Chapter 1: Sashimi
Life begins aquatic.
Chloe Decker knows this. She feels this - because it pulses in her veins and seethes behind her eyes. Water is the umbilical cord, the womb, the song in the darkness that swims in her skull. She’s not a poetic individual, not in the least, but she can concede to this.
And like any angry mother, water is Hell. It’s floods. It’s hurricanes. It’s a rip tide that can drag you down, suffocating - hollowing out for one more gasp at life. Water is cruel and cutting. It’s teeth that slice and dice. It’s gnawing. Bleeding and chewing.
She knows water is also heaven. It’s the grand oceanic ballads of whales. It’s the soft crash of waves against her daughter’s legs. It’s surfing, long ago, with her now ex-husband - salt and brine and smiles. It’s silence too - a hush against the cacophony only humans can make.
And it’s magic. The best kind of magic there is. It’s a rainbow of fish, a forest of coral. Dolphins and sharks and those things that have lived only in the deepest of nights. The animals that somehow make their own stars. It’s mystery, and danger. And the unexpected. And if there’s one thing she, as a detective, loves, is a good mystery.
But where there’s a good mystery - there’s tragedy as well.
And that’s what brings Chloe to the Aquarium of the Pacific.
Delilah Jones is very much dead. Her body was found floating upside down in one of the larger tanks the aquarium possesses. Yellow tangs nibble at the spaces beneath her fingernails. Hair ghosts around her face in a golden halo, almost obscuring the bloated and blue face underneath.
Not one person retrieved her. Not the staff. Not an officer. Not even a concerned citizen. Normally the standard investigation protocol would have required the body to be carefully fished out to be combed for evidence, but Ella wasn’t even called to the scene. There wasn’t even the usual complement of officers, or forensic photographers, or even rubberneckers. The hallway she stood in was empty as empty could be.
She steps up to the tank for a closer look.
Delilah’s body looks almost peaceful there. Her arms and legs drift gently in the artificial current. A sea angel who doesn’t seem all that out of place washed in the pale blue light. There’s no bruising that she can see, no sign of struggle. She’s wearing a wetsuit, but it’s not fully zipped. The plunge was unexpected.
Like a knife, a huge sand tiger shark slices through the water in front of her. And another. And then a smaller one. They seem to stare back at Chloe, these mean looking creatures. They smile with gaping mouths and hooklike teeth. Their eyes flash like pennies and are just as cold.
The detective swallows and takes a step back. The scar on her leg suddenly begins to ache.
“You’re Detective Decker?”
A man waddles his way towards her. He’s balding, mustached, and very, very aggrieved. His long, white lab coat has seen better days. It’s wrinkled and smeared and Chloe can smell the tell-tale stench of vodka.
“Yes.” She composes herself. “And you are?”
“I’m the chief operating officer of this aquarium. Dr. Barnes. And you’re who the LAPD sent over?” Chloe doesn’t like his gaze. It’s simultaneously dismissive and lingers too long. “I expected someone… different.”
Her spine straightens. True, she doesn't cut the most intimidating figure, but she can set her jaw in a way that means business. She knows her gaze can cut through steel. And this man, chief operating officer he may be, is still much less than she has ever been.
“What happened?” It’s more of a demand than a question.
“We don’t know.” He instantly changes his approach, cowering more than assessing. “All we know is that Mrs. Jones didn’t return from her shift last night, and that the janitor found her body this morning. Our security cameras haven't picked up anything.”
“We’ll need the contact information of your janitor, as well as all the security footage you have for the previous two weeks.” She scratches the note into her clipboard. “Why has no one retrieved the body?”
“The situation is… sensitive.”
“I wouldn’t expect any of the employees to retrieve the body. But we’ll need our full forensic diving team-“
“As I’m sure you’re aware this aquarium is quite special. It possesses within its walls a creature so thoroughly unique to the world that it draws thousands of crowds on the daily. If word of this gets out, the loss of revenue would be staggering.”
It takes a moment, but she remembers: the papers a few years ago. The CNN headlines. The endless break room talk. The news that stopped the world in its tracks. How Trixie begged and begged and begged to go to the aquarium. And how, no matter how hard Chloe had tried, it was impossible to even grab tickets for her daughter’s birthday. The whole thing was ten times worse than Hamilton.
“Not a mermaid,” Barnes corrects, casting a quick, nervous glance at the tank. “You can call him a siren. Or a devil. Or a demon. But not a mermaid.”
Her detective brain snags on that.
“Do you think it’s responsible? This creature?”
Barnes shakes his head.
“It’s hard to say. Unlike our other residents, he isn't confined to a singular tank.”
The detective lets out a snort of disbelief. “And you keep it captive here, with children?” Chloe is suddenly all too glad she never got her hands on those tickets. She makes a mental note to keep at least one eye on the tanks moving forward.
“You misunderstand.” Barnes quickly amends. “He chooses to be here. This is a mutually beneficial agreement, if you will. He requires food and shelter, and we need the revenue. He's even cooperative in most of our ongoing scientific research.”
“And has it shown any signs of being unhappy with this agreement?”
The chief officer runs a shaky hand through the remainder of his greasy hair. “I honestly believe that if he didn’t want to be here, we couldn’t contain him if we tried.”
“Or prevent it from killing someone,” Chloe interjects.
“All of this is to say, this investigation needs to be under wraps.” Marcus appears from behind a corner, obviously listening to the entire exchange. “The forensics team will be here in two hours. In the meantime, you’re here to question our witness.”
Chloe glances up at her boss. His expression is unreadable, but something about the stiff line of his shoulders lets her know that the situation isn’t quite as simple as that.
It occurs to Chloe a little too late that the Aquarium of the Pacific is one of the LAPD’s largest donors. And probably the largest donor for the Fire Department. And probably the largest donor of all the nearby hospitals.
The locker room of the aquarium is massive. It’s larger than her own apartment even. There’s at least five rows with benches. Showers crowd the back wall, and instead of linoleum there’s a mosaic, sparkling blue with tiles of fish and currents. Even the lighting cascades cerulean, as if she were already submerged. It’s hard not to be simultaneously impressed and disgusted.
Maze, the aquarist who is supposed to be leading Chloe to the witness, is seething in the next row. She’s in a hushed argument with Dr. Linda Martin - the head veterinarian. They both are whispering insults as they pull on their wetsuits. Chloe strains to listen to them - but in the end, their bickering is indecipherable.
Peirce didn’t even bother with a debrief, which was odd. Still no forensics team on the scene. And still no explanation as to why she had to change her clothes to meet her witness. Of all the cases she’s ever been assigned, this one by far and away, was the strangest.
“Decker!” Maze calls. “Did you get the wetsuit on like I told you?”
“Yes,” Chloe snarls. She didn’t want the wetsuit. It was slim, black, and had a blue line that signified the aquarium logo. She slipped it on like an unpleasant memory. But yes, she was wearing it.
“Oh, that’s a good fit.” Dr. Martin peers from the corner. Her own wetsuit is sliced with green and a canvas bag hangs from her shoulder. Probably a medkit.
“Lets just go already,” Maze grumbles, lifting two buckets of silvery fish. “The sooner Lucifer’s little playdate is over with, the sooner we can get on with our jobs.”
Chloe’s eyes narrowed, but both Linda and Maze were out of the locker room. She had to jog to catch up.
“Your witness Decker- try to keep up.”
“Maze!” Dr. Martin yells. “She’s not a mind reader. She’s a detective, and we should be helping her. For Deliliah’s sake!”
Maze rolls her eyes but says nothing and leads the way up a narrow, winding set of stairs.
“Lucifer is, well, Lucifer. He takes some getting used to, but of all my colleagues I trust him the most.” She says pointedly, and Maze snorts. “If he says he saw the murderer, I one-hundered percent believe him. He never lies.”
Chloe is panting a little. The pace isn’t grueling, but the wetsuit feels so constricting that she can feel it already absorb some of her sweat. “What did he say he saw?”
“A hooded figure was fleeing the aquarium. His clothes were soaking wet and he was bleeding. I’m sure he can help you further with a physical description.” The doctor waves offhandedly. “Careful on the gantry. Everything is slick.”
They’ve made their way into a skyway. From her vantage point she can see the top of every massive tank in the aquarium. Above each tank hangs series of metal bridges, cables and platforms that allow the aquarists easy access to the water and filtration systems. Each tank has its own five foot overhang that’s only a few inches from the surface, big enough for any biologist to comfortably observe with at least three people’s worth of equipment. She glances upwards at cacophony of lights - each programmed to simulate a different environment, and again thinks about the sheer amount of money this place has at its disposal.
Its warm up here. Too warm. And everything smells like salt.
“Beautiful isn’t it?” Dr. Martin sighs. “Everything is state of the art. Again, watch your step.”
Chloe takes a careful step forward. Through the gantry grates she can see the shimmering surface of the water below. Her mind could be playing tricks - but she sees a black shape dart across the corner of her vision.
The scar on her leg aches again.
But she presses onward.
Eventually they make their way to the farthest corner. Dr. Martin gestures for her to stay back, her finger at her lips. The veterinarian swing her legs into the water, and waits.
“Where is this Lucifer?” Chloe glances at her wrist, there isn’t a watch there - but she doesn’t need one to know she doesn’t have time for this.
“Patience Decker,” Maze chides.
There’s movement in the water. A slick slice of black and then silence.
She doesn’t like this, not one single bit. She blinks. And theses suffocating, there’s red. Her lungs seize, but it passes - like a stuttered heartbeat.
The surface breaks again. A black shark’s dorsal fin. But there’s more. There’s arms. And a torso. And a human face. It’s mercreature everyone is so excited about.
“Hey!” Dr. Martin calls. “What kept you?”
“Traffic,” it says smoothly. “The 101 was hell.”
It’s only after a moment that Chloe realizes it was a joke. This thing was joking. Eloquently.
This mercreature is not what Chloe expects. It’s obviously male. But it’s more human looking than she supposed her imagination gave it credit for. She watches as he swiftly approaches Linda, with a grim smile of all things. They enter a rapt conversation, in which Linda nods patiently.
The slick muscles of its torso are configured like an athletic swimmer, they twist subtly with the current. Webbed hands with delicate claws are clamped to the gantry, holding him there as they discuss. The long, pronged shark tail beats the water lazily, like a cat’s. He actually almost looks normal. The skin on his belly and face are an olivey-peach - A stark contrast the black sharkskin of his back, arms and tail. He has hair. And stubble. And his face, she can even see it from here, is so heartbreakingly and humanly lovely that it’s no wonder why the admission prices have soared.
Her mind echoes with the word and the warning.
Chloe doesn’t know too much about biology, but she does know that everything looks like something for a reason. He’s an attractive lure for human flesh. Why bother hunting a delicious opportunity when it can just waltz right up to your gaping mouth?
Linda glances upwards and waves her in. From her satchel she pulls out a few take-out containers and places them delicately down on the metal grate. And then, oddly, a bottle of bourbon and two tumblers. Maze rolls her eyes.
The siren turns to look at her. His gaze is completely black and fathomless. And he slips back into the water without a word.
“Oh, don’t worry about him.” Linda says. “He’s just being a little dramatic. He’ll come around. He just needs a moment.”
“Is this… safe?” Chloe hedges.
Maze hoists her bucket full of fish. “Would we bring you here if it wasn’t? We have to do rounds. Try not to insult him. And try not to fall in.”
Maze makes her way down the gantry, but Dr. Martin lingers. She pats a seat down by the water. Chloe sits.
She can feel him watching beneath the surface. Watching and waiting just like her. She looks over at the take-out containers. Sashimi. Multiple different cuts of sashimi. There’s shiny pieces of salmon. Tuna red as a beating heart. White fish that glistens in the floursesents. Chloe snaps open a lid. She hasn’t really eaten anything all day.
“Go ahead,” Dr. Linda says. “There’s plenty-”
Suddenly a shape shoots out of the water and plops on the platform next to her. All lean muscle and strength. It composes itself - and it’s the creature, sitting oh so casually next to her. His tail is dangling into the water. He’s leaning back and smiling, his teeth are sharpened points. It’s very devil-may-care, emphasis on the devil. His oil black eyes are fixed on her: cold, but burning at the same time. Fear curls in her gut.
“Detective Chloe Decker, this is your witness, Lucifer Morningstar.” Dr. Martin says, smiling and taking her exit.
“Detective.” Lucifer tastes the word, and purrs it back out again. “Detective! A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”
Lucifer is picking at the sashimi with a pair of disposable chopsticks. He’s even delicately dipping each piece in soy sauce. There’s wasabi, and ginger, and seaweed salad. The spread is made complete by the full glass of bourbon he pulls from now and then.
Chloe is sitting next to a Siren, eating lunch, and avoiding eye contact. It makes for an insane picture if she’s honest.
But the food is good. There is plenty, as Dr. Martin said- and the merman is gracious. He’s more than willing to share. Even the bourbon, she has to admit, is top shelf. It burns ever so sweetly against her teeth. She has questions, but, oddly, she doesn’t feel compelled to ask them. They’re all stuck somewhere between her shock and her instinct for self preservation.
She thinks about the fact this creature has an accent. An honest to god British accent.
She thinks about how he has gills. And scales. And a tail. But is somehow drinking alcohol.
And most of all, she thinks about what in the world she’s going to tell Trixie when she gets home.
But those thoughts, like many others bleed into companionable silence. A slice of tuna all but melts on her tongue, and it is rapture. The white buttery snap of escolar. Eel that almost swims in a sugary sauce. Lucifer, thankfully, seems as equally engaged. He chews like a proper gentleman, not like a fish man. And she suspects, secretly, that he’s just as taken aback by this development as she.
She lets time drift in and out like ocean waves.
The vast expanse of the tank below looms. A dreamscape she can dip her toes into, if she’s brave enough. There are so many schools of fish, so many colors. It’s a riot. It’s a dance. It’s so soothing. And so primal. It’s difficult not to get lulled. Not even a splash breaks the tinkling quiet.
But the quiet does eventually break.
“So,” Lucifer says between chunks of salmon. “What can I do for you, Detective?”
Chloe, startled, and finally gathers the courage to look at him. She’s jolted swiftly back to reality with less than a steady footing.
And all the world- Lucifer meets her stare confidently, like the cat who just got the cream.
“Uh, yes,” she clears her throat. “I’m here about the murder of Delilah Jones. She was an aquarist here and I’m told you’re a key witness.”
He puts the takeout container down and looks at her again. She’s slowly getting used to his eyes. There’s not even a speck of white in them- but when he tilts his head they almost look lit from within. Like a soft specter of fire.
“Delilah,” he says quickly. “I liked her. She was a wonderful singer. Very good with the dolphins. You would think that dolphins are easy to work with- but I promise you, Detective, that they’re right viscous bastards. A bunch of smarmy cocks if you ask me. And don’t get me started on the belugas-“
Chloe snaps her fingers to cut him off.
“Oh I wish I could do that,” he almost gushes. “But you know, webbing in all-“
“Lucifer,” Chloe snaps again. “I need you to focus. Where were you on the night Delilah was murdered?”
“Oooooh, am I a suspect?” He sounds extraordinarily excited at the prospect, much to her chagrin. So much for focus. “Are you going to interrogate me?”
“Just answer the question,” she huffs. “Please.”
Lucifer snarls a little, his lip curling with the audacity to look offended. His tail lashed the water irritably, but Chloe, surprisingly, didn’t flinch. She stares back into his black abyssal eyes without so much as a blink.
Seconds pass, but suddenly, he softens. The aggressive tightness of his shoulders melts into a curve and his gills heave a great and prolonged sigh.
“If you must know, I was in the Pacific Coastal tank. The one with all the kelp. The currents help me sleep at night - and before you ask, yes, the security cameras can confirm my whereabouts. It’s also worth mentioning that if I did want to kill someone-“ He shows his many pointed teeth. “They wouldn’t have found a body.”
“Noted,” Chloe says with a shiver. “How do you, uh, move from tank to tank?”
