“Do you know, I was thinking about Malta.”
“What time in Malta?”
Nicky turns to him and thinks, Those perfect five nights where you tried to make my cock fall off. I almost thought you wanted to find out if it would heal.
Joe laughs fondly when he hears it. “Ah,” he says with such delight. “That time in Malta.”
It doesn’t occur to Nicky at that moment that he hadn’t said that aloud. They’ve been tortured for so long and he’s very tired. Of course it doesn’t occur to him.
This cage seems clamped down on them without offering a chance of escape, but their lives are long and they are resourceful. He turns Malta into a glowing beacon, a hope, a place to go if they ever escape this prison of profit and inhumanity.
He doesn’t think too much about how Joe had heard him. In the scope of their issues, it’s a minor problem, overshadowed by the desperate need to escape.
After Booker’s banishment begins, Nicky notices that things are different.
Joe thinks about the morning paper and Nicky hands it to him. This is not new. They are nearly at their thousand-year anniversary. Nicky can read Joe by his expressions and the infinitesimal shift in an expression.
Of course he knows when Joe wants something, especially if it’s part of their morning routine.
They are connected, they are two halves of one soul. Of course they can anticipate one another’s needs.
It becomes less easy to explain.
Nicky spends an entire afternoon craving a very specific brand of biscuits and then Joe brings them back from the local store without having been asked. They didn’t even talk about shopping or cooking, Joe just knew.
The next night, Nicky is reading an old copy of a loved book when suddenly he stops, mid-chapter, and heads to the bathroom to hand Joe a towel, because he’d started taking a shower without one being available.
Even then, he thinks nothing of it.
There are miracles in the world, why not this sense that they know what the other absolutely needs?
Only, then something happens that Nicky cannot write off.
Joe’s humming as he helps Nicky cook; none of this is strange. Joe often hums and sings while he helps Nicky cook, and he always likes to assist when Nicky is making old classics. Only, then, clear as day, Nicky hears Joe’s voice in his head thinking about watching Nicky’s hands coated in pasta sauce and wanting to suck it all off. It’s not abnormal for him to tell Nicky such things in private, but Andy and Nile are sitting at the table a few feet away. Not to mention, he swears he’s heard it, but Joe’s mouth, it didn’t move.
“Nicky?” Joe asks when Nicky has frozen in place. “What happened. Are you okay?”
Nicky gapes at Joe in disbelief, wondering how he can ask such a thing when his mind has put such images in his mind. “I think I burned my finger,” he lies, but it’s enough of an excuse for him to escape to the bathroom. It’s a poor lie. His finger would heal instantly and it’s not like him to run away for so small a wound.
Of course he does.
“Since when do you care about a burned finger? Is this all a ploy to get me to kiss it better?” Joe teases, bracketing Nicky’s hips with his hands as he pins him up against the bathroom sink with a hitch that lifts him up. “I could practically feel you thinking about how you want me to suck sauce off your fingers.”
“No,” Nicky protests, grabbing the porcelain sink.
“No,” he reiterates. “Because you were thinking it, Joe. You were thinking it, and I heard it. I saw it.”
He had. It’s not the first time, but now that it’s become very clear what’s happening, all the instances are beginning to come together.
“In the lab, you knew what I was thinking about Malta,” he says, turning to grab at Joe’s elbow with his hand. “The biscuits,” he reminds him. “The paper, the towel.” There are a dozen other little things he knows have happened, all things that he’d written off as a couple nearing their thousandth year together, but it’s not that, is it?
It’s something deeper, something more.
“Think something,” Joe demands.
It’s like being asked to suddenly juggle while balanced on an elephant. Nicky’s mind goes completely blank, but then, he thinks, I really like the way you look in that leather jacket, because when in doubt, he can always think about the simplest thing in the world to him -- how much he loves Joe and every part of him.
“It’s because it’s the leather jacket you bought me,” Joe says out loud, staring at Nicky like he’s a miracle come to life. “Shit,” he mumbles, scrubbing his hands over his face. He’s laughing, but it sounds slightly unhinged. “Nicky, shit.” You really hear me? All of it?
Nicky nods, slowly, not sure how this is possible. “It started at the lab, but how? Why?” His fingers are absently fiddling with the cuff of Joe’s leather jacket, because now that he’s called attention to it, he absently wants to touch it.
