a most egregious way," he snaps. "So, what might that say about my devil face, hmm?" He sags. "That it only appears when monstrous deeds are done."

Linda nods. "Okay, but is there anything that says the Devil has to be...monstrous?"

He looks at her incredulously. "Everyone says the Devil is monstrous, Doctor."

"Right. Most people do. But you don't agree with them. Or that's what you've always claimed."

"No, you're right. I don't. I'm not evil. But the job is to punish, and the desire to punish never leaves me. That's dirty work. It has consequences."

"But that's not what this is really about, is it?" Linda argues. "You didn't have your devil face for months—and let me remind you, that upset you, too—but I don't think you stopped being a punisher during that time." She narrows her eyes. "Something changed recently to bring your face back. You've said that you and Amenadiel have learned angels manifest what they believe they deserve: So, why do you think you deserve your wings, your devil face? Is this about Cain?"

Lucifer crosses his legs and looks away. "It's foolish."

"I won't judge you." He glances at her, and she amends, "Okay, I'll try not to judge you by human standards."

"The wings, I...can't explain. But when I killed Cain," he says with some reluctance, "I didn't just kill him."

"What do you mean?"

"I ensured he went to Hell."

"Ah."

"He wasn't going to, you see. He felt no remorse for his actions, none of the crimes or murders he had committed for thousands of years. He didn't feel guilty for betraying Chloe. None of it."

"And you feel guilty about sending him to Hell?" Linda asks, unable to mask her disbelief.

"No," he scoffs with a sinister smile. "At least, not quite. But Hell isn't an earthly prison sentence, Doctor. It's eternal. No end to the torment."

"That didn't bother you in the past."

"It didn't," he agrees. "I mean, really, what else are we to do with Pol Pot?"

Linda nods, eyes wide. "Pol Pot. Right."

"But it's occurred to me that, while punishment is necessary, endless punishment doesn't heal anything. That was the problem with Dad sending me off to Hell for all eternity. It doesn't reform perpetrators or help victims, many of whom end up in Hell themselves." He barks a laugh. "Who alive cares that Genghis Khan is stuck in a Hell loop? So, what's the bloody point of it then?"

"And what does this have to do with your devil face?"

"I don't think it was evil to punish Cain," he says. "But Hell itself is evil. Using it to punish may be evil." He sighs, his fingers tapping on his kneecaps. "Cain didn't deserve Heaven, but I'm not sure he deserved Hell, either, at least not as it exists. And I... Well, I suppose I regret using it against him, and that my devil face may actually be more of a punishment than I previously realized. It's all bloody awful design."

"But that's not your doing. You've said your father created Hell."

"But I perfected it, Doctor," he insists, repeating words he said to Chloe weeks before. "Horribly. And only a monster would do that. Only a monster would wield Hell."

Any cruelty you have visited upon others may be visited upon you.

"You can't change what you've done," Linda tells him, her voice gentle. "You can only move forward. What do you want to be?"

Lucifer swallows as he thinks for a moment. "I want to be good."

Cain was right all along.


***


A twenty-first birthday party runs well into the night at Lux. Lucifer mingles for a while, charming the young men and women who've reserved several booths. A friendly wager is made on who can drink the most, the fastest: Lucifer or Terry, the birthday boy. For his amusement, Lucifer plays along. He wins neatly and contributes his winnings, plus a little extra, toward the growing bar tab.

When he slips into Chloe's apartment, it's late. Everything is dark and quiet as he prowls up the stairwell, shucking off his suit jacket as he goes. When he reaches Chloe's bedroom door, he knocks lightly, twice, before slipping inside. The sheets rustle as he toes off his Oxfords.

"Are you decent, darling?"

"In pajamas," Chloe mumbles into her pillow.

"A tragedy I'm sure I can work with, if need be," he says, peeling down to his boxer briefs.

He climbs into bed, and she kisses him before turning to make him the big spoon. The blocky digits of the bedside clock cast a soft, red glow across her cheek. With his nose buried in her tresses, he slides a hand over her hip and slips beneath the cotton of her top. Touching her, even chastely, is heaven, more than Heaven ever was.

"I missed you last night," she says, sleep fading from her voice.

He kisses her shoulder. "Your offspring needed you."

"Mm, that's not why you left, though."

"No," he admits, his thumb brushing across the dip of her belly button. "Would you believe the Devil had a bit of an identity crisis?"

She laces her fingers with his. "Do you want to talk about it?"

"Nothing much to say, really. I've had an epiphany of sorts."

"Yeah?"

"I've realized I want nothing to do with Hell."

"That's why you retired, right?" She yawns again.

What kind of human nears dozing over talks about literal Hell?

"It's more than that," he says. "I don't feel I should use it anymore—the fear of Hell, that is. If I've truly retired, I should let that part of myself go, shouldn't I?"

This declaration seems to wake her fully. Chloe wriggles, turning beneath his arm to face him. Her hair is a messy, golden halo about her head. "You mean your devil face?" she asks, and touches fingertips to his chin.

"Yes." He smirks bitterly. "I'm sure you'll be sad never to see that monstrosity again. Assuming I can...keep it under wraps."

She shakes her head. "You know I'm not afraid of you."

"No, you aren't, are you?" he says in wonder. "But I'm not sure it's really me anymore."

"Okay," she whispers, and something restless stills in him to know it's the same reply she'd give, regardless of his decision.

"Last night, when your offspring cried out, it wasn't my devil face I reached for first."

"You were ready to go to battle for her, weren't you?" Chloe edges closer. His scruff scrapes across her palm as she runs her fingers into his hair. Her expression is soft enough to rest in. "You're never going to convince Dan you're the Devil after that, you know. As far as he's concerned, you're only a guardian angel. Ella, too."

"Only an angel," Lucifer snorts. "How quickly divinity has become prosaic to you."

"Probably what happens when you sleep with the Devil," she says with a grin.

"Probably," he agrees, and she laughs when he tweaks her nipple playfully. He smooths his fingers over her breast, soothing. "To be honest, I'm not quite sure what I am anymore."

"You're Lucifer Morningstar," she says, her voice firm. "You get to decide."

"More literally than I'd sometimes like," he says.

They stare at each other, and he's struck by the eons he's needed to live to enjoy this moment. To be in a time and place where there are people who care for him, people he cares for. She leans forward and presses a kiss to his mouth before sighing and tucking herself beneath his chin.

"What is it?" he asks, sensing a shift in her mood.

"Just worried about Trixie," she breathes against his collarbone. "I don't want her involved in all this..."

"Metaphysical bollocks?"

"Pretty much."

"We'll keep her safe."

"How?" She leans back and looks him in the eye. "I thought the biggest stuff I'd have to worry about with Trixie was bad grades, her first period, driving, crushes. Now she's...seeing things. Things I can't even see."

"Mm, that will make her an excellent detective one day."

"Be serious."

"I am. If you don't think she's going to follow in your and your father's footsteps, you're sorely mistaken."

"You mean she won't be the first president of Mars?" Chloe smiles. Groaning suddenly, she flops onto her back. "You're not making me feel any better."

He sits up in bed and looks down at her. "Actually, I have something to show you that may help." Grabbing her hand, he draws her upright.

As she scoots out from the sheets, she flicks a lamp on. When she sits cross-legged before him, Lucifer feels almost lightheaded—from excitement and fear, from an all-consuming desire.

He wants to be good. This is good, isn't it? It could be. He could be good. For her. For himself.

"Lucifer?" She touches his knee.

"If I'm putting my devilish ways behind me," he says, his words coming out fast, "I suppose I should go all in, don't you?"

"What do you—"

"I want to teach you how to pray."

He's taken aback when she snorts. "Oh," she says, a beat later. "You really mean it."

"Of course I bloody mean it."

"I just didn't think...prayer was real?" She pales and lightly covers her mouth. "I've maybe said some really awful stuff to your Dad. To God."

Lucifer grins widely. "Have you now?" He waves a hand. "Relax, darling. You've not been doing it properly, I assure you. There's a format."

"A format," she echoes.

"Yes, yes, put your hands up like this," he instructs, pressing his palms together.

"Seriously?" she laughs. "Actual prayer hands?"

His hands droop with his annoyance. "What did you expect? Peace signs toward the heavens?"

"I don't know. Something...more original?"

"We are the origin, darling."

"Sure. Okay."

"Now, if you please—" He raises his hands together once more and waits for her to do the same. "Good. Now, bow your head and close your eyes." He rolls his eyes at her giggling, but his throat goes tight when he's left to stare at the blond-haired crown of her head. Suddenly, the moment is vital to him. How and why he's waited so long to teach her this, he doesn't know. "In your mind," he says, his voice soft, "speak my name directly, and any thoughts you share thereafter, I shall hear them."

Chloe glances up, a mischievous glint in her eye. "Any thoughts?"

His lips twitch. "I like your thinking, and I can't believe I'm saying this, but save it for later." Reaching out, he presses her head into a bow once more. "Go on. Give it a go."

"Do you hear me?" she asks a moment later.

Lucifer frowns. "I don't." Then he scoffs. "Of course. Try my other bloody name," he sighs. "Samael." The name's as bitter on his tongue as ever.

Chloe's inner voice pops into his head a second later. It's sweeter and warmer than he expected, less worn by years of earthly pains and disappointments.

Samael, she thinks. Then, Lucifer.

And he feels how much she wants him to have the name he desires. As though her whole being wraps around it.

"I hear you," he whispers, his eyes stinging.

She looks up at him and lets her hands drop back into her lap. A light blush colors her cheeks.

"If you ever need me, pray to me, and I'll come," he says. "Wherever you are. Whatever has happened. You've my word." He takes her hands in his own. "Beatrice shall have my protection, as well, if you desire it. You need only teach her what I've taught you."

"Thank you."

Lucifer clears his throat. "It's no trouble. Just, should you show your offspring, impress upon her that this is for emergencies only. The last thing I need is the inner dialogue of a ten-year-old babbling on in my brain."

Chloe frowns. "It must get pretty loud, all the prayers."

"Gosh, no. I have to be open to receiving them. I could choose to open the floodgates, if you will, hear any random nonsense the pillocks of the world are requesting from Satan himself, but I'm not so inclined, and neither are my siblings. Most prayers go unheard, and thus certainly unanswered."

"Wow."

"Yes, you're all truly on your own, aren't you?" he laughs.

"Is this your idea of comforting?"

"Trust me, it's best not to be noticed by the rest of my family, if you can help it." Giving her thigh a pat, he falls back onto the bed and opens an arm for her to cuddle against him. She turns off the lamp and lies down, pressing into his side. "Now," he says, his grin wide in the dark, "about all those dirty prayers..."

If the Devil doesn't have to be monstrous, surely an angel doesn't have to be a boring wanker.


***


The horsehair brush scratches softly, sush, sush, sush, across the leather shoe. Lucifer lifts the Oxford, tilting it left and right, to inspect its shine beneath the bright Los Angeles sun. A breeze weaves around the penthouse balcony, whisking away shoe polish fumes and the earthy musk of the smoking joint wedged between his lips.

Satisfied with his polish job, Lucifer sets the shoe aside, joining it to a long line of nearly identical Italian leather. He sighs, equal parts content and wistful. Sometimes he misses the pompadour heels of the eighteenth century. How fetching his calves are in a good pair of tights.

His cell rings, and he sets aside his polishing cloth. Chloe's face fills the screen.

"Hello, darling," he answers, kicking back in the chaise lounge.

"Hey," she answers shortly. "I need you—"

"Eager, are we? Name the time and place."

"Lucifer."

"Hmm?" He struggles to contain his laughter as he puffs smoke. It's so easy to push her buttons.

"I need you to come consult."

"So that's a no to a bit of fun on the job?"

"There are twelve dead people around me right now."

"Ah, that rather does kill the mood, doesn't it?" He leans over and begins gathering shoes. "Does this mean they've promoted you back to your rightful position?"

"No. I'm logging evidence for Webb, and... Well, it'd be good if you, um, consulted for him."

"That so?" Lucifer tucks his final pair of shoes safely indoors and snubs out his joint in the nearest ashtray. "And by 'for him,' do you really mean for you?" He shrugs into his suit jacket.

A pause. "Maybe. I'll text you the address."

"Right, then. Be there in a jiffy, Detective."

In the elevator, he adjusts his cufflinks and tugs on his sleeves. The Devil can be good on a case involving mass murder.

He hopes.

Chapter Text

Amenadiel exits his apartment building. He breathes in the scent of the orange blossoms flowering outside the complex's walls and turns the nearest corner, heading for a particular park bench where lately he has done all of his thinking.

In the week since he visited Lucifer, he moved to a new building in the Silver City, one that hugs the line between the angelic domain and the human district. No other angel lives there. He's surrounded by humans, most of whom have no idea he is an angel. Sometimes, he can almost believe he's back on Earth, but there's no crime here, no seediness. And the few humans who recognize his divinity are overly polite and keep their distance.

Nothing is right. Nowhere is right.

He's given up on asking his brothers and sisters about their recent interactions—or lack thereof—with Father. None of them find it strange that they haven't spoken to him in decades. After all, what are decades to angels who have lived thousands, millions, billions of years? They trust in Gabriel, who has always been steadfast, and even more so in God. They all say the same thing.

"Father will talk to me"—to you, to us—"when he needs to."

Their blind faith shocks and shames him. Is that how he used to feel? Is that how he should feel?

He settles on his favorite bench, beneath the shade of a fertile fig tree. Fields stretch in all directions before him, an endless blanket of tender green. But looks can be deceiving, and Amenadiel knows well that this grass has not always been green, that more than once it's drowned in the blood of angels and suffocated beneath their feathers. They never speak of the civil wars, and why should they? They're in the past.

Angels, like all immortal creatures, have minds that favor living in the present. Amenadiel's is no different, but as he stares out over the never-ending fields, he longs for Heaven's halcyon days. Before the Silver City was a city, before Father breathed life into Earth's waters and sent Amenadiel to whisper into a primate's ear, even before Lucifer—Samael—painted the Milky Way and Andromeda and all those other galaxies. In those days when Father gazed upon them with something akin to affection, and Mother's light warmed their flesh.

How many billions of years have passed? Impossible to know. Time means less in Heaven than in the human universe and Hell. But for a moment, Amenadiel feels eternity's crushing grip, the misunderstandings and miseries accumulating across ages.

Memories pull at him, and he sees Michael throw Samael at Father's bare feet. How Samael's ankles, wrists, and luminous wings are bound in heavy chains forged specially for him. Blood streams down his light skin as he struggles to stand. He sways before righting himself and jerking his chin in defiance. Michael sneers at him and flies to join the rest of the heavenly host who surround the raised dais where God sits upon his throne.

It has come to this: Samael fleeing his divine responsibilities. For it was ordained that the heavens' Light Bringer should also assess the brightness of the light. "Are my creations good?" God wishes to know. What better way to find out, than to send one who can draw out desires and tempt creations toward darkness, who can then destroy what is extraneous and filled with shadow? But Samael dares to ask, "Is this not evil?"

Angels have never asked such questions. When Samael does, a wildfire roars to life. Other angels whisper questions Amenadiel tries not to hear. Why, why, why?

"Samael," Father chuckles. "Son. You know better than to hide from me."

Samael remains silent, only stares, only trembles. Whether from rage or fear, Amenadiel doesn't know.

"You cannot escape your purpose, Samael," Father says. His voice is not unkind as he looks at his favorite son. "How am I to judge the value of a Creation without testing its integrity? This is part of the process."

"You're asking me to feed them lies, Father. Poison." His wings flutter in irritation, rattling their chains and catching the light of Mother's vaguely-formed brightness, from where she flits, silently, next to Father.

"No, I'm asking you to test sentient creations. It's the only way I can evaluate quality, and the only way they'll come to know me."

"Why must they know you at all?" Samael asks, and there's that word again. Why. "You can't force them to love you, Father."

But he is God, Amenadiel thinks, and God can do anything. And anything God does is good.

Father rises from his gleaming, white throne. Stepping forward, he places heavy hands on Samael's shoulders. Amenadiel, who has never felt their father's touch, believes this is a gift, but his brother’s spine goes rigid.

"You must do this, son."

"Do not ask it of me," Samael pleads. "If you want me to punish those who oppose Creation, I will, but I won't test those who've done no wrong. I will not lie to them for you to see how easily they believe the lie. I-I reject this, Father."

Azrael gasps where she hovers beside Amenadiel. They share a glance as uncertain murmurs snake through the host. Rejection is a new word in primitive Heaven, but a word they immediately understand. It is far, far worse than why.

Father withdraws his hands from Samael's shoulders. "To reject your purpose is to reject me."

Samael hesitates, and it's as though Creation holds a collective breath. Finally, he says, "So be it."

Father's face hardens, his light brown skin drawing tight over cheekbones. "Then I know you not."

"What does it matter?" Samael laughs. "You only emerge to command us, for reasons we will never understand. To send us to this planet or that."

"I know best, son. I have more eyes to see, more ears to hear."

"Do you?" Samael growls. "I was under the impression that your many eyes and ears were our eyes and ears."

Father tilts his head, and his glory shines, haloing black curls. "But they belong to me. You belong to me, Samael."

"Son, ask for forgiveness," Mother says, her voice lush and lilting.

"Forgiveness?" Samael scoffs, staring into her light. "For not wanting to set those who don't deserve it on a path toward destruction?" He huffs and shakes his head. "Do you even know what this is all for, Father? Why you do any of it, why Creation matters—what, because you say it does?"

"Enough!" God yells, and Heaven quakes. A convocation of cherubim fly close to the throne, anticipating orders.

But Samael runs hot and knows not when to turn away. "You think you own me," he hisses, "but it's only because I allow you to own me."

Shouts of protest rise up from Amenadiel and his siblings. Who does he think he is?

Father's voice carves through the commotion. "You. Will. Be. Silent."

The host quiets at once, and not even Samael is foolish enough to keep talking. Amenadiel assumes the sedition is over, that punishment will now be swift and just and fair, as Father's punishments always are. But in the perfect silence there's a hacking cough seconds before Samael rears back and spits blood at God's feet. The spittle smacks wetly as it collides with marble.

A new and worse restlessness vibrates through the host, but shock keeps them quiet. This is a direct insult, a rejection of all that is holy. It's never been done because even considering doing it is unthinkable.

Michael is the first to respond. He kites forward on carmine feathers, sword drawn. Landing behind Samael, he slaps the back of their brother's knees with the flat of the blade, forcing Samael to kneel.

Samael laughs as he falls and continues to laugh on his knees. From his view of their profiles, Amenadiel watches as tears create pink runnels through the dried blood on his brother's face.

God bends and grasps Samael's throat, silencing his madness. "Only traitors speak as you have." He squeezes and squeezes, his teeth bared, until Samael writhes.

"Husband!" Mother cries, and wraps around Father, obscuring him in thick ropes of light as she speaks to him alone.

Several long moments pass before God's fingers release Samael's throat. Samael sits back on his heels and gasps for air.

"You are no longer welcome here," Father declares, straightening to his full, imposing height. "I have prepared a place for you—a house with many rooms."

Did Father know Samael would rebel?

Father turns to Michael. "Unchain him."

Michael moves, swift and obedient. He remains close when Samael is free, lest their wayward brother turn on Father. But Samael continues to kneel, his freed wings drooping. The wind has gone out of him, leaving only tired acceptance. There is no fighting God or the host, even for one as powerful as the Light Bringer.

Father steps around him and takes hold of his wings—deep, where humerus meets scapula. Something dark, like smoke, wisps from God's fingers, seeping into plumage. Samael cries out and tries to wrench himself free, but Father's grip is unbreakable. "I forbid you from entering the heavens. I curse you to be bound to the underworld and to Earth."

New murmurs stir to life among the host: horror, confusion, anger. Not all of it is directed toward Samael. Another word is formed—exile—and they all know what it means.

Father rounds Samael and takes hold of his throat once more. "For your rejection of the gift, the purpose I gave you, I disown you. I never knew you. Depart from me."

He shoves into Samael's neck, as if to slam his body into the ground. Samael wails openly, his arms lifting toward Father, toward Mother, but his head never touches marble. His body disappears, mid-fall. It was many ages before Amenadiel realized that was only the beginning of his brother's fall.

Not for the first time, he wonders if Lucifer knows what happened in the years that followed his banishment. How his rebellion echoed, how sibling turned against sibling turned against God, how many were unmade on these very fields.

When it was all over, Father instated Gabriel as his regular mouthpiece, not merely a preferred messenger, and only agreed to see his children at certain hours, for limited time. He was too busy planning angelic movements to guide development in Earth's fledgling Homo erectus. Mother mostly hid in the Great Tower, as she would until the day Gabriel announced she had to be sent to Hell. And life went on in the Silver City, as it always does.

The past looks different to Amenadiel now, as does the present. He looks over his shoulder, toward the towering, white spire rising out of the Central District. He needs answers.


***


"Go fish," Amenadiel says.

Charlotte drags a card from the deck before sighing. "I'm bored," she announces, dropping the cards she's holding onto the table.

Amenadiel nods, letting his own cards fall. "Me, too. What about gin rummy?" She shakes her head. "Crazy Eights?"

"No more cards," she says. "In fact, I may be ready to burn the deck." She reaches for the nearly-empty wine bottle they shoved to the other side of the table and upends it over her waiting glass. "I need a job."

"The cherubim do all the work in Heaven."

"I've noticed. And all the food grows perfectly, and there's never any bad weather or traffic accidents or any of that. I know." She rolls her eyes and drinks.

"It is quite different from Earth, isn't it?"

"There has to be something exciting to do here."

"Have you been to the Hall of Records yet?"

"Is that supposed to be exciting?" Charlotte grimaces. "I went. Turns out my Aunt Beverly lives three buildings down. Can't believe she got in. I'm doing everything I can to avoid her." She turns thoughtful. "Maybe I'll move. That's something."

"Better here than the alternative, though, right?" Amenadiel quips with a sad smile. He gathers the cards from the table back into a deck.

"Definitely," she says, tipping her glass toward him in agreement. "But I don't know how to be so...sedentary. I liked my job on Earth."

"We have no need for lawyers here."

"Good thing, too, because I've noticed there aren't many in Heaven," she says dryly. Her mouth lifts in a smile. "Even I needed a little help getting in."

"If you'd had more time, you wouldn't have had any trouble," he assures her.

"Maybe that's true for a lot of humans."

"Maybe," he says, and he wonders if this is how Lucifer and all their siblings who perished in the wars felt when they began to ask questions.

Charlotte sips her wine, her expression calculating. "You've been speaking to the other angels, haven't you? About God?"

"I have."

"And?"

"Are you sure you want to know?" Only a few weeks ago, she could hardly listen to him speak about Gabriel's strange behavior.

"I'll let you know if I can't handle it."

Amenadiel sighs in relief. "Great, because I really need someone to talk to."

When he's finished telling her about his siblings' indifference, she leans back in her chair and draws a svelte leg to her chest. "Are you going to break into the tower and see God?"

"What?" Amenadiel asks, shocked by the idea.

"What else is there to do?" She waves a hand. "We're talking about literal eternity here. Do you really want to wait to find out what's going on? That could take a really long time."

"That's true, but—"

"So, how are we gonna give Gabriel the slip?"

His eyes bug out. "We?"

"Oh, come on. It's not like we haven't done this kind of thing before. We make a great team."

"Charlotte," Amenadiel starts with a shake of his head, "that was before. This is... You've found it difficult to settle in here. I don't want to drag you into this mess. There could be consequences."

She raises a thoughtful finger. "But I wouldn't be sent to Hell, right? That has to do with my own guilt."

"For directly barging in on—" He stops himself from saying more. "You might."

"I won't barge in. I'll just help you barge in."

"I don't know..."

"Look, on this, my soul's fine. I won't ever feel guilty about helping a friend," she says, smiling. "So, there's no chance of that causing me problems. Anyway, I did say I was bored, didn't I? And what if God really needs you? Please let me help."

Amenadiel stares into her puppy dog eyes for a long moment. "Okay," he relents.

The plan they come up with has a high risk of failure, but that's never stopped them before.


***


The next morning, Amenadiel waits outside Building 591. He vibrates with nerves, but then Charlotte exits and lifts her hand in greeting, and he feels himself relax and grin. This is Charlotte Richards, confident soul, curve-hugging dress, high heels, and all.

"My brother's not going to know what hit him."

"I hope not. This wasn't easy to throw together, even in Heaven. Those cherubs act like no one's ever asked for stilettos."

"They look uncomfortable," Amenadiel says, glancing doubtfully at the improbable height of the heels. "Maybe no one wants them. Heaven's all about comfort for humans."

"Yes, I've seen the sweatpants. And Crocs," Charlotte says with a shudder. "But I need power shoes. I want to look my opponent in the eye." Flashing a shark's smile, she marches forward, in the direction of the Great Tower. "Come on. Let's get going."

"Riiight, about that... I'm gonna need to fly you."

Charlotte stops and turns. "You what?"

"If my siblings see us walking together to the Great Tower, it's going to cause a scene and make it impossible for me to sneak past Gabriel." He shrugs a shoulder. "So, we'll fly. It'll only take a second, and probably no one will see you before we're safely inside the waiting room." He steps forward, arms outstretched.

She backs up, both hands raised. "I didn't agree to flying."

Amenadiel laughs. "How do you think you got here? I promise I won't drop you."

"But what if you, you know, do?"

"You won't die again, if that's your concern. You'll heal and wake up."

"Heal. So, I'll feel pain?"

"Charlotte, I'm not going to drop you."

Scowling, Charlotte puts a hand on her hip. She looks him up and down skeptically, as if trying to judge his airworthiness.

"It's flying or boredom," Amenadiel says, playing dirty.

Her hand slides from her hip. "I kind of hate you right now."

He grins and holds out his arms again. She sighs and goes to him, looping her arms around his neck. Scooping her up, he unfurls his wings and takes to the air before she can second guess her decision. In mere seconds, they arrive at the foot of the Great Tower, where he sets her in front of the massive blue door that leads into the waiting room.

"See?" he says. "Not bad at all, right?"

Charlotte looks at him greenly, while smoothing lines from the front of her white dress. "Can we...not go as fast on the way back?" She sticks a pinky finger into her ear and winces.

Amenadiel laughs and holds the door open for her. They step inside and let it close behind them. The round waiting room is empty, as it has been every time he's attempted to see his father.

"That's where you need to go?" Charlotte asks, pointing to the plain, mahogany door on the other side of the room.

"And where Gabriel will come from."

She looks around. "Do you guys have something against interior design?"

Amenadiel looks at the room with new eyes and supposes it is strangely utilitarian to a human, lacking in all "creature comforts," such as wall art. Or chairs. Or an actual reception process.

He shrugs. "It's enough for us to know we're going to see Father."

"Well, it may not be enough for us to keep Gabriel from seeing you. How are you supposed to sneak past in an empty room?"

"We'll do the best we can."

They stand and wait—or Amenadiel waits. Charlotte circles the room restlessly. An hour passes, then more.

"Is your brother, um, nice? I didn't think to ask."

"Much nicer than Michael," he assures, knowing that's her real question. "Also, a little...intoxicated? On divinity."

The mahogany door opens as Charlotte asks, "As in, high?"

"Greetings, human," Gabriel responds without thinking as he all but floats into the room. He stops abruptly and stares. "Are you lost?"

"Charlotte wanted to meet you, Gabe."

"Me?" Gabriel's glazed eyes swivel toward him. "Oh. Amenadiel, Firstborn of Our—"

"Yep, it's me, brother. Again."

"Father doesn't want to see you," Gabriel says, matter-of-fact, as he ignores the human in the room.

Said human doesn't like to be ignored. "Wouldn't you say Amenadiel has a right to see God?" Charlotte argues.

Gabriel turns to her, swaying languidly. "No. Why should he?"

"Not even if he has legitimate concerns about the health and safety of all Creation?"

Amenadiel's eyes widen. That's a stretch. Glancing at him, she shrugs a shoulder, unapologetic about her methods.

Her words seem to interest Gabriel, who totters over to face her, baby blue feathers twitching. "If something were truly wrong with Creation, Father would know about it." He closes his eyes and sways while humming.

Charlotte stares at him. "Wow."

Behind Gabriel's back, Amenadiel waves his hands: Keep distracting him.

"Um," Charlotte starts, "Amenadiel tells me there's a daily newsletter."

"Hmm?" Gabriel says, returning from whatever trip he's been on. "Oh, yes."

"Why don't humans get it?"

"Why should humans get it?"

"Why shouldn't we?"

"It's for angels," Gabriel says, clearly confused.

"That seems discriminatory. Are you saying we don't deserve to know what's going on? We have family down there."

"Wha— What was your name again?"

"Charlotte Richards."

Amenadiel tiptoes to the mahogany door, the grin on his face so wide his cheeks hurt. He slips inside the heart of the Great Tower, his pulse thrumming as Charlotte's voice fades with distance. It's been so long since anyone other than Gabriel has entered the tower that he feels like he's trespassing.

In a way, he is, he supposes—Father wants no visitors—but the thought bothers him, and he hears Lucifer shouting, We're his bloody children, not his slaves! But it's more complicated than that, isn't it? They're servants, too.

Aren't they?

Torches, alight with a heavenly fire that never dies, cast a warm, ethereal glow on the smooth, polished marble and spotless glass, giving the tower an almost dreamlike quality. Minimally decorated, God's home is built with deference to the varying needs of Heaven's most common body types. Staircases wrap around the circular interior, ascending one bookshelf-covered floor to the next, while directly opposite of the door leading into the waiting room, there is an elevator. Centrally, the tower is hollow, an accommodation for angels and cherubim not bound by gravity.

Amenadiel flaps his wings, arrowing upward, where his father's suite and private workshop are said to exist. He knows this only by way of rumor, having never been invited to the top floors himself, even in the days when the tower was filled with celestials. He hopes the rumor is true. Charlotte won't be able to distract Gabriel forever.

The uppermost floor is as still and quiet as all the rest. Amenadiel lands on a short platform made for angels that juts beyond the guard railing. Tucking his wings into the ether, he hops over the rail and looks both directions down the circular floor, half-expecting guardians of one sort or another to attack him. But there are no celestials here. Only God, behind one of several doors in sight, and Gabriel, down below. It strikes him as lonely—sick, even.

He feels drawn to a door on his right and walks to it directly. When his hand touches the platinum door handle, he hesitates. What will Father say to him, if he's in this room? Will he be glad to see Amenadiel—indifferent, angry? Will he touch his shoulders, as he once touched Lucifer's? Amenadiel isn't sure whether he'd weep or if his spine would go rigid.

Sucking in a nervous breath, he turns the door handle and steps forward.

God's workshop sprawls before Amenadiel, the glory of it taking his breath away. In the middle of the room, an immense round table with a convex center and a holographic display of the human universe stands, resplendent. It's a larger, more stupefying version of what can be found in the Hall of Being, which these days functions as a fast travel mechanism for angels. He knows every galaxy is available at a touch here, but the view is zoomed in on the Milky Way, on the human solar system, on Earth.

This is where God shapes the Word, which is of him, but not him. All the Words that are given to Gabriel, that are given to other angels, that are given to Earth or elsewhere. They're indecipherable to all except God, but they lie at the heart of all Creation. The last Word given to Amenadiel was the one he spoke to Penelope Decker. He remembers how it felt on his tongue, like something sweet and made of light. How hard it was to contain it, this precious Word that desired to be set free.

Amenadiel shakes himself. "Father?" he calls quietly. "It's me. Amenadiel."

He winces. As if God doesn't know.

No one responds. He steps deeper into the workshop, walking close to the display. Earth looks very ordinary and fragile from this perspective, just another pale blue dot revolving around a gaseous orb. It's anything but, of course. God loves humanity most because they are closest to being in his image. They have free will and are welcome to drive themselves into extinction if they want, but more than a few asteroids have been set off course for them to be where they are today.

The stillness of the room bothers Amenadiel. It's as though no work has been done here for ages.

Perhaps Father is elsewhere.

He wanders the circumference of the table, but stops abruptly halfway into his circuit. A simple cot is wedged into the corner, and there lies God, asleep, his long, black curls half-hiding his face. There's something about him... He doesn't look like he's taking a nap, but rather that he's been sleeping for many hours or days or years.

Amenadiel goes to him at once, falling to his knees beside the cot. He dares to touch his father's shoulder. "Father."

God comes awake at once, his builder's hand latching around Amenadiel's wrist like a vise. Brown eyes bore into Amenadiel, as God growls, "What the fuck are you doing here?"

Chapter Text

The small town of Cielito lies east of the Santa Ana Mountains and is a place no one visits. Commuters coast up and down the I-15, never taking a detour through the rural community wedged deep in the Temescal Valley. Not that there aren't benefits to living in Nowheresville, America. Cielito hasn't seen a homicide in years. The downside is when a murder does land on the town's doorstep, the local police are ill-equipped to respond and more than a little prone to self-sabotage.

This time, Cielito is saved from its own ignorance when a small, firefly-imprinted bag of heroin is found on a body. The baggy matches a BOLO alert issued by the Los Angeles police, drawing the LAPD from its typical jurisdiction. Chloe jumps at the opportunity to join Detective Webb when he asks for her assistance.

Now, having reached Cielito, they keep going until they find themselves in the rural end of the rural town. Out here, enormous spaces separate one property from another, so that lumbering cows—far outnumbering people in the area—graze in expansive pastures, and leafy, round-bodied cabbages grow in neat rows for what feels like miles. Finally, they crest a hill, and a sea of golden sunflowers bursts into their line of sight.

"Creepy place to die," Webb comments.

Chloe has to agree. "There's the turn-off," she says, pointing, and Webb hangs a left onto a long gravel driveway.

The private road, which is lined by a fence of sunflowers, stretches on until it spits them out on the adequately-mowed lawn near a whitewashed, two-story farmhouse. A classic red barn and two cylindrical drying silos stand in the distance. An assemblage of cop cars and one of the LAPD's forensics vans parked are parked out front.

Webb parks the squad car beside a large, wooden plaque. Carved into the plaque's face is a cartoonish sunflower that smiles down at them.

WILSON SUNFLOWERS
"YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE!"
ISAIAH 40:8

"You religious?" Webb asks, shrugging as he looks at the sign.

"No, but I know the Devil," Chloe laughs, and for once there's no hysterical edge to her amusement. It's just a fact.

He looks at her oddly before chuckling. "Oh, yeah, your old partner, the consultant... No offense, but is he...okay? He seems to have a few screws loose."

"Fewer than you might think," she mutters. On her phone, she brings up the Bible verse and reads, "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever."

Webb nods. "Yep, still creepy."

Creepier still, Chloe thinks, to know for certain that God is real.

Past the sign, twelve victims—two boys, eight adult females, and two adult males—lie sprawled like forgotten toys in the dry grass. Eager flies zip around the stiff bodies, and the pungent, rotten scent of rapidly-decaying flesh hits Chloe hard, forcing her to breathe through her mouth. Webb pales beside her.

Mass murder is macabre in any context, but this scene knells with an eerie discordance as bees buzz through the farm's one and only crop that's in full summer bloom. Towering, golden flowers hug the gravel driveway and three sides of the farm's perimeter. They sway in the breeze, oblivious to the carnage in their midst. The bodies are scattered, face down, to the right of the farmhouse, as if the victims were trying to escape into the fields.

Ella looks up from the corpse of a young woman and lets her camera hang by its lanyard. "Estimated time of death is 02:00," she announces. "Ballistics will need to confirm it, but pretty sure they got mowed down by an automatic rifle." She points a gloved finger to the numerous bullet holes puncturing the woman's back. Dried bloodstains bloom across her white nightgown. Actually, they're all wearing white nightgowns or sleepshirts. "They didn't stand a chance," Ella says, shaking her head.

Though she doesn't want to, Chloe looks to Webb. "What do you need me to do?"


***


Even for a seasoned detective, the scope of the scene is daunting, so it's no surprise when Webb begins to sweat under the pressure. He stumbles through assigning tasks to the techs, forgets protocol more than once, and nearly disturbs evidence that hadn't been photographed yet. Chloe feels sorry for him, even as she struggles to tamp down feelings of frustration and envy. She's happy to break free from the precinct's concrete walls—happy that Webb asked to bring her along at all—but it's difficult to be subordinate to someone who's still learning the ropes.

Webb senses the tension, too. "Really wish Hopper had been able to come today," he sighs at one point. "He had to leave this morning. Said he was feeling sick."

Chloe doesn't have the heart to tell him Hopper always finds a way out of big cases that require travel. "It's a difficult crime scene. We need all the help we can get," she says, aiming to be diplomatic. "You know," she adds, "I could call Lucifer."

"I don't think he likes me much."

Not for the first time Chloe notices Webb is a very young twenty-eight, the lines of his face still soft and round.

"I'll keep Lucifer in line," she promises, and is thankful the man in question isn't around to comment on her choice of words.

"Okay," Webb relents, and she makes the call.

In the heat, it's paramount they clear the bodies as soon as possible. They work efficiently beneath tents that shade the evidence, taking thousands of pictures before sealing the victims into body bags and sending them to the medical examiner's office. Now, tape cordons off where the victims had lain, and unis dance around bright yellow evidence markers that match the sunflowers surrounding the property. There are markers for tire prints and footprints, for pools of blood and blood spatter, for the hundreds of spent shell casings littering the ground.

A good working theory develops. The victims and the murderer—possibly Bruce Wilson, the as-yet-missing owner of the farm—were inside the farmhouse when something went awry. The victims ran from the house. The killer pursued them to the front porch and opened fire using a high-powered rifle, possibly an AR-15. They're still trying to ID several of the victims, and the motive remains unclear. If Bruce Wilson is the killer, no assault rifles are registered to his name, as required by state law.

Considering firefly heroin was found on one of the bodies, the murders could be drug-related. Morrison's goons from Narcotics seem to hope so as they roam the property with drug-sniffing dogs. Chloe tries to keep her distance from them, but doesn't miss how Morrison's eyes follow her.

The drugs and slaughter aren't the only clues available. While the outside of the farmhouse could be described as quaint and welcoming, something rotten infects its heart. There are no pictures of people inside the house, only crosses, plaques with Bible verses, and artistic depictions of Christ. Bibles, apologetics, and treatises on sunflower farming weigh down bookshelves. It's beyond pious. It's obsessive to the point of oppressiveness.

"Are we thinking they all lived here?" Chloe asks Dan, while rifling through a pile of papers they moved to the long, oak kitchen table. It's been hard to find recent addresses for several of the victims. "There are sixteen chairs here."

"There are thirteen toothbrushes between the three bathrooms," he answers.

Chloe nods. "So, our twelve vics and—"

"Bruce Wilson," Dan finishes from where he sits beside her with his laptop, keeping in touch with techs back at the precinct.

"Yeah."

"Are you guys getting crazy cult vibes like I'm getting crazy cult vibes?" Ella asks. She dusts at the refrigerator door handle for prints.

"Like Heaven's Gate?" Webb sounds a little too excited by the prospect.

"That was mass suicide," Chloe says, irritation coloring her tone. "This is murder."

A familiar British accent filters in from the front porch. Dan curses under his breath and accidentally knocks over a plastic cup filled with sunflowers. Water pools in the middle of the table, and Dan barely moves his laptop in time to save it.

Webb reaches over and rights the cup before grabbing paper towels from beside the sink. "You okay, Espinoza?"

"He's okay," Chloe assures Webb, and rests a gloved hand on Dan's forearm. She leans toward his ear and whispers, "He's the same man you've always known. I promise."

"He's not a man, Chlo." And he looks at her as if he no longer knows her, not quite. Because, even if he's not seen scarlet skin, who in her right mind would knowingly sleep with the Devil? Not his ex-wife, surely. Not the mother of his child.

He has no idea who he's slept with, and Chloe's not sure he should ever find out. Hopefully he'll never think to ask just how Charlotte Richards was Lucifer's "stepmom."

But he probably will eventually, when the shock wears off. He is a detective.

"Just remember he was coming to Trixie's aid, too." She pats his arm, resisting the urge to roll her eyes. It isn't like he saw hellfire. She almost laughs at herself. How has all of this become so normal, so quickly?

Chloe catches Ella looking between them before the smaller woman lets out a squeal.

"Wait, oh my gosh! You know, don't you!"

"What's going on?" Webb asks, alarmed by Ella's outburst.

Chloe shrugs and shakes her head. Best to play dumb. Although, if there's one thing she's learned from being with Lucifer, it's that hiding the truth isn't necessary. Few, if any, people believe it. She didn't, and that was with seeing countless unexplainable things. Still, she's not interested in undergoing a psych eval for suddenly embracing the supernatural.

"Daaan!" Ella smacks Dan's arm. "Why didn't you tell me?" She bends over his chair and throws her arms around his neck. "Welcome to the club!"

"What?" Dan pushes her arms away and stumbles to his feet. "You know?" Ella nods, grinning. Chloe pretends not to see how he glares at her. "What am I, the last person to find out?"

"Having trouble adjusting to reality, Daniel?" Lucifer asks, sauntering into the kitchen, bedecked in midnight green. "World as you know it all up in the air?"

