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time, mystical time (cutting me open then healing me fine)

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“Lucifer, if – if that’s true, if you choose to be vulnerable around me, then I choose to be vulnerable around you.”

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When Lucifer kisses her back, soft and sweet and everything she’s been missing, all Chloe can think is, thousands.

Thousands of years.

No wonder he’s trembling.

It’s barely perceptible, just the slightest tremor in his fingers as they brush her jaw, but Chloe feels it right down to her bones. One simple press of her lips to his and the Devil – the self proclaimed Lord of desires, who has surely known more kisses than she’s known Sundays – is coming undone.

“Lucifer…” She pulls back a little, looking up at him through eyelashes wet with tears she is determined not to cry. “Is this – are you okay?”

“Am I okay?” Lucifer repeats incredulously, cupping her cheek under one warm palm that still shakes, ever so slightly. He lets out a soft laugh, the kind she hasn’t heard in far, far too long. “Never ever better.”

“Oh.” The ache in her chest is either her heart breaking or mending, she’s really not sure which. So much for not crying.

“Detective?” Confusion chases away the smile on his face and that is just … unacceptable. “What–”

“No, no, it’s not – it’s nothing,” she says, blinking furiously, and then, because he doesn’t look at all convinced, she leans in and kisses him again. “Happy tears, I promise.”

“Well, there’s an oxymoron,” he murmurs, chasing away her tears with his thumb. It’s a careful, gentle touch but it doesn’t help, not one little bit, because suddenly she’s right back on his balcony, left alone with her broken heart and the ghost of his hand on her cheek.

Two months.

Thousands of years.

Maybe these aren’t happy tears anymore.

“Detective?” Lucifer prompts, wary in a way that makes something twist in her chest.

“It’s fine,” Chloe says, “I’m – everything’s fine.”

If she could just convince her mind of that fact then maybe she could stop crying.

She leans into Lucifer’s touch, pressing her cheek to his palm to try to ground herself in the reality of it. He smiles at her, bemused and mildly anxious, while she breathes in through her nose, out through her mouth, and silently catalogues what she can see, what she can feel. His hand is warm and soft and real. He’s here. Safe. They’re in the penthouse, yes, but not on the balcony. They’re inside. Side by side at his piano. Soft light is reflecting in it’s gleaming surface and if she asked him to he’d probably play her any melody in the whole world.

This isn’t that night.

He isn’t leaving her.

Except.

‘Unfortunately I can’t stay for long.’

Unless.

‘Everything in Hell has been taken care of.’

The question is right there, the words curled up tight in her throat, but she can’t bring herself to voice them yet. Instead she leans into the tiny distance between them, lifts her hand to rest over his racing heart and slowly, deliberately, presses her lips to his again. This has always been a language he understands but Chloe doesn’t find any answers in the way he melts into her kiss, just the sweetest distraction.

Lucifer’s hand strays from her cheek, moving to cup the back of her neck, and she finds herself vaguely wishing he’d take out her sensible, workday ponytail and run his fingers through her hair. She satisfies herself with slipping her hand into his hair instead, sinking her fingers into the soft strands and flexing them slightly against his scalp. The motion draws a desperate whimper from his throat, the kind of sound she didn’t even know he could make, and she parts her lips more in surprise than invitation. He takes the opportunity anyway and oh, now she understands, when she tried every top shelf whiskey in Lux while he was gone, this is the taste she was craving all along – the whiskey on his tongue when he kisses her.

“I missed you,” she says when they part, breathing the words into the tiny space between them.

“And I you,” he whispers back.

There’s a tremble of something more than breathlessness in Lucifer’s sigh as he rests his forehead against hers and Chloe’s mind returns, like a hamster on a wheel, to the inescapable fact that two months on Earth is a lot longer elsewhere.

“Down there, did you ever...” She feels foolish for asking, foolish and very, very mortal. The words tumble out regardless. “Y’know, start to forget–”

“Forget what?” Lucifer reels back like she’s slapped him. “Forget you?”

“No, no, not me! More like … everything, I guess? People. Life.” She’s floundering and she knows it. But really, how is she supposed to ask the Devil if he’s shaking because he’s touch starved? “Y’know … human interaction–”

“Always slightly baffled me that one, to be fair.”