Joe’s thoughts are a heady combination of languages that Nicky thinks only he can understand. He doesn’t bother to divide it into Arabic, Italian, English -- they come together in such a way that he doesn’t have to split it apart, because he knows it.
He knows Joe.
Joe’s staring at Nicky’s fingers as they slide over the leather of his jacket, and there’s a responding ping, an acknowledgement.
I like the way you sound in here too.
They can read each other’s minds. One thousand years in, and it seems there are still some surprises left for them. Nicky is not sure he wants to call it a gift from God, but it is a gift. Nicky cups Joe’s face, staring at him for the wonder he is, closing his eyes and basking in the warmth he feels wrapped in to have Joe’s thoughts around him like this.
“This is impossible.”
“Says the immortal crusader,” Joe points out.
You may have a point, thinks Nicky.
“Thank you for acknowledging my genius.”
“I said a point,” Nicky says instantly, but he’s smiling again. Whatever worries he might have about this are fading, becoming secondhand, because there’s something about the way their thoughts tangle together in their unique way that distracts Nicky. “Do you want to tell the others?” Nicky murmurs, even though Joe’s attention has turned to Nicky’s body. Yusuf, he scolds mentally, sending him a warning flash of Nile and Andy sitting at the table, waiting for the dinner that is probably being burned by the second.
His pride stings to think of serving something subpar, which is the only reason he doesn’t let Joe continue to press him against the sink.
Nicky doesn’t need to read Joe’s mind to know that he’s seconds away from lifting him up on top of it, but the mental picture is a welcome addition.
“Not yet,” Joe says. “We barely understand what’s going on.”
If that’s the bar they’re holding themselves to, Nicky has the feeling they might never tell them, because he’s still not sure how any of this could possibly happen.
Joe slides his strong hands over Nicky’s thighs, and very deliberately thinks, Quickie? at him.
He is going to be an absolute menace about this, Nicky can already tell.
“I am not letting dinner burn, not even for you,” is his apology, but he tries to soften the blow with a kiss. Joe keeps pressing him into the sink, but Nicky has been letting him. Now that he is reminded of his purpose, he grabs Joe by the neck with one hand, and the elbow with the order to pivot them away so Joe’s the one pressed up against the sink and Nicky’s free.
“Santa Maria,” Joe sighs, always blaspheming Nicky’s saints when he’s frustrated.
“Yes,” Nicky agrees. “I will make you suffer by cooking you an incredible dinner and then let you think incoherently dirty thoughts at me while we eat.” It is a suffering that he thinks he will be able to bear. He’s smiling incandescently to think of Joe’s ability to pester him during dinner, not bothered by this new skill because there’s no part of it that’s bad.
He’s had Joe in all ways for a millennia and now God or the universe has seen fit to present him with even more of the man he loves.
“Go on, then,” Joe encourages. But you can’t stop me thinking about your fingers.
And Nicky would never want him to, so it works out for all of them.
Besides, he has a feeling that this new skill of theirs may come in handy and for more than just dirty thoughts over dinner.
Whatever grace gifted it to them, Nicky won’t take it for granted, but he will take advantage of it whenever possible.
Nicky hates being chained up.
This time, like most of the others, the people who have kidnapped him don’t bother to buy good chains. It means he can saw through his wrist to get them off and then let the skin repair. It’s a dull ache, one he hates very much, but at least their captors don’t seem to know about their talents. This is clearly what happens when Copley’s targets have something to prove.
Blood drops to the ground as Nicky makes a new attempt to break free, but his own body heals too quickly for him. He curses, actively angry that he should heal so quickly this one time he needs it to slow.
Nicky? Can you hear me? Fuck these motherfuckers and their asshole boss.
They’d separated him and Joe when they’d breached the entrance, sedating them both so they could chain them up like dogs.
It looks as if they haven’t put them far enough that their new skills aren’t coming in handy.
Here, Nicky assures. Are you chained? Can you move?
They tied my legs with shitty rope, comes Joe’s response.
Good, that’s good. Rope burn is far preferable to his wrists being sliced off time and again while his body heals and refuses to let him make any progress. It’s not going to stop him trying, screaming loudly when the cuffs dig into bone this time.
“Nicky!” Joe’s voice is tinny, but Nicky can hear it through the pipes, which means he can’t be more than a few rooms away. He must have felt his pain.
