It felt weird.
Ella had done it ever since she could remember, but this year she thought about it and, well, wasn't sure she'd bother. Lent, after all, was something to do in honor of Jesus's sacrifice, and Ella wasn't really sure what to think about Jesus anymore.
She'd asked Lucifer, and he'd waved a hand and said, "After my time, Miss Lopez. I was already in Hell when he came on the scene."
"But didn't you, I don't know, tempt Him in the desert?"
Lucifer had turned to look at her then, his eyebrows lifting, an odd glint in his eyes. "What do you think?"
And Ella had faltered because Lucifer, the Lucifer she knew, just didn't match up with what she had been told, what she had read. "Maybe if you thought it was funny?"
That had earned her a grin from Lucifer, but still no answer.
"But if you didn't, why did He say you did? Jesus, I mean." Ella had reeled a little at the thought of Jesus lying.
Though if Jesus had lied, Ella wanted to take back some of the Hail Marys that she had said for lying back when she was a kid in Detroit.
Lucifer had leaned precariously far back in Chloe's chair. "Maybe he didn't. Or maybe he meant it as a metaphor, said he was wrestling with the Devil -" More eyebrows, this time with air quotes. Only Lucifer could make air quotes that suggestive. "- and people thought he was being serious. That does happen on occasion, you know. As does the reverse," he added, his expression gone pointed.
Ella had smiled. "Maybe the Apostles thought he was a method actor?"
Ella had nodded and sighed and wandered back to her lab, still without anything close to a fulfilling answer.
So she had opted not to go eat pancakes at Saint Brennan's for Shrove Tuesday the day after her chat with Lucifer but, in true Catholic form, was feeling guilty about it. She felt more guilty for not returning Father Joe's call about whether she could help with said pancakes.
Should she go for Ash Wednesday? Ella still wasn't sure. It was the next day - the pancakes had been earlier that day - but she was still struggling with the decision.
Easter was her favorite time of year. She loved spring, though back in Detroit it didn't necessarily feel too spring-like by Easter, depending on when it fell in the year. But there were usually crocuses or daffodils if she looked hard enough, and other signs of the world coming back to life after winter.
It was less dramatic in California, but just the idea of spring was usually enough to make Ella happy.
This year, well, it was a little different. It wasn't that she was sad, but people had noticed, had made comments that she wasn't her usual, perky self. She'd just smiled and said something about allergies - another lie - but Chloe had noticed and pulled her aside and asked how she was doing. Ella had said fine, and Chloe had suggested something about going to see Linda. It seemed to Ella that Linda already had enough on her plate these days. She was fine.
So Ella had gone on with her life. Home, work, and so forth, but not church. And if she occasionally read pop culture websites when she was supposed to be working, she'd call it a mental health break - not lying - and be done with it.
Ella had stopped watching The Walking Dead some time back, when the violence had gotten to be too much for her. Still, an article about a large number of character deaths caught her attention during one of her mental health breaks, so she clicked and skimmed the names. Some of them were unfamiliar - it had been a while since she'd watched - but one of them caught her off-guard. "Oh, no, they killed Jesus," she protested.
A small cough sounded from the doorway. "I thought you of all people would be unsurprised by that," Lucifer observed. "Or are you supposed to say spoilers?"
Ella laughed. No. I mean, yeah, of course, I know that Jesus is dead." She paused. "He is, right? He's not, like, working at a 7-11 in Duluth or something?"
"No, he's dead, at least as far as I know."
Ella exhaled a small, relieved breath. "Okay, good. I mean, not good good, because that's an awful way to go. But there are only so many major upheavals a person can handle, you know? And I was talking about a TV show, anyway."
"An account of my so-called brother's life? Or something else?"
"The Walking Dead," Ella replied.
Lucifer made a wry face. "I heard someone on television refer to that fellow with the baseball bat as another me. As if I would use a baseball bat."
"He's way more evil than you," Ella reassured, feeling oddly pleased when Lucifer smiled.
"I just wanted to stop by..." Lucifer's smile faded. "Our conversation yesterday seemed to leave you troubled."
Ella shrugged. "Well. I guess." Of course, it had, but it was more than just the conversation. She leaned against the lab bench and tried to explain. "It's just, your dad..."
She couldn't put together any more words, but Lucifer seemed to understand. "He's a right bastard, yes."
"But he's God."
"Well, the two aren't mutually exclusive, clearly." Lucifer straightened his cuff, then said, head still bowed, "And it's not like he treats everyone as he treats me."
"But that kind of makes it worse." Lucifer looked puzzled, and Ella added, "He's your dad."
"Yes," Lucifer agreed, with a small shrug. He didn't seem to be enlightened by Ella's explanation.
Ella sighed, and it felt like the sound came from her toes. "Look, my father? I know he doesn't approve of everything I've done, especially when I was younger. But I've always known that if I needed him, he'd be there in a heartbeat."
"Well, you've got a good dad. Bully for you, Miss Lopez."
Ella grimaced a little at the bite in Lucifer's tone. "You should have a good dad, too. That's all I'm saying. Your dad is, like, the first dad. He should be better. Not a... a right bastard." She couldn't help but flinch as she said it, and she definitely lowered her voice, as if that would make a difference as to whether God could hear her. But calling God a bastard? If she ended up in Hell, at least she knew the boss.
