Mike looks up from his keyboard to see one of the receptionists in his office doorway. "Yes?"
"Agent Severn from the New York office is here to see you, sir."
Mike frowns and pulls up his calendar. Like he thought, Tuesday is empty. "I wasn't expecting -"
"Sorry to drop in on you like this," Agent Severn says, stepping past the receptionist. "Thanks, Jamie," he says, and Jamie smiles at him before turning to go, thankfully distracted from the shock Mike knows he's doing a poor job of hiding. If that's an Interpol agent, Mike is the Holy Roman Emperor.
"Hello, Mike," the man says, shutting the door. "It's been a while." He's let his hair grow, but Mike would know him anywhere, after a thousand hours staring at blurry surveillance photos, after the night this man sat in his house and threatened his family. He has the same slightly wild eyes, and a smile like something at the top of the food chain.
"If you're planning to kill me, you've chosen a terrible venue," Mike says, casually leaning back in his chair as he reaches for the drawer where he keeps his gun.
"Likewise. Hands on the desk, please," the man says, laying his coat over the back of a chair before sitting down. He's wearing a three-piece suit, charcoal, and a red tie. Of course. The suit is perfect, the knot of the blood-red tie just so. Mike swallows and folds his hands on the desk.
The man offers the manila folder in his hand to Mike, who looks from the folder to the man's face and doesn't take it. "Why are you here?" Mike asks.
The man opens the folder and pulls out a photograph, tossing it onto the desk. It's an autopsy photo of a man with the faintest hint of stubble on his shaved head, skin pale and gleaming under the bright lights of the exam table. Mike holds it up, looks between the photo and the man sitting in front of him. The resemblance is - it's not a resemblance. They're identical.
"What is this?" Mike asks, possiblities flying through his head. A twin? It could be some sort of trick, but why? Mike had already been the accomplice in faking the death of the man now sitting in his office - why would anyone need to fake his death again?
The man says nothing, instead sliding another photograph across the desk. This one is of the back of the dead man's head, where there's a tattoo - but not the barcode Mike had been expecting. It's a circle, with notches on the edges, like a rifle sight, with a number in the middle: 447. "I don't understand," Mike says. "Why are you bringing this to me?"
There's a knock on the door, and Mike tenses. "That'll be Jamie," the man says, getting up and opening the door.
"These are the files you requested, sir," Jamie says, leading a procession of three of the office staff, each carrying one of the banker boxes from the file room.
"You can set them over there, that's fine," the man says, waving at the small conference table. Mike stares incredulously as they stack the boxes. "Thanks again."
"It's no problem, Agent Severn," Jamie says, and Mike rolls his eyes. The staff is never this nice to him, and he's not a psychopathic serial killer.
The man closes the door again and pulls several folders from the boxes, seemingly at random, before returning to his seat in front of Mike's desk. As he sits down, Mike realizes with a jolt that he could have grabbed his gun at any point in the last thirty seconds and didn't.
"Look at this," the man says, opening each of the folders and laying them out on Mike's desk. It's a graveyard's worth of autopsy photos, all men with tattoos on their shaved heads, crosshairs with numbers inside: 747, 847, 247, 1047. "These are all from the last six months. Interpol has all the files, but no one connected the dots and opened a case on it until now."
"Who's assigned to the case?" Mike asks.
"We are," the man says, and reaches into the inner pocket of his jacket. Mike jumps halfway out of his seat, ready to lunge across the desk, expecting a gun. The man raises his other hand, pacifying, before slowly pulling a piece of paper out of his pocket. Mike snatches the paper and unfolds it. An Interpol interoffice transfer order, reassigning Agent Lucas Severn from New York to a special major case detail with Agent Michael Whittier in London.
"Lucas Severn," Mike reads. "I'm guessing that's not your real name."
The man stares steadily at him. "I don't have a real name," he says. "Where I came from, we only had numbers. Mine was 47."
Mike taps the tattoo in one of the photographs. "Seems like they've been giving it out to other people lately."
The man nods.
"So what do I call you?" Mike asks. "47? Agent Severn?"
"I think we're on a first-name basis after all this time, Michael," he says, standing and shrugging on his long coat. "But you can call me Severn if it makes you feel more comfortable."
The man - Severn, the assassin formerly known as number 47, Lucas - opens the door, revealing Jamie with his hand raised, ready to knock. "Oh, sorry," Jamie says, stepping backwards, surprised. "Your car is here, Agent Severn, Agent Whittier," he says, nodding at Mike.
