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A Gold Light in Certain Old Paintings

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There is a gold light in certain old paintings
That represents a diffusion of sunlight. 

“There is a gold light in certain old paintings” - Donald Justice


 

 


When he's gone and she thinks she's lost him her mind refuses to settle in the late afternoons, refuses it again in the evenings, in all those broken moments in time between daylight and darkness. Time rages through its restraints then, claws at the outskirts of her memories and she is everywhere and nowhere at once. 

He echoes inside her, tells her he must leave, that he’s the Devil; tells her she isn’t allowed to die, that it's always been her; tells her he isn’t worth it, tells her that he doesn’t like the way she makes him feel.

She tells him he’s high on his ability to sow chaos, tells him he’s got a God complex; she asks him - so desperate, so worn down to her bare bones - who does deserve me then? ; she tells a whole court full of people that her loyalties lie with him; she tells him when hell freezes over.

She tells him: I love you, don’t leave, please, I love you.

And her mind has tried so hard to crack wide-open for all the darkness he contains, has bent and curved around the rough patches of his history and the brutality of his present. She has made such an effort to grasp the prerequisites of this specific love but what remains now in his absence is light, just light



---

She’s on the floor, bleeding out and terrified to close her eyes because she can hear her father at the back of her thoughts, hear him like a gentle whisper. Don’t be scared, sweetheart but she is, she’s got Trixie and she’s not done and either way she refuses to die like him, to be killed in action by a criminal, she refuses and Lucifer’s hands around her face keep her grounded on Earth until the medics shove him to the sidelines. There’s a light in him then, as he guides her on the edge of her life, a light wrapped around the surprising strength of his body, entwined in the way he seems to help her keep death at bay. It’s impossible but her adrenaline rush and blinding pain and the fear blur her vision until that is what it looks like.

She wants to ask him afterwards but it’s swept away by hospital care, by his casual jokes, by the strange fact that he came with her to the hospital in the first place and the nurses tell her later that he had been sitting by her bedside for five hours. He’s a keeper, that one.


---



They’re toasting to nothing in particular, he’s settled beside her and she’s unbending slowly, dragging a finger around the rim of her glass of Vodka Sour.

One drink, he had insisted after seeing her come a little bit undone at the precinct, wrapping up a terrible case ending in withdrawn statements.

One drink, he had repeated on the way out to the car. Nothing else.

Lucifer is a man of his word, she knows it by now, knows that with him it won’t end the way it does with the other guys at the precinct. That blur of lines, of ordering in another round and banter getting out of hand and a few of us are going to a club, you wanna come Decker. Before Dan, before she became a pariah she was a young female cop formerly famous for frontal nudity, she knows what is being said about women like her, she knows every cost of every move in the narrow corridors that surround her professional existence.

Lux is deserted in the late afternoon; they are everything that exists.

“Play something that makes you happy,” she says and nods at the piano.

He smiles.

And so she has her drink - one, she doesn’t want more and he doesn’t coax - while Lucifer plays through a repertoire of 90's rock ballads, continuing through some classical pieces she only vaguely recognizes but it doesn’t matter because he looks so content playing them for her.



---



He remembers everyone’s coffee preferences, everyone’s favorite donuts, keeps track of what burgers and sushi they're most likely to order for long stakeouts or dragging casework. And even when he gets it wrong he remembers to bring some kind of food which is more than they can say about some of the senior officers at the precinct. Years later she learns that eidetic memory is part of his design, but even so, the impact of this early diffusion of care lingers.

Cucumber sandwiches to Jo and Dave, croissants for Mike and Vargas, bagels for Karen and Kate, gluten-free versions of bread for half the department (he infallibly winces as he hands them out) and white bread with ham and cheese for Chloe. 

Her takeaway coffee mugs arrive at her desk with little devil faces drawn on them, her lunch bags - more sandwiches but he buys different ones every time, says it’s simply necessary to broaden a taste as narrow as yours, Detective - has bad puns scribbled in a corner. Chloe bites her lip as she reads them, smiling into her computer screen.

“Dad jokes,” she tells him, once, earning herself a horrified look. “You're making them.”

She saves the bags in her bottom drawer, tucked far inside; it’s not until Marcus proposes that she throws them away, forcing herself to think nothing of it. 

 

---



“Darling Penelope prefers rosé,” he says and pulls a bottle out of the apparently dimension-breaking inner pocket of his jacket.

“Read it in a Q&A on her website,” he elaborates when Chloe frowns in disbelief. “Can I come?”

