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Fake It 'Til We Make It

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Lucy was putting her long dark hair up into its usual tight bun at her locker when the band snapped. She groaned, bending down to pick it up, and caught sight of a familiar pair of boots. Nyla. 

Lucy snapped upright to face her. “Morning,” she greeted. 

Never one for pleasantries, Nyla cut right to the chase. “Grey is gonna offer you a UC opp when you walk out of here.”

“Me? It’s been so long and I’m not even a full-time UC.”

“Yeah, but you’re a natural. This would be a piece of cake for you.”

Lucy pulled out her hoop earrings and traded them for a spare hair tie from her locker. “If I’d be such a natural, then why are you warning me about it?”

“It involves Bradford.”

Lucy made a conscious effort not to react, but the badly timed pause in tying up her hair gave her away. “And how involved is he?”

“As much as you would be. It’s pretty much a duo op.”

Lucy didn’t answer, continuing to put her hair up.

“Look,” Nyla said, in her usual serious-but-microscopically-concerned tone. “I don’t know what’s going on with you and Bradford, but I know you two are perfect for this opp. My advice is, leave your personal drama at home and get the job done however you need to.”

Lucy had already proven herself plenty, both as a cop and as a UC. She contemplated turning the opp down when Grey asked her to do it, plotting an excuse that wouldn’t raise any suspicion. But as badly as Tim had hurt her, she swore she’d never let however she felt about him stand in the way of her work, and she knew that if she hadn’t known he would be involved, she’d be chomping at the bit. 

After a deep sigh, she looked at Nyla. “What’s the opp?”

 

“The operation is simple,” Grey announced, looking at the whiteboard covered in notes. He pointed to a picture of a man with a horseshoe-shaped bald patch. “This is Eros Kostou, a Greek drug kingpin who can really hold a grudge.”

Lucy felt Tim’s eyes on her. 

“Every five years,” Grey continued. “Kostou hires mercenaries to kill employees who have dared to leave his organization, and then the mercenaries disappear shortly after, to keep his cleanups as secret as possible.”

“Well, who tracks down the employees after they leave?” Lucy asked. 

“His right-hand man, Dimitrios Romanatos, or Dimitri for short. Taken in by Kostou as a kid, basically a father figure to him. No chance of a betrayal from someone he looks up to like that.

“Kostou’s 5-year deadline is coming up,” he continued. “You two are playing Victor and Shelly Morse, a well-off married couple of mercenaries, and after we put together quite the reputation for you two, Kostou is interested in meeting with you. You’ll meet him at the Graycroft Hotel, located on a pier by the same name that leads out to the Pacific.”

“Sir, if it’s okay to ask, why us?” Lucy asked. 

“Chen,” Tim warned without looking at her.

“No, Officer Chen is right to ask,” Grey corrected. “It’s important going into an undercover operation to know why you were chosen for a task. You two were chosen for two reasons. Reason number one: If Kostou detects any weakness in your bond, he might try to make one of you turn on the other, and it might raise suspicion if you won’t budge for any price. These covers need to be so madly in love and devoted to each other that the one thing they care about more than the money is each other, and people around here think you two could pull that dynamic off.”

Good for the opp or not, Lucy deeply regretted asking why the two of them were picked. Luckily for her, Tim wasn’t attempting eye contact after that explanation either. Instead, he was staring at the table in front of him, arms as tense as they could be.

“Reason number two,” Grey mercifully continued. “The covers are mercenaries and you two happen to be the two best shooters at Mid-Wilshire.”

 

Grey explained that Kostou was paranoid enough to destroy any computer or notebook that had had the names of his targets, but somewhere in his orbit, there was a USB drive with all of this period’s targets. Their missions were to get that USB drive this weekend, make a copy to give to the force, and catch Kostou committing conspiracy to murder so he could be arrested. 

The operation would start tomorrow, Friday evening. They’d be staying at the same hotel as Kostou and his goons, and when hired, they’d be invited to a surprise engagement gala that Kostou was hosting for Romanatos. There, they’d gain more trust and try to get more information out of him. After that, they had approximately 48 hours to complete their two missions. 

“Should be a piece of cake for you two,” Grey said, approaching his conclusion. “Today’s gonna be a half-day for you on patrol and after that, you go home and mentally prepare. You can pick out your outfits for the gala and they’ll be ready at your hotel tomorrow, but other than that, since the opp isn’t local, your usual civvies should be fine to pack tomorrow. You’ll have bugs if needed and backup, including Harper, in room 106 should anything go wrong.”

“Sounds good,” Tim said, pushing up from his seat. 

“One more thing,” Grey said, causing Tim to stop. “The drive there is about an hour and a half, which should give you two plenty of time to warm up. Get that married energy flowing again.”

Even Grey noticed. Fantastic. “Yes, sir,” Lucy said, also getting up from the table, walking past Tim to leave.

This was no big deal. Lucy was a professional. So what if she had to act like she was married to the one person in the world she’d rather die than spend an hour in a car with? That was the job, that was what UC demanded. They could lie their way through one weekend. Hell, they were both extraordinary liars. Lucy was familiar enough with UC work by now and Tim….

“Hey, Chen,” she heard Tim softly call closely behind her.

She turned around to face him, looking around to make sure no one was around them. “It was one date, okay?” she began, sticking one finger in the air. “ One. If you think that one date affected me so much that I can’t do my job if you’re doing it with me, you’re mistaken. I will lie my way through the weekend and act like I have any feelings for you whatsoever, and come Monday morning, we will both go right back to acting like the other person doesn't exist, which should be easy for you. Got it?”

Tim answered by staring at her, blinking.

“What?” she demanded. 

“Do you think you can pick my suit for the gala for me?” he asked. “Kostou is a big fashion guy and you’re better with that stuff than I am.”

Now it was Lucy’s turn to stare and blink for a moment. “Yeah. Sure, gotcha. See you tomorrow.”

Tim nodded once, before turning and walking away.

If the ground could’ve opened up and swallowed Lucy whole, she would have considered it mercy.

 

Lucy and Tim did not take Grey’s advice at all. The drive was quiet. Tim kept his eyes dead straight on the road and Lucy stared out the window, watching the trees fly past her. During her rookie year, Tim could barely handle silence from Lucy, especially if it was because she was in a bad mood. In the beginning, he would slightly awkwardly try different things to cheer her up, but by the end of the year, they were in tune with each other enough that he would have her smiling on his first try. Part of her, a part she wasn’t particularly in love with, wished she could erase their date if only to get back to being on that level with him. 

“So,” Lucy said, breaking about an hour and 15 minutes of mostly silence. “What’s your story?”

“My story?” he responded. “You mean my cover’s story?”

She nodded. “He’s gotta have a background.”

“You bring this up now? Minutes from the hotel?”

“Think of it as me testing your quick thinking.”

Tim sighed. “Dropped out of college at 20, been in the business since, that good?”

“Why’d he drop out?”

“Couldn’t cut it.”

“Why couldn’t he fall back on his parents?”

Tim paused for a minute, eyes narrowing in thought.

“That,” Lucy said, pointing at his expression. “That can get us killed. Your dad had a military background, which is why you’ve always known your way around a gun, he had a friend who didn’t hit the ground running after service and he got you into the business. We were hired to take out an entire crew and we fell for each other while planning. These are the kinds of things you’ll have to think of on the fly.”

“Easier to know ‘on the fly’ when you’ve been thinking about it all night.”

She looked out of her passenger window. “Just trying not to let you get us killed.”

“Mmhm,” he said, not even fazed by her sass. “And I’m sure you’re not enjoying this at all.”

Lucy didn’t want to admit that the role reversal had been a pinch of fun. “Not at all.”

“So… yesterday,” he started, souring her mood. “If we need to talk, we should probably do that now.”

“Yesterday was… you caught me at a bad moment. We’re good.”

“We’re very obviously not good.”

“And we’re not gonna accomplish anything between here and the hotel, so let’s just leave it alone, like I very much should have yesterday.”

“Are you sure?”

The short answer was no. The long answer was that she wanted to ask him why they never had a second date, but she was also so scared of his answer that she hadn’t been able to bring herself to ask since it happened. 

