It's the result of a conversation Rami and I had a while ago. I had to get it all out tonight so that it wouldn't dance around in my head for days.
DO NOT JUDGE.
Despite a few vehement statements made during the second trimester, Adam and Alanna Young did eventually allow their children to be left in the care of the triplets’ paternal grandfather.
And despite nearly universal expectations to the contrary, Lucifer Morningstar wasn’t half bad at babysitting.
This was less to do with any actual childcare efforts expended on his behalf and more to do with the company he kept; the equation of (Lucifer) + (babies) seemed to garner an invariable curiosity to discover what was balancing out the other side, and more often than not the curious party would be drawn into the expression themselves.
So it was not uncommon to see Lucifer sitting on a table in his normal unconcerned manner, surrounded by baskets of very soft bedding that contained, securely buried, three pale children with shocks of hair in varying shades of red.
Lilly might bounce over, hand Lucifer a lurid pink drink and sit there for hours on end chatting to him about demon testicles, the gossip chewed over at and hers and Meg’s latest girly night, and exactly how wide his diabolic radius was and whether the babies should be placed at differing intervals from him and then have their behaviour monitored in order to test this.
(Later on she would nod wisely and say that Grace’s relative proximity to her grandfather at the age of six months explained a hell of a lot, really.)
Thom would sit at the table with a glass of wine – the liquid level decreasing faster or slower depending on his mood – leaning his chin on his folded forearms and gazing at the nephew who bore his name as though the boy were a bizarre species of bird, or possibly a vial of poison. Thom-the-smaller was a violent baby, lashing out at purple sparks or stray limbs with equal vigour.
Raguel would wander past, snatch Lucifer’s cigarette and extinguish it with a frown, and then be distracted by the noises made by the children. Kassandra might join them, settling a baby on her lap with worried, careful hands and letting her hair fall down to be caught in tiny fingers.
One way or another, then, the triplets were always looked after.
“It’s a miracle,” Adam said sourly, the first time they were handed back in one piece.
“Don’t be insulting, Adam.” Lucifer smiled.
“I suppose she’ll thank you later for not buying her pink blankets.” Lucifer said, glancing around the room. His first visit to Tortall – Adam had introduced him at Court, emphasising the first word with a glare, as a distant relation – and already he blended in well.
“We bought a lot of things before we knew about genders,” Alanna said reprovingly, walking past him to open the curtains. “Besides, I wasn’t about to inflict pink on any child with the Trebond colouring.”
“Speaking of infliction.” Lucifer leaned over the ornate crib that contained his granddaughter and looked at her consideringly. “Grace?”
“Grace Thea Young.” Alanna lifted her chin. “It’s a perfectly good name.”
“Grace,” Lucifer repeated, sounding disgusted. “Not that I was expecting anything spectacular in the naming department from you, Lioness, but calling a child after a virtue is just a ridiculous convention. All those kids who get burdened with Prudence, or Chastity. Chastity. Why don’t you just call her Simpering Frigid Bitch? That has a nice ring to it. No? All right then,” he added, blithely ignoring his daughter-in-law’s open mouth and gathering-storm expression. “Come on, Thea.”
He picked the girl up in an unpracticed but graceful motion, and was halfway out of the door before Alanna could gather enough wits to react.
“You would take a liking to the girl,” Adam said. It was almost an accusation.
Lucifer shrugged. “By and large, I get on better with girls.”
“You get on with Thom.” The gender comment wasn’t made (Adam being a Responsible Adult now), but there are certain things that can be heard unsaid, if the people in question have known each other for long enough. Family was more than just the promises and the legalities, by now; it was grit in the bones, words in the blood, and effortless instinct.
Adam blinked. “Don’t you?”
Lucifer looked down at Thom, who was sprawled out on the table with his head on Lucifer’s thigh and a book in his hand. Thom looked back. It was another of those unsaid things, shared, and it meant that they didn’t really understand the importance of the concepts inherent in the question.
It was generally agreed by Tortall citizens and Milliways patrons alike that motherhood had done a lot of good things for Alanna’s figure.
“You mum is such a MILF,” said Gavroche, who had been watching rather too much American television.
Thom, who by the age of six had already mastered his uncle’s blank stare, delivered it with juvenile aplomb. “What?”
A month or so after Grace turned eight, Lucifer kidnapped her for a day. He even left a signed ransom note, figuring that if her parents were stupid enough to take it seriously then they deserved the stress. She was duly returned in the evening, a little jittery with excitement and what her mother darkly suspected was caffeine, but very happy, and almost unwilling to release Lucifer’s arm.
