Once upon a time, a star fell from the sky and into the sea with a great crash. Samael found the cold stone by following the stream of tiny white bubbles that trailed from it and drifted up and up to the dented roof of the sea. He brought it back to his brothers, amazed, for he could feel the light pulsing within. It was warm to the touch, even still. But his brothers were uninterested in anything that came from beyond the roof of the world. To prove them wrong, Samael brought his stone up to the height of the water column where the moonbeams danced, and he sang, long and triumphant, and the world transformed; the night plankton around him blazed with light, bright enough to stain his body. The fishes who played in his wake glowed, too, for he’d given the gift of light, what men would one day call bioluminescence. The sea folk called him Lucifer forever after, the Light Bearer.
Later, when he was banished to the deep for his disobedience, all the glowing things were banished with him, down, down to the dark of the abyss. It was a terrible punishment, for these were the souls who loved light the most.
…. but everything sneaks to the top, sometimes. Nightly, his smallest glowing creatures slip to the surface, in memory of their origins. Stars above, echoed by stars below. Occasionally, he even follows them.
Chloe Decker had no particular love for boats.
She’d had fun jet skiing as a kid, or rather as a wild teen, and she’d gone fishing with her dad, but other than that, they held little appeal. She especially had no love for boats at night.
This was reckless.
But she needed a win. She needed a win badly enough that when her partner said, “I know a guy in the coast guard, come on—we can catch him!” She’d agreed. She was regretting it.
The little airboat’s engine roared in the night. Connor—her partner—was swearing. So was his buddy, Sean.
“They’re getting away!” Connor said.
Up ahead, their perp in his stolen whaler roared off, too stupid, or too cautious, to turn off his lights in the night.
“We can get him,” hissed Sean, and gunned the engine. The airboat jolted forward, and Chloe staggered.
“We need backup,” she called over the wind.
“I called the patrol,” Sean said. “They’re on their way. Hold tight!”
The hull of the ship crashed against the waves, so loudly that Chloe almost missed the following crash of thunder.
“If he gets to Mexico,” Connor said, “He’ll tell the rest of the cartel. We’ll never get them.”
Sean looked at her.
“Keep going!” she called, another idiot move, but she really did need that win. And this guy, Kyle Unten, was a total scumbag. He’d joined the Mexican drug cartel after he’d killed his first girlfriend, because he’d wanted their protection. He’d been with them for years; now, having killed his second girlfriend, they had the chance to bring him in—as well as some of his associates.
Sean whooped and the engine roared. They sped off into the night with the winds at their backs. Salt spray hissed over the bow. It was hard to distinguish at first, but soon Chloe realized that it was rain dampening her hands and shoulders, not the sea. But Unten was just up ahead.
“Kyle Unten!” called Sean over a bullhorn in the boat, “You’re under arrest for—”
The boat juddered in the sea, jolted and skidded abruptly. She staggered as the world spun. Rain lashed her face. That sound wasn’t thunder, Chloe realized. It was the hull. They’d hit something.
They’d hit something big.
Unten had roared off into the storm, and she was about to call out to Connor when he yelled.
“Down—get down!” called Sean, and something cold and wet crashed into her and the world went tumbling and tumbling and there was no air—
The world went dark.
Cold water lapped at her legs. Chloe came to the slow, dawning awareness that her toes were freezing.
Then her back complained, then her head. Something was digging into her arm, her ass, her shoulder blade. She groaned, shifted her weight, and the cold water sluiced over her feet again. Cuts and scrapes all over her arms and legs made themselves known, stinging harshly. She coughed, and it rattled her whole body. Her next inhale smelled of salt and seaweed.
It was…. a beach, she realized, opening her eyes slowly. She must have been on a beach, but without sand. Instead the water hissed against stone, and she was extremely lucky she hadn’t brained herself. Those were rough rocks digging into her, and as she coughed again, another wave crashed over her, larger this time, the spray sending her spluttering. She dragged herself away from the surf, coughing.
She looked up. Where the hell was she?
The sun was—rising or setting, she couldn’t tell—in a fiery, orange sky. She was on a rocky shore, where the waves crashed hard. Did she have a concussion? Those waves looked vicious. She had certainly blacked out—that meant concussion, right? For how long? She put a shaking, damp hand to her head. It hurt, but not badly. There were birds everywhere—mostly calling, or flying home to their nests, and droppings. One of the bird sanctuaries, maybe?
Where was Connor? And Sean? She licked her lips.
Something whistled near her, loud and close. She jumped and looked back to the ocean.
There was a beautiful man lying on his belly in the surf, his arms crossed on a large stone. He’d put his chin on his wrists, and he watched her with very dark eyes. His short, damp hair dried in ringlets, and he was artfully stubbled. Those eyes positively twinkled at her, crinkling up in a frankly gorgeous smile. As she watched, a wave crashed over him. He didn’t so much as flinch.
“Hello?” she asked him. “Are you alright?”
He whistled again. It wasn’t a wolf-whistle; more like a bird or a dolphin. Wreee-raw.
She blinked at him. He cocked his head. He didn’t seem injured, though now that she was looking, she could see there were small red—patterns, maybe, on his temples, curling up above and into his eyebrows. It was hard to tell in the dying light.
“Are you bleeding?” she asked cautiously.
He clicked. It sounded positively delighted.
“Listen,” she told him, “I’m a cop. I can help. My partner is around here somewhere, and, and the coast guard should come looking for us.” She got herself into a seated position carefully. “You want to come out and help me look for them?” She offered a hand.
He looked at the hand, and then he looked into her eyes. He gave a great silly grin, like this was the best thing that had ever happened to him. And then he sang.
She was about to think it strange, but there was something—that song, there was something—captivating. He sang it quickly, as if to get it over with, but he also sang it like he meant it. And the weird thing was, the song hadn’t started in English, but it sure as hell ended there.
--and the darkness oh it blazed,
and here I fan amazed
But the light will still prevail
and all that that entails
Now watch me turn your mind
just let it all unwind—
and I’ll have you understand;
You’ll see it’s true that I’m not a man!
He grinned at her, apparently very proud of himself.
“What?” Chloe blurted.
He frowned. “Well. I thought you’d be a little more entranced,” he said, sounding put out. “Generally people dash themselves against rocks when I sing to them.”
“I’ve already done that,” Chloe found herself blurting, showing him her hands.
He made an unhappy warbling noise. “Yes, I am aware. You brained yourself against some stones after your silly little vessel hit the mount. I fixed what I could, but healing was never my forte.” He shrugged elegantly. “You’ve been here a day.”
“What?” Chloe blurted again.
“You were injured,” the man said plaintively. “I fixed it. Mostly.”
“How?” Chloe managed, head spinning. “And—won’t you get out of the water?”
He sighed. “Honestly. Humans.” Behind him, something made the water ripple. Chloe was about to warn him when—well. It became apparent that he needed no warning.
A great, red dorsal fin unfurled from his back, and the thing undulating in the water—that was—that was definitely a tail. A big, fishy tail, with scales and everything, blood-red.
“I would rather keep my gills submerged, thank you,” he said haughtily, and Chloe gaped.
“Impossible,” she breathed.
“I could say the same of you!” He grinned at her. “You know how hard it is to find a human in the deep sea? Oh, you find evidence all the time, but a real living human? And anyone willing to talk! Even rarer. The last one I saw had the nerve to put wax in his ears.”
She gave a tiny, disbelieving laugh. “How—how did you get here?”
“Why, I swam, do keep up!” He swished his tail side to side, irritable. Trixie would go insane, Chloe thought faintly. There was no disputing it—this was a real live mermaid! She tried not to stare, but it was hard.
She inched toward him, back into the surf. Even in the sinking sun—setting, it was clearly setting; he said she’d been here a day? Unconscious?—she could see his eyes light up as she got closer. “Why did you save me?”
He looked down and away. “You were alive to save,” he said. “Your compatriots – not so much.” He grimaced.
It struck her like a blow. “Connor and Sean—they’re dead?”
“Male? Large muscles? One with strange markings around his—his—” he gestured, apparently not having the word, and if he had some kind of translation thing then how did he not have a word? That didn’t make sense.
Unless he lacked the concept entirely in his language. Connor had a tattoo around his ankle. She swallowed. Pointed to her own. “Foot?”
“Foot,” the merman agreed. “Yes.”
She put a hand over her mouth. God, Connor. Young, impulsive Connor. He still went home to have dinner with his parents on Sundays. This was all her fault. She never should have agreed to this—
She didn’t realize she was crying until the merman started crooning. And that was what it was, crooning, a low melody that wrapped around her like a blanket. It was comforting. She wiped at a tear, and looked back at him, at his big spellbound eyes.
“Distress at the loss of your companions,” he said, sounding fascinated. “Yes?”
She huffed a small laugh at his outright curiosity. What kind of world did he come from, where mourning a friend was unusual? “Yeah. Yeah, of course. Connor was my partner. What’s your name? Do you have a name?” She wiped her eyes.
His dorsal fin puffed up with pride. “Yes. I’m called—” he sang a funny downward spiral of notes. “In your language it means He Who Glows, or He Who Carries Light. Light Bearer.” He frowned. “But archaic. Lucifer.”
“That has—some bad connotations for us,” Chloe told him. “Lucifer, I mean.”
He scowled. “It does for us too. What is your name?”
“Chloe,” she told him. “Do you—glow?”
“Yes!” He grinned at her, bright and mischievous, as he shook off his brief melancholy like salt spray. “I glow the brightest in my whole, wretched family. Want to see?”
The surf lapped at her knees, and it was nearly full dark, now. “Yeah,” she said.
He positively beamed.
All along his dorsal fin, the funny spirals near his eyes, down his sides and to his great, fishy tail, blue and white light erupted in a thousand pinpoints, bright as starlight. Patterns of light glowed in lines and spirals down his chest, down his arms and sides. Tiny lights marched in lines down the rays of his dorsal fin, the webbing a dark curtain between. Chloe heard herself make a small, delighted sound.
“That’s amazing!” she said, and he preened, vain as any swan.
“I’ve always thought so,” he said, not in the least modest.
Out, beyond the surf and towards the horizon, there was a splash. Over the crashing waves, something made a squealing noise.
Lucifer huffed, annoyed. His glowing dorsal fin flattened against his back and he twisted to look over his shoulder.
“What was that?” Chloe asked, hushed.
“Mazikeen.” He sounded sulky. “She dislikes coming this close to shore. You humans are very loud. She’ll get into all kinds of trouble if I don’t return to her.”
“Will you come back?” Chloe asked him.
“Would you like me to?” His smile was coy.
“Yes,” she told him honestly, smiling back. “I might not be here, though,” she added with a frown. “I—need to get back to the mainland, I need to—my daughter—” her voice trailed.
He clicked his tongue. Over the hush of the sea foam, another squeal.
Lucifer turned his head and gave a shrill whistle in response, irritated. Then he turned to her.
“Stay here another day,” he told her urgently. “Just one. I’ll tow you to shore tomorrow night. And I can find—a whistle. So you can call me.”
“I—don’t think I can promise that,” she said. “If they come to find me, I have to go with them. I have a daughter—she needs me.”
He huffed. “Needy spawn are to be fed to the hagfish. Wait here.” With an almighty, glowing splash, he disappeared beneath the dark waves. She had a glimpse of frills and fans and bright lights before he was gone.
A cool breeze blew across her shoulders and she shivered. Had that actually happened? Chloe watched the crashing waves, disbelieving. Had she just had a full, weirdly engaging conversation with a—a merman? A merman who glowed, and preened at her regard, and it was somehow deeply charming and not obnoxious?
Bright red scales, bright blue lights. Laughing, gorgeous dark eyes.
She must be dreaming.
There were campers on these islands, she thought. She got to her feet. If she was lucky, maybe she could find someone’s discarded lighter? And start a fire?
The night was not particularly cold, but the breeze was chilly, and she was wet. Carefully, because it was very slippery, she made her way across the rocky beach. There wasn’t much to be found by way of driftwood, though she did scare a few lizards out of a hiding hole. Her lighter hopes were dashed, but she still dragged what little wood she found back to her beach.
She was out on her second trip when she heard him singing. Long, forlorn notes slipped past her ears, beckoning. She hesitated.
There was something strange about that song, she thought. And then something bumped into her foot.
She looked down and barely refrained from screaming.
Whole armies of crabs were marching along the store, following his song. When she looked up to the island cliffsides, she could see beaks, like he’d woken the birds. Some of them were even spreading their wings, starting to fly.
“Holy—” she whispered. But she wasn’t compelled—just kind of freaked out about the birds and the crabs.
She raced down to shore, as fast as she could, crying, “Stop! Stop! I’m right here—stop! Some of these birds are endangered and I’m pretty sure they can’t see at night! Stop!”
She skidded on some kelp, though she kept her balance. Lucifer was lying sprawled on the rocky shore, glowing like a damn sun. In his light, she could see his gills: one slit on either side of his ribcage, and they fluttered open and closed with every swell of the tide. He was resting his chin on his fist, like something out of The Little Mermaid, but just a little more sinister.
“Interesting,” he told her. “You don’t seem affected. Your eyes are clear.”
“You—you sang that song to hypnotize me?” she blurted.
“Just to make you come back,” Lucifer said, affronted. “I found you something. So you can call me. It isn’t very good or very strong, but I’ll hear you, at least.” He lifted his head from his fist and then uncurled his fingers. It looked like a whale’s tooth.
Carefully, she approached and took it from his cold, webbed hand. It was hollowed out on the inside, and the tip was shorn off.
“It’s a whistle,” she said.
He nodded, enthused. Behind him, his tail slapped the waves, all delight. “There’s a great—you call them sperm whales? How odd—who died many years ago. Her body lies on the seafloor. Mostly now there’s little more than worms in her bones, but that tooth was intact. She can help you call me.” He smiled at her, teeth shining just a little too sharp in his own illumination. “Old magic.”
That was—that was something else. Magic? “Thank you,” she told him, anyway.
His smile widened. “You’re welcome. Now tell me, in trade for the whistle: How in dad’s blue seas did you get on that boat?”
She hesitated, but then, well—he was a merman. It wasn’t exactly like she was talking to a civilian who might run to the papers or have some connection to the case. She sat on the hard stone, let the waves rush over her feet. It was cold, but the whole experience was so unbelievable and incredible that it almost didn’t matter.
“I’m a homicide detective,” she said slowly.
He licked his lips as though tasting the words. “You find the killers of other humans—am I understanding that correctly?”
“Yes,” she said. “You don’t—have that?”
“My people don’t kill each other outside of war,” he said, fascinated. “Even Maze’s people don’t often kill each other without good cause. This translation aria really isn’t cutting it—I’m going to have to learn your language, aren’t I?”
“The little ditty I sang so you could understand me.” He cocked his head. “You don’t have that either, do you?”
She shook her head.
His eyes were really very compelling.
“Well, we’ll have to trade stories, then,” he said. “You were—searching for a killer?”
She nodded. She told him about Kyle, and his two murdered girlfriends—something that made him gape and ask but why would you kill a mate? What’s the point? which she agreed with, really. She told him about finding witnesses and chasing the bastard down, finally, into a marina, where he ran off with that stolen Whaler. Connor had called the coast guard, and there her story broke down, because Connor was dead, and so was Sean, and it was utterly her fault. It was Palmetto Street all over again. She choked on the end of her story.
He warbled at her tears, unhappy to see them. His red, fishy tail, black in the darkness, punctuated by brightly glowing points that marched all the way down to his flukes, slapped at the incoming waves.
“What can I do?” he asked quietly.
“Nothing,” she sighed, wiping her eyes. “They’re dead. It’s—it’s not my fault, but I could have—told them to go back, or, or called off the search—”
“Then your parasite Kyle Unten would have gotten away.”
“He got away anyway,” she sighed.
“I can find him,” Lucifer offered, dark and dangerous. She looked up at him, at his gleaming teeth that weren’t quite square, at his dancing eyes. The little, pointillist spirals on his temples made him look feral. “I could sing to him so he walks right to you, and lies at your feet. And you can punish him how you see fit.”
He had fins on his forearms, she realized. They flickered like a lizard’s dewlap, small glowing spots on the rays like stars.
“Thank you,” she said. “If I get news that he reaches the Mexican border—I might take you up on that.”
He beamed at her.
“How did you end up here?” Chloe asked him. “Where are you from, anyway?”
His glow dimmed. He looked down.
And then an angry squeal from the sea had him turning his head. “Mazikeen!” he hissed.
Something very large and very dark leaped over the waves, alarmingly close, and then fell with a great splash. It was far too big to be a dolphin, but also too small to be a whale. It moved like a mammal, though.
“Your coast guard is near,” Lucifer told her. “Maze says their sonar is hurting her ears. I should go.”
“What—is—she?” Chloe asked.
Lucifer clicked thoughtfully. “Translation says orca whale?”
Chloe grinned. “Seriously?”
He shrugged at her. “But your men will burn out her ears if we don’t gain some distance,” he told her.
“Then go,” Chloe said. “I’ll call you. When I’m home.”
He whistled at her so cheerfully that she whistled back. He chuckled, and then splashed away and down, down in the black depths of the sea.
Chloe clutched her whale tooth, and she waited. She could see the lights from the coast guard in the distance.
I'd like to note that Orcas are technically dolphins, but Chloe doesn't know this. (But all dolphins are odontocetes - toothed whales - anyway, so whatever :P)
And life resumed on shore, at its usual frenetic pace. She was a pariah twice over at the precinct now, with Connor’s death. He’d been well-liked, and they’d all thought he was going places. It weighed heavily on her.
Thank God for Dan, really. He’d been a terrible husband, but he was an excellent friend. So there was that, at least.
After Connor’s funeral, Chloe was sent on leave. She knew it was to grieve, but it felt like punishment. Kyle Unten was still out there somewhere.
The first night Dan took Trixie, Chloe found herself staring at the Little Mermaid DVD tucked in the corner of the TV stand. Trixie had been much smaller, and insistent, because sometimes Netflix didn’t have it, Mommy!
Surely she’d hallucinated the whole thing, Chloe thought to herself. Surely.
She wasn’t that far from the beach.
She took a bottle of wine, a blanket, a towel and a lantern. Calling herself stupid, she wore a bathing suit under her clothes.
She set up the blanket just beyond the surf. Behind her, the LA lights drowned out all but the most persistent of stars. She took out the tooth and stared at it for a while. She poured herself a glass of wine, and enjoyed the sound of the surf. She sipped, put the glass down, and before she could think better of it, she blew on the whistle.
It didn’t make a sound.
She drew back. Weird. She blew on it again, with everything she had, a long deep breath, and it was utterly silent. Figured. She put it down, disappointed.
It had definitely been a hallucination. She sipped at her wine and looked up at the few stars she could see. Well. At least the beach was pleasant. She closed her eyes and listened to the surf. Poor Connor, she thought sadly.
Then—something weird. A chittering-chattering sound like a pair of dolphins arguing. She opened her eyes.
A dark figure was dragging himself from the surf, and he was scolding her like a bird or a chipmunk. She could see him by the light of the city behind her; it gleamed and reflected like the moon off the crashing waves, off his damp skin and shining scales. His dorsal fin flicked up and down, and then it was struck by a crashing wave, and she would swear that the next shrill squawk was a curse. She huffed a disbelieving laugh.
“Lucifer?” she blurted.
“Chloe.” He said it like he was admonishing her, and then dissolved back into his own language.
She sat on the edge of her blanket, just out of reach of the water. “I can’t understand a word you’re saying,” she told him wryly.
He scowled at her, then said something else that ended on an indignant yelp. A stray wave buffeted him, sending him inland—a little too inland. She saw it as it happened—the word was stranding, she thought, alarmed. He gulped in a breath, and the gills at his sides flared on dry land. He scrabbled against the sand, but he was stuck, his long, beautiful red fins too heavy to drag back into the sea on his own. There was sand in his gasping gills, too.
He was big, she thought, far bigger than he’d seemed on first glace, back on that bird sanctuary in the Pacific. His torso was that of a man, minus the great gill slits against his ribs. He lacked both nipples and a navel, but in their place his chest was scattered with scales, and though they were black in the night she was sure they were red. They swirled in attractive patterns all the way up to his neck, thinning the farther they got from his waist.
Where his hips would be, he had two delicate, claw-tipped fins, that gripped and scrabbled against the sand, bony rays and thin, delicate webbing. His fluke—caudal fin, Chloe remembered from a long ago case involving a marine biologist—flopped on the sand, like the beached fish he was. It was in the shape of a crescent moon, but long and almost gauzy at the tips. Side-to-side, she realized belatedly, fascinated. His tail did not go up and down, the way a mermaid’s tail did in the movies. It thrashed side-to-side, like a fish, his second dorsal fin flickering up and down and getting covered in sand.
Then she snapped out of it. He was drowning on dry land, god Chloe! She stood up, tossed aside her shirt and pants. “Come on,” she said, and jogged over. She offered a hand, which he seized, and she dragged him back into the surf. His grip was cold, strong, and utterly inhuman. He was heavy, and a freezing incoming wave against her back almost bowled her over, though he made a low, relieved sound when it hit him. Standing thigh-high in the dark water, she watched him duck his nose and mouth underwater and take gulp after gulp of fresh seawater. He watched her with his liquid dark eyes.
“Are you going to do your translation thing or are we just going to stare at each other?” she asked him wryly.
He whistled at her from underwater. Apparently having caught his breath, he moved closer. The feel of his fins and scales against her calves made her jump, but he twined himself around her legs like a cat and ended up with both arms around her waist and his cheek against her stomach. It was as clear a thanks as he could give.
She huffed a laugh and stroked his damp hair. “Hello to you too,” she murmured.
“Hello to you too,” he echoed.
“You’re trying to learn English, aren’t you?” she asked dryly. He snuggled and didn’t respond.
His eyes went to her. She patted the waves. “Water,” she said.
His eyes lit. “Water!”
She covered the sky and the city and the sand in the beach, her legs and his tail and both of their hair. He learned very, very quickly, astonishingly so.
He tried to teach her his language too, adding the whistles and clicks for each of her words, but she couldn’t quite do it, like her throat wasn’t shaped the right way to make those sounds. He found it hilarious, apparently, falling back into the waves and cackling.
“Yeah, yeah,” she told him, rolling her eyes while he laughed. But his eyes glimmered and gleamed with joy, and it was infectious. She couldn’t help but grin back.
Eventually, she got cold. He made all kinds of sad chirrups when she insisted on leaving the water, going so far as to light up to try to entice her back, but she just shivered exaggeratedly at him and wrapped herself in a towel, and sat on her blanket.
He sat in the surf and pouted. He flicked his dorsal fin, and he glowed blue and white in the darkness.
Mostly, she laughed at him. She finished her glass of wine, and watched him, still just a little disbelieving. A real, actual merman. Small pinpricks of light, like stars, dotted from the ends of his eyebrows into small swirls at his temples. More light shone from the tips of his ears—webbed, she realized, like a fish’s fin. In parallel lines, the bright blue points marched down his neck, and over his shoulder, down his back, on either side of his dorsal fins. Light dotted up the rays of his dorsal fins, too, and there were lights on his arms as well, in small, pointillist patterns, lines and spirals. His tail was under water and harder to distinguish, but that too glowed in patterns like constellations.
He preened under her gaze and sang, eventually. Nothing creepy or enticing: the crabs didn’t sneak out of their holes and march toward him or anything. It was just a song. She sat back and she listened to him, watching as he glowed and shimmered and showed off his fins, some strange creature from the deep that she had managed to befriend.
“I don’t really know any good human songs for you,” she told him apologetically when he finished. “Lately we’ve been listening to Trixie’s music in the car.”
He whistled at her, bright eyed. He pointed to the bottle.
“Can you even drink wine?” she demanded, but refilled her glass and brought it over to him. She offered it.
He sniffed at it and took an eager sip. He beamed at her. And then a wave crashed over them both and spilled the whole thing. She laughed over his dismayed sound.
She went home that night, damp but elated. Chloe clutched that whale tooth tightly, like a talisman. Surely it wasn’t a Marine Mammal Protection Act violation if a merman gave it to you? She giggled to herself a little thinking about it in the shower, washing the salt water off.
Trixie was going to go nuts, she thought. A real, actual merman. But she had to get him speaking better before her daughter started playing, too. No tugging on fins. Lucifer probably wouldn’t like that.
She slept well that night, better than she had been sleeping, frankly. Guilt about Connor and Sean, anxiety about Kyle—it all washed out like the tide. She dreamed of a merman with coy dark eyes, who beckoned her down into the deep sea, and beyond.
The morning was quiet without Trixie. She made herself breakfast anyway, and then headed down to the beach.
She quickly realized her error.
Her local beach wasn’t packed with tourists the way many of the nicer beaches were, but there were still enough people there that she definitely didn’t want to call Lucifer to make a spectacle of himself. It would make the news, she thought wryly. Merman caught on tape!
A little disappointed, she went home. The day dragged, especially without Trixie. She had some paperwork, but irony of ironies it was not enough to fill the day.
She cleaned. She did the laundry. She went food shopping. Frankly, it was deeply boring. Chloe ended up on the couch, channel surfing. Crime shows were always amusing, since they tended to get things wrong. She settled in for NCIS.
