He was used to trying not to ask questions when weird shit went down at Lux. Honestly, would it even be Lux if something utterly mental wasn’t going on? Last week, it was the eight-year-old in the bar, and this week, it was Chloe marching his boss past him wearing nothing but an aluminum blanket for body warmth.
Gary grimaced, thinking of exactly how many health code violations they were in breach of, and yanked his chef’s coat off. He wasn’t going to ask for it back. Ever. Considering the boss could afford to buy him several jackets for the kind of service he provided, Gary wasn’t bothered. He’d just invoice him for it as part of supplies.
“Oy, Detective Decker, just shove it on him. Is he sauced or something?” Gary tossed his jacket to her.
She rolled her eyes, and Gary had the distinct impression that Chloe did that a lot when she was forced onto a case with Lucifer. He could relate. “Or something. Apparently, Lucifer is trying out philanthropy.”
He shook his head and kept his gaze focused on the bar even as Lucifer maneuvered the coat on him---not that it was going to come down quite low enough---and resettled the aluminum blanket over his shoulders. “I was merely helping a poor man who had neither shirt nor trousers.”
“Were you remotely the same size?” Gary asked, apparently ignoring the very sensible instinct that was yelling in the back of his mind to just shut the fuck up.
“Not the point.”
Chloe sighed. “It is, and you can’t just get naked while questioning a witness, and I cannot believe I have to clarify that.”
Lucifer strutted, which was the perfect way to describe most of the what the boss did to be honest, and made his way to the elevator. He disappeared soon after up to the penthouse and Gary hoped he’d stay there until properly attired again.
Without being asked, he reached over and fixed the detective a beer. “On the house. I have a feeling the boss owes you a lot more than that today.”
She sighed and asked for a Diet Coke instead. “I’d love to but, believe it or not, I have four more hours on shift.” Chloe arched her shoulders as if she were making an effort to crack her back and then picked up her drink. “I just can’t even.”
“Are all days with the boss this long?”
She smirked back at him. “Only days that end in ‘y.’”
Gary nodded. “I had a…well a mate like that once.” Off her look, he amended. “Friend. I forget…Americanisms. She was a handful.” He smiled earnestly thinking of Miranda, even if it hurt to remember her so vividly. “Honestly, she had a talent for being stark naked in front of people too.”
“Completely? And do you people have laws on that?”
“We do, and it was usually in her knickers to be fair. She, uh, had rather poor luck,” he conceded, pouring out the wasted beer and polishing out the mug.”
“He drives me nuts,” Chloe confessed.
“I can see that.”
“But at least the usual Lucifer---if there is such a thing---I can handle. Ever since the other night, he’s decided to try ‘doing good works’ for people. He’s annoyingly cheerful and keeps looking for weird ways to more show off than actually help. At least the snarky, actually able to solve a case version I can handle.”
“Can you? Seems either way, you’re frustrated with him.” Gary frowned and set the mug down. “Unless it’s about the creepy stuff he does.”
Chloe arched her eyebrow back at him. “The ‘what do you desire’ schtick? Yeah, it’s helpful. Maybe all the LAPD should recruit more hypnotists. It would help.”
Gary shook his head. She apparently was immune to whatever Lucifer could do. He wouldn’t brush it off as schtick. It was a bloody lot more than that, and it was terrifying. Being forced to say not only things against your will, but your deepest, darkest secrets and wants was beyond disconcerting. He ran a hand through his mussed curls and sighed.
“Not sure the entire city’s police force is ready for all that yet. Are you waiting to collect him again?”
She rolled her eyes again and drained her glass. “I’m going to have to talk to the lieutenant and explain why my consultant did a striptease downtown and rode home naked in my car. She, uh, likes him.”
Gary didn’t need clarification. Lucifer was practically a Pied Piper for the men and women of Lux both, and his parade always led upstairs to his penthouse. “Then, that really does explain a lot. Even if, uh, your city’s police have a reputation even twenty years later and thousands of kilometers across a pond.”
She glowered at him. “Meaning?”
“If I were going to guess a city to hire some mental case claiming to be Satan, then I’d have wagered on L.A.”
“And you’re supposed to be the easy one to deal with,” Chloe muttered. “I have to get back to the precinct, mollify my boss, and then dig deep into the financials of the Dunlear Foundation. If you see Lucifer come down, please let him know I won’t need him the rest of the day…in fact, I’ll call him.”
Gary sighed and wanted to bang his head against the wood of the bar. Of course, Ms. Smith would be on some walkabout and unable to corral the big boss. He didn’t fancy telling Lucifer that he was on a bit of a time out from the detective. Didn’t take a genius to see how poorly that would sit with the other man.