“Where did you take her?” Alanna demanded.
“That’s a secret.” Lucifer winked at her, flicked Grace gently on the temple and wandered over to talk to Xas.
“Grace, honey? Where have you been?”
Grace gave her an unnervingly Luciferesque look. “Secret, Mum.”
Alanna, visions of strip clubs dancing in her head, dragged the girl around the bar until she found a telepath.
“I need to know,” she said breathlessly, “where my daughter has been during the past twelve hours.”
“Do I get a drink out of it?” the guy asked, brushing a strand of hair almost as red as her own out of his eyes. He was vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place his accent.
“Yes. Sure.” Alanna nodded, and the man leaned forward on his chair, touching Grace’s forehead with his fingertips.
“Tokyo Zoo,” he said finally, giving Alanna a funny look. “She had an icecream. She liked the giant turtles. Lots of people paid attention to her because of her hair, and she liked that too. She was there with…huh.” He started to laugh, and took his fingers away. “I fucked that guy once.”
Alanna slammed her hands over her daughter’s ears and glared daggers. “Thank you for your help,” she said frostily. “Use that kind of language around my child again and I’ll slice one of your fingers off. And my husband’s the Antichrist,” she added, for good measure, because something about the guy implied that he was no stranger to the act of amputating digits.
“Hey, you’re married to Adam?” Schuldig grinned. “Fucked him, too.”
“Auugghh,” said Alanna.
Lucifer, long immune, accepted all variations on Gramps from the triplets without batting an eye. Grace, however, switched to first name basis somewhere around the age of eleven.
Nobody else called him Sam; nobody else called her Thea.
“What does everyone want for their birthday, kiddo?”
Grace took a sip of her cocktail, the alcohol-to-fruit ratio of which was markedly larger than her parents would have allowed, had they been present, and raised her eyebrows. “Wow, we get presents this year?”
“Really good presents, once every fourteen years,” Lucifer said solemnly. “That’s my rule. Count yourself lucky I haven’t inflicted really ugly clothing on the three of you every year since your birth.”
“Point taken.” She took a larger sip, her cheeks turning concave around the straw. “Well, Thom wants a new hawk, but he doesn’t want to ask Mum because she picked out the last one. He says no bird called Dawn is going to grow up to become a trained killing machine.” She giggled. “Jamie likes those crazy manual puzzles that look like car keys and take weeks to untangle, at the moment. Strike now! Next month he’ll like something else. You know how he is.”
Grace widened her eyes as far as she could, and clasped her hands under her chin. “I want a pony, Sam.”
It was the most frightening pony any of them had ever seen. Pitch black, with streaks of amber-gold in its mane and a slightly alien, angular cast to its anatomy.
“Oh, Goddess,” Alanna said under her breath.
“It’s perfect,” Grace squealed.
“I suppose we should be glad it doesn’t breathe fire,” Adam muttered, squeezing Alanna’s hand in a way that meant let’s not push this one.
Lucifer leaned against a tree and looked smug. “Got a name for it, Thea?”
“I was thinking about Moonshine,” Grace said, sneaking a mischievous look at her mother.
“It’s black,” Jamie pointed out.
“It’s ironic, doofus.” Grace rolled her eyes at her brother, and stroked the pony’s neck. The animal in question rolled its eyes, and hoofed the ground in a way that, to Adam’s nervous eyes, bespoke simmering homicidal urges.
“I like it already,” Lucifer said.
Thanks to Meg’s occasional French tutoring, the pony was eventually dubbed Clair, short for Clair de Lune. Grace claimed that there were some traditions that just had to be continued.
“Dude,” Grace said, sounding awed, watching the indigo sparks jump from finger to finger.
“Dude,” Alanna said despairingly. “Maybe we should have sent her to that boarding school in Manchester after all.”
“Ha ha.” Grace stuck her tongue out. “Uncle Thom’s going to teach me. Don’t worry. I won’t do anything stupid.”
“Don’t let –” Adam started, and then realised his own folly.
“I shall not let myself be led astray by Sam’s evil, evil example.” She leapt off the table and flashed sparks in her father’s eyes. “Relax, Dad.”
Much to her parents’ chagrin, Grace eschewed the endearing blush reflex and social awkwardness that her brothers sometimes displayed in favour of a wicked and sarcastic sense of humour. They grudgingly admitted that she was more like Lucifer than she was like either of them, and although Adam strongly suspected that this had been his father’s plan all along, he liked his confident, quick-witted daughter. She also showed a frightening affinity for glitter, and would talk back to anyone about anything.
