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The Devil's Gift

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The first thing Buffy became aware of was pain. Her entire body felt like one big ache. To top it all, she felt like she was in an oven; the heat was so overwhelming. She could hardly breathe; her tongue was swollen and dry and the sun was so oppressive she couldn’t see a single thing but waves of distorted air.

Odd, she’d always thought that death meant darkness.

And how the hell had she gotten to the beach, she thought, as she felt the abrasive grains of sand on her limbs. The tower she’d jumped from had been in the industrial part of town.

Buffy shakily got to her feet and stumbled through the sand; her efforts hampered by the yielding ground. She shook her head, trying to clear her brain enough to think clearly. Squinting against the strong sun, she could make out nothing of the landscape to tell her where she was. It couldn’t have been the beach, as she’d thought earlier. No beach from home was this big, and there was no body of water close at hand.

Was this her punishment, to wander aimlessly, without even the First Slayer for company?

Was she in Hell? If so, Buffy thought she deserved to be. All the people she’d failed to save, the sacrifice she’d been unwilling to make in the name of the ‘greater good’, according to Giles… and yet she walked on, hoping to see something or someone in this wasteland.

She held her hand over her eyes, trying to shield them from the worst of the rays, in a desperate attempt to make out a path… when she saw him. A man, bruised and shredded, light surrounding his large, white wings.

Wait… what? Wings? She must be seeing things. What did they call the visions? An oasis? Could a singular man be called an oasis? Was he her guardian angel?

Buffy could go on no longer. A weak cry escaped her parched lips, drawing the attention of the man, as she collapsed to her knees. The last thing she saw was him rushing towards her, before everything faded to cool, blessed black.

***

Who was this mysterious young woman, he wondered? And could she possibly have had anything to do with his unplanned relocation to the middle of the desert?

Looking at the mystery lady, lying unconscious in her bed, with monitors beeping annoyingly every few seconds, he didn't think such a tiny thing could be responsible for bonking him over the head and transporting them both... but it couldn't be a coincidence, could it?

Then again, he'd spent too much time with Maze and Chloe to underestimate anyone based on body mass.

Still, someone had managed to sneak up on him and knock him out. Without Chloe nearby to render him vulnerable to mortal ailments, this should have been unthinkable.

As for his newly returned wings, Lucifer couldn’t fathom the why of them after all these years. Not to mention the itch at their base. Sprouting wings was never easy.

Whomever, or whatever had done this to him, they'd royally screwed up his chance to explain himself to Chloe, as promised. How would she react, with him disappearing yet again? And how long had he actually been gone, anyway? Could be a couple of hours, or... it just didn’t bear thinking about a longer timeframe.
Once the doctors had finished giving him the least invasive exam he would allow, Lucifer called Chloe, leaving her a message to meet him at the hospital in about an hour with a change of clothes. He needed to shower, and change into something more sartorially fitting than the scrub tops the hospital supplied.

As soon as he got home the sack pretending to be a shirt was going in the fire.

He also called Maze, setting her on the trail of the bastard who'd taken him down.

***

I will not lose my temper, I will not lose my temper, Chloe fumed inwardly as she walked into the hospital room. She’d gotten the call that her partner and a young woman had been admitted.

How dare he take off for parts unknown for a month, so soon after his last disappearance and once again come back with another woman? She shook her head in frustration, and wondered if he’d married this one, like he had Candy.

At the sight of Lucifer’s bruised and peeling appearance, however, some of her anger leeched away. “What… what happened to you? Are you all right?” she asked, gently raising her hand to his face.

“Detective” Lucifer seemed surprised to see her. Then again, he shouldn’t be; after all this time she obviously had people at the hospital notifying her when her consultant, slash pain in the ass partner, slash runaway friend showed up.

She used to blame herself for his odd behavior; that maybe she scared him off by being too needy. No longer. She’d eventually got over that, and now, she just got pissed. Pissed that she'd believed that this time he wouldn’t flake off and leave her hanging.

And please god, hopefully the young woman lying in bed wasn't his new wife.

“I…”

He'd got as far as opening his mouth to answer her, when she shook her head and held up her hand. “You know what? I don't want to hear your excuses, Lucifer.”

“I ... I did not mean to leave, Detective,” he said, raising his hand, stopping her before she could interrupt him. “Not this time.”

“Then why didn't you come over, like you promised?” Chloe tried her damnedest to control her urge to stamp her foot and whine like a little girl.

She took a closer look. He really did look bad, as if someone left him in the sun way too long. And that was just the part she saw out of the hospital scrubs. It didn't add up. “Who's the girl?” she finally asked, changing the subject.

“I don't know now, do I?” Lucifer insisted. “I was trying to figure out where I was, when I practically stumbled over her. She never said a word before she passed out... and here we all are. Now you know as much as I do. She had no identification on her. Nothing but the clothes she was wearing.”

“What do you mean? Trying to figure out where you were? How drunk were you?” Chloe didn't mean for that to come out as accusingly as it did. She tried to mentally backtrack: imagine that this is Trixie… Lucifer and her eight year old daughter did have the same level of emotional maturity, after all.

Lucifer, however, took no offense or notice to – or notice of – her tone. “Look, Detective... there's not much else I can tell you. Right after we spoke on the phone, someone conked me on the head, and the next thing I remember was waking up shirtless in the desert. I came across the girl barely moments after.”

He seemed almost as if he were in shock. At the very least, he was confused – unsure, even. She knew Lucifer wasn't half as sure of himself as he tried to be on any given occasion, but right now, it felt like he was desperately trying to pretend his defensive walls were still in place, while in reality, he was standing amidst their shattered remains.

“When did this happen?” Chloe asked softly. All the time she'd been pissed at him, her friend had been taken – kidnapped – and instead of looking for him... She had to be practical. Castigating herself for the past wouldn't help tell the tale, and certainly wouldn't help the Jane Doe in the bed.

“I’m all right, Detective,” Lucifer insisted “No worries.”

“That's not what I asked, Lucifer,” Chloe said, trying to pin him down to a straight answer. “Who do you think took you?”

“I don't know who took me, but I've asked Maze to do her tracking thing and see what she can come up with.”

Just then, the girl in the bed woke up with a groan – and panicked. Yanking the monitor and IV lines from her body, she struck out at the bars surrounding the bed. They twisted as she beat on the restraints keeping her from falling out of the bed. Chloe couldn’t imagine a person of her size managing to bend the bars out of shape solely from the force of her hands. The amount of adrenaline the girl must have running through her system must be staggering.

Alarms clanged as nurses and orderlies came running, but the girl evaded them like a whirlwind. She wasn't just strong; she was fast, as well.

“Now isn't that interesting,” Lucifer practically purred.

When the girl attempted to run past both herself and Lucifer, inasmuch as they were blocking to room’s exit, Lucifer jumped in front of her. He had to be insane, seeing how wild and out of control the girl was. He should know better than to put himself in the line of fire. Instead, he simply let her lash out at him, as he tried to contain her. She kicked him in the shins, which luckily didn't have the painful impact it would have, had she been wearing shoes.

A pair of well-muscled orderlies came up from behind and grabbed the young woman by the arms. A nurse administered a sedative. When it apparently had no effect, she administered a second, stronger dose, which appeared to take the edge off her fury.

When they finally managed to finagle her back into bed, Lucifer was staring at her with the kind of fascination he usually showed for Chloe herself. She didn't want to be jealous, but she couldn’t help it.

“Miss,” one of the nurses addressed the patient. “Do you know where you are? Do you know who you are?”

“I-I'm thirsty,” she faintly managed to croak out. “May I have some water?” Her head dropped back onto her pillow, her eyes losing focus. “Where am I?” the Jane Doe rasped. “Is this Hell?”

The sedative finally took full effect and she fell into unconsciousness.

Chapter Text

The first thing she noticed was the smell... the antiseptic, fake-citrusy cleaning supply smell that she absolutely hated! It just screamed HOSPITAL in great big honking capital letters.

She tried to lift up her hand, wanting to rub the crust from her eyes, only to find that she couldn’t… her hands were tied to the rails of the bed by a pair of soft leather restraints.

Oh god... she remembered fighting... thought they were demons, as usual, but being in the hospital, it must have been either nurses or orderlies.

“Hey there,” a woman carrying a clipboard and several folders said as she entered the door to Buffy’s room. “Welcome back.”

Buffy raised her eyes, even as she continued to try and free herself. Her thoughts were kinda hazy and her movements sluggish. She felt drugged or possibly be-spelled.

“Where am I?” Buffy demanded.

“Oh, everything’s fine, dear. You're in Good Samaritan Hospital, in Los Angeles. A man found you wandering in the desert, and you were brought here, both dehydrated and confused. I’m Doctor Linda Martin, and I'd like to try and help you get your bearings. Do you remember who you are, and what you were doing there?”

She turned her head, staring at the window on the wall to her left. It didn't look hellish, but this could be some sort of elaborate hallucination designed to totally trick her into believing she was safe.

“I-I'm Buffy,” she said... biting back the ‘the vampire Slayer’ that wanted to come out. “Buffy Summers.” Judging by the lack of stethoscope around her neck, Buffy figured out she must be a shrink. The little hairs on the back of her neck and arms rose as she realized she’d have to be very careful in her replies.

The doctor waited for her to continue, ignoring the awkward moment of silence that followed her revelation.

“And I don't know how I got here,” Buffy continued. “I was... I was in Sunnydale, I fell, and then...” She tried to remember the train of events… Glory, her friends joining her to fight the fashion-challenged God, Spike being thrown off the tower, Dawn bleeding... “And then I was walking in the sand, the sun beating down on my head, and I thought I saw an angel.” The word slipped out before she could help herself. “Guess he turned out to be my Guardian Angel after all, since he saved me, I guess,” Buffy clarified.

“Well... he does have his moments,” the doctor agreed. “He'd like to see you, along with his partner, Detective Decker, if you're agreeable. They’re worried about you.”

“I'd like that too. To thank him,” Buffy said, wondering why a cop would want to see her.

The doctor smiled, wavering a bit as Buffy once again struggled against her restraints.

“Are these necessary?” Buffy figured she might as well ask. Even if this were hell… if demons were trying to fool her, they might set her free if they thought it would help her buy into it. And if it wasn't demons, pretending to cooperate by playing the sweet, innocent girl, they might lower their guard around her, so she could escape. Or at least give her a phone so she could call Giles or the others for help.

The shrink hesitated for a moment, sharing a glance with a man and a woman who had just walked into her room, before coming to her bedside to remove the restraints. Buffy gently rubbed her wrists, trying to get her circulation flowing again after being tied down.

“Ms. Summers,” Doctor Martin began, “I'd like to introduce you to Lucifer Morningstar and Detective Decker.”

“O-kay.” Could she still be dreaming? Or unconscious… or maybe really delusional. Lucifer? The Prince of Darkness? Could be some version of Hell, after all. Well there were plenty of vampires who liked to pretend they were Lestat or something. And of course, she’d met the real Dracula. So she figured there had to be demon fanboys out there. Whatever, she couldn't deny he was damned fine to look at.

“Well, hello there, darling,” ‘Lucifer’ practically purred. “And how are we feeling this morning?”

Detective Decker lightly smacked Lucifer on the arm and shook her head in annoyance. “Is there someone you’d like to call, Miss Summers?” she asked.

We would like to get out of this bed,” Buffy said, her body nearly vibrating with the need to move.

“Are you sure you're not going to attack anyone today?” Doctor Martin asked. “You put on quite the show yesterday.”

“I attacked people?” she squeaked. Damn, that ruined the harmless little girl act.

“Not to mention you twisted the metal safety bars on your bed. Were you under the influence of anything we should know about?”

“I don't know. I ... could have been? Right?”

“Perhaps it was just an adrenaline rush,” the doctor reasoned, “brought on by being abandoned in the desert, and then finding yourself in a hospital setting. It would make sense you’d be rather upset.”

“Did someone offer you a drink?" Detective Decker’s kindly expression loosened the teensiest bit of the knot in Buffy’s chest. At least she wasn’t accused of being a total freak.

“I don't know. I... I don't remember,” she replied, hesitantly. “What day is it?" She remembered beating up the vampire at the back of the Magic Shop, talking about how to take on Glory, fighting the God’s minions, climbing the tower to rescue Dawn… None of the above were appropriate to tell the doctor, or she’d be committed again, for sure. Once was enough, thank you.

“Today is June 30th, dear,” Dr. Martin replied to her question.

“What year?”

The doctor looked puzzled. “Excuse me?”

“What year is this?” Buffy reiterated. “June 30th 2000 and what?”

“It’s okay, Buffy,” Detective Decker tried to soothe her. “It’s June 30th, 2017.”

Buffy nearly choked on the water she’d been handed, earlier.

“What year were you expecting, sweetie?” Lucifer asked, staring at her with an intense look on his face.

Think carefully, Buffy, she thought. Looney bin alert, remember? “N-never mind. Of course it’s 2017. I don’t know why I asked such a silly question. It must be the drugs… the sedative… still in my system.”

She got the stink-eye from the detective, but Lucifer was eyeing her with curiosity.

“What do you want, Miss Summers?” The man (or possibly demon) asked. “What is it you ... desire?” His voice was smooth, soothing… it reminded her a little bit of Spike when he got in a good innuendo. So smooth, and his eyes looked deeply into hers, into her very soul, as if trying to drag something out of her, against her will.

Buffy, however, was having none of that. “What does every girl want? A nice outfit, some new shoes...” If he thought he was going to mind whammy her, he had another think coming. He had nothing on the Master, and she had no trouble with him... at least the second time.

“Let me guess, you're another one of dear old Dad's little miracles?” he asked with a snort, as if her defiance amused him.

“Probably not, since he left me and my Mom and sister and ran off with his secretary,” was her quick response. Now it was Lucifer's turn to look flummoxed.

“I wanted to know what day it was, so I’d know how worried I should be about my friends and my sister.” She wasn't sure if she heard him correctly when he mumbled something along the lines of: ‘You and me both, kiddo.’

Once again, Buffy gathered her nerves. “May I please have a telephone to call my family?” She couldn’t let anyone in the room know that she was petrified upon finding out that she was supposedly sixteen years in the future. Would her friends and sister still be in Sunnydale? Would they still be alive? Did they finally stop looking for her?