He’s not the only one to have noticed the sound.
Their captors enter the room to see the blood on the ground, talking to one another in Hungarian. It’s a new dialect, one that Nicky doesn’t speak very well, but he can tell that they’re debating what to do with him. Nicky is fairly sure they’ve been taken somewhere in the middle of Budapest, so if he keeps screaming, someone might hear him. That’s a risk they don’t want to take.
He doesn’t know the whole language, but he knows enough to be able to tell they’re talking about shooting him in the head and putting an end to their problem.
Nicky can’t help his laugh, which gets his captors attention.
“You didn't get a very good briefing, did you?”
It angers them enough to make their decision for them. He doesn’t know the new dialect, but he does recognize the anger behind the, “Shoot him,” in a language he’s still relearning. Even if he didn’t, there’s no language involved in the firing of a bullet that knocks him back.
Oh, he hopes this is not his time.
Those would’ve been very poor last words.
Nicky wakes with a gasp and finds Joe straddling his body and his hands uncuffed. The bodies of the guards who shot him are nearby, and one of them happens to be missing his head.
He’s fine, he’s safe, he’s alive.
His thoughts are harder to hear as his mind tries to fix itself, and it sends Nicky into a sudden panic that his body might think this is something that requires healing, when it’s a gift he refuses to give back. With every passing moment, though, Joe’s thoughts become crystalline clear and settle.
Nicky sighs in relief to know he hasn’t lost the gift, turning his head to search for the rest of their captors, wondering if they should be expecting more company. Joe squeezes his shoulder, trying to reassure him. “I killed them all,” he vows. “Guards came in for me while these two were in here with you, but I was already free of the ropes. I strangled them until I heard the gunshot,” is Joe’s gritted retelling. “I couldn’t get to you before they tried to kill you.”
“I don’t think they only tried,” Nicky admits, rubbing the back of his head where there are still bits of blood and brain.
He grimaces and disposes of the brain matter on his fingertips, thinking that it will be yet another shirt lost. When he seeks Joe out, he finds he’s yet to move, still in distress.
“Hobi, what is it?”
“You went quiet. One minute, you were there with that same steady background noise I’ve come to need, then you were gone and it was silent.” Nicky can hear the roughness in Joe’s voice, the way he’s talking through his emotion, as he always does with Nicky. “I never, not ever, want to have that happen for so long again. Do you hear me, Nicky?”
Nicky nods, reaching for Joe to touch him briefly at all the parts he can. His bloodied face, his neck, his arm, his waist. He touches him to soothe him and ground him, knowing that he never wants to feel the same.
The panic he’d felt at even thinking that maybe he could lose the gift had been horrifying. He can’t begin to imagine the eerie silence of it going away completely.
This is a gift they’ve been given, but just like their immortality, it can be a curse.
They live forever until they don’t.
They’ll hear one another’s thoughts until one day, they stop. Nicky suspects that it will be enough to drive them mad to have that silence in their heads after they’ve grown so used to one another. Joe’s made a home for himself in Nicky’s head, his heart, and his life. He doesn’t want to know what he looks like when those pieces are carved out of him by loss, one day.
That’s the point, though.
“One day, it will be our time,” he says, with the heavy certainty of a man who’s long believed that. “We don’t live like that. We never have,” he reminds Joe, because dreading the future means not living in the present.
With Joe, he has so much to live for.
I’m here, he says in his head, as if to remind him that he’s not going anywhere.
And there, becoming more of a permanent presence by the day, is Joe in his thoughts and his mind. There he is. There they are. They’re together, and that means that everything is fine.
Their skills grow stronger.
With time, they’re able to better control it. It goes from a stray errant thought once in a while to a running soundtrack in the back of Nicky’s mind. He compares it to a babbling brook. It’s soothing to have Joe’s thoughts and if he focuses, he can pick out what he’s thinking.
They’ve yet to leave Budapest, mainly because Nicky has made a point to want to pick up more of the language and Nile wants to go into every hot spring in the city. They’re having lunch along the river in Pest, when something catches Joe’s attention, eliciting an amused thought as he calls Nicky’s attention to a sopping wet cat emerging from the river.
That cat kind of looks like Booker after he drowned in the Tiber, doesn’t it?