And he smiles so sweetly that Chloe says yes and so she ends up bringing him to her mother’s birthday party where he actually is nothing short of a success: he’s bright smiles and follow-up questions, acting reassuringly flirtatious with the post-menopausal women and equally charming to their husbands. Chloe stands a little closer to him for every guest he pulls a smile from, proud and awkward as every friend of her mother’s gives her that look that lands with a whimper in her chest.

Well done, Chloe, they say without words and she thinks I know and she wishes they were right.

“Thank you, Lucifer,” she says afterwards ( doesn’t she?), when he walks with her back to her house and she wants to ask him to come inside, offer him a glass of wine or coffee or a sandwich but they don’t do this after Candy and Vegas, don’t tread so close to what almost happened between them and it’s for the best but her body aches with his absence all the same.

“Whatever for?”

“You know.” She shrugs. “For the wine. Mom loved it. And for… being you.”

His smile is small and incredulous and it envelops her completely. 

 

---

 

"Look, Mom," Trixie says the day after that terrible night at Lucifer's place with Tiernan's thugs, the night after they receive the man himself, unharmed and Chloe's relief is so heavy she has to bite back tears. "This came for me."

"Let me see that, monkey."

And Trixie holds up a gigantic gift basket with a huge grin on her face and Chloe knows everything in it is too expensive and too indulgent and nothing she would normally condone but she also knows she will let her daughter have it, knows that Lucifer knows it, too. 

 

---

 


He dances with her on the prom night she never had, steers her gently across the breach between the life she made up for herself inside her head and the life she got. None of it seems bad with him here, compensating for it all, all those things that aren’t even his fault. That are no one’s fault. His hands are warm and firm on her back, around her own, his gaze surrounds her and she thinks I love you until her heart is numb to the sensation.

---

 

They drive home one night in his Corvette when her car is at the garage and he pulls over to the side of the road suddenly, stops the car and throws her a glance as if he’s waiting for something. Chloe frowns.

“Something’s wrong?”

“No, I just… nothing, never mind, Detective.” He smiles, looks at the road ahead again but there’s a hint of something in him that tugs at her curiosity, that wants to know what he had thought of. There’s so much stifled, badly buried hope in her that even with everything she has done, even with Eve and Father Kinley and the wreck of their professional relationship that has recovered steadily over the past few months.

“Lucifer.” She leaps, for a second she imagines they are still people who touch each other the way they used to and she leaps, placing a hand on his arm. “Tell me. Please?”

His gaze falls on her hand on his arm; she removes it, looks out the window.

“You can see the stars tonight,” he says after a beat. “You almost never can in the city.”

“Yeah?” She waits a while, wondering when he’ll explain more, why he wants to stop the car to talk about stars but then the insight cracks into her, like waves breaking. “Oh. And you…? Light-bringer, right?”

Lucifer nods, a gentle shade of pride outlining his features.

“Oh,” she says again. “Oh, Lucifer that is…”

He predates time, she reminds herself through that breathless, wordless sensation of falling, the cut in the smooth softness that surrounds of her idea of him.

“I used to think about how I’d tell you the truth.” He looks at her, then out the window again. Worn-out, she thinks, wondering if the Devil can be just that. That tired streak in him that has been present since she came back from Rome, since Marcus, that thread of grief that runs through them all; she wants to drag it out into the light and soothe it, console them. “This was one of the things I had in mind. One of good things I - well, I think the stars are a bit more appealing than - you know.”

Chloe touches his arm again; this time she doesn’t let go as quickly.



---


The morning after her strangest birthday party ever she wakes up to the smell of freshly baked goods and coffee, stumbles up from Lucifer’s bed still dressed in his shirt and with a hunger that seems to rise from the depths of the Earth. Linda had brought out champagne right before they went to sleep, Chloe remembers it vaguely now because they had marveled at the number of bottles Lucifer stores in his home, and she had quietly treasured seeing all the things he possesses in the mazes of his private rooms. Books, tools, sculptures, strange old tech stuff that Dan had found fascinating, old-fashioned clothes and furniture, things she thought he must have inherited and didn't want to let go of.

It had tweaked her image of him, endeared him to her in a way that seems almost frightening now.

She finds him reading, cross legged in one of his massive armchairs and engrossed in his book, propping his head up with one hand, the other tapping softly at his bare kneecap that is visible through the open bathrobe he’s wearing. The sight of him - the misplaced innocence of it, the youthfulness that clashes so magnificently with the experienced man she knows him to be - renders her breathless. 

He gracefully gets to his feet the moment he spots her; her fingers touch the bullet around her neck and she can't stop grinning.

“Breakfast is served. I ordered a lot of everything,” he says, three steps ahead of her.

As if he’s been waiting. 




---

 

When he's back and she has him, as much as she can ever have him, have anyone ; when he is back and they are each other's, Chloe thinks again of how to love him.