“It’s just … thousands of years!” she says, gesturing vaguely with both hands. “That’s way, way longer than my tiny little human brain can comprehend. I mean I had a shitty few months but you–”

“Did you really?” he interrupts, softening slightly.

“The worst,” she says honestly, which seems to appease him. “Even before your psycho brother turned up.”

Lucifer huffs a laugh, sliding back towards her on the smooth bench, and Chloe judges that she’s forgiven.

“I guess I just keep thinking about it,” she goes on, choosing her words more carefully this time, “because it upsets me, thinking of you … there, all by yourself. I can’t imagine what it was like, all those years–”

“Not fun,” he says flatly, making her laugh.

“But I know you’d never forget me,” she says, thinking back to the words she threw at Michael in this very room and feeling the truth of them in her bones still. She huffs a laugh at her own confidence. “If that’s not too big-headed a thing to say.”

“Not in the slightest,” Lucifer says, ridiculously pleased.

He grins at her, cheeky and sweet and every single thing she wants, and a voice in the back of her mind starts to whisper that it’s too good – too good to be true, too good to last. The question she still hasn’t managed to ask starts to burn on her tongue again.

“And just for the record, Detective, you’re quite right,” he goes on, before she has the chance to say anything. “I never did.”

“Never did – what?” she asks, too distracted to recognise the weight of what he said.

“Forget you,” he says, and her attention snaps right back to the moment – to soft light and soft hands and the man she loves, saying things that make her warm all over.

Lucifer traces a gentle fingertip down her temple, the slight tremor returning as he gently brushes her bangs aside. And it’s this, Chloe realises, that is the real difference between him and his brother. Michael used the idea of those years in hell to explain away his coldness and his lies but in the real Lucifer – in her Lucifer – the cost of those years is just this, just the tremble in his hand at a simple touch.

“Not for a single day in a thousand,” he adds, more serious than she’s ever heard him.

Chloe kisses him so he doesn’t have to see the sudden flood of tears in her eyes.

“Well,” she says helplessly when they part, “how the hell am I ever meant to top something like that?”

Lucifer hums a delighted laugh. “Just kiss me again.”

She obliges him with a fierce close-mouthed kiss but this time her traitorous thoughts refuse to stray, settling firmly on the question still waiting on her tongue.

His answer won’t change what she wants but she realises, with a sudden clarity that brings courage, that she can’t possibly take him to bed without knowing if this is a first time or a last time, a hello or another goodbye.

“Lucifer,” she begins, pleased to hear no trace of anxiety leaking into the syllables of his name. “There’s – there’s something else that Amenadiel said that I need to ask you about.”

“Well, he certainly has been chatty, hasn’t he? Not that I mind of course,” Lucifer adds hastily, taking her hand and giving it a squeeze, “if this is the result.”

Chloe smiles, charmed out of her nervousness for a moment. “The thing is, when Amenadiel came into the precinct the other morning I – I thought it might mean that you were ... y’know … gone again, I guess and–”

Lucifer’s face falls, the way it always does when he thinks he’s disappointed her. “Oh, Detective, I’m so sorry, I should’ve–”

“No, no, it’s okay,” she says, intertwining their fingers and pulling their joined hands forward to rest on her thigh. “I know you didn’t know he was coming in–”

“You know I couldn’t …” He works his jaw, as if the words are trapped there. “I wouldn’t have gone without–”

“I know, I know. It was just for a moment,” she says, shaking her head as if that might shake off the memory of the fear that gripped her when Amenadiel walked up to her desk. “But then – then Amenadiel said that everything in hell had been … taken care of?”

“That’s the word on the celestial street, yes,” Lucifer says tightly, not quite casually reaching his free hand to take a long drink from his whiskey glass.

“Oh.” Chloe gasps out a slight laugh that sounds more than a little hysterical to her ears. “Okay.”

“Detective, you’re quite safe, I assure you,” he says quickly, eyes wide with alarm. “The demons are completely contained–”

“No, no, it’s not that,” she says, even as her heart breaks that he seems to think she’s asking about her safety and not his freedom.

