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“Do you ever worry about your soul?” Nile asks Nicky, seven months after she joins the team.

They’re in Nice, at a little safehouse Nile suspects hasn’t been used since at least the 1920s, and have just spent the afternoon dismembering sex traffickers. It’s important work, Nile knows. It allows them to free their immediate victims, first and foremost, but the dismemberment itself also sends a strong message that a simple gunshot to the head wouldn’t achieve. Besides, it’s not like they were still alive while they were being dismembered. Mostly.

But still, Nile thinks sometimes about God’s commandments, those rules that were drilled into her as a child, and wonders what her mother would think if she could see her here, covered in blood and brain matter.

“I don’t think there’s anything to worry about,” Nicky says now, as he chops carrots on a wooden cutting board. Joe is upstairs, still showering; out of all of them, he always has the hardest time getting blood out of his hair, with his tight, messy curls.

“But we are, technically, sinning,” Nile points out. “And it’s not like we can go to confession and get absolved from it.”

“Oh, I’ve already been absolved,” Nicky says casually, as he scoops up slices of carrots to drop into a hot pan.

Nile is confused for a second before it hits her, and she rolls her eyes. “What, you’ve been absolved by your one true love?” she asks.

“No,” Nicky says. “Well, yes, but no, that’s not what I meant. I meant, I’ve been absolved by the Pope.”

Nile stops. “Excuse me?”

Nicky hums, pulling over an onion to start peeling. “Yes. The plenary indulgence, Pope Urban II, in I think it was - 1095? Sometime around there. I died fighting for the church, and now I am absolved of all my life's sins. Even if that life was significantly longer than anticipated.” He catches Nile’s eye and, seeing her expression, smiles. “You should look it up. What is the word? Google it.”

-

Nile Googles it.

In 1095, the internet tells her, Pope Urban II granted the first full - or plenary - indulgence to those who died fighting, or intending to fight, the Muslims in the first Crusade. A plenary indulgence is the complete remission of penance for sin.

“Motherfucker,” she says aloud.

-

“So you can’t get in trouble for anything,” she says, later, once Nicky has finished crying over his onion and Joe has finally gotten the last of the grey matter out of his hair.

“Well, it depends what you mean by trouble,” Joe says philosophically. They’re at the table, just the three of them, eating stew; Andy is still out doing whatever mysterious thing she neglected to tell them about before she left this morning. “He can still get in trouble with the law. He can still get in trouble with me, which I would argue is far more important than getting in trouble with the Pope anyway.”

“Oh, please,” Nicky says, making a face, “When was the last time I got in trouble with you?”

“It could be right now if you don’t watch your tone,” Joe retorts.

Nile snaps her fingers. “Focus, children. I want to get this straight. You’re telling me, that no matter what Nicky does for the rest of his life, he’s got a place in heaven.”

“According to the Pope,” Joe agrees.

“Hard to say if the Pope is reliable or not,” Nicky adds.

“You - but -“ Nile splutters. “No wonder you don’t worry about killing people!”

“Well, Joe doesn’t either,” Nicky points out. “And he doesn’t have any such indulgence.”

“But - you’re -“

Nicky reaches across the table and pats her hand. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it. Now eat your stew, before it gets cold.”

-

A week later and Copley has them on a mission in Argentina, trying to find and assassinate some American expat in charge of some sort of grand art-smuggling ring. Word on the street is that he has some stolen Nazi artwork, something that went missing back in the thirties, never to be seen again. Joe in particular had perked up when he’d heard that detail, and Nile had known then that they’d take the job, even if it was stupidly risky.

And it is stupidly risky. The American expat is ridiculously well-connected, and not only does he have a mansion in the mountains with the best security Nile has ever seen outside the Secret Service, he’s also got half a dozen decoy safes in this one house alone, presumably to make it harder to find the art in question. The team splits up, one to each safe, and Nile is just finishing clearing hers - nothing in here of interest except for old, dusty furniture and a couple family photo albums - when Nicky’s staticky voice comes in over the Copley-provided comms.

“I found it,” he says. He sounds breathless; from joy or exertion, Nile can’t tell. Fourth floor, two doors down on the left. There’s a lot here. All hands on deck.”

And there are a lot of paintings there - and also a lot of dead bodies. Nile almost doesn’t notice them on the way in, too preoccupied with seeing the stolen Nazi art, but on her way out, cradling an armful of poster tubes, she actually pays attention to the carnage. There are dozens out of bodies laid out in the rooms outside the safe, all of them clothed in black tactile uniforms, all of them covered in blood. She looks at the bodies, then up at Nicky. Then back down to the bodies. Back up to Nicky.