Lucifer's expression softened a little. "Well. Thank you. I, well, I wish I did also. But I wanted to say that my father's shortcomings shouldn't make you doubt your faith."
Ella's jaw dropped. "Why not? I mean, He's the whole reason for it."
"No, he's not." Lucifer smiled, possibly at the shocked expression that Ella just knew was on her face. "Humanity is. They took whatever scraps my father gave them and turned them into the foundation for their lives. Or, well, part of humanity did. Others found inspiration elsewhere, more power to them. Ah, no offense."
"None taken. I mean, I don't exactly blame you for not having a high opinion of religious people."
A small frown crossed Lucifer's face. "I never said that. While I may not like certain individuals who happen to be religious, my dislike is based on the person, not on their faith. I don't generalize, Miss Lopez. There are some religious people I quite like, such as yourself."
Ella couldn't help but smile. Lucifer - the actual Devil - liked her! "So do you think I should go back to church?"
"Couldn't care less," Lucifer said airily. His manner a bit more serious, he added, "It's what you think that's important."
"Hey, don't do that what do you desire thing," Ella protested, though she was mostly kidding and hoped Lucifer could see that.
Part of her was interested in what she would say if Lucifer ever asked her about her desires: a lifetime supply of Butterfingers? New lab equipment? A fast car? That perfect fanfic? World peace?
She probably wasn't a good enough person for world peace to be her answer, but she thought it would be in the top five. Hopefully.
"I won't," Lucifer reassured. "But it's probably something you should think about, yes?"
"Yes," Ella agreed. "Thanks, Lucifer." Before he could get away, before she could talk herself out of it, she leaned in and gave Lucifer a tight hug. "I like you better than your dad."
"Oh." It was the softest of exhalations, one that Ella would not have heard if she hadn't been so close to Lucifer. She eased back and he straightened his jacket. "Best go find the Detective," he said, though he was smiling as he left.
Ella closed her browser tabs before somebody else could see what she'd been doing, and got back to work. As she ran samples and typed up notes, she puzzled it out in the back of her mind.
Did she want to go back to church? She had stopped going because she'd been floundering, and sitting in a pew listening to people talk about how great God was hadn't really helped, because she knew better.
Would going back be hypocritical? But, no, it wasn't that she didn't believe, and she'd always had sympathy for the Devil, even before she knew him. She just didn't realize that the, well, entity that she had felt bad for was sitting in the bullpen, spinning around in circles in Chloe's office chair.
Wait. Should Ella join the Church of Satan instead? She followed them on Twitter, and she really liked The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. She'd even been thinking of writing a story where Sabrina came to L.A. and met Lucifer, but RPF wasn't her thing.
"Hail Satan," she said experimentally, but it felt weird and she was really glad that Lucifer hadn't overheard. She would never have lived that down.
No, no Church of Satan. Netflix wasn't really a good reason to change one's religion. If Ella was going to go to a church, she wanted it to be Saint Brennan's. She had connections there and she really liked the people, especially Father Joe. She'd thought about going to him with her troubles, but hadn't been able to figure out how to express them. After all, saying, "I think God is a dick" right in church was really asking for lightning bolts.
But Father Joe had known what to say when she'd gone to him with worries about her brother. Maybe she could try, but keep it vague.
The more she thought about it, the more she figured she should give church another try. She missed the people; if she went and it felt wrong, at least she would be able to say goodbye. She just had one more decision.
Ella wandered out to the bullpen and Lucifer looked up from his conversation with Chloe. "Feeling better?" he asked.
Ella shrugged. "Maybe. I was just wondering what you thought I should give up for Lent."
"Well," he replied, with a sly, sidelong look at Chloe. "I was planning to give up abstinence this year."
Chloe rolled her eyes. "And that's a change from what?" She suggested to Ella, "How about sugar?"
"Oh, trying to tone down the pep, huh?" Ella teased, sounding - and, in fact, feeling - a little more like her usual self. "Nah, I did that last year."
"You could fast, and just drink beer for sustenance," Lucifer suggested, looking delighted by the thought. "Like those monks did, and that fellow who wrote that article for CNN."
"You read CNN?" Chloe asked, and Lucifer looked a bit sheepish.
"I don't think a beer fast would be a good idea," Ella replied.
"Right, you're more a fruity-drink person," Lucifer agreed. "And having piña coladas as your only nutrition wouldn't work so well."
"Yeah, that's why," Chloe observed. "Not because Ella being drunk at work would get her fired."
"Well, I assumed she would clear it with the lieutenant, of course," Lucifer protested. "As the CNN fellow did. I certainly wouldn't want Miss Lopez to lose her job."
"Hey, thanks!" Ella smiled, fondly pleased by Lucifer's umbrage.
"And remember, Lent isn't a test. Nobody's keeping notes on who gives up what, or issuing scores. There are no Lent-related betting pools."
Ella turned to look at Lucifer. "That's... oddly specific."
Lucifer just smiled.
"I'm sure you'll come up with something," Chloe encouraged. "If that's something you want to do."
Ella thought about it for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah," she said. "I think I do. Thanks, you two. Have a good night, okay?"
Ella turned to leave the bullpen as Lucifer and Chloe made their farewells. She still had a lot of thinking to do about God, her faith, and life in general, but she felt a little better than she had.
Things were looking up, and spring was in the air.