Chloe sighs.

"I, uh... I'm gonna work on the bedrooms," he announces, slamming his laptop shut and avoiding Lucifer's gaze.

"It's only natural that fight or flight might kick in, Daniel," Lucifer quips.

Dan marches past him, giving Lucifer so much leeway that Dan rams his shoulder into the doorframe. Webb's bushy brows draw together as he watches Dan go.

"Are you sure he's okay, Decker?"

"He's okay," she says in a rush. "Totally okay."

"If you can ignore how he sulks more than a nun at a hen's night." Lucifer runs a hand over his head. Wind has blown the product from his hair, leaving unkempt waves behind.

Chloe glances at the time on the microwave clock. She only called him forty minutes ago. It should have taken him a lot longer to get to Cielito.

"You got here fast," she says dryly. "How was traffic?"

"Do you know, it wasn't a problem at all." His eyes all but sparkle with mischief.

"I bet," she says, and imagines him using road shoulders to pass other cars. The Devil loves to speed and "massage the rules," and he always will. She just better never have to get his ass out of trouble for bribing a cop.

Because he totally does that, and she knows it, too.

Webb clears his throat. "Good to see you again, Mr. Morningstar." He holds out a hand, then thinks better of it and lets it drop back to his side. "Decker felt you might be helpful on this case."

"Yes, I am rather good at finding the right people to punish." Lucifer smiles a thin predator's smile. "Tell me, though, who will get the credit for my and Detective Decker's work when we solve these murders?"

Webb chuckles uncomfortably. "It's my case, so—"

"Assuming we solve this," Chloe interrupts, "the department will receive recognition." She grabs hold of Lucifer's elbow and says to Webb, "If it's okay, I'm just gonna catch him up on everything."

"Oh. Yeah." Webb's nod is a little frantic and sets his light brown curls bobbing. "Yeah, sure. That's a good idea."

She pulls Lucifer out of the kitchen, into the backyard, where few evidence markers obstruct movement. When they're a safe distance from the farmhouse, barn, and other unis, she drops his elbow and snaps, "I called you here to help with the case. I don't need you fighting my battles."

"Of course you don't," he says. "But, darling, as much as they may not be wasting your talents today, they're certainly using you. Why do you let them? That wanker shouldn't get credit for your work."

"This isn't about who gets credit, Lucifer. This is about finding justice for the people who need it." She glances at the farmhouse. "People like those who lost their lives here."

She thought he understood this.

"Yes, yes, I know, and what better way for them to have justice than to let L.A.'s best do her job? Which is to say, have others work for her, not the other way around."

"I'm supposed to be used," she argues, wanting desperately to make herself believe it.

Lucifer scoffs and steps closer until they're nearly touching. He searches her face with that lofty, inhuman gaze that makes her pulse rush with desire. "And what of me? Am I not to be used? Admit it, you're thankful they let you out to play, but I could free you from that dreadful office chair they've shackled you to, once and for all."

"I don't want you to help," she growls. "I didn't want you to last week. I didn't want you to yesterday. I don't want you to today."

He leans back and shoves his hands in his pockets. "Or you do want me to, and that's what terrifies you. You're afraid you might like my world." He grins. "Afraid you might already be in it. Don't you remember Isabel's cards?"

"I thought you didn't believe in Izzy's tarot."

But he knows she does. A little. Especially with what Trixie's going through, especially since Izzy has taken up residence in the room Maze left behind.

"Who am I to argue with a witch?" Lucifer quips. "And as I recall, you're supposed to embrace your present, darling, which happens to be yours truly."

She squints her eyes at him and circles her index finger in front of his face. "Yeah, I'm starting to see the resemblance to Baphomet."

His grimaces so deeply that she struggles not to laugh. "Now that's bloody uncalled for."

"Look," she sighs, "are you gonna help me solve this case or not? Because Webb is nice, but he's in over his head, and I have to make sure he doesn't do something stupid along the way."

"Very well, Detective."

With the heated topic temporarily shelved, they wander the scene together, sinking into lockstep. She carries him through what the police have discovered, taking time to show him pictures of the victims on Ella's camera.

Lucifer clicks his tongue at the plain, drab nightgowns and pajamas. "What was this, Little House on the Prairie? Not much fashion sense among these poor souls, was there? But then cults always require dreadfully boring conformity," he sighs. "Bloody lot'd fit right in, in the Silver City. Not that they ended up there, of course. Except the boys, perhaps. Only truly rotten little bastards who know they should get coal from Father Christmas end up in Hell."

She stares at him, trying to unpack all he's said. He always makes Heaven sound so boring, and Hell sound so awful. Dying is gonna suck.

"What makes you think they didn't go to Heaven?" she asks.

Shrugging a shoulder, he sets the camera aside on a foldout table techs set up. "Only desperate people join cults, and most desperate people feel guilty about something." He draws his flask from his jacket pocket and takes a sip. "If they don't start out that way, you can be sure Dear Leader will make them feel guilty later. Guilt's a very effective tool for keeping people in place. It's worked for millennia in Hell."

There are the eggs. Chloe looks over the crime scene with new eyes. What did the victims feel guilty about?


***


They work into the evening, ID'ing victims and questioning who they can from neighboring farms. The more they learn, the darker the portrait of Bruce Wilson becomes. A former marine, Bruce returned home to Missouri in 2013 after four grueling tours of duty in Afghanistan. Friends and family, some of whom have spoken to the police, were shocked when he purchased a sunflower farm in California with the help of a VA loan. Upon moving to The Golden State, he cut all ties with his past and lived the life of a hermit—or so it seemed.

But his digital footprint tells on him. Virtually, he's led a very social life, hanging out in disturbed and chaotic corners of the web, where conspiracies range from the mundane to the extraordinary; where tap water, airport scanners, the shape of the planet, and equality itself are suspect. In 2015, he found religion—the fire and brimstone kind, judging by the videos he shares on Wobble.

"Bloody hell," Lucifer gripes as they scroll through Bruce's profile. "This chap actually believes he found the meaning of life on YouTube. Has he read the comments?"

Chloe snickers. They're seated, shoulder to shoulder, on an old, country plaid couch in the farmhouse living room. There's no TV in the room, only a large, framed print of Jesus nailed to the cross where one might expect a TV to be.

They've lingered at the scene, simply because, Chloe thinks, they enjoy picking each other's brains, which is reason enough. Narcotics left hours ago, finding no other drugs or paraphernalia, and Dan and Ella departed soon after. Webb is outside, finalizing paperwork with an officer from the Cielito police force.

"He didn't think it was the truth, though," she says. "Dan found a notebook of Bruce's thoughts on the Bible. Seems he put his own spin on Christianity and started drawing in followers." Not too many that he'd garner unwanted attention from the police, but enough to have a live-in congregation. Carefully chosen, too. Lonely widowers, single mothers, those isolated and afraid and, yes, likely burdened by some guilt.

"Yes, well, revitalizing Christianity is one of humanity's favorite past times," Lucifer remarks with a wry smile.

She sets aside her laptop as a strange thought occurs to her. "Did you visit Earth during the Crusades?"

"Gosh, no, Hell was too busy because of them."

Laughter bubbles out of her, and he grins. "Does that mean—" she starts, and stops just as quickly. She frowns as she looks past Lucifer and spots Webb through the front window, talking to a young woman inside of the crime scene tape. She rises to her feet. "What the hell...?"

"Hmm?" He follows her gaze. "Well. Didn't think he had it in him. She's far out of his league."

"That's a reporter," she snarls, noting the way the woman holds her cell phone between herself and Webb, as if she's recording every dumb thing he's saying. Chloe marches out of the house and down the porch steps, her black sneakers pounding the earth. "Hey!" she shouts. "This is an active crime scene! You are not allowed behind the line!"

Webb startles, and the young woman—beautiful, brown-skinned, and busty—turns clever eyes on Chloe. "Detective Webb said it was okay." She smiles sweetly.

"Well, it's really not," Chloe snaps before Webb can attempt to defend himself. She reaches over and lifts the crime scene tape. "Out."

The other woman shrugs and ducks under the tape. "What about you?" she asks. "Got any comments on the murders?"

"Who do you work for?" Chloe glares at her and holds out a hand. "Let me see your press card."

"I'm freelance," the woman explains, lifting her hands with a shrug and a laugh as she walks backwards to her vehicle. "You can get my deets from Zachary." Her smile is less sweet than sharp now.

Chloe looks over her shoulder, frantic. Lucifer stands at her six. "She can't leave here with that recording."

He grins wolfishly. "On it, Detective." Slipping beneath the crime scene tape, he saunters toward the young woman. "What was your name, miss?"

Chloe watches, fascinated, as the reporter turns from getting in her car and immediately falls into Lucifer's seductive trap. She doesn't stand a chance. Thank goodness.

"What the hell were you thinking?" Chloe snaps, rounding on Webb. "No. Talking. To. The. Press. Hot freelancers included! Not until there's an official statement. This is basic stuff."

Webb shakes his head. "I didn't tell her much, I swear."

"What did you tell her?" she hisses. "And you better not say you mentioned Bruce Wilson."

The way he pales is answer enough. "Shit, I'm so sorry, Decker. I just..." He laughs and sounds as exhausted as she feels. "I just got caught up on working on a big case. I've never done anything like it. I'm... I'm not cut out for this job. My uncle helped me get it. Look, I'll be the first to admit, I have no idea what I'm—"

"Promotions don't work that way," she interrupts.

"They're not supposed to," Webb admits with a guilty wince.

A high-pitched buzzing noise whirs in Chloe's ears. "Who's your uncle, Zack?"

"He works in Narcotics."

Of course he does.

"Let me guess," she seethes, "Matthew Morrison?"

"You know him?"

Chloe lets out a disbelieving laugh. "Yeah. I know his kind, all right." She shakes her head. "Shut things down, Webb, and go home. We're done for the night. In fact, maybe we're just done with this case altogether. If Lucifer can't cover our asses from your girlfriend over there, and she airs what you told her or blogs about it or does whatever the hell with it, our one and only suspect will know we're onto him. So, great job."

She'd report him to Garcia and Internal Affairs, but what's the point? Garcia and IA are more likely to find some way to come down on her.

By the time she retrieves her laptop from the farmhouse, the reporter's car is gone and Lucifer wears a smug expression. It falters when he looks at her.

"Everything all right, darling?"

"Turns out Webb is Morrison's nephew."

"Ah."

"Yeah."

"On the bright side, I've got Miss Ana Jackson's cell phone." He waves the device with cheer.

It may be enough. It may not be. She just nods, at a loss for words.

"Right. Time to go, then, Detective?"

With one last glance at Webb, who sits with his head in his hands on the porch steps, she walks toward the Corvette, anger burning a hole in her gut.


***


The drive back is silent as she stews. When they enter the penthouse, Chloe yanks off her sneakers and socks and begins to pace across the cool black marble floors, fists on her hips. "You can say 'I told you so,'" she grouses.

Lucifer glances at her sidelong. "I would never be so foolish. You have a gun." He tosses his suit jacket on the back of the sofa and goes to the bar, where he pours scotch in two tumblers. He holds one glass out to her.

Chloe takes it without hesitation and tips it back, gulping smooth liquor and luxuriating in fire. She leans against the bar, mirroring Lucifer's stance. "I'm just so pissed," she admits, and her hands shake with it. "I've worked really hard, Lucifer."

"I know."

And to what end? Half-assing motherhood for the sake of desk duty and babysitting newbies?

"They're never going to promote me again, are they?" Not on her own merits. Not without the Devil's help.

Lucifer offers her a sad smile. "I don't imagine so, no. You're a threat to their seedy operations. If not to what remains of the Sinnerman's network, then to their latest enterprise. Darling, you know the LAPD is notoriously corrupt. Even Daniel—"

"I know," she interrupts. "Fuck."

He arches a brow, amused, and swirls brown liquor in crystal that catches light. "I can make Morrison go away." He looks at her, unblinking. "You know that, right?"

Something dark thrills in her, but logic pulls her back. "I thought you were done using Hell."

"Who said anything about Hell?" He smiles faintly as they stare at one another. "I own men like Morrison. They're tools—easily bought, used, and discarded."

She swallows as she sees his face, really sees it—the one he wears all the time, the one that gets the job done when she's not looking. It's a fallen angel's face, made for light and desire, and further empowered by a wallet full of cash and enough connections to make the purported Illuminati tremble. She's tried hard not to see it.

"You're a criminal," she says. A fact. Incompatible with everything she thought she believed in, everything her father taught her. And she's always known, hasn't she? Just like she always knew he was the Devil, knew he was an angel, knew her life would never be the same when he snaked his way under her skin.

And never cared. Never looked back. Not really. Because she doesn't turn her back on adventure. Who embodies adventure more than the Devil himself?

"What if I am a criminal?" he challenges, echoing old words. He leans forward, his mouth near hers. "You going to arrest me, Detective?"

"No," she says, pushing him back gently. "What good would it do, anyway?"

"None at all," he says with glee.

"I don't know that it's right," she whispers, "what you do."

The Old Lucifer would have fired off some snide comeback, but this Lucifer, a calmer, more grounded Devil, pauses to think.

"Human laws are fickle," he says a moment later. "When they aren't appallingly wrong, they lack nuance or don't apply to everyone equally, as you well know. Illegal things I do today weren't illegal yesterday. And things that are legal today will be illegal tomorrow. Crimes that kill one man are heinous. Crimes that kill thousands are good business"—he scoffs—"or carried out in dear old Dad's name. Following human law isn't what makes you good, darling." He bares his teeth with a grin. "And breaking those same laws on occasion doesn't make me evil."

"We have to ground ourselves some kind of way. Don't you believe that?"

"Why do you assume the Devil's way of doing things is wrong?" he asks. "I have my rules for myself. I don't lie. I keep my word. I only give people what they desire. And I don't involve myself in ventures that subvert free will.

"You didn't complain when I had the urchin's bully shipped off to Chicago, now, did you? There was nothing illegal about that, at least not according to your little rules, but I think we both know it wasn't exactly aboveboard, either, wouldn't you say?"

"That was different," she says, but they both know it wasn't, and that she doesn't believe a word out of her own mouth.

"When I say I can make Morrison go away, I'm not saying he'll show up in a ditch somewhere, even if that's what that cretinous cop deserves. He desires cash. That's it. Give him a way to acquire coin more easily, or write him a check, and he'll go his merry way. Easy—no different from my slipping that reporter several hundies."

"But is it right to make Morrison go away?" Chloe challenges.

"Well, the LAPD would be down one corrupt bobby, but that aside... Would you feel guilty doing it?" Lucifer asks.

The question stops her short. "No, probably not."

"There's your answer, then," he says, spreading his hands. "Dad built a barometer in you. It's crass—awful design, really. People feel guilty about things they shouldn't, and others don't feel guilty about the things they should." He shrugs. "But it's a start, and the only method that survives time and place, outside of making your own rules."

Chloe opens her mouth to reply but is interrupted by her cell phone ringing. She drags the device from her back pocket and answers on the third ring. "Hey, Ella, what's up?"

"Turn on the news," Ella all but shouts on the other end.

Oh no. Chloe's stomach sinks.

"Which channel?"

"Any channel! It's bad, Chloe. Real bad."

Scrambling to the coffee table, Chloe grabs the TV remote. Thankfully the television is still upstairs from their binging of The Great British Baking Show. After having countless televisions destroyed by wild parties and "bloody celestials," Lucifer had generally taken to storing his on another floor when it wasn't in use.

She turns on the TV. Lucifer hovers by her side as she switches channels until she finds one airing the ten o'clock news.

They enter the second-half of a news segment, but there's little need to be caught up. A photograph of the sunflower farm's welcome plaque fills the screen, while a news presenter describes the murders in a voiceover.

"That poisonous knave," Lucifer scoffs, and not without some respect.

At the bottom of the screen, a graphical banner contains an ominous tagline.

MASS MURDER SUSPECT, CULT LEADER ON THE RUN

"Did they already name Wilson?" Chloe asks Ella.

"At the start."

"Great," she huffs, and turns off the TV. She's seen enough to know it's all gone south.

"Who leaked info?" Ella asks.

With a sigh, Chloe brings Ella into the fold. She pulls the phone away from her ear as the other woman yells Spanish profanities.

Chloe turns to Lucifer after ending the call. "Looks like Ana sent her files out before she handed over her phone."

"You bloody well think?" he gripes. "That conniving wretch desired a new phone—you'd think that'd be an easy enough deal! I gave her three grand, didn't I? How much do phones cost, even, fifty dollars?" Returning to the bar, Lucifer pours more liquor and continues to complain about the woeful state of mankind and its never-ending greed.

At some point, Chloe stops listening as she stands near the sofa, looking out at the night. The day has been long, and her head feels like it's stuffed full of cotton, that there's no room left for anything else. She put a little boy in a body bag today, a boy Trixie's age. He had a bleak future, growing up in a religious cult, but he was alive.

Bruce Wilson can't get away. Chloe is fairly certain he's the killer, but even if he isn't, he'll know something that will lead them to the one who is. Nothing happened on that farm without Wilson's knowledge.

She looks at Lucifer, who's settled at his piano to cool off. He tinkers with the keys aimlessly, stringing together natural melodies. He is this person, but she's been pretending he's only this person. He's flown her into the sky, too.

"Lucifer?"

He glances over his shoulder. "Hmm?"

"I want to find Wilson."

Lucifer's fingers slide from the keys as he half-turns his body on the bench to face her. "What, now?"

She nods, and a grin lights his face as he stands.


***


Chloe's not especially afraid of doing something rash without backup, not with the Devil by her side, but the memory of sniper bullets smashing into the safe house door in Colinda hasn't faded yet, nor has the memory of tumbling from the sky. Before they return to the sunflower farm, she calls Izzy to check on her daughter. She wants nothing more than to hear Trixie's voice, but waking her to tell her she loves her would only cause alarm. She knows well the difficulty her father faced, how you never know if you're saying goodbye.

She doesn't want to die, but she also doesn't want her daughter to live in a world where killers run free. Catching them is a job someone has to do—why not her?

The farm is even creepier in the dark, but it's the only starting point they have. With no solid clues as to Wilson's whereabouts—the man hasn't been spotted yet and doesn't believe in credit cards—they're forced to hunt for them now. There must be something they've missed.

It's easier, just the two of them, despite working by flashlight as a precaution. No distractions from Webb or Morrison, and, Chloe admits to herself, they can bend the rules, and Lucifer can be, well, Lucifer, if necessary. This is an extraordinary circumstance that may require it.

All because Morrison is a corrupt asshole, and his nephew is an idiot.

They start in the barn, clearing it easily enough. There's only fertilizer, pesticide, and factory equipment inside. The farmhouse is more promising, even if the LAPD has picked it over. They double back, re-checking the books and notebooks, drawers and cabinets, that they had previously determined unworthy of further investigation.

"The man is paranoid," Lucifer remarks. "He'll have a place to store secrets."

Chloe nods. "Maybe there's a safe somewhere?"

But if there is, it's not in any of the closets, nor is it behind any of the pictures on the walls, as in Lucifer's penthouse.

"I don't get what we're missing," Chloe complains over a yawn she tries and fails to stifle. They stand in one of the tiny first-floor bedrooms, and as eerie as the bed with its old floral quilt is, it's enticing after being awake for eighteen hours. "The guy's a creep. He clearly controlled those people. But where's all the—"

"Trappings of a cult?" Lucifer suggests. "All the dossiers on members for the purposes of blackmail?"

"Exactly." Sighing, Chloe makes to exit the bedroom, the diffused circle of white light from her phone guiding her steps. As she nears the doorway, Lucifer grabs hold of her shoulder suddenly, startling her. "What is it?" she asks, noting his furrowed brows.

Wordlessly, Lucifer stamps his heel on the rug where she previously stood. The floor creaks, and the overall sound is swallowed, not by the rug, but by something else—distance, maybe. Chloe looks up at him in alarm.

"It's your Palmetto Street all over again," he says.

Chloe huffs. "At least Wilson isn't a cop."

They squat down and roll back the rug, revealing a trapdoor. Lying flush with the hardwood, it's crafted with extreme precision, so that it blends in with the wood grain.

Lucifer's chuckle is low and dark. "Only a very paranoid chap keeps a trapdoor like this in his home."

"Gimme your keys," Chloe says, seeing there's no handle with which to open the door. Wilson must have used a knife or similar tool to pry it open.

Wedging the key to the Corvette into the narrow groove surrounding the door, she works it back and forth until Lucifer is able to slide his fingers beneath the door lip.

Chloe's heart hammers against her rib cage as they open the trapdoor wide, exposing a pitch-black void. She's almost afraid to shine her light inside, for fear something horrible will burst out like a real-life jack-in-the-box.

"Are you frightened?" Lucifer asks softly, his fingers finding her wrist.

"No," she says. Then, after a pause, "A little."

Before he can offer to be a hero, she takes a deep breath and swings her flashlight toward the black hole. A dingy, wooden ladder shows in sharp planes of light and shadow.

"Right," Lucifer says, "that's starting to look like a sex dungeon, and not the fun kind. I'm going in first."

"I have a gun."

"And I can come back from the dead, darling. I've got you beat." He raises a finger. "No arguing." With that, he swings one long leg over, nearly kicking her in the process, and steps onto the ladder.

Chloe sighs, exasperated and enamored, all at once. "Look for a light," she tells him. Might as well see any possible enemies.

"I've hit solid ground," Lucifer says, his voice not far. "No light switch here at the entrance."

Well, that'd be too easy, wouldn't it? Chloe takes to the ladder, struggling to find her footing. Halfway down, hands take hold of her waist.

"I've got you," Lucifer promises, and lifts her with ease. He sets her safely on the ground—or as safe as anything can be in a potential serial killer's maybe-sex-dungeon. He gives her rear a small squeeze before removing his hands altogether.

"Really?" she gripes in a whisper. "Now is not the time for you to get handsy."

"I beg to differ. If we're about to die, this is how I want to remember you."

"What, annoyed?"

"No, as a splendid handful, of course."

"Shut. Up."

They stand, pressed close, in a narrow, dirt-walled passageway of what either is an unfinished basement or a tunnel. Chloe waves her flashlight along the walls, hunting for some other source of light.

"There!" she whisper-shouts, her phone light catching on a dangling pull chain attached to a light on the ceiling a few feet ahead.

Lucifer reaches out and tugs on the cord. Several lights flicker to life, flooding the underground passageway and blinding them. Chloe blinks back tears and turns off her flashlight to conserve phone battery. They look ahead, to where the tunnel opens into a larger room. There's no sound from within, but that could be deceiving.

Chloe draws her gun and steps forward. Adrenaline steadies her hands and strengthens her eyes.

The passageway spits them out into a room of plain, oak-paneled walls and shelves laden with home-canned goods. Colorful, handwoven and diamond-shaped art pieces hang from the ceiling, making it impossible to walk without ducking or dodging.

"Ojo de Dios," Lucifer says behind her, his tongue wrapping around the Spanish.

"Eyes of God? God's eyes?"

"Mm, votives."

"There's another door," Chloe says, pointing ahead. The door is painted a bright, cobalt blue. "Something's carved on it." She steps closer and reads the sloppy, white-painted engraving, "But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:6."

Lucifer lets out an exasperated sigh. "I suppose this is the rotten little confessional, then."

Chloe yanks open the door. "Oh my God."

"And here's the blackmail. Served up with a heaping side of rubbish."

The room is little bigger than a narrow and compact walk-in closet. A gray, metal foldout chair stands at the back of the room, facing a camera on a tripod. Behind the camera, another foldout chair stands. And on every inch of the space, on the floor, on the ceiling, on the three walls, Bible verses are carved into the wood. Chloe holsters her Glock with a shudder.

"Any verses in here about me?" Lucifer asks, craning his neck around the doorway.

"Yeah, look," Chloe says, pointing, "there's one that says Satan needs to focus."

Bending, she removes the camera from the tripod. She flicks it on, noting the memory card is nearly full. Jackpot. It takes her several minutes to find volume controls in menu settings for the on-board speakers, but once she finds them and the volume is turned up, she begins to play the videos stored within.

The victims are brought back to life as they confess their sins.

"I wish I hadn't cheated on him..."

"When she died, I felt relieved. I hated being a mother. Now all I want is to hold her again."

"I know I shouldn't have stolen the money, but I just...couldn't stop myself."

Chloe pauses the video. "These people go to Hell?" she asks in a whisper.

"All the time," Lucifer says.

"Your dad..."

"I know."

She presses play on the video again, and a second, deep voice speaks from behind the camera: "That's why we're doing what we're doing, Sarah. We must exorcise our demons to be closer to God."

Lucifer scoffs. "As if Dad cared what these sad sacks got up to."

Chloe shushes him as the next video starts. "That's Bruce Wilson," she breathes.

Gray hair is cropped close to his head, crowning the hard face of a troubled soldier. He looks slightly different from his license photo, a few years older, a few pounds heavier, whether from fat or muscle, but it's him all right.

"I don't know why the Firefly isn't working," Bruce says, his speech fast and frantic.

"At least we have confirmation that it's a firefly logo," Chloe murmurs.

"They promised me it had healing properties," Bruce continues after a pause. "It worked for the others—Katie's arthritis is healed. But I'm still having nightmares." Chloe notices how bloodshot his eyes are, as if in testament to his sleeplessness.

Lucifer snorts. "This knobhead thinks a bit of China White cures arthritis?"

Bruce looks up at the ceiling in the video. "How can I serve you like this?" His eyes shift back to the camera. "Our supply's running low. I guess that's fine. I can't have addicts on my hands. Tonight's the last time I'll try it. At least it...makes me feel closer to you in the moment."

"Bloody hell."

Something crashes in the farmhouse above them, giving Chloe such a fright that she nearly drops the camera. "Someone's here," she murmurs, digging into the camera for the memory card. She stores the small card in a spare nitrile glove and stuffs it into her back pocket before returning the camera to the tripod and drawing her firearm.

They retrace their steps as quickly and quietly as possible, batting away votives. In the passageway, Chloe debates on the best course of action, but finally decides to re-holster her gun and yank on the pull chain, throwing them back into darkness. Standing at the base of the ladder, they wait, listening.

After several long moments, Chloe nods to herself. "Okay, let's try to make it back up."

Lucifer takes to the ladder before she can stop him. His steps are silent as he slips back onto the ground floor. Chloe climbs up behind him. Just enough moonlight has filtered into the room now that she can see him standing guard beside the bedroom door. She sets to work on closing the trapdoor and repositioning the rug before joining him on the opposite side of the doorframe.

Another crash, in the living room by the sounds of it, followed by a loud cry. She looks at Lucifer. Bruce?

"Amen, amen, amen!"

That's definitely Bruce's voice.

Again, Chloe yanks her pistol free. She marches forward into the hallway, turning to press her back against the wall. She peeks around the corner, into the living room. And there's Bruce Wilson, bent over a desk. He's dressed similarly to his followers: white pajama pants, white short-sleeved shirt. But what she notices most are his dirty, bare feet.

Where has he been for the past twenty-four hours?

"Bruce Wilson, hands up! LAPD!"

Bruce turns slowly.

"Hands where I can see them!" Chloe shouts.

Adrenaline burns through her once more, so that it seems as though she sees and hears and feels everything in the room. Lucifer stands just out of sight in the hallway. He vibrates with an eagerness that she knows and understands. There are few highs as delicious as catching a killer.

"Do you see him?" Bruce asks.

Gooseflesh crawls across Chloe's arms. "Bruce, I need you to put your hands up." She steps into the living room.

"He sees me," Bruce continues. "And he sees you, too. He sees we're all dirty, dirty sinners." He lets out a deranged laugh. "All I want is for the nightmares to stop! I need more Firefly. She told me it would help. I thought I left it here..."

"Okay, Bruce," Chloe says, raising her free hand in an effort to soothe him. She takes another step toward him, and then another. "We'll find something to help with your nightmares. But we need you to come with us and answer a few questions first."

"No!" Bruce yells.

He leans forward suddenly, his hand darting out and closing around the barrel of her gun. He yanks it to the side before she has time to pull the trigger. Stupid, stupid mistake, to stand so close with her gun drawn.

"Lucifer!" Chloe cries. He's at her side the moment Bruce wrangles the Glock from her hand.

Instead of aiming the weapon at them, as Chloe expects him to, Bruce turns it toward his own temple.

"Bruce, don't!"

"God sees all!" the cult leader screams, and pulls the trigger.

The shot cracks like thunder in the room, sending bits of flesh and blood, bone and brain flying. Chloe feels it splatter across her face the second before Bruce Wilson drops to the floor. His body collapses into a wall, tilting a picture of Jesus and putting Bruce in an awkward slouching position. Her Glock tumbles from his hand to the hardwood with a metallic clunk. Blood leaks from his head to the floor.

For a moment, she and Lucifer stand still, staring. All violence happens fast, but especially unexpected violence, as in the incident in Colinda and the showdown with Cain before it. Chloe can hear her own shocked breathing.

"Do you suppose there's enough evidence on that memory card to prove he's the killer?" Lucifer asks. "Because Brucie here seems to be at a loss for words now."

She looks at Lucifer, her limbs trembling as adrenaline wears off. He's as covered in organic matter as she is, though he doesn't seem to notice or care.

"Lucifer," she breathes, her eyes wide, "he shot himself with my gun."

He frowns. "It wasn't your fault," he says.

Shivering, Chloe wipes blood and brain from her face. Nausea tickles at the back of her throat. "I have to call this in."

"But—"

"I have to, Lucifer. They'll find out one way or another."

Even before she makes the call, Chloe knows her career is over.

Chapter Text

Cain blends in with the crowd, following Chloe and Lucifer as they wander Santa Monica, burgers in hand. There's an easy familiarity between them that Cain's never experienced with another person, but recognizes well enough to envy. Chloe never laughed like that with him, never walked quite so close. It's hard not to despise her for it, even as he wants her more now than ever.

Why does she—how can she—accept the Devil, mere days after learning the truth? But then there's always been something different about Chloe Decker. Not merely that she makes the Devil bleed or that she removed Cain's own eons-old curse. No, she behaves as though she's always had one foot in the supernatural. It makes him wonder if he could have told her the truth, if she might have accepted him, too. Might still.

They stop to watch a street performer. Cain leans against the prickly trunk of a palm tree, the gears of his mind turning as he fingers the precious Pentecostal coin buried deep in his pocket.

Before, he thought destroying Lucifer's life would be enough to tear them apart. He sees he'll have to destroy them both to get what he wants now.


***


Invisible webs blanket the earth, connecting organisms through blood and affection, money and debt. Everyone is caught in the web, and everyone spins silk. The key is to spin more silk than sticks to your legs. Only the Devil has spun more webs than Adam's first son. Until recent years, he was also the most slippery son of a bitch.

The webs are so thick in southern California that they're more like booby-trapped Gordian knots. Cain treads carefully along his strands of silk, lest he alert Lucifer to his presence. There are few connections he trusts not to turn on him for the right price, a fact that puts him in a weak position for cashing in old favors and negotiating new deals. Which means his lot in L.A. hasn't changed much since before he went to Hell. There's truly only one connection powerful and trustworthy enough for him to call upon in the region. It will have to do.

Some hours after trailing Chloe and Lucifer, Cain waits in Otero's SUV, parked two blocks from the L.A. County Jail. The dark-tinted glass hides his inhuman eyes from the humans traversing the nearby sidewalk. A half-hour passes before Otero returns with John Barrow by his side. Otero climbs into the driver's seat, directing Barrow to the back.

Cain leans over the center console and peers at the other man. "How's it feel to be a free man again, Barrow?"

Barrow cringes at the sight of him. "Boss? I thought—"

"That I was dead?"

"Tha-that was the rumor, boss."

Like Otero, Barrow can't quite look him in the eye. Cain could wear contacts, but there are benefits to flaunting the power he's earned, even with his most devoted men.

Settling back into his seat as Otero merges into traffic, Cain commands Barrow, "Contact your sister. I need a meeting with your father. Tonight."


***


John Barrow is an easy man to control, and therefore an easy man to rely upon. Even at fifty-two, he desires nothing so much as his father's approval. That his father assigned him to work for Cain as part of a decade-old deal always meant there was little doubt Barrow would be loyal. Now, though, after being held hostage at Lucifer's penthouse and questioned for hours by the police, he's been tried and tested. He's the kind of man Cain can trust to ask "how high?" when instructed to jump.

Of course, Hector de la Cruz will never recognize his bastard son, but Barrow can't see that. Instead, he is all too eager to facilitate a meeting where his father might see him and show a sudden change of heart—or any heart at all.

Cain adjusts the strap of his leather satchel from where he sits beside Barrow on the cool concrete floor of an abandoned warehouse. Night has fallen, and no lights brighten the warehouse, but still they wear blindfolds. It's the only way one meets De la Cruz, who knows he has many enemies and does what he can to keep visitors from learning license plate numbers and the addresses of his homes. Not even Barrow knows where his father lives. Cain isn't one of De la Cruz's enemies, but the drug kingpin is clever enough to know he shouldn't trust anyone immune to death.

Exhaust fumes sour the air as a vehicle pulls into the warehouse. Van doors slide open, and people walk toward them, boots crunching on grime and broken concrete.

"Put them in the back," a woman barks, and large hands encircle Cain's elbows, lifting him to his feet and pushing him forward.

He's never needed to fear this part of the journey, but now he takes particular pleasure in knowing he could unleash his wings and kill everyone near him in mere seconds. If he wanted.

They're shoved into the van, the doors slide shut once more, and the blindfolds are yanked from their eyes. Dim LED strips light the back of the van with a blue-white glow. It's the only light available to the back, which sports no windows and is divided from the two front seats by a thick plate of black steel. Two brawny men and a sepia-skinned woman clad in black biker gear sit on the bench across from Cain and Barrow.

"Hey, sis," Barrow says with a smirk.

Shayna de la Cruz returns the smirk, which is far more menacing on her crimson lips. Even in this short exchange, there's no mistaking who's the bastard, confident only in his skills, and who's the heir, confident in both her skills and bloodline.

When the van brakes sometime later and the engine shuts off, Shayna reties their blindfolds. They're guided out of the van, into what must be an underground garage by the way the sound of their footsteps bounces back upon them. There's an elevator ride, a walk across polished tile, a knock, the sound of a door opening and shutting.

By the time their blindfolds are removed, they are safely ensconced in a masculine room filled with wood and leather, where time and place is meaningless and all windows are curtained by heavy, vermillion fabric. Armed guards blend into the shadows of the room's strategically under-lit corners, lending to the claustrophobic ambience. It's not Balor's cave in Hell, but a human could be trapped here, tortured, and never seen or heard from again.

A long table stands at the center of the room. Hector de la Cruz sits in the highest-backed chair, a wine glass in hand. He's an imposing man, long-bodied, hawk-eyed, and sharply-dressed. At seventy-nine, he could pass for Barrow's younger brother, if not for the salt-and-pepper hair crowning his head—then again, Barrow has no hair at all. Amazing what wealth and a penchant for divinity can do.

Though Cain has never seen any of the rooms beyond De la Cruz's meeting places, which all look very similar to this one, he knows the man uses divine objects almost as frequently as he collects or sells them. Rumor has it a few have cured him of illnesses and restored elements of his youth. Having known De la Cruz for nearly forty years, Cain can only assume the rumor is true. The man is never sick, and he ages far more slowly than any other human Cain has met.

Shayna saunters to her father's side. She bends, black, wavy hair falling forward, and kisses his cheek before settling into the chair beside him. She smiles at Cain like a hungry dog. Cain stares back, briefly, before ignoring her completely.

De la Cruz holds out a hand to the chairs across from him. "Have a seat," he invites. "Would you like a glass of wine?"

"No wine," Cain says, sitting before the man. At his right, Barrow looks at his father with a sickening, barely-contained hope.

"I have to say, I was surprised to hear you wanted to meet...Avery, now, is it?" Cain nods his chin. "Barrow informed us you were no longer so indestructible." De la Cruz cuts his eyes over to his bastard son for the first time, his disappointment palpable. "I suppose he was mistaken. There were even whispers that you were dead."

Cain stares at him.

"At any rate, you're clearly alive and have something for me, yes?" De la Cruz continues, unfazed by Cain's steeliness. "And want something in return, of course."

Without bothering to reply, Cain lifts his soft leather satchel from his shoulder and drops it onto the table. The bag's contents are so light that it barely makes a sound as it lands. "These are genuine," he explains.

Glancing at him, De la Cruz drags the bag closer and throws back the satchel's flap. He peeks inside, the disinterested expression on his face never wavering. "Angel feathers?" He pushes the bag to the side, as though he's offended. "They're a fucking mess."

"Not just any angel feathers. The Devil's feathers."

A small twitch beneath De la Cruz's right eye is the only sign Cain has gotten his attention. He sips his wine, his dark eyes thoughtful.

Shayna asks, "Since when does the Devil have feathers?"

"Since angels do," Cain answers.

"And do El Diablo's feathers always look so bloody?" De la Cruz follows.

Cain refrains from revealing all his knowledge about Lucifer's weaknesses. "Do you want them or not, Hector? We both know you're just going to grind them up."

The old man's smile is thin. "Depends on your price," he says, and pours himself more wine.

"No price. Just a mutually-beneficial partnership. I have a score to settle."

"That is a price, Avery. And how will my doing what I do best with these feathers help you settle your score?"

How to explain the power of turning a narcissist's body against him?

"That doesn't matter." Cain nods to the satchel of feathers. "You powder those and put them on the market, and I'll worry with the rest."

"And what do I get out of it?"

"Other than a fuckton of money?" Cain chuckles. "Let's just say I'll help you get more where this came from." He smiles darkly. "You've never had a steady supply of divinity, have you?"

Chapter Text

Flaxen sunshine peeks through the window blinds, burning past Chloe's eyelids. She kicks off bed covers, seeking a reprieve from the heat, and rolls over with a grunt.

The spot beside her is empty, save for a folded note left on the pillow. Chloe flicks the paper open, draws it close to her face, and squints, bleary-eyed, at Lucifer's sweeping, flamboyant script. It's as though a Founding Father got hold of Trixie's purple gel pen and wide-ruled notebook paper.

Busy day at Lux. Will make it up to you later.

Followed by a poorly drawn heart and smiley with horns.

Chloe huffs a small laugh before sobering and letting the note drop to the bed. He's been busy lately—going off during the day to do his own thing. Probably just as well they're going to spend another day apart. She feels a little too much like setting fire to something. Maybe life itself.

But things have to stay normal for Trixie, so she drags herself out of bed and stumbles to her bathroom. Standing in front of the mirror, she forces a smile to her face before letting her mouth fall back into a scowl.

When she shuffles downstairs after her shower, she sees a tornado has blown through her kitchen, leaving behind cracked egg shells, avocado skins, bits of cilantro, and a mountain of dishes. Izzy stands in the middle of the chaos, her black, wavy hair pulled back into a thick braid.

"Wow," Chloe says, "you've made breakfast."

"I have!" Izzy smiles as she spoons fresh salsa onto three plates laden with colorful food. "Huevos rancheros. Fresh-squeezed orange juice. Coffee."

"Thank you. This is...nice." Suspiciously so. Chloe ambles over to where Trixie bounces in her chair at the kitchen table. Wrapping her arms around her daughter, she smatters Trixie's cheek with kisses until she giggles and pulls away. "Morning, monkey."

"Are you staying home again today?" Trixie asks, hopeful.

"I am," Chloe says, swallowing back the lump that rises in her throat. She settles into the seat next to her daughter's. "I was thinking we could go to the beach today. Does that sound fun?"

"Can I bring my frisbee?"

"Sure, if you want." She watches as Izzy balances three plates to the table. After setting them down, she sits across from Chloe and smiles again. Chloe rolls her eyes. "Spill it," she says. "You're trying to get in my good graces."

"I need to put up a sign outside," Izzy confesses.

"A sign."

"For my readings."

"No way."

"You want me to pay my share of the rent, right? This is how I make money."

"I thought you were going to rent a business space."

"I am, but I either make this month's rent or I rent a space. I'm coming from Arizona, Chloe. I can't rent two places in California right now and..." She looks pointedly at Trixie, who's too busy digging into fried eggs to notice. And babysit, she means. For free.

Not that Chloe's needed a babysitter much these last few days.

"No, I get it," Chloe sighs. "I'm pretty sure you'll need a license to operate out of the apartment, though. It's probably against the lease." Which reminds her she hasn't even notified the landlord that Maze has moved out or that Izzy has moved in.

"Just get your boyfriend to talk them into it." Izzy smirks before sipping her coffee.

Chloe narrows her eyes. "I'm not doing that."

"You have the Devil at your disposal. Why wouldn't you use that to your advantage?"

"I'm not going to take advantage of him."

"He wouldn't see it that way, and you two need to work together, remember?"

"Well, that ship's sailed, hasn't it?" Chloe says bitterly. Glancing at her perceptive daughter with some concern, she adds, "What with my, um, demotion."

"Has it?" Izzy asks, arching a brow. She reaches for the tarot cards she keeps tucked within the lace sash around her waist.