“You’re trying your hardest to turn my daughter into Lilly Kane, aren’t you?” Alanna demanded.
Lucifer laughed. “She could do a lot worse.”
“Great place, this is. Great booze. Great company.”
“Look, I think someone needs to explain the rules to you.” Grace extricated her hands from his grasp, but the man was well-built and drunk on the excess of his first night exploring the alcoholic beverages of several galaxies.
“Why don’t you explain, then, girlie? Nice. And. Slow,” he breathed, backing her into a booth.
“I wouldn’t,” Lucifer looked up from where he was beating Meg at a mutated version of cribbage.
The man took a few seconds to refocus, and a few more to rearrange his face into a sneer. “I’m sorry, did you say something important? Because I’m a little busy here.”
Lucifer sighed, swung his legs off the table, walked over, took hold of the man’s collar and then kept right on walking until he reached a wall with a loud, solid crunch. Then he let go.
“Important? Not really,” he said amiably, over the man’s gasping cough. “Welcome to Milliways.”
Hormones hit the triplets in different ways. Thom tried not to say a word to anyone for three straight weeks, turning pink whenever he heard his own voice bubble its way up and down the scale, and spent a lot of time riding or running or practicing with a sword. Jamie’s skin suffered and he shot up two inches in just over a month. Boys started noticing Grace; she got Sunny to lend her some mascara, cut her hair to just above her shoulders, and started noticing them right back.
The maturity worked in both directions, to the relief of her parents; Grace was level-headed enough that this wasn’t a big worry. Most of the time. Most of the time she wasn’t sitting on a stool in the bar, smiling as Lucifer fired lazy history revision questions at her and then coloured in the answers with personal anecdotes, his bare feet propped on her knees.
Lucifer, who was eternally somewhere between twenty-five and thirty, and whose lazy laugh was the colour of chocolate.
“He wouldn’t,” Adam said, trying and failing to hide the note of doubt. “He wouldn’t. Would he?”
“Of course not,” said Alanna, kissing his cheek. But she wasn’t nearly as confident as she sounded.
(He didn’t. But he didn’t tell them that.
And unluckily for her parents, Grace Young played the rebellious girl teen card for all it was worth and refused to say a word one way or the other.
The late teens were a very trying time for Adam and Alanna.)
“Cambridge!” Grace shrieked. “Cambridge!”
In the next three and a half seconds, Alanna firmly banished her last remnants of wistful desire that her daughter might want to become a knight, and hugged her. “That’s wonderful, honey. That’s wonderful.”
“James Young.” Adam put out a hand to stop his son. “Where’s your sister?”
“I believe,” Jamie said solemnly, “that Lilly is teaching her to shake her booty.”
“Oh. I see.” A glance at the middle of the cleared area serving as a dance floor confirmed this. Tom Riddle had spent the past two weeks refining charms which allowed for constantly changing music and lights, and Lilly had used the eighteenth birthday of the Young triplets as an excuse to organize one of the largest lake parties that Milliways had ever seen. There was a gentle breeze, a huge bonfire, tables loaded with food and drink and a clear sky dotted with stars. It was just about perfect, and the hostess wasn’t going to let anyone forget it.
Alanna stood with her hands wrapped around a mug of warm spiced wine and her head on her husband’s shoulder, watching Meg coax a rhythm from Thom’s feet and Jamie run around with a platter of finger food which he was dropping into the mouth of any girl that would let him.
“I think we done good,” Adam said, slipping an arm around her waist.
“You know, I think we really did. Oh, here comes trouble,” she added, glancing back at her daughter; though she made no attempt to pull away and intervene. Time bred habit, or at least reassurance.
On the dancefloor, Lucifer was neatly cutting in and stealing Grace from Anthony Tonks-Wrangle, taking hold of her wrists and pulling her into a spin. They looked good, Alanna had to admit; Lucifer all muted shades of black on brown, and her daughter’s dress a vivid splash of emerald green under that red hair. Lucifer danced with the irritating grace of one born to it or at least reaping the benefit of centuries of practice, steering Grace with easy assurance. When the music stopped he gave a fair estimation of a courtly bow and kissed her hand, and then straightened up and kissed her on the lips, briefly. Grace laughed and whacked him on the arm. Lucifer spoke to her for a few long moments, his face losing the teasing smile and faded into something almost serious, and then he nudged her back in Anthony’s direction and left the grass as the next song started. He snagged a glass of red wine from the drinks table as he walked over to stand with Raguel.
“Don’t say anything,” Lucifer said lightly, handing the angel a cigarette.
Raguel looked down, smiled, and let the breeze fill the silence.