Doctor Martin probably took pity on her, because she produced a phone from the drawer of the table next to her bed.

“A little privacy would be nice,” she asked, her lower lip quivering as she thought of her loved ones. “I promise I won’t run off.”

The trio filed out, reluctantly, but did shut the door to ensure her privacy. Buffy knew they wouldn’t be far away, but at least she hoped they wouldn’t be eavesdropping.

“First things, first,” she said, cracking her knuckles, and punched in Angel’s number, only to hear: “I’m sorry, the number you have dialed is not in service at this time.”

Okay, that didn’t bode well. She tried the number a second time, with the same results. Frustrated, she called the operator. “How may I assist you?” a male voice asked.

“I’m trying to reach Angel Investigations in Los Angeles. The Hyperion Hotel? I’ve called twice, and I get a recording saying the number is not in service.”

“Are you sure you’re entering the correct number?”

“No, I’m using the wrong number on purpose, you idiot,” Buffy inwardly fumed. “Yes,” she gritted out through clenched teeth. “It’s a number I’m well familiar with.”

“One moment, please.” His response when he came back on the line wasn’t helpful, either. “I’m sorry, there’s no listing for Angel Investigations, or the Hyperion Hotel in Los Angeles, Miss. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

“No thanks,” Buffy spat, and slammed the receiver down. “Okay… this time I’ll try Giles.” This time her efforts were greeted with a recorded: “I’m sorry, the area code you are requesting does not exist. Please hang up and try again.”

Unfortunately, her subsequent tries at calling Dawn at Revello Drive, Xander and Anya, Willow and Tara’s private line and Giles all yielded the same result. Area code not in existence. A last try with an operator yielded: “I’m sorry, we have no listing for a Sunnydale, California. Perhaps you mean Sunnyvale?”

This time she threw the phone across the room.

Doctor Martin, closely followed by Lucifer came running into her room. “What’s wrong, Buffy? Are you all right?” she asked her patient.

What crazy world did I end up in? Where is Sunnydale?

Chapter Text

“…well, neither are you, but I don't see you being honest with the rest of the world,” Linda looked annoyed. “There must be some reason she's withholding something.” This argument had been going on for several hours now, and they couldn’t seem to reach a meeting of the minds. How hypocritical could one demon be?

“I never lied about what I am, Doctor,” Lucifer snapped. “But you saw her, yourself. She bent steel with her bare hands! She could be Supergirl, a strange visitor from another planet for all we know.”

“Okay, so you never lied directly, and you’re good with pop cultural references, but you don't go out of your way to convince people you're telling the truth either, now do you?”

“Most people aren't all that open-minded about the supernatural, especially when it’s a patient in the hospital exhibiting symptoms of abnormality,” Linda continued, reminding him. “The last thing that girl needs is to be committed when she’s perfectly sane.”

Lucifer strode across the room and poured a healthy measure of drink from the bar. As he sipped and savored his top-notch liquor, he couldn’t help stroking the smooth wood of his piano. He seemed to draw comfort from it.

Linda was unrelenting. “You know all too well that most people don't take your devil-may-care attitude and flippant comments seriously, and it would be oh-so-easy to show them the truth, if you really wanted them to know. So, don't even think about pretending you've got the high ground here.”

Maze cackled in glee. She enjoyed Lucifer being called out on his bullshit.

This time Lucifer retaliated with a cogent argument. “Well look what happened when I showed you the inner me.”

She had to concede that point to him. “Well, obviously I got over the shock, didn’t I? And so would Chloe, if you want my learned opinion. You can’t keep your true self from her forever, either.”

“Now you lay off me and Chloe, Doctor! With everything that’s gone down between us, and finding out that dear old Dad was a meddling matchmaker, it’s going to take a delicate touch to ease her into things.” Lucifer shook his head, pulling out the piano bench and finally sitting down.

 

She tried changing the subject from Chloe and getting back on track with Miss Summers. “Well, again, maybe she has a bona-fide reason she's keeping mum. It's not like she thinks we'd believe her.” Linda arose from her seat and walked over to the piano, placing a gentle hand on Lucifer’s shoulder.

“I don't think she's unstable, and we need to try and unravel the reason why the place she claims to be from doesn't exist, and the people she's related to aren't reachable.”

“Or why she seemed in shock when she found out about the date.” Lucifer eyed the doctor, not argumentative any longer, but curious.

Linda agreed. “Her backtracking was a sure sign that she was being wary of revealing something.”

“I had no effect on her either.”

Amenadiel, who’d been mostly silent up until now, smiled at that. “Obviously not everyone falls for your charms, brother.”

“Humans do,” Lucifer insisted. “Well, unless they're exceptionally strong-willed.”

“And that's the tale, isn't it, Luci?” Amenadiel couldn’t hide the smugness from his tone.

“Now, now, boys - play nice,” Linda cautioned.

“She really could be another one of Dad's miraculous interferences,” Lucifer mused, idly tickling the ivories; the soft melody smoothing out the angel’s tone.

“And I could be a ballerina!” Amenadiel spat. “Dad doesn't just hand out miracles like candy, Luci. I'm sure he had nothing to do with this one. And I know for sure I had nothing to do with it.”

Maze turned on the two men in the room, hands on her hips. “And what's wrong with there being another strong female in the world? Not everything happens on the whims of men, mortal or otherwise.”

“The fact that we don't know who, or what she is? And that she might be part of whatever managed to take me out and regrow those damn wings back on my back.” Slamming the cover down on the keys, Lucifer stood, glaring. “I think it’s too much of a coincidence that this girl appears out of time barely a month after I opened the rift to another dimension and sent Mother through it.”

“So, instead of snarling at each other like a couple of bobcats, how do we find out where she comes from? I googled Sunnydale, and there’s only one place with that name. It’s in Oregon.” Linda sighed, her shoulders weighted down with concern for her patient. “We need to gain her trust, get her to realize that she can be honest with me. I just don't know how.”

“I wouldn't mind giving her a flash of my real face,” Maze offered.

“And Luci could flash his wings,” said Amenadiel, with a trace of bitterness in his tone.

Lucifer glared at his brother.

“Or not,” Linda quickly added.

“I'll talk to her.” Maze shrugged her shoulders; it was no big deal.

***

“So, Buffy... you're a demon, right?” Maze was nothing if not blunt.

“What? No, no demon.” Buffy stared at her. “Human here, very, very human.” She glanced at the people around her in the hospital’s cafeteria, worried that they might be overheard.

Maze snorted. “Yeah, who can bend metal bars with her dainty little fingers?” Maze wiggled her fingers at Buffy with a questioning eyebrow.

Buffy instinctively pushed her chair back as the woman in front of her changed. Buffy blinked, and there sat Maze, once again just a very pretty woman.

“Pot – kettle black, much? A bit demony yourself, there, Missy.”

“Never said I wasn't.” Maze pulled her chair closer to the table, tossing her hair back over her shoulders. “The name's Mazikeen. I'm a friend of Lucifer's, but please, call me Maze.”

“So that means... Lucifer is really... Lucifer?” Buffy’s eyes widened at the realization that all was not normal here.

“Well, duh!” Maze laughed. “Son of God, fallen angel... the whole works.”

“Then I did see wings in the desert? I wasn't hallucinating?” Buffy’s fingers kneaded the bridge of her nose, a move reminiscent of Giles when he had to accept news that was hard to take. “I thought he was just a fanboy.”

“Oh, he is his biggest fan, for sure,” Maze giggled, her eyes sparkling with mischief.

“You have no idea how many vampires I've dusted that called themselves Lestat, or The Prince of Darkness… or that liked to pretend to be one of the Lost Boys.”

“Vampires? Are you shitting me? They’re for real?” For a demon, Maze was having a difficult time assimilating this revelation.

“Yeah, I'm the Slayer. The Vampire Slayer,” Buffy prodded. Maze still didn't seem to get it. With a tilt of her head, Buffy went into recitation mode, having grudgingly memorized Giles’ little speech years ago. “Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer… blah, blah, blah."

Maze seemed a little taken aback at the inclusion of demons in that little speech. “Do I have to worry about you? Do you go after any demons, or just vampires?”

“Just the ones that endanger and kill humans.”

“And that leaves me out, how?”

“I'm not armed, Maze. And you’re not a danger to anyone right now.”

“Still have those super strong hands, though.”

Buffy smiled, flexing her fingers. “Are you planning to kill me, or someone else right this very second?”

“Not really,” Maze allowed.

“Then we're cool.”

“Good to know.”

“So, my question is... now what?" Buffy asked. “Apparently, I'm sixteen years out of my time, and in a place where nobody I know exists, and my hometown has never been heard of.”

“What?”

“My bad... last thing I knew, it was 2001, and I had jumped off a tower to save my baby sister and stop the world from ending.”

“The world?” For a change, Maze was speechless, her repartee amounting to no more than two-word sentences.

“Well, really, all dimensions. Glory – a Hellgod - was trying to tear down the walls between dimensions to go back home… using the Key… who happened to be my sister. The only way to prevent total disaster, was to stop the Key's blood from flowing. Dawn was created from me, so...”

“Gods, you live one fucked up life, don't you?”

“Yeah, I do. Is this Hell? Did I end up in Hell because well, Hell portal, or did I just land in some dimension without shrimp?”

“Definitely not Hell,” Maze snickered. “…and I should know from firsthand experience. Plus, shrimp cocktails? Delish!”

Buffy couldn't help but laugh. She still wasn't sure if she should trust this woman, demon, whatever. But she reminded her in some ways of Faith, minus the psychotic tendencies.

***

**knock knock**

Chloe opened the door, to find Maze standing there, smiling like there’d be the devil to pay. “What’s the matter, Mazikeen? You forget your keys again?”

“Nah! Gotcha a surprise, buddy. Meet our new roomie!” She stepped aside, revealing one Buffy Summers.

Chapter Text

Chloe pulled Maze aside and hissed: “Are you nuts? Bringing a possible psychopath here with Trixie?”

“You don’t mind me being here,” Maze hissed back, though it was laced with humor, where the Detective’s was more hostile.

“I trust you. I don't trust her. Neither of us actually knows her!” Chloe insisted. “You may be crazy impulsive, but I trust you'd do anything to keep Trixie safe.”

“Then trust me that I wouldn’t bring anyone home who was capable of harming Trixie.” Maze quirked a brow, then winked at Buffy. “And I most assuredly wouldn’t put the kid near a threat.”

“Oh, come on, Maze.” The frustration was evident on Chloe’s face. “We still don't know if she had anything to do with Lucifer's kidnapping.”

As the two women argued, Buffy stood in the doorway, wondering if this was how Spike felt – standing in plain view of the Scoobys, and not even being acknowledged. Also, denied entrance, though for her, it was more a metaphorical than mystical barrier.

“She's just a kid, Chloe,” Maze carried on. “She's a twenty-year-old girl who recently lost her mom. She's lost – no home, no family and no friends. And aren't you supposed to be a defender of the helpless and lost?”

“She lost her mom?” Chloe visibly softened at that admission.

“Lovely, human frailty - a brain aneurysm.”

Chloe looked towards the door, at the girl who was still standing there, now wearing one of Maze's leather outfits instead of the hospital johnny she'd been wearing before. She scuffed the toe of her borrowed shoes against the floor, trying to look as if she hadn't been the topic of discussion between her and Maze.

Buffy wondered how pitiable she looked, to have Chloe looking at her like she’d lost her best friend. Wearing Maze’s clothing made her feel like less of herself than usual.

“And… the old adage of 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer' is rather fitting. At the very least she'd be easier to observe if she were in close proximity,” the detective added, slowly nodding her head.

“So, what does she remember?” Chloe sounded closer to surrender, and Maze looked almost triumphant.

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Try me.”

“Ahem,” Buffy piped up from the doorway. “I'm right here.”

“Yeah, but I wanna hear it from Maze.”

Buffy slumped against the door frame, feeling the tears build up in her eyes. What would she do if the detective refused to allow her to stay?

Maze pushed just a little bit harder to sway the Detective. “She's not a bad guy, Chloe. She's a genuine hero, as in ‘saving the world’ kind of hero.”

“You just said she was an innocent girl; does she wear a costume with a cape?”

“I never said anything about innocent." Maze turned to Buffy. "Please tell me you did, I need the laugh.”

Buffy smiled. “If nifty clothes and stylish, yet affordable boots count as a costume, then yeah... but no cape.”

“Pity. Spandex and capes can be a real turn on.”

“Leather's not a bad look, either,” Chloe mumbled under her breath.

Buffy wondered if either woman had a clue about the sparks flying between them.

Just then, a little spitfire of a girl came running out of the kitchen, the corners of her mouth crusted with crumbs and chocolate. "I just finished my milk and cookies, Mom." She gave Chloe a hug, and then turned towards Buffy. “Who're you?” she asked.

Buffy assumed this was the aforementioned Trixie.

“She's a real-life superhero," Maze said, before Buffy could introduce herself.

“Oooh, do you have a cape and mask?” The little girl's eyes were wide with excitement.

Maze nearly doubled over with laughter.

“Maze!” Chloe gasped. “She's not a superhero, Trixie. She's just a friend of Maze’s who’ll be staying with us for a while. Her name is Buffy.”

“Cool,” the little girl grinned. “Can she stay in my room?” Trixie practically hopped up and down, as if Buffy was the coolest present ever. A look from her mom was enough to make the little girl turn down her enthusiasm. She gave Buffy a coy little wave. “Hi, Buffy. Welcome to our home,” the little girl said with formal intonation, the smile on her face fighting with the seriousness of her voice.

“Listen, my little monkey,” Chloe tweaked her daughter’s nose. “Buffy can stay in the guest room.”

It hurt, listening to the mother-daughter banter. Buffy couldn't help but feel a bit sad, as she realized that never again would she and her mother engage as such. She knew her mother was gone, but this brought it home on an entirely different level.

As for the detective, Buffy was sure she didn’t believe a word of what Maze had told her. She couldn’t blame her, unfortunately… Sunnydale blindness was not confined to Sunnydale, alone. Still, she was willing to let Buffy stay with her, and for that, she was grateful.

Maze sat back in her chair, and popped the top off a bottle of beer. She didn’t look to be affected by the mother-daughter scene in front of her, but then again, what did Buffy know about the dynamics of their household?

She just wished she knew how her sister and friends were doing… how they were coping with her leap from the tower.

