“It should be in here.”
Chloe’s voice, though steady, was a lie. It was strange to be up here. Lights out, furniture covered, no sounds of the club thumping through the floor. It was like the loft apartment didn’t truly, properly exist when Lucifer wasn’t in it.
“And he’s still not answering?” Dan ran a finger along the edge of Lucifer’s personal bar, trailing a line through six months of dust. “Even for him—“
“I know,” Chloe shot back as she pulled on a pair of latex gloves. “Let’s just find it and go. The sooner you get into Delucca’s club, the sooner we can figure out who was on Bharti’s tail before he died.”
“Are you afraid of leaving prints? I doubt he’s going to care you were here while he was gone.” Dan put his hands on his hips. “There’s zero security on this place.”
“Well, there are consequences when you steal from the Devil,” Chloe muttered.
Dan chuckled, and Chloe felt her chest growing heavy. She stepped over to the piano, shrouded in heavy white like the rest of the furniture. On impulse, she lifted the sheet and uncovered the keys. Her fingers tapped out a stilted melody.
Heart and soul, I begged to be adored. Lost control, and tumbled overboard, gladly.
That magic night we kissed, there in the moon mist.
“Hey.” Dan put his hand on her shoulder. “He’ll be back. Whether we like it or not. He’s like a bad penny that way.”
Chloe shut the lid and pulled the cover back. “Focus, please. And put on your gloves. It’s not about prints. It’s about hygiene. We need to look through Lucifer’s drawers.”
“I’ll do the heavy searching, but it’ll go faster with you checking, too.”
“What if he put it in the safe?”
Chloe shook her head and took the first step up into the bedroom. “Not this. The things he keeps in there… They’re more important. Sentimental, or too dangerous to just chuck. It’s for being careful. Not for VIP passes to elite clubs.”
She directed him to a shelf in the corner.
“Trixie still goes on about Lucifer’s ‘princess bedroom’,” Dan said.
Chloe almost smiled, but then her eyes caught a figure in the dark. Someone curled up among the lush duvet and black sheets. One of Lucifer’s strays, maybe? Came by for a good night, only to find the place deserted?
She moved her hand toward the light but froze as she saw something flashing by the head of the bed. Her heart began to pound as she realized the figure was looking straight at her, eyes like twin stars in the dark. That was no stray lover. It was something not human, possibly something celestial.
“Dan, check the bathroom,” Chloe said quietly.
“I don’t see how that’s going to be any less disturbing.”
Keeping her eyes fixed on the unblinking glow in front of her, Chloe swallowed and put her hand on her gun. It was unlikely to stop whatever this was, but at the very least, she might distract it. The figure shifted away from her, and she flicked on the lights.
And her heart dropped into her stomach.
Dark blood seeped through a bandage on his forehead over which his hair was roughly and unevenly cut. Deep bruises smeared under both eyes, and one eye swollen nearly shut. Lips split in two places, mottling of old bruises along his neck and jaw, shoulders shaking just from the effort of being upright.
It was Lucifer. And he was staring at her with an expression so hollow and blank that Chloe was torn between crying and running over to smack him for leaving when she’d begged him not to. But she couldn’t. He was beat to Hell, probably quite literally, and he blinked at her with an expression somewhere between agony and bafflement as he slipped over the far side of the bed and continued to retreat toward the window.
“Don’t go!” Chloe pleaded, reaching out for him.
He did still. Confusion seemed to be winning. He licked his lips and seemed to be trying to find the words when Dan appeared, gun raised.
“Dan, don’t!” Chloe said. “He’s hurt.”
But Lucifer looked nonplussed. He just tilted his head to the side as he blinked at Dan, and the gun, and Chloe.
“What the Hell?” Dan lowered his gun and put it away. “I’ll call 911.”
“No. I’ve got it.”
“Look at him! He has a concussion. God, if he’s not bleeding to death. You didn’t see that bathroom. It’s like a triage camp collided with a barbershop.’
Chloe spared a questioning look for Dan before taking a few experimental steps toward Lucifer.
He stepped back. Not afraid, although there was that. It was a guardedness. A seriousness. Then, a low, raspy voice came from him:
“Are you with Sandy?”
There was something wrong about it. It hit her ears harshly, and Chloe couldn’t place exactly what it was.
“We’re just here for your VIP pass to DeLucca’s place,” Dan said. “That’s all. Looks like you’ve had a rough couple of months. We need to get you to a hospital.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I told me to stay put.” He frowned and glanced around the room as though he’d never really seen it before. “Where… Where did I go?”