"It's too early for that," Chloe says, holding up a hand. "And can you maybe not be so, I don't know, frank about all of Lucifer's...stuff?" Chloe nods her head toward Trixie.

"Oh, Trixie knows Lucifer's the Devil," Izzy chuckles. "Don't you, Trix?"

Trixie shrugs and stuffs a hunk of avocado in her mouth. "Sure, he doesn't look like anybody else." She looks at Chloe—or, more disturbingly, at the space around her. "Except kinda like you, Mom."

Chloe stares at her daughter, discomfited by this brave new world they're all living in, where she dates the literal Devil and her own flesh and blood, the child that took twenty-six hours and a C-section to enter the world, sees things. Real things. Not hallucinations, even if they make no sense to her. She's not sure which would be better.

"What do you think all that means, baby?"

Trixie shrugs again. "Lucifer's good."

It's the same conclusion Chloe's come to, over and over again, despite occasional evidence to the contrary and Lucifer's complicated relationship with the law.

"I'll think about it," Chloe says to Izzy.

"Great! I've already put out a sign for today."

Chloe sighs.


***


After breakfast, Chloe slathers sunscreen on herself and Trixie. They don swimsuits and shorts and make the twenty-minute walk, hand in hand, to the beach, the sun bearing down on their floppy hats. There are people at the beach—when aren't there?—but it isn't crowded. Because it's daytime. On a weekday.

Chloe drops her beach bag, lays out their towels, and wedges water bottles into the sand before settling down, her legs crossed before her. She's not ready for this conversation, but it's been a week, and it's better if Trixie finds out the truth from her than some other source. Sometimes Chloe thinks her mom had it easy, raising a kid in a time before the internet.

"Aren't we gonna throw the frisbee?" Trixie whines from where she still stands, bare feet toeing the sand, lips turned down in that preemptive pout she's learned from Lucifer. It never garners them the results they're hoping for, not with Chloe, but they keep trying valiantly.

"We'll throw the frisbee soon, I promise." Chloe pats the Mars rover beach towel beside her. "Have a seat, baby."

Trixie flops down on the towel. "Am I in trouble?"

"No," Chloe assures her with a laugh. She bumps her arm against her daughter's shoulder. "Should you be?"

"Uh-uh."

Not suspicious at all, Chloe thinks, and wonders with some amusement what she'll eventually find out her clever little girl's gotten into now.

Sighing, she looks out over the beach. The sparkling, blue Pacific kisses the sand with sea foam, and gulls circle above, crying raucously. Chloe rarely swims in the ocean, preferring instead the sun and sand, but the heat feels so oppressive today that it's as if the water calls to her.

"Are you okay?" Trixie grabs her hand, drawing Chloe back into herself. It's such an adult gesture from a ten-year-old that she nearly cries.

"I’m okay, monkey." Here goes... "I just want you to know that... Well, I'm not gonna be a detective anymore," she says, and is pleased when her voice doesn't break. She studies her daughter and struggles to read her frown.

"But you love being a cop."

"I did," Chloe agrees, feeling the sharp pang of sadness that accompanies all of life's remarkable endings. "But I made a very bad mistake, and my bosses thought I should do something else."

"You got fired?" Trixie gasps. It's hard to tell if she's shocked or impressed.

Chloe nods, her face hot with embarrassment. Surely this is what it feels like to fail her daughter, not to mention herself.

The LAPD fired her with little fanfare. Words like "out of line," "misconduct," and "PR nightmare" were thrown around, and what hurt most was knowing how appropriate they all were. They took her guns. They took her badge. They grilled her for hours, and though the investigation is still considered "ongoing" for now, she knows that, in so many ways, it's all over. Bruce Wilson was a disturbed, drug-addled man who did kill his followers, and then he killed himself. Case closed, and Chloe's career with it.

Morrison had waited for her outside the lieutenant's office, a nasty smile curling under his beard.

"See ya round, Decker."

She'd wanted to punch his corrupt face, wanted to tell him she could bring the Devil to his doorstep if she so desired, but she only scowled, said her goodbyes (extracted herself from Ella's hug), gathered her things, and left. Because she agreed with the suits' decision. Whether she'd been treated unfairly for the paparazzi shots or not, and regardless of what they did to Webb for his ineptitude, a suspect was dead because of her. She'd been too tired to go in half-cocked, to draw her weapon. But she'd done it anyway.

"What are you gonna do now?" Trixie asks.

The million-dollar question that needs to be answered sooner than later.

"You know, I'm not sure yet." Chloe wraps an arm around Trixie's shoulders. "But don't worry about that, monkey. I just wanted to tell you that some things will be changing soon, and that's okay."

It really isn't, though. But then that's the thing parenting books never tell you: how much you'll lie to your kids to keep them safe and happy, even as the earth crumbles beneath your feet.

They throw the frisbee and chase each other in sea foam, and for a time Chloe forgets she's misplaced a vital part of herself. Forgets, even, that the world is scarier and more complicated than she ever could have guessed. There is no Heaven, no Hell, only herself, her daughter, and the sea she's always known.

Just when Chloe thinks Trixie has grown tired of the beach, a boy her age runs to them, his skinny arms wrapped around a beach ball. Chloe exchanges pleasantries with the boy's elderly grandfather before settling back on her beach towel.

As she watches Trixie and the boy toss the beach ball to each other, a dull ache begins to throb behind her eyes. Even with her hat and sunglasses, the bright sunlight has only become more punishing. She sips water and grimaces when it slides, cold and slimy, down her gut. It's been years since she had a migraine, but the sensation is familiar enough that she knows not to ignore it.

She struggles to her feet, while pulling up a rideshare app on her phone. "Trixie-babe!" she calls, pushing past a sweeping wave of nausea. "Time to go!"

The colorful beach ball bounces across the sand. "But, Mooommm!" Trixie whines.

"No buts," Chloe hears herself say, too softly to be heard across the short distance.

She takes a step forward, and her vision whites out. She collapses in the sand.


***


"Lucifer, I can walk."

"I'm sure you believe that, but we're nearly to the car."

"It was just heat exhaustion," Chloe sighs as the wheelchair bumps along the hospital parking lot's asphalt. "I feel fine now." And more than a little humiliated.

"But you fainted," Trixie argues. She walks next to the wheelchair, one hand tightly gripping Chloe's fingers.

"She makes an excellent point," Lucifer says.

Chloe gives her daughter's hand a squeeze. "I know, baby, and that's super scary, but I really am okay now. You heard the doctor, didn't you? I'm in great shape. Just got a little too hot."

"I guess," Trixie grumbles.

No doubt spending four hours in a hospital has dredged up bad memories. Such a stupid mistake, Chloe berates herself. She's certain she wouldn't have fainted if she had only been drinking more water. No telling what ice packs and electrolytes from a hospital will cost.

"Ah, here we are!" Lucifer announces, and Chloe hears the familiar double-chirp of her car unlocking.

She frowns. "You got my car?"

"Well, what other car would you have preferred? The Corvette's a two-seater, and I know how you feel about popping the child in the boot."

"Okay, but you still have a key to my car? Pretty sure I told you to get rid of that." Not that she really cares anymore. It's just the principle of the matter.

"You did," Lucifer admits, "but I never promised to be obedient." He opens the back door of the car. "Hop in, urchin. It's hot as blazes, and your mother's clearly still suffering from a touch of the vapors."

Rolling her eyes, Chloe uses the momentary distraction to push to her feet. Lucifer and Trixie let out yelps of protest, which she ignores while yanking open the passenger side door. She drops to the seat and buckles up.

"Can you stop by a grocery store on the way back?" Chloe asks once Lucifer's gotten behind the wheel.

"Did you fall on your head?" he gripes, while cranking up the air conditioning and directing vents her way. "You should be home resting."

"I'm fine. And it's Taco Tuesday, and we need ingredients."

"Taco Tuesday can bloody well wait." Lucifer scowls at her before pulling up beside the ticket machine and shoving a credit card into the designated slot. As he weasels his way into traffic, he fishes his cell phone out of his breast pocket and tosses it onto her lap. "Text Emilio Torres your address and the time he should be there."

She stares at his phone. "What?"

"Emilio owns a food truck. Splendid street tacos."

"We get a taco truck?" Trixie gasps from the backseat.

"Yes," Lucifer says.

"No, monkey," Chloe says firmly. She glares at Lucifer as her daughter lets out an annoying whine. "There's no reason someone with a food truck would make a trip to our street."

"He bloody well will if the Devil tells him to," Lucifer says. "Message him."

Chloe picks up the phone and types in his absurd password. His contacts list is astonishingly long, and she finds herself scrolling through it, wondering how many of the people he's slept with, how many owe him. So many favors. Favors upon favors upon favors. Is it any wonder Lucifer thought he could save her job, the moment she was demoted?

"You know you want to," he says.

A shiver runs through her that has nothing to do with the cold air blasting across her skin. She hates that he's right. She does want to.

Tapping on Emilio Torres' name, she sees other times Lucifer has directed the man—to street corners near Lux and the precinct, to Santa Monica, to Redondo Beach. There's no banter here, no conversation. Just directions from Lucifer and thumbs up emojis from Emilio. Quickly, before she can change her mind, Chloe swipes "7pm" and her address and hits send. Emilio responds within the minute with a thumbs up emoji.

"So, we do get a taco truck?" Trixie asks hopefully. Only then does Chloe realize her daughter has leaned forward and wedged her face between the two front seats.

"Looks like," Chloe says, her brow furrowed as she passes the phone back to Lucifer. His grin is sly as he pockets it.

At the apartment, Izzy apologizes profusely when she learns that most of Chloe and Trixie's day has been spent in a hospital.

"I'm so sorry, Chlo. I had clients and had my phone on silent."

"Ah, what, your little cards didn't tell you she was eating sand?" Lucifer bites out.

"You know it doesn't work that way," Izzy says, a hand on her hip. "I should cancel my date for tonight..."

Chloe waves her off and encourages her to do as she pleases. Already, she's had to soothe Dan over the phone. The truth is she feels fine, and there's no reason why Lucifer shouldn't have been the one to drive her home, anyway. He's been busy this week, sure, but work is optional for those who have more money than they know what to do with. Not to mention she knew she'd never have heard the end of it if she hadn't called him.

The afternoon crawls as Lucifer, Trixie, and Izzy relegate her to the couch. They keep the temperature in the apartment cool and foist cold drinks upon her until her bladder can't take it anymore. By seven o'clock, Izzy's out the door and Chloe's had enough of all the well-meaning care. She pushes to her feet.

"No, no," Lucifer insists, gently shoving her back. "I'll bring you whatever you like."

"I'm getting up, Lucifer."

"But—"

"No," she says, standing again. She pats his chest gently. "I'm okay, and there's nothing you could have done if you'd been there." More quietly, she says, "Your dad's not behind this." At least, she doesn't think he is.

"You can never know with that bastard."

Great.

As he stares at her, she feels the ghost of another conversation she doesn't want to have, haunting them. That specter of truth, of how she will grow old and die, and he will not; a discordant note in what has become their melody. Something for another time. She leans up on tiptoe and kisses his cheek.

At exactly 7:00 p.m., Emilio Torres illegally parks his pink food truck against the curb outside Chloe's complex. At first, she intends to tell the man to move his vehicle, but she stops herself. She's not a cop anymore, for one, and even she has to admit a little illegal parking is just practical in L.A.

She stands beside the truck, her arms crossed. "Buzo de Tacos." She cuts her eyes over at Lucifer. "Really?"

"What?" Lucifer asks cheerily. "Doesn't everyone enjoy a good taco dive? You know I do."

"What's a taco diver?" Trixie asks.

Chloe closes her eyes as Lucifer answers, "A cunning linguist."

Before Trixie can become any more worldly, the roll-up door on the side of the truck grinds open, revealing a baby-faced Latino man. "Lucifer!" Emilio exclaims, his smile bright. "Good to see you!"

Though maybe it shouldn't, the delectation surprises Chloe. It's Will at Poke'n Around all over again, and she's struck once more by how popular Lucifer is. How, really, most of the favors she knows about have neither been good nor bad, but simply cut out middlemen. And people love him for it.

Of course, there was that kid who ran deliveries for the mob... Her brain immediately counters: And he chose that, didn't he? And the mob wouldn't go away, regardless.

"What would you like, Detective?" Emilio asks, pulling her from the depths of her moral crisis.

"Oh," Chloe breathes, her heart clenching at the title and the warm reminder that Lucifer brags about her to everyone. "Not a detective anymore." She shakes her head. "Um, I'll have the number three."

Dan jogs up to them several minutes later, apologizing for his lateness and complaining about parking. He looks between the truck, Chloe, and the small crowd of neighbors that has gathered to stuff their faces on the curbside. Chloe can see him struggle to decide which thing to tackle first.

Finally, he looks at her. "You're doing okay?"

"All good," she assures.

He nods several times—too many times to be considered natural or relaxed. Reluctantly, he looks at Lucifer. "You're behind the taco truck?"

"Well, I'd say Emilio is," Lucifer jokes around a mouthful of food, "but in a roundabout way, yes."

"Dan?" Emilio cranes his neck over the edge of the truck's counter. "I thought I heard you!"

"Ooh, you two know each other!" Lucifer laughs.

"Hey, man." Dan rubs the back of his neck and shrugs sheepishly at Lucifer and Chloe. "What can I say? I love Buzo de Tacos."

A giant grin breaks out on Lucifer's face.

"Don't even start," Chloe warns him.

Apparently tacos are what was needed for Dan to change his tune about Lucifer. They eat outside and take second helpings indoors after thanking Emilio. Lucifer and Dan fall into an easy conversation about Destruction at Dawn, an upcoming action movie Chloe couldn't possibly care less about. It all feels so normal, given the strange start to the day.

Chloe helps Trixie pack her backpack after they've finished eating. Family dinner nights have turned into Trixie trade-off nights. She always wonders if this arrangement is right, if her daughter isn't slowly breaking inside as she moves between apartments.

Trixie bends a Barbie's legs at a forty-five degree angle and stuffs the doll into her backpack. "Are you sure you'll be okay?" she asks.

This is one of the upsides to being fired, Chloe knows. Her daughter's fears are far less likely to be realized now. She pulls Trixie to her, hugging her tightly. "I'm fine, and I'm going to be fine, monkey." She runs a hand over the little girl's hair. "You've got Aunt Izzy's number if you have a nightmare?"

"Uh-huh."

Before Dan and Trixie leave, Dan pulls Chloe aside. "You all right for rent?" he asks quietly.

Chloe nods. "For now. I've got some savings."

"Good. Just...if you need help before you find a new job, don't make any deals with him, okay?" He glances to where Lucifer is busy navigating Trixie's steady babble about My Little Pony. Chloe can tell by the expression on her ex-husband's face that he still isn't sure how to reconcile Lucifer's many contradictions.

She almost laughs, but she remembers all too well the fear of the unknown that plagued her those first few weeks. Only perpetually-optimistic Ella could have Heaven and Hell's existence confirmed—not to mention the Devil's—and not experience an existential crisis.

"No loans from the Devil," she promises, and means it.

The door shuts several minutes later, leaving her alone with Lucifer. She turns to him and slides her hands up to his unbuttoned collar. "I'm not tired," she says.

Smiling slightly, he enfolds her hands in his, pausing her movements. "You're not?"

She shakes her head and presses closer. "And we're alone."

"Raincheck?" he asks softly.

Chloe frowns, but eases away. "Is something wrong? If this is about me fainting earlier—"

"It's not," he assures. "But, if you're not tired, well, I'd like to show you something."

"Show me something?"

"Mm." He grins, and a nervous excitement ripples through him. "What I've been working on these last few days."

"Okay," she agrees, perplexed.

"Lovely. It's at Lux."


***


In the elevator in Lucifer's building, Chloe watches as Lucifer punches in a different PIN and selects the sixth floor. Her breath quickens. She tried to visit the other floors in his building once before, but quickly learned they weren't accessible to the public. More than once, she's asked him what or who else occupies the other floors, but he's deflected. There are apartments, she knows. Maze lived here once, Amenadiel, too. But she's always known there was more. More secrets.

Will she ever know him?

"What's on the sixth floor, huh?" she asks, poking at his ribs.

"Patience, Detective."

She frowns slightly as the elevator jerks upward. "You need to stop calling me that. I'm not a detective anymore, Lucifer."

"Hmm." Lucifer looks down at her. "I must no longer be the Devil, then."

Before she can reply that that's entirely different, the elevator car halts, and the doors slide open. Lucifer steps forward and flicks a switch. Several floor lamps burst to life, spilling soft, yellow-white light across the room.

The massive and very empty room. No furniture other than the lamps and a black office chair warms the bare concrete floors. The sharp scents of plaster and fresh paint tell her construction has occurred here recently. The walls have been painted a warm, but neutral green-gray.

A weak smile lifts Lucifer's mouth. "Come see," he says, holding out a hand. She rests her fingers in his, and he draws her forward. Their footsteps echo in the concrete expanse.

"What is this, Lucifer?"

"You might call it a new business venture," he answers. "Of a sort."

She drifts over to one of the floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The view from the sixth floor isn't nearly as spectacular as it is from the penthouse, but the winking city lights still make her smile.

"Something for Lux?" she asks.

"Something for you," he says.

Chloe turns back, confused. "For me?"

He holds up his hands. "Hear me out, Detective. I know I've not always been the best at giving you gifts, but I promise you my intentions are good. Or, at least, I hope they are." He huffs, his hands dropping back to his sides. "Not to say good intentions wouldn't still land me in Hell."

"Lucifer, it's okay. I'm not upset or questioning your intentions. But I..." She looks around. "Help me understand? I don't know what this is, exactly."

"Right," he chuckles. "Of course. Perhaps it's best if I show you." Digging into his breast pocket, he resurfaces with a business card and holds it out to her.

Frowning, Chloe takes it. Her name immediately catches her eye, followed by the sleek monochromatic design. On the right half of the card, her name, printed in black, hovers above a gray job title: Consulting Detective. On the left half of the card, in white text on a black background, her cell phone number and the address of the building beneath her feet. A cheeky asterisk informs the person with the card that Yes, we're above a nightclub.

"Look here," Lucifer says, pointing to one corner of the card. "It even has a watermark."

"Lucifer, what is this?" she asks again.

"This is what I can do for you," he says, a manic edge to his voice. "You gave me back my purpose, even my home, once upon a time, so it's far past time I return the favor."

She feels a little dizzy again—not from heat exhaustion, but the overwhelming urge to accept his gift without further question, and the fear of what it could mean if she did so.

"But I'm not a private investigator."

"Ah!" He digs into his pocket again, bringing out a single, folded sheet of paper. "Your license."

Chloe snatches the paper from him. It's an official license from California's Bureau of Security & Investigative Services. There's a registration number and everything.

"Your ID card should be in the mail any day now."

"I...haven't taken the exam to earn this." Having been fired from the police department, she's not even sure she'd qualify.

Lucifer waves a hand, confident. "You'd pass."

Horribly illegal. Okay. Sure. Because he's a criminal. Chloe nods, half-dazed. She looks away from the license. "And where do you come into all this?"

His grin shines like a knife in the lamplit room. "Turn over the business card."

Chloe flips the card. A crisp, white serif rests in the center of a glossy pool of black. The Devil's in the Details.

"We can change the name, if you like," Lucifer says, "but I'm rather fond of it."

She looks up at him, her throat dry. She could swear her heart is trying to claw its way out of her chest. "You want us to go freelance."

"Think about it, darling. My connections, your know-how."

Favors upon favors upon favors.

"I don't want to be a vigilante, Lucifer."

"So don't be a vigilante, then." Gently, he takes the business card and license from her, returning them to his breast pocket. "But let's not pretend you aren't just as much of a rebel as I am."

Chloe scowls at him.

"See," he laughs, "that's the look you give me when you know I'm right." He steps closer, crossing into her space. Bending, he kisses her once, briefly, and speaks across her mouth, "Why not embrace it a little? Untether me to do your bidding."

"I haven't tethered you," she argues.

"Haven't you?" He leans back, amused. "You may not think it, but I've been a very good boy for you, Detective. Minded more P's and Q's than ever before. But there's truth in the shadows. You think we botched the Wilson investigation, but the killer was found, and now he won't trouble another soul—all because we bent the rules, found out the truth, and weren't going to let him slip away. You want to find Yates' killer, Rosales' killer. You want to wipe out what's left of the Sinnerman's network. We could." He grins slightly. "And without a mile of paperwork."

His words are distressing, if for no other reason than they poke at her own thoughts and desires. She's struggled to feel guilty about Wilson's death, or rather, suicide. If they hadn't gone back to the farm that night, who's to say he ever would have been apprehended? Who's to say the police ever would have found his secret room and the video evidence needed to confirm he was the killer? Time and again, they break the rules, and what that's led to, more than anything, is a very high solve rate.

Chloe swallows. "This is... It's really thoughtful, but it's a lot, Lucifer. I need to think about it."

"Of course. Take your time." He moves to her side and throws an arm around her shoulders. If he's disappointed, he hides it well. "Care to head upstairs?" he says, arching a suggestive brow.


***


"Join me in the shower?" Lucifer grins from where he stands naked at the foot of the bed.

Chloe eyes him appreciatively, but shakes her head. "I'm starving. Think I'll grab a bite to eat before I shower."

"You can look at me like that, and then turn me down cold? You wound me," he teases.

"You'll get over it," she says with a smirk. Crawling across the bed, she sits up on her knees and kisses him. "Or I can make it up to you later."

His laughter is low and wicked. "Oh, I do like the sound of that."

As the shower starts up, Chloe descends the stairs out of Lucifer's bedroom, pulling on his black dress shirt from the night before as she goes. She squints uncomfortably at the bright morning light pouring into the living area and grabs her phone from the bar. The summer art camp she signed Trixie up for left a voicemail message an hour earlier. She opens the message up to listen.

"Hi, Ms. Decker!" a too-chipper, male camp coordinator exclaims. "Just wanted to let you know we've changed our payment system. The new website you need to visit to make your payment is—"

Chloe huffs as the man rattles off an absurdly long address. Why didn't they just email it? Rolling her eyes, she pauses the message and goes in search of a pen and paper. For some things, it's still easier to do it old school.

Two drawers, one shallow and one deep, run along the right side of the writing desk in Lucifer's library. She yanks open the top drawer, revealing a rectangular, black box the size of a children's lunchbox. Setting aside her phone, her eyes flick up to the bedroom's entrance. Reassured that she's still alone, she lifts the container out of the drawer. Is this...wrong, what she's doing? Is it any worse to open a box than it is to open a drawer?

After another moment's hesitation, she opens the box. Oh. It's where he keeps his drug paraphernalia. Some weed, some cocaine, a glass pipe. Of course. Why did she think Lucifer's writing desk would contain pens and paper?

He's a criminal and a drug user. She knows it; he's never hidden the fact. And now he wants to run an investigative consultancy firm with her. Sure, why not? Shaking her head, she closes the box and returns it to the drawer.

The bottom drawer is stiff, and wood pieces scrape against each other as she tugs. When the drawer slides open suddenly, she stumbles back. Righting herself against the arm of the desk chair at her side, she looks into the drawer, at the dated spines of leather-bound journals. Her gut immediately knows what they are.

I’ve been giving favors for thousands of years. Would you like a peek at my ledger?

She'd said no at the time, not least of all because she thought he was delusional or a conman, or both. Now, though... Now, she knows the truth, but she still doesn't have all the details—and, well, that's where the Devil is, isn't it? There's a fancy business card to prove it and everything. She grabs the journal for the current year, sets it on the desk, and opens to a random page.

There are names, many names—some crossed out, most not—and beside each one, the service rendered. Some favors are mundane or strange or funny, and others are clear proof of Lucifer's power and wealth.

Akua Okafor — $5m for Ghana Space Centre

Mark Seabrook — Mistrial

Hillary Antonini — Construction of HEMNES dresser

Andrew Byrne — Lyrics to "Nobody"

Kristina Albert — A husband

Robert Trent — Pool of ranch dressing

Chloe grimaces and makes a small sound of disgust. Why ranch?

"What are we looking for, Detective?"

Chloe shrieks as she leaps back from the desk, and Lucifer howls with laughter. She looks at him, wide-eyed and slack-jawed. A black towel hangs low on his hips, and dark, damp hair curls at the edge of his forehead. His grin is wide and all teeth.

"I'm sorry," Chloe says. "I just— I was looking for a pen and paper, and—"

"And you thought you'd do a bit of snooping while you were at it." He nods, his eyes dropping down to her bare feet, only to crawl upward.

She swallows, flustered and uncertain. "You... You did say I could look."

"Oh, remember that, do you? Well. When I made that offer, I did rather think I'd be in the same room, Detective." His smirks. "No matter, though. I'm here now."

Lucifer rounds the desk, pulls back the leather desk chair, and takes a seat. Chloe stares at the back of his head, at the strong lines of his body. He does this sometimes, sits in chairs like he's a king. A king from the worst place imaginable, but a king nonetheless.

"Come here, Detective."

Her stomach gives a small flip as she moves to stand beside him. He looks up at her beneath dark lashes, and though she still wears his shirt, she's stripped naked by his gaze.

"Sit," he says, nodding to his bare thighs.

"You want me to sit?" She tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.

He tilts his head. "I want you to sit."

Chloe isn't sure why she obeys, but she does. Clearing her throat, she shuffles between his legs and the desk, and sits carefully at the edge of his knees. She's suddenly very aware that she's wearing nothing but his shirt.

Lucifer chuckles and grabs her hips, dragging her back on his thighs, so that only the tips of her toes touch the floor. Hooking his feet along the inside of her ankles, he gently kicks her legs and knees apart. "There," he says, "that's much better, wouldn't you agree?"

She doesn't trust herself to smart off like she normally would. Whatever's happening between them is crackling like fire in her blood. Still, she shivers, but then Lucifer's hand is there, pressing between her shoulder blades and running down her spine, warm and soothing.

Reaching forward, he takes hold of the ledger and draws it to the edge of the desk. "Far be it from me to interrupt your reading, Detective. Keep going. Aloud."

Her brow furrows. "You want me to read?"

"I do. It's lovely to be reminded of my good works. Oh, but one thing before you start." He runs a hand up the side of her arm, over her shoulder, to her collarbone, and up the length of her throat. Gently grasping her chin, he taps a finger against her lips. Taking the hint, she opens her mouth and wraps her tongue around his finger. She sighs when he pulls away. "Go on, then," he says, and she's pleased when she hears he's a little breathless, too.

Chloe bows her head and, though she feels silly, begins to read, "Hege Hansen." Lucifer's hands curve around her hips and dip between her thighs. "Restitution."

"Mohammed Ah—ah," she gasps as his wet finger explores between her legs. A moment later, he slides it inside of her and hooks it back toward his palm, finding her G-spot with ease.

"Why'd you stop reading?" Lucifer teases at her shoulder as fingers from his other hand find her clit.

"I'm not sure I can," she breathes out on a laugh.

"You can," he says. "Or I can stop. Your choice."

Any other time in her life, she would have been embarrassed by the plaintive whine that slips from her mouth. "Mohammed Ahmed," she says, voice shaking. "Two million for cocaine business." Holy shit. "Wait, how much cocaine?" Lucifer doesn't answer as he huffs and begins pumping his fingers. She groans, and her hips move of their own accord, driven toward his hands, driven toward the hard, heavy length pressing between their bodies.

"Nina Rey," she pants, afraid he'll stop. "Access to JPL."

"Oh, that was a tricky one," Lucifer comments.

She continues to read, her tongue tripping over syllables. Names, so many names. So much scheming and playing. But then, the longer they're like this, the less she cares, the less she can read or even think. Finally, her head falls back against his shoulder, and his mouth presses against the sensitive spot beneath her ear.

"I need you," she moans, unbuttoning and discarding his shirt. "Please."

"There it is," Lucifer sighs. "That's desire." He drags the towel away from his erection, lifts her by her hips, and lines them up together. She takes over, sinking onto him feverishly, and they groan together. "You're glorious like this," he compliments, as she braces against the desk for leverage. "The way you look..."

Chloe moves on him, chasing pleasure, and he grabs her waist to help drive her. She claws at his right hand, drawing it toward her chest. The bullet sways, forward and back, brushing their fingers with every lift and dive. The calescent ache between her thighs crescendos and erupts when she least expects it, tearing air from her lungs. Strong arms and white wings engulf her as Lucifer surrenders to his own want and moans against her neck. He twitches inside her, over and over.

She melts back against his chest, listening to their ragged breathing and feeling the mess of their sex, damp on her thighs. His wings tremble and flag, relaxing beside them. Turning her head, she kisses him lazily. "Did I just experience one of Lucifer Morningstar's infamous improvisations?" she asks, smiling against his mouth.

He huffs. "Yes, and?"

Laughter bubbles out of her. "I should go snooping more."

"I would expect nothing less, Detective." His fingers caress her skin, bringing them down from their high. "Not that it's exactly snooping. Anything that's mine is yours, you know." He says this like it's a given.

It's so intimate, so pure, that it overwhelms her a little, and something warm stirs deep in her breast. She loves him, doesn't she? Whether it can work or not. Whether it makes sense or not. Whether it's dangerous or crazy—or maybe because it is dangerous and crazy. She loves him.

A lot.

"What are your thoughts on favors now, hmm?" he asks, and she's drawn out of her head, but the warm glow of her affection lingers.

"They're growing on me," she says quietly, too relaxed to be critical at the moment. And three words are right there in her mouth, burning at the door of her lips. She opens her mouth to give them life, but he speaks before she does.

"What if I show you how it's all done?"


***


It starts with a call to one of Lux's bartenders, who operates as a sort of town crier: Come one, come all. Lucifer Morningstar is giving out favors.

"So, what," Chloe says around a mouthful of honeydew melon, "they schedule an appointment?"

"Schedule an appointment!" Lucifer laughs heartily. "It's first come, first serve, through the door. I let it be known I'm feeling generous. Give it a half-hour or so, and then I can pop downstairs and begin considering their requests."

She stares at him. "People come that fast?"

"With me? Of course they do."

Chloe laughs, "You know what I mean."

"And my answer's the same."

"But why?" She shakes her head. "They don't know who you are."

"Well, I do tell most of them," he says.

"I've noticed, but none of them believe it."

"A few do, perhaps, but, no, most don't." He shrugs a shoulder and pops another grape in his mouth. "Most think I'm in the mob." He stands from the sofa suddenly. "Ah, that reminds me..." Jogging into the bedroom, he returns a minute later with a simple, but elegant black dress thrown over his forearm and a pair of black heels. "Wear these today, would you?"

She takes the clothing from him. The heels look far from comfortable, but the dress is soft to the touch, the texture of the threadwork nearly impossible to detect. "The boss needs me to look good?" she teases.

"Something like that."

Nervous jitters tingle through her when they take the elevator down forty-five minutes later. She has to admit, they look striking. Her midnight dress and heels match the black of his suit, which contrasts against his white shirt and vibrant pocket square, which itself complements the red of her lips.

The elevator doors open, and Lucifer tucks her hand in the crook of his arm. "Shall we?" he asks, and she nods.

A long line of people stretches down the curved staircase into Lux. There are men and women, young and old, dark- and light-skinned and everything in between, from every walk of life. As they pass the crowd, Chloe rubbernecks in astonishment, while Lucifer, who's been doing this for thousands of years, never bothers to turn his head.

He draws her to one of the nightclub's crescent booths and holds her hand as she takes a seat. When he settles beside her, a server rushes forward with a tray laden by two tumblers filled with brown liquor. Lucifer takes them both, hands one to Chloe, and leans back comfortably, a lord surveying his subjects. His free arm runs along the back of the booth, making it obvious she's here with him. She sits up a little straighter.

Lucifer looks to the burly, flannel-wearing lumberjack of a man seated on the stool across from them. "Hello," he purrs, "care to tell me what you desire?"

The desires and stories aren't what Chloe expects, and many favors turn into deals on the fly, all sealed with vows or handshakes. Businesses are funded, real estate is bought and sold, contacts are exchanged, and legal problems disappear with phone calls. Millions of dollars are moved, and careers are made.

But not all desires are fed.

"I want my ex-husband dead," one woman snarls, and Chloe barely contains her shiver.

"Do you now?" Lucifer says, his smile vicious. "'Fraid you'll have to do the dirty work yourself. I'll warn you, though: Nasty bit of business, murder. Might land you in a place you'd rather not be." He holds up a finger. "Actually, I know just the therapist for you."

"Therapist?" the woman echoes dully.

"Well, yes," Lucifer says. "You're in L.A. You're supposed to have a therapist."

An hour into the madness, an attractive Asian woman comes forward. Her fitted turquoise dress rides up, hugging and displaying the round curve of her rear. Chloe bristles as the woman openly leers at Lucifer, who licks his bottom lip at the sight of her.

"And what is it you'd like?" Lucifer asks.

But it's plenty obvious, and before the woman can answer, Chloe grips Lucifer's wrist, drawing his attention. "No," she says.

"No?" he asks, and actually seems shocked.

"No," Chloe says.

Lucifer looks at the woman apologetically. "Maybe some other time, dear," he soothes.

And, oh, it is the wrong thing for him to say. Chloe glares at him as the other woman pouts and climbs down from the stool. Her narrow hips sway as she walks away.

"What the hell?" Chloe snaps as quietly as she can.

Lucifer sighs, "You just ruined a perfectly good threesome, darling." He flicks his fingers. "Next!"

"I'm not interested in a threesome, Lucifer."

He huffs. "Aren't you?"

"And I'm not bi," she adds.

A young man in a cheap suit sits on the stool across from them. Chloe almost feels sorry for him. As if Lucifer will ever be able to overlook that suit.

Lucifer eyes her skeptically. "Not even the least bit heteroflexible?"

"No," she hisses, embarrassed.

"Hmm." Lucifer turns to the young man and grabs hold of him with his gaze. "Go on, tell me what you want."

"I want my big break," the young man responds. "I'm a singer." The spell melts off him. "And it's so hard to—"

"Yes, yes, the industry is a cruel and fickle beast," Lucifer says, waving a hand. "Here's your chance, then. Give us a song, bard."

The young man swallows hard and nods. Sucking in a deep breath, he launches into his own, terrible rendition of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight."

Chloe nudges Lucifer. "Are you saying it's a problem that I'm not bi?"

"What? Of course not. I'm into your desires, after all. But it's okay to be curious, you know, especially with me."

"Well. I'm not curious."

"My mistake." Chloe, her heart pounding, thinks the conversation is over until he adds, "I suppose I misunderstood what I saw in your browser history."

"Okay, that's snooping," she says, her face growing hot.

He winces as a sustained note falls especially flat. "Well, it's not my fault you forgot to use incognito on your mobile. There I was, simply trying to search Google... But I wouldn't be me if I didn't notice porn in an address bar. I'm a consummate researcher, of course. I approve of your taste, by the way. Literally and figuratively."

"Uch," she murmurs, wanting to crawl out of her body. "Let's not talk about this right now."

"No need to be embarrassed. Have you ever acted on it?"

"No."

"So there is something to act on!" he all but shouts in triumph, his body turning toward her in his excitement. The singer falters. "I bloody well knew it. But how haven't you? We're in Los Angeles, and you've bared your lovely—"

"Okay, fine. I may sometimes...notice other women. So what? I don't need a label. And it's just not happened, okay?"

"Uh-huh," he says, and she can tell he's holding back laughter. "Would you like for it to?"

"I—"

"Because she would be very amenable," he says, nodding to a curvaceous brunette standing in the favor line. The woman notices them looking at her, and her pink mouth tilts with her smile. Chloe feels herself smiling back before she realizes it and turns away. She purses her lips.

"You can't know that."

Lucifer grins. "Fancy a wager, dear heart?"

"No."

"So?"

"So, what?"

"So, do you want to play?" he asks, bumping against her shoulder. He cranes his neck and whispers close to her ear. "Do I get to watch?"

For the briefest moment, her body, sore as it is from earlier, is set aflame by the thought. It could be fun, she thinks. But then in the next moment, fear and jealousy grab hold of her as she imagines another woman's hands on the man beside her. "Are you that bored with me already?" she lashes out, old insecurities rising up.

"I beg your pardon?" Lucifer leans away to see her fully. He searches her face and frowns. "You can't possibly think that... But you do, don't you?" To the singer, he snaps, "All right, that's quite enough, thank you."

"So, what do you think? Will you help me?"

"Hah, that's a no," Lucifer says without preamble, and the young man's face falls. "Consider taking up a trade, perhaps."

"I think I should go," Chloe says, and moves to stand.

"What?" Lucifer grabs hold of her hand. "No, stay." He turns to the crowded line suddenly. "That's all for today!" he shouts. Grumbles and groans ripple through the line, and he yells, "Out, or someone will help you leave!"

They scurry away from the man they wrongly believe is a mob boss.

When it's just the two of them, Chloe glances at Lucifer, feeling small, confused, and exposed.

"I don't understand," Lucifer admits. "You desired those women. They desired us."

"Desire isn't all there is," Chloe says, staring at a spot on the floor.

Lucifer leans forward, trying to catch her line of sight. "Yes, it is. So, what is it you're desiring? You have to tell me, Chloe. You know I can't read you."

Tears sting her eyes. "What I want is you," she admits. Because she loves him and is sick with it.

"And you have me," Lucifer insists, his fingers wrapping around her wrist.

"You have a weird way of showing it. We've been together for a month, and you already want to sleep with other women." She shakes her head.

"You think someone could steal me away from you? That's utterly preposterous."

"I don't care that you're...you. I just wanted you to want me."

"To choose you?" he asks softly.

Chloe huffs, tired beyond understanding. "Yeah."

"Of course I bloody choose you. You're in a whole other league, darling."

Yes, she thinks, but what league? She sometimes feels so plain next to him, a borderline teetotaler, a single mom, and now jobless.

"You've interviewed my lovers," Lucifer says. "You know it's not the same." He rests a hand on her back, between her shoulder blades, but it isn't as soothing as it was earlier. "Darling, I've one kink, and one kink alone. I get off to people doing exactly as they please and including me in the fun along the way. Missionary, hanging from the rafters, strap-ons, it matters not.

"And before you think that makes me some selfless lover, I assure you it does not. I'm very greedy, especially when it comes to you. So, if you want to play with girls or boys, we'll play, and if you don't want to, we won't. And if you say yes, but then change your mind, it doesn't matter what we're doing, it will stop. It starts and ends with you and me. It's that simple."

Chloe rests her head in her hands. "It's just a lot, Lucifer. The PI business, the favors, and now...this."

"Yes," he sighs, "I suppose I could have timed things better, but, well, I get so excited, sharing these things with you. I've never had anyone to share them with, wanted to share them with. Except Maze, and that's not the same at all." He takes hold of one of her arms, pulling her upright to look at him. "But I forget how frightened you are of your own desires." He smiles at her sadly. "But you don't have to be. You're free with me. I'll never bind or chain you—well, unless you want me to. I'll only ever open doors, if I can help it."

A tear slips past her hold and burns its way down the side of her face. "Maybe some doors aren't meant to be opened, Lucifer. Maybe some desires shouldn't be explored." Gently, she extracts herself from his hold and stands. He watches, forlorn, as she scrubs at her eyes and heaves a deep breath. "I need some time...to figure things out. Okay?"

"I've ruined things, haven't I?" he says, and throws back his drink.

Chloe touches his cheek. "No," she whispers, and those three words fill her mouth again, but the timing is all wrong. Instead, she smiles faintly. "So, there's no need to go off the deep end and be dramatic."

He snorts and kisses her fingers. "Very well. I'll try to contain myself."


***


Nightmares disturb Chloe's sleep, wriggling like maggots through her subconscious. She sees the faces of the dead, frozen in agony, bloated beyond recognition, and chewed to the bone. All the shootings, the stabbings, the strangulations. Her father's face, lifeless and powdered white. Bruce Wilson's head, tilted, blood waterfalling from his skull.

Dreams shift like puzzle pieces hunting for a neighbor, and she stands in the loft, staring down the barrel of Cain's gun.

"I don't want to die," she breathes. "And I can't... Not without stopping you." She scrambles for her firearm, but it's as though she's wading through sludge. The wasted time costs her everything.

Cain squeezes the trigger, and his aim is true. Lucifer cries out as the bullet strikes between her eyes, puncturing flesh and driving through bone, to gray matter meat. The loft disappears in a brilliant, white light that explodes like a thunderclap in her head.

Chloe gasps awake, her body covered in sweat, pulse slamming against the surface of her skin. She breathes in small, quick puffs of air and squints at the bright sunshine coming through her bedroom blinds. That strange ripple of weakness she felt at the beach washes over her once again. Her stomach roils as she blinks up at the faint, pastel rainbow coloring her ceiling.

She turns her head, searching for what could be scattering the light. Years ago, she had a small, crystal teddy bear the size of a tennis ball, a gift from her grandmother, which acted as a prism, tossing bands of color, beneath the light of the sun. But Trixie knocked the keepsake over, shattering it, when she was a toddler...

