“I’m sorry,” Lucifer said, bewilderment thick in his tone. “This is a what?”
“A compliment box!” Ella shook the shoebox at him cheerfully. The shiny red decorative foil crinkled with the gesture. Lucifer, who had been lounging in a stool against her work table, set down his phone and eyed the box with extreme distrust. She elaborated.
“You just – I dunno. You seem like you’ve been kind of down, lately. So I made a box and went around the precinct and asked people to write down a compliment to pass along to you. When you need a little pick-me-up, you can just reach in and, boom, instant little burst of happiness. Here, like this,” she said and reached into the box and pulled out a note.
“Lucifer,” she read, “The things you can do with your tongue – woah!” Ella paused, reading the rest of the note silently. Lucifer watched her eyebrows rise by degrees.
“Ha!” Ella laughed nervously. “Ha. Ha ha. Okay, wow, that was… graphic. Moving on!” She balled up the lewd praise and pulled out another note.
“Your cock is oh my god,” Ella stopped again. She fished out another note.
“Okay,” she said, relieved, skimming, “Okay, here we go; ‘Your suits are pure class. I love how they look on you. I’d love even more how…they’d look… on my floor…’”
Ella lowered the box, defeated.
“Miss Lopez,” Lucifer said, and Ella scored a few mental points because he did, at least, look amused now. “What gave you the impression that I’ve been ‘down,’ lately?”
“Buddy,” Ella said, and put a hand on his arm. She paused. “Okay, first of all, damn son, there are guns hiding under that suit!” She squeezed appreciatively, then continued, “And secondly, man, you’ve been, I dunno. Kinda sulking, a bit. Did the acting gig fall flat?”
Lucifer sighed and rolled his eyes.
“I am not an actor,” he said. “I actually am the devil.”
Ella nodded. “Okay, well, that’s good. I’m glad you’re still working on the role, then. So – did you and Chloe have a fight?”
“Not… to my knowledge,” Lucifer said slowly, considering. “It’s often hard to tell, with her, what will cause offense. But I don’t think so. We’ve been making good progress on the case.”
Lucifer looked at Ella, contemplating, and then inclined his head.
“If you must know,” he said, “There’s a particular aged whiskey that I’m very fond of. And this,” he pulled out his flask and regarded it morosely, “Is the very last of it in existence.”
“Aw, man, that sucks. Was it a short run or something?”
“Not particularly, no, not in the year it was made. It’s just that I’ve drunk the rest of it.”
Ella gave him a commiserating nod. She squeezed his arm again.
“Well, Lucifer, you should enjoy it to the last drop,” she said decisively. She set the compliment box down on her table and leaned back, smiling brightly at him.
Lucifer unscrewed the top of his flask and, after a pause, took a long swallow. He sighed.
“It really is very good,” he said. And, then, with a little smile, he offered the flask to Ella.
Ella’s eyebrows bounced in surprise.
“You sure?” she asked. Lucifer’s smile widened, and there was something playful in his eyes. Ella took the offered flask and tried the whiskey – not drinking as deeply as Lucifer, but not a sip either.
The liquor rolled over her tongue. Ella had known it’d be good. Lucifer was definitely embracing the whole ‘man of wealth and taste’ thing. But she hadn’t realized it’d be this good.
She handed the flask back.
“Oh,” she said blankly.
“And that’s the very last of it?”
He nodded again.
“Now you see why I’ve been… ‘down’?” he asked dryly.
“Yep,” Ella said. “I totally get it. Well, while I’m sure your liver would appreciate the break, if you ever want to have lesser drinks and toast the memory of that badass whiskey, you just let me know.”
Lucifer returned the flask to his breast pocket.
“I just may do that, Miss Lopez.”
Ella offered Lucifer her fist and he, obligingly, bumped it.
Chloe had banished Lucifer from her desk, again, and Lucifer had found his way into Ella’s lab. Her stereo was playing Alanis Morissette’s “You Outta Know,” and Lucifer surprising let it go without comment.
He sat on one of her lab stools, slowly eating pudding from a cup that was clearly labeled “Dan,” and playing games on his phone. He seemed content, as near as Ella could tell, just to hang out in companionable quiet with her while she worked.
She glanced up from her microscope to jot down her notes and noticed him looking at her.
“What’s up?” she asked.
Lucifer shook off the day-dreaming look in his eyes, and leaned his head back, sighing. The little scar on his chin stood out sharply.
“You are irritatingly righteous, Miss Lopez,” he said, but the words were fond instead of insulting.
“Have you any idea,” Lucifer said, tipping his head back down to meet her eyes, “How many ‘faithful’ people go to Lux to try and make a deal with the devil?”
Ella squinted, then shrugged.
“Probably a lot, based on what that body language is telling me,” she waved a hand at him.
“There are so, so many hypocrites, charlatans, liars…” He snorted with disgust. “I detest liars.”
“Yeah, what’s up with that?” Ella asked, “Isn’t the big D-as-in-devil supposed to be the Prince of Lies?”
“Absolute slander,” Lucifer growled, looking genuinely angry.
“Okay,” Ella said quickly, holding her hands up in a ‘peace’ gesture.
She smirked at him.
“It’s a cool direction to take the character in, actually. Like poking a hole in the whole ‘the devil made me do it’ bull.”
Lucifer cocked his head at her.
“You don’t believe I make people do things?”
“I don’t believe the devil makes people do things,” Ella said, ignoring the way he rolled his eyes at her calling him out on acting.
He leaned forward, expression urging her to elaborate. She obliged.
“I mean, it runs contrary to the whole ‘free will’ thing, doesn’t it? I can be tempted to make immoral decisions, but whether or not I actually act on that temptation is on me. God can’t make me be good, the devil can’t make me be bad. It’s gotta be my choice. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
Lucifer smiled at her, warm and pleased, and didn’t reply.
“Hey,” Ella said, touching her own chin with her index finger. “How’d you get that scar?”
The smile melted off Lucifer’s face like a switch had been flipped. He blinked, and didn’t answer for a beat. Ella was about to change the subject, break the heavy atmosphere, when he spoke.
“When my rebellion was…defeated,” he said quietly. “When I was overwhelmed and beaten, shamed, and stood before the Host for judgement,” he ran his fingers over the mark, his eyes distant, bleak. “Before I was cast out… Michael put me to the point of his sword, and I was made to kneel.”
“Woah,” Ella said. “Woah, that is intense. Is that going to be in the movie?”
Lucifer sighed and went back to eating his stolen pudding.
Ella reveled in the occasions when she actually managed to corral her coworkers away from their busy lives and into a night out. On this particular night, it was dinner and drinks at one of her favorite hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurants. Dollar beer night, which had appalled Lucifer when he’d been talked into coming along with herself, Espinoza, and Decker.
The four of them were sat at a wobbly table with a sticky laminate surface. The menus were peeling. The place was poorly lit and the Spanish dance music was playing a bit too loudly. Still, the restaurant was perfumed with heavy spices and Ella’s mouth was watering before they even had drink orders placed.
Ella had expected Lucifer, with his pristine suit and posh accent, to kick up a fuss about the state of the place, but he surprised her by reading the menu with enthusiasm.
She nudged his knee with hers, and he glanced up with a smile at her raised eyebrow.
“I adore Mexican food,” he confided, understanding the question she hadn’t asked. “It’s one of the reasons I moved to LA.”
“From where?” Espinoza asked, aiming for nonchalance and missing the mark.
“Hell,” Lucifer replied easily, not missing a beat. Ella shook her head. The guy’s commitment to the character was absolute.
Dan lowered his menu.
“You picked up that accent in Hell,” he said flatly.
Lucifer smiled, winked, and didn’t answer.
Having heard Dan rant on the topic before, Ella knew it drove him bonkers that he couldn’t find any records for Lucifer that went back more than six years. Ella wasn’t sure how much of his research efforts were motivated by Lucifer’s partnership with Chloe, and how much of it was a desire to find dirt – or, at the very least, unflattering high school pictures - to retaliate with against the obvious delight Lucifer took in endlessly needling him.
The antagonism at least seemed friendly underneath at all, but it was still some pretty real antagonism.
“You guys remind me of my brothers,” Ella said, thinking of the way they bickered. She giggled when the both of them shot her horrified looks.
Their drinks arrived – three of the special ‘dollar beers,’ and soda glass that Lucifer had talked the waiter into filling with tequila under the argument that it would be so much less effort than having to bus the endless stream of shot glasses that he’d’ve been ordering instead.
“Ah, lovely,” Lucifer said, skimming through the menu again. “Miss Lopez, what do you recommend?”
“The chili rellenos here are pretty dope. That’s what I’m going for. Oh, or the chilaquiles. They do it with this tomatillo salsa that is just,” she kissed her fingertips, “Mwah. It’s pretty hot, though.”
“Hmmm, the chili rellenos sound good,” Lucifer mused, and Dan perked up.
“You’re backing away from a little heat? I thought you were the ruler of Hell,” he said, grinning a challenge.
“He’s more of a cool ranch guy, rather than a flaming hot,” Chloe said, obviously to poke him.
“For one, I used to rule Hell. I quit that job. And for two, cool ranch puffs are delicious.”
“Uh-huh,” Dan said, “I bet you cry if the jalapeños are too spicy.”
“I beg your pardon,” Lucifer said primly, clearly miffed.
Oh boy, Ella thought. This is exactly like a sibling squabble.
A group of people a few tables back were suddenly accosted by a cacophony of mariachi guitars as the restaurant did their equivalent of the ‘happy birthday’ song.
Lucifer smiled with pure mischief at Dan, and Dan immediately said; “Don’t you dare.”
Lucifer waved it off.
“Don’t worry. I won’t tell them it’s your birthday. You have my word,” he said, putting a hand over his heart dramatically.
Their waiter came around and they placed their orders, Dan interjecting with a “He’ll have the chilaquiles,” and pointing at Lucifer when it was his turn. Lucifer rolled his eyes, but shrugged and didn’t correct him.
“If Miss Lopez recommends them, I’m sure they’ll please.”
Ella preened at the compliment, even as doubt started to creep in. Even for her, the dish was hot.
“So,” Ella said, volleying a new topic out for the table, “What’s Trixie-girl up to these days?”
It made for an easy conversation, both Dan and Chloe doing the proud-parent-gushing thing. Lucifer mostly tuned out, slowly but steadily drinking his tall glass of tequila but having enough wherewithal to add the occasional bit of snarky commentary.
When the food arrived, Lucifer and Dan exchanged another of the ‘I’m-the-alpha-male-no-I’M-the-alpha-male’ looks.
“Oh my god, would you two just kiss already,” Chloe said, and it sufficiently chastised them into behaving.
Lucifer scooped up a forkful of his tortillas, shredded chicken, and spicy-ass salsa, and seemed to realize the entire table was watching him.
Ella couldn’t help it. It would be pretty funny if the guy method-acting as the devil himself couldn’t handle hot food.
Lucifer took the bite.
“Oh,” he said, surprised, “Oh that is very good, Miss Lopez. And I understand the warning.” He frowned, and, oddly, he looked at Chloe like she had anything to do with it. “That’s certainly a new sensation,” he added, once a beat had passed and the heat had a chance to set in.
Dan was visibly disappointed when Lucifer went back for another bite.
The meal progressed. Ella counted it as a win when her assertion that this restaurant was legit was heartily agreed upon by the quickly emptying plates of her coworkers.
“Excuse me, please; I’ll be back momentarily,” Lucifer said, rising from his chair and heading back towards the restrooms.
“He’s putting on a good front, but you can tell he’s affected,” Dan said smugly, as soon as Lucifer was out of earshot.
“Bruh,” Ella said, and patted him on the shoulder. “Give up. The dude will not break character.”
“His eyes were totally watering!” Dan insisted.
They kind of had been, but Ella shrugged. “They make my eyes water, too, man, and I grew up eating spicy stuff.”
