Chloe hugged herself to ward off the cool sea breeze that brushed against the bare skin of her arms. She sat on the beach, lost in thought, lost in so many ways. Another stray tear made its way down her face and she wiped it away with a trembling hand. She hoped the pain inside her chest would soon give way to numbness but, every time she thought of him, a powerful lance would pierce through her heart.
It had been a bad idea from the start. Despite their undeniable connection, despite all he had come to mean to her, they should have never let it get so personal.
She closed her eyes as a sob pushed past the thick lump lodged in her throat, and she angrily wiped away more loose tears. How could she have let her guard down in such a way? When had it happened? At which point had she fallen for him? Her vulnerability had been her handicap, her downfall. But so had it been his. So, they had betrayed that unspoken code they both held so dear and let emotion take over.
A half sob, half chuckle escaped her lips.
She had felt the depth of his by the way he had kissed her.
Why? Why him?
Her mind travelled to a stakeout, shortly after they had started working together. His words, etched in her memory, took on a whole new meaning after what had just happened.
I have never lied to you, and I will never lie to you.
And that was a hell of a lot more than anyone else in her life had ever offered. Her unwillingness to recognize such truth had come at a heavy price, though. Despite all the blatant signs, she had been in denial for far too long, had to be brought to the edge of the precipice to finally accept what had been right in front of her all along.
She could still hear the raw plea in Amenadiel's voice begging her to leave, the alarm and betrayal in Maze's eyes when she had refused... But, ultimately, seeing him slowly fade away was what had brought her to her knees, the weight of his absence so utterly crushing. And, for an instant—a fraction of an instant—, she had seen him. Whether by accident or on purpose, he had allowed her to see him for who he really was.
Or, had it all been a figment of her imagination?
A car had nearly hit her as she'd stumbled out of the building. She had driven towards the coastline, following the dying sun before it had the chance to fade behind the horizon. Shock had her wandering aimlessly along Venice beach before collapsing on the isolated spot where she now sat, away from the hustle and bustle of the boardwalk, hollow and utterly exhausted.
It was a quiet night, a night that stood in complete juxtaposition to her inner turmoil. She tried to find comfort in the silvery foam the waves left behind as they retreated back into the ocean. A sudden gust of wind rushed past. It was a chilling caress, an invisible hand that made her shiver. In its retreat, she heard the soft crunching of footsteps on sand over the ebb and flow of the restless waves.
Chloe quickly stood up. She swiveled around and took a couple of steps back, away from the tall figure that kept approaching slowly.
"H—how did you find…?" she asked. Strange as it was, she was partly relieved to see him, though not entirely surprised. Almost immediately, the crippling fear began to spread all over her body like a cancer. "Don't come any closer."
He stood before her, his eyes so intense they threatened to burn into her very soul. Complying with her request, he remained glued to the spot, hands inside his pants' pockets, his white dress shirt hanging untucked. The crimson stains than adorned it appeared already dull under the bright full moon.
"Are you really afraid of me?" His voice was smooth, and cordial, and so much like him it hurt. "After all this time? After all we've been through?
"I just…" she stammered, taking another shaky step back. "I can't…"
Lucifer tilted his head to the side, his gaze softening. "It's still me, Chloe."
Hearing her name on his lips still sounded strange to her, and yet, for some odd reason, it managed to ease her tension a little. Her heart wanted to believe him, but the part of her brain trying to make sense of what he was, what he represented, had her guard up, in full alert, as she struggled with her conflicting emotions.
"What you told me last night…" she finally said in a tight whisper. "Did you… did you mean it?"
They held each other's stare for a long moment. His eyes glistened, and he lowered his head, no doubt trying to hide his own vulnerability. He blinked away the moistness, letting out a shaky breath as he met her gaze again.
"I would never lie to you."
Chapter 1: Lullaby
Two weeks earlier…
The flashing lights illuminated a crowd that danced carelessly to the strident music. There were strategically placed podiums all over the club where overly-muscular men and striking women clad in skimpy leather moved suggestively up and down metal poles that stretched all the way to the ceiling. The strip dancers drew curiosity and admiration from most club goers, who couldn't help being caught up in the whole ambiance, wrapped up in the air of debauchery oozing from every corner.
Detective Chloe Decker had found a secluded booth at the far end. Her companion, forensics pathologist Ella Lopez, had known better than to argue about finding a table closer to the action, not that there seemed to be any available, anyway. It was a busy night at the club. But, then again, every night was a busy night at Lux.
"If this place doesn't take your mind off your troubles, I don't know what will," Ella bellowed over the pounding beat. Then, picking up the cocktail menu from the table, she proceeded to skim over the extensive list. "I hear the Mojitos are really good here. Best in town!"