Just then, one of his legs buckled beneath him, and Chloe rushed to his side, half afraid he would fly out the window leaving her with heart-sick worry and questions from Dan. When her arms went around his back to support him, Chloe felt the hot, wet blood through his black silk pajama. She pulled back the collar a bit to see the blood seeping through bandages.
Someone had cut off his wings.
Trying to catch her breath, remembering too vividly Lucifer nearly bleeding to death in the club below, just from her presence, Chloe steeled herself.
“Help me,” she barked. “Get him onto the bed. Not on his back.”
Dan hurried over and did as he was told. It took the two of them a minute or two, but Lucifer didn’t struggle. He just watched them curiously. When he was settled back onto the bed, Chloe sat beside him, cataloguing injuries and making a mental list of anyone, or anything, who might be able to do this. Her knowledge—meticulously gathered from Team Celestials and Pierce’s old files that she had liberated after her month long leave after his death—was far from complete. Another angel? The demons he’d gone back to Hell to quell? He hadn’t been anywhere near her when this had happened. The choices were limited.
When her hand touched his side, he winced and pushed her arm away.
“I just want to see how hurt you are. What happened to you?” Chloe realized then that Dan was still there, taking all this in. Hopefully, he wouldn’t demand too much from her about her reaction to Lucifer in this state.
“The chances that you might find it in you to believe me are infinitesimally small. But… I do appreciate the concern.”
“I’d believe you! Do you really think after all this time, I wouldn’t believe you?” Chloe snapped. Slowly, it dawned on her what was so wrong about his voice.
His accent had gone completely flat. There was no softness to the Rs, no odd emphasis, no lilting upturn at the end of sentences, with his charming smile. In fact, he hadn’t smiled once.
“Whatever happened to you, we’ll get you help, okay?” Chloe promised. “I’ll call your brother right now.”
Lucifer frowned. “You know my… brother?”
Chloe didn’t know how to react to that. She shook her head dumbly as she looked up at Dan. He pointed to his temple and mouthed the words “Head injury!”
Chloe feared worse, though. She’d learned how much faster time passed down in Hell. Six months… Hundreds of thousands of years, for him. How could he possibly remember her after all that time? It was too much to expect.
Lucifer curled over on himself, snaking an arm over his middle as he breathed heavily. Chloe bowed over him, touching his face gently, but he jumped at her touch, which only made him wince from his other wounds. So she sat back, at a loss for how to help.
Maybe Dan was right. Chloe pulled out her phone.
“I’m calling Linda, okay? We need to—“
“No one can know that I’m here,” he said. “You should just go.”
His eyes burned into her, going first pale green and then a dizzying white. She found herself putting the phone back in her pocket.
“You can’t ask me to just leave you here!” she protested.
His eyes searched her face with a kind of distant interest. “Why do you want to help me so badly?”
Chloe covered her mouth and bit back a scream. At least that part of Lucifer was still the same. That infuriating, incorrigible part of him that never, ever understood that people loved him and worried about him.
“Hey,” Dan said. He stood there awkwardly, his eyes moving from Lucifer to Chloe and back again. “Hey, buddy. Do you know who you are?”
Lucifer rolled his head back to look at Dan. “I am The Voice. I am The Eyes. I am one half of Destruction-Creation, a fragment of a servant to The Presence, held in obeisance forever and ever, amen.”
Dan clicked his tongue. “Okay.”
“Mm-hm.” Chloe tried to take that all in, but… who had the time to unpack all that? Moreover, Lucifer never used those formal terms, even if she did spend the time trying to decode what that was in celestial speak.
Whatever had happened to him, whoever had done this—Chloe couldn’t help him by staying by his side. He needed time to heal, and he’d so that so much better and faster if she weren’t there. It pained her, but it was their reality.
“All right.” Chloe bobbed her head, trying to convince herself. She got up and went back to work, pawing through the drawers until she found the pass they’d been looking for. “I’m going to get Jenkins to go undercover for this. Can you stay here and just keep an eye on him until I get back?”
“You want me to be his babysitter?” Dan rolled his eyes and looked at Lucifer. “I still think we need to get him to a hospital. It looks like his side is bleeding, too.”
Chloe looked back to Lucifer and wanted more than anything to check his wounds, help him through this. As mad as she was at him for having left her there on the balcony… He was back. Somehow. And all she had to do was stay away long enough for him to put himself back together.
“Chlo, he could die.”
“He won’t. Look, you don’t have to entertain him. Just... be here. I’ll be back soon, or I’ll—“ She wanted to say she’d sense someone, but something prevented her.
“Got it. Fine. But if he goes into shock, I’m calling an ambulance.”