Her marathon sort of backfired though, because it made her think of the office, and the things she needed to do, and the new murders that probably needed solving and—
--the sun had gone down. Thank god. Chloe shivered to her feet. She went to get the freshly-washed beach blanket, and a new towel. She cooked herself dinner, and made herself wait another hour, to be certain all the beachgoers were gone. Finally, finally, she grabbed her supplies, and headed back to the beach.
He was waiting for her.
She saw him as she walked past the dunes: he was hard to miss. He was playing in the surf, like a huge, ridiculous fish, weaving in and out of the crashing waves. When she got close enough to the shore, and when he saw her, he lit up like a firework, blue and white light blazing from his head to his tail, and she chuckled as she strolled down to meet him. He nearly beached himself again in his excitement.
Laughing, she dropped her things and removed her beach dress quickly, splashing into the surf. She grabbed his hand and pulled him into slightly deeper waters, so he couldn’t strand.
“Hi, Lucifer,” she said, finally.
He beamed at her. “Hi, Chloe,” he echoed. He offered his hands. “Swim?”
Well, that was probably a stupid invitation to take. But he looked so earnest, and she was so pleased to see him. What the hell.
“Alright.” She grasped his wrists.
He grinned at her and pulled her gently away from shore. The whirls and points on his skin glowed, illuminating the dark water around them. He swam on his back, holding her hands and facing her. His long, gauzy pelvic fins brushed her thighs as he swept his tail side to side. Chloe swallowed. “What about sharks?” she asked nervously as they got farther from shore.
Wading in dark water was one thing. Swimming out into the bay at night was something entirely different.
He cocked his head at her, not understanding.
“I guess you’d know about them,” Chloe said softly. “If they were here.” He didn’t seem overly alarmed, anyway.
He chuckled. Below her, his tail swished carefully, and they picked up speed. He hadn’t stopped glowing; small points of light marched in twin lines on either side of his tail. His dorsal fin shone, too; the long thin bones were pinpricked with light, gauzy fins dark in between. She could see it in bits and snatches over his shoulders, lighting up the waters around them.
“Look—stars—Chloe—” He managed, eyes twinkling, and she looked up. She gasped.
They were far enough away from LA to see them, now. The Milky Way painted the sky bright, a thousand faded colors against the velvet night sky. Beneath her, he stopped glowing abruptly, and the stars above shone all the more brightly. She stared, delighted.
“I haven’t seen them like this since the last time I went camping with Trixie,” she said. She smiled down at him. “Thank you, Lucifer.”
He trilled, pleased. He squeezed her hand. There was clearly something he wanted to communicate here, though he didn’t seem to have the words yet, but he chirped them at her, at least.
Except something chirped back.
Chloe started, and then bit back a scream. It was hard to see in the dark night, but the stars showed its outline: a long, dark fin split the darker water of the bay. It was enormous, several feet high at least, and it canted to one side, and headed straight for them. She squirmed in Lucifer’s hold, gasping.
“Chloe,” he sighed, squeezing he hands. “Chloe. Look. Mazikeen.”
“That’s Mazikeen?” she shrieked.
“Yes.” And he broke off into a stream of whistles and clicks.
Mazikeen’s replies were loud enough that she could hear them through the water. It was definitely a killer whale, Chloe thought faintly. She’d seen Free Willy; she knew those sounds. But she’d never really realized how big they were. Mazikeen’s dorsal fin wasn’t quite as tall as Chloe, but it was definitely taller than Trixie. It curved like a shark’s, and it was black as the waters, utterly terrifying. The rest of the whale was submerged, and invisible in the night.
To Chloe’s shock, the whale had sneaked remarkably close. It lifted its great head, far and away larger and closer than anything Cloe had ever wanted to see, and sprayed them both with water before disappearing as quickly as it had come.
“What was that all about?” She spluttered at him.
“Human. Bad.” Lucifer shrugged.
“Yeah, I see that,” Choe said. He chuckled, charmed.
“Swim,” he said, apparently uncaring about the whole whale debacle, and pulled her.
They arrowed back inland, and the stars started to become harder to see. He nudged her when they got closer, so she was swimming on her own, but he kept close, blazing bright to light her way. When she got tired, he pulled her for the rest of it. There were absolutely no sharks.
She dragged herself back onto shore. “Lucifer,” she told him once she was on dry land again, “That was incredible. Thank you.”
He grinned at her, flaring his fins, flickering his lights and shrugging. He looked enormously pleased with himself.
“You’re welcome,” she told him. “When someone says ‘thank you,’ you say, ‘you’re welcome.’”
“You’re welcome,” Lucifer echoed. She suspected he could understand more than he could say—and so fast, too! Just two nights!
She grinned at him, and then went back to her blanket. She’d packed herself dinner, after all.
It had definitely gone cold by now, but she ate it anyway. He couldn’t leave the surf, but he gave her big sad eyes until she brought him bites. It was just pasta, but he swished his tail at her happily, so that was something. It was a lovely night, really, and she regretted it when she had to pack it in.
He sang for her to stay, or at least that was what it sounded like, but she needed to sleep at some point. She made her way back to her car, damp and sandy, his mournful voice sending chills down her spine. It was fine, she thought. She'd see him tomorrow night.
I do want to note that this story takes place in some mythical Season 2 where Lucifer never showed up, so Malcolm was never resurrected. The vibe at the precinct is very different than it is in the show - just a little more hostile, because Lucifer lightened everyone up.
FURTHERMORE..... BEHOLD, GUYS, THE PLOT I WAS SETTING YOU UP FOR.
And then he didn’t come back.
She went to find him the third night, and even took Trixie on the fourth night, but he didn’t show. Responsibility pulled at her like a riptide, and soon her routine included work again and things went back to normal. Trixie to school, herself to work, dinner, sleep. Every other weekend, Dan got Trixie.
The precinct still looked at her with pity and rage, after Connor, after Malcolm. The world had gone just a little darker.
Then the body of a mobster washed up on shore, apparently mauled by some kind of wild animal.
And that was all very well and good, because it wasn’t her case. She wasn’t really in good enough standing to take a case like that one. Dan got it instead, and he didn’t ask her to join along. It was Ella, the new lab tech, who had proclaimed that the guy got mauled by a killer whale that got Chloe thinking.
“I mean,” Ella was saying to Dan, who was reading the report while she spoke, “Where did they get a killer whale? The nearest captive is in San Diego. Unless it’s some—some illegal orca ring, in which case you gotta bring this guy down, Dan; that’s pure evil right there!”
Dan glanced up at her and then back down at the report. Ella was new, and bursting with personality, Chloe thought sadly. Office politics being what they were, there wasn’t much in the way of enthusiasm.
"Working on it," Dan said at last.
But maybe the orca wasn’t captive, Chloe thought. What if it was Mazikeen? What if this had something to do with Lucifer?
Normally she’d think it was absurd, but a killer whale was so unusual, so specific, that she thought she might follow up on it. It wasn’t like she could talk to a whale, though. Especially a whale that might have killed a guy.
She looked up from her desk. Well. Ella was a little odd. Maybe she’d be willing.
Ella sort of sighed and turned away from Dan. “Well,” she said, “Keep me posted.” She made to walk back up to the forensics room, looking a little dejected. It kind of made Chloe want to shake Dan, and yell at every male idiot in this precinct.
Chloe slipped out from behind her desk and hissed, “Hey, Ella? Can I talk to you for a minute?”
She smiled brightly at Chloe. “Sure thing!”
Chloe followed her up to the forensics room.
“I have a crazy idea,” she said slowly. “And you might have to bear with me, because it’s really, really crazy. It’s also not my case.”
Ella beamed at her. “Oo crazy ideas! I’m game.”
“I might know the whale that did this,” Chloe said, “And I might know why. Sort of. But it’s insane.”
“All the best ideas are.” Ella told her. “It’s not an illegal orca ring, is it?”
If these bastards had kidnapped Lucifer, like her gut was telling her? “It might be worse,” she said slowly. “Just—can you, like, get me some kind of idea of how to identify this whale? Like a tooth mark or something?”
“Like a cast? Yeah. Here—” she dashed to a corner of the room, all enthusiasm. “One of the teeth had a notch in it!” she proclaimed, bringing the cast back. “See? Not pointy. Like it had been cracked.” She showed Chloe.
“Perfect, that’s perfect. Thank you, Ella! Can I take it with me?”
“Only if I can come,” Ella said.
Chloe blinked at her.
“Oh, come on!” Ella said. “What is it with you people? Everyone’s so uptight and unhappy here. You’re the only one who’s like, still got a spark and they just keep beating on you. Please let me come.”
Chloe blinked at her again. “You—think I have a spark? Me?”
“Oh yeah!” Ella smiled at her. “You haven’t lost your brightness yet. ”
“I—got my last partner killed.”
“No you didn’t.” Ella looked at her stubbornly. “You absolutely didn’t. I don’t believe it for a second. You can’t blame yourself.”
Chloe swallowed. No one had said that to her, not even Dan. “Yeah,” she said hoarsely. “Yeah, you can come. I don’t know if she’ll answer, though. I don’t know if she can. We need to find—deep water. A long pier.”
“Venice fishing pier? It’s like sixteen feet deep out there,” Ella offered.
“Don’t know if it’s deep enough,” Chloe sighed. “But it’s worth a try. We should go at night. When there aren’t as many people around. This might get weird.”
“Hey,” said Ella brightly, “Gotta love a good weird.”
“I guess so,” Chloe replied, and braced herself. Because it was going to get really weird.
Convincing Dan to take Trixie again was no big deal – though she was going to have to make it up to her for sure. And there was no way she could take a squad car, because this wasn’t her case. Still, if it involved Lucifer, she wasn’t going to let it lie. If he’d been—kidnapped or something, if he’d stopped showing up on her beach because someone had taken him, she had to find him. She couldn’t let something like that destroy him, and his bright, easy joy at the sight of her.
But getting in the water with that orca whale again was not a risk Chloe was willing to take. Not yet.
She drove to the pier in her own car. She met Ella at her house, at her insistence, and despite her absolute conviction that she would absolutely not get into the water with that damned whale again, Ella still somehow managed to tie a bright red two-person kayak to the top of Chloe’s car. Where she’d gotten it was a mystery.
They left the kayak on the car, when they strolled to the edge of Venice fishing pier. There were a few late-night fishermen moseying around, but Chloe, feeling a little guilty, cleared them with a flash of her badge. It was only when they left that she pulled out her whale tooth.
“What’s that?” Ella asked, eyes huge.
Chloe sighed. “It’s crazy,” she warned.
“Shoot,” Ella said, practically vibrating with anticipation.
“I got it from a merman,” Chloe said, flinching, and before Ella could respond she blew on it as hard as she could. It didn’t make a sound, of course.
“No way,” Ella said.
“Way,” Chloe told her regretfully. “He’s big and he’s red and he disappeared a few weeks ago. He’s got a friend who’s an orca whale, and I know—I know—that that is completely insane, but when you said Frederik was mauled by a killer whale—”
“I believe you,” Ella breathed.
To hide her shock, Chloe blew on the whistle again. Then she added, “You do?”
“You’re not the kind of person who would make this stuff up,” Ella told her with a smile.
Chloe smiled back, tentatively.
And then there was a poosh in the distance, like the exhale of a very large animal. They both turned toward the black horizon.
There was nothing to see, really. The water was dark, and so was the sky, and behind them, the lights of LA blotted out any sort of star. But below, something long and black and thin slipped from the waves, reflecting LA’s strange, yellow-and-red lights. Ella gasped. That lean, predator’s dorsal fin approached them at a shocking speed.
“Mazikeen?” Chloe called.
The fin canted to the left, as she swam around the pier once, before coming to a slow, drifting stop at the seaward-facing side. Mazikeen lifted her fierce head out of the water. She bared her teeth, and then let loose a wail that had Chloe’s hair standing on end. Her sharp teeth and white chin shone brightly in the reflected LA night. Even from the pier, she looked huge and deadly and nothing like the captives at Sea World.
“Holy,” breathed Ella.
Mazikeen snorted. She slapped her tail against the water. She circled the pier once more.
Chloe was going to do something stupid again.
“Get the kayak,” she told Ella flatly.
“What?” blurted Ella.
“Get the kayak, or I’m jumping in, and I think I have a better chance of not being eaten in the kayak, especially if she’s the one who killed Fredrick.”
“You crazy. I like it!”
“Call me when you have it by the water. I don’t want her to think we’re abandoning her.”
Chloe didn’t take her eyes off the whale, but she heard Ella’s feet on the pier behind her, running back to the car. Mazikeen huffed a breath, clearly thinking they were leaving.
“It’s alright,” Chloe called to her, feeling a little stupid, “She’s just getting a kayak.” She crouched as low as she could and looked down into the water from between the rails of the pier.
Below, Mazikeen swam slowly toward her. She turned on one side and regarded Chloe with one, shining black eye. Somehow, she managed to convey absolute skepticism, and a sense that she was utterly unimpressed with Chloe. She whined a strange note that spiraled wildly upward. It was an impatient sound.
“I know,” Chloe told her, “I know. We’re getting there, promise. I can’t jump in.”
Mazikeen blew out another irritated breath. She circled the pier, and then came back to stare at Chloe.
She was huge. She was the biggest living thing that Chloe had ever seen, and the most beautiful. Her skin was black and white, and ghostly patches shone like beacons behind her eyes. When she slapped her great dark tail against the water, Chloe could see that its underside was white, too. As Chloe watched her, she bared her teeth again, fierce as any tiger, and twice as gorgeous. Her wail was even more impatient than the last one.
“God you’re beautiful,” Chloe breathed. “Did you kill our guy?”
Mazikeen slapped her tail against the water again. It was a loud sound, sharp like a gunshot. Chloe didn’t flinch.
Something awful must have happened to Lucifer, Chloe realized, to drive wild, incredible Mazikeen to answer Chloe’s call, so close to shore. Mazikeen belonged to the deep, not to the beaches of LA, with their artificial lights and their seagulls.
Chloe’s phone rang.
Mazikeen blew out a breath and snapped her jaws, clearly disliking the noise, but Chloe picked up. “Yeah?”
“On shore,” Ella told her eagerly. “Ready.”
“Great. Thanks. Be there in a sec. You sure you want to do this?”
“Are you kidding me? I’m so doing this. See you soon!” She hung up.
“This is the worst idea,” Chloe told Mazikeen. The whale huffed at her. “Wait here,” Chloe told her, and then she straightened and dashed back down the pier and to the beach. Behind her, Mazikeen shrieked indigently.
Now she had to be quick. Chloe raced to the edge of the pier, down to the beach, and dashed to Ella and the kayak.
“Front or back?” she asked Ella.
“Oh, you’re running this show. I’ll take the back. Get in!”
Chloe didn’t argue. She got in. Ella gave the kayak a great shove into the water, and then hopped in herself.
Chloe hadn’t kayaked much, and she definitely wasn’t wearing a bathing suit, but they made it out to the front of the pier anyway. When she couldn’t find Mazikeen, Chloe nearly blew her whistle again, but something big bumped the bottom of the boat, sending it tilting and rocking. Chloe yelped, but Ella was silent, dipping her paddle into the water determinedly, steadying them.
That terrifying fin rose alongside the little kayak, more than half the size of Chloe.
“This is such a violation of the marine mammal protection act,” whispered Ella.
Mazikeen rolled to one side and regarded them with one keen eye. Then she disappeared under the black waves again.
“Now what?” Ella asked.
At the bow of the kayak was a little carry handle. It was a too long for Ella and Chloe, because the kayak belonged to a friend of Ella’s who was apparently very tall. It was a rope with a knot at the end, and it drooped into the water.
From below, Mazikeen rolled to one side again and seized it in her teeth.
Choe and Ella shouted as the kayak jolted forward at an impossible speed. Mazikeen pulled them sharply toward the horizon, and the little boat bumped with each wave they passed. As LA faded in the distance, the stars grew brighter. The waters grew darker and darker and against the stars, another fin split the waves. Easily Chloe's height, it was hard to see, but it glimmered just enough in the starlight. Ella gasped at that first one, and then came a second and a third, and then even Chloe gasped, because the fourth fin to rise from below was taller than she was. Flanked on all sides by killer whales, they were towed out to sea.
Chloe could hear Ella cross herself behind her, but she sounded filled with wonder, not fear. And that was good for her, because Chloe was terrified. The whales were big, and they had teeth. Those fins towered above them. Was Lucifer their king or something?
Mazikeen and her friends pulled them out, and out and out and out into the dark ocean. Soon the lights of LA disappeared altogether.
And then—Mazikeen let go.
Chloe didn’t notice at first, because the kayak still cruised forward. But then those other fins veered off, and disappeared into the dark waves, and the boat slowed to a stop. The ocean was very dark, and the stars stretched above them, endless.
“Chloe?” hissed Ella.
“I don’t know,” Chloe said.
From below, the whales sang.
It was a weird, eerie song, winding up and down and distorted by the waves, which knocked and clunked against the sides of the boat. Chloe shivered in the spray, and she listened.
“It’s beautiful,” Ella whispered.
Chloe wasn’t so sure she agreed, but it was certainly something, something remarkable and almost magic. It sounded like Lucifer’s songs, she realized. Those weird things he sung to make the crabs march, or to entice Chloe to come close, or that time he’d used a song to translate, before deciding to learn English.
She was thinking about this when a dark head--a human head--splashed from the water, breathing in a noisy gasp. Chloe yelled, abruptly terrified.
“Seriously?” said the dark head. “I brought you all this way and now you’re screaming?”
“Are you—Mazikeen?” gasped Ella.
“Uh, duh,” said the figure. “People call me Maze. Come on, we’re almost there.” She swam over to the bow of the boat and grasped the tow handle.
“How did—how did you—” Chloe blurted. “Did you speak English all this time?”
Maze sorted, sending up salt spray in the dark. “No. Why would I learn your dumb language? It’s a translation aria.”
Ella made a small thrilled sound. “How did you change to human?”
Maze gave an angry whine, like her orca-self. She pulled the front of the kayak, and they bumped and glided forward. “I didn’t change to human,” she snapped. “It’s human-shape. It’s not permanent or anything. I’m a selkie.”
“Aren’t selkies seals?” Ella asked.
“Take that back!” Mazikeen turned abruptly and, bearing her teeth, hauled herself up onto the bow of the boat, hissing with rage. The kayak tipped and bowed, and Chloe yelped. Like her orca-self, Mazikeen was very beautiful, and very, very naked.
“What? Why?” blurted Ella, who was sitting in the back and therefore didn’t have a face full of teeth and boobs.
“She takes it back!” Chloe spluttered.
“We—eat—seals—” snarled Maze, ignoring her.
“OH!” Ella gasped. “I take it back! That’s totally a cultural thing, isn’t it? My bad, my bad, sorry. Didn’t mean to insult. Totally take it back.”
Maze huffed. She glared at Chloe, then at Ella, and then slid back into the water with a splash.
“Come on,” she said. She grabbed the handle of the kayak and pulled again.
Chloe turned around at looked at Ella. “Cultural thing?”
Ella shrugged. “Looks like. Dude, you don’t like to be called a chicken, do you? We eat chicken.”
Chloe blinked. That had not occurred to her.
Then she shook herself. In the wonder, and the insanity she had forgotten her original purpose for seeking out Mazikeen in the first place. “Mazikeen,” she said slowly.
Mazikeen huffed in the water. “What?”
“Did you—kill a human, recently?” she asked outright, suspecting that she would have no qualms about admitting to it.
Chloe was right. “I killed three,” spat Mazikeen, and it jolted through Chloe’s heart, but it wasn’t like she could arrest an orca whale.
“Why?” she breathed.
“Because of what they did to Lucifer. You’ll see.”
The kayak gave a little shudder, and Chloe felt herself shudder, too. Mazikeen really had killed Fredrick. And apparently two other people. And besides all that, besides that horror—someone had done something to Lucifer. Shining, laughing Lucifer. She shuddered again, conflicted, as the little boat scraped against rough, rocky sand.
Mazikeen was standing on a shoal, looked like, pulling them out of the water. And there, speak of the Devil, sprawled out on a rock was—
“Lucifer!” Chloe gasped, and before she knew it, she had leaped out of the kayak and splashed toward him.
It wasn’t really an island—just a tiny rocky peak of something far larger underwater. Sand had built up a little on one side, though not very much. It was coarse sand, rocky, and Chloe almost tripped, scrambling to get to her friend, who was glowing softly in the night. He was entirely beached, and she almost shouted at Mazikeen about that, but then she realized he had legs.
Lucifer was—a man. Well. Sort of. He was a man, but badly transformed. He still had his pinprick lights running down his back, on his arms, on his chest. His strange and wrong legs had them too, and as she got closer, she could see he still had some scales, dotted darkly here and there all over his body. He still had the red swirls on his temples, the lights that glowed there. When she got near, he lifted his head. His eyes lit when he saw her, and his lights glowed even brighter.
“Chloe,” he said. He sounded exhausted.
She knelt down next to him. “Lucifer, what happened?”
He huffed a small laugh, almost disbelieving. “Well, for one,” he said, still a little breathy, “I have your language now. Gift of tongues and all. I learn very quickly.”
“How?” Chloe asked. Tentative, she reached out and stroked his hair. His ear was still webbed, and it was dry and brittle. He leaned into her touch anyway, sighing like it was the best thing he’d felt in ages.
“He was kidnapped,” snarled Mazikeen from behind them. “By your filthy—” and after that she said a word that apparently didn’t translate, something high and angry.
“Kidnapped?” Chloe asked.
“Somebody found me on the beach,” Lucifer said slowly. “They had a net. I don’t—remember much. But I woke on a ship—one of the metal ones. In a tank. And there were—humans. One had a staff. I watched them and learned English. When I learned how to escape, I sang to them, to make them sleep. They did—except for one. He sang back. He took my gills.” The last was a growl. “And my tail. So I called the whales.”
That—was a lot to take in. “A wizard took your gills?” Chloe knew she sounded skeptical, but it was a big ask.
“He’s been cursed,” snarled Maze lowly.
“Can we get you un-cursed?” Chloe asked.
“We need to find the fellow who did it,” Lucifer told her. “I never caught his name.”
“He can’t stay here,” Mazikeen said flatly. “The spring tide will be high enough to cover this rock. He’ll drown.”
“I can still swim, Maze,” Lucifer grumbled.
“Very badly,” Mazikeen said.
“Come back with us,” Chloe said. “I have a guest bedroom. Trixie will go nuts.” She smiled at Lucifer.
“Trixie,” Lucifer said slowly. “Sounds like a harbor porpoise.” He said harbor porpoise with about as much scorn as one would say hooker. “What is a Trixie?”
“My daughter,” Chloe said wryly. “Beatrice.”
“Right, you said you’d spawned.” Lucifer said. “When?”
Chloe blinked at him. “About eight years ago.”
“And she still lives with you?” he sounded horrified.
Behind them, Mazikeen cleared her throat indigently. “I will bite you,” she said. “And then my mother will bite you. And then her mother will—”
“Yes, alright Mazikeen,” Lucifer sighed.
Ella, who had been silent for most of the conversation, gave a delighted giggle. “It’s because you live in family groups, right?” she asked Mazikeen breathlessly. “Pods with your whole family? Sisters and brothers and generations?”
“You don’t?” Mazikeen asked, a little pitying.
Lucifer blinked at Ella. “Who are you?”
“Sorry—this is Ella. She’s, uh.”
“A friend!” Ella beamed. “I’m a friend. Hi! You’re Lucifer, right? I totally see it—light bearer.” She gestured to his glowing everything.
“Something like that.” Lucifer cocked his head at Ella thoughtfully for a silent moment, appraising her. Then he smiled a great, silly smile. “Lovely to meet you, Ella.”
Ella bounced. “Are you coming back with us?”
Lucifer swung his head back to Chloe, who smiled at him.
“I suppose I am,” he murmured.
Getting him on the kayak was sort of interesting, chiefly because the kayak was only made for two, and Lucifer couldn’t walk.
He chattered at her, shocked into his own language, when Chloe drew him to his feet. The lights on his chest, arms and legs flickered, and his eyes went wide. He was very naked, it turned out, and very, very human. Chloe tried not to think about it.
“This is terrible!” he managed, and his voice had gone strange—almost two-toned, like there were two Lucifers speaking at once. “Why is everything so heavy?”
Ella slipped in on his other side, ducking under his shoulder too. “That’s because you’re not in water anymore,” she said, delighted. “Water is heavier than air, and you’re used to being buoyant, right? Gravity feels different up here!”
Lucifer leaned more heavily onto Chloe, but he stared at Ella. He nearly fell over when he took his first steps, even with the both of them holding him up.
“Now you get why living in the blue is so much better,” Mazikeen said, rolling her eyes. She’d splashed back into the dark waves and grasped the kayak, steadying it.
“Oh,” Chloe said, looking at the boat. It was nearly black in the darkness, lit only by Lucifer’s glow. It was definitely made for two people, and two people only.
“Put him in my spot,” Ella said.
“No, listen. His balance isn’t going to be good, and I’m smaller than you. If the whales pull us back to shore, I can fit on your lap.”
“Not—really—” Chloe looked skeptically at the front seat.
“But good enough.” Ella shrugged. “Come on.”
They wrestled a weakly protesting Lucifer into the boat, very bright and very naked. When he sat, finally, he poked at his penis and said, with absolute, hilarious horror, “It’s external? What is wrong with you people?”
