It starts as a tingle.
A tickle at his nape, light as a zephyr and just as fleeting. It is hardly noticeable, surrounded as he is in a constant sea of people—bodies brushing him as they pulse and grind in time with whatever electric tune is blaring through the speakers of Lux, and exclamations of disparate ranges humming their squalid secrets into his ears or hissing their darkest desires into his mouth. He is no stranger to the chaos of noise brought on by sin, the cacophony of achieved pleasures only to be followed by the turbulent guilt at having indulged at all.
Yes, the prickle that stings the back of his head is inconsequential. Not unlike the buzz of a fly, one that—in hindsight, he might have ingenuously assumed—may be banished with a mere flick of a wrist.
Easy to ignore.
Until, that is, the fly comes back and it’s not so easy anymore—in fact, it’s the exact opposite.
It shouldn’t have been possible.
Not since his literal Fall from grace. But the pressure behind his eyelids and the weight that blossoms throughout his muscles and cartilage—somewhat familiar, vaguely irritating and entirely unexpected, if not a tad alarming—is one that can no longer be denied. Never mind the eras that have risen and long since passed without so much as a glimmer or a hint of it.
Impossible, he tries again. Even as the proof lays before him in all
its her lanky limbs and sprawled out, drooling glory. Even as the hum becomes an insistent beacon of urgency, redolent to a boom of thunder as it drowns every other sound. Still, he is hard-pressed to believe the reality of the situation—because it has been eons upon eons since the manifestation of this ability, because no one should have remembered or known, much more needed to do so.
Because who the hell would pray to the Devil?
Beatrice sighs, her svelte frame twisting in her sheets to face him, seated as he is on the chair by her bed. The roaring in his head surges till the vein on his forehead pounds with it.
He contemplates keeping his stealth and ignoring her.
But children always do have a way of seeing.
He exhales a sharp breath through his nose, and with it, drops his cloaking glamor.
She sits up then, bleary orbs blinking dust from its corners. A stillness blankets his mind when their dark gazes clash.
“Took you long enough,” she whispers through a yawn. He barely represses one himself. Instead, he pinches either sides of his forehead at the impatience in her tone and endeavors to call on a little of the virtue for his own.
“You were quite…” he rummages for a relatively PG term before finally settling on, “tenacious.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“I don’t care.”
He glares at her. But her glower is just as caustic, if not more so. He cannot help but shrink from her—the darkness burrowing into the chinks of his crumbling walls and liberating the despair that he has, till now, refrained from capitulating to since…
(“It’s all true.”
The waver in her tone… the scent of her sweat... the strain in her eyes—how they all betrayed her fear.
“It’s all true.”)
Well, best not to think about that.
“You look tired,” Beatrice softens, reading far too much and too well, the shadows haunting the cutting lines of his face and painting his figure in gaunt relief.
“I am,” he accedes, head tilting back as he sinks lower into the surprisingly plush armchair—or is he so exhausted that even a concrete floor would have felt like a thousand-dollar orthopedic mattress to him there and then? Did he care?
His lids are heavy.
(No. No, he did not)
“Okay,” she replies, something knowing and all-too grown up in her articulation. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
That rouses him enough to prop his head back up towards her.
“This was good,” she decides, settling back beneath her covers.
“Beatrice?” he addresses the lump she has made of herself.
“Why did you,” the term is a plumbeous tumor in his throat, the taste of it foreign on his tongue. But the Devil is no coward and so will not be felled by word or ten-year olds, no matter how charming or sly. “Why did you pray to me?”
He pokes it. The lump groans.
“Beatrice,” he barks. “I will not be toyed with—”
“I was worried about you. And now I’m even more worried because I don’t think you slept in forever.”
I haven’t, he answers privately but she seems to hear him all the same.
“Go home. Rest. We can talk tomorrow. Try not to come too late,” she pauses, deliberating. “But not too early too. Okay?”
“And if I don’t?”
But the little hellion succumbs to slumber, or at least makes a valiant attempt at it. He goes to shake her awake but retracts his hand when it is a hairsbreadth from her shoulder. Oh, but the blissful silence that engulfs him is almost a—dare he say it—heavenly reprieve from the monstrous anchor of her prayers, not realizing how they encumbered him till he is stood in his penthouse with nothing but the thud of his heart, the wisp of his breath and the briny, L.A. current as his soundtrack.
As he settles onto his bed, he decides to abstain from visiting the detective’s daughter the following night, convinced nothing good could come of it.
But her voice, a baffling juxtaposition of lethargic and jaunty—Good night, Lucifer!—rattles in his brain.
He thumps his head against his pillow.
Though… presumably, nothing bad could come of a quick visit either.
He is asleep before he finishes the thought.
“You really ought not to pray to me, you know.”
She is draped over her bed with an immobility he would classify as preternatural, if he didn’t know any better.
It is unnerving, and so is her observation. He sits straighter, then aborts the movement—for what could he have to prove to this miniature human? Nothing, that’s what. She is but a nuisance to him, after all. One whose antics he has humored thus far, if only to put an end to them.
Enough of this, he promises himself as he squares his shoulders—for the good of his posture, of course. How horrendously unattractive would it be, to have a hunchback for a Devil now? Perish the thought!
“I won’t come back even if you do,” he insists, haughtily. “Do you understand?”
Her eyes narrow into disbelieving slits.
“Right,” she drawls.
“No, really,” he stresses. “Your mother will put me to the grave if she finds out.”
“She won’t find out!”
“Be that as it may,” he says dubiously, “this ends tonight.”
Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.
In fact it goes on for quite some time.
Though he adamantly refuses to admit how he anticipates each twilight.
The quiet is jarring without her voice in his head.
The previous night had her bemoaning about a performance of some sort that would require her full attention and so he has the day to himself.
It is odd.
He was looking forward to the private time, prepared to relish in the lack of invocatory disturbance after so long without. After all, there was never a dull moment in Hell and the periods that weren’t wrought with the agonized screams of the damned were far and few in between. Then there were the innocuous annotations she peppered him with throughout his daytime routines, they were utterly distracting. He didn’t need to hear about the complexities of her Math assignment while extracting favors nor did he want to know about the, quite frankly, grotesque offerings of an elementary school cafeteria while he was at a distributor’s meeting.