“I have an idea. How about when we get out of the car, we don’t break character at any point?”

“That’s the idea.”

“I mean, like… when no one’s around. When it’s just you and me, we just stay… not us.”

Lucy saw Tim’s jaw clench in annoyance. “Fine by me.” One good thing about Tim Bradford, he wasn’t gonna attempt any more emotion than the other person, and right now Lucy was grateful for it. “So what do we do for the next ten minutes while we’re in the car?”

Lucy shrugged. “What we’ve been doing for five weeks, I guess? Ignore each other unless it’s work-related?”

Tim nodded once, and that was that. 

The GPS had led them to a castle of a hotel. Looked expensive enough to house a king, but it was small enough to still be highly exclusive. Lucy imagined what it must be like to be one of the people who could afford a weekend here independent of taxpayer money. 

After parking, she was still too enamored with the hotel to notice Tim at her side. He opened her door and held out a hand, warranting a look from her. 

“Shelly,” he addressed, rolling his eyes.

She nodded, satisfied, and put her hand in his. “Victor.”

He grabbed his black duffel bag from the backseat as she gathered her dark blue suitcase, pulling the handle up behind her.

“I can take that, you know,” Tim offered. 

“It’s fine.”

He looked like he wanted to reply, but decided against it as they approached the hotel. Victor and Shelly were supposed to be more communicative than this. 

Their entrance to the hotel was blocked by a group of five men: one short, fat, balding man in the front, surrounded by four henchmen. Telling from the horseshoe bald spot on the front man, this was Kostou and his crew. 

“Friends!” he called, approaching with his hands in the air. “So happy you could join us.”

Tim’s surliness dissolved, and he broke out in his biggest smile. “So happy to be here,” he greeted back, reaching out a hand to shake, which Kostou took, before turning his attention to Lucy. 

His whole demeanor changed as he took Lucy’s free hand from her left side. “And you must be Mrs. Morse,” he said, placing an ugly kiss on her knuckles. “Enchanted.”

Lucy smiled back, forcing herself to act flattered by the attention, as she surveyed his appearance. Short, fat, dressed expensively but tacky. Covered in chunky gold jewelry, including a thin chain that held a small red vial hung around his neck. 

“My men will take your bags to your room. For now, let us chat.” The men behind Kostou took their cue and retrieved the suitcase and duffel bag from Lucy and Tim. Lucy had already known that Kostou would know what room they were staying in, but to go out of his way to make sure they knew he knew felt like overkill. 

“Now,” Kostou began, stepping between the pair to place a hand on each of their shoulders. “Come with me.”

As they walked in front of him, Lucy noticed a silvery pink strip of skin on his neck, at the base of his skull. A scar, about an inch in length. She studied his scar as they followed behind him through a rose garden to the back of the hotel. Kostou opened the back door, letting them pass in front of him. The sounds of the hotel guests and fountains were hushed by the door slamming behind. 

“Now, you must know enough of me to know that you were not the only applicants for this job,” he said. “But my name is Eros for a reason. I was so intrigued by a married pair of mechanics that I had to see how you two work together for myself.”

“Well,” Tim started. “We were already mechanics before we met, so when we met, it kinda worked out.”

“Well, yes, obviously, but how? How do you… live this life and care about another soul?”

Lucy saw Tim thinking too hard, so she stepped in to help. “If you have no one to care about, what is it all for?” Kostou turned to listen, as did Tim. “What’s the point in living as I do, having the fun I have, if I’m not sharing this life with someone? And I chose him.” She focused all her attention on Kostou to avoid eye contact with her faux paramour.

“Well said, Orea. Well said.” They were taken to a large pair of double doors, which Kostou gestured for them to open. Inside waited a small indoor shooting range, two henchmen standing at the back of the room.

“Choose one of you to show me your skills.”

“Shell?” Tim offered without hesitation, catching both Lucy and Kostou off guard.

“You’d rather show your wife off than show what you have to offer?”

Tim shrugged. “She knows I’m a better shot. Better if you see the slightly weaker link is still better than any of your competition.”

Lucy muscled down the urge to roll her eyes. 

Everyone in the room put on the ear muffs and protective vests as Lucy did the same and checked her gun. One of Kostou’s goons pressed a yellow button to queue up a target for her. 

Kostou tapped her shoulder, prompting her to move an earmuff. “You’re fully loaded, Orea. I want at least seven in the head, eight in the chest.”

She nodded and put her headphones back into place, focusing her attention back onto her target. This was a semi-automatic 9mm, so fully loaded meant 18 rounds. 

A green light went off above the target’s head, and Lucy went to work. She took no longer than three seconds between shots and fired until she felt the final click to indicate the gun was empty. 

She turned around and saw everyone removing their headphones, so she did the same as the target came forward to be examined.

Kostou appraised it, smile growing in size as he counted. “Seven in the head… Nine in the chest and one in the neck?”

“I missed once?” Lucy said, like she didn’t miss on purpose. “Damn.”

“Oh, Mr. Morse,” he said, addressing Tim. “You seem to have a real prize on your hands.”

Tim beamed, coming over to stand behind Lucy with a hand on her shoulder. “That’s my girl.”

She didn’t need to fake her reaction to that. 

“My friends,” Kostou announced. “I hope you have outfits for my party!”

 

“Say it,” Lucy said, staring at Tim’s reflection in the elevator mirror.

“Say what?” His attention was focused on the ground instead of the mirrors surrounding the elevator. 

“You know I’m a better shot. You wanted to show him the best while still acting like we had more to offer.”

Tim made a funny face. “He has no respect for women. I wanted him to know he should take you seriously.”

“Fine, you had two reasons.”

“Mmhm.”

Lucy looked away from the mirrors at the shiny doors. 

“And so you know, if I did volunteer you for that reason, that’s actually a really smart strategy.”

Lucy freely rolled her eyes in the privacy of the elevator. 

They made their way down the hall to room 211, using the keycard to open the door to a beautiful hotel room. If she wasn’t a cop, she might have considered packing one of the lavish lamps in her suitcase. The light switch had been dimmed halfway for them to give the space mood lighting. The closet alone was the size of Lucy’s bathroom back home. Even Tim “It’s a job, nothing is cool, I don’t like fun” Bradford was caught off guard by the beautiful room. 

True to Kostou’s word, their bags were set on top of the bed. The single bed. Big, white, soft-looking, and singular. 

“One bed,” Tim said, drawing attention to it before Lucy could.

“We’re married, we should expect nothing less,” Lucy replied, taking her suitcase off the bed. 

“I’ll, uh…” Tim continued to stare at the bed, trying to remember his train of thought. “I’ll check the place out.”

Checking for bugs. Lucy nodded and took his light duffel off the bed before running her hand over the comforter. It felt like it was made from the clouds of heaven. 

Last month, staying in this hotel room with Tim, sleeping in this bed, for free no less, would’ve sounded like heaven to Lucy, but watching him scan the room with a burner iPod for cameras wasn’t exactly paramount of romance. Good?

“The party is in a couple hours, so I gotta start getting ready,” Lucy announced, opening her suitcase for her makeup and hair tools. 

“Good idea. I’m gonna keep looking around the hotel.”

“Yeah, that’s good. Be back in, like, an hour?”

Tim nodded. “Be safe.”

Lucy cocked an eyebrow. “It’s a shower.”

Tim rolled his eyes before looking back at her. “You know what I mean.”

She fought back a smile and shooed him off. 

After an hour, she heard the key card unlock the door.

“Victor?!” she called, reaching for her piece next to her when there was no answer for a second. 

“Yeah!” she heard Tim’s voice reply, calming her. 

She walked over to open the bathroom door, greeting Tim with an appraisal. Once she saw he was fully okay, she informed him, “The showerhead is incredible.”

“Mmhm,” he replied. She walked back to the far sink at which she was doing her makeup as he walked in behind her, leaning against the door frame. “Four cameras in the elevator, bug in the ceiling. Couldn’t find anything in the courtyard where the gala is being held.”

Lucy nodded, figuring Kostou planned to discuss things that he wanted no record of at the party. “What about the room?”

“We’re safe here.” Lucy let out a breath. “No cameras, no bugs. I don’t think they wanted to be privy to a married couple’s activities.” 