“That’s for the L.A. crack, innit?”
“Maybe, good day, Gary, and thanks for the drink.”
“Wish us luck at least! Oy, you’re not the one who has to tell Lucifer bad news.”
She laughed. “Now you know how every other day of my life on the job goes. Thanks for the help.”
Gary rolled his eyes as she left out the door. “Ta ever so, Detective Decker.”
Lucifer had no idea why the detective was so upset. He was trying to do good things, be the kind of man Tim Dunlear was, and, alright, maybe get another high as good as the one he’d felt after turning down the detective’s advances earlier this week. Nothing had quite made him feel that way---not the impromptu sing along for the ladies at the luncheon, no the loaning of his Prada, and certainly not even allowing the benefit gala to be held at Lux. It was falling flat and do do-gooders hold that back too? That secret that eventually you had to take bigger and bigger hits like any drug to get the same results.
Well, he was no stranger to chasing the dragon. He could find a better way to get a high from helping others. Assuredly. It was why he’d called his chef up to the penthouse. After all, Preston had done him a solid yesterday loaning him the coat---not that he’d been ashamed of being naked, as if that were possible---but it seemed to smother down some of the detective’s irrational rage.
Seriously, he had helped a man. Why had she not congratulated him?
Anyway, Preston, like the malleable git he was arrived right on time. He stepped from the elevator and whistled at the set up in the penthouse. “Nice, boss.”
“Lucifer is fine.”
Preston gulped and shoved his hands in the side pockets of his cargo pants, and Dear Dad someone save the poor lad from his own terrible fashion sense. “If you’re returning my jacket, seriously, uh, Lucifer, you can keep it. I would like to be given a bit more dosh on this week’s check so I can get one or two more of those, but I really do not fancy it back.”
Lucifer shrugged and leaned back in his chair. “You sure? It was comfortable for what it was.”
“Important part of cooking,” Preston countered. “Uh, and boss, don’t take this the wrong way because there were a few times at uni and, never mind, I just am not interested.”
Lucifer laughed long and hard. “Oh, seriously nothing like that. Not that it’s not cute you think so, Preston.”
The other man’s eyes grew large as saucers. “Wot now?”
“But,” Lucifer said, standing smoothly and heading into his bedroom. He needed closet access. “I promise you that has never and will never be on my mind. First, I’ve a twin brother and it has assuredly never been on my kink lists. Dopplegangers need to be avoided in certain situations.”
Preston let out a breath and leaned against the piano. “Thank God.”
“Oh, in that case, perhaps so,” Lucifer admitted. Why he was the only angel with an annoying twin, he didn’t know, but Dad did seem to exist to torment him creatively, so it was possible Michael, and he looked alike just because it amused Father. “Also, just no. I have exceedingly high standards for the men I take to bed, and, no offense,” Lucifer replied stepping back into the main stretch of the penthouse with several suits over his arm. “but you lack the charm, grace, and sartorial sense to make it worth my time.”
Preston blinked back at him, looking a bit like a guppy dragged out of an aquarium. “You do realize that when you say ‘no offense,’ then it’s not a license to go ahead and offend me, right?”
“I think of it as a public service. You have your points to work on. If you focus on those, then one day…well, probably not ever, Preston, but every man has to have a goal.”
The other man pinched the bridge of his nose. “Right then, so we’ve gotten that awful conversation out of the way. Guess it wouldn’t be work if something weren’t awkward.”
“Probably not, but you could loosen up. Lux is not one for rules.”
“And someone has to observe them before we end up with the health inspector shutting us down.”
“Who do you think I bribe the most?” Lucifer asked. He was working on being better. He wasn’t a bloody saint.
“Oh,” the git said, eyes widening further. “That explains a lot.”
“Suppose it does at that. No,” Lucifer continued, setting several of last year’s suits---he was being good, not a complete tosser---on the piano before his chef. “I wanted to give you a chance to be presentable at tomorrow evening’s charity gala for the Dunlear Foundation.”
“I have clothes,” Preston offered.
“If you loosely define your clothing options. I am going to assume you don’t have a single thing that didn’t fit balled up in a rucksack and shoved in storage on the plane.”
“Definitely. Here, there’s a Tom Ford that should work more than well. I stayed with blacks and navies. I figured you weren’t in the mood for something more vibrant.”
“And look like a bloody peacock? Hardly.”
Lucifer shrugged. Although for tomorrow night he was going with a basic tux as well. He shoved the navy Tom Ford toward Preston. “Don’t embarrass me. The rest of the staff knows it’s black tie, and the rest are what is it you called them? Hyphenates?”