Nicky snorts out loud in his laughter, which gets Nile’s attention. She’s looking at him like he’s gone crazy, which isn’t true (he has, before, but only for a very brief period and that had been the fault of some very bad crops). Gesturing with two fingers to Joe, he thinks to explain, “He told a good joke.”
“He didn’t say anything,” Nile counters.
Andy sips her coffee and remains silent.
“We gonna tell her?” Joe mumbles, still busy eating the remnants of Nicky’s lunch from his plate.
“Tell me what?”
“Joe and I, we can read each other’s minds,” Nicky informs her as he sips his cappuccino, as if he’s talking about something so casual as their drink order. “Since the lab.”
“Excuse me?” Nile gapes at them. Her attention whips around to Andy. “Is that gonna happen to me? Because you didn’t say anything about people being able to read my thoughts.”
“Don’t worry, it’s only Joe’s thoughts I can hear,” Nicky insists. “I can’t tell what you or Andy are thinking.” Even if he can guess. It’s impolite to say those things out loud.
Nile is still staring at him like he’s grown a second head.
If you did, Joe thinks, It would be just as handsome as the first.
“That’s not normal. You know that’s not normal,” Nile seems fixed on telling him this.
“We know,” Nicky admits, digging out enough forint to cover their lunch. “And we don’t care,” is the blissful ignorance talking. It’s the sound of a man who’s stopped asking questions centuries ago about why the things that have happened to them did. Finding Joe had been a blessing, and there is nothing about their new connection he regrets.
Joe winks at him across the table and thinks, You’re pretty great to have in my head too and it sends a frisson of electric joy and anticipation through him, a sensation that hasn’t been so heightened since the 14th century.
Andy has not made a single comment, steely and immovable behind her sunglasses.
She knows something.
Nicky intends to find out what. He delays his leaving the table, sending Joe a message to walk ahead of him with Nile. Joe glances between him and Andy, understanding quickly what it is he intends to do, and offers Nile his arm to casually walk, telling her stories about the KGB as if they were friendly neighbours and not a group that tortured them many times in their bunkers and their prisons.
“You’re not surprised,” Nicky says, once he and Andy are alone.
Joe and Nile have taken the lead back to their hotel with Andy and Nicky taking a much slower walk, a proper passeggiata through the streets of Budapest.
“It happened to me and Quynh.”
Suddenly, Nicky is filled with dread, mainly because the question he wants to ask must be asked, even if he thinks he can fill in the answer like water rushing to fill a void. “When?”
“The witch trials. It was a moment of heightened adrenaline that connected us on a deeper level. It’s not permanent,” she says, and Nicky breathes out for the blessing that it is, despite the reason Andy knows this. “It mutes, with time and distance. I don’t hear her now, no matter how much I’ve tried to use it to find her.”
“I’m very sorry, Andy,” Nicky offers his condolences, even though he knows Andy does not want them. Knowing she doesn’t want him to linger on sympathies, he moves on to the more practical question. “How is it happening?”
Andy gives him a pained smile. “We don’t even know why we stay alive, but you want to know why this is happening?”
She has a point. Confusion and ignorance have painted so much of their lives before. It seems fruitless to ask why this is happening.
He can make a guess. If it happened to them upon threat of them being pried apart, and to Andy and Quynh when they actually were. Maybe it’s the proof they need that they are one another’s souls, combined, connected, and finally together.
“Don’t take it for granted,” Andy says evenly. “I only had it for a few days and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”
“I won’t,” he vows, as if he’s going to do it not only for himself and Joe, but for Andy, too.
“Good.” She pulls him in close for a tight hug. “I’m glad you have this with him, but I think Nile and I are going to take on a few missions of our own for a while,” she tells him. It stings, of course, but he understands. It must be hell to look at them at the best of times, but now she knows that they have what she and Quynh did.
She needs a break from them, because she doesn’t want to be a spectator to what she used to have.
Nicky understands, but it stings all the same.
“Got it, boss,” he assures, ever the dutiful soldier aloud. He’s just glad that Andy can’t read his thoughts and that he’s managed to develop a decent enough poker face over the years.
“I’m thinking, a year? We’ll still connect when Copley’s missions need the whole team, but...one year,” she says.
He should protest, given her new mortality. One year is so much longer than it used to be, but she needs time to come to terms with their new gift the same as they do. It would be good, too, Nicky thinks, to have some time to themselves to navigate their new talent and become Nicky & Joe in this new way.