Too tired and ill to explore it further, Chloe turns, reaching for Lucifer's pillow—and flinches when the colors follow her movement, shifting against the walls. She sits up, ignoring how the room spins, and looks around the bed in confusion. But there’s nothing—no glass, and even her phone is set aside on the nightstand, face down.

Chloe blinks and focuses, finally, on herself, finding her white skin too pale, and the morning light against it almost blinding. She slides to the left, where the room is blissfully shaded.

The prismatic colors disappear from the wall.

Frowning, she lifts her hands and stares at them, wondering if she's finally lost her mind after all that's happened. Slowly, she snakes her fingers across the bed cover, toward the light. The moment her fingertips meet the sun, she sees and feels how the light enters her skin and spreads outward. Opalescent colors burst across the ceiling and walls.

She snatches her hand back, as if burned.

Then does it all again.

"No, no, no," she mutters on the ninth try. "Nope, not happening. I am not seeing this."

But it is happening, and she is seeing it.

Chloe launches herself from her bed in a panic and forces herself to stand in the sun. Though she knows the room is cool, the heat hits her hard, as if she's stepped into a brick oven. She sways in place, stumbling back against the windowsill. Narrowing her eyes against the discomfort, she searches her body frantically, but finds only her hands disperse the light.

Lucifer. She needs to call Lucifer.

Is this prayer material? No. No, not immediate danger.

Just freaking the hell out.

She retreats to the shade and grabs her cell phone, her thumb hovering above his cheeky grin, but she stops herself from dialing. The only person who would freak out more about this than her might be Lucifer. It was bad enough when she was poisoned, but that had a human, earthly explanation. This... She looks at the plain flesh of her hand, which is behaving normally in the shadows. This doesn't feel like it has a human or earthly explanation.

But I'm human, she thinks. John Decker was human. Penelope Decker is human.

"Amenadiel blessed your mother."

Dread surges within her, but she shoves it back. Think, she tells herself, forcing herself to be calm and methodical, even as she wants to claw off her skin. Who else could help her?

Linda, she realizes a moment later. Linda is in the know, and has been the longest. Linda will know what's happening. Maybe.

Taking a deep breath, she calls the therapist, hoping against hope that she's not in session with a client.

Linda answers on the fourth ring. "Chloe! What's up?"

Chloe steps toward the light and holds up her hand. Color spills wherever she angles her fingers. "Linda, I think...something's wrong with me."

Chapter Text

Most drug empires specialize in one or two drugs, but Hector de la Cruz is a firm believer in diversification. His empire produces its share of blow and smack, but it also caters to obscure tastes, to those searching for answers to life's biggest questions down their gut, up their nose, and in their veins. His empire peddles the mind-altering spiritual experiences one can achieve under the likes of acid, DMT, shrooms, and ecstasy. He even owns Ayahuasca retreats in Peru.

What the De la Cruz empire is best known for is its peculiar ingredients that often come with the not-quite-promises of improved health, reduced wrinkles, and aphrodisiacal side effects. Why snort a line of boring old coke, when you might try it laced with saint's blood? Enjoy your rave on Molly and mermaid scales. Or, hell, try Viagra crossed with white buffalo horn. There's no guarantee you'll live longer, look better, have an out-of-body experience, or see the face of God, but there's always the chance you might.

The chemists at the disposal of the De la Cruz empire have the processing of such numinous ingredients down to a literal, if simple, science: grind them up to the finest powder, or water them down to near-homeopathic levels. Spray a very light mist of the diluted ingredient across a row of blotter papers, add a speck of dust to heroin, and so on, and voilà, an artisanal experience awaits. For a price.

There are branches of the empire for everything: logistics, design and marketing, distribution, and accounting. Most operations start in Mexico and slither their way up into California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, but occasionally the snake slithers in the opposite direction. It all depends on the ingredients and whether Hector de la Cruz is hobnobbing with the elite in the U.S. or Mexico.

Shayna de la Cruz doesn't pretend to understand the specific demands Peter Avery has set for the alleged devil feathers—or why her father is so willing to cooperate. Hector may be grooming her to take over the family business, but he intends to live another several decades and so is hardly an open book. But, for whatever reason, he believes in the quality of the ingredient and bends to Avery's wishes. Los Angeles distribution only, and there's a list of dealers they aren't meant to sell to.

It seems like a lot of trouble for a celestial ingredient. Ninety-eight percent of the time, they turn out to be duds (someone did the math), but that pesky fact doesn't slow business for the De la Cruzes anymore than it's stopped the pseudoscientific ventures of Hollywood celebrities. Of course, the other two percent of the time... That's made even Shayna a believer. Her father, a lifelong cocaine user, wouldn't look as he does without a little supernatural help.

Her own faith is strengthened when she tries the first batch of Firefly. There can't be any more than a grain of sand's worth of those feathers in the concoction, but Shayna sees things that make her weep. All the colors of the universe, the blinding white light and heat of stars born and dying in the heavens. Above all else, is a sense of boundless peace. The feeling that nothing is wrong, has ever been wrong, will ever be wrong; that everything is connected and has meaning. At the tail end of the high, she thinks she hears the universe sing.

Later that night, when she stands beneath the hot spray of her shower, she realizes every scar on her body has healed. All from a crumb of divinity.


***


For all important, delicate, and brutal tasks, Hector sends his daughter. At thirty-four, she's already earned several nicknames: The Henchman, The Nail, La Bruja. Among the less eloquent, she's often just called a bitch. She's smart, mean, and efficient, and doesn't mind getting her hands dirty—likes it, even.

Her sleek, black motorcycle roars beneath her as she speeds along the 110. She takes the exit to Carson and navigates to one of their suburban drop-off sites for a vehicle change. The neighborhood is filled with single-story, middle class family homes, and the neighbors here have no clue what's in their midst. She pulls into the driveway of a plain, stucco house, casually waves to a neighbor as she goes, and tucks her motorcycle away in the garage. With the door closed, she changes the car tags on the old, white Honda sedan back to what they're supposed to be. In less than five minutes, she's on her way to Palos Verdes Estates, to the nouveau-riche house purchased under Victoria Imler's name.

She parks in the driveway and enters through the front door, a small box wedged beneath one arm. As she enters, a black poodle comes bounding up to her, yapping excitedly. Behind the dog, a man rises from the couch. He's dressed plainly—white t-shirt, snug jeans, but it suits him, and Shayna's gaze lingers on his muscles and tattoos. She could do without the ones on his face, but they're artful enough, and he's still a handsome man.

Eddie Rosales is a little fish, and only ever will be due to an overdeveloped conscience and an underdeveloped sense of ambition. But Shayna likes him a little more than the average person, and he's a surprisingly attentive lover.

"Shay, baby!" Eddie exclaims, his arms spread wide. "Long time no see."

"Hey, Eddie."

Shayna ignores his obvious invitation for a hug as she walks past him. She throws the box onto the kitchen counter and scowls when she notices the poodle has followed her, stubby tail wagging. The dog sniffs at her motorcycle boots. "I told you to stop bringing your fucking dog here."

"I know, but nobody could take Lola for me today. And you know she's my baby."

Shayna rolls her eyes. Her friends with benefits pool is filled with drifters, thugs, momma's boys, and drug abusers. Occasionally, she meets men who embody all four characteristics at a time. It would be different if her father had raised a princess to meet with politician's sons, but he honed a knife, instead. Knives always mingle with less interesting tools.

Eddie, for his part, is a drifter. He could make more of his life, but he enjoys floating from one girlfriend's bed to another, mooching as he goes. If he were smart, he'd save the money he makes from selling drugs and working at the hardware store, but Shayna doubts he has it in him. He owns a Lamborghini. Dumb purchase for a drug dealer, but then Shayna's never fucked Eddie for his brains.

Flipping open her pocket knife, she slices the taped box. She peels back the box flaps and reveals a pile of heroin baggies.

"Cool stamp," Eddie says, coming to stand beside her. He flicks a bag with his index finger.

"It's a firefly," she explains, sliding her hands around his waist. She toys with his belt buckle while staring around his arm at the open box of heroin. "You need to sell it that way. It's not just heroin. It's firefly heroin."

"Okay, but where's the rest?"

"This is all you're getting." She doesn't mention this is the case because he isn't good or well-connected enough to handle anything larger.

"What?" Eddie wheezes a laugh. "You know this won't take any time to move."

"It'll take longer than usual. It's got a special ingredient. Costs a bit extra."

He lifts one of the bags and peers at it, as if doing so might help him understand it on a chemical level. "How special?"

"Special enough that you don't get a taste," she says, snatching the baggy from his fingers.

Eddie shakes his head. "You know I don't touch H."

She does. Until recently, he only sold weed, but legalization has killed the black market even more than medical did.

"Your friend uses," she says.

"I have lots of friends," Eddie hedges.

Arching a brow, Shayna moves away from him and drops the bag back into the box. She takes his right hand in both of hers and says sweetly, "Eddie, don't ever think because you're a good lay I don't keep tabs on you. I help my father run an empire, not a corner store. That little troll you give discounts to at your abuela's? Don't take this stuff near him. He'll steal it, and then you'll be on the hook for it."

"Okay, okay." Eddie holds up his hands in defeat. "Just, you know, David's an addict, but he's a decent guy."

"Sure," she chuckles. "Just keep in mind Good Guy David doesn't have the money for Firefly, and you're not gonna want to give him a discount."

Eddie looks back at the heroin. "That pure, huh? High-end clients only?"

"Start the price at a thousand a bag. There are five hundred bags here."

"Wait." Eddie's face screws up in confusion. "You mean for a bundle, right?" He shakes his head. "Even then, nobody's gonna pay that..."

"No, per bag. I told you. It has a special ingredient."

"What's the ingredient?"

"Angel feathers."

"Aww, Shay," Eddie groans, "you know I don't wanna sell shit that's been laced with stuff that could hurt people. Especially some snake oil. Not even to the rich assholes around here."

"Eddie. You push heroin."

"Yeah, but still. People should know what they're getting into."

Jesus Christ, a drug dealer with a heart of gold. She's seen it all.

"Look, some of the stuff my father sources and has put into drugs, I'll be the first to admit it's worthless. We all know it. This stuff, though..." She looks at the heroin bags and breathes out a small laugh. "It's real. Some people have been healed using it."

Eddie's brows furrow. "What do you mean healed?"

"I mean, healed—scars gone, wrinkles smoothed, tumors shrunk."

"So, I should target the sick."

Shayna shrugs. "Target whoever. Just get the cash, same as always." She pats the side of the box. "With any luck, there'll be more where this came from." Turning, she leans her back against the counter and starts to unbutton her kevlar jeans. "Now, how about you talk a little less?"


***


When she's finally done making her rounds and deliveries to dealers around the city, it's three in the morning. She stops at a twenty-four-hour diner for coffee and to eat something she'll no doubt regret in a few hours. Plunking her motorcycle helmet down onto a kitschy, laminated table, she takes a seat and kicks up her boots on the booth facing her. While she's holding up the menu, browsing it, she feels the cushion sink down near her heels.

Shayna lowers the menu slowly, only to look into the face of Peter Avery, née Marcus Pierce. "Can I help you?" she asks.

If this big man thinks he's going to startle a poor, defenseless woman, he's got another thing coming. The black contact lenses are a nice touch, but don't work on her, either.

"Just thought I'd see how your day went."

"Aww, that's sweet, honey, but we're not married, and I'm not interested in dinner or pillow talk." She tears open a packet of sugar and tips it into her coffee. "You're the guy in the black SUV who's been following me all day, right? You're lucky I knew it was you and that my father has a standing deal with you."

Avery seethes. "All I want to know is that everything went smoothly."

"It did. My father sent me." She sips her coffee and grimaces at the lackluster flavor. "Why do you care so much about the timing and logistics, anyway?" Money is money, but more money is even better. The fact that the whole of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills is one of his no-go zones is driving her crazy with questions.

Shayna can tell he considers not replying, but after a moment he says, "Have you ever hated anyone, De la Cruz?"

"Oh, yeah. Your 'score to settle.'" Tilting her head, she smiles. "Me? I hate everybody equally." Knowing people are dirt bags, deep down, is what makes her such a good soldier.

"No," he growls, leaning forward. "I mean really hated someone."

"Maybe," she says.

"Then you know it's not enough to destroy them cleanly. Even if that's the smart thing to do."

Shayna stares and says nothing. For the first time, Avery's presence bothers her, and gelid fear snakes around her spine. Even she has to admit he's one scary motherfucker. Something about him just isn't right. But her father's been doing business with him for decades, and that's the way of it. Not to mention his celestial ingredient is the real deal, whether the feathers are from the literal Devil or not. She, for one, isn't even sure the Devil's real.

"So," she says, sniffing, "we've done our part. When do we get access to your supply?"

Avery shakes his head and leans back. "Not until I'm sure you've done a good job." He shuffles out of the booth and looks down at her with his black eyes. "I'll be in touch soon."

Usually, that's her line.

After she's finished her coffee and country fried steak, she remounts her motorcycle, her helmet tucked under her arm. Looking around to ensure she's alone, she digs into the right pocket of her leather jacket and pulls out the lone bag of Firefly. She aches to hear the universe sing.

Chapter Text

Chloe pulls on the one pair of winter gloves she owns, unlocks the front door in preparation for Linda, and drags from her kitchen cabinet the most expensive liquor Lucifer has stocked in her home. She retreats to the bathmat of the upstairs bathroom, where she hides all her grownup meltdowns from Trixie.

The whisky burns, but she powers through. Drinking may not be the best decision right now, but not drinking is out of the question. She feels an extreme kinship with Lucifer as she looks up at the ceiling, that old Albert Einstein quote about God not playing dice with the universe playing on repeat in her head.

And just what is God up to?

She hears the front door open. "Chloe?" Linda calls.

"Up here!" she answers.

Linda's high heels strike the wood flooring of the stairwell in quick succession. A moment later, she peeks around the bathroom door. "Hey," she says, her smile cautious, "I left as soon as we got off the phone."

"I'm sorry I've screwed up your day."

"Don't worry about it." Linda drops her purse to the bathroom counter, kicks off her stilettos, and sinks to the bathmat beside Chloe. "I see we're drinking. At ten in the morning."

"Yep."

Linda nods, and the tiny part of Chloe that isn't screaming inside appreciates the acceptance. Straightening out the lines of her purple dress, Linda asks, "So. What did he do?"

"Huh?"

"This is about Lucifer, right?"

"Oh." Chloe laughs tiredly. "More about his dad, I guess." Not to say there isn't plenty to bring up about Lucifer. Apparently one therapy session with Linda might not be enough when you're dating a son of God. Or literally exist only because of angelic interference.

"Existential crisis. Gotcha. Do you want to talk about it? You sounded really upset on the phone." A pause. "Why are you wearing ski gloves?"

"Oh, yeah, like my new style?" Chloe laughs and extends her black-gloved hands out from her body. They're quite the fashion statement alongside the white-and-green-striped t-shirt and shorts she slept in. She draws the liquor bottle close and swigs more whisky.

"Is there a...reason you're wearing ski gloves?"

She sets the bottle aside. "I think I have to show you. And, just so you know," she warns, "you're going to freak out, because I'm going to freak out."

"I promise to do my best not to freak out," Linda says, resting a hand on her arm. "I survived Lucifer's devil face."

Chloe nods. In that context, a little light-throwing really doesn't seem like a big deal. Until she remembers it's happening to her own body. Taking a deep breath, she pulls off her right glove, baring a normal-looking hand. She turns toward the frosted, round window of the bathroom. Soft light pours through it onto the floor. Chloe leans sideways and stretches toward the golden pool of light.

Although she hopes she'll feel foolish, that nothing at all will happen, it's just like before. The light's heat wraps around her fingertips like a second skin, bleeding into her body until her white flesh seems almost to glow with it. Iridescent dots of color project onto the nearest wall.

"Oh my Lord."

Frightened by her own body, Chloe looks back at Linda as if she's a life raft in a wide, open sea. But Linda's troubled expression isn't reassuring. She stares at Chloe's hand, her mouth agape as she clutches at her middle.

"You said you wouldn't freak out!"

"No, I said I'd try not to freak out! Biiig difference."

Wincing, Chloe withdraws herself from the light. Linda gasps at the sudden movement and spider-walks backward on her hands and heels. Chloe freezes. "Linda, I would never hurt you."

A terrible thought hits her. Can she hurt people now, just by existing? What about Trixie? She worries she might throw up as she drags the ski glove back on.

Linda looks frantically around the bathroom. "The gloves cover...that?"

That. Her. Her body. Chloe nods. "Even disposable gloves seem to work, but...I didn't want to take chances."

"Okay, let's just stay calm," Linda says, though Chloe isn't sure which of them she's saying it to. "We don't know what's going on yet, so let's try not to apply judgment."

"You just crawled away from me."

"Yeah, but there's some history there you may not know about. Nearly died 'cause Lucifer's mother tried to fry me with her light."

Chloe's eyes widen.

"Right. Didn't think he'd have gotten around to telling you that. Long story." Linda stands, dusts off the back of her dress, and pulls her cell phone from her purse. "I'm calling Lucifer."

"No!" Chloe clamors, scrambling to stop her from dialing. Linda flinches away, and Chloe subsides, sitting back on her heels. "Sorry. Just...please don't call him."

"Chloe, I know I've somehow become therapist to the freaking celestials, but the whole supernatural thing isn't exactly my expertise."

"I don't want him to know yet. Not until I'm sure I'm okay. If this has anything to do with the whole...miracle thing, he's going to lose it." She feels like an ass whenever she thinks of herself as a miracle, but there it is.

"Okay, I hear your concerns and think they're valid," Linda says, "but Lucifer isn't going to take being kept in the dark any better."

Chloe grimaces, knowing she's right. "I just can't deal with his panic and my own right now." Even if he didn't panic, she's not sure she could stomach well-intentioned hovering any better.

Linda nods hesitantly. "Then we need to call Maze."

"Maze?" Chloe echoes in disbelief. "She almost got Lucifer and me killed."

"Yep. Yep, that was bad."

"Do you even know where she is?"

"Um, she's been staying with me." She holds up a hand. "I know. You don't have to say it. But she feels really bad about the things she did to you and Lucifer—well, as bad as a demon can feel about betrayal and torture." She nods, looking a little shell-shocked. "We're working on that. Slowly."

Chloe holds the liquor bottle to her chest. "Okay, call her. Just don't call Lucifer."

Maze arrives twenty minutes later. She tromps into the bathroom, takes one look at Chloe, and says, "You look like shit."

"Maze," Linda admonishes.

"That's what you have to say to me?" Chloe snaps. "After you pushed me toward a psychopath?"

Maze rolls her eyes. "Hey, I'll be the first to admit I could have handled that better, but I was going through a lot."

"Oh. Oh, I see. You were going through a lot," Chloe says, leaning over her bent knees as she glares up at her former roommate. The whisky bottle tilts precariously as she vents.

"If you're that pissed, why am I even here?" Maze asks.

"I'm gonna show her," Chloe says, and Linda backs away.

"Show me what?"

Again, she goes through the process of pulling off her glove and stretching toward the light. As soon as the prismatic colors dance across the wall, Maze laughs so hard she snorts like a pig.

"Thanks," Chloe gripes, stuffing her hand back into the glove. "Really helping, Maze."

"Oh, come on. It's funny." The massive grin doesn't slip from Maze's face as she leans against the vanity. "How was I supposed to know you were gonna light up like an ornament?"

"The main thing, Maze," Linda says, "is we need to know that she's okay."

"How the hell should I know?"

"Because you're a demon?"

"So? Light has Lucifer's dad written all over it." She looks between Chloe and Linda. "Why haven't you called Lucifer?"

Chloe sinks her forehead onto her knees and groans.

The front door opens again. "Hey, Chlo!"

"Izzy!" Chloe shouts. The room tilts pleasantly, and she realizes the alcohol is finally doing its job. "We're up here!"

"Ooh, is this Isabel?" Linda says excitedly. "Oh, I can't wait to meet her."

"Who?" Maze asks.

"My roommate," Chloe answers. "Dan's sister."

"She's a witch," Linda says conspiratorially.

Maze arches a skeptical brow. "Bitch-witch or witch-witch?"

"Witch-witch," Izzy answers as she appears in the bathroom doorway.

Chloe experiences a brief reprieve from her anxiety as Maze does a double-take. She looks the other woman up and down with obvious, hedonistic interest. "You're Dan's sister?" Maze asks.

"I am." Izzy smiles. Her mascara is a little smudged, and she's dressed in the black top and black, ripped jeans she wore on her date the night before, but she's no less striking for any of it. "Maze and Linda, right?"

The two women look at her blankly.

"Danny and Trixie talk." Izzy glances around the room. "Why are we congregating in the bathroom?"

"It is almost like a Tribe Night," Linda comments, and reaches for the whisky bottle she's begun to share with Chloe. "Maybe we should call Ella."

"Decker's all aglow," Maze explains, throwing a hand toward Chloe. "Show her."

If Izzy's surprised when Chloe spills fragmented colors, she doesn't quite show it. "Well," she says, plopping down beneath the towel rack, "looks like the cards were right, Chlo."

"I don't want this," Chloe says, and Izzy shrugs, as if such feelings don't factor into the universe's equation. And maybe they don't.

They spend the next half-hour crammed inside the bathroom, brainstorming and sinking deeper into the bottle—well, bottles, plural. They've got nothing for it: no idea what's happening or how it works. Finally, they Facetime Ella during her lunch break.

"Wow!" Ella shouts. "Just wow."

Chloe turns the phone back to her face and glares into it. Her head is so fuzzy she almost doesn't care what's happening to her anymore, but she has enough of her faculties to know she should be annoyed. "Can't say I feel as excited as you do."

"Don't you get it? This is, like, your superhero origin story. God's plan for you."

"God's plans have a pretty bad track record," Maze says.

"We don't know that," Ella argues. "We're looking at it from our teeny-tiny perspectives. I'm sure the Big Guy can see the whole picture."

Chloe sighs. "Reflecting the sun is not...cool, Ella."

"Oh, you're not reflecting it," Ella says. "You're refracting it. So, really, even cooler."

Linda squints, thinking. "I think I remember learning about that in high school. Reflections are light bouncing off something. Refraction is..." She drops off, uncertain.

"Light waves change direction when they're refracted," Ella explains. "Usually because they're passing through something else—in this case, I guess, it's you, Chloe. That's gotta be why you're seeing colors on the wall. White light is being split into its individual colors."

The way Ella takes all of this in stride blows Chloe's mind, and frankly, makes her wonder about her friend.

"You'll be a big hit at Pride parades," Maze jokes.

"Great," Chloe says, her tone thick with sarcasm, "but how do I make it stop?"

"Beats me," Ella says. "Have you talked to Lucifer?"

"Is there a chance she's causing this to happen to herself?" Linda asks Maze after they end the videocall with Ella, who had to return to work. "Like with Lucifer's and Amenadiel's wings?"

The demon shrugs. "Maybe, but she's not an angel, so who knows? Humans aren't supposed to have stuff like this happen to them. But I don't know how many humans are miracles."

From where she sits beneath the towel rack, Izzy shuffles her tarot deck reflexively. Chloe, tanked to the point of somnolence, listens to the satisfying prrrbt of the cards as they slap against each other.

"Lucifer told me the LAPD let you go from your job," Linda says, and Chloe stares at her dully. "That's a lot to handle. Has anything else been going on that might affect you emotionally?"

Chloe snorts, then laughs, and then can't stop laughing.

"Good job, Linda, you broke her," Maze says.

"Has anything been going on?" Chloe wheezes through her laughter. "Let's see." She holds up a gloved finger. "The guy I almost married was the world's first murderer." A second finger. "My boyfriend, who's actually Satan, killed him." A third finger. "My ten-year-old sees auras." A fourth finger and a swallowed hiccup. "And, yeah, I lost my job because I stupidly killed a suspect and"—she holds up both hands, fingers splayed out—"because there are mean, old, corrupt assholes on the force. And Lucifer wants to open a private investigation firm with me. Oh, and apparently I'm not straight." She throws her hands up in the air.

Linda nods, wide-eyed.

"Wait, you really didn't know you liked girls?" Maze laughs, and Izzy looks no less amused. "I knew."

"Maze," Linda reprimands. She pats Chloe's knee. "You are going through a lot. If what's happening to you works anything like how it does for Lucifer and Amenadiel, it would maybe make sense that it would occur now, wouldn't it?"

Chloe doesn't know. She's not sure she knows anything anymore. The world stopped making sense the moment she saw the Devil. But then, she thinks, staring at the liquor in her glass, that's not really true, is it? That's a lie she's telling herself. In fact, more things make sense now than in the past. They just aren't easy truths.

Maze's phone rings, interrupting Chloe. She draws it from her back pocket. "It's Lucifer," she announces, and the room stills.

"Don't tell him," Chloe pleads.

"Sure. Whatever." She answers the call. "Hey. Uh-huh. No. Okay. So you want me to watch over Chloe?" She looks at Chloe and rolls her eyes. "Does this mean you're over the whole Cain thing? Okay. Fine."

The call ends like every other call Chloe has ever overheard between the two: abruptly.

"Is this...something he does?" Chloe asks, bleary eyes narrowed. "Sets you to watch over me?"

"Sometimes," Maze answers, shrugging. "What? He's the Lord of Hell. He's going to be paranoid, Chloe. Look, you should probably tell him what's going on, but if you don't want to, I know where we can lay low for a few days while you figure things out."

"You do?"

Maze jumps up, unaffected by the alcohol she's drunk. "Yep. Pack a bag, Decker."

With Izzy and Linda's help, Chloe stumbles to her feet.


***


Two hours in a Miata with a demon...what could go wrong? An hour in, Chloe groans and rests her head into the crook of her arm. Even with sunglasses, the ache behind her eyes has worsened as the alcohol has begun to wear off. The Viking metal playing on low-volume isn't helping any, either. At least the convertible top is up.

"I'm taking a finger if you throw up in my car."

"Yeah, well, you can have this one," Chloe says, the polyester of her ski glove swishing as she lifts a middle finger.

Maze cackles. "Having your life go to hell suits you, Decker."

"Where are we going again?" she asks. She's certain she asked when she was packing, but the details are fuzzy now that she's sobered up.

"Near Ojai. Lucifer has a place there."

Chloe looks up, incredulous. "You left out that it was his place, I think. I'm trying not to alert him, Maze."

"Do you know how much property Lucifer owns?" Maze laughs, and Chloe recalls the expensive home where Cain killed his protégé. "Besides, it's private," Maze continues, "and he'd never think to look there if he were to go looking for you. I don't think he's even visited it before."

"Lucifer owns a place he's never been to?" And then, she thinks, of course he does.

"He's the Devil," Maze says, as if this explains everything, and maybe it does. "He's more into rubbing elbows and making deals than he is accumulating wealth. It's just the one leads to the other. Trust me, he has no idea what he owns."

"Why, though?" She thinks of his ledger. "Why all the deals and favors?" she asks, and then promptly grabs hold of the door handle as Maze jerks the wheel to the left and guns it, passing another driver on a double-yellow line.

"You want the truth, or are you still in denial about who he is?"

"I want the truth."

"Okay, so, think of it this way: what's the cruelest punishment?"

"Uh, torture?" Chloe guesses, struggling to follow the intention behind the unexpected question.

"Yep, but not just physical torture." She shakes her head and sighs. "Sadly, it's emotional anguish that breaks most souls, living or dead. The best way to punish someone? Figure out what they want most and take it from them."

"But that's not what Lucifer does," Chloe protests.

"Not usually, no. But it's what God wanted him to do—to test humans, to lead you astray if he could, to punish you when you failed. So, yeah, Lucifer does the exact opposite of what Daddy wanted. But toying with desire? That's just who God made him as the Light Bringer." She spits the moniker like a curse. "He mostly doesn't mind if it's on his own terms."

A quiet rebellion, Chloe thinks, and suddenly Lucifer's desire-fueled hedonism seems even more tragic than it did before she knew the truth. But there's also something wonderful about him finding a way to make his gifts his own.

When it becomes apparent Chloe has nothing else to say, Maze turns the volume up on her music. A husky-voiced woman screams in a Scandinavian language. Chloe stares at her ski gloves and wonders if she'll need to have a quiet rebellion of her own.


***


Lucifer's ranch is buried deep in the hills and enveloped by trees. As they wind along the property's private road, Chloe looks out the passenger window, her jaw slack and her headache momentarily forgotten. A vineyard as big as, if not bigger than, Wilson's sunflower farm stretches out on either side of the road.

After a while, the paved road curves sharply, and a sprawling, ranch-style house comes into view. The older architectural style has been updated with large windows, concrete and steel accents, and a light gray, metal roof. Monkey grass lines a stone pathway up to a small patio and an oaken door.

"It's beautiful," Chloe murmurs.

Maze parks her car. "It's all right. I like the city. Out here, it's too"—she turns up her nose in disgust—"clean."

"You know," Chloe says, staring at her, "I have no idea how I ever thought you weren't a demon."

"Me neither," Maze says, climbing out of the driver's seat. "Come on, shiny."

There's a nickname Chloe can do without.

If the outside of the house is charming, the inside is stunning. Polished hardwood gleams alongside plush rugs, and the open plan means one end of the home can very nearly be seen from the other. The interior design is simple and clean, favoring beiges, greens, and blues. Ironically, it's the kind of place she can imagine Lucifer liking, if he ever bothers to visit.

Chloe sets her backpack down on a beige sofa and dares to take off her sunglasses and gloves. It's a relief to be in the shaded interior of the house. Even the Miata's over-tinted windows hadn't blocked out all of the sun. Without that source of discomfort, Chloe's headache eases, and her stomach calms.

Slamming the front door shut behind her, Maze drops a bag of her own onto the floor. It clanks suspiciously—or maybe not so suspiciously at all, given it belongs to Maze. "All right, Chloe, here's the deal."

That doesn't sound good. Chloe turns to her.

Maze stalks close, her leather pants and black crop top hugging her toned muscles. "I've been with Lucifer for thousands of years. He can be a real dumbass, so I get needing space from him when you've got your own shit to deal with. But he's only just stopped hating me today, so we'll lay low for a few days and try to figure out what's up with you, but after that? You're calling him and telling him what's going on. Or I am." She shrugs a shoulder. "I'm tired of being on the Devil's shit list. It's not a great place to be."

"Okay," Chloe agrees with a sigh.

"And don't try anything stupid. You can't run away from me in a few days, just to keep avoiding him."

"I wouldn't try to—"

"You're freaking out. You don't know what you'll do. But running would be pointless." Maze grins and licks her teeth. "Then again, catching you might be fun, especially now that you're out of the closet."

Chloe glares at her.

"All I'm saying is I'm right down the hall, Decker."

They order pizza for dinner and watch trash TV, and it almost feels like nothing has come between them. Like Chloe never saw Maze's blade stabbed, hilt-deep, in her ex-fiance's chest.

Tossing a gnawed-on crust into the empty pizza box, Maze leans back into the sofa and belches. "Let's go see if you light up under the moon." She turns off the television.

Chloe tenses in her recliner. "I-I don't know that I'm ready." It's been nice, pretending she's normal.

"Look," Maze says, sitting forward with her elbows on her knees, "God's fucking with you. You're not the first. You won't be the last. Deal with it. Get over it. Move on. You don't wanna be like Lucifer."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Chloe snaps, bristling.

"It means, don't waste your life trying to figure God out. There's nothing to figure out. Lucifer's dad 'works in mysterious ways,' remember? It just is. So it's pointless trying to make sense of it. Lucifer's never heard from his dad since he fell. And Amenadiel?" she says. "He's telling us no one in the Silver City has even spoken to God in decades."

"Amenadiel's back?"

"No. He just flew in to drop that on Lucifer's lap, as if Lucifer can do anything about any of it." She rolls her eyes. "Here's the thing, Chloe, Amenadiel didn't even get a direct commandment from God to bless your mom—Heaven's running on autopilot, just like Hell. So, whatever's happening to you, only God knows, and he's not talking. Doesn't change that it's happening. The sooner you accept that, the better."

Chloe looks down at her hands. "But I'm human... Aren't I?"

"Hell if I know, but here's to hoping you're not. Being human sucks."

Reluctantly, Chloe follows her onto the back patio. Solar-powered fairy lights and a luminous waning moon paint the wicker outdoor furniture with an inviting glow.

"Anything?" Maze asks, wiggling her fingers like a demented conjurer.

Chloe holds up a hand in the night. It's only her hand, no fancy light show, but she feels a sensation similar to the one she's felt in the sun all day, how the light caresses her skin and worms its way into her blood, warming it. She looks up at the moon, the investigative wheels of her mind turning.

"It's weaker at night," she says. "I guess I feel the sun...reflecting off the moon?"

It's a solid observation, but her world pitches a little at it because this isn't how the sun should feel, day or night. Like it's a bottomless drink, and she's a straw.

Maze reaches out suddenly and takes her hands.

"I could hurt you," Chloe gasps, trying to pull away, but Maze holds on.

"I'm tough, Chloe. Besides, you don't want to hurt me, so you won't."

Chloe trembles as tears well in her eyes. Maybe a tiny part of her believed no one would ever want to hold her hand again. "I don't know what's happening to me, Maze."

"Take a deep breath."

"Is this demon-guided meditation?"

"Just do it."

She draws in a breath, then another, and then another. "I still feel it," she says, panic-stricken.

"That's what you get to live with then," Maze says, gripping Chloe's fingers tightly. Not to comfort, but to drive home the point. "That feeling under your skin. That's a part of you that you can hide or use. Every human's got a secret like it, Chloe. We just have it a little more literally."

We. Because Maze isn't sure Chloe's human. And Chloe isn't sure either.

"What's your secret?" Chloe asks.

She expects words, but it's Maze, so of course she doesn't get them. Instead, Maze transforms beneath the moonlight. Her face is cleaved in half by the change, the left side corrupted by a web of ashen, decayed flesh. She stares at Chloe with one dark eye and a ghastly, gold-tinged cataract. The left corner of her mouth pulls back in a rictus smile that bares worn teeth.

Chloe presses her heels into the ground, willing herself not to bolt. She's seen the Devil. She can face his favorite demon, too. And so she holds onto Maze's hands as hard as she wants to shove them away, in a death grip that would hurt a human.

"H-how do you do that?"

"It's like a muscle," Maze answers, and Chloe isn't sure whether it's more or less terrifying to see and hear Maze's voice come out of her demonic form. "Find the muscle, and you can flex it or you can relax it. Kinda like kegels."

Laughter breaks through Chloe's fear, and Maze chuckles with her. Although Maze doesn't immediately return to her human mask, Chloe can only see the face of an old friend.


***


Chloe approaches her body's betrayal as methodically as any investigation into a homicide. If there's a way to control what's happening to her, she'll find it, and she knows the most likely place the answer is hidden is deep within herself. And so she forces herself to sit in the sun, her eyes screwed shut, pain hammering at her temples, while she hunts for the truth. Daylight is a heavy, onerous blanket that sinks into her bones. Only the earth beneath her, where she sits amid the grass, is cool and comforting.

She tries to follow the heat of the sun from her fingertips, down into her skin and muscle, blood and bone, but she loses track of the sensation somewhere, if she ever has hold of it at all. Over and over again, she senses she almost has it, only to have it slip away and blend in seamlessly with the mysteries of her internal organs.

"Dammit," she growls, opening her eyes and slapping a palm to the ground.

"You need to relax," Maze instructs, from where she reclines in a nearby lounge chair. "I don't know, sext Lucifer or something. Maybe he'd stop whining at me then."

"I can't do anything like this," Chloe complains, grimacing when the hues of light dance across the grass as she gesticulates.

Maze snorts. "It's just a little light, Decker. It's not like you're a monster."

She scowls at the demon over her shoulder. "That's not what humans will think." She hates how, the more she dwells on it, the more she feels she's in separate category—something other. Whether she's still technically human, like Cain was, or not, this is not human. Not normal. Even wearing gloves all the time to hide it wouldn't be normal. "I mean, the Salem witch trials were a thing, Maze."

"Oh, yeah, we tortured some of the guys behind those. Nothing I love more than flaying a misogynist," Maze sighs dreamily, while picking at a nail with one of her knives. "Where do you think the term chauvinist pig comes from? Men like that are weak, Chloe. They squeal lots."

"There's Trixie to think about," she says, refocusing the conversation. "I can't look like this and be a good mom."

That, at least, Maze seems to take seriously. She looks down at her leather boots. "With Trixie and all...you think I could maybe see her sometime?"

"You owe her an apology. You really hurt her."

"I know I do. I'll find a way to make it up to her."

Chloe nods. "Okay."

The demon's head pops up. "Really?"

"Yeah, maybe with me there?"

"Sure, okay. We can have a girls' night."

The thought makes Chloe smile, but just as quickly her expression turns serious. "Just don't ever put her in danger," she says.

"Chloe, I'd die for Trixie." The words aren't said lightly. They're an oath.

They stare at each other for a long moment before Chloe nods and returns to her inner struggle. Nothing she tries works, and after a while, the heat becomes unbearable, forcing her to retreat to the house to avoid another fainting spell. She goes to her room, tugs the blinds and curtains closed, and sleeps for fourteen hours straight.

The next day is no less frustrating. She stays in the same spot outdoors for hours, long after her rear end and legs go numb. She tries bizarre breathing techniques, flexes different muscle groups, and searches her soul for levers. Eventually, her mind tires of focusing and begins to wander, sifting through past events.

The trip down memory lane starts where it so often does: at her father's funeral, to breaking her knuckles open on an intrepid paparazzo's camera lens. To the police academy and all the casual boob jokes made at her expense.

To Dan Espinoza's smile, which was easy and genuine, instead of manipulative and lascivious. To dates and sex, to I love you over ice cream, to moving in together, to an ill-fitted engagement ring and courthouse wedding that, at the time, felt like more than enough.

To the colors of Mexico City and a positive pregnancy test, to fear and anxiety, to a little girl at her breast. To missing first words and first steps and hoping motherhood wasn't a big mistake. To learning, much later, it definitely wasn't.

To her marriage disintegrating because of duty and dullness and deception. To a corrupt cop shot and a precinct full of adversaries. To a pop singer's bullet-ridden body and the frustratingly-cocky nightclub owner who simply wouldn't go away, who she now can't imagine letting go of.

"Lucifer...Morningstar. Is that, uh, a stage name or something?"

"God-given, I'm afraid."

The memory of his infuriating smirk is rose-tinted by affection. Deep and warm in the center of her chest, where she stores Trixie's pealing laughter and the Devil's secrets. His darkness and his light.

Light.

Suddenly, she feels it, as if it's always been right there, wedged close to her beating heart, incandescent and ready to be manipulated. Chloe clutches at it mentally, and it's as though a valve twists in her mind's eye, releasing steam with its sudden appearance. Her migraine and nausea subside.

A twist to the right, and the light is contained. A twist to the left, and— Her eyes snap open as more light sweeps through her like an electrical current tearing through a filament. Vivid prismatic colors paint the grass, and she's astounded, knowing it comes from her body. In the absence of pain and discomfort, she's taken, finally, by awe, wonderful and terrible, as when she first dared to stand before a winged devil.

Now that she knows where the light passes through her body, it's impossible not to feel it; not to feel how the sun enters her skin and arcs throughout her body, angling and angling until it pours from her chest, down into her arms, and resurfaces in her fingertips. And still she feels she could open herself up more—more and more, until, maybe, Chloe Jane Decker would cease to exist. Until there would only be light piercing a vacuum, straight and true.

It's a little addictive, this feeling, and she wrenches at the internal spigot in a panic to regain control. It's not...easy, but it is natural, akin to bending her arm at an awkward angle to scratch a hard-to-reach itch. She watches the colors fade and then disappear altogether.

"Maze!" she cries, ecstatic. "I made it go away!"

She turns and sees the demon is already watching her with narrowed eyes. Maze rises and saunters forward. Squatting in the grass, she reaches for Chloe's face.

"What are you doing?" Chloe complains, batting her hand away.

"Just hold still." She grabs Chloe's chin in one hand and drags a finger along her upper lip with the other. The finger comes away wet with dark blood.

Chloe stares at it. For the first time in days, a chill ripples through her. "I didn't realize..." She rubs at her nose, wiping away more blood. The blood she clears away is sticky and half-dried, suggesting the bleeding stopped recently. She sniffs experimentally.

"You need to be careful," Maze says, sitting back on her heels like a feline. She wipes off her finger on the side of her pants. "Lucifer will be pissed if you up and die from an aneurysm."

"It's fine, Maze." It's not. "Whatever this is, I'm not gonna use it."

"Uh-huh."

"Really." She puts a hand to her chest, over the spot where she now feels a pool of light, resting, waiting, as if held in a reservoir. "Whatever Lucifer's dad is up to...I want no part in it."

Maze exhales sharply through her nose. "Where have I heard that one before?" Smirking, she says, "I'm a demon. Never met God. Never will. But I've been around a long time, Chloe, and I can tell you this. No one who has power doesn't use it, especially if that power comes from God."

"Well, there's a first time for everything."