When Lucifer came back to the table a few minutes later, his eyes were clear. His eyeliner was still a little smudged from sweat, but the flush was gone from his cheeks and any sign of discomfort had vanished. He drank the remains of his tequila, which Ella goggled at more than his mostly-lack-of-reaction to the spicy food. The man had to have the alcohol tolerance of a water buffalo.
When the mariachi band came out a few moments later, loudly belting out birthday salutations and placing a cracked, tacky-looking sombrero on Dan’s head, Ella wasn’t particularly surprised. Dan was, though.
“You said you wouldn’t tell them it’s my birthday!”
“I didn’t,” Lucifer said, affronted. “I told them your birthday was coming up.”
“In ten months! It’s not my birthday,” Dan tried to tell the band. They ignored him, and when the song got an encore, Ella had a suspicion Lucifer had perhaps bribed them to draw out Espinoza’s misery.
Both Lucifer and Chloe had their phones out to record the moment, matching expressions of schadenfreude on their faces.
Ella propped her chin on her hands, delighted. She chalked the evening up as a success.
Wednesday was never a particularly convenient night to try to wrangle a group together for an outing, but the case was sitting unpleasantly in Ella’s mind – enough, so, that she decided she’d rather spend the night out than stay at home and brood about it, even if it meant going out alone.
On a whim, she’d ordered a ride to Lux. She’d been working with Lucifer for a few months, now, and she had to admit she was curious.
Even on a Wednesday, there was a line outside. Ella was fine with waiting. It wasn’t more than half an hour later that she was near the front of the line - when the door slammed open, a somewhat scruffy looking thirty-something man pouring out, tripping over his own feet in his haste to run.
Ella’s analytical brain took in the details – the wide-eyed terror on his face, the rumpled button-down, no weapons, no obvious injuries. The bouncer’s complete lack of surprise or alarm.
The petrified man sprinted away, whimpering with fear, and disappeared around the corner.
The bouncer smirked after him, like it wasn’t the first time it had happened. There was something of a ‘serves you right’ in the expression on his face. He lifted the rope for the couple in front of Ella, gesturing them inside.
“You by yourself?” he asked Ella. When she nodded, he ushered her in as well.
Lux wasn’t quite how she’d pictured it. She’d been thinking Lucifer would lean into the persona and decorate the place in various shades of red. Maybe faux fireplaces, iron cages. Really evoke the Hell imagery.
Instead, the club seemed like any other upscale nightclub. The music was good; loud, but not deafening. The dancers, while definitely sexy, weren’t really lewd so much as generally hot. The couches looked hella comfortable.
It was a good vibe. Ella was glad she’d decided to come here.
She grabbed a seat at the bar. The bartender was a wonderful bit of eye-candy, and Ella beamed at him. She’d tended bar herself for a short while, paying her way through college. Stealing cars had been fun, but selling stolen cars had been a world of trouble that she hadn’t been interested in.
“So, what’s your pleasure?” the bartender asked, a little twinkle in his eye at an internal joke. Probably, Ella thought, it was some play on Lucifer’s ‘what do you desire’ schtick.
“Let’s start with a cosmo, please,” she said, handing over her card to start a tab.
She watched the bartender's forearms as he shook the cocktail. One of the definite perks of LA – there were so very many beautiful people.
He poured the drink with casual competence, sliding it over to her, and when he lingered for a beat, Ella decided to ask. The curiosity had been pricking at her.
“Did you see the guy who ran out of here, like ten minutes ago?”
Hotty McBartender’s eyes darkened, smile still fixed but not friendly anymore, although Ella was sure the anger wasn’t directed at her.
“Well, that’s a yes,” Ella said, nodding. “What was the deal with that?”
“He tried to roofie a drink. Boss had words with him about it.”
Ella’s eyebrows bounced in surprise.
“Put the fear of God in him, huh?” she asked.
“Quite the opposite,” Lucifer said, appearing at her shoulder.
“Lucifer! Hi!” she chirped, popping out of her seat to give him a hug. Lucifer grunted at the impact, holding himself stiffly. Ella had a deep suspicion that he didn’t mind being hugged nearly as much as he pretended to.
When she released him and sat back down, he took the seat next to her.
Hotty slid over a tumbler full of something amber-colored without being prompted, and Lucifer took a long swallow before turning to face her, elbow leaned on the bar, chin propped in his hand.
“Welcome to Lux,” he said, grinning. “Partying on a Wednesday night, Miss Lopez? I’m a little impressed.”
Ella rolled her glass between her hands.
“Just needed to get out of my head for a bit.”
“The case we just closed – the one Murphy’s team took point on? With the,” Ella drew a finger horizontally across her eyes. The vic had gotten slashed in the face, viciously, repeatedly. He’d been blinded with deliberate malice and had crawled around the apartment for a good several minutes before he’d bled out. She shivered.
“Getting blinded is, just, it’s in my top five fears, you know? So,” she held up her cosmo pointedly. “I’m hitting a reset button and trying to shake it off.”
“Patrick?” Lucifer said, not turning his head but turning his eyes in the bartender’s direction. Hotty – Patrick, apparently, leaned forward, attentive. “Miss Lopez drinks free at Lux. And make her drinks as dirty as she wants them.”
“You got it,” Patrick said, smiling his perfect Hollywood smile at her.
“I was going to play a set in a moment. Any requests?” Lucifer asked her, gesturing at the piano.
“Huh. I kinda figured you for a fiddle-of-gold kind of guy,” she teased, and outright laughed when Lucifer rolled his eyes.
“That bloody song. Souls are not a currency of any value whatsoever,” he said grouchily. “And the idea that I’d have a certain quota to meet is patently ridiculous. I competed, yes, but I will have you know I won that competition. The song completely misrepresented what actually happened.”
“You really play the fiddle?” Ella asked, delighted. The anecdote was funny, and Ella was sure it was mostly bullshit, but she also knew the best lies started with a grain of truth.
Lucifer adjusted his cuffs primly.
“I prefer the piano but, if you must know, yes, I play the violin.”
“Awesome,” Ella concluded.
Lucifer raised an eyebrow at her, but his smile was pleased.
“If you’ll excuse me,” he said, and to Patrick he added, “Whatever she wants,” and winked. Patrick nodded, not looking displeased with the insinuation. Ella grinned back at him, flattered, even if she didn’t intend on taking him up on it.
Lucifer moved to the piano.
Ella had suspected he’d be a good player. He certainly had the hands for it. She’d underestimated, though, how nice his voice was. The patrons of the club actually stopped what they were doing to listen and watch. And, of course, Lucifer soaked in the attention like sunlight.
When the song finished, Ella whistled and clapped, and Lucifer looked across the club to meet her eyes and smile wolfishly.
A woman, a six-foot tall blonde goddess of a woman, wearing an indecently tight dress, pressed herself up against Lucifer’s back and nibbled his ear. Lucifer allowed himself to be lured away from the piano.
Ella had expected him to take her straight upstairs to the penthouse, but Lucifer surprised her by pausing, fingers laced with the woman’s, and caught the eye of a muscular-looking dudebro who was staring daggers at Lucifer. The woman’s boyfriend, maybe? Ella was far too far away to hear what Lucifer said to him, but got to watch as the man’s face changed from hatred to jealousy to confusion to desire.
Ella’s eyebrows climbed to her hairline when the man tipped forward and started kissing Lucifer. It was not a peck on the lips, either – it was some full-blown, filthy lip lockage.
“Get it, son!” Ella said, shaking her head as the three of them – Lucifer, the woman, and the woman’s boyfriend – all started making their way upstairs.
Lucifer glanced across the room to her when he reached the top of the staircase. He mouthed, clearly, ‘good night,’ and gave Ella another little wink before disappearing with the couple into the penthouse elevator.
Patrick refreshed her cosmo without being prompted, and shared a ‘how does he do that look’ with Ella.
A thought occurred to Ella, and she snorted into her drink. It turned into full-blown giggles when Patrick leaned in, clearly wanting to know what had tickled her. She shared the joke, waving a hand at where Lucifer had retreated.
“Two guys and a girl. A devil’s threesome. Man, he is too much,” she chortled, and Patrick grinned in agreement.
After a few more drinks, a bit of dancing, a bit of flirting, and Ella headed home for the night. It was a Wednesday, after all, and she had work in the morning.
Stepping into her Uber – which Patrick had insisted on ordering for her, courtesy of ‘the boss’ - Ella realized it’d been the first time she’d thought about work in hours.
Thinking about the blinded vic still made her stomach twist uncomfortably, but the night out had definitely added a buffer on the thoughts. It helped.
Ella knew she looked bomb as fuck in the dress. Swaggering from her room to the casino floor where Lucifer was waiting, she wasn’t unaware of the stares she was getting.
“Well, don’t you look ravishing?” Lucifer said, delighted pleasure lighting up his eyes as he caught sight of her.
“And here I am, stuck with you,” Ella said, plucking at the sleeve of Lucifer’s suit when she finished descending the staircase and Lucifer had hung up and pocketed his phone. “Honestly, don’t you have any nice clothes?” she teased.
Lucifer offered her his elbow, grinning widely, and she took the offer, placing her hand on the sleek, soft wool of his jacket.
A slot machine lit up next to them, bells ringing and lights strobing, a happy patron crying out at the big win. Ella gave the woman a thumbs up as they walked past.
She tapped her fingers nervously the closer they got to the main floor. They were looking for the pit boss, she reminded herself. Because of a murder. She didn’t need to own these weak-ass bitches with her skills.
She fished about for something to take her mind off it and noticed that Lucifer was looking at her with a confused frown. Ella realized she’d been drumming her fingers against his arm and made herself stop.
“Is everything alright, Miss Lopez?” he asked.
His eyes, she noted, stayed on her face. He’d given her a good once-over when she came downstairs, but no ogling since then. She latched onto it as a distraction.
“You never hit on me,” Ella said, and it came out much more bluntly than she’d intended. Lucifer’s eyebrow rose.
“I mean, I was there when the precinct got bombarded with your, ah,” she stalled, looking for the right word to describe the shockingly large number of people that had been interviewed when two of Lucifer’s recent sexual partners had been killed. “Conquests?” She hazarded.
Lucifer’s other eyebrow lifted to join its counterpart.
“It’s not really a conquest when I’m merely saying ‘yes’ to what they want,” he demurred. But, he answered the question she hadn’t asked anyway. “I’ve not hit on you because, well,” he chewed his cheek, thinking about it. He glanced at her cleavage – no, actually, Ella realized, he’d glanced at her crucifix.
“Your faith is very important to you,” Lucifer said, “But you’re not using it as a shield for your hypocrisy. You actually believe.” He sighed. “I mean, you don’t believe me, but you believe in me. Or at least in my dad, and presumably in the biblical defamations thrown at my name. And I think,” Lucifer bent close, and all but purred in her ear, “If I were to bed you,” and Ella shivered. “If I did that, and then you came to believe me, I think it would break you. And, Miss Lopez,” he said, withdrawing, and there was something so very old and heavy in his eyes, just for a moment, that it made her blink. “I find that I am very fond of you. I do not want to break you.”
Distraction achieved, Ella thought ruefully.
“Wow,” she said, laughing nervously, trying to shake the moment off. “Wow, you, uhm. You really deserve the part, Lucifer. I mean, damn. And the Oscar goes to.” She shot him finger-guns with her free hand, but her heart was beating a little too fast.
Method-actors, she thought. Man, they go hard.
The black-jack table loomed in front of them, and Ella put her game-face back on.
The crime scene was… gross. The vic had overdosed and was covered in vomit. The room stank of excrement.
Ella double-checked that her hair was firmly tied back. She pulled on a pair of purple nitrile gloves, placing her feet carefully as she leaned in to get pictures and samples.
“Yuck,” Ray-Ray said, appearing next to her and squinting down at the corpse. Ella jumped and nearly dropped the camera. She glared at the ghost.
