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Acceptable Portents

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‘Lucifer! Lucifer, Lucifer!’

Astoundingly, the repetition of Lucifer’s Dad-granted name doesn't make the child's call any less irritating. Lucifer smoothed invisible wrinkles from his inky black trousers and peering at his impeccably manicured nails. Finally, he turned with a sigh and a swirl of his tumbler1.

 

1 Sadly apple-juice filled rather than anything half decent, for shame

‘What is it, urchin?’ he asks acerbically with a raised eyebrow.

‘I want you to read me my bedtime story,’ the searching eyes of Chloe Decker’s child peer up at him. ‘Mommy said it was okay as long as you said yes.’2

 

2 What Lucifer, Lord of Hell3, Old Scratch and The Adversary4, should ask himself here is: did she though?5
3(Ret’d).
4Of the Silver City, occasionally God and His Angels, but mostly Daniel Espinoza (Monday-Fridays, and by self appointment).
5
Sadly he did not ask himself this and the events of the night unfolded as related below.

‘Well if the Detective says it’s okay,’ Lucifer sniffs a little. ‘What inane nonsense have the combined minds of the superb Detective and her douche6 husband7 decided is decent reading for your growing mind?’ 

 

6 Well, ex-douche, if Lucifer is being generous, which he rarely is.
7Ex-husband, Detective Decker would have clarified had she been consulted, which she rarely was.

He picks up a book from the stack cluttering the Detective’s kitchen island. ‘War and Peace8?’

 

 

8 How this ‘epic’ came to be lounging on Chloe Decker’s kitchen table like a third time divorcee at a piano bar, is a long and intricate tale involving a two decade old feud with Chloe Decker’s mother, the celebrated sci fi-thriller film star Penelope Decker, stratospheric expectations from Chloe Decker’s sweet but ultimately terrifying tenth grade English teacher Mrs. M. Macelroy Snr., and the ongoing war of Chloe vs. Procrastination. Like many similar derelict copies around the globe, it has yet to be opened and probably never will.9
9This is probably for the better.

Beatrice frowns, kicking a distracted foot against the side of the bench. ‘I don’t think it’s about war and peace,’ she pauses, considering, ‘though they do talk about a war in heaven.’

‘Do they now?’ Lucifer rummages through the books - the Detective has amassed quite a few oddities in her Rome-based search for understanding. He drops one book on demonology directly in the sink and runs the faucet.10 The child runs directly over, not having the arm-length Lucifer has at his disposal, and gawps at the sodden text.

 

 

10 It promptly makes a faint sizzling-BRP noise when in contact with water. This fact proves vaguely alarming to Lucifer, as it does to Detective Chloe Decker when, one week later, she discovers what looks suspiciously like an 18th century wood carving of the Virgin Mary on her second oldest sink plug directly under its remains.

Lucifer ignores her, even as she turns the water off. ‘The Divine Comedy then?’ he flicks open the offending volume and runs a critical eye over the latin. ‘The nonsense humans come up with.’

The limpet opens up the refrigerator, with a quick glance to where her mother has her back turned, and pulls out the apple juice. ‘It is kinda a comedy, and it does have demons and angels in it. It’s really funny!’

She pulls out another tumbler and pours a generous amount of juice. ‘Funny?’ Lucifer scoffs, adding the epic poem to the sodden mess sitting in the sink.11 

 

11 Where it is promptly devoured by ‘Ye Olde Arcaene Textes, A Guede feur Novice Daemone Conjuereres’. Let no one say a book is harmless.

‘Come on Lucifer, read it to me-’ she turns her pleading eyes on him again, little hand curled tight around her drink. The pink knife-wielding rabbits on her pyjama shirt12 look up at him menacingly.13

 

12 ‘Pyjamas only, Trixie, you can’t wear that in public, what was Maze thinking?’ Daniel had lamented just that morning for likely the tenth time.
13Lucifer thinks they’re probably harmless, but something in the dead beady eyes speaks of unspeakable malice. Best to ask the Detective to burn it later to be safe.

‘Ugh, if I must.’ Lucifer stands from his stool. ‘You’d better dispose of that sugary beverage before your mother sees,’ he says loudly. The Detective makes an outraged sound from the spawn’s bedroom and Lucifer smirks. Take that as a lesson not to manipulate the devil.

‘I don’t suppose there’s an option where I don’t read this book and go enjoy this…’ he peers at his own drink dubiously, ‘beverage in peace?’

‘What did you do to my books14?’ Chloe gasps, pulling them from the half-filled sink and staring at horror as the pages clump.