He’s cooking in his kitchen, adding spices with his eyes closed as though he measures them not through sight but through their scent, the fullness of it, how it falls and feels. He stands there with his shirt sleeves rolled up, wearing the ridiculous Hell’s kitchen apron Trixie had insisted on giving him for Christmas last year despite Chloe’s expressed doubts about Lucifer celebrating any kind of holiday; it’s even more ironic now, of course. But he had said lovely, urchin; good thing everything suits me and put it on and if Chloe had mouthed a thank you over Trixies head and felt her chest cave in around his smile, his genuine surprise at being given a gift. 

She stops in the doorway, watching, trying to discern what flavor he’s using but gives up immediately, can only vaguely make out traces of cinnamon and saffron anyway. 

He glances over his shoulder, smiles at the sight of her. 

Whatever else his hands have done, whatever motions that have occupied them since before the dawn of time they’re here now, covered in spices and finely cut garlic that he tries to lick off his fingertips; they’re covered in her, too, as she slips through the room to put her arms around his waist.

“Careful, I’ve got a knife,” he says, the words rumbling against her palms that she spreads over the flat plane of his stomach.

“What is it? It smells delicious,” she says to his shoulder, her mouth catching at the expensive fabric that holds the scents of Lucifer: tobacco, toothpaste, cologne, warmth. He’s a furnace and a sun-kissed beach, he’s incense and freshly made food set against a backdrop of crisply clean clothes. Only a few days ago he told her that angels don’t have body odor, that they don’t develop a specific scent like humans do and he had told it with a subdued longing that suddenly explained certain things to her.

Her fingertips hook into the small spaces between the buttons of his shirt, eager to feel his skin, overwhelmed with the knowledge that she is allowed this, that he wants her to touch him. He smiles, she knows it without looking at his face, knows that he loves all of her impatience and lack of grace in this regard, that his eyes go pitch-black and wide at the sound of her growling at him, arching and moving. That if she asked him now he’d do everything, anything.

Chloe closes her eyes, kisses the tender black curls at the back of his neck. Curls, and she had smiled when she first saw them in the unforgiving morning light; he had rolled his eyes and muttered something under his breath in a language she definitely doesn’t understand. But she understands this. She understands the pattern of them, of their histories, all these versions of themselves they wear and scatter like snakes shifting skins. The marks of them like cities on a map, a road her finger can trace back to its origin.

“You’re lovely,” she mumbles.

“I… that’s not something I hear every day.” Lucifer’s voice is deliberately light, but she can feel the weight of it as it settles inside her belly. “I suppose it doesn’t rhyme very well with carnal.”

“But you are.” Her mouth travels over the stubble of his chin, up to his mouth. “You are a very lovely Devil. I know you think I see you in a special way-”

“Chloe, that was-”

“No, no. You were right. And wrong.”

He turns his head, puts the knife down and meets her gaze. His is a bottomless surge and she stares into it without fear. He smiles a little.

“Was I?”

Chloe nods and thinks of the masquerade at Lux, thinks of his disgust at having to show himself to her, the furious self-hatred burning under his skin. Now that she knows it’s there she can see it all the time, just as she can see his Hellfire and his heavenly light, all of it intertwined and inseparable around the heart of him, the soul she imagines is there. She thinks about drinks and songs, about the cold benches inside the churches in Rome and the cruel rhythm that had lingered even into LA, had remained all the way into Lucifer’s arms, entirely too far. She thinks about unending darkness and spines, fragile human bones beneath the might of an angel, thinks about judgement and forgiveness, about transformation.

“I see the stars in you,” she says. “Even when you don’t. Because I know that they're there. And... I don’t know, this sounded better in my head, but-”

Lucifer makes a sound caught half-way between an inhale and a sigh and then, he turns around so he’s facing her and Chloe can see nothing but love in him, nothing but want . And he may be oblivious to his own light but he knows all about desire and it’s a fact that coils in her, deep and dark and intoxicating.

Tiptoeing she kisses him, slow and lingering and he tastes of garlic and wine; leaning down his hands comes around her waist as he deepens the kiss, leaving traces of saffron along the tip of her tongue, the curve of her lower lip.

“I am yours, you know,” he says, his voice hoarse.

“I know.” He smells of the ocean and the night, his lips the softest shade of yellow from spices, just like hers. She dips a finger into the small bowl of cinnamon on the counter behind him and places it in her mouth, smiling at the way his gaze follows her every motion. When he kisses her next time the taste will conjoin them. “Oh, I know .”

And it’s always been her and it’s always been him and maybe their story has always broken out of its own timeline, like the stars.