“That is such a nasty way to die,” Ray-Ray continued, shaking her head. Her short-cropped hair swayed with the motion. “And I don’t mean ‘nasty’ like ‘rusty chainsaw.’ I mean ‘nasty’ like...‘ew.’”
Ella glanced around at the rest of the forensics team, slightly relieved when it seemed that no one had noticed her startled reaction. She gave Ray-Ray a pointed scowl that she hoped conveyed; ‘This is really not the time or place for you to visit.’
Ray-Ray pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose with a finger, still eyeing the vic.
“I mean, I’m not saying that getting squished in a car crash is fun either, but at least with that there’s so much less. You know. Puke.”
“Time of death is approximately 2100 hours, based on the lividity,” Ella said out loud, still glaring at the ghost. “We’ll need to run the samples and do an autopsy, but it looks like a straight-forward overdose. No signs of a struggle.”
With her gloved hands, she carefully patted down the vic’s pockets and retrieved a wallet.
“We’ve got an ID,” she said, handing the wallet to one of the assisting techs.
She collected a sample of the vomit. Her instinct said a prescription opioid OD but she’d need to run tests to make a conclusive statement.
Ella stepped away from the body and started doing a sweep of the rest of the apartment. Ray-Ray followed her.
In the bathroom, Ella found a veritable candy-shop of different prescriptions. She photographed the multitude of little orange plastic bottles lined up like soldiers along the sink. Painkillers, anti-depressants, anti-psychotics... Ella glanced from the last over to her ghost, and Ray-Ray finally seemed to understand that this perhaps wasn’t the best time for her to pop in.
“You’re not crazy,” Ray-Ray told her firmly.
Ella laughed humorlessly.
“I know I’m not. But coming from you, that really doesn’t help my case.”
In the apartment’s living room, she heard a familiar voice. Curiosity piqued, she left the bathroom to see what had brought her to what Ella thought to be a sad but routine overdose.
“Heya Decker,” Ella greeted, “What brings you out this way?”
Chloe had been brittle and strange ever since Pierce had died. Ella didn’t blame her. If Ella had found out she’d been briefly engaged to a serial killing/mob boss-y/evil douchebag, who had then tried to kill her, Ella didn’t think she’d be taking it in stride either.
Ella was still mad that the floor where it went down had gone up in flames. She would’ve liked a chance to kick Pierce properly for what he’d done to Chloe.
She thought about all of the pushing she’d done to get Chloe and Pierce together, and the guilt bit deep.
Chloe glanced up from the victim. She looked like she hadn’t slept in a week.
“This is the seventh overdose so far this month,” Chloe said. She brushed a flyaway wisp of hair out of her eyes, tucking it behind her ear.
“Uh-huh,” Ella said carefully. She shrugged. “It sucks, but I’m not seeing any signs of force. We’ve scheduled an autopsy, but it’s not looking like homicide’ll be needed on this one. Decker,” Ella said, then rephrased, coming over to get in Chloe’s space properly. She spoke quietly, not wanting the techs to overhear. “Chloe. Are your eyes going on vacation, girl? Because damn, they are packing some bags. Why don’t you go home. Get some rest. You have plenty of paid time off – use some of it.”
Chloe shook her head.
“I want to be working,” she said.
Ella was facing the apartment door. Because she was facing the door, she saw when Lucifer walked in. She saw when he looked, unmistakably, at where Ray-Ray was lounging against the wall, and Ella saw when he flinched with recognition right before Ray-Ray winked out of existence with a startled ‘oh shit’ look on her face.
Lucifer’s eyes lingered on the spot, and then they flicked to her.
Oh. Fuck, Ella thought.
Lucifer Morningstar could see her ghost.
Lucifer Morningstar knew her ghost. Her ghost knew Lucifer. Lucifer knew that Ella could see the ghost.
Ella let loose a short, hysterical laugh. The relief – the proof – that she really wasn’t crazy damn near cracked her in half. Ray-Ray was real.
Chloe looked up at the laughter, squinting at Ella, and then she turned around, spotting Lucifer in the doorway.
Chloe tensed. She swallowed.
She and Lucifer had gone through some shit. Ella had seen the report - the trap Pierce had set for them. It was a miracle either of them was alive, bullet-proof vests or no. Ella hadn’t seen Lucifer in the precinct since it happened. Was this his first time coming back? Chloe’s surprised reaction made Ella think that perhaps it was.
“It’s just an overdose,” Chloe said to Lucifer. “You don’t… you don’t need to be here.”
Lucifer looked away from Ella, a weighted ‘we’ll talk about that later’ in his eyes, and turned his attention to Chloe.
“Detective,” he said gently. Lucifer saw what Ella had seen – that Chloe looked exhausted. Oddly, though, he didn’t make any approach into the room. “Please. As Miss Lopez says, this case doesn’t need your expertise. Let me take you home.”
Chloe swallowed again.
“I want to be working,” she repeated, and it sounded… thin. Hollow. Ella’s heart ached for her. She couldn’t imagine what Chloe was going through.
“I understand, but there’s no work to be done here. Well,” Lucifer amended, “Not detective work, at any rate.”
Chloe eyes dropped to the floor, but, eventually, she nodded, relenting. When she walked towards the exit, her movements were stiff, like an automaton. Lucifer stood well back from the door to allow her to pass.
“Lucifer,” Ella called to catch him as he turned to follow Chloe. “Hey, quick second?”
Lucifer’s eyes followed Chloe’s retreat, clearly wanting to follow her. He looked back at Ella, and at the spot where Ray-Ray had been standing, and Ella hastened to say “Not about – her,” Ella waved a purple-gloved hand at the newly un-ghosted space. “We can do that later. I’m worried about Chloe.”
“I am too,” Lucifer admitted. It was so out-of-place on the normally impossibly self-confident man.
“Look,” Ella said. “Dan’s… not in a place to comfort her right now. He’s dealing with his own grief. And I know you’ve gotta be processing the near-death thing too, and it’s super not fair of me to ask this of you. But – I mean… I know you and Decker can butt heads, but it’s obvious you two have a great partnership. Don’t just drop her off at home, okay? Please make sure she actually gets some rest?”
Lucifer’s expression softened.
“I’ll try,” he said. “You have my word.” He paused, turning his head to tell her: “I’m glad she has friends like you,” before continuing down the stairs to catch up to his partner.
Chloe was in Ella’s lab when she got back to the station. Ella sighed.
“Lucifer couldn’t get you to get some sleep, huh?” she asked.
Chloe’s eyes tracked to Ella’s mouth, following the sound but not actually listening.
“Ella,” Chloe said slowly. “You… You’re Christian. You believe in…all of the,” Chloe waved a hand vaguely at the ceiling.
“Uh…huh...” Ella agreed, not sure where this was going. “Catholic, yes. And - yes, I do.”
Chloe picked up one of Ella’s beakers, turning it around in her hands as she spoke, staring intently through the floor.
“What would you do if you found out the dev- if you found out all of it – God, Heaven, Hell… angels – if you found out it was all real?”
“I mean, Chloe, I do believe it’s real. I have faith.”
“No, not faith,” Chloe said sharply. “I mean with proof. Actual, hard-fact proof. That the myths weren’t myths.”
Ella’s brow wrinkled. This reminded her of her of one of the first conversations she’d had with Chloe – the ‘I doubt so that I can believe’ conversation. But… wrong. Or more, somehow, like the intensity had been dialed up to eleven. She frowned.
“Did Lucifer say something to you?” Ella asked. “He shouldn’t be messing with you when you’re this… sleep deprived.”
Chloe’s eyes darted to the side.
“It was Lucifer, wasn’t it. I’m going to kick his ass,” Ella decided. “Look, Chloe,” Ella took the beaker out of Chloe’s hands and set it down, taking the detective’s hands in her own instead. “You’ve got so many heavy plates spinning right now, girl. What can I do to help?”
Chloe let out a shaky breath. She squeezed Ella’s hands back.
“Don’t,” she licked her lips. “Don’t kick Lucifer’s ass,” she said at length. She shook her head. “This isn’t actually his fault. Well, it,” Chloe tipped her head back, an expression crossing her face that Ella couldn’t figure out. “Not directly.”
“Okay,” Ella said. “So, indirectly his fault. Got it,” Ella said dubiously.
Chloe huffed a laugh.
“I’m really tired,” Chloe admitted quietly.
“Well, no shit, Decker,” Ella said with affection. She gathered the detective up for a hug, and Chloe settled her chin on Ella’s shoulder, not resisting. “There you go,” Ella said, patting her back. “Lean into the love, babe.”
After a bit of cajoling, Ella was able to convince Chloe to lie down in the office chair she’d rigged up to lay flat. Her ‘data is processing’ pillow and fleece Snoopy blanket got added to the mix. It couldn’t have been more than five minutes later that Chloe was out like a light.
Ella wasn’t sure what-all was spinning in Chloe’s head, but she understood how being able to hear Ella moving around in the lab, humming and typing on her computer, was enough to distract the detective’s thoughts away from the heavy stuff to actually get some rest. It warmed Ella’s heart to know Chloe trusted her this much.
Noon turned into 1 o’clock. 1 turned into 2, and Ella glanced up from the toxicology report to see Lucifer standing outside the window of her lab. He was watching Chloe. Ella blinked, because she had no idea how long he’d been there. She got the impression he hadn’t just arrived.
She put down the report and opened her lab door.
“Heya,” she said quietly, trying not to wake Chloe up. Ella closed the door behind her and walked over to stand next to him. Lucifer had his suit jacket off and tucked over his arm. Today’s waistcoat was a dark purple that worked with the blue shirt he was wearing. The man’s sartorial choices were always so on point. Ella appreciated the eye-candy.
For a moment, they both watched Chloe sleeping in the rejiggered office chair. Under the Snoopy blanket, she looked small, worn-down. Ella bumped her shoulder into Lucifer’s.
“You know, you’re not looking too well-rested yourself,” she said. It was true. Lucifer looked diminished, somehow. His normal cocky vibrancy was missing.
“It has been… a difficult adjustment period, I suppose you could say,” Lucifer said.
Lucifer tipped his head to the side, not quite a ‘yes,’ but not quite a ‘no’ either.
“How are you holding up?” Ella asked.
Lucifer turned to regard her fully.
“You actually do care, don’t you?”
“Well yeah, dummy,” she said, and leaned against him, using Lucifer’s tall frame like a column to rest her weight against. He grunted and shifted his shoulders, a grimace flickering across his face. Ella popped back upright.
“Oh, my bad. Are you hurt?”
Lucifer gave her a wincing smile.
“Just sore. Still healing. From the… from the shootout.”
Ella nodded. Even through a vest, bullets bruised like a motherfucker. From the number of casings they’d retrieved from the burnt-out site, Ella could easily imagine that he’d taken more than one hit. She thanked God again that they’d both made it out alive.
Lucifer turned his shoulder toward her in invitation, and Ella settled against him again, more gingerly. Against her cheek, his silk shirt felt soft and warm. Lucifer’s cologne was earthy and subtle. Something ridiculously expensive, she was sure. He smelled nice.
“So I have this ghost,” Ella said, after a moment of comfortable silence, when it was clear Lucifer wasn’t going to spill his problems to her. “She’s been following me around for a while. Ray-Ray.”
“Yes,” Lucifer said, not looking in the least bit surprised or put off at discussing the supernatural factually. Ella knew she hadn’t imagined Lucifer’s reaction to seeing her at the crime scene.
“You know her?” Ella asked.
“She’s my sister.”
That wasn’t at all the answer Ella had been expecting. She pulled back again, staring up at him with wide, serious eyes.
“Oh, Lucifer, I’m so sorry. My condolences.”
Lucifer gave a startled laugh.
“She’s a bit of a brat, but, I assure you; no condolences necessary.”
His laugh, though, seemed to have carried into the lab. Scrunched up in the chair, Chloe shifted, one of her arms coming out from the blanket-tangle to stretch. Lucifer watched her, and there was something wistful and heart-broken in his face that Ella didn’t understand at all. He shut it down, though, giving Ella another warm look before making his withdrawal.