She scoffed, applying glue to a fake eyelash and sticking it on her lash line. “After being around Kostou for five minutes, I find that pretty hard to believe.”

“He might change his mind when he sees how you look tonight.”

Lucy’s fingers squeezed her eyelash harder than she meant to.

“I just mean… we should probably check the room again when we get back, you know. Just to make sure. We aren’t gonna be here for a bit so-”

She heard him getting dangerously close to floundering and cut him off. “I know what you meant. Thanks.”

After giving herself a once-over in the mirror, she walked past him back into the room before addressing him again. “The outfits should be here any minute. Go shower, and I should be about ready when you get out.”

“Then the party,” Tim finished and she nodded in return. 

As he shut the bathroom door behind him, Lucy made her way to the vault in the closet. 

 

After about 20 minutes, Tim came out of the shower with a towel around his waist, steam and water droplets covering his skin. Lucy knew damn well she broke the cover of someone who’d seen this a million times, and from the look on his face seeing her in her navy blue gown, he did too, even if they broke nonverbally.

She cleared her throat, snapping back into professionalism. “Your suit is on the bed.”

He shook his head as if resetting his thoughts and looked at the bed. “Nice suit.”

“You told me to pick.”

“Blue?”

 “I couldn’t just have you show up in a plain black suit.” Lucy popped one of her heels onto her foot. “Plus, we should match. That whole package deal thing.”

Piece by piece, Tim picked up the suit from the bed and draped them over his arm. “Won’t you get cold? It’s nighttime.”

“Hm?”

“Your dress, it…”

The dress was backless with crossing laces and spaghetti straps, so she knew what he was trying to say despite his inability to quite get it out. 

“Should I throw a shawl over it?”

“No!” Tim said, too quickly. “No, this looks… fine. Just… maybe we don’t need to be there the whole time? It’ll get colder when it gets later.”

Lucy turned to the hotel’s full-length mirror and ran her hands over the parts of the dress that were meant to hug her curves. “That should be fine. I won’t need long to charm.”

She looked back at Tim, who was grinding his teeth to dust. “I’m gonna go change,” he announced, quickly making his way back to the bathroom, unable to see Lucy smirking behind him. 

She was on a mission, but if, along the way, she got to torture whatever feelings Tim had for her a little, so be it.

 

It was all fun and games until he walked out of the bathroom in his suit. She picked navy blue for them because it was her color, completely forgetting the wonders it would do for his eyes. And honestly, all of him. 

“Tie?” he said, snapping her out of her second ogle in five minutes. 

She pointed to the tie on the bed, which she’d set out while he was changing. “Help with my necklace?”

He crossed the room as she moved her hair to the side, exposing her neck, before handing him the necklace. He dangled the necklace in front of her chest, then reached around the other side to grab the other end. She felt her hair press against her ear when he brought the two ends together and clasped them before bringing her hair out of the loop, gently to not disturb the curls. 

“Thanks,” she said curtly, turning to face him. 

In a move she wasn’t prepared for, he reached for the pendant to inspect it, knuckles barely grazing her collarbone, inspiring a chill she forced herself to suppress. 

“Sapphire?” he asked.

“Mmhm,” she replied, impressed that he knew that. “Matches your tie.”

“And everything else.” He turned the charm to inspect it fully, and his eyebrows knit together at the tiny black dot on the back. 

“A bug,” she explained. “It’s going right back to Nyla and the team, just in case.”

“Is it on now?”

Lucy shook her head. “Only when we leave the room.”

“Smart thinking.”

“Thanks.” 

She turned to leave and retrieve her earrings from the safe. 

“Hey, L- Shelly?” he called after her.

She turned back to face him.

He held up his tie. “Help me out?”

Lucy considered, but the necklace was brazen enough. “I actually needed help with the necklace, you can tie a tie on your own.”

 

They walked into the gala with arms linked, looking for Kostou. “My friends!” they heard from the left in a heavy Greek accent, and they turned to see him approaching. “My beautiful mechanic friends!” He’d very clearly already had a few drinks.

Tim removed his arm from Lucy’s to put around her waist as he got closer. “You throw a hell of a gala, Mr. Kostou.”

“Oh, please, please, call me Eros. This is a party!” Lucy was filled with dread the moment Kostou’s eyes landed on her, taking his time to look over her body from the ground up. “My, my, Mrs. Morse, what is it the Americans say? You clean up nice.”

Tim held her a bit closer into his side than she thought necessary, causing her to look up at him with slight confusion. She could tell he was trying his hardest to appear cordial, but there was not an ounce of friendship in his eyes. “Yes, she does. That’s why I married her.”

Kostou mercifully took his gaze off Lucy to look at Tim. “A wise decision, indeed.”

“Darling,” Lucy said, calling Tim’s attention to her. “Do you think you could save our seats? Mr. Kostou- sorry, Eros, and I are going to grab a couple drinks.”

Tim gently squeezed her hip to let her know he was not a fan of that idea at all. “If you need anything, just call.”

Her back was cold where his arm had left, and she watched as he made his way to the center table of the party. 

“Just you and me, Mrs. Morse,” Kostou said, suddenly too close.

Lucy giggled. Ew.

 

Select hotel workers knew Tim and Lucy were cops, and the bartender was one of them, so there were special bottles of fake alcohol for them to drink to not rouse suspicion. 

“Two shots of whiskey. Rocks,” Lucy ordered, sitting as Kostou took the stool next to her. 

“You really should try the ouzo,” he suggested. “I have my favorite brand shipped here for special occasions like this.”

Which Lucy knew, of course, hence the “whiskey”. “I don’t mix brown and white. Maybe next time?”

He smiled with all of his teeth, a ghastly sight. “Sure, next time.”

The bartender set the two shot glasses of iced tea on the counter, which Lucy thanked her for, before returning her attention to Kostou. “Speaking of ‘next time’, what happens to your past…mechanics? We have a bit of a network, why do they tend to disappear after working for you?”

“Ah, so you’ve heard the legends,” he replied, taking one of the three shots he’d ordered. “The truth is, no mechanic wants to be a mechanic forever. After this job, I give them enough money to go make a life for themselves, wherever they want. After this, you and your guy have a golden ticket to go anywhere in the world, truly live as king and queen.”

To Lucy, it sounded like parents telling their child that the family dog went to a “farm upstate,” but nevertheless, she smiled and nodded.

“I might have to pay you less, though. Might not be able to let you go so easily, Mrs. Morse.” He attempted to put a hand on the exposed knee coming out of the slit of her dress, but she got to her feet before he could. 

“I should probably get back to my husband.”

Disappointed, Kostou got to his feet, gesturing in Tim’s direction. “After you.”

Lucy smiled politely, took one step in that direction, and let her back leg slip out from under her, shrieking as she feigned trying to save herself. 

Kostou’s arm shot out to snake behind her waist to pull her to her feet, and the moment his arm made contact, she shot her hand out to grab the back of his neck “for support”. It wasn’t difficult to feel something hard under his skin where she’d seen the scar earlier. The USB. 

She used his neck to pull herself up and restore her balance. “Are you alright, Orea?” he asked.

She put a hand over her chest. “Oh, my hero!” she said, laughing. “Thank you!” She figured she’d garnered a bit of attention with that slip and she looked for the only person whose attention she needed. Tim had already been making his way to her at the bar, but he stopped when he caught her eye. With Kostou looking elsewhere, she gave him a nod to let him know she was okay, and his breath of relief was enough to see from across the room. 

 

“Are you alright, miss?” a young man, maybe mid-20s, asked Lucy when she and Kostou approached the table. She recognized the young man as the right-hand man from earlier. He was only slightly shorter than Tim, with dark curly hair, and a Greek accent almost as heavy as Kostou’s. He was less heavily adorned, though, with only a gold bangle around his wrist and a red vial around his neck identical to Kostou’s.

“I’m fine,” she assured, “Just a wet spot on the floor. It’s a bar at a hotel, I’d be more shocked if I didn’t slip on something.”

“Mr. and Mrs. Morse, this is Dimitri, my son for all intents and purposes,” Kostou introduced, gesturing to the man.

