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The Flower Merchants

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Luther could hear every word of Five’s and Lila’s voices from outside the barn door, where he and the others were waiting for their cue.

“Lila, listen to what I’m telling you,” Five said. “The Handler gave me the kill order. She came on the job, which she’d never done before. Normally execs don’t go on jobs, but that day in London she was there. Ask yourself why.”

“Stop trying to muddy the waters!”

“I never realized what she was up to at the time, but now it all makes sense! She never cared about your parents. She was looking for you.”

“What?”

“‘Cause you’re one of us,” Diego said, stepping into the doorframe. Luther followed suit, followed by Allison, Vanya, and Klaus. “The Handler stole you, Lila,” Diego continued. “Just like our asshole father took all of us.”

“No,” Lila shook her head. “No, it’s not the same thing.”

“You’re right,” Diego said. “Because he didn’t have our parents murdered.”

Oh shit, Luther though. Yeah. It could always be worse. He thought he heard Klaus mumbling something unintelligible to himself from whatever weird little planet he was still coming down from.

“Listen to me Lila,” Diego continued. “You were born October 1, 1989. Same day as all of us.”

“Stay back!” Lila lashed out, and for an instant, chaos flared. A chorus of hey wait woah woah woahs ensued, and Luther checked to make sure Allison was safe, though he knew she, and Vanya for that matter, could more than hold her own.

“Lila,” Diego’s voice cut in. “Stop.”

“I trusted you,” Lila scoffed. “I got you a job, I even introduced you to my mother and then you took off on me!”

“That’s ‘cuz I needed to save the world!” Diego insisted. “She’s using you, Lila. The Handler.”

“You’re wrong. She raised me.” Lila's words stung Luther's heart, too familiar, too close to the bone. “She loves me.”

“Yeah, and you know what?” Luther interjected. “Love shouldn’t have to hurt this much.”

Lila paused long enough to let a hope slip into Luther’s mind before she jammed a finger down her throat with a loud mock gag.

“Alright I tried,” Luther mumbled.

“He’s right, we have to kill her,” Five decided—which, no, that was not what Luther had meant at all.

“Hey, Five!” Diego held up a hand. “Five, stop! I got it.”

Klaus giggled loudly, drawing a startled glance from Lila before Diego could reclaim control of the moment.

“Hey, Lila?," Diego said with cautious urgency. "It’s true. She’s dangerous. And you’re scared of what she’ll do with all that new power.”

Lila did looked scared, Luther realized. But not necessarily of the Handler. She wasn’t looking at Diego at all. She was looking at Five.

She was looking through Five.

Her dark-rimmed eyes bugged out in disbelief. Five was ready to fight, but he followed Lila’s gaze to the empty space just over his left shoulder.

“Mum?” Lila stammered, after a moment. “Dad?”

On the hay-strewn barn floor, you could have heard a pin drop.

“Klaus…” Allison breathed. Luther looked over at the brother he’d nearly forgotten about. Klaus looked unusually together, but he cast a sly wink back Luther’s way.

“It’s a trick,” Lila spat, with a wild-eyed glance at Klaus. “It’s not real.”

Klaus just shrugged, as if he might have half-believed her. “I think Mr. and Mrs. Gill can speak for themselves,” he said softly.

Of course. It took Luther a moment, but it was obvious: Lila, the mimic, had absorbed Klaus’ power. She could not only see her parents’ ghosts, she could talk to them, too. Luther swallowed. As eerie as it was, he found himself oddly moved.

Five had figured it out before Luther did, but he still tensed when Lila took another cautious step towards him. “Tell her,” Five urged his invisible victims. “Tell her the truth!”

Every eye in the barn was locked on Lila. The years peeled back from her combat-hardened face, stripping her down to her freshly orphaned core. Tears coursed down her face in silent streaks, and she sank to her knees. Luther pointed to Klaus and tugged lightly on his own ear; Klaus replied by shaking his head no. Even he couldn't hear the ghosts' voices anymore. Their words were for their daughter’s ears alone.

“Mum…Mum, I…” Every shade of fear and love and rage and gratitude was reflected in Lila’s face. Gesturing toward Five, she said, “Is it true?…No, but Mum, but he would’ve been older, back then….Never mind how, it’s complicated…and then what?” Lila’s face shifted, darkened with fear. “High heels?”

Luther looked at Klaus. Klaus looked at Five. Lila looked at Diego. None of them looked where they should have been looking, towards the door. None of them could hear high heels in the snow.

“See? You see?” Diego declared, triumphant. “The Handler’s never been a mother to you.”

And as the gunfire flashed and Luther went down, bowled over by the bullets’ blinding force, he swore he’d never heard his brother’s voice so gentle yet so firm, and so completely free of doubt.