She prayed to the Powers that Be that Dawn and the others were fine.

***

Amenadiel wiped the sweat off his brow before raising his hand to shade his eyes from the sun. They’d been walking for at least a half hour now, and they didn’t seem to be any closer towards civilization – or even a gas station – than they’d been when they started.

“I can't believe you got us stranded in the middle of the desert! Damn it, Luci,” Amenadiel spat, annoyed at Lucifer’s single-minded stubbornness. “You had to insist on driving your fancy car, didn’t you?” He tugged at his shirt collar, the heat becoming excessively oppressive.

Lucifer chuckled. “It’s not my fault human engineering doesn’t take into account the vagaries of its environment. “A high-powered car should be capable of navigating the desert without seizing up and dying on us.”

“It’s a convertible, Lucifer. Those cars are meant for driving on breezy roads, not for the arid desert.”

Lucifer ignored him. Five minutes later, he picked up where he’d left off. “Besides, it’s not like your idea of a jeep was any better, brother. For crying out loud, the name alone sounds like the noise of a demented chicken.”

“Dune buggy,” Amenadiel corrected, as if the type of vehicle actually mattered.

Lucifer let out a frustrated moan. “Like that’s any better? I wouldn’t be caught dead in such a vehicle.”

“So now, thanks to you, we’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere, with no easy way of getting home.” Or even back to Los Angeles. And his shoes! Amenadiel might not be as big a clothes horse as Lucifer was, but he’d really hate to have to toss out his current pair. The leather was soft as butter, and way too comfortable for such a shoddy fate.

“Well, bitching about it isn’t going to get us anywhere faster, is it now, brother?” came Lucifer’s rejoinder.

Amenadiel laughed. “True, but it annoys you, and that makes me feel a hell of a lot better. However,” he continued, “just how do you expect us to get out of here without the car? You can fly, and I… I…” He was at a loss at just how to continue.

“You can always stop time.”

“So, we’ll be in the desert for all eternity?”

With a resigned sigh, Amenadiel kicked at the sand as he walked, sending up a spray of abrading grit. “There’s no reception out here, either,” he said, shaking his useless cell phone in the air. “We can’t reach anyone to come and pick us up, even if we could provide directions!” he shouted to the empty air.

“Someone is bound to come along, sooner than later,” Lucifer tried to reason.

“Riight,” Amenadiel’s sarcasm hung heavily in the heated air. “Because there’s another idiot out in the middle of nowhere.”

“Shut up!” Lucifer snapped.

“I should have left you to this adventure on your own, baby brother.”

“No, really… be quiet,” Lucifer insisted. “Can’t you hear it? Can’t you feel it?”

“Feel what?”

Lucifer pulled Amenadiel’s necklace from his pants pocket. It levitated off his palm… pointing straight ahead.

“Give me that,” Amenadiel said, grabbing at the necklace. “Father gave it to me!”

Shaking his head, Lucifer pushed his brother away. “Let’s just see where this leads us, brother, before we get into what is whose?”

No more than ten minutes later, the necklace pointed downwards, into the sand.

Bending his knee, Lucifer knelt, searching through the sand. Almost immediately, he retrieved a dagger, it’s edges rimmed with dried blood. “Well, lookie here,” Lucifer smirked. “So, we’re here for nothing, are we?”

“What on earth…”

“Exactly! This can’t possibly be of earthly origin, or Dad’s key wouldn’t work, now would it?”

Amenadiel scanned the area, extending his senses as far as he could, but if there had been anything otherworldly on this plane, it was long gone by now.

Chapter Text

Sitting behind her desk, Doctor Linda Martin watched as Buffy Summers practically slunk into her office, dressed in a pair of sweats and a loose t-shirt she'd obviously borrowed from Chloe's closet, instead of Maze's.

The girl looked even younger than her barely post adolescent years. Her shoulders slumped as if she carried the weight of the world on her back.

It was her eyes, however, that told the tale. They looked ancient, as if she’d seen it all, and continued to slog through, regardless of what was flung in her path.

“Hello, Buffy,” she said, softly. “Glad to see you this morning.”

“Well, it’s not like I had a choice, Doctor Martin,” Buffy said guardedly. “Detective Decker insisted on it if I wanted to stay with her.”

“She's a smart woman,” Linda sat down and crossed her legs. “And please, call me Linda. No need to be formal.”

“Maze said… she said, you know about her being different – and about Lucifer?”

“What do you mean - different?” Linda coaxed. “I know them fairly well... what do they have to do with you?”

Buffy rolled her eyes as if to say, ‘Why are we even doing this?’ Like Linda was somehow trying to trap her with her own words.

“About her being a demon, and about Lucifer being well... the actual Lucifer.”

‘Ah,’ Linda thought. “So Maze did confide in her. Off course she did. Maze was never one to shy away from anything, or to be subtle. And now Buffy was testing her.

“And you don't find that strange?” Linda asked. “You don’t think she’s off her perch just a little bit?”

“I met Dracula, once,” Buffy confided, totally straight faced. “Kicked his ass, too.”

“As in Bram Stoker’s Dracula?” Linda wanted to believe that Buffy was just putting her on. This was too much… way over the top. Even with Lucifer, it was sometimes hard to believe everything that came out of his mouth, and Linda didn’t know Buffy well enough to understand her sense of humor.

Buffy shrugged. “I meet a lot of different creatures in my line of work.”

Not beings, not people, but creatures… as if they were somehow sub-human – lesser than – not evolved enough to be seen as anything other than animals. It made her wonder how Buffy and Maze got along so well. “So we're not talking metaphorically, are we?”

She really wanted to cling to that false hope a little longer, but then she’d crossed that bridge with Lucifer several months ago, and burned it to the ground.

“Nah… it’s all demons, all vampires, all the time in the undead flesh.”

So matter of fact, Linda thought, as if talking about demons and vampires was as normal as talking about taking out the trash.

“Is there anything in particular weighing heavily on you that you’d like to discuss?” Linda asked, hoping to regain some control over the conversation. Who knows, maybe bluntness would actually work in this case and get her new patient to open up.

Buffy sat quietly for a few moments, her fingers fidgeting with the edges of her seat, obviously reflecting back on her life; taking the time to debate confessing it all to Linda, before she dropped a bombshell.

“Two years ago I had to put a sword through my boyfriend to close a portal, and he was pulled into hell to prevent the world from being dragged there in his place. That was major with the suckage.” After a few minutes, she added: “Not to mention how my first Watcher died in front of me, trying to save my life… or how my mother dated a robot who was also out to kill me.”

Linda was stunned at the blasé tone in Buffy’s voice. “What's a watcher?” The doctor couldn’t help thinking the term sounded creepy.

Buffy paused, as if to really ponder the question; as if people never bothered to ask her at all.

“A Watcher is a sort of teacher or guide to help the Chosen One in her battle against the darkness in the world,” Buffy replied.

“Your mentor?” Linda asked skeptically. It was an answer, sure, but it sounded like it didn’t tell the whole of it. She wondered why a grown man would come up to a teenager he’d never met before, put that kind of a burden on her back, and then send her out to fight for him.

“I guess. I didn't know Merrick all that long, but he taught me how to survive. That was when I lived in Los Angeles. After he died, Mom and I... moved to Sunnydale.”

“And your sister?” Linda remembered her talking about a younger sister. It seemed odd that she didn't mention her now. Most younger siblings would not be happy if they had to move and leave all their friends behind, due to something that happened to their elder, and the resulting fit would definitely have been memorable.

Buffy looked oddly uncomfortable. “Well, I remember her being there with us, but she wasn’t… not really.”

She seemed uncertain – befuddled for lack of a better word. As if she wasn’t sure how to how to put her thoughts into words.

“It's a whole magic thing. There were an order of ancient monks who changed everyone's perception of reality, and inserted Dawnie’s past into our memories so that we'd all believe she'd always been there. Like one moment I'm a single child, and the next… I have a younger sister I’ve known since Mom and Dad brought her home from the hospital. We figured that it didn't matter how Dawn got there, she was ours.”

This time Linda couldn’t disguise her astonishment. She’d begun to think that Lucifer was starting to seem 'normal' in comparison. After all, all he had to deal with was some simple family issues, albeit on a slightly more epic scale than usual.

There were times, however, though rare, that she could almost forget exactly whom she was talking to when dealing with Lucifer. With Buffy, the weirdness of her life was much more in your face.

Still, one thing Buffy had mentioned – that she was some kind of Chosen One – stuck in her mind. “Would you mind explaining just what the title Chosen One means, please?” she asked.

“Into every generation a slayer is born: one girl in all the world, a chosen one. She alone will wield the strength and skill to fight the vampires, demons, and the forces of darkness; to stop the spread of their evil and the swell of their number. She is the Slayer,” Buffy recited, with absolutely no emotion whatsoever.

Linda’s only thought to her recitation – obviously learned by rote over many, many tellings – was the whole situation stunk of child abuse of the highest order.

How an older man had basically militarized her – a child soldier – defending the world from monsters. And not just ‘a’ soldier, but ‘the soldier’. The only soldier who could protect the entire world. What person… what child… could possibly stand up to that kind of pressure and say: “Get away from me. I’m not interested.”?

She could only imagine this was done away from the auspices of the girl’s parents, forcing the “Chosen One” to imprint upon him as her mentor, who trained her to fight unbelievable foes and then sent her on her merry way… alone!

“It’s not like I was normal, anyway,” Buffy interjected into the doctor’s thoughts. “Along with the title, I got some weirdly prophetic dreams. Either they were past memories of dead Slayers, or something awful apocalypsy to come. Add some nifty super powers: extra strength, speed, and super-duper quickie healing and you get a target for everything demonic. But I wasn’t alone in my fight for long. Once we moved to Sunnydale, it turns out the high school librarian, Rupert Giles, was my new Watcher.”

The school librarian. God, these assholes had invaded the girl’s school, forced their agent into inescapable proximity, so the parents were unsuspecting, until it was too late.

“And how did that make you feel?” was all she said. Linda, herself, wanted nothing more than to envelope the young woman in her arms, and make her feel comforted and safe, but not only would it be unprofessional, they didn’t know each other well enough for her to take such liberties.

More than that, it would be forcing herself upon a girl whose agency had already been negated, far more than any child’s life should have been tampered with. She couldn’t – wouldn’t – do that, not when the primary reason for doing so would be to make herself feel better, rather than her patient.

“I was worried about having last year’s hair,” Buffy quipped, “and then he dropped this huge volume of Vampire lore in front of me. Being a Slayer is not something I’ve been able to escape from.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “Not even by leaping to a certain death.”

‘Gods, that poor girl,’ Linda’s heart cried out for her. Trying to pretend she was still a normal teenager, escaping to a new city, and having yet another older man continue the grooming of the first one… making her believe the fate of the world lay on her shoulders, while other adults stayed safely behind their books, out of the action.

“Did your parents ever find out about your calling?” she asked, smiling softly at her patient to encourage her to continue, fighting her instincts to give her professional opinion on just where those fucking Watchers could go as far as she was concerned.

The doctor’s eyes nearly glazed over as Buffy continued her tale of woe. The sneaking out at night to “patrol”; a drop in grades and truancy, plus a confession leading to a short-term commitment in an institution; the parental fights and subsequent divorce… how was this poor thing even standing, instead of gibbering away in some corner?

With a start, she realized her patient had stopped talking at some point, and was staring at her. “Sorry, dear,” Linda professed. “I was just trying to wrap my brain around all of this.”

“Welcome to my world,” was Buffy’s wry rejoinder.

“So tell me, how did your mother handle it when she found out you weren’t suffering from delusions, considering she and your father were responsible for your earlier commitment?”

“She told me flat out that if I left the house, I shouldn’t come back. Did I mention I had another vampire with me at the time?”

Buffy’s last-minute attempt to hide the heartbreak was fleeting, but Linda couldn’t begrudge her for her reluctance. How much was one child supposed to handle?

“But you still left?” Linda asked, ignoring the vampire part of her comment for the moment. It could only be a misdirection.

“I had to. The fate of the world depended on me. Even Spike knew that, and he's the vampire who had my back – a soulless vampire, willing to take on the others in his line to help me.”

And there was the vampire again. Maybe he wasn’t just a distraction. It seemed odd though, for a girl trained to see all vampires as threats, to have her working with one. Maybe it was more important than she’d believed him to be otherworldly.

“You had a vampire with you?” Linda asked her patient, looking into her eyes with concern. “And he was helping you against other vampires intent on ending the world?”

“I know, right? I'm a vampire Slayer. I should be killing vampires, and Spike had already killed two Slayers; I was supposed to be the third notch on his belt. But when Angel – Angelus, tried to destroy the world with the help of the demon in a stone, Acathla, Spike came to me, offered a truce, and helped take out Drusilla, his Sire, so I could handle Angel.” She paused momentarily to catch her breath. “He left as soon as he corralled Drusilla of course, hightailed it out of there as soon as he could manage. But the fact that he was willing to stand with me in the first place… it wasn’t something I’d have ever considered possible before.”

Buffy smiled at a memory. “Spike said vampires liked to talk big about world endage, but that’s all it was – bloodsucker watercooler talk. Angelus was different.”

“I think I need a scorecard here, to keep track,” Linda smiled. She wondered how she should bring up the question of Buffy having dated that other vampire, Angelus, in the first place. He was the only one she’d called her boyfriend.

“I didn't go back home for several months after that,” Buffy continued. “I couldn't. Not after Angel, after what he'd done, because of me. Not after I had to... had to send him to hell. Not after Mom. I had nobody.”

“You do know your mother loved you, no matter how harsh she seemed, right? It sounds like she was just afraid for her daughter.” It was the wrong way to deal with a rebellious child, but oh so common, and just as common to be taken the exact wrong way.

“I realize it now... but then I was devastated. Lost. I just couldn’t go home. Not then.”

Linda couldn’t begin to imagine the depth of her pain. For a girl that age to have to kill the boy she loved, and feel she was thrown out of her house, for trying to do the right thing. It was a miracle she was as well-adjusted as she appeared to be.

“I left Sunnydale, after that. My mother didn't want me... my friends didn't understand how I felt... I left to start over again in Los Angeles. Became a waitress, and lived in a little hell hole apartment.”

“You were how old?”

“Seventeen.”