He smiles at her. “He had a lot of security,” is all he says, and then Andy and Joe are emerging from the safe with their own prizes - “If only I had four hands,” Joe bemoans - and there are more important things to focus on than the bodyguards.

Later that night, though, Nile thinks of it. There were at least fifteen men dead, there, all of them killed by Nicky. That was just one job. How many people has Nicky killed over over the last nine hundred years? Thousands, it must be; tens of thousands?

Then she thinks of herself, and how many people she’s killed in the past year alone, and concerns about Nicky’s soul drop away.

-

“Hello,” Nicky says smoothly, as soon as the door opens. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am. My name is Nicolo, and this is my associate, Nile. We are here to clean your pool.”

“Oh!” The woman at the door is old and motherly. She’s wearing a veritable sack of a dress, with a horribly ugly purple and pink print. It is also, Nile is sure, very comfortable. “Well, I - I suppose it is nice to meet you. Did my son call you?”

“Yes,” Nicky lies smoothly. “He just wanted us to come out and have a look at things, make sure the filter is working properly.”

“Oh,” the woman says again. “Well, you can come right in then. I apologize, I wasn’t expecting guests. My name is Lila. Can I get you a glass of lemonade?”

“That would be spectacular,” Nicky says, and Lila smiles, bright and genuine, sticking them in the living room while she toddles off to get the glasses. “How about my associate goes out and starts to look at your pool?” Nicky suggests, and Lila agrees, so Nile spends the next twenty minutes discreetly snooping through the house until she finds it: a little black address book hidden in the sock drawer of the guest room. She hides it in her waistband; when she comes back downstairs, she flashes Nicky a thumbs-up and he offers her a smile in turn. He changes the topic swiftly, from Lila’s grand-niece’s artwork to the age of her pool, and then they do their best approximation of an actual pool check before Lila presses fresh cookies into their hands for the road.

“Do you feel bad about it?” Nile asks him, afterwards, when they’re heading back to the safehouse, where Copley is waiting to help them parse through the address book.

Nicky frowns. “Why would I feel guilty?”

“We lied,” Nile points out.

“Ah.” Nicky shrugs. “Well, as you know -“

“Don’t say it,” Nile says.

“Plenary indulgence,” Nicky says.

“Fuck you,” Nile sighs, and slumps back against her headrest.

-

“Jesus, Mary and Joseph,” Nicky hisses, arching his back involuntarily from where he’s splayed on cold pavement.

“Stop moving,” Joe chides, even as he squeezes Nicky’s hand tighter. “You’re just making it worse for yourself.”

Nicky groans and spits something back in Italian that Nile doesn’t understand, but she thinks might include something rude about the Virgin Mary.

“You’re almost done,” Joe promises, which is true, and isn’t. The hole in Nicky’s side is mostly closed up, now, but his left foot has made little progress towards regrowing. “We can go in just a minute.”

“Fucking, Christ,” Nicky spits, and Joe laughs, humorless, and reaches forward to brush the sweaty hair off Nicky’s forehead.

“Almost done, love,” he promises again. “Just stay with me another minute. Almost done.”

Nile waits until she’s sure they’re safe, and Nicky is pushing himself up with shaky arms, to duck away. “I’m going to find Andy,” she tells them, and doesn’t comment, later, on how it takes them an extra five minutes to make it back to the fight.

-

“Tell us where they are,” Nicky says. His voice and face are both like stone. If Nile didn’t know him, she would be afraid of him.

She knows him, so she knows well enough to be afraid of him.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” the man in the chair pleads. They’ve got him tied up well; his chest, arms, and wrists are all pulled tight against the metal chair, leaving him little room to wiggle around, let alone escape. “Please, man, you gotta let me go. I have kids, man.”

“Then you should know why we care so much to get this information.” Nicky sinks to a crouch before the man. “This is your last opportunity. Tell us where they are, and we will leave you alone.”

The man grits his teeth. “I told you, I don’t know!

Calmly, without moving, Nicky reaches forward, grabs one of the man’s fingers, and wretches.

There’s the familiar pop of breaking bone, and the man screams. “What the fuck, dude!”

“Tell us where the children are,” Nicky says. “Or I will work my way through every bone in your body.”

“You’re insane,” the man pants. “You’re absolutely fucking nuts -“

“Perhaps,” Nicky agrees, and grabs the man’s next finger. “Tell us.”

-

(Down at the old schoolhouse, the man had admitted eventually, after four broken fingers and a single shattered kneecap. In the basement. There are others -

Andy had shot him in the head.

