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Decimation

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“You don’t have to do this, Pierce.”

“Yes, I do,” says the man she thought she knew, the man she’d thought she loved. “And normally I would just skip town and reinvent myself. But this time I can’t.” He chambers a bullet in his pistol. “Not before I kill Lucifer.”

“What? Why?” None of this makes any sense. Her mind spins desperately, trying to slot together a narrative that works, a set of motivations that would have resulted in this outcome. Usually when working a case, it’s a matter of filling in the gaps, but here it’s as if she’s been given all the pieces, only from two completely different puzzles. Why would a crime lord even care about some club owner turned police consultant, much less risk being caught just to kill one? Why would he have lured them here not knowing if they would bring backup? Why Lucifer and not her?

Pierce smiles darkly, and Chloe finally recognizes the strange expression on his face—it’s fear. “Because I know that he’ll never stop hunting me. And I can’t afford to spend the rest of my days looking over my shoulder. But you don’t have to die, Chloe.” He raises the gun, pointing it over her shoulder at Lucifer. “Step away from him.”

“Detective, for once I agree with this imbecile,” Lucifer says softly, disgust and rage trembling in his voice. “Step aside.”

“No,” she says, resolute, stepping between them. Her choice is clear. It’s always been clear.

“Detective—” 

“Chloe—”

“I believed everything you said, Marcus,” she says, relieved to find her voice steady. She’s terrified, but confident. “That you loved me, that you did all of this for me. Which is why I know that you won’t shoot.”

He lowers his gun, a calculating expression on his handsome face that is somehow worse than facing down a bullet.

“You made me realize that life was worth living, and I will do anything to stay alive. But if you get in the way of that—” He raises his gun again and Chloe raises her hands. She can almost feel the anxiety radiating off Lucifer behind her. Lucifer, who only a few weeks ago tackled a woman to the ground for just threatening her with a knife. She keeps her arms spread, hoping she’ll be able to catch him before he does anything stupid.

“Okay, I believe you,” she breathes, heart pounding. “I don’t wanna die.”

Marcus lowers his gun again. “You won’t.” His eyes flicker up—far up—to the balcony behind her, and he nods.

The sound of the gunshot is sudden and thunderous in the small, high-ceilinged room, echoing for what seems like an eternity. The first thing she registers is the smug smile that passes across Pierce’s face, like a ripple across the still waters of his customary deadpan. Something about it is sickening, inhuman. Chloe looks down at herself, trying to find the gunshot wound that surely is there. But there’s nothing. Did the shot miss?

She feels more than hears the sound of a heavy weight hitting the floor behind her, the vibration thrumming across the soles of her feet. Her ears are ringing and ringing, a god-awful noise. Then she feels something warm and wet running down the back of her neck, tracing a path under her collar, pooling, viscous, at the top of her kevlar vest.

She looks down slowly, like there’s a beast ready to startle, a terrible truth that she can save herself from if she moves carefully enough, if she thinks fast enough. Maybe, maybe she’ll survive.

On the floor beside her is a dark head connected to a dark-suited body. Beneath the head, a dark pool spreads. She falls to her knees without feeling, without thinking, grabs her partner, her best friend, the man she loves and heaves him over onto his back. He’s limp, unmoving: dead weight. 

He’s fine, he’s fine, he can survive anything, it’s just a graze, it’s just—

His face is gone. Where his dancing brown eyes and mischievous smile once were is a mass of blood and bone and gore. This isn’t— It’s not—

Someone is screaming. Someone is screaming and screaming a name, over and over.

Eventually—as heavy hands loop under her arms and pull her to her feet—she realizes it’s her.


She’s thrown into the back of a panel van, bound and gagged, and the body is heaved in after her.

It looks larger now than it ever seemed before. Lifeless limbs akimbo, it takes up most of the available floor space. Lucifer never seems that big. Even with his towering height, he’s always so real, so warm, so friendly. Always ready to stoop to read a case file over her shoulder or crouch to look at evidence. He never makes her feel small. She feels tiny in the presence of this awful mass of unmoving flesh.