A child on her own, with all the predators, human and otherwise, in a city the size of LA. Linda couldn’t bear thinking of all the things that could have happened to a girl that age, especially one that looked like Buffy. Even if she did have superpowers.

Watching her patient twist her hands in her lap, Linda offered: “Buffy, if this is too much for you, we can always continue in our second session.”

“I need to get out of here,” Buffy nodded. “I really need to hit something.”

Linda could understand that, hell by now, she wanted to pummel something, herself.

Chapter Text

Chloe looked up at the lightening sky, where the pale purples and pinks were turning into light blue. The trail was eerily empty at this hour… most people were either still sleeping, or already headed to work. Parents with young children weren’t usually out just as the sun was rising, all of which made it easier for her to keep an eye on her newest roommate.

“All right, ladies,” she said after a few preliminary stretches. “Let’s see what you’ve got,” she threw a glance over her shoulder as she started to run along the trail. Buffy’s eyes were bright, and her smile wide, but it seemed unreal – as if she were faking interest, rather than the genuine happiness that Ella beamed with at the sight of a fresh corpse. And Maze was... well Maze.

Chloe couldn’t help feeling a little bit fake, as well. She was the only one wearing genuine workout gear, while Buffy was dressed in a pair of her jeans that had shrunk in the wash, along with a baggy sweat shirt, and Maze wore something slinky and tight fitting – more appropriate for a club than the trail.

Ah well, she shrugged. They were here to run, not catwalk on a runway.

She could hear their footfalls behind her, and sped up her pace. Chloe ran well enough, and wasn’t sure if Buffy could keep up. She knew Maze was fit, but wasn’t sure how that translated into running, as opposed to fighting. Time would tell, however.

For ten minutes, it was easy enough. Chloe focused on keeping her breathing steady, as she tried to set a good tempo. It was harder, however, to hold in her annoyance as her two companions chattered back and forth - something that would be a lot funnier if there was even the slightest hint the other two were getting out of breath from the strain.

But instead, the only one even slightly bothered by the effort, was herself.

“Come on, you guys,” she huffed, turning around to castigate her companions. “Running now, yakking later. Put some effort into it.”

She could swear she heard Buffy snort with barely controlled laughter, which ticked her off even more. Maze just grinned.

Chloe resumed her steady pace, but this time, she heard footfalls coming up on her left side. Within seconds, Buffy had passed her, swiftly followed by Maze on her right side. Her competitive streak showing, Chloe put on a burst of speed herself, and once more took the lead in their trio.

Unfortunately for her, it didn’t last nearly long enough. Maze pushed past her with ease, giggling a little after sticking out her tongue. Buffy took the lead not more than five seconds later. In fact, she moved out of their sight.

“C’mon there, slow poke,” Maze challenged. “We gonna let that little girl show us up like that?”

Chloe could only stare at the empty trail as Maze rocketed out of sight. "What in the hell is going on," she murmured. She’d begun her run again, but after a while, she realized both Buffy and Maze were long gone, so she slowed to a leisurely pace and headed towards the parking lot.

Sure enough, Maze and Buffy were sunning themselves on the hood of the car and enjoying lattes.

“Hey, slowpoke,” Maze called, holding a drink out to her. “We didn't forget you.”

It was cold, but the caffeine goodness was still appreciated.

Chloe made a show of patting each woman on the back and looked perplexed.

“What was that for,” asked Buffy.

“Just looking for the rocket pack you guys must have been wearing to be so fast,” Chloe replied.

“I told you, Chloe,” Maze laughed. “…this one here is a bona fide superhero.”

“And how does that explain you being able to keep up with her?”

Maze just smirked.

“And, please… don't give me the 'you're a demon' crap. That stuff is hard enough to take from Lucifer. I haven't heard so many metaphors since my English lit classes in college.”

Maze looked like she really, really wanted to confess something - it was a look Chloe had seen often enough in her line of work... but somehow, she managed to keep quiet, and Chloe didn’t push her.

“She really doesn't believe, does she?” Buffy seemed oddly amused. “I haven't seen Sunnydale Syndrome so strong since my high school graduation.”

“Sunnydale Syndrome?" That piqued Chloe’s interest.

“It's kind of a defense mechanism.” Buffy tried to explain. “A way of looking at anything that seems out of the ordinary.”

Buffy hopped off the car’s hood, unable to sit still any longer. “Like all the ‘death by barbecue fork’ incidents we had in town. Or how the Mayor turning into a giant snake during graduation, was explained away as ‘a gas explosion’.”

“Oh, god," Chloe backed up a few feet from the young woman, wondering if she should call Linda. Seemed like Buffy was back to being delusional.

And still Buffy continued with her strange tale. “Sunnydale was a one Starbucks town, yet there were like five, maybe even seven cemeteries. Too many for me to patrol on a nightly basis, anyway. Not to mention at least a dozen churches. And a couple of mortuaries. And none of them worried about competition. Plenty of death to go around for everyone. Hell, our high school paper had a weekly obituary column.”

“Please stop looking at me like that. I'm not crazy, I swear,” Buffy insisted. “It's just that well… Sunnydale was the Hellmouth.”

“And it's back to the metaphors,” Chloe sighed.” Hellmouth, huh? Living there was so bad?”

“Well if you bear in mind that before I arrived in Sunnydale, schools were used to losing over half the student population each year due to mortality, or parents taking their kids out of school before graduation.” Buffy gave a funny little half-smile that most certainly did not reach her eyes. “My graduating class give me a Class Protector Award at Prom, because our year had the lowest mortality rate in the history of the school. We still lost too many. I couldn’t save everyone.”

Buffy looked up at Chloe with tears in her eyes. “Not the catchiest slogan in the history of High School, I’ll admit, but it was ours.”

Chloe felt the urge to hug the girl silly, but she refrained. “Gangs?” was all she said.

“Would you believe me if I said vampires? But I guess you'd prefer to say they were on PCP. That was the Sunnydale Police Force’s favorite excuse.”

Now drugs and gangs were something Chloe could wrap her mind around. Still, she couldn't even begin to imagine anyone with children willing to stay in a town like that.

“So why didn't more people move?” she asked, as Buffy surreptitiously swiped the tears from her eyes.

“Low property rates?” Buffy quipped.

“Like I said, Sunnydale Syndrome. People would come up with any number of explanations to pretend that things were ‘normal’.”

Chloe just shook her head. If she took Buffy's words at face value, she'd have to have her committed for her own good. Better to just table this for now, and she'd talk to Linda sometime later.

Either that or involve the FBI in finding out where the girl actually came from.

Chapter Text

Maze paced back and forth. After that visit to Trixie’s school, she’d sworn off hanging around young kids ever again (Trixie being the exception, of course, though she wouldn’t admit it out loud). So, where does she find herself now? Hanging around with both Lucifer and Amenadiel, acting more like bickering children than angels.

“Does it glow in the dark?” Maze tossed out, frustration lacing her tone.

“I’ve tried every sort of emotion there is, brother,” Lucifer practically whined. “The sword doesn’t flame, doesn’t rend dimensions, isn’t even magnetic… nothing! It doesn’t even collapse like a magician’s prop. It doesn't do anything but CUT!” he bellowed.

“Are you out of your mind? This isn't some cheap, theatrical prop.” Maze hefted the blade in her hand. “This little beauty is perfectly balanced.” She took aim, about to throw it at the wall, when Amenadiel stopped her.

“Let’s say it's a well-made blade… so what?” he asked. “What conclusions can we come to?”

She became more thoughtful as she held the dagger. “No, this blade is so much more than a prop or a cheap piece of metal. It was meant to be used.”

“Or maybe its Dad's favorite toothpick, who cares?” Lucifer’s own frustration was making him manic… more so than usual.

Ignoring him, Maze let her fingers pass over the bloodstains. She remembered what Buffy had said – how she'd fought with a demon who'd cut her sister – to bleed her in order to open the gates between dimensions. Maybe…

“What if it's not the blade,” she asked, her eyes lighting up with interest. “What if it's the blood on the blade?”

“I'm not a forensics expert, Maze,” Lucifer growled.

“No, but you know one at work,” Maze retorted. Men. She rolled her eyes in disgust. Why did she have to do all the heavy mental lifting around here?

“Listen… I talked with Buffy,” she continued her previous line of thought. “She said her sister was the Key to open the walls between dimensions. If that’s Buffy’s sister’s blood on the blade…”

“Now wouldn't that be too much of a coincidence?” Amenadiel asked. “The only thing we found in the entire desert, and it belongs to a girl from another dimension?”

“It's as much of a coincidence as Dad sending you to LA to make sure one couple out of millions has a baby, and me running into her thirty odd years later,” Lucifer fumed. He was never going to forgive the old man for toying with him so.

“So, you're saying Dad had a hand in Buffy's appearance? For what possible purpose?”

“Who knows? Maybe he wants us to send her back home because she doesn't belong here, in our dimension, and she's messing up his perfect plan for the universe.” Lucifer was really getting into it now. “Maybe he's just being an old codger telling her to 'get out of his sandbox'!”

“And just maybe she's needed in her own universe and it's up to us to help her get home,” Maze interrupted, too fucking tired of hearing Lucifer go on another rant against his dad.

“Do you think Ella could be circumspect if we give her the blade for analysis?” Amenadiel looked worried. “She doesn't really have a clue as to what we are.”

“It's worth a try, in my opinion.” Maze looked up at the sound of Lucifer’s sigh.

“What now?”

“I'm just hoping she won't make me go to church with her, like last time,” Lucifer muttered. “Not that I'd mind reacquainting myself with some of the faithful. There was this one guy who had the most delightful tongue...”

“Really, brother?” Amenadiel sighed. “I get that you like sex, but we've got more important things to deal with.”

***

Paranoia. Lucifer absolutely hated feeling as if someone was always at his back, or just around the corner, waiting to pounce when he least expected it. He felt vulnerable for the first time in forever, and not in the way being next to Chloe affected him. It was most unpleasant.

He absolutely hated feeling less. He was more used to being the one others were afraid of.

The idea that Buffy might be somehow connected to his kidnapper kept him from just ignoring her and focusing on more important issues, like himself.

At face value, she was just a little thing... didn't look like she could harm a fly, but appearances could be deceiving, and he wasn't about to let his guard down again.

It wasn't like all celestial beings were as devilishly handsome as he was. For all he knew, Buffy's true face could be closer to a hell demon than the blond cheerleader that she presented herself as. After all, he couldn't forget the image of those metal bars twisting on her hospital bed. Something was definitely up with her that needed more looking into.

And the fact that Maze actually seemed to like the girl, only made him more worried. Maze never liked other humans, unless she was able to torture them. That she could stand to be around Chloe was a miracle of the highest order. So… to take to a stranger like this? Unheard of.

Yeah, sure she'd made friends with Linda as well, but that was Linda. The Doctor was predisposed to have people like her. She was easy to talk to; great at getting people to spill things that never should have passed their lips.

So, what's the Devil to do? Better to get rid of Buffy, now. And if sending her home didn’t work, well…

And that's why Lucifer found himself knocking on the door to Ella Lopez’s office door.

***

Chloe left the lieutenant’s office, and looked around to see if her errant partner had arrived yet.
It had taken quite the effort to get the lieutenant on her side, regarding the case of Lucifer's kidnapping. The woman might like Lucifer, like most people did, but they were the homicide department. In the end, the fact that Lucifer had been a part of the department for the past two years was enough to convince her to not only keep the case open, but allow her time to actively work on it.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Lucifer enter the Forensics department. “What is he doing?” she murmured. “We don’t have an active case.”

Chloe walked to Ella's office, and through the glass window, she could see that Lucifer was already laying on the charm, probably to get Ella to do something less than legal. At the open door, she caught him saying something about ‘a dagger’.

Ella seemed to be wavering, Chloe had no idea how he managed to talk even sane people into going along with him. It must be that dazzling smile of his. And his uncanny ability to get into people's heads.

She quickly shrugged it off. Many is the time he'd gotten pertinent information from a perp with that power, when other methods didn't work.

“Hey, guys,” she called out, finally announcing her presence. “What's this I hear about a dagger?”

“Detective, I...”

“Look, Lucifer. I get that you like to use the department's resources for your own issues, but when a dagger is involved, and probably concerning your kidnapping, then the least you can do is keep me in the loop.”

At least he had the good graces to look sheepish.

“Even if it’s solely for the purpose of keeping the boss off your back when you screw up,” Chloe continued. “We're supposed to be partners, aren't we?”

“And what if I was trying to protect you, Detective?”

Chloe couldn’t hide her surprise. “Protect me? You can't protect me by keeping secrets. It was bad enough when Dan did it, and he's a better liar than you are.”

Lucifer snorted his derision. “Detective Douche is not better than me at anything.”

‘Still with the ‘douche’, Lucifer? Really? I thought you and Dan were getting along, finally.”

“I will admit that he’s... grown on me. But he's still not better at anything than I am. Except for being a douche.”

Chloe knew his declaration for what it was – Lucifer being defensive. She also knew that in reality, at least up to a point, Lucifer even admired Dan for his sense of responsibility. It still didn't stop her from razzing him about it. Add that to the fact that Lucifer wanted to be seen as the better man in her eyes

She was never quite sure what he wanted from her. Whenever she thought he'd figured it out himself, he ran off in retreat, hiding behind something else… last time it turned out to be a blonde bimbo of a wife.

Whatever, this wasn’t being productive. She tried another tack: “So, you have a dagger with what looks to be bloodstains on the blade. Where did you find it? Why are you suspicious enough to try a run-around the rules to get it examined, which just might get Ella into hot water with the department?”

“I don't know if there's anything up with it… for sure. But we found it near the place where I woke up in the desert.”

“We?”

“My brother and I.”

“So Amenadiel's also in on this? Of course he is," Chloe conceded. She remembered the other man's worries while Lucifer'd gone missing. She wished she'd taken his concerns more seriously.

“It was just a shot in the dark, Detective. I didn't know if I could find the place where I'd regained consciousness... but it seemed like there was a force compelling me there. A hunch, I guess you'd call it.”

“You believe it has something to do with Buffy, don't you?”

“Maybe.”

Chloe hesitated. Then she turned to Ella. “Check it out,” she said. “And for now, please keep the results between us.”

Chapter Text

Buffy followed Chloe into Lux, totally unprepared for the rush and crush of the crowd, and the wall of noise that slammed into her. It had been a long time since she'd been to the Bronze, but compared to this, that was nothing.