"Get your coat, Mike," Severn says. "We've got an appointment at the coroner's office."
"Of course, Lucas," Mike says, standing. "Thank you, Jamie. Tell them we'll be right down."
"How do I know I can trust you?" Mike asks, as they sit side-by-side in the backseat of the car taking them across town.
"Well, I let you bring your gun, for one," Severn says.
"And I'm sure you're also carrying," Mike points out. "That's not trust. That's mutually assured destruction."
"Not for me," Mike insists, leaning in.
Severn gives Mike a narrow-eyed look. "Then get out of the car, because that's all I have. If I wanted you dead, you -"
"-would have killed me by now, I know, you'll excuse me for not finding that very comforting." Mike leans back against the seat and sighs. "I want to know why you're doing this. Why did you bring this to me?"
There's a long moment of silence before Severn speaks again. "I've been trying to keep a low profile. It's not convenient for me to have other people running around wearing my face."
Mike laughs humorlessly. Not convenient. "They don't seem to be running very far."
"Which means that I might be next on the list," Severn says. "You can see how I have all kinds of problems. I needed resources, information, access."
"That explains why Interpol," Mike says. "Not why me."
"Wouldn't it be unfortunate for you if that assassin, the one you chased for years until you shot him dead in your living room, turned out to be still walking around? What if someone found out - the inspector general, maybe?"
"You wouldn't," Mike says hoarsely, suddenly cold. "You couldn't turn me in without turning yourself in."
"That's true," Severn says, inclining his head a fraction. "But if an Interpol agent who remembers me catches one of the - newer models, they might have some questions that you can't answer." The car comes to a stop outside a nondescript office building and Severn opens the door. "The longer this goes on, the higher the risk. To both of us," he says. "You have to decide if it's more dangerous to trust me, or to let this go on."
Mike sighs and rubs the sore spot on his forehead where a tension headache is starting before climbing out of the car.
The pathologist shows them the body of 447, which is even more uncanny in person. Mike hates morgues, and spends the whole time trying to hide his discomfort while Severn asks a series of complicated medical questions about things like liver temperature. When they finally leave, his sigh of relief is followed by a deep breath of delicious air that doesn't reek of formaldehyde.
Severn is unfazed. "That wasn't very helpful," he says, while they wait for the car. "Poison is harder to trace than gunshot wounds. Too bad."
Back at the office, Mike commandeers two bulletin boards, and they start to lay out the case, a web of connections in chronological order.
"Wait, put that on the other board," Mike says, as Severn goes to tack up a newspaper article.
"It's from March," Severn says, looking at the article.
"Yes, they found the body in March, but it looked like it was related to the suspicious death of that gunrunner in January. What was his name -"
"Moldau," Severn says, pointing at the name and photo pinned to the left board. He adds the article underneath and steps back.
It's a decent start, for an afternoon's worth of work. A night's worth of work, Mike corrects, looking at his watch. "It's getting late," he says. "Why don't we call it a night?" Severn tilts his head at him, questioning. "It's almost eleven," Mike says. "I'm going home. Where are you staying?"
"I'm in the long-term apartments for visiting agents," Severn says. Mike's face must show what he thinks of that. "I've stayed in worse," Severn says, but he sounds uncertain. Mike's seen those places - built in the 70's, and it shows, all shag carpets and horrible yellow lino, and they probably haven't ever seen a halfway decent cleaning.
"Come on, you can sleep on my sofa," Mike says, opening the top drawer of his desk and grabbing his keys. "Those flats are awful. I wouldn't even subject a raging homicidal maniac to them," he says, eyeing Severn.
"I'm not a raging maniac," he says, with his usual lack of expression.
"I notice you're not disputing the 'homicidal' aspect," Mike says, tossing Severn his coat.
Severn smirks at him. "Still want me on your sofa?"
"At least then I can keep an eye on you," Mike mutters, turning off the lights.
"Good night, Jamie," Severn says, as they pass the reception desk.
"Good night, Agent Severn," Jamie replies, and bats his eyelashes.
Mike hits the button for the lifts and looks amusedly at Severn. "That kid's got it bad for you," he says.
"Who, Jamie?" Severn asks, genuinely baffled. "He's got what?"
"He's got a crush on you," Mike says, stepping into the lift. "You hadn't noticed?"
"That kind of thing tends to sneak up on me," Severn says.
"What kind of thing?"
Severn waves a hand dismissively. "People."