Lucifer was watching them. His eyes were still curious, but thankfully no longer emitting that strange unearthly light. Chloe couldn’t imagine what had changed in him that his eyes had gone from red to white like that. She wondered how much his other form had changed as well.
But time was of the essence, and she had some things to figure out before she got back. She leaned over the bed and kissed Lucifer on the forehead, eliciting a spark of softness in his eyes.
“I know you, don’t I?”
“You do,” Chloe confirmed. “Get some rest. I’ll be back. I promise.”
Turning to walk away from him had never been harder.
* * *
“So we have the same tire tracks here that… Uh… Hey.” Ella leaned to the side and waved.
“No, sorry. My mind was somewhere else. You said we got a match?” Chloe stopped biting her thumbnail and straightened her shoulders.
“I did, but is there something wrong? You can talk to me,” Ella said. “I know it’s been rough couple of months.”
She didn’t say Lucifer’s name. Of course. Chloe had been less than forthcoming about where he’d gone, and eventually, Ella had learned to stop asking. Dan had thought that Lucifer was dead. He’d been pretty confident that someone had put a hit out on Lucifer. Ella had assumed, at first, that he’d be back pretty quickly, and then insisted on a trip to Vegas, just to be sure.
But of course, he hadn’t come back. He was a busy man. Running Hell. Protecting the Earth from the demon hordes.
“No, I’m fine,” Chloe said. “Keep going.”
She was torn, to be honest. She could’ve talked to Amenadiel, gotten him to go set up a vigil with Lucifer while he healed. He was worried, too. Or Linda, who would know how to draw Lucifer out, what to say. Maze and Eve were both out of town, but one or the other would likely come help.
Something kept her from picking up her phone again, though. She couldn’t say what it was.
Chloe nodded along with Ella, but her mind was beginning to drift again. To the image of blood soaking through bandages on his back, the way he curled his arm around his middle, the wrongness of his voice. Could he become a different person in such a short amount of time?
Well, again, not that short for him. He had been in Hell for longer stretches, though.
“Oh, it’s Dan,” Ella said.
Chloe half-turned to see Dan practically running in to see them.
“We’ve got trouble,” he said immediately.
“What, did you just leave him there?” Chloe snapped. “I told you—“
“He was the one who left!”
“He could barely stand.”
“Whaaaat are you guys talking about?” Ella burst out.
“Lucifer,” Dan said.
Ella’s eyes went round as plates. “For real?” She swatted at Chloe. “You didn’t say anything!”
“I didn’t know what was going on yet.” The explanation was lame, and she knew it. “Dan, how did you lose him?”
“I was in the bathroom—“
“Luce snuck out while you were taking a piss?” Ella grinned. “Classic.”
“I wasn’t—Look, the place was a huge mess. I was trying to sweep up the torn clothes and cut hair, at least. He didn’t look like he’d be in the mood for housework any time soon. Then I heard a crash and when I walked out, there was a freakin’ hole in the wall, and Lucifer was gone.”
“Whoa.” Ella looked to Chloe. “Should we go check it out? Figure out what happened? Wait, was Lucifer hurt really bad?”
“I don’t know what we should do, and… yes,” Chloe answered. “Actually, maybe it’s time to get some help.”
“I’ll put out a BOLO for Lucifer. If anyone sees him, they can get him to a hospital,” Dan suggested.
“No. I was thinking we should do what I should’ve done the moment we found him: Contact the family.” Chloe pulled out her phone and felt, just slightly, another tug. Something telling her to put the phone away.
No one can know that I’m here.
He wasn’t there anymore, though, and Chloe wasn’t the only person who missed him.
“Hey, Linda. We found Lucifer… Well, that’s the thing, we also lost him again right away, and he’s very badly hurt. Do you think Amenadiel could get a sitter long enough to help us look for him?”
* * *
The wound on his right side had reopened. Or it had never closed. He wasn’t sure about that. All he knew was that blood dripped behind him. These nice silk pajamas, despite being black, were probably ruined.
The blood hit the pavement as he walked and bloomed prettily into a flower that had never before been seen on Earth. The people passed him on the street, many turning their heads, some stopping to outright stare. He touched his back to be sure that his wings hadn’t returned yet. They had not. But they would.
His attention drifted down to the ground, where his flowers grew. Kneeling down, hand holding his side, he brushed his fingers over the red, iridescent petals.
“New life… Of course,” he murmured. “Leaking substances much more precious than vital fluids.”
“Excuse me, mister!”
He rose to look the human who had addressed him in the eye. The young man, clean-cut and in a suit, held out a pamphlet for him.