So he relishes the peace, wherever he may find it.
Or so he thinks.
Prayers are no small matter. They are, more often than not, afflicted with the Herculean effort of sustaining humanity’s last dregs of hope. They are massive, suffocating burdens—the kind God’s legions of angels were not apt (or mandated, more like) to aid.
But not Beatrice’s prayers.
It is all too easy to forget that amidst the torment of adulthood, therein too, lay all the insouciance of youth. Perhaps in the beginning, they had felt like chains. But now, without her supplication, he feels depthless and unimportant. Like if he were to float away in a cloud of dust, no one would so much as blink. She is his final tie to Chloe, a tie he is growing more accustomed to (not that he would tell her this on pain of death) with every passing chance they are isolated from the rest of the world. A tie that no longer just links her to Chloe—but links her to him despite Chloe.
It scares him, this reliance.
When she calls for him the next night, he does not come.
He hates himself for it.
“Stop,” he scolds the glass in his hand.
Why won’t you visit?
He downs the drink then leaves it on top of his piano. He paces to his bar. He spreads his hands on the glassy surface and puts all his heft there so that the marble countertop wails its dissent.
Did I do something wrong?
He shakes his head, and he isn’t sure whether it’s to clear it or it’s in answer to her question.
That’s it. That’s what does it—the insecurity threaded into her pronunciation, the heartbreak woven into every letter of the bargain. It strikes keenly within him, the tinge of her sadness all too familiar as it monochromes into one that matches his soul. With a roar, he throws out his wings and in the lull between two heartbeats, he is by her side.
“It isn’t you,” is his version of a greeting. She doesn’t even startle.
“Where have you been?”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, alright?”
There’s a mist in her eyes that he inhibits acknowledging with painstaking exertion.
“Then why’d you stay away?”
“Why do you keep praying to me?” he demands through gritted teeth.
He braces for something profound, something that will bring him to his knees, begging for her absolution.
“I don’t know,” she looks downtrodden at her inability to provide him a thoughtful answer. “I just do.”
He is bereft of it, anyway.
“But I’m not a good person. Surely you know that?” He dumps himself unceremoniously onto the single armchair in the room. “I’m not even a person.”
There isn’t much to say following that, for what is there to say that wouldn’t be a falsity?
He should leave. But Beatrice doesn’t ask him to, and the regret at not showing up the previous night is a hot iron that brands him to his seat. So he lingers—till enough time passes that he thinks she’s fallen asleep. It is a rare evening that she doesn’t deafen him with talk. He doesn’t mind. But when she does speak, her utterance small even in the tranquility of the eventide, he mentally kicks himself at not having bolted when he had the chance.
“Where were you?”
“What do you mean?” He delays, something brittle in his rebuke despite clearing his throat. He is not drunk enough for the depth of this conversation. “Does it matter? I’m here now, aren’t I?”
She shakes her head.
“You were gone,” she whispers. “You are gone. And so is daddy, and Maze and even mommy.”
He chokes on a breath, panic clawing at his lungs when he spits, “The detective? Has something—” the dread escalates, “happened to her?”
The springs in the foam whinge at the tightening of his hold.
She shakes her head. “She’s not in any danger, if that’s what you think.”
The vise around his heart lessens and for a fraction, he loosens his grip on the seat.
“I sense a ‘but’,” he wheedles.
“The week you stopped showing up, the same day Maze left,” she sniffs and there’s a stagger to her narration that attests to a pent-up sob, most likely for his benefit. He reaches out and rubs her back in a couple of awkward circles like it might erase his guilt.
It doesn’t, but she calms enough to resume talking. He, thankfully, withdraws.
“Mommy’s been different— sadder. The couple times I snuck on her door, I don’t hear her cry, but she wakes up in the morning and her eyes are red. When I eat breakfast and she doesn’t think I’m paying attention, she stares at the door with a frown, like she’s waiting for someone but at the same time, she doesn’t want that someone to show.”
The foreboding mass of guilt in his gut intensifies. She doesn’t speculate as to this person’s identity and he won’t insult her intelligence nor malign his own by asking who.
They both know the answer.
“Where did everyone go?” she laments.
“Your mother will never leave you,” he admonishes. “You know better than that.”
“Maybe,” she concedes with a weary exhale, “but everyone leaves, eventually. Whether they want to or not.”
There is a wisdom to her speech that no child her age should possess, and yet the bluntness of her delivery—infused with such jaded finality—arrests him of his ability to succor her with his special brand of omissions and half-truths.
The Devil does not lie.
“You can protect her, right? You’ll always be there—”
He shakes his head.
“I can’t,” he implores sibilantly, shame coloring his truth. “I can’t save anyone.”
I couldn’t even save myself.
He wills her to understand, but how could she? For as much as she has matured, she has so much living yet to do.
“You don’t need to save anyone,” she urges gently as she slumps over and grows heavy on her pillows. “You just need to stay.”
He startles at that.
“You ask too much of me.”
There’s an itch at the base of his throat and a strain in his lids that seems suspect of tears, but the Devil burns too hot for such displays—at least this is what he tells himself through the rasp of his declaration.
“I don’t know,” he confesses. “I don’t know how to.”
All he’s ever known and seen is what it is to walk away. Lucifer’s path is littered with the devastation of all those he leaves behind—from Heaven and Hell, then his parents and his siblings and even Mazikeen, as well.
The detective is just another name on his ledger, written more than once in bold, block letters and angry, bloodied ink.
Is Beatrice to be a part of this, too?
So he keeps confessing, even as she skims the boundary between waking and slumber, if only to warn her of the inevitable, if only to provide a shield—however flimsy it may be—from the pain of him.
Lucifer is nothing, if not a ticking time bomb and the detective and her daughter deserve far better than to be left in shrapnels at his imminent destruction.
Still, it doesn’t stop his fingers from poising over the detonator.
