Linda woke slowly to the rich, warm smell of frying eggs and browning butter, and for a few delicious moments she drifted pleasantly in half-sleep, feeling warm and comfortable as her mind conjured images of hot coffee, a plate full of breakfast and a lingering good-morning kiss at the dining room table. There was no better way to wake up on a weekend morning than to the promise of a delicious meal with a loved one. Sighing contentedly, she rolled over with a little hum of pleasure, and promptly fell off the bed, jostling the bedside table noisily on her way down.
“Fuck.” The expletive was mostly a breathless groan. The impact knocked the wind out of her, but served to wake her all at once, and Linda quickly realized several important things as she opened her eyes: she was not in her bed (she was not even in her apartment), the sun was far too bright, and there was a small child in pink pajamas looking down at her with a perplexed frown.
“Are you okay?” The girl’s brow furrowed a little as she leaned down to peer more closely at Linda’s face, but she wasn’t so concerned that she put down the toasted sandwich in her left hand or the glass of juice in her right. In fact, she punctuated the question by taking an enormous bite of the sandwich. Linda blinked up at her blearily, utterly confused and not at all sure how to answer the question. Was she okay? She was sore from hitting the floor, the way that the morning sunlight burned her eyes suggested she was either sick or hung over, and her stomach was lurching a bit unpleasantly watching the child’s enthusiastic breakfast consumption.
Linda licked her lips, tasted tequila and a few other similarly-bad decisions, and grimaced. Definitely a hangover, then, which was maybe why she’d been vaguely dreaming of waking up to a partner cooking breakfast, something laughably improbable. But while she might have briefly forgotten where she was and the fact that she’d been divorced for over a decade, even that much booze hadn’t erased the knowledge of Lucifer and Maze’s true natures. Wait. Maze. That was it; she had spent the evening out with Maze, but she couldn’t remember clearly how the evening had ended. She sifted through hazy, tequila-soaked memories as she started to pull herself back onto the bed. If she had spent the night with Maze (and the decadent black satin sheets on the bed that she had just fallen out of suggested that she had most definitely spent the night) that meant she was either in hell (it certainly felt like it) or… Her train of thought was interrupted by a concerned and familiar voice calling from another room.
“Trixie, are you okay? Did you fall-”
“I’m okay!” Trixie yelled back over her shoulder. Linda startled and sat down on the floor again abruptly, gasping and clutching her forehead.
“Shhhhh…” she whispered breathlessly. “Please. Just. Let’s be quiet for now, okay?”
“Okay,” the girl whispered back solemnly. “Is this a game? Are Mommy and Lucifer playing?”
Linda swallowed hard and fumbled on the bedside table for her glasses, attempting to rub any two likely brain cells together and come up with a reply. Heaving a ragged breath, she dabbed gingerly at the corners of her eyes, not wanting to rub any remaining eyeliner into panda marks if it could be helped, before setting the glasses on her face carefully, her lips stretching into a strained smile as she took in the little girl’s curious expression more clearly.
“Are they play…yes. Yes they are. And we have to be quiet, because they can’t know I’m here,” Linda whispered emphatically. Trixie grinned and took another bite of her sandwich, nodding so that her pigtails bounced.
“I’m really good at these kinds of games,” she said with almost amused confidence.
"I just bet you are. Oh, and, sweetie, can I have a little sip of your juice, please?”
“How much are you paying?”
The Night Before the Morning After
“You know what surprised me the most? I actually expected humans to have more fight in them while they were still alive. I thought that chasing them down in this world would be harder, but it’s actually pretty much the same. They do resist,” Maze observed, pausing to down the last mouthful of liquor from her tumbler, ice rattling in the glass as she drained it.
“Just not that much, most of them,” she added after a moment’s thought. Linda quickly lowered her gaze to her own full glass, lips pressed together in a taut line. Maze followed her dropped gaze and leaned forward slowly, almost hesitantly, and huffing out an exasperated, breathy sigh. She propped her elbows on the table with uncharacteristic gracelessness, frowning.
“If I’d known you were going to be such a cheap date I would have brought you someplace nicer, Linda.”
Underneath the teasing comment was a hint of sharpness or even petulance in Maze’s voice. It startled Linda, and she jerked her gaze up from the polished tabletop to Maze’s face once more, fingers clutching restlessly at her glass as she pulled it across the table toward her chest. She half-expected to see a twisted, hellish - literally hellish - visage staring her down. Even the quickly-stifled memory of Lucifer’s true face that the thought prompted was enough to stir a ripple of goosebumps shivering along her limbs. But it was only Maze sat across the table, her lips quirked somewhere between irritation and humor, a familiar mix of impatience and self-satisfaction in her expression. But something strange and almost shadowed lurked behind her eyes, too, and it gave Linda pause. Like a deer caught in the proverbial headlights, she stared, unblinking, trying to make sense of it.