“You’re my boss, Eros,” he retorted, rolling his eyes, but smiling, clearly just messing with the man.

“Oh? Find me another boss that spends millions on a-” He stopped talking when he saw a short, curly-haired girl Dimitri’s age standing close behind him. “On a party like this to invite his employee to.”

Lucy realized the proposal was a surprise for Dimitri's girlfriend behind him. “Mmhm,” Dimitri replied, smiling and nodding. “Uh, Mr. and Mrs. Morse, this is Adira, my girlfriend, the light of my world.”

Adira, beaming from the description, shot a hand out to greet Lucy. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” American, the only one she’d met since arriving here. 

“Please, call me Shelly,” Lucy insisted. “Both of you. And this is Victor; Mr. Morse was his father.”

Tipsy Kostou was the only one to laugh at her lame joke. 

They all sat at the table and ate the exquisite meals prepared for them, prompting Lucy to make a mental note to try out the local Greek restaurants when she got back home. 

“Tell me, Mr. Morse,” Kostou said, causing Tim to look up from his food. “When did you buy your wife’s wedding ring?”

Tim wiped his mouth with a napkin before speaking. “We were young. I was new to the business. Only had a couple low profile jobs, so I scraped together the most I could.”

“But you’re rich now, yes?”

Tim nodded in response.

“So why is your wife’s ring still this tiny little pebble?”

This guy’s woman-stealing techniques were aggressive. 

“If I had a woman as beautiful as this,” Kostou continued, “I would buy her anything and everything. You want gold? You got it. Diamonds? You got it. Bigger ring? Don’t you want a bigger ring, Orea?”

Lucy was plenty uncomfortable, but Tim didn’t have as much UC experience as she did and she could see Kostou’s creepiness was getting Tim closer and closer to pulling back and punching this guy’s lights out. 

“Actually,” Lucy started. “We were supposed to get a bigger ring, but then hospital bills struck.”

Tim’s annoyance was distracted by confusion, masked in a way only someone who knew him like Lucy could detect. “Hospital bills?” Kostou asked.

She nodded. “A while ago, I was in a car crash.” She laid her hand over Tim’s, and she felt his clenched fist relax at her touch. “It was terrifying. Victor was my rock after.” 

“Oh my god, that’s terrible!” Adira exclaimed. “If you don’t mind me asking… What were your injuries?”

“Whiplash,” she answered. “Yeah, almost broke my neck.” She rubbed the back of her neck with her free hand, gently squeezing Tim’s hand as she tapped the base of her skull with her middle finger three times. “Couldn’t drive for months after, I was pretty much scarred for life.” She squeezed his hand slightly harder to let him know that was important as well. He leaned back in his chair, pretending to stretch, to get a better look at Kostou’s neck. Lucy tried to continue talking to keep everyone distracted. “Things like that really make you… appreciate life. And appreciate who you choose to spend it with. Once you know how easily it can be taken away.” That part was true.

Once back to his position, Tim got to his feet, surprising her. “Speaking of which, now that my food is settled, I hope you all don’t mind if I take my wife to appreciate life on the dance floor with me.”

Dimitri and Adira gestured to the floor, excusing them. Tim pulled Lucy from her seat, guiding her to the dance floor. 

“How are we doing this?” he asked. 

She rearranged the hand holding his to a more comfortable position for a waltz before pulling his other arm around her waist, then setting hers on his shoulder. 

“Like this.” She began to two-step in the same spot until he joined her.

“Are you leading ?” he asked. 

“Since when have I not been?”

Tim dipped his head to laugh and didn’t bring his head back up, instead pulling her closer and setting his forehead on her bare shoulder, bringing her opposite hand closer to his chest. 

Fake. Fake. Fake fake fake fake. “Did you see it?” she asked him in an attempt to bring her mind back to the opp. 

“Mmhm,” he mumbled into her hair. “Are you sure?”

She leaned into his shoulder, thankful for the height difference to hide her lips in case of missed or added cameras. “Mmhm. I felt it.” Tim was drawing patterns in her back with his finger, and she held in the urge to draw a sharp breath at his touch, only because that breath would have been 100% genuine. “So what do you want to do?”

“If we’re lucky, he gives it to us, all bloody and disgusting. And gross.” Lucy giggled at him. “If we’re not lucky, we have two days to catch him red-handed, and they get it from him later.”

“Mm.”

He pulled back to look at her. “So what was your story?” he asked her, pushing back a portion of hair that had fallen into her face.

She smiled at his interest. “Grew up in LA, near Dockweiler. Not the prettiest, but it inspired my lifelong love of beaches.” The corners of his mouth turned down as he nodded, impressed. “My mother sent me to boarding school, where I picked up archery and got a knack for targets. Picked up martial arts and shooting the moment I could sign myself up for classes and one day, a guy in a suit came up to me at the range and gave me a business card and a chance to make a lot of money, so I figured ‘Why not?’”

Tim nodded. “Charming.”

“And my business name is Black Dahlia.”

“Little on the nose, don’t you think?”

“It’s a reclaiming thing. The name is famous for violence against women, so I chose it to empower me. She’d probably want that.” She paused to look down at their feet, making sure they weren't anywhere close to stepping on his. “What about you?”

“What about me?”

“Any code names yet?”

He smiled a bit and she felt him pull her waist slightly closer. “I’ll think about it.” He broke eye contact by bringing his head down to her level again, turning his face inches from the back of her neck. “What about us?”

“I haven’t really thought of that yet,” she replied, smiling at the feeling of his words on her neck. “After we took down that crew, we didn’t talk for two weeks until I called. You thought someone had figured us out, but I just wanted to get coffee.”

“I was the first to say I loved you,” he cut in.

She nodded in agreement. “I said it a week later. By the time we moved in together, we were well off, but that didn’t stop us from getting a way bigger house when we got married. Six-month honeymoon and we weren’t reachable the entire time.”

“I know some people who would be jealous of a vacation like that,” he said, pulling her closer again when she giggled. 

The dance floor went quiet between song changes, but their movements stayed the same.

“This feels familiar,” Tim said, still speaking into her hair.

“Hm? The dance?” Lucy asked, and she felt him nod in response. “I disagree.”

He chuckled, and she felt his shoulders shake a little. “What do you mean by that?”

“You’re a lot more comfortable this time.” He pulled back to look at her with his eyebrows knitted together. “The first time was awkward.”

He took the hand that was holding hers and pressed it over his heart, pressing Lucy’s hand there too. “I’m wounded.” His smile was too much. He was too relaxed, and he smelled way too good. Characters be damned because they never established that Victor and Shelly had any awkward first dance stories. “I warmed up eventually.”

She smiled down at the floor. “You did.”

The moment was interrupted by the sound of a fork hitting a champagne flute. “Attention, everybody!” Tim and Lucy parted to look in the direction of Dimitri’s voice. “Attention, I have an announcement to make!”

A waiter handed Dimitri a microphone as he brought a very nervous and confused Adira to her feet. “Adira,” he said, his voice booming through surrounding speakers. “You have been to me, everything I’ve ever wanted. Everything I never knew I needed. You’ve been a friend, a lover… a partner. When I’m at my lowest, you bring me higher. If I’m scared to go higher, I look back, and there you are to push me. When I’m at my highest, you celebrate the win like it’s your own.” Lucy felt Tim’s eyes on her as Dimitri spoke, but she looked at the ground to avoid eye contact. “You help me grow every day, and you call me to be a better man than I was yesterday. I know I can do anything I put my mind to with you by my side.” He moved his chair to kneel to the ground and pull out a ring box he had hidden under the table. Upon seeing the box, Adira’s already present tears began to flow much faster. “I want to feel like that every day. Every day until I die. Will you marry me?”

“YES!” Adira shrieked, loud enough to be heard around the room with no microphone, sailing to the ground to kiss the kneeling Dimitri as the room broke out in rapturous applause. 

 

“Hell of a party, huh?” Lucy asked, applying lotion to her arms. 

“What?” Tim called back through the bathroom door. 

“The party! It was fun, right?”

He came out of the bathroom clad in a plain white tee shirt and flannel pajama pants and Lucy’s eyebrows raised, somehow endeared by seeing him like this. 