“I jump,” he says popping the p. “I thought it was pretty obvious. Are you sure you’re a detective?” His head cocks of the side in a snide accusation, but she ignores the jibe.
“You can actually leap from tank to tank?” Chloe frowns. Again, she isn’t a biologist, but it seems implausible.
“Of course, if the tank is big enough. And deep enough. Would you like a demonstration?” His impossible eyebrows waggle.
“I’m fine. Thank you,” Chloe cuts to the chase.“Dr. Martin said you saw something that night, though. Care to elaborate?”
Lucifer’s demeanor drops precipitously. Even more so than before. His skin almost shimmers. Scales flare red with some internal bioluminescence. The muscles beneath move like snakes. Everything in his anatomy roils. And roils wrongly.
Chloe backs away ever so slightly. Maze’s warning is clear in her ears.
But Lucifer seems to notice- and then, quick as it started, it smooths out. He looks- sheepish. He shrinks into himself and turns further away from her.
“Apologies,” he says quietly.
And suddenly she’s not sitting next to a siren, or a merperson, or a creature. She’s sitting next to man. Maybe not psychically. But it hits, like a penny in a fountain. That he’s a person. A person who’s lost someone and is dealing with the trauma. And that cat-who-got-the-cream smile? A defense mechanism. A very human defense mechanism.
“It’s okay,” Chloe says.
He doesn’t look at her. There’s a shift of muscle along his rib cage that makes zero sense, but she, for the most part ignores it.
“Hey. I mean it. It’s okay,” she says again.
She hesitantly places her hand on his shoulder. And he flinches, but doesn’t pull away. His skin feels rough, but it doesn’t cut. He’s warm. And solid. And she finds it’s not much different than comforting Trixie. Actually.
“This bothers you doesn’t it?” Chloe says softly. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize...”
She knows it’s not enough. Those words are never enough. But she says them anyway.
And he looks at her again, but this time it’s something raw. Agonized. His clawed hands flex helplessly at the grate.
“I couldn’t protect her. I should have done something. Anything. But I couldn’t.” Lucifer looks at his tail as it flops morosely into the tank. “I heard her screaming. I heard it, but I don’t have legs, you see. I can move between tanks, but not in the spaces in between.”
He polishes the rest of his whiskey in one swig.
“I wanted so badly to-“ his throat catches. “I needed to do something. But, by the time I found her, she was already gone. And I was trapped behind glass. I-I caused some significant damage to the tank I was in from ramming into the wall over, and over, and over - trying to get to her. The repairs will take weeks I’m sure.”
“Did you see who did it?”
“No. This man, this monster. He ran. I could only catch a glimpse. I couldn’t catch his face so I’m almost useless even as a witness. All I could see was his hood. Standard blue jeans. Gloves. No obvious weapon.”
“Did you see anything else?”
“No,” he says quietly.
Lucifer looks lost then. His gills flutter with every inhale, the slick surface of his back shimmers. His hair, once damp and plastered to his face is beginning to dry and curl at the edges. She can hear the clicking of his throat. His nails as the scrape against the aluminum. Everything else at the moment might seem impossible- but. She believes him. She believes him. She believes him.
“It’s not your fault.” Chloe says
“Oh, but it is.” He makes a motion, and slides further up the grate. His hands reach over a ledge and grabs a small box. Cigarettes. A lighter.
Somehow she’s not surprised.
He lights up, takes a drag, and the smoke flutters from the filigree of his gills. It’s more of a puzzle than how he breathes.
“She was my responsibility. She was under my protection.” His voice is taut like a cable about to snap.
“I don’t see how. These people, they’re supposed to take care of you, not the other way around, right? There’s aquarists. There’s veterinarians, project managers. Even a director.”
He laughs. And it’s a harsh, rough sound.
“I am the director,” Lucifer says oh-so-matter-of-factly.
He dumps the rest of the sashimi into the aquarium below without a second thought.
Chloe, and all the things that operate her thought processes, stutter to a halt.
“No,” She hisses. “You’re kidding me. You’re absolutely kidding me.”
“Our little secret.” His smile is swift and sad.
She’s still grasping. “How- What? I don’t understand.”
“Not many people do,” he says. “It’s a long story. But suffice to say - this place is mine. Not the other way around. I’m in charge of research, revenue, and even merchandising. I’ve made it so that on the books this place is operated by a shell corporation called ‘LUX’. And last I checked, there’s no law in the United States preventing me from owning property. My employees are well paid for their loyalty - and of course their discretion.”
“But you could be anywhere at all, why here? Why bother? Why be trapped in a series of boxes day in and day out?” This wouldn’t be the life she would choose for herself, not by six thousand miles. She wants freedom. She wants justice. Locked away in a gilded cage for the world to see sounds like her own personal version of hell.
And he seems to see it in her face. The desperation. He swallows. “This is my home, Detective. This is where I belong, these are my people.”
It’s not an answer. In fact it brings up more questions. But it’s acceptable. More than acceptable. Nobility in the last place she would ever expect, on a salt encrusted gantry in an Aquarium in Los Angeles. She’s almost jealous. Actually, because for all of her hard work, all of the cases she’s solved - no one has ever cared for her as much as Lucifer seemed to care for his ‘employees’.
“What is it?” Lucifer prods.
“You’re just not what I expected.” Chloe can feel her lopsided smile. Her face flushes, condemning her - just a little bit. Envy is a dangerous thing it seems.
“Well, detective - neither are you. When Maze informed me I was getting a visit by the LAPD, I wasn’t expecting such a beautiful and bold detective. Though to be fair, none of her descriptions of anything are flattering. She most certainly didn’t do you justice, for example.”
His tail sloshes in the water, a black jutting arrow punctuating the end of his sentence. He’s smiling at her- but his teeth are so sharp. Like razors that slice and tend and tear. And his eyes are black. Like the ocean, deep deep and fathomless - when you know no one is coming to save you. Her scar aches again. No, her scar roars. Roars. Panic crawls up her throat and she’s-
She’s still sitting above the tank. Her own takeout container is empty. And a very confused siren is watching her.
“I should go,” Chloe says quickly.
Lucifer looks like he’d been slapped, he almost knocks over the whiskey bottle. “Was it something I said?”
But Chloe ignores him. She pushes off the gantry with too much force.
“Detective! I want to help! Wait! Listen-“
And her foot doesn’t track against the grate. It’s too slick. There’s nothing to grab.
And Chloe is falling.
Note: Escolar is totes not all that great for you unless its a really good sushi restaurant who knows what they're doing.
Also hello there.
And hey! let me know what you think dudes, as I literally and figuratively jump the shark.
Chloe only blacks out for a second. It’s pain, bright- red and dark and screeching. Her skull snagged a ladder rung on the way down.
There’s the slap and crash of the water’s surface-
And then she’s floating face down. Harsh brine coats her teeth and tongue and stings her sinuses like nothing else. Her eyes are burning and blurring and it’s all she can do not to inhale. Everything is hazy, her thoughts are a jumble of pain and panic but her limbs feel heavy.
She’s having a panic attack.
Sharp and swift.
Her own heart beat thuds and thuds and thuds. It’s a baseline that she’s desperately trying to slow down. Her brain feels like a treadmill that she can’t run fast enough to keep up with. The rubber tarmac rolling faster than her own metaphorical sneakers can carry her.
Then, a touch. Something grazes her ankle.
Chloe kicks out in panicked instinct and is want something both soft and solid. She kicks again and her foot is caught. Her legs spasm and twist violently. Then whatever is touching her abruptly lets go.
“Bloody hell woman-“ a very irritated looking Lucifer looms large in her vision, floating just a few feet beneath her. One of his webbed hands is rubbing at the scruff of his face. “could you try to assault my person a bit gentler next time? Can’t have you damaging the money maker now can we?”
It takes her a moment to register the weirdness of it. His speaking. Words are leaving his mouth in perfect enunciated syllables and if Chloe tried to speak all that would come out would be a muffled peal of bubbles.
Instead of responding, she grits her teeth and surfaces.
Sweet, sweet air rushes into her lungs and blinks away the stinging salt.
Her limbs fall into a stroke, languid and careful. For all of her fear, for all of the riotous internal pandemonium, Chloe is still an excellent swimmer. Decades of surfing isn’t something easily left to dust. It’s muscle memory. It’s instinct. It’s informed the way she’s moved since she was a child. The water might have turned on her with teeth and undertow, but her body never has.
“If you wanted to take a dip you could have just said so.” Lucifer is bobbing next to her, and far closer than she would have liked. His black hair is plastered to his scalp, but she has to admit he still cuts an impressive figure - even if he’s smirking at her with razor blade teeth. “Might I even suggest skinny dipping? I’m told it’s incredibly refreshing.”
“C-coming from you, who is currently n-naked.” Even in a wetsuit that water is freezing. She would be a popsicle in less than ten minutes with bare skin.
“Astute observation, Detective. I’m quite flattered you noticed.” Undeterred, he runs a webbed hand through his hair, ruffling some of the water out.
She’s in the water.
Chloe’s stomach churns. A fresh spike of anxiety is crawling up her throat, and it’s getting harder and harder to swallow down. She’s in the water, and every single molecule of her entire being desperately doesn’t want to be.
“Detective?” The Siren’s abyssal eyes look almost concerned.
“S-Sorry,” Chloe stutters out. She’s paddling in place, grabbing her bearings. “I probably look like a basket case.”
Lucifer raises a perfectly shaped brow. “I’d say more like a wet blanket.”
“Siren, actually. Do keep up.” Lucifer‘s gaze catches on something. “Oh, hello.”
A dorsal fin suddenly stabs through the water in front of her, slicing by the surface tension. And it’s not Lucifer’s. It’s a dark torpedo, a knife with its own murderous intent. The harsh overhead fluorescents outline its hungry shadow. Then there’s another. And another.
She’s on top of Lucifer before she can even consider her own dignity. Her nails are digging into the rough flesh of his shoulders.
“What the-“ He struggles to catch her scrambling frame.
“Lucifer,” Chloe’s voice is cracking. Her shaking hands are curled desperately around his throat. Her legs are climbing faster than Lucifer can fumble his grip. “There are sharks in this tank.”
“I hadn’t noticed,” He wheezes, his sarcasm strained. “And what did we say about assault? You’re choking me, Detective. And if I didn’t know any better I’d say this is one of your kinks.”
“It can’t happen again. Please,” she begs. Chloe’s own logic is clawing itself to pieces in panic. “It can’t happen again.”
Lucifer finally manages to get her tangle of limbs in a more reasonable configuration. She’s floating in his arms in a mockery of bridal style. One arm is cradling her carefully beneath her knees, the other is is wrapped protectively around her shoulders. Her own hands are clasped tightly behind his neck.
“Let what happen again?” He says into her hair. “You aren’t making sense.”
But Chloe can’t respond. She’s hyperventilating. She’s drowning in air.
“Breathe, Detective.” Lucifer pulls her closer. Her cheek is pressed against his chest. He curls himself around her. “I’ve got you.”
But all Chloe can see is the water. And the sharks. Circling. Waiting. Hooked gums lined with teeth that are so, so, so eager to taste her flesh.
“Look at me.” The Siren’s voice rumbles in her ear.
She doesn’t look at him. All of her attention is pinpointed on the blade like fins that slice.
“Please darling,” he says gently. “Look at me. Do you trust me?”
Chloe finally pulls her gaze from the water looks up at Lucifer. He’s just staring at her with lips slightly parted. His hand is on her shoulder. His clawed fingers are inches from tangling themselves in her hair. But the flicker red she saw in the depths of his eyes is now out in full force. It’s swirling and hypnotic.
Something in her blood is thrumming- like a distant car radio playing her favorite song. It’s enchanting in a way. Enthralling. It’s almost a Vicodin high. Or the first flush of of a whiskey shot. Or the crash of endorphins after a marathon. It’s a warm soft blanket nestled between her ears.
But it’s wrong.
Lucifer is wrong.
“Detective?” He’s frowning.
Lucifer is very, very wrong.
If she listens for long enough that distant car radio is going to get closer. And closer. And closer. And she’ll be staring straight into the headlights right up
to the point she’s run over. That Vicodin high will be an addiction. That whiskey pull will put her in AA. And that marathon will tear all her muscles apart. It’s not a warm blanket. It’s a black plastic bag.
And she’s letting it suffocate her.
Suddenly her brain is screaming. Her skin his recoiling from his touch like he’s a hot skillet. Some unknown defense mechanism is riding her adrenaline and kicking in full force. She struggles in his arms, but his grip is gentle, but immovable.
“Detective, what’s wrong?”
Lucifer had lured her into a false sense of security. Nobility, kindness, humor and compassion. All the things that mattered to her own hollering heart. He might not be singing to her directly, not like the myths, but he knows intimately how to snag her. She’s a sailor, throwing herself onto the rocks like in the days of yore.
“I don’t think I do,” Chloe croaks, pulling her gaze away. “Trust you.”
She squirms again and Lucifer abruptly lets go. Something tracks across his face. Hurt maybe. But it’s sealed away under a Devil-may-care smile before she can really assess.
“If you don’t trust me, trust scientific research,” He rebuffs. “They won't hurt you. If you read the plaque you’d know that sand tigers are incredibly docile.”
Chloe thinks briefly of Delilah’s corpse- and how, in an aquarium full of sharks her body remained unmolested.
“And I would never hurt you. Or allow you to be hurt. You have my word.” The smile falters a little and his abyssal eyes are soft as kohl. A muscle jumps along the set of his jaw, his throat bobs up and down. He’s naked in his sincerity.
But there is something still so alien about him. Something in the way he moves. He isn’t a fish, he isn’t a primate, or even a mammal. He’s something altogether different. And it’s hard to forget the still fleeting moment it made her hind brain recoil and her skin crawl.
“Just-“ Chloe refuses to feel guilty. “just help me get to the ladder.”
It shuts down. All that softness. Out like a light. And all that’s left is a Siren, not even pretending to be a man. A beautiful blank mask that’s as cold as the aquarium she’s swimming in.
“With pleasure.” Lucifer replies.
“So, are you going to tell me what the bloody hell that was all about?”
Chloe is flopped out on the deck, with her eyes tucked into the crook of her elbow. The borrowed wetsuit is drying on the nearest railing and left in her wet t-shirt, her bra, and her underwear. To be honest she’s kinda pissed off about it. Call it lack of foresight but, A) when dressing for work today she wasn’t prepared for a near death water excursion and B) she wasn’t expecting to strip in front of some sort of merman.
Not that he complained. If anything his eyes hungrily roved her body like the sushi platter was just an amuse-bouche.
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Chloe huffed. She’s glad half her arm is blocking most of her facial expressions.
“Well I do.” Lucifer’s irritation is palpable.
“It’s not any of your business.”
“As your partner it’s definitely my business. I’m entitled,” he says.
Her argument screeches to a halt.
“Partner?” She removes her elbow and glares over at Lucifer. “I never said anything about you being my partner.”
He shrugs. He’s all but lounging on the grate, looking equal parts careless and challenging. “Well you clearly need one, give your penchant for spills.”
“Who better to help you with the investigation hm?” He continues, gesturing at himself with webbed fingers. “This is my facility. I know it like the back of my hand. And since you seem rather adverse to aquatic activities, who better to help you gather evidence?”
“There are rules, Lucifer.” Chloe pinches the bridge of her nose. “Regulations. I don’t think they were written with a merman civilian consultant in mind.”
“Like it matters, Detective.” He breezes. “We can be partners in all but the formalities if that pleases you. But I’m helping you with this investigation, whether you like it or not.”
Chloe sighs. “I still don’t really trust you.”
“You don’t have to trust me. You need me. It’s obvious you don’t want to be in the water. And that is a shame. You move in the water like you were born into it. Before all that floundering nonsense.”