Chloe is torn between the urge to get as far away from touching that cold, pale skin as possible and the urge to cradle him in her arms. To feel him near her, to keep him with her for as long as she can. She’s glad for the dim light barely trickling in from a tiny gap in the door, giving her nothing more to look at than a vague sense of the walls and a suggestion of the form beside her. She doesn’t think she could look at the mangled remnants of his face without vomiting, and there is nothing worse than vomiting while gagged.

Lucifer is gone. Lucifer is dead. 

She thinks the words over and over again but can’t really seem to make sense of them. There’s a numbing buzz humming in her brain, a levee trembling with the magnitude of what it’s holding back. 

She understands that she is in shock. She is being kidnapped and she is in shock and Lucifer is gone. She is alone. She loved him, and he is gone. He never knew, insecure and wracked with doubt as he was, that she loved him. 

She could have told him. She will never be able to tell him.

Something thick and lukewarm and wet touches her face on its journey across the floor. His blood, oh God, oh God—

She throws herself backwards further against the wall of the van. Her breath comes heavy and fast through her nose. She screams against the gag, screams her terror and grief and pain into the duct tape that seals her lips shut. It’s unsatisfying. It doesn’t do anything to lessen the sharp pain in her chest. She digs her fingernails into the flesh of her hands until she draws blood. She kicks violently against the doors of the van. They rattle but hold easily. Tears stream down her face, and she shudders as wracking sobs tear through her. She flails and twists and writhes against her restraints like a wild animal in a trap, screaming into her mouth in frustration.

Then she stops. She forces her body to relax. She takes a breath in and holds it against the spasming sobs, against the ache filling her chest, then releases it slowly. She repeats the action over and over until the sobbing stops, until she can envision anything in her mind’s eye other than the awful ruin of his face.

She’s been kidnapped. By a trained police lieutenant and criminal mastermind. She has to escape. How can she escape? She thinks about the van. It’s still driving on city streets, the pavement is smooth beneath its wheels, and she hears telltale honking outside. It rolls to stops intermittently. Not on the freeways, then.

Surely Dan and Ella will realize soon that something’s happened, when she and Lu—when she doesn’t check in. Then they’ll likely call in the cavalry, concerns about Pierce’s men on the inside be damned. Pierce is staying on surface streets because the freeways are a trap—easy to close off, easy to find someone on. In the labyrinth of Los Angeles’ endless neighborhoods you can disappear. He is disappearing. He is taking her with him.

She lies still, and she focuses on her surroundings, and she waits.


The van drives and drives and drives, turning frequently, tires finally crunching against gravel as it slows to a stop. Suddenly the doors fly open. She’s momentarily blinded by the brilliant daylight, but she makes out the silhouette of one of Pierce’s men. He grabs the body’s legs and slides it out, leaving a streak of red in its wake, and before Chloe can even attempt to wriggle towards freedom, the doors slam shut again.

Faintly, she hears his voice. Flat, emotionless, matter-of-fact.

“I want the body destroyed. Fire, acid, whatever you need to do. I don’t want anything left.”

“You got it, Boss,” says the other man.

They sit there for a long time. Chloe feels sick. There is the murmur of scattered conversation and the crackle of flames—the stench of burning wool and hair and meat. She focuses all her thought and concentration on not vomiting, refusing to think of what’s happening outside the doors. She doesn’t understand why they need to be there. If Pierce is going to kidnap her, just take her now. Why make her endure this?

Finally, the engine starts again, and the van pulls back into traffic. Given the fact that Pierce’s companion in the front seat never seemed to get back in the passenger side door, Chloe judges that Pierce is now alone in the cab. She wiggles around so her feet point towards the front of the car and kicks the back of the cab viciously, screaming as loudly as she can through her gag.

“It’s no use, Chloe,” Pierce calls back, his voice muffled through the thin metal wall. Then, quieter, barely audible over the road noise, “It’s just you and me now.”

They drive for what must be hours and hours. The dim light from the crack between the doors fades until Chloe is alone in the pitch black with nothing but the sound of the road, the stench of blood, and her own fear for company. She is now very certain that no APB, no clever forensic scientist, no experienced detective will find her. Pierce is too smart, knows the system too well. She wouldn’t be surprised if they’re in Mexico now, or deep in the Mojave desert. 

The monotony and terror and pain begin to wear on her, and despite her best efforts, her eyelids begin to droop, and she drifts into a restless slumber.