"Hey, you have free will. You can use whatever gift you have in a way God wants—or any way you want." She leans forward, her nose mere inches apart from Chloe's. "But you will use it." She tilts her head. "Why do you think Lucifer cut off his wings? It wasn't about aesthetics. He didn't want to be tempted to use what Daddy gave him."

"I won't be tempted," Chloe says, determined.

Maze leans away again. "You're looking at this all wrong, Decker. I mean, you just got way more interesting. Finally."

"I don't want to be more interesting. I just want to be me."

"What?" Maze barks a laugh. "A cop, a mommy, a girlfriend? If that was all you wanted, you wouldn't be running with the Devil."

"Okay," Chloe says, shoving to her feet. She sways slightly before stabilizing. "We're done here." Maze follows close behind as she marches toward the house and throws open the sliding door that leads into the kitchen.

"Chloe, hold up."

She stops and turns. "What?"

"You can't just pretend your power's not there. You need to learn what it does, how to use it."

"I don't want it!" Chloe yells. "What part of that don't you get?"

Maze scoffs. "It's not so bad, not being boring and average, you know. Maybe you'll finally be able to protect Trixie the way you've always wanted." She eyes her up and down and comes away with a scowl that suggests Chloe fails to meet basic standards. "You could be Lucifer's equal for once."

Her words are a punch to the gut. Chloe doesn't know if it's just Maze or something intrinsic to demonhood, but her former roommate is disturbingly talented at detecting weak spots. And Chloe has no weaker spots than her fears for Trixie's safety and her own insecurities.

When she speaks again, her voice is quiet and tired. "I want to go home, Maze."

She looks down at her hands, which now appear to be perfectly normal, even as she stands in sunlight near the kitchen sink. She wants to forget she was made for some divine purpose she'll probably never understand, but deep down she knows there's no going back.


***


The Saturday night crowd at Lux bounces with energy. Chloe stands at the top of the staircase, leaning over the curving, wrought iron railing as she searches for a telltale undulation in the crowd. A hard, vibrating bass beat pulses up through the floor and into her body, where it rattles uncomfortably at the reservoir in her chest. She glances at her hands in concern, but sees only familiar, white flesh.

"Hey, Detective!" a bartender shouts, passing on her right. "Boss is upstairs!"

"Thanks," she murmurs, her voice swallowed by music as she turns toward the elevator.

When the doors to the penthouse slide open, her eyes find Lucifer at his piano. He's dressed down, for him, no suit jacket or vest, just dark green trousers and a crisp, white shirt. Upon seeing her, a pleased grin pulls at his mouth. He shifts to a familiar melody on the piano as she steps into the room. It takes her a moment to recognize it, but when she does, she rolls her eyes and laughs.

"Is that Backstreet Boys?"

"It might be."

She slips out of her shoes and goes to him, sliding onto the piano bench, where she breathes in the warm, woodsy scent of his cologne. "You know, for someone who makes fun of nineties music so much, you sure do know a lot of the songs by heart."

He glances at her sidelong. "Would you believe they're a common torture device in Hell?"

"If you want me to," she teases.

Lucifer grins. "Lovely," he says, and lets the melody drop off. Shutting the fallboard, he turns to her. "You're back."

"I am."

"Does this mean you've figured things out, then?" he asks softly.

No, she wants to say, but doesn't. Instead, she says, "I hope so."

Tell him, she thinks, but her mouth stays shut.

"I feel I should apologize," Lucifer says. "I realize I may have... Well, I may have pushed you too hard."

"It's okay," she whispers. Honestly, the favors and the forced revelations about her sexuality feel like they happened a lifetime ago.

"No," he says. "No, it's not." Taking her hands, he dips his head to better look her in the eye. "I'm not trying to change you. I like you as you are. Very much."

Tears well in her eyes. "And what if I am changing, Lucifer?"

"Bugger. Don't cry. I didn't mean to suggest you couldn't change." He sighs. "Bloody hell, I don't know how I'm stuffing this up so badly."

"You're really not, I promise." She sniffs and sits up straighter. "Just a lot's been going on, I think. It's taken a toll. But I can handle it."

"Can I do anything to help?" he asks. "A massage, perhaps, some makeup sex?"

She breathes out a weak laugh, and he smiles. "You know what I think would really help me?" She runs her thumb across the ring on his finger.

"Name it, and it's yours."

"I want to get back to work." Throwing herself into work has always helped in the past. "I know it'll be different, being a PI, but I need something."

"You want to go into business with the Devil?" he asks, his eyes crinkling at their corners.

"Yeah," she whispers, nodding. "And I like the name, by the way."

"Well, then!" Lucifer shoves at her hip, nearly pushing her off the bench. "Scoot, scoot, scoot. This is cause for celebration, Detective."

Chloe watches in confusion as he rushes into the bedroom and throws the bed's soft, black comforter over his shoulder. Then, at the bar, he lifts several bottles until he finds one to his liking. She expects him to pour the bourbon into two glasses, but he holds the bottle aloft, shrugs his shoulder to reposition the comforter, and grabs her hand. He pulls her toward the elevator.

"Lucifer," she laughs, "what are we doing?"

"Why, we're going to christen our new office, of course." He waggles his eyebrows.

Loving him is warm and increasingly familiar, a soothing balm to her soul. After, they lie, pressed skin to skin, Lucifer sprawled on the comforter, Chloe draped across him, listening to the steady thump of his ancient heart. His hands roam her back, trailing heat wherever they land.

Without curtains or blinds to cover the floor-to-ceiling windows, Chloe refused to undress with the lights on. Now, the office space remains dark, the only light in the room coming from nearby buildings and street lights, and the mottled purple haze of the city's night sky. But even without the moon shining bright, the light beyond the sixth floor isn't the only light Chloe senses.

There are many things about Lucifer Morningstar that are decidedly hominine, but there's no ignoring what she now feels burning beneath her cheek: starfire, as if pure light is intrinsic to his seraphic DNA. And maybe it is. How she missed it before, she'll never know.

Sated and sleepy, she strokes his chest, caressing toward the light with her fingertips.

Lucifer suddenly lifts his head, looking up toward the ceiling. "I'm regretting that cocaine I snorted earlier." He falls back with a grunt. "There are bloody lights on the ceiling."

Chloe jerks awake and follows his upward gaze. Her heart skips a beat as she takes in the polychromatic splendor above. Clutching her hands into fists, she scrambles internally to rebuild her levee. The light spilling from her fingertips retreats and disappears, but one glance at Lucifer tells her the damage is done.

"Are you quite all right?" he asks, uncurling her fist where it's wedged by his rib cage.

"Fine! I'm fine," she laughs nervously, and proceeds to press a desperate kiss to his mouth. His lips tilt downward beneath hers. Cupping the side of her face, he pushes her away.

"Best not to lie, darling."

She sighs shakily. "I don't want you to worry, okay?"

He squeezes her closer. "I've been around longer than your planet. Very little surprises me."

"Yeah, well, I think this might surprise you." Sliding off his body, she sits up beside him.

Lucifer turns on his side and props his head up on a fist, the very picture of relaxed. "Out with it," he says, giving her knee an affectionate shake.

She opens her hand and directs it toward the space between them. Drawing in a deep breath, she taps into the lambent cistern hiding deep in her chest. Shimmering, colorful flecks pop into existence, dancing across the luxuriously soft, black comforter.

Lucifer tenses. "What is that?" he asks, his voice tight. He looks, unblinking, between her face and hands, and once, briefly, to the ceiling above.

"I don't entirely know," Chloe answers. "It started happening a couple of days ago. I think it's why I fainted."

He sits up, facing her. Like Maze, he reaches forward and grasps one of her hands, only to turn it, palm up. Worried—maybe foolishly—about what the light could do to his eyesight, Chloe walls herself off in record time.

"You're able to control it," he observes.

"Maze helped."

"Did she now?" He glances at her before returning his focus to her hand, which he explores like a palm reader, one finger tracing the lines of her flesh. "And why didn't you come to me?"

"I didn't want you to be afraid."

"The Devil doesn't scare easy, darling."

Chloe rests her free hand on his arm. "He does when he thinks my safety is on the line."

He doesn't deny it. "Does it hurt?" he asks, his tone gentle.

"No." Her fingers tighten their hold on his arm. "And it doesn't have to mean anything, okay? I'm not going to use it."

"Of course it means something," he scoffs. "You're a bloody miracle, after all. You're here for a reason—part of dear old Dad's bollocks plan."

He lets go of her hand and reaches for the half-empty bottle of liquor. After raising it in sarcastic cheers, he draws it toward his mouth and tilts his head back. When he's finished drinking, he pushes the bottle toward her.

Chloe takes it and sets it aside once more. "Well, your dad's going to be disappointed since I'm not going to cooperate."

Lucifer chuckles, and Chloe hears eons of bitterness behind the sound. "Take it from a lifelong rebel, darling. There's no returning gifts from my father."

She holds back a shudder. "Let's just focus on work," she suggests, looking around the empty office space. "There's plenty to do." Plenty to distract.

"Very well," he says. "On one condition."

"What's that?"

"You come to me next time," he answers. "Not Mazikeen. I'm your bloody partner."

"Okay," she agrees on a whisper.

Lucifer grabs one of her hands and squeezes. "I'd storm the gates of Heaven before I allowed him to hurt you. You must know that."

She does, and it's just one of several reasons why she didn't want to tell him. But the chivalrous sentiment charms her nonetheless, and she goes to him, straddling his lap and holding him close. They may have light within them, but Chloe can't help but think they are two pawns in the dark.

Chapter Text

David tugs on his shirt sleeves, trying to hide fresh track marks. Eddie understands it's been a bad year, and an even worse couple of months—there's no need to hide a relapse from him—but Maria Rosales doesn't like to be reminded that her grandson is a part-time drug dealer who befriends addicts living in her apartment complex. Anyway, a little modesty is a small price to pay for free, home-cooked meals. They're good enough that, for a very short while, David can forget about the other hunger chewing at his insides.

He trudges down the three flights of narrow, concrete stairs that separate his apartment from Maria's. He has to knock twice before Eddie opens the door. David expects to see the tribal tattoo on his friend's face lift with his smile, but Eddie's typically jovial expression has been replaced by a tight scowl.

"I brought pie," David says, raising a questionable, mixed-berry concoction he got from the dollar store. The first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, and the last is a word he can't pronounce.

"That's great, man," Eddie says, taking the plastic shell container. "Why don't you have a seat?" He nods toward the old, yellow couch. "Abuela's just finishing up. I'll let you know when dinner's ready."

David frowns, knowing when he's not wanted, and shuffles to the loveseat. Usually he joins them in the kitchen. Watching Maria cook is a ritual he's come to enjoy, even if the old woman never talks to him. It reminds him of those rare occasions growing up, when his mother stood before the stovetop, not to whip up culinary delights, but to struggle her way through the instructions on a box of Kraft mac and cheese. She was a shit mother, but everyone has their moments.

The cadent, scripted Spanish flowing at low volume from Maria's ancient television clashes with the rapid-fire Spanish spoken in the kitchen. David's Spanish is little more than a patchwork mess of basic vocabulary, curse words, slang, and menu items, but the potential juiciness of a family argument has him straining his ears and mind more than usual.

"I want it out of my house."

"You're so fucking stubborn! It could heal you."

"God is the only one who can heal me, Eduardo."

"What if this is how God wants to heal you?"

"Heroin is not a cure for anything."

Heroin. China white. Smack. The mere thought of the drug picks at David's pleasure receptors like he picks at the scabs of his skin. Memories of heavy, spaced-out bliss override the rich scent of tamales and beans. God, he has to find his fix for tomorrow. Or tonight, if the cravings become too unbearable. He's trying to control his addiction, but it's getting harder every day.

In a more rational corner of his brain, he wonders why Eddie would want to force heroin on his own grandmother. He must have bought into some crazy story to believe it could be the answer to any of her problems. She's already wheelchair-bound. Even if she's in pain, the last thing she needs is an opioid addiction.

The argument dies down and Eddie calls David into the kitchen. It always takes him a moment to adjust to seeing his own compact kitchen's layout constructed lower to the ground for wheelchair accessibility. Maria cuts her eyes up at him from where she spoons refried beans from a cast iron pot onto a plate. It's a look that feels like a cat hiss sounds.

He wants to tell her, Lady, I didn't make your boy sell drugs, but he keeps his mouth shut. Tugging at his sleeves once more, he sits at the rickety breakfast table. Eddie claps his shoulder in apology and puts a plate full of food before him.

"How's the job search going?" Eddie asks, sitting across from him.

"It's going," David says.

Maria snorts as she wheels over to her place at the table. She knows he's a liar. All addicts are, eventually. And the reality of this—the reality of his lassitude—reminds him of how close he is to homelessness. A month and a half, if he can keep the landlord off his ass. Two or three weeks, more likely.

She smacks the back of Eddie's head before he can shovel food into his mouth. "Say grace."


***


After dinner, Eddie and David leave Maria to her telenovelas and retreat to David's apartment to watch the Angels play the Twins. David holds a plate of leftovers in one hand while unlocking his door. Shoving inside his apartment, he swallows back shame at the sight of the empty living area. It's not really a home anymore. The beat up, plaid recliner sticks out like a sore thumb, as does the growing mountain of Maria's dinner plates. He really should return those.

"Shit, man, where's your couch?"

It only takes Eddie a minute to realize the answer is obvious. The monkey on David's back stole and sold the couch to feed itself, just like it sold the bed frame and floor lamps, the signed Chris Cornell poster, the iPad. The monkey has stolen everything—David's love life, his job, his possessions, his youth. These days, the monkey is nearly all he has left. It's both his best friend and worst enemy. Eddie gets it—he feeds it, too, so long as David has money.

"You can have the chair," David says, wandering into the kitchen. He tosses the plate of leftovers into the fridge and pulls out a six pack of beer.

"The floor's fine," Eddie assures him, dropping down onto the stained carpet and crossing his legs. He grabs a bottle from the six pack as David passes.

David twists the cap off a beer bottle, turns on the TV, and flips over to the game. "You selling?" he asks, casual as he can, his eyes glued to the screen, as if he's not a junkie at all. From the corner of his eye, he sees Eddie stiffen and glance his way.

"Nah, man. Sorry."

"I'm good for it. I got cash." Not much, but enough for a few bundles, depending on the price.

Eddie shrugs. "Not selling right now."

Bullshit. He's always selling H, and he's got to have something on him after how he was talking to Maria. David glowers at the game and picks at a scab on his arm. Part of him wants to lash out in anger, but he's not so far gone that he'd ruin a relationship with a dealer like Eddie. Someone who doesn't sell him weak product or cheat him. Not until tonight, anyway.

The game isn't much of a distraction from David's growing unease. The Angels can't play for shit, and the Twins are only marginally better, despite their clear lead by the seventh-inning stretch.

Eddie pushes to his feet during the intermission, stretching his arms high over head. "I gotta drop a deuce," he announces, and leaves the room.

While leaning over to grab another beer, David notices something lying beside the empty bottles where Eddie was seated. Two small, rectangular bags—clear, save for a red logo and the fine white dust coating their insides—call to him like a siren. His mouth goes dry as he slinks from his recliner to the floor and snatches them from the carpet. He's never stolen from anybody before, but he feels only the briefest pang of guilt as he pockets the heroin with a sweaty palm. He needs four bags to survive most days, but Eddie's smack is purer than most. It'll be enough to get him through tomorrow. If he can wait that long.

He knows he can't.

When Eddie returns from the bathroom, he's none the wiser of his missing cargo.


***


Before David sold drugs, he was studying to become an accountant. He was going places. And before he used heroin, he was a handsome stoic. He didn't cry at movies or funerals. He didn't laugh too loudly, but neither was he quick to anger. He was even-keeled, steady, and a brown-eyed girl loved him for it. Now, storms roll within him, and the only way to calm them is to use the very thing that engenders the tempest.

The tourniquet lassos tightly round his arm, and the needle goes in on the third try. He tests the vein, depresses the plunger, and pulls the needle free with ease. Once, long ago, he was squeamish about the process, but he's not that man anymore. Stripped down to his underwear, the rubber tourniquet and plastic syringe tumble down onto his bare thighs.

Seconds pass. The drug arrows through his veins and pierces his heart, sending his soul afloat down an enchanted river. A current throws him to the shore of a twisted paradise, where vines gently pull him into a soft jungle filled with flowers. He's cradled by loving boa constrictors that whisper sweet nothings in his ears: All is well. You are loved. There is always tomorrow, and tomorrow is full of promise. His eyes roll back, and he breathes in sweet air.

He rests in a bed of moss, gazing up at the star-dappled heavens. He belongs to every speck, and every speck belongs to him. No beginning or end, forever and ever. But the earth beneath him rotates ever faster, a spinning top spiraling out of control until stars are lines drawn across a midnight sky. Faster and faster, brighter and brighter, closer and closer. Suns weaving a noose around the planet he calls home.

The air sours, turning rancid, and David's cradle transforms into shackles that trap him in place. Light bursts across his vision—a blaze of white fire that destroys and creates.

When the light withdraws, it leaves behind a boiling, tiger-orange gulf embedded in a desolate gray landscape that knows no sun. He gasps as the molten lava bubbles, blasting scorching heat that singes the hairs of his body. From within the lake of fire, a blighted man emerges, naked and red and wailing, clawing at his face with sable nails. The burning man heaves bile, and the giant, bare bones that rise out of his back—skeletal, featherless wings—beat erratically with his pain.

David's mouth yawns open in a noiseless scream. He cannot move, cannot breathe. The monster looks up and meets his gaze, his lips wet. Glowing, red eyes pierce into David's soul, and he sees himself, his soul, as if in a mirror. He sees his failures, his excuses, his losses, his unfulfilled desires. All the things he could have been, but never was. All the things he wanted, but was too weak to strive for. He sees himself and knows he is a detestable creature who deserves torture and death.

He is trapped in the burning man's gaze for what feels like an eternity, but is only an hour, maybe two. Slowly, the broken, shadowed world fades. But even after his apartment rematerializes, he is plagued by the afterimage from that perverse, red-eyed mirror. The broken junkie without hope. He has to get it out of himself, this poison, even as he hates himself all the more for stumbling to his bathroom and pulling a blade free from his razor.

David opens his body with a dozen little cuts, and a dozen more, and watches the poisoned blood drip sin down his flesh. It's only what he deserves, believing he could find paradise, believing he might be worthy of it.

But the will to survive persists, even if only faintly. Hours later, his fingers slip, wet with blood, across the face of his phone as he desperately calls Eddie.


***


Shayna dismounts from her motorcycle two blocks away from Cedarwood Heights. Leaving on her fitted, leather gloves, she marches south, toward the apartment complex. It's a boiling hot Monday afternoon, neither the ideal climate for full motorcycle gear nor the ideal hour to take care of problems in the drug business. But when her father orders her to clean up a mess, she cleans up the mess, especially if that mess traces back to her, and this one does.

Fuck Eddie Rosales. A mere forty-eight hours have passed since she handed off the Firefly, and now she's here, fixing his shit, in broad fucking daylight. At least he had the sense to call her via an encrypted connection.

"What the fuck's in that stuff!" he'd yelled.

"I told you. Angel feathers." And she'd laughed, thinking he'd finally tested the product himself. It wasn't good if he had, he'd owe them money, but it wasn't the end of the world, either.

She wasn't prepared for the truth. Wasn't prepared to face just how much of a tool her lover was.

"What do you mean David's freaking out?" she'd snapped. "David, who I told you not to take Firefly to?"

Yes, that David.

"A bad reaction," Eddie had called it. "It's not wearing off," he'd said. "I'm afraid to go over there. I think he's dying. Nobody can see me with him. I need your help, Shay."

No shit. He doesn't have the cojones to do what might need to be done.

She blows air past her lips, letting her anger go with it. Anger is useful, but only if it doesn't control the host.

A quick but careful tour of the apartment complex's perimeter reveals three security cameras "guard" the area, but the complex is sprawling and comprised of many units. There are dead spots everywhere. She ascends one of the outdoor staircases without concern and stops only when she stands before David Yates' apartment door.

It's quiet—most people are still at work—but she stays aware of her surroundings, every sound, every shift in the light. She draws a lockpick set from a jacket pocket, pulls out the tension wrench and rake pick, and gets to work. Five minutes later, the doorknob twists beneath her hand, and she enters the apartment.

Shayna's eyes land on David's nearly-nude form as she shuts and locks the door behind her. Focused as he is on his hands, he doesn't look up when she enters. Flashing hues from a muted television light up the dark room and draw her attention toward his bloodied, round belly.

Self-mutilation. Never a good sign, but an especially bad one in the De la Cruz drug business.

She glances around, her nose scrunched. Drug dens aren't sparsely furnished, they're formerly furnished, and here is no different. She can still make out the faint outline where a couch once stood.

"How're you feeling, David?" she asks, conversational.

David startles, looking up. He holds a razor blade in his right hand. The sharp edge presses against his thigh. "Whooo...are...you?"

The words come out thick and slow, and his gaze is not quite there. Eddie was right to call her—at least he didn't screw that up. The Firefly hasn't worn off like it should have. Even when injected, the purest heroin shouldn't leave an addict high for more than a few hours. As it is, five hours passed simply while Shayna made her way back to L.A. from Vegas.

"Used to be a friend of Eddie's," she answers, walking closer until she comes to stand before him, her knees a short distance from his. He reeks of sweat and urine, and the shallow cuts which litter his body well and weep with blood. Looking down her nose at him, she says, "You took something that wasn't yours."

David's head falls back and he lets out a tired wail.

"When did you shoot up?" she asks.

"Holy, holy, holy," he babbles, and laughs. "Lord," he says, tears springing to his eyes, "why have you forsaken me?"

Jesus.

Reaching out, she grabs his chin and draws his head forward. "When. Did you. Shoot up?" she enunciates.

His glassy eyes hold hers. "Middle of night."

She lets him go with a small shove. His head falls back again, as though he's a doll thrown into a corner.

"Do...you...see him?" David asks, the razor blade in his hand nicking against his flesh.

Shayna rolls her eyes. "No one's seeing what you're seeing."

"The burning man," David whispers. "He showed me...what I am."

"And what's that?" she asks, curious, though she shouldn't be.

"Unworthy." He digs the razor in, then, and blood curtains down his inner thigh. When he moans, it's impossible to tell whether it's from pain or pleasure, or from pure coincidence.

For a long moment, she stares. This isn't a heroin overdose. This is someone driven mad by divinity. They haven't seen it happen in decades, not since they decreased the content of divine artifacts in their drug formulas. (Most of the time, none of it matters since the vast majority of ingredients turn out not to be divine, anyway.) She, herself, has never seen it happen. But it can happen. They even have a humorous code name for it: holy roller.

Firefly could have done this to her. Twice.

Instead she heard the hymns of Creation. The mere thought of that music makes her eyes sting.

She leaves David in his chair and goes into his kitchen, which is filled with drab, olive green counters. She opens stiff drawers, searching for a knife. Any will do, so long as it's sharp and big enough, and belongs to David. Because she has a flair for the dramatic, she chooses a butcher's knife.

Although she's never dealt with a holy roller, she knows the protocol. There's no curing this kind of madness. No hospital visit, no stomach pumping, can solve it. His brain is officially, royally fucked, which means he has the potential to be a blubbering idiot one minute and a singing canary in the next. There's really only one thing to do, accordingly: contain the mess to protect the De la Cruz empire.

You could argue it's humane, what she's about to do. Not that Shayna concerns herself with such debates.

She returns to the living room, the butcher's knife held down by her side. David's head tilts her way, his dull gaze dipping to the knife.

"You...gon' kill me...now?"

Shayna looks down at him, the leather of her glove creaking as she squeezes the knife handle.

"Yes," she says, and drives the blade home.

Kitchen knives are notoriously dull, but the gut is spongy, especially in one as relaxed as David. She aims below his rib cage and slightly to the right, shoving the point of the knife into his left kidney with practiced ease. A stomach wound might not kill, or, if it does, it's a slow, painful death. But renal damage does the trick in under an hour. She's not a monster.

David surprises her when he drops his razor blade and covers her hand with both of his. The combined weight of their hands jars the knife in his belly, widening the wound. Blood spurts and falls, discoloring his underwear.

"Thank you," he breathes. "Thank you."

Shayna yanks her hand away and steps back, leaving the knife embedded in his abdomen. It's one thing to hear stories about how far gone a holy roller becomes, how pain is nonexistent in the face of their existential dread. It's another to witness it.

Taking a deep breath, she gathers the two empty bags of Firefly and David's paraphernalia from on and around his chair. She finds his cell phone on the floor, next to a tall stack of plates, and pockets it, as well. When she's certain the scene is clear enough, she turns away. There's nothing to be done about the body that will be left behind, but it's no matter. What drug testing can account for angel feathers? And how hard will the LAPD hunt for a drug addict's killer?

At the doorway, she looks back one last time. As David Yates bleeds out, he mumbles about a burned man. She'll never use Firefly again.


***


It would have been nice, ending her evening there, but Hector de la Cruz did not only order his daughter to kill David Yates. He ordered the death of Eddie Rosales, too.

Shayna knows her father is punishing her. For not listening to all his lectures warning her not to grow close to small-time dealers. For entrusting one of those dealers with the most important drug they've created in years. For nearly destroying a deal with Peter Avery, a man she can't begin to understand.

Her bastard brother, John Barrow, may be beholden to Avery and may think he wants the De la Cruz name and all that comes with it, but the price Shayna pays to keep the name of her birth is steep. There is nothing Hector won't ask his daughter to do in the name of his empire, and there is no end to his creativity when he punishes her for failing him.

They meet at the Imler house at dark. He brings his stupid dog. She doesn't tell him David is dead, only that he's getting the help he needs. He apologizes profusely, begs her forgiveness.

"Did you bring the supply?" she asks.

"Yeah, it's in the Lambo."

"You're not selling anymore."

"I know I fucked up," he says, and holds her in the bland master bedroom of the house. He's still shaken by David's phone call. "Shay, baby, I'll make it up to you, I promise."

"It's okay," she whispers, lies.

And she kisses him.

And she cuts his throat.

Eddie collapses to the carpet, gushing blood with every beat of his heart. The dog he loves dances around his head, yapping in concern as he drowns in himself.

His warm, brown eyes shift wildly, left, then right, but they return to Shayna over and over again, full of questions and fear and accusations. He dies, staring at her, into her. She lets him.

Shayna de la Cruz is her father's daughter, a knife, a nail, a witch. She never loved the dead fool at her feet, but she liked him a little more than the average person. Even now, even after his carelessness cost him his life.

Fuck Eddie Rosales.

She shakes her head, hardens her heart, and sets her mind on the task at hand. There's nothing left to do with the body. As a general rule, the De la Cruz empire doesn't dispose of its organic waste. The harder you try to, the more points of failure you create, the more likely you leave evidence behind. Anyway, in the right circles, you can build a reputation on a mountain of corpses.

The Imler house is littered with her fingerprints, but she's not in the system yet. Otherwise, there's not much of a better place to leave a dead man—and his dog. She eyes the poodle with disdain.

Digging in Eddie's pocket, she pulls out his cell phone and unlocks it. All dealers for the De la Cruz empire carry one phone and one phone alone. It's locked, no contacts are saved to it, and no questionable websites are browsed on it. All business-related communication is handled through an encrypted messaging app set to delete message and call history every five minutes.

Sometimes Eddie sent her nice messages. No one sends her nice messages.

Shayna leaves his phone on the nightstand. Despite his faults, Eddie used the phone as intended, making it a potentially useful red herring for the LAPD, whenever they happen to come across this crime scene. At the same time, competing empires will recognize the clean, if brutal, De la Cruz M.O.

She steps over Eddie's body as she leaves the room. The dog curls close to his side and whines.


***


She fucking hates the Colinda safe house. There's nothing to do there. And her father is well aware of that, so of course he's sending her there, so she can think about what she's done. You want to rule this empire one day? he asks through his punishment. Then you won't let feelings get in the way of good business.

Shayna makes it half-way to Colinda before she can't take it anymore. Exiting the 5, she finds herself in a sleepy town that isn't much better than where she's headed, but even sleepy towns have bars, thank God.

When she enters the dingy dive bar, drunk, middle-aged men look up at her and squint, as if they can't decide whether she's an oasis or a desert mirage. She stares back, her lip curled. She's in no mood to deal with horn dogs, and she'd really rather not maim or kill anyone else tonight.

Her motorcycle boots stick to the grimy floor as she wanders over to the counter and orders shots of tequila. As she slams down an empty shot glass and grabs the next, the door to the bar swings open.

"Rough day?" the newcomer asks, settling on the stool beside her.

She turns slowly. It takes everything in her not to recoil at the sight of Peter Avery. In the dark bar, his face glows red beneath a neon beer sign.

"Are you following me?" she snaps.

She's not sure how he could be. No one as high up in a drug business as she is doesn't know to watch for trailing cars, and she knows his black SUV. And yet here he is, the fucking creep.

"Your father told me what you did this evening," he says, ignoring her question.

"Great. So you can understand why I don't want your company." She downs another shot and bites into a lime.

Avery chuckles and waves off the bartender who nears them. The busty, curly-haired white woman, who looks to be in her sixties and as if she's seen some shit, takes one look at Avery's eyes and shuffles away.

"Goddammit," Shayna seethes. "Now I'm gonna have a hell of a time getting a drink." She throws her hands up. "All right. I get it. You're here. I'm here. What do you want?"

"Just wanted to tell you good job. I like people who do what it takes. I'm like that, too."

"Bully for you."

Avery takes one of her tequila shots and downs it. She scowls when the glass hits the counter.

"Otero's waiting for you at the safe house. In a few days, you'll have your chance to capture the Devil."

Capture the Devil. She huffs at the absurdity of it. But it's not funny. She's heard the universe sing and seen a man fall mad to divinity. What's the rate of madness? Is it higher than the number of people who die, OD'ing on heroin?

"I take orders from my father," Shayna says, "not you."

"Sure," Avery agrees, "but I thought you deserved a heads up. I mean, you do the dirty work."

Shayna remains silent, hating how his words burrow deep. She spins an empty shot glass beneath one hand and stares into his black eyes. While Eddie looked at her in confusion, Avery looks at her as if he sees through to her soul.

Chapter Text

Fatigue weighs on Chloe's bones, but she leaves Lucifer late in the night for her apartment. There are chores to catch up on, clothes to wash, bills to pay with dwindling savings, things Lucifer doesn't think about and would distract her from if he were present. It's strange now, taking care of life's myriad mundanities, trying to compartmentalize and pretend the world is as it's always been, that she hasn't changed. Just long enough to do the things humans who don't quite believe in eternity have deemed important.

Trixie is still with Dan, and Izzy is out again, leaving the apartment quiet. While Chloe waits for a load of laundry to finish, she sits out on the terrace with a glass of wine and the gentle presence of the moon. Light thrums in her chest, lapping gently like water against reeds on a muddy lakeshore. The desire to drag her fingers through it is nearly unbearable.

She argues with herself for a while. What she told Maze and Lucifer is true. She doesn't want what's inside of her. It must come with strings attached. She's not going to use it. She isn't.

But curiosity has always gotten the better of Chloe. She was the little girl who peeked in the closet and under the bed, searching for scary monsters. The girl who threw punches at bullies twice her size. The preteen who hiked her leg up and held a mirror between her legs, marveling at hair the adults in her life forgot to prepare her for. The woman who's asked questions others wouldn't, who's gone into places where others would have waited for backup—for better or worse.

Sometimes she's held back her curiosity out of fear—it's not as if it hasn't gotten her into trouble more than once—but it's a hard desire to ignore. Embracing it led her to the Devil, who maybe she still should fear, if not directly, then existentially, but who instead only exhilarates her. Who she loves.

So maybe it's no surprise when she extends a hand and plays with the very light that terrifies her. After all, there's no returning to the person she used to be.

The less light she releases from herself, the fainter the colors, and the more light she pours forth, the narrower the prism, the whiter and brighter the band of light. She draws in moonlight and resurfaces it on the ground and then daringly on her own leg, which feels a little like standing between two mirrors, staring into an infinite recursion of her own reflection. Finally, she directs light toward her wine glass, where it refracts again in the dark, burgundy liquid. She pushes herself, letting more light in, letting it pass through her and focus.

Steam suddenly rises from the wine, and Chloe jerks back in surprise. Withdrawing her light at once, she drags her fingers under her nose, checking for blood. There is some, but not as much as earlier in the day.

"What am I doing?" she hisses, putting a hand to her forehead. As if any amount of blood is acceptable.

She told herself she wouldn't play with this—told Maze, told Lucifer, mere hours ago. If you got hurt, she thinks, what would happen to Trixie? But just as easily she wonders if Maze is right, if finally she can protect the people she loves.

As she touches the outside of the wine glass, a small, shaky breath passes her lips. The glass is hot beneath her fingertips. Any hotter, and it might have shattered.

I did that, she thinks.

Wrapping her arms around herself, she leans back in her chair and gazes at Lucifer's stars.


***


Chloe takes the elevator from the parking garage to the sixth floor of Lucifer's building—or, rather, to The Devil's in the Details. It'll be a while before she can think of anything that close to Lux or the penthouse as being work-related. None of it feels real yet, jumping into business with a man who's been almost as flaky as he has been dependable. It's probably a horrible idea that will crash and burn, but that doesn't seem to quell her excitement.

To her surprise, Lucifer is already in the office, although she supposes he can't beat the new commute. He sits behind an ebony executive desk, looking perfectly put-together in charcoal and white, his red-soled shoes kicked up. Why did she have to fall for someone so obnoxious?

He smiles, all teeth and boyish delight, and she remembers. "Good morning, Detective."

"You got us desks," she says, returning his smile.

More like desk—two corner desks, banked against each other to form a U, and turned to face any who might enter. Just what he's always wanted, and what she should likely fear.

"Indeed, I did. And laptops"—he nods to the device resting precariously on his angled thighs—"and name plaques."

He reaches toward the other desk and lifts a silver placard that reads Detective Chloe Decker. It's much shinier than the one that was on her desk at the precinct, enough so that she has a sneaking suspicion it's made, not from plastic or even stainless steel, but from actual silver.

Chloe opens her mouth to comment on his priorities, but gives up before she starts. The desks are fine—no amount of feng shui will stop him from trying to distract her—the laptops will be useful and are no doubt top-of-the-line, and the plaques are... Well, he wouldn't be Lucifer if he wasn't extravagant. Pick your battles, Decker.

"This is great," she says, sincerely—because it is thoughtful—and he preens beneath the praise.

She wanders toward one of the windows, her footsteps loud in the largely unfurnished space. The summer sun bakes the sprawling city, casting a hazy glow over its streets and buildings. The sunlight presses upon her, too, and she closes her eyes and follows its warm path past her skin, through her veins, and into that waiting basin within her chest. That feeling she gets to live with, as Maze called it, is easier, and less frightening, to trace each time she tries.

"Do you like anal?" Lucifer asks, his voice echoing and shattering her spiritual journey.

Her mouth hangs open as she turns. It's barely nine in the morning. She hasn't even sat down yet.

"Uh," she starts, and he looks up from his laptop. It takes everything she has to maintain eye contact. "That area's more, you know, exit-only for me. Historically."

In the history of her ass with other men. She holds back a laugh.

"Hmm." He refocuses on his laptop and clicks on something. "Is that a hard limit?"

Due to more uncomfortable experiences than good ones, she nearly says yes, but then hesitates. If anyone can make anal sex pleasurable, it's the man in front of her. "Not...necessarily," she answers, and immediately hates the smirk that appears on his face. "And, I mean, I know you're into it. Probably."

"Oh, yes, my prostate works just fine."

She stares. She meant giving, not receiving, but of course in his long sexual history he's been the bottom before and enjoyed it... She shakes herself. "We're at work now. This is unprofessional."

"Is it?" he asks, a little too innocently.

Chloe gives him a firm, knowing glare that makes him grin.

"Very well," he sighs dramatically. "No butt stuff. On the sixth floor, anyway."

"Thank you."

Taking a deep, fortifying breath, she walks to her new desk and settles into the waiting office chair. She's a little taken aback by how comfortable it is. She begged the precinct for a new office chair all last year, to no avail.

Lucifer sets aside his laptop and swivels around to face her in a move she knows she'll see many times in the future. "Any trouble?" he asks, nodding toward her hands. His tone is casual, curious, but his concerned expression gives him away.

She grimaces. Part of diving headfirst into their new business was trying not to think about the rest of her life. "I may have tested myself some more," she admits, wincing as she pushes herself to be honest with him. "Turns out I can boil liquid."

His brows lift high on his forehead. "What, like a kettle?"

Chloe snorts so hard her nose hurts. Saying it aloud does sound insane. On par with a man in a suit roaming around L.A., claiming to be the Devil. "I guess?" she says.

"Darling, we've no idea what Dad is up to," he says, worried. "I thought you were going to leave it be."

"I know. I was," she whispers, turning serious. She flips her hands over on her lap and stares at her palms. She can still feel the light from outside and, more subtly, the light in the man sitting next to her. "I just can't figure out if it's better to pretend it's not happening, or to do everything I can to learn how to control it."

"For the first time in my life, I vote repression."

"Like with your wings?" she prods gently.

"That's different," he scoffs, but she can tell he doesn't believe that. "Just..." Covering her hands with his, he sighs, "Just be careful. Please? Or test yourself around me or Maze, since somehow that treacherous demon has weaseled her way back into our graces. Someone who's at least familiar with our world, in other words. You're human. You're in over your head."

As if he isn't, too.

"And what if I'm not human?"

"Don't be preposterous." But his head tilts, and his brow furrows. "Perhaps you are a Jedi."

Her mouth twitches. "Jedis are human. Also fictional."

Lucifer waves a hand, as if that hardly matters. "I've tried calling Amenadiel to see if he could tell us anything, but it seems he's back to not taking my calls." He offers Chloe a faint, apologetic smile. "I'm afraid you're with the black sheep of the family."

"I don't mind," she says softly.

Maybe she should, considering his family, but she doesn't. With the exception of Amenadiel, none of them seem real, as it is. God himself is just a distant concept, even now, though one she isn't fond of, if she thinks about it too closely. What she does know about his family... She's not sure she could stand being in the same room with them.

Squeezing his hands once, she turns and scoots closer to the desk. She eyes the cavernous office space and says, "There's a lot we need to do here." She isn't even sure where to begin. "We'll need to hire... Well, some people who know what they're doing?"

She's a former cop and has no idea how to run a business. Something tells her the man beside her doesn't have a clue, either, even if he does own a very successful nightclub.

"Ah, that reminds me." Lucifer yanks open a drawer, revealing familiar, dated journals that make her blush, though thankfully he doesn't notice. "Ten years of ledgers in here, darling. I stayed up after you left, adding in details. They've got phone numbers, last known location, and professional information now." He adjusts his cufflinks, clearly proud of his work. "If you ever need to cash in a favor quickly, do be aware some of these chaps hop the twig before I ever get to them." He barks a laugh. "Lucky sods, getting a freebie from the Devil."

"You'd let me cash in your favors?"

"They're there to be used."

"Okay. And...'hop the twig,' I'm guessing, is dead?"

"Yes, some of them shuffle off their mortal coil before the Devil gets to them. You know, kick the bucket, buy a farm, pop their clogs."

"Right." She nods, wide-eyed. "Wait. You stayed up all night doing this? Aren't you tired?"

He pulls open another drawer. "Coke's in the other drawer."

Groaning, she palms her face. "I think we need some ground rules for work. Well, you do."

"Oh, dear, found myself in the naughty corner again, haven't I?" he sighs and removes his flask from his suit jacket. "Go on then. Make your little rules, and I'll tell you whether I'll follow them."

"You probably won't," she sighs.

"Now, now, you know my word is my bond, Detective. If I say I'll be a good boy, I will be."

"You'll find loopholes."

Lucifer smirks. "I'll always be the Devil, darling." He nudges her leg with his when she sighs again. "You don't complain about that when you're riding me six ways to Sunday."

She stares at him and tries very hard not to laugh, lest she encourage him.

The rules are simple and obvious, but they're best spelled out for Lucifer. No sex (no, not of any kind) on the sixth floor, no watching porn or buying sex toys on company devices, no drugs on the sixth floor (yes, marijuana counts; no, he doesn't have glaucoma), no drinking on the sixth floor (fine, just not in front of clients). And while he tends not to smoke around her and never smokes around Trixie, Chloe doesn't put it past him under stressful situations, and so bans that, too.

"Right. Nothing fun on the sixth floor. How much vacation time are we giving ourselves? Civilized countries favor four to five weeks. What about a daily siesta?"

"You were the one who wanted to do this," she reminds him. "If you want out, better to say so now than later. I can find something else to do."

"Oh, I'm all in, Detective. I'm merely best in the field, wouldn't you say? And there's nothing wrong with a little R&R, now, is there?"

"The field is going to be entirely different now," she cautions, jabbing a finger against the top of her desk. "We've agreed to focus on cold cases and corruption, and those can get dangerous. We don't have the full weight of the LAPD behind us anymore. If something goes wrong, it's on us. If we get into trouble, we don't have backup."

