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A Small, Strange Man

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LA was a city to run away to. The furthest he could go without crossing international borders, and Mozzie wanted to Get Away, but also didn’t want to alert The Man, so LA it was.

He detested LA. It had all the big city flaws of New York with none of the advantages, plus a few flaws all of its own. But it was a good place to disappear to, somewhere nobody would think to look for him- or would be able to find him, if anybody chose to look.

The nightclub, too, was an odd choice for him, but he was in an odd kind of mood. It was a plush, glittering place, full of the young and beautiful and probably-rich. Of those three, he was only the latter, which was enough to get him in but also made him stick out like a sore thumb. Mozzie indulged in not caring. Nobody here knew him, and there was safety in that. He could disappear here.

***

“There’s a small, strange man sitting at the bar.”

“And this is different from any other day...how, exactly?” Lucifer turned his wheeled chair around, facing away from the door, and tilted it back dangerously, looking at Maze upside down just to show that he could. “Strange men come here all the time.” Some of them were small, he supposed, though he never paid much attention to size.

“Yeah, but he’s different. He doesn’t even look at the girls, or at anybody else. And he told me to open a new bottle of fancy wine for him, do it where he could see my hands, and he checked the glass twice before he let me pour.” Maze smirked, “A guy that paranoid about either poison or germs has to have a story.”

“Everyone in this city has a story. Every person on Earth has a story.” The truth was, Lucifer was in a foul mood and being contrary on purpose; he was bored, irritable, and had no real idea why. He suspected that it was somehow connected to that police detective who was entirely unmoved by his charms, but surely something that trivial wasn’t cause to be so annoyed? Maze shrugged.

“I thought it’d distract you. You need a distraction, Lucifer.”

“Don’t tell me what I need, Maze.” But she had a point, so with a heavy sigh Lucifer set the chair back on the floor, got up, and put a jaunty bounce in his step as he moved from his office to the club proper.

He saw the man immediately, and Maze was right, everything about him screamed ‘I don’t belong here’ like some emo song from the 90’s. So of course Lucifer planted himself across the bar from him and poured himself a shot of something strong and expensive. “Hello, stranger.”

The man looked up from his glass and grimaced something that might’ve been an attempted smile but probably wasn’t. “I’m not done with my drink yet, don’t need a refill.”

“I didn’t ask whether you wanted a refill,” Lucifer pointed out, “I said hello.”

The man’s ears seemed to perk up, “You’re not local.”

“I’m the owner,” Lucifer replied drily. He was feeling better already. “That means I’m as local to this locality as I can be.”

“You’re a smart-ass, too.” The man sipped his drink. “But I’m glad you’re not really from LA.”

“And why is that?” Lucifer arched an eyebrow.

“I hate LA and everybody in it.” Now he finished off his drink in one gulp, which Lucifer thought was vicious mistreatment of very expensive wine, and saluted Lucifer with the empty glass, “If you’re not from here, I’m not obliged to hate you.”

“I see. Then why come here?” Since the wine had been standing on the bar, Lucifer tilted his head towards it and the man nodded for a refill.

“Personal business.” Terse and shut-off, but Lucifer wasn’t one to accept secrets in his club, unless they were his own. He looked intently at the man, and worked his special kind of persuasion.

“Surely there’s an actual reason for you to come to a city you hate. What is it then? What’s the deep, dark desire that brought you here?”

For a moment, the man resisted Lucifer’s power, which showed considerable strength of will, but then the fight went out of him and he was under the spell like everybody else.

“I want my family back.”

He sounded oddly hurt when he said it. Not like people usually were, when they found themselves spilling their secrets to a stranger, but like his own desire surprised and disappointed him. Well, that wasn’t particularly unusual either, but it was such a benign desire, at face value, that the emotion was out of place.

“As dark desires go, that’s pretty light. Your family’s here?”

“No. Yes. I don’t know!” The man waved a hand, his eyes a little wild. “I don’t know. They’re not here.”

“I see.” Lucifer said, which was a lie. “D’you want to do something violent to your family? Is that why you’re so ashamed of this desire that you buried it deep? Want to screw your sister? What?”