It occurs to her that Lucifer’s gills are fluttering during this entire exchange. They look like stab wounds under what is ostensibly a rib cage, peeping a bloody red with every exhale. His forked tail twitches as if it had a mind of its own. And the tiny, oh so tiny scales that make up his skin are standing on end - making his slick body matte.
For all his careless bluster, his body betrays his confidence. He’s just as unsettled about the entire situation as she is.
Chloe smooths out her thoughts
“I panicked.” She admits. “I had a panic attack.”
“Why ever for?” Lucifer, to his credit, isn’t making fun of her. His tone is one of surprise and concern.
She doesn’t trust him. Not really. She can’t. Not until she figures out what’s wrong with him, Not until she can figure out what’s making her instincts freak the fuck out. But she can at least be honest.
“Do you see this?” She points to the meat of her calf. “This is why.”
Her leg, thankfully, is recently shaved. She exfoliates, she lotions. But no amount of skincare can ever fix the half ring of scars that tangles the flesh below her right knee. It’s not the prettiest part of her body, not by a long shot. And she would by lying if she said it didn’t make her feel self-conscious.
She can feel Lucifer’s burning gaze and it’s a miracle her leg doesn’t spontaneously combust. He awkwardly drags himself closer to her - his corded arms rippling with the effort of having to pull his lower body. His tail shushes against the platform.
His hand hovers just above her skin. His claws are delicately tracing the starburst of indents left by a more careless predator.
“A great white.” His lip curls. The look on his face crumples from stunned to venomous.
She doesn’t want to know how he knows that - the kind of shark that bit her. She doesn’t want to know how he has probably been intimately acquainted.
Lucifer pulls himself alongside her with a groan, so that they’re side by side. He’s so graceless out of his element. Crawling on his belly had to be uncomfortable. And laying like this must be equally so. She’s curious why he bothered. She certainly wasn’t worth the effort expended.
“When?” He asks.
“It’s been a while. It happened about six years ago. My daughter, Trixie… she was so tiny then. Every weekend I would take her and my ex-husband down to the beach. He and I were surfers. That’s how we met actually.”
“A respectable hobby I suppose,” he smirks and his eyebrows do a ridiculous waggle “Ex-husband?”
Chloe rolls her eyes. Of course that would be his takeaway.
“It was a family tradition for us. Sneak on to those “private” beaches and make a day out of it. Bring sandwiches. Build sand-castles. Soak up the sun. Catch some waves. Be a stereotypical Californian. And yes, ex-husband.”
“You make it sound like it’s your fault. Like this is some grand tale of human hubris.”
“Well, maybe it is. I got complacent. Who the hell worries about sharks this day and age? Shark attacks aren’t a thing. Statistically, you’re more likely to be killed by a coconut. And honestly, don't remember too much about it.” Lucifer visibly flinches at the lie, it’s so poorly told, but whatever. “And it’s not like it matters anyway. I’m not the victim I’m worried about. Every time I see this-” Chlose pats her damaged calf. ‘I think about how my daughter was watching from the beach.”
Lucifer’s gaze is pitch. Night upon night, upon night. It’s hard to tell what he’s staring at or what he sees. But she can see herself in his darkness - her face reflected in the sheen of his eyes. Whatever judgement is in there, its invisible to the world.
Chloe prods at it. “Well, aren’t you going to say something?”
He shakes his head as if coming out of a trance. “Horrible luck, that,” he says weakly.
And for the first time, in a very long while, Chloe laughs. Honest to god tears are springing to her eyes. Lucifer joins her, small huffs that barely escape his throat. It was as if he too realized how bat-shit insane this entire exchange was.
“I know-” Chloe says wiping her eyes. “I know the shark didn’t mean it. I probably looked like a seal. But it’s hard to feel, you know? It’s not like they’re dogs. Or cats. Where I can be presented with positive interactions. All I have to go on is Jaws and Deep Blue Sea.”
“It’s hard to look at a predator and see the creature beneath.” Lucifer says gently. “I understand.”
Chloe suddenly has a feeling they’re no longer talking about sharks - but ignores it.
“It’s not the shark’s fault I was in the water,” she replies.
Lucifer’s face shifts into something almost sympathetic. After what seems like an awkward hesitation, a hand goes to her arm. His thumb circles her pulse.“But that doesn’t change the fact you were hurt. The sea hurt you. You were afraid of it happening again. Like any sane person would be I wager.”
“Well, worry not Detective.” Lucifer brightens. “With me that is no longer an issue. As well as my supernatural attractiveness I have the ability to sway all the sea’s creatures under my command.”
“So you’re telling me you’re basically Aquaman.” Chloe pulls her hand away.
Lucifer is the definition of mock-offended with his hand pressed oh so tragically against his heart. “Please. Aquaman wishes he was me. I’d like to think I’m more attractive than Jason Mamoa.”
She raises a disbelieving brow. “No one is more attractive than Jason Mamoa.”
“While I don’t concede to your point,” Lucifer cocks his head to the side. “I do hear Maze and Linda making their swift return. I’d put the suit back on lest we have to discuss why you’re half naked by the Siren tank.”
“Shit.” Chloe scrambles for the drying spandex, almost slipping on the great once again.
“Careful.” Lucifer chides. “As thrilling as that all was, I doubt you would be interested in a repeat performance.”
“Let me get this straight,” Chloe quickly shoves her legs into the wetsuit, hoping to hide her flush. “You, Lucifer, resident Aquarium mogul and local Los Angeles cryptid, who can command fish-
“And whales, and dolphins, the cheeky buggers-“
“Are propositioning me to be my partner. To solve a murder.”
“Now you’re getting the picture. I feel I’ve said it before but for someone with your title, you can be quite slow at times.”
If Chloe could roll her eyes any harder they would be stuck to the back of her skull. Instead she carefully pads over to the pile of her other belongings. Her badge, her clipboard and her phone. The screen flares to life and she has seven missed calls and a half dozen text messages.
“Shit. Shit. Shit.” Chloe says under her breath.
“I’m sure you have places to be.” Lucifer calls, taking the moment to slide back into the water. “You’re welcome back any time. Stop by reception and they’ll give you an all access badge. But for our purposes, ideally, we should meet again soon before the trail goes cold.”
She can hear Maze and Linda now. Hushed voices and echoing footsteps. She mentally adds supernatural hearing to the list of Lucifer’s powers. And she knows, deep down, she really can’t turn down his offer. Not if she wants to solve this thing.
“Fine. Tomorrow, noon. If your alibi checks out.” Chloe concedes - finally.
“It’s a date Detective.” She can’t even see him now - but she can hear his million dollar sharp-toothed smile.
Sorry guys - I've been very busy. Moving. Work. You know the drill - but I wanted to thank https://zeearts.tumblr.com for this!!! I am still dying.
And also I couldn’t bring myself to abandon you!
Lucifer isn’t sold on the Japanese whiskey. He can’t say it’s the favorite of his growing collection. The Nikka Coffey Grain is too sweet and too reminiscent of coconuts- arguably the worst of fruits in all of creation and also the most confusing taxonomically. However, it’s what happens to be plentiful and he isn’t quite desperate enough to dig into his cache of Jack Daniels.
He’s in his surface alcove. It’s dark, just how he likes it. There’s a heat lamp and as much atrocious IKEA furniture he can stomach. The nearness to the water all but guarantees their slow dissolve into uselessness, but far better for it to be particle board than mahogany. It’s more easily replaceable and less sad to watch.
Fashion magazines are fastidiously stacked on top of Billy bookcases, far and away from the briny deep. The paperwork on his soggy desk is in gallon sized zip-loc bags. Books are smothered in plastic wrap, and any and all wall space is crammed with various possessions. Whiskey tumblers. Lighters. Empty cigar boxes. Gifts from especially persistent tourists. Saucy bits of fan mail he just couldn’t toss. And a singular Armani suit - carefully vacuum sealed.
The alcohol slides softly against his tongue. Glass catches on his too-sharp teeth. Lucifer likes to think, that even like this, there’s always these tiny pleasures humans have that make it worth it. They are an ingenious bunch - arguably the best and worst thing that crawled up from his Father’s endless sea.
In his other hand is the Detective’s pen. He’s been fiddling with it for hours - triggering the simple spring in and out.
He thinks of her with the sound. The scratching of ink on her old fashioned clipboard. Her watery blue gaze - so like the ocean it made his chest hurt. Golden hair caught in a current. A scar that looks like a halo.
He’ll return it to her tomorrow. Easy. Simple even. And she’ll smile, maybe. And maybe, just maybe, begin to trust him.
Or maybe not.
“Lucifer?” There’s a gentle knock at the bulkhead door and the good doctor pops her head in, eyes comically screwed shut. “Are you decent?”
“Never.” Lucifer huffs a short laugh. “But in this case, yes it’s safe to come in.”
After an awkward incident in which Linda accidentally caught him in the enthusiastic throes of double fisted wank - she’s been all sorts of careful with doors. Maze even went so far as to accuse him of psychologically scarring her.
The performances he’s seen humans do, even behind inches of glass, is enough to make even a creature like him recoil in disgust. At least his business didn’t involve copious amounts of saliva.
“Did you bring the iPad?” He inquires.
“Yes, and your weed.” Maze tosses him a baggie.
“Splendid.” He catches it with two webbed fingers. “I knew I paid you both exorbitantly for a reason.”
“And yet it’s still not enough to put up with your shit.” Maze sneers.
Linda snorts and makes her way to the water’s edge. Her gloves hands pull out a plastic case of test-tubes from the canvas bag on her shoulder, and a collection of assorted white squeeze bottles from her fanny pack.
“How did the meeting with the Detective go?” She asks, dipping her various tubes into the water. “I saw her leaving. Her hair was wet.” There’s an accusation in Linda’s words, and he’s not sure he likes it.
“Her virtue is safe with me, if that’s what you’re implying.”
Click-click. The pen slides itself against his knuckles. And it’s comforting
“I wasn’t implying anything. I was just pointing out her hair was dry when she arrived.” She starts sorting the vials. Different colored droplets of liquid are carefully measured into each one.
The doctor ignores him. Maze is rolling her own blunt far and away from the water. She won’t smoke it inside, for all of her bluster. She’s still a consummate professional with a soft spot for her sharks. It’s for when she hits the parking lot.
“Hmm... slightly elevated nitrates.” Linda’s eyes narrow at a purple vial. “What did I tell you about dumping food into the water system? Shrimp don’t eat sushi rice. This is how you get die off. And algae. And god forbid ich.”
Lucifer rubs at his arm, remembering a very itchy, slimy two weeks. Even dragging himself to the hot showers and scrubbing didn’t help. He had to be holed up in a medical containment unit filled to the brim with disgusting coppery water for what felt like an eternity. The whole ordeal was degrading.
“Noted Doctor,” he says. “I’ll cease and desist. Scouts honor.”
She raises an eyebrow. “Well, it’s getting late. We’re going to close up for the night. The police retrieved Delilah and there’s a cleaning team coming bright and early tomorrow morning. God forbid I leave them unsupervised.”
“You sure you’re not down for some Netflix and chill?” Lucifer’s eyebrows waggle. “I could use the company.”
And he really could. Today his boredom feels like a full on toothache. With the aquarium closed there’s very little to do. Or people to talk to.
“Sorry fish-face, Eve and I have reservations.” Maze tucks her freshly rolled blunt behind her ear.
“And I’m not invited?
“You’re never invited.”
“You wound me dearest Mazikeen.” He replies in mock offense.
She scoffs. “And we should have left you where we found you on the beach.”
“What about you, Doctor?” He offers, with no small amount of hope. “I’ve got the good kush.”
“Honestly, I still need to process… everything.” Linda sighs. “It’s been a long day.”
He frowns. Processing isn’t something that requires a great deal of physical effort or distance. You can do that anywhere.
“C’mon. You can even pick the movie,” he says. “I won’t even complain if it’s one of those historical documentaries you’re so fond of.”
The doctor runs a hand through her hair, her face is tightly blank. “No, Lucifer. Maybe next time.”
He’s suddenly annoyed. These people are supposed to be his friends. Sure, he pays the both of them. But shouldn’t they be here for him in his time of need? He isn’t asking for much.
“Deliliah would have joined me,” he accuses.
“Well, I’m not Deliliah!” Linda’s voice hits a tenor he’s never heard before. It’s raw and it’s venomous. It’s the first time he’s seen the Doctor angry.
Maze cuts him off. “Don’t be a shitty baby.” She reaches for the doctor’s arm. “C’mon Linda. Lets go.”
Linda waves get off, her shoulders sag. “Maze, go ahead. I’ll be there in a second.”
“Your funeral.” She slams the bulkhead.
Lucifer drags himself to the water’s edge- where the rough concrete slopes off into the briney blue. He doesn’t know what to do. Not at this moment.
He knows Linda is about to apologize. But the long, long night after she leaves stretches out in from of him like an endless dark road.
Oddly, he wishes the Detective were here. She wasn’t the best conversationalist. But he remembers her touch at his shoulder. How for a moment he didn’t feel quite so alone.
Linda squats next to him, her eyes fixed on the light dancing across the tanks surface.
“Lucifer,” she says after a while. “I know you’re hurting. And I’m sorry. But I’m also not dealing with this very well. We both lost a friend. We both miss her. Even Maze, even though she’s not great at showing it.”
Click-click. The pen is still in his hands and the catch-spring rings along his bones. The doctor blinks.
“Speaking of friends,” she continues. “You know I saw you with Detective Decker. I think you like her.”
Lucifer swallows. “‘Like’ is a strong word.”
Linda’s smile could be irritating at times. And this was one of those times. It stretched from ear to ear like she was that Cheshire Cat from that infernal 'Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland' book.
“You didn’t let her drown,” she said simply - as if that explained everything.
“If that was the metric then it could be said I like everyone, and you and I both know that’s hardly the case.”
“And you told reception to give her an all access security pass.” Linda’s smile is impossibly wider.
“For the investigation, of course,” he waves her off. “She can return it when she has her evidence.”
“Mmhm.” She pats his arm and straightens. “Admit it. Someone’s got a crush.”
Lucifer snorts, shaking his head. “Me? A crush. That’s absolutely preposterous.”
“Right. And that’s why you’re clutching Chloe’s pen like it could deliver you from all evil.”
He looks at his hand. Surely enough he’s clutching the writing device tightly. Almost enough to split the plastic.
“Goodnight Lucifer.” Linda says, shutting the bulkhead.
And Lucifer throws the pen as far as he can.
It hits the water with a less than satisfying plop.
He’s floating on his back at the surface of the Pacific Coastal tank. Lucifer can feel the gentle swishing of kelp against his skin - and for a moment it’s like he can actually breathe. Admittedly, he’s a little more than blazed, and there’s probably only an eighth left of his once full Nikka. The rest of the bottle is waiting patiently on the scaffolding - positioned perfectly for a last and final pull.
The fluorescent track lighting is nice in its own way. It burns cleanly. The way the real sun might.
He can’t say he doesn’t miss the sea- not at the end of hard days and the beginning of harder nights. He misses dearly the cawing of gulls. The waves that used to sing him to sleep every night. The tiny crabs that spit bubbles. The deep operas of humpback whales. The simpler pleasures.
Human intrigue is exhausting and complicated. And human emotions even more so.
He thinks of the Detective again. The weight of her in his arms when she had her panic attack. She was lost. So so lost. And he tried to fix it. He was compelled. Everything that he was reached out to try and catch her. To make it better. To smooth out her skittering heartbeat into a lullaby.
But she recoiled. She pulled away from him as if he was hurting her. Which he would never, ever do.
Why didn’t she trust him?
It didn’t make sense.
Humans, like most creatures, were easy to influence. He was better at fish and other sea creatures - but humans weren’t so far gone yet that they were immune. They still had salt water in their blood.
Unless, she could see it. What he really was-
“Access granted.” The security system beeps coolly.
Someone is walking up the gantry. Their heavy footfalls are echoing across the entire facility. And that someone is probably a little drunk.