“I should go,” he said. “Thank you, Miss Lopez.”
“Anytime,” she said, with equal sincerity. He slid his jacket back on, another wince crossing his face as his shoulders moved. Must’ve been hit in the back, Ella concluded. And, before Chloe finished waking up, he’d already sauntered out of the precinct.
Ella shook her head.
“What is going on with you two?” she murmured after his retreating form.
Ella turned to go back inside and stopped, something on the ground catching her eye.
It was a feather. A really filthy-looking feather - broken and bent, but still wide and about as long as her hand. It was too big to belong to a seagull, and it didn’t make any sense for it to be here. Ella picked it up, oddly compelled despite the dirt caked on it.
No, not dirt, she realized, looking closer. Blood. Old and brown, but definitely blood. Where the feather wasn’t stained and filthy, the white was so white it almost seemed to glow. Was it an eagle feather? She wracked her brain, trying to picture the size of the bird that the feather would belong to. Something about the lines of it made her think it was a bird of prey.
Ella turned the feather in her fingers, walking absently back into the lab.
Chloe scrubbed at her eyes and sat up groggily. The bags under her eyes, if anything, looked darker. The brief nap hadn’t really made a dent in the long-term sleep deficit.
“Was Lucifer here?” Chloe asked sharply, suddenly very alert. It made Ella jump. Chloe was looking at the feather in Ella’s hands, and Ella had no idea at all what connected the two. She frowned.
“He… Yeah,” she said gently. “He just left. Wanted to see how you were doing. He’s worried about you.”
Chloe was staring at the feather with a rabbit-in-headlights expression. Ella put it down on her lab table. Chloe’s eyes tracked it, and then started moving over Ella’s lab equipment with something like slow-dawning horror.
“Decker, are you o-” Ella started to ask, but Chloe cut her off, balling up the Snoopy blanket and standing, somewhat wobbily, from the chair.
“Ella,” Chloe said, and her demeanor shifted, becoming intent. She smiled widely, tucking her hair behind her ear. “Would you - would you do me a favor?”
“…Sure?” Ella agreed warily.
“Could you get me some of those, um, powdered donuts? From the machine?”
“Sweet tooth, huh? I gotchu,” Ella said, pulling open one of her desk drawers and producing a little plastic package of powdered donuts.
“Oh,” Chloe said with an unexpected sort of blank defeat. Like Ella keeping snacks in her lab was a bad thing.
“Hey, don’t judge. Forensics can be hungry work.”
“No,” Chloe shook her head. “No, I mean,” she brightened, and her smile was… off. “I mean, sorry, would you mind grabbing my purse? It’s in my desk, second drawer on the right.”
“Okay,” Ella said slowly. “But when I come back, you’re going to tell me why you’re being so weird.”
Chloe’s purse was in the specified drawer. It was mid-afternoon and the precinct was bustling with people going about their work. Ella gave cheery ‘hello’s’ to a few of them and set the Newton’s cradle on Chloe’s desk clacking away. Purse collected, she walked back to the lab.
Chloe met her in the doorway, too-wide smile still firmly plastered on.
“Thank you, Ella. Something’s come up. I need to go. Thanks!” It was all said in a rush, and before Ella could protest or question it, Chloe plucked the purse from her hands and all but ran out of the precinct.
“Bye?” Ella called after her. Ella shook her head. Hopefully, Chloe was going to go home and get some actual, real sleep.
She picked up the toxicology report again, skimming through. She drummed her fingers on her table, nodding when the data matched with her initial conclusion.
She put the document back down and started over towards her computer to write up the report, when she noticed the feather was missing.
Ella kept the lab clean. The tables weren’t cluttered. She had a strong visual memory and noticed when her things were moved.
The spot where the feather had been was the spot where the feather very clearly wasn’t now.
Ella walked around the table, checking the floor, thinking the AC might’ve blown it off, or Decker, in her speed to flee.
The feather was gone.
Ella tried to find an answer that wasn’t “Chloe took it,” but… she was trained in forensics. The facts in this case were plain.
The question was, then – Why had Chloe taken the feather? Why had the feather freaked her out?
Why, for that matter, had Chloe seen the feather and immediately known that Lucifer had been by?
Ella bit her lip, uncomfortably aware of the fact that Chloe had gotten Ella out of the lab so that she could take the feather. It stung, but…more than that, it made no sense.
She was all for putting puzzles together picture-side-down. This, though, felt like she was pulling pieces from completely different boxes. They didn’t fit.
She decided to put this particular puzzle on the mental back-burner, for now, and started typing up her report for the overdose.
“Chloe’s still a no-show?” Ella asked, plunking oversized margaritas down in front herself and Linda. Maze refilled her own glass from the bottle of wine she’d ordered. Correction – the second bottle, Ella noted, seeing the empty.
Maze shook her head. “She texted. Said the kid is sick.”
“Aw, that sucks. Well, we’ll just have to drink more to make up for her absence, am I right?” Ella said brightly, and she clinked glasses with the attending members of the tribe meeting. It had been about a week since Chloe had stolen the feather and Ella still hadn’t found quite the right time to ask. It didn’t seem important enough to press the issue when they’d been working. She’d been planning to bring it up tonight, but shrugged, letting it go. It wasn’t important.
The bar was beach-themed with bright, floral leis circling the twinkling fairy lights that ran around the ceiling. The floors were a dark hardwood, and the stools were both comfortable and had bikini-clad asses painted on the backs. It generally attracted a college-aged crowd but it was a bit slow for a Friday night. “Slow” in this case meaning that Ella didn’t have to shout to be heard.
The bruises on Maze’s face had faded since the last meeting. Ella hadn’t seen it, but Linda had told her about the state Maze had been in following the fight with Pierce’s men. Another drop in the well of hatred she had for that asshole. Ella felt so foolish for having looked up to him. The embarrassment and betrayal burned in her gut like acid.
On impulse, Ella put her arm around Maze’s shoulders and squeezed her in a hug.
Maze grunted, but didn’t pull away, and neither did she look displeased.
“I’m really glad you’re okay,” Ella said.
“To Maze,” Linda said, lifting her margarita and smiling warmly at the other woman.
“To Maze,” Ella agreed, lifting her glass one-handed so she could keep half-hugging Maze for a bit longer.
“Damn straight,” Maze said, and she licked the new scar on her top lip with the tip of her tongue. A split that had turned into a small white line of scar tissue that Ella thought would probably fade in another few months. In the meantime, it didn’t do a thing to make Maze look less hot or like less of a bamf. Her “casual evening out with her girlfriends” outfit was tight black leather with silvery chains and a pair of thigh-high boots that Ella didn’t think she’d’ve been able to walk in without falling over. You know. Just Maze’s normal weekday getup.
Ella felt another burst of affection and gave Maze a good squeeze before releasing her. Maze smiled into her next gulp of wine.
“Ladies,” Linda said. “A hypothetical for you, which is in no way related to a patient I saw this week. Let’s say your husband of two months posted a video on Wobble of himself and your mother kissing – with, hypothetically, to quote ‘so much tongue,’ would you A) Slash his tires, B) Drunk dial his boss and go on a long, screaming rant about his inadequacies, C) Try to stab him in the penis with a mechanical pencil, or D) All of the above, because why not?”
Maze snickered, and Ella said, “Long week for you too, huh?”
“You’ve no idea,” Linda replied, taking a long drink. “The longer I work in LA, the more I’m convinced there’s something in the water.”
The music changed from a pop song none of them were really listening to, to “Iko, Iko,” and Ella lit up.
“I love this song!” she chirped, tapping the rhythm out on the table. Linda tapped along with her, answering Ella’s “hey now,” with the answering “hey now,” while Maze looked on in bemusement.
It was a short song, and the music transitioned back into pop.
“You guys are dorks,” Maze said, undeniably fond.
“You said long week for me too,” Linda said, directing her attention back to Ella, eyebrow raised in a gentle prompt. “Difficult case?”
“Actually, no,” Ella said. “We just wrapped up a pretty straight-forward stabbing. Kitchen scissors, which was kinda novel, but…no, not really difficult. The evidence was pretty air-tight.”
Maze, who had perked up at the mention of kitchen scissors, gave her an askance look. “What’s putting this here, then?” And she poked Ella between the eyebrows, flattening the frown-line that Ella hadn’t been aware she was making.
She batted Maze’s hand away, and Maze wiggled her fingers in Ella’s face for another moment, as playful as a cat, before going back to her wine glass.
“Something a co-worker said to me that I’ve been mulling over,” Ella admitted. “Okay, ladies, another hypothetical: What would you do if you had proof that God was real?”
And what on earth, Ella thought, was she to make of the fact that both Maze and Linda suddenly went very still? They exchanged a glance over Ella’s head - some silent communication that she was excluded from, and Ella felt a little trickle of… what, apprehension? Fear? Something, creep down her spine.
“Ha,” Ella said, waving a hand, trying to dispel the weird tension that had settled over the table. “Nevermind, it’s just a silly thought.”
“No,” Linda said, pushing her glasses back up the bridge of her nose with her index finger. “No, I don’t think it’s silly. I imagine it would be quite a struggle to come to terms with that knowledge,” she nodded at Ella’s crucifix, continuing in her ‘therapist’ voice. “Even if you already believe, it’d be pretty mind-blowing and traumatic to your entire world-view. In theory.”
“Right,” Maze said, her smile showing too many teeth and not quite reaching her eyes. “In theory.” A moment passed, and the two women exchanged another look.
“Do you know what I find helps with the heavy hypotheticals?” Linda asked brightly.
“Drinks,” Linda said, and nudged Ella’s margarita closer to her. “And spending time with friends. And knowing that your friends will understand and help you pick up the pieces, if your mind does get blown. In theory.” Linda’s eyes searched Ella’s face, and Ella couldn’t quite put her finger on what Linda was looking for.
“You guys are the best,” Ella agreed.
She didn’t miss that the two of them let out small sighs of relief. But, their food arrived. The karaoke portion of the evening started, and Ella let herself set the disquiet aside and enjoy the rest of the tribe meeting.
The shoot-out with Pierce and his men, with Chloe and Lucifer, had taken place outside of their district. Forensics was being handled by a different team, and Ella had been somewhat glad of that. Nonetheless, she’d stayed abreast of the investigation, guilt eating away at her with every crime scene photo and bullet casing retrieved from the ashes. She’d halfway been expecting someone to call her out for constantly accessing the open report – perhaps, even, a reprimand for conflicts of interest, personal investment, etc. None had been forthcoming. Probably, she thought, because of the chaos caused by the Sinnerman being the Lieutenant of the LAPD.
What a mess.
She was clicking through the photos, trying to make sense of the debris – had there been eight shooters? Nine? More? – when one photo in particular caught her attention.
It was a bone fragment recovered from the main floor. It was dark with burnt blood. She skimmed through the notes. The fire had caused too much degradation for the DNA to be conclusively tested.
“Huh,” Ella said out loud.
“’Huh’?” Ray-Ray echoed, and Ella startled.
“Would you stop that? Give me some warning,” she said, gripping a hand over her heart.
Ray-Ray shrugged unapologetically and leaned over Ella’s shoulder to look at the picture.
“What am I looking at?” Ray-Ray asked.
“Well, that’s the thing. The ‘huh,’” Ella said. “It’s a bone fragment from a shoot-out. See that break? That’s where the bullet strike chipped it off. But the interesting part is this, here,” Ella pointed.
Ray-Ray looked from the photo back at her dubiously.
Ella zoomed in.
“That notch. That’s not a human bone. Birds have those bumps on their wing bones where their largest feathers attach. It looks like this chipped off from, like, an ulna of a…” Ella zoomed out, looking at the fragment in scale next to the ruler that had been placed next to it for the photo. The piece was just shy of an inch and half across; a horizontal sliver of fire-blackened bone with a pronounced bump on the top, unbroken side, nearly the full length of the sliver.