Beautiful people in beautiful clothing, exposed flesh pressing against other flesh… dancing, drinking and basically just showing off for the sheer joy of it. She couldn’t remember the last time she had the luxury of being so self-indulgent.

Certainly not since before her mother had fallen ill and her subsequent death. And even less once her little sister became the object of desire of a Hellgod.

Thoughts of Dawn reminded her that she was out there, somewhere… just not here. She’d begun to feel as if tonight’s outing was a mistake. All these people made her feel more alone than sitting in a closed room.

“Are you sure Lucifer doesn't mind me hanging around his place for free? You know I don't have anything to...” Buffy dropped her gaze, staring at her fingers as she played with the leather bracelets Maze had lent her. She wondered if she should bring up the fact that she was underage, as well. True, there were quite a few other girls that weren’t of legal age, either, but she still worried that someone was going to ask her for an ID for just being in the club.

“Don't worry," Chloe said. “Lucifer would be happy to see you enjoying yourself. That, and he never lets his doormen turn away anyone pretty. Says it adds to the atmosphere.”

Buffy couldn't help but agree. There wasn't a single person that she could see in the club who didn't look like magazine cover model. Including her current companions. It made her feel dowdy in comparison.

“Hello, ladies,” Maze greeted the pair with enthusiasm. “Follow me. We'll head up to the balcony for a bird's eye view of the place.”

“Maze.” Chloe acknowledged her presence, and returned her welcome with a nod of her head.

“Where's Lucifer tonight?” Chloe asked, scanning the room.

“Where do you think?” Maze answered with a little derisive snort. “The center of attention, as usual.”

Maze pointed their gaze to the lower level of the pit, to Lucifer's grand piano. Buffy admired the beautiful instrument. Shining ebony wood, sparkling ivory white keys… she certainly wasn’t an expert, but even she could tell it had to be high quality. From everything she’d seen of Lucifer, and Lux itself, he surrounded himself with only the very best.

Right now, Lucifer’s attention was focused on the piano, even though he was surrounded by a multitude of nubile women, all preening and vying for his attention. The crowd grew quiet in anticipation as he raised his hands to the keyboard.

The music was soft and melancholic, and she could feel the tingle through her spine as Lucifer sang the first notes of the song.

Buffy never expected the Devil would have a voice that made you want to swoon. Or for him to be a Sarah McLachlin fan.

Then again, when she first encountered the bleach blond menace behind the Bronze, she’d never expected him to ever have her back, or that she’d be able to trust him with her sister's life.

A beautiful, deep, melodic voice made her stare at the man at the piano, as Lucifer began to sing:

“Spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that would make it okay”

He managed to imbue the words with meaning… feeling, something that hit Buffy in the guts like a sucker-punch with every word… making her think about the mistakes she'd made in the recent past.

“There's always some reason
To feel not good enough
And it's hard, at the end of the day
I need some distraction”

The actual music and lyrics faded out, and Buffy got lost in her memories – of all that had gone wrong in her relationships with her father, Angel, Parker and Riley; with all the harsh words she'd said to her mother, or how she'd broken Mom's heart by running away, when she noticed the look on Chloe's face.

Pain. And longing. Oh God, did Buffy ever know those feelings. Way too intimately for comfort.

“He's good,” she murmured.

“Just don't tell him that. He already thinks he's the center of the universe,” Chloe answered with a smile.

Buffy returned the smile. Again, thoughts of a certain pain in the ass vampire crossed her mind. She shook her head, as if trying to clear it. Here, there was no Spike, no Angel, no anybody she knew at all.

It hurt.

“Let's get a drink,” Maze’s peppy tone cut into her ruminations.

“Maze, I'm underage,” Buffy offered, not wanting to get anyone in trouble for serving alcohol to a minor.

“So?”

“I could close the place down if we're caught.”

“So,” Maze repeated. “Who’s gonna tell?”

Chloe lifted her hand.

“Spoilsport.”

Maze snorted. “All right, all right. I'll get her an alcohol free mojito. Happy?”

“It's fine,” Buffy said with relief. “Alcohol and me aren't mixy, anyway.”

“Don't tell the old fuddy-duddy,” Maze whispered, sotto-voce, “but I can always slip a little something-something in if you want.”

“Thanks,” Buffy whispered in response. “but I'd rather you didn't. The last time I got really drunk, I turned into a cave woman… literally.” This world was not ready for Cave Buffy to make a reappearance.

“Really?” Somehow the delighted look on Maze's face made her think of a cat that’s just pounced on a mouse. It scared her more than the thought of Faith tossing her favorite knife from hand to hand. Something told her she really shouldn't have given a demon that kind of personal ammo.

“Sounds like fun to me,” said demon chuckled.

“It was a spell alright? The bartender wanted to mess with some college assholes, and put a spell on the beer to turn them into cavemen. I drank one, and next thing I knew, I was beating an ex with a tree branch.

“Still, my kind of girl," Maze snickered, and left to get the drinks.

Chloe just sort of sighed, as if she were used to putting up with crazy women.

Buffy turned to Chloe, and asked: “So what's the story between you two? Are you an item?”

“Me and Lucifer?” Chloe looked somewhat stunned. She wasn't sure if she should laugh, cry, or do both at once. “It's... complicated.”

Buffy's look was nothing but compassionate.

“He's my partner, and a friend. But we've never been anything more than that. There've been times I was almost foolish enough to go for it, but well... we're just better off as friends.”

With a smile, Buffy said, “You don't sound too sure. Sounds like there's more to it than that.”

“Just because something could be, doesn't mean there should be, Buffy.”

“But... what if by doing nothing, you miss out on something wonderful?”

“You're young, Buffy. So young,” Chloe said. “When you get older and have responsibilities – children like Trixie – you have to be careful who you introduce into your life. I can't just date whomever I want. Not anymore.”

Buffy was taken aback at that, she chewed at her bottom lip, once again thinking of Dawn, and how she’d suddenly become a mother figure to a teenager.

“Ladies.”

Buffy jumped. She hadn't heard Lucifer sneak up behind them.

“Nice to see you out and about, sweetie.” Lucifer's smooth voice practically dripped with seduction as his warm, brown eyes focused on her.

“I loved your singing. Is it something you do every night?” Buffy couldn’t help being effusive.

Lucifer preened. His smug look had the other two women rolling their eyes at his display.

Taking Buffy by the arm, Lucifer led her to the bar, where he immediately ordered her a cocktail.

Buffy held up her hand, gently demurring, and asked for a diet coke, instead.

Lucifer shrugged, then okayed the change.

It was nice that he didn't question her refusal. What with him being the devil, she'd expected him to try and tempt her into doing the wrong thing. She could picture a little devil on one shoulder, brandishing a pitchfork, (if he had platinum blond hair and a sneer, who was here to judge her?) and a shining white angel (of course he had soulful, brown eyes and hair that stuck straight up) on the other shoulder.

“Give the lady what she wants,” was all he said to the bartender.

Said bartender, a rather hot guy in his twenties, winked at her as he put down her glass.

Buffy paid little notice his attentions. Instead, she was more focused on the interaction between Lucifer and Chloe. Where he was ebullient, she was reticent. When she moved closer, he backed away. Who said she didn’t know her S.A.T. words?

“C'mon then, darling," Lucifer purred, turning his attention away from Chloe. "Time to unwind and let loose. Dance with me?”

Buffy almost refused, but Maze egged her on… shoving her shoulder none too gently. What the hell, right? With a little chuckle, she said: “All right, hot stuff. Let's see what you've got. Then I can always tell people I've danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, for real.”

It was a line she’d heard from Xander. He’d been a super hero geek way before he’d met her.

“I always did like Nicholson's performance,” Lucifer chuckled, then led her to the dancefloor. “Well, we don't have moonlight, but I'm sure the fluorescent lighting will do in a pinch.”

Was he seriously… he was! He was out-and-out flirting with her! Well, never let it be said that Buffy was a little stick-in-the-mud wallflower. She could give as good as she got. And it was just for play, anyway.

The music playing was nothing she recognized, but the beat was stirring, and Buffy found herself falling into a natural rhythm. Lucifer kept up nicely, which was admirable. This was no mere boy, for sure. Oh, no – he moved like a man who knew exactly what he wanted, and for the moment, it felt like he wanted her.

Thinking maybe, just maybe, she should pull her performance back a bit, she felt… something. Not quite a tingle, but she was being watched. Years of honing her predatory instincts had not gone to waste.

“What's the matter, sweetie? You've gone all tense.”

“There's something ... not right,” Buffy murmured, still dancing, but mainly for appearances sake instead of wild abandon.

She tried to reach out her senses, like Giles insisted. With a few years of practice under her belt, she’d gotten pretty good at it if she concentrated. Mostly she just preferred to find the vamp or demon in question and put them out of her misery. Most vampires (but not all, her mind insisted) wore clothing out of fashion for so long, they could be carbon dated.

Suddenly, Buffy rammed into Lucifer, knocking him to the ground, just as a blade of some kind whizzed past where he'd been standing, embedding itself in the dance floor. Buffy found herself straddling his prone body, and immediately rolled off and stood up, picking up the fallen blade as she did so. Instinctively putting herself in front of Lucifer, as if to protect him from the unknown.

The dagger practically hummed in her grip. There was more to it than just being a sharp, sticky thing.

Lucifer stood up, brushed dust from his clothes and addressed the crowd that had gathered around them. “Off you go, people. Nothing to see, here.”

Chloe shoved her way past the onlookers. “Lucifer, are you okay?” she asked, before looking for Buffy. She then shifted her attention. “How on earth did you do that?”

Maze just stood next to them, applauding. “Told you she was a hero. How else would you expect her to react to a threat?”

People stared for a second longer, before they continued with their dancing, as if nothing had happened. As if it was all just part of the floorshow.

Nothing like the self-absorbed to ignore things that weren’t themselves.

Buffy scanned the room for the attacker, and noticed him trying to sneak out of Lux, instead of running. She was about to take him on, but Lucifer got to him first.

“You attacked me in the middle of a packed room, in my own club. Are you looking to die?” he asked, in a tone of voice so chill, it was terrifying.

Buffy almost… almost felt sorry for the accoster. A man who now looked more like a frightened kid about to piss his own pants than a dangerous threat.

But she knew from experience that looks could be deceiving.

She swore Lucifer's eyes were glowing a deep, brilliant red, reminding her that he was indeed whom he claimed to be – the Devil, himself.

And just for a split second, the man’s face became fractured… burned and melted on one side… just like a Salvador Dali painting.

Chapter Text

Her head buried in paperwork, Dr. Linda Martin startled when her door opened, unexpectedly, and Amenadiel walked in. He was tentative, for a change, looking somewhat cowed, for lack of a better word.

“What brings you here, today,” she curtly asked. “Are you here as a friend, a patient… a concerned brother? Or maybe you’re just here to manipulate me into spying against Lucifer. Or even to plant seeds for another attempt to get back to heaven again?”

She could tell he was taken aback at her bluntness.

“Look,” he said, chastised at her demeanor. “I know you have good reason to distrust me…”

“Even though you did stop time to save my life,” Linda admitted. “Thank you for that, by the way.”

“I let my pride get in the way of good sense. I don’t want to do that again.”

"So it's as a patient, then," Linda conceded. “You know I won't be your personal window into Lucifer anymore, don't you?”

“I know, I was wrong to lie in the first place. I'm glad for Lucifer’s friendship with you. He has great respect for your knowledge and kindness.”

“And I care a great deal about him, too.” Linda’s eyes misted at that. She never usually formed such a close relationship with her patients, but Lucifer was different… way different.

Amenadiel nodded. “So do I. I love my baby brother.”

“It might be best for you to remember that, in the future.”

“Lucifer didn’t have to forgive me, but he did. I just wish I could get him to understand what a gift getting his wings back was for him.”

Linda couldn’t quite control her surprise.

“He didn't say anything? No, I guess he wouldn't... he still views them as interference, instead of the blessing they actually are.

“He could have told me.” She was having a hard time getting past the fact that he withheld such monumental information from her.

“He barely wants to admit it to himself,” Amenadiel said, softly.

Linda just nodded, deep in thought. She'd have to try and broach the subject when next they spoke. “How did he get them back?” she finally asked.

“He doesn't have a clue. When he awoke in the desert, they were just there.”

Linda was shaken at that revelation. It was one thing to be given a choice, but to have something forced on you… this was practically rape – an unwanted assault on his person. Lucifer never really spoke about his wings… just that he saw them as a link to heaven – one he'd been happy to severe.

She wondered if she should tell Amenadiel that maybe he shouldn't force his feelings about losing his own wings on his brother. That just because Amenadiel desperately wanted to return to being the powerful angel he'd been before his fall, didn't mean that Lucifer felt the same way.

“Amenadiel... how would you feel if someone ... physically altered your body against your will. They might even say it's in your best interests, but to do so without asking first… without giving you a choice...”

“They’re his own wings, Linda. They're an integral part of him.”

“But they're a part he didn't want,” she insisted. “He had them removed. That was his own choice.”

She let Amenadiel sit and ruminate about those facts, trying not to force her own explanations on him. From a psychiatric perspective, it was useless to do so. It was always better if the patient came to the proper conclusions on their own, without her interference. She just hoped that Amenadiel didn't share his brother’s or his mother's tendencies to jump to the wrong conclusion.

“I just don't understand why he's so hell-bent on denying his true heritage,” Amenadiel pushed, somewhat desperately. “He was born into greatness, and instead, he prefers to waste his time hanging around humans.”

“Well sometimes people prefer a place that makes them feel welcome."

“Father gave him the entirety of hell; he was allowed to rule the entire dimension, to have responsibility over millions of souls. What is one club in LA compared to that?”

“You look down on us humans, don't you, Amenadiel? You think you're so much better than we are.” She said it as a statement, not a question.

“But we are.”

Linda was stunned to hear him admit it; she'd thought he'd prevaricate at the very least. He seemed to realize her shock.

“I don’t say that to insult you, or your kind. Father loves humanity for reasons of his own, but would you compare a dog to a human? That a fly’s life is just as meaningful as your own?”

Linda shook her head in dismay. “Nothing is more telling about a species, than how they treat the lesser amongst them.”