“Sharks have external ones, too!” Ella said defensively, and Chloe had no idea how she knew that. Sharks had penises? Why were they talking about this.
“Sharks are morons! Have you ever met a shark? Entirely stupid. Also violent. Oh, for dad’s sake am I going to have to bite you?” He spared Chloe a harassed look.
“What? No! No biting!” she spluttered.
“Oh, good, I prefer these things gentle.”
“Aww, that’s sweet,” Ella cooed. Chloe facepalmed.
“Let’s just—go. Please,” she sighed. She got in the boat. Ella climbed in after her, and it was… definitely a squeeze. There was no paddling like this. There was barely breathing like this. But they did fit.
“Is it called something?” Lucifer asked, a little disdainfully. “This boat?”
“It’s called a kayak,” Chloe told him.
“It’s terrible,” Lucifer said conversationally.
“Yes, thank you,” Chloe muttered. “Um, Mazikeen?”
Mazikeen, standing waist-deep in the dark water, eyes bright and amused, raised a delicate eyebrow.
“Would you mind towing us back?”
Mazikeen cocked her head. “Owe me a favor,” she said softly.
“Mazikeen!” Lucifer barked.
“You’re not the king of the sea,” she told him softly. “You’re not even the king of us. We listen to you because our mothers fell to you in battle an age ago, and because we like you. I heard the cries at Penn Cove. I don’t trust humans.” She turned to Chloe. “Owe me a favor.”
Chloe bit her lip. She actually knew about Penn Cove. She’d seen Blackfish with Dan, when it had come out. “I can’t—rescue anybody,” she told Mazikeen softly. “It’s…. complicated, but it would be impossible. I know you live in family groups. It’s—different, for humans. Far more family groups, and they’re so big. Mine is very small.”
There was a wail from the ocean. Behind her, Lucifer sighed.
“He wants to know why they took his sister,” he murmured. “The translation aria’s all of them. Not just Maze. In that shape, he doesn’t have the vocal chords to ask himself, but he can understand.”
“It’s illegal now,” Chloe said fiercely. “They changed the laws, so they can’t take anymore whales, at least not here.” She took a breath, and added, “They took her because she was big, and beautiful, and they wanted to look at her. I’m so sorry.”
Mazikeen huffed. “Not good enough. So you can’t free them: fine. Owe me a favor, anyway.”
Chloe nodded. “Okay.”
“Mazikeen!” cried Lucifer, but Mazikeen only dived headfirst into the dark waters.
She surfaced again at the bow of the boat, and seized the handle. She pulled.
“That’s so awful,” whispered Ella. “Who do you think his sister is? Most of the wild caught whales are—you know—”
“The ones at San Diego are all captive born, I think,” Chloe replied.
At the front of the kayak, Mazikeen blew out a huff of air. “There are children born in captivity?” she demanded, horrified.
“Well, yeah,” Ella said. “That’s how they get new orcas. I mean, it totally sucks, but when the laws changed, and they needed more whales, that’s how they did it.”
“Where are they?” demanded Mazikeen. “Chloe. That’s my favor. Tell me where they are.”
“They’re all over,” Chloe said, “But the closest is SeaWorld San Diego.”
“Where is that?” Mazikeen demanded.
“Maze,” Lucifer sighed, “Maze, the land is vast and uncharted. I’ve finally got the means to explore it, since you bloody well won’t. Give me some time, and I’ll find the information you want. Okay?”
“Take him there,” Maze told Chloe fiercely. “Show him the way. Make sure he knows. And Lucifer—”
She ducked under the water, and abrupt and emphatic dive. When she surfaced, it was some ways away, a whale again, and she cried and sang something that made Lucifer sigh, and whistle one long, mournful note. Her black back was near invisible in the night, her white belly shining like a ghost.
She came back and pulled on the kayak. In the open sea, they moved faster.
The others clustered around them, blowing out in great puffs, their huge fins arcing toward the sky. Her heart ached for them, and for their loss and injustice, but at the same time—oh—at the same time she was in a kayak surrounded by killer whales, with the stars shining above her and the sea black as pitch, and a merman at her back, and it was one of the most incredible experiences of her life.
The others peeled off when they got closer to shore, and Mazikeen transformed again when they reached the pier. Alone, she pulled them up on land with one hand, the other dragging a great, black-and-white skin behind her.
She whistled to Lucifer, and then dashed back into the black waves as soon as the kayak beached, vanishing like she had never been there.
“She really doesn’t like humans,” Lucifer remarked. “Are we going into the city?” he added eagerly.
“Yeah,” Chloe chuckled. “Yeah, we are.”
“Also,” Ella added, climbing off Chloe’s lap awkwardly, “Can’t really blame her for not liking humans. Right now, I don’t really like humans.” She splashed into the shallow water and pulled the kayak up a little higher. Chloe hopped out.
They both regarded naked, wobbly Lucifer. He smiled winningly at them and glowed.
“He needs clothes,” Chloe determined.
“No, he’s totally fine as he is,” Ella murmured.
“Ella,” hissed Chloe, though to be quite honest she didn’t disagree. Lucifer made a… a really, really nice human.
But he still needed clothes.
“Fine,” sighed Ella. “Let’s get him in the car, and we can pick up some like sweatpants or something? It’s not that late.”
Getting Lucifer out of the kayak was twice as hard as getting him into the kayak. He was gangly, and he flailed, and he was definitely not used to supporting his own weight. The kayak wobbled, and they all nearly faceplanted into the sand, together. His lights dimmed with frustration, and that was kind of heartbreaking. Still, step by step, they got him up the beach and into the parking lot. Venice beach had never seemed to wide, Chloe thought.
And then there was a whole other adventure, because Lucifer had never seen a car before. He made a delighted sound when they approached Chloe’s car, but was less thrilled to be shoved in the back.
When Chloe closed the door, prepared to get into the front at the driver’s side, Lucifer wailed, a long, distressed song that rang through the frame of the car.
“Oh—oh God—” Ella blurted. She lunged past Chloe and opened the door. “Buddy—buddy it’s okay! It’s okay. Chloe’s just going to sit in the front to drive, okay? I’ll sit back here with you.”
Chloe felt awful. He’d just been kidnapped and left alone in a tank, hadn’t he? “It’s alright,” she told him, urgently as Ella slid in. “I just need to get in the front to drive. So we can go home. Okay?”
“Why?” Lucifer asked. His eyes were huge and sad, like she’d abandoned him entirely instead of putting him in the back of a car.
“So I can steer. I thought you’d have more room back here, that’s all. I’m sorry.”
“You’re not going far?” he asked anxiously.
“Just to the front. I’m sorry. Do you want to sit in the front with me?” Getting him out and then back into the car would be a pain, but worth it if he wasn’t afraid.
He nodded, so they wrestled him out of the car. He wobbled but managed to swing himself into the passenger side seat a little easier than before. He was learning. Good.
“I’m going to close your door and then walk around to the other side, okay?” Chloe asked him. When he nodded again, she closed the door carefully. He didn’t sing, this time, and she dashed to her side. “Okay?” she asked.
“Okay,” he said. “Why are we sitting here?”
Ella had hopped in the back and closed the door. “To go home, silly! Well, first to get you some clothes. Ross’s Dress for Less is nearby? They might still be open.”
Lucifer jumped when Chloe turned on the car, and then exclaimed in delight at the lights, and how it moved. Once he figured out the buttons, he was unstoppable.
“You call this music?” he cried gleefully, flicking station to station. “This is terrible! Cars should not be allowed to sing!”
“It’s people, silly,” Ella explained. “We can record our voices and play it back.”
“You should not do that,” Lucifer replied gravely, eyes twinkling, “Your songs are terrible.”
“Oh! Oh! Was that a challenge I hear? Find music Lucifer likes? Challenge accepted!” Ella crowed, and Chloe chuckled.
“This is, without doubt, my favorite adventure to date,” Lucifer declared. He sat back and almost snuggled into his seat. He pushed down his window, beamed with delight, and then closed his eyes, feeling the breeze. He shivered, after a while, and regretfully closed the window again. “It’s terribly cold up here, isn’t it?” he asked Chloe.
“That’s why we’re getting you clothes,” she replied, smiling. “You’ll be warmer with clothes.” Not that it was particularly cold out, but no one wanted to be truly naked in the nighttime sixty-some degrees, and the breeze from the window was chilly.
“Clothes,” he echoed softly, bemused. “Right.”
Ross’s was open, as it turned out. She worried about getting Lucifer in the store, but it turned out not to be such a problem. He was getting the hang of walking and didn’t need Ella on his other side anymore. There was something deeply absurd about the picture they made, Chloe realized when they crossed the door. The bright, sterile white lights, the minimalist clothes racks, and there was Lucifer, perfectly comfortable in his naked skin and spattering of scales, with his fish-fin ears, and his dark hair, his rough stubble. He was a creature of myth and legend with curious dark eyes, utterly and completely out of place in a bargain clothing store. He didn’t glow under the store lights—whether it was by choice, or because of the overly bright lights, Chloe didn’t know. She shared an amused look with Ella.
When the one of the store associates rushed over to them, expounding on a no shirt/no shoes/no business policy, Lucifer turned those bright eyes to her and crooned a low, easy song. The hairs went up on the back of Chloe’s neck.
The associate swallowed.
“Oh, I want—” she swallowed, eyes on Lucifer. “I—I really do want to dress you,” she said, “I can see you need— Let me—let me—” She beckoned them into the store.
“What did you do?” Chloe hissed.
“Ohhh—” breathed Ella. “You’re not a mermaid at all, are you? You’re a siren.”
Chloe had no idea what she was talking about, and neither did Lucifer. He cocked his head at her.
The associate called for them, and they followed her.
What happened next was one of the most absurd experiences of Chloe’s life. Having determined his underwear size, Ella bought him a pack, which he disdained but wore at everyone’s insistence. Chloe snagged him a pair of sandals, which he clearly liked, from the way he wriggled his toes.
His frustration with the clothing situation, however, was ridiculous. He disliked everything on offer, and took his first, wobbly solo steps just to tell the associate off for choosing the wrong color palate. He exclaimed over the brightness of the color red, which was bizarre, and the deepness of the color purple. He bounced to yellows and greens, astounded, and scorned everything blue and black. He refused jeans, mostly for their color, and while he liked the softness of sweatpants, he hated how they looked.
At a loss, Chloe offered him dress pants, in a light gray, and that he found acceptable. She bought him a red dress shirt, which he seemed to like, and a white one, which he tolerated, and a gray jacket to match.
Cursing at herself, she bought him dress shoes as well because. Well. You couldn’t wear an ensemble like that with sandals.
And the thing was—the thing was that he looked good. He was fussy about colors and fabrics and everything under the sun, and remarkably obnoxious, and it was damned expensive, but by the end of the experience—he was absolutely right. He looked like a movie star, even or especially with the little red swirls at his temples, the way they lit up blue-white when he was excited, as they strolled in the night through the parking lot. The rest of his clothes mostly covered his glow—mostly. In the dark, the light still shined through a little.
It was weird, but he could pass, Chloe thought. Even with his webbed ears, he could definitely pass on the street. LA was full of strange people, and actors, and movies on set. It would be fine.
Lucifer walked on his own back to the car and though he still wobbled a little, he didn’t fall over. He even got into the car on his own—fast learner.
“Now what?” he asked.
“Now Ella goes home,” said Ella, yawning. “It has been a long, weird day. I loved it, don’t get me wrong! But I’m tired.”
“Tired?” Lucifer blurted. “It’s ages til sunrise! We’ve the whole night ahead of us!”
“You’re nocturnal, aren’t you?” Ella said wryly as Chloe got the car started.
“I haven’t heard that word yet,” Lucifer said lightly.
“Means you party all night and sleep all day.”
“You don’t?” Lucifer twisted around to goggle at her.
Chloe chuckled. “No, we definitely do not. We prefer the day, and sleep at night.”
“Well, clearly not,” Lucifer chuckled. “It’s night now, isn’t it?”
“Waaaaaay past my bed time,” Ella said.
“You stayed awake?” Lucifer asked. He sounded sort of—touched. “For me?”
“Of course, Lucifer,” Chloe said. “You’ve been missing. I was worried.”
“You were worried.” He beamed at her, the lights at his temples glowing brightly. “I’ll stay awake for you,” he declared like it was some great and meaningful thing. Who knew, Chloe thought, maybe for him it was.
She dropped Ella off at her door. She waved at them, and Chloe watched, amused, as Lucifer waved back, tentatively, learning the gesture.
“Come on,” she told him, “Let’s go home.”
He settled in contentedly—for all of about two minutes, before he went back to playing with the buttons on the dash. She let him. Chloe supposed she’d have that response too, if it were her first time seeing buttons.
They reached the house in record time, as there was very little traffic at one in the morning. Chloe helped Lucifer out of the car, and he hummed at her lightly, more vibration than sound, but he didn’t need to lean on her anymore. They walked to the front door together.
He whistled when he saw the inside.
It was a small apartment, ridiculously small. She’d moved out of her mother’s house shortly after divorcing Dan, but she couldn’t really afford anything large. It was a first-floor affair, two bedrooms and an office, which was where she was going to put Lucifer. But the complex was reasonably close to the beach, so when she’d seen it for rent, small and tidy, she’d taken it.
“This is your—territory?” he asked, puzzled.
“Something like that,” she said. “It’s my house. Come on, I’ll show you where you can sleep.” She beckoned him to the office. He followed, bemused.
It was very small, unfortunately, and kind of dark. Still, the little loveseat folded out, and he exclaimed in surprise when she pulled the mechanism up and then over, extending the bed. She pulled sheets out of a closet in her bedroom, as well as an extra blanket. Lucifer watched her prepare the bed with a look of absolute bemusement on his face.
“What’s it for?” he asked, when she finished, tossing two pillows at the head.
“You sleep on it,” she said. “This one isn’t the most comfortable, but in the morning I’ll try to find a bedcover or something.”
He blinked at her. He looked at the bed.
“Come on,” Chloe said, amused, “I think I have some pajamas that might fit you.”
Dan had left some sleeping pants the last time he was over—occasionally, he spent the night, on that very fold out couch. She offered them to Lucifer who turned up his nose at them.
“They’re for sleeping, Lucifer,” she told him, amused. “You don’t wear them outside.”
He still seemed skeptical about the whole affair. She bullied him into the pants anyway.
He was—he was something else. Standing in her room looking disgruntled in unflattering gray pants, the blue patterns on his chest glowed in funny swirls. He had a navel now, and nipples, when he had not before, when he was a mermaid. But the occasional red scale also flecked his chest, here and there in dots and swirls, punctuated by bright blue pinpricks of light. His hair was a dark, tousled disarray, though his five o’clock shadow had not seemed to have grown even a little over the last few hours. His funny webbed ears were utterly incongruous, as was the pout he was giving her, because of the pants. It made her smile.
She had an extra toothbrush, unopened, that she’d gotten from her dentist. It was purple, and they had a funny few minutes where she showed him how to brush his teeth. What he really wanted to do, apparently, was mash the toothpaste tube, but she caught him before he could.
It was almost like her bedtime routine with Trixie, but Lucifer was wide awake and playful. He turned in circles around her, clearly trying to bait her into chasing him. She gave in eventually, laughing, and managed to catch his arm before he dashed off too far, accustomed to walking but not running. He grinned at her, white teeth and bright eyes. He clearly wanted to sniff around her house and poke at things, but he got into bed when she told him to.
Well. He got on the bed. She had to explain about blankets. She had to stop herself from telling him a story.
“I’m just down the hall,” she told him softly. “If you need anything, Lucifer, let me know, okay?”
“I will,” he told her with a devilish smile.
“Good night,” she told him.
“Good night,” he echoed, the phrase clearly unfamiliar to him.
She closed the door.
The worst thing, Chloe thought, harassed, the worst thing about this whole situation was that yesterday was a god damned Thursday.
Her alarm went off, shrill and loud, and she had definitely not gotten enough sleep last night. She still managed to stumble into her living room, only to find it—completely destroyed.
The cushions were torn up from the couch, which was moved three feet to the left and angled. They were scattered haphazardly across the living room, and one of them was even perched, delicately, on top of a lamp. The pictures on her mantlepiece were missing, or missing pieces, and her rug was inexplicably upside-down. There was another lamp on the floor. Her coffee table, rectangular, was propped up vertically on its short side; the book and the bowl of miscellaneous things had slid right off and fallen to the floor. Three lightbulbs were missing from the light fixture, and her vacuum cleaner was disassembled, dust and all, on top of her upside-down rug. Her kitchen—
Her kitchen did not bear thinking about.
She gaped. “LUCIFER!” she thundered.
“Why is there heat?” he demanded, popping up in the kitchen. He pointed to the electric stove.
“Why does my living room look like this?” she replied in kind, frazzled.
“I was looking,” he said, like a guilty child.
“Lucifer,” she said, exhausted, “Next time, just ask me, okay? I have to go to work. Can you put it back to how it was?”
“Yes,” he said, devilish. No way in hell was he going to put anything back the way it was supposed to be.
She didn’t have time for this. It would keep.
She strode into the kitchen and pulled some eggs out of the refrigerator. He clearly hadn’t gotten there yet, because everything was in order.
Lucifer sneaked up behind her—she could feel his warmth, which was strange, because when he’d been a fish, he’d been cool. He wasn’t quite warm enough to be human, but still. He peered over her shoulder and whistled a little. “Cold?” he asked.
“So the food doesn’t rot,” she said, “So please don’t take the food out of here, or it’ll rot. It’s called a refrigerator, or a fridge.”
He hummed and watched her make omelets with wide eyes. When she gave him one, he devoured it with absolute delight. He used his hands to eat it, but strangely delicately. She explained how to use a fork and knife and he picked it up very quickly.
She made him a second one, because he seemed hungry. He devoured that too.
“Alright,” she told him, “I have to go to work. You are welcome to snoop, since I don’t think I could stop you anyway—” He grinned sweetly at her. “Just please, please, Lucifer, put everything back to how you found it after, okay? Now come here; let me show you how to work the TV. Provided you didn’t unplug it.”
He hadn’t unplugged it. He seemed extremely intrigued with the whole thing, and quickly got absorbed in, ironically enough, NCIS.
“Okay,” she told him, “I generally get home at like six.” She pointed to the clock, and then wrote out the correct symbol, because mermen probably couldn’t read, or at least couldn't read human words and numbers, could they? “Will you be alright til then?”
He smiled at her winningly. “Of course.”
“Great. Thanks. I’ll see you tonight, Lucifer.”
She heard him make an interrogative noise just before the door thumped closed. She thought that the odds of her returning to a home on fire were about fifty-fifty.
But life went on.
She booted up her computer upon arrival to work and did some digging, searching for recently missing ships. It took some sorting, but she found a few large enough to house a Lucifer-sized tank. Shortly after, Ella swung by and held out a huge cup of Starbucks coffee under her nose. Chloe took it gratefully and sucked it down. It was a mocha, which was a pleasant surprise.
“Soooooooo,” Ella said, watching Chloe drink.
Chloe looked up at her innocently. She sipped at the coffee.
“Oh, come on, Chloe!” Ella cried. “You have to tell me what happened next! Did you do the do with the ocean dude?” She jerked her hips a little, waggling her eyebrows.
Chloe almost spat out her coffee. “What?”
“Dude. He is totally into you,” she said. “I mean, he literally glows when you get close to him. And his ears do this cute—” she held out both of her hands, like jazz hands, “fanning thing, like he’s a peacock and you’re a peahen and he wants to look bigger--? Come on.”
“Ella he is a mermaid,” Chloe hissed in an undertone.
“Siren,” Ella corrected, mischievous. “He is a siren. He sings. That makes him a siren.”
“You just made that up!” Chloe said, and though she tried to sound serious, she really did, she couldn’t stop her lip from twitching, amused. She liked Ella, she decided. She liked Ella a lot. Frankly, she could use a friend, these days.
“Nope, ask Homer,” Ella chirped.
“Simpson?” Dan strolled over to her desk, smiling.
“Not quite,” Ella told him, with a wry smile. “Any luck with Fredrick?”
“Exotic animal smuggling operation,” Dan said, a little proud. “That’s where we think the orca came from. We found a bunch of monkeys and alligators in his basement. Case closed.”
Wrong, Chloe thought, startled. He was wrong. Wasn’t he? Fredrick had been one of the people who had kidnapped Lucifer, who had turned him human. One of three. Mazikeen had killed them, of her own volition.
She shared a look with Ella. Ella gave her a wide-eyed To tell or not to tell? sort of look. “Did you find the whale?” Chloe asked slowly, though she already knew the answer was no.
Sure enough, Dan shrugged. “We figured it must have escaped,” he said.
Escaped in that she had never been captive in the first place. Chloe was hard pressed to stop herself from gaping, though she managed.
She knew Dan liked the easy cases, the ones he called open-and-shut. He lived by simple, logical answers, and never liked to dig any deeper, even though Chloe knew, she knew, that sometimes, better answers could be found. It was infuriating, especially because more often than not, he was right.
After Palmetto, after Connor, she was in no position to question.
She questioned anyway.
“I might have a lead,” she said slowly.
“On the whale,” Dan said, skeptical. “Chloe—”
“Listen, just--” She took a breath. “A boat went down a few nights ago in the bay.” She turned her computer screen to show him the page. When she scrolled, a picture of Fredrick and three other guys, laughing and toasting at the hull of the ship, made the connection clear. “They had your illegal animal smuggling operation,” Chloe said softly, “But there’s three other guys missing.” One of them, she hoped, was Lucifer’s wizard.
And wasn’t that a bizarre thought.
Dan frowned. “It isn’t homicide, Chloe,” he said slowly. “What are you going to do—arrest a whale? It’s not our department. I’ll give it to the guys in Fish and Wildlife. They’re looking into the smuggling ring.”
Ella snorted a little at Fish and Wildlife. At Dan’s weird look, she managed, “Whales aren’t fish!”
“Wildlife, then,” he said wryly.
“I’m going to look into it,” Chloe said, because she couldn’t just leave it, not with Lucifer confused and alone and probably tearing her house apart. “I have a, a feeling about it, Dan.”
“Yeah,” Ella managed, turning a little pink with mirth. “You could say that boat looks…. fishy.”
Chloe shot her a look. Ella shook with suppressed laughter.
“You’ll need more than that,” Dan said, but kindly. “It really isn’t our department, and the Fish and Wildlife guys probably won’t appreciate the intrusion.”
“I know.” She sighed.
“You’re going to go after it anyway,” Dan said.
Chloe shrugged at him. “Yeah.”
“Why? It wasn’t even your case. And it’s closed, Chloe. Don’t waste your time.”
Well, what was there to say, really? There’s a mermaid—sorry—siren sprawled on my living room couch, and I think these people turned him mostly-human? He’s my friend and I want to help him? Insane. Completely insane.
“Call it a hunch,” Chloe hedged.
“Well don’t let your hunch cost you your reputation,” Dan warned. “You’re already on thin ice.”
Chloe flinched inside. Not outside—she knew better than to show it on her face, and she was a pretty damn good actor—but on the inside, she cringed. It wasn’t like she didn’t know that Connor’s death was on her shoulders. It wasn’t like she didn’t know everyone blamed her for Palmetto Street.
“I know, Dan,” was all she said.
“Be careful,” he told her, ever-concerned, and wandered away.
“That was mean,” Ella muttered.
“He’s not wrong,” Chloe said.
“Well, he’s not right either! This isn’t just some hunch, Chloe, there is a siren in your house, and he’s been cursed!” The last was a low whisper.
“I can’t exactly tell him that,” Chloe replied.
“Why not?” She crossed her arms stubbornly.
“You know why not.”
“So you’ll look crazy, so what?” Ella asked. “We all need a little more crazy in our lives. You think one of these guys is our wizard?”
Chloe looked at the laughing men in the image, their cold eyes and bright teeth.
“Yeah,” she said, “I really do.”
“Then let’s get Kraken!” Ella said cheerily. It took Chloe a second to get the pun, and when she did, she groaned.
“That was awful.”
“Yep! I’ll take another look at the forensic evidence on the body,” Ella added cheerfully. “See if I can find anything other than killer whale drool. It’s hard when it’s been in the ocean for that long, but maybe I can find something.”
That was unexpected. Chloe smiled at her. “Thanks, Ella. I’ll look into the records for the boat that went down. Maybe I can find their addresses that way.”
“Ba-da-boom!” Ella beamed, “Teamwork! Up top!” She offered her hand.
Teamwork. It made her think of Connor in a flash, his funny, quirky sense of humor, and grief lanced her heart. Ella wilted a little, visibly remembering that Chloe had just lost a partner.
“Sorry,” she said.
Chloe shook it off as best as she could. “It’s fine. Um.” She offered a hand.
Ella gave her five with a frankly enormous grin.
By the end of the day, Chloe had Fredrick’s address, and the address of a man named Lyle Smith, who owned the boat that had crashed. One of the other men was named Thomas Bailey, and the other, Marcus, no last name given. She printed the picture and stuffed it in a file folder in her bag. Maybe Lucifer would recognize them.
But now she had sort of an interesting problem. And the problem’s name was Trixie.
It was Chloe’s night to pick up Trixie, and she hadn’t seen her monkey in long enough that she definitely wanted her over. But there was also a good chance that Lucifer had torn the house to pieces, and/or set it on fire.