“Something big. Ornithology’s not my jam, but look at it. We’d be talking, like, a condor. Or something bigger? What’s bigger than a condor?” Ella looked at Ray-Ray, but Ray-Ray only shrugged again.
“I had a parakeet, once,” Ray-Ray said unhelpfully.
“Yeah, it’s super not a parakeet.”
Ella frowned and leaned back in her chair.
“Maybe it was from a fossil?” Ray-Ray suggested. “Like from an, I don’t know, a pterodactyl? They had feathers, right?”
Ella thought about the feather Chloe had taken from her lab. The feather that had appeared right where Lucifer had been standing.
Click, click, click, went the puzzle pieces in her head, snapping into place.
“No,” Ella said, slowly. “No. I don’t think it was from a fossil.”
The problem was, the picture that was forming was shaped like…
It was shaped like Lucifer Morningstar.
Lucifer. A dude who was vain, funny, mischievous, intelligent, and often outright kind, especially to Ella. Lucifer was generous. Fickle, but not uncaring, even while he was Narcissistic with a capital N.
He was a man who, she was beginning to think, somewhat hysterically, was maybe not a method actor. Who might actually be Lucifer. As in Satan.
It was ridiculous.
It was ridiculous to even be thinking about it.
Ella slapped her hands on her thighs, pacing back and forth in the hallway outside of her lab. She could see the bullpen from here, and could see Lucifer standing at Chloe’s desk, his long, elegant hands moving as he talked. Chloe was starting to look healthier. She and Lucifer were re-finding their equilibrium as partners, and the last case that Ella had been on with them, things had almost felt like they were getting back to normal.
Which, if Lucifer was Lucifer, and if Chloe’s freak-out had been because she’d connected the same dots that Ella had, it just opened a whole other can of crazy, crazy worms.
“Are you okay?” Dan asked, and Ella flinched. She hadn’t even noticed him coming down the hallway.
“I’m great!” she said, breathlessly.
Dan squinted at her. “Are you sure? Because you were glaring at Lucifer like he’s started stealing your stuff from the fridge, too.”
Another tick in the ‘it’s ridiculous’ column. Would the actual Biblical devil steal pudding? It sounded like a punchline.
“No,” Ella exhaled. She shook the thought off.
Dan looked at her dubiously, but he let it drop.
“Have you had a chance to run prints on that figurine?”
“Only got a partial,” Ella told him. “No match in the database.”
Dan grunted at the bad news, chewing his lip and heading back to his desk, presumably to figure out a new avenue for attack on that case.
Ella went back into her lab. She braced her arms on her table and leaned heavily against them, taking a deep, deep breath, letting her head hang.
She picked up her phone and dialed Linda.
“Ella, this is an unexpected pleasure. You’ve caught me between sessions. What’s up?” Linda said. Ella could hear a crinkling sound in the background, like a food wrapper being set down.
“You remember what you said about how I have friends I can reach out to if I think I’m going crazy?” Ella said.
There was a pause on the other end of the line.
“I’m here, Ella. What’s wrong?” Linda said, and it wasn’t in the tone of voice that Ella had started to think of as the ‘therapist’ voice. It was just Linda, and that somehow made it easier to say: “I think Lucifer might actually be the devil?”
There was a longer pause this time. Ella rushed to fill it.
“I know you’re his therapist and – actually, you know what, this is so inappropriate, me asking you this. And unethical. I really shouldn’t have done that. Linda, I’m sorry, please ignore me. I’m just going to hang up now-”
“Ella, no, wait,” Linda said quickly, but Ella was already pushing the ‘disconnect’ button.
She felt stupid.
Ella hated feeling stupid. She was better than that. She wasn’t stupid.
She drummed her fingers against the table, hard, feeling the slick cool surface under her fingertips.
The evidence was all circumstantial.
It was adding up, but a good attorney could definitely find weaknesses. The bone chip could just belong to a fossil; the feather just a bit of street detritus that had wandered in stuck to someone’s shoe. And Decker had been awake for who knew how long when she’d taken it. Sleep deprivation had serious effects on people’s cognitive processes.
Ella pushed the mental puzzle pieces apart.
She was a forensics scientist. The proof wasn’t there.
Did she want it to be?
Ella sighed, drumming her fingers harder. That wasn’t a question that she should ask. It biased results. So, the question instead should be: Did she want to figure out this case?
She looked through her lab window out at Lucifer. He was wearing the gray suit, today – the one that made his ass look especially good.
She watched as Chloe excused herself from her conversation with Lucifer, pulling her phone from her pocket and answering it.
Ella went back to her computer, flipping through the familiar case file, pausing again when she got to the photo of the bone fragment.
The forensics team that was handling the case had written the fragment off as ‘inconclusive origin,’ and that seemed to be the end of it.
She understood that, with the bodies and ballistics and confessions from Pierce’s surviving henchmen, there hadn’t been a need to keep looking into a single out-of-place chipped piece of bone to file charges and conclude the investigation. But it was still incredibly frustrating, and it did nothing at all to quiet the little voice that kept trying to tell her ‘it came from a wing, and not a bird wing either.’
Maybe, Ella thought, if should could prove what kind of bird or fossil it belonged to, she could stop thinking about it. She opened a few more tabs, going into ‘research mode.’ Ella would’ve liked to have taken the physical evidence to an expert, but how could she possibly explain why she wanted to follow up on that bone fragment, when she wasn’t even assigned to the case?
There was a quiet little ‘tap tap tap’ on the open door to her lab. Ella glanced up. Chloe was leaning in through the doorframe, looking at Ella cautiously.
“Heya Decker,” Ella greeted slowly. On impulse, Ella looked through the lab window and caught Lucifer just as he was turning away. Lucifer looked up at the ceiling, completely failing to look like anything other than someone who had just gotten caught.
Chloe followed her line of sight and, rolling her eyes, stomped over to the windows, twisting the cord to turn the slates of the blinds, giving them some privacy.
Chloe looked at Ella’s screen. The picture of the bone fragment was very visibly there, and Chloe frowned at it.
“What is that?” Chloe asked.
Ella looked back at her screen, biting her lip. If her theory was right and Chloe had… come to the same conclusion that Ella was working on, then…
“It’s a bone fragment that was recovered from the scene. At the shoot-out, with Pierce.”
Chloe’s expression remained neutral. Carefully so. Ella pressed forward.
“That bump? That’s a quill knob. It’s a thing that happens with birds, where their biggest flight feathers connect to the bone.”
Ella gave Chloe a searching glance, but Chloe was staring at the picture, like she wasn’t sure what to say.
“So I’ve got a theory,” Ella said. “That, while the fire may have done a solid job of covering up any stray feathers or blood, that this little guy got missed. And in this theory,” Ella paused, but figured: Screw it. In for a penny, in for a pound. “In this theory, this bone fragment belongs to Lucifer.”
Ella waited. If she was wrong, then what she’d just confessed to Chloe was absolute crazy-talk. She braced for it. It wouldn’t be the first time a friend had told Ella she was crazy, that she was wrong, that she needed help.
Oh fuck. If Ray-Ray was Lucifer’s sister, did that mean Ray-Ray was an angel? What the shit?
Chloe, oblivious to the mental tangent that Ella had gone off on, didn’t tell her she was crazy. She pulled one of the wheelie stools out from under the lab counter and took a seat next to Ella. Chloe bit her thumb, looking at the photo, and was quiet for long enough that Ella started to get uncomfortable.
“About two years ago,” Chloe said. “About a year into my partnership with Lucifer, I got… I got so frustrated with him constantly telling me he was the devil. But the inexplicable things just… kept adding up. He got shot, point-blank, and I was sure he was dead. He was just lying there in a pool of his blood, and, when he just walked it off, I… It was…”
Ella put a hand on Chloe’s arm, offering comfort. She was desperate to know how this story ended, but Chloe was clearly upset.
“I took a sample of his blood,” Chloe admitted.
Ella’s forensics brain lit up.
“But I chickened out,” Chloe said, sighing with self-directed anger. “I made excuses and brushed aside the things that didn’t make sense, and I basically decided not to be a detective. I threw it away without testing it. I decided that I didn’t want to know. And I think,” Chloe hesitated. “I think, part of why I threw it away… was maybe because I did know already.”
Chloe met Ella’s eyes, then, and Ella let out a long, shaky breath.
“It does belong to him, doesn’t it,” Ella said, not really a question.
Ella leaned back in her chair, staring at the ceiling.
“Linda and Maze know, too, don’t they?” Ella asked, a few more pieces clicking into place. The weird looks they’d exchanged when she put forth the ‘hypothetical.’ Linda’s gentle prodding to see if Ella knew the truth.
Chloe cleared her throat.
“Yeah. Maze is – I mean. Yeah, they know.”
“And we are talking Lucifer as in Lucifer, right? Not just, like, Warren Worthington from X-Men?”
“A mutant who has angel wings,” Ella explained, fluttering her hands in a bird-like motion.
Chloe shook her head.
“Lucifer as in Lucifer,” she confirmed.
“Huh,” Ella said.
She glanced at the closed blinds. It was easy enough to picture Lucifer waiting impatiently on the other side of the wall.
“Linda called you, right?” Ella said.
“She did, yeah. And I figured you’d… maybe rather talk to me first? Lucifer is… well-intentioned, but I don’t think ‘tactful’ is the first word that springs to mind. It took Linda two weeks, apparently, to put her brain back together when she found out.”
Ella huffed a laugh. “Linda told me that I had friends that would understand and help me ‘pick up the pieces if my mind got blown.’ I guess she really did know what she was talking about.”
Ella rubbed her hands over her face, hard.
“The thing that helped me come to terms with it,” Chloe said. “Was realizing that he’s still just… our Lucifer. Separate the myth from the person, and he’s still…” Chloe waved a hand. “Him.”
Ella nodded, not in agreement so much as in acknowledgement.
“Thanks, Chloe. I. I really need to think about this for a while. I’m going to, um.”
Ella logged out of her computer, shutting down her work station.
“I’m… I need to think,” Ella said. Her eyes pricked with tears and she couldn’t for the life of her have said why.
Lucifer was, indeed, waiting on the other side of the wall. He’d been pacing but he stopped when Ella opened the door.
“Miss Lopez,” he started, concern written clearly across his face.
“Don’t,” Ella stopped him, holding up a hand. Lucifer obliging stopped.
He looked like a kicked puppy.
“I’m not mad at you,” Ella said. Was she mad at him? She didn’t know.
“I’ll…I need to think,” she repeated. Even to her own ears, she sounded strained and breathless. She was shaking.
She left the precinct without even telling the acting LT she was taking the day off.
St. Brennen’s was a modest, older building. The floorboards creaked under the aging runners. The paint was starting to fade on the façade. It reminded her of the church her family used to go to back in Detroit and it offered the comfort of familiar sounds and smells and rituals.
Service wasn’t scheduled for several more hours. The priest had, kindly, warmly, asked Ella if she’d wanted to talk when she’d come in, and hadn’t pressed her when Ella insisted she simply wanted to sit and pray.
Ella thought, unavoidably, of the time that she had brought Lucifer here. He’d acquiesced (albeit grumpily) as a way of holding up his end of their bargain. Lucifer had been surprisingly well-behaved through the whole ordeal. Granted, he’d kept up a steady, low stream of inappropriately hilarious commentary through the service, but other than almost making Ella choke trying to hold back laughter, he hadn’t made a scene. Hadn’t sulked. Hadn’t burst into flames, either. And wasn’t that supposed to be a thing? That the devil couldn’t enter a church?
Maybe she was thinking of a movie.
Hi God, Ella thought. She squeezed her eyes shut and bent her head, hands clasped in prayer. Ella here. I could really use some support, big guy. Turns out I’ve been working with your rebellious son for a while? And that I maybe inadvertently helped him hide a body one time? Or at least a grave site. Long story. But the thing is – I think he’s actually an okay guy, despite being… you know, Lucifer. Like he seems to be trying to do the right thing, and hoo, man, is that not what I was taught. So…I could really use some guidance. Where do I put my doubt? Is the book wrong, or is Lucifer lying?
