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my heart beats in patterns to the broken sound

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“Whoa,” Laura says the second they step inside, and then immediately hates herself forever. Whoa. Way to play up the cool there, Wilson. Ace work! You’re definitely going to get Baal to see you as something besides Lucifer’s fangirl that way.

But it’s difficult to not whoa. When Baal brought them to the Pantheon before, she saw the mural and the Tron-with-ambitions decor and thought she’d seen all of it but this is – really nice. Really, really nice. She’s pretty sure the modern art – thing over in the corner costs more than her parents make. In a year. Both of them. Combined.

Baal looks over his shoulder at her, sees her ogling the Art Thing, and makes a pissed-off sort of scoffing noise between his teeth. “I didn’t decorate it,” he says. “My choice, there’d be a lot more—”

“Full-size murals of you?” Laura says.

Baal gives her a grin that is too much teeth. “Exactly.” Standing there it’s so viscerally clear the he’s a god; she doesn’t know how other people don’t see it, how they could possibly doubt. It’s the same thing that tugged her towards Lucifer, that has sent her stumbling to every show she could get to – the heady feeling of leaning over a cliff, the air right after lightning, the rollercoaster-drop made flesh.

Really, really nice flesh. He looks good. That’s her point.

…she’s staring. She goes back to looking at the Art Thing. It definitely makes just as much sense as it did a few seconds ago. She wants to curl up and die.

“So,” Baal says, and Laura looks back at him. He looks different with his shades off. Older. More tired.

“So,” she echoes, managing – with effort – to not stuff her hands into her pockets.

“Laura,” he says, voice like smoke on her name. “You know, I can’t figure out why she chose you. I’ve been looking and looking and I can’t figure it out.”

Ouch. “Maybe because I actually listened to her,” Laura says, “when she said she didn’t do it.”

Baal makes that scoff again: tch. “Rookie mistake,” he says. “She’s a liar. The great snake, or however that fucking story went. I never looked her up. The devil, y’know? With her you always knew exactly what you were in for.”

Like sleeping with your boyfriend? leaps to the tip of Laura’s tongue, but that’s the sort of thing that gets you electrocuted and then punched. Lucifer is a sore ache in her chest, like the space in her gum where a tooth used to be. Raw and aching. She crosses her arms over her chest, hugs them to her body.

“You really cared about her, didn’t you,” says Baal. Laura shrugs a shoulder, an awkward lopsided agreement.

“Fuck,” Baal sighs. “Sorry.” He shakes his head, sighs, wanders across the room and sits on the couch in a way that’s familiar and easy and – not like that couch is a painful-looking piece of modern art (which it is). Laura follows him, perches on the edge of the couch before thinking better of it and trying to affect his disinterested sprawl. Mostly it just feels awkward; she stops.

“She wrecked my shit,” Baal says, staring somewhere into the distance, seeing something that isn’t the expensive lines of the room. “And then I wrecked hers, and now she’s dead. Feels like it should be even, right? But it’s not. And I can’t make it even, ‘cause—”

“She’s dead,” Laura says. The words linger in the air, small and sad. She sucks in a breath, says: “Is that why I’m here?”

Baal looks at her sideways, just a slight tilt of the head. “Might be.”

Is she offended? Laura decides she isn’t. “And?” she says. “Feel better?”

“No.”

“Glad to help.”

Baal actually turns all the way to look at her, and then gives a bit of a laugh. “Bet you’re glad you came, huh,” he says. “In my defense, I didn’t think we were gonna do much talking.”

“Are you telling me you didn’t bring me here for therapy?”

“No offense,” Baal says, “but you seem like you’d be terrible at that.”

“Oh, I would be,” Laura says. She swallows. “So. Why am I here, then?”

Baal just looks at her, eyebrows raised. Laura’s stomach does a flip. “Oh,” she says, out loud, like an idiot. “Is this the part where we—”

“Laura,” Baal says, and Laura’s mouth closes with a sound that she can actually hear. “You don’t actually ask if it’s the part. You just kind of let it happen.”

“Yeah,” she says. “I – I knew that.” She slides a little closer on the couch. Baal looks off to the side, shakes his head, rolls his eyes in apparent amusement. Then he’s closed the distance between them on the couch, faster than she can see, and he’s kissing her.

It’s the best kiss she’s ever had, and part of that – weirdly enough – is just because there isn’t anything especially godly about it. It’s not like there’s sparks, not like Baal’s mouth tastes like ozone; he’s just a good kisser, confident in a way that says he knows it. Laura’s hand is on his upper arm, and she can feel the flex of his muscles beneath the fabric of his shirt. She’s leaning forward so far she’s surprised she hasn’t fallen over. It’s difficult to fight the urge to just – crawl into Baal’s lap, lose herself completely in him. In this.

But Baal is coaxing her down onto the couch and he’s over her – looming might be the word, his broad shoulders, the way he blocks the light. Laura wants to touch him; she wants to make him into the sort of person that she could touch. For a moment they just look at each other. Baal reaches out and brushes a piece of hair out of her face, the gesture uncharacteristically gentle.

“Laura,” he says, and already it sounds nostalgic, smoke again, here and gone. “Do you want this?”

“Uh-huh,” Laura says, breathless, and Baal smirks and leans back down.