“I would never have risked–”

“I know you’d never let the demons hurt anyone on Earth.” Another slightly hysterical laugh escapes her. “Which, honestly, is a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself say.”

“Well, ‘anyone’ might be a bit of a stretch,” Lucifer jokes, with a smile that’s too brittle to be real. “But not you, certainly. Or the Urchin. Or Charlie. Or the Doctor. Or–”

“Lucifer?”

“Yes?”

“Shut up, I’m trying to ask you something important.”

He snaps his mouth closed obediently, looking expectantly at her.

“When – when you came back, you said you couldn’t … stay,” she begins haltingly, addressing the buttons on his shirt, too afraid she’ll see the answer in his eyes before she gets the words out. “Not for long.”

“I did,” he says, carefully neutral.

“And I understand,” she rushes to add, perilously close to babbling now, “if that’s still true, I – I understand. It won’t change anything, even if it’s …” Her voice nearly gives out. “If it’s just tonight. Even if you have to go, I still want this. Want you.”

Quite suddenly, Chloe is the one shaking. She releases his hand so he doesn’t have to feel it and though she still hasn’t looked up at his face, her mind supplies a flash of hurt in his familiar eyes when she lets go.

“But Lucifer, if what Amenadiel said is right ... if everything in Hell really is handled…”

She trails off, her courage faltering. Twisting her hands together in her lap, she takes a few breaths, counting the black and white keys in front of her until Lucifer reaches out and closes both his hands around hers, stilling her nervous motions.

Even without looking at his face, she can sense the tension thrumming through him. He might have it restrained and roped down but it’s there in all the tells that maybe only she knows – the chill in his perpetually warm hands and the way his usually languid frame is suddenly far too still.

Once again, Chloe finds herself transported back to that night on the balcony, the memory so sharp she can almost feel the breeze on her face.

Please. Please. Don’t go.

She sighs out his name, lifting her chin to meet his gaze at last.

And that’s when she sees it – the light in his eyes that wasn’t there that night.

An unmistakable flicker of hope, barely restrained, is peeking out from behind his carefully calm facade and an answering feeling blazes in her chest, a flame lit by his match. Suddenly she’s not afraid of the question anymore.

This time, she doesn’t ask him not to go.

This time, she says, “Will you stay with me?”

All the tension bleeds out of him at her words, every line of him softening.

“Would you like me to stay?” he asks, very quietly.

From anyone else’s lips the question might have a ring of arrogance, when the answer is surely so obvious. But Chloe knows him well, right down to his ancient bones, so she understands the hesitation in his words, the uncertainty in him that is as old as time.

“Yes.” Vulnerability is what she promised him so Chloe doesn’t try to mask her feelings. She lets the weight of them land in her words, hearing herself sound hopeful and desperate and very much in love. “More than anything.”

Lucifer closes his eyes briefly, his lips lifting as her words wash over him. His hands are still holding hers, his palms warm again against her skin now, and when he opens his eyes there’s something that might be gratitude hiding in his smile. She doesn’t like it.

“You know you don’t need my permission, though,” Chloe says carefully, knowing it’ll niggle at her if she doesn’t. “Right?”

Lucifer looks genuinely baffled by that and it twists something in her heart.

“Yes, but–”

“Lucifer, this is important,” she says, twisting slightly in her seat so she can face him properly. She removes her hands from under his, lifting them to rest her palms flat against his chest. “Do you want to stay?”

His heart races under her hands.

“I…” For a moment he looks cornered, his gaze darting around the room like an animal in a trap, but then his eyes settle back on hers and whatever the feeling was, fight or flight, it drains right out of him.

“Yes,” he says, his voice barely audible, and then a little louder, “I want to stay.”

His lips lift again but this time there’s nothing grateful in the tremulous, fragile smile he gives her. Chloe lifts her hands from his chest, flapping them vaguely to indicate that she wants him in her arms. Lucifer obliges willingly, turning his cheek and leaning to rest the weight of his head against her collarbone, his arms winding around her back.

“More than anything,” he murmurs her own words back to her, a whisper against the fabric of her jacket.

“Well then,” Chloe says, relief lending a tremble to her voice, “I guess that’s settled.”

Lucifer laughs softly, tightening his arms around her. “It would seem so.”