“Though I suppose... I wouldn't mind,” he professes to the gloom with all the austerity of a remorseful sinner in church learning to redeem himself.
(He always did fly too close to the sun)
“Why do you still pray to me?”
She is plastered to his side tonight, and burrows even deeper so that he’s convinced she’s done it purely to vex him, legs draped across his lap as if he was her personal footrest. He grimaces but doesn’t deny her her petty grievances, not when she is still a tad sore over his curtailed abdication.
“Why do you keep saying you’re the Devil?” she counters, rearranging herself to sit crisscross on top of his thighs so that they are facing each other. He feigns a grunt to tease her then rolls his eyes, unwilling to divulge the cunningness of her subterfuge.
He does so adore talking about himself.
“Because I am.”
The duh, though unspoken, rings loud between them.
“But your brother’s an angel.”
He splutters at the mention of Amenadiel. Weren’t they talking about his deviant self? How did his oaf of a brother enter their conversation?
“Doesn’t that make you one, too?”
Before he can deign to refute with all the drama and indignance of an affronted sovereign, she barrels on in that careless, excitable way children (and Ms. Lopez) often do.
“I mean, I know you fought your Dad. And that you have these super cool light powers!”
“Well, look who’s been brushing up on their theology!” Despite himself, he is impressed. “Been going to Sunday school just for this Old Scratch, have you?” He preens with a charismatic quirk of his brow and his signature, entrancing smile.
She huffs her frustration before rolling her own eyes, impartial to his charms. The rebuff is so achingly distinct it sends a twinge through his heart, even as he whines a protest.
“Did my Father send you too,” he starts, with shades of genuine bafflement in his inquiry, “or is this immunity a by-product of being the offspring of a Miracle?”
“You talk funny, but I guess that makes sense. Like in the old days,” she pauses, her forehead puckered in reflection as she continues, “or those people in Game of Thrones!”
He tilts his head in amusement at her intimate knowledge of the show, no doubt in thanks to a certain demon. His smile is nostalgic, before he remembers the shambles of his relationship with Mazikeen.
(Best shove that in a box to be studied at never)
“Anyway,” Beatrice redirects when he doesn’t retort. “I don’t go to church, but daddy’s parents have a Bible.”
He snorts, rather inelegantly. “You— you read the Bible? ”
“I’m ten, you know. I can read.”
He raises a brow.
She yields, but not without a pout.
“Okay, so the writing is really small and like, have you seen the thing? It’s—” She lifts a hand to approximate the thickness, her thumb and pointer stretched as far apart as they can,“ this thick. And there are so many big words!”
He snickers. Her scowl is a scorching thing, and he is certain he would blaze from it if he wasn’t all ready a gnarly mosaic of burn wounds.
“So I just Googled you.”
“And what else have you discovered?” he smirks. “All bad things, I hope.”
“I didn’t really understand much,” she readily admits with a shrug. “But I got that God sent you to Hell as punishment, kinda like a time-out for not following Him—” Lucifer grouses at the comparison to a petulant child, though he couldn’t exactly deny it.
They would work on her phrasing another time.
(Not that there is another time, he defends
unconvincingly. He really mustn't do this again)
“—You had to watch over all the bad souls that went there forever, which I guess is how you became the Devil. But even if you’re the king of Hell and the,” she air quotes, “‘Prince of Darkness and Lies’ and all these other nicknames, which are so mean, by the way!”
He smiles at that.
“—You’re still an angel. You just fell.”
“Oh, is that all?” he snarks, the grin wiped from his lips and a bad taste in his mouth. The simplicity with which she conveys the sentiment—as if it weren’t a cosmic, body
and mind and soul altering experience—smarts, though he’d never tell anyone, least of all this child.
She bites her lip, a prominent conflict brewing storms upon her expression.
“Out with it.”
She purses her lips.
“Can I see?”
He sighs. Though he expects it, he cannot control the sliver of dejection that conquers him at Beatrice’s… mundaneness.
“If you must.”
He sets her to her feet then rolls his shoulders, slowly. An exercise in control and restraint as he is cognizant to the limitations of her space.
(And definitely unwilling to wake the lady of the house whom he is not quite ready to face just yet)
He expands his wings as far as he is able to in her little box of a room, one at a time, before folding them closely to his back. It’s a tight fit and he must lean forward to accommodate the blasted things, but he manages to find a modicum of comfort. Father they were gaudy, he notes upon a prompt review of the pair. Lucifer is as ostentatious as they come, but he has class, thank you very much—an inherent taste for opulence that skirts the border between sophistication and grandeur. He coils one wing in front of him to better examine it.
He despises how they glint in the darkness.
He abhors the reminder of them, of everything he has lost. What has once signified power and his connection to the universe and Creation has mutated into shimmering, feathered shackles. He hates and hates and hates, because a sick part of him still yearns for the grace with which accompanies them, longs for the music in the sunset and the serenity in the sunrise and the scraps of His effulgence with every poor soul he used to bequeath with care.
He hates Him for it—for invoking this secret, ugly whim he long thought had been extinguished. For once again taking his agency by slapping it onto his back despite how he bends and breaks and bleeds to cleave them from his flesh.
But most of all, he hates himself. For how he stands in the eye of his carnage—plumage torn and carelessly strewn, and gore puddling the obsidian floor till his sanguine fluid is indiscernible from the Italian marble—and is flooded with a deep-seated relief at their every winking return.
And if he is just as taken by its divinity, whose to stop the young one from spiraling into that insane, obsessive trance?
So he braces for the frenzied groveling. For the disgusting simpering or overwhelming exultation. Maybe even an overenthusiastic hug, as she is so avid in dispensing him.
However, a perusal of her mien has his mouth hanging open in shock. After all his speculation he certainly does not expect what he finds there.
The cloud of struggle looms forcibly upon her still rounded and childish visage. He tucks the bothersome appendages away with a shrug, feeling woefully inadequate for some inexplicable reason.
“Is… is something the matter? Are they not—”
He withers and he wants, as he struggles to dispel the disenchantment from her eyes.
“Do you not like them?”