She opened her eyes, letting her mind drift. She traced the colorful pools of light that the stained glass windows splashed on the walls. ‘Guidance’ - prayer in general – had, for her, never been about reaching out and expecting a response. It had been a way for her to put her worries into words. Just being articulate about what was bothering her was sometimes enough to help her find a solution, or to at least get the mental gears turning.
Ella had always believed that someone on the other end was listening, even if He never answered.
Did it change anything, knowing that it was true?
Muffled only a bit by the carpet runners, Ella heard footsteps coming up the aisle. She glanced up, expecting it to be the priest – maybe coming back to set up the altar for service, maybe to swing by again to ask her if she wanted help.
It wasn’t the priest.
Ray-Ray helped herself to a spot on the pew next to Ella.
“So,” Ray-Ray said slowly when an uncomfortable length of silence had passed. “I’m sure you have some questions,” her probably-not-a-ghost prompted.
Ella turned sideways in the pew to face Ray-Ray fully, pulling her legs up to sit cross-legged on the wooden bench. Her throat felt stuck closed. It took a couple of tries to get the words out.
“Lucifer said you were his sister?” Ella asked.
Ray-Ray nodded. She offered her hand to Ella, pushing her glasses back up her nose with the other.
“Azrael. But you can definitely still call me Ray-Ray. And, yes, Lu is my big brother.”
Ella shook Azrael’s hand.
“The angel of death,” Ella said, old D&D planning sessions and hours of mythology surfing on Wikipedia bringing that knowledge back. “You’re the angel of death. You’re the angel of death?”
“You thought I’d be spookier, right?” She rolled her eyes. “I get that a lot. You do realize death is as commonplace as birth, right? It’s like a 1 to 1 ratio.”
She gave Ella a squinty look, and then conceded. “Okay, the glasses are an affectation. I don’t really need them. But I like the way they look.”
Ella let her head tip to the side, landing to rest on the hard wooden back of the pew with a small ‘thunk.’
“This is bananas,” Ella said. She scrubbed her face. “Why me?”
Ray-Ray gave her a fond look. For a moment, her eyes looked incredibly old. It was just for a moment, but Ella suddenly, viscerally believed that the quirky not-a-ghost was ancient. Ancient, and powerful, and telling the truth about who she was.
“When we met… The car crash, where you almost died… when I realized it was a false alarm and you were going to live, you’d already spotted me, and you thought I was a surviving passenger from the other car, at first. You wanted to make sure I was okay. Your first instinct was compassion. You opened your heart up so completely that I just,” Azrael shook her head. “I wanted to protect you. I wanted to know you, and the more I got to know you, the more I cared about you. You have just the best outlook on life, you know? And I think… you reminded me of who I used to be, back before, you know. Lu’s rebellion. I’d see you yelling at your brothers and it reminded me so much of what it used to be like growing up. You think your bros can be pig-headed? You should’ve seen Amenadiel and Michael when they disagreed.”
The resigned affection that crossed Ray-Rays face made Ella’s heart pang in recognition. Yeah. Yeah, she did know what it was like to grow up with stubborn, macho brothers. She couldn’t picture archangels engaging in petty prank wars, but –
Actually, thinking about Lucifer, Ella suddenly could picture it.
A thought struck Ella.
“You were super invested in getting me to stay in LA,” Ella accused. “Was it because of Lucifer?”
“No!” Ray-Ray said, then hesitated. “Well,” she hedged.
“Oh shit,” Ella said.
“No, no, it’s nothing like what you’re thinking! I wanted you to stay in LA because you have friends here and a job that you love and you were happy. I also, happened to, as a bonus, and NOT as the primary motivation, wanted you to stay because Lu needs more friends too. And he likes you. And you’re good for him. You’re good for each other.”
“I’m good for the devil,” Ella said blankly.
“You’re good for my brother,” Ray-Ray corrected, glowering. Ella felt a frisson of fear trickle up her spine. Ray-Ray must have seen it, because her expression gentled.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” she gripped Ella’s hand. Ella flinched, but Ray-Ray ignored it. “Neither is he. I promise. May dad strike me down,” she gestured pointedly at altar. “You and Lu are two of my favorite people. I’d hoped you two would become friends when you met, not because I wanted to manipulate either of you, but because I thought you’d, you know. You’d make good friends. Lu gets so caught up in his head, sometimes. When he cares, he cares deeply, but he puts up shields. You seemed like someone who could get behind them. And who better than my big brother to keep you safe? It felt really win-win.”
“But how can that be true?” Ella said. She felt overwhelmed and incredibly small. “He’s…”
Ray-Ray scooped her into a hug, and that was nice. Hugging was familiar territory.
“I get that this is a lot to take in,” Ray-Ray said. “He’s got a bad rap and has had terrible publicity, but that’s not who he is. You know who he is.” She gave Ella a little, encouraging squeeze. “You’ll figure it out. I have faith in you.”
“You have faith in me,” Ella repeated incredulously, chin still propped on the angel’s shoulder.
“Well duh,” Ray-Ray said, matter-of-fact, stroking Ella’s back in a soothing manner.
Ella thought about it.
She thought about it for several long minutes while Ray-Ray held her in a hug and didn’t pressure her to talk. It was nice.
Ella eventually pulled back.
“I think I should talk to Linda. About… all of this. But if I have more questions, can I-? I mean, do you mind if I-?”
“You can definitely talk to me, Ella.” Ray-Ray smiled at her. “Just, you know. Pray to the angel Azrael,” she waved a hand at herself, “And I’ll hear you.”
“Thanks,” Ella said. She had the angel of death on mental speed dial. Ella didn’t at all know what to make of that.
Ray-Ray stood up and stepped out of the pew.
“Well, I should get back to work. Souls won’t escort themselves you know,” she rolled her eyes in a ‘Work. What can you do?’ kind of way. “Smell you later, Lopez.”
A pair of enormous, pale, gray-brown wings unfurled behind Ray-Ray. With a massive flap of them, she was gone.
Ella stared at the spot where she’d been. The wind from that wing-beat had blown her bangs back and ruffled the pamphlets in the pews.
Bananas, she thought again. Totally bananas.
Good thing she knew a shrink.
She dialed Linda.
On the way to Linda’s office, Ella thought about Lucifer. She tried to put the man she knew into the context of the biblical Adversary.
Ella accepted it was true, but it was just so difficult to picture Satan as the man who had hung out in her lab while she had babbled on about plastic vs. organic wood and blood saturation. The ruler of Hell, as a dude moped about running out of his favorite whiskey, and who paid mariachi bands to embarrass Dan. Beelzebub himself; someone who wise-cracked at crime scenes as much as Ella did, and laughed at her jokes, and who had told her-
He had told her that he didn’t want to sleep with her because if he did, and Ella then believed him, he thought it would break her. And Lucifer hadn’t wanted to break her.
“Oh, honey,” Linda said when she opened her office door to Ella’s soft knock. Ella wiped at the tears that had started somewhere between getting out of the car and getting up the staircase.
Ella found herself wrapped in another hug. Her friends knew her well, she thought.
“I’m not even that upset,” Ella insisted. It felt like there was a disconnect between her body and her brain. The tears were an involuntary physiological reaction to the stress she was feeling.
“Why don’t you come in,” Linda said. “Have a seat. I’ve got a bottle of wine that I think will help.” Linda ushered her inside, flicking the switch to turn on the ‘in session’ light as she closed the door.
Linda poured them both generous glasses. Taking a deep swallow, Ella admitted that it did help.
“I feel kinda guilty about, you know,” she gestured between herself on the couch and Linda in her chair. “I promise I’m not using you for free therapy.”
“Pfft,” Linda scoffed. “You think I have wine with my patients?” She shook her head. “No,” she insisted. “This is just a conversation with my friend. Besides, I’ve been where you are, and it helps me, too, having someone else in the know about how crazy the world actually is.”
“You’re Lucifer’s therapist,” Ella said, feeling the words out like they had just occurred to her. “You’re Lucifer’s. Therapist.”
“I know, right?” Linda took another swallow of wine. “Believe me. I know. Med school did not prepare me for that one.”
Linda leaned forward and said, conspiratorially; “I was convinced, for the whole first year, that the whole devil thing was a metaphor. A difficult family relationship that he’d contextualized into a persona he’d created.”
“I thought he was a method actor,” Ella admitted.
They shared a rueful look.
“I’ve gotta admit, Ella, I’m very impressed with how you’re handling this.”
“Oh, yeah,” Ella said, sighing. She wiped at her smeared mascara.
“People often find it hard to recognize their own strengths. That doesn’t mean they’re not strong. Let me tell you what happened to me when I found out.”
Linda paused, taking another sip of wine.
“I told him that I needed him to be completely honest with me if I was going to help him. What I remembered, afterwards, was that he’d asked me, multiple times, if I was sure, and I just kept on insisting that, yep. Yep, I was sure. No more metaphors. Tell me who you really are. And when he did – when he trusted me and opened up – I completely shut down. I went fully catatonic.” She drew a flat had down in front her herself, miming a wall.
“I couldn’t leave my office for a week. I was too terrified. Every time I thought I had a handle on what I was feeling, I’d think of something else, some other new implication of finding out the truth, and my mental dominos would just all go tumbling down again. I was a complete wreck.”
“I’m so sorry,” Ella said.
Linda laughed and gave Ella a pointed look.
“It was Maze, actually, who got me down from the proverbial ledge. She’s so human,” Linda said, in a tone that implied she wasn’t.
‘I was forged in the bowels of Hell to torture souls for all eternity.’
It was one of the first things Maze had said to Ella, during that first tribal meeting, before they’d even exchanged introductions.
“Oh my god,” Ella said. “Oh my god.”
“Ohhh, shit. Whoops, I’m sorry, Ella. I’d assumed you’d known that. I’m sorry; that was really unprofessional of me.”
“Maze is a demon?” It came out like a question.
“Maze is Maze,” Linda said, firmly. “She’s still your friend. She’s got a completely inappropriate sense of humor and terrible taste in cocktails. She has the same emotional vulnerabilities as anybody else. She just also happens to be…” Linda tilted her head. “Not an LA native. I can’t talk to you about what I discuss in therapy with Lucifer, but I can say that the same applies to him. He’s still just a person, despite the larger context.”
“Right after you called me, I called Chloe,” Linda said. “After the way I reacted when Lucifer told me the truth, and then after the way Chloe went through a similar struggle, I think the idea of opening up to more people is probably terrifying to him. It hurts to get rejected by people you care about. And I’m not saying you’d be wrong to react that way. It would be entirely understandable and valid if you do. But I hope you give him a chance. He’s really quite something once you get to know him.”
Ella blew out a breath. She finished her glass of wine and held it out to Linda for a refill.
“I think I just need a bit of time to wrap my head around it. Distract me, please. What’s new with you?”
Linda refilled both their glasses and, obligingly, launched into an anecdote about her incompetent landlord.
They both left the elephant in the room alone and, over the rest of the bottle of wine and most of the next one, Ella let herself enjoy the otherwise easy conversation. The tension that had been making her shoulders creak started to bleed away a bit.
When they called it a night, Linda gave her another searching look, but didn’t mention Lucifer, taking Ella at her word that she just needed time to process.
“If you need anything at all,” Linda said. “Please, call me. My phone is only off when I’m in session. And I don’t care if it’s in the middle of the night. If you need to talk, please, don’t hesitate to reach out, okay?”
“Thank you,” Ella said. She was a little drunk and the kindness moved her more than it would have on any other day. She hugged Linda tightly, and then made her goodbyes.
She started ordering a ride to take her back to her apartment. She hesitated.