 

14 Lucifer thinks ‘books’ is a bit overstating things, given at least one of the tomes he’d disposed of appeared to have teeth, but as his mother15 had once said, ‘there’s no accounting for taste.’16
15Mother of All Angels, Co-creator of All of Creation, God’s (Ex-)Wife, The-Woman-Who-Was-Not-Charlotte-Richards; ‘Mum’ to her kids.
16Granted she had said that about her much vaunted (and aggravating) then husband’s taste in evolutionary design - the aardvark of all things, honestly - but the point still stands.

‘It’s all nonsense Detective, if you really want to know you need only ask the direct source.’

Chloe turns to him incredulously. Lucifer conceded. ‘Eve, of course. Or Maze. Maybe Amenadiel, I’m sure he has one or two nuggets to offer.’

‘Luciferrrrr,’ the spawn has bolted her illicit juice down and is now tugging at his jacket. ‘It’ll really make mommy happy if you read the book to me.’

Lucifer’s jaw almost drops. ‘You wily little urchin! Well, good behaviour deserves rewards17, I suppose. Why don’t you run off and clean that top set of teeth you have lodged in your gums and I’ll consider it.’

 

17 Well it deserves something.

The tooth brushing18 takes surprisingly little time. He spends his little reprieve finishing his juice, and is startled away from staring at the bottom of his glass when the child comes barrelling back into the room.

 

18 Lucifer shudders a little, thinking of the double rows of sharp teeth children have hidden in their mouths - like sharks. And people wonder why he is so wary of the little monsters.

Her pyjama pants are an awful brand of bright green that hurt his eyes so much that he hurries ahead of her to the bedroom.

‘Right. Well, procure this book,’ he urges, attempting to find a surface in her bedroom that isn’t covered in fluffy toys or potentially sticky with unidentified substances.19 Satisfied that the detective has done a decent enough job to keep this particular child clean, he settles precariously on the edge of the bed.

 

19 Children are disgusting, after all.

Trixie clambers her way under the covers, thankfully disappearing the lurid green pyjama pants, and pulls a book from under her pillow.

The book looks battered and crinkled. A more book-fixated person might term it ‘well loved’. Lucifer terms it hideous. The cover depicts a haloed angel sitting on the words ‘Good Omens’. The first o of the word ‘good’ has a halo and the lettered m has a tail for Dad’s sake. He’s suddenly suspicious.

‘Well. I suppose at the end ‘good’ triumphs over ‘evil’ and all that? The big bad devil is punished?’

He flips the cover open and peers grimly down at the preface, which is dotted with something he is generously chooses to believe is blood.

‘That’s where I spilt raspberry jelly,’ Trixie points out cheerfully, and Lucifer shudders delicately, picturing the urchin’s many-toothed maw, split in a red-tainted sticky grin.20 

 

20 Disgusting and terrifying.

‘We got up to…’ she tugs at the book which he allows her to take, unresisting, from his hands. ‘Here.’ She turns to a dog-eared page and splits the book open, offering it back to him. The spine has been well and truly broken, he almost feels sorry for the vile tome.

The top of the page reads ‘think it was a bit of an overreaction, to be honest,’ said the serpent.I mean, first offence and everything.’’

Huh.

He stares at the page long enough that Trixie prods at his ribs. ‘You have to read it out loud,’ she instructs, as if he were foreign to the concept.21

 

21 Well he is, but he has seen the detective duo perform this odd night ritual thing enough that he understands the routine.

‘Right,’ he agrees, and slowly starts to read. ‘‘I can’t see what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil, anyway.’’

He reads longer than he expected, but Beatrice’s eyes have well and truly fallen shut by the time he’s finished, and though her hand keeps squeezing at his leg he suspects she’s halfway into the realm of Morpheus22 already.

 

22 Bloody Morpheus.

‘Lucifer?’ she whispers just as he pulls himself to his feet, setting the book carefully on the floor.

‘Yes, offspring?’

‘I like Crawly,’ she says quietly. ‘He asks questions. That’s not a bad thing, is it?’

His heart pangs a little, as if it were a real human organ and not just what’s part-and-parcel with this facsimile of a disguise. ‘No,’ he says quietly. ‘I don’t think so, no.’

She smiles sleepily. ‘Thank you Lucifer.’ She yawns a little. ‘I like it read in your voice. You do the English accents right.’

‘Right,’ he agrees, a little stunned. He backs out of the bedroom and shuts the door, leaving the small child to her slumber.