“Ah, Linda! I knew you couldn’t resist Netflix,” Lucifer calls. “Though I can't say there much weed left. I’m afraid I’ve been a little ambitious.”
“Luci, don’t you think it’s time you returned home?”
Lucifer rights himself in the water and does a double take. His brother, Amenadiel, is leaned over the railing, watching him. His dark skin and his darker eyes don’t even so much as glimmer in the overhead lights.
“Amenadiel,” Lucifer salutes. “Fancy seeing you here. And I am home in case you hadn't noticed."
“No, what you’re doing is playing house,” another voice intones. A feminine one.
Two other figures step out of the shadows and brace themselves on the railing. A woman with a stature full of needless ordinance, and a man who looks like he fucks snakes for a living.
“Uriel. Remiel.” Lucifer’s tail lashes the water. “I don’t recall sending invites for this little family reunion.”
“You’ve had your fun,” Remiel says. “Come home. Father demands it.”
“Because I’m so concerned with what Father wants.”
“You know, I don’t understand why you bother getting so caught up in these tiny lives,” Uriel shrugs. They are just a bunch of murderous monkeys-“
“Murderous primates, who can’t even swim well. Who are so fragile they literally die without blood, or light, or oxygen. It’s pathetic really.”
Lucifer’s eyes narrow. He can feel the teeth in his mouth grind against each other. “Are you responsible for Delilah? If you are-“
Uriel barks out a laugh. “As if we would concern ourselves with such a tiny, insignificant vermin.”
Amenadiel and Remiel nod, smiling. It’s a joke to them. They’re worse than a pack of porpoises, his family.
Delilah was so much more than his family gives her credit for. Or humans in general, actually. Like kind Linda, or ferocious Maze. Or even, more recently, the brave Detective. And in all of these years- not a single one of them has bothered to understand his own perspective. Typical.
“You’ve made your point.” Amenadiel continues. “Just come back with us.
“My, my, aren’t we the broken record?” Lucifer‘s lip curls. “Aren’t you forgetting something brother? I’m locked into this rather inconvenient form. Punishment from dear old Dad, remember?”
Amenadiel’s face crumples into a scowl. “Oh yes, how could I forget the time when you so succinctly told him to, as the humans say, go fuck himself.”
Lucifer snorts. His smile is small and sharp. He doesn’t regret saying that in the least, regardless of the price. The pompous disagreeable holier-than-thou asshole.
“What, does he want seconds now?” He says. “What further use could he have for me, his dear wayward son?”
“His reasons are his own,” his brother replies sagely.
“Then so are mine.”
Remiel paces the gantry, her boots thumping against the grate. “I can’t say it doesn’t suit dear brother. This new form of yours. You chose your human pets over everything. Now you’re their pet.” Remiel’s smile reveals just a hint of her many pointed teeth. “Father does craft the most clever of ironies, doesn’t he?”
A sudden heat flashes in his gut. He can feel his skin roiling against his imprisonment, tearing itself apart to be free. But it’s fruitless. “I choose to be here.” Lucifer hisses instead. “I’m no one’s pet.”
Uriel, unimpressed, rolls his eyes. “Say what you will, we saw you with that female earlier. You were under her thrall as if she were wielding a velvet leash.”
“Well, Dr. Linda does have a way with words I suppose.” He grits out. “And if you mean Maze, I assure you her leash would be leather.”
“No, the other female. The one you called Detective.”
His skin revolts again, even worse this time. There’s a monster in him that could swallow Uriel whole
If given half the chance. And oh does it want to.
But Lucifer wrangles it back down.
“Please,” he says smoothly. “There’s a thing called professional courtesy. I’m running a world class facility. Appearances and all that.” Lucifer glances back over at his brother. Uriel’s jacket really is a fashion travesty. Gray, coarse, and ill fitting like it had just off a thirty-percent-off rack at a Macy’s. “Not like you would know anything about that, of course,” Lucifer adds.
Remiel kicks over his whiskey, splashing the remaining contents into the aquarium water. Lucifer growls a warning. He might not have especially liked that bottle, but it’s not like Dr.Linda and Maze had provided him an endless supply.
“He’s right,” His sister snarls, unperturbed. “You’re too soft on them, even after all this time, even after your punishment, even as they destroy our very home.”
“And what are you doing about it dear sister? Impotent hurricanes? Inconvenient floods? In case you hadn't noticed your cutesy little typhoons barely make the news any more.”
Within the fraction of an instant, Remiel’s face splits open like a rotten banana.The change is so sudden the world blinks to catch up. She’s screeching. She’s writhing. She’s turning inside out in a riot of rippling scales and teeth and eyes- too chaotic for the human eye to interpret. Freshly revealed chromatophores burst red, and white and searing neon blue. Her skin dissolves into poisonous frills lined with nematocysts, and tiny barnacles crawl up the side her skull. Anemones blossom from what was once a proud and jutting chin. Muscles coil against mundane gravity and her limbs are a shifting mass of tentacles - brightly burning the ozone around her.
His sister is so incredibly beautiful and hideous that she could drive men insane with just a single glance. And Lucifer knows from first hand experience.
However, today's performance is sorely lacking (perhaps because she’s kept her human size), and his patience is near its end. “Cute,” he drawls, looking at his claws. “Love what you’ve done with your barnacles.”
“You were supposed to be the best of us,” Remiel howls, a voice without a mouth. “You shone the brightest. Now look at you, a pathetic creature cowering on dry land- diminished and a coward!”
Fins sprout from her shoulder blades, claws from her fingers. The air around her boils and distorts, like a shadow of fire without flame. It’s hard to look at with his current set of eyes - but it’s not in his nature to look away. Especially since she’s his little sister.
“Spare me the theatrics Remmy,” Lucifer scoffs. “And put your face back together before someone notices.”
“Don’t presume to command me.” Her voice is the screeching of leaky car breaks. The buzz of human tinnitus. The whine of an especially annoying dog.
“Remmy.” Amenadiel lifts his palm. “Enough.”
She shrinks then, chastised. All of her additional limbs suck back into her body. Distorted flesh smooths down into a normal looking human complexion. Her features are schooled back into something impassive, as if she didn’t just explode into a Red Lobster special.
“You’re in a cage, brother,” The first among firsts says. “Whether it’s this farce you’ve crafted or not. A box is still a box.”
“Dry up Amenadiel. This is getting tedious.” Lucifer gestures to the tank around him. “It’s a comfortable box, and at least it’s far away from you lot.”
“You don’t mean that.” His brother sounds almost sad. “Father will forgive you, I know it. Everything can be how it was.”
“Oh yes. Sinking cargo ships for fun and leisure while dear old Dad plans the end of the world as we know it. Let me think about it… how about no?”
“You know Father is right. Deep down. Humans are destroying the planet.” Amenadiel pleads.“You can’t escape your purpose forever.”
His gills swallow the makeshift sea and he twists in the water, getting the positioning and angle just right. Muscles coil and in the span of a second he rockets through the water making himself briefly airborne. Lucifer is up over the railing, over the scaffolding, and into another tank about thirty feet away. Exactly where he wanted to be.
When he turns back around his siblings are gone.
The temperature is significantly warmer. It’s the Indo-Pacific exhibit, but he doesn’t care. His discomfort is worth it.
Suddenly, Uriel is beside him, sitting on top of the water, legs folded as if he were sitting on the floor of a gymnasium and not defying the laws of physics. Black scales shift up the sides of his neck and his smile is filled with needle-like teeth.
“You didn’t tell her, did you? The detective.” He sing-songs. “What you really are.”
“I hardly see why that matters.”.
“The humans Lucifer, they will never love you. You’re a curiosity at best. And at worst-“ His lifts his hand as it splays out into a slithering mass. “Well you and I both know what kind of monster is hiding just beneath the surface.”
And Uriel disappears.
“Oh fuck off Uriel!” Lucifer shouts to no one. “Your name sounds like an STD.”
World building? I hardly know her.
“Trixie-babe. Oreos aren’t breakfast. And neither is chocolate cake. Try again,” Chloe calls from the kitchen island.
She’s perched precariously on a stool, supervising her daughter’s attempt at breakfast over a fresh cup of coffee. Morning filters in through the kitchen window like honey-butter and mead. The air itself is thick with the smell of freshly cut grass, with lawn mowers droning in the distance and doves singing softly to the sunlight. Los Angeles’ typical traffic congestion is slow to rise.
It’s a perfect Saturday.
Unfortunately, Detective Chloe Decker still has work. And it’s abundantly clear her kid is more spicy about than usual.
“Leftover pizza also isn’t breakfast,” Trixie argues back, pointing at the plate in the sink that’s striped with tomato sauce. She does, however, put the plastic packages back in the cabinet.
Chloe winces. “You saw that?”
“Yes, Mom. Just because I’m ten doesn’t mean I’m blind.”
There’s more bite to her little monkey’s words then she’s heard before. A subtle reminder that she’s growing, ever so slowly, into a teenager.
“Hey, hey.” Chloe puts down her mug. “What’s with the attitude this morning?”
“You saw the mermaid!” Trixie whirls on the counter, her big brown eyes brimming with hurt. “And I can’t believe you didn’t take me!”
Chloe’s taken aback. She didn’t think it was such a big deal. She’s been to plenty of interesting crime scenes without her daughter so much as batting an eyelash.
“It was for work.” Chloe sighs. “You know I can’t bring you to work.”
Trixie pointedly ignores her. On tip toes she pulls cereal out of the cupboard next to the stove, her favorite unicorn studded bowl, and a spoon. Milk is snatched from the fridge with all the melodramatic ferociousness a child can muster. But for all of her precocious and righteous anger, her daughter still decides to sit next to her at the kitchen island- their shoulders brushing.
“Was he pretty?” She asks sullenly, stabbing at her cereal with her spoon. “I bet he was beautiful.”
“Beautiful isn’t the word I would use to describe him.”
She wouldn’t call a tidal wave beautiful. Or a caged lion. Or a deadly magnet.
“Then what is he like?”
Chloe hums - her lips thinning. “Well, he’s different. Different than I expected.” She realizes she hasn’t really looked at him. Not enough. Not like a real detective should. The memory of him blurs around the edges, as if her mind’s eye can’t really get a fix.
Trixie stares at her expectantly.
“He looks dangerous. That’s for sure. He’s not colorful like Ariel.” She says thinking of their recent trip to Disneyland. Of the woman in the bright red wig, seashell bra, and the green mylar fish tail. “He’s mostly dark. And he’s got these webbed hands like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.” Chloe makes an exaggerated claw gesture, lowering her voice. “His nails are hooked and sharp. All the better to snatch up his prey.” Quick as a snap her hands at Trixie’s sides in a tickle ambush.
Her kid giggles, she can’t help it. Chloe knows all her ticklish spots with the precision of a skilled marksman. Trixie twists into her arms and laughs into her shoulder.
“What else?” Trixie asks catching her breath. “What else?”
Chloe relents her assault.
“Hm. He looks like a shark a bit. He’s got the shark tail. And the dorsal fin. And the teeth. And the eyes.”
She doesn’t mention the aura he oozes. The static that echoed in her brain. How he seemed to make himself at home in her subconscious as if her were the previous tenant.
“You weren’t scared?
“I was at first.” And she still is. She’s terrified - the longer she’s been away from the crime scene, the more it’s sunk in. How she was talking to a living, breathing fairytale. The CNN segments didn’t prepare her for this. “But I still have a job to do. Besides, it’s not like he can go anywhere. He’s stuck in the Aquarium, far away from you and me.”
She looks crestfallen again. As if Chloe snuffed out a spark of magic right before her very eyes.
“Trixie-babe, what’s wrong?”
“I’d like to see him someday,” she grumbles. “Even if he’s as scary as you say.”
Chloe makes a helpless noncommittal noise. She doubted she would continue to have access to Lucifer after the case was solved.
“Do you think he’s lonely?”
“Well. He’s the only one right? They didn’t find any others.”
They didn’t. And not for lack of trying.
Expeditions were funded. Ocean floors were dredged. A bunch of idiots in Silicon Valley even formed a start-up with the purpose of using satellite data to triangulate the whereabouts of other creatures like Lucifer. Apparently, there’s an app. Money was tossed and traded to find even a whiff of his people, if he had any.
But no dice.
“Yep. He’s the only one.”
Chloe remembers the media hurricane of last September. How there was an aquarium in China who had claimed to have captured even more mermaids. Three females, their head of publicity said, breathtaking and show-stopping. And beautiful singers to boot. Far more intriguing than the lurid one America had on display.
But in the end it all turned out to be spirit-gum, paint, and cheap latex. The world, in its humiliation - put Lucifer’s origins on the back burner for a while. There hasn’t been another claim since. Not from China, not from anyone.
“I would be lonely if I was him.” Trixie mumbles into a spoonful of Cheerios.
Chloe’s caught a little off guard by her daughters compassion, even though by all rights she shouldn’t be.
“Monkey, do you remember the fish we had? Mr. Abraham the Betta? He needed to be alone or else he would eat all the other fish.” She neglected to mention the time Mr. Abraham jumped the tank into the kitchen garbage disposal- and his subsequent death. As far as Trixie was concerned he ‘went back home to the ocean’. “Fish don’t need the same kind of company we do.”
“But he isn’t a fish.”
Chloe ruffles her daughter’s hair and gets up to toss her mug in the sink. She glances at the clock on the oven.
“Your Dad’s gonna be here in thirty to pick you up. Do you have your overnight bag packed?”
Trixie makes a face and pushes away her bowl.
“I’ll take that as a no.” Chloe huffs a laugh. “I’ll clean up, why don’t you go upstairs and pack? We don’t want Miss Alien getting left behind again.”
Trixie hops off the stool, but instead of going straight upstairs she digs into the front pocket of her jeans. She pulls out a folded piece of printer paper and places it in Chloe’s hands.
“Can you at least bring him this?” Her voice is petulant, but also a little commanding, like she was owed this favor. Chloe raises an eyebrow.
And already her little monkey is upstairs, making it almost impossible for Chloe to refuse.
She gently unfolds the paper.
Inside is a carefully rendered drawing in colored pencil. It’s a mermaid - or more accurately a siren. It’s tail is scaled with red and blue and yellow patches. The proportions are off, like most childhood scrawls are. The arms are oddly beefy. There’s a black scribble of a six pack. And Chloe can’t help but snort, that her kid took the time to focus on that.
There’s a rainbow in the background - and the siren is holding hands with an approximation of a little girl. Trixie.
She folds it and places it into her wallet.
Her phone vibrates.
ELLA: Apparently your merman’s alibi checks out. Who would have thunk it. I also doubt he was packing heat.
Beneath the text there's a picture of a bullet, clean - but warped by body tissue and possibly bone. Given its size and shape it looks to be from a handgun. Possibly a 44.
She didn’t notice the bullet wound when she saw Deliliah last. Which means that she wasn’t shot in the head, or her upper abdomen. Her assailant was either a poor shot, or Delilah put up a fight. There are of course other possibilities - but Chloe’s done her job long enough that it’s more fruitful to chase the more common line of possibilities first before delving into the uncommon ones. Or the unique ones.
Lucifer also didn’t mention hearing a gunshot, which brings in the possibility of a silencer. Meaning this could be premeditated.
Her phone buzzes again.
ELLA: Was he hot? At least tell me if he was hot.
Chloe rolls her eyes.
ELLA: There are literally no pictures online. Not a single video. I don’t even know how that’s possible this day and age. This aquarium must have one hell of an online security team.
ELLA: It makes sense. You gotta sell tickets, but man. Your merman is quite the man of mystery.
Chloe frowns and rapidly taps out a reply, if only to stop Ella’s verbal deluge:
He’s not my merman. He’s a Siren apparently, and his name is Lucifer.
ELLA: Aw, someone’s got a crush.
The parking lot of the Aquarium of the Pacific is blocked off, which is convenient because she would rather not traverse what looks to be miles of painted, baking asphalt. Or weave through the parking garage whose sheer size rivals the precinct.
