When Chloe comes to - she screams. She can’t help it. What she’s seeing can’t be real, it’s almost too much to try to comprehend.
“Well, I guess that answers that question,” Maze’s voice is dry. “Now aren’t you glad we didn’t take her to the hospital?”
Chloe can see that it’s her roommate. She can even understand it, if she really puts her mind to it. But something is wrong with Maze. Terribly, terribly wrong. Half of her body is horrifying, like the skin itself has been peeled away, revealing the underneath. But it’s not healthy tissue that lies below, it’s almost as if she were a decomposing corpse. It’s all stringy sinew and rotted muscle, a sunken white eye sits in a dark socket. The rest of Maze is untouched, normal dark, caramel skin, and a smirk sharper than a knife’s blade.
Chloe is torn between fright and feeling like she’s going to be sick.
“Maze,” says the second creature from over her shoulder. Chloe scrambles upright, her human hindbrain gibbering in sheer panic as she struggles against the impulse to press her back against something solid and hold perfectly still like startled prey. It’s a creature that resembles anything familiar in only the barest terms in that it’s vaguely…person shaped.
It shifts and cracks open like lava floes, charred and burning, its skin stretching into impossible proportions, limbs extending to unnatural lengths, caught somewhere between human and animal. Flames lick along its body, flaring out like the surface of the sun, but its face, if it can be called a face, is oddly familiar despite Chloe having no idea how to conceptualize it.
Eyes that burn like embers, white and empty, and rows of razor edged teeth seem to appear and shift at random in a nauseating mishmash of features. It’s head is cradled by a great, heavy circlet, broken on one side, leaving jagged, horn-like points.
“Let the Detective breathe,” it says and if it wasn’t scary enough, the sound of it speaking is enough to spike her adrenaline once more. It’s distorted and low, like the rumbling of an earthquake, the sharp hiss of pressure, something impossibly familiar in the dictation. It’s power distilled, awful, undeniable might. It makes her tremble.
“Brother,” says the third thing, in a voice like rolling thunder and Chloe struggles to understand what she’s even looking at. It’s shadow, darkness coalesced, but with the heart of a star. An eclipse inverted. It seems to bend the very air around it, curving like gravity. When it moves, it’s nothing like the flowing, fiery thing. It moves like an absence, either sudden or so slowly you don’t even notice it. “We cannot be sure she will recover.”
The fire creature’s features convulse and fluctuate, tangling up into a nightmarish snarl, burning bright and white hot. Chloe fears she will be singed, but she feels nothing when it washes over her. The darkness thing dips in response and fades slowly backwards, creeping away like it’s been chastised. The burning one turns towards her, twisting inhumanly, wings sprouting and multiplying at his back, feathers like tongues of flame, and steps infinitesimally closer. Chloe fights a flinch, choosing instead to keep her focus on it, somehow knowing it is the most dangerous of all the creatures around her.
“Chloe,” it murmurs and it resounds through her bones, like it has reached in and plucked the very fibers of her being by speaking her name “I know it doesn’t seem like it, but I’m going to take care of you. It’s going to be okay.” Looking into its eyes, many and varied, is like staring into the sun. Bright and ill advised.
But...she knows those eyes, has watched them stare back at her a thousand different times with a thousand different meanings. They look at her now with unbridled concern.
“Lucifer?” she asks, frightened beyond compare.
And oh, is this what they see? Is this is what drives the humans mad? It’s a little tempting to give way to it, to the part of her that tells her to beg for mercy, to say “Please, stop, don’t come any closer,” but the rest of her remembers how the hurt shines in Lucifer’s eyes when they call him evil and she forces the instinct away.
The creature doesn’t smile, but it’s molten form moves in a way that somehow conveys the same thing, eyes opening up on his shoulders, his arms, teeth retracting, edges rounding. “Hello, my dear,” he says, as tenderly as he can and it still reverberates powerfully through the air.
“Told you she’d figure it out,” Maze retorts to the shadow.
“It appears I underestimated her tenacity,” it replies. Chloe struggles to connect the dots, a headache forming behind her eye. But it had called Lucifer brother, so it must be Amenadiel.
“Lucifer, what is happening?” Chloe asks, doing her best to keep her fear under control.
“It seems that ridiculous little postulant that tried to escape knew a bit more than I expected, but not as much as he believed.”
Chloe can hardly spare a thought for the case they had been on, mostly distracted by how Lucifer sounds both exactly and nothing like his actual self. The pattern of the words is the same, the same cadence, but the voice echoes within itself at times, like three or four are speaking at once, before quieting back down to one, both holy and terrifying. She’s struck for a moment by the thought that awe and awful come from the same place.
“In an effort to escape your pursuit he attempted a sort of…command, if you will. Instead of concealing his own form from you, he’s revealed ours.”
“The Heavenly Tongue is difficult to pronounce,” Amenadiel does allow, his body ebbing, waxing and waning.
“How…how long will it last?”
Lucifer’s form flickers and dims, eyes closing and vanishing, teeth and limbs shortening. “We don’t know.”
Chloe makes a choked noise and buries her face in her hands. “I- I don’t know if I can...” she breathes heavily for a moment. “I don’t think I can -” Her throat closes up against the words. She doesn’t think she can bear it. To look upon divinity and be unfazed. It’s nearly too much already.
“As far as we know, you’re the only one who can see us,” Maze says, her speech pulled funny by her mouth, half dead. “Dan and the others seem fine.”
“Worry not, Chloe,” Amenadiel’s words feel like pressure against her skull, her ears threatening to pop. “It is most likely temporary.”
Chloe laughs a bit wetly. “Let’s hope so.”
“Surely,” Lucifer says, and his voice sounding like a very hesitant landslide, “It is not so terrible.”
She looks up at him, boiling and blistering heat. A dire, destructive force. But the eyes, blood colored they may be, are the same. She reaches out slowly, with shaking fingers, giving him plenty of time to move away. But he doesn’t. His narrow chest rises and falls, and she gets the sense that he’s bracing himself for the worst.
When she makes contact it feels like normal, smooth skin under her touch. Warm, but not overly so. She stares in confusion. He wraps his impossible hand around hers, the fingers too long, with too many joints, curling around her wrist. Flames tickling painlessly along her skin.
The features are foreign and different, more androgynous, yet still familiar - his forward facing eyes close at the contact, but a half dozen more open up on his shoulders and forearms, watching. Perhaps...it’s not as terrifying as she thought. There’s a sort of otherworldly beauty to him, like a wildfire, crackling and uncontainable. Entrancing, in its own way.
“Could…could be worse,” she says slowly, and smiles hesitantly. He laughs like a bolt of lightning, bright and scorching.
But it’s him. It’s still him. And that’s all that matters.