“No, I do,” she nods her approval. “They’re pretty. But…”
He cocks his head in encouragement.
“Maze has another face,” she expels in one swift yet hesitant breath, as though it is she who is loath to fail him. “I thought it was just make-up because we were out trick or treating, but I understand now,” she nods, voice growing steadier as she builds her surety. “It was her real face.”
And when she lays the final brick of her armor, she looks at him, fearless.
“Her demon face.”
He gasps, permitting that perhaps this time, it is he who dithers at her implication.
Or maybe she has lost her mind, after all.
“You truly don’t know what you’re asking this time,” he disguises his unease behind a growl.
Her own shoulders curl inwards, but the resolve in her gaze remains steadfast.
Another sound rips from his throat, a cross between another growl and a sob. He never thought to miss the mindless reverence, and yet here he is. He would take the inconsolable horror and repugnant pleas and even that wretched fear over the uncontrollable surge of hope that threatens to devour him.
“What an obstinate creature you are! You’re just like—like…” his snarl falters.
“Like your mother.”
He intends for it to be an insult.
“Yeah—no, I don’t know what that means.”
But the proud, if not slight, smile that crimps the corner of her mouth tells him she takes it otherwise.
“And I still don’t care.”
“Of course you don’t,” he relents before returning her grin with one of his own—albeit sad and just as paltry. “It means stubborn.”
She shakes her head in exasperation while he drops his in his hands, elbows bolstered on his knees.
“You don’t know what you’re asking, Beatrice,” he repeats into the skin of his palms, and so he does not sense her nearing presence until she is upon him with a delicate touch to his shoulder.
“Be not afraid.”
In that moment, he is stunned by the turn of phrase. Then the next, he’s smothering chortles, that are a touch too hysterical to be perpended humorous, into the crease of his arm.
“Isn’t that—” he wheezes as he struggles to catch his breath. “Isn’t that my line?”
Her grin spans the breadth of her cheeks, even in its sheepishness.
“Where did you even get that?”
“I told you,” she smirks. “I Googled. A lot.”
It takes more than a couple of heartbeats for their pseudo-mirth to subside, hushing gestures articulated only for wandering giggles to erupt just when they have themselves under control. But all too soon, the high of the instance comes bursting down, and the silence that follows is a sobering one.
“Are you sure my Father didn’t send you?” he recurs, feebly.
She shrugs. “How should I know?”
He shakes his head, his entire countenance adopting a grimness more suited to a prisoner on Death Row. His penumbra companions pool at his feet in a mimicry of worship so that his shape consumes the gloaming and the moonshine is blinding in its contrast.
“My… my Devil face is not for the faint of heart.”
A final warning.
But she is unfazed, merely stares at him with such openness and trust… he would applaud her for her fortitude, if it didn’t break his heart that he will be the one to wipe the innocence from her world.
“Stand back now.”
For once, she does not protest. But before she can move further, he grasps her hand.
“I will not hurt you,” he squeezes lightly. “Remember that.”
He lets her go and takes a deep breath. He closes his eyes. When he opens them, he knows the fires of Hell dance in his orbs—are reflected in hers too, as they meet each other’s gaze and she gasps.
“Remember,” he beseeches.
In short bursts of flame, he chars the remains of his human glamor till all that remains is his ruined flesh.
For once, it is he who awaits judgement.
“Lucifer,” she sniffs, voice trembling.
“I won’t hurt you,” he repeats.
She steps into the lone circle of moonlight. He searches her eyes and it confirms what he all ready knows—she is crying. Not the sniveling, bawl of a spoiled brat deprived of its playtime but a subdued sob, a torrent of tears noiselessly streaming the valley of her cheeks and the slant of her chin.
He doesn’t know which is worse.
He is ill-equipped to comfort her, not when he is paralyzed by her reaction or more appropriately, her lack of. But before he has to choose to have a go at it, with abominable results he is certain, she replies with, “I know.”
“But aren’t you afraid?” he goads, floundering for a semblance of a typical response, if only to disrupt the disequilibrium that flares within him at her unsettling ease.
“Did it hurt?”
He jerks at the question.
“Did what hurt?”
“When you Fell,” she blubbers. “I mean, you’re Lucifer. You’re my mom’s partner and you pretend you don’t like hugs even though I know you do!”
“What are you trying to say?”
“You don’t deserve this,” she whispers harshly, with a vehement shake of her head.
“I’m the Devil,” he sighs and for once, there is no hubris in the pronouncement. Only a debilitating resignation for his true nature. “This is the least of what I deserve.”
Her fingertips graze his cheek in a tender caress. Confounded by her boldness and deprived as he is from such guileless ministrations, he forgets to shirk her—leans to it instead, as if the roles are reversed and he is the child, pitiful and fragile and desperate for connection. Can this be true? How he wants it to be so—how he wants the vacancy of her terror and the solidity of her marvel. When was the last time he had been bestowed such candid affection in this form? Had he ever been comforted at all in the aftermath of his disgrace?
(No. Not once. Not ever)
How he wants and wants and wants.
“Maybe the Devil is what you are.”
This entire night is a dream, he concludes. It must be—for as blessed as he is at fulfilling others’ desires, he has always been a pariah to his own. How could she offer him salvation in the form of her acceptance, given her knowledge of the atrocities tattooed at the very heart of him?
“But like Maze is a demon, it doesn’t mean that’s who she is.”
Yet as established over and over.
“And I only know how you treat me and my mom, Lucifer. The Devil doesn’t have to be who you are. I know it isn’t.”
Children always do have a way of seeing.
“And maybe you don’t believe me, but it’s okay.” She touches his opposite cheek so that both hands cradle his mauled face.
“Cause I believe in you. I can believe for both of us.”
So he holds her to him, his hands dwarfing hers—those artless, untainted hands filled with the scored reminder of his greatest failure, his greatest sin, and for the first time.
The Devil weeps.
“Will you show me your light powers now?”
“Absolutely not.” He shifts beside her in a sorry bid to be more comfortable, fingering the coverlet of her bed. He sniffs in disdain at the scratchy linen. “I must buy you new sheets.”
