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kissing the lipless

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In the midst of the department wide shuffle that comes with brand new management, Benji ducks into his room with the look of a kicked dog. He has his laptop tucked under his arm and he glances over his shoulder not once, not twice, but three times in the space it takes him to get to the chair at Ethan’s bedside. He spends another moment debating with himself about where to put the laptop down where he won’t disconnect any of the IVs. Until Ethan takes pity on him, plucks it from his hands and drags it onto his lap.

“I probably shouldn’t be coming to you with this,” Benji says in the manic kind of way he gets when he's faced with a problem he can’t solve alone. “This might even be treason, if I tell you. I'm not even supposed to know. If I hadn’t been digging around in the--”

Ethan holds up his hand to politely cut him off. “Benji, you wouldn’t be here, talking to me, if you hadn’t already made up your mind. So could we just--” Ethan mimes the act of swinging the laptop open, cause with his hands two layers thick with bandages he can’t quite get the latch himself without embarrassing them both,“--you know, get on with it already?”

“Oh, right. The treason. Sure.”

Benji reaches over, springs the latch with his two working hands and opens the laptop.

“They're about to do something really stupid,” he says, and Ethan can only nod because staring back at him from the laptop screen is a perfect digital mapping of August Walker's face. The same one he'd scanned himself before the HALO jump. Long before their misadventures in Kashmir, and even longer before the right side of Walker's face had been burnt away with engine oil.

Ethan hadn't looked behind him when he’d crested over the cliffside, not with the detonator still so far from his grasp. But there's no way anyone could have survived a drop like that. Which can only mean one thing--

“Who are they planning to use?”

In his head, Ethan's already matching Walker's height and body type to agents that might fit the bill, all while he starts on the arduous task of unhooking himself from saline drips and working the blood back into his toes. Concerned about the state of his ribs, they’d transferred him straight to a CIA infirmary. But he's been looking for any excuse to get out of here, and he's beginning to suspect this exact well of information might be part of the reason they were so keen to keep him in here in the first place.

Benji helps where he can, avoids the needles and the blood that doesn't seem to want to clot, but says nothing. He pulls some clean clothes out of a bag Ethan hadn't noticed before that moment, as though he had fully expected this turn of events even if he’s not all that happy with the outcome, and dutifully turns his back while Ethan struggles out of his scrubs.

If his silence isn't enough of a give away that’s something’s wrong, then the way he's shifting from foot to foot certainly is.

“What aren't they telling me, Benji?” Ethan asks in the rustling of clothes. “What are you not telling me?”

“Well, that's the thing, isn't it? I'm not supposed to know and you're really not supposed to know. So, supposing--”

“Benji.”

“Turns out, he's not technically dead. Walker, that is.”

“Technically?”

Ethan can still see the screen with Walker’s unscarred face shifting back and forth, and his initial thought that they were hoping to 3D print a brand new puppet to play with, one that’s able to take orders where the original wouldn’t, well it might not be too far from the truth. Not with an answer like technically.

Except.

“Oh, he’s alive,” Benji’s quick to say as he turns around. “But there’s all of this--” He gestures in the general area of his face and neck and grimaces. “And the stupid thing that they’re about to do--” Here, he points towards the laptop. “Well, like I said, it’s really stupid.”

Unwinding the bandages from his hands takes a bit of teeth but with one done, the other comes easy and Ethan piles them up on his bed along with his scrubs. The cuts and scrapes that go hand in hand with mountain climbing have long since healed, but fractured ribs take a little longer to knit themselves back together. He can feel them twinge when he twists at the waist. Lifting the laptop to carry it over to Benji’s capable hands, it feels like he’s tumbling down that snow bank all over again.

“I need to see him,” Ethan says, apologetic, as he hands the laptop over.

And that kicked dog look comes back full force when Benji rolls his eyes and says, “See, I knew you were going to say that,” before he hunches over in the chair and gets to work.

 

 

“Those are starting to look better,” Ethan says, pointing at the ring of bruises around Benji’s neck in the laboured pause between push-ups. What were once vivid purples and reds are now giving way to softer yellows and greens. It still looks painful, but at least it's healing.

Benji swallows as he types and winces with the effort. “I feel like I've had a cold for a week,” he says, and he hits the enter key with a grim kind of flourish. He doesn’t realise it, but he’s coding in perfect rhythm to Ethan’s counting.

Open bracket, push up, drop down, close bracket.