“One year,” Nicky agrees, knowing that Joe will fall in line because it’s Andy.
Right now, he’s pretty sure that neither of them would deny her anything.
Joe is waiting for him under the awning of the hotel. Andy squeezes his shoulder and departs, and Nicky takes advantage of their new talents to give Joe a quick rundown, a shorthand version and the news that they’re not the first to have it happen.
“Fuck,” is all Joe manages, when Nicky is through.
“I can’t imagine,” Nicky lies, because he has imagined it. It’s his worst nightmare, that something should happen to Joe the way it did to Quynh, and there are nights he wakes sweating, only to feel Joe’s secure touch around him that proves that they remain inseparable.
Now, Joe will know those thoughts.
Nicky suspects that he has nightmares of his own, because he doesn’t need to know Joe’s thoughts to catch the longing looks every time they talk about their fallen friends. He’s scared, too, and at least they can be scared together -- like they are in all things, joined and facing it as a united front.
“You said it before,” Joe reminds him. “We don’t live in fear of what’ll happen, we live with what we have.”
Nicky knows this is true.
“Walk with me? We haven’t been to this city in a long time,” Nicky says, reaching for Joe’s hand to defy anyone who would have anything to say about them.
They spend the next few hours wandering around the city. Joe pays for them to take a ferry out to Margaret Island where they drink beers at the cafe and wander aimlessly to see the old ruins of the Franciscan church, reduced to rubble while they stand tall above it, all of them remnants of an older time.
They speak, but never aloud.
Nicky has learned to enjoy the heady rush of Joe’s thoughts in his mind. They take the boat back and curl up together as the sun goes down, two anonymous lovers in a city with nothing to do other than enjoy it.
For all the joy of the day, something is still bothering Nicky.
Andy’s revelation sits with him through the night. He sleeps well, as he always does because Joe is there with him, but her words are there in the back of his head and refuse to leave. In the morning, when the dawn light is slowly spilling into their room, Nicky wakes to the tickle of Joe’s thoughts.
His neck prickles with a ghost’s touch, but when he opens his eyes, Joe is half-asleep and his hands are wrapped snugly around his middle. Fingers are nowhere near the neck, and it gives him a new appreciation for what this new connection can do.
“Joe,” he protests sleepily. I can feel your thoughts, Nicky projects.
Joe groans and buries his face in the back of Nicky’s neck. “Then let me keep thinking, it’s like having an extra arm.”
This is new. Thoughts framed in words had been the start, but it’s grown to something else. It’s as if Joe can trick Nicky’s mind into feeling a touch where there isn’t one, anticipating the stroke of fingers, or the warmth of a kiss. It still pales to the real thing, but it’s not so bad to have both at the same time.
It almost seems like the more they push at it, the more they find themselves capable of.
Instead of filling Nicky with joy, it leaves a worrying ache.
“Stop it,” Joe protests, holding Nicky tighter. “I can hear you worrying. It’s like little droplets of rain on a tin roof.”
“Is it too much?” Nicky wonders. “You have always been half of my whole, I would never wish that you grow tired of me.” He moves to lie on his back so he can look at him while he speaks, his attention fixed on him for any hint of a reaction.
Joe stares at him like he’s just said something very stupid.
Nicky bristles mildly, not because Joe looks at him as if Nicky is suddenly the moon on a cloudy night when he is lost in the woods, but rather it is a serious question and one that he wants an honest answer to. “Yusuf,” he accuses.
“Nicolò,” he counters. “This is a way for me to know that you’re always alright,” he insists, cupping Nicky’s neck with his palm. “Within seconds, I can reach out and know you’re there, that you’re alive, that you’re with me. Even when you die, I know the moment you’re back with me like a light illuminating the darkness. Too much? No. If anything, we spent almost a thousand years not having enough, now that I know we could have had this.”
“Would you have really wanted me in your head in those early years?”
“An infidel’s voice in my mind,” Joe teases.
“You haven’t called me that in years,” Nicky says, secretly pleased.
“I think,” Joe says, curling him back into his arms, “that if we could read each other’s thoughts all the way back then, it would’ve saved us a hell of a lot of trouble trying to figure out those first few awkward fucks.”
That gets a snort from Nicky, because even after so many centuries, there are some memories that never fade and those early times between them is one of them. “I will never forget the way you pleaded for oil with the merchants at port with such desperation in your eyes,” Nicky teases fondly.