He gave her thin robe with a tee shirt and booty shorts under a once-over before crossing over to the bed. “When you wake up with a cold, you better still be good to work.”

“I run hot, thank you very much. I’ll be fine.” She set her lotion on the nightstand next to her, before taking out her gun to make sure it was loaded with the safety on. Once that was finished, she brought the comforter over her legs. 

Tim grabbed a pillow from the right side of the bed and the spare blanket at the foot of the bed, confusing Lucy. “Where are you going?”

He turned back, equally confused. “The… couch?”

“Why?”

“I mean, there’s… one bed.”

“Yeah… because we’re married.” He still looked confused. “Oh my god, Kostou knows our room. If he busts in and sees you on the couch, what’s he gonna think?”

Tim looked back and forth between the couch and the bed a few times and sighed, relenting and doubling back toward the bed. After turning off the lamp on her nightstand, Lucy scooted further to the left to make room for him as he climbed in. Either the bed was small or Tim was somehow a bigger dude than Lucy had accounted for. She groaned accompanied by a shiver.

“What?” Tim asked.

“Your feet are freezing.”

“You’re five foot four. Scoot up.”

She groaned, but obeyed, scooting up until their faces were at the same level, still both facing the ceiling. 

“You never told me if you had fun at the party or not.”

She saw him make a face in her periphery. “We weren’t there to party, we were there to work.”

“Right. Good music, good food, good outfits. No fun to be had.”

He sighed, annoyed that she was not letting him get his way on anything tonight. “There were parts of the night I enjoyed.”

“Like?”

“I enjoyed the proposal.” Lucy did too, hopefully not for the same reasons. “I enjoyed… my suit. My suit was nice, you have good taste.”

Lucy smiled, the image of Tim in a blue suit branded in her mind for life. “I try.”

“Then there were parts of the night I didn’t enjoy. Like Kostou all over you.”

“I had to see if the drive was in his neck.”

“I know. I still hated it.” Lucy didn’t respond as she didn’t know how to. “I really hate the way he looks at you.”

“Join the club,” she responded. 

“No, I’m serious,” he said. “I hate the way he looks at you, the way he talks to you. The way he… I swear to God, I want to rip his hands off when he touches you.”

Her breath hitched, which she hoped he didn’t pick up on. “I can take care of myself. You know I can.”

“I know you can,” he replied, visibly calmer. “Which is why when the time comes, you’re gonna be the one to arrest him.”

She smiled a little, but she held herself back from grinning ear to ear from imagining it. “And if he gives trouble?”

“Oh, I’ll be nearby so I hope he does.”

She giggled, causing him to smile back at her. 

“You know, tonight had a lot of talk about engagement and proposals and you never said a word about engagement when we were going over stories.”

Lucy stopped smiling and looked over at him. “You want me to come up with an engagement story?”

“No need,” he replied. “I’ve already got one.”

She readied herself, shifting her body on its side to face his profile, causing him to look over at her position and chuckle before turning back to the ceiling. 

“They were on the beach,” he started, getting cut off by Lucy.

“In character.”

He sighed and prepared to correct.“ We were on the beach. I had been meaning to ask you for weeks, but I could never find the perfect time, but when I saw you in your favorite place in the world and how happy you were, I had to ask. The ring was hidden at home, I didn’t even have it on me, but I couldn’t wait.” He turned to face her, but his eyes didn’t look fully present, almost like he was speaking from a daydream. “I went on and on about how much I loved you because I was too scared to just ask. I don’t know why… I knew you’d say yes.” 

Lucy had hoped their closeness didn’t allow him to feel how hard her heart was beating.

He still wasn’t done, still staring into her eyes in the dark. “You cried, but you blamed it on the waves getting into your eyes. And I wiped your tears away even though the ocean could have done it for me. Because I wanted to.”

“We sound happy,” Lucy muttered, incapable of coming out of a daze.

“We are.”

The inches between them felt like a mile to Lucy. His stupid, stupid eyes sparkled in the moonlight from the open window behind Lucy, and she figured he couldn’t see her as well as she was seeing him right now. At the beginning of this trip, one of her side goals was to never get to a point where Tim could lean in to kiss her beyond operation reasons and she’d accept, and she’d already failed on night one. 

After far too much time spent just staring at him, she finally told him, “We should probably get some sleep.” Turning her back to him felt like a respite with a touch of agony.

“Yeah, probably,” he replied, turning away also. “Early morning and all.” 

The quiet in the room would’ve felt fine if she’d been sent on this operation with anyone else, but that was the thing about her relationship with Tim- it always felt like there was something left to say between them.

“Hey, can I ask you something?”

He wiggled a little behind her and groaned a quiet, “Yeah.”

“Why didn’t you ever ask me on a second date?” She pulled the hotel sheet over her chin, hugging it to her as tightly as she could. “Why did we just… act like it never happened?”

After building that question up for five weeks, asking was just as terrifying as she’d thought it would be.

Even more terrifying was his silence after she asked. 

“I don’t know.”

Was that… worse than she was expecting? It definitely felt worse, but she couldn’t figure out if it was or not. If he’d said, “ I don’t know, maybe we should give it another shot” or “ It was the single worst date I’d ever been on and made me realize being with you would be a nightmare,” either of those would’ve felt more definite, given her a bit of closure. 

“I don’t know” felt like code for “Not bad enough to bother remembering, not good enough to explore further.” Just mediocre. 

She never thought Tim Bradford would make her feel mediocre.

After too long, she released the hotel sheet and got in a more comfortable position to sleep. “Goodnight.”

Chapter Text

Lucy woke to the sound of an electric toothbrush, wondering how she'd ended up in the middle of the bed when she had fallen asleep as close to the edge as she could. Also, facing the wrong way. And extremely self-conscious about her own morning breath. 

She sat up, moving her hair out of her face and stretching to the ceiling, groaning as she did. 

“Victor?” she thought. “Tim?” “Hey!” she decided.

She heard the toothbrush turn off, then the faucet ran for a moment before the bathroom door opened and Tim popped out. “Morning,” he greeted, walking over to his duffel bag.

“How’d you sleep?” she asked, slipping her feet in the complimentary hotel slippers near her and standing up.

“Pretty good. What about you? Wake up with a cold I should worry about?”

She stretched her arms out to the side. “Best sleep I’ve had in a while.”

It sounded different in her head. In her head, Tim didn't pause his search for a tee shirt to look at her.

He shrugged, returning his attention to the suitcase. “Probably just… tired from the party.”

“Yeah. Yeah, probably.”

She made her way to her bag for toiletries. “So what’s the plan today?”

“Keep getting closer to Kostou, see if we can get him to start the job a few days early. Maybe convince him we need a few extra days with the list?”

“Sounds good.” 

Lucy started to make her way over to the bathroom but stopped when Tim stood, accidentally blocking her path. He moved out of her way, but her eyes were locked on his shoulder. She reached over and removed a long strand of brown hair from his sleep tee.

“You’re clingy when you sleep,” he explained, making Lucy’s cheeks heat up. “And you drool.”

She finally moved around him, hot-footing to the bathroom, hissing, “If that leaves this room, you’re dead!” over her shoulder. 

 

Soon, they were both ready for buffet breakfast at the hotel, Lucy finishing the clasp on her necklace before checking herself in the mirror. Tim waited at the door for her to decide she was satisfied. 

Approaching the door, Lucy asked, “Hey, do you think we were convincing enough yesterday?”

“I don’t know what else we could have done,” he replied. “I think we did the best we could, you know?”

Lucy nodded. “Let’s just hope it’s enough.”

Tim reached for the hotel door and let her leave first. “I’ll tell you what was enough: your shooting yesterday.”

“Finally acknowledging it, huh?”

“I mean, you started us at an advantage. Compliments for the sake of the opp.”

“Mmhm.”

 

“I didn’t need another coffee,” Lucy said, taking a mug from Tim as she read the self-help book she brought along.

Tim sat down at the hotel restaurant table, taking a sip from his second coffee. “You do. Today’s gonna be a lot.”

Lucy might have let her refill get cold if he didn’t know how to make her coffee so perfectly. 