She dreams of Lucifer’s eyes—the fear and hope and joy in them—a joy in life and the living of it like that of no one else she’s ever met. She sees him leaning slowly forward to kiss her, sweetly, as if he’s never kissed before, as though his innumerable lovers have done nothing to prepare him for her. But when his lips meet hers, they’re cold. She pulls back, and there is nothing but dull sadness on his face. Sadness turns to disappointment. Disappointment turns to condemnation. His skin melts away, leaving a horrific visage—tendons and muscles exposed, flesh twisted and scarred—before that, too, disappears, leaving nothing. A void where there should be a face.

“Lucifer, no, stay with me,” she pleads as he falls into her. And his weight is heavy, so heavy. She struggles to hold him, but he drags her down, stumbling off a precipice and falling, falling—

The sound of the van doors opening wakes her. She opens her eyes blearily. It’s night, but Pierce’s broad form is backlit by headlights, his face cast into shadow. He looks at her for a long moment before turning to someone she can’t see, maybe whoever was driving the other car parked behind them.

“Take her inside,” Pierce says. A figure moves towards the open doors. Pierce catches him by the arm. “ Be careful. She’s trained and stronger than she looks.”

As he leans closer to take ahold of her, Chloe sees the other man is burly and white with a shaved head and a tattoo of a snake peeking out from the neck of his shirt. 

“The fuck are you looking at, bitch?” he grumbles as he draws closer. Chloe waits, and aims…

She kicks out with both feet and nails him in the crotch with the heels of her boots. He hunches over in agony. She hears Pierce snort faintly in amusement.

“What did I tell you?” 

Recovering slightly, the bald man straightens and raises an arm as if to backhand her. Pierce catches his wrist, teeth bared, trembling with rage.

“I said, take her inside.

Cowed, the man ducks his head. “Yes, Boss.”

This time he grabs her by her ankles and yanks her out of the van, crouching to swing her over his shoulder. She writhes and struggles wildly but to no avail. From this perspective all she can see is the man’s back and the dusty, dry ground beneath them. The man climbs a set of three old, weather-worn stairs and swings open a creaking screen door, then a huge metal door that slides silently on well-oiled steel hinges. When it shuts behind them, Chloe realizes this is a safe house. And not just any safe house, but one worthy of the Sinnerman himself.

She sees worn wooden floorboards under his feet, covered by a ratty area rug. Then another heavy metal door opens, and they descend a wooden staircase. The air cools as they go deep, deeper than a normal basement. The floor down here is cold, clean polished concrete. Fluorescent lights flicker to life as they move down a long hallway. Finally the man carrying her frees one hand and punches in an 8-digit passcode. There’s the whirring of a lock disengaging, and they enter what she presumes to be her cell.

The man swings her over his shoulder and down onto her back on a thin cot, whacking her head on the metal frame with a resentful disregard for her comfort. Then he spins on his heel and walks away, the door shutting loudly behind him.

Chloe wriggles onto her side to free her bound arms from beneath her and surveys her surroundings. She’s in what could only be described as a prison cell.

The room is sparse, but not cruel. She’s lying on a bare mattress on a cot pushed into one corner. Several feet away, tucked into a little nook for privacy, are a toilet, a small shower, and a sink. From the way the thin mattress below her feels and the way the floor and the toilet look, she’d guess that no one has ever spent time in this place before. It’s brand new.

She finds she can’t really move, can’t really think. The reality of what’s happening to her just won’t seem to sink into her head. Why is she here? What’s happening to her? Is this real? The questions spin vaguely through her head but she can’t manage to form a coherent answer to any of them. This isn’t what was supposed to happen. She was supposed to capture the criminal. Supposed to earn justice for Charlotte. Supposed to return home and share a drink with Lucifer that might—finally—turn into something more. Instead, she’s...where? For how long? Why? Why?

After a few minutes, there’s a beeping of numbers being punched into the door again and it swings open. This time Pierce is there, carrying a pile of bed linens and towels. He doesn’t bother to close the door, and, standing vigilantly outside of it, are the bald man and another muscular, stone-faced lackey.

He sets the linens down on the clean floor beside her and sits on the edge of the cot. He looks at her and sighs as if she’s a mild inconvenience he regrets having to deal with, then quickly tears the duct tape away from her mouth.