Chloe ends up parking right out front at the tour bus drop off- mere steps from the grand and gilded entrance.
It’s a breeze walking through the enormous double glass doors and empty turnstiles. The ticketing booths are shuttered. Zigzags of velvet rope and signage denoting monstrous waiting times are left unheeded. And Chloe's lone footsteps echo throughout the building.
She glances upward.
Above her is an enormous skeleton, of what could only be a Blue whale. It’s almost menacing in its size. It hangs there amongst other creatures against the high vault-like ceiling. A Plesiosaur. Smaller cetaceans. And bones she can’t even rightly name. Decorative columns line the atrium- they’re cylindrical glass aquariums containing live jellyfish and bubbles. The contents of each change color with some unseen LED.
At her feet, the black marble floor is flecked by shells and fossils - each tile must have cost a small fortune.
It’s not like she didn’t notice the lavish foyer before, but now she has time to appreciate it. The aquarium proper looks to be some bastard child between a nightclub and a museum. Like it can’t decide what it wants to be.
Far, far, in the back of the hall is a double staircase, and beneath it - humbly sits reception. And to her surprise there’s a gentleman manning the desk. He’s wearing a dark tailored suit, and is a far cry from the t-shirt wearing volunteers she sees at the zoo. There’s no name tag.
“Detective Chloe Decker, here to see Lucifer.”
The man raises his eyebrows, but pulls out a clipboard and a thick stack of paperwork.
“Sign please,” He asks less than graciously.
“What am I signing?”
“LUX corporate’s policy indicates that you must sign an extensive non disclosure agreement in order to get your badge.” He says as if this was rehearsed time and time again.“You will also have to sign a liability agreement with the Aquarium of the Pacific. And provide emergency contact information.”
“But I’m a cop.”
“Don’t care.” He yawns. “Just sign.”
“What’s your name?”
“Lee. But I’m not sure how it’s any of your business.”
“Cop remember? More specifically a detective. Where were you on the night of the murder?”
“Home. This job doesn’t pay me enough to be here after hours. Not with that fucking mermaid doing whatever shit he pleases. Dude has no respect for personal space. It’s creepy man.”
Chloe doesn’t know how to respond to that. She makes a mental note to check Lee’s alibi, but otherwise she fills out the mountain of paperwork.
Lee hands over the access badge and she makes her way down the hall.
It’s quiet. Very quiet. Light orchestral music wafts from unseen speakers, but that’s it. Chloe pads her way down a long, tube-like hallway. Above her schools of fish swim in and out of the watery fluorescent light. There are sea turtles. And rays. And sawfish. And a myriad of other denizens that make the passage a rainbow of color and complexity.
Chloe almost wants to stop and just sit there for a while. Never has she had the pleasure of being alone like this at an aquarium. There’s usually screaming children, double wide strollers and people who think deodorant is optional.
But she still has a job to do. She presses onward, leaving the peaceful landscape behind.
Past the tube there’s a more open room, dotted with smaller exhibits and brighter colors. Placards with larger words in more bubbly fonts. It's a children’s area.
And there, smack dab in the middle, is Lucifer.
He’s lounging in the touch exhibit, the shallow water only covering him just above his gills. His forked tail is draped over the side of the tank and is lazily dripping water into a puddle on the floor. In one webbed hand is an iPad, and on his chest is a stingray being stroked like a contented cat. The stingray’s fins flutter every so often.
The siren is licking his lips. One side of his mouth is jagged upward and his gaze is glued to the screen. He doesn’t seem to notice she’s there.
Chloe strains to hear the audio - and when she does her entire skin feels like fire. The ADR is unmistakable.
“No,” Chloe says.
Lucifer glances upward, and his half grin brightens to take up his entire face. His depthless eyes are brimming with unrestrained joy.
“Detective!” He calls. “I just found the most interesting thing on Netflix!”
“Are you fucking kidding me,” she growls.
“You didn’t tell me you were famous!” Lucifer beams, unperturbed, “A real celebrity. Hot Tub High School is a masterpiece of cinema by the way. Very enlightening.”
Chloe marches to where he’s lounging and pries the IPad out of his sticky hands. She takes it and flings it as far as it will go. It lands squarely into a tank filled with starfish.
“Well, that was rude.” Lucifer frowns. The stingray, disturbed by the commotion, flutters away to a quieter patch of sand.
“You said you wanted to help me with the investigation. Yes?”
“Then help me.” Chloe pinches the bridge of her nose. She can hear the hair whistle through her own nostrils. “Delilah was shot. Forensics still hasn’t confirmed cause of death, but if she was shot - chances are there’s a weapon out there that’s evidence.”
“Unless the villain disposed of it already,” Lucifer posits.
“But we don’t know until we look, right? The forensic dive team did a sweep late last night - but I have a feeling they might have missed something.”
Lucifer rubs his palms together. “They didn’t have a Siren on their side.”
Chloe rolls her eyes. “Glad we’re on the same page.”
She walks up to the map on the wall. They’re on the lower floors it looks like. And Delilah’s exhibit is upstairs. The elevator isn’t far, it’s about fifteen steps down the next hall. She turns to begin her trek.
But Lucifer makes an odd noise. A mixture between an annoyed grumble and an irritated porpoise. Water sloshes over the sides of the touch exhibit. His tail lashes helplessly against the side of the glass.
“Can you,” he says after a while. “Can you assist me?
He looks at her through disheveled curls. There’s something vulnerable there she hadn’t seen before. His pitch black eyes burn soft and pleading and ashamed. And the line of his shoulders suggests he thinks she’ll refuse.
“How in the hell did you even get in there?” There’s no step stool. His upper body strength must be Herculean.
“Time.” He grunts, scrambling against the glass. “Effort. There are very few truly comfortable spots in which I can watch Netflix in peace, Detective.”
It occurs to Chloe that maybe her daughter is right. That Lucifer is lonely- and more over living in a world that isn’t made for him. He’s not a fish. He isn’t human. He’s stuck in between. By himself. And has to make do.
“And how you usually get out?” Chloe reluctantly walks back to the tank.
“Time. And effort again, but for the sake of expediency-“
She takes hold of his arms. His own hands carefully grab her biceps - and she pulls. He’s heavy, but he pushes to compensate. His claws don’t even so much as snag on her jacket. Eventually he’s in a better position for leverage.
Chloe doesn’t think about his face below hers. The clean line of his jaw. The puff of air against her collar. Or his soft mouth agape.
She doesn’t think of how warm and solid he is in her hands.
Or that he just saw her bare breasts in a movie.
“There’s a chair in the corner,” Lucifer says. “If you could be so kind-“
Sure enough, tucked away against a case filled
With different kinds of seashells, is an old, weathered looking wheelchair. It’s rusty and damp - and the living embodiment of tetanus.
She wheels it over, glad to have the sudden distance. It shrieks like the souls of the damned. And it stutters on its hinges.
Lucifer smiles brightly again, flashing his rows of sharp teeth. For the first time something doesn’t twist horribly in her stomach at the sight of it.
“Thank you,” he says hoisting himself up. Muscles ripple along his frame. And while other odd things beneath his skin seem to shift - the muscles along his belly are mesmerizing. The corded muscle is art in motion.
And perhaps Trixie isn’t the only one with a fascination with abs.
Chloe quickly averts her gaze. “So, what did you do to Lee?”
“Who?” He shimmies in the chair getting comfortable- his long tail dragging between the wheels.
“The receptionist,” she clarifies.
“Oh, Mr. Said-out-bitch.”
Chloe huffs a small laugh. “Guess that explains why his didn’t have a name tag.”
“You wouldn’t believe how many thieves try to make their way into the aquarium. Mr. Said-out-bitch was once one of their number. He broke in one night with the hopes of snatching the cashier tills and he caught me lounging in one of the tidal pools.” Lucifer's hands go to the wheels. “He demanded that I get out of the water. And so rudely addressed me as a bitch, might I add. So I, generous director that I am, was only happy to oblige.”
Chloe raises an eyebrow.
“Don’t give me that look.” He can’t roll his eyes, he doesn’t have any whites to show- but he tosses his head with the same inflection. “He fainted on the spot. I imagine he thought I was just a regular human.”
Lucifer peels away towards the elevator with a speed that surprises her. He’s faster than most people can walk.
“And he works here?” Chloe chases after him.
“Everyone deserves a second chance Detective.” He says, clawed fingers tapping the number 3. “He needed revenue and I conveniently needed a receptionist. A deal with the Devil and all that.”
Happy Birthday Zee!
The elevator ride is quiet, and in the silence Chloe’s brain buzzes about like a very inebriated wasp - ricocheting back and forth inside her skull. It bounces off an ever growing list of things about Lucifer. It’s tangled in the accent, the booze, cigarettes, the iPad, sushi, ‘Mr.Said-our-bitch”- and the wheelchair. She even struggles with his stubble, which suggests he shaves.
He’s a merperson with a human perception and human predilection of hygiene. And a very human inclination towards excess and addiction.
Chloe spares Lucifer a downwards glance. His hands drum out a rhythm on the rubber wheels, but otherwise he stares straight ahead. She notices there’s a handle of Svedka bulging out of the chair’s back pocket, as well as what looks to be a handful of kit-kats.
Also, he runs a business. An honest to god actual business. And she’s floored by that fact alone. Moreover, its lucrative one. Given everything she’s seen, he’s a regular Walt Disney. The only difference is she can see is that Lucifer is both mastermind and mascot.
And the proof is right in front of her, as much as she would like to deny it.
Somehow, from the highest gantry to the lowest tank bottom - this reeks of his design. It’s both foreign and familiar. Tasteful and engaging- but with an element of salaciousness. This is his own personal multimillion dollar playhouse for replete with whale skeletons and black marble floors.
The elevator dings, and the double plated metallic doors slide open. Chloe stares down the long suspended bridge. Lucifer rolls on ahead, his long tail dragging a wet line behind him.
She should be focusing on the case, but she can’t rip her brain from fixating on the aquatic elephant in the room. It churns and churns and churns. Her detective skills are an ocean bashing itself against a very stubborn rock.
He’s exactly the type of mystery she wanted to solve. He is every Nancy Drew fantasy and trashy paperback novel of a wet dream rolled into one.
She hates it.
She hates it so deeply it can only be loathing. And as much as brain warns her that he’s a fishing lure with a hook hidden inside the plastic- her traitor heart can’t seem to scrape up the logic to care.
“Detective?” He’s staring at her, the lean line of his neck arching backwards to catch her gaze.
“Sorry,” she says, looking away.
There’s a flash of teeth, the snapping of daggers, and a sudden anger blossoms on his face, like frost across window pane. Chloe can’t help but flinch.
“I’m not some fish creature stumbling through sign language for the word egg, Detective. Or some trained dolphin that learned how to speak. I would appreciate it if you’d stop looking at me like I’m an animal.” He spat the last word, making it clear, very clear he’s been called that before.
Embarrassment threatens to swallow her whole.
“I’m not, I’m-“ but Chloe can’t grasp at the words she needs. Because what she was actually doing wasn’t much better.
Lucifer catches her expression and softens a little, the stiff line of his shoulders slope. He does a swift K-turn and rolls to gently bump her knees.
“If we are to proceed, I need you to understand something. I will never hurt you. I will never lie to you. I am a thing neither to be feared or pitied.” Lucifer tugs gently at her sleeve pulled her to his level. “Least of all by you, my partner.”
She meets his gaze. He doesn’t look angry any more. If anything his gaze is intent, watchful. There’s a very human heat in it she doesn’t expect or know what to do with. His face is one of stark contrasts. Cold, alien, and burning just the same.
He takes her hand and presses something into it. It’s one of her pens- only, it looks like it’s seen better days. It’s coated in brine and the brass embellishments are black with oxidation.
She left it, and he’s returning it to her. But it oddly feels more like a vow than a favor. And the thought burns a little that he’d been carrying it in his chair waiting for the opportunity to do so.
“You’re taking this partners thing a little seriously, don’t you think?” Chloe huffs, tucking it into her pocket. I simple ‘I got your back’ would suffice. “But-“ she says, after great deliberation. “I trust you.”
Lucifer’s answering smile could light the platform on fire. And no part of her regrets that statement - it’s actually true.
“You’re the Scully to my Mulder,” he says. “I’ve got the charisma. You’ve got the detective brain. And together we have enough sexual tension to at least last eleven seasons. Perhaps even a movie.”
Chloe rolls her eyes.“Maybe you should lay off the Netflix.”
“Unfortunately, that would only leave me ‘chill’. And my options of late have been less than plentiful.” His tone is wistful. “Unless you’re volunteering, of course.”
“In your dreams, weirdo.”
She realizes his face is still very close to her own. His lips are parted just so, like a teenager expecting a kiss in a mall food court.
“I’m afraid dreams don’t quite measure up to reality,” he purrs.
Chloe snorts and grabs the chair handles, whirling him around. Lucifer laughs, perfectly unoffended. They return to their arduous trek down the suspended platform. Her boots rattle and echo out a rhythm.
“You know,” Chloe says - after passing what must be the thousandth tank. “I didn’t mean to make you feel that way- like I see you as something less. I don’t. I really don’t. I just can’t figure you out yet.”
Lucifer stops, frowning. “I thought women liked an air of mystery.”
“I was never really good with letting a good mystery lie. Detective, remember?”
Before she can think better of it, Chloe digs into her pocket and pulls out her wallet. She places her daughter’s drawing into Lucifer’s hands.
It’s a return on his unspoken vow. Or at least she hopes it is.
“Flattering,” he says. “Is that’s supposed to be me?” But she doesn’t miss the way his thumb strokes the line work appreciatively. How one of his delicate claws trace the outline of her kid. And how his sharp smile turns into something impossibly soft.
“My daughter has a wild imagination. She was pretty jealous I got to meet you.”
“Oh was she?” He smirks. “It seems I have a little fan-girl in the making.”
Chloe smiles and shakes her head. “Yeah. And you know what else? She said that you might be lonely.” Chloe walks down the platform. “Ridiculous right? You see thousands of people every day. You’ve got dozens of employees. If anything, you probably need space.”
She can’t imagine how loud it must be when the aquarium is open. How many faces he’s seen flattened against the glass. Privacy must be a hard won thing in a place where he’s literally put on display.
Chloe pads further on, peering over the railing into the tanks below. She didn’t appreciate them before, back when she was in the wetsuit. The color schemes, the lighting. The flora and the fauna. It seems like the facility goes on for miles and miles. The gantry twists and winds. It’s a labyrinth that could put the LAX parking structure to shame. The scale alone makes her regret trashing her Fitbit, and it’s frightening to think about the water bill.
It takes her a full minute to realize Lucifer still hasn’t moved from where he was parked. He’s still staring at Trixie’s drawing.
He swallows and tucks the paper away carefully in a side pocket.
“I’ll make you a deal,” he says.
Chloe raises an eyebrow. “A deal with the Devil?”
“Precisely.” He wheels towards her. “A question for a question - in perpetuity. Any time you ask me a question about my person, I get to ask one about you.”
She thinks about the marine biologists who would murder her for the opportunity. The media correspondents. Hell, probably even NASA.
“I’m not sure that’s a fair bargain, Lucifer.” She glances down at the water. “The entire world wants to know everything about you. I’m just a single mother and detective. Nothing special here.”
When she looks back up, Lucifer is peering over at her as if she were the impossible siren, not him.
Chloe shakes her head. “Don’t give me that look. You’d be bored half out of your mind.”
“Au contraire, my dear Detective, you fascinate me.” His expression transforms into something fond. “I don’t care what the world wants to know about, it’s none of their business. it’s only you that matters.”
“Do I even want to know where you picked up French?”
He ignores her. “You desire to know me, and know me you shall. Every sordid little detail. Let there be no secrets between us. You seem to do enough detective work as is.”
“You make it sound like permanent arrangement.”
His face falls. “We’re partners aren’t we?”