“Humans are beautiful, amazing beings… but compared to angels... We look after human souls in heaven; see them to their final reward, or their fitting punishment in hell. We serve to protect you, to care for you. But compared to an angel, your life span is infinitesimally short, and often brutal. You are fragile, and break so easily, and suffer mightily during it. In many ways, you lack true understanding. It's not your fault, it's not a flaw… it's how you were designed, created to be. Humanity can be wonderful, brave… but you aren't angels, and you never will be.

“A human might love his dog, care for that dog during its lifespan, and weep bitterly over that animal's death. But when it comes down to it, you'll move on.”

“Then why do you deign to be amongst us?” Linda was at a loss for words. She never felt so human in her life.

“Because I have no other choice. Because I can't go home to the Silver City.”

“And why is that?” she pushed.

“Because Father punished me for...” Linda could tell immediately when it dawned on him. “It's not pride, Doctor, it's just reality.”

“Okay, look,” Linda said, realizing he wasn't going to come out and say so. “Maybe the best thing you can do is give Lucifer the benefit of the doubt. He obviously has his reasons for wanting to live amongst the crush of humanity. You need to accept it. I mean, you can't change someone's mind or heart, but you can change how you react to it. Build a bridge.”

“I'm trying,” Amenadiel replied. “I just don't understand it.”

“You don't have to. Maybe, in time, you'll get it. Until then, fake it until you make it.”

“I just want what's best for him. And I'm sure Dad feels the same way,” Amenadiel insisted; like a dog with a bone, he wasn’t letting that go.

Linda had had enough. She stood up from behind her desk and addressed Amenadiel face to face. “And you both know what's best? Why doesn't Lucifer get a say? It's his life. When humans have children, it's not to make exact replicas of their own wants and desires. It's to create a unique individual with desires of their own. Shouldn’t that be the same with Angels?”

“He's my baby brother. I'm supposed to look after him.”

“But not live his life for him!” Why couldn’t he accept that?

“But he keeps screwing up!”Amenadiel was practically distraught.

“And apparently, so do you, according to God,” Linda pressed home. “How did his judgment make you feel?”

That clearly stung.

Amenadiel tried a different tack. “That isn't what I wanted to talk with you about,” he said, trying to visibly calm down.

“What do you want to discuss?” she asked, also trying to tamp down her personal thoughts and bring this back to a more professional manner. “Lucifer says you've taken that girl, Buffy, under your guard.” Somehow she just couldn't bring herself to say 'under your wing.'

“She feels like an innocent... she just doesn't belong here,” he admitted.

“She certainly does need help.”

“It's not just that, she feels... do you know how sometimes you have two instruments that just don't fit together? Play each individually, and they're beautiful… bring them together...”

Linda nodded in understanding. “They’re discordant.”

“Buffy is like that note that doesn't fit.” He lifted his hand, stopping her before she could interrupt. “It's not her fault, but the longer she stays here, the worse that note will get. She could open up a rift in the fabric of the universe and potentially destroy everything.”

“Aren’t you being a little overdramatic?” she asked.

“No. In fact, I may be underplaying the situation.”

“How do you know this?”

“We – Lucifer and I – found a blade in the desert, where Lucifer found Buffy. The blood on that blade, it sang of power. If that was Buffy's blood...”

“So, you're thinking maybe you can use the blood to re-open the door to Buffy's dimension and send her home?” she asked. Linda's mother didn’t raise no stupid children.

“Don't you agree that she wants to go home?” Amenadiel asked. “It seems as if the universe wants the same thing.”

“Well, as you yourself said, we humans are rather stupid.”

“I didn't...” He rolled his eyes, as if she was the one making things difficult.

Linda smiled. “Just playing Devil's Advocate here.” And trying to keep him from forcing Buffy into doing something that might be dangerous.

Maybe she needed to speak with both Lucifer and Chloe, although she didn't know just what information was in the detective's hands. She felt like such a mother hen for a moment - wanting to protect them all.

And she really had to get Lucifer to open up about his wings. Because if they really had been forced on him, then a lot of his emotional growth over the past couple of years might be flushed down the drain.

Chapter Text

The door of the elevator leading to Lucifer’s private quarters opened, and the demon, pushed by Maze, fell to the floor.

Immediately getting to his feet, he raised his arms above his head and intoned: “I am the great Mephistopheles. I’ve come to depose the current king of Hell, and gain dominion over the souls in Hell!”

“Les?” Maze did a double take, staring at the demon like she couldn’t believe her eyes. “Does your mother know what you’re doing? She’d be the first one to come and pull you home by the tail if she knew you were bothering Lucifer.”

“Bothering?” Chloe interjected. “This man tried to murder him!”

“Oh, please,” Maze practically snorted. “He’s too much of an idiot to be a real threat to anyone. And really, Les? Mephistopheles? How’s that working for you these days?”

“Les? You mean Lester? Your idiot cousin that was constantly pulling stupid pranks and hiding keys?” Lucifer looked shocked, as if he couldn’t believe the little upstart had actually thrown a blade at him.

“What’s wrong with you people?” Chloe was incensed at the lack of gravitas being given to the situation. “Lucifer, that man tried to kill you in cold blood, in the middle of your club!”

“Well, yes, and he made a piss-poor job of it, as usual. At least it’s not as bad as the time Maze talked me into giving him a job in the hell hound kennels. The shambles he made of them still makes me cringe. My poor babies, being forced to exist in such horrible conditions.” Lucifer shook his head and glared at “Lester,” who quailed under his scrutiny.

“Do you want me to beat him up or something?” Buffy asked, looking somewhat riled up with unspent energy, as she shifted from foot-to-foot.

“Your offer is appreciated, Buffy, but I'm sure Maze can handle it. She is my security, after all.”

Chloe tried to keep her inner freakout contained. All this talk of demons and hell and now hellhounds…she usually let it slide whenever Lucifer spoke about it, but now… now even her roommate – Maze – talked about them like they were real.

“Hell hounds, kennels? What are you talking about?” she couldn’t help but ask out loud.

“Well my guard dogs, of course,” Lucifer said, smooth as glass and just as sharp. “It was a shame I couldn't bring them with me to Los Angeles. They were my saving grace in Hell.”

Chloe couldn’t let things go. She was a detective. It was her livelihood, and her calling. “Is that why he attacked you? Because you fired him?”

Lucifer shook his head. “He was probably either bored, dared, or bullied into it by his dimwitted friends. He wouldn’t have the initiative to think of something like this on his own.”

“I wasn't dared into anything!” The guy insisted, but not before Chloe got a good look at the guy's face. She realized he wasn’t even out of his teens, his pimple-scarred face trying to hide behind a patchy scruff that only made him look more like a dweeb.

Maze punched his shoulder, effectively shutting him up. His bravado fled, quickly.

“Belial said that you were working with Amenadiel again,” he whined. “And that you were back to being a full-powered angel. He said you were going to collect us all and send us back to hell, and I didn't want to go back cause I have a job now – a real job – and you can't make us go back” The kid babbled on and on, and all Chloe wanted was for him to shut up.

“Should have known that Al was involved,” Maze muttered. “He's getting a little too big for his britches. Someone needs to teach him a lesson,” she said, as she cracked her knuckles.

“What problem do they have with your brother anyway?” Chloe asked Lucifer.

Maze answered, instead. “Believe it or not, some people actually think Amenadiel is scary,” Maze scoffed. “And since he took over Lucifer's job of keeping demons in hell after he abdicated his responsibilities…”

Chloe rubbed her eyes, having had it with all this talk of hell, demons and now hellhounds. Normally, she just ignored it when Lucifer referenced such things, but now even her roommate was feeding into these delusions. It had just been harmless talk before, but now, with the attempted murder, she was at a loss as to how to proceed.

“You bloody idiot.” Lucifer fumed. “I don't care what you do. It's none of my business any more, as long as you don't go about killing anyone, and don't cause trouble. Or make me look bad. If I wanted to control you morons, I'd have stayed in hell at Dad’s behest.”

“S-so y-you're letting me go?" Lester stuttered, as if unable to believe his good fortune.

Chloe was steaming. How could this possibly be happening?

“Don't worry so, Detective. We'll just send him back with his tail between his legs to live with his mother. Believe me, living with that woman is a worse threat to him than jail could ever be. No need to bother the fine police of Los Angeles with this.”

That didn't seem to comfort the kid in the slightest; he looked like he was about to lose control of his bodily functions.

And Chloe wasn't satisfied, in the least.

“You can't make me,” Les said, glancing at Maze. “Please.”

“Get out of Los Angeles, Les,” Maze said with steel in her voice. “Get out, and don't ever let me see you here again. Forget about Lucifer, and go back to your job, while it's still there.”

“But my job is in LA.” The guy was actually pouting now.

“So's the jail,” was Chloe's contribution. It was all she had to offer.

***

After offering to pummel the demon who tried to murder Lucifer, Buffy took a step back from the action, feeling totally unnecessary. In the company of both those in-the-know, and those not... she couldn't slay the guy with any impunity. And she was sure the LA police weren't as blind-as-a-bat as Sunnydale cops and their PCP gang infestations.

It was kind of like being on vacation, knowing she didn't have to hide who she was – with most people she knew at least – and wasn’t tasked with protecting everyone else either. She hadn’t had any time off since her fifteenth birthday.

Not since she was called as the Slayer.

If only her innate sense of what was right would stop niggling at her. The attempted murder of Lucifer a few minutes ago by an unknown demon left her feeling jumpy and unsatisfied.

And homesickness. She missed her sister, more than she could ever have imagined. And her friends. And even her... well, Angel. Even if he wasn’t hers anymore.

She hadn't been here all that long... less than a handful of days, but it seemed like a lifetime.
She had to get back.

Buffy sat back on the overstuffed sofa and smiled. She had a sudden epiphany. Until a way could be found to get her home, she could view this as a vacation of sorts. There was nothing she could do about the people back home. With her jump off the tower, either the portal closed and they all survived, or there was nothing left to go back to.

Might as well use this unexpected development to relax and unwind. Chloe and Maze, and even Dr. Martin, treated her with compassion and friendship. Lucifer looked at her as if she had a fascinating story to tell if only he could find the key to unlock it.

Heh, see what she did there? She punned herself. Okay, maybe loosening the reins a little couldn’t hurt.

And to be totally magnanimous, she admitted to even missing that pesky, bleached blond vamp pain-in-the-ass, Spike. Just a little bit, mind… but he did make the list of missage.

Chapter Text

“Morning, Buffy,” Chloe greeted her as she sat by the breakfast counter, eating a bowl of cereal. “It’s gonna be a very busy day at work, so if you don’t mind keeping yourself occupied today, I’d appreciate it. Besides,” she added, “you'd be bored hanging around with me at the station.”

“Will Lucifer be there?" Buffy couldn't help but ask around a mouthful of somewhat soggy cereal.

“Probably, if he thinks the case is interesting enough. He's just as likely to leave and do his own thing, if it doesn’t pique his interest.”

“Don’t your bosses have a problem with that?”

Chloe laughed. “Well they don't pay him, he's a civilian consultant. He volunteers his services. As far as they're concerned, we should be happy he's willing to help out at all. Besides, he’s damned good at what he does.”

“I'll be fine," Buffy said. "I'm sure I can find plenty to do. Any chance of borrowing a key in case I decide to go out?”

Chloe looked a bit worried at that. “Are you sure that's wise? Considering you're not familiar with the area?”

“Well I certainly can't get more familiar with it if I stay stuck inside.” This time it was Buffy's turn to laugh. “I'll be fine, Detective. It's not like I was raised in a cloister. I'll figure a way to get around.”

“You've got your phone?” the detective persisted, coming on more like Mom at every moment.

Buffy pulled the phone Maze had given her out of her pocket. It was similar in size to the ones from her own time, only there were no keys to push – the entire face was smooth as glass.

“There's an app on there – Google maps – that you can use to find your way around. And call me if you get lost, all right?”

“Sounds like a plan, Stan,” This time Buffy remembered listening to her mother’s favorite music. She had played Fifty Ways to Leave your Lover incessantly after they had first moved to Sunnydale. She wanted to ask Chloe how everything worked on the phone, but she didn't want Chloe to think she was even more helpless than she already felt.

Buffy sighed, turning the phone over and over in her hands. Even though the technology was more advanced than anything Willow had ever seen, she sure wished her friend was here, now. She'd be able to figure it out. But... a determined Buffy was a successful Buffy, so she'd have to soldier on one way or the other.

“Just be careful, okay?” Chloe asked, handing over a spare key with barely more than a moment’s hesitation.

“Sure, Chloe, I will,” Buffy promised, tucking the precious key to her freedom into her pocket. It’s not like she was a prisoner here, but this would be the first time in a handful of days that she didn’t feel like she was being babysat. She was twenty years old, after all… not some whiny kid.

She watched as Chloe left the apartment without another word, closing the door behind her.

“I will make this phone bend to my will,” Buffy murmured as she sat down on the overstuffed armchair. The first thing she had to do was get the phone to turn on. She pressed on the screen, like she’d seen Maze and Chloe do, but instead of lighting up, it stayed black.

She turned the phone around in her hands before noticing a series of tiny button bars on the side. Trial and error worked; she finally made the phone light up. Only instead of an actual user screen, it was some kind of graphic screensaver. In frustration, she tried to wipe it off the screen, and lo and behold, she finally ended up on a screen with apps.

Ha! That was such a funny little word… apps! Then again, that’s what each of the icons indicated – an application. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, right?

Buffy bet this phone was more powerful than all the computers at Sunnydale High put together. How much stuff did one actually need on a phone, for crying out loud? All it needed to do was make calls. A bit of tapping on one icon after another led her to a game, some kind of calendar, and an email program asking her for her user name and a password. If she were stuck in this time much longer, she supposed she’d have to set one up.

When in Rome, right?

It took her a little while longer to figure out which icon stood for Google, and was grateful when a little keyboard appeared for the search function.

“Gah!” Buffy cried out in frustration. She was never going to get used to tapping on a screen instead of buttons. Her finger acted like it had its own little brain. And was drunk! She threw the phone down on the coffee table and glared at it. Was it possibly possessed by a demon? It could happen, like when Moloch possessed Willow’s computer years ago.

She stood and paced the room. No wonder Giles called computers ‘those infernal machines’. They were truly the work of demons. Or would be the work of demons, depending on where she was in the fabric of time.