Chloe sat back against the velvety fabric of the booth, not really in the mood for anything. Their latest case had been taxing on so many levels. Not only had an innocent man died leaving behind a daughter Trixie's age who had now lost both her parents, but she had inadvertently put Lucifer's life in danger by sending him into an ambush from which he had inexplicably come out unscathed.
Yes, they had managed to dismantle two of the most dangerous gangs in L.A, and had probably saved the lives of the victim's daughter and two other undercover cops, but just thinking about those moments right before the S.W.A.T team had stormed into the warehouse made her heart clench. She had been bracing herself to discover Lucifer's body amongst the fallen gang members, bloody and riddled with bullets like so many others. Her heart had been pounding with dread during the eternal ride to the scene. She had prepared herself for the worst. She had even prayed to a God she didn't believe in to spare her such agony.
And then, to see him walk out as if nothing had happened…
"You decided to swing by, after all."
Mazikeen leaned her hip against the side of the booth and looked down at them with an enigmatic smile. After a brief 'vacation' from the club, she was back bartending for her former boss on a part time basis. It didn't come as much of a surprise to Chloe, who had witnessed her frustration in finding the same kind of fulfillment in all other jobs where, inevitably, she had failed to fit in. Not surprisingly, none of them had been as gratifying for her as working at Lux, though it had probably more to do with Lucifer than the job itself. They had a strange connection, a shared past, a mystery they both kept hidden and one that Chloe could only hope to uncover one day. Lux was only the chain that linked them together these days. Of course, there was also her side job as a bounty hunter for the L.A.P.D or, on occasion, the highest bidder. In any case it appeared Maze had found her calling, and she was damn good at it.
"So what's your poison?"
"I'll have a Coke," Chloe said, too tired to bother looking through the alternatives.
"Straight up?" Maze mocked with a half-smile. "You like living on the edge, don't you?"
"We will have two Mojitos," Ella cut in dismissing her colleague's apathy, "and a basket of nachos."
"Remember, I'm driving," Chloe protested. "I really shouldn't—"
"Ever heard of Uber?" Ella asked. Looking up at Maze, she conspicuously mouthed her order again, emphasizing her request with two fingers just to make sure.
Maze rolled her eyes and pushed away from the booth. "Coming right up."
"I'm not really in a partying mood," Chloe sighed, raking a hand through her hair. She was wearing a loose beige dress down to mid-thigh that felt entirely too short, and a pair of pumps that had seen better days but were at least bearable when standing for more than five minutes.
"No kiddin'!" Ella quipped, eyebrows raised. "Listen, why don't you just enjoy the drink, and if you still feel like leaving after that, I will personally drive you home."
"Have you ever tried one of Maze's cocktails? After the first one, we both will be crawling out of here."
"See? That's the spirit!" Ella smiled, completely misconstruing Chloe's comment. "Besides, we're getting twenty dollar drinks for free. Are you really going to pass up on that little perk?"
Chloe was about to answer when she felt warm fingers brushing across her bare shoulder.
"Ladies, you made it!" Lucifer lowered himself onto the ottoman next to the booth, that crisp British accent adding to his undeniable appeal. His ever-charming smile never wavered. By his impeccable appearance, nobody could've guessed the kind of hell they had both gone through just a few hours earlier. "Have you been taken care of?"
Just as he asked, Maze appeared with their order, placing the drinks on the table with a furtive smile towards her boss that denoted something Chloe could only interpret as mild insolence, not that he acknowledged her gesture in any way. She left without saying a word, hips swaying in her retreat.
"Mojitos," Lucifer chirped. "Excellent choice!"
"I'm trying to get her to loosen up," Ella told him with a hint of exasperation. "Not an easy job, might I add."
"Tell me about it!" he deadpanned. "She and my brother should start a club of their own. The Party Pooper Society." He sent a conspicuous glance in Ella's direction. "If you want some extra help, I can hook you up with some top quality s—"
"Please don't say it!" Chloe cut in raising her hand to stop him.
"Sex?" Ella blurted out, her face brightening.
"Well, well…" Lucifer sing sang slyly. "So it is true what they say about Catholic girls. I was going to say 'snow', but both could be arranged if you so desired."
"Both of you, stop it right now!" Chloe grumbled through barely contained irritation. "Don't make me raid the place. It is so much easier to look the other way when the owner of the club doesn't try to blatantly sell you illegal substances and services."
"I wasn't selling, Darling," he smirked. "I was merely offering. I understand your job might frown upon you chasing the proverbial dragon, but if you change your mind on the second count, I'll be available throughout the night."
Chloe let out a heavy sigh and managed to reel in her anger. She turned to him, the sweetest of smiles playing on her lips, and leaned forward until their faces were just inches apart. Her gaze trailed down to his lips, then back up to meet his dark eyes. She could see desire burning in them and that gave her a great deal of satisfaction.
"That's not likely going to happen any time soon," she said as huskily as she could muster over the pounding music.