But she notices Lucifer’s jaw is tight. His hands are stiff on the wheels and his gaze is fixed on something in the distance. The long, lean line of his tail flickers against the grate. “But perhaps I misunderstood our arrangement,” he says.
The way his voice waivers on the last word makes her throat snag.
Chloe closes the distance between the two of them.
“Of course we’re partners.” She says, placing her hand on his.
Out of the water she can’t deny that he's a bit… slimy. There’s a protective slickness of his skin that feels a bit like touching a frog. But, she’s finding more and more that she doesn’t mind. His fingers entwine with her own almost automatically.
“So it’s a deal?” The words aren’t quiet, but hopeful.
“It’s a deal.”
After that- things feel better. More natural, or at least as natural as the situation can be. They haven’t made good on the bargain yet - but there’s the unspoken eventuality. Now just isn't the time for the bearing of wounds and crosses - or mysteries and revelations.
Lucifer instead leads her down and down- happily chatting about fish, or Maze, or Linda. It seems like the two women are more of his friends than associates, and it’s comforting. They way he talks about them is almost human, if a little on the immature side. There are complexities to social interactions that he clearly doesn’t grasp. She doesn’t call him out on it - but he’s pretty sure Maze wouldn’t appreciate him relaying the very personal ins and outs of her sex life. And the very simple way he describes Linda is borderline unflattering.
Chloe ends up standing behind him, pushing the chair. As much as she kinda liked watching his biceps pump, it looks exhausting and she can’t deny that she likes this view a little better. Up close like this she can watch the little mercurial nuances in his face as he speaks. The way his eyelashes fan against his cheekbones.
She tells herself it’s just fascination once again getting the better of her. But there’s something about him - something that’s still reaching out to her like that static. Like the sound of ocean waves crashing. Like a gentle song calling her home.
But no amount of eye candy can keep Chloe going forever.
It’s now 5pm.
Hours have passed, they still haven’t found a single clue, and Chloe is dangerously close to calling it quits for the day.
She’s pacing one of the uglier parts of the aquarium, circling a gargantuan sump- over and over and over again. The motors powering the massive filtration system are almost deafening, making it incredibly hard to concentrate and the visible part of Deliliah’s tank is blanketed by a green algae - making whatever view she has smeared and blurry in patches. It’s less than ideal working conditions.
But Lucifer suggested she focus her search here, in this dark space far below the walkway. He was certain, in less than flattering terms, that this area was overlooked by the forensics team. It was also, conveniently, one of the few places he couldn’t access.
Even if he dragged himself down the two flights of stairs, he was dubious about his ability to climb back up again.
Instead, her partner is hyper focused on combing the reef.
“Still nothing?” Chloe almost shouts over the unholy cacophony.
It’s a miracle that Lucifer somehow hears her. His dark shape approaches the glass.
“Nothing, Detective.” And somehow she hears him just fine too. She adds it to her growing list of questions to ask him.
“There has to be something. The scene can’t be this clean. There was a struggle.”
Lucifer’s face is solemn. “I promise you if there is even a shred of evidence I will find it. You have my word.”
“I know you will.”
Nictitating membranes flicker across the black pits of his eyes, and he nods. Clever hands go back to rocks and anemones, and swarms of curious fish chase after him, eager to pick at whatever food he might have disturbed.
She watches as he curves and arches. How his powerful fins pump and steady him, how his gills rasp water in and out- just showing the pink and red of more sensitive flesh. Light plays along his scales- revealing, surprisingly, stripes. The flesh of his tail is dark - but the slashes are darker.
He a tiger in truth - and his body is on the prowl.
Maybe, she’s wrong.
Maybe, Trixie is right.
Maybe he is beautiful. Even if he is terrible.
Chloe drags her attention away and paces again, her boots crunching on the gravel substrate. There had to be something. Anything. No one was that good. A hair. A glove. It’s maddening.
The filters are so, so loud she’s getting a migraine. It rattles behind her eyes and she’s woefully and acutely aware that left her Advil in her glovebox.
Chloe is pretty sure fish can hear (high school biology is finally making itself useful)- and if she was a fish and had to deal with this every day, she would just bash her fishy face against the enclosure and be done with it. How was it that Lucifer was still sane? It’s a miracle more impressive than the ability to hear her through water and six inches of glass.
Chloe suddenly has a suspicion.
She pulls a Phillips-head from her bag. The nearest motor housing is ratting like brick inside a washing machine. Given the meticulous care for every part of the aquarium - this really can’t be normal.
It takes her more than a moment to pry the lid off. It’s large, and there are at least twelve screws holding the cover on, but given what she finds inside- it’s more than worth it.
There, tucked against a gear wall, is a .44.
Chloe can barely hear the tapping on the aquarium glass, but when she finally looks up she sees Lucifer. His black eyes are a bloody infernal red - glowing like eye shines in the dark.
And in his hand is a scrap of white fabric, like that of one of a long white lab coat that has seen better days.
Sorry its a little short this time - but more is coming down the pipe!
“It was Doctor Barnes,” Lucifer grinds out. “Jimmy.”
Chloe’s staring at him. The motors are still too loud, even after removing the gun. Perhaps she isn’t hearing properly.
“It was Jimmy,” he repeats, and something explodes about him as his mouth wraps around the final syllable, even though the words are quiet. Her eyes can’t track it, her brain can’t parse it. It’s shadow behind shadow, behind shadow.
Pain. Swift and slicing pain, stabs between her ears. The glass is vibrating. The pumps. The motors. The mechanisms. Water spills over the sides of the tank, and sloshes on the ground. It’s a screeching reverberation, just behind her eyes. It fractures and fractures like a migraine. Chloe clutches at her temples in vain.
“He betrayed Delilah.” He snarls—and the sound is in her bones, not her ears. “He betrayed me. He betrayed everything this aquarium stands for.”
The gravel beneath her feet shakes with the force of a thousand semi-trucks. The world rattles against her shoes. Pressure turns her breath on its axis, ripping itself from her lungs.The pumps choke, stutter and die.
Her eyes catch flashes of silver, of white. Fish, by the dozens, by the hundreds are floating belly up. Sharks and parrotfish alike all seem to be caught up in some slow motion upfall, as if gravity betrayed them. It’s a deadly, shuddering ascension in slow motion. They barely even writhe, only swallow and swallow as if they are all drowning on air. The blue, crystalline water turns brackish, turns into night. The surface of the water is boiling. The steam of it is so thick and salty she can barely swallow.
Chloe stumbles into the nearest wall. It’s getting hard to stand, but she manages to pull out her phone. Her thumb swipes the little red square and props it up on the nearest piece of machinery. Some bleeding scrap of instinct is kicking in; she’s still a detective even when she’s scared shitless.
“How dare he.” His words hit against the glass like a lightning bolt. “How dare he!”
Lucifer doesn’t seem to notice he’s being recorded, but if he does, he doesn’t seem to care. His body roils and roils with anger— and looking at him now hurts more than the initial fracturing migraine. It's a kick to the stomach. A hook to her teeth. It feels like scraping her brain raw. But she focuses.
It’s like looking into a distorted like a funhouse mirror, the way he moves. His warped body jitters and twists, as if he were reflected imperfect. The proportions she’s used too on him are squashed and stretched, with something slithering beneath his skin like taffy.
“I’ll show him a murderer. I’ll show him the meaning of punishment.”
Broken glass teeth are taking up too much real estate on his face. A too sharp jaw— an angular slice of bone cuts into his neck without regard of proper anatomy. His handsome, aquiline nose hooks pointed and his cheekbones hollow out. He’s become a sinister caricature of his former self. A fantastical terror too perverted, too monstrous to be real. There isn’t even a hint of black in his eyes as they shift from arterial red to molten orange.
Chloe is certain that if there ever really was a Devil, this would be his face.
“Lucifer, whatever you’re doing, stop. Please stop.” Her voice is raw from the clotted air. “We’ll make sure the perpetrator is brought to justice. I promise.”
“You promise?” There is something jagged in his syllables. It’s vicious. It’s echoing— and it’s completely directed at her. “You promise. And what good is the word of a human? Hm? What are you going to do, take this information back to your corrupt little organization? And then what will they do? Take it to your corrupt little justice system? It’s a joke. It’s all a joke.”
She winces. “Due process isn’t a joke. It’s how things work. It’s the law.”
He ignores her. Spines unfurl along the length of his arms, black and shuddering. Fins, the likes of which she hasn’t seen before, flare, crawl, and disappear. They are webbed like bat wings, feathered like a fowl’s, and sprout paddle shaped— possibly like a whale’s. His tail lashes and splits, only to suddenly become one again. It’s long, and undulating. It’s a snake. It’s a dozen snakes, and then it’s nothing more than a single fluke.
The whole of him shifts like ink in water, only to contract into a singular focal point. And when light slants crooked and crippled across his body, it reveals nothing that the darkness has. There’s not a tooth or a scale out of place.
“I could do it. It would be so easy, so very easy.” His voice is malice and venom. The shadows of his eyes are replete with menace. “A life snuffed out. And eye for an eye.”
Chloe’s almost frozen in her partner’s alien onslaught. He’s wrong, so very, very wrong, but she’s quickly realizing that perhaps her own perception of right might not apply. Not any more. Not to him.
It would be so easy to back down now. It would be so easy to be swept out of the room, to run. But Chloe Decker is her own creature. Fear has no dominion over her own sense of justice. She’s defiant until the bitter end.
“You won’t,” she says.
The darkness that is his skin twists. Teeth. Tentacles. Claws. And then nothing. His mouth distends into a gaping maw so impossibly large that it could swallow her whole.
“I can and I will.” The blackness does the water shifts to rust, to red. It flows in sickly currents like gore and blood clots. “Maybe I am every bit the creature you take me for.”
She can feel her half dissolved pen in her pocket. And she knows, she knows without a shadow of a doubt that it isn’t true. Even if he scares her, even if she doesn’t understand: there is something human underneath it all. She just has to find it.
“You aren’t a monster.” Chloe presses her hand against this glass. It’s so hot, it feels like she’s touching the surface of a stove. “You’re hurt. And I know how that feels.”
He shrinks away and his body ripples, recoiling from her touch. The stinging heat ebbs, if just a little.
“You don’t. How can you? And don’t tell me that love tap from a great white compares.”
Chloe’s leg throbs. Each tooth mark feels like a serrated knife, but she doesn’t give a flying fuck. She lets her mouth run, even if her tongue tastes copper.
“My father was murdered!” She almost shouts it. It leaves her lungs like a howl. “By a man with a gun. The man who raised me was shot down in cold blood grabbing a fucking sandwich. And you know what, I’m sorry that Deliliah’s gone. But you’re not honoring her memory, her human memory, by murdering another person.”
She’s crying now and she doesn’t even know why. She never cries. Even when her leg was almost torn from her body and agony split her soul in two, she didn’t cry.
“I live, and I honor my father's memory by bringing criminals to justice. You’re my partner. I expect you to be able to do the same. Don’t do this.”
She can’t see him. Not quite through the film of her tears. But she does see something else. Something massive, it looms so large that she feels like a mouse caught in its undertow. It’s eyes. A thousand eyes, and slithering coils, and molars, and skin. Cavernous mouths that stretch on forever like an eternity of hunger.
“Please, don’t do this.” She presses herself into the window. Not away. And she’s not even sure why. Her own sense of self preservation must have fled the building. “You’re my partner,” she repeats.
“I—“ She feels a touch, a light press against her subconscious. It’s the same song she heard when she was held in Lucifer’s arms. “I’m sorry, Chloe. I’m terribly, terribly sorry.”
She blinks back the saline, and wipes away the snot with her sleeve.
And he’s Lucifer again. Just a simple merman in an aquarium. It’s almost hilarious the relief she feels at his ‘normalcy’. He makes a motion with his hands and all the fish, the fish that were in the throes of dying upside down, are right side up. They swim back to their reefs, none the wiser. Water returns back to its placid blue and the pumps kick back to life. It’s like he hit the universe’s rewind button. It’s as if the past few minutes never happened at all.
“That was… incredibly impolite of me.” He brushes back his hair, even though it floats back around his face in a dark halo. The curve of his body is slouched with shame.
“That’s a word for it,” Chloe mumbles.
She searches for any hint of that roiling anatomy, and he lets her. He’s sheepish under her gaze, but the rest is just how he used to be. Human—like torso, the black striped tail. His gills are swallowing water along his ribcage and his hands at his sides are flexing his claws.
“Are you going to be okay?” She asks finally.
“You stayed.” He looks taken aback. “I reacted poorly. And you stayed.”
“It’s not the first time I’ve seen a temper tantrum. You should meet my daughter sometime. She’d give you a run for your money.”
He does something funny with his mouth. It’s not a smile, or a grimace. It’s a mixture of the two. “What happened to the woman who panicked at the sight of a couple of sharks?”
“You said you’d never hurt me.” She sags against the tank. "You said that you we aren’t something to be feared. Or pitied. Remember? As charming are your bedfellows are, Lucifer, they never said the same.”
He’s behind her now. The lean line of him pressed against the glass. His arms are raised above head, his palms are open and like his forehead is kissing the aquarium in a submissive gesture.
“I remember, Detective.”
“Then you remember this as well. ‘A question for a question’. You asked me how I know what you’re feeling and I answered.”
He ducks his head. His void-black eyes avoid her own. “Yes, that was the deal.”
“How do you know?” Chloe asks. “Lucifer, how do you know that it was Barnes that killed Deliliah.”
He looks up. His entire expression is one of surprise. She realizes that he probably expected an interrogation over what just happened. Chloe might be a detective, but she’s not invasive. Not in that way. She doesn’t monopolize on suffering. Not if it doesn’t benefit the victim.
“Did you know that sharks have some of the most sophisticated olfactory receptors in the animal kingdom? They can pick up the tiniest amounts of various compounds in the water, and how old they are.”
Chloe huffs. “The word of your pets isn’t enough to implicate him.”
“You misunderstand, Detective, I can smell him.” He rumbles, flashing his teeth and sending goosebumps up her spine. “I smell his cheap dollar store cologne. His sweat, his cowardice. And Deliliah’s fear. Her blood. And the stench— the stench corroborates with the time of death.”
“I’m not sure how that will hold up in court.”
“You believe me, don’t you?” She can feel him again. A humming inside her head that’s a caress. But it doesn’t feel like a manipulation. Instead it feels like a sad song. It’s a late night ballad, with all the hushed cadence of a piano. It drifts against her heart like an apology. There is loneliness between the chords, like Trixie said. There’s the sour tang of fear, of anguish. But underneath hope too. The sweetness of it makes her eyes water again.
“Then it’s enough.” He smiles then. “I might not have faith in the American justice system. But I have faith in you.”
Lucifer doesn’t watch as Dr. Barnes is taken away. He isn’t there to see the snapping of handcuffs, or to listen to his muffled screaming from the back of the police car. He doesn’t hear Dr. Barnes being read his Miranda rights. Or is present to even entertain pleas of innocence.
As it turns out implicating Dr. Barnes in the murder of Deliliah Jones was easy.
His alibi is about as solid as tissue paper. Ella managed to pick up his oily fingerprints on the murder weapon, which lined up with the ammo and the swatch of fabric Lucifer picked up had Delilah’s blood on it. She’s pretty sure Dr. Barnes ripped it from his coat as a way to dispose of the proof tying him the act, but of all the ways she’s seen a perp trying to destroy evidence- hoping it would get eaten by a shark was probably the dumbest. The only thing dumber was that somehow the forensics dive team missed it.
But as easy as the initial arrest was, finding a motive is proving difficult.
Maze and Linda, while helpful, couldn’t provide a reason as to why Dr. Barnes would want to kill Deliliah. They were workplace associates at best. They never got drinks together, and they didn’t interact enough to have any sort of workplace fight. Barnes himself had spent five days in Detention, silent as a rock, and had yet to reveal anything on the subject.
“We’re ready for you, Decker.”
Chloe glances upwards from her desk. Pierce is leaning against the edge, coffee in hand.