(He gives up all
self-respect methods of avoidance when it comes to her, because she’s a leech which you can’t get rid of without incendiary assistance and he hardly thinks the detective would appreciate him burning her child. It’s not at all because he legitimately looks forward to their time together, nope—no—no sirree)
“Why not?” she gripes.
He inspects her chambers, then with an accompanying flourish of his arm, proclaims, “This room cannot hold me.”
“Then let’s go outside.”
“Oh, I see.”
His hackles rise at the arrogant shift of her smirk. “See what?”
“Nothing,” she demurs.
His eyes narrow at her. “Speak, spawn,” he towers over her with affect menace. “Now.”
“Well,” she begins airily, unintimidated. “I’ve never seen you use your powers.”
“Not many mortals have the privilege,” he boasts.
“Then how do I know you have them?”
He gapes. “You have seen my wings, right?”
“Big deal,” she grumps. “You and a bunch of all your other siblings.”
“I beg your pardon!”
“Mary Beth told us she had a boyfriend earlier this year,” Beatrice dismisses his ire. “She said his name is Ryan and that he’s older and goes to another school. We didn’t believe her. Then when we told her that, she showed us all these ‘texts’ he sent and during recess she would ditch us cause she says she had to ‘talk to him’ on the phone.”
“What the hell does Mary Beth’s abysmal love life have to do with my powers?”
“She never showed us any pictures of him.”
He raises a skeptical brow.
“She’s always on Snapchat and Instagram.”
“Your point? And in this century, please.”
She rolls her eyes.
“We found out we were right, and he wasn’t real. Mary Beth? Have a boyfriend and not post about it every five seconds on her accounts? As if. But it was the fake call that gave it away in the end. She ‘answered’ it only for a text to light up the screen. Anyway, everyone knows it’s pictures or it didn’t happen.”
“I don’t have to prove myself to you! I’m the De—”
“Yeah yeah, you’re the Devil, you don’t lie, blah blah blah. But how do I know you really made all the suns and the stars in the universe?” She turns to her side, away from him, and clamps her blankets snugly to her person. An apparent dismissal. “Guess I’ll just have to keep thinking you didn’t or you’re too chicken to show me.”
“I so do too have powers,” he fumes. “And excuse you! Like any other being besides myself could produce something as beauteous as the heavenly bodies you lot know of, with your paltry telescopes and your inadequate rocket ships. You humans have seen nothing compared to all that I’ve created.”
He wheels her to him.
“When God said, ‘Let there be light’ you're damn right I was the one who made it possible. You think Amenadiel could orchestrate the hypnotizing symphony of a million shooting stars? That Gabriel could choreograph the precision of an equinox? Or Cassiel or Raphael or Father forbid Michael, conjure the complexities of an Apollo, down to the infinitesimal shades that differentiate a sunrise from a sunset? Please. They’re about as creative as a rock, and mind you—that’s an insult to the rocks!”
He stands with a scoff before smoothing his jacket and fiddling with his cufflinks.
“And I am not chicken anything.”
He holds a hand out to her. She stares.
“Well?” he shakes the limb in a fit of pique. She places her hand in his, the one he always thought to be sticky but turns out to be quite clean with all the smoothness that comes with childhood.
“I’ll show you power.”
And before either of them can blink, his wings are out and they are whisked to the beach of his initial advent to Earth.
“Whoa,” she breathes. “We just totally apparated!”
“I believe the more appropriate term is, ‘flew’.”
He puffs his wings theatrically, basking in her giggles as he raises them as high as they can go while she jumps to catch the peaks, only for her to trip over her feet when he propels them enough to send her stumbling to the ground. She shrieks in delight.
“Still think I’m chicken?” he lashes, but without malice.
“You have the wings for it, that’s for sure.”
“You little rascal!” he places a hand to his chest in mock outrage. “I’m appalled at the lengths you’d go to manipulate me.”
Lies, his brain hisses. He couldn’t be more ebullient.
“I’m still not seeing any light powers, Lucifer.”
He chuckles. “Alright. Bossy thing, aren’t you?”
“Learned from the best.”
He loves how that could mean any person between the detective, Maze or him.
(Him. It’s got to be him)
Something overtakes him at her expectant scrutiny, and it hits him anew—he does not want to disappoint her, especially if it is his doing. He is so good at letting anyone close to him down, after all. And much as he claims to be repelled by her companionship, in truth he doesn’t want to be responsible for her disillusionment—not when it is so easy for everybody else to deem him insufficient.
So he tells her, “Joking aside, it’s been some time since I last… exercised my skills. It might not be—” he clears his throat. “Well, there was no sky in Hell, you know. And I have found little use for them here. My powers are not what they once were.”
I’m not what I once was, but this he doesn’t reveal.
“You just gotta do your best,” she shoots him a close-lipped smile that somehow manages to infuse him with confidence. “That’s good enough for me.”
Although, it might not be the smile so much as her words, her plenary belief rearing its reiteratively pertinacious head, that buoys him.
He laughs a tad nervously, his wings shuddering with skittish energy. It has been so long, indeed, since he called upon the reserves of his power, though he reassures himself it is as simple as riding a bike—you never forget it. What once was there can never be erased.
However, to his bountiful irritation (and embarrassment), he has more than a couple of false starts. He balls his fists to banish the jitters. He just gave a whole spiel about his Greatness, for fuck’s sake, keep it together.
“It’s okay, Lucifer,” Beatrice’s look is loaded with understanding, a bit of chagrin, too. He frowns, and recalls the who of it all—for this is just as much for him as it is for her.
For the light is his birthright, whether it is the coalescing heat of a nebula or the sweltering pyres of Hell, the brilliance of an aurora has always been his to wield.
The stars are not as visible as he would like them to be, but better here now than in the city. Still. It’s not enough, he tells himself, disapproving. He should do something about it.
He extends his forearms to either side of him and tilts his head to the sky.
Then with renewed vigor, he begins again.
It emanates from him, in gradual bursts of luminance. It manifests first in the tips of his fingers, no larger than a spark, that grows to an ember, that ribbons up and down the length of his arms. In enthralling susurrations, he flirts with the light, calling out to his oldest companions in a sultry, velvet croon.