 

 

A duplicated security code is all it takes in the end. Benji makes Ethan repeat it back to him three times before he lets him leave, and then it’s a very simple path to get to Walker. For a certified enemy of the world, there’s shockingly few hurdles that Ethan has to overcome in order to get himself in the same room.

There’s an obvious camera stationed at the end of the empty corridor, with a steady blinking light, and Ethan looks straight down it before he taps in the code. He has the distinct feeling that he’s cattle being herded in a specific direction, and then the door slides open and the smell of antiseptic rolls out like a mist. He raises his palm to the camera and steps inside.

It's not too dissimilar to the room he just came from. Washed out blues under very harsh lighting. Someone's been camping out on the table at the back. They prefer their coffee with too much creamer and sat with their chair pointed at the room's main attraction.

The main attraction being--

Walker’s six foot plus frame is laid out on the bed, eyes closed and deathly still. His wrists are attached to the metal frame with two pairs of handcuffs. Overkill to some but Ethan's watched him fight, has been on the receiving end of that brute strength. He’s hooked up to all manner of machines and drips, everything needed to convince Ethan that he’s still alive. If that really is the intention. But Ethan’s going to need a little more than that to be sure.

The technology has come a long way from the days where it took hours to not only render a viable mask, but then to print an actual physical copy. Now it takes a wave of a hand and a couple of minutes trapped in a restroom cubicle--if someone hasn’t smashed the technology to pieces, that is. The one thing that always gives it away though is contact. Something about the synthetics used, they can’t replicate the ever so slightly oily texture of skin, the underlying heat or the expected give under the pressure of someone’s fingertips.

Ethan rounds the bed, peers down at Walker’s tragic face, half obscured by squares of gauze tinted pink, and he reaches out to touch.

The stubble on his jaw feels real enough, having grown in around his moustache to the point where it’s almost a beard now. And it’s small details like that, from the days of negligence, which are going to be what convinces Ethan. He tilts Walker’s face away from the pillow, cups his cheek and feels the heat from a body that’s fighting infection after infection. Runs his thumb along the bruises around Walker’s eyes that spell exhaustion from being drip fed over a proper meal. Pushes the sweaty hair back from Walker’s forehead to drag his fingernails along his hairline, feeling for a seam that may or may not exist.

Peels away a corner of the gauze, just enough to see where the edges of the burn have begun to scab over, then Ethan smoothes it all back down and steps away from the bed entirely.

Both of Walker's wrists are shiny with burns and the moment he wakes up, whether he means to or not, he's going to tear his wrists to shreds trying to escape the handcuffs. There's stacks of fresh gauze lying about, the ones covering his face look clean and regularly changed, so Ethan thinks nothing of it when he layers some more under the band of the cuffs and tapes them securely in place.

There’s no chair at his bedside--poor Walker with no one to hold his hand, no one to care that he’s alive--and so Ethan backtracks to the workspace and the cup of cold coffee and he sits where he can see both the door and the rise and fall of Walker’s chest. There, he settles down to wait for whoever it was that fed him this trail of breadcrumbs.

 

 

Erica Sloane greets him by kicking him in the shin with the toe of her pointy shoe. “I expected you a lot sooner,” she says, dry, politely ignoring the way Ethan startles awake. “He must have really done a number on you.”

She’s wearing all grey over black with a clearly marked classified folder propped against her hip, and she directs Ethan onto his feet before she goes to stand next to Walker’s bed. She runs her eyes down the long length of him, choosing not to linger on the mess of his face but instead on the neat job Ethan did binding his wrists. Sloane then flashes Ethan a smile that’s not particularly nice and throws the folder down on top of Walker’s blanketed thighs.

Walker had spent every moment in Ethan's company being contrary, so much so in fact that it's hard to stomach seeing him be so unresponsive now. So he looks away.

Ethan can faintly make out the IMF insignia on the corner of a loose sheet that spills out of the folder. With Hunley gone, he hasn’t given much thought to the future of his team and the guilt needles at him. Reaching for it now, where it rests on the bed as bait, it’s just as much of a trap as the one that led him here, he realises.

He'd walked straight into one so that he can sidestep the other.

He grips the railing, one hand either side of where the handcuff connects, and spares a thought for where he and Walker could possibly stand, where it's together in Sloane's eyes and not in opposition.

“What are you going to do with him?” Ethan asks with a jerk of his head.