It’s a clumsy embrace, made awkward by the way they’re sitting side by side, but Chloe has no intention of letting him go just yet. She lifts her hand from his back to run her fingers through his hair, feeling him go boneless under her touch. He hums a pleased note in the back of his throat so she repeats the motion, smoothing her hand from his crown down to the short hair at the back of his neck. He melts a little more against her with every pass of her hands until, quite suddenly, a shock of something seems to run through him and he draws back.

“Lucifer, what–”

He moves his arms from her back to her shoulders, large warm hands holding her in place in front of him.

“I don’t have to go back,” he says, like it’s genuinely only just occurred to him.

“Yeah…” Chloe scrunches her face up. “Didn’t we just establish that?”

Lucifer lets out a choked, incredulous laugh.

“I don’t have to go back,” he repeats, sounding more certain this time. He gives her shoulders a tiny shake, like he can’t quite keep his feelings inside. “I’m – I’m staying.”

“Yeah, I know.” She finds herself smiling back at him, unable to resist the broad grin that’s spreading over his face. His mercurial moods are nothing new but this is something else, even for him. “I know you are.”

Lucifer laughs again, bright and childlike, and Chloe realises with a jolt that she’s never seen him look quite so unburdened. Joy brightens every aspect of him, the pure light of it shining in his warm eyes, and for maybe the first time since she found out the truth about him, Chloe really, truly believes that he was the one who lit the stars in the sky. She almost pities the rest of humanity, that they’ll never see what she sees when she looks at him. Amenadiel was right, this is a gift, and Lucifer is her miracle as much as she is his.

“I’m staying,” he repeats yet again, with another laugh. He lets go of her shoulders, leaning in to brush a kiss against her lips that’s so quick she barely has time to react. “We’ve got time, Detective! Bags of it!”

“Did this really not occur to you until now?” she says, laughing along with him. Because she can. Because suddenly everything is funnier than before.

“Well, you know me, Detective,” he says, shrugging, “I can get a little hyper-fixated–”

“Understatement of the century,” she mutters under her breath.

Lucifer pulls a face at her because miracle or not, he’s also an overgrown child. She shakes her head, feeling almost absurdly fond of him.

“I really didn’t think I could stay at first and – and then I was just so focused on making things right with you,” he explains, reaching for his drink and knocking back what’s left. “I really didn’t let myself think beyond that–”

“Even after Amenadiel came back?”

“Not really.” He smiles softly at her, shrugging helplessly. “You mattered more.”

Chloe melts a little at the unvarnished truth he always offers, even as she rolls her eyes at his absurdly single-minded attitude. “You’re unbelievable.”

“Why thank you,” he says with a smug grin, taking the compliment she wasn’t really offering, as usual.

It crosses her mind that she’d very much like to kiss that stupid smile right off his face and she realises, with a rush of pleasure, that she absolutely can. He’s still grinning when she pulls him towards her by the edges of his vest and presses her lips to his.

Lucifer hums a delighted sound of surprise against her lips and warmth floods through her at the way he responds, reaching for her without a moment’s hesitation. She slides her hand up from his chest, away from his pounding heart, bringing it to rest at the hollow of his throat, her thumb brushing the underside of his jaw. He sucks her bottom lip into his mouth and Chloe lets out a whimper of approval that makes his hand tighten on her arm.

Suddenly she can’t seem to get close enough and she lets out a grumble of frustration, twisting awkwardly on the stool as she tries to bridge the distance. She ends up overbalancing, breaking their kiss as she half falls into his lap, her hand landing dangerously high on his thigh as she tries to steady herself.

Lucifer leans back with a sudden huff of surprise. “Well, well,” he says, looking as pleased as she is embarrassed, “I always knew you’d end up throwing yourself at me, Detective.”

Chloe pulls a face, removing her hand and enjoying the way he pouts a little at the loss. He leans back in towards her, chasing her lips as she teases him by leaning away. Lucifer smiles at that, his eyes darkening at this simplest of games, and the sudden heat in his gaze is enough to make her cave.

She’s just about to let him kiss her when her phone starts to buzz in her pocket. Deciding to delay his victory, she places a finger on his lips, flashing him an innocent smile. “Hold that thought.”

