Part three in our sudsy Otherworld drama. How will Disharmonia escape being put on trial? Will she be allowed to marry her one true love? If you haven’t read them, be sure to check out parts one and two.
Disharmonia twisted her hands in her lap. Seated to her right, Neriel gently laid one of his own hands on top of hers and she stopped, but she began twitching her foot. Neriel sighed and withdrew his hand. He rested his forearms on the table, his fingers interlaced. Disharmonia, meanwhile, wrapped her arms across her body as though trying to physically hold herself together.
After several tense moments, the door opened. Her father strode in without a glance in Disharmonia’s direction. He flung himself into a seat at the head of the table and crossed his arms. Lilith, who had followed him in, sat down gracefully on Disharmonia’s left. She offered Disharmonia a sympathetic smile before training her eyes on Lucifer and giving him a quelling look. Lucifer just rolled his eyes and huffed.
There was a sharp rap on the door, and then it opened. In strode a tall, blond woman in a pristine white suit. On either side of her were two equally impressive men. Both of them wore suits made of the same blinding material as the woman. The dark-haired man sported a sapphire blue tie, and the redhead had an emerald green one. Their eyes were hidden behind dark sunglasses.
Without preamble, the woman lifted her briefcase onto the table and flipped the latches. She opened the case and pulled out several sheets of what appeared to be fine linen paper. She handed one to everyone at the table.
“What is this?” Lucifer growled.
“I was under the impression you were literate.” The blond woman’s expression remained impassive.
“I am. But you are here in my territory. Let us say that you should indulge me while you are my guest.”
The blond woman maintained her cool tone. “I am hardly here as your guest. I am not so foolish as to assume you are attending this meeting willingly.”
“Fine. Let’s get to it, then.”
“Do you wish to proceed, or would you prefer to call in your own counsel?”
Lucifer waved his hand. “It’s of no consequence. We both know what the outcome will be.”
“Do we?” She arched one perfect eyebrow. “Hm.”
The woman called their attention to the piece of paper each of them held. “The terms and conditions are laid out in this document. Are their any questions?”
Disharmonia exchanged glances with Neriel. She was not sure how this had been managed. She looked back at the blond woman. “I—I’m not sure I understand how this happened.”
The woman relaxed slightly. “Of course. He”—she indicated Neriel—“came to see my immediate supervisor. He requested that we search for an acceptable alternative to your trial. My supervisor and I drafted this proposal. Although the individual terms may be altered slightly, the contractual obligation will remain intact.”
Disharmonia read through the document three times. It was very clear what she would need to do. The only question was whether or not she would do it. She looked over at her father. He was scowling down at the contract. She sighed. It appeared he had finished reading and understood what it meant.
Lucifer looked up. “Let me make sure I am reading this correctly. Both Disharmonia and Neriel will assume human identities for the foreseeable future. They will live as humans until such time that one or both of them dies a human death. Am I correct so far?”
The blond woman nodded. “That is the general idea. After such time as one or both of them dies, they will return for a period of time until it can be determined what will be done with them. As you know, she cannot abide with us above, and he cannot remain with her below. That violates all the terms of your original agreement with our Lord.”
Lucifer pursed his lips and tapped his fingers together. Disharmonia could see that he was gearing up for something. At long last he said, “And what, exactly, will be done with them when their term of human service is complete?”
The woman didn’t break eye contact with him when she said, “She returns to you to do as you will, and he returns to our Lord for the same.”
“And they will not be allowed further contact with each other at that time?” Lucifer’s voice was even, but Disharmonia detected an underlying note of anticipation.
The woman shook her head. “At present, the condition is that they will have no contact unless it is allowed by both sides.”
Disharmonia raised her eyes to stare at the woman. How was this fair? She would be limited in how long she could be with Neriel as a human, and afterward there was no chance that her father would allow her to remain with him. That was definitely a deal-breaker. She would not sign the contract, even if it meant that she would have to stand trial and be banished from Hell forever. At least if they were both in the Place Between, they could be together. She would take her chances on what sort of life that would be.
“Good,” Lucifer said. “I believe I can live with sixty or so human years before I take this to trial.” He gave Disharmonia a hard look.
The woman surprised Disharmonia by smirking. “Not so fast. You didn’t really think this was just a way to give the lovebirds a way to sort themselves out for a few measly decades, did you?”