She gasps at the pain, licking her sore lips, taking breath after trembling breath. He looks at her expectantly. She finds herself unable to meet his eyes. It’s all too much to take in, more than she can handle right now.

“Please let me go, Marcus,” she says finally in a small voice. “It’ll be better for you if you turn yourself in, you know that.” It’s what she knows she should say, but she doesn’t feel it. Doesn’t even really understand the meaning behind the words. This stranger will never turn himself in, will never submit.

He raises his eyebrows. “Oh, will it? You wouldn’t throw the book at me in revenge for killing Lucifer? Don’t lie to me, Chloe.”

The mention of his name sends a bolt of pure hatred through her, cutting through the shock and pain and confusion. How dare he? How dare he casually throw that name around, as if it meant nothing to kill him? As if he didn’t turn her entire world upside-down? As if he didn’t kill the one person who’d ever seemed willing to do anything to ensure her happiness? Chloe opens and shuts her mouth wordlessly for a moment, simmering with rage. 

“I’m going to get out of here, and I’m going to kill you.” She is pleasantly surprised to find her voice comes out cold and certain, carrying all the loathing she feels.

“Now that sounds like honesty.” Pierce smiles humorlessly.

“What do you even want with me?” Chloe asks, dreading the answer. “It would have been smarter to kill me, too. No witnesses.”

Pierce nods in agreement. “You’re right. But I’ve only got one life to live. And I want to live that life with you.”

“You’re insane,” she whispers.

“No, I just finally have clarity.”

“If you feel anything for me, you’ll let me go. This isn’t love.” She feels helpless, frustrated tears spilling from her eyes. “It’s....it’s sick.

Pierce shakes his head and reaches out to stroke her face. She recoils, but her motion is limited by her restraints and he pursues her, calloused fingers trailing down her cheek. “Love is an illusion. It all is. Any emotion can be bought or sold, lost or gained, with the right application of incentives.”

She’s shaking now, sick and afraid and confronted with a terrifying stranger, a stranger she nearly married.

“Well,” Pierce stands up, voice and manner casual. “I’m aware it’s not going to happen overnight.” He casts an appraising glance around the room. “I’ll get you some books and things. If there’s anything in particular you want or need, let me or one of my men know. This whole place could use a woman’s touch.”

He walks to the door and murmurs something to one of his henchmen on the way out. The man comes into the room and flips open a switchblade. Chloe recoils in fear, but all he does is peremptorily slice open the bindings on her wrists and ankles before leaving the room once again, closing the door behind him with the finality of a slab across the opening of a tomb.

Chloe is alone in a cell. In the middle of God-knows-where. Lucifer is dead.

She peels the remnants of the duct tape off her wrists and ankles and sits upright on the edge of the bed. Almost immediately, the nausea that’s been threatening for what must have been the better part of a day returns with a vengeance. She barely makes it to the small, stainless steel toilet before emptying her stomach. There’s almost nothing to bring up besides bile and pain. When her stomach finally settles she falls to the floor beside the toilet, puts her head in her hands, and cries.


A man sometimes known as Marcus Pierce drops down into a rolling office chair, bone tired. Tired of centuries, millennia of scheming and twisting and lying. Tired of killing those who stand in his way. Tired of the fear that dogs his every step. Fear of loss, fear of betrayal, fear of rejection. Fears that have been with him since the beginning of history.

He’s not afraid of pain, not anymore, not after he’s cut and burned and crushed his body in every conceivable way. Pain is nothing but proof you’re still alive. He hates it, but he’s not afraid of it. It’s been his bosom companion these many years.

Chloe makes him feel a different kind of pain. It’s been a long time since another person could do that. She is sharply beautiful. Focused and hardworking. Resolute in her ethics, in her sense of justice, in a way he never could manage. Imagining her beside him, he glimpses a future where he is better, where she balances out his darkness with her cool, pure light, her conviction in the idea of a moral truth greater than herself.

Now that Lucifer’s gone, he has plenty of time to make her understand that he loves her and she should love him too. By any means necessary.


Lucifer hits the floor. The gunshot came out of nowhere. He is a fool; of course Cain would have a backup plan for his backup plan.