“What do you think?” Sloane says. “I'm going to fix him a tighter leash and I'm going to send him back out.”

Walker looks in no way ready to be a field agent again, and that’s not even touching on the fact that he’s a terrorist who would sooner damn a third of the world rather than be another attack dog, on the end of what Ethan suspects would be a very short rope. He made it perfectly clear he’s not looking for another master when he killed Ethan’s.

“With all due respect, sir,” Ethan says, channelling Benji’s earlier stab at recalcitrance, “that would be an incredibly stupid plan.”

“From what I’ve gathered--” Sloane flicks open the folder and spins it around to reveal a stack of IMF paperwork, rife with blackouts but always with Hunley’s signature at the bottom, “IMF plans so often are.”

She directs her full attention to Walker’s face, and it’s at odds with her speech when she begins picking at the gauze with her longer nails. “I was never sure what Hunley saw in you and your team, Hunt. Men in halloween masks, at best.” As she peels the entire square away, the skin underneath is revealed to be raw and red and angry. Not so easily mistaken for latex when the smell is something of nightmares. “But, it doesn’t change the fact that he was happy to step down as Director because he believed in you. After what I saw in Kashmir, I’m willing to try out some of that same faith. And so, I have a proposition for you, should you choose to hear it?”

She waits only long enough for Ethan to think about nodding before she goes on.

“Walker was just the beginning of my mess and I intend to use him to clean up the rest.” She’s not looking down at her former agent with any traces of sympathy. She still sees a weapon that she can wield and Ethan, even after everything, feels for the guy that can't defend himself. Wants to take up a fresh piece of gauze and shield him from that look of fraught expectation.

“Members of the Apostles are still out there,” Sloane says, and she's approaching her point like a swan dive off a tall building, increased speed with a sudden ending. “Directionless and without a leader,” she relays, “and the quickest way to draw them out is to give them a man to rally around.”

“Lark,” Ethan offers at last, having guessed as much the moment Benji opened his laptop. Give or take a few altered details.

“Lark,” Sloane confirms.

They’ve both been calling him Walker up until now, but it occurs to Ethan in that moment that it’s just another cover. If Lark is the unscarred version sitting immortal on a CIA server somewhere, what does that make the man in front of them? Which mask was it, Ethan wonders, that disconnected his oxygen at 30,000ft without a second thought, and can this disfigured shell lying unconscious before him ever be close to the same?

He’s aware that if he goes through with this, in whatever capacity Sloane has planned for him, he’s going to be putting his life in the hands of whatever face has been left behind. Ethan recalls the incredible heat of Walker’s skin, takes in the whole bloodied picture, and sighs.

“What makes you think they won’t take one look at him and see you pulling his strings?”

A flicker of something resembling respect crosses Sloane’s face. The begrudging kind she hates to afford to a man that’s betrayed her. And it’s a relief to see it’s different from the look she gave him, in his similar recline in a Kashmir medic tent. “He’s a convincing liar when he wants to be,” she says, curt, and as much as Ethan wants to contest that, he can’t. He wasn’t the one fooled.

Sloane leans forward to gather up the paperwork and in the slight change of the lighting Ethan starts to notice all the little pieces of evidence that she’s maybe not as collected as she'd like him to think. She clearly hasn’t slept a full night since this happened and her hands show signs of too many coffees trying to abate it.

She wouldn't be suggesting this if it wasn't a last resort, cooked up in the very last second.

Ethan looks back over the presence scattered about the workplace and pieces things together.

Poor Walker--with no one to hold his hand or care that he's alive--he's had company these past few days. Someone drinking coffee with too much milk, while she pours over old IMF files. Halloween masks must seem a more acceptable gambit on a few hours of sleep. Hell, catching Benji digging through some classified CIA files, it must have seemed like a sign for Sloane, that she was on the right track in search of a group of people who just don't know when to quit.

The beginning of a breadcrumb trail placed; a perfect opportunity to get this unwieldy ball rolling.

Well, it worked. Because here Ethan is.

“You do this job for me,” she says, a familiar glint of mania in her eyes, “the way I want it done, and I’ll see that the IMF doesn’t get dismantled.”

It was never going to be much of a choice for Ethan.

Of course he accepts.

 

 

It's always a little macabre, watching the faces get built, line upon line. Hollows and creases, valleys and mountains, structures that eventually become recognisable features. Worst is when the face being replicated is somebody already long dead, and Ethan has to keep recalling the weight of Walker’s face in his hands to dampen down the feeling it gives him.