His grin widened and he closed the distance between them to murmur in her ear. "Never say never, Detective. I seem to recall one night in particular…"
There was something in his voice that made her heart skip a beat. The way his warm breath had caressed her skin, the faint smell of his cologne, the intensity of his very presence… He pulled back, just barely, just enough for her to see his smug expression.
Chloe knew he would hold that night against her for the rest of her life and, for the umpteenth time, she cursed her decision to show up depressed and inebriated at his place. What had she been thinking? For some reason she had yet to understand, he had turned her advances down and kept their relationship at arms' length. Whatever his motive, it had been a fortunate outcome, even if she had been subject to his insufferable mocking for days.
But a lot had happened since that night, and given his recent mood, she was actually glad to see him revert back to his old self. She wasn't sure what had happened a couple of months ago. He'd began acting out in a reckless and inexplicable way, even by his standards. He had become distant and aloof for weeks, and his relentless flirting had mellowed to seldom, half-hearted comments here and there. He appeared to be less playful, less mischievous, less… Lucifer. The sparkle in his eyes had dimmed noticeably and, many times, Chloe would catch him staring off into space, lost in thought. She often wondered what could have caused the sudden shift.
It had happened right after she and Maze had moved into their new place, not that she presumed that was the reason for his odd behavior. She knew he didn't approve of their decision. He had even tried to dissuade both her and Maze on several occasions to no avail. Even though he might have been spot on regarding their living arrangements, it wasn't his decision to make. If there was one thing she had learned after that stupid car accident, was to hold tight onto whatever life handed over to you.
It took her a few seconds to regain her composure, turning her head to face him. "Shouldn't you be entertaining all your adoring fans out there?" she asked, pointing her chin towards a trio of tall, barely clothed women she'd heard him refer to as 'the Britneys'.
"But I'm here doing a good deed! I'm trying to chase away that dark cloud that's been cast over you all evening. Come on, Detective!" His smile widened, his eyes like laser pointers on hers as his voice took on that eerie, hypnotizing quality. "Tell me your utmost desires, what do you really yearn for right now...?"
She rolled her eyes and huffed out an exasperated 'Lucifer' filled with disdain. "If you must know, I'd like to go home, crawl into bed and forget about the world for a week!"
Lucifer breathed out a heavy sigh and let his shoulders slump. His gaze travelled over to Ella in a silent plea of support.
"It's been slow going," Ella waved a reassuring hand and took a sip of her drink, "but I'm sure we'll eventually get her to lighten up."
"Well, excuse me if my problems are getting in the way of your fun," Chloe told them defensively, "but I had a shitty day and the prospect of being buried under a mountain of paperwork trying to justify why I let an innocent man get caught in the crossfire doesn't really call for a celebration."
"Well, if he was stupid enough to get caught in the crossfire, perhaps he deserved to die!" Lucifer hissed darkly.
And there it was again! The silent struggle. The haunted expression.
Both women's eyes widened slightly, but neither said a word. After an awkward silence, he huffed out a soft chuckle, not quite convincing, though his tone did regain its joyful timber. "Besides, you can't possibly be held responsible for what happened today. The place was crawling with armed dim wits who were too trigger happy to realize a sting operation was underway. It was riveting! I enjoyed every minute of it!"
"How could you say that? An innocent man is dead!" she said furiously. "Plus, I should've known better than to let you wander into that warehouse alone."
"Is that concern I detect in your voice, Detective?" he grinned in that impish way that made him so beguiling. "Maybe you should inspect my body just in case there are any mild scratches I might have missed."
"I'm serious, Lucifer," Chloe held his stare. "You could've been killed today. In fact, I still have no idea how on earth you managed to come out of that hail of bullets without so much as a scratch!"
"Perhaps, 'there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy'. Or, in this case, heaven and hell."
"Ooh, Shakespeare!" Ella exclaimed a bit too excitedly. "I was Horatio in my senior High School play." When she noticed two pairs of eyes looking at her questioningly, she added, "What? It was an all-girls nun school."
Lucifer smiled wickedly. "Hmm… that's one field trip I wouldn't mind taking one day," he purred. Getting up, he offered them a polite bow of the head and straightened his jacket with one firm pull. "Enjoy your Mojitos, ladies. Whisper is, they're the best in town."
Watching him retreat into the crowd, Ella sighed dreamily. "He's really something, isn't he?"
Chloe frowned, her mood shifting from frustration to mild annoyance, which she supposed was a slight improvement. "Yeah, he is." She took a sip of her drink and her brows shot skyward. It really was the best Mojito she had ever tasted.
Deciding the best thing to do was to put her troubles aside, she grabbed a handful of nacho chips and relaxed against the comfortable backrest. "So, are nuns as strict as they say?"