Lucifer, clearly taken aback, gripped the edge of the table. “What do you mean?”
The woman reached back into the briefcase. “Did you read point five, under the restrictions?” She withdrew her hand, now holding another piece of paper.
“Of course I did,” snapped Lucifer, reaching for the paper. The woman held it just out of his reach.
“Then you know that there is a limit to how much interference you are allowed while they are human.”
Lucifer frowned. “Of course. But I fail to see what that has to do with anything.”
“You know that the degree to which you interfere is directly proportional to the countermeasures allowed by our side.”
Lucifer drummed his fingers impatiently. “I’ll take my chances. But I get the feeling there’s something you haven’t told me.”
The woman handed around the second piece of paper. Disharmonia accepted hers and began reading through the new document. When she had finished, she had to fight hard to contain the smile that threatened to break free. Oh, there was no doubt that her father would not like this one bit.
Right on cue, Lucifer began a low growl. He had reached the crucial bit of information. He crumpled the paper in frustration and pitched it into the middle of the table. “Just what is your Lord doing with this?” he demanded.
The woman chuckled. “Oh, this wasn’t his idea.” She leaned forward. “This one was all mine.”
“What you’re saying is that unless we arrive at a permanent solution to this…unfortunate situation within the duration of their human lifespan, I have to agree to this condition?” He huffed angrily. “And just what will all of you be giving up?”
“I think you’ll find that there is no need for us to give anything up. Do you really think that we won’t uphold our end?” Her smile was condescending. “We are incapable of that type of failure.” Her eyes darted briefly to Neriel before her gaze snapped back to Lucifer. “Aside from ill-advised entanglements, that is.”
Disharmonia held her breath. She wondered which would be harder for her father—staying mostly out of her affairs for the duration of her human existence, or giving up his creative rights on which of the humans’ irritating videos went viral. A thought occurred to her: What if he refused to sign? She reached over and squeezed Neriel’s hand.
Apparently, the same thought had occurred to Lucifer, because he asked, “And if I don’t agree to this?”
The blond woman took a third piece of paper out of her briefcase. “Oh, I think you’ll sign.” This time, there were no duplicates. She slid the only copy across the table to Lucifer.
He reached out for it, and Disharmonia saw the slight tremor in his hand. She realized that he knew what was on the paper, though she herself could not fathom what it could be. Her shoulders tensed in anticipation.
Everyone’s eyes were on Lucifer as he read. When he had finished, he looked up. His expression was still hard, but Disharmonia could see defeat in his eyes.
“The original contract,” he whispered.
“Yes. You have complete control over your minions. But there’s this teensy little problem with that when it comes to your children. Of course, I suspect you haven’t told them. That is your right, of course, but under the circumstances, I think you should explain.”
Disharmonia looked at her father. This time, he returned her gaze. “Love,” he said simply.
Her mouth fell open. It wasn’t her love for Neriel that allowed her to escape a trial; it was Lucifer’s love for her. She quickly recovered herself. “Love?” she asked, trying to sound casual and like she hadn’t just made the connection.
Lucifer sighed and dropped his head to his hands. When he looked up again, there was pain etched across his face. “Yes. Because I love you, I have to give you more freedom than the other demons. And because I have to give you more freedom, if I don’t sign, I lose you.”
Disharmonia suddenly understood. If Lucifer lost her, that didn’t just mean she would end up in the Place Between as she would if he evicted her. She would end up in Heaven. And while that would make it easier to be with Neriel, she would also lose herself in that—the same way Neriel would lose himself if he joined her in Hell. It was what made their relationship so complicated to begin with; neither of them wanted to ask to be released from their homes.
She was suddenly afraid. She knew this contract was intended to protect her and Neriel, but the consequences of her father’s actions were a punishment for her as well. She closed her eyes briefly. A thought popped into her head and she decided to go with it. She opened her eyes and looked directly at the blond woman. “And what happens if I don’t sign?” She felt Neriel tense beside her and chose to ignore him.
The woman nodded. She clearly understood what Disharmonia wanted to know. “Nothing. If you don’t sign, then your father does whatever he was going to do before I arrived.”
Disharmonia looked at Lucifer. “Then I guess the question is, will we all sign this?”