But he wasn’t dangerous, Chloe reasoned. All Lucifer really wanted was attention, and to be around people. He was very snuggly, for a mermaid. Siren. Whatever.
So she took the plunge, as it were. She picked up Trixie, and readied herself for the adventure.
Trixie was chattering happily about her gym class, where apparently one of the girls bullying her tripped and fell on her face, when they pulled up and into the parking lot in front of the apartment complex. Nothing seemed to be on fire.
“Monkey,” Chloe said softly, when Trixie stopped for breath, “I have to tell you something kind of important.”
“What?” She sat forward eagerly in her car seat.
Chloe took a deep breath. “I don’t really know how to do it,” she said honestly, with a little laugh, “Because it’s kind of weird.”
“Do you have a new boyfriend, mommy?” Trixie asked eagerly. Chloe hadn’t dated anyone since finally divorcing Dan, and it probably was time for her to get back up on the horse, as it were, but she had to take care of her mermaid problem first.
Chloe laughed. “No, baby. But I did make a friend.”
“A boyfriend?” Trixie wheedled.
“No!” she laughed. “But it’s very strange.”
“Okay,” Trixie said.
“Do you remember—” she licked her lips. “Do you remember when mommy got washed out at sea? And the coast guard had to come rescue me?”
Trixie’s eyes, heartbreakingly, went a little faraway with remembered fear. She nodded, now silent. It hurt Chloe’s heart to see.
“Well,” she said slowly, “When I was on the island, a mermaid found me.”
Trixie gave her a very eloquent seriously? look.
“I know, that’s what I thought,” Chloe said. “But he came back, afterwards, to our beach for two nights. And then he disappeared. Remember yesterday night, when you stayed with your daddy? I went and found him. He’s got legs now. And he’s—”
She stopped because Lucifer, completely naked, raced past their car on legs far nimbler than they had been last night, and disappeared through the hedge around the lot and, presumably, into their front door.
“Are you kidding me,” Chloe said.
“Was that him?” Trixie breathed, eyes huge.
“Why is he naked,” Chloe moaned, and Trixie giggled.
“He’s gonna be my best friend!” she declared, and hopped out of the car. Chloe scrambled to follow.
She took Trixie’s hand, kind of forcibly, and they dashed together to the front door, which he’d left open.
“Lucifer!” she called. And then she blinked. She blinked again.
The house was spotless.
And also—different. The couch was brand-new, similar in style but of a higher quality. There was a different light fixture, and she could smell—paint. Someone had painted the walls. It was the same color, just newer. “Lucifer?”
Lucifer skidded out of the office wearing a bizarre black silk robe and dark boxers that he’d gotten god knew where. “You’re home!” he said, delighted. “Did you know that humans mate internally? Because it’s brilliant.”
“I—what?” she blurted.
“Oh yes! And you have ways to avoid pesky offspring, which you apparently waste a good portion of your life raising. Humanity is excellent!”
Chloe spluttered, mostly speechless. Finally she managed, “What did you do all day?”
“I made friends!” Lucifer beamed. “Sex-friends. You don’t seem to have a word for that in your silly language. Anyway, I fixed your house, too, and paid someone to clean.”
“Where did you get the money, Lucifer?” Chloe spluttered.
“Did you know that people will pay for sex?” he beamed. “Quite a lot, as it turns out.”
Trixie broke down into giggles. Chloe had a moment of utter horror: she’d briefly forgotten her daughter was standing beside her.
“Trixie baby, could you please go play in your room?” Chloe told her.
“I’m good here,” Trixie said blithely.
Chloe stared at her. Trixie gave a huge, put upon sigh.
“Fine. Nice to meet you, Lucifer!”
She trotted off into her room and shut the door.
“Was that your offspring?” Lucifer said.
“Yes, Lucifer, and if you’re going to stay here, we’re going to have to have some ground rules.”
Lucifer’s eyes went round and sad, like she’d kicked him without provocation. “What did I do wrong? I fixed your territory.” The last was said like a peace offering, and Chloe wasn’t stupid enough to disregard it, despite her rising anger.
“Does that—mean something to you?” she asked slowly. “Your people, I mean?”
Lucifer's demeanor abruptly faded and folded. He scowled. “I have no people,” he said darkly. His eyes slipped to the now-righted coffee table, away from Chloe. It looked like it had received a new coat of varnish. Or possibly it was a different table altogether.
“The territory thing, Lucifer,” Chloe said, though she filed that interesting bit of information away. “You found a new couch. You painted.”
Her perked up, mercurial. “You noticed?”
“Yes,” she said slowly, “Why?”
“I made your den nicer,” he said, plaintive and wrong footed.
“That’s something you do,” Chloe said.
“When you like someone,” Lucifer said, still confused. “Humans have much nicer things then we do in the sea. Soft things are just soft, and not full of algae.”
“Okay. Well, I appreciate the thought, Lucifer, thank you,” she said. He beamed. “But humans don’t rearrange each other’s houses without permission, so ask next time, okay? Your heart is in the right place, but my instinct is to get angry, because you messed with my—my territory.”
He tilted his head at her. “Strange,” he said. “What can I do to please you, then?”
Weird and creepy phrasing, but she could work with that. “We can set some ground rules. We should have talked about this yesterday. Come on.”
Frowning, he followed her to the couch. She had to admit, once she sat down, that it was definitely softer than the old one, much better made, and more comfortable. The coffee table was of the same make as her other one, but up close she could see that it was definitely different. Lucifer settled in on the middle cushion and actually snuggled a pillow. Those were new too.
And they were really fuzzy. Discretely, Chloe inched one over and then petted it.
She took a breath.
“Lucifer, we’re going to get you back your gills and tail,” she said slowly. “But while you need it, you are welcome here.”
He beamed at her.
“But there are certain things I can’t compromise on,” Chloe added. “One of them is Trixie. Anything that might put her in danger, or make her uncomfortable is off limits, do you understand?”
Lucifer nodded slowly. “I—wouldn’t harm a child,” he said.
“I know. But I also mean things that’ll make her uncomfortable. Like being naked, Lucifer; wear clothes. And please don’t talk about the details of your sex life around her. She’s too young.” Chloe hesitated. That said—“Did you just have sex for the first time?” she asked, more gently.
“As a human male? Yes. The first was mediocre—my fault—didn’t understand. The second was much better, the third, brilliant. First time—er—” he struggled for a word. He crossed his fingers, like that gesture would mean anything to her. It didn't. “At all?” he said at last, rather lamely. “Not even close.”
Chloe felt better, but still concerned. “Um. You okay? First times can be jarring.”
He beamed at her. “Why, Chloe! I’m glad you care. I’m fine. Certainly better than building a nest only for no one to show, which has been my experience for oh, the last two thousand years.”
Chloe blinked at him, derailed. She wasn’t really sure which to address first—the horrible loneliness in the first statement, or the impossibility of the second.
She decided on neither. “Okay. No conquests—sex partners—” she added, awkward, at Lucifer’s puzzled stare, “can come back here. And Lucifer, be careful—there are diseases you can catch.”
Lucifer cocked his head, amused and fascinated. “Really?”
“Yes. There are—” Choe geared herself up to give him a sex talk, but Lucifer held up a condom with a wry smile. Where he’d pulled it from, she had no idea.
“Got it from the first one. She was lovely; very patient and very informative. But thank you, darling.” He smiled at her hopefully, clearly testing the petname.
Chloe usually disliked darling, actually, but from Lucifer, with that funny incongruous accent of his and his bright, earnest eyes—she let it lie.
“Okay,” she said, relieved, “Good. So we’ve covered sex, rearranging the furniture, Trixie, bringing people back—anything you want to add?”
“For ground rules. If we’re living together, there have to be rules. Is there anything you do or don’t want?”
Lucifer blinked at her. Then he frowned, long and hard, thinking. “The den you gave me is either very dark or very bright, without an in between,” he said slowly. “The blankets block my own light. I dislike the dark, but cannot sleep in the light.”
He was asking for a nightlight. Chloe tried not to find that adorable, but she couldn’t quite do it.
“We can get you a nightlight, Lucifer,” she told him warmly. “Actually Trixie might have an extra one, if you don’t mind that it’s a monkey.”
Curious bright eyes. “What’s a monkey?”
She smiled at him. “Let me get Trixie,” she said, “We can watch Planet Earth tonight.”
Trixie was all too eager to meet Lucifer for real, especially since he didn’t like the dark, and especially since she got to give him her nightlight. The best part was that Lucifer scrambled up onto the couch and gaped at Trixie when she got close, as if she were going to sprout horns or something.
“You’re funny,” she declared, and plopped herself down next to him, much to his apparent horror. He turned imploring eyes at Chloe.
“She doesn’t bite,” Chloe said wryly.
“Yes I do!” Trixie bared her teeth playfully. Lucifer practically yelped.
“Do—do—” Chloe started, unsure how to ask the question, but then Trixie apparently read her mind.
“Do baby mermaids bite?” she asked eagerly.
“Only the fins of the unwary,” sniffed Lucifer. “I will not raise her,” he added to Chloe, low and fierce. “I refuse. It takes far longer for humans, and I never liked fry even when they were mine and made sense.”
“The—males raise the young,” Chloe inferred, fascinated.
“I will not—” Lucifer growled.
“Not asking you to,” Chloe said. “That can be a ground rule.”
“Generally speaking, yes,” he added at a mutter. “Roughly two years. You start with hundreds; by the end you might have two or three. Such is life in the sea. I’m given to understand that is not so, on land.” He shot Trixie a skeptical look.
“You let your babies die?” Trixie gasped.
“Often they kill each other,” Lucifer said dryly. “Or the hagfish get them. Or an octopus, or several sharks. It’s a thankless task, and the little bastards don’t develop empathy until long after they leave the nest, if at all.”
“What’s a hagfish?” Trixie asked, fascinated.
“Slimy,” said Lucifer.
“And on that note, I believe it’s dinner time,” Chloe said, beyond certain that she did not want to google hagfish. “How does macaroni sound?”
Distracted, Trixie leapt up in delight.
“What’s macaroni?” Lucifer asked, and followed them at an amble to the tiny kitchenette.
Macaroni was Trixie’s favorite, and Lucifer watched the whole process with fascination and delight. He had apparently discovered cheese on his grand day out, and was quite happy about it, chatting to Chloe in detail about—well—fondue with some woman he’d inadvertently seduced. True to his word, he never directly talked about sex, though he waggled his eyebrows at Chloe where the story would go dirty, if Trixie weren’t there.
All things considered, it was kind of—fun.
They settled in front of the TV with their bowls, since it was Friday and macaroni was kind of an informal dinner anyway. Chloe made a detour to her work bag, though, before sitting with everyone on the couch.
"Hang on," Chloe said, "Before I start this, Lucifer, I have to show you something."
"Mommy?" asked Trixie.
"It's fine, baby." CHloe pulled the picture she'd printed at work out of the file folder. "Do you recognize any of these men, Lucifer?”
Lucifer took the picture. He frowned. “All of them,” he said. “They were with me on the boat. This man,” he pointed to an attractive but severe looking man who was not smiling. “He’s the one who cursed me. He got away. I think Maze killed the rest.”
Bingo. “His name is Marcus,” she said, “Don’t have a last name yet. But this helps met get it, Lucifer. Thank you." She put the picture back into the file folder.
"Where did you get that?" Lucifer asked, still frowning.
"Our murder victim, Fredrick, had it on social media. The internet. I'll explain later." She put the file back on the table. She would do more digging on Monday, now that she had a positive ID. Now was Trixie-time; she usually didn't mix in work with Trixie-time, but Lucifer needed her help.
"That's it?" Lucifer asked. "You're not going to--go find him?"
"I will on Monday," Chloe told him. "For work."
"It's dark out," Trixie piped up.
Lucifer thought about this. "I see. You people don't do things in the dark. It's very uncivilized of you, though I am touched that you rescued me in the dark, at least. Gives it rather more meaning, doesn't it?" He smiled sweetly at Chloe. She kind of wanted to deck him for that, but refrained.
She just rolled her eyes and turned on Planet Earth.
Lucifer shut up almost right away. He was transfixed.
Well of course he was, she thought fondly. He could probably narrate the ocean one—she almost wanted to see that—but he’d never been on land before. He’d told Mazikeen it was vast and uncharted. He fired off questions to Chloe, and Chloe mostly let Trixie answer because she knew a surprising amount about animals, especially monkeys, which she liked because of her nickname. Lucifer sucked everything up like a sponge, finally exclaiming, “Mammals are bizarre!” at the end of a segment about a kangaroo. He’d learned the word mammal about fifteen minutes prior.
His grasp of language was extremely impressive. Chloe told him so, and he shrugged it off.
“We all have gifts, the original fifty,” he replied, and that raised more questions than it answered. “Tongues is one of mine. Light is another. And desire.” He smiled at her lazily.
“How is desire a gift?” Trixie asked.
“Well. I could show you, but I have a feeling your mother will—hmm—” A word he didn’t have. A concept that his people might have, but not humans. That seemed to be where he stumbled the most.
“Yeah, I probably won’t like it,” Chloe said placidly, with a core of steel. “So let’s not.”
Trixie sighed, put upon. “Another time,” she whispered to Lucifer, not very quietly.
Lucifer blinked at her, at her conspiratorial look. Not that Chloe was biased or anything, but she was frankly adorable.
“You are very different from our young,” he told her.
“I don’t kill other kids,” Trixie said serenely.
“Bizarre,” said Lucifer.
“Probably a good thing,” Chloe teased. Trixie giggled.
“Probably! Can we watch The Little Mermaid next, Mommy?” The last with a mischievous look at Lucifer.
Oh, it was too good to pass up, even though it was a little late, and Trixie’s bedtime was fast approaching. Tomorrow was Saturday; it was fine. “Sure.”
Lucifer cocked his head at the start, puzzled at the animation. He chuckled at the dolphins and made a tiny sound of delight at the song of the fishermen.
But at the first mention of King Triton he shut down, so swiftly and absolutely that even Trixie noticed.
“Lucifer?” Chloe asked, laying a hand on his arm.
“His name is Nereus,” Lucifer said darkly. “Not Triton.”
Chloe shared a puzzled look with Trixie. “The—king?” she asked, as gently as she could. She couldn’t hide the fascination in her voice.
“All life began in the sea, Chloe,” Lucifer murmured cryptically and he didn’t elaborate. She rubbed his arm.
“You okay?” She murmured. This might not have been the best idea.
He blinked, and then blinked again. He looked down at her, dark eyes soft. The little blue spots on the red spirals on his temples twinkled like stars in the dark living room, lights dimmed for the movie. He met her gaze, and by increments he softened, relaxing. “Yes,” he murmured. “I’m alright. This is—a work of fiction, yes? Not like Planet Earth.”
“Yeah,” Chloe told him warmly, still rubbing his arm. “Most humans don’t think mermaids are real.”
His lips quirked. “Really?”
His smile grew. “Play it, then,” he said. He stayed silent for all of two minutes, commenting acerbically about how he didn’t bend that way, and everyone knew a fish tail went side-to-side.
He actually left the room when Ursula came on, though. He slammed the door to his room behind himself, too. Chloe shared a baffled look with Trixie.
“Guess he doesn’t like the movie?” Trixie said hesitantly.
“It’s late,” Chloe told her softly. “Why don’t you wash up, monkey? We can finish in the morning. I’m going to see what’s wrong with Lucifer.”
Trixie frowned rebelliously. She didn’t like to leave a movie unfinished. “But mommy,” she said.
“I know, honey, but I think Lucifer is hurting. I think it might be best to leave it, for now. We might hurt his feelings.”
Trixie bit her lip. She was a good kid; Chloe knew she would sacrifice a lot to spare a friend’s feelings. “Okay,” she said, and hopped off the couch. “Can I help?”
“Let me talk to him for now,” Chloe told her. “I can call you in to say good night to him.”
Trixie accepted that and trotted off to brush her teeth. Chloe watched her go and took a deep breath. She made her way to Lucifer’s door, and knocked gently.
“Lucifer?” she asked. “Can I come in?”
There was a brief silence. Then a whistle, like a bird, and the lock clicked open. Chloe jumped a bit.
“Did you just—” she pushed open the door, “—whistle open the lock?”
He was sitting up on his bed, legs crossed. He smiled at her a little. “Is that not something humans do?” he asked.
She ambled over and sat next to him. “No,” she smiled at him. “Not at all. Are you okay?”
Lucifer looked away. “When we met,” he said softly, “You said that my name had some bad—associations. I thought—perhaps you knew of me, then. But after today, I began to doubt it. Now, Ursula—you do know of me. It was too similar to be a coincidence. The outcast, the contracts. But I would never hurt an innocent, Chloe—you must know this. I only punish the guilty.” He swallowed.
She blinked at him. It took a second to process what he was saying, because it just didn’t make sense. Lucifer, cast out, contracts. That she might know of him.
“Are you trying to tell me that—you’re, you’re Lucifer, Lucifer?”
Lucifer gave her a deadpan look.
To be fair that hadn’t made much sense.
“I don’t understand,” she said, finally.
“I think my story made its way into your mythology,” Lucifer said flatly. “Borne up on sea foam, or some such poetic nonsense. Chloe, my father cast me off the mountain because I rebelled. He banished me to the deep, where he sends his criminals. My job is to punish them. The whales all come to me when they die; they sink to the deep. They used to fear me, but I befriended them by way of song and later, battle. The orcas do enjoy combat.” The last he said fondly.
Chloe swallowed. She had understood maybe half of that. “Our stories say that Lucifer was a fallen angel. That he had wings.”
Lucifer snorted. “What use are wings when there is no life in the sky? The world began in the sea, Chloe.”
Chloe stared at him, at his dark eyes, at the little twinkling swirls at his temples. He had absolutely no reason to lie. And he was definitely a mermaid, or a siren, or whatever—she’d picked him up from the sea the other night. That was one impossibility—if that could be true, if he could have gills and a tail, why couldn’t this? Why couldn’t he be the real, actual Lucifer?
But if he were the real, actual Lucifer—wouldn’t that make him evil? Wouldn’t that make him Ursula?
Her Lucifer, who frolicked in the breakers on the beach, waiting for her and calling for her, evil? Her Lucifer, with wobbly legs and trusting eyes, and a whole pod of orcas at his back? Who made such a ridiculous scene in the Ross’s Dress for Less? Who never made her sign a contract?
Maybe the stories were wrong, she thought hopefully. Mermaid was about as far as you could get from being an angel, right?
Sirens, though—who lured sailors to their deaths—
She had no proof of that. Even if he sang those strange, strange songs, that made the animals—and people— act so oddly.
“Do you make people sign contracts?” she blurted. He recoiled, stung.
“I do favors,” he said. “I expect something in return. I—I don’t keep people like that.” He flapped a hand, indicating the movie, Ursula’s strange, creepy prisoners.
“What do you expect in return?” Chloe asked nervously.
“Things!” he blurted defensively. “A sperm whale might echolocate for me. An elephant seal might find creatures that glow, so that I can light my miserable den. Just—things. If they don’t pay willingly, I sing to them, and they pay unwillingly. That’s punishment. But I don’t—transform them. And I certainly don’t keep them.”
Chloe abruptly realized that he was shaking. Somehow, for some reason, that made her relax. She reached out, carefully, and laid a hand on his leg.
“Okay,” she said. “Okay. I believe you. Our stories are—pretty crazy.” She smiled at him. “It—makes sense, actually. That they might be based on something real at their core, but otherwise be—embellished.” She rubbed his leg gently, and the shaking subsided.
“You’re not afraid of me?” he whispered.
“No,” Chloe told him, a lie. She was, a little. But he looked afraid, too, and that was oddly soothing.
Maybe the stories were wrong. They’d certainly been wrong about the mermaid part. And he was looking into her eyes like he’d never seen anything as wonderful as she was and that was just—that was really something.
She licked her lips. “Um. Do you mind if I let Trixie say goodnight? She was worried about you.”
Something deep and dark in Chloe quavered at letting Trixie get close to Lucifer, if what he said was true, if he really was the truth behind the myth of the devil. But a myth was only a myth, Chloe thought firmly. The truth was weirder, and wilder and far, far kinder. She hoped.
Lucifer thought about it. “It’s alright,” he said at last. She squeezed his ankle in thanks.
“Trix?” she called.
Trixie barreled in. She bounced on the fold-out, and Lucifer drew his legs up, startled. “Are you okay, Lucifer?” she blurted.
“I’m alright, urchin,” he told her softly.
“Good,” Trixie said firmly. “I’m sorry the movie made you sad. Why did it make you sad?”
Chloe sucked in a breath to divert the question, but Lucifer answered her before she could.
“I am also in exile,” he said.
“You’re nothing like Ursula,” Trixie said fiercely. “Unless you have an octopus half. Do you have an octopus half?”
Lucifer huffed, offended. “Of course not. I have bones, and fins and scales.”
Trixie flopped backwards on the bed. “So your tail is fishy. Like Ariel. Except it goes side to side because you’re a real fish. That makes you one of the good guys, right? Disney’s not really creative about its bad guys.” The last was a stage whisper.
Lucifer huffed a startled laugh. “Based on that criteria, then I suppose you’re right.”
“Why are you in exile?” Trixie asked.
“Trix—” Chloe started, but Lucifer cut her off.
“I had three individual thoughts to string together, unlike the rest of my clan,” Lucifer said bitterly. “My father doesn’t like individual thoughts. He banished me to the deep.”
“Wow,” said Trixie. She sat up, then stage whispered again, “Good thing it wasn’t four!”
Lucifer gaped at her. Chloe started sputtering out apologies, but then Lucifer lost it; he cackled, leaning back against the headboard of the pull out and exposing his long, pretty neck. There were lights even there, in two lines from behind his ears. They flashed at his amusement.
He gasped for breath, calmed down. He cocked his head at Trixie. “You are very different,” he said again, pleased.
“Well, we like individual thoughts, here,” Chloe told him, smiling. She actually felt a little better about the whole—Lucifer thing, after that.
Those dark eyes swung to her, and he smiled warmly. “I see that, yes,” he told her. “I do agree with Ariel,” he added, hushed and teasing. “It’s far better up here.”
Chloe awoke to the smell of frying bacon.
That was—confusing. She made her way blearily to the kitchen to find Lucifer at the stove, cooking, and Trixie sitting at the counter on the other side of him, watching eagerly.
“Hi mommy!” she chirped.
“Good morning,” Lucifer said warmly. “Bacon?”
Chloe stopped dead. “How—how do you know how to—?”
“Well. Natasha from yesterday actually taught me,” Lucifer said smoothly. Trixie giggled. “She was very insistent that a man should know how to cook for his—er—lady-friend—” He darted his eyes to Trixie. “So she taught me how to make bacon, eggs and pancakes and I must say the pancake batter was the most delightful—”
“Alright! Alright. That’s enough,” Chloe blurted, coming to sit next to Trixie, who was giggling hard into her omelet.
Lucifer beamed at her. He took the bacon pan off the fire and held it out, offering. Trixie got some, and at Chloe’s consent, Lucifer put a plate together for her, cracking eggs like an old pro.
“You’re good at that,” Chloe told him.
“Much easier than sharks’ eggs,” Lucifer shrugged. “And this—the cooking—is ingenious. I’ve never thought to heat something up on purpose.”
“How do you do it by accident?” Trixie asked.
“Chase a fish into a—er—” he grimaced, clearly not having the right word. “Very, very hot water? Anyway, they don’t come out the other end.” He flipped the omelet and gave it to Chloe, along with the bacon.
He was really good at that, holy crap. The eggs were perfect, the bacon crispy but not too crispy. Chloe watched Lucifer make himself breakfast, devouring hers. He came to sit beside her as she was finishing.
“No work?” he murmured.
“Saturday,” she said, “No work or school today. You have us for the whole day,” she swallowed, flushed, and backtracked. “I—I mean, if you want to, you can, you know, do your own thing if you want—”
But his face lit up, like she’d just offered him the moon. “Really?”
“Yup!” Trixie said from her other side, “tomorrow, too!”
Lucifer cocked his head at Chloe, eyes dancing. “What do you usually do in your time off, then?”
The real answer was ‘not much.’ Sometimes she took Trixie to the beach, or a museum or an event. In days long gone, it would be with Dan, too, and they’d go on family outings, just the three of them. Now they were down to two, and on the weekends where she didn’t have Trixie, she mostly cleaned. Such was the glamorous LA life.
Chloe shrugged. “Anything you’re interested in seeing?”
Lucifer blinked at her.
“Let’s do something really land-y!” said Trixie. “Let’s go to the zoo! Or climb a mountain! Ooo, Let’s climb a mountain, Mommy!”
Lucifer balked a little. “Why,” he said, “Would you ever want to go up a mountain?”
“Because it’s fun!” Trixie bounced. “There’s no one living at the top who can exile you, if that’s what you’re worried about,” she said, matter of fact, and Chloe felt herself cringe.
But Lucifer just looked puzzled. “There’s—not?”
Poor thing, Chloe thought fondly. “Of course not,” she told him gently. “But there’s trees and stones and wildlife, and when you get to the top, you can generally see a beautiful view. And then at the end we climb down. That’s it. We can stay in the city if you prefer, maybe get lunch in Chinatown. Or we can stay here. What do you think?”