“Uh, yeah,” Preston replied, taking the suit. Good, at least the lad had the sense Dad gave a goose. It would have pissed Lucifer off to be refused a gift. It was foolish to refuse overtures from the Devil. “I guess all the actors-slash-models-slash-singers have nice stuff squirreled away for networking.”
“And now you’ve that as well. If you decide to get into another actual job.”
“Nope,” Preston said, balling the suit up a bit in his arms and Lucifer nearly flinched. Sartorial sense would have to be coached into the git, he could see that now. “Just want to cook.”
“And never see Merry Olde again?”
“I’ll go back to Surrey. Sometime, just not sure when. Only been three months. I really mucked it up. I need to figure out a game plan.”
“Floundering and planning often look alike. I should know; my brother, Amenadiel, is an expert at both and has failed something badly these last six years with me.”
Preston nodded and looked back at the elevator. “Can I…this is all you wanted right?”
“Not ever going to jump your bones, no. Sorry to disappoint.”
“Nope, that’s…well the bar won’t set itself up for tonight,” he practically yipped and hurried away.
Lucifer just shook his head at the waste of the suit. You could take the man out of Surrey but…And he definitely didn’t get high off that favor either. Being good was assuredly overrated.
“I want my partner back!”
Gary lets his held loll back and steadies himself against the cool steel of the refrigerator. Being the head (and only but who’s mincing words here) chef at Lux meant that he was also around the most, the one to make sure all ingredients were prepped and the kitchen spotless before a shift. With the gala in t-minus four hours, he had a lot to do. A wise man would focus on the task at hand so he would have time to also slip into the mandatory tux and please the rich and snobby (a skill he’d perfected from dealing with Penny) at the party. He should not, under any sane circumstances, pop his head into the bar to find out why Chloe had screamed at Lucifer.
And yet, here I bloody go.
Gary sighed and eased out into the main expanse of Lux and then eyed his boss. The other man was pacing back and forth by the bankette and flexing his hands into fists at his side. “Problems, boss?”
Lucifer’s eyes flashed red for an instant, and Gary yipped. The bloke was scarier than geese; Gary was sure of that much. “Preston, this is not the sodding time.”
“Believe me, this is the last thing I need to do right now to get your gala running, but it was an epic row, and Lord help me, I felt bad for you.”
His boss gritted his teeth, but his eyes seemed normal again. Gary really needed to think about how long he was staying in Southern California because Lux was getting too mad, even for him. “The last thing I need, Preston, is pity.”
“How about a friendly ear? Done that on three continents, yeah? Have a bit of experience in it. Besides, reckon you can’t turn down any spirits, can you?” He said, pouring a few fingers of the most expensive Scotch they had and nodding towards it. “What happened, Lucifer?”
His boss shrugged with a flourish, arms flaring out as if he were in a pantomime, and then sat down at the bar. He guzzled the tumbler almost inhumanly fast and nodded for another. “It’s time now, you know?”
Gary swallowed but refilled the glass as asked. “Thought you said that you weren’t interested.”
Lucifer laughed long and hard until tears were in his eyes. “Oh, I needed that. Ha, no. But ta for the good laugh. I haven’t had one that good in years and years. You and me, not even if you were the last man on earth.”
“Fine point. A ‘still no’ would have done,” Gary groused half-heartedly. “Anyway, what’s it time for?”
“The deal. Everyone asks a favor of me eventually. Frankly, I prefer it, helps keep me from owing something more to others, anything emotional. I loathe being in debt to others. Favors are about equal exchange, tit for tat. That’s what I’d like to set up with you.”
Gary had been to church some in his life. Mostly at Christmas and Easter, but he wasn’t interested in whatever Lucifer had to offer. No, his boss wasn’t the Satan because that was bloody impossible. However, he was clearly certifiable, and being in debt to someone that mental couldn’t be a good choice either.
“I’d rather not.”
“You haven’t heard my offer.”
“Don’t need to, boss. I don’t want a favor, never have. If you want to just chat, fine. I have a few, and you look like you could stand to get something off your chest. Look, if you want to call this an even exchange, fine. I’ll tell you about my bird and you tell me about yours.” Gary frowned and crossed his arms over his chest. “But that’s it, those are my terms. I don’t want help getting Miranda back. I don’t think I could win her back at this point. Just talk my ear off, and that’s fine.”
“What’s she like,” Lucifer pressed. “That girl of yours. You must be pining very hard if you left all the way to California to get away from her.”
Gary narrowed his eyes but dug in his pants pocket for his phone anyway. “I’ve traveled all over: Malaysia, Hong Kong, places in the RAF. I didn’t just come to America for the first time because of her.”