"What happened to your partner?" Severn asks, after they've been driving in silence for twenty minutes.
"Jenkins? He took a transfer to art crime. Better hours. Fewer gunshot wounds," Mike tries to joke, but it falls flat. "He wanted more time with his family."
Mike shrugs and glances at his now empty ring finger before he can stop himself. "I can't give up the job for anything," Mike says. "Took me longer than it should have to figure that out, probably." He clears his throat. "What happened to the girl?" he asks. "The Russian girl who was traveling with you."
"Happy. Safe," Severn says. "She's got her own life. A good life. I try to stay out of it."
Mike knows all about that. He nods, and they lapse back into silence until they turn onto his street.
"Look," Severn says urgently, as they drive down Mike's block. "That van. Is that usually there?"
"No," Mike says slowly.
"Keep going," Severn says. "Go past the house. Don't slow down." Severn peers intently into the yard as they drive by. Mike sneaks glances, trying to pay attention to where he's steering. He doesn't see any movement in the windows or rustling in the shrubbery. "Is there anyone in the house?" Severn asks. "Your family. Are they here?"
"No," Mike says, swallowing. "My wife, she - my ex-wife - she's remarried. No one lives here but me." Nodding, Severn pulls a pistol out of his jacket, then a suppressor, and starts screwing it to the barrel. "What are you -" Mike starts.
"Let me out here. Park in a driveway, but keep the engine running."
"Absolutely not," Mike says, and pulls the car to the curb. "I'm coming with you."
Severn considers him for a moment. "Fine," he says. "But don't get in my way."
"Unlock the door, then stand back," Severn whispers, and Mike does as he asks, turning the key in the lock and then stepping to the side. Severn turns the doorknob and pushes the door open before ducking behind the doorframe, and sure enough, two shots come whizzing through the open door. Severn returns fire, four pops of the suppressor, the ejected shells clattering as they hit the paved walk.
A moment later, there's a thud from inside - a body falling down the front staircase, from the sound of it. Mike starts to step forward, but Severn makes a slashing motion with his hand - stay put. Mike nods and resumes his position. Severn waits another moment, then peers around the doorframe with his gun before stepping sideways through the doorway.
He sweeps his gun in a broad arc before reaching for the light switch and stepping further into the house. "Looks clear," Severn says, and Mike follows him into the brightly-lit hallway, kicking the door shut behind them, and then in the corner of his eye -
"There's another," Mike says, as the assassin who was hiding behind the door leaps at them. There's something in his hands - garrote wire, Mike realizes, as the man tackles him, knocking his gun across the floor, and gets the wire around his neck.
It's only a moment before Severn yanks the man off him, slamming him into the wall while Mike gasps for air on the ground.
"Cuff him," Mike manages to say, tossing his handcuffs to Severn, who snatches them out of the air and snaps them around the assassin's wrists.
"I'll clear the rest of the house," Severn says, as Mike picks himself up. "You deal with him."
Mike drags the surviving assassin into the kitchen, dumps him into one of the wooden chairs at the breakfast table. The number in the crosshairs tattooed on his head is 947.
"Now," Mike says. "Why don't we start with your name?"
The assassin shows him a smile full of bloody teeth. "Go to hell," he says, and spits on the floor.
"That's not very polite," Severn chides, stepping into the circle of light from the lamp above the table. He slides a fresh magazine into his pistol and racks the slide. "Tell the man what he wants to know."
"I know you," the man at the table says. "You're the prototype."
"I prefer to think of myself as the original," Severn says, and points the gun at the man's head. Mike takes half a step forward and then hesitates. "Why are you here?" Severn asks.
"You were weak," 947 says, sneering. "Unsuitable. That's why they made us. You're just a failed experiment."
"And yet, for some reason, I'm still the one with the gun. Why. Are you here," Severn says again, and his finger flickers towards the trigger.
"I fulfill my contracts." The assassin narrows his eyes at them, and Mike is sure that Severn - 47 - never looked at him with that much malevolence. "I took a contract to kill the man who lives here."
"I want to know why," Severn says. "I want to know everything you know, and maybe I'll let you walk out of here."
"Hey," Mike says, setting his hand on Severn's shoulder. "We're not going to hurt you," Mike says, to 947.
The assassin laughs. "This is your problem," he says, smirking at Severn. "Letting Interpol lead you around like a dog."