He flails, trying to stand, but his limbs don’t seem to be responding to his commands. Maybe he was shot in the spine? A death sentence with the Detective here. It doesn’t matter; all that matters is her. If he loses her now, she’ll be gone forever, like Uriel, like Father Frank, like Charlotte Richards, like all the good people he’s met over the years. Lost to him.

He distantly registers Chloe talking to Cain, pleading for her life, for his.

“I don’t want to die,” she whimpers. The same thing she said on their first case, bleeding on the floor beneath him. He tries one more time to get up but is rewarded with nothing but helpless pain arcing like lightning down his body.

“Then I’m sorry,” Cain intones, voice cold. “But I can’t leave any loose ends.”

There is the sound of a single gunshot, and Chloe falls to the floor a scant few feet away, her face turned towards him, contorted in shock and pain.

He tries to scream, he tries to fight his way up, wants to tear Cain’s smug face from his skull. He curses himself, curses his Father, curses the cruelty of this awful, mortal world. She doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve any of the pain and horror he’s brought into her life. The guilt is a sledgehammer to his chest.

“Lucifer,” Chloe breathes, a tear sliding down her cheek, mingling with droplets of blood spatter from the gunshot wound in her chest. “I’m afraid.”

He wants to speak, to pull her close, to whisper promises of the beauty and peace of the Silver City, but his labored breaths are coming slower, and blackness is creeping in at the edges of his vision. He reaches out—all he can manage—hoping he can at least brush his fingers against hers, but the darkness closes in, and he sees no more.

Lucifer hits the floor. The gunshot came out of nowhere. He is a fool.

Chloe’s fear. His helplessness. Cain’s cruelty. He can’t reach her, he can’t speak to her.

Lucifer hits the floor.

Tears welling in her crystal blue eyes, the light in them already beginning to fade.

Lucifer hits the floor.

She doesn’t understand what’s happening. He never explained it to her. She’s dying, and she doesn’t understand why.

Lucifer hits the floor.

It’s his fault, all his fault. If he hadn’t been such a coward. If he’d shown her the truth, even if it wasn’t his truth. She would have believed him, would have accepted him. Would have turned Cain away long ago.

Lucifer hits the floor.

He reaches for her and reaches for her and reaches for her, but the gulf between them is insurmountable. She dies alone and afraid.

Lucifer hits the floor.

Chloe’s death is his fault. Charlotte’s death is his fault. Uriel’s death is his fault.

Lucifer hits the floor.

He knows he’s done this before. It’s familiar. It’s like a song playing in the back of his head, over and over. The chorus repeats, but it never moves past the second verse. There is no bridge, no resolution. It’s a cycle. He remembers stabbing Uriel over and over and over and over and over—

Lucifer hits the floor.

It’s a cycle.

Lucifer hits the floor.

He’s dead.

Lucifer hits the floor.

This is Hell. His loop has changed, but the guilt is the same.

Lucifer hits the floor.

This didn’t happen. He never saw Chloe die. She might have, but she might not have. 

Lucifer hits the floor.

Who knows what Cain did to her? What he still might be doing to her?

Lucifer hits the floor.

Daniel and Ms. Lopez knew where they went, but they would wait precious minutes, hours maybe, for him and Chloe to return to the penthouse. What could Cain and several armed men do in hours? The thought is horrific.

Lucifer hits the floor.

Chloe may yet be alive. If she is alive, she is in terrible danger. He has to believe she’s still alive. He’s the only one who truly understands the evil she faces, the only one who can face Cain.

Lucifer hits the floor, and then sits up.

Cain and Chloe and the faceless goons lining the balcony stare at him blankly as he climbs unsteadily to his feet. Cain raises his gun and fires it at the illusion shaped like Chloe, and she falls to the floor. He looks down at her, meets her pleading eyes, and turns away. The figure dying on the floor is not her, it’s his guilt. The real Chloe doesn’t have the time for him to wallow in it now. It doesn’t go away, but he’s able to enclose it in the part of his soul dedicated to his pain and regret. It is, if nothing else, capacious.

Lucifer sees the door. He knows it’s unlocked.