He asks, once, to take Walker's place. If they have the mask and they have a willing agent, why take the risk with Walker at all? And Benji's head shoots up from behind his laptop, where Sloane has him sequestered, scanning for possible Apostles chatter.

Benji clears his throat to make sure he has their full attention and then he brings his flat hand level with his own head. Once he's sure that's landed with the room, he then thrusts it far, far higher above his head, where it's frankly insulting, because Walker's tall but he's not that tall, before Benji tops it all off by shrugging apologetically towards Ethan.

Poor, too short, Ethan.

And that, apparently, settles that.

 

 

Walker wakes with very little fanfare. Ethan declines being there in favour of watching a replay later with the sound turned off. They steadily decreased his meds over the past couple of days, until it’s the pain that pulls him fully out of it. Ethan had argued that too, while popping pills of his own for his healing ribs. The smile Sloane gave him in answer was the same one she'd given the added wrapping around Walker's wrists. Indulgent, but only towards Ethan.

In the playback, she's anything but.

It's unclear how much of it Walker actually takes in. He looks everywhere but at Sloane directly. Tugs half-heartedly at his restraints but is quick to give in when sweat starts to bead on his forehead. He appears to say almost nothing back.

Someone has replaced the gauze over his face and he doesn't ask to see it, only picks at the scabs stretching down his arms and the beard that's growing in rough.

After Sloane leaves him, Walker curls up on his good side and doesn't move for hours.

 

 

Ethan shaves the morning of. The plan is to have him don the face of an Apostles member that died in one of the helicopters piloted over Kashmir. He'd gotten a good, long look at the man he had surprised climbing in and was able to sketch him well enough for Benji to make an ID. The man hasn't resurfaced since, which makes him a perfect candidate, and the likeness only has to be passable anyway when he'll have Lark at his side for confirmation.

Sloane apprised them of their mission separately, kept them apart in the days leading up to it, only through sensing Ethan's reluctance. But when so much of the plan derives from their ability to work together, he finds he can't put off their reunion for much longer.

So Ethan takes his time shaving. A lesson he's learned over the years as the adhesive they use to affix the masks works better on bare skin. And once he's done that, he fills another bowl with warm water, grabs a new dollar store razor from the pack, and retraces the path to Walker's room.

The security camera outside isn't blinking anymore and with his hands full Ethan can't type in the revised code Sloane gave him. In the end, it doesn't matter because the door slides open after a moment of stilted juggling, to usher Ethan inside.

There's that medicinal smell again, blanketing a fever sweat, and Ethan thinks to himself--Sloane is more suited for this job than she realises. Impossibility is often just a matter of perspective and she seems to have all the angles covered already.

Ethan walks in with his meagre little bowl before him to find Walker sitting up on the bed. He hasn't lost much of his bulk in his recovery, his shoulders still look as big as ever. Ethan notices this because, in a move he suspects is purely petty, Sloane has done away with the double pair of handcuffs and allowed Walker to sit with his legs hanging over the edge. She's secured him again, hands trapped in a single chain loop around the lowered railing, with his back facing the door.

He can't see who's coming in, this way. Can't brace himself. And Ethan watches the muscles in his thighs flex as he rotates his ankles in preparation for a fight, for all he knows, might be about to happen. Ethan doesn't fancy Walker's chances, handicapped the way that he is, but he still keeps his distance, scuffing his shoes to make noise in an obvious show of kindness.

Only one eye tracks his approach. The other has been taped shut, to keep out the bright fluorescent lights, to allow it to heal without the added strain. Walker’s face is otherwise bare, with his unwashed hair falling over his forehead, not quite long enough for him to hide behind.

He notices the bowl combined with the razor at a glance, puts two and two together and gets Ethan's infinite giving heart.

“Is this you trying to recruit me, Hunt?” he says, and under the dry, cracked voice there's still that wry hint of superiority Ethan remembers. Just as he also remembers fishing him unconscious out of the sky. “I was prepared to wipe out a third of the world for my cause. What can you offer me that's better than that?”

Ethan pretends to think it over, uses that time to familiarise himself with seeing those scars now animated. “A lifetime not in prison, for a start.”

The handcuffs rattle against the rail when Walker tries and fails to lift his arms. “Tell me how this is any different.”