Come, he beckons almost pruriently. How I’ve missed you.
And though they are helpless to his summons, it is he who surrenders. With eyes tightly shut, he submits to the flash of hundreds, thousands, millions of unsullied lights slamming onto him with all the elegance of a cresting wave. It stitches itself onto the fabric of his skin, rushes through his bloodstream and intermingles with his bones and sinew so all that he knows, all that he is, is refulgence.
Somewhere in front of him, Beatrice gasps then breaks into a sprint around him, laughing—that carefree, unforgiving chortle present only in the tongues of youth. That is, until it bubbles out of his own throat and mingles with hers in a harmony of astonishment. He forgets everything and himself then, till he is flushed and windswept and refreshed on what it is to be high on resplendence.
When he is positively brimming with it, he throws out his arms, his wings widespread in imitation, and commands, show her.
He opens his eyes to a deluge of stars, except in lieu of descending from their paradise of space, they are coalescing onto his hands and shooting from his flesh till their immediate atmosphere is fashioned into an atramentous dome dotted with glittering meteors.
A night sky of his own making.
“It’s not the sun,” he utters in the causatum of her reticence, her profile fixed upon one of his creations so that it is difficult for him to read her.
“Mommy and daddy used to take me camping, before they got divorced.”
“Yes, I heard.”
He ventures a step towards her.
“There were so many stars where we went, so much more than what I see at home. I wished so bad I could just reach out and touch it. Maybe wrap it around me like a blanket—it was so pretty.” She sighs, a hundred different gusts of contentment in that one miniscule breath. “The best thing I ever saw.”
He bends on one knee beside her.
She shakes her head, lips breaking out into a beatific smile as she cups both hands beneath one of his celestial lanterns.
“This is better.”
He joins his hand beneath hers. Together, they prod it to a gentle incline, pushing it upwards as high as her arms can go, pulsing lucently as it ascends and joins its brothers and sisters in the Earth’s sky.
“Way, way better!”
She squeals, chasing the stardust in its wake. He follows.
The stars twinkle that much more at their Master’s joy, the ghost of their own laughter trailing close behind.
The hours lose meaning as they weave new and mesmerizing constellations in the air, the sand, their skin.
And when she tires, she resumes her vigil on his lap—her back to his front and his wings gathered in a cocoon to ward off the vigorous chill of the sea breeze, having failed to grab her coat in his haste.
“I wish mom was here to see this.”
The tide is low enough that they don’t have to worry about getting wet, despite their proximity to the edge of the furthest swell. He buries his hands in the sand, reveling in the sensation of fine granules aloft his skin and for once, heedless of the dirt clinging to his clothes. The lambent debris sliding into the curves and crevices of his digits is one he finds, to his shock, a dulcifying motion after the electrifying exhibition of his powers.
“I don’t think she wants anything to do with me, much less my powers.”
Her head falls onto his chest.
“I don’t know how anyone can be mad at this.”
Lucifer traces a circle into the sand and the stars dance about them in a lazy carousel.
“It’s not this she’s upset about. It’s me.”
She tips her chin to face him.
“I… I did something.” He stiffens. “Something bad—an act forbidden to all angels, hence the reappearance of my Devil face and my, however inadvertent, unveiling to your mother.”
“Oh,” she considers him. “Are you sorry?”
She makes a chastening noise.
“Mommy says that if you do something bad, you have to own it. Like that time I lied about eating a slice of my birthday cake because you told me I should do what I want. And I really wanted that chocolate cake.” He hums. “But I wasn’t supposed to do that, so I said sorry and tried not to do it again. You won’t do it again, right, Lucifer?”
He wishes, just this once, that he didn’t have such a convicted disposition against dishonesty. But what is a wish, if not the most foolish fantasy of all?
“The truth is if I had to, I would do it again. And if that means the detective wants nothing more to do with me, then it’s a small price to pay. Especially if it means you’ll still have your mum by your side in the morning, and for many more mornings to come.”
The thought of the detective is one he has tactfully avoided revisiting since the occurrence of their falling out. It is easy in the day, when he can immerse himself in drugs and booze and an app or three. The nights are even easier, when Lux is in full swing and he only has to worry about emptying his glass as fast as he can or if the conversation is interesting enough to carry on before he flits to the next warm body.
Then Beatrice’s voice fills his head, a bouncing reverberation to trounce the din of the rest of his life and he caves. These liminal pockets of time, in the hours between dawn and dusk that is spent with her, never ceases to impress upon him the extent of his transgressions when it comes to the detective. It barges into him like a riptide, pulling him closer to a nebulous reality in which he might have to endure the rest of his existence without ever seeing her, not even for a minute more, beyond what is quite conceivably their last memory together—of the evidence of her repulsion of him in her frightened expression.
So though he should disregard the child’s litanies, cut himself off from all things Decker with the precision of a seasoned surgeon, and stay away —he cannot, unfitted with the self-control or the valiance to deny himself that which he covets, no matter how incomplete.
“Do you… do you think your mother could ever forgive me?”
He would cringe at the vulnerability coating his inflection if he didn’t feel as if his survival hinges on her advice.
She curls onto her side and angles her head to better peer at him.
“Yeah,” she mutters. “I think if you told her what you just told me, she just might.”
“Maybe,” he sighs, scarcely stifling the impulse to knead his temples. “Though I imagine it will take more than an apology. This is no case of the missing slice of chocolate cake, after all. The situation is much more dire.”
He nudges her.
“Any suggestions?” he glibs, only half jokingly.
“Just try,” she shrugs. “If she doesn’t then you and I will always be friends,” her fingers tighten at his lapel in a way that is sure to leave wrinkles though he cares not. “Won’t we, Lucifer?”
“If… if that is what you desire, then yes.”
There is no toothy grin, only a solemn entreaty as she presents her pinky to him.