Hell is...well, Hell. Unchanging as ever, dim and oppressive, the heat and darkness bearing down on him. He winds through the narrow passageways, looking for somewhere wide enough for him to stretch his wings. Leaving Hell as a soul is no mean feat. Last time he had the benefit of a living body calling him from above, drawing him out. This time he’ll have to leave under his own power. Not impossible for an angel, but still running fundamentally counter to the natural mechanics of the universe. Some demons got pretty good at it back in the day, before he banned possessions, back when his rage and resentment were broad and all-encompassing.

He passes a demon loitering at a crossroads, leaning casually against a dark stone wall, picking under his claws with a blade. The demon—Dromos is his name, Lucifer remembers—does a double take as he walks past.

“My lord, is that you?” he cries, shrill. Lucifer strides onwards, pretending not to hear. “My king! Wait! You’re back? You’ve returned to us?”

“No,” Lucifer says shortly. “Just a brief detour.”

The demon called Dromos grabs his wrist, then looks down at it in surprise. Demons have a unique sense for souls. “You’re dead, my king?”

“As I said, a detour,” Lucifer grits out through his teeth. “And if you’ll unhand me, I can return to my body and resolve this nonsense.”

Dromos releases him immediately, terrified. “Apologies, my king. It’s just—it’s just been so bad without you. We need you here. It’s chaos.”

Lucifer feels a brief flash of a different guilt—the guilt of abandoning his responsibilities, of allowing a kingdom he worked to bring order to for millennia falling into ruin—and immediately quashes it. Chloe’s safety is the priority.

“Which way to the nearest sulfur pond?”

Dromos stares at him quizzically. “Why would you care where—”

“Quickly,” Lucifer growls. 

The demon quails under his glare and points down the passage to the left. Lucifer is well along it by the time he drops his arm again.

“Come back soon!” Dromos calls after him hopefully.

The yellow banks of the sulfur pond stink to, well, to high Hell, at least. But here the stone walls open up and Lucifer is granted an unobstructed view of the swirling maelstrom above. He spreads his wings and takes off, climbing into the air. He can feel the familiar weakness in the fabric of space—a hole he made eons ago for this very purpose, although in the past he’s always been in an angelic body built for traversing planes. As a soul, it’s hard, almost insurmountably so, like swimming up a powerful, fast-flowing river.

The physical plane abhors a disembodied soul, while Heaven and Hell draw them eagerly. His wings churn through the air desperately, and despite his lack of a physical body, Hell helpfully supplies him with the sensation of his muscles burning. It’s like trying to force two positive ends of a magnet together—he feels the hole sliding away from him and pushing him in the opposite direction at the same time.

He reaches and fumbles for the opening, only to miss and tumble downwards. He catches himself and circles in the rising hellfire thermals for a few moments before making a second attempt. This time he doesn’t even make it to the opening before the force pressing him downwards drives him away at an angle that makes him lose lift and stall backwards in a brief and terrifying free-fall.

Thankfully, he recovers before hitting the ground and works once again to gain altitude. He can see the gap, see the faint light of reality shining through it. He thinks about Chloe’s gaze becoming fixed and motionless in death and cries out in frustration, lunging forward in one last desperate attempt. His fingers catch at the ragged edges of spacetime, vibrating and tingling against his insubstantial hands, and he hauls himself through.

As a spirit, without eyes to see or ears to hear or a body to feel, the world is a riot of strange impressions and invisible colors. It’s overwhelming and nonsensical at first, and he panics like a fish on land, thrashing helplessly. Then he feels a pull, distinct and distant—his body, he assumes—calling to him, drawing his soul back to the place where it fits best.

He lets it lead him onwards, forcing himself to relax, closing off the senses that are no longer there and tapping into a power he’s typically loath to use—his divinity. It works the same, body or no, on all planes. Reaching out with it gives him a clear sense of where he is, brings order to all the other things he perceives, an order based on the innate resonances of the universe. What is light but photons pinging heedlessly off of surfaces? What are physical sensations but atoms recoiling from other atoms? What are sounds but waves rippling through molecules? And beneath it all, simple energy. Energy his Father put there. Energy he once molded to his Father’s will like a maestro before an orchestra.

Lucifer opens divine eyes and sees the world as it Is. Sees it in a way he hasn’t for billions of years, not since it was new and molten and full of promise. It’s lovely, of course. That’s why he hasn’t wanted to look at it like this since his fall. The beauty of it is too painful.