“Excuse me, Mr. and Mrs. Morse,” she heard from their left and turned to see one of Kostou’s underlings approaching their table. “Mr. Kostou would like to speak with you.”

Tim and Lucy shot each other a look before getting up, joining. They followed him back around the garden behind the hotel, back to the doors that had led to the shooting range yesterday. The entire way, Lucy debated reaching for Tim’s hand but eventually decided against it, deeming it overkill. 

When the door opened, Kostou and Dimitri were waiting inside, surrounded by three more men, guns in each of their belts. Dimitri looked about as professional and polite as he’d seemed yesterday, but the happy, bubbly Kostou they’d met yesterday was gone. Today, he seemed colder, and he was studying them as if at any moment, they could attack him. 

“Friends,” he said, not very friendly. “My Dimitri here seems to think you two have something to hide.”

Tim’s eyes darted to Dimitri, who seemed unaffected by being called out. “I know what love looks like,” he explained. “And I don’t see it in the eyes of you two.”

“What are you talking about?” Tim retorted. “She’s my wife.”

“That might be true,” Kostou said. “But this is not a question of marriage, this is a question of love. From words alone, you’d assume you two just got off a tropical island vacation, but the eyes. The eyes don’t lie and you two can barely look at each other.”

“What?” Lucy chimed in. “That’s ridiculous!”

“It’s true,” Dimitri answered. “Love is what I have with my Adira. When she’s around, I think of nothing else. I look at nothing else, you two don’t have that.”

“Okay, but you’re, what, 15?” Tim asked, and Lucy nudged him to stop.

“What sense would it make to lie about being in love with my husband?” Lucy asked, stalling for time to think of something. “Why would I need to lie about the most basic part of my marriage?”

Kostou sat down on a stool behind him, keeping eye contact locked on Lucy. “That is why you are here, Orea. You tell me.”

“This is ridiculous,” Tim insisted, causing Lucy to nudge him slightly harder. “It’s not like love is gooey and obsessive every day like Dimitri seems to think, it’s-”

“Enough! Enough… lies. You see this around my neck?” He held up the chain with the red vial that Lucy had noticed the day before. “This is Dimitri’s blood. Around his neck is my blood. At the same time, you lie and you call my Dimitri, my blood, a liar, what good do you think will come of-”

“We’re getting a divorce,” Lucy said, silencing the room. 

“Pardon?” Kostou asked.

She could feel Tim staring daggers at her. “Yeah,” she continued. “It hasn’t been working for a while, but we have a brand to maintain. I mean, I told you about our little network. So we’ve been keeping it on the low.”

“And you lie to me? Since your arrival? I call you my friends and you lie to me since we met.”

“Yes,” Tim admitted, finally jumping on board with Lucy’s lie. “And we’re very sorry about that. We figured we could show up, keep it together for a weekend, show off our skills, do the job, and get paid.”

“We just wanted to keep our business private, Mr. Kostou.” Lucy held her hands together behind her back so she didn’t start fidgeting with them. “I’m sure you could understand that. Plus, we didn’t want to put a damper on your party.”

Kostou leaned back slightly in his stool, considering. “I’ll figure out what to do with you later.” He tilted his head to the guards around him. “Get them out of my sight.”

Not wanting to be dragged out by giant goons, Tim and Lucy turned on their heels and quickly walked to the door, men closely behind. They each pushed open the door on their sides and walked back into the garden, The men slammed the doors behind them so closely, they almost hit them on their way out. 

Tim’s shoulders moved up and down with his heavy breaths, and Lucy assumed he was breathing through the urge to rip her to pieces in this hotel garden in full view of the lovely guests.

“I-” she started, before he quickly cut her off.

Not … a word… until we get back to the room.”

 

There had been a lot of quiet moments between the two this weekend, all ranging from comfortable, to awkward, to calculating. But this was different. Tim wasn’t avoiding eye contact because he was just naturally focused elsewhere, he was actively refusing to even look at Lucy, who was trying to calculate every beratement Tim could throw at her, so she could think of a defense. 

They walked side by side to the hotel room and as he unlocked the door, Lucy studied the way his jaw was clenched so hard she feared it might snap. She took her time walking in, waiting for him to walk in behind her until she heard him shut the door when they were both inside. 

She tried to begin, “Before you say anything-” 

“What… the hell… were you thinking?” he asked, turning from the door to look at her.

“I’m thinking I just saved our lives.”

Tim’s eyebrows shot up. “Oh, really? Elaborate on that, please.”

“I don’t know how he figured it out, okay? But he did. Maybe we didn’t, I don’t know, hold hands enough, but this guy is paranoid, anything could have set him off.”

“Which was why we had a plan.”

“Plans don’t always stay intact ‘til the end. Welcome to undercover work!”

At Lucy’s words, Tim took a quick glance around the room to check for cameras once again. “If you had given me a little time, I could’ve come up with something that could have stuck to the plan. Maybe we would’ve only had to go off-script when we had to!”

Lucy was insulted at his lack of faith in her abilities. “We had to then! What were you gonna tell him, huh? Now, please.”

Tim stared, and she could see the gears grinding in his head.

“That! I told you about that!” she exclaimed. “I told you that that could get us killed. We had about two seconds to spare until he figured out we were lying and his guards would have blown us sky-high right there.”

Tim paused, taking her words in. “So what do we do now?” His voice had softened slightly but still had its edge.

Lucy ran her hands through the top of her hair. “I don’t know, okay? I-... how did Dimitri even figure us out?”

“I don’t know. You said yourself that it doesn’t matter.”

“But it does matter for me.” Lucy had promised herself her feelings for Tim wouldn’t get in the way of her ability to do her job, and she hadn’t made any conscious decision to break that promise. 

Tim turned around, looking up at the sky as he thought through it.“We could still make this work. Maybe… maybe he’ll only fire one of us. It’ll probably be me, but we know where the drive is, so you just get it and I’ll be nearby if anything goes wrong and…” He went silent when he turned back around, catching sight of her.

It was a lot for Lucy. One thing undercover work had taught her was that when she had a safe window to breathe, she should take it, but there was no safe window because he was everywhere, just saying stuff she already knew to do. “This is a joke,” she breathed, continuing to stare at the ceiling, walking in circles.

“What?”

“I shouldn’t have taken this assignment. Or you shouldn’t have, I don’t know. Maybe we should’ve gotten more prep time or….” She stopped her pacing, planting her feet firmly. “I mean, surely, the precinct had a pair of decent shots who could at least pretend to be in love with each other.”

Tim seemed to recoil a little, and Lucy couldn’t decipher his expression. He looked almost hurt at her words, but she knew that couldn’t be the case. 

“Maybe we need to take a break,” he said, headed back to the hotel door. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“I wish you’d never asked me out,” Lucy muttered, just barely enough for him to hear at that distance.

He fully stopped his walk, turning back to look at her. “What did you say?”

“You heard me.” She swayed in her spot, folding her arms. “I wish you had never asked me to go on that stupid date.”

“Lu-”

“No!” Their covers had perished miserably by that point, but hearing her name from him right now was too much for her right now. “Kostou could kill us the moment we leave this room, so I’m gonna say this.”

Tim considered for a moment, before obliging, coming back further into the room and sitting on a dining chair. 

Lucy took a deep breath. “You… were important to me. Not romantically, but in every other way. You were my friend, you were the one I wanted to tell about something I was proud of. And the date was really nice and fun, for me at least, but it was not worth this weird limbo we’re in now. We’ve been avoiding each other for over a month and if I could undo you asking me out just to get back to how we were before, even if it meant annoyingly dancing around each other until one of us found someone better, I would, if it meant I could have that back.”

Tim blinked a few times. “Was that so hard to say?”

He couldn’t have responded in a more infuriating way. “ Yes! Because you say nothing! I have tried and gotten nothing back and when you finally did say something, it landed us where we are now.”

He stood up from his chair, invading Lucy’s personal space in a way that heightened her anger in some ways and dissolved it in others. “We are not going to die. Kostou is not gonna kill us; you made sure of that. We are going to figure it out and we are going to make it out like we’ve always done. Together.”