Severn sets his jaw and puts his finger on the trigger. Mike tightens his grip on Severn and twists just enough to throw Severn off-balance, destroy his aim. "I won't have you killing an unarmed prisoner in my kitchen," Mike hisses.
Severn gives him a murderous glare out of the corner of his eye before turning his attention back to the assassin. "How did you know I was with Interpol?" Severn demands. The assassin stares at him, and Mike almost shivers at the resemblance to Severn's flat, nonplussed look. "Don't think he can protect you forever," Severn adds, jerking his head to indicate Mike. "It only takes a second," he says, and pauses meaningfully.
"Take the handcuffs off and I'll tell you," 947 bargains.
"Information first," Mike says, crossing his arms.
"And I get to leave?"
"I give you my word," Mike says.
"The Agency has friends everywhere," the assassin says. "We're everywhere, and we know when someone starts digging into something they should leave alone."
Mike tenses. "You have someone inside Interpol?"
"We have someone inside everywhere," 947 says. "Ask him," he says, nodding at Severn.
"It's probably true," Severn says, lowering his weapon.
"Now you have to let me go," 947 says.
"I didn't say that," Mike says, and pulls the man out of the chair. "I said you could leave. I didn't say where you were going. Now walk," he says, steering the assassin towards the front door with one hand on his shoulder and the other on his wrist.
The assassin stumbles on the edge of the rug, or at least that's what Mike thinks, in the instant before the assassin snaps his head backwards, catching Mike on the cheekbone and sending him staggering. He manages to keep his hold on 947's wrist for another second, and then 947 is out of the handcuffs, turning and swinging wildly at him. Mike ducks, and blocks the next hit, but there's something gleaming and metal in the assassin's hand, and Mike dances away, trying to get out of reach.
Mike only sees the slightest twitch of a shadow behind 947, and then Severn has the assassin in a headlock, twisting 947's arm until the assassin drops the knife with a shout. The assassin is flailing, feet scrabbling at the carpet, and Severn has him on the ground, face down, before Mike is entirely sure what happened.
Severn wrenches the assassin's arm up, high on his back, until he's cursing from the pain. With his free hand, Severn reaches into his jacket, pulls out a syringe, uncaps it with his teeth before aiming it at 947's neck.
"Don't kill him, for god's sake," Mike says, in a rush.
"Good to know you still think so little of me," Severn says, and stabs the assassin with the needle, depressing the plunger. 947 goes limp almost instantly, his eyes dropping shut. "It's just a sedative."
"Do I want to know why you're carrying a needle full of -"
"-horse tranquilizer, actually," Severn supplies helpfully, with a grin that's more a demonstration of teeth than an expression of happiness. "He'll be out for a few hours."
"And now we have to carry him to the bloody car," Mike says, offering Severn a hand up.
"Why would we do that?" Severn asks, as Mike pulls him to his feet.
"We have to bring him in," Mike says.
Severn looks at him like he has the IQ of bread pudding. "We can't go back to Interpol until we know who the mole is."
"And I suppose you have a brilliant idea of what we should do instead."
"Leave him, get in the car, and get the hell out of town."
Mike considers this, rubbing his hand against the rapidly-raising bruise on his cheek. "Sounds good. Do I have time to pack a bag?"
"What did he mean, that you were a failed experiment?" Mike asks, as they drive a deliberately circuitous route towards the highway while Severn watches the rear-view mirror.
Severn is quiet for a long time. "How much do you know about where I came from?"
Mike considers bluffing, but decides after a moment to answer honestly. "Nothing," he says. "You made the first hit that I know about 16 years ago. Before that - it's like you weren't even a person."
"That's a good way to put it," Severn says, an undercurrent of bitter humor in his voice. "I was raised in an orphanage. A special one. All the children were trained as assassins, from the time we could walk. But I was - different. Special." He pauses, turning around in the seat to check behind them, then saying, "Turn right at the next intersection."
"What is it?" Mike asks.
"Nothing," Severn says. "Someone was behind us for the last three minutes, but didn't follow. Turn around and go back to where we were."
They're back on the main road when Severn speaks again. "Some of the other children could remember things from before the orphanage. But I never could. And they used to do tests on me, more than anyone else. I don't think I was an orphan," he says, and looks briefly at Mike before turning away, staring out the window. "I don't think I was born. I think I was made. I'm not surprised that they made - more like me."
"That's horrible," Mike says, studying his profile in the dim light from the dashboard instruments.
"In a way, it's better," Severn says. "They didn't steal the chance at a normal life from me. There wasn't a choice for me."