The Detective has a peculiar look on her face that almost looks… sympathetic? He bolts23 before she can say anything.

 

23 Retreats. Discretion as the better part of valour and all that.

 

-

 

He can’t stop thinking about it though. He helps the Detective through their delightfully grisly murder of the week the next day, but all he can think of is Eve, and the Garden, and that one angel and his demon friend, standing East of Eden.

It’s not what happened, but… it is intriguing. He wants to know what happens next.

‘Trixie wants you to read to her again tonight,’ The Detective sighs as she packs her things to leave the precinct. ‘I told her it was a one time thing but she’s - well, she’s Trixie.’

‘The child knows what she wants,’ Lucifer says approvingly. ‘Of course I’ll read to her. Must encourage that critical thinking.’24

 

24 Dad knows she needs all the help she can get, given Daniel.

The Detective’s jaw drops open. ‘What? I mean, you will?’

‘Of course,’ he sniffs. ‘As soon as you’re ready for the child to be abed I will be at your home. I have a few things to attend to at Lux first25.’

 

25 He doesn’t, not yet, but by Dad he will do.

Much as he delights in the company of the detective, the idea of spending more time eating and discussing the drab life of an elementary school child is frankly distasteful. He runs his way through a few pieces on the piano he’s finessing for performance, and is starting in on a new song when his phone buzzes.

Time for bed comes the first text, then, you don’t have to do this, Lucifer.

Of course not, he replies. I encourage the child’s free thinking.

With that, he takes a final swig of whisky before collecting his belongings and heading for the elevator.

 

-

‘‘Aziraphale!’ he called.‘Aziraphale, you - you stupid - Aziraphale? Are you here?’’

Beatrice’s little child hand is clutched tight in Lucifer’s as they read, even knowing that Aziraphale is likely safe. He closes his own hand firmly around hers. In comfort, he tells himself. For the child.26

 

26 Of course for the child. Who else?

-

‘I like Adam,’ Beatrice announces once the last page is turned. ‘He decided he wanted to make his own choices, not let God or his dad make the decisions for him.’

Lucifer looks down at the book where the pages turn into an interview with the authors. Beatrice is sitting bolt upright in bed beside him, despite it being long past her bedtime.

‘Trixie,’ the Detective says softly from the doorway. ‘I think Lucifer needs some hot cocoa. You wanna help me make some?’

Trixie’s face is incredulous when Lucifer looks over to her. ‘Yes!’ She throws back the covers, worming her way out despite the way Lucifer is pinning them on one side.

She’s wearing those lurid green trousers again27. She bounds out to the kitchen and starts clattering at cupboards.

 

27 They look oddly familiar and with a jolt of nauseated horror Lucifer recalls Daniel’s hideous green sofa. Honestly, has the man no taste?

‘Are you okay, Lucifer?’ Chloe walks over to where Lucifer is sitting, and he flinches a little.28

 

28 Because of Daniel’s sofa, of course. No other reason.

‘Yes,’ he replies shortly, getting to his feet. ‘Yes, of course.’

‘It’s okay if you…’ she considers her words for a moment. ‘Identify with some of the characters in the book.’

He huffs, offended. ‘Of course I don’t “identify” with the monster at the end of that book - the way they depict the devil is character assassination. I should sue for defamation.’28

 

29 This would make the third such suit30, after drug emojis and Dunkin Devils Devilish Delightful Donuts (which, ugh, the alliteration alone).
30Say what you like about lawyers, but the Devil does like a good advocate.

She reaches out a hand to settle it on his, and he stares down at it. ‘I don’t mean Satan, Lucifer,’ she disagrees softly. ‘I mean Crowley.’

He swallows, then looks up at her face. ‘Well,’ he allows, briefly, then stops. ‘Well.’

‘Mom,’ Beatrice calls from the kitchen. ‘Can I get the marshmallows?’

‘No marshmallows,’ Chloe disagrees, not looking away. ‘Just cocoa.’

‘But Mooom,’ the spawn complains. ‘It’s not cocoa if it doesn’t have marshmallow in it. It’s just water with powder and milk.’

‘Yes,’ Chloe agrees drily, tugging Lucifer’s hand to lead him into the kitchen. ‘That’s what hot cocoa is.’

She gets down the marshmallows anyway, and rations them one small pillow of goo per cup. Lucifer pokes at his dubiously.

‘So, what did you think of the book?’ the Detective finally asks when they’re seated at the bench, the child making an awful mess of her face with the chocolatey drink.

‘I still love it,’ Beatrice announces. ‘But it makes me a little sad.’