Lucy damned his ability to pick and choose when to know exactly what to say. She nodded, taking a deep breath while mentally making peace with leaving everything she’d just said in this hotel room. 

Perfect timing too, because there was a loud knock at the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Morse,” Lucy heard in an unfamiliar rough, masculine voice. “Mr. Kostou would like to see you now.”

They turned to face the door. “Guess he figured out what he wants to do with us,” Tim remarked. 

Lucy reached to the side, exhaling when she felt Tim’s hand already reaching for hers before interlocking their fingers.

Together. 

 

“Friends!” Kostou greeted as the three escorting guards presented the mercenary pair to him. He had only one guard with him, making four guards in total. 

“Please stop calling us that,” Tim requested. “At least for now, it’s very exhausting.”

Kostou eyed him momentarily, before lowly chuckling. “I like you, Victor. Not as much as her, but I like you too.”

“Where’s Dimitri?” Lucy asked. “He should at least be here to look us in the face after psychoanalyzing us unprompted.”

“Dimitri is off, frolicking with his new fiance. You two, though. I’ve finally decided on a fun way to settle our differences: a competition.”

Tim and Lucy turned to look at each other, hating where this was headed. 

“If you’ve truly fallen out of love, you should be more than happy to fight for your own survival, no? Shelly, my Orea,” he said, gesturing to Lucy. “I’ve already seen you shoot, I know your talents. Victor could be inept to shoot a mountain from two feet away, and I’d have no idea. So… you will both be put in separate target practice rooms and be given the same guns. The better shot will stay in my employ, your pay doubled, and the other will be fired, but I’m guessing ‘fired’ means something different to me than it does to you.” 

“What?” Lucy shouted. “No!” 

“No way, we’re not doing it,” Tim agreed. He tried to make his way over to Lucy, but Kostou waved his guards in their direction and within seconds, the guards had hands on their shoulders and arms. “Let go!”

“Hey! No!” Lucy cried, fighting their grips as they dragged her away from her partner. 

“Let her go!” Tim was being dragged away and as big as he was, he had no hope against the strength of the guards.

“Antío, my young friends!” Kostou bid in an unnervingly cheery tone. “Try not to miss!”

“I was too stuck in my head!” Tim yelled in Lucy’s direction, causing her attention to break from her fighting to look at him. “I’m sorry! I should have tried harder for you!”

“Wait,” Kostou called to his guards. “Let the man say goodbye.”

The grips on Lucy loosened, but the hands stayed holding her where she was. The grips on Tim loosened too and he looked back and forth between the guards, not seeming to expect Kostou to let him speak, before looking back at her.

 

“I was scared,” he continued, looking into Lucy’s eyes. “I just wanted to make you happy and the idea that I couldn’t do that terrified me. The idea that I could try and still fail. I’ve tried and failed before and the idea of disappointing you…” Tim searched for the words as Lucy stood motionless. “I did what I’ve been doing since I realized how much of a hold you have on me: I thought too much, I got too in my head, I didn’t… I didn’t trust you to want me how I am the way I wanted everything about you. And for that I’m sorry. 

“I didn’t say it earlier because I thought we’d be able to make it out together, side by side like we’ve always done. But if that isn’t an option, I need you to fight. Make it out of here, and know whatever you do, I am so proud to know you like I do.”

Lucy blinked rapidly so the tears forming in her eyes would go away. She didn’t want anything obstructing her vision of Tim. “I-” she started to respond, but he turned away from her before she could. 

“I’m ready,” he said, walking on his own, no fight, in the direction they were taking him until she couldn’t see him anymore. 

She closed her eyes, taking deep breaths, not letting herself register that that might have been the last time she’d ever see Tim Bradford. 

“Ready to fight, Orea?” she heard Kostou’s gravely, grimy voice ask.

She looked him in his vomit green eyes, and through gritted teeth, bit out, “Go to hell.”

And then she was on her way. 

 

The safety goggles felt heavier on Lucy’s face this time, the headphones felt tighter. Closing her eyes to breathe provided no break in the stress. When her eyes were open, she felt the weight of the room that would decide whether she lived or died. When they were closed, all she could see was Tim, restrained, choosing the worst possible time to tell her everything she’d spent months upon months wanting to hear. 

Was he gonna do his best and hope to outlive her? Was he gonna throw the challenge? Had he already thrown the challenge and now he was dead? Was she so arrogant to assume he’d give his life if it meant she had a chance to survive?

She decided eyes open was the best option. At least that one gave her a fighting chance. She watched as the blank target in front of her slid to the back of the retrieval carrier, keeping it lined up in her vision. She held the barrel of her Glock in line with the target, finger positioned over the trigger. 

Fight. 

“I need you to fight.”

She closed her eyes again, almost hearing the words in his voice.

“Make it out of here.”

Tim wasn’t going to throw the challenge. He was telling her to fight.

Gun drawn, she turned around, pointing the end at the left goon.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the guy on the right reach for his gun. He barely had time to get it out of his belt before Lucy had shot him in the foot, sending the gun sliding away from him.

The guy on the left didn’t learn the lesson easily, also trying to reach for his gun, only to have a hole shot through his hand the moment he touched it. 

“AGH!” he screamed. “BITCH!”

“You,” Lucy said, addressing the one she’d shot in the foot. “To the bathroom. I’ll be there in a second.” She walked over to the one with the shot hand and dragged him to the cleaning supply closet, happy to see some spare zip-ties. Thank you, crazy Kostou. She zip-tied his hands around a nearby shelf that was bonded into the floor and the ceiling. She patted down his sides and pockets, pulling out a burner phone and a small pager from his back pocket. She also found a small knife in his shoe, which she confiscated as well. She then shut the door behind her, heading to the bathroom. The guy’s foot blood made the floor slippery, but he had obeyed, dragging himself to wait for her near the toilet, afraid for his life. She zip-tied his wrists around the toilet, and after making sure he was secure, she patted him down, withdrawing the same tools from the same places. Creative. “Someone will be here to help you guys soon,” she called over her shoulder, gathering the fallen guns off the ground before running through the double doors, letting them slam behind her. 

She ran out of the underground crime arena and briskly walked back to the direction of the front desk, trying her best to hide the blood on her pants from civilians in the hotel garden, looking around for Tim the whole time. 

She put less effort into hiding the blood once the front desk was in sight, which paid off because the hotel desk manager took one look at her jeans and performed the Sign of the Cross until Lucy made it to her.

“M- Mrs. Morse,” the desk manager stuttered, trying to maintain professionalism and keep Lucy’s cover. 

Lucy laid the two burner phones, pagers, guns, and knives on the desk. “I have some friends staying in room 106. If you could let them know I have two urgent deliveries waiting for them in the basement, that’d be great.”

She heard a clatter beside her and looked to her left to see a pair of bloody hands lay the same equipment she had on the desk. “Make that four.”

She didn’t look at him at first, not wanting to give him the satisfaction of the Cheshire grin she had at hearing his voice. 

“Ay, Dios Mio,” the manager sighed, reaching for the phone, dialing the appropriate room. 

When Lucy got her smile under control, she finally turned to Tim, who was already looking down at her, a smile tugging at his lips. 

“Where’d you shoot?” she asked, looking down at his hands and splotched shirt.

“Shins. Both of them,” he answered. “You?”

“One in the foot, one in the gun hand.”

“Show off.”

Lucy bit her lip in a failed attempt to control her smile.

“I believe we have someone waiting for us,” he said, leaning in to say it to her like a secret.

“You’re absolutely right.” Lucy reached across the desk to get the attention of the manager while she talked to their backup on the phone. “Hi, sorry, I was just wondering if you could tell me which room Mr. Eros Kostou is staying in?”

 

The manager had told them Kostou was staying in room 309, so they asked for a key to room 409, figuring the only people staying in his official room were some henchmen he’d swapped with for security purposes. 

“Eros Kostou?” Lucy called once near the door. “You’re under arrest for conspiracy to murder.”

There was no answer.

“Kostou, we know you’re in there,” Tim said. “If you give up easily, this could be a lot less painful for you.” 

Still no answer. Lucy made eye contact with Tim before gesturing her head in the direction of the door, and he nodded in turn. She stood back as he got in position, before kicking the door wide open.