“We have a shelter not too far from here. What do you say? A bowl of soup a change of clothes? We can even get you an ice pack for that eye,” the young man offered.
He looked down at the pamphlet in his hand. “New Life through Christ!” it said.
“I actually knew Yeshua, you know. He was a sweet boy. Bit of a temper, but no worse than my brother’s, or my father’s, come to it. Blessed, by my father’s choice, but you shouldn’t burden him with changing your life. He had enough burdens in his own.” He looked into the young man’s eyes. “Do you have things in your life you would like to see changed?”
“Oh, I work on myself every day. My story’s not that unique. I’m lucky, though. Some people die of their addictions. Me, I just get to spend the rest of my life missing a drug.”
“I see. Plenty of people succumb like that, you know. You shouldn’t be ashamed.” He bent over and plucked a flower, then gave it to the young man. “Take this and be well. Never want for that high again. As long as you do good work for others, you are blessed, Dave.”
The young man, Dave, looked down at the flower. His shoulders relaxed and his eyes, prematurely lined, softened.
“How did you…? Are you Jesus?”
He laughed. Hard enough that a pain shot through his side. “Not quite.”
“C’mon. Let me get you some proper clothes.”
“You don’t owe me anything. You made me smile. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I did that.”
Dave offered him a hand. “Just some real clothes. And shoes.”
“If you insist.”
He went along with the young man, who now breathed easier, and he trailed the hand he’d pressed to his side along the wall next to them, making a long arc of flowers following in their wake.
* * *
Maze had only been back in town for a few hours, and they were proving to be a real bitch.
She’d been tracking a bounty in SoCal when she’d gotten a text from Lucifer cashing in on his favor. It had been their arrangement—her idea, not his—to guarantee his forgiveness for the torture she’d put him through when she was working with Cain. A deal with the devil: Accept my apology, and you get a favor to be named in the future.
He’d already sort of forgiven her, of course. Lucifer had always been mercurial, and it didn’t take him long to move from one worry to the next. Celestial ADHD, maybe. By the time Maze had gotten back to him after checking in on Linda, he had been so worried about what Chloe had seen that he’d been willing to wave off most of what she’d done. Especially since she had been there looking out for Linda. Maze had insisted, though. They didn’t need random, unresolved feelings between them anymore.
Neither of them were good enough at dealing with those for it to be beneficial in the long run.
Maze, it’s me. I need you to get back to the loft to do a spot of protection/babysitting duty. Come as quick as you can.
She’d tried to text him back, and then to call him, but he’d been “unavailable.” And, she’d assumed, “unavailable” meant “in Hell.” So, she’d booked it back to LA as fast as she could, probably breaking more than a few laws both of humankind and physics on her way, only to find the loft an actual disaster area, with a hole blown in the wall and the bathroom practically a murder scene. The blood smelled familiar, and she took a bit of the hair on the floor with her. There was an unfamiliar scent here, too. Probably whoever had gone through the wall.
It made her think that the person Lucifer had wanted her to protect didn’t need that much protecting. Or that the person was, as the Goddess had been, a case of keeping that person contained.
Maze sniffed the hair again and felt over it. A strange feeling started to squirm in her gut. She knew that texture. Most of the highest ranking Lilim would. It had been, for a time, a bit of a perk of the job. Rise high enough in the echelons of Hell, and be pretty enough, and you’d get to fuck the King himself. Not that Lucifer hadn’t been picky even then, but human rulers didn’t have such fun with their underlings.
She sort off doubted the demons were getting perks like that these days, after kidnapping his nephew and trying to overrun the Earth.
Quite naturally, her investigation drifted to Lucifer’s bed. The sheets were rumpled, bloodied. Even against the high thread-count black cotton, she would’ve noticed the blood, if not smelled it. Setting her knives on the nightstand, Maze slipped into the bed and pulled the sheets up to her nose. She breathed in deeply and let the scents wash over her.
Lucifer… CHLOE? (Get it, girl.) And something else… Oh. Ohhhh.
Things were about to get interesting.
Maze rolled out of the bed and touched the pillow. Same dark hair. Was it Lucifer’s, or someone else’s? She sniffed it. No product. Hm.
Collecting her knives, Maze’s mind was busy. She headed out to find her target, pausing only briefly to investigate the rubble on the ground below. No lingering scents, because there were no soft surfaces, but whoever had gone flying out of the wall had gotten right up. Not strong enough to overpower Lucifer’s ward, but strong enough to walk away.
Maze swung her knives a bit, thinking, wondering. Then, the hunt commenced.