There's mirrored reddish-brown rings around his bandaged wrists. Saw marks of a trapped animal trying to gnaw its own leg off. Ethan puts the bowl down carefully and steps closer with his empty hands in view.

“They didn't change those for you,” he says, with a nod, “when they did your face. I could do those first, if you want?”

Walker doesn't know what to say to that. Flashes eagerness to suspicion to depression overly fast, before he's back to that bone weary look.

“I'd rather just get this over with,” he says at last, under a single fan of lashes, “if it's all the same to you.”

 

 

The height difference is more manageable with Walker sitting on the bed. Ethan starts off trying not to touch him at all, just a tap every so often on the side of his jaw when he needs a new angle to work with. Walker soon goes from carefully measuring his breathing to hissing under his breath every time Ethan catches the edge of a scab that's not fully healed yet. He can only mutter sorry, sorry so many times before Walker either goes for his throat, or he deliberately shifts along the line of the razor, in the hope that he can finish the job that the drop off the cliff failed to do.

Even while being careful he still draws blood in a spot right above Walker's lip, and without thinking Ethan catches it with his thumb before it rolls down to meet the pinched line of Walker's mouth. This isn't going to work like this, Ethan knows. So he gives in. Crowds closer to the bed until Walker's knees part to let him in.

“You'll thank me for this later,” Ethan promises, and Walker stares right back.

“There is no later for me, Hunt,” he says, a low rumble. He still tilts his head when Ethan directs it with the full press of his palm. Obliging, maybe, for the first time in his life. “What do you imagine Sloane has planned for me once this is over? She's not going to want me around as a reminder.” The effort it takes him to then look sly, it's harder to pull off when he's leaning into Ethan's hand like a cat. “Not now that she's got you to do her dirty work for her.”

Ethan swills the razor through the water, turning it pink. “I know she wouldn't go through all the trouble of keeping you alive if she was just going to kill you later.” The more damaged skin that he uncovers, the easier he’s finding it to offer his sympathy. “Besides, I wouldn’t let that happen.”

“Always the boyscout,” Walker sighs, right as his one eye drifts lazily shut. “Don't you ever get tired of that?” His tethered hands reach as far as the hem of Ethan's shirt and he trades the hisses of pain for swipes of his thumb across Ethan's stomach. He seems happier, not being the only one made to feel uncomfortable. “Whatever happens out there today,” he says with the same confidence, “you’d still try to save my life.”

Someone has to care about the one over the millions, which is the only reason why Ethan lets him.

 

 

If you fold a piece of paper in half then half again, it gets impossible by the seventh fold. Sloane shows herself eventually, a shadow in the doorway, just as Ethan is cleaning the last of the blood from Walker’s patchy face. She has in her hands the very best technology that IMF has at its disposal, turned endlessly over on itself until it’s small enough to fit inside a briefcase.

Ethan has done so many impossible things with this technology, he often forgets what it looks like from the outside, a machine dragged straight from the pages of a sci-fi book.

Walker’s thighs are hot where they’re bracketing his hips, his fingers even hotter, and yet it’s stranger still to know what she has waiting for them in that case.

A man long dead, a ghost in a box.

He tells Walker he’ll be right back--then Ethan flees.

 

 

“You need to let him out of the handcuffs,” Ethan tells her, first thing.

She’s been watching them this whole time. Ethan knows this because she gives him that indulging smile again before she hands over the case.

“There needs to be some trust here,” he tries again to assure her, “and I’d rather start now than later.”

She stares at him for long time, deciding.

 

 

In a Parisian bathroom, things go differently.

Walker gets the drop on Lark while Ethan holds the man's gaze in the mirror. He manages to pin one of Lark's arms, and reels back from the hand that then reaches up and over to claw at his face. It's far too easy to lose an eye in fights like this, soft parts are always a vulnerability; Walker gets lucky here.

He walks Lark back so that the next arc of his fist swings and misses, and the one after Ethan blocks with his forearm before he lunges in with the needle.

But Lark's quicker than them both, smarter too. He throws his weight forward, waits for Walker to counterbalance and then plants his feet on the edge of the sink and pushes off. Walker goes down hard, with Lark heavy on top. Winded, like a punch to the chest, Walker still manages to hook one of his thick legs over Lark's to keep him pinned.

Ethan sees his opening, drops to his knees and stabs the needle into Lark's neck, right above his collar.