Lucifer looked at her, a little confused. “You want—me to choose,” he said, disbelieving.
“Of course,” Chloe smiled at him. “It’s your first time on land.”
He blinked at her again. “What’s in Chinatown?”
“Dim suuuuum!” cried Trixie, apparently not all that disappointed about not climbing the mountain.
“Food,” Chloe chuckled. “Food from another country, sort of. Humans from different cultures.”
“Let’s do that,” Lucifer said immediately. Chloe chuckled.
“Okay,” she said, and smiled. “In the meantime, I bet you’d like the Skyspace, Lucifer. It’s really a bar, but you go to the top of a tall building, and when you look out, you can see most of the city.” Chloe had once solved a case there, but that was many, many years ago now. It was touristy and not cheap, but she thought Lucifer might like it. “What do you think?”
His lips quirked. “You can see that far?”
“It’s smoggy, but sometimes.”
“Alright,” Lucifer said, and finished his breakfast.
It turned out to be a lovely day. Lucifer sat beside her in the car, and Trixie in the back, chattering away about the stuff you could see from the top of a building. Lucifer fiddled with the music, as always, totally dissatisfied, and he bickered with Trixie about which station to keep like they’d known each other for years. Something dangerously like contentment unfurled in Chloe’s belly.
He made uncertain sounds about the elevator, when they got there, but she coaxed him inside and up they went. It was worth it.
He whistled when he saw it, not like a man but like a dolphin, a Siren-sound, not human. He turned back to Chloe, met her eyes with his dark ones, filled with wonder.
“So bright!” he said, delighted.
It took her a second to get it. He was nocturnal, and moreover, the deep ocean was dark, wasn’t it? This must seem blinding by comparison.
She chuckled. “Come on,” she said. This was so worth the price of admission. She beckoned him outside. Trixie had already raced out the doors.
The observation deck was more of a party area at night, but so early in the day -- it was barely after ten – they had it mostly to themselves.
They had a glass slide, their touristy gimmick where once Chloe had investigated a body, though that was years ago. Now, Trixie insisted on going down the slide, again and again, and she even managed to convince Lucifer to give it a try. He came up chortling and then raced to Chloe’s side.
“Show me the city,” he urged her, and so she did. She pointed out Chinatown, where they’d be having lunch, the mountains in the distance, and even where her precinct was, kind of, though it was too far to really see well. It was smoggy as always, but not too bad, today. She hoped it was better than the ocean, at least. He listened raptly through it all, soaking it up like a sponge. His eyes were bright as stars.
One of the staff members strolled out to the deck and smiled. She was holding a tray with what looked like two mimosas, and a coconut.
“On the house,” she purred to Lucifer, and offered him a mimosa. He beamed at her.
“Thank you!” he said. He cocked his head at her like an inquisitive bird. “And what is it you desire, hmm? Something brought you out to me.” His hum was musical, almost a scale. The hairs on the back of Chloe’s neck went rigid.
“I—” the woman said and swallowed. “I want to be a dog breeder, but I can’t afford anything with a pedigree.”
Lucifer looked at her thoughtfully. He took a mimosa.
“Chloe,” he said, almost playfully, “What is a pedigree? I’d like to help dear—” he leaned forward to squint at her nametag. It occurred to Chloe that he probably couldn’t read.
“Kylee,” whispered the waitress, flustered.
“—Kylee here achieve her dream.”
“I—really?” blurted Kylee.
“But of course,” Lucifer purred. “You brought us these lovely mimosas. I do require a favor in return, you understand.”
Kylee nodded enthusiastically. “Yeah. Sure. Anything.”
This was—weird. “A pedigree is a list of a dog’s parents and grandparents, that ensures it’s a purebred,” Chloe said slowly. “Can I talk to you?”
Lucifer turned to her fully. He offered her the other mimosa.
Chloe shook her head. “I’m driving.”
“Oh!” Kylee said. “Sorry! Here.” She offered the coconut. “It’s a virgin pina colada. For the little one. I’ll get her another.”
Chloe took it gingerly and Kylee skipped back to the bar.
“Lucifer, what was that?” Chloe hissed.
“I told you. I do favors, for a favor in return. I do not keep people,” Lucifer told her firmly. “I—like it up here. I thought she might let us back, someday.”
That was—almost sweet. Almost. Mostly it was alarming; that poor girl unknowingly owing a favor to the whim of a sea creature. “Lucifer, we can come back whenever you like,” she told him softly. “You don’t need a favor for that.”
He shrugged at her, and there was something about his confusion that was heartbreaking, like this was simply how his world worked. “Favors are useful,” he said.
“How are you going to get a dog?” Chloe asked.
His eyes gleamed, and so did his lights, though in the daylight they weren’t so bright as to be noticeable.
“That’s the fun part!” he said.
….unfortunately, he was right. Getting the dogs was fun.
Kylee wanted to breed Yorkiepoos so they needed a Poodle and a Yorkie. Trixie chattered on, explaining the differences between the two dogs to a Lucifer who oscillated between fascinated and horrified. Upon arrival to the dim sum place, Lucifer pounced on the Maitre D.
“Tell me,” he crooned, “What is it that you desire?”
And the hair went up on the back of Chloe’s neck, and the Maitre D said, “I hate my dog,” utterly wretchedly, like the universe was just waiting for Lucifer to come along. “I can’t give him up because the pound will euthanize him, and I spent a fortune on him – do you know how expensive Yorkies are? But he just won’t stop barking!”
“Well, well, how neatly this worked out,” Lucifer beamed. “I’ll take that dog off your hands, for a favor – provided it has a pedigree?” He glanced at Chloe, then down to Trixie. “After lunch, of course.”
“Of course,” gasped the Maitre D, looking relieved, “Of course, of course. Your meal is on the house!”
“How--?” blurted Chloe after they’d been ushered to sit, and a wide-eyed waiter brought them a tea pot. The man was called Li Wei, and he wanted his daughter to go to Harvard. Lucifer thought about this, before turning to Chloe.
“How--?” Chloe said again.
“Apparently I have an effect on people,” Lucifer beamed. “Works on other sea-folk, too, though not the original fifty, more’s the pity. Desire is one of my gifts.”
“And light!” Trixie said. “And—languages. You said before. Right?”
“Correct. Aren’t you a clever little urchin?”
Trixie beamed at him.
“Who are the original fifty?” Chloe managed.
Lucifer scowled. “My siblings. Amenadiel, Michael, Gabriel and Uriel and the rest. Prats, the lot of them. And my parents.”
Chloe blinked at him. Those—those were angel names. She was pretty sure that anything ending in an -el was an angel name. But—
All life began in the sea, Lucifer had said. Maybe the humans just—got the story wrong. Lights, instead of haloes. Fins, instead of wings. It was kind of mind boggling.
“But there’s more than fifty,” she said slowly.
“Thousands, at least.” Lucifer shrugged. “Children of the rest of us, and their children, and their children’s children. They live and die like rays. They come to me for favors.” His voice went dark.
“But you don’t keep them,” Trixie chirped. “So you’re not Ursula.”
Lucifer smiled at her wryly. “Yes,” he said. “Ah—what’s this?”
A woman brought a pushcart full of dumplings, and they went at it. Dim sum was fun, and Lucifer definitely got a kick out of it, calling over more and more carts, extracting favors where he could from the women pushing them, though there were some, like the Harvard one, that he did not understand.
She did spend a fair amount of time explaining education and school to him.
“Not a bad idea, sending the children away,” he said, and took a bite out of the newest treat brought by a push cart. His silly finned ears fanned out in delight. “What is this?”
“Pork bun,” Chloe said, amused. “They’re my favorite.”
Lucifer licked his lips. “Mine as well, I think. Where did you say this food was from again?”
Other humans, distant places. His eyes went wide and twinkled with delight. “Can we eat another kind of food for dinner? From somewhere else? No fish.” He’d disdained everything even remotely related to the ocean.
Chloe chuckled. “Sure.”
After lunch, Trixie was utterly delighted because they collected the Yorkie, and the Yorkie’s papers. They returned to the Skyspace with him, and Chloe had to say, the Maitre D was right—the damned thing didn’t stop barking.
Kylee was totally beside herself. She actually kissed Lucifer full on the mouth, there at the top of that building, and Chloe felt a pang because it was almost romantic.
But then—she couldn’t possibly be jealous of a waitress and a mermaid, could she? No. No, that was too silly.
Even if the mermaid was kind of hers, dammit.
They had Greek food for dinner, just because, and Lucifer loved gyros. He snuggled up to Chloe on the couch when they got home, and insisted on finishing the Little Mermaid, despite Chloe and Trixie’s protests.
Head on Chloe’s shoulder, Lucifer filled the movie with snarky comments about what it meant to be a mermaid. He was particularly insulted about Ariel’s deal.
“You can’t just trade your voice,” he spluttered. “You need your voice! How the hell are you supposed to sing without your voice? Ariel is an idiot.”
He was warm and cuddly and indignant, and it was frankly the most comforting thing Chloe had experienced in a dog’s age. With Trixie at her other side, she could almost—fall—asleep—
Please note! There has been a small but significant change to chapter 6, because while I am a procrastinator and forget work things all weekend, Chloe definitely is not, and gets shit done as quickly as she can. For those of you who don't want to go back and read, I have added Lucifer's positive identification of one of the men in Chloe's picture as the wizard who cursed him.
The picture is brought out and discussed again in this chapter, and Lucifer IDs him a second time here (because he steals the picture, that brat), so hopefully that's clear.
Chloe woke up the next day, having collapsed on the couch, with Lucifer’s head on her belly, and the rest of him kind of curled around her legs. He was fast asleep. And he was weirdly warm. He wasn't so hot as to be a furnace—he definitely wasn’t a mammal—but he was a comfortable weight, at least. Her back and shoulders were killing her, though.
Next to her ear, Trixie snored. It seemed they’d all fallen asleep out here.
She must have shifted or moved a little, because Lucifer made a small, musical sound of complaint. He rubbed his cheek on her belly and shuffled impossibly closer.
“Hey,” she told him softly. He whined an unhappy scale. She smiled.
“Come on,” Chloe told him. “If you get up, it’ll help fix it.”
Lucifer blinked open his dark eyes. He tilted his head and looked up at her, plaintive. “Fix what?”
“Are you sore from sleeping crooked?” she asked.
“Should I be?” Lucifer asked. He squeezed her tightly. “You shouldn’t move. This is delightful.”
“My back is killing me,” she told him, amused, and squirmed her way to a seated position. He made an unhappy sound, but he shuffled as she moved and ended up with his head on her knee.
He looked at her crotch. “You know, Natasha also taught me this lovely thing—”
“No,” Chloe told him, more amused than offended. Luckily, Trixie seemed to still be asleep.
He waggled his eyebrows and flashed his lights. “You sure? She seemed to like it. I’m quite good at it, apparently.”
“Absolutely not,” Chloe told him, again. She kind of negated that by running a hand through his soft hair but, well, it was right there. He seemed to like that; he rewarded her with a musical hum that she could feel in her sternum. It kind of made something at her core shiver pleasantly, but she was quickly distracted. The fins by his ears were dry to the touch. They felt kind of gummy and brittle. “Do these hurt?”
“Stiff,” Lucifer said, shrugging. Then he grinned, wicked again, and she pinched him.
“Lucifer,” she said, mock stern. He chuckled and curled closer. “Some water, maybe?” she asked again, running a hand along one of the rays of his ear. He made a funny clicking sound in the back of his throat and leaned into her. “Lotion? I don’t know how to fix this.”
Lucifer yawned, apparently not overly concerned. He nestled closer to her. “Water,” he said. “Salty, not this weird stuff you drink. If I were stranded, I would hide under algae if I could.”
Something to keep the moisture in. “I can do that. Hang on.” Gently she dislodged him, despite his huffy complaint. He was only sort of lukewarm, but she still missed his weight and heat when she stood.
She brought a bowl of warm water, salt, and a paper towel. Together they mixed the water and salt until Lucifer was satisfied, though he said it still felt a little wrong. That was how Trixie woke up laughing, to the sight of Lucifer with thin strips of damp paper towels draped over his funny ears.
While yesterday had been a day for adventures, Sunday was a day around the house. Chloe did laundry, with Lucifer dogging her heels, eyes wide and curious and those silly paper towels keeping his ears damp. He actually ran away and hid in the bathtub when she vacuumed, but he did help clean the shower – sort of – scowling at all the water because there was no salt in it and that made it wrong, apparently. Really, he just made a bigger mess, but Chloe ended up sitting with her back to the toilet, laughing and laughing at the suds on his nose. Surprisingly, he did not go watch TV with Trixie, though she kept telling him he could.
“This is how a human keeps a nest,” he kept insisting. “How am I ever going to build a nest on land if I don’t know how to keep one?” Which was frankly kind of a nice attitude, for all that a glowing merman in her bathroom, scrubbing the toilet and complaining about it, seemed deeply incongruous.
“Mammals,” he declared at the end, “are disgusting.”
“Yes, we are,” Chloe told him, chuckling. “Want to come get groceries?”
He hopped to his feet, enthused, and followed her back to the living room. Together they gathered Trixie and headed out. It wasn’t a far drive, and it was fairly uneventful. Lucifer and Trixie bickered about the music, and that was starting to become routine, and almost comforting. She parked in the lot and shooed both of them out, before going to find a shopping cart.
Chloe was halfway to the store, pushing the cart with Trixie chatting happily about one of her friends at school, when she realized they’d lost Lucifer.
“Hold on.” She stopped Trixie and turned around to survey the parking lot.
“Lucifer!” she called. He wasn’t anywhere in sight. “Lucifer!” Her heart rose to her throat.
A passing mother and son looked at her askance for calling the devil’s name in a parking lot. Trixie stuck out her tongue at them and Chloe didn’t even correct her because frankly, her monkey had it right. “Lucifer!” she cried again.
And then a dark head popped up between a Jeep and a silver Honda that had seen better days. His ears, much healthier looking after a morning’s soak, fanned, bright red. “Chloe!” he said, delighted. “I have a lead!”
“Lucifer,” she called again, and beckoned. Obediently, he trotted out from between red Jeep and the beat up old Honda.
Standing on his arm was a California gull. It flapped its wings indigently, trying to stay balanced on him as he made his way over. It hissed at him a little.
“Cool!” cried Trixie, bouncing to meet them. “Can I pet it?”
“Absolutely not!” Chloe blurted, horrified. Seagulls were the worst! And she always forgot how big they were when she shooed them away from stealing food; on Lucifer’s arm, that thing looked huge, and its beak looked wicked. “You definitely can’t keep it, either, Lucifer, what even—?”
“I’m not going to keep her,” said Lucifer, coming to a stop. “I told you I don’t keep people. I’m going to help her. Chloe, I think she was transformed by the same man who transformed me.”
“She what.” Chloe stared at the gull. It looked like a gull, dead eyes and sharp beak and all. “What are you talking about.”
“She says her name is Linda Martin, and that she’s human. Fellow by the name of Mark transformed her—have you heard that name before?” He jiggled his arm, so the bird bounced up and down. It squawked and overbalanced a little. It managed to right itself, haw-hawing unhappily.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Chloe blurted. “Linda the seagull?”
“Linda the seagull!” cried Trixie. “Please can I pet her!”
The bird gave a seagull’s laughing, screeching caw. Its cold, beady eyes fixed on Trixie. Chloe really hated seagulls.
“She says she doesn’t know how clean she is,” Lucifer said brightly. “She’s been living off scraps for three days.”
“Of course you speak seagull,” Chloe muttered.
“Oh, I befriended the gulls long before humans started walking upright,” Lucifer beamed. “They tell wonderful stories, and they know all about the land.”
Linda the seagull squawked.
“Well, of course they’re rude,” Lucifer replied like she’d used actual words and not screeches, “They’re gulls, that’s half the fun!”
Chloe decided that they needed groceries and that she couldn’t deal with this.
“Okay,” she said, “You still can’t bring that—um. Her. In there. They won’t let you. And we need to eat this week, so we need to shop.”
The gull gave a swooping, laughing caw that set Chloe’s teeth on edge. Lucifer cooed and stroked her feathers.
“She says she’ll wait out here. But she’s quite sad about it, Chloe, gulls are really very expressive—ouch!” She’d bitten him.
Chloe warmed to the bird despite herself.
“Wait somewhere we can find you,” she told the bird, feeling a little foolish. To her absolute shock, it dipped its beak up and down in a quick, very human-like nod. It spread its wings and launched rather clumsily from Lucifer’s arm, like it was still learning how to fly.
“I wanted to pet her,” sighed Trixie.
“Poor thing,” Lucifer crooned, watching it fly, wobbly, to a small overhang in the shade. “She really hasn’t figured out that whole flying lark, has she?”
Chloe decided that her life had simply gone insane, and also they needed cucumbers.
“Food shopping first,” she said sternly, “Then we figure out what to do with the bird later.” Determined, she pushed the cart into the store. Lucifer and Trixie followed.
Food shopping with Trixie was always surprisingly fun. Trixie, unlike most children, liked to try new things, and would bounce around and bring Chloe the strangest, most bizarre things she could find, including things like dragon fruit, shark-shaped gummies, and mac-and-cheese shaped like various characters from her favorite shows. Most of these things were not objectionable and, if inexpensive, Chloe would generally try them. They’d both liked the dragon fruit, though Chloe refused to bring home another coconut. It had been delicious, but too much trouble.
Lucifer, on the other hand, was a nightmare.
He whistled with surprise once they crossed the threshold of the front door and turned wide eyes on Chloe. “All food?” he gasped.
“Well, yes,” she told him, startled, and then he proceeded to disappear.
With unbounded enthusiasm, Lucifer galloped through the store without rhyme or reason, seeming to only really understand the fish section. She found him there, clucking at them disapprovingly, apparently for being dead, before he disappeared down the juice aisle.
Chloe gave up. She must have done something visible because Trixie giggled. They proceeded as usual.
Every so often Lucifer would come back with an armful of something random. Coffee filters. Cashews. A ficus. Three balloons shaped like dinosaurs.
It was Trixie who figured it out, after Lucifer tied the balloons to the cart and disappeared again, leaving them in the soup and canned goods aisle. She was giggling.
“Mommy,” she whispered. Chloe looked down at her, trying to stop herself from gaping at Lucifer.
“Look at this stuff,” Trixie sang in a whisper, “Isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete?”
“Oh my god,” Chloe breathed, and then tried her damndest to contain her laughter. It probably wasn’t very nice, because Lucifer was experiencing all of this for the first time, but—it wasn’t like Trixie was wrong. “Monkey, I think you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right,” Trixie giggled. “Are you going to get him this stuff?”
“I think I have to, in light of that,” Chloe told her, amused. “Except maybe the plant, because it’ll probably die.”
Lucifer was quite upset about the plant, but even Trixie explained to him that it needed a certain amount of light, and they just didn’t get it. He was pretty pleased about his dinosaur balloons, though, and once Chloe explained that you could actually eat the cashews, he munched on them happily in the line for check out. His ears fanned open and closed with delight. The cashier stared at his ears but didn’t say anything. Chloe wheeled the cart out to the parking lot.
Linda the seagull squawked and landed on the front end of the cart almost as soon as they got outside. Chloe stifled her scream.
Behind her, Lucifer crunched on a cashew, holding a balloon like a little kid. “Look, Linda, they’re nuts!” he said cheerfully. He offered a nut.
The bird skwa-ha-ha-ha-haked at him. She sounded annoyed.
“What does she say?” Trixie chirped.
“That they’re cashews and that the man who turned her into a gull is still out there,” Lucifer said, sulky. “She’s quite adamant that we catch him and change her back.”
Still out there. Still out there.
Sometimes, on a case, there were moments of shining, glorious clarity, just before a connection. It wasn’t often, but when it did happen it was wonderful, and it came along with a fierce certainty that Chloe was going to nail this bastard and bring him to justice.
If Lucifer was right about Linda, and it looked like he was, then she had not one, but two living victims; they were witnesses. Very different from her usual homicide cases. “If you saw this guy again,” she said to the Linda the seagull, even though it felt ridiculous, “Could you identify him?”
Linda squawked again. She half-spread her wings and nodded, nodded, nodded.
“I think so,” Lucifer said lightly. “Linda is quite certain.”
Chloe definitely couldn’t smuggle a seagull into the precinct, but—she‘d smuggled that file home. “I have a picture of my current suspects,” she told them. "I'd like you to take a look at it."
Lucifer shrugged, since he'd already seen it, but the gull bobbed her head and bobbed her head, all enthusiasm.
Good, thought Chloe. Two victims. Even better. Unfortunately, it meant that Linda had to come back with them. In the car.
“She would quite like a clean bath,” Lucifer told Chloe, and that was completely insane, but if Linda really was a person trapped as a seagull, Chloe couldn’t blame her. They also needed to keep her somewhere they could find her, as she was a second witness. Or rather a second victim.
Her second vic was a seagull.
This whole thing was completely nuts.
Linda rode back on Lucifer’s lap, anyway, and she was quiet for most of the time. Chloe had only two surreal moments where she realized that she was driving her car with her daughter, a bunch of groceries, a mermaid, and a seagull. She kind of figured that two, rather than--well--a lot, was something to be proud of.
Upon arriving home, Trixie shot out of the car to fill up one of the bathroom sinks with water for Linda, who sort of--huffed at Chloe.
“She says she apologizes,” Lucifer said, sounding baffled. “And that she appreciates the help.”
Chloe turned off the car and looked at the bird. Those eyes were cold and dead and creepy, and the beak vicious. Everything about the animal screamed rat with wings. But then, perhaps that was just what seagulls looked like. Imagine, she thought with some compassion, being stuck in that body, confused and alone and scared.
Lucifer did not play pranks, not really, and certainly not ones like this.
“It isn’t your fault,” she told the gull quietly.
Linda squeaked back quietly, as if mindful that they were in a car. That was acknowledgement enough; Lucifer didn't need to translate.
Chloe beckoned Lucifer to help unload the car. He scooped up bags of groceries, Linda perched on his shoulder like a deeply absurd parrot. When they arrived into the house, Trixie met them at the front door.
“I filled the sink!” she cried. She held out her arm to Linda. “Wanna get clean?”
Linda looked at Chloe. That was further proof that there was a human in there. Chloe approved.
“Go on,” Chloe said softly.
Clumsily, Linda launched off Lucifer’s shoulders and into Trixie’s arms. Her wings were definitely too big to be inside, and flapped and scraped against the walls. Trixie lunged forward to catch her.
“You’re not very good at flying, are you?” Trixie asked.
Linda shook her head.
“That’s okay. I’ll carry you. Come on!” She dashed to the bathroom, Linda in her arms.
“This is so strange,” Chloe murmured.
“Is it?” Lucifer asked.
“Well, not to you, I guess,” Chloe told him wryly. “Come on, let’s put this stuff away.” She led him to the kitchen.
“On the contrary, it’s all extremely strange to me,” Lucifer said lightly, following. “The land is very different from the sea. We have to hunt our food, for one.” He put his bags on the counter. “It’s all very unpleasant, really. And there isn’t very much of it, in the deep.”
Chloe started unpacking things. She thought about that. She thought about how this was one long, alien experience for Lucifer. How strange the land must be for him. How Linda might be one more strange thing in a sea of strange things. “Do people get cursed often, in the ocean?” she asked.
“Sometimes,” Lucifer said. “Depends on the people, really. Mostly the mammals. Sperm whales are rather witchy, frankly. That was why your tooth worked like it did.”
“It didn’t make a sound,” Chloe said, remembering. She put away the eggs.
“No. It didn’t need to.” He smiled at her wryly, leaning against the counter.
She looked at him, standing there, gorgeous and relaxed. Under her eye, his ears fanned out proudly, and though it was hard to tell in the daylight, she was fairly certain that the lights in them, and on his temples, were twinkling.
“How does that work?” Chloe asked.
“I don’t think humans have the sense,” he said, apologetically. “You can kind of feel it in your skin. The pulse, or the movement. It’s—more vibration than sound. Kind of. It’s—difficult to explain. I know when something near me moves, in the sea.” He shrugged. “Kind of nice without it, though. It’s like the world’s gone quiet.” He smiled at her lazily.
It struck her as incredibly sad that he was missing senses, even though he claimed to enjoy it. “We’ll get your gills and tail back, Lucifer,” she promised.
“I know,” he said calmly. “But I plan on enjoying this while it lasts.”
That gave her pause.
“Do you—want them back?” she asked tentatively.
“Yes,” Lucifer growled, abruptly intense and uncharacteristically angry. “They’re mine.” She could swear she saw his eyes flash red.
“Okay,” she said. She put the last of the groceries away. “We should check on Trixie to make sure Linda is still in one piece. And I need to get that picture, for Linda.”
She strode quickly to her work bag and rifled for that folder. Lucifer peered curiously over her shoulder. He plucked the picture out of the folder when she found it.
"Which guy?" Chloe asked. Sometimes witnesses changed their answer.
Lucifer looked at her like she was very slow. "Marcus, I already told you." He tapped the man in the picture.
She smiled at him. "Just checking. Let’s talk to Linda.” She pulled him to the bathroom. He followed her, muttering.
"Just checking? As though I would forget the face of the man whole stole from me! Me! Honestly, Chloe."