That’s when she saw it – while staring openly, caught between fear and curiosity and entirely unable to look away. Maze flinched from Linda’s naked regard, her hand fluttering vaguely toward her face before she hesitated and instead pushed her hair back over her shoulder in an ostentatious sweeping motion. Hurt in her expression gave way to defensiveness and narrowed eyes, though Linda marked the way Maze brushed her thumb against her cheek deliberately while bringing her hand back down to the table, and it took all of Linda’s self-control to bite her lip on the desire to reassure Maze that her human mask was still firmly in place, the same way she would have checked for any friend that her panty-line was invisible or the seams of her fishnets straight.
Her impulsive reaction to the self-conscious gesture from Maze shook Linda from her near-fugue and against all better judgment she finally picked up her glass and drank deeply from it as she cast her gaze wildly around the room, still not entirely certain that she wasn’t dreaming. The days since Lucifer had left her sitting alone in her office, shaking like a leaf and clinging desperately to what felt like the last remaining shreds of her sanity had been strange ones. She’d first tried to rationalize what she’d seen, but she’d quickly realized even her own inventive imagination was not up to that task. She’d then spent a considerable amount of time engaged in admittedly sloppy self-diagnosis, an inadvisable practice for any psychological professional in her situation, but what was she going to do, talk to the asshole angel about it? Laughter threatened to bubble out of her chest at the thought but she fought it down, and then drowned it with another long swallow of her drink for good measure. Only then could she meet Maze’s frustrated gaze squarely and steadily.
“Maze. I can’t…I can’t just pretend that nothing’s changed,” Linda said finally. Maze rolled her eyes.
“We already had this conversation. Nothing has changed.”
“You are a demon-”
“Yeah, and I’ve been that way since just after the dawn of creation, it’s hardly a recent development.”
“- and Lucifer is literally the dev-wait, so how long after is ‘just’ exactly?” Linda asked, cocking her head and frowning. Maze shrugged.
“It was before I was born, how should I know? Not so long. God’s little quote-unquote social experiment went off the rails pretty quickly. It didn’t take much.” A hint of smugness curled the corner of Maze’s lips into something near a smile.
“Just Lucifer,” Linda muttered weakly into her drink before taking another swallow. But Maze shook her head.
“Look, I know he talks pretty much non-stop, but have you actually listened to what Lucifer’s said in any of these sessions he pays you for? I mean, before he made you see the truth, what did you think his problem was?” Maze asked. When Linda hesitated, stuck on the notion that this line of discussion with a client’s…friend? Colleague? Employee? Minion? Whatever it was, whoever she was, whoever it was with, it was certainly inappropriate. Maze shook her head impatiently.
“Never mind, I’ll tell you. Family drama, right? Highly critical, distant father who had trouble expressing his feelings? Self-absorbed mother who encouraged and catered to every whim as long as it served her purposes? Don’t look so surprised, I did actually read that article on narcissism and codependency that you pushed at me. Well, you’re not wrong about Lucifer’s family. Except for thinking they’re living in Europe somewhere.” Maze gestured vaguely upward toward what Linda assumed to be Heaven, and then turned it into a wave, catching the bartender’s attention before pointing down at their empty drink glasses. Linda opened her mouth, closed it, and pressed her fingertips to her brow, right where it was starting to ache, though whether from the conversation’s turns or downing the liquor too quickly, she wasn’t certain.
“You still defend him so quickly, despite everything,” Linda said slowly, a portion of her brain busily filing away these descriptions of Lucifer’s parents while another, different portion laughed uproariously at her feeble coping mechanisms. As if she could psychoanalyze God – who was she kidding?
“In the entire history of existence, I’ve only stopped prioritizing the protection of his stupid ass these past few weeks. It’s going to take some time to stop being so automatic. Anyway. That article was interesting, even though I don’t think Lucifer is a narcissist. And I’m not just defending him,” Maze added emphatically.
“As much as I appreciate your insights, I didn’t give you the article because of what it said about Lucifer.”
Maze only grunted by way of reply as the bartender approached with fresh drinks, silently and swiftly depositing them and whisking away the empties. Maze watched him critically with an expert’s eye, and apparently found his service at least tolerable, nodding to herself as they were left alone once more. Turning back to Linda, her expression a little wary, she spread her hands as if in invitation.
“So what do you want to know?” Maze squared her shoulders resolutely as she posed the question, as if preparing herself for a headlong rushing attack. Linda leaned back in her seat, holding up her hands briefly with palms out before resting them on the table.