"There was a choice," Mike says, remembering Severn sitting in his house, wanting to know, how does a good man know when to kill? "You made it for yourself when you left them. Severn," Mike says, and then, when he doesn't turn, "Lucas." Lucas looks at him. "You don't belong to them any more. You can have whatever kind of life you want."
"After I dismantle the clone assassin ring, you mean," Lucas says, the corner of his mouth quirked into a smile.
"Right, naturally," Mike says, and grins back.
It's too quiet in the car, and Mike can feel himself drifting towards sleep. "Why 'Lucas?'" he asks, trying to make conversation to keep himself awake.
"I mean, you could have named yourself anything," Mike elaborates. "Why not Reginald Percivall the Third?"
"47 is a Lucas number," he says, like that explains anything. Mike raises his eyebrows skeptically. "It's a mathematical sequence," Lucas says, looking unimpressed with Mike's ignorance. "Anyway, I liked it," he says. "And I don't think I look like a Reginald."
"Don't be so biased," Mike says, joking. "Anyone could be a Reginald. I could have been a Reginald."
"You, maybe; me, not really," Lucas says, and yawns. "We should stop soon."
"Good, because I'm about half an hour from falling asleep and driving us off the road," Mike says.
The sky is gray-blue with dawn by the time they find a hotel that Lucas approves as suitably remote - "But with multiple escape routes," he had insisted, while Mike tried to keep his eyes open. Mike waits in the car while Lucas acquires a hotel room with one of his several false passports. ("Don't show them to me, I don't want to know," Mike had insisted, when Lucas had tried to get him to choose which one they should use.)
It's a small room, but clean, with two beds, and Mike falls face first onto the one closest to the door and barely manages to kick his shoes off before he's blissfully, gloriously asleep. Or nearly asleep - he's distantly aware of the sounds of Lucas moving around, a suitcase unzipping water running in the bathroom, something that sounds like a cable being unfurled.
"Mike," Lucas whispers. Mike makes an affirmative noise into the pillow. "Don't try to open the door. I put a tripwire on it. Wake me up and I'll disarm it."
"Sure," Mike mumbles, and passes out.
Mike wakes up disoriented, ravenously hungry, and feeling like he could sleep for ten more hours. The room is dark except for the dim glow of the bedside lamp and the thin strip of daylight seeping past the blackout curtains."What time is it?" he asks, sitting up slowly.
Lucas is on the other bed, a small, sleek computer open on his lap. "Noon," he says, without looking up. "There's food on the desk."
It's a pile of snack food, and Mike falls on it gratefully, destroying a bag of crisps, an apple, a ham sandwich, and half a bar of chocolate before coming up for air. "Did you sleep?" he asks. Lucas is still clicking away at the computer.
"Some," he says. "I only sleep in four hours intervals."
"That's a neat trick," Mike says.
"Years of practice." Lucas finally looks up from the computer. "I think we should go to Stuttgart," he says. "The Moldau hit has all the markings of an Agency contract, and 847's body was found there."
"And 847 was the first of the new 47s to die, if he was killed in January, after the hit," Mike says. "You think 847 killed Moldau?"
Lucas nods. "But I don't know who killed 847. Might have been the Agency tying up loose ends."
"Killing your own assassins doesn't seem to be a very efficient way to stay in business," Mike says, eyebrows raised.
"They do it," Lucas says flatly.
"All right," Mike says. "Stuttgart it is. How did you figure all this out?"
Lucas turns the computer around, showing Mike a complicated diagram - like a digital reconstruction of the case board. "I have all the files, too," he says, standing up and passing the computer to Mike. "You were right, Jamie does like me. He scanned everything and sent an encrypted copy."
"You shouldn't toy with that boy's affections," Mike scolds half-heartedly, scrolling through the meticulously organized files.
"Who says I'm toying?" Lucas says. Mike blinks, and before he can recover, Lucas heads for the loo, calling over his shoulder, "I'm taking a shower. Don't screw up the file hierarchy."
Mike takes the laptop and returns to his bed, reads through everything he can find about the murdered arms dealer, Moldau. Not really a great loss to society, in Mike's opinion - there had been three Interpol red notices issued for him, and he was wanted by The Hague on war crimes charges after smuggling arms to both sides of a bloody civil war. Still, he should have been brought before a court, not shot to death in the men's room of a seedy club.
Mike moves on to the file on 847, and is halfway through the article about the discovery of an unidentified body in the woods when Lucas walks out of the bathroom in nothing but a towel.