‘Why are you sad, Monkey?’ Chloe looks concerned, and Lucifer looks over to the sticky child warily. To his surprise, Beatrice turns her enormous eyes on him.

‘Did you have any friends? You know, before you came here to work with mom. Were there people like Aziraphale and Crowley?’

‘Well,’ he prevaricates, treading carefully with a brief glance at the Detective. ‘I had Mazikeen, of course. She served my every need, and she was… is, a friend.’31

 

31 Plus, well, benefits, but something tells him it may not be precisely politic to say that right now in present company.

Beatrice brightens. ‘Of course! Maze is my best friend, she’s awesome. She must have been the most amazing friend.’ She pauses for a moment, looking solemn again. ‘You know you can borrow her whenever you want. I’ll let you. You can be best friends with her too.’

Lucifer blinks.

Chloe is biting at her lower lip that is incredibly distracting and - Dad forbid - horribly endearing as she watches their little interplay.

‘Thank you,’ he finally decides. ‘But-’

‘Do you have any angel friends? Amenadiel is kinda grumpy, are all angels like that really?’ the child steps over whatever he had to reply with, and he’s less irritated by it than relieved of all things. ‘You should have a friend like Aziraphale.’

‘Well,’ Lucifer glances back at Chloe briefly.

‘Oh,’ Beatrice says, very softly, and he turns back to her. Her eyes are shining, and her little fist is curled tight around the handle of her cocoa mug. ‘Mom. Mom is like your Aziraphale!’ If anything, her little eyes get even bigger. ‘Is that what Aziraphale and Crowley are like? Are they-’ she drops her voice a little. ‘Kissing?’

‘Maybe, Monkey,’ Chloe cuts across Lucifer’s immediate reaction to say yes of course, it’s been 6,000 years in that bloody book, they’d better have gotten some action sometime in that time even if Aziraphale was a stodgy old angel for most of it. ‘You know it’s okay for two guys to kiss, right?’32

 

32 Lucifer resists the urge to correct the Detective on both the species and gender. From the sound of the human book, he doubts Aziraphale and Crowley are any more guys than well, he necessarily is.

Beatrice rolls her eyes. ‘I know mom, Meg at school has two dads. And Charlie has, like, three moms. But in the books where there’s a princess and a prince they kiss at the end. It’s true love! Why didn’t they kiss in the book?’

Chloe considers the question for a moment, and Lucifer buries his face in his mug.33

 

33 He is, not for the first time, incredibly thankful that unlike his fictional Satanic counterpart he was never stupid enough to attempt to generate offspring, potential means to destroy the Silver City or no. No, he decides, it is quite wonderful to have such a perfectly child-free life.34
34An impartial observer might note here the very overt, loud and sticky presence of a child in this glorious child-free vision of Lucifer’s but as Lucifer’s psychiatrist, the venerable Dr Linda Martin, MD had once said to him: ‘Lucifer, denial is not just a river in Egypt.’

‘You know just because two people like each other very much, they don’t have to be kissing. Sometimes it’s more complicated than that. Like your dad and me. I’m still friends with your dad, but I don’t want to kiss him.’35

 

35 Thank Dad.

‘No,’ the child looks sly. ‘You want to kiss Lucifer.’

Chloe nods slowly. ‘Yes,’ a little pink rises in her cheeks, and Lucifer watches it, enraptured. ‘But you know we spent a lot of time not kissing too. Sometimes we need time to figure it out.’

Beatrice considers this for a second then nods, like she’s decided that the answer was good enough. ‘It’s boring anyway, there’s enough boring stuff about Newt and Ana-ana-ananthem-a-’ she stutters then pokes her tongue out ‘the witch, anyway. It’s good there wasn’t more romance.’

‘I’m glad you enjoyed the book,’ Chloe says, collecting Beatrice’s now empty mug along with Lucifer’s. ‘But you need to clean your teeth again. Time for bed for real now.’

Beatrice sighs, sounding very put upon, and it’s only with a great degree of foot dragging and stomping that she makes her way to the bathroom to re-scrub her shark-like fangs.

Left alone with Chloe, Lucifer looks studiously down at his nails. One of them has a slight micro-tear, he can see where it’s going to start pulling if he doesn’t immediately file it.

‘Thank you for reading to her,’ Chloe says, and Lucifer looks up at her.

‘Well of course, detective. It’s good to keep these young minds sharp.’

She just smiles, and leans in to kiss him.

Well then, he thinks. Good Omens - an acceptable portent.