“How are you doing with all this?” The question was apparently unexpected, as Maze only stared in response for a long moment.
“Isn’t that my line?” she finally said, brow furrowing slightly. Linda shook her head.
“I just meant, you seemed surprised that Lucifer, as you put it, “showed” me…what he did.” Linda was proud that she hesitated only a little at the memory. “Does it bother you that he blew your cover, so to speak?”
“He literally says he’s the devil constantly. He calls me a demon in front of everybody,” Maze scoffed. “If that’s cover, it’s really shitty.”
“You do have cover now, though,” Linda countered, wondering if she was about to literally play with fire by pushing a demon to open up about what was really bothering her. “An apartment. A job. A paycheck…”
“A friend,” Maze interjected, heat in her voice. “I’m not worried about any of that. It’s good, I like what I’ve figured out so far since striking out on my own, but I could get any of those things again if I lost them today. But now I’m afraid he might scare people off and I’ll lose them. Still am, even though he does that kind of thing all the time.” It was Linda’s turn to sit back, not entirely surprised by the root of Maze’s discontent, but a little disconcerted by her vehemence.
“You said I handled it well…does that mean...?” she trailed off, not entirely sure how to ask, and not entirely sure she wanted to know.
“Screaming, sobbing, complete breaks with reality, pissing themselves, running into traffic or through windows are some of the reactions I’ve seen before. So, yeah, you’re doing great,” Maze said with a weak smile.
“I think I was too shocked to do any of those things. I froze,” Linda admitted. “But I asked for honesty.”
“He’ll always give you honesty. He may lie to himself, and he might bluster and bullshit, but he won’t lie to you,” Maze said firmly. “And neither will I.”
Shaking her head slowly, Linda picked up her glass once more and gently tapped it to the one in Maze’s hand with a solemn expression.
“It’s a good start."
After some negotiating, Trixie left to go brush her teeth ten dollars richer and Linda closed the door to Maze's bedroom firmly, sagging against the doorframe with a soft groan and resting her forehead against the wall. Maze wasn't even in the apartment, per Trixie's report, and God knows where she'd gone or if she'd be back. Or...Devil-knows? Perhaps, but he was apparently in the kitchen eating breakfast, so maybe not. Linda could hear the vague murmur of voices from the other room, but beyond distinguishing Chloe's soft buzz from Lucifer's slightly louder, almost purring tone, she couldn't make out a word of the conversation, which was probably for the best. She'd just have to wait until they left - Trixie had assured her that they would - and then somehow get home. And find her car. And maybe her dignity...
"You don't want to know what they're talking about. It's nauseating." Stifling a cry, Linda spun to see Maze lounging comfortably on the bed she'd recently vacated, sipping from a Starbucks cup.
"How...where were..." Linda trailed off awkwardly as Maze simply arched an eyebrow and pointed to the open window.
"Right. Why are you climbing in through the window of your own place?" Even as her heart rate approached something approximating normal, Linda found herself struggling to keep up with the world this morning.
"They're apparently having a moment out there and ugh, nobody needs to see that. Come on, I brought you a croissant." Maze patted the bed next to her, and Linda finally noticed the cup and paper bag on the bedside table.
"I got your car from the garage and parked it around the corner," Maze continued while Linda sipped hesitantly at the coffee and sighed with relief.
"What happened last night?" she finally asked.
"We had a drink," Maze said, before clarifying further. "We had a lot of drinks. I was going to drive us both back here, but you insisted on getting a cab." Her exasperation was almost fond.
Maze's story began to sound vaguely familiar. "You drank just as much as I did. Neither of us was fit to drive," Linda objected. She settled on the bed, propping herself up against the headboard shoulder-to-shoulder with Maze as the other woman snorted.
"I don't get drunk," she huffed, as if offended at the very notion. While Linda had faint memories that seemed to support a contrary opinion, she held her peace and fished about in the paper bag for the croissant, humming a little with approval when it proved to be chocolate-filled.
"Well, thank you for humoring me, then," Linda said. "And thank you for...an enlightening evening. Even if I can't recall all of it right now, I'm pretty sure we had a good time." Linda broke off a corner of the pastry and proffered it to Maze silently. She accepted it with an almost shy smile and took a bite, apparently unconcerned by the crumbs falling to the sheets.
"Me too," Maze replied after a moment of companionably silent eating.
"So," Maze began a moment later, a hint of amusement in her voice. "How much did you end up paying Trixie?" When the only response that question earned was a glare, Maze just grinned and Linda, rather unexpectedly, found herself returning it.
It was a start.