She mostly ignored him, and pushed open the bathroom door. The sight that greeted her was—pretty excellent, actually.
Linda was standing on one webbed foot, holding the other out to Trixie, who was scrubbing it delicately with a spare toothbrush from one of many trips to the dentist.
“What’re you doing, baby?” Chloe asked, amused.
“Getting her feet clean so she can walk on stuff!” Trixie said excitedly. Linda burred at her.
“She says it feels like a pedicure,” said Lucifer. “And that she appreciates it.”
“Well, Linda, will you dry your feet and come here? Do you know and of these men?” She showed the picture.
Linda gently dislodged herself from Trixie—Chloe approved of the care she took—and rinsed off the suds from her feet before waddling over to the edge of the sink. She looked at the picture with her evil little seagull eyes and Chloe had another surreal moment—showing suspects to a seagull. How was this her life.
Then Linda hissed, half-spread her wings, and jabbed at Marcus with her beak.
"Ha! Told you," said Lucifer. "As if I would forget."
“Did he curse you?” Chloe asked, ignoring him, and Linda skwa-ha-ha-ha-hawcked, bobbing her head up and down angrily. It was extremely loud, in the close tiled bathroom. Seagulls were awful, but she reminded herself that this one might help her catch a kidnapper.
Excellent, Chloe thought, satisfied. Gotchya. Marcus. She even had a first name.
“First thing Monday,” she told Linda and Lucifer. “I’m going to work on catching him.”
Linda flapped her wings, as if in agreement.
First thing on Monday, Ella accosted her before she could reach her desk.
“Bada-boom!” she cried, and slapped a close-up photo of a very dead Fredrick’s fingernail.
Chloe sipped her coffee. It was definitely too early for dead fingernails. “What did you find?”
“Acrylic shavings!” Ella said triumphantly. “Polymethyl methacrylate, to be exact, also known as CrystaLite. I think our man Fredrick was building a fishtank, before he died.” She bounced on her heels, beaming at Chloe. “Not real evidence on the fishtank, of course, but he was definitely working with Acrylic. It wasn’t just in his fingernails; he had some melted in small burns in his skin, like he was drilling, and the shavings just sort of—” she made a sprinkling motion with her hand. “Pretty recently before he died, too.”
“He was in the illegal pet trade,” Chloe said slowly. “It might have been a tank. Thanks, Ella.”
Ella beamed at her. “Did you find anything?”
Chloe thought about mentioning Linda. She also thought about mentioning the fiasco with the Yorkie, and the poodle Lucifer had yet to acquire. Her whole life had gone insane. “Lucifer identified this guy as his – um – transformer.” She pulled out the picture and pointed. “We only have a first name. Marcus.”
Ella peered at Marcus. “Well, he’s gorgeous,” she said conversationally.
Lucifer was prettier, and also a mermaid get it together Chloe. “Yeah, but he might have stolen Lucifer’s gills and tail. He’s also definitely into animal trafficking.”
“About as evil as you can get,” Ella agreed vehemently. “Do you have anything else?”
“Fredrick’s address, and the address of one of the other guys involved: his name is Lyle. I think Maze killed him, too.” The last was a little hushed since Maze was, in fact, a Selkie, and therefore could not go to court. “With the image I can put out a BOLO, and if we get a hit, or a last name, we can move forward.” She sat back. “Til then—there’s not much I can do.”
Ella sighed unhappily. “Waiting, waiting, waiting,” she said. “All we do is wait. Oh, hello, Lieutenant Monroe.”
“Am I interrupting something?” Lieutenant Monroe asked wryly. She arched an eyebrow at Chloe.
“No,” Chloe said, hiding the spike of anxiety. “Just chatting. Can I help you?”
“A body just dropped, detective.” She offered Chloe of file.
Chloe made an effort not to sigh. She already had a case, but this was direct from the Lieutenant, so it got priority, unfortunately. It wasn’t like she could tell Lieutenant Monroe that there was a mermaid in her house (well—probably in her house; who knew with Lucifer) with a seagull and there was a wizard on the loose. She took the file.
“I’ll take care of it,” she said.
“Please do. Ella! Can I chat with you about the Gregson case?”
Ella smiled. “Sure! How was your weekend, Olivia?” She followed the Lieutenant at a meander to the coffee machine.
Once they were gone, Chloe did sigh. She opened the folder.
The dead man was called Peter Malay, and he was found under a bridge, stabbed. By all accounts he was homeless, without friends or family. So either he had an enemy somewhere, or someone was stabbing homeless people, Chloe thought to herself. Couldn’t determine anything without evidence, first. She was going to have to go out there.
She put out the BOLO for Marcus first, before she could get wrapped up in this new case. The paperwork took a little while, and it made her late for the other case, but it was worth it. It wasn’t like she had any sort of reputation to speak of anyway.
The day was long. Poor Peter had been stabbed viciously. Ella wasn’t on this one; Chloe didn’t get to work with Ella a lot, in truth. Ella went on the more high-profile cases. It was incredible the kinds of things a poor reputation could affect.
But she put her heart in it, as she always did. Lucifer would be just fine at home, rearranging the furniture, or having sex with the neighbors, or otherwise causing chaos. He wanted his gills and tail back, but he could wait one more day while that BOLO went out, while Chloe solved the case of poor Peter Malay.
There wasn’t much evidence to be found under that bridge. Peter had been stabbed three times with a large, sharp knife, not serrated. He’d bled to death, alone.
She researched known affiliates late into the night, as tonight was Dan’s night with Trixie. By the time she got home she was exhausted and a feeling a little depressed. Peter’s life had been a tragic one. She was looking forward to seeing Lucifer, frankly. His lights and bright grin were soothing, and she could use the cheer.
Except that he wasn’t home.
She flicked on the lights. “Lucifer?” she called into the darkness. “Lucifer!”
“Skwa-ha-ha-hak!” Linda skittered up to her on the kitchen tile on webbed feet. She fluttered her wings. Chloe nearly jumped out of her skin at the sight of her, before realizing who it was, and kneeling.
“Linda,” she said. “Where’s Lucifer?”
Linda rolled her eyes and fluttered her wings dramatically. It was a very clear I have no idea and I’m annoyed about it.
“Is he hurt?” Chloe asked, worried.
Linda shook her head.
Chloe really hated seagulls, but—well—Trixie had washed Linda. And Linda was a person. So, stealing herself, she offered her arm.
Linda squawked at her, but it sounded like laughter. She fluttered her wings and hopped up on a countertop.
“Yeah, you’re right,” Chloe murmured. “Hey, if I got you a sharpie, do you think you could write where Lucifer went?”
Linda squawked, like this was a surprise. She nodded enthusiastically.
Chloe got a pen and paper and beckoned her to the living room. Linda fluttered back to the floor and followed at a waddle, like a demented dog. She hopped up on the dining table.
LUCIFER WENT OUT, she wrote, painstaking and wobbly, because seagulls apparently had terrible fine motor skills. TRIXIE?
“Trixie’s with her father tonight,” Chloe said, and this seemed to satisfy Linda because she sighed.
WHY LATE? WAS WORRIED.
That question mark was extremely wobbly, but the sentiment was kind. Chloe smiled at her.
“New case,” she sighed. “I was looking for suspects and lost track of time. I’m sorry I worried you. Do you know where Lucifer went?”
Linda shook her head. MEET PEOPLE, she wrote.
“Have sex with the neighbors, you mean,” Chloe said wryly, firmly telling herself that she was not jealous, and that sex with her merman would be a very, very bad idea. There was Trixie to consider, for one, and Lucifer was not the sort of guy—mermaid—who did relationships. It wasn’t in his genetic coding. He made a nest, mated with a female, and she left him to raise the young alone, which he understandably hated. Anyway, he was not the life-partner sort, and she wanted a life partner. He wouldn’t understand; his species wasn’t monogamous. Better not to go down that road.
Linda skwa-ha-ha-ha-haked again, and that was definitely laughter.
“Do you think he’ll be back?” Chloe asked softly.
EVENTUALLY, wrote Linda, painstaking and wobbly. When Chloe sighed, Linda’s feathers ruffled, and she wrote again.
WILL NOT LEAVE YOU, she wrote. It took a while, but she finished it proudly and then tapped it firmly with her beak.
“Thanks,” Chloe said wryly.
LOVES YOU, Linda wrote.
The thing was, Chloe knew this. She knew how Lucifer lit up—literally—at the sight of her. But Lucifer was a different species. He belonged to her, in a way, and he definitely loved her, but she didn’t really think it was the right kind of love. Were mermaids social animals? What did love even look like for them, for creatures that weren’t monogamous, whose children died more often than they reached maturity? Did he love her because she was the first person who wasn’t a whale to be kind to him in literal eons? What did that even mean?
Did she love him? It had only been a few days, a few weeks. Too soon. She was definitely fond of him. And she did feel kind of—proprietary. That was probably unhealthy.
She smiled at Linda. “It’s too soon for that, really.”
Linda tapped her beak over LOVES again, apparently for emphasis. Chloe smiled, and changed the subject.
“Has anyone fed you? Are you hungry?”
Linda perked up. VERY HUNGRY, she wrote, quickly and not very legibly. Then she added, AM SEAGULL ALWAYS HUNGRY, and looked at Chloe hopefully.
“I’ll make us some fish for dinner, how’s that?”
So she made salmon for two, and gave Linda Trixie’s portion. She spent a good part of the night talking to a seagull, which was kind of ridiculous, but the seagull listened politely and even wrote back, in sharpie, on paper. Chloe’s whole life had gone insane, apparently.
She watched Ferris Buler’s Day Off with Linda, because it was on. She fell asleep on the couch, and Lucifer never came home.
She went to work on Tuesday, but it was hard to focus on Peter Malay when Lucifer was missing. She almost wanted to put out a BOLO for him, too: MERMAID/SIREN, GLOWING TEMPLES, FISHY EARS. Ridiculous. What if this Marcus had found him?
But someone had found Peter, she told herself. Someone had hurt Peter, and she had to catch them.
There were no hits on Marcus, either. Peter, she told herself. Focus on Peter. Peter had had no idea who Lucifer was, and likely would not care; her own problem aside, Peter deserved justice.
Peter’s case took the rest of the day, and then tied up neatly. It wasn’t a complex one. It turned out he did have enemies: Another homeless fellow called Ralph Snyder lived on the other side of the bridge, where they’d found Peter’s body. Ralph was rather unhinged and most definitely needed medical attention. It was an ugly, sad case, with an innocent victim, and a very ill killer, and it was upsetting. She dragged herself home at the end of the day, and even Linda was gone.
She made herself pasta for dinner, feeling worried and depressed. She curled up on her couch with a book – the original Little Mermaid, incidentally, which she’d received as a gift once and never read – when the door opened.
Lucifer strolled in, holding a key like it might bite him. Linda was perched on his shoulder.
“Where,” Chloe growled, “have you been.”
“Chloe!” Lucifer beamed. The lights on his temples glittered. “It’s a bit of a story, actually. Would you like to hear it?”
“Skaha-ha-ak,” said Linda. She sounded disgruntled and fluttered from Lucifer’s shoulder over to the back of Chloe’s couch.
“You’ve been gone for days,” Chloe said. Linda bobbed her head at Choe, as if in agreement.
“Well, it was a bit of an adventure, really; you know I found that poodle for Kylee—remember her? Lovely woman; so flexible! You humans are just so creative—!”
“I’ve been worried sick, Lucifer!” Chloe exploded. “You could’ve been anywhere! Dead on the street! Or Marcus could have caught you, did you even think of that? I know living on land seems like a big game to you but it’s dangerous up here!”
“Ska-ha-ha-ha-hawck!” shrieked Linda.
“That’s not true,” Lucifer told the bird.
Linda shrieked at him again, lifting her wings and fluttering them for emphasis. Chloe got that sense that though she had no idea what Linda was saying, it was probably something sensible and Chloe would probably agree.
“What does she say,” Chloe said, without inflection.
Lucifer looked at the floor.
“That mammals worry for their pod,” he muttered to his feet, shamefaced. “That I’m part of yours now. That my absence would have caused you great anxiety.” He looked up, great dark eyes remorseful. “I had no intention of worrying you. You were elsewhere and I got bored. And how is that different?” he asked Linda crossly.
“Because you knew where I was, Lucifer,” Chloe answered, understanding a little better. Lucifer was a solitary creature; maybe he simply did not know these social rules. “And you knew when I would be home. I didn’t know where you were, or when you would be home.” She hesitated. “Maybe we can compromise. I can get you a cell phone, if you want.” One of the small, cheap folding ones, she thought.
Lucifer frowned. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something slim and black. “Like this?”
Chloe clenched her fists and told herself not to yell at him as the rage came back in a wave. “Where did you get that?” And why didn’t you call me? Of course, that was totally absurd; he definitely had no way to get her number on his own.
“Lovely young man by the name of Bruno gave it to me,” Lucifer said lightly. “Yesterday. He showed me how to use it, too—Do you have one too? I could get your number!” He beamed.
Chloe pinched her nose and refrained from punching him. “Lucifer—” she said, somewhat as a loss for words. Did he steal it? Was this Bruno paying for minutes? God only knew.
A light touch on her hair; when she looked up, Linda had spread a wing and was patting her in a ‘there, there’ sort of motion. Chloe wasn’t really sure how she felt about being comforted, badly, by a bird.
“Skawk,” said Linda.
“She says your reaction’s normal and everything is insane,” Lucifer muttered sullenly. His shoulders hunched and he clenched and unclenched his fists. The fins on his ears collapsed against his skull. “I could—” he added quietly, glancing at the door.
“Don’t you dare,” snapped Chloe. His big dark eyes went straight to her. “You think you can apologize for disappearing for two days by running away? Not even close, Lucifer.”
“You—want me to stay.” His uncertainty would be heartbreaking if she weren’t so furious.
“Obviously!” she snapped. “Of course I want you to stay, you big stupid fish!”
Lucifer blinked at her. He blinked again. “Really?”
“Yes! Just because I’m furious doesn’t mean I want you to leave, Lucifer!”
He let out a shocked breath, like she had somehow managed to touch his heart. “Oh,” he breathed.
“Yes oh. Now get over here. I’m not finished yelling at you yet.”
She chewed him out. She spent the rest of the night chewing him out, furious, and he followed her like a lost puppy around the house, eyes huge and dark. “But you want me to stay,” he kept repeating, like that was something magical, something he could barely believe. She would have taken his hand and reassured him, and indeed she did a few times, except that she was so angry with him it came out a little stilted. He followed her anyway.
He didn’t even sleep in his bed. She woke the next day to find him curled up on her floor, large eyed and sad among most, if not all, of her pillows arranged in a bizarrely attractive nest. Had he--built that for her? Was it a Siren thing? A Lucifer-is-sorry-nest? It was too early to really process it, she needed coffee, and that was getting to be a bit much anyway. She told him so, but he didn’t seem to care. He followed her to work, too.
She could have stopped him. She probably should have stopped him. But in truth, she was hoping that the BOLO on Marcus would turn up with something, and she could use his help on that, if Marcus was truly a wizard.
She also didn’t want him to disappear again.
Linda waddled out the front door with them, and Chloe was about to explain to her that no, she couldn’t come to the precinct because she was a seagull. But Linda preempted her by spreading her wings and, with a running start, lifting off to soar clumsily over the neighborhood.
“She’s looking for the wizard,” Lucifer explained. “She says she has a ‘bone to pick.’ Is that an expression? Dreadful, really.”
Eyes in the sky, Chloe thought. Not a bad idea.
The traffic to the precinct was horrific as always, and Lucifer spent most of the time playing with the buttons on the console. She let him, mostly. They made it to the precinct without incident, at least, and he followed her inside like an overgrown, eager puppy.
“This is where you go?” he asked lightly, coming to a stop beside her desk. “When you work?”
“Yes,” she told him. “Pull up a chair, if you’re going to stay.”
He stole the chair from Dan’s desk and sat beside Chloe behind her desk, puzzled. “This is where you solve murders? Where you plan to catch this wizard?”
“Yes, but not so loud. No one here will take you seriously if you start claiming you’re after a wizard.”
Lucifer looked puzzled. “Why—”
“OH MY GOD IS THAT LUCIFER??” Ella came careening around a corner. Lucifer gave a little startled yelp when she dashed up to him and threw her arms around his neck from one side. He flailed a little, looking terrified. “Hi! Look at you! All walking on two legs and stuff!”
“Hello,” Lucifer said a little stiffly, but he did relax as he clearly realized that a hug was only a hug. He squirmed himself out of her arms and to his feet. He smiled at her, though, and the warmth was real. “Lovely to see you again; do you work here as well?”
“Uh-huh! I do the forensics. Wanna see?”
Lucifer cocked his head at her curiously. He turned to Chloe. “This is not one of those things that will make you angry, is it?” he asked pleasantly.
Chloe wanted to roll her eyes at that question, but she refrained because he was genuinely asking. “No. No, of course not, Lucifer, go on.”
Ella beckoned, and with a backward glance, Lucifer trotted after her. Chloe watched him go, watched him climb the stairs up to the forensics lab. He’d finally gotten his land-legs; he moved with grace now, as he should. Lucifer was not the clumsy sort, really. In the sea he’d been as self-assured as Mazikeen had been. She was pleased to see him hop up the stairs after Ella, a certain sway to his hips, utterly comfortable once more.
He did make a handsome man, but that way lay madness, so she let it lie. She turned back to her desk and checked up on the BOLO for Marcus. Lucifer would be fine with Ella. The BOLO didn’t turn up anything. Damn.
“So… why do you have my chair?” Dan strolled over, humor in his eye.
“Oh—sorry—Lucifer was sitting in it. You can take it back.”
“Did—you just say Lucifer?” Dan echoed, incredulous.
Chloe realized with a sinking sensation that she had absolutely zero explanation for Lucifer’s existence for anyone who wasn’t Trixie or Ella, who had been there. “Yes,” she said wryly, because she knew how absurd it was. “That’s his name.”
“Seriously? Who names their kid Lucifer?”
Chloe shrugged at him, and found herself muttering something about England, which was completely absurd because Lucifer’s British accent was entirely due to the guys who had captured him.
Well. Presumably it had to do with the guys who had captured him. Where else could he pick up that accent? Oh. Ohhh---
“Hang on,” she said, and whirled back to her computer.
The men on the boat. Marcus, of course, their wizard; Fredrick Dunther, the man whose body they’d found; Lyle Smith who owned the boat and Thomas Bailey. One or more of them had to be British.
“Uh,” said Dan, “Chloe?”
“One—sec—” Chloe murmured, and she searched.
Their names were common, but it wasn’t very hard, especially now that she knew their faces: Lyle Smith was a British Ex-pat, and Thomas Bailey was apparently on vacation from London, declared missing a few days ago. He was definitely dead, she thought, and Mazikeen had killed him, but she had no evidence, besides the word of a whale. But he was traveling, was Thomas Bailey. He had plane tickets that took him all over the world. Traveling, and the illegal wildlife trade… Thomas Bailey was the smuggler. Lyle owned the boat. So who was Fredrick? Ella had said that Fredrick was building fish tanks. Marcus she already knew – he was the wizard – but why? Surely they couldn’t have already known about Lucifer?
Could a wizard do, like, a spell to find a mermaid? Chloe scowled at her computer. She didn’t know the rules of this game.
Dan cleared his throat. “You okay? You’ve been glaring at your computer. Do you have a case?”
“Oh—” said Chloe. “Sort of. Lucifer was kidnapped.”
“I’m hearing a lot about this Lucifer guy but I haven’t seen him,” Dan said, wry.
“He’s with Ella,” Chloe told him.
“I think you made him up.” Dan was smiling, teasing, or he was, at least until he caught sight of what she was researching. His whole face dropped. “Chloe,” he said gently, “Chloe, that case went to Fish and Wildlife.”
“I know,” she said, “I know. But there’s something—something not quite right about it, Dan.”
“Chloe. It isn’t your case,” Dan said, kind as always.
“Just—I just need some time,” Chloe said and Dan sighed.
“I know that look. On your own head. But the Lieutenant won’t like it.”
She didn’t have to like it, Chloe thought, a faint spark somewhere in her heart. Lucifer was her friend, and she was going to do everything in her power to help him.
Dan drifted off with his chair after a while, as Chloe got more absorbed. Thomas Bailey didn’t have much of a trail, but Lyle – or rather, Lyle’s boat – did. Follow the money, Chloe thought, but the money disappeared after a long, frustrating, convoluted trek, into a Swiss bank account called only SINNERMAN.
That wasn’t exactly promising. She sat back, frustrated, and looked up and over to the forensics room, upstairs. She couldn’t really see inside because the angle was awkward, but she could see movement. As if sensing her eyes—who knew, maybe he could—Lucifer burst out of the forensics room. He beamed at her and raced down the stairs. Ella was behind him, far slower.
“Did you know,” Lucifer blurted as soon as he got to Chloe’s desk, all vibrating delight, “that these Smartphones can play porn?”
Chloe was reminded once again about why it was a terrible idea to bring Lucifer here.
“I didn’t do it!” Ella said, skidding to a stop next to Lucifer. “I didn’t show him the porn I swear! I was showing him sloths on youtube!”
Chloe resisted the urge to beat her head against her desk. “I think,” she said steadily, “That we should go out to lunch. What do you think, Lucifer?”
Lucifer narrowed his eyes at her. “I think you’re tying to hide me.”
“I am—definitely trying to hide you,” Chloe said dryly, but she wasn’t expecting him to droop the way he did.
“Why?” he asked, clearly hurt, more hurt than she was expecting. She blinked at him, wrong-footed.
“Oh—” said Ella. “Do you display?” she blurted. “Show off your fins?”
Lucifer frowned at her.
“Yes,” said Lucifer.
“Thought so. She’s not trying to hide you like that, she’s trying to hide you so her coworkers don’t think she’s insane. You’re very pretty, Lucifer, and Chloe thinks so too, right Chloe?”
There was a seagull living in Chloe’s apartment. Her life was madness. She went with it. It was even true. “You’re very pretty, Lucifer,” she said. “Ella’s right. I’m sorry.”
Lucifer perked up. “Apology accepted, Detective!”
And, of course, at the worst moment possible, Dan caught wind of the conversation. He strolled over, all casual curiosity. “So you’re the famous Lucifer, then,” he said, coming to a stop beside her desk.
Oh no, thought Chloe. “Oh—sorry—Lucifer, this is Dan. Dan, Lucifer.”
“Nice to meet you,” Dan said. “I’ve heard a lot about you.” He held out a hand.
Lucifer cocked his head and didn’t take it. “Really? That’s funny. I haven’t heard much about you.”
“Yes you have,” Chloe said softly. “He’s Trixie’s father.”
“And he left her with you?” Lucifer demanded, outraged.
This was a cultural thing, Chloe realized. Male sirens raised the young. “No—we do it differently—we swap,” she said.
“Humans are weird,” he declared.
“Is—this guy for real?” Dan said. “Also—sorry—but I have to ask—are those fins?” His eyes were fixed on Lucifer's ears. Chloe had absolutely no explanation, besides admonishing him for being rude. She opened her mouth to do just that, when Ella beat her to it.
“A-hahaha, he’s from England, Dan,” Ella blurted. “All kinds of weirdness over there – how are you doing on the Carraway case? I have some evidence for you—why don’t you step into my office—” She grabbed him by the sleeve and pulled.
"Pretty sure they don't have fins in England, Ella--" Dan was saying as she pulled him up the stairs.
Once he was safely out of earshot, Lucifer said, “What a douchebag.”
Chloe had several thoughts about this. One: Lucifer was right. Two: that was uncharitable and Dan was a great guy, even if he couldn’t prioritize his family. Three: Lucifer had, in fact, been the douchebag in that particular conversation. She said none of this. “Lucifer! You just met him!”
“I can tell,” Lucifer told her seriously.
Chloe tried not to smile. She mostly failed. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s get lunch. Are you hungry?”
Lucifer perked up. “I do like how often you people eat,” he said cheerfully. “In the deep, there’s never any food, you know. You eat when you find it. This is much better.”
Chloe got up from her desk. “That sounds—hard. Don’t you get hungry?”
“Yes,” said Lucifer, shrugging. “I can get little things, most of the time. Or I can ask the sperm whales to help, for a price. I don’t starve, Chloe,” he said haughtily. “But it’s nowhere near like it is here.”
Chloe stopped in her tracks. Lucifer nearly slammed into her.
“You eat when you find it,” she said slowly. The word for that was opportunistic. Maybe Marcus hadn’t been after Lucifer at all, but he’d snatched him up when he found him. But why the fishtanks? Why Fredrick?
“Ye-es, that is what I said,” Lucifer said. “Has something gone wrong? Is there a worm in your brain? Or one of those isopods on your tongue—stick out your tongue, Chloe; if you don’t get rid of it it’ll chew it off—”
Chloe blinked. “Wait—what? What’s an isopod? Where did you even learn that word?”
Lucifer held up his phone. “Google.”
“Where did you learn to read?”
“Isabella taught me.” He shrugged.
“Do I want to know who Isabella is?”
“Well, she’s a wonderful lover—”
“Aaaaand that’s enough. One second—one second—” Chloe rushed back to her desk. Puzzled, Lucifer followed behind her.