The fight drains out of him slowly, so slowly, with sudden bursts of motion that Walker rolls with, until his eyes finally fall shut. No one moves for a long time, just to be sure, but the music outside is growing louder, the bass deep enough to be felt through the floor, and it's only a matter of time before someone comes in to use the bathroom.

Ethan puts his hand on Walker's and his choking grip goes loose.

In a Parisian bathroom, things go differently.

They leave Lark propped up in a stall. Ethan passes the briefcase over the divider then makes the climb himself. By the time his feet touch the ground, Walker has the case open already and is watching the reconstruction of Lark’s face with nothing short of fascination.

The plan always was that Walker would take Lark outside to hand him off to the rest of Sloane's team. But instead he's here, squeezed into the same stall as Ethan. He slides the latch shut behind him when loud voices come in singing. There's even less room than there was before.

Ethan gestures pointedly at the case and then the inches of space between them and throws his hands up in a question. Walker shrugs, towers over him and says, “Well, someone's got to make sure you've got your nose on straight.”

And that's how things go differently.

Walker with his hands all over him, instead of the other way round.

 

 

Ethan puts the case down on the bed, harder than he means to, and ignores the heat that comes over his face when he has to dig between Walker's legs to get at his restraints.

“Sloane believes this works better if you’re a messiah figure,” Ethan explains, unlocking one wrist and then the other. “Untouchable, in their eyes, as John Lark.” Walker is eyeing the case with open distrust and so Ethan lowers his voice to a hush and adds, “Don’t worry, you won’t be alone in this. I’m getting my own face too.”

Walker rolls his eyes--well, his eye--and tears his hands away from where Ethan is working the blood back into his fingers. Like touch is suddenly something he can't stand, when he knows where all this is leading. “You realise this is never going to work? Anarchists don't just wait around for someone to lead them. You're wasting your time.”

Ethan ignores him, opens the case and shudders when Walker stares back at him, from two different directions. There's still tape over his eye and that needs to go first, Ethan thinks. It peels away easier than the gauze but leaves Walker blinking back tears.

“Hunt,” Walker tries again, urgency making him loud. He can't even look at the mask. “I don't want to do this.”

“This is probably going to hurt,” Ethan warns one final time, before he takes the mask in hand and drapes it over Walker’s scars.

He presses the nose in first, while Walker goes completely still. Sweeps his thumbs down his cheekbones to his ears. Forehead, chin, synthesized moustache. He’s gotten to know Walker’s face pretty intimately these past few days, has run his hands over every version. Has grown far too familiar with the angle of his jaw and the hint of bunny teeth that’s always the same, even when it's doubled over on itself.

It's the best technology they have and it's horrifying in practice.

It's a hack job, like cheap magic. He's waving his hands and erasing scars like he's erasing an entire earned identity. He's burying Walker under this face, smothering him, all because Sloane told him it's his only chance at life.

In the Parisian bathroom where things went differently, Walker wasn't nearly as soft. He'd treated the whole thing like a fight. Batted away Ethan's attempts to affix the mask himself and had revelled in the act of covering him up, making him someone new, someone meaner.

Making him over as John Lark, Ethan realises with a jolt in the present. Had things gone that way, it would have been a cruel joke only Walker could have understood.

Here, now, in a CIA infirmary, Walker’s hands find Ethan’s sides. They move up, past his shoulders, to the back of his neck and Ethan braces himself, expecting the same tired fight. But then Walker’s mouth is on his, a weird duplicated feeling of mask not quite settled over skin. Ethan moves unwilling, to find an angle where it’s not so strange, and falls into a kiss that becomes a fight anyway.

Fingers catch the softened edge of Ethan’s jaw and dig in, pulling until it hurts. Nails cut skin that then heats and burns. Walker pulls at his face, feels for seams he can unpick, all while he licks into Ethan's mouth and refuses to let him go. He pulls and pulls until nothing gives away but his suspicions.

Nothing gives it away quicker than contact and Walker's got him captured completely.

“Just making sure,” Walker pants, not giving him an inch; his chapped lips are still touching Ethan's. "It wouldn't be the first time you've tried to trick me with that."

“Of course it’s me,” Ethan sighs. “Who else would ever be crazy enough to agree to this?”

Even if it all goes well today, Walker’s dead. They both know this. It’s John Lark that’s sitting immortal on a CIA server somewhere.

Sitting right in front of him, actually, and leaning in again. Ethan hopes Sloane has a good angle on this too.