“What is that?” He gestures with his mug.
Chloe flushes with embarrassment.
She’s drafting an explanation of Lucifer one her notepad, with a long list of questions to ask him when she has half the chance. Her current and most leading theory is that he can manipulate parts of the brain. Influence them. Cause hallucinations, that kind of thing. But on paper they look like the scrawlings of an insane woman. Chloe quickly tears off the sheet and tosses it in the nearest can.
“It’s nothing. Just sorting some stuff out.”
Marcus raises an eyebrow. “You know, you work too hard sometimes. You caught the perp. I’d figure you’d relax some.”
Dan, her ex-husband, isn’t seated far away from her in the bullpen. The noise that comes from his mouth is a scoff of disbelief and derision. “Chloe, relax? Good luck with that.”
“I don’t remember asking you, Espinoza.” Marcus cuts him off in a viscous bite.
Dan, publicly chastised, visibly shrinks in his seat.
“And I don’t remember asking your opinion, Pierce.” Chloe looks him straight in the eye, direct and challenging. He might be her boss, but he doesn’t get to treat Dan that way in front of her. Not by a long shot.
Pierce holds up his hands in mock surrender, his gaze flinty. “Ouch, point taken.”
She’s not entirely sure she likes what she sees when Marcus looks at her like that. His expression is inncously innocent, but his eyes don’t match. There’s an intention there that’s not hidden by perfect skin and perfect teeth.
Perhaps it’s attraction, but if that’s what attraction looks like on him she couldn’t be less interested.
But still, Pierce presses on with more small talk. “How about that earthquake the other day? Crazy right?”
Her gut twists, thinking of Lucifer’s meltdown. She assumed it was a highly localized phenomenon, but didn’t think to check if that was actually fact. The notion that what Lucifer can do, is in fact, not all in her head makes her mildly nauseous. Not even the seamonsters of yore were described as creatures that shook the earth itself.
Chloe gets up from her chair, and without sparing Marcus a backwards glance, makes her way over to the interrogation room, eager to escape whatever lukewarm banter he wanted to dredge up. She has a job to do.
Even from behind the one sided glass she can see that Dr. Jimmy Barnes has had better days. He’s got a black eye, and both his sclera are bloodshot. There’s a thin sheen of sweat and grime on his face, and his once trimmed facial hair has transcended into transient territory.
Chloe pulls open the reinforced door, and takes her seat in the interrogation chair. She fans Dr. Jimmy Barnes file in front of her as well as photos from the crime scene,
“Rough night?” She posits.
Barnes says nothing, he only stares straight ahead. The overhead lights carve out his face in hollows.
Chloe slides a photograph of Delilah across the table. It’s one of her laughing. She’s splayed on her belly next to a line of dolphins who beached themselves on a platform for one of the shows. She looks so happy there, so carefree that she hopes the image lands like a kick to the face.
“Why Dr. Barnes? Why murder your coworker in cold blood?”
His placid expression shifts and becomes hard. The flab of his face contorts into granite.
“Why does it matter?” He grumbles, his voice a gruff shadow of what it used to be. It’s seems that the nervous scientist is no longer in the building. This new accent is more East Coast. It’s more thuggish and blunt than his supposed Stanford background would dare suggest.
“A good woman died,” Chloe retorts. “She had a family. Friends.”
He balls up his fist on the table. His cuffs clink. “She had a drug habit.”
“And that’s a reason for murder?” Chloe slides another photograph across the table. It’s of Delilah, dead and floating upside down. Her face is blue and bloated, and there’s a tiny dark fish picking at her teeth.
“Ask anyone.” Barnes pushes it back to her, even though is range of motion is limited. “She shouldn’t have even been there that night. She was supposed to be on rounds. She had to have been high.”
Chloe raises an eyebrow.
“Are you implying it was self defense or an accident? Your prints were on the murder weapon, and unless you know something I don’t, there’s no reason why you would need a gun to do your job. This was premeditated.”
Barnes glances warily at the one sided observation. window and swallows. His eyes land back on the first photograph, the one that was taken before her death.
“I didn’t mean to kill her. It was an accident. Yeah, she was a tweaker, But it’s L.A. Who doesn’t bump now and then? She was a good kid.”
“Then what were you trying to do, Dr. Barnes?” Chloe prods.
“I was there for the specimen. The Siren,” he says.
Chloe leans forward. “Funny, Lucifer didn’t mention you being there that night.”
Barnes only laughs and shakes his head.
“Do you know how much that creature is worth? Millions. Maybe even a cool Billion given the Aquarium of the Pacific’s revenue.” He glances at the window again. “I was hired to infiltrate the staff. My job was to get samples, photography, secrets. Innocent stuff.”
Chloe folds her arms across her chest. Even if he didn’t murder Delilah, the concept that he was actively working to betray her partner wasn’t winning any favors.
“Okay.” He says, assessing her face. “Maybe not so innocent, but no one was supposed to get hurt. It was supposed to be an in and out thing. Unfortunately, I was running into some… issues.”
She huffs a disbelieving laugh. “What kinds of issues?”
“For one, the creature can’t be photographed. I’ve tried video cameras, polaroids, infrared imaging, X-rays, you name it. All of it comes out a mess. Even motion tracking data gets corrupted. He’s a monstrosity.” He slumps backwards into his chair. “And forget about the tissue samples. Outside a pressurized environment they don’t even degrade, they vanish. Blood and tissue just fizzles away like it never existed at all.”
“So you decided to go to the source,”
“My client doesn’t take kindly to failure,” Barnes continues. “I—uh, took some payment up front for the job, and the lack of results was not something they found particularly acceptable. In no uncertain terms it was either I get the creature, or I get a nice trip down to the morgue.”
“But that still doesn’t explain why you murdered Delilah.”
“Like I said, it was an accident. She wasn’t supposed to be there. My plan was to hit the emergency shut off valve and drain all the tanks. The specimen would have been high and dry and trapped, making it easy for me to just tranq it. I brought a real gun just in case it was less than cooperative.”
“And where did you get the tranq gun?”
“Linda’s office. It’s used routinely for physicals, and I figured no one would realize it was missing. I was wrong.” He sighs, a long and drawn out breath. “Your girl likes the morphine. It’s an open secret she takes vials when she thinks no one is watching. Apparently, she noticed the tranq gun was gone and took it upon herself to be a regular Sherlock Holmes. When she found me I was about to hit the kill switch.”
“I’m guessing she was ‘less than cooperative’?”
“The girl was looney tunes, talking about her dolphins, her ‘babies’ and how she wouldn’t let me harm them. I even offered to give her a cut. No dice. And when I pulled out my gun, I hoped it would have been more of a threat, but it wasn’t. She tried to take it from me. Before I knew what had happened she was on the ground. I dumped her in the nearest tank. I figured the sharks would destroy the body.”
“You thought wrong.” Chloe rounds on him. “Who hired you?”
For a third time he looks back at the window. It doesn’t seem to be a nervous tick. On the contrary, she realizes, suddenly, it’s an implication.
“I would like my lawyer now, please.”
Chloe deflates into the back of her seat. The wind is knocked out her. The door opens and Barnes’ lawyer is ushered in by Peirce.
And oddly, she doesn’t manage to catch her boss’ eye.
When she returns, the bull pen is empty. All of the other officers have gone home for the night, and yeah, that makes sense. It took a good half hour for the all the foiled frustration to leak out of her after the interrogation. She ended up taking a lap around the precinct just to cool off. Thankfully, Dan has Trixie tonight.
Chloe sighs into her seat and flicks on her desk lamp. She just wants this week to be over already. Her jaw hurts from clenching it for hours on end and lord does she need an aspirin.
This whole situation gnaws at her like nothing else. All of it. The Aquarium. Barnes’ nervous statement. And what kind of veterinarian doesn’t lock up the morphine? There is something that still isn’t lining up. Sure, she had the perp in custody, but something much larger is pulling the strings. She itches to know the name of the puppeteer. It’s not in her nature to let a good mystery lie.
Chloe begins to dig for her remaining paperwork, but frowns.
Propped up against her pencil holder, next or her other mail, is a nondescript black envelope. On closer inspection, the back is sealed with wax, and in the relief is the Aquarium of the Pacific’s logo. The material of it is soft in her hands.
Using a pen she slits opens the top of it and delicately pulls out a letter.
The slip of paper is oddly wrinkled. The script, while a beautiful looping cursive, is wobbly— and Chloe realizes it must have gotten wet.
Again, I must apologize for my behavior of this weeks past and congratulate you on your fine work. Well, our fine work if we’re being honest :) . In situations like this, It seems, it's the duty of a partner to buy the other coffee. Unfortunately, I’m rather incapable in this regard. Please accept this gift as a substitution. And I am eager for our next case.
P.S. You’ll be by soon, yes?'
A plastic Starbucks gift card bounces off her desktop.
Chloe groans into her hands. Of course Lucifer would think this partners thing was a more permanent arrangement. The idea of fills her with guilt, and a little bit of dread. And, like a worm in the back of her brain, Jimmy Barnes’ voice crawls to the surface:
“He’s a monstrosity.”
Chloe pulls out her phone from her pocket.
She swipes into her recording app and throws the playback. It’s mostly darkness and howling static. But near the end, she can hear herself pleading. A single frame flashes so-quick-and-you-miss-it. She rewinds and stops. On her phone is a smeared image, a thorny black undulation pockmarked with what looks like a thousand eyes.
It could be video distortion.
It could be a trick of the light.
It could be a thousand more explainable things. But she’s not entertaining Occam’s Razor tonight. No, Chloe knows otherwise.
King Crab. Get it? Baddum-tiss.
Lord this was difficult to write for some reason, like wrestling honestly - so apologies if its a little weak this week.
Lucifer snorts at the iPad in his hands.
“I wish it were that bloody simple.” He grumbles, his thumb swiping across the volume button. The sound raises ever so slightly so that his latest fixation can can be heard over the splashing of the water filters.
It’s been two weeks. Two bloody weeks - and the Detective has yet to come back.
He has no idea if she received his note. He has no idea if she even thinks of him. And it’s all he can do to keep the thing beneath his skin contained. The best he can do is distract himself. Movies.YouTube videos. Television. He consumes it all with a voracity that would put piranhas to shame. But one movie in particular has snatched his attention, and it’s been on repeat longer than he cares to think about.
The screen is currently awash in blues, and dusky greens. It’s a meadow at sunrise, with the cold fingers of dawn gently caressing the landscape. There’s swelling music, burning gazes and lingering touches. Hushed confessions linger in the air, the grass, and the soil. And two perfect and incandescent lovers oblivious are to the world.
His chest aches for it, as alien to him as it is. He wants the soft possibility of this kind of intimacy. It’s something more than a violent mating, or the spawning of eggs. It's more than a tumble with a willing human, or the swift real ease thereafter. It’s foundational. Fundamental. And he curses the fact he’s no longer able to meet anyone like this, stride for stride. He never appreciated legs until he was no longer able to simply make them.
Lucifer sighs into his chest, careful not to disturb his company. Two river otters are snuggling their way into his armpit, and another is sleeping in the crook of his neck, crammed into the curve of his shoulder. They churr every so often, and complain if he moves overmuch. The cheeky buggers. He won’t admit it to anyone, but they’re almost a pleasant distraction from his ongoing internal and external turmoil.
“It’s not simple at all. Nothing is as simple as the silver screen it seems,” he continues, letting a shaking hand stroke absently at the fur of his shoulder companion.
The reality is that Lucifer’s bones are restless things, and he himself is beyond frustrated, and about to bash his head through a fucking coral reef. He hasn’t slept in days. Tentacles slither beneath his flesh, and wriggle like impatient snakes. His spine twists and elongates, eel-like, and his scales flash with chromatophores. He is white, and red, and pink- mimicking the warning behavior of a squid. Even grasping at his carefully crafted architecture is a struggle. Lungs become gills, become siphons, and then turn back into lungs again- and oh does it burn. His facade is rapidly melting into gelatinous cartilage, and there’s almost nothing he can do about it.
When he said ‘fuck you’ to dear old Dad he didn’t think for a moment his punishment would be anything like this. Exile is one thing. He understands it. The oceans of the earth are no longer his home - but to be cut off from the ocean that is the universe, that’s a pain that rips out the very beating heart of him.
Lucifer’s power, his grace, and his control are almost non existent. He is only just a fragment of what he once was. He is no longer the builder of stars, or the sinker of ships. No, he is an organic mess that he has to hold together cell by cell by cell. It takes what’s left of his meager power just to look vaguely human. And even so, he’s something clearly other. The sea that’s in his veins won’t let go. The tug-of-war is constant. He’s lucky he can craft a human face with teeth and tongue. But when he’s consumed by other things, when his concentration slips, all of that careful construction goes out the window.
The only bright side is that the otters don’t seem to care either way. They’re content to steal whatever meager body heat he can provide no matter his arrangement.
He about to consider another movie, possibly one less saccharine, when suddenly a banging at the back of the exhibit breaks him out of his binge-watching reverie.
“Lucifer! Are you in here?” The rear door of the enclosure slams open and out storms a very angry looking Mazikeen. Her hair is disheveled and her wetsuit is half undone, as if she had clawed at herself in her own violence. “You fucking better be,” she snarls.
Lucifer abruptly realizes that he’s pathetically curled up in the Amazonian paludarium, with his body is half submerged in water while the other half is nestled in the muddy substrate. Fish are nibbling at the tips of his shifting fins - and more embarrassingly, the iPad in his hands is blaring ‘Pride and Prejudice’ for perhaps the eighth time in seventy two hours.
He quickly manages to pull back the edges of his liquified muscle into the shape Maze is used to, and clawed fingers quickly tap the screen off. He knocks over an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in his haste.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” He grumbles, wiping the mud off his slick chest. His otter companions quickly scurry back into the water below.
“Don’t pull that shit with me.” Maze hisses. “You knew we were supposed to start the shows back up again today. You missed the two-o’clock and the four-o’clock. Do you know how many refunds Eve had to process?”
“Let me take a guess-“
“That was rhetorical fish-face. I’m this close-“ Maze makes a tiny pinching motion with her fingers. “to ripping you a new asshole.”
Lucifer scoffs.“I highly doubt you could find the first one.”
“If I knew you were going to be this much of a bitch I would have let the seagulls eat you.”
“So you keep saying,” he replies, pulling on a bored affectation. “Is there a point to all of this?”
“When you were stranded on that beach, drying your slimy ass out in the sun, it wasn’t me who insisted on saving you. It was Eve. When you needed a place to crash for a while, it wasn’t my bathtub you were sleeping in, it was Eve’s. When you had this insane idea to build a business, it wasn’t me who fronted the money, it was Eve. And when you decided that you wanted to play ‘hide the fish sticks’ with some tourists, it wasn’t my heart you broke, it was Eve’s.”
“As I told you, I didn’t know she was interested-“
Maze cuts him off. “Just shut up. The point in trying to make with all of this is that I keep having to pick up the pieces when you hurt her. I keep having to fix your messes. I need you to man the fuck up and do your fucking job. This is your aquarium. This is your problem, not hers.”
Lucifer sighs and digs into the sedge grasses for his lighter and his pack of smokes. When he lights up Maze raises an eyebrow, but says nothing. Her arms are crossed angrily over her chest.
“So,” he says, letting the smoke flutter from his gills. “I suppose I owe her an apology.”
“And Linda.” Maze growls. “We’re short staffed, and judging by the stack of paperwork on your desk, you haven’t even looked at a single applicant. She’s been working insane amounts over overtime just to keep this place going. And your doing what? Moping? What the fuck is wrong with you.”
Lucifer’s not sure what emotion his face is currently conveying, but Maze softens, if only a little.
“Whether I like it or not, we’re all in this together, with you. Linda says you’re having trust issues at the moment considering that fucker Barnes, but you know we’re not all like him, right?”