They ended up ordering pizza to the office, because it was easy. Lucifer loved pizza, chattering excitedly about dairy products and how brilliant they were for most of the time. Chloe only half-heard him. Opportunistic. Maybe Marcus only kidnapped Lucifer because he was there. She’d never asked – why had he cursed Linda? Did she know something, or have something he wanted? He was clearly still in the area.
But those fishtanks…
“Lucifer,” she murmured.
Lucifer was spinning in lazy circles in Dan’s office chair, which they’d stolen again. “Yes?”
“When you were first captured, did they have a tank for you?”
Lucifer stopped spinning. He frowned. “No. I was in a great—actually, now that I think of it, I believe it was a dumpster.”
“Fredrick made you a tank,” Chloe said. “Because they didn’t have one for you. That was why he was covered in acrylic when Maze killed him.”
Lucifer nodded. “The tank man? I didn’t catch his name. Yes. He was supposed to be making cages; he kept complaining about it. They were gathering ingredients. The wizard – Marcus – said I was the most important piece and to, and I quote, ‘quit bitching.’ Terribly rude, really.”
“Piece of what?”
Lucifer shrugged again. “No idea.”
“Some—spell maybe?” Chloe said, grasping at straws. “Is that even how spells work?”
“Sometimes,” said Lucifer. “I’m imbued with magic. Parts of me could definitely be used for spellwork.”
“What kind of spellwork?” she asked and did not reflect how absurd that was.
“All kinds. It’s hard to say. My gills, for breath under water. My blood, to control the tides or a storm. My eyes to see clearly, my voice for my song—a million things.”
“Do you think he stole your gills and tail for that?” she asked, not liking how casually he’d just dissected himself.
“No,” said Lucifer. “If he had, he would have had to cut them off, not bespell them. I have no idea why he would want to turn me mostly-human.”
She took his hand, squeezed. “I’m glad he didn’t do that,” she told him earnestly.
He smiled at her. “Me too. Terribly messy.”
She huffed a laugh. “What about Linda?”
He shrugged. “No clue.”
“So here’s what we have,” Chloe said, turning back to her computer. “We have the men Maze killed. It was likely that they hadn’t planned to catch you, since they had Fredrick making you a tank. Did they have other fishtanks?”
“Yes,” said Lucifer, peering over her shoulder. “Small ones. Some had fish.”
“Illegal pet trade,” Chloe said, nodding. “Were any of the fish significant?”
Lucifer frowned. “Magic other than singing is not my forte, you understand,” he said lowly. “But he had a moray eel, one of the spotted ones. Their teeth can be used for cursework, creating and undoing.”
“Are you cursed, Lucifer?” she said lowly.
“No,” said Lucifer. “But Linda is. She will—become a seagull in truth, over time.”
“How much time?” Chloe asked him sharply. That would have been nice to know!
“Impossible to say,” Lucifer replied, oblivious. “It depends entirely on her will to remain human. It helps that she is now living in a house.” He smiled at her. “Surrounded by human things and not other birds.”
Chloe nodded. “We need to find Marcus,” she said lowly, angry now. Poor Linda!
“Oh yes,” Lucifer purred behind her. “We definitely do.”
The phone rang absurdly early on Wednesday morning. It was pitch black outside, and at first, Chloe thought she’d imagined it. But then it rang again, and she rolled over on a groan, and picked it up.
“Decker,” she said.
“Chloe,” blurted Ella. “Sorry to wake you up – well, no, not sorry – but I’ve been doing some digging on our Siren case and it has to be before everyone gets here, you know, because it’s a little extra-curricular…”
Chloe closed her eyes and suppressed her groan. “How much coffee have you had, Ella.”
“Oh, you don’t even want to know!”
Chloe sighed. Still, Ella wouldn’t call if she didn’t have something. “What did you find?”
“Well, you gave me that guy’s address, right, Lyle Smith? We know he’s dead because Mazikeen told us. But he’s getting a giant shipment of CristaLite, today, in a few hours. I just got the work order. It's under his name and everything. And let me tell you, they were not happy to hear from me. I think I scared the pants off them. They're really just a bunch of nerds, the CristaLite guys, and you know how I feel about nerds, Chloe, I love nerds--”
Chloe was abruptly wide awake. “It's to make fishtanks.”
Chloe weighed her options, and then decided. “I’m going to check it out with Lucifer,” she said.
“Thought so. Keep me posted?”
Chloe got herself out of bed and went to wake both Lucifer and Linda. She got Lucifer dressed and the shooed them both to the car while it was still dark out. She thanked her stars that she didn’t have Trixie, though she would have to pick her up tonight.
Lucifer was very groggy and unhappy, his usual nocturnal rhythms long disrupted and now compounded. Linda sat in the back and looked out the window out of her beady evil seagull eyes, determined.
Chloe sped directly to the scene. She knew where Lyle Smith’s house was, of course. She had found it herself. Lyle himself was almost definitely dead, but if Marcus was there, this might be her opportunity to catch him. Not wanting to spook him, and not really knowing what she would say anyway, she didn’t call any other officers on the scene. She did, however, call Fish and Wildlife, since it was their case. Chloe dearly wanted to get there before them, if only because she was traveling with a siren and a seagull.
The house was a small, one story affair. It was white, with two windows visible from the street and a black door. It did, however, have a garage, with a small, unmarked box truck parked in front of it, facing the road. The shipment, maybe? There wasn't any advertising on the side of the truck. Strange.
She parked her car about two blocks over, well away. The sun was just starting to rise.
“We need a plan,” she said softly.
“I sing,” Lucifer growled, “and he changes Linda back, and gives me back my gills and tail. That’s my plan.” He got out of the car while Chloe spluttered at him. She followed.
“Lucifer!” she hissed, "That isn't a plan!"
There was a flutter of wings and Chloe jumped; Linda had flown out of the car and landed on her shoulder. She burred at Chloe, and it did sound kind of angry. Chloe gaped at the giant bird so close to her face, the weird webbed feet.
Lucifer took the opportunity to race across the street, graceful on two feet. Cursing softly, Chloe followed him.
The house was dark in the early dawn, unlit except for one, sad flickering bulb above the back door. Lucifer made to open it, but Chloe shouldered up next to him. “No,” she hissed, “If you do that, you will get yourself killed, do you understand? Let me go first.” She drew her gun.
Lucifer scowled at her, but she could tell he wasn’t really serious. “I am owed,” he growled. “And the devil always collects his due.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Just let me go first.”
Which was how Chloe, flashlight and gun in hand and a massive seagull on her shoulder, slipped in through the door. It wasn’t locked.
The interior of the house was—bizarre. There was no furniture, and the floor was concrete, stripped entirely of its wood or linoleum. It was dark and quiet, and there were rows and rows of shelves, each filled with jars and cages: animals, familiar and strange, alive and dead filled every shelf to the brim. It looked--too big, somehow, like it didn't quite match up to the outside. Chloe found herself staring in disgust at what looked like a pickled lemur.
“Stop looking,” Lucifer murmured lowly, as if from very far away. “Chloe. Detective. It’s enchanted. Stop looking.”
She tried to tear her eyes away and, to her absolute horror, found them pinned on the lemur’s slick, disgusting striped tail, floating in that jar.
“Detec—oh, never mind,” muttered Lucifer. Very gently, his palm slipped from behind her and covered her eyes. She jumped, breathing hard, abruptly absolutely, utterly disoriented.
“It’s alright now,” he murmured, low and soft. “I’ve broken it. Turn this way—” he guided her gently away from the shelf. “I’m going to remove my hand. Open your eyes when I do.”
She hadn’t realized she’d closed them, but she did as told.
“Real magic,” she breathed, looking down the aisle of densely packed metal, industrial shelves, filled to the brimming with—with dead animals and creepy crawlies and, she was realizing, spells.
“I’m a siren, Detective, and you are just now starting to believe in magic?” Lucifer drawled.
Linda shifted her weight on Chloe’s shoulder, huffing as if amused.
“Shut up,” she muttered. Talking about magic and then falling under some kind of spell were two very different things. “This way.”
There was a splashing sound, like running water, and Chloe followed that. The aisles and aisles of dark, creepy shelves opened up to reveal five huge fishtanks, at least five hundred gallons each, all in a circle. The largest, easily three times the size of the others, had a hose in it, slowly filling up. The others held various tropical fish and—other things. There were at least ten squid in one. Three of the squid weren’t squid – they were tiny, but each had a human head and arms. Four huge spotted Moray eels occupied another tank. Something that looked like a small plesiosaur or the Loch Ness Monster peered over the rim of the last tank. No way was this a normal smuggling ring, Chloe thought, gripping her gun.
“You,” Lucifer snarled, and Chloe spun.
“I see you’ve found me,” said Marcus, leaning casually against one of the shelves behind them.
He was an attractive man, really. He had excellent arms, and vivid blue eyes, and a confident smirk that somehow worked for him. But he was a wizard, and he smuggled and bespelled these poor animals. He'd transformed Linda, and worst of all, he'd taken her Lucifer's gills and tail, so he couldn't laugh and splash in the surf.
Chloe raised her gun. “Marcus,” she said.
“Pierce,” he said, droll. “It’s Marcus Pierce. Mostly. It's changed over the years. I know you don’t have a last name for me, Detective Decker.”
Chloe gripped her gun, chilled that he had her name, though she didn’t show it.
“You know you don’t care about her, warlock,” drawled Lucifer. He stood at Chloe’s shoulder, straight-backed and not so much protective as he was a comrade, a brother-at-arms, a partner. He made it very clear that they were in this together, and didn't try to stand in front of her, as Dan might. She liked that quite a bit. His funny ears fanned out, aggressive. “It’s me you want. Why?”
Marcus looked at Lucifer, and then he looked at Chloe. “It’s the wrong phase of the moon for me to kill her,” he said, apropos to nothing. “This would all be pointless. Oh, did you think I would tell you my evil plan?” He laughed and snapped his fingers.
Linda, at Chloe’s shoulder, gave a squawk that morphed slowly into a scream. Her light, easy bird-weight increased a little, then all at once and Chloe staggered, shocked. The woman on her shoulder yelped, flailed, and they both went crashing to the ground.
She had—not been expecting that. Chloe gasped, the wind knocked out of her.
“Getting—away—” gasped the blonde woman who must have been Linda, untransformed. She was breathing just as hard and just as shocked as Chloe was.
Chloe tried to get up, but she couldn’t draw in breath.
“You’re alright?” Lucifer knelt next to her, eyes glowing bright red with what looked like absolute rage. But his hand hovered lightly over her temple, clearly worried.
“Yes—fine—get him—” Chloe gasped, and once reassured, Lucifer was off, his fine leather shoes slapping against the concrete floor of the house, which seemed to be far larger than it had looked from the outside. A spell, maybe?
Chloe panted and panted. She wondered abstractly where Lucifer had gotten such nice shoes. Probably a lover. She told herself firmly that she was not jealous. Finally, she managed to push herself up. She looked over.
Linda was a woman. She was petite, and she wore clothes – but they were ratty and torn, white and gray with hints of red, like a gull’s feathers and beak. She had yellow shoes, too, rather ugly ones. Chloe had a feeling she hadn’t picked any of what she was wearing.
“You okay?” she gasped.
“I’m—human again—” Linda gasped, and then she put her head back against the concrete and laughed, a little hysterical. “Actually human! I can—I can say—” She rolled her head over and grinned at Chloe, a little deranged. “Hi, Chloe, it’s so lovely to meet you.”
Chloe huffed a laugh, feeling like she had her breath at last. Lucifer was in danger. “It’s great to meet you too, for real,” she smiled. “If you’re alright, I—”
“Go catch that bastard,” Linda said solemnly. “I’m just—I’m just going to lie here; I’m fine—”
There wasn’t time to argue. Chloe got herself to her feet and took off running, searching for Lucifer or Marcus Pierce.
The interior of the little house was enormous. She ran past shelves and shelves and shelves of all kinds of creepy things. She didn't look at them; she'd learned her lesson from the lemur. The farther she got from the running water in the fish tanks, the better she could hear. Lucifer was singing, something angry and haunting that rose above the stacks and stacks of metal, creepy shelves. Unaffected, Chloe followed the sound at a dead run, though she took care to keep her steps as quiet as she could.
She skidded to a stop at a weird sort of intersection, the shelves making a little square. Lucifer was standing in one corner, singing his heart out, the swirls at his temples glowing brightly in the darkened, creepy house. Chloe hid herself in the stacks, waiting. Pierce would come.
Lucifer wasn’t singing in English. It wasn’t anything she’d ever heard before. His native language was liquid and crept up in high notes down to notes so low she could feel them in her belly. His range was incredible, his voice sweet and seductive. She watched him, astonished. She was far from enchanted, but his voice was frankly lovely, even if she couldn’t understand the words.
“Alright, alright, stop your squealing.” Pierce strolled out from the other side of the intersection. “I hear you. You Nereids just never shut up.”
Nereids. Chloe filed that away, alongside an indigent thought that Lucifer’s singing was far more lovely than squealing.
“I prefer siren, really,” said Lucifer with a wolfish smile. “Or mermaid. Nereid reminds me of my father. I don’t like my father.”
“I’m aware,” sighed Pierce. “What do you want?”
“You took something of mine,” said Lucifer, low and soft. He was so angry that his voice kind of split, two-toned, like there were two Lucifers speaking instead of one. “It didn’t belong to you.”
“Cut the crap. You’ll get your gills and tail back in good time. Give me til the full moon—”
“You never asked!” snarled Lucifer, taking an aggressive step forward. “I would have made a deal with you!”
“Well it won’t work if it’s willing!” Pierce rolled his eyes. “They have to be real tears!”
Lucifer stopped in his tracks. “Tears of a siren who hasn’t seen the sea,” he breathed. “Harvested on the highest tide—the full moon. A silver heart transformed. Of course. You’re cursed—”
“Eons,” snarled Pierce, and Chloe had no idea what he was talking about, but that was real rage and frustration in his voice. “It’s been eons, and now you know. It won’t work if you know. I’m done with you.” He spun on his heal.
“You think you can LEAVE?” spat Lucifer. He lunged forward, clearly about to tackle Pierce.
Chloe stepped out to block Pierce’s way, gun drawn. “Put your hands in the air.” She planted herself in front of him. “You’re under arrest—”
Pierce huffed one, incredulous laugh. “Really?”
“You—” Lucifer hissed, but the rest of his sentence cut off abruptly.
Chloe could see him behind Pierce. He’d tripped—or so she thought. He landed, hard, on the ground and his gasp was raspy and all wrong and the worst thing she had ever heard.
Pierce winked. “Should check him out. He’s drowning.” He stepped to one side and her eyes slid to Lucifer, just for a moment—but it was enough.
“Lucifer!” she gasped, but when she turned her head back to Pierce he was gone, running footsteps fading down the aisle. She could chase him.
If she chased him, Lucifer would die.
For Lucifer had his gills back, and his tail, and he was absolutely, utterly, stranded on dry land. His great red tail flapped once against the hard floor, a great loud smack, and Chloe snapped out of it, racing to his side.
“No, stop,” she told him, desperate. “You’ll—you’ll hurt yourself against the concrete, don’t struggle.”
He gasped at her, unable to draw breath. He did stop thrashing his tail, though. His shirt was gone too; she could see his gills opening and closing on his sides, gasping hard for air—or rather, for water. His lights danced and flickered, distressed.
Chloe had one moment of absolute, wild panic. But then—
“Fishtanks,” she breathed. “He was filling a fishtank, right? A big one. Can I drag you?” He was far, far too large for her to carry, maybe even too large for her to drag, but dammit she was going to try. She dearly hoped those tanks were salt water, but they had squid in them! And—other things, but squid were salt water, right? And Moray eels?
Lucifer gasped for breath, but he folded his fins close to his body and nodded, nodded. He lifted his tail.
“No, don’t struggle—”
He rolled his eyes at her, held his tail aloft.
“Oh,” said Chloe. She ran her hand through his hair, quickly, and then staggered over to his tail. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, and wrapped her hand around the scales covering his last vertebrae, just before the tail forked. It was—slimy like a fish, but strangely so, and far too dry. She pulled as hard as she could. His scales were hard and rough, but the slime protected her skin; she didn’t cut herself, though he was slippery and difficult to drag.
It was slow. It was far too slow. Lucifer coughed and gasped and finally seemed to pass out, going limp.
“Come on,” Chloe told him, pulling. “Come on, Lucifer, come on—” She pulled and pulled and it went on forever. Why, why had they run so far from the tanks?
“Oh my god!”
She darted over to them on wobbly legs. “What happened?”
“Pierce uncursed him—I don’t know what to do—”
Linda ran over and lifted Lucifer by the shoulders. “I have an idea. Get him near the tank—the one with the hose, come on.”
One idea was better than no ideas. It wasn’t like Chloe could give him CPR. But with two people it was far faster, and they made it to the tanks.
The one that had been filling was now overflowing.
“Put him down—trust me,” Linda blurted, and Chloe did as told, even though it seemed insane.
“Does his throat connect to his gills?” Linda asked. “I mean he’s got—it’s called an operculum, right, that’s what that is—so he’s a fish, not a shark, but it connects in a fish—”
“How do you know that?” Chloe blurted.
“I dated a marine biology major when I was pre-med. Does it connect?”
It seemed like forever ago; Lucifer had stranded himself. She remembered him ducking his head in the ocean, gulping in water.
“I think so.”
“Great. Open his mouth.” She darted over to the hose.
“Just do it!”
Chloe knelt down. She stroked his stubbled cheek. The bristles never seemed to grow any longer. “I hope this works,” she whispered, and gently pried his jaws apart.
Linda came back with the fountaining hose in her hand. “It’s salt water,” she said, and then to Chloe’s horror she jammed it into Lucifer’s mouth.
“What—what are you—”
“Wait—just—wait—they do this with sharks when they tag them; Rob took me on a trip once—”
Salt water streamed out the sides of Lucifer’s mouth.
“He’s going to choke!” Chloe blurted, kind of stupidly.
And then—the floor got wet. Chloe glanced down; water streamed out of his gills, too. “Is that supposed to happen?” she asked, frantic.
“Yes,” said Linda, sounding relieved. “Yes it is.”
And then Lucifer’s tail moved, weakly, like he wanted to lift it but couldn’t, quite. He gasped around the hose, and his hands twitched.
“Lucifer!” Chloe grabbed one of his hands. “Lucifer, god—Linda, thank you,” she breathed.
“Don’t thank me yet,” Linda said darkly. “We’re miles from the ocean.”
“And Fish and Wildlife are on their way,” Chloe breathed. She clutched at Lucifer’s hand, and watched his eyes open, disoriented. He blinked at her. “It’s alright,” she told him. She stroked back his hair with the hand not holding his. “I’ve got you.”
He smiled at her tiredly around the hose. Water spewed from his gills.
“I don’t know what to do next,” Linda said unhappily. “That was—basically my only trick.”
“It was a pretty good trick,” Chloe murmured. She looked away from Lucifer’s sleepy eyes, looked around, though she kept stroking his hair. He leaned into her, trusting.
She looked at that big tank, all full of water.
It was on wheels.
It was a little small for Lucifer, but it would hold him til they got to the ocean, right?
“Linda,” she said. She nodded to the tank. “It’s on wheels.”
Linda looked at it. Chloe could see her mind go to exactly the same place that Chloe’s had. “Will he fit?”
“Barely, but I think he will.”
“We’ll need a truck,” said Linda.
Chloe’s car was definitely not equipped to bring a tank full of merman to the sea.
“There’s one in the driveway,” Chloe said slowly.
“You think he took it?” Linda breathed.
“One way to find out,” said Chloe. She squeezed Lucifer’s hand, but she turned to Linda. “Stay with him. I’ll be right back. I’ll be right back,” she added to Lucifer, who made an alarmed sound. “I’m going to get you out of here, okay? I still owe you a trip to SeaWorld.”
Lucifer made a sound that might have been a laugh around the hose. He squeezed her hand once, and then let go. Chloe got to her feet and took off running.
The interior of the house was, really, really huge, too huge, disconcertingly huge, and Pierce was long gone. But she ran around the walls, around the edges, and lo and behold: there was a door to the garage, and a forklift, and that small box truck parked in the driveway. She even found the keys hanging by a door. Outside, the sun had already risen. Fish and Wildlife were definitely on their way, but they were coming from across the city. Still, they didn’t have much time. She snatched the keys.
Some part of her whispered that she was stealing evidence from a crime scene. The rest of her screamed that the truck may be evidence, but Lucifer was definitely not, and if he didn’t get back to the ocean soon, then Fish and Wildlife would find him. God only knew what they’d do with someone like Lucifer.
Keys in hand, she ran back to the tanks.
“I found the truck,” she said.
“Great,” said Linda. She looked down at Lucifer, and then up at Chloe. “Into the tank?”
“Into the tank,” Chloe said fiercely. “Lucifer, can you hold your breath? I think we need to take the hose out so we can get you in there.”
He nodded, nodded, nodded, and reached up to take the hose out himself. “Horrid,” he rasped, throwing it to one side, and that was all he had the breath for.
“I know,” Chloe said. She got her arms under his shoulders. “But it saved your life.”
Linda slipped her hands under his fishy end and yelped a little.
“Are you alright?”
“Fine,” she gritted. “His fins have spines. Let’s get him in there.”
Together, they carried him to the tank, and then lifted him. It was hard; he was heavy, and kind of slimy, and Linda was too short to really be able to get him into the high tank. Had Lucifer struggled like a real fish, they never would have been able to do it, but he held himself still and cooperative. They managed. Lucifer plunged into the tank with a splash that dampened Chloe's clothes.
Chloe saw him take a big breath, gills fanning like a sigh. Then he came up to the top of the tank and rested his elbows on the rim, his gills fully submerged. In the tank, Chloe could see them fluttering as he caught his breath.
“Well, that was exciting,” Lucifer said.
“You would say that,” Linda said dryly. She turned to Choe. “Truck?”
“This way, come on.” Chloe planted herself at the side of the tank and pushed as hard as she could. It didn’t budge.
“It’s heavy; hang on—” Linda came up alongside her. She pushed too, and the tank lurched forward but slowly.
“Oh, that is bizarre,” said Lucifer cheerfully as the tank moved. “I've got the sense of it back, you know. The vibrations. Come on now! Put your back in it.” He twisted so he could put his arms on the rim nearest to Chloe and Linda. He watched them with bright eyes.
“Lucifer—” gasped Chloe.
“What’s that, darling?”
Lucifer made offended noises and shut up for all of two minutes before crying, “Left! Left! You’re going to hit the shelf!”
Dutifully, they steered left.
The fishtank was incredibly heavy, and the house interior was far too big. It must be enchanted or hexed or bespelled or whatever, Chloe thought, not for the first time. When the garage came into view, Chloe darted around to turn on the truck and the forklift, and open the various doors, before helping Linda wheel a puzzled Lucifer into the garage. Getting the forklift to work was sort of—interesting—as she never used one before. But Lucifer’s eyes were bright and curious and trusting, and she got it working okay in the end, loading him into cargo section of the truck. There were bungee cords in the back: they hooked his tank and his tank stand in, much to his apparent confusion.
“Where will you sit?” he asked Chloe.
“I’ll be in the front. Driving. I know you don’t like to be alone but just hang in there, okay?” She reached up and cupped his cheek. He leaned into her touch, a strange, sweet smile lingering in the corner of his lips.
“Alright,” he murmured.
“Let’s go,” said Linda. She was standing outside, beside the truck, looking worried. “I think your Fish and Wildlife guys are here.” She pointed to the flashing lights about a block or so away.
“Crap. Come on.”
Chloe raced out of the cargo bay and closed the back door of the truck. Then she hopped into the driver's seat and started the engine. Linda sucked in a breath as they peeled out. Chloe thought to herself of that stolen evidence, and not caring, not if it got Lucifer back to safety. She could hear him singing in the back of the truck, a high, haunting melody. He wasn’t frightened; he was doing some sort of spell.
Behind them, a second truck pulled into the spot they had just vacated. That looked like the CristaLite shipment that Ella had mentioned. Right on time for Fish and Wildlife. That worked out well.
She glanced over at Linda. “You okay?”
“Oh, you know,” said Linda, gripping the handle on the door, “I spent the last week or so as a seagull, but I think I’m handling it remarkably well, in that I’m not totally freaking out.” She smiled at Chloe. She looked a little deranged.
“You’re definitely freaking out,” Chloe said.
“I WAS A SEAGULL OF COURSE I’M FREAKING OUT!” Linda wailed.
“That’s—I mean, that’s pretty normal. Right?” Chloe wasn’t really sure what to say to that.
“Just—drive the truck,” Linda said, strained.
Chloe floored the gas pedal and they raced forward, away from the strange little house with the huge interior, toward the sea. The rising sun was at their back, and they had the deeply unfortunate luck of hitting LA rush hour traffic.
“So what do we do?” Linda asked.
“It’s daytime,” Chloe sighed. “All the beaches are going to be crowded. I don’t know.”
Linda nodded. “Does it have to be a beach?”
“What do you mean?”
“What about a boat launch? It’s a weekday; it might be a little less crowded.”
Chloe blinked. She’d interacted with Lucifer, always, at beaches. A boat launch had not occurred to her. “That’s—an excellent idea. I think UCLA has a marina near Del Ray. I worked a case there once. It’ll be noisy, but I think he can find his way to the ocean from there.” She hoped. She’d have to ask. She hoped the water wasn’t fresh or something – Lucifer abhorred fresh water, even though he’d had to drink it as an almost-human.