A quivering breath escapes him at the poignancy of the ceremony—juvenile vowing methods notwithstanding—though he musters a smile for her benefit, one she returns with a dazzling rendition of her own. He is temporarily speechless at the sight, for he has never been more evinced of her likeness to Chloe till this very moment.
“My word is my bond, Beatrice.”
He interlopes his pinky over her proffered one.
“You may doubt any and all persons and things in this world and the other worlds beyond it but in this,” he brings their tangled digits to his chest, just above his heart, “you most certainly can trust.”
All the stars above them glow that much stronger but none hold a candle to her eyes, a gleaming pair of supernovas to rival even that of the shiniest astral formations in all of Creation.
The ebony oblivion of nightfall dwindles to the blossoming flush of an impending sunrise and only then do they head back.
His wings disappear to their alternate plane just as he deposits the sleeping ten-year old onto her bed. With a tenderness he didn’t perceive himself capable of, he folds her within the warmth of her sheets. He fusses for another minute—arranging stuffed toys, fluffing pillows, leveling her covers and brushing her wayward tendrils from her face.
“You’re the only one who answers.”
Curious, he sleeks the crinkle between her brows.
“What’s that, child?”
“You… ask…” (she yawns) “me… pray…”
She smacks her lips only to emit a near imperceptible snore. He snickers, retreating to the doorway.
You’re my answered prayer, Lucifer, she mumbles in soundless supplication. He glances back only to realize she is lost to the clutches of repose once more. He drops to a knee at her bedside.
“If I were a religious one,” he tells her dozing form, “I’d say you and your mum are mine, too.”
He swirls towards the source of the disembodied voice, only to be met by the lurking silhouette of the detective leaning against the doorframe with her arms crossed.
After the days-long exodus, the sight of her is a feast for his senses—all long lines of bared skin, outfitted as she is in sleep shorts and a tank top, and golden locks cascading in a waterfall over her shoulders and down the slope of her back.
He swallows, mouth going dry.
“Detective,” he greets uselessly, only now half mindful of Beatrice resting behind him. Then, aware of the hour, he raises his hands in submission. “You know me,” he reassures. He hopes. “I mean you no harm—you or your offspring.”
“I do know you,” she sighs. “And I know my daughter. If you’re here, she probably asked you to be.”
Stunned, he can only gawk.
“Am I wrong?”
There’s a gaiety to her demeanor that drains the tension from him. He hazards a tenuous smile.
“I’ve never known you to be, no.”
The reprieve is short-lived as a chilling quiet follows, both grappling for a foothold in this recondite dynamic. Though it is neither comfortable nor disagreeable, it is ill-fitting all the same—like a pair of jeans too long about the ankles or a suit two sizes too big, functional sure, but certainly not worth wearing more than once.
“So what were you talking about?”
He is grateful for the cloak of darkness as it conceals the terrible blush creeping beneath the surface of his cheeks. He flails a hand with the all the blitheness of a tornado, the noncommittal refute just as discordant.
“Okay,” she drawls. “You don’t wanna tell me. That’s fine. What’s new, right?”
There’s an undercurrent of frost to the criticism, and he can’t blame her. He deserves it.
She lists further onto the woodwork.
“I’m sorry, that wasn’t fair.” She runs a hand over her face. “Listen, it’s late—early, or whatever…”
“Right,” he stands from his crouched position.
“Well, I should get going,” he announces, an inviting lilt at the end so it sounds more question than statement. He has no qualms departing with the use of his wings but brief as their exchange has been and conflicted as is he is about his decision to withdraw from her, he is greedy for her company. So he makes a show of leaving—combing his fingers through his hair so that the riotous curls dangle in an artful coif instead of a disheveled one (the product having long faded), dusting at his trousers (however futile, for sand is notoriously adhesive to fabric) and aligning his suit and cufflinks (more out of habit than necessity). When he loiters at a period just shy of overstaying, only then does he approach the door, prowling haltingly enough that his chest coddles her exposed shoulder as he crosses the threshold to her hallway.
In the confines of his strung-out mind, he rails at the futility of his machinations. His fingertips are a hair strand from the main entryway’s door knob, when she calls his name.
He stops, chin titled a notch at her direction to indicate his attention. He ignores how his heart celebrates to the tempo of a salsa at his name falling from her lips.
“We…” she releases a weary breath. “We have a lot to talk about.”
He nods. “I imagine you have questions.” He pivots on his heel to glimpse out the window, at the hint of red dawn oozing from the horizon. She closes the door to her daughter’s chambers.
“But did you want to do it now or…?”
“Honestly? I’m beat.” She follows his gaze, intent on her rendering on the glass. Even through the facsimile of her image, he recognizes her fatigue like it is an anvil strapped to her back. At her calculating gander, he frowns.
“I should let you rest.”
“Yeah,” she licks her lips then crosses her arms across her chest once more, her combined penchant for anxiety. “But you—you could sleep here, too.”
He scrambles for an innuendo or three, then falters. Surely he heard wrong?
“Pardon?” he croaks.
“Like, on my bed.”
He chokes on air.
She slaps a hand to her face so that her reply is muffled. “Just sleep, okay? You shouldn’t travel now, you’re just as drained as I am—no, don’t deny it.” She lifts her head so she can administer a reproach with a wag of her finger. The repudiation dies on his lips. The use of his powers was quite taxing on him, out of practice as he had been.
“You’re too tall for the couch and for obvious reasons, Trixie’s room is out of the question. Maze forbids anyone from entering hers, so that leaves mine.” She meets his perplexed stare. “It’s fine. It’s big enough that we won’t bump—”
“ I was going to say heads, but yeah—that too.”
He pouts. “You take the fun out of everything.”
The glare she projects unto him is a withering yet welcoming one. His abashment ebbs with every flirtatious bon mot that deserts his mouth, paired with her corresponding eye rolls or derisive comebacks. Yes… this he can handle—he can provide the droll commentary or the salacious suggestions and the overall levity. If he can focus on that, he can almost forget the monumental significance of her actions and his subsequent participation, weak as he is at denying her anything despite what he may or may not deserve.
She is offering him, offering the Devil, to share her bed.