Lucifer leans back in his office chair, his eyes roaming over her. "You suspect the Yates and Rosales cases will turn dangerous, don't you?" He grins sharply. It's not a very human grin, and she's not sure how she ever thought it was.

"Try to look a little less excited about us putting our lives on the line."

"But don't you see?" he says, a mischievous glint in his eye. "Things will be entirely different now. No hiding, no struggling to make sense of my behavior in your paperwork. We can use my connections, my strength. You'll see, darling. Doing things my way can be quite fun."

"Fun." Right.


***


They mount a long whiteboard to the wall closest to their desks. As Chloe stares at the blank surface, she's struck by how crippled they are without access to state and federal databases. Normally, any investigation board worth its salt is filled with DMV photos, mugshots, and other official pictures, licenses, and certificates. Now, she's down to writing names on a whiteboard. They'll need to look into purchasing access to other databases eventually, but, for now, it's dry erase markers and memory.

They start where they left off, before Lucifer's notoriety, Chloe's B movie fame, and the now-defunct TFF! derailed them.

"Okay," Chloe says, "we know David Yates was friends with Eddie Rosales." She writes and circles both men's names, crosses them out to indicate they're deceased, and draws a red line to connect the two. "Eddie had firefly heroin in his possession, and David had it in his system." To be thorough, she adds Eddie's grandmother, Maria, to the board, as well as the Daltons, who employed Eddie at their hardware store.

"Matty at the LAPD has been very interested in all of this, of course," Lucifer says around a mouthful of food. He lounges in his office chair again, feet kicked up, chopsticks heaped with noodles and hovering over a takeout box. His second takeout box.

Chloe crunches on a spring roll as she adds Detective Morrison off to the side on the whiteboard. He's likely at least one of the people who got rid of evidence from the loft. Lucifer is right about him, though. Anything he does is about money, and nothing more. Now that she's no longer part of the police force, following that money could be a good start to understanding whether he had a relationship with Eddie Rosales or not. She draws dollar signs and question marks beneath Morrison's name.

"Don't forget that pillock of a nephew, Zachary."

"Your personal feelings about Webb don't make him a suspect," she says, even as she writes his name in an effort to appease Lucifer. "He wasn't even in L.A. when David and Eddie died."

"Not suspect," Lucifer crows. "He couldn't stop thinking with his knob long enough to solve a case."

Chloe cuts her eyes over at him. "You're right. Who would dare let their libido interfere with a homicide investigation?"

"Exactly," Lucifer says, without a hint of irony. "This is important work we're doing."

She opens her mouth to respond, then shakes her head.

"Yes, it is. So. Webb brings us to Bruce Wilson," she says, and shudders slightly as she remembers the night they spent, deep in the cult leader's secret basement. The marker squeaks as she scribbles and crosses out his name. "I don't know if he's connected or not, but he did have firefly heroin. Someone sold it to him."

"Miss Lopez mentioned two other homicide cases where the drug was found."

"Good thinking. We'll call her later and see if she'll give us the victims' and suspects' names." With this summer's heatwave and subsequent uptick in murders, it's been harder than ever to keep track of the cases handled by other homicide detectives in the precinct.

Finally, Chloe adds John Barrow, Juan Otero, and the mysterious "Shay" to the board. Barrow, they know, was Cain's man, and Otero bailed out Barrow, which automatically makes him suspect. Not to mention both men have disappeared. Shay is nothing more than a name, but she has connections to Eddie, and possibly Otero. They were never able to confirm that the matching fingerprints from the Palos Verdes mansion and the Colinda safe house belonged to anyone by that name; they simply weren't in the system.

Chloe caps the dry erase marker and stands back to look at the board. She chews on another spring roll, one hand banked on her hip. "I think that's everyone," she says, frowning.

"There's one other name we could include," Lucifer says, tossing the now empty takeout box to his desk, where it joins the first.

"Whose?"

"Cain's," he says wryly. "The world's first murderer may be ash in a cardboard box by now, but his operation is alive and well."

Her heart beats faster as she remembers the horrors of the loft. She's not sure that day will ever disappear from her nightmares. With some effort, she shakes the memories off. "Are you sure?" she asks quietly.

"No, but I have my suspicions," Lucifer says, straightening his vest and jacket as he rises and comes to stand beside her. He throws an arm around her shoulders, and she leans into his side. "The men I hired to be my ears have heard rumors in the last week about another Sinnerman. It could be a copycat, but—" He shakes his head, his brow furrowed.

"What is it?"

"Only that it's strange I haven't been able to buy firefly heroin. I know dealers all across this city. Lux is one of their best customers." At Chloe's disgruntled huff, he shrugs, unapologetic. "I'm not going to lie to you. I should have access."

"But you don't."

"I don't," he confirms. "None of my dealers do. Which suggests—"

"Someone, knows who you are and is preventing you from accessing it. It'd have to be someone who was close to Cain before. Maybe this new Sinnerman."

"Precisely."

"But why?"

"That is the question, isn't it?" Lucifer frowns. "There's something really very odd about that heroin, Detective."

Chloe holds back a sigh. They've explored this already. Firefly heroin is simply very pure heroin—around ninety-five percent pure, which is virtually unheard of, and otherwise it's cut with a little sugar. Whatever else is in it likely came from the manufacturing process and accounts for such a minuscule amount of the product that machines struggle to detect it at all. Even the CDC came to the same conclusion: extremely minor contamination from manufacturing. Nothing that could affect a drug user, not like the heroin itself.

"The mystery's never been the heroin," she says. "It's who's making and selling it. I know you thought there was something weird about it, but there just isn't."

"Right. You think I'm paranoid," he accuses.

Maze does, she thinks. After all his time of being the Lord of Hell, of being a torturer. Even now that some time has passed, that she's seen him for who and what he is, it's hard to think of him that way, the way she must.

"Maybe a little," she says, as gently as possible.

He snorts. "You've believed me to be paranoid on quite a few occasions, darling, when I very much wasn't. You'd do well to be a little more paranoid yourself," he says. "Who knows what Dad has in store for me—for you, for that matter? Anything that tyrannical bastard wants, one of his children will carry out the task. If he truly desires it, he can hear all, see all. He—" His annoyance vanishes at once and is replaced by concerned curiosity.

"Lucifer?"

His arm slides away from her back. "Detective..." He steps closer to the whiteboard, one finger lifted and wagging. "Never mind the reprobates. We've two fanatics on this board."

Chloe pulls her focus away from him to look at her primitive diagram. "Wilson, sure... But who else? Maria?" She shakes her head. "A few votives hardly make her a fanatic, Lucifer."

He turns and looks at her. "God sees all, Detective."

The words feel powerful in the quiet, empty room, maybe because they're said by the Devil himself. They're also familiar, now that he's drawn her attention to them. They're what Bruce Wilson yelled into his dark living room before pulling the trigger, and what Maria shouted at them weeks ago, even before they knew Eddie was dead.

"It could just be a coincidence," Chloe says, cautious. "It's not exactly a lot to go on."

Lucifer is adamant. "There aren't many true believers in L.A., but they both had fervor."

"So, what? Now you think your dad is involved in all this?" He shrugs a shoulder, and she taps her foot, thinking, doubting. "Maria didn't know much. We can't go talk to her if we don't have any questions." Besides, they won't be her favorite people; the last time they spoke to her, it was to inform her that her grandson was dead.

"Are we partners?" Lucifer asks, dark eyes studying her.

"Of course," Chloe says with ease.

"Then humor me, and let's pay Maria a visit. There are fewer coincidences in this world than you believe, Detective."

And there are probably more than he believes. Hopefully, Chloe thinks, their stubbornness balances each other's out.

"Okay," she relents. Smiling a little, she raises a hand toward the elevator and affects a botched British accent. "Lead the way, Mr. Morningstar."

"What, I still don't get a title?" he whines, looking over his shoulder.

"Absolutely not."


***


The steady hum of window air conditioners hard at work sweeps across the parking lot like a swarm of insects. Nervousness prickles at Chloe's skin as they near Maria Rosales' first-floor apartment at Cedarwood Heights. It feels wrong, coming here as a private investigator. She has no badge, and while she still has a license to carry a weapon, for now, she has no gun, either. Just the Devil—and maybe that light she's constantly confirming is staying inside.

On the fourth knock to Maria's apartment, the door swings open, and they're faced with the old woman's surly mien. The difference between now and the two other times they visited is that this time they don't have to look down. Maria isn't in her wheelchair. She stands on her own two feet. Grouchiness aside, she looks far healthier than she did a month ago.

"Well, would you look at that, Detective!" A Cheshire grin bares Lucifer's teeth. "She walks! What miracle cure would you like to claim, Maria? Holy water? A visit from my half-brother on Shabbat?"

"Qué chingados," Maria breathes.

Chloe is so horrified that, for a moment, she can't speak. "Lucifer," she gasps a beat later, "people in wheelchairs don't necessarily need them all the time." To Maria, she says, "Please excuse my idiot of a partner. We're just performing a follow-up into your grandson's case."

She isn't an officer anymore, and by not declaring that upfront, she's impersonating one. She knows it. Knows how illegal it is. And yet... What if Lucifer's hunch is right, as it so often is? As horrified as Chloe is by his impropriety, even she didn't expect to see Maria Rosales out of her wheelchair. The fact that the old woman's able to walk at all is a twist and immediately makes her a suspect in the Yates case.

Maria looks between them. "You have news about Eduardo?"

"We have questions," Lucifer corrects. He studies her from head to toe in amusement.

"No questions," Maria says, and begins to shut her door.

"Oh, no, you don't." Lucifer slaps his palm against the door and easily holds it open, even as Maria shoves against it with all her might. "I'm afraid there's no avoiding us this time, Maria."

"Leave!"

"You know more than you've let on," Lucifer accuses, shoving the door open another inch. "You've lied, haven't you?"

Chloe stands, stock-still, struggling to make sense of right and wrong. For so long, she's depended on protocol to keep her behavior in check. Now, they answer to no one, need no warrant, and the man, the Devil, beside her can make nearly any illegal act they commit go away with money or favors. How is that any better than the police union protecting Dan's crimes or the suits sweeping Pierce's death under the rug for convenience?

Lucifer said God gave her a barometer, a conscience, and hers tells her what they're doing now is wrong, but might be salvaged. She rests a hand on his forearm.

"Not like this," she says. Not simply because they're stronger or think they're right. They look at each other for a long moment before she refocuses on Maria. "We want to find your grandson's killer. If you weren't completely honest with us before, being honest with us now could change everything in his case."

When Lucifer lets his hand drop from the door, Maria doesn't slam it shut on their faces. She hesitates, looking down at her blue, fuzzy slippers. Gray hair slips from her long braid.

"You're afraid to talk to us, aren't you?" Lucifer says, and the old woman's head jerks up. "If you need protection, you'll have it," he assures her, his voice soothing, "but you must tell us what you know. Deal?"

Slowly, Maria nods and opens her door wider. In her overheated apartment, she sits in a recliner, and Lucifer and Chloe return to the lumpy, canary yellow loveseat that dips at its center.

"I don't know where to begin," Maria admits.

Chloe nods. "Let's start from the top. How did you know David Yates?"

"What I said was true. He was Eduardo's friend. But I..." She clasps her hands together tightly. "I knew him more than I let on. He would come for dinner every Sunday."

"Did you kill him then?" Lucifer asks bluntly.

"No," Maria spits. "I hated that pendejo—he was a deadbeat—but I didn't kill him."

"Do you know who did?" Chloe asks. "You can trust us, Ms. Rosales. We won't let anything happen to you."

"The week David died, Eduardo brought me—" Her breath hitches and she struggles to speak. "He brought me heroin."

Lucifer glances at Chloe. "Like to chase the dragon, do you?" he says to Maria.

"No!" she insists.

"Did the heroin Eduardo bring you come in a bag that had an insect logo?" Chloe asks. "A red firefly, to be exact."

"That's the one," Maria answers. "Eduardo told me it was special, that it could...that it could heal me."

"Heal you?" Lucifer's laugh is loud in the small room.

Maria shrugs. "It's what he told me. It made no sense. I didn't want it. I told him, but he wouldn't listen. He left it here for me."

"Do you still have it?" Chloe asks, hopeful.

Maria shakes her head. "I smoked it, like he told me. Carefully. Little by little. I started using it the night he gave it to me—you have to understand, I've been hurting for so long."

"Oh, bloody hell." Lucifer rolls his eyes in exasperation.

"It's not what you think," Maria says. "The day after he gave it to me, he called me and told me to flush it—that it was no good, after all. But I didn't. It had already made me feel better, just the little I'd used. And then I was so sad when you told me he died... I raised him, you know?"

"So, you took the edge off," Lucifer scoffs. "Of course you did."

"Why do you think I can walk!"

They stare at her. Chloe isn't sure what ailed the woman before, but she had assumed it was diabetes. But even if some other chronic pain had kept her wheelchair-bound, heroin wouldn't help for long, not unless she kept up her use.

"Are you..." Chloe tilts her head. "Are you suggesting heroin cured your illness?"

"That's ridiculous, by the by," Lucifer says.

"It had a special ingredient," Maria explains. "Some kind of feather."

The word sucks the air out of the room and echoes through Lucifer's body as he straightens. Chloe clamps a hand around his wrist, uncertain of what he's about to do, but knowing he isn't fully in control.

When he speaks, his voice is little more than a growl. "Who gave your grandson that drug?"

Maria clutches her saint medal and leans back in her chair, as if to escape him. "I'm not sure."

"But you have a guess, do you not?" Lucifer snaps, leaning forward.

The woman nods shakily. "His girlfriend."

"Shay?" Chloe asks, heart thudding in her chest. They're close. So close. She can feel it.

"I never met her." At Lucifer's incredulous glance, she insists, "I didn't! But I know she's a daughter in a big drug family. I overheard Eduardo and David talking about it once. I got a call the night before you came that must have been from someone she knew..." A very distressing call, judging by her expression. "They told me they'd kill me if I said anything to the police about the heroin." A tear rolls down her cheek, dipping into wrinkles. "I didn't know Eduardo was dead already."

Learning that he was would have made their threat all the more frightening, Chloe thinks. "Do you know who called you?" she asks.

Maria frowns. "No. They used something to change their voice."

"Do you know if it was a man or woman?" Not to say modulators can't significantly alter the voice to make it impossible to tell.

"A man, I think," Maria answers. "That's all I know. Really. This is everything."

"Okay," Chloe says, nodding. "Get all your important documents and pack a bag. We've got to get you out of here."

Witness Protection is out of the question. If a new Sinnerman is using Marcus' old connections, there's a good chance he's embedded himself—or herself, Chloe mentally amends—in the law enforcement and legal system. Witness Protection may be anything but, in that case. Luckily, Lucifer owns property all around California, and no doubt he has people he can put on security detail.

As Maria pushes to her feet, Lucifer asks, "What did it do to you, the heroin? What kind of high was it?"

Maria rests a hand on the back of her recliner. Chloe watches as the lines of her face smooth beneath the powerful memory. She looks younger—and wistful. "It made me hallucinate. I saw the stars," she sighs, "and a gleaming city."

Lucifer huffs a breath. "Tall spire in the center, by any chance? Polished white-and-gray marble?"

"How did you know?"

"Get your things," he says, leaving her question unanswered.

"You think she saw Heaven," Chloe whispers when Maria has left the room. His tales of the Silver City are few and far between, but he's told her some stories.

"Quite likely. My bloody wings are the only heavenly thing left on me."

Chloe turns, sinking deeper into the loveseat's worn cushions. "Are you okay?" she asks. It's a stupid, inadequate question.

When he looks at her, it's with haunted eyes filled with ages of pain and anger she can't begin to imagine, much less understand. "Just dandy," he jokes, while drawing his flask from his suit jacket.

"Do you need to see Linda?" she asks, scrambling to contain the darkness she feels brewing inside him. "If you tell me where I can take Maria, I'll see to it that she's safe."

"No, it's better if I help." He swallows liquor and twists his onyx ring with his thumb. "We have to find this Shay, Detective. We have to get that drug off the streets."

"We will. I promise. Lucifer, I-I'm so sorry I downplayed your concerns about the firefly heroin." But she never could have imagined feathers stolen from evidence could be used this way.

He shrugs. "Why should you have believed me?" he asks, staring down a wooden crucifix hanging on Maria's wall.

"I should have listened better, at least. I should've—"

Maria reenters the room, a small overnight bag stuffed to bursting at her side. Lucifer rises at once and heads for the door. Behind him, Chloe hears his cigarette case open and his lighter flick to life.


***


It's dark by the time they settle Maria in a house—a mansion—that must seem like a vacation dream home coming from Cedarwood Heights, but a cold comfort after the death of her grandson and weeks of silent fear. After the security detail shows, Chloe drives herself and Lucifer back to Sunset Boulevard, her stomach in knots over the mounting silence. The Devil is a storm cloud at her side, lightning arcing at his edges.

They take the elevator straight to the penthouse, and he goes straight to the bar, shedding his jacket to the floor. Chloe picks up the expensive fabric and drapes it gently over the back of the sofa. Lucifer grabs the first bottle he touches at the bar and doesn't bother with a glass. She stares as he drinks and drinks.

"Lucifer..."

He lets the bottle drop to the bar counter and turns toward her. In two long strides, he's in her space, framing her cheeks with his hands. "Don't make me talk," he says, and his mouth falls to hers.

"Okay," she whispers. "Okay."

So they don't speak. There is only touch and taste, the delicious sting and scrape of nails, the pleasurable draw of hair caressed and pulled. His hands clasp in hunger and desperation, and he's rough as he loves her, like Hell's at his heels and Heaven won't stop taunting him. Chloe meets him in the middle, giving herself freely, taking what he has, sensing the flare of light within him.

When they're spent, he turns on his side and lights a joint he digs out of a nightstand drawer. He sighs, blowing smoke away from her, toward the open glass doorway to the balcony. She clings to his back, one arm wrapped around him, a hand resting above his thunderous heart. She falls asleep with her nose pressed against his neck, breathing in vanilla-tinged weed.

Hours later, her arms are empty. She turns and reaches for him, only to realize she lies alone. Sitting up in the darkness of his bedroom, soft, golden sheets low at her waist, she hears the steady spray of his shower. Shoving out of bed, she walks toward the bathroom. The door is wide open, but she knocks on the edge of the door frame.

"Lucifer?"

"Here," he says, and even this one word seems to cost him.

Chloe steps into the bathroom and turns toward the black marble shower, her naked reflection walking beside her in the enormous vanity mirror. Her breath catches at the sight of Lucifer, sitting on the floor of the shower, his body almost entirely hidden by vast, white wings. Three bottles of scotch sit with him in the shower, two of them empty.

"I'm coming in," she tells him.

With gentle hands, she lifts primary feathers out of the way and moves to stand before him. The water is scalding hot, and she reaches over to adjust it to something she can tolerate. Chuckling, Lucifer grabs her by her hips and pulls her to him. She stumbles forward, palms slamming into glass, toes caught in feathers. He presses his mouth to her sex, his tongue dragging flat and hard.

"Shit," Chloe murmurs, and pulls him back by his hair. "Stop."

With a dark laugh, he looks up at her drunkenly, his eyeliner smudged. "Don't you want to see how fast I can make you come?" he asks, arching a brow. "I'm very good at this."

His capacity to self-destruct has always blown her away.

"Enough putting this off. Talk to me," Chloe says, keeping a firm hold on his hair.

"Talk, talk, talk," he slurs. "Maybe I just want to feel, darling."

"This is the opposite of feeling," she says, and he scoffs.

All the times she watched from a distance as he sank into the bottle, into the arms of lovers who only wanted a good lay, a scandalous story to tell... She's thankful those walls between them have crumbled.

"Be good," she commands and squats down to straddle his thighs. She keeps her distance on his legs, sitting back near his knees. But it's telling, she thinks, that when she glances downward he has no erection. "Now, talk."

Lucifer's top lip curls, and he lets forth a literal growl that rattles her bones. His eyes snap to hellfire red.

She stares into the flames and lifts a hand, palm upright, and gently loosens her hold on her light. Colors spring to life on the black marble ceiling.

"You're not so scary," she tells him, looking up.

"Don't, Chloe," Lucifer begs, clapping his hand around hers.

She draws her power back with a shiver, and the red glow of his eyes melts into brown.

"It's not your fault your feathers were stolen," she whispers, touching the hard line of his jaw. "It's not our fault we didn't realize what they were being used for. We'll find Shay."

Lucifer lets his head fall back to the glass with a thud. "But how many have gone mad?"

Her brow furrows. "Gone mad?"

"Did you miss that?" he chuckles. "Maria may have been healed, but what of Yates, who cut himself to shreds? What of Wilson, who gunned down children your offspring's age?"

"That— None of that is your fault. You didn't ask for any of this."

"No, but Amenadiel was right; humanity and divinity don't mix."

"Maybe not like this," Chloe says, "but you've lived here a long time now without issue."

"Have I?" he breathes out. "Look at the horrors I've brought to this city's doorstep, to your doorstep. My brothers, Cain." He fumbles for his scotch, throws back a long swallow, and holds the bottle close, covering the mouth to keep water from getting inside and ruining the liquor.

"You're not responsible for other people's actions, Lucifer."

"Perhaps," he says, holding her gaze. "But where am I to go?"

Chloe touches his chest gently. "What do you mean?"

"I don't belong anywhere," he laments, his voice catching. "Kicked out of Heaven, couldn't stand Hell, but I'm poisonous for Earth. Can't fucking fly anywhere else." He heaves a broken laugh.

She takes the scotch bottle from him and sets it aside with the empty bottles. One twitch of his left wing, and they'll all tumble and shatter on the hard tile. Holding on to his hands, she says firmly, "You belong with me."

They're words she's spoken to Trixie after nightmares, back when she still feared Malcolm could steal her away. Words she means, deep in her heart, even as she knows they can't possibly provide the same comfort to an immortal.

Lucifer looks down at their joined hands. "Did you miss the part about horrors at your doorstep, darling?"

"No, but I accept the risk." Driven mad by divinity or not, Yates and Wilson are far from the only mutilated victims or monsters she's seen—that they've seen. Monsters have existed longer than Lucifer has been in her life. A monster killed her father. The only difference here is Lucifer is a victim, too. "Lucifer, I've made my choice."

Scooting closer on his legs, she draws him to her, cradling his head to her neck. His wings wrap around her, enveloping them beneath the warm water.

Chapter Text

When De la Cruz's men arrive at the warehouse, Lucifer isn't with them. Cain can tell, simply by how they park the pickup truck, but hesitate to exit the vehicle. Marching forward, he rounds the truck in disbelief, peering over the side panel into the truck bed. Rifle cases are there, alongside the chains and tranquilizers they were meant to use on Lucifer when he was weak.

The truck doors open, and the gunmen drop to the ground. The driver, a bald and thick-necked ex-marine, looks at Cain blandly.

"He got away," he says, in that terse, matter-of-fact way military personnel develop.

"And how did that happen?" Cain snaps. At his back, his wings ache to unfurl.

He was close, so close, to making Lucifer suffer. He'd orchestrated everything—getting Chloe and Lucifer away from L.A., leading them to Colinda's secluded, rural wasteland. It was perfect. He was going to have everything he wanted. He hears himself breathing loudly, seething, and forces his anger into submission.

"He grabbed the woman you told us to look for and flew up," the marine explains. "We shot 'em down."

"That should've done it. He's vulnerable in her proximity." As an afterthought, he asks, "Did the woman survive the fall?"

"She did," the man says, "and she ran."

Cain squints. "What do you mean she ran?"

"I mean, she ran. Seems you aren't the only one who knows that angel's secret. He was gonna heal and be indestructible, so I got my boys out."

"He doesn't heal immediately." Fucking jarheads. "You blew it."

The man says nothing, but Cain can read his lack of remorse. When De la Cruz picked this crew for the job, Cain looked into the men's backgrounds, particularly this leader of the pack. They're good, but no group survives multiple tours and years as guns for hire by throwing caution to the wind.

Cain has always preferred working with desperate men for this reason. They don't turn away from anything. The impoverished are ruthless and willing to play fast and loose with their lives and morals for the sake of a dime they couldn't otherwise hope to acquire. They make for excellent tools, while also being expendable. An investigation into a poor man's death is never thorough.

These men De la Cruz picked are paid well enough on the regular to walk away when they feel like it. They saw an angel of God and chickened out.

"Where's Shayna?" Cain demands.

As if Hector's darling daughter heard him, the growl of a motorcycle engine emerges in the distance. A few moments later, a familiar, sleek motorbike curves around the corner of the warehouse's open service door. Shayna kills the engine and drops the kickstand before yanking off her helmet, letting loose black waves. She dismounts and turns, popping open her top case. Digging inside, she resurfaces with a drink cup and grease-stained paper bag. She took a detour on her way to the warehouse.

Cain knows mind games and affectations like no other. She pretends as if seeing Lucifer, wings unfurled and set to flight, hasn't shattered her human understanding of the world, but he sees how her hands shake.

"You bailed," Cain says, wandering away from the snipers. They talk quietly amongst themselves now, waiting to be released.

"Win some, lose some, Avery." Shayna arches a brow and sucks on her straw, hollowing out her cheeks to draw up the milkshake. Her lips leave red lipstick behind on the plastic. "There's no line in our nonexistent contract that says I have to die for this."

"No," he says, lowering his voice, "but these men do now."

She glances at the snipers. "They won't say anything about what they saw."

"I'm not worried about what they saw," Cain says. "No one would believe them, anyway. But I can't release hired guns into the world who know the Devil's weakness. That's valuable information I'm not willing to let spread."

"They're not your men to kill. Or mine. You'll have to talk to my father about it."

Cain smiles thinly. "Your father doesn't even let you make decisions on the ground, does he?"

The small pause before she replies lets him know his words have sunk home. He doesn't know if he'll ever need to turn Hector's daughter against him, but there's value in controlling all the pieces on the board.


***


Time spent in one of Hector de la Cruz's meeting rooms is like time spent in a casino. It could be day or night outside the dark walls and thick, crimson curtains. There's no way to tell without a trustworthy clock.

Cain sits across from the kingpin at the long, mahogany table, his fingers caressing the fragile neck of a wine glass he was given but has no intention of drinking from. For the first time since he met De la Cruz ten years ago, it's just the two of them—no armed guards in the room corners, no Shayna, no Barrow. De la Cruz calls it a "show of good faith," but Cain knows it means the man thinks he's weak.

Is he? It's hard, even in this strong body, to forget the bite of Balor's chains, the way Lucifer twisted his fist, shattering bone, to drive a Hell-forged knife deep into his chest. He's been weak before—and foolish enough to believe he was strong.

De la Cruz sips his wine. "I had my men record the shooting," he says, a beat later.

"Why?" Cain asks.

"What, you didn't expect me to find out what creature I was up against?" De la Cruz chuckles and licks his lips. "You showed me pictures of a man, Avery, not an angel—certainly not El Diablo, by any popular understanding of him. I don't make it a habit to play with things I don't understand." He shakes his head. "Have to say I'm impressed, though. Quite the wingspan on that cabron."

"So you see how profitable owning him would be."

"Mm. Firefly is making me a lot of money. I'll give you that. But why do you think I purchase ingredients, instead of living things? I'll tell you: I'm more risk averse than some of the men in my industry." He holds out a hand, indicating the dark, secretive room around them. "The potential benefits of our partnership are high, but there's a lot of overhead, a lot of risk. Perhaps too much. I can't blame my men for packing up and leaving. It made good sense."

"We have an agreement. I can't have your men blabbing or using their knowledge in their spare time."

"You needn't concern yourself with my men. They'll be taken care of. And you and I did have an agreement," De la Cruz says, "but the costs are too high for me to continue moving forward with it. This is money I can do without."

Cain barely resists the urge to unleash his wings in a show of power. He might be able to scare this old fool straight into the grave. But revealing the full extent of his inhumanness wouldn't be wise in a compound where the supernatural is ground up for money. He doubts they could kill him, but they might be able to capture him as he'd hoped they'd capture Lucifer.

"Why pull out now?" he growls.

"My daughter, for one," De la Cruz answers. "I may send her to do dangerous things, but bringing down the Devil is something else entirely. It seems bullets might not be enough to subdue and capture him, and I'm unsure how you plan for me to hold him after we've got him. I'm not interested in having my entire business destroyed by a celestial entity, and I won't kidnap an LAPD officer to help contain him. If you want to continue our partnership, the least you can do is capture the freak yourself."

Cain leans back in his chair. De la Cruz has him by the balls, and they both know it. The drug lord is the best way to ruin Lucifer, and even if he wasn't, he knows too much now. Worse, he's probably right. Even with Chloe, Lucifer is a force to be reckoned with. Cain already died once making assumptions about the Devil's strength.

He fingers the Pentecostal coin buried deep in his pocket. How much does he want revenge?

Bile tickles the back of his throat as he says, "I know what we can use to catch him. Something better than bullets."

"And what might that be?" De la Cruz asks, only mildly interested.

"Hell-forged steel."


***


Cain sits alone in a wide, curved, black leather booth situated in a shadowy back corner of Koreatown's best steakhouse. The table is meant to seat five or six people, but Cain requested it to hold the full extent of his order, which includes everything from bacon-wrapped scallops, to half a chicken, a New York strip steak grilled rare, lobster, garlic bread, and mashed potatoes. The heavy scents of meat, butter, and herbs travel on curling steam beneath the muted, yellow light of the restaurant.

If he's going back to Hell, he's going to gorge himself on a damn good last meal.

While he wolfs down the food, he argues with himself, as he has every day since escaping the underworld. He could let this vendetta against Lucifer go. He could walk away, but Lucifer's triumphant grin won't leave him. And the more he thinks about it, the more he can't wait to wipe it off his face.

The more he can't wait to take Chloe from him. If she can accept the Devil, surely she can accept what Cain has become. Surely, with Lucifer out of the picture, she will see what great lengths he's gone to, to be with her, to make her life ready for him. He imagines her on her knees, thanking him, pretty blue eyes staring up at his face. He palms his erection beneath the white tablecloth and eats his potatoes.

After dinner, he goes home—insofar as the Brentwood safe house can ever be a home. With each passing moment, he feels less like Peter Avery, less like Marcus Pierce, or even Cain, the world's first and greatest murderer. He is, instead, the Prince of Darkness, the ruler of Nox. His human mask itches.

In the living room, he sits on the sofa, the Hell-forged blade tucked against his side, one Pentecostal coin sewn into a hidden pocket. The other coin he pinches between thumb and forefinger.

Drawing in a deep breath, he sets his wings free. The leathery membrane of the right appendage knocks against a table lamp, sending it crashing to the floor. The bulb shatters, dying on impact, and the room falls into a darkness he can still see in without difficulty.

Tucking his wings around himself, he opens up to that which he has worked so hard to ignore on Earth. Hell is always with him, a small, but insistent tug on his bloodless veins. Whispers tickle at his ears, telling him the way back, promising him strength.

Thisss way, they hiss.

Drink the Devil's blood, and don't stop drinking.

On instinct, Cain shoves the Pentecostal coin into his mouth, gagging on the taste of spoiled egg, soot, and ore. Relaxing his throat, he swallows the hot metal. It gets stuck and drags downward sluggishly. He struggles to breathe.

Yes, the voices whisper. Yes. Come back.

Hell yanks him from Earth. The black, spiked gates yawn wide for him, like open arms welcoming him home.

Chapter Text

The smack to Chloe's rear end is hard enough that she moans a muffled "Ow" into her pillow. She whines as covers are pulled away from her naked body. At least Lucifer keeps it warm in the penthouse.

"Rise and shine, darling!"

"What time is it?" she mumbles.

"Oh, it's a bloody ungodly hour."

Chloe snorts into her pillow. "Let me sleep."

"'Fraid I can't, my dear. It's going to be a long day, so we need to start early. First stop is a meeting with Blackjack Haley."

That makes her sit up on her elbows and look at him over her shoulder. He's dressed in a black three-piece suit already, no hair out of place, no sign that he spent hours, drunk and depressed, in the shower, and only escaped with her help.

"Blackjack Haley...the head of the Iron Ghosts Motorcycle Club?"

"The one and only."

"You know him? Lucifer, the LAPD's been trying to catch him for years."

"Well, he lives in Santa Monica and drives a Bentley when he's not on his motorcycle, so they must not be trying too hard. But, no, I don't personally know Haley," he says, his voice carrying as he wanders into the closet. "Shouldn't be a problem, though." As if it's a minor detail. He returns and throws black jeans and a white shirt at her.

The clothes slide off her body as she turns onto her back. She throws an arm over her eyes to hide from the rising sun. "Can't we just stay in bed another hour?"

She lifts her arm a little, peeking at him, and is amused to find his attention isn't at all directed on her face. Dragging her knees up, she spreads her legs wide and enjoys how his eyes dart from one leg to the other before settling between them. He doesn't lie. He really is a leg man.

"Lucifer, come back to bed."

He stares for a long moment, the smirk on his face deepening. "Oh, what the hell?" he says, throwing off his jacket.

Chloe smiles in victory.

Lucifer works through buttons and hooks with practiced ease until he's left standing in all his naked glory. Sunlight tingles through Chloe's skin and casts enticing reliefs across his body. Her heart rate spikes as he crawls up the bed like a big, prowling cat. Suddenly, she's not tired at all.

He leans over her, his erection pressing hard against her thigh, and kisses the corner of her mouth. He drags lips and teeth and tongue down her jawline, the slope of her neck, and the wings of her collarbone. Resting on his elbows, he holds a breast in each hand and circles his thumbs around her nipples. Chloe arches into him when his fingers change course and drag roughly over the sensitive skin.

"Quite the seductress, aren't you?" he chuckles, his warm breath leaving gooseflesh in its wake. "Tempting the Devil."

She melts beneath him as he dips his head and draws a pink bud into his mouth. The thing about foreplay and sex with Lucifer is there's no part of him that's ever idle. His hands are no less busy because his mouth is at work. He heeds every moan and sigh, and reads flesh and bone like a blind person reads Braille.

"Such a siren," he says, dragging long fingers down her ribs. He grips the curve of her waist tightly and kisses his way downward. His tongue follows the crescent arches of her hipbones, and finally—finally—he's between her thighs, where she wants him, and she's already moaning his name.

He presses a hot, wet kiss directly over her clit, and she jolts a little at the contact. Backing away suddenly, he gently slaps her inner thighs. "Right, up you get, Jezebel. We've places to go, people to see." He scrambles up before she can reach for him and looks down at her in lustful amusement.

Chloe sits up at once, her mouth hanging open. "What? No!" As he slides his arms back into his dress shirt, she throws a hand out, indicating his arousal. "You obviously don't want to stop!"

"Nothing wrong with a bit of delayed gratification. Besides, darling, you've trained me too well. I've suffered with blue balls next to you for years."

"But you don't have to anymore!"

"I'll get the shower started for you, shall I?" he says, waltzing from the room. He peeks around the corner of the hallway that leads into his closet and bathroom. "Water a bit cooler than usual, yes?"

She groans, and his laughter is loud and full.

Chloe rushes through her shower, feeling like a wire pulled taut. She'd get herself off, but Lucifer seems to know that and keeps passing through the bathroom. When she steps out of the water, he hands her a bath sheet and a cup of coffee with a smirk.

"I know we need to find Shay," she says, holding the hot mug close, "but why are we starting so early? It's five-thirty in the morning."

He shrugs a shoulder. "Early bird catches the feather-thieving degenerate?"

Setting aside her coffee, she flips her hair and towels it dry. "And why do you think the leader of the Iron Ghosts will know who or where Shay is?"

"Crime syndicates keep tabs on each other, just like the LAPD keeps tabs on them. Any crime ring that sells drugs is notoriously tetchy about new drugs entering the market. They like to get their hands on them—I should know, because I like to get my hands on them, too. And yet my contacts have curiously had no firefly heroin to sell me, nor have they been able to tell me where to acquire it. So. Time to speak to management myself, as it were. If Haley doesn't know Shay or where to source the drug, we've seven other kingpins we can see."

She turns her head slowly to look at him. "You know seven drug lords."

"Mm. Well, in L.A., at least, and not directly, but soon I suppose we both will."

Chloe stands straight, towel clutched to her breasts. "And we're just going to go...talk to them."

His mouth twitches. "They're people just like you and me."

"Very dangerous people."

"And I'm a dangerous devil," he says, his sharp grin coming out in full force. Digging into his trouser pocket, he emerges with a pair of her underwear, which he presses into her hands. "Chop-chop, darling. If you don't hurry it along, I'll have to speed more, and we both know how much you hate that."

Chloe holds her underwear limply and stares at his black-suited back as he strolls out of the bathroom.

What the hell has she gotten herself into?


***


Lucifer drives them deep into Glendale, while Chloe squints behind her sunglasses and nurses a second cup of coffee. It's barely ten in the morning, but she's already come face to face with men from the Iron Ghosts and the Yakuza. Neither group knew anything about Shay, even though both had heard of Firefly in passing. That's the important takeaway, but all Chloe can really focus on is how nice everyone has been. Because everyone likes Lucifer.

"I can't believe they gave us snacks," she says, staring at the small box of Japanese treats on her lap. It contains everything from mochi to matcha chocolate and wasabi peas.

"Yes, I really thought the Yakuza and I had parted on bad terms last time," Lucifer says, taking one hand off the wheel to dig into the box for chocolate, "but perhaps I misread things."

Last time. Because her partner, the Devil, her boyfriend, occasionally meets with the Yakuza. And she, a woman who doesn't even know if she's quite human anymore herself, goes with him.

What the fuck.

She grounds herself by focusing on the streets as they pass them. Like most neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Glendale is a sprawling mishmash of businesses, nouveau-riche wealth, and urban poverty. As always, gentrification is making for strange bedfellows, placing houses flipped by hipsters one street over from dilapidated bungalows, and trendy juice bars next to pawn shops.

They pull into a tiny parking lot beside a trio of businesses, one of them Niko's, a dive bar with a traditional, red-brick face awkwardly forced onto the concrete body of its mini-mall container. They've come to meet Terenti Abashidze, the head of the Georgian Mafia, another man the LAPD would like to have a word with, but can never seem to track down.

Lucifer parks the Corvette—poorly, as usual—and pulls the keys from the ignition. The engine ticks as it cools.

"So, are the Georgians going to give us treats to go?" Chloe asks, trying to make light of the bizarre morning she's had. She's not sure what the hell else to do with it.

"No, but they might shake figs at us." Lucifer fails to notice how her brow furrows with confusion. "The Georgians are a deeply religious and superstitious bunch. The only reason they tolerate me and my name is because money often has more pull than dear old Dad." Tilting the Corvette's rear-view mirror toward himself, he smooths his hair. "As such," he says, glancing at her sidelong, "might I suggest you take a step back, Detective? I do love to see you at work, but I fear you might get us shot dead, is all."

Chloe stares at him, lips parted. She's never been one to shy away from danger—far from it—but she's used to being in control and having the police force at her back. Mostly, anyway. If she's honest with herself, Lucifer's been the one at her back, usually.

"What are we walking into here?" she asks, concerned.

He pats her thigh. "It'll be fine, I'm sure. At any rate, you'll find a gun and ammo in the glove box for you."

"What?" Chloe yanks open the glove compartment and gawps at the Ruger pistol. "Lucifer, is that even registered?"

"Not likely. I bought it from a chap at three in the morning."

"I'm not touching that."

He shrugs a shoulder. "Suit yourself. Probably won't need it."

"Probably," she mutters. She stops him before he can climb out of the Corvette. "Wait, wait, wait." She smacks his arm. "Put the top up! We can't just leave a"—she mouths the word gun—"out in the open." She's horrified to realize they did exactly that during their last two stops.

"Ah, right you are," Lucifer agrees, while Chloe does her best to hold it together.

At the front of Niko's, a yellowed Closed sign hangs in the slender, diamond-shaped window of the venue's vaguely Eastern European-styled door. Chloe frowns at it. "Do you know someone who will let us—"

The lock snaps free beneath Lucifer's touch. "Why, yes, darling, I do know someone who will let us in," he says, pushing the door open. He walks into the dark bar, munching on the last of the Yakuza's chocolate.

"All's quiet on the Caucasian front," he declares.

Chloe follows him inside, yanking her sunglasses off and blinking against the sudden change in light. For a moment, she feels off-kilter, as she often does now when going between the intense power of natural light and the relative tranquility of shadowed or artificially-lit interiors. The swoop in her gut and the sharp pang in her skull are reminders that what's happening to her physically hasn't gone away, simply because the rest of her life is relentlessly busy and complicated.

She closes the door behind them. Without the sounds of growling car engines from the street outside, she can just make out the soft, fluctuating noise of muffled human speech. "Where's that coming from?" she asks.

Lucifer flicks a finger toward a door behind the empty bar counter. A white-and-red sign declares in both English and squiggly Georgian script that the space is for employees only. "That leads to the illegal gambling hall set up in the basement." He fingers his cufflinks and grins. "Shall we?"