“Enough!” Buffy called out to the empty room, tossing her hands up in defeat. “I’ve never been research girl, or computer wizard. I am action girl. I’m gonna do this the old fashioned way… head over to the nearest bus stop and see where it leads.”

It’s only been sixteen years. How much could Los Angeles have changed in all that time?

Buffy gathered up the last of the stash of money she'd been given, took the key from her pocket, and left. She'd figure out her agenda as she went.

***

Ella turned the folder she had in her hands over, and sighed. “I’d really like to wait until Lucifer was here before discussing the results. I mean, not like you don’t have a right to know, but he has a major stake in it, you know?”

Chloe nodded in agreement, though the wait was making her antsy. Speaking of the devil, Lucifer waltzed into the forensics lab.

He entered the lab with his usual swagger, and Chloe could practically see Ella's face light up as he did. “So,” he grinned, his thousand-watt smile making even Chloe a little weak in the knees. “Do tell me what you’ve managed to discover about my possible kidnapper.”

“Well, I don’t know what it says about you,” Ella conceded. “But… even with the evidence as exposed as it was to the elements, I was able to determine that our Buffy Summers is actually a mom. And what makes it even weirder,” she continued, “is the lack of any substantial amount of paternal DNA.”

Lucifer brought up a fantastical idea. “Are you saying that our little stranger has a clone out there in the multi-verse?”

Ella shook her head, slowly. “No… not exactly. The DNA isn’t quite identical to Buffy’s, but there are barely a quarter of the chromosomes necessary to point to the child’s father. Also, it’s definitely not a sibling, who would have the same parental gene pool of Buffy’s parents.”

“But she’s so young!” Chloe’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Oh, come now, Detective. Surely in your line of work you’ve come across young girls passing off their children as their siblings, to be raised by their mothers.”

“Well we don't know the age of the child. As far as we know, she could have had the baby when she was in her teens,” was Ella’s conclusion.

Chloe shook her head. “She's only twenty. Her teens were barely a year ago.”

“Chloe, teens can have kids as early as twelve or thirteen. It's rare, but not as uncommon as one would hope for any number of reasons.”

Chloe became quiet with that. Thinking of Trixie, and the fact that she was almost 9. She couldn't begin to imagine her being sexually active within the next three years... or being... no, she wasn't going to go there.

“Don't remind me,” Lucifer said, quietly. “They always like to blame me for leading them into temptation.”

Chloe glared at Lucifer, who of course as always had to make it about him.

Ella looked up, as well.

“You know...” Lucifer drawled. "The Devil made me do it, and all that rot?”

Ella just smiled. It seemed she was just indulging his playful side.

Sometimes Chloe wondered how he did it, wearing his arrogance like a custom-made suit… like he was God’s gift to the world. And yet, most women, even the ones that usually knew better, couldn’t help but throw themselves at his feet.

And yes, she knew that his reputation about being good in bed had something to do with it, but still…

He and Ella seemed more like siblings than sexual partners right now. For some reason, that made Chloe relieved. She wasn't sure why. It's not like she wanted Lucifer, it's just...

Okay, that was a lie. She'd always been attracted to him, and at one time it seemed as if they were growing very, very close... until he went away and came back with Candy, as his wife. Lying to oneself was never a good idea. Easy, but never good.

Getting together with Lucifer was just one of those things that seem like a really, really good idea, until it actually happened, and you were left in the wake, regretting it for the rest of your life. And she really didn't want to regret him. They were too good as friends, and partners.

That didn't mean she looked forward to each new conquest of his. It also meant she hated seeing him hook up with every man, woman and agender person with a pulse in the city.

Enough! Chloe shook her head to clear all this nonsense from her mind. “Okay, guys. Why would this be relevant to the business of Lucifer's kidnapping? Also, this makes it imperative to try and get the girl home. Who knows where the baby is... in whose care, or which social service division?”

Maybe Ella was right about the child's age; it might explain some things about why Buffy hadn't mentioned the kid. Then again, if she had such a young child, shouldn't she be more urgently trying to get home?

Especially since her mother had just died, and from what little Buffy had said about her sister, the girl was too young to look after herself.

“Oh my god!” How stupid could she be? Chloe had an epiphany. Buffy had mentioned her ‘sister’, but what Ella had reminded her of struck a chord. Even though these days it was more normal to bear a child out of wedlock, she supposed having the little one raised as her sister would be beneficial to the young woman – take a boatload of responsibility off of her young shoulders.

Now on top of everything Lucifer was worried about, Chloe worried for the separation of a child and her mother. Who was watching over her? Social services? Foster care? Didn't really bode well for the child, as Chloe knew all too well.

They had to find a way to get the girl back where she belonged. Sooner, rather than later.

Chapter Text

Sitting on the bus, Buffy's bravery seemed to have deserted her. Her main goal had been to visit her old home, but she didn't think she could stand it if it wasn't there. Not yet, anyway. Instead, she decided to visit Hemery High School, first. Surely it would be there. She wasn't the only one who went there, so chances were good it would be found.

She didn't try to look around her, or wonder how many of the 'people' around here were demons in disguise. Or oddly, how much better she'd feel if they were. Demons she knew how to deal with.

Nobody set off her tinglies in the slightest. Plus, day. Even if there were vampires here, they wouldn't be on the bus in broad daylight.

Instead there were people looking at their phones, or wearing headphones, intent on trying to avoid contact with anyone. A guy in the back corner who looked like he wore everything he owned and was probably homeless. Two kids carrying backpacks and talking about something called spinners, and some guy in a raincoat who vaguely gave her the wiggins… she didn’t even want to know what he was up to.

Outside of the prevalence of cell phones, she could almost fool herself into thinking she’d gone back in time. The last time she’d been in Los Angeles was when she’d run away from Sunnydale after sending Angel to hell. Only this time, there wasn't Giles looking for her, or a soul-stealing waitress job she had to get to… not even a bunch of monsters to kill to get out of her funk. Last but not least, she didn’t have a bus ticket that would get her back home whenever she was ready for it.

So, she rode alone in silence, willing herself to be unseen. Her nerves had begun to grow, along with the traffic, so she closed her eyes and settled in for more self-reflection. Not her favorite thing, but she had nothing but time on her hands for the moment.

Okay, even further into her LA past. When she’d been going to Hemery High School, she'd been blissfully unaware of anything in the supernatural realm. If she were still young, teenaged Buffy, she would have been one of those girls whose biggest worry was if her hair was too flat, or that some guy would try to hit on her (or even worse… not). But all that had gone out the window the day Merrick had greeted her on the steps of the school.

She'd been shallow, vain, bubble-headed... carefree. She missed it, in a way. Even though being here gave her a bit of a respite, she knew she'd never be right until she was back with her friends and family.

She missed Dawn. She even missed Dawn being annoying, or reading her journal… ok, maybe not that. But she missed her sister with her whole heart.

Hell, she missed demons she could pound on, and vampires she could stake.

She even missed the back and forth sniping with Spike, not to mention totally kicking his ass when he got too close to… too close. His ability to keep up with her witty banter made their fights that much more enjoyable.

Buffy smiled, fondly. Fighting with Spike was fun compared to sparring with Angel, even though that chip kept him from going all out. There was less baggage there for one thing, what with not having a failed relationship with him. And she had to admit, when it came down to it, she could trust Spike to be honest with her. Even when his insights were more cutting than his fists, he always told the truth.

Angel preferred to work with her on forms; it was good for her - physically and mentally, he claimed. The problem with that method was, Buffy didn't have the patience to focus on forms for any length of time. Meditating and all that, just not her thing. Yeah, she could practice, but she preferred to stay in motion… to focus on action, instead of on breathing. She was action girl – point and stake. That's what had made fighting with Spike fun. He was inventive in all sorts of circumstances – unlike most every other demon she'd ever fought.

Faith had been the same, until she turned on them all and went to the dark side. Oddly enough, so was Maze. They kept up with her, made her be better.

Oh. My. God! Buffy startled to complete alertness. She couldn't believe she thought Spike was good for her in any sense of the word, even though the last days they’d spent fighting off Glory and protecting Dawn, were more about being helpful than his old bloodlust for her death.

Sometimes she wished Spike could get rid of that chip, and spar with her, full out, now that her death was no longer on the menu. She missed having someone who could match her, physically, and not have to worry about them being badly hurt.

The problem with that sitch is that if he did get rid of the chip, she'd have to stake him, and she didn't want to do that either.

She remembered her first battles with Spike... he held nothing back, and she genuinely feared for her life. This sparring they did now was a pale imitation of it. The only thing that stayed constant was his ability to run his mouth.

Buffy opened her eyes, and realized she was only about two stops away from the school. This is it. Time to face the music. She stood, and headed towards the doors in the back of the bus.

***

She had expected the familiar sight of Hemery. Even now, close to half a decade since her earliest classes when Mom had driven her, she remembered getting off at this bus stop, almost every day for a year. The building had always loomed large to her younger self.

Buffy sat on a public bench, her mind numb. There was no Hemery High. There had never been a Hemery High. Nothing but houses and strip malls.

And maybe a location that was much more integrated than she was used to

She walked the streets up and around in a daze, sure she would find some confirmation that her old school existed, but found nothing. She felt her skin twitch, as if she were being watched. She took a closer look at the people around her and found she was, indeed, being stared at.

Did she have something on her face? Was her clothing not up to the day's standards?

It took a few moments before she realized what it must be. The crowds of people she passed were predominantly Black and Hispanic. Sunnydale had lacked a mix of ethnicities, not that she had ever really paid attention, but here, it was obvious that she was the different one.

She remembered the last time she'd been in LA, after she'd killed Angel, but even then, the differences hadn’t been this big.

She wondered if this is how Kendra must have felt when she arrived in Sunnydale.

She sat down on a bench, feeling utterly lost, unsure where to go, or how to get there. She missed home; she missed her Mom. She just wanted to go back home, even though Mom wouldn’t be there, but at least she had been there. Here, it was like she never even existed.

The lack of her old high school was concrete proof that she didn't belong here. Her determination wavered, but she pulled herself together through sheer force of stubborn will and headed back to the bus stop. She had to get back to Chloe, Lucifer and Maze. They had to find a way to get her back home.

This might be LA, but it wasn't her LA

Buffy’s feet tapped out a tattoo on the sidewalk as she sat, stiff and uncomfortable on the bench. Her arms thrummed with nervous energy, and she wished (very silently, thank you) for a ravening hoard of vampires to appear out of nowhere so she could get her slay on.

Her eyes darted back and forth, as if something was waiting to pounce on her, to devour her without warning. Alarm bells were going off. NOT SAFE! NOT SAFE! they screamed in her head.

She leapt up from her seat, needing to move; needing to leave where she was. Buffy headed to the corner of the block then made a left turn. She didn’t know where she was going, but something would speak to her. Something had to be familiar.

Her whole experience since she awoke in the desert felt like a nightmare – one she couldn’t awaken from. Her surroundings looked totally mundane – nothing out of the ordinary – except nobody she knew existed here. There was no Sunnydale. No Scoobys, no Giles, no Dawn… not even her mother’s grave.

No tall, dark, brooding vampires hiding in Los Angeles like a coward. No cocky, loud-mouthed, extremely inciteful vampires waiting to join her on patrol.

Buffy rounded the next corner and kept on going. She knew people were looking at her. Who was that crazy chick practically running like a madwoman around their homes? What did they have to fear from her?

And yet, she couldn’t stop. She was on her third circuit of the area when she heard a voice call out.

“Miss? Miss!”

Buffy stopped, spotting a young mother with a trio of children in tow coming her way.

“Are you all right?” she asked, her lightly accented voice had Buffy needing to focus in order to understand her as her own panic escalated. “Are you lost? Do you need help?”

“I’m… I’m…” Buffy was at a loss for words for how she was feeling at the moment. The panic that had her moving earlier had started to subside, but not altogether.

“Are you in trouble?” the woman continued. “Is someone malo – bad – after you?”

“N-no,” Buffy stammered. “I’m just… lost,” she said, for lack of better words.

“Do you want me to get the policia?” The woman wouldn’t leave her alone.

“Mama, Mama, Mama.” The smallest of the woman’s three children pulled on his mother’s blouse. “Quiero helado! Helado de chocolate!”

“Hush, Miguel,” the woman scolded. “Pronto, mi hijo.”

“Please don’t let me keep you,” Buffy begged off, making to continue her journey. “I’ll be fine,” she insisted. “I just need to go home.”

“If you are sure.” The woman looked doubtful, but let her child continue to pull her on their way.

Buffy quickly made her way back to the bus stop to check the schedule for the next bus to take her back to Chloe’s.

Chapter Text

Walking into Chloe’s apartment, Buffy toed off her shoes, tossed the keys and phone onto the dining room table, grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge and threw herself down on the sofa. She pulled the afghan up to her chin and huddled as small as she could into the cushions.

She really wasn’t happy with herself right now. She’d let herself be overcome with panic. In Sunnydale, panic could kill her. Here, whatever reality ‘this’ was, she’d run back to the only ‘home’ she knew, and hid like a scared little girl with her tail between her legs.

Her vaunted strength had vanished. Right now, she could (almost wanted to) stay right where she was and never leave the apartment again.

Buffy picked up the remote and rapidly clicked through the channels, hoping for something that she could hold onto. Something that she could remember. No such luck, however. Even though the number of channels was staggering, not a single movie or television show was familiar. And she sure as hell wasn’t in the mood for current news.

She felt like a fish out of water, and was trying hard not to gasp for breath.

The thought to call Dr. Linda crossed her mind. It nudged and nagged, until it was interrupted by the arrival of Chloe and Trixie.

“Buffy!” the little girl called out happily. “You’re home! How was your adventure? Did you find anything exciting?”

Oh god, Buffy thought. Dawn, Junior. Always with the hardest questions first.

“Trixie!” Chloe exclaimed, gently nudging her daughter away from Buffy. “Don’t crowd our guest now. And one question at a time would be a better approach.” The smile on her face belied even her gentle chiding.

“Sorry, Mommy. Sorry, Buffy,” Trixie said, not upset in the slightest. “Tell me about what you did, please?” Trixie’s warm, earnest smile melted some of the cold, icy panic Buffy still carried with her.