Not to engage in carnal deeds as most of his invitations with a bed as the destination end. Yet there’s something more intimate about just… being here with her, witticisms curdling in his throat as his heartbeat quickens restlessly with every step that brings them closer to her room. Not for the first time, he must ask himself if he is in a particularly vivid dream—but if so, he hopes never to wake up.
He hovers at the outset when they arrive, his hands in his pockets as he watches her fold the blankets then lower herself to the left side of the bed. She hugs her knees to her chest and rests her cheek on top of them, her arms loosely circling her ankles. The sun’s rays are yet to touch them here, but Chloe has never needed it to shine—not when all that’s essential to light up a room is for her to appear. And he cannot comprehend how someone as lovely as her can stand to be in the same bed as him, much less the same space, yet here she is—this creature of kindness, compassion and benevolence, a radiance in her eyes coaxing him to, come closer.
The door shuts with a resounding click.
He fidgets with the top button of his waistcoat. His clothes are grimy with sea salt and quartz and he reckons in for a penny, in for a pound. Still, he gives her a searching look, and when not so much as an objection or another incensed eye roll passes from her—just the constancy of her benign regard—he begins to undress.
In the absence of banter, the rustle of cashmere and the racket of his labored breathing is magnified. He feels both wound and untethered with every strip of clothing that piles itself onto one of her chairs, and he is vulnerable in more ways than the expanse of skin he leaves exposed implies.
For the sake of propriety, he keeps his boxers on then advances to the right side of the bed with all the caution of an explorer in the wild avoiding death in the claws of a beast. It certainly doesn’t help that Chloe’s stare is zeroed in on him like that of a predator homing in on its prey.
(He grants that he might like to embellish. Not much, just… somewhat)
He doesn’t realize he’s stopped breathing till he’s situated on the bedspread and dragging one out.
Her expression dissolves into one he is too acquainted with—that of her exasperation.
“You good?” she questions with no small amount of sarcasm that he deliberately ignores.
She mimics his position, lying prone on her back except she seems cozy upon the sheets while he maintains a ramrod physique. She twists onto the side facing him, a hand under her pillow and the other on the scant distance between them.
“You can relax, you know. I won’t bite.”
“Not even if I ask?”
“Lucifer,” she warns. “Behave.”
“Apologies,” he tells her sincerely. “I’m just confused as to why I’m here. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t hear me complaining. I mean, if I had known that all it took to get into your bed was—”
“Alright, alright,” he ripostes. “I’ll be the perfect gentleman, Devil’s honor.”
He digs his nails into his palms hard enough to nearly draw blood. Why oh why did he ever have to open his mouth? And they were doing so well, too, avoiding the subject of their estrangement.
He turns away from her.
“Well,” he rasps. “Goodnight, detective. Or morning. Whichever you prefer.”
Though, he muses bitterly, how can anything be good where he’s concerned?
To his surprise, however, Chloe seems unperturbed and goes on to remark archly, “You’re like a space heater.”
He shelves his verbal self-flagellation and responds over his shoulder with only an intimation of admonition, “Occupational hazard I’m afraid, being the Lord of Hell and all.”
She doesn’t continue after that. But it is evident neither of them is going to catch a wink of sleep, so he gathers the courage to ask.
“Why did you really ask me to sleep here?”
She lets out a shaky breath.
“I know how you are, Lucifer,” she echoes brokenly. “No more avoiding me. We are going to talk about…” he imagines she gestures towards him. “And what that means for us, yeah? And this way I can keep an eye on you. I don’t want you running away again.”
A pang of guilt courses through him at that. He deflates. But then—
His breath hitches.
“I guess… I missed you.”
He can feel the weight of her stare till it becomes the heat of her open palm hovering over his shoulder. The last time they were in this position, he almost broke her wrist with the effort to avoid her touch. Now though, with the scent of her consuming his senses and her warmness slinking beneath their shared quilt and mingling into the core of him, he craves it—so strongly he struggles to restrain himself and not take and take and take.
“No,” she murmurs. “I know I did.”
But when has he ever been in the business of denying pleasures?
“I missed you, Lucifer.”
With deliberate measure, he leans back—till flesh meets flesh and warmth merges with warmth. She makes a pathway of his back, her fingers tracing lightly over the dip of his spine, then up again aloft the peak of his shoulder blade, her thumb making a hasty detour as it cossets the edge of where his scar had once resided. Every glide of her fingertips is an ethereal caress, as brief and as teasing as a rain shower in the middle of summer. Yet he feels it all deeply, each graze imprinting itself till his soul is carved to the shape of her. How he trembles because of it, amazed at how he doesn’t implode given the seismic proportion of his metamorphosis.
Her hand encompasses the hill of his bicep. At her behest, he moves onto his back and in thanks, her journey ends emphatically across his heart.
“I missed you.”
There is no mistaking the ocean of sincerity simmering in her eyes, even with all she now knows about him. It only serves to agitate his bewilderment, and with it, his fear that this has all been a wild concoction of his inebriated state.
“Detective… Chloe—I don’t understand— why— ”
She hushes him.
“Be at peace.”
Without his permission, he spews a strident yelp of incredulity.
“What?” she shrugs. “I’ve seen Trixie’s Google history.”
“Is that really why you weren’t surprised at my presence earlier?” he grumbles good-naturedly. “What is it with you Decker women and stealing my lines?”
She chuckles. He joins her a second later and forgets, however evanescent, his suspicion of the realness of the moment.
“Sleep,” she soothes. “We have time later.”
“Do we?” he mutters diffidently, his mind racing even as his lashes flutter with the amplitude of his fatigue. Her hand travels languidly from his chest and molds itself onto edge of his jaw. Tempted by her gravity, he falls, and their foreheads collide softly like satellites catching up to each other within the same orbit. He focuses on her halcyon embrace.
Everything inside him quiets.
“No more running,” she strokes his cheek, and he wonders if she means it for the both of them. “Deal?”
He could form galaxies when she looks at him and all he sees are the stars in her eyes—brighter than anything he had and can ever hope again to create, and magnificent with all the promise of a genesis—and this is how he learns.
The sun rises.