He strides forward before she can answer, pausing only briefly to peek behind the bar and turn his nose up at the selection. Tugging open the Employees Only door, he reveals a tiny threshold that leads into a narrow, dimly lit stairwell.

A thickly-bearded man looks up from his cell phone in surprise from where he perches atop a wooden stool far too small for his giant form. He stands, shoving his phone into a pocket, and booms, "How did you get in?" He points a finger behind them. "We are closed." Slapping the flat of his palm against the door he guards, he adds, "Staff only. You don't read?"

"Been around since cuneiform, actually, so, yes, I do happen to be literate, thank you." Lucifer slams a hand to the door before the goon can close it. This time, Chloe doesn't object to his aggressive methodology. "We're here to see Terenti Abashidze."

The bruiser's bushy brows arch like black umbrellas above his eyes. A gold tooth flashes beneath the overhead light as his head falls back with his laughter. "And who are you?" he asks, once his amusement has died down.

"Lucifer Morningstar. You may have heard of me."

The barrel-chested man's eyes widen as he clutches at the buttons of his shirt. "You go."

"Bloody hell, you must be new." Lucifer rolls his eyes and waves a hand. "Yes, yes, my name strikes terror, but be a dear and pop downstairs to announce my arrival, would you? Someone will know of me. I've played here before."

Shaking his head, the bruiser moves to close the door and frowns when his shove doesn't make it budge an inch. Lucifer glances at Chloe in amusement as the man continues to push with increasing agitation, going so far as to peer at the bottom edge of the wood, convinced something—certainly not Lucifer—must be blocking the door's movement. Chloe looks away, face scrunching as she struggles to contain inappropriate laughter. Nothing could have prepared her for this morning.

"Batono[1] Lucifer?" a heavily-accented voice calls from the base of the stairwell.

This is followed by a steady flow of Georgian. Chloe doesn't understand any of it, but it must be in their favor because Lucifer grins smugly at the bouncer.

Scowling, the large man steps aside, opening the door wider before stopping them again with a raised hand. "Who is this?" he asks, looking down at Chloe, as if noticing her for the first time.

"Ah," Lucifer says, dragging her in front of him by her shoulders, "this would be my associate, Jane. She's not a cop."

Chloe nearly chokes. If they survive this basement full of mobsters, she might kill him.


***


Despite Georgian ownership, the basement is modeled after vintage American gambling halls. Waitresses dressed in tiny black skirts weave around classic, green-felted gaming tables, holding aloft serving trays laden with glasses. Pale yellow liquor glows beneath golden-domed lanterns hanging from the ceiling.

At the base of the stairwell, the swift, clipped syllables of the Georgian language wash over Chloe, leaving her feeling foreign and disoriented. She tries to convince herself this is just another undercover job, with the only (big) difference being that she's not the one in control of it. It'll be okay, she thinks. Lucifer knows what he's doing...right?

She yanks her hand away from her face when she realizes she's chewing on the edge of her thumb. She can't bring herself to say it to him after the long night he had, but the visits to see the Iron Ghosts, the Yakuza, and now here, to talk to a Georgian mob boss, feel like wild goose chases. What are the odds Abashidze will lead them any closer to Shay?

"Turns out the Devil does go down to Georgia," Lucifer jokes, observing the smoke-filled room with fondness. He looks toward the back, right corner of the hall, where a waitress is bent toward a middle-aged man. "Ah, there's Terenti now."

Lucifer leads them to the oval-shaped poker table. Players at other tables look up and watch them pass, giving Chloe the distinct impression that the Devil has a reputation here. Whether it's good or bad, or simply notorious, she can't be sure, and not knowing puts her on edge.

Five men are gathered round Terenti Abashidze's table, some slender, some hulking and bearded like the bouncer. Shot glasses litter the spaces between them, and cigarette and cigar ash gathers in ashtrays. One man reaches for his poker chips, revealing knuckles scabbed over from what Chloe can only assume was an act of mob justice.

Of the small group, Terenti is the only attractive man. Dressed in a black button-down, he is lean and dark, like Lucifer, but with ice blue eyes that lock onto them with shark-like intensity. While the men around him seem savvy in the way all hardened criminals do, Terenti is the only one who doesn't look like he earns his living by throwing punches. As the boss, he earns it by being clever. The nervous pit in Chloe's gut twists, making her regret her second cup of coffee.

"Dila mshvidobisa[2]!" Lucifer cheers, standing at the head of the table. Chloe blinks at the reminder that he's fluent in literally every language, ever.

"Gvinakhulet[3]," Terenti murmurs, blowing smoke from his cigarette. "St’umari ghvtisaa[4]."

Lucifer scoffs and makes what is clearly a sarcastic reply. The dealer slings cards toward the players at the table.

Terenti shrugs a shoulder in response. A moment later, his eyes cut up to Chloe, and he smiles around his cigarette. It's a cruel smile she refuses to be intimidated by. She's seen it on others, many times before, and it pisses her off more than it scares her. Terenti asks Lucifer a question.

"Es is Jane," Lucifer says, glancing at her.

The mob boss chuckles and peeks at the cards he's been dealt before returning his attention to Chloe. Winking, he holds his hands in front of his chest and shakes them up and down. "Genatsvale jigrebshi[5]!" he laughs.

Other men at the table, and even some at the tables nearby, suddenly ohhh and ahhh and roar with laugh. She doesn't need to be fluent in Georgian to know they've recognized her from Hot Tub High School, the movie that won't die. In this particular case, she supposes she should be grateful they know her from that, and not for her work as a detective.

Lucifer speaks through a cutting smirk, the language rolling off his tongue. Their corner of the room falls quiet at once, save for the soft clicking of caressed poker chip stacks. The men at Terenti's table look up with narrowed eyes.

Chloe rests a hand on Lucifer's elbow. "Lucifer, it's fine. I'm sure I've heard it before." She resists the urge to point out his chivalry is hypocritical, given his own crass, if glowing, reviews of her erstwhile acting career.

A match of wits starts up between the two men. Chloe stands to the side, her eyes shifting back and forth, as she tries and fails to understand where the conversation has drifted. Are they still talking about her breasts? Who knows.

But then she hears "Shay" and realizes Lucifer has managed to stay focused.

Terenti, having won a round of poker, rakes chips toward himself. He leans back in his chair and locks his fingers behind his head. He looks up at Lucifer, as though he is a king staring down his nose at a lowly subject. Lucifer's expression borders on dangerous.

Don't, Chloe wills Terenti. Don't be stupid. Not today. Not over this.

But when Terenti speaks again, it's through a dismissive sneer.

Lucifer's teeth show in a barely-contained snarl. Chloe calls to him softly, one hand lifted between them, but she's seen him this way, shoving men out windows, sitting unrepentantly by criminals he's rendered insane. He's too far gone, and something crackles through her in response, a sharp reminder.

Not human.

Time seems to slow around Chloe. She steps back instinctively, bumping into a waitress, who curses as glasses tumble and shatter. But all Chloe can see is the moment Lucifer springs like a cobra, grasping the end of the gaming table and flinging it sideways. The table crashes into the wall, plasterboard exploding. Poker chips and cards fly through the air.

Terenti's men yell and scramble up as one, but they're too slow. Lucifer rages forward, lifting Terenti by his throat and slamming him into the wall. The mob boss babbles and gasps, his blue eyes wide as he grasps at Lucifer's forearms in shock. Lucifer growls a question while Terenti's men surge forward.

The gambling hall erupts around Chloe.

"Lucifer!" she cries. And it's Colinda all over again. It's freefalling from the sky, feathers engulfing her and snapping in the wind.

The crowd swarms around him, separating them. Struggling to keep a hold on her light, she shoves back at a man twice her size who tries to move her out of the way.

Chloe's eyes dart around the room, hunting for other exits to the surface and finding none. They have to get out of here. For their safety. For everyone's safety.

One of Terenti's men shouts something in Georgian and raises a pistol, firing it at the ceiling. The blast is deafening in the basement. Chloe's ears ring as plaster and wood rain down. Behind the crowd of mobsters, she makes out Lucifer's slow, agitated turn. Newly free, Terenti scrambles away.

A scream gets stuck in Chloe's throat. She presses forward in a panic as the gunman trains his pistol on Lucifer.

But Lucifer's hand flashes out, snatching the weapon with ease. The barrel bends alarmingly beneath his fingers, and he hurls the gun sideways—right into the face of the shooter. The man drops like a rock.

"Iqos mase[6]!" Terenti's shout is all but a scream. "Iqos mase!"

The room goes still. Chloe sucks in a breath as Lucifer turns toward her with crimson eyes that send the Georgians scurrying, muttering litanies to God. Many hands have grasped at him, leaving him disheveled. He steps before her and stops, the red of his irises slipping back to warm, familiar dark brown. He stares, as if she might have answers to questions he hasn't voiced.

She grabs his hand. "Let's get out of here."

They leave the basement without being further accosted, their shoes crunching on glass. The bouncer at the top of the stairwell gives them a wide berth as he holds open the door to the bar, which is still closed for the morning. The staff door slams shut behind them.

"Chloe—"

"Not until we get to the car," she says, dragging him with her to Niko's entrance.

She pulls the door open and steps outside, only to wince as bright sunlight bears down upon her. Pulling her sunglasses from her back pocket, she shoves them onto her face and marches to the Corvette, trusting Lucifer is behind her.

The inside of the Corvette feels more like an oven than a car. Lucifer cranks the engine and turns up the air conditioning.

"What the hell?" Chloe finally says.

Lucifer glances at her, fingers tapping a jittery rhythm on the steering wheel. "Go on, then," he huffs. "Tell me off."

"You know what? I will. You could have gotten us killed in there! And I had no idea what was going on! I can't understand Georgian—I can barely handle Spanish!"

"The Los Angeles public school system really does leave much to be desired, doesn't it?"

Chloe's eyes narrow.

"Fine. I could have prepared you better. But I had it under control," he argues, shoving a loose curl back from his forehead. "Things simply went a bit south because Terenti's a knobhead who wouldn't make a deal with me that didn't involve you."

She'll have to unpack that later.

Lucifer continues, "But nothing would have happened to you or to me. I assure you of that."

"That man had a gun!"

"And you could have one, too," he sing-songs, nodding his chin toward the glove compartment.

She closes her eyes. "Oh my God."

"Yes, it wouldn't surprise me if Dad were behind the reprobates who absconded with my feathers."

"Look at yourself," she seethes, jabbing a finger toward his half-tucked shirt and drywall-dusted suit jacket. Scoffing, he lifts his hips and re-tucks his shirttail. "That," she says, directing her finger toward the building, "was not control."

"What would you know about my control?" he gripes. "Anyway, you're bloody with the Devil, aren't you? Devil is as Devil does. Best get used to it now."

The trouble with moments like this one is sometimes she wants to kiss the attitude right out of him. Today, she wants much more, but she squashes those feelings down with brutal efficiency.

"You just— You just—" She lets out a small squeal of frustration and blows air past her lips. "We're done for the day. We're not going to go on anymore wild goose chases because"—she slips into her fake British accent—"'I'm the Devil, Chloe. This is Devil business. This is what I do.' No." She quiets, searching for patience. "I get that you want to find Shay—I do, too—but we have to remain calm. We have to do this logically."

"Calm," he chuckles. "Detective. Darling. Someone stole my body parts to sell to the highest bidder again, and said body parts are now killing humans. I. Am. As. Calm. As. I. Can. Be." Pulling his flask from his breast pocket, he unscrews the cap and drinks deeply.

"Okay," Chloe says gently, touching his arm. "You're right. I'm sorry. I just... We need to be careful, you know? You need to be careful."

His gaze softens. "No need to worry about me. I'd make my way back if anything happened. Eventually." He adds in a somber voice, "I'm not the fragile one in this partnership."

But she does worry. He lives like he's immortal around her, but he's not—not quite. And the thought of him descending to Hell—again—because of her... They can't be sure what would happen if he truly died in her presence. He's convinced he'd be able to come back, but it's not as if the theory has been tested.

Lucifer makes a small sound of protest when she yanks the flask out of his hand and drinks from it. "Let's just go back to the office, okay? I'll make some more calls, see if I can't find us a lead. There has to be something I haven't thought of yet."

She feels she's exhausted everything, but some stone must remain unturned.

"No need for further inquiries, Detective," he says, taking the flask back and screwing on the top. "Terenti squealed on a Salvadoran by the name of Fernando Portillo. He's rumored to be dealing firefly heroin. Lucky for us, Mondays apparently happen to be Bad Guy Meetup Day at Portillo's house."

For a moment, words fail her, then she bursts out, "Why didn't you lead with that?"

"Well, someone was bloody well reaming me, wasn't she?" he says, delighted.

"You are such a dick," she complains, ripping into overheated wasabi peas for something to do with her hands that won't involve throttling Satan.

Lucifer barks a laugh, sounding as crazed as he looks. He shifts the gear into reverse. "This is the part where you tell me to lead the way, Detective."

"Just drive, Lucifer."


***


They head south to Pico Union, one of several Salvadoran enclaves in Los Angeles. While Lucifer drives, Chloe calls Ella and Dan to get as much information on Fernando Portillo as possible. There isn't a lot. Aged thirty-five, Portillo is a second-generation immigrant, born and raised in L.A. His record is spotless. After a little digging, Ella discovers his most revealing behavior online is that he owns a pest control business.

"Excellent cover for making special deliveries," Lucifer comments. "Kill a roach, sell a roach." He looks at Chloe, expecting a laugh. "You know, because roach is a euphemism for joint."

"I got it," Chloe says.

"Wow, Fernando's got five stars on Yelp," Ella says. "Think he knows of a humane way to get rid of ants? I've been trying to live with them ever since my ant farm fell off the table and broke, but it's getting pretty hard. They're all like, 'We didn't ask you to put us in a prison made of glass, Ella.' And I'm all like, 'Yeah, I know, but you're kinda getting in my peanut butter.' I eat a lot of peanut butter, you guys."

Chloe blinks. "Um, we'll...ask him, if we get the chance, I guess." She shakes her head.

Dan is nearly as upset as Lucifer about the news that angel feathers are in firefly heroin, and he still hasn't warmed to the idea of Chloe slipping into the role of private investigator, though he knows better than to voice that opinion outright. Taco night might have smoothed over the worst of the tension between her ex and the Devil, but he's far from accepted the supernatural at large. Sometimes Chloe wonders why she finds it so easy to accept, especially with her own body doing things she can't explain. But, as always, there's little time to process her feelings in the work they do. There's only going forwards.

"Lemme send a few guys, Chlo. Unmarked cars."

She considers it, but she doesn't trust anyone at the precinct right now, not even the guys Dan is close to.

"Cops will only complicate matters, Daniel," Lucifer replies, speaking loftily from the driver's seat. "The scent of cop is just now fading from the Detective. Don't want to ruin that, now, do we?"

"We'll be fine," she assures her ex-husband, her voice pitched high as she thinks of the disaster they just narrowly escaped. Clearing her throat, she changes the subject to something safer. "Did you send off the payment for Trixie's art camp?"

Traffic crawls like sludge down a drainpipe as they make their way to Portillo's neighborhood. There's little street parking close to his house, leaving Lucifer to wedge the Corvette into a spot too small for the car's long, steel body. He "solves" the problem by parking the front of the Corvette over the curb, on the dry grass of someone's front lawn.

"Ready?" he asks, cutting the engine. He ditches his suit jacket and dusts plaster from his vest and out of his unkempt hair.

Chloe holds up a finger. "On one condition."

"Oh, and what might that be, Detective?" Lucifer grins. "That I make for up this morning?" He glances at a nonexistent watch. "I suppose we have time now if we're quick." He tilts sideways, looking past her. "Can have a roll in those bushes over there."

"What? No," she says firmly, and his eyes glitter with amusement. "Just let me take the lead on this one, okay? You're too close to this case"—she is, too—"and I want us to make it out of here alive. One near-death experience is enough for a day."

"Very well," he sighs. Pushing open the driver's door, he turns back and asks, "Sure you don't want to arm yourself, then?"

"No, I'm good," she says, still reluctant to leave the Ruger unattended. She climbs out of the Corvette and pulls down her fitted shirt, smoothing wrinkles. "Think I'm too afraid I might use it on you," she jokes.

"Angling for those earrings, after all?"

Chloe laughs, and Lucifer falls into lockstep beside her. From the corner of her eye, she watches his thumb worry his ring.

Portillo's eggshell-colored dwelling is lined by bars, from a white-painted iron-bar fence, to white window guards and a white security door. It's also well-kept, unlike some of the other homes on the street. Potted herbs line a compact patio, and the grass is neatly trimmed, and greener than most. It's a good cover for a drug dealer.

They push past the waist-high gate and make their way to the front door, where Lucifer rolls his eyes at the large wooden crucifix hanging at eye level. Chloe jabs her finger into the doorbell.

A moment later a young Latina woman dressed in a yellow sundress opens the door, her curly-haired head turned as she continues to speak, laughingly, in Spanish to someone inside the house. When she faces forward, she stares blankly at the gringos on her doorstep.

"Can I help you?" she asks, her eyes sweeping over Lucifer.

"We're here to see Fernando Portillo," Chloe answers, and her hand ghosts toward her waist, where her badge used to rest.

Lucifer sighs. "Really, darling, we must work on your social skills." He holds out a hand. "Lucifer Morningstar," he says, introducing himself. "And this is Jane. I apologize. She has no manners."

Chloe rolls her eyes.

"Rosa," the woman says absently, shaking his hand. "Are you...cops?"

"How dare you? What cop dresses in bespoke wool?"

"No," Chloe responds, struggling to hold back a laugh, "we're not cops." The truth of her answer settles on her all over again. "Lucky for you, since we heard Fernando sells drugs."

"Uh, Nando's in pest control."

"Sure, but this guy," Chloe says, chucking a thumb at Lucifer, "has got more money than he knows what to do with, and he loves drugs." Too much.

Lucifer grins widely. "It's true. And I'd particularly like to get my hands on a drug Nando is said to be selling right now."

Rosa shakes her head, confused by the blunt honesty. "Uh, well, he's out back." She shrugs a shoulder. "Guess you can eat while you're here."

"Marvelous," Lucifer says. "Are there pupusas? I love pupusas."

In lieu of responding, Rosa leans out of sight, grabbing something with a grunt. "You got any guns or knives?" she asks. "Abuelita has a zero tolerance policy on violence."

Chloe looks around the patio with sudden understanding. The house might belong to Fernando, but the home must be kept by his grandmother. When her focus returns to Rosa, Chloe's mouth drops open. The young woman holds aloft a basket filled to the brim with pistols and knives. No doubt all the guns are loaded.

"Ooh, do we get to pick one?" Lucifer asks.

Rosa looks at him strangely. "No... Put your weapons in here."

"W-we're unarmed," Chloe stammers.

Rosa leads them past a cramped living room and a pale blue kitchen that's less kitchen than kitchenette, but is nonetheless filled with three young women—possibly Rosa's younger sisters—who are busy cooking. They look up briefly, brows raising at the sight of white people, but quickly turn back to work. Considering their tepid reaction, it seems they're quite used to seeing visitors.

Latin pop flows from a stereo as they step into the backyard, which is shockingly green for southern California and larger than the front yard and house, combined. A small vegetable garden rests near the back edge of the fence. Bright red tomatoes hang on the vine.

A man standing at a charcoal grill looks up at them, curious, tongs and meat thermometer in hand. Beyond him, five other men lounge in lawn chairs, paper plates stacked high with beans and various meats, beers in hand. The men stop speaking and stare. They all slightly resemble each other—cousins, Chloe thinks, maybe a brother or two.

"Nando, you got visitors," Rosa announces unnecessarily. A bald-headed man wearing a red jersey sets his beer on the ground. "This is Jane and...Lucifer." She shakes her head at the name. Introductions made, she turns on her heel and returns inside.

Nando rises and walks closer, all loose-limbed, a slight smile on his round face. Though she's never worked in Narcotics, Chloe knows men like Nando from her days as a patrol officer. The problem with small-time dealers is you never know who's a poser making a buck, versus who's looking to prove themselves to someone bigger and badder. One's harmless if you overlook the drugs, while the other might kill you to climb the ladder. At least Abuelita makes them leave their guns at the door, though there was no pat-down to prove they were unarmed. Chloe eyes Nando and his men with suspicion.

"Lucifer, huh?" Nando says, chuckling. "El Diablo."

"That would be me, yes," Lucifer replies.

Nando hesitates a beat before asking, "What can I get you?"

Chloe steps in. "We heard you have something that"—she lowers her voice in a whisper—"heals people."

Nando snorts. "Nah, sorry. Sold out of Firefly a week ago."

"Sold out?" Lucifer repeats, a tinge of panic in his tone.

"Yeah, that shit sold fast, even with the high price tag." The dealer rolls his eyes. "I got other stuff, though. You look more like a coke guy, anyway," he says, eyes on Lucifer. He glances at Chloe, but seems to decide she's too straitlaced for any of it.

Chloe puts a soothing hand on Lucifer's waist. "You don't seem to believe Firefly works."

Nando sighs, "I go to Mass on Easter and Christmas. I light a few candles." He nods his head toward the house. "Makes my abuelita happy. Look, I don't know if you heard, but the whole thing about Firefly was it supposedly had angel feathers in it, and that's just..."

"Bayunco[7]," one of Nando's men supplies.

"You wouldn't even be able to look upon angel wings without turning into a babbling prat," Lucifer scoffs at the man.

"Oh, we got a believer," another man crows.

"Don't mind them," Nando says to Lucifer. "Come on, let's see what I can get you."

Before Chloe can stop it, Lucifer's hand flashes out and grasps Nando's arm. "What you can get me," he growls, "is the name of your supplier because we both know you're not at the top of the bloody pyramid."

Nando's men rise to their feet. The man barbecuing ribs drops the top of the grill closed and comes to join the others.

Dammit. They just went through this.

"Lucifer, let him go." Chloe looks at their potential assailants in concern, hands lifted in an effort to soothe.

"It was Shay, wasn't it?" Lucifer grinds out, his jaw tight. "Who is she?"

Trying to salvage the situation, Chloe rushes to add, "Is that who you got it from, Nando? We won't tell her you told us. But we need to find her." Without protocol to hold her back, she takes a page out of Lucifer's book. "We'll pay you for the information."

Despite the bright noonday sun, Nando's pupils dilate, as if he instinctively knows Lucifer is other. "You aren't missing anything, man," he evades, his voice shaking. "I doubt they're even gonna make more—they change their ingredients and claims all the time. I'm ending things with that supplier for a reason."

"Didn't ask for a review," Lucifer says, leaning forward and giving Nando a rough shake. "Who is she, and where can I find her? I know you know."

"Hands off," one of Nando's friends finally warns. "The feathers aren't even real, you idiot," he says, clapping a hand onto Lucifer's shoulder to push him away.

It's the wrong move.

Lucifer's left fist rises and punches straight into the man's nose, which crunches loudly. It's such a hard punch that the man goes down and stays down.

Violence erupts for the second time in as many hours.

"Everybody stop!" Chloe shouts. But she's not an officer, she has no badge or gun, and her words fall on deaf ears.

At her left, Lucifer faces off against five men, laughing and taunting them in Spanish because of course he's been raring for another fight. The girls from the kitchen yell at the doorway to the backyard, Auto-Tuned melodies from the Latin Top 40 drowning out half of their words.

A man wearing a blue baseball cap reaches for Chloe. Without thinking, she rears back and meets him with the right hook her father taught her so long ago. She could have easily slipped away, but, boy, did it feel good to land that hit. She laughs slightly, so pumped up on adrenaline that her bruised knuckles don't spark with pain.

The man stumbles back. For a moment, they stare at each other in shock. Chloe breathes heavily, feeling the light in her body, crackling like a raging fire. She could reach for it, she thinks, and raises her hand.

She could—

A meat thermometer flies through the air, spinning end over end like a pint-sized cheerleader's baton. The metal probe lands with a horrifying squelch in the man's left eye. Chloe's mouth drops open as he crumples to the ground, screaming in shock.

"He's well done, Detective!" Lucifer quips over the moans and screams.

She turns, her attention landing on her partner, who's in the process of rolling up his shirt sleeves. He's grinning and wild, shirt untucked, hair a mess, and so alive that it takes her breath away. Three men lie flat on the ground, knocked out cold near his feet. He sidesteps the bodies and sways backward, dodging the grasping hands of Nando and his two remaining men. Swiping a lawn chair from the grass, Lucifer hoists it and uses it like a discus against one of them. The man is struck in the stomach and goes flying backwards.

Whatever is playing on the stereo, whatever the girls are yelling at her back, whatever the man injured by the meat thermometer is groaning, all of it falls away as Chloe watches the Devil dance. Her understanding of the past changes with each second. Finally she sees why Lucifer walked into Jimmy Barnes' gunfire, why he was so surprised by his own blood when she shot him, why and how the Korean Power caved. She sees, too, how easily Cain was dispensed of. In her nightmares, the fight has always been close—a true struggle between the Devil and the world's first murderer. But that isn't what happened, is it? She sees that now.

Chloe is shaken from her thoughts when a short, stocky elderly woman dressed in a pink nightgown bursts from the house, cursing in Spanish. The woman stomps toward the mayhem, a leather sandal lifted high in the air.

"Ma'am!" Chloe calls, following close behind. Everything's already a mess. The last thing they need is an old woman getting hurt.

But said old woman is already in motion. The sole of her shoe makes first contact with the back of Lucifer's neck. He turns around, confused, just in time for her to hit him again, this time on the side of his head. Tired and bloody, Nando and his flunky take a step back, breathing heavily, as Abuelita's sandal strikes the Devil again and again.

"Basta, basta, basta[8]!" Lucifer whines, wincing with each thwack.

Chloe can't help it. A giggle slips through, and soon enough she can't stop laughing. On the other side of Lucifer, Nando huffs and then follows suit. At the threshold to the house, the teen girls join in.

When Abuelita's righteous anger has spent itself, she directs her grandson and the other man left standing to clean up—wake their friends, put the chairs back in place, clear the strewn beer bottles. The men who were knocked out slowly come to and wander indoors, groaning.

Abuelita points at Lucifer. "You pay hospital bills," she demands, looking at Chloe's half-blind assailant, who Rosa is going to take to the ER.

", Abuelita," Lucifer agrees, sounding almost contrite.

"She got you good," Chloe says, stepping up beside him a moment later and slipping her hand in his.

"Well, women are bloody terrifying," he replies, squeezing her fingers. "Especially abuelitas."

True, she thinks, but she also knows now that the fight stopped only because the Devil was ready for it to. She supposes he needed to let off some steam. He does seem more relaxed now, the lines of his face smoothed.

Abuelita plunks three lawn chairs down into a circle. "Sit," she commands the men. "Talk."

To Chloe's surprise, the men obey.

Nando is the first to speak. "You fight like hell," he says to Lucifer.

"You have no idea," Lucifer says.

Abuelita adds a fourth chair to the circle and looks at Chloe. "Don't let them be stupid," she warns, and pats her shoulder. "I bring food."

Beers and tequila, and new plates of beans and carnitas, are brought out. The truth surfaces slowly. Nando is only in the drug business to keep his younger sisters in private schools.

"If I snitch on a supplier, we're dead," Nando says of himself and the man they've since learned is his cousin Oscar. "And then what happens to them?"

Lucifer leans forward, sensing an angle. "I can cover their tuition. You could get out of this whole nasty business. All I ask for in return is that you tell us what you know about the person who supplied you with Firefly."

Nando and Oscar share a look, and Chloe jumps in, "We'll make sure you're safe."

"What?" Oscar laughs, speaking up for the first time. "By having the police patrol the area? Quickest way to die."

"We're not with the police," Chloe says.

"If you need security, you will have the best money can buy," Lucifer adds. "Surely Abuelita's virulent shoe will suffice for the rest."

Nando is quiet for a moment before he nods. "I want it in writing. That you'll pay their tuition. Whether I'm alive or not."

Lucifer settles back into his chair and crosses his legs. "My word is my bond, but if you insist upon a devilish contract, fetch me parchment, and it will be done."

Chloe watches, rapt, as the contract is drawn. It's simple and straightforward, no legalese. And she faces, again, the uncomfortable expediency of the Devil's favors and deals. How many times in her own life has she wanted to bypass all the red tape and get down to the point? Even her apartment lease is ninety pages long.

The longer she is with him and sees him for who he truly is, the more skeptical she becomes, not only of God, but of her own world, with all its strange and inconsistent rules, its extraordinary unfairness. Lucifer is a criminal, but he speaks the truth, and he's fair to a fault, so long as his emotions don't cloud his judgment.

"Now," Lucifer says after scribbling his sweeping signature, "your end of the deal." He opens a hand in invitation.

"De la Cruz," Nando whispers, as if mere utterance of the name might kill him. "That's the supplier."

"Of the cross?" Lucifer scoffs and glances toward the sky. "What irony."

Nando frowns at his strangeness. "Shayna is who approached me."

"Shayna?" Chloe confirms. "Not Shay?"

"I knew her as Shayna." Nando takes a long draw from his beer bottle. "They're weird. Very cagey. The product changes. The pickup and dropoff point change. Everything's careful, calculated. I was already selling—have been since I was sixteen. I got approached by Shayna because my cover's good. They don't use full-timers. Everybody who deals for them has to have a job outside of dealing. They don't like anyone getting suspicious." He shudders and adds, "And if you slip up, your ass is dead."

"What do you mean 'the product changes'?" Chloe asks.

"Their whole thing is"—he uses air quotes—"celestial ingredients. It's just dumb shit rich white people buy." He looks at Lucifer, wide-eyed. "No offense."

Chloe waves him off. She may be white herself, but as a child of L.A., she knows well there's a lot of "dumb shit" rich white people buy, especially if they've made it to the big screen or landed a solid gig on television. And there's no denying there's a lot of dumb shit Lucifer Morningstar does with his money.

"The latest ingredient was angel feathers," Nando says with a shrug. He notes Lucifer's responding silence. "Hey, man, if you were hoping to find a cure for something... If you're sick or somebody you know is... Sorry."

"I'm not sick," Lucifer says, his tone menacing. "I'm bloody furious."

"Do you know where we might find Shayna?" Chloe asks over the subsequent awkward silence.

Nando shakes his head. "I only met her the one time. But—" He breathes quickly, like he's panicking. "But I can tell you where and when the next pickup was set for."

They leave Fernando Portillo's house with leftovers and a lead.

Chapter Text

Cain falls on his hands and knees, disturbing a thin layer of ash. Something hard and rough claws at the back of his throat, obstructing his breathing. He wheezes and retches, his black wings thrashing as his lungs cry out for Hell's hot, stale air. With a final, heaving cough, a black stone flies past his lips, and he gasps in deep breaths, only to choke on sweet, rotten decay. It is the putrid scent of corpses bloating beneath a blazing sun, of spoiled eggs and sweating meats, and moldering infection.

Panting, he picks the stone up and dries it on his shirt for closer inspection. The Pentecostal coin now resembles nothing so much as one of the many lumpy, black pebbles that litter Hell's ashen grounds. With a faint huff, Cain pockets the rock.

He expected the material to disintegrate, as it did when he escaped Hell, but perhaps the underworld is eager to reclaim what belongs to itself. The thought gives him pause as he wonders if he might be included in that category. He glances back at the closed gates, which tower like black, brutalist skyscrapers wedged between bulbous, gurgling volcanoes.

None of it is as frightening, this time around.


***


There is a place in Hell where souls are not bound by loops, but are put to work as slaves in mines and forges. For thousands upon thousands of years, handpicked rapists have toiled in the heat and ash, weeping through the thick layer of soot that coats their cheeks. They break Hell's black mountains with ancient fire-setting and dull, rudimentary hand tools. It's work that would kill them, if they had earthly bodies that could die. Sometimes they do collapse, but Hell always brings them back.

As they labor, their Hell loops whisper and drag at them, but they are chained to the mountainside, and to each other, at the pleasure of a former king. The demons who never tire of torturing them occasionally permit them to rest, but only because this is the most torturous time of all, as they turn predatory eyes on one another and feel compelled to sin again and again and again.

Even when he was maneuvering for the black throne, Cain never sought to make alliances. He worked around existing coalitions, usually by driving wedges between their members. But he befriended those demons who oversaw the mines and forges, insofar as Cain befriends anyone. It was the only way to flood Nox with Hell-forged metal that would encourage infighting.

But Hell-forged metal is just that: metal, forged in Hell. Similar to iron, it's nothing special. It cuts and wounds, but Hell heals those who are wounded from it and those who "die" from it. No, the stronger material is an alloy that incorporates malam, a precious silver-colored metal found deep within a scant few of Hell's mountains.

Maze's karambits were forged from this alloy. Demon blades, Hell's citizens call them, not because they belong to demons, but because they're the only Hell-forged blade that can permanently maim or snuff out the life of the soulless creatures who exist here. On Earth, they can kill celestials, sending them to Heaven or, in Lucifer's case, to Hell. Lucifer banned them from Nox long ago. Only Mazikeen, the trusty dog at his heels, had access—legally, anyhow.

As Cain approaches the heaving, sweating souls and their demonic overseers, his hand drifts briefly to his chest. Beneath his ash-covered shirt, he feels the puckered ridges of the old scar left by the archdemon Balor, proof that demon blades have sometimes found their way to black markets. (And even more Cain himself has put there.) SINNER, his scar yet reads, and is punctuated by the hollow hole where his heart beat for thousands of Earth years. The scar is another score to settle, one day, even if the name holds true.

He calls on the demons to put the souls to forging cuffs and chains, blades, and needles, all using the alloy. They don't ask questions, lest they suffer the wrath of a winged creature who's sat upon the black throne. They merely obey, as any wise friend of Cain's would.


***


Cain soars above the gray desolation of Hell. The demand for infernal real estate is so great that even from this height, there is no end to the plane in sight. In the visible distance, an enormous volcano belches ash into the muted sky, its thick smoke sparking white with lightning. Lakes of fire bubble up from the dead, ash-thick ground, providing bright, persimmon contrast to the underworld's near-monochrome palette. At the foot of overcrowded and craggy hills and mountains, doors to Hell loops rattle on illusory chains.

It's a hot, festering place, and yet it feels good to tear the human façade from his creature skin and fly. On Earth, he was powerful, but trapped by convention. Here, he is king, even if the kingdom is a dung heap.

At Hell's center, the Black Tower gleams tall and dark and proud, but the surrounding city—vibrant as any place in Hell could ever be—has quieted. Creatures no longer press, shoulder to shoulder, at the market kiosks. The charred remains of gambling halls stand like black, boxy skeletons, and those still operating are filled with fewer revelers.

Fighting must have broken out again, in his absence. Not that Cain cares.

He enters the Black Tower, expecting it to be filled with demons torturing and pleasuring souls and each other, as it was the first time he stepped foot in the dark palace. But it's silent and barren, a spire turned to tomb.

Lucifer's old throne is part of the tower itself. There is no end to the hellstone floor, no beginning to the dais or throne. They meet and merge seamlessly, having all been whittled out from the chunk of mountain that was toted here for the king.

The throne stands black and high-backed, imposing. Cain steps up to the dais, ascending the three short steps, and settles into the seat. He looks down at his booted feet, as he did the first time he sat here. There's a slight dip worn into the hellstone where his shoes rest, evidence of the passage of time. It used to bother him, seeing such things; seeing a stranger's face, only to be reminded of a person he'd known thousands of years prior. It used to bother him, knowing time would pass and he wouldn't pass with it. That he'd live forever.

No longer bothered, he crosses his legs and leans back in the throne. Imagines himself settling disputes between demons, handing them demon blades and watching them fight to the death. He imagines their fear and obedience at the sight of his wings. The quaking of the changelings. The respect of the old hag.

And he dreams of a second throne, carved for a blue-eyed queen.


***


When Cain next stands before Hell's spiked gates, it feels like a month has passed, but he knows now little time will have transpired on the earthly plane.

He carries with him heavy, silver-black chains, and his pockets bulge with a Hell-forged knife, bundled needles, and three more Pentecostal coins. Draping the chains across his broad shoulders, he glances backward to ensure he's alone before drawing a coin into his hand. Tightening his grip on the chains, he presses the coin to the seam where the gates meet.

Hell obeys the Devil's blood. The gates burst wide open, and Cain squints against burning white light. The coin decays in midair, the primitive In God We're Damned atomizing before his eyes as the portal draws him forward like a marionette pulled onto a stage.


***


Cain wakes in the loft, where the sun blinds him, and the air is clean and sweet. Everything, even this broken room, is beautiful and full of color.

Hell-forged chains clank against the marble floor as he turns on his side and retches. The bile that spills from him is black, the spittle thin and discolored like dirty water. Still, he tastes rot.

He claws the chains away from his shoulders and dusts frantically at his clothes, ash flying up and away and catching the light. He struggles to reconcile the shattered pieces of himself. A son, a first son; an unwanted and cursed son. A man, an immortal. The dead, the risen. Criminal and king. He belongs in Hell, where he longs for Earth's beauty. He rises to Earth, where he longs for Hell, the one place he is free to be himself.

"Boss?"

Cain's head snaps to the right, his face slipping into a practiced, neutral expression. Barrow stands near the entrance to the loft, pale and clothed in drab brown, sunlight reflecting off his bald head. Fear ripples through the wiry man in waves.

"How much time passed?" Cain asks, his voice rough.

Barrow glances at his watch. "Half an hour."

Hiding a shudder, Cain stands and hefts the chains once more. Hell whispers softly in his ear.


***


A sliver of light from Chloe's bathroom paints her bare heels yellow. She sits up on her knees, naked curves hugged by shadows, golden hair shifting with the movement of her head. Her fingers trace thighs and clutch narrow hips, so different from Cain's own. Lucifer bites his lip, holding back moans, his eyes fixed on the woman before him, as if she is all that has ever existed. He never thinks to look up or out her window.

He trembles some time later, his hand touching her face. "Chloe—"

But she doesn't move away, like she did with Cain. She presses closer and lets out a muffled moan that makes Cain instantly hard.

"Oh," Lucifer breathes. "Oh, bloody hell."

When she releases the Devil with a wet pop and a laugh, Lucifer grins through his panting. Dragging herself to her feet, she stands on tiptoe and pulls him down for a kiss.

And Cain stares, burning with jealousy, plagued by confusion. This isn't how it was supposed to be.


***


Cain thumbs the horned goat on the Pentecostal coin and glares at the TFF! website. That son of a bitch bought the entire company—and promptly posted a picture and a quote from Bones on the website. This, on top of the failed Telegraph article has put Cain in a foul mood. He called in quite the favor for that article, but the Devil cut him off, likely with a favor of his own.

Not that Cain's machinations have gone according to plan lately. As much as the pictures had the desired effect on Chloe's career, her reaction wasn't what he expected. He thought she would distance herself from Lucifer, perhaps even call their relationship off, when she was demoted. The quickest way to vex Chloe has always been to call her ability to work into question. But it's different this time. He's seen the pictures, the way she looks at him.

If he doesn't separate them before capturing Lucifer, the odds of Chloe's affections shifting back to him are reduced to nil. And Cain wants that sweet victory, the look on Lucifer's face when she chooses him, once and for all.

Come back, Hell whispers, and Cain squeezes his eyes shut against the sound. Bring us a queen.

Los Angeles is suffocating. All the sun, all the people. All the connections he dare not reach out to unless he's prepared to meet the Devil himself.

He's taken to letting his wings out in the safe house, and they twitch now, eager for a fight, terrified of one. The Hell-forged chains lie on the floor of his living room, taunting him nearly as much as the whispers. All that effort, and for what?

He has to get out of here. Regroup. Cut his losses. The thought leaves him bitter, so bitter that he turns and punches a hole in his bedroom wall, his fist burrowing through Sheetrock and wood.

In the middle of the night, Cain flies to the public storage building where Barrow placed his belongings from his time in Los Angeles as Marcus Pierce. At the back of the building, he draws his wings into his body, chafing at the offensive repression. Inside, he stomps up the stairs to the third floor and the three-hundredth unit, where he unlocks and throws open a blue roll-up door.

To anyone else, this would be the most worthless storage unit imaginable. Mostly, it's filled with shelves that are filled with rocks. There are a few fossils and some gemstones—garnets, lapis lazuli, lots of quartz—but most of the rocks are simple and gray, with no special shape or quality to make them stand out from the others.

Cain knows the exact location he pocketed each rock. He knows that fourteen represent women he loved, three of whom died by his own hand. If he looks closely, he can still make out where their blood stains the stones.

Seventy-eight of the rocks represent children he fathered. Some grew, had children of their own, and died of old age, but most died before the age of five, of some disease or other that is now preventable. Smallpox, measles, scurvy. He knows of only one living descendant, a young man in Novosibirsk, Russia.

He removes the hellstone pebble from his pocket and places it on a shelf.

You belong with us, Hell coaxes in reply.

Does he? He could go anywhere, start anew. Again. But every place is tainted by memories, good or bad. He's seen everything, done everything.

He hums a sad, off-key tune and thinks of Chloe as he lifts a small, striped rock he picked up in Chang'an during the early days of the Silk Road. Running a finger over the rough surface, he realizes he wants nothing so much as to return it to its original home. To see if there's anything left for him, anywhere, on this plane.