It takes Mike a second too long to realize he's staring, and he drops his eyes hurriedly, trying to focus on the screen. He chances another glance, trying to be subtle. Lucas looks - he looks good, built like a fighter, strong arms and broad chest.
Mike wishes that he could say he hadn't been walking towards this moment for years, since he destroyed his marriage and nearly torpedoed his career chasing Lucas - 47 - across continents, following the string of murders 47 unwound as he passed through. Mike knows that he's been - obsessed, really, and he recognizes this as a new incarnation of an old feeling - he's always wanted Lucas, wanted to catch him, and then to keep him, and this seems like something different but it's really just the same.
Mike swallows and focuses his eyes squarely on the computer, until he feels that prickling sensation of being watched. Lucas is staring at him with a sly, knowing expression, slightly unnerving in its unblinking attention. Mike tries act nonchalant, but his heart is stomping, blood rushing double-time through his body, and although he keeps scrolling through the article, he can't see a single word.
"Mike," Lucas says, and when did he get so close? Close enough to pull the laptop out of Mike's numb fingers, snap it shut and set it on the nightstand. Lucas puts his hand on Mike's chest, just his fingertips at first, then spreading his fingers until his palm is flat over Mike's heart, which is faster than a rabbit's, out of control. Lucas climbs onto the bed, one knee at a time, and hovers over Mike, water dripping from his hair and shoulders like erratic rain.
"I thought you said you never saw this kind of thing coming," Mike says, and his voice sounds breathless.
"You haven't ever been able to sneak up on me, Mike," Lucas says. His eyes are very dark, catching the shadows of the dim room. "I noticed how you look at me a long time ago."
"Fuck you," Mike says, getting his hand in Lucas' hair, using it as leverage to flip them over. He's under no illusion that Lucas could throw him across the room, if he wanted to, that if Mike is pinning Lucas to the bed, pulling just enough to force his head back and reveal the vulnerable line of his throat, it's because Lucas wants him to do it.
Lucas twists his hand in Mike's shirt, pulls him down into a kiss that's wet and hungry and just this side of painful: Lucas sinking his teeth into Mike's lower lip, Mike retaliating with a nip. Mike presses his hips down, rides Lucas into the bed, and Lucas twists his head away, gasping, pushing up to meet Mike. "Take your clothes off," Lucas demands, working his hands between them and pulling at Mike's belt. Mike's shirt is sticking to him in damp patches, where he's brushed up against Lucas, and he opens the top few buttons before giving up and yanking it over his head. "Yes," Lucas says, running his hands down Mike's back, "fuck, come on." Mike kicks his trousers and pants to the floor and then tries to pull the towel around Lucas' hips free, only to discover there's an actual knot tied in it.
"What the bloody hell?" he says, picking at it, until Lucas knocks his hands away and undoes it with a deft twist. "You," Mike says, laughing a little, "you are ridiculous."
Lucas glares at him, but he can't be that angry, since he's already pulling Mike in with a hand on the back of Mike's neck, into another demanding kiss. Mike settles himself down just so, cocks slipping alongside each other, hot and wet between them. Then Mike moves, a smooth, easy slide, and Lucas shudders all over. Mike does it again, and again, and Lucas is shoving back against him, wrapping one leg around Mike for more leverage, and Mike stops thinking about anything besides Lucas' skin, his soft mouth, the quiet sounds he's making. Mike kisses Lucas until he can't do anything but pant desperately into Lucas' shoulder and let his orgasm roll through him like an earthquake, Lucas tensing all over and following him a moment later.
"We should go," Mike says, picking his head up enough to look at Lucas, who slowly opens his eyes.
"Not yet," he says, and tightens his grip on Mike's arm, not enough to hurt, just - holding on. "We can wait a few more minutes."
Mike leans down slowly, and kisses him, shallow and light, not a kiss trying to lead into something else, a kiss for its own sake. Lucas looks at him thoughtfully when he pulls away. There's a little furrow between his eyebrows, a tilt to his head like he's considering something new.
"All right," he says, after a moment. "It's time."
"This is your last chance to go back," Lucas says, looking at him over the top of the car. "After this, it could get complicated."
"If I go back, I'll spend every day looking over my shoulder, waiting for one of your little brothers to come for me. I'll pass on that," Mike says, dry. "No, we're both involved in this. I'll see it through to the end."
"To the end," Lucas says, and opens the door.