Beneath him the sea churns and writhes, full of life, as he’s drawn onward. Sunlight glints and sparkles on the peaks of waves, and he can see in the brilliant light a prismatic riot of color, every color. Distant land approaches, hazy and glowing warmly. He can feel the souls, millions and millions of them, each with their own dreams and fears, each their own universe of potential. Good and evil and the choice between them, always the choice. The choice that was all he ever asked for.

He expects the pull to carry him inland, to the building where he died, but he’s unexpectedly drawn into the sea, not more than a hundred yards away from the shore. He’s dragged down deep, all the way to the seabed and sees his destination just long enough for him to panic and think, No, no, no, I can’t do this , before he’s suddenly embodied again.

Sensation plows into him like a truck, foremost among them a crushing pressure in his chest from lungs filled with water. He flails upwards with short, unfamiliar limbs, his chest burning, his angelic energy working to heal even as he drowns anew. Swimming to the surface of the ocean without the buoyancy of air in his lungs to drive him upwards is a struggle, but he focuses on the dim, distant sunlight and pulls himself doggedly onward.

A fountain of water bursts from his mouth when he breaks the surface and he coughs and sputters, taking several grateful gulps of air before turning towards the shore. Choppy waves bear him forward even as an undertow—the thing that was likely the death of the poor body he now occupies—tries to tug him back downwards. Eventually he feels the sand beneath his feet and struggles the last few yards through the surf.

“Maureen, oh my God, we thought you left to get a hot dog,” cries a middle-aged woman in a bathing suit as he drags himself onto the beach. “Were you out there this whole time? We didn’t see you! Are you okay?”

Lucifer braces himself on an unfamiliar set of tan, age-spotted hands and knees and vomits sea water onto the sand.

“I’m—” He starts, but stops when he hears a woman’s high-pitched voice coming out of his mouth. “Oh, dear.”

Father had two rules, once upon a time. Two rules spoken and known, that is. Rules He made every angel well aware of. The first was that no angel could kill a human. The second was that no angel could possess a human body. Lucifer wasn’t one for rules, but coming from a Father who didn’t really bother to say “don’t question your purpose” until he’d already started doing so, these ones had stuck with him. These two rules he’d never broken.

Now he stares at the bony, pink-manicured fingers clenched in the sand in front of him and trembles, awaiting his punishment.

It comes in the form of a wracking shudder of pain. This poor drowned woman’s body fits him as well as one of Beatrice’s little denim jackets. He feels like he’s bursting at the seams, pressing outward. He cries out and collapses onto the sand. He distantly hears the woman standing above him scream “Somebody call 911!”

His legs and arms ache excruciatingly—it feels like each limb is attached to a semi truck driving towards a different point on the compass, the bones themselves stretching, the joints creaking as his tendons are pulled to their limits. It feels like someone has a car jack inside his chest and is ratcheting open his ribcage. Through the agony, he manages to get to his feet. He needs to call Daniel, Ms. Lopez, the precinct, someone. He has to help the Detective, and in order to do that he needs his body. 

Whatever the outward manifestations of the violence happening inside his body are, they can’t be pretty, because the small crowd that has gathered around him is staring at him, horrified, as he staggers towards a man holding a mobile phone to his cheek.

“I need that,” he grates out, throat like sandpaper and voice suddenly much lower than it was moments ago, snatching the phone out the man’s hand.

He fumbles at the screen, fingers spasming and contorting, each knuckle joint abruptly dislocating in quick succession. The phone falls into the sand, the 911 operator on the other end still asking “Hello? Sir, can you hear me—”

Then his wrist stretches and jerks from its socket as well, and he howls in pain, falling back to the sand onto legs that no longer can bear weight. His bones and joints crack and pull apart, and he writhes in agony, screaming. People are screaming now, too, and backing away from him. He can feel his heart floundering, beating fast, then slow, too big for his chest. Something inside him ruptures, and he feels blood flooding up his trachea. The skin over his distended limbs begins to tear like wet paper. The last thing he hears before darkness takes him is the sound of his femurs snapping like dry branches.

Lucifer hits the floor. The gunshot came out of nowhere. He is a fool.