“But you did. I can tell when people are lying to me, usually. Preston, don’t insult us both by trying to put on a front. Not back home, are you? No need to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and all that other stiff upper lip bollocks.”
He sighed and handed Lucifer the phone. He’d pulled up a few pictures of Miranda from her mother’s last literary soiree. The whole foolish ordeal had gone from Pride and Prejudice themed to a coming out party (long story that and a bit premature) to a Tipping the Velvet party. All to have the theme scratched yet again when she’d realized the man Penny was setting her up with was cute. Gary didn’t think so; in point of fact, he’d have been a far better match, but that was neither here nor there.
“Is there a reason she’s dressed up like Jane Austen?”
“Her mother’s the posh sort---tennis club, supper club, literary soirees. You’d probably like Penny very much.”
“I do not do soirees unless there’s an abundance of liquor involved.”
Gary did the ordering for Lux; he knew that well too. As well as the fact that most of the profits went directly down Lucifer’s gullet. “Anyway, we had that and we all dressed up. It was…well not fun but eventful.”
Lucifer nodded. “Cute enough, if you like that tiny blonde thing. I usually prefer them a bit taller. Craning my neck doesn’t often interest me.”
“Oh, no, the woman on the left in the bonnet.”
His boss chuckled. “Good one, Preston. You really had me there. You’ve gone halfway around the world for that bint, sure.”
Gary grabbed his phone back angrily, no longer caring that his boss was scary as fuck when provoked. “Miranda is the one on the left. You sound like our mates back in uni. She’s not conventional, but she’s funny and never takes anything too seriously and…I dunno…she’s a right mess but everything she does at least ends up exciting somehow.” He sighed, “Who am I kidding, everything I do ends up a mess too. She’s been one of my best mates since university, and we reconnected when I moved home from Asia. I dunno, it just never quite worked out.”
Lucifer sobered. “Oh, I…she is rather Rubenesque. Went through that phase myself around the Renaissance. Just not my sort currently.”
Gary didn’t even bother to analyze that comment. Lucifer said so many weird things to go with the Devil persona; he wasn’t immortal. No one was and to even entertain that notion or acknowledge it would be enabling. “Thanks, then.”
“How did you bugger it up?”
Gary sighed and rubbed at his temples. “Was traveling in Hong Kong for a bit. I met a different girl. We…Miranda and I weren’t an item when I left. I had hoped, but she never said anything. I met Tamara and we had a couple nights together, wasn’t really a thing, and then we decided we were better off friends. Then, she needed a green card to study in England and I needed to pay her back for bailing me out of prison----long story----and so I agreed. Didn’t exactly tell Miranda all the details when I got back home.”
“How much did you leave out?”
“All of it?”
His boss whistled. “Well, I’ll give you credit there, Preston, that’s an impressive cock up. I think I might have topped you.”
“Do tell,” Gary said, glad to get the attention off him.
Besides, he was still smarting from Lucifer’s assumptions about Miranda. No, she wasn’t conventionally pretty, but he liked her all the same. Sometimes the sheer force of her personality just won out over everything else. Besides, he didn’t know another woman out there who understood his complete and utter disinterest in starting a family or kids or shared his passion for just goofing off.
“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Lucifer said, fingers curling around the tumbler. “The Dunlear Foundation is trying to help people. Alright, normally I don’t give a toss about charity. It’s not my thing…not the way a big check in public is shoved out. Favors…they don’t just keep things even for me, they allow me to help more personally. It’s my preferred style, but I thought the detective would appreciate the effort I’m making. She’s mad I’m not helping her question suspects.”
Gary eyed him carefully. “Because of the question you can ask, the desire thing?”
“Yes.” Lucifer quirked his head at him, and again that predatory raptor like expression was on his face. Gary forced himself not to shiver. “I can do that tomorrow, after the gala. She simply didn’t see it my way.”
“Or,” Gary said, forcing his focus away from Lucifer’s hypnotic one. “Your job is consultant first and making up for whatever happened with the foundation probably a distant third or fourth. Maybe she just needs to know you can trust her. Take it from an idiot who blew it by breaking his girl’s---or close enough’s---trust in him. You don’t want to waste that.”
Lucifer stood and nodded toward the kitchen. “Do finish getting it all readied, Preston. Remind me if Mazikeen isn’t back soon to double your salary. We might have found more of a catch in you than I first thought. I did mention I like the complicated ones, didn’t I?”
Gary wasn’t sure what that meant, but, as always, he turned back to his business and readied himself for the next event at Lux. It was the only way to keep his head above water or so he hoped.