* * *
The shelter had been a sad place, but he left it a big brighter, and with different clothing, and sandals. Not that he minded the hot concrete or the pricking things on the ground. Apart from his existing wounds, which didn’t seem to be healing, he seemed quite impervious. He kept walking. He didn’t have a plan, exactly. His thoughts bounced around and scattered in his head. But it had been too long since he’d walked the Earth, and unlike many of his brothers and sisters, he quite liked humans. In a general sense.
He passed several blocks. Lots of people lingered on the streets. Some clung to their street corners. He made sure to stop by each of these, talk with the people there, and wish them well. Whether they had a cup in hand or offered him a bed for an hour, he knew there was good to be found in each, and they of all people could use a blessing the most.
Just as the nascent threads of a plan began to form in his mind, a woman’s sobs caught his ears and he drifted toward a tall building. Up the stairs and then down a long hall, and he was at the door of the woman’s apartment. The door was locked, but that was hardly an obstacle. He gave it a simple push and the door came open off of its hinges.
“What the fuck? Who the Hell are you?”
The man standing over the woman was tall, broad shouldered, unshaven and unwashed. The man rushed toward him and with a mere flick of the wrist, ended up crumpled against the wall.
“Pl-please,” the woman choked out. Her face was streaked with tears. “Don’t hurt me.”
He froze. Her hands were bound against the metal pipes holding a radiator to the wall. Her wrists were raw from struggling to escape. Her dress was torn.
“Your eyes,” she gasped.
Let me go. Please, brother. This is beneath you.
The woman’s sobs grew louder as she cowered away from him. Hands shaking, chest beginning to heave, he reached over and tore the pipe out of the wall. She could’ve used more from him. She needed more. But his feet had taken him out of the door before he could think about it. Back down the stairs. Into the streets.
He was walking faster now. Images flooding in front of his eyes. The sounds of ripping. The smell of his own blood. The feeling as each one of them died. Over and over and over. Darkness and blood and pain and betrayal, unending, surrounding, forever and ever….
There were people all around him now. Few were paying attention as he stopped in front of a fountain and pushed his hands through his hair and shook, full-bodied, as he tried to contain the years of suffering. But he couldn’t, and gradually, a low scream worked its way through and burst out of him.
And the ground began to shake around him.
* * *
“Anyone could’ve come after him,” Amenadiel said. He had one arm wrapped around Charlie’s waist, keeping him from falling from the couch. “My first thought would be the higher ranking demons, of course.”
Charlie smiled at Chloe, and she caught his eye and smiled back.
“Aren’t they afraid of him?” Linda said.
“They were, but after his long absence, anything could be going on down there.” Amenadiel shook his head. “He locked the gates. I couldn’t get in to find out if I wanted to. I could try again, if you’d like.”
“I doubt he’s gone back there if they were the ones who hurt him,” Chloe said. “He was… I don’t know how to describe it. He just wasn’t him. Even when he’d gone full-on Devil Mode, and people were just confessing as he walked by, he was himself. The way Lucifer was acting was so strange. Dan said it was a concussion. Can you get a concussion?”
“Celestials can harm each other,” Amenadiel confirmed. He handed Charlie off to Linda, who took him over to a gated play area and let him down. “It could very well be that another angel felt he, or she, was doing Father’s will and targeted Lucifer… Seems like a bonehead move now that he’d returned to Hell.”
“Would there be any angels who would want to take Hell from him?” Chloe asked.
“Couldn’t they have just taken it while he was on vacation? He was gone a long time,” Linda pointed out.
“True.” Chloe rubbed the back of her finger against her mouth.
Amenadiel crossed his arms. “More than that, you won’t find many angels willing to go to Hell for any reason.”
Chloe nodded. “Okay. I guess our best bet right now is to go out and find him ourselves. I didn’t want any police officers running across him when he’s like this. He took out a wall trying to defend himself. He’s not thinking, probably running on instinct—“
She stumbled to the ground as the ground suddenly began to move around them.
“Linda!” Amenadiel’s wings unfurled over them as Linda grabbed Charlie, who had begun to scream.
“Get away from light fixtures!” Chloe yelled.
Amenadiel swept his arms around them and guided them into the doorway. Chloe closed her eyes and grabbed onto the doorframe. It was a long one, and as every second passed, she imagined all the damage being done, the lives being lost…
And finally, it was over, and she tentatively stepped into the room. Linda held Charlie close, swaying him back and forth to soothe him.
“Can angels cause that?” Chloe asked.
“I-I don’t know,” Amenadiel admitted. “But we’d better start to looking.”