He’s in Bruges right now, if memory serves correctly, and it must be late at night, but he picks up. Of course he does. Even if they change numbers like some people change socks, they always answer for each other. Because it would be impolite not to; they’re showing the proper respect, and this business most certainly does not keep office hours.
(It went beyond that a while ago, but they keep up the pretence.)
“Tolya, you never call.” The accusation is less severe than it sounds - it’s also dangerous for them to speak too often. “Did I forget our anniversary?”
They don’t have one, and it’s become a running joke that even now raises a smile for Anatoli, alone beside the warehouse in the long shadows thrown across the docks. Watched over by the big guns, in case something should happen (it won’t, not for a while; he knows their opponents well enough for that).
“No. I am going to die, Milan. There is not much I can do.”
“Oh, come on.” The gentle scolding in that tone, the equivalent of raised eyebrows over the phone, is enough to make his breath hitch. “You’ve survived worse, surely?”
“ I know .” He switches away from English, in case anyone particularly cares to be listening. “ But tonight, ” he checks his watch, “ in the next hour… I will probably fight the man from the sky - the one they call Superman . And if nothing else has managed to kill me, I’m sure that will .”
“Oh, Tolya.” Milan sounds saddened, as if people disappoint him by dying. “ I’m sorry . Maybe you will be alright.”
“Maybe not. This is why I’m calling you.”
“Why, who else would you call?”
“No-one.” The admission is fairly flat, but it’s actually the first time he’s thought about it. His affairs are in order, as far as they can be. There’s no-one left that he needs to talk to.
“Alright. You’re wanting to say goodbye. Well, I will say it, but - if you are still alive…. I have some business here to take care of. I think it will go well, and I will be rid of someone who is very annoying to me. A filthy thief . Anyway. Let’s say, a month. If you are still alive, then we meet.” It’s non-negotiable.
“Agreed.” That’s all he can really offer. There’s no optimism in it, no false hope. He looks up at the glowing windows above and recalls something. “You know you said to me once that you would not want to die in a warehouse?”
“Mm. It’s so undignified. On the concrete. Let me guess, you’re….”
A sigh. “Well, you will go out fighting, won’t you?”
“Probably. I liked what we had. Thank you.” It’s the closest he’ll get to I love you , because they didn’t, not really.
“I’ll miss you. But, one month - you promise?”
“I promise,” he says, and then they say goodbye. It doesn’t feel like it’s genuine, although it has to be. (Lex thinks they will succeed, but the only person not expendable to Lex is himself.)
Anatoli can’t help but check the time in Bruges, as he climbs the stairs back to the third floor.