Having Ella go into a tale of how her youth had been shaped by the disciplinary rules of the clergy was a convenient distraction and the point to that whole evening, she supposed. So, Chloe just listened to her, took occasional sips from the tall, elegant glass, and felt the stress of the day melt away as the evening grew old.
At one point, the high beat music that had been playing died down, and Lucifer's voice came through over the loudspeakers, making Chloe and Ella focus on the grand piano where he was now sitting just a few feet from their booth.
"Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen," he said, his voice smooth as velvet. "A friend of mine had a rather rough day today, so I thought I would cheer her up a bit." His fingers caressed the keys and the piano came to life. "This one's for you, Detective," he grinned, making eye contact with her.
Chloe looked around and saw most of the patrons inside the club glancing in her direction. Damn you, Lucifer! She sank further into the booth, trying to make herself invisible. Cheeks growing hot, she simply sat there, frozen, as his voice filled the air.
She grew up with the children of the stars, in the Hollywood hills and the Boulevard.
Her parents threw big parties, everyone was there.
They hung out with folks like Dennis Hopper, Bob Seger and Sonny and Cher.
Now she feels safe in this club on Fairfax.
And from the stage I can tell that she can't let go and she can't relax.
And just before she hangs her head to cry, I sing to her a lullaby.
Chloe watched his performance enthralled, not so much by some supernatural grasp on her senses, but by the way he invoked the lyrics, realizing he was speaking the words directly to her. She had never heard the song accompanied by a piano before, and yet, he pulled it off flawlessly. His dexterity with the instrument and the richness of his voice had the entire place spellbound as he sang the chorus.
Everything's gonna be alright, rockabye, rockabye.
Everything's gonna be alright, rockabye, rockabye. Rockabye.
And, for some strange reason, whether it was the melody or the expensive rum, the remaining stress that sheathed her began to evaporate like the early mist on a hot summer day. Whatever troubles awaited for her at the office the following day she would deal with then. For now, she'd live in the moment…
Now she lives with the girls outside the city. Down that street about a half a mile.
And all her friends tell her she's so pretty.
But she'd be a whole lot prettier if she smiled once in a while.
'Cause even her smile looks like a frown.
She's seen her share of devils in this angels' town.
When Lucifer winked at her, she tried unsuccessfully to hold back a smile. Hiding her lips behind the now almost empty glass, she downed the rest of the drink in one long swig. Of course, she figured, after being put on the spot, the tipsier, the better.
As if on cue, Maze made her approach with a couple of freshly made Mojitos and placed them on the table.
"But, we didn't order— " Chloe began to protest.
"Lucifer said to keep them comin'," she answered, clearly following orders from the boss.
"Cool!" Ella beamed. "Have I mentioned how much I like this place?"
"Yes, we offer one hell of a time," Maze said sardonically.
"I didn't know he was such a wiz at the piano," Ella ignored the dry retort and carefully waved her new Mojito towards Lucifer.
"He usually plays for himself," Maze told them. "Doesn't take requests and he sure as hell doesn't dedicate songs to the audience… Until now, apparently."
There had been a trace of bitterness in her words, her gaze fastened upon Lucifer as he played the last few chords to the song, letting it die down. When she turned to Chloe her eyes were dark as they both engaged in a silent staring match that lasted a few moments too long. Maze was oddly protective of Lucifer, which baffled Chloe in a way. There was little doubt that his bartender and person to go to for all private related issues was way closer to him that she ever would be. It wasn't a secret they had both shared a bed, not only with each other, but with countless other people of both genders, not that Chloe would ever allow her mind to dwell on the salacious nature of their nightly ordeals. And, though she and Maze had gotten much closer lately, when it came to Lucifer, there was on occasion this awkward tension between them.
"I'm sure it won't happen again," Chloe said, though she wouldn't put it past Lucifer to do something even more over-the-top at any given time.
Maze's face remained impassive. She swiveled the empty tray singlehandedly, sending one last glance towards her boss, watching him reach for the glass of aged Bourbon resting on the piano. "Enjoy your drinks," she smirked before turning her back to Chloe and Ella.
Maze walked briskly towards the bar as the place broke out in a loud round of applause.
"Aw, how sweet!" Ella said in a soft squeal when the roar from the crowd began to gradually subside. "He clearly has a thing for you."
"Yeah. An unhealthy obsession," Chloe sighed, pushing away a treacherous sense of flattery as she watched Lucifer engage in conversation with a group of adoring young fans who were questionably old enough to be allowed into the club.
What she didn't see—what nobody saw—was the dark figure observing her from a corner on the upper floor railing, eyes following her every move as it ran deft fingers over an ancient rod, forged a long time ago in a different realm. The figure moved with the stealth of a shadow, discreet, unseen…
It had been sent there to fulfill a mission and nothing, not even the Devil himself, would stand in its way.
[ ~ To Be Continued ~ ]