“It was very important,” Joe insists.
I know, thinks Nicky fondly. And it’s one of the moments I knew that I was in love with my enemy, utterly head over heels.
Their eyes meet and for a moment, there is no speech, no thought. Even in this silence, they have a connection to each other.
“We don’t ask why we receive our blessings,” Joe reminds him. “We only live them and give thanks that we are so lucky.”
He says nothing, but he thinks, As if I could ever tire of you with the fondness of a man who’s been in love for a millennia, and that is what settles Nicky. It is not too much because he has never been too much, and this new gift is simply more of him.
It is just enough. It is right.
The year apart from Andy and Nile begins with an easy mission for Joe and Nicky -- recon at a local political fundraiser to map out their target’s mansion.
The most difficult part of this, if anything, is going to be getting ready without getting so distracted that they’re late.
The steam from the bathroom reveals Joe in all his naked glory, only a towel wrapped around his hips, but even that does nothing. Nicky drops the cufflink box in his hand, gaping as the towel around Joe’s waist begins to lose its fight with gravity.
“You know,” Joe says, reaching down to pick up the cufflinks (and dropping the towel in the process), “that the only word you’re thinking right now is naked, right?”
It’s a miracle he’s thinking at all.
“I should be pleased,” Joe admits. “One thousand years in and I can still get you speechless by walking around naked,” he boasts, with the kind of smugness that Nicky would usually like to kiss away, but they’re supposed to be getting ready for a recon mission.
Nicky is, at least, already in the sleek bespoke suit he’d picked up from the dry-cleaners. “You’re very handsome and very naked,” he accuses. “Do you want me thinking that it’s nothing to look at?”
Joe tugs on Nicky’s sleeve to thread the cufflink in, his eyes half-lidded as they roam over Nicky’s body in the suit. “I want you noticing that I haven’t been able to even so much as think with you looking so good,” is his response.
“Yet, you can speak.”
“Nonsense,” Joe insists, ever the romantic poet’s soul. “Bullshit. Anything that comes out because I know I have to behave.” He slides his thumb over the cufflink and pulls on Nicky’s other sleeve. “I like this suit. I haven’t seen this suit since the 50’s.”
“It still fits,” Nicky says proudly.
“You’re poured into it,” Joe groans, affixing the other cufflink in place and giving him a slight push back so he can take a look at him. “Bello,” he praises, his voice pulled down with a need that Nicky feels in his bones.
Why does he always do this before a mission?
“You ask me as if I can control it,” Joe protests in his defense. “I know,” he grumbles. “I know we have a mission…”
“...to go on, yes,” Nicky reminds Joe, handing him the crisply pressed white shirt, even though he thinks it will be a terrible shame to cover up such a perfect model of a man with clothes. Leonardo did know what he was doing when he used you for a model, didn’t he? Nicky thinks.
He ducks to check his hair in the mirror, running his fingers through the lengthening strands. He’ll need a shave soon, probably a cut, but for a recon mission where he needs to look different, it does the trick.
Joe thinks, You look good, habibi, until Nicky practically glows with the praise.
He sends a quick thought back that if he looks good, then Joe looks heavenly in a tailored suit that would make people weep with jealousy.
They have a mission to focus on, with plenty of time later to follow down the rabbit hole of the thoughts in their minds, as intoxicating and tempting as ever.
Until then, they have each other -- steady and secure and present.
“Come on,” Nicky encourages, offering his arm to Joe once he’s put his shoes on and looks so stunning that thoughts flee his mind. “I want to see how jealous I can make everyone of my handsome partner.”
“No doubt, with you thinking smugly that he’s yours the whole time?”
Nicky lifts one shoulder. “You enjoy it.”
Joe leers at him and thinks, You know I do, before he pulls Nicky towards him for one last pre-mission kiss. It’s not for luck, but to ground them in the moment. It’s to synchronize their thoughts, their desires, and their needs, and it leaves Nicky a little dizzy as ever.
A millennia ago, Nicky discovered his soul had been in half when he discovered the other half in Joe. Now, he knows that there are new ways they can be one.
It’s a gift, and it’s one he will treasure every day of his immortal life, because it gives him Joe in all ways. After all, as Joe said, to each other, they really are all and more.