Lucifer grumbles his disapproval as she lifts the phone to her ear, still not removing her finger from his lips.

“Ella, what’s up?”

It backfires on her really, answering the call. She lets her finger drop from Lucifer’s lips as she listens to the reason for Ella’s call and she knows the disappointment must show on her face because Lucifer’s face falls even before she says, “Okay, be right there.”

She hangs up, turning her attention back to Lucifer to find him looking at her with what he clearly considers are the most persuadable puppy dog eyes in his repertoire. She does not intend on telling him that it almost works.

“I’m sorry,” she says, patting him idly on the arm. “Duty calls. A body just dropped.”

“Well that’s very inconvenient.”

“I know,” she says patiently, rolling her eyes at him. “People really must start dying on a better schedule for you.”

“Exactly.”

“C’mon, Lucifer, let’s go.”

“Do we have to?” Even for him, the pout is impressive.

“Oh, come on,” she says, taking a leaf out of his book by putting on her most convincing tone. “You know ... we really haven’t had much chance to work together since you got back. It could be fun…”

“I can think of something infinitely more fun.”

“Later.”

He beams at her. “Is that a promise, Detective?”

“Lucifer, you said it yourself, we’ve got time.” She puts on his accent, parroting his words back to him. “Bags of time.”

“I can’t believe that backfired on me so quickly,” he says, with a huff. “Oh very well, you win.”

Lucifer spins around smoothly at the end of the stool, unfolding his long legs and standing up in one elegant motion. He turns back, offering her his hand and she somewhat less gracefully swings her legs around and stands up.

He doesn’t let go of her hand when she’s upright, tugging her towards him instead and enfolding her in an unexpected hug, his arms locking tightly around her back. She lets out a squeak of surprise as he effortlessly lifts her right off her feet, swaying slightly on the spot and breathing out a sigh, his breath warm against her neck.

She blinks at him, momentarily speechless, when he lets her down.

“Okay,” he says, like nothing just happened. “Now we can go.”

Lucifer retrieves cufflinks from his pockets and starts rolling his sleeves back down, and even though she’s seen him do this countless times before, it somehow feels strangely intimate, almost like watching him undress. She hands him his jacket but he doesn’t take it from her hands, just spins around and holds out his arms, letting her slip it on for him. It’s only when she’s smoothing the fabric down his broad shoulders, her breath starting to flutter high in her chest, that she realises he’s doing this on purpose.

“Lucifer,” she says softly, running her hand slowly down his arm and moving to his side. She lets her hand tangle with his, lets him see the desire she knows is in her eyes, and only when he starts to lean towards her does she start moving, all but dragging him towards the elevator. “Nice try, let’s go.”

“I have no idea what you mean, Detective,” he says, seemingly content to be pulled along.

“Yeah, yeah,” she says, smiling despite herself.

She drops his hand to reach for the elevator control panel and he comes to a stop beside her, maintaining a respectable distance from her side for as long as it takes the elevator doors to shut. The second they do, he closes his hand around her hips, spinning her round and walking her deliberately backwards.

“What are you doing?” she says, even though she knows exactly what the look in his eyes means as he slowly backs her up against the elevator wall.

“Call it a preview,” he says, and heat pools low in her belly as he steps right into her space, the entire length of his lower body pressed flush against her.

“Lucifer, we have to go,” she protests, or tries to. It’s less than convincing when her hands seem to be moving of her own accord, slipping under his jacket and around his waist. “We really don’t have time.”

“Detective, this lift takes at least thirty seconds to get downstairs,” he says, his voice playful even as his eyes grow dark. He smiles, eyes sparkling, and she knows what he’s going to say even before he opens his mouth. “Bags of time.”

Lucifer traces a finger along her jaw, achingly slow despite the short time, and there’s no tremor in the movement at all. It’s that fact, more than anything, that steals away the last of her resistance.

“Go on then,” she says, giving him an expectant smile. “Prove it.”

Lucifer’s delighted laughter fills her ears as she leans up onto her toes, close enough to whisper against his lips. “Tick, tock, Lucifer.”

Thirty seconds really is quite a long time, she discovers.