They found the children at the schoolhouse, precisely where the man had promised they would be. One of them had a scraped arm; another, twelve and too-brave, got shot in the foot while Joe and Nile took the men out. But the rest of them, the other thirty-six, were safe. Nile watched from a distance as the sobbing parents pulled their babies into their arms; as the one wounded boy, stiff-shouldered in the ambulance, was hailed as a hero. When she slipped back through the thick cover of the woods towards where the others were waiting, she found Joe pressing Nicky up against the side of the car. He was whispering something, too low for her to hear, not in English. Nicky sighed, his eyes closed. Joe nestled his face in Nicky’s neck, and Nicky knotted his fingers in his hair.)

-

“Are there any rules you won’t break?” Nile demands, two weeks later, as they speed away from a burning warehouse in a stolen getaway car. Nicky had been the one to hotwire the car; “How do you know how to do this?” Nile had demanded, half-yelling to be heard over the ongoing gunfire between Joe and the men still inside the warehouse. “Nazi Germany!” Nicky had yelled back.

The warehouse is full of drugs, and explosives; it’s set to detonate in three, two -

It explodes in green flame in the rearview mirror.

Nicky, in the driver’s seat, seems to consider her question. “The seventh commandment has always rung true to me,” he says eventually. Beside him, Joe smiles, reaching over the center console to settle his hand on Nicky’s thigh.

When they get to the safehouse, Nile looks it up. Seven: thou shalt not commit adultery. Of course.

-

“Okay,” Nile says, finally, when in Athens, Nicky empties his entire wallet into the plastic McDonald’s cup of the beggar that’s been going table to table at their sidewalk cafe. “What is it, really?”

Nicky glances over at her, raising a single eyebrow in question. “If you’re so sure you’re free of sin,” Nile says, “If you’re so blasé with the rules. Why do you do stuff like this? Why are you even Christian at all?”

Nicky’s expression clears. “Ah,” he says. He turns his gaze away from her, towards the farmer’s market across the street, where Joe is bartering his way to a basketful of produce. “It really is not that complicated.”

“Explain it to me then,” Nile says.  

Nicky sighs, turning back to face her. Half his face is cast in shadow from the umbrella over their table; the other half is lit up in aggressive sun. “When I set out for Jerusalem, I was convinced I was set on a holy mission. All of us were. We were reclaiming this holy place from the dirty heathens who had occupied it - these barbarians, who we had been called by God to eliminate. I really, truly believed that was what God wanted. I thought I knew many things about what God wanted.”

Nicky’s gaze drifts over Nile’s shoulder to the busy market. “And then I found Yusuf. And he was so - I was in love with him before I even knew his name, I think. In love with the way his blood looked, outside his body. It would be years before I realized I enjoyed it much more inside of him. But even then, I knew there was something about him, something that was - something that was holy.

“I do not believe everything about God that I once did,” Nicky says quietly. “And you are right that I am unconcerned with the specific rules of religion. Because I think, at the end of the day, to be Christian does not mean to act from fear. It is to act from love.”

Nicky shakes his head, still looking across the market. Nile follows his gaze, already knowing what she’ll find at the end of it: Joe, of course. Always Joe.

“Just look at him,” Nicky says softly. He’s smiling, squinting into the sun. “Who could have given him to me but God?”

There’s a lump in Nile’s throat, now. She swallows hard, but it doesn’t do anything to clear it. Joe, across the market, is laughing at something the fruit vendor has said. Nile watches as he passes her a handful of coins, and in return, gets a paper bag heavy with fruit. When he turns, his gaze lands on them; she’s expecting the way his face automatically blooms into smile when he sees them watching him.

Or rather, when he sees Nicky watching him.

“That woman was so lovely,” Joe says when he’s in earshot. “She was telling me about her granddaughter, she’s a pianist apparently, plays at the concert hall up the street, she was saying she could get us tickets -“

He’s cut off when Nicky leans forward out of his seat and, with a hand on Joe’s collar, pulls him down for a lingering kiss. Normally, Nile would look away, but now, she keeps her eyes fixed on them and watches, the way Joe’s fingers wrap so naturally around Nicky’s wrist, the slight pinking at the back of Nicky’s neck.

“What was that for?” Joe asks when they part. Nile glances over his shoulder at the fruit vendor; it’s hard to tell from this distance, but she’s probably frowning. Her pianist granddaughter. For a nine hundred year old man, Joe can be surprisingly obtuse sometimes, Nile has learned.

“Hmm.” Nicky lifts his hand from Joe’s collar to rub his thumb across Joe’s cheek, right where his beard meets smooth skin. “You just look particularly handsome today, that is all.”

Joe smiles, helpless. “Flatterer,” he says. He drops the fruit on the table, but instead of sinking into the empty chair beside Nile, he pulls it over beside Nicky’s. Nile knows if she looked under the table, she would find their ankles tangled together.

“Flattery? No,” Nicky says, settling his hand atop Joe’s on his own armrest. “I don’t lie.”