She set the destination for Lux, instead. Heading down the stairs from Linda’s office, she thought;
I’m praying to the angel Lucifer. Hey. Hi. It’s Ella. I’m heading over to Lux. I think we should probably talk.
It was just after nine o’clock, and Lux was in full swing when Ella arrived. She looked at the glamorous people lined up to get in, then down at her happy sushi t-shirt and zip up hoodie, and sighed in frustration, resigning herself to a long, long wait.
She started heading to the back of the line when a “Miss Lopez,” caught her attention. The bouncer was waving her over.
“Mr. Morningstar says you can head on up to the penthouse. Elevator’s up the staircase on the left.” He gestured for her to go inside.
Ella was aware of the queue of people glaring at her but she was too tipsy and freaked out that the praying-to-Lucifer thing had apparently worked to really care about it.
Lux was exactly as she remembered it. Long black curtains, row upon row of gentle yellow track lights, surfaces all either gleaming or velvety soft, tempting fingers to come over and touch. Lux was an embrace of sensuality and decadence. For someone taking a vacation from Hell, it made a lot of sense.
The dance floor throbbed with people and it took Ella a bit of work to wend her way through to the staircase. The elevator dinged softly when she pressed the button. It was the least intimidating elevator in the world, but Ella’s heart skipped when she stepped inside and pressed the button for the penthouse floor.
The elevator opened directly into Lucifer’s apartment, which, despite having been there before, surprised her. Ella had forgotten that there wasn’t a door and was taken aback to be, all at once, in Lucifer’s personal space. His home.
“Oh!” she said, spotting him sitting at his wet bar. “Sorry, I was totally going to knock.”
Lucifer was dressed in a black suit with a dove gray shirt. His legs were crossed casually, an elbow propped on the bar and a glass of what Ella assumed to be very good scotch in his hand.
He waved away her apology.
“May I pour you a drink?” he asked. His eyes searched her face and Ella admitted that, yes, this atmosphere was weird and tense as shit. She nodded, and he poured a generous glug into another tumbler from the decanter by his elbow.
He held the glass out in offer. Ella paused only for a moment before walking forward to take it.
Lucifer didn’t look any different at all. He looked tired, perhaps. He was usually so vibrant that his current stillness was jarring.
He was being so careful, she realized, not to appear threatening. The soft voice, the open posture – he was making an effort to put her at ease.
Ella accepted the glass and took a sip.
“Oh, dude,” she breathed. “You have the best taste in whiskey. Although isn’t there a thing about wine before liquor? I feel like I’ll regret this in the morning.”
She gave him a tentative smile, and he, tentatively, smiled back.
“Perhaps we should order some food? Line your stomach against future regrets,” he said, and some of his familiar teasing tone was back.
Ella helped herself to the seat next to him.
“Or make them worse,” she said, but her stomach chose that moment to growl. Lucifer laughed.
“Well then,” Ella said, and her hunger caught up to her all at once. She hadn’t eaten since breakfast. And, seeing Lucifer, talking to him – she wasn’t afraid. She had a world of questions, but her gut instinct said that what her friends had been telling her was true: Lucifer was still the same. His context had gotten bigger, but he was still just himself.
“Sushi?” Lucifer offered, glancing at her t-shirt.
“With whiskey? Bruh, no. This is a pizza occasion.”
It was easy. Being with Lucifer was easy. Ella could tell he was dying to ask her about, well. That. But he wasn’t pushing for it. They ordered pizza from a place that didn’t deliver but made an exception for Lucifer, a bit of trivia he’d relayed with a spark of his normal glee.
“You made a deal with them, huh?” Ella asked shrewdly.
Lucifer raised an eyebrow.
“Actually, I just tip obscenely well.”
“Why LA?” Ella asked, changing the topic abruptly. It was the first acknowledgement of… that.
Lucifer tilted his head. He smirked.
“Would you believe me if I said I took advice from a porn star?”
Ella considered it.
“Absolutely,” she said, nodding. “Which one?”
“Misty Canyons,” Lucifer said.
“You met Misty Canyons? Oh, dude, tell me everything!”
“You’re familiar with her work?” Lucifer asked, disbelief painted clearly on his face.
Ella rolled her eyes and tapped her glass lightly against Lucifer’s.
“Yes, this good little Catholic girl watches porn, but I’m also drinking with the devil so I don’t know why you’re surprised.”
And there it was. Splayed out flat between them. Lucifer was the devil.
“Well,” Lucifer said, aiming for nonchalant and not quite hitting it. “All that tells me is that you have very good taste.”
She snorted. God, he was such a narcissist.
Lucifer set his glass down, giving her his full regard. He looked so unsure. It made her heart hurt with sympathy.
“You’re taking all of this… very well,” he said slowly.
“That’s what Linda said to me, too,” she admitted. “I don’t feel like I’m taking it well. I mean, I’m not rocked by knowing that the Big Guy is legit, or that you literally exist. I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around that… that space between ‘the devil is real’ and ‘the devil is you.’” She summarized.
Lucifer nodded. “I suppose that’s fair. Would you rather I was still a method actor?”
“No,” Ella said. It had been simpler when Lucifer was a method actor, but… this was probably better. “I mean, in retrospect, spending two years working on a single role? Pfft, you should’ve been cast for sure by now. Unless you were just a really bad actor. Like, embarrassingly bad. Just the worst.”
He gave her an offended look, and she beamed at him.
The elevator dinged - their pizza delivery arrived.
Ella looked at the roll of bills that exchanged hands and whistled when the elevator door closed again.
“Man, you weren’t lying about that tip.”
“I don’t lie,” Lucifer said simply. He set the pizzas on the bar, opening the lid and turning it to her in offer. The smell hit Ella like a ton of bricks. She was starving, and it looked delicious. She dug in.
Lucifer plucked pineapple segments off of his slice, flicking them back into the box.
“Ham and pineapple,” he shook his head at her order. “Pineapple on pizza is a damnable offense, Miss Lopez.”
Ella’s eyes widened and she stopped mid-chew, looking at him in horror. Lucifer took in her expression and chortled.
Ella punched him in the shoulder, hard - a default response to having grown up with older brothers.
“You just said you didn’t lie!” Ella accused while Lucifer rubbed his shoulder in exaggerated pain. His eyes were twinkling.
“I still have a sense of humor,” he protested. He took another bite, muffling his laughter at her continued glare.
It had been a little funny, she admitted.
“Speaking of,” Ella said, and the mirth faded away.
“I don’t decide who goes to Hell,” Lucifer said, correctly guessing her train of thought. “Neither does Dad, really. It’s dictated by a person’s own sense guilt and belief in whether or not they deserve punishment.”
Ella chewed quietly for a while.
“Did you have a throne?”
“Yep,” he said, popping the ‘p’. He reached for the decanter and refilled both their glasses.
She squinted at him. He had tomato sauce on the corner of his mouth.
“I just have such a hard time seeing it,” she said.
Lucifer took a long, contemplative sip of his drink.
“Would it help if I showed you proof?” he offered.
Ella thought about the bone shard. The feather. Ray-Ray’s impossible wings.
“Can I see them?” she asked. “Your wings?”
“Oh,” Lucifer said blankly. “I was just going to do a quick, you know,” he gestured at his face, and for a second, his eyes flashed with a completely unnatural burning red.
Ella squeaked, and he flinched. She cleared her throat.
“Okay, the interrogations that end with custodial being called to clean up pee make more sense now,” she said. She leaned closer to him, curiously scanning his hairline.
He rolled his eyes.
“I don’t have horns,” he said, his tone beleaguered.
“How about a tail?”
He squeezed his eyes shut and sighed. She couldn’t resist adding, “What about hooves? Goat-eyes? Forked tongue?” She hid a grin as he looked more pained with each cliché. A little laugh escaped her, and Lucifer seemed to realize she was just trying to wind him up.
The muscle in his jaw twitched, the involuntary motion somewhere between amusement and annoyance. She patted his hand.
“I’m not scared of you. It just caught me off-guard, a bit. I still wanna see them,” Ella said, feeling bold and stubborn and more than a little drunk. Lucifer looked from her fingers on his hand back up to her face.
“You’re sure?” he asked.
“You’re sure?” he repeated, warily enough that Ella paused to really think about it. Yes, though. Yes, she still wanted to see his wings. She nodded again, and Lucifer stood up from the bar stool and took a few steps back.
Ray-Ray’s wings had unfurled in one smooth motion and a soft rustle of feathers.
Lucifer’s wings… didn’t.
He visibly grimaced as they sprouted from his back, creaking and grinding like arthritic bones. They trembled when he stretched them out, like holding them open was a strain.
Ella could see why.
“Lucifer,” she breathed.
The mental picture she had of big, fluffy white angel wings was… not… what she was looking at.
Lucifer’s wings were ravaged.
Setting aside the oddness of the wings pushing through the back of his suit jacket, she focused on the wings themselves. She took in the spread of healing scar tissue and broken feathers. The aged blood stains sticking the feathers together in clumps. As she watched, one of the feathers came unstuck and drifted to the ground, jostled by the tremors running through the wings. Lucifer showed her his full wingspan for a few seconds, then let the wings relax, folding them in like a bird’s.
Ella stood up from her seat and did a slow circle around him, tracing the wound patterns - the bullet spray.
She held her left fist in front of herself and mimed covering it with her right hand, wrapping her palm over her fist, trying to visualize the strike pattern. Lucifer watched her from the corner of his eye and, seeing the gesture, nodded.
“More or less accurate, yes.”
“You used them like a shield,” she said. The wounds looked raw, painful. Naked patches of skin poked through the feathers. The places where bullets had struck and chipped bone were sunken and red. It hurt to look at. It hurt so, so much, just to look at it. At Lucifer. Her friend.
She threaded her arms around the wings and pulled Lucifer into a tight hug, resting her cheek on the back of his suit jacket in the spot between his shoulders. Lucifer’s body was tense under hers, the muscles taut.
“Miss Lopez, are you… crying?” Lucifer asked.
Ella sniffed against his jacket.
“A little bit, yeah.”
She pulled back and patted his shoulder.
“Okay,” she said, wiping her eyes. “Okay, let’s get you cleaned up.”
“I. What?” Lucifer turned to face her, stepping back on the pivot so as not to hit her with his wing.
Ella ran her fingers over one of the clumps of stuck-together feathers.
“That can’t be comfortable,” she said. Under her hand, Lucifer’s wing was warm.
“It looks worse than it is,” Lucifer said, searching her face. “They are healing.”
“Uh huh,” Ella said, “And in the meantime, you’re dropping angel feathers all over a police precinct. Dude. Let me help.”
She eyeballed the wings, trying to think logistically. It’d probably be easiest to start by soaking off the dried blood and getting a good look at what was underneath. She bit her lip.
“How big is your bathroom?”
Lucifer’s bathroom was ridiculously large and luxurious, but it was still awkward to try to find a position that worked. The wings didn’t really fit, even in this much space.
They ended up with Lucifer sitting on the edge of his tub – a deep, black, marbled tribute to excess that could have seated three people with room to spare. When she’d raised her eyebrows at it, he’d unapologetically told her it was fun for orgies.
He sat to her right side, his right wing folded, his left wing extended and bent to rest on the lip of the tub so that she could clean it. Ella had taken off her shoes and socks and stood in the empty tub. Lucifer had taken off his jacket and shirt – without putting his wings away first, which had boggled her, even with his explanations about their flexible tangibility. She’d figured there had to be variant metaphysical properties when she’d seen them poke through his suit jacket, but it was still brain-bending to watch the un-reality in progress.
She set down the clean washcloths she’d gathered on the far side of the tub and turned on the tap to fill the large mixing bowl she’d gotten from Lucifer’s kitchen, running her fingers through the water first before deciding it was warm enough.
“Be careful with the primaries,” he said quietly, and the longest feathers on the tips of his wings flexed. “They’re sharp.”