“I want to punch Neal in the face.” The man seemed a lot calmer and more sure of himself when he said it. Maybe he was getting used to having to be truthful. Truth was liberating, after all, and Lucifer was all about freedom.

“Neal’s your brother?”

“No-o...More like- sometimes like a son, sometimes a younger brother, sometimes a partner in crime. My best friend. My- family, I guess. All the family I had.” The man released a deep sigh and studied his half-empty wine glass. “He’s not dead.”

“And that’s…Good? Bad? Did you try to kill him?”

“No!” The man looked up, scowling. “No, he did it himself.”

“Ah, a suicide.” Those often made people angry and irrational. The man shook his head vigorously a few times.

“No, no. He- he faked his own death. Very elaborate, had us all fooled for months. More than a year, really. More than a year, I thought I’d lost my family again.”

“Ah.” Interesting. “I can see why punching him might be justified.” Maze was right, the man was fascinating. “And he’s not here?”

“No. He was in France, most of the time. But he’s coming back- he finally came out of hiding, and he’s coming home, to New York. I haven’t seen him in over two years.” The man’s eyes are wet, but Lucifer doesn’t comment on it. He’s used to people crying around him. “And instead of staying, I ran all the way here.”

“But you want your family. Why run away from the thing you want most?”

“I...I can’t handle it. I grieved for him, for a year I mourned him. Worse than when he was in prison, you know? At least a prison sentence has a clear end. Death is just-”

The end.” Lucifer suggested, and the man nodded morosely.

“He was dead, I was finally coming around to accepting that. And then he’s not dead anymore, and my world falls into a tailspin again. And now he’s coming back. We- I want to think we’ve moved on. I’m afraid he’ll come back and we’ll find we haven’t. And New York still isn;t 100% safe for him. What if this time he’s killed for real?”

“What if you get run over tomorrow and never get to see him again, and never punch him? Your life is so short-” Lucifer startles slightly when he realizes they’ve been talking for a while and he skipped the preliminaries, “I’m sorry, I forgot to ask your name.”

“M- Teddy. Teddy Winters.” He’d clearly meant to say something else, but Lucifer knew he’d been given the man’s true name, and how much that meant.

“Lucifer Morningstar.”

Lucifer’s hand, held out to shake, was ignored, and the man’s lip curled. “I really hate LA.”

“Then go home, Teddy Winters. Go to your family. To your brother, who’s not dead. You’re stopping yourself from being happy to avoid the risk of being sad- that’s idiotic, and I think you’re no idiot. Am I right?”

The man sneered a little, “I’m brilliant.”

“Good.” Lucifer gave him a big toothy grin. “So quit being an idiot and go tell the people you love to never ever pretend to be dead again. Family is what you make for yourself, not whoever spawned you.”

The man thought about that for a while, long enough for Lucifer to down two more shots and refill the man’s glass a third time, before he seemed to come to a decision.

“You’re right. I should go home, leave this stinking smog-fest of a city, and go get my family back together.” For the first time, he smiled, a tiny mischievous smirk, “And punch Neal in the face for putting me in a situation where the Suit saw me cry.”

“I’m in a suit and you don’t seem to mind.” There was a box of tissues under the bar, and Lucifer offered him one and got a glower in return.

“You’re in a suit, you’re not a Suit. Definitely not the Suit.” Apparently there was a distinction. Teddy Winters pulled out his phone and tapped a few keys. “Flight leaving in two hours. I’ll pay cash.”

“Then you’ve time to stay and finish the bottle.” This time Lucifer grabbed a glass for himself, having tired of liquor.

For a few minutes, they sipped in a companionable silence, until the man said, “You know, it’s funny.”

“What is?”

“If you’d asked me three years ago what my deepest, darkest desire was, I’d tell you I wanted to know who my real parents were. I guess it matters less now.”

Lucifer grimaced. “Real parents. Nothing but trouble.”

“You can say that again.”

So Lucifer did.

***

Punching Neal in the face, Mozzie thought, was about the most satisfying thing he'd ever done. But then Neal hugged him, and Mozzie hugged back, and maybe that was even better.