He sighs into his cigarette. Ash flicks onto his tail fin. “I suppose I also owe you an apology as well.” He says.
“Yeah, you do. But honestly I’d just take knowing what is going on. This isn’t just about Delilah.”
For all of her shortcomings his dearest colleague is perceptive. He can hide from Linda sometimes or misdirect Eve. But Maze is a different creature entirely. She has the focus of a predator.
Lucifer considers a moment. He doesn’t lie, but he could imply that there was nothing up. Her wording leaves room for evasion, but he finds he’s not willing to take it. He needs this honesty, as much as it hurts.
“She saw me.” His voice is surprisingly raw at the confession. “She saw the part of me that we keep from the public. It was only a glimpse, really. But it was enough.”
Maze’s face does something complicated. Like she’s trying to pencil in one of those sudoku puzzles Eve loves so much.
“Decker?” She asks.
“Wow. And how’d she take it?”
“About as well as one does when confronted with the spawn of Ridley Scott and David Cronenburg.”
When he closes his eyes he can still see her look of horror. He didn’t mean it. He already frightened her, he knew it. But he was so close to winning her over. So close to proving he wasn’t the creature she assumed he was. So much for that.
“You’re not that bad.” Maze’s hand comes to rest on his shoulder. “Does she know you’re actually a big softie who cuddles otters and watches romance movies on repeat?”
His lip curls at the condescension. “They need mental stimulation and enrichment. And also it’s a period drama, thank you very much. It’s educational.”
“Uh-huh. You’re not fooling anybody, We share the same Netflix account. I know what’s in your queue.”
He can practically feel his muscles shift in undignified shame. A subtle line of spines curl behind his dorsal fin and he finds himself once again feeling very, very alone.
The corner of Maze’s mouth curves upward a tick.“Hey, listen. She’ll come around. A hot piece of scaly ass like you? How could she resist?”
And just like that, Lucifer laughs. Really, truly laughs. His spines smooth back down and the weight that has been twisting his body recedes for the first time in many days.
He’s reminded keenly then, that of all of his staff, Mazikeen seems to understand him the most. The might always be at odds, but there is affection there. Always affection. He trusts her as much as he trusts the gentle Eve, or the wise Linda. He wouldn’t haven’t survived without them.
This is what he was protecting, And what has made his exile worth it. They were the hill he stood on.
“The shows will proceed as scheduled tomorrow.” He says, pulling himself up the bank. “I‘ll go through the applicants. And you are all going to get a raise.”
Mazikeen huffs, she pats his shoulder. “That’s a start.” Her hands pull something from her pack. “That reminds me. When you decide to stop moping, someone left some fan mail at reception. They didn’t leave a name.”
Lucifer frowns down at the letter. It’s unlike Mazikeen to deliver fan mail directly, especially when she’s feeling testy. When he lifts his gaze to question her - she’s already halfway out of the enclosure, with a smug, knowing smile slung across her lips.
He uses his thumb claw to slice it open.
I was hoping to see you today at one of the shows. I guess you’re still not feeling 100%. I haven’t been ignoring you, I promise. I just needed some time to think things over. I’ve been pretty busy at work, and it’s been my turn to take care of Trixie so I won’t be able to swing by again right now, but here’s my number and my Skype. I’m available after 7pm.
Talk to you soon,
P.S. Thank you for the coffee’
He digs inside the envelope, and is met with a printer paper photo. It’s a selfie. One of Chloe smiling broadly and cradling a Starbucks coffee cup. And sure enough. her number and Skype username is scrawled on the back.
His heart does a little funny thing, like a flying fish leaping out of pitch dark sea.
With the opening of her letter, It’s almost like the past two weeks never happened. His hurt, and his loneliness are shoved into the backseat, while his hope takes sidecar. He finds he forgives the Detective with the whole of his being. It’s almost absurd how fast his feelings have ricocheted after a few careful text messages and emojis. What’s more, Lucifer has arranged an 8pm Skype appointment with Chloe. Which is great. Fantastic even.
If only he wasn’t so nervous about the entire thing,
Lucifer has to constantly smooth down erupting tentacles. His tail lashes almost uncontrollably, and new rows of teeth seem to sprout at random in anticipation. Luckily, he pocketed a sedative from Linda’s laboratory from his last visit. Leashing his impulses is much easier with its assistance.
In anticipation for the incoming call, he even tidied up his personal office. The new Billy bookcases create a dark and mysterious backdrop. When they’re in camera frame, he likes to think that it makes him look austere. More like a man, and less like a creature that's a hair's breadth from exploding into a mass of tentacles.
He wishes desperately that he could still pace. Instead he spins in his faux-leather computer chair, waiting for the Skype notification.
And does that for the next six hours.
Lucifer’s Skype rings at 8pm on the dot.
He almost falls out of his seat before answering. His iPad continues for chirp for ten seconds before he can wrestle his pronged tail back into the chair.
“Hello,” he says finally, tapping the screen.
“Hi.” And up pops Chloe’s face. Her golden hair is tied back into a messy bun, her face looks freshly washed, and she’s wearing a faded L.A.P.D. Hoodie - but she’s absolutely stunning. He is especially fond of her smile. It’s lopsided and unsure, but wide. She’s eager to see him.
“Uh, thank you again for the coffee,” she says, glancing downward shyly.
“You’re most welcome, Detective.”
“You do realize you loaded the card up with like a hundred bucks?”
“Well, I suppose I anticipated more celebratory coffees in the future.”
Her expression falls a bit. In the darkness of the room, her face is the only thing he can see - and he’s glad to see her, but he desperately wishes for a different view. One where she’s back to smiling.
“I’m sorry I didn’t reach out sooner. This is just, well, a lot. You know?”
“I suppose I do,” he says. Because he does know. He really does.
“So, uh, this is my house.” She lifts her laptop so he can see her darkened bedroom. The camera quickly swivels across a window, a bookcase, a messy desk and then finally back to her. She’s on her bed, nestled in faded floral sheets, and the entire picture is too domestic for words. He both longs and recoils at the thought of seeing it all I person. He still maintains that reality has a way of disappointing him.
“Now show me yours.”
He nods, picking up the iPad. He does a slow pan about the room, wondering if she’s at all impressed with what she sees.
“Of course you would have an office,” The Detective says.
“Every Director should have an office. I am a businessman after all.”
Chloe huffs, but is otherwise silent. He didn’t expect video calls to be awkward. At least not like this. Maybe having a call this late was a bad idea.
He politely tries to give her an out.
“Detective? If it’s too late, I can call back another time.”
“Nope. I’m good,” she replies quickly. “Sorry, I was just thinking.”
“Oh, what about?”
“Our bargain. The question for a question thing.”
“Ah. By all means. The invitation is always open.”
She shakes her head in disbelief, as if weighing her options. “Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t have offered if that wasn’t the case, Detective.”
Chloe bites her lip, and pulls out a small notebook- like any other professional in her field.
He thinks that this will be the moment she finally asks him what exactly he is. He doesn’t want to deny her, but he also knows that the truth might be even less endearing than his so called tantrum.
“Are you an Alien?” The Detective asks.
He blinks. He must not have heard right. “An Alien?”
“You know, like from outer space?”
He chokes out a laugh. Of course she wouldn’t go for the obvious questions. She’s so much more than that. The Detective keeps surprising him, and he finds it absolutely delightful.
“I’d like to think I’ve earned resident status given I’ve lived here before your people crawled out of the sea. Or at least I merit a green card,” he drawls.
“Sorry,” she says tucking a piece of hair behind her ear sheepishly. “It would just kind of explain everything. Why you’re the only one of your kind. The weirdness. You could have crash landed here.”
He shakes his head, smiling. “Regrettably I am not in possession of a spaceship. I do not spend my Saturdays making crop circles. And It’s not my intention to abduct you, unless, of course, you’d like me to.”
“Right,” she huffs. “You and what tractor beam?”
Lucifer snorts, but decides to elaborate. Let it not be said he was one of those green little men humans were so fond of writing about.
“Before I was this-“ he gestures to his body. “I was of the ocean. That was my home, Detective. I slept in the arms of abyssal currents. I danced on tectonic plates. I sang with whales and played in hurricanes. I am both more and less than what you may think I am, for all that I wish it otherwise.”
The Detective looks like she’s struggling with something. Her lips are pulled into a thin line, and he can almost feel her curiosity from across the city.
“You can ask another question,” he allows. “I promise I won’t bite. You’ll just owe me two.”
She looks down at her notebook, flipping to another page. “Do you… do you have any family?”
“Oh yes,” he replies. “Thousands of brothers and sisters. All of them are assholes and you should consider yourself lucky I’m the only one that you’ve met.”
“And you left.”
“It wasn’t precisely by my own choice I’m afraid. I had certain ideas and proclivities that were deemed unfavorable by my dear old Dad. But it’s like you humans say, I can’t live in my Father’s basement forever, now can I?”
“But there's more to it, though, isn’t there?” She prods. “It must have been something pretty significant for you to be here and not there.”
“It’s not a pleasant bedtime story,” he sighs.
“Well, good thing I’m not here for pleasant bedtime stories.”
“Very well, Detective,” he relents. “I suppose you should get comfortable.”
Chloe smiles and takes a moment to nestle herself in a cocoon of blankets. She makes a great show of getting settled in, even going so far as fluffing an enormous pillow. But after a minute, she pulls close to the camera and her attention is rapt.
Lucifer pull his own camera closer, letting his eyes drift shut as he tells of his own beginning.
The first thing he tries to explain is the dark. Life, from his perspective, started in the dark, and so did he. It’s a decent enough starting point all things considered.
But from there, things get considerably more difficult. How does one explain that he was shadow of the moon, and the gravity of the sun? That he, and his family, were the spaces between stars, the shepherds of particles? The architects of matter? That they were the spider silk that wove the universe together?
Instead, Lucifer delicately chooses to leave those parts out. He selects the barest bones of the story for his Detective. There was no need to wax poetic about the depths of his own abyss, and he did not wish to frighten her. No, he only mentions of what this earth used to be. A churning soup without color or light.
He tells her of all of his favorite creatures. Of wriggling nematodes. Of octopuses, and jellyfish. Of thousands of fish alight with reds and blues, and greens. How even in the blackest, most crushing of environments- that there’s still little pinpricks of phosphorescence - carried by creatures who have never seen the brightness of day. And how he, was their guardian. Life, and all of its spectacular diversity, was his domain. His siblings were responsible for all sorts of other things. The ground. The sky. Rain, and wind, and all the namable things inbetween.
But he was the only one who carried the spark of life that ignited the Universe. He was the light bringer. The dawn of existence. The Morning Star.
The way the Detective listens, he knows she must think it’s a metaphor, and he doesn’t dissuade her. She scratches some notes down, but otherwise is enraptured and unafraid. It’s refreshing in a way. But also mildly unsettling.
“So,” she says, an eyebrow raised. “You ‘made’ all the living creatures. Like you personally created elephants.”
Chloe is, of course, dubious. What kind of detective would she be if she didn’t believe that human science was the closest thing to fact.
“No, Detective,” he replies. “I was the spark. Everything else that came after was all millions of years of natural selection and adaptation.”
“But that’s not the point of the story. You asked about my so called eviction.”
“Continue,” she says. “Please.”
He then talks about his Father. The massive bloody prick. The penultimate control freak. Alpha and fucking Omega.
The bastard had to have his claws in everything, and very much disliked the concept that life on earth chose to proceed on land. Apparently, that wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Not part of the universe’s ballet program. No siree Bob. There were even a couple of of asteroid events to prove it.
But Lucifer’s spark was a tenacious thing. Not even forty years of darkness could snuff it out.
Eventually dear old Dad got bored with the whole trying to selectively obliterate the planet thing. He conveniently forgot that anything even dared to walk on land, and left well enough alone for a few more millennia. Lucifer, for his part, was content to sneak away on land to watch what would blossom from the ashes. Mammals were endlessly entertaining things with their internal vertebrae, their mammary glands, and external genitalia.
Chloe rolls her eyes at that.
“What, Detective? It’s true! Your configurations make for interesting cinema.”
He makes a face in return, but plods onwards.
When humans emerged no one knew what to make of them. Not a single one of his siblings bothered to care, either. And that was perhaps their biggest mistake. No one noticed the emergence of tools, or crops, or roads. It wasn’t until ships starting crossing the vast aquatic expanses, did they really take notice and by then, it was far too late.
But Lucifer was there from the beginning. Humans emerged from his spark after all. What kind of Shepard would he be if he didn’t watch all of his flock? He was there at the dawn of the Neolithic age. He saw the first brick laid of what would be the great pyramid of Giza. He watched the rise Xia dynasty and the fall of Constantinople. Admittedly, it was much more fascinating than watching schools of fish migrate along the coasts.
There are parts again he omits here. Because some of the things his Father commanded he do, would forever stain her perception of him. He glosses over the span of human history like it’s simply a page in a battered library book. Instead he gets to the meat of the story.
“My Father wanted you all gone. Humans, specifically. And wanted to bring in the big guns, specifically me.”
“Well, there were a lot of reasons, I suppose. Intelligent life he didn’t directly create. Free will that couldn’t be influenced. And your natural propensity to fuck things up and be as destructive as possible. Considering the damage you lot have done to the global ecosystem, I’m not inclined to disagree. Humans, in his words, are an infestation.”
Chloe hugs her pillow tighter to her body. He instinctively wants to reach out and hold her. Instead, he tries to comfort her with his convictions.
“Relax, Detective. I eventually sided with you,” he says gently. “However, it cost me everything. Siding against my Father meant punishment. It meant exile. And it meant humiliation.”
The Detective shifts. Her eyes are wet, but her face is a stony mask. The focus of her being is entirely on the camera.
“Why?” The question is watery, and Chloe swallows. “It doesn’t make any sense. Why be on our side? After everything we’ve done. We’ve killed off almost all of the coral reefs. We’ve over fished the pacific to all hell. We’re the cause of global warming - not to mention what we could do in the event of a nuclear war. We murder each-other for the dumbest things imaginable, like money. And there’s a garbage patch in the Pacific larger than the state of Montana.”
He considers her. He once again is reminded of how beautiful she is. How thousands upon thousands of nameless generations built her from the clay. They are every sinew. Every eyelash. They are the blue of her eyes. The gold of her hair. And the goodness of her very heart.
“Because, Detective. Unlike everything else in the vast swathes of creation, you have infinite potential. And I for one, want to help you achieve it.”
They continue the conversation for at least another half hour. The Detective is an insatiable audience, but he’s careful. He quickly directs them into more pleasant subjects than his Fall. Instead they talk about the comings and goings of the Aquarium, and the Detective, for her part, talks about some of the cases that have graced her desk.
But time comes a stalking, like a thief in the night and Chloe yawns.
“Perhaps it’s time for little Detectives to head to bed.” Lucifer hums.
“But I’m already in bed, and I still owe you some questions answered in return.”
“Fine,” he relents. “But for tonight, I’ll only take one.”
“Then by all means, shoot.”
There are many things he could ask her. He wants to know about her ex-husband. He wants to know about Trixie. He wants her to tell him about her morning commute. But one question stands tall above all others, and it leaves his mouth in an inelegant rush.
“Why did you come back?” He asks. “I couldn’t blame you if you wanted to end your association with me. My behavior was inexcusable.”
Chloe’s gaze turn soft, softer than he’s ever seen it before. And when she looks at him, even through a cheap laptop camera, he’s burned hollow. It’s like she actually sees him. He’s not mercreature. He’s not a curiosity. He’s just Lucifer. And she finds him worthy.
“Remember what you said about potential? Well, I think you have that too.”
The statement hangs in the empty air, and Lucifer has no idea what to say in return.
“Goodnight Lucifer,” Chloe mumbles.
And when Lucifer shuts off the screen, sleep comes remarkably easy.
Im not dead! Just uh, starting a new job and freaked right out of my skin. But it be like that sometimes. Anyway! I wanted to toss this over the fence before I rewrite it for the seventh time.