The edges did look wickedly sharp, but what caught Ella’s breath was the reminder that the wings were a part of Lucifer’s body. Not a prop or costume. It was easy to make that mental disconnect until he moved them with as much control as wiggling his fingers or toes.
Cloth dampened, she decided to start from his shoulders and work her way outward. Where the wings connected to his back, the smallest feathers weren’t damaged at all. They looked soft – fluffy, almost – like down. Ella squinted.
“I can’t tell if they’re just really, really white, or if they’re actually glowing,” she said, giving in to the temptation and stroking them. His skin was warm, and the feathers were as soft as they looked.
“They do glow, a bit. Or, well,” and Ella could hear the rueful smile creep into his voice. “They bring light.”
Lightbringer. Right. Ella shook her head.
This was so fucking surreal. She was glad she was a little drunk.
She gave him one more pat and then started carefully running the cloth over one of the blood-stained spots, working from the top of the wing and heading downward, following the direction of his feathers. The dried blood was hard and rough, tugging the barbs of the feathers into skewed positions. She squeezed out some of the water onto the clump to start soaking the blood off, rubbing the cloth with gentle persistence, over, and over, and over, until the old blood came loose and the stained feathers were lying flat. Unobscured, the bullet wound underneath was painful to look at. At least, though, it didn’t look infected. Could Lucifer even get infections? Probably not, she thought. From a first-aidy point of view, she didn’t see that there was anything she really needed to do to help it along. Lucifer was right – the wounds were healing.
Still. The scar tissue felt taut and thin under her fingers, and the muscles twitched, sore and tense from weeks of carrying these wounds.
Ella’s eyes traced the length of the wing and the work ahead of her. She counted dozens of healing bullet holes. Dozens. It would take hours just to clean them. Lucifer had been living with these wounds since the shootout. It must have been so painful, so uncomfortable, and Ella hadn’t had any idea. She’d thought he was just bruised.
Ella wrung out the cloth down the drain and wetted it again. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. No fixing the past, after all. The best Ella could do was to help him now. She moved on to the next spot.
Lucifer’s torso slowly bent to the side while she worked, until eventually his head came to rest against the edge of the oversized shower cubicle.
“That does feel nice,” he admitted quietly when one of the more stubborn clumps finally straightened out under the steady press of her washcloth. Ella’s throat tightened again in sympathy. Why hadn’t he asked anyone for help?
The water in the bowl had quickly turned faintly rust-colored while she worked. She poured it into the tub’s drain, using that tap to refill the bowl again.
Aside from the occasional grunt when the cloth caught and pulled too hard on a wound, Lucifer was quiet while she worked. With his head propped against the shower wall, his eyes gradually drifted to half-mast as he relaxed into the… well, the preening, Ella thought.
She was preening angel wings.
The worst wound was the dented chunk of flesh missing from the top curvature of his wing. The piece of bone that had been recovered from the crime scene would have fit perfectly there. The alular feathers were mostly gone; some tiny new growths dotted the skin where the new feathers were starting to grow in, but the piece of missing bone made a red, scabbed crater that kept drawing her eye. It had to have been agonizing.
“I think this one’s just about done,” Ella said, nearly half an hour later. She dipped her washcloth in the clean water and gave the wing another pass from top to bottom. Lucifer looked over his shoulder at her, his sleepy eyes refocusing sharply, and Ella knew her voice had come out tight, strained.
“You’re upset,” he said. The wing tensed under her hand, like he wanted to pull it in. She put a firm hand on the arching bone to stop him.
“Of course I’m upset!” Ella snapped.
The wing fluttered under her hand again.
“I… perhaps this was a bad idea,” he said, sitting up straighter. His wing twitched in her hands, little aborted movements to retreat that her grip was preventing. He swallowed. “I appreciate your help, Miss Lopez, but you’ve no obligation to-”
“You’re actually an idiot. You do realize that, right?” Ella interrupted. “You’re my friend, and you got shot, and you’ve just been quietly in pain for weeks. How would you feel if I got shot?”
Lucifer’s eyes darkened.
“Right?” Ella said, not waiting for him to answer. She pet the feathers under her hands, careful to keep her touch light. There were so few places that were uninjured. The soft touch juxtaposed with the way she was nearly shouting at him. “And I get it. Why you couldn’t’ve come to me after it happened and been all ‘hey, Ella, my wings got shot up and I could use some help,’ because I didn’t know about them. But Linda did, right? And Chloe? You have people who care about you, you toolbox. Don’t ever do something like this again.”
Christ, Ella thought. She sounded like her mother. Not that Mama Lopez ever called anyone a ‘toolbox,’ but Ella could hear that familiar cadence of angry concern in her voice.
“You have my word,” Lucifer said. His voice was quiet, sincere, and Ella squeezed his shoulder in a quiet thanks, acknowledging it.
“Okay,” she said, exhaling heavily, letting the anger go. She dumped out the dirty water. “Okay, other side, now. Scoot over.”
Lucifer grunted but did budge over. Ella gathered the soggy feathers that she had worked loose. They stuck to her hands when she tried to wipe them off.
“Yes, they’re terribly clingy, aren’t they?” Lucifer said, amusement trickling back in his voice.
Ella reached around the wing and wiped the feathers off onto Lucifer’s pants leg. Smiling at his grumble of protest, she turned the tap and refilled the bowl.
Compared to the other wing – the right one, that she hadn’t cleaned yet – his left wing looked like it belonged to a completely different species.
The floaty buzz from the alcohol had receded by this point. The surreality was still there, but there was nothing quite like doing repetitive cleaning to make a thing more grounded and real. These were Lucifer’s wings. He’d used them to shield himself – and maybe Chloe? – in a shootout that, from the damage, may very well have otherwise killed them.
Thank you, God, Ella thought. Thank you for keeping him safe.
Lucifer turned his head, gaze squinty and suspicious. Ella raised her eyebrows innocently.
Without the shower wall to rest his head against, Lucifer was more alert for the second wing.
“I’m having less trouble,” she admitted. “Seeing you as Lucifer. These helped.” She gave the wing a pat. Good wing.
“You started the fire, didn’t you?” Ella asked. “I’ve been thinking about that crime scene. The fire looked like arson but everyone we arrested confessed to working for Pierce and trying to kill you. So, why would they try to cover up the scene? Unless it wasn’t them doing the cover-up. It was probably covered in angel blood and feathers, right?”
“Like a holy swan had exploded,” he agreed with a sigh. “But – no, the fire was actually the dear Detective’s doing.”
“Decker? Really? Huh.” Ella was a bit impressed. He hummed his agreement.
“The damage,” and the wing in Ella’s hand lifted a little as he indicated it, “Was done in shielding her from harm. In the aftermath, perhaps she felt a desire to protect me in turn.”
Ella could picture the scene. She shivered, thinking about how awful that must have been. For a while, she cleaned the wings without comment. Lucifer broke the silence.
“I’m surprised that I’ve not yet been accosted with questions,” he said. “You don’t want to know about Hell? What I did to Hitler? Or if any particular assholes of your acquaintance wound up in my care?”
“I’m curious,” Ella admitted slowly, “But I don’t need to know. I’m sure the people that belong in Hell went to Hell. I have faith that they got what they deserved. I mean, if you want to talk about any of it, I’ll certainly listen, but… short answer? No, not really. I’m cool.”
“You remarkable thing,” Lucifer said fondly.
A few more moments passed. Another section of wing got cleaned.
“I do have a question,” Ella ventured. Lucifer inclined his head, a non-verbal ‘have at it.’
“What’s God like?”
Lucifer snorted. His lip curled and he inhaled, clearly poised to say something scathing–
And he stopped.
He gave Ella a sideways glance and let the breath out.
“Decisive,” he said, instead of what he’d been about to say. “Aloof.” He paused, clearly scrounging. “Creative?” he ventured.
“You’re really struggling not to be negative, aren’t you,” Ella said.
“We don’t have the best relationship,” he replied. Understatement, Ella thought.
“Thanks,” she said. “It’s sweet of you to try.”
“‘Sweet’, she says,” Lucifer mumbled grumpily.
Satan himself, ladies and gentlemen.
“Okay. I think this one’s just about done,” she said, giving a stubborn spot on his secondary feathers a final, victorious pass. She straightened the bent feathers with her fingers and stepped back to regard the work.
Lucifer’s wings were still somewhat patchwork and wounded, but compared to the blood-stained ruin they’d been, the improvement was profound.
Lucifer flexed the wing and sighed.
“That feels so much better,” he said and, with a displacement of air and a creak of not-quite-healed bones, both of the wings were tucked away out of the physical plane.
Lucifer stood from the edge of the tub. Ella couldn’t help but watch the smooth, long line of his spine and the muscles in his shoulders bunching. He was, admittedly, a very attractive man, and the shirtlessness wasn’t helping.
“You know what, Miss Lopez, I find that I’m abruptly rather thoroughly knackered.”
“I can imagine,” she said, smiling at him. Getting relief from that constant pain had to be hitting him like a sedative. “Go on, go to bed.” She stepped out of the tub and sat on the edge to pull on her shoes and socks. “I’ll see you in the precinct tomorrow?”
“Yes, I imagine I’ll swing by-” He trailed off, amused, as Ella captured him in another hug. She settled her cheek against his bare chest for a moment, oddly satisfied to feel his heart beating against her skin. Lucifer tensed, as he always did when she hugged him, but after a few moments he relaxed and accepted it.
“Okay,” she said, letting him go only a little reluctantly. He was warm, and he smelled great. “Rest. And no more getting shot and not telling anyone.”
“Sir yes sir,” Lucifer replied. They left the bathroom, parting ways in the living area. Ella expected him to head off towards his bedroom but she felt his eyes follow her all the way to the elevator.
“Good night, Lucifer,” she said, giving him a little wave as she stepped in.
“Good night, Miss Lopez,” he said, quietly enough that Ella barely caught it before the doors slid shut.
As it turned out, Lucifer and Chloe were out of the precinct and staking out a warehouse for most of the following two days.
Between that and the unimaginative crime scenes that popped up and didn’t really require a lot of effort on her part, it gave Ella plenty of space and plenty of time to think.
The decision, when she came to it, really wasn’t that hard at all.
On the third day, Lucifer swung by her lab. It was mid-morning and Ella was on her second cup of coffee when he wandered in.
“Hey,” she greeted warmly.
“Miss Lopez,” he said. He tipped his head to the side and regarded her. She smiled back at him.
“So I’ve been thinking,” Ella said when it became clear he was waiting for her to start.
“I’ve got to admit – it’s pretty cool that I have actual angels for friends.”
“I’m… not, really. Not, perhaps, in the way you mean. I’m not exactly in Dad’s good books. I should be clear about that.”
“Am I going to get damned for being your friend?” she asked, aiming for sarcasm and not quite hitting it. She didn’t think the answer would be ‘yes,’ but it was a terrifying possibility.
“No,” Lucifer shook his head firmly, and the clenching feeling in her gut eased. “No, Miss Lopez. What I said before, about your irritating righteousness… I did mean it.”
“Well then. Good. Did you have any lunch plans? Because I’m thinking of trying to get you guys together to try this new Ethiopian place with me.”
He gave her a long, bewildered stare.
“It’s that easy?” he asked.
She shrugged. She thought about everything she knew about Lucifer. She’d had two full days to think about it. She thought about his choices and the sacrifices he made to protect the people he cared about. There were a lot of ways she could describe him, but ‘evil’ wasn’t one of them.
“Why shouldn’t it be?” she said, and couldn’t resist adding; “Besides, your sister thinks we’d make good friends.”
“My sister is a meddlesome little brat,” he said, a knee-jerk response that wasn’t without affection.
Lucifer eyed her and, expression softening, opened his arms in invitation.
“Aw, I knew I’d wear you down eventually!” Ella said, stepping into the hug and returning it with enthusiasm. She felt a gentle pressure against the top of her head that she was pretty sure was Lucifer giving her an affectionate peck.
Not an angel at all. Sure. She thought, and snuggled in.