And what's stopping him? So he retraces his steps. He pockets rocks and takes to the sky and stands in places he has already stood. In Germany and Chile, Iceland and Uzbekistan and Sudan. On dead and flattened cities, on grassed-over graves, on tourist-filled beaches and in tourist-filled alleyways.

There are so many people since industrialization. Too many. Crawling all over Creation.

They'd look better dead, their souls tucked away, in rooms made just for them.

With each place, his sanity slips a little further from his grasp.


***


In Jakarta, Cain lies on a hotel bed too firm for his liking, listening to Hell speak. The voices are interrupted when Shayna de la Cruz calls for the fifteenth time in two days.

Grunting, he swipes to answer the call. "What?"

"Nice to hear your voice, too." When he doesn't reply, she adds, "We're out of Firefly."

"Not my problem."

"What about your score to settle?" she asks.

The reasons why he still desires revenge grow more and more nebulous, but no less acute. He hates Lucifer how he hated Abel—blindly, for existing. For coming along and getting in the way of something good. For being chosen.

"Hector ended our partnership."

"Only because of Colinda. And you told him you'd find another way to capture Lucifer."

"Maybe there's no point."

"I didn't take you for a quitter." She pauses for him to respond, but he doesn't bother. Silence stretches on until she's forced to clear her throat and speak again. "Look, I don't care about your deal with my father. I want to make a deal with you."

"What makes you think I'd want to make a deal with you?"

"Isn't that what the Sinnerman does?" she baits. "Makes deals?"

Hearing the name, thinking of the persona he first created in the days of Moses, wakens something in him. Reminds him of who he is. He sits up and looks around his hotel room, at two rocks waiting beside a white teapot. This isn't him. He's always been a man of action, always looking for the next path forward—a new place to live, a new skill to develop, a new serial killer to obsess over. Even a new way he might die. He's been bored, but he's always been moving.

And whatever he's wanted, he's taken.

Yesss.

So the pawns have shifted. There are still moves he can make. There must be. Maybe this is one of them. He wouldn't be the Sinnerman if he didn't consider every possible angle.

"What do you want?" he asks.

"Let's do this in person," Shayna says. "Why don't you come over to my place? Got paper? I'll give you my address."

"I already know where you live, Shayna. I can be there in five hours."

She breathes a laugh, one killer acknowledging the skills of another. "I'll leave my door unlocked. See you soon, Avery."


***


It's nighttime in L.A., dry and cool and, this close to the water, tasting of salt. Cain arrives on Shayna's doorstep, windblown, Hell's caterwauling surprisingly absent as he hides his wings. For the first time in two weeks he feels focused on what could be ahead of him instead of all the failures that lie behind.

He opens the door to Shayna's nondescript townhouse. Her living room is as uninspiring as the outside of the home—softly lit by lamps, decorated in neutral beiges, a place people aren't meant to notice. Cain recognizes the effort because it's a cover he's mastered over the centuries. Raise no suspicions. Leave no trace.

Shayna steps into the room, barefoot, but otherwise dressed in her usual attire. She holds the slender neck of a beer bottle between two fingers, the glass resting against the outside of her black-jeaned thigh. "You look like shit," she says.

"What's the deal you're wanting to make?" Cain asks without preamble.

"The same one you had with my father, more or less," she answers, ducking back into the room she came from. There's the sound of a fridge door opening and a bottle cap snapping free. She returns a moment later, holding a beer out to him. "Stop being weird," she says. "Sit. Have a drink."

"Are you going rogue?" he asks, taking the bottle. They sit on a dark brown sofa, an empty seat cushion between them.

"No," she snorts, and sips her beer. "But I want more control than I've got. The only way I'm getting that is if I prove I'm more than the cleanup crew." She shrugs a shoulder. "So the deal's mostly the same, but it's with me. I get my ingredient, and you get your revenge. You can do whatever you want to Lucifer, so long as I get those feathers."

Cain's mouth goes dry at the thought of it. This isn't how he wanted it to go, but Chloe will come around. He'll make sure of it.

"I have chains that will hold him."

"And I have a warehouse waiting in Tijuana."

"Tijuana?"

"Yeah. Can we get him there? I want it to be a surprise for my dad when he heads home next month."

Cain drinks his beer to hide a laugh. What is it with children trying to please their parents? It never works. Especially for De la Cruz's children.

"We'll need heavy drugs. Barbiturates. I've got hypodermic needles for us to use."

She swallows loudly, and Cain knows she's remembering angel wings. She hasn't seen anything yet.

"I can get barbiturates," she says. "Thiopental oughta do the trick. They use that shit on elephants." She straightens, sets her beer aside on the coffee table, and holds out a slender hand. "So, it's a deal?"

For a moment, Cain sees Balor's hand stretched toward him in that old loop. Kill him, kill him, kill him, Hell screams in his head. But the vision passes, and he clasps Shayna's fingers. "Deal."

"Great," Shayna says, holding onto his hand and sliding herself across the empty seat. She draws his beer from his hands and places it next to her own.

Cain looks at her, alarm and disgust surging through his body. And interest, too. Where Chloe is light, Shayna is dark. And like calls to like.

"Can you take out those dumb contacts?" she asks, throwing a leg over his hips. She grinds into him and slips out of her black t-shirt. Round breasts drop free in front of his face.

"Can you stop being a bitch?" he replies, reaching over to turn off the nearest lamp.

She laughs. "Guess that's a no." She rolls her hips again and again until he shoves her back from his knees. Taking the hint, she drags down jeans and black panties. From the discarded jeans, she pulls a condom out of a back pocket.

"Well?" she laughs, holding the square packet up. "You gonna get undressed?"

Grunting, Cain unzips his fly and shoves his jeans and boxers down to his thighs, where the puckered scar from the demon blade he stabbed into his leg remains.

Shayna stares at him. "Really?"

"The shirt stays on," he says, standing to kick off his shoes and shove the clothes the rest of the way down his legs. He kicks everything to the side, standing in nothing but a plain, blue shirt.

"You're weird as hell, Avery."

He grabs her, pulling her close. They collide into each other, mean and angry, and not pretending to be otherwise. She climbs his body and claws at his back, where his wings rage to break free. He shoves her into the sofa, driving into her body as if in doing so mistakes might be unmade. They grapple, and she ends up on top, her body writhing. And though Cain's body responds eagerly, he's bored within. He's had a lot of empty fucks like this one, but only one in recent memory that made him feel.

Shayna's hands land on his chest, searching for leverage. The heel of her right palm sinks into the hole of his chest, the fabric of his shirt dipping down. She sits back, unnerved, her hips stuttering to a halt.

The thing about humans, though, is they like to pretend everything is normal. Embracing denial is preferable to facing tragedy or terror, and so, it's easy to grab Shayna's hand and misdirect her.

In the dark, he pretends she's Chloe, choosing him.

Chapter Text

"Bloody hell," Lucifer gripes, his knee hopping against the Corvette's steering wheel. Absolutely shocking Los Angeles traffic didn't feature in his Hell loop. Proof that Hell's gone to, well, Hell since he left. "I'd very much like to break the law right now," he announces, eyeing the grassy median.

"Why not?" Chloe exhales a tired laugh. "What's one more broken law for the day?"

He glances at her sidelong before turning a scowl on a soulless Tesla. "Yes, well, I've never claimed to be a saint, have I?"

"No," she agrees.

An apology isn't in him, and they fall silent as he returns them to Lux. He digs into the bag of leftovers Nando's abuelita gave them and looks across the sprawling city with growing agitation.

All across Los Angeles, and perhaps beyond, there are people using him. For a high, for a cure—and some will die because of it. As he drives, he dreams up punishments for Shayna de la Cruz. Angels aren't the only creature with body parts worth selling on black markets. Kidneys are in quite high demand.

Nearly an hour has passed by the time he pulls into Lux's private, underground garage. He parks the Corvette in his reserved spot and climbs out of the driver's side swiftly, fixated on the case.

Three long days until the drop-off and pick-up points open. Just enough time to learn more about Shayna de la Cruz's odious empire, and just long enough to lose what's left of his Dad-damned mind. With two locations in play, they'll need backup. He whips out his phone, knowing exactly who will be up for a little torture when the time comes.

Chloe climbs out of the passenger side, the Ruger pistol held away from her in a gloved hand. She removes the magazine and clears the chamber before slipping the weapon's body into the plastic bag that no longer contains leftovers.

Lucifer flashes her a smile, but his attention returns to his phone as he jots off a text to Maze—well, a string of emojis. Marvelous reinvention of pictography, those things. He looks over his message: the angel (he scoffs), the syringe, the face with dollar signs for eyes, a woman, a left-facing punch toward her, and a question mark. Seems clear enough, all in all, and he hits send before turning to head into the building.

A few feet away from the Corvette, Chloe grabs his elbow. "Lucifer? Wait."

He gives her a perplexed look. "Detective, surely you agree there's work to be done."

"I do." She releases him, nodding, and sets the bagged gun on the Corvette's boot. "I know. But can we talk a second?" She taps her fingers against the sides of her thighs. "I just don't think I'll say this if I don't do it now."

There's little that amuses him or gives him pause more than Chloe Decker, flustered. Stuffing his hands in his pockets, he shrugs. "Very well. What is it?"

"What you did at Portillo's..."

"Ah." He chuckles. "In trouble again, am I?"

"What? No! No, it's just... I, uh, see now what you've been doing, you know, behind the scenes." She shakes her head and rolls her eyes. "I get it, okay? Why my solve rate went through the roof when we became partners."

"Come, now, Detective, don't dismiss your talents," he says, grinning. "But you're welcome."

She huffs a laugh and lifts a hand between them. When it drops, her fingers land on his stomach, one nail catching over a shirt button. "I didn't know."

"Well, you weren't supposed to, were you?" Lucifer looks down at where her fingers rest, touching, but not quite caressing. "But there's no hiding between us anymore, is there?" He smiles a little. "I thought you'd be more upset about how everything went down."

He did let her take the lead, as was agreed upon, but, well, things got a little out of hand, didn't they? He's a big enough Devil to admit that. Not that an eye patch won't only improve that one chap's street cred.

"Oh, I'm upset," Chloe says, and he glances up in time to see her scowl. "But..."

"But...?" he prompts.

Chloe sucks in a deep breath before saying in a rush, "I want you like that."

Now she has his full attention, certainly. He tilts his head, ever eager to coax desires from the one person who doesn't succumb to his charms. "Like what, darling?" Shifting closer, he rests fingers on the side of her neck and marvels at her hummingbird pulse.

"I want—"

"Yes?"

And it almost feels like he's pulled her in, but her eyes aren't on his. They're on his Italian leather shoes, and slowly rake up to his face, sending a frisson of excitement through his middle.

"All of it," she says, and licks her lips. "I don't want you to hold back with me. And I know you do."

"I have to," he sighs, pained to deny her, his thumb running along the strong line of her jaw. "Dad made you lot terribly fragile."

He works very hard not to think about that every night she lies against him, every morning she stretches awake. How all of this is temporary. How she is temporary. It has to be enough, even though it will never be enough.

Disappointment flits across her face before she hides it. "Right."

"But I could hold back less," he rushes to add, "if that's what you desire."

"It is." Her fingers drop to his belt. "If you'd want that, too."

She has no idea.

Lucifer swallows deeply. Her desire coils around him, matching his own in exquisite and frightening ways. He wants—and wants and wants. And surely that way lies a special kind of pandemonium. Chloe steps closer, and he backs up, alarmed, as he sometimes is with her, by his own yearning.

"We should... We should research the De la Cruz family, Detective."

"It could wait a little while," Chloe says, a temptress looking up at him under long lashes. "We've got three days."

"Usually you're the one telling us to get back to work," he says dully. "And there really is an awful lot to—"

Lucifer falls silent, his brows hiking up in surprise as her hands move to unbutton and unzip her jeans. Shayna de la Cruz is the furthest thing from his mind as Chloe grabs his hand and draws his fingers down her jeans, past close-trimmed curls, to her wet sex.

He stares for a long moment, his mouth hanging open. Chloe, he has discovered to his utter delight, is not shy in the bedroom, though occasionally his experience makes her wary. But this isn't a bedroom. It's the bloody garage. And while similar, delicious things have occurred in the space, they've not occurred with her.

"I want you," she whispers.

Like throwing water on a grease fire, that. Denying her in the morning had been torture enough. Groaning, he bends and pushes his mouth to hers, sliding his tongue past her lips. There's no savoring as he pins her against the concrete wall and devours her pleased gasp, his fingers exploring within the tight confines of her skinny jeans.

A moment later, he draws his hand away from her, holding her in place with his hips as he licks wet, slick salt from his fingers. Bending, he grabs her by her thighs, lifting her and lining her up with the hard ache between his legs.

"I was very mean to you this morning, wasn't I?" he teases with a pout, pushing against the seam of her jeans.

Her eyes spark with lust and a look he finally knows is gifted to him alone. "You're going to make it up to me, right?"

"Oh, many times over," he promises. "Pity we don't have the whole day and night. You have no idea how many things I still want to do to you." He grinds into her. "Things no one's ever done to you."

She moans obscenely, her mantle of propriety slipping. She pulls her shirt off and lets it drop to the ground. He spots the necklace he gave her and skin flushed pink above white lace before she darts toward his mouth. She arches into him, only to hiss and clutch at his shoulders.

He pulls back at once, hips slowing. "Something the matter?"

Chloe shakes her head. "Concrete's cold."

"Right," he laughs. "Of course. Perhaps best if we don't shag in the garage." Perhaps. He eyes the Corvette thoughtfully before shaking his head. Another time.

"The pistol," she reminds him.

He grabs it and rushes them toward the elevator, not bothering to hide his speed for her sake, and she lets out a jubilant laugh that makes his head spin. After all the anxiety of the day, he's filled with a sort of unbridled joy, even knowing that trouble waits beyond.

In the lift, he shoves the unloaded weapon down the back waist of his trousers—something he's always wanted to do—and they return to each other, hungry and grasping. He tugs down the cups of her bra, his fingers finding nipples already firm with desire. When the elevator doors slide open a few moments later, they stumble forward. Lucifer stops abruptly, his mouth sliding away from Chloe's as he realizes he directed them to their office space.

"Bollocks. Wrong floor."

"Don't care," Chloe murmurs, her fingers worrying at the last few buttons of his shirt.

"But you said—"

"That was before this morning," she says, removing the Ruger from his waistband and setting it aside on the unfinished floor. She shoves his shirt away from his shoulders and goes for his belt. "And...everything else."

"Darling, I gave you my word."

"Yeah, well, we can break the rule, just this once."

"Ah. Just this once." Lucifer nods in mock seriousness. "I see my good influence has—"

But he doesn't get the words out as she pulls him in for a kiss infused with laughter. He kicks off his shoes, unclasps her bra, and pushes at the waist of her jeans. She backs away with a frustrated huff and shimmies out of the rest of her clothes, and he follows suit. For a moment, they stand, naked, looking at each other, breathing loudly. There's rarely hesitancy in their play now, but her request is new and intimate, revealing for them both. He gives her a small, lopsided smile.

Finally, they move as one, she walking to him, he walking her back toward the office desks which are suddenly much better investments than he could have ever imagined. She hops up on her desk, shoving her name plaque out of the way, and banks her heels on the edge of the ebony wood. In the afternoon light, she glistens between her legs, and he drops to his knees.

Chloe catches his descending cheek with a palm. "I want you to fuck me."

Lucifer nods, shakily. Usually he's one for more foreplay, but sometimes the main event demands to be enjoyed without delay. Unable to resist, he presses a kiss between her legs, as he did so many hours ago, before rising to his feet. She shudders, her breath leaving her in a ragged sigh.

"We need a safe word, darling," he says, fingers trailing soft thighs.

Eyes settled south flicker up to his face. "What, like, monkeybottoms?" she asks with a laugh.

"That'll do," Lucifer chuckles, gliding himself through her slick heat. He grins when her head falls back.

Grabbing her ankles, he settles her calves on his shoulders, then slides his fingers down to encircle her knees.

Chloe leans back on one elbow and reaches between them, taking him in hand, squeezing flesh, as she lines him up with her body. They groan when he pushes inside slowly, and he wonders, as always, at the unexpected felicity found in their evolution as a couple.

When his hips fall flush with the undersides of her thighs, he smiles down at her. "Okay?"

She nods, and the anticipation in her gaze, in her rosy breasts, kindles the fire crackling within him.

Lucifer starts at an easy pace, but steadily increases the tempo, well familiar with desires for a bit—or more—of roughness. But this is different. Different because she knows the truth, which paints speed and strength in a wholly new and honest light.

When she moans for more, he gives it—until he feels the telltale flutter of her inner muscles. He stops abruptly and laughs at the horrified look on her face that quickly morphs into a squeal of pleasure when he leans forward and works her harder. Until the dam bursts and her eyes roll back and her muscles grip him in head-spinning spasms. He lifts her in the middle of her climax, when she's most disoriented. The soft flesh of her breasts falls, damp with sweat, to his chest. Her legs slide down limply to hook onto the crooks of his elbows.

Lucifer banks her against the nearest wall, as he did in the garage. She hisses, coming into contact with a cold surface once more, but this time the sound is made in pleasure, not discomfort.

"Still good?" he chuckles, a little breathless as he rolls his hips. Not from fatigue, but from the precipice he stands upon. Freeing himself with her, even if only a little, is like taking a bump of coke.

Her fingers grip into his hair. "Don't stop." She draws in a shuddering breath. "I can take more."

And so he kisses her and pushes into her harder and harder, his hands clasped at her hips. She watches them slide together, her lips parted with gasps and moans that he hears himself echo. And he falls further and further beneath her temptation until something snaps beneath their shared desire.

Tell me to stop, he begs her silently, his eyes watching her face.

But she doesn't. Instead, she cries, "Holy shit. Holy shit."

It makes him want to laugh, to tell a joke, but he lost both abilities several dozen thrusts ago. There is only her body and his. Harrowing, this trust. He says something, he's sure of it, but English has gone slippery, and a Sri Lankan creole, of all things, pops out. But it's fine, as she's lost language, too. She speaks only in sighs and cries.

Until two chilling words.

"Your eyes," Chloe gasps, and terror seizes him, for he's naked in a way he doesn't mean to be. He makes to look away, but she grabs hold of his face and stares into hellfire. "Lucifer," she moans, and comes with a sharp cry, her muscles clamping around him, her legs trembling against his arms. Her hands slip to his shoulders, and drops of color paint his skin, tingling like electricity. She smiles at him softly and arches her hips.

And Lucifer presses home, stretched up on the balls of his feet, and the pleasure that hits him is sharp and blinding and tastes of free will, his and hers. When the spasms ease and finally release him, he closes his eyes and rests his forehead against hers. "Chloe," he says softly, and he feels fire fade and disappear from his gaze. "Are you all right? I didn't—"

"Don't apologize," she says in a rush, fingers above his heart, her light contained. "That was the best sex I've ever had."

He pulls back a little, a small, uncertain smile tugging at his mouth. "Yeah?"

"Oh, yeah," she says, and kisses him. "But can you let me down so I can find out if I can still walk?"

"Right," he laughs.

They groan as he slides from her body, and laugh at the mess on their thighs. Chloe stretches and winces at a twinge in her back, but is otherwise hale. She shakes out his dress shirt and buttons it up over herself. "Mine's downstairs," she says sheepishly, color creeping into her cheeks.

"You look lovely," he tells her. And the warm familiarity between them is hard for him to look at straight on, and yet he can't imagine looking away. He wants to tell her—nay, needs to tell her how he feels. Even if she never feels the same.

He opens his mouth.

"I'm gonna get cleaned up," she says, gathering her discarded clothes. "Then we can start digging into the De la Cruzes."

Suddenly they're back to work, and isn't that where he wanted them?

"Of course," he says, burying awkward endearments, and feeling foolish for thinking now was the time or place for them. Instead, he falls back on what he knows best, dragging on his trousers and giving her a leer as she punches the elevator call button. "I'll join you."

"Great, but just for a shower," she laughs, and steps forward as the doors slide open.

"Why, what else would we do, darling?" he teases.


***


Later, Dan and Ella have very different reactions to Devil's in the Details.

The huge smile on Ella's face dimples her cheeks. "Wow, guys! This is going to be so cool. If you need someone for forensics when you've really got things kicking..."

"Oh, I assure you," Lucifer says with a grin, "we're not above pilfering the LAPD's finest."

"Look, we have business cards," Chloe says, grabbing one from her desk.

A little thrill runs through Lucifer at her excitement. The business was a good idea. Chloe has her heart's desire for justice, and he gets to continue to work by her side, helping her capture and contain evil. If tearing the limbs off a feather-thieving lowlife soon happens to become part of the job description, well, all the better.

"This is how you're spending your time, Chlo?" Dan looks around the empty office space skeptically. "Really?"

"Yeah, actually, it is."

Lucifer sighs. "One would think all that improv might improve your imagination, Daniel."

Dan shakes his head and spreads his hands in confusion. "No, look, we're all in the know here now, right? So, I'm just gonna come out and say it. Why are you even on-on Earth, man, playing detective? I thought for sure you'd give this up when Chloe got fired." He glances at her. "Sorry, Chlo."

Lucifer scoffs. "Oh, what, retirees can't have hobbies?"

"Dude," Ella interjects, "the Devil's all about helping people find things out."

"What?" Dan says at the same time Lucifer says, "I am?"

"Hello? Garden of Eden, Tree of Knowledge?" Ella looks up at Lucifer, troubled. "Wait, that story's true, right? Like, Eden was a thing, and you gave Eve an apple, and, like, humanity knew too much then and the jig was up or something?"

"Ah, that. Yes. In a fashion. Mouth off a bit over a fruit basket, and look what Dad does."

"Point is, this guy"—Ella smacks his arm playfully—"cares about the truth."

"Miss Lopez is right." Lucifer nods. "I don't lie, and I abhor those who do."

Which is precisely why he didn't like Daniel Espinoza when they first met. He reeked of deceit.

"Don't know what answer I thought I was going to get, but it wasn't that," Dan says. "Anyway, we're here. We've got to get that heroin off the streets. That's what matters."

"I agree," Lucifer says. "This is not the part of me L.A. is used to enjoying."

"Gross," Chloe mutters.

"Oh, pot, kettle, darling."

Ella looks between them, hands clasped under her chin. "You guys are so cute."

Laptops are booted up, and Dan and Ella settle in chairs brought up from Lux. Lucifer smirks at Chloe's wide-eyed expression as she rights her toppled name plaque. They may have cleaned the desk before the others arrived, but he knows exactly what she's thinking about. Choking off a laugh, he nudges her foot under the desk. She straightens guiltily and stamps on his toe.

"So what'd Fernando Portillo tell you?" Dan asks. "That is why you guys called us over, right?"

Composure restored, Chloe nods to the revised whiteboard, where Shay's name has been updated and circled several times. She explains the strange nature of the drug business behind De la Cruz and adds, "They're careful, apparently. They change where dealers drop off cash and pick up drugs every month. Portillo had the addresses for the next exchange, but the people who handle it won't be at either location for another three days. They're at both for the same twenty-four hours, so it's a tight window."

"Two locations?" Dan confirms with a frown.

"Yep," Chloe answers, spinning her laptop around to show them where she's pinned the two addresses on a map. "Opposite ends of the city—pick up is at an outdoor storage and RV place up in Santa Clarita; drop-off is at a strip club called The Tigress in Anaheim."

"Money laundering, almost certainly," Lucifer says. "As I once told Detective Morrison, that's how it's done. At least one way."

"We're going to need to split up between the two locations," Chloe continues, ignoring his criminal expertise. "The goal should be to gather information."

"And to capture the queenpin herself," Lucifer says.

"Maybe," Chloe replies. "If we can do that safely. But hopefully our research tonight will turn up someone important that we can get to more easily." She sighs and looks at Dan and Ella. "That's where you guys come in. We don't have much access to databases yet." She bites her lip before continuing, "We'll understand if you don't want to get involved."

"She will. I won't," Lucifer amends.

"Of course we'll help!" Ella insists. "Even if these weren't cold cases, what are friends for?"

Dan isn't nearly so certain. "Chloe, this is..." He puts a hand on his head and stares at the whiteboard. "It's not just outside our jurisdiction. This is bigger than the LAPD. DEA and SWAT stuff. Why don't we contact the FBI?"

Lucifer rolls his eyes. "Because, Daniel, we don't know what connections the Sinnerman has in the FBI, and it would be very foolish to alert him to our intentions."

Dan's open expression shutters. "Do we even know there's a new Sinnerman? All we know for certain is Marcus Pierce is rotting."

"And you're welcome." Lucifer enjoys the flicker of surprise on the other man's face. "He's a chestnut roasting over an open hellfire, yes, but someone does appear to have taken his place and may well be connected to De la Cruz. Cain was well-connected."

"Wait, all that Cain nonsense was true?" Dan yells.

"Well, of course it was," Lucifer says while toying with a cufflink. "Do keep up."

"Dude, you almost got hitched to Cain," Ella gasps to Chloe.

"Yeah, we've been over that," Chloe says, cutting her eyes at Lucifer.

"I mean, I know that was all about Lucifer," Ella continues, "but still."

Lucifer barks a laugh. "Oh, it was about me, was it?" he says, his face breaking into a grin as he turns to Chloe, who looks mortified.

"Thanks, Ella," Chloe sighs.

"So, Cain, from the Bible, killed Charlotte?" Dan asks.

Their attention shifts to him, and the room turns melancholy. So much has happened since her death. What time has Daniel had to grieve?

"He did," Lucifer answers, his tone gentle. "Cain was not the reformed man I believed him to be. I regret deeply that I misjudged that." Perhaps it's another thing he'll see in a Hell loop, should he die. "But you must know she's in the Silver City now. You'll see her again one day." He smiles wanly. "Provided you don't return to your old douchey ways."

Beneath the desk, Chloe rests a hand on his knee.

Dan blinks hard, tears barely shelved on his lower eyelids. "If Pierce's, Cain's—whoever's—enterprise is connected to this, you're right. We have to go it alone. The way the suits wiped the investigation into his crimes under the rug—"

"Marvelous," Lucifer says. "We're all in agreement then."

Slowly, they build a profile on the De la Cruz family. Shayna is all but a ghost, absent from systems and social media alike, but the man they determine is her father—Hector de la Cruz—has quite the social presence if one digs a little. On the surface, Hector is a squeaky-clean businessman known for his perfectly legal pharmacy chain. He's also a beloved philanthropist, spotted at black tie events in Mexico and California. All red flags that point to evildoing.

Ella pulls up satellite images of the outdoor storage park next. She lets out a low whistle. "That's a lot of open space."

Lucifer shakes his head. "And that's a bad thing because...?"

"No good cover," Chloe answers. "Lots of potential for things to go wrong."

"Goody. You know, I could just go in and nab our miscreant," he says. He arches a brow. "You saw I'm perfectly capable of wiping out a small army of bad guys."

"We don't even know which location Shayna will show up at," Chloe reminds him.

"I can handle the club," Dan says.

"Actually, Daniel, strip clubs are for looking only," Lucifer quips. "Handling will get you thrown out."

"I'll go with you," Ella says to Dan.

"No way," Chloe intervenes. "You're not trained for a raid."

"But—"

"Chloe's right," Dan says.

"You do need backup, though," Chloe says with a frown.

Lucifer draws his phone out of his jacket pocket. "Well, I messaged Maze earlier about—"

The elevator doors slide open with a ding, and Maze strolls in, dressed in black.

"Speak of my demon," Lucifer laughs. "Mazikeen! Pull up a chair. Your Spidey sense must have been tingling. We're just plotting mayhem and destruction now."

"Or not," Ella chuckles uncertainly. "Mayhem and destruction sounds bad. You know, coming from the Devil."

Lucifer waves her off.

Maze folds her arms over her tight leather tank top. "I'm not your demon," she gripes.

"We could really use your help, Maze," Chloe says. "I don't know what Lucifer has told you, but—"

"Some bitch made an angel drug or something, right?"

"I..." Chloe tilts her head and sighs. "Sort of?"

"Whatever. But if you want me to help you get her, it's going to cost you."

"Yes, yes, we know," Lucifer says. "Standard fee, is it?"

"No," Maze says, dragging a chair over. She flips it around and sits on it backwards.

"No? Well, what then? Don't leave us hanging."

"I want in."

"To...?"

"This," she says, one finger wagging, indicating the office space.

"Oh, Maze," Chloe sighs, "we can't hire you. The business isn't even making money yet."

Lucifer shrugs. "Not a problem. I'll just pop her back onto Lux's payroll."

Chloe's eyes bug out. "Lucifer, you can't do that."

"Oh, no, it's no trouble at all, Detective. Worked just fine the other day."

"Wait. What?"

"When I put you on Lux's payroll."

"You what!" Chloe shouts. "Do you have any idea how illegal that is?"

"Is it?"

"I just took out a loan!"

"A loan?" Lucifer laughs. "Whatever for?"

"Oh, boy," Dan chuckles, snapping his laptop shut and standing. "That's our cue," he says to Ella.

She scrambles to join him. "Uh, definitely."

"Where do you two think you're going?" Lucifer demands.

"Down to your bar," Dan announces. "Where we're going to drink. For free. Because money means nothing to you. Probably because you're Satan." He looks at Chloe. "Tell me what to do, where and when, and I'll do it." He eyes Maze, who snaps her teeth at him. "Give me a heads up if it's going to be with her?"

Chloe nods from behind the palm of her hand.

"You still good for having Trixie tomorrow?"

Chloe nods again, still silent.

"Great. Do you want to pick her up early or later?"

"I'll get her at eight."

Maze grins at Dan as he passes her chair. Ella waves from within the elevator car, and Lucifer lifts a hand in farewell.

When the doors close, Chloe drops her hand from her face and turns on them both. "You can't just move money around like that. And you"—she points at Lucifer—"can't just throw money at me."

"But, darling—"

"Don't darling me."

Maze snorts. "You two are idiots." She points at Chloe and says to Lucifer, "She's human. They're weird about this money shit. You've offended her pride, which is something you, of all people, should get." She points to Lucifer and says to Chloe, "He forgets he's not a king anymore. Money really doesn't mean anything to him. He's dumb when it comes to you and wants you to be happy. Get over it." Spreading her hands and grinning widely, she says to them both, "Make me a partner, and I'll manage the books and keep everything legal."

"Done," they say in unison.


***


Although he's exhausted, Lucifer sleeps little. He slides from under Chloe's arm in the middle of the night and spends two hours baking a chocolate cake. When that's done, he descends to Lux's straggling crowd. The bar is only open for another half-hour, meaning its remaining patrons are already well and truly sozzled—speaking too loudly, leering a little too obviously, and utterly unaware that most of their friends departed ages ago. The last people to leave a bar are even sadder than those who enter too soon.

Lucifer pays them no mind as he drops to his piano bench and flips the fallboard open with a snap. Patrick swings by, leaving scotch and an ashtray without a word. Nocturnes flow of their own accord beneath his fingers, and for a time he's not a bar owner or a consultant or even Chloe Decker's lover. He's flying in an endless, black expanse, invisible elements held in the palm of his hand, contained and manipulated by his will. And then there's the sweet release of all that pent-up energy—not quite orgasmic, but not quite not, either. For what is desire, realized, if not a blazing fire?

His father looks upon the stars and declares, "This is good, my son."

Pride whispers, I know, and Lucifer sees the stars as his works by his hands. Good luck creating anything substantial without a sun to revolve around, without desire to impel the spirit. He's still proud.

The stragglers stumble out of Lux. Patrick brings him a bottle and locks up. He continues to play, trying to banish fury from his bones, from feathers he always senses and only sometimes wants because they remind him of what he was, what he will never be again; of the glory and wonder of flight, coupled with the limitations imposed upon him.

Hours later, Chloe exits the elevator and descends the staircase. She's dressed plainly in a button-down and what might charitably be called "mom jeans," but he smiles no less because of it. His fingers slide away from piano keys to snuff out his cigarette and wave the smoke away as she slips onto the bench beside him.

"Hey," she whispers, nudging his shoulder.

"Good morning."

"Did you get any sleep?"

He shrugs. "Although I appreciate indolence, I don't need as much sleep as you do."

"You didn't answer my question."

Lucifer snorts. She's gotten too good at reading between his lines. "Not truly, no."

She touches his arm. "We're going to get them. I promise. I won't let them get away with this."

The strange thing is he believes her.

Chloe kisses his shoulder gently. "Spend the day with Trix and me? She heads to art camp tomorrow morning, and I promised her we'd spend the day at Universal Studios."

"All those children." He shudders.

"It's like Vegas," she argues. "With more rides."

"There's gambling in Vegas."

Candy, as well, though he prays she won't snag onto that.

"Have you ever even been to Universal Studios?"

Lucifer lets out a relieved breath at the averted crisis. "No."

"I think you'd have fun."

"I don't know, Chloe."

"Come on," she wheedles. "You can give Trixie that chocolate cake yourself before we go."

He stiffens. "Who says I made that for her?"

"Didn't you?" she asks knowingly. She laughs a little. "Your secret is safe with me, you know."

"And what secret is that, Detective?"

She whispers, "That the Devil's kinda a softie."

Lucifer splutters. "I assure you no one has ever accused the Devil of being soft."

Chloe smooths a hand between his shoulders, where his scars used to be. "Well, you're soft with me."

"I was not soft with you yesterday," he quips, and she rolls her eyes.

"Please join us?" She grins cheekily and goes in for the kill: "It's what I desire."

"Bloody hell."


***


The comparison to Vegas is apt, which means Lucifer enjoys himself, though he refuses to admit it. There's just something fascinating about humans creating twee versions of their imaginings and architectural marvels. They explore shops with "English" façades and castles made of concrete that are littered with plastic stones and sprayed-on faux-snow. At the "French street bistro" where they buy lunch, the pigtailed girl behind the counter has the nerve to use the word y'all.

"Vous vous foutez de ma gueule[1]?" Lucifer mutters, glaring at a suspect, backlit menu.

"What's that mean?" Trixie asks, grinning up at him from where she's crouched, looking at desserts.

He looks down at her. "It means this is a travesty."

After lunch, Trixie coos over trained beasts at an animal show and begs for a puppy. (Chloe vetoes this.) Lucifer flirts with Marilyn Monroe—not for the first time—and dances with costumed men who are very easy on the eyes, but also easy to turn down. Tragically, no movie set they tour contains his favorite hot tub.

Some of it Lucifer could do without. He ushers them away from the row of red doors outside a Minions attraction. Of course those little bastards bring Hell to Earth. He nearly pops his wings on Revenge Of The Mummy—a true insult to ancient Egypt—and the child almost loses her croissant. Chloe wanders out from the attraction, eyes wet with tears of laughter.

"Your mother is cruel, child."

Trixie looks at him, green and sympathetic, her wavy hair a tangled mess on her head.

Chloe wraps her arms around them and cossets them, half-teasing, half-affectionate. It's lovely and safe, and for a little while he forgets what's been done to him.

The day wans, but the heat persists until finally they decide to leave.

"My feet hurt," Trixie whines.

"I know, baby." Chloe rests her hand atop her child's head. "The heat's getting to me, too. We're almost out of the park, though."

Lucifer frowns down at them, noting Trixie's reluctant trudge and how Chloe's balled her hands into fists. "You're not going to faint again, are you?" he asks her, plagued whenever he's reminded Dad is doing something to her. "Have a burning urge to set anything on fire?" He nods toward a wandering Scooby-Doo. "Might I suggest a hot dog, if so?"

"I think I'm okay," she says, squinting up at him behind sunglasses. "It's just really bright and hot."

An unconvincing answer, if he's ever heard one. "There's a bench there," he says, pointing to one outside the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

They settle onto the warm steel, three stair-stepped people. Trixie wedges into Chloe's side, and Chloe wedges into his, and a strange pain seizes his chest as he glances down at them before turning his attention to the unwashed masses. All the lovers. All the lovers with children. He supposes it's what others have seen when they've looked at him with Chloe, and even the child. Though he's much better dressed than all the other blokes here. And he'd never procreate.

Linda used a word in his last session that he does not dare say aloud. But somewhere, deep under his rib cage, it beats like a drum: family. He has a family, possibly, one he's made, or at least happened upon. Sticky, manipulative urchin, included. And spinning out from the hub of this web are friends—real ones, not people looking for a favor or a good time or even to repay a debt.

He's never felt like he does now, strong, yet exposed. There is nothing he wouldn't do to protect his web. Well, except for the one thing he should do, which is walk away. Lucifer can't allow their world to become dangerous because of his divinity, and yet he's too weak—too soft—to leave. He looks up at the clear blue sky and wonders how long he has until Amenadiel returns to shove him back where he belongs. If not Amenadiel, then another sibling, then, no doubt heavenbent on carrying out Dad's unknown and unknowable Plan.

A kiss to his cheek stirs him from his thoughts. He looks down at Chloe and arches a brow at her mischievous grin.

"Let's go on one more ride," she says, seemingly recovered after a rest.

His eyes narrow. "What ride?"

"Jurassic Park."

Trixie whoops on Chloe's other side and springs to her feet, weariness forgotten.

"That's the water ride, isn't it?" Lucifer despairs.

"You usually don't mind getting wet," Chloe replies, a twinkle in her eye.

"Yes, and you'll notice I don't wear Armani during"—he glances at Trixie—"that activity, either."

Trixie comes around and grabs his hand before he can stop her. "Pleeease." She unleashes puppy dog eyes and the pout he taught her.

He stares at her and tries, half-heartedly, to shake off her hand, which she clutches all the more tightly. "Urchin, do you have any idea how many souls have pleaded with me over the eons?" He whines, "Please, my lord. Please, my king. Boo. Hoo."

Trixie giggles, while Chloe's face goes slack with her horror. A month ago, he would have worried such casual references to his former career would be the end of them. Now, he takes pleasure in rocking her world. In more ways than one. She said she wanted the Devil.

The ten-year-old turns pensive, her brows furrowing like her mother's. "What if we make a deal?"

"Well. Now you're talking my language, aren't you? One of them, anyhow." He smirks and crosses his legs. "How much is this Jurassic Park ride worth to the Decker women?"


***


In soaked clothes, they pick up burgers on the way back to Chloe's, where they dry off and pig out. Chocolate cake is doled out during Scattergories, a game Lucifer quickly comes to like as he handily wins every round. When the hour grows late, he haunts the door to Trixie's room and watches as Chloe helps her daughter pack for camp and braids freshly-showered hair and dims lights in a practiced routine. It's all very human, and he's very not, and very uncomfortable for it, and yet damned if it doesn't make him think of his mum and those charred cheesy noodles he forced down his throat. Good thing he worked out his gag reflex eons ago.

"What have you been reading with Dad lately?" Chloe asks when the child is tucked into bed.

"Holes!"

Lucifer looks up from his phone. "Gosh, I bet that's not as interesting as it sounds."

Chloe gives him a wry look.

"It's really good," Trixie gushes, oblivious to the innuendo, as she clutches a hardback. "It's about a boy who gets into trouble for something he didn't do. He gets sent to a really bad place with mean people."

"Oddly relatable."

"But it's not what you think," Trixie continues, so awed by the book that she sits up, casting aside blankets. "Everybody's mean because they're all hurt. They do bad things, but they're not bad people."

"Good people don't do bad things, child. Not truly."

Chloe tilts her head and narrows her eyes at him. "Maybe we should read a little together?"

"Yes!" Trixie hollers. "I get to read!"

"She's going to read?" Lucifer asks, horrified.

"Yep," Chloe says, patting his shoulder as she passes him. "She's started reading to us."

They move to the couch, where there's enough room for the three of them. Chloe draws a blue throw and a fleecy yellow blanket over them. Both smell clean, of laundry detergent and the Decker home. It's free from ash.

Trixie's squeaky child voice lays waste to the narrative, which already leaves much to be desired. Hard labor over stolen shoes? Not for the first time he wonders if writers are possessed.

"Don't you do any voices?" Lucifer complains, his stubble catching on the fleecy blanket.

"Lucifer, she's ten." Chloe's shoulders shake with her amusement as she touches her daughter's hair. "You're doing great, baby."

But he only survives a few more minutes.

"Hand it here, urchin. Won't be the first time I've brought labor camps to life."

They howl with laughter as he gives each character a different accent and when he pitches his voice high for the female Warden. He frowns as the book meanders through injustice, abuse, racism, and murder. Lucifer shakes his head. And Chloe worries about swearing.

"I can't believe I never saw this book in Hell," he comments, turning a page. He glances down and his breath catches at the sleeping woman on his right, and the sleeping girl on his left. "I'll be damned," he whispers, even as he feels quite the opposite.

The back door opens, and Isabel Espinoza sweeps inside, dark and bedecked in lace. Neither Trixie nor Chloe stirs. Izzy stands at the foot of the stairwell and smirks at him.

"What, witch?"

"Oh, nothing, Devil," she says, and wanders upstairs on silent feet.

As the Decker wome