“So we have a plan,” Linda said.
“We have a plan,” Chloe said. “And hopefully the rest of LAPD doesn’t catch up to us for having stolen this truck.”
“Is that possible?” Linda asked.
“It’s probable,” Chloe replied wryly. “I’m going to leave the truck at the marina.” They were going to brush for fingerprints anyway, but there was little enough she could do about that, besides tell the absurd truth. She would, if she had to. Ella had met Lucifer, and Linda had been a seagull. It was totally nuts, but she had people to back her up.
They drove and drove, and the traffic worsened, and inched along. The LAPD didn’t come looking, and they got to the marina an hour later. Chloe didn’t ask for permission.
There was a fence stopping her from driving onto the normal marina, used by sane people, but just on the other side of the bike path there was a steep concrete boat launch, presumably for the insane. Or possibly by kayakers. It definitely did not look safe, anyway. Chloe backed the truck up to the edge of it.
“Hang on,” she said. “Before I do this, I want to talk to Lucifer.”
“Do it quickly,” Linda said. “This looks pretty bad, Chloe. Like we’re dumping something.”
Chloe nodded. Linda wasn't wrong. They were dumping something, after all. She put the truck in park, and raced to the back of the truck, pulled up the hatch.
“Lucifer?” she asked.
Lucifer was submerged under the water of the tank. He was sluggish when he came up the top. “Water’s gone foul,” he said, sounding a little woozy. “Not enough circulation.”
“Are you alright?”
“I’ll be fine. Just—dizzy. We stopped.”
“Dizzy?” she stepped up to him and cupped his cheek. He hummed at her, smiled.
“It’s been quite an adventure,” he said softly. “You owe me a trip to SeaWorld.”
She laughed, a spike of tears behind her eyes. She didn’t let them fall. “I do. You’ll just have to come back.”
He smiled, his ears fanning out proudly, glowing at their points. “I’ll do that.”
“We’re at—we’re at UCLA Marina,” Chloe said, a little choked. “I can lower you down to Bellona Creek. It empties into the Pacific. Can you find your way?”
“Of course,” said Lucifer with a shrug.
“Even though you’re dizzy?” Chloe fretted.
“Some circulating water will do me good. I’ll be fine, detective. And I’ll see you again. Wait for me by the beach?”
“That got you caught last time!”
“Worth it,” said Lucifer with a grin. “Best adventure ever. I’ll see you soon, darling, don’t fret.”
“I’m not fretting, I’m having a very rational response to a wizard who stole your gills and tail! A wizard who is still out there!”
He smiled at her, sank into his tank a little so he could rest his cheek on his folded arms. “Fair point. But I’m not letting you go that easily.”
Chloe huffed a laugh. She wasn’t crying, but it was a near thing. “Yeah,” she said. “Same here.”
He reached down. It took her a second to realize what he wanted, but once she did she gave it to him; he took her hand, turned it over and brushed his lips against her palm. “I’m here to stay, detective,” he murmured.
She swallowed. “Yeah,” she said again, a little raspy, a little shell shocked and a little shivery. “Okay. I—I need to drive the truck. You can’t breathe.”
“What’s breathing?” Lucifer said airily. “I’d rather talk to you.”
“Lucifer,” she rolled her eyes. She turned her hand back over, twined their fingers and squeezed, before letting go. “I’ll see you soon,” she said.
“Soon,” he agreed, and she raced back to the front of the truck, leaving the back hatch open.
“Let’s do this,” she told Linda.
Linda braced herself.
The truck was not made to go down such a steep decline, as it turned out. It juddered when Chloe backed it up down the concrete. It slipped, and skidded, and finally jerked into a slide slick and swift.Chloe looked at Linda, and Linda looked at Chloe, and as one they decided; they abandoned ship, both of them yelping, as the truck skidded down the ramp with an almighty screech. It tipped to one side at the end, crashing into the cement of the ramp and sliding down, before splashing dramatically into the river. It was not a very subtle operation.
Chloe's heart thundered. What if someone had heard that? Or seen? Her left knee throbbed dully where she'd banged it on the way out of the car. Linda looked pretty freaked out too, and she was cradling her elbow. They both stood on the bike path, watching the water. No Lucifer. No Lucifer for a good long while.
Did he hit his head? Had he passed out from lack of oxygen? Was the creek too polluted?
And then, from below, a sleek head popped up. Lucifer's dark hair clung to his skull, and he bobbed like a seal. He waved at them, a red fin extending from his raised forearm, and Chloe laughed brightly. She waved back.
Lucifer turned to the truck, half-submerged in the creek. He huffed at it. “Is there anything in there that you want?” he called.
Chloe looked at Linda. Linda shook her head. “No!” called Chloe.
Lucifer nodded. Then he paused, and apparently took in Linda for the first time. He looked her over, top to bottom, and gave her a great grin. “Linda Martin! So glad to see you without feathers!”
Linda laughed. “Me too!”
Lucifer smirked at her, and then turned back to the truck. He sang: a high note, and a low note, and then a high note and a low note on and on and before Chloe’s eyes the truck sort of—caved in and began to crumble into the river.
“Well that’s—convenient,” Chloe murmured.
Lucifer huffed. Apparently he'd heard that, even though he was a great distance away. “I’m hardly about to let them arrest you, detective.” Lucifer called haughtily once he had finished. The truck was entirely gone. “But now this water tastes like gasoline, so I must be on my way. I’ll meet you at the beach when I can. I’m coming back.” The last was absolutely determined.
“I’ll be there,” said Chloe.
Lucifer smiled at both of them, and then turned back into the dark waters of the creek. Down he plunged, and his great red tail slapped to the surface for just a moment, and then he was gone.
And then they were stranded in the middle of Del Ray without a vehicle. As a last resort, Chloe called Dan and as a result got to listen to a long, long, long lecture about cases that weren’t hers and places she shouldn’t stick her nose on the drive back. She hummed and nodded where appropriate and didn't even try to argue with him, though she seethed inside that it was worth it, absolutely worth it, if Lucifer was safe. There was no explaining that to Dan, though, because Dan would never go for the mermaid thing. She kept her mouth shut. He asked a bunch of questions about Linda, too, but it turned out that Linda was excellent at answering questions with questions, and diverted Dan’s focus.
Dan dropped Linda and Chloe off back at Lyle Smith’s house, where her car was. He was clearly muttering indigently to himself as he drove off, but that was fine. Chloe's attention was elsewhere: Fish and Wildlife were swarming the place—of course they were, as it was filled to the brim with creepy dead animals that were probably endangered, and creepier live animals that were probably more endangered.
The fellow who snagged Chloe and Linda for interviews was short and slightly overweight. He was balding, and for some reason he carried a red and silver handkerchief. It was unusual, and it caught Chloe's eye. It held her attention for a long moment, but discomfort rose in her throat like bile; she tore her eyes away, feeling shivery and ill.
He blinked at her. He looked--almost impressed, but he didn't say anything about it. Instead he started, "Tell me about your experience in the--Oh, no. Shane!" Chloe jumped at the abrupt bellow.
There was a Fish and Wildlife guy, presumably Shane, walking out of the house with about three large pickle jars in his arms. He froze. He was a readhead, and wore sunglasses. "Yeah, Carl?"
"Shane--put the one with the lemur into the special truck, will you? And don't--look at it too long, okay?"
Chloe frowned. She realized, a little belatedly, that Shane was holding the creepy, horrible lemur. Why he was not affected was a mystery. He didn't seem to be looking at it at all.
She turned back to Carl. "How--how did you know--?" Chloe asked him.
Carl winked at her. "I'm Fish and Wildlife, detective. I see all kinds of weird things in my line of work." He paused and glanced at his handkerchief, as if deliberating. Then he leaned in, hushed. "It's just me, though, you know. The guys know to come to me for the weird stuff. Between you and me, I'm going to be buried in pickled animals for years after this raid. Now tell me, what happened here?"
That was--well, Chloe wasn't sure if that was comforting or not. She did talk, though she still didn't mention Lucifer. Instead she told the story of her pursuit of Marcus Pierce, and how it led her to this weird and creepy house. Carl nodded and nodded, and took notes.
"You're not telling me something," he said slowly, at the end. He fiddled with his handkerchief. "You're protecting someone--or something. Something alive." Chloe didn't answer, and held perfectly still. He smiled, unexpectedly soft, and seemed to relax at her tension. "Between you and me, this sort of case can get messy. There's--collateral damage. I'm going to have to destroy the kr-- uh, you know, the squid inside. Goddamn tragedy, but that's how it works. Off the record."
Chloe swallowed. She nodded. She understood what he was trying to tell her: he couldn't know about Lucifer. She sensed that this guy could be an excellent ally, if she played her cards right. "Can I--get your card?"
"Mm." He nodded, handed it over. Carl Trippan - Specialist, it said, and that was it.
"What kind of specialist?" Chloe asked him.
He grimaced. "I have had a weird and wild life. You do not want to know. Can I talk to your buddy?" He nodded to Linda.
Chloe had no idea what Linda said to him. It wasn’t like she could claim to be a seagull, and if what Carl said was true, it might go extremely badly for Linda if she did. Chloe waited in the car, needing to get away from the creepy house. She watched the Fish and Wildlife guys cart bits and pieces from the house away, one pickle jar at a time. She saw Linda smile at the end of her interview, and she slipped into the car with Chloe.
“I can take you home,” Chloe offered.
“That would be absolutely lovely,” said Linda. Chloe had never been so grateful to put her car into drive. They eased away from the crime scene.
"So what was with Carl?" Chloe asked her after a long moment. He definitely knew about magic; she wanted to hear Linda's theories.
"He was a wizard," Linda said, matter of fact and certain, staring straight ahead.
Chloe nearly slammed on the breaks. She hadn't come to that conclusion! A wizard like Pierce? Working for Fish and Wildlife? "What? How do you know?"
"His handkerchief," said Linda. "Didn't you notice? It was mesmerizing. Like the lemur."
Chloe gulped. Red and silver and it had made her feel sick--it had definitely been mesmerizing; Linda was right. "But," she said slowly, "I broke free."
"Not as strong, maybe," Linda said, and she sounded a little haunted.
"Not as strong," Chloe echoed, and shivered. She turned on the music, disturbed, and they spent a good portion of the drive in uneasy silence. She turned onto a main road, and then the highway, and she thought and thought. The music washed over her.
She broke the silence after a long while, as they turned off the highway at last. “I do have one question for you,” Chloe said.
“Why did Pierce transform you?”
Linda nodded to herself. “He came to see me,” she said slowly. “I’m a therapist, you know. He was a new patient. He said his heart was hurting, but the doctors all said it was psychosomatic. So I asked him what his heart meant to him, you know, standard stuff when you’re trying to find an emotional connection to a physical feeling. He didn’t really answer; he asked if I would help, and when I said I would do my best, he sort of smiled and said that he could tell I had a heart of silver. I asked him what that meant. He said that silver is reflective and can be used to make mirrors. Apparently my heart is the same, and can show people reflections of themselves. I thought that was odd, and was going to ask more questions but then he transformed me, right there in my office in the middle of a conversation. He said he needed a silver heart transformed. I flew out the window before he could trap me.”
“A heart of silver,” Chloe murmured. She’s heard Lucifer say that. “You can show people--reflections? Like a mirror? What does that even mean?”
“No clue.” Linda shrugged. “Maybe because I'm a therapist? I just know I’m happy to have fingers again.”
Chloe chuckled. “I’m sure. A silver heart transformed and the tears of a siren who hasn’t seen the sea. Ingredients to lift a curse—Pierce’s curse. That’s what Lucifer said.”
“Wonder what the other ingredients are,” Linda said darkly.
The other ingredients. “There were a lot of things in that house,” Chloe murmured. “It can’t be the whole house, right?”
“No clue,” Linda said again. “Magic is so not my thing.”
“Yeah, me neither,” said Chloe wryly.
They drove through the LA traffic, and the conversation became lighter. Chloe still thought about that spell, though, and those ingredients. If she could track down what they were, maybe she would have a hope of catching Pierce. Maybe, maybe…
“Do you have Trixie tonight?” Linda asked abruptly as they pulled into what was apparently her driveway.
“Yeah,” said Chloe. “I mean, it’s been so many nights without her, and I have to tell her about Lucifer—” Her voice faded.
“Stop by the beach,” said Linda, “See if he’s there. If he’s not – or even if he is – you and Trixie are welcome over for dinner.” She smiled, a little wobbly. “I’d. Really appreciate the company.”
“Me too,” Chloe said, and it was true: the thought of being alone tonight was not a pleasant one, though having Trixie would help. “You don’t mind if I bring Trixie?”
“Not at all! She’s lovely, Chloe, bring her. I’d like to meet her as a mammal again.”
Chloe chuckled. She dropped Linda off and watched her breath deeply before marching herself into her house. She looked like she was steeling herself. Chloe was definitely going to bring Trixie back for dinner. Linda definitely should not be alone tonight, she thought.
She had some strange time to kill before Trixie's school let out. Chloe did not go back to work, because she did not want to, a strange, foreign feeling for her. Usually work focused her, but she was feeling scattered and a little shell-shocked. She bought herself lunch instead, and then she drove, fairly aimlessly, trying to order her thoughts.
It started to sink in that Lucifer was really gone.
It was hard to break the news to Trixie, when she picked her up. It was harder still, because Lucifer was not at the beach that night. The disappointment was crushing, but she tried to hide it, for Trixie, whose eyes filled with tears. They went to Linda’s, though, and that was alright. Linda was good company, and she was apparently delighted to finally cook something on her own, with her thumbs. Trixie's amazement dried her tears over Lucifer, at least for a little while.
"You're so pretty!" she told Linda, honest and innocent. "But you had really soft feathers as a seagull," she added, and Linda laughed.
Chloe thought, hesitantly, that Linda might become a good friend. Especially because she was a therapist. Lord knew they all probably needed therapy after this particular adventure.
And the weeks passed, and the weeks passed, and Lucifer did not appear on the beach. Chloe dug out her whale tooth, and she blew on it as hard as she could. It made no sound, as always, but Lucifer still didn’t come. Even Mazikeen did not show, but then, Chloe had never taken Lucifer to SeaWorld, so she might be feeling resentful. Chloe was certain they both knew she was calling; Lucifer had said he could feel it, when she used the tooth.
The horizon was beautiful and bleak. No giant fins or glowing lights split the waves at night. The ocean was big, she thought sadly, the third time she tried without luck. Maybe he was on another adventure.
The world was a little duller for is absence. She returned to the precinct, as always, feeling more and more defeated. Chloe put on a brave face, because at this point, it was time to move on. It had been weeks, and she had cases, and things to do, and frankly the whole debacle had been ridiculous.
There was a cup of iced coffee on her desk. Someone had written in sharpie on the plastic: HE 'LL COME BACK. PROMISE!!!!
Chloe rolled her eyes. She looked up and glared at the forensics lab. Ella waved at her, beaming. Ella liked to leave coffee with notes. Her eyes were starry, and she was sweet, she really was, but Ella still believed in fairytales. Chloe wished she believed in them, too, but she didn’t.
But what she could do was chase down Marcus Pierce, with everything they had. She didn’t know the ingredients to his spell, but she did know that he would be smuggling in weird animals and animal parts through the illegal pet trade. Thomas Bailey, killed by Mazikeen, had been their smuggler; this she had deduced previously. Bailey was in LA on vacation.
She hunted, and she hunted, and she hunted. Dan brought her lunch sometimes, and he reminded her to go home, on days she didn't have Trixie.
Sure enough, there was finally a hit on Chloe’s long ago BOLO; she raced out in the middle of the day to find Marcus Pierce in a hotel room under Thomas Bailey’s name, rebuilding his creepy collection of dead things. She called for Fish and Wildlife then and there for a raid.
Marcus smiled at Chloe when the Fish and Wildlife guys led him off in cuffs. Carl busted into the room soon after, took one look at the pickled jars, and swore and swore and swore. Chloe left him to it, a little amused. She decided that Carl deserved a healthy dose of wariness, but he was not frightening. He looked far too much like a harassed bureaucrat to be frightening.
She left the scene feeling triumphant. That night, she got a call from Carl personally: Pierce had escaped his jail cell. Carl was furious. Chloe was furious. She hung up the phone, breathed deep, and took a shower. It didn't help.
Wizards. There must be a way to hold a wizard, she thought as the water sluiced over her, but she needed Lucifer for that, since Carl clearly didn't know. She needed Lucifer and his weird and wild knowledge of magic. But Lucifer never showed.
She still went to the beach at night from time to time, because she had promised. Maybe she did still believe in fairytales, sometimes, or maybe she hoped for them. She even brought Trixie. Nothing, not a single glowing fin or fan.
She was thinking to herself that maybe enough was enough, as she and Trixie were eating dinner at the table. Trixie was talking about a project she was doing in art class where she was trying to draw fish scales, but it wasn’t coming out right. Chloe listened patiently and did her best to be encouraging, and trying to be present, but Marcus Pierce was nagging at her, like a fly in her ear. Maybe she had to consult Carl, confirm his suspicions and let him know that she was in the know, really in the know. It was risky but there must be a spell to hold Pierce--?
And then, from somewhere outside, a haunting voice rose like morning mist, singing a rather familiar song. Trixie's mouth closed on a snap, as she stopped mid sentence, eyes huge.
“I want to be where the people are
I wanna see, wanna see 'em dancing
Walkin' around on those - what do you call them again? Oh, feet!
Flippin' your fins, you don't get too far
Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a - what's that word again? Street!”
“Mommy,” breathed Trixie, and Chloe stared at her for just a moment. Her heart leaped. Impossible. That was--impossible. They both raced to their feet, and to the front door. Trixie pushed it open, Chloe at her heels.
Just outside, standing in the road, was Lucifer. He wore a tailored suit that he’d gotten god knew where and when he saw them, he grinned. He was human. He was almost entirely human, except for his ears, and the swirls and glowing lights at his temples. It wasn't that dark in their LA suburb, but it was dark enough that his lights shone brightly. He raised a hand, and on his finger he wore a ring with a gleaming black stone—a ring which, undoubtedly, was the reason he could walk about on land. Goddamn magic, Chloe thought with giddy joy. Goddamn magic!
“Up where they walk,” he sang,
“Up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wish I could be
Part of that—”
“LUCIFER!!” cried Trixie in absolute glee. She bolted from Chloe's side and ran up to him. His song cut off in a yelp as she threw her arms around him because, of course, mermaid babies had a tendency to bite. Chloe laughed, still disbelieving.
She laughed and laughed and walked right up to him and, good ideas and decorum be damned, she grabbed him by his silly, fishy ears and kissed her absurd mermaid on the lips. He was cooler than a mammal but warm enough, and he made a small happy sound into her mouth before pressing back into her, a real kiss. Lucifer laughed softly into her, his breath lukewarm and sweet, and his arms slipped around her to hold her close, crushing Trixie between them. It was weirdly, weirdly perfect.
“Gross!” cried Trixie, clearly delighted. She wriggled between them, but didn't really try to escape.
“Oh, I understand that now; mouth kissing’s marvelous,” Lucifer said as they drew apart, also delighted. Of course that was the first thing he would say to her, of course.
“What did you think it was?” Chloe said, still laughing.
“Fighting. When fish do that they’re fighting. It was very confusing when Natasha did it. I liked it much better with you. Can we do another? I think I need instruction.” He bent closer, eyes dancing with mischief.
Chloe huffed a breathy laugh. It was--very tempting. "Maybe later. Where there aren't any--fry. Around." She indicated Trixie.
Lucifer looked down at Trixie and his fans extended, red and glowing. Trying to look bigger or intimidating? Because fry were dangerous? Chloe was determined to learn the meanings behind every scrap of his bizarre body language. Of course, Chloe knew that Trixie just thought his fans were pretty and the she was totally unbothered.
"Oh yes, terrible idea with fry around. Might lose a fin. Or a toe?" Lucifer narrowed his eyes at Trixie suspiciously. "Do you eat toes?"
Trixie giggled. “Does that mean you're staying?”
Lucifer blinked at her, and then looked back to Chloe. “I was thinking I could open a nightclub, actually,” he said airily, folding his ears again. “I plan to be landbound for a while. And you need to take me to SeaWorld, don’t think I’ve forgotten. We promised Mazikeen.” His arms tightened around her.
Chloe leaned back to break the embrace. He looked briefly crestfallen, until she took his hand. He let her tow him back toward the house, temples glowing brighter and brighter with glee as they got closer. She was inviting him into her den, after all. That had to mean something to him, especially judging by the delighted look on his face. Good. She wanted it to mean something. She had about eight thousand questions, all of which started with that ring on his finger, but later. Later. She was far too happy to see him for that just yet. “Don’t worry,” she said, grinning like an idiot, “I haven’t forgotten.”
Chapter 14: Fishy information!
I figured I might put this in a whole new chapter instead of a massive note.
Just picture Lucifer, in a salt water bathtub with his bright red fins and a glass of wine. Chloe, also with wine, is carefully placing his ring somewhere safe, before joining him for (kinda slimy? Fish have slime coats. But it's fine) cuddles in the bath. There's a little aerator, an air stone so he can breath going in there, and there are candles, and then they talk about what it means to be a fish, and Lucifer shares some fun fish facts, though rather resentfully because he hates the ocean. MOVING ON.
I am a giant fish nerd. So there are some things that all of our marine characters are simply going to take for granted, and our terrestrial characters are going to be like, huh? So here’s some things that our marine babies are going to understand intuitively, but our humans won’t know, and maybe won’t come up (plus some random cool facts that make me happy, soooo):
In the ocean, the color red is actually the color black. Red light doesn’t make it past ten feet (three meters) or so, so things that are red are actually black in the sea. Lucifer’s fins and fans are therefore a different color on land than they are in the sea. In the deep he is practically invisible, even with his lights, as his lights break up his silhouette. On land, of course, he is flamboyant, bright red, and very, very visible. I thought this duality suited him nicely. Lucifer’s fins are based off a flame snapper except like, longer, more toward crimson and less chunky (when you google, please look for the living ones with the long beautiful tails, not the dead ones on land. Fish can change color depending on their environment, and the dead ones are likely pale or flushed with stress).
Sound travels waaaaaaaaaaaay farther in water than it does on land. This is why whales are so vocal and musical! That said, the ocean is not generally glass-clear, so you can’t see as far as you can on land, generally speaking.
Orca whales are totally badass. Also their name is derived from the Roman god Orcus, a god of the underworld, who punished oathbreakers. So you could say that Orca whales are….. from Hell. They are also super family oriented, beyond intelligent, and live in matrilineal groups (with their mom’s family). There are transient orcas and resident orcas. The transient ones are the ones that eat red meat; resident guys eat fish.
Fish are ectotherms; they’re cold blooded. They also have a lateral line - a sixth sense that lets them feel movement (pressure and vibration) in the water. My Merfolk however are like mako sharks and swordfish in that they can generate some body heat through movement. Merfolk are also similar, reproductively speaking, to betta fish. Bettas are freshwater fish, but they build a nice big nest to attract a female, they mate, and then the female peaces out (some stay and help! Some eat the eggs), leaving the male to tend to the young. They also fertilize externally, like most fish, so sex as we think of it is not a thing. They do snuggle though (er, “embrace”), and nobody dies, which is why I chose them :P
Sharks have two penises. The male shark will chomp down on the female’s pectoral fin (er, arm fin I guess?) and kind of twine around her. This information is literally so you get one joke, but I cracked up writing it, so by god you will get it! :P
Diel vertical migration is the migration of plankton (stuff that drifts rather than swims strongly; think jellyfish) vertically in the water column. During the day, phytoplankton (Tiny plant-like organisms) hang out at the surface and zooplankton (Tiny animals) in the deep; by night they switch. It’s among the largest migrations in the world. Whichever is hanging out in the deep is called the deep scattering layer by navigators on ships; they present a false sea floor to anyone using sonar, that’s how massive this migration is.
Bioluminescence, or living things that glow, is real and incredible to see. Fireflies are a good example of this, but in the ocean, bioluminescence is very common, especially in the deep. At night, when the little critters come to the surface…. I had the privilege to see this from a boat, on a glass-still ocean on a clear night. It looked like we were floating on the Milky Way. It was the most incredible thing I have ever seen, and you bet your booty I’m going to put as many glow-y things in this story as humanly possible!
NEW EDIT: I mentioned two things in chapter 10 - an isopod that eats tongues and a worm that controls brains. Both of these things are real! The worm - various species - is mostly found in terrestrial insects but there IS a tapeworm that lives in a copepod (a kind of Zooplankton) and manipulates it so it gets eaten by a species of fish called a Stickleback, so the worm can reproduce. Creepy.
Crustaceans are stuff with shells and legs, mostly. A copepod is a kind of Crustacean. A decapod (shrimp, crabs, lobsters) is too. So is an isopod. Isopods are super cool and come in a million shapes and sizes. The isopod that eats a fish's tongue is unique, and it doesn't really eat the fish's tongue. It attaches and restricts blood flow, so the tongue just... falls off. And then it attaches itself to the stub and acts as the fish's tongue. Also cool: they all start off as male, and as they get older, become female. :D