Taking a deep breath, she began, “Well, today I went back to my old neighborhood. I wanted to see my old school and where I used to live.”

“Was it as big as you remembered?” Trixie asked, eyes wide with excitement. “When I visited my old kindergarten room, everything looked way smaller than I remembered!”

Buffy smiled. There was nothing so touching as the innocence of a child. Now how to explain… “Well, I couldn’t find my old school. I guess they tore it down to make way for a bunch of houses and some stores.”

“The whole school was gone?”

“Vanished,” Buffy agreed. “Like it had never been there in the first place.”

“Wow!” Trixie looked as if she couldn’t quite wrap her mind around a school being gone. “Oh! Did you go to see your old house, then?” she asked, not forgetting what Buffy had told her.

“Actually, no. I decided I couldn’t handle the chance that it was painted another color, or see the new family living there,” Buffy managed. The fact that the house might possibly not exist freaked her out beyond the telling, and she didn’t want to upset the sweet child with her fears.

“It was a long time ago,” Buffy added, smiling to reassure Trixie. “I’d moved away from there a long time ago, so I decided not to bother.”

Chloe was giving her the side-eye, as if she knew there was more to the story than Buffy was letting on, but the woman held her tongue, and let Buffy tell what she was comfortable with.

“Are you gonna stay with us, then?” Trixie asked, eyes hopeful.

She’s a relentless little thing, isn’t she?

Buffy was confounded. She’d never given a micro-second’s thought to actually staying here for good. Where she had nobody but the new friends she’d made. She liked these people (and apparently, demons). She liked them very much, but they still didn’t hold a candle to the folks she had left behind.

Her sister – the uppermost person in her heart and mind. The girl she jumped off that tower for. Sacrificed her life for – although that hadn’t quite turned out like she’d expected, now had it?

And Giles – the closest thing she had to a father figure. He was always there for her, even when he was disappointed in her choices. Trying to be both father and mother to her with absolutely no experience in the actual raising of a daughter – just what he’d learned from the Council on the “care” of a Slayer.

Last, but not least… her friends. Willow and Xander, and of course by extension, Tara and Anya. Now they could be way too judgmental, but they always had her back – continually putting themselves in the line of fire by accompanying her on patrol and into the apocalypse du jour.

No, there was no way she was going to leave them behind. She had to get home. It was time to push Lucifer and Ella for help in getting back. Before everyone gave up on her.

Today, Buffy decided, she was willing to veg on the couch and take comfort with the people here. Tomorrow, she’d call Dr. Linda, and see if she could spare some time to help her to get her act together. Today’s little ‘adventure’ had been too unsettling.

And then, Lucifer and Ella, and the actual mechanics in getting her life back.

*****

“Hey there, Buffy,” Linda greeted with a small wave. “You’re lucky I had an early cancellation this morning.”

“I really appreciate you making the time for me,” Buffy said, nervously twisting her hands in her lap. “Yesterday was not one of my top ten – or even top fifty – favorites.”

“Okay, then. What is it that has you so unsettled?”

“I don’t belong here.”

“You’re not the first person to feel that your life is ill-fitting,” Linda said quietly. “Although your situation is a bit different than most, I have to admit.”

Buffy let slip an uncomfortable little laugh. “I get that, Linda. I really, really do. I mean, for so many years all I wanted to be was a normal teenager, with normal teenage worries. After I was called as the Slayer, nothing fit my expectations.”

She paused for a moment, looking deep in thought. “I once told my mother that being the Slayer meant the fighting doesn’t stop. It *never* stops! Do you think I chose to be like this, I asked her. Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or... God, even studying! But I have to save the world... again.”

After taking a deep breath, Buffy continued with a killer punchline. “And then she told me if I left the house, I shouldn’t even think about coming back.”

Linda was stunned. Parent/teenage relations were often fraught, but mostly interactions like that were just word – letting off steam. In this case, Linda was afraid Buffy came to the wrong conclusion. Her fears were born out when Buffy continued.

“I left then, of course. I had to save the world by killing my vampire boyfriend. And then I left town, and went back to Los Angeles… the whole waitress and living in a dump thing we discussed before. Trust me when I say I haven’t felt comfortable in my own skin for years now.

“However, I always knew I belonged. I knew my friends and family were there, even if they were out of reach for the time being. I knew where my home was, where my school was…there were indications of the life I had led everywhere. Here…” she paused yet again, gathering herself for the reveal, “here I have nothing and no one.”

“You do have us, you know,” Linda said, trying to gauge how her remarks landed. “I’m always here for you. Chloe and Maze like you. Lucifer is fascinated by you and your ‘arrival’ here. Maze tells me that Trixie adores you.”

“I’m very grateful for meeting all of you,” Buffy acknowledged. “But honestly, yesterday drove home how very much I don’t belong here. I went to look at my old school, and then I was gonna go check out my old home. My school doesn’t exist here. It never existed here – which means I didn’t exist here before I popped up in the desert.

“The area surrounding the school was different, too. Even taking into consideration that I’m sixteen years out of date here. I was afraid to go look for my old house. I panicked,” Buffy fretted. “I felt like I could disappear at any time. There was nothing holding me here, yet I couldn’t get back to where I belong.”

“So you went back to Chloe’s place, yes?” Linda prodded. She knew there was more to come. She could feel it in her professional bones.

“Back where I belong,” Buffy repeated in a whisper. “Back where I threw myself off a tower. Sacrificing my life for my sister and friends. And the rest of the world. I was ready to die and I acted on it.”

And there it was.

“Do you still want to end your life?”

“N-no,” Buffy said slowly, as if coming to a realization. “I think if I were back where I belonged, I would feel better about staying alive. Maybe I could lean on my friends more… let them help me. But I have to get back there! Being here feels like dying. I’m sure people are worried about me back home.”

“I’m sure Lucifer and Amenadiel are doing their best to make that possible,” Linda said slowly. “We all want the best for you, Buffy. And until we can accomplish your return, you should know you’ll have a place to feel safe in.”

“And I’m grateful for it,” Buffy said. “I don’t know what I would do without you all. But I feel like an added burden to everyone. I have no money or clothes of my own. I have to depend on you all for everything, and I can’t give anything in return. It’s not a good way to live.”

“I get that. Who we are is definitely tied to those around us. I’m sure the loss of all things familiar was unsettling enough, but the loss of everyone you knew and loved was a particularly devastating blow.”

Buffy nodded in agreement. “I even find myself missing those people I thought of as pains in my ass. They made my world bigger, just by being there. Sometimes I actually looked forward to fighting with them,” she confided.

Linda had to laugh at that. “Better the hell you know, eh?”

“Literally, in my case,” Buffy replied.

Chapter Text

Buffy stood outside the club’s entrance and took a deep, steadying breath. “I make my own agency,” she murmured. “If I want something to happen, take steps towards it myself. Don’t wait for others to do it for you.”

She walked into Lux and was once more surrounded by the opulence of it all. The beautiful, modern, classy appearance. The crowds of young (although older than her and the Bronze crowd), beautiful people all elegantly dressed. The thumping techno-beat loud enough to invade your very cells. Nightlife in Los Angeles in 2017.

Buffy had to get back to Sunnydale in 2001. As soon as possible.

She searched for Lucifer, once more spotting the man (Devil) holding court by his piano. After wending her way through the crowd, she tapped him gently on the shoulder.

“Well hello there, Buffy,” Lucifer purred out his welcome, eyes sparkling with excitement. “And to what do I owe the honor of your company tonight?”

“I need to talk with you.”

“Is that so?” he asked, amused. “So sorry, folks,” Lucifer said smoothly to the crowd surrounding him. “It appears I have a prior engagement.” He stood up, to the ‘awws’ and the ‘do you really have to leaves’, and gently shepherded Buffy towards the elevator leading to his private apartment.

“Can I offer you a drink of some sort?” he asked as Buffy settled herself down on his pillow-laden sofa. When she refused, he asked, “Pray tell…what compelled you to leave the sanctuary of the Detective’s cozy home and seek me out all by your lonesome? Have you finally succumbed to my irrepressible charm?”

Buffy smiled at that. Quipping she could handle – it felt like talking with Spike on a slow night. “No succumbing, alas,” she replied. “I do need to get some answers, if you have time.”

“All the time in the world, Ms. Summers. Go for it.”

With a crack of her knuckles, Buffy fired the opening salvo.

“You’re the actual Devil, right?”

“Indeed.”

“Do you have a game-face?”

“Instead of this gloriously handsome visage?”

“Yes.”

In the blink of an eye, Lucifer revealed his devil face – red eyes glowing with amber light, reddish skin, no hair, small horny protrusions instead of the stereotypical huge devil horns, pockmarked complexion.

“What’s this?” Lucifer asked, staring at Buffy and her lack of reaction. “Not a flinch nor gasp?”

“Seen worse,” Buffy admitted.

And just like that, Lucifer’s human face reappeared. Buffy knew he hadn’t been trying to scare her (like he even could). This was a question and answer session, after all, and all’s fair in good and evil.

“Next question, then.”

“Are you as evil as the world makes you out to be?”

“That depends on your perspective, I suppose.”

“Meaning?”

“Well, I don’t see myself as evil,” Lucifer mused, a definite twinkle in his eye. “I am an Angel, after all – though slightly fallen from my original standing.”

“Do you punish people in the fires of Hell?”

“Do I punish people in Hell? Well, yes, that’s my job; forced on me by my father. I do it superbly, if I must say so myself.” Lucifer walked over to his bar, poured a drink, and turned back to Buffy. “Do I punish those who don’t deserve it? No, I don’t. I’m not in the habit of punishing a human for jay-walking, or littering. However, the pedophile who molests children, or the spouse who beats on their husband or wife? That’s another story. Hell is full of degenerates who should never be allowed a moment’s respite.

“Each and every punishment is uniquely suited for its subject. It takes real talent to make the punishment fit the crime, and I do take pride in what I do… or I did, anyway,” he concluded, his expression turning reflective.

“Is that why you’re up here amongst humans, running a nightclub?” Buffy asked, totally curious as to how this came to be.

“It is, I suppose. After eons of ruling over Hell, I felt that there had to be more to my existence.” He downed his libation in a single swallow, slamming the glass down none-too-gently. “Look at me, Buffy,” he said, his eyes focused entirely on her. “I love well-made clothing. In fact, I’m built for it.” He preened, slowly turning in a circle to show off all his assets. “I can hold a conversation with anyone on the planet. I’m well-informed. And most of all, I enjoy a good romp in the hay. There are plenty of men, women, and those in between who leave my bed a lot happier than when they landed on it.”

“I’m sure the sex is glorious,” Buffy agreed. “But did you love any of them?”

“Love?”

“Yes, love. As in head-over-heels, couldn’t live without them love. Do you have a soul? Are you capable of such a human emotion?”

“Now, now, Buffy… we’re getting into questionable subjects here,” Lucifer murmured, sidling up closer to where she was sitting. “Souls are human-defined. I’m an Angel. And as for your definition of love… I might be persuaded to admit some rather intense feelings for our favorite Detective Decker.”

Aha! I was right!! Buffy thought. I knew there was sparkage, and now it’s confirmed. She looked directly into Lucifer’s warm, brown eyes. “Then why haven’t you told Chloe how you feel?”

“Because she doesn’t know the real me,” he said, softly. “I don’t know if she’d be able to understand… to cope… When I told Linda, it took her months to recover. She and I are fine, now, but it was a devil of a time for her. Forgive me for the pun.”

“I’ve had a relationship with a vampire,” Buffy said so softly, as if almost to not have spoken at all. “He had a soul, though. A human soul. Without a soul they can’t feel any of the finer emotions,” she insisted, all the while images of Spike’s handsome face crossed her mind. Spike doting on her sister. Spike sharing hot chocolate with her Mom. Even Spike’s care for his paramour for over a hundred years – all without a soul. His declaration of love for her. No wonder she was confused.

“There are millions of ‘souled’ humans who commit atrocities every day, sweetheart,” Lucifer said, softly, using his fingertips to lift Buffy’s chin. “Hell is full of them. I guarantee that none of them understand what ‘love’ is.”

“Then how do the people who know get these things all wrong?”

“People who know?” Lucifer laughed, but it was an ugly sound not meant to convey levity. “Nobody knows the hearts and minds of other individuals. Well, except for me, of course. I can’t help but read most people like open books.”

“How can you stand it?” Buffy asked, truly curious. “How can you pass judgment on everyone?”

“How can you kill vampires and demons on sight?” Lucifer shot back. “Do you know there are all types of demons? They can’t all be on your ‘kill first, ask questions later’ list.”

“But everything I’ve been taught… everything Giles insists…”

“How about everything that Buffy Summers learns for herself? Surely you know some friendly demons?”

Buffy was at a loss for words. She actually liked Spike’s friend, Clem; even though he had a taste for poor, little kitties. And then there was Spike himself. These days he was almost the anti-vampire. All her learning and Giles’ teachings were flung back in her face regarding him.

Of course, his age had something to do with it. Approximately 120 years or so takes the edge off fledgling bloodlust. And the chip – mustn’t forget the stupid government chip that prevented him from harming people. Buffy shuddered – the thought of what Angel would be like if he were the one who’d been chipped. Or even worse – Angelus. Guaranteed he’d have found ways to cause death and destruction despite it.

Spike, on the other hand, adapted. He constantly bitched about the taste of animal blood – even bagged human – but he stuck with it. He didn’t recruit other vampires to supply him with freshly dead humans. He didn’t even try firebombing her house, or the Magic Box.

No, he actually tried hanging out with her and her friends, helping (when she let him) in whatever ways he could. And definitely caring for…

“Okay, enough,” Buffy shouted, then sprung to her feet. “All this is doing is giving me a ‘bloody headache’ to quote one of my species-defying vampires back home. I came here because I can’t stand it anymore. I don’t belong here, Lucifer. I need to go home. Can you help me or not?”

“Answer me one question, sweetie.”

“Shoot.”

“Did you have anything to do with my kidnapping and us ending up in the desert at the same time?”

“This again?” Buffy rolled her eyes, fighting the urge to scream. “No. No I did not have anything to do with you or your kidnapping. And I have no idea how in the hell I managed to end up here – sixteen years in my future and apparently in another dimension where nobody or nothing I know exists.”

“Then let’s get cracking, shall we? It’s time for Buffy Summers to get back to her own life.”