They both loved when he did that.

 

Tim entered first, scoping out the place for their safety as Lucy looked for Kostou in the gigantic hotel room. 

“Maybe we got the wrong room?” Tim asked.

Lucy’s eyes landed on the coat he wore to the gala last night, hung up on the door. This was the right room. 

The corner of her eye caught a flash of red, and she looked to see a small traveling stream of blood. She followed the widening stream into the bathroom until it led her to the end, an end that caused her to grip the handle of her gun tighter despite the definite lack of a threat. 

“Hey. In here,” she said somberly, staring at the sight. “Bathroom!”

She heard Tim’s footsteps approaching until they stopped in the bathroom opening as he took in the scene.

Kostou, lying stomach up on the floor, surrounded by still rapidly flowing blood. Still dressed in his outfit from mere minutes ago, every ludicrously expensive piece of jewelry and clothing untouched, from his Italian leather penny loafers to his tacky gold-trimmed tie. Other than the blood, the only major difference to his appearance was the fact that he was headless.

“I’ll, uh…” Tim started, lost for words. “I’ll… check on backup.”

Lucy stepped around the body, careful not to disrupt the blood puddle. “Hey, uh… his... His necklace is gone.”

Tim turned back to look where she was looking. “You don’t think…”

Lucy nodded, finishing his sentence. “Dimitri.”

Kostou’s prized prodigy was missing, as was the head that held the list of Kostou’s targets.

Their simple operation to catch the most obvious crime kingpin in history had now devolved into a search for a murderer.

 

Chapter Text

Lucy and Tim headed for the exit to look for Dimitri, ready to call for more backup. “Did he tell you where could’ve gone?” Tim asked. “You talked to him more at the party than I did, did he tell you anything, any hints about where he might go?” He reached to open the door.

“No, nothing,” Lucy replied, walking through. “We should probably talk to Adira, she might-”

She cut herself off, seeing the three guards who had welcomed them heading for Kostou’s room, stopping once they saw them. The guards’ eyes raked over the pair, registering the blood. 

“Where is Kostou?” the one in the middle asked. 

Covered in blood. Kostou’s dead behind us. There was no easy way out of this one.

“Uh…” Tim started, trying to think quickly, but they wouldn’t give him the time. 

The men all put a hand on the guns in their belts. “I’m gonna ask one more time,” the leader said. “Where is Kostou?”

Depending on how quickly these men could draw, Lucy and Tim could be dead before they could even touch their own pieces. 

The leader looked back and forth at the others, nodding, a decision reached. 

Lucy reached for her gun in another Hail Mary attempt at survival, but before the men could even get their guns out of their belts, they began to shake violently with a distinct sound of electrical buzzing behind them. As the two on the sides fell, Lucy saw they had been taken down by the police officers with stun guns until the middle one fell, revealing Detective Nyla Harper behind him. Lucy had half a mind to launch at her for a hug. 

Nyla nudged the leader she'd just taken down with her boot, making sure he was unconscious. She took in Tim and Lucy's appearances and announced, "You guys look terrible."

“Good to see you too, Harper,” Tim countered, not fully sarcastic.

“Kostou in there?” she asked, pointing behind them.

“Yeah,” Lucy answered. “Dead.” The two officers accompanying Nyla moved past them to go into the room.

“And the drive?”

“Nowhere to be found,” Tim answered.

Nyla looked back at him. “You mean like…”

“Fully decapitated.” Nyla made a face, and Tim continued, “Dimitri killed him before we got here, we don’t know where he is.”

She pulled out her radio. “Units, be advised, Kostou is dead, killer is Dimitrios Romanatos, still at large, possibly in the building, possibly has Kostou’s decapitated head with the drive in it.” Lucy’s eyebrows knitted together as Nyla put her radio back in her belt. “You two okay?”

“Yeah,” Lucy answered, still slightly shaken. “Did you find the guys in the basement?”

Nyla nodded. “Medics are with them now, they’ll be alright. Right now, the objective is to find Dimitri and find that drive. Covers aren’t needed anymore, you can arrest him on sight. Do you guys have any ideas where he might be?”

Lucy shook her head. “He has a fiance staying in the hotel, we can ask her if she has any ideas.”

“Okay, good, do that. Bradford, go with her in case of Dimitri hiding there or if she has added security.” She pulled two radios and spare cuffs from her belt to hand them one each, followed by their badges. The weight had never felt so good in Lucy’s hand. “I’ll stay here and help guard the body, fill forensics in when they get here.”

“Sounds good,” Tim said, starting down the hallway.

Lucy started to follow behind but stopped to call after Nyla. “Hey!” Nyla turned to listen. “How did you know the drive was in Kostou’s head somewhere?”

“The bug picked up Bradford’s code,” Nyla said, like it was obvious, before pointing to Tim. “That was good quick thinking, by the way.” She headed into the hotel room to help the team. 

“I was too in my head.” Lucy’s sapphire necklace. Of course. 

Lucy tried to maintain a poker face when she looked at Tim, but he knew her too well not to know what she was thinking.

“Lucy-”

“Don’t worry about it, you saved the opp. You’re better at undercover work than I was giving you credit for.”

“No, but-”

She fought to keep her voice steady despite the small lump growing in her throat. “Let’s just get this done.”

 

Silence. Again. Each one was worse than the last, but this one was taking the crown for the whole weekend. Because she wanted it to be silent. She didn’t want to hear a single word from him that wasn’t directly work-related, mentally kicking herself for ever breaking that rule in the first place. 

“Before we talk to Adira, don’t you think-”

“The elevator is bugged,” she reminded him. 

Tim steeled himself against her hostility. “Okay… can we talk at some point?”

Lucy closed her eyes to breathe again, thankful that his “profession of love” was no longer ringing in her ears. “I think it’s important that we just focus on Dimitri.”

How could she have been so stupid? What was this, a romance novel? He was a police officer on an undercover operation. She should have been listening for code the moment he opened his mouth, but she was too wrapped up in the situation to think about anything but him. All weekend had been her getting her own hopes up and being surprised when he reconfirmed what his actions had been telling her, over and over again. Tim Bradford was a professional, and that would take priority over his personal life every time without fail. One last lesson she could learn from him. 

They arrived at room 306, where Dimitri and Adira were staying.

Lucy knocked on the door. “Adira?” she called. “Are you in there?”

They waited a few seconds before hearing footsteps approaching. After a moment, she opened the door, in a tee-shirt and jeans, complete with tennis shoes. “Hey, guys! What’s up?”

“Hey!” Lucy said, matching her upbeat tone. “I was just wondering if you’d seen Dimitri lately? I had to talk to him about Kostou.”

“Hmm…” She looked to the sky as if she were thinking. “Mmmm… no! Haven’t seen him around much.”

“That’s weird,” Tim chimed in. “How long would you say it’s been since you’ve seen him?”

Lucy nudged him. Subtlety.

“Uhhhh, pffffft, maybe since… this morning? Yeah, yeah, this morning. He had to leave to get something and, uh, it’s been a while. Why? Is everything okay?”

Lucy monitored her body language. Loose, knees not locked even though she was standing in place. Waiting to react to something. She was waiting for them to tell her bad news, and she was ready to properly react to it. 

Lucy peered around Adira into the hotel room. The bed was covered in clothes, half folded, half unfolded, next to a half-packed suitcase. “I thought you guys were staying the full weekend. Checking out early for some reason?”

She shrugged. “No shame in getting packing done early, I guess.”

“Look, Adira,” Lucy said, softly, in an attempt to disarm. “If Dimitri is in trouble, you need to tell us.”

“No trouble here. We’re just fine, thank you.”

“Kostou has friends, allies. Employees in this building who will kill for Kostou if Dimitri did something. His best chance at survival is with us.”

Her folded arms shifted, and Lucy knew she was getting somewhere. “I… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You want to protect him,” Tim said, finally matching Lucy’s non-aggressive tone. “You love him, and you’d try to protect him no matter what mistakes he makes. Trust me, I get it. And because I get it, I’m telling you this is his only option at survival. If you don’t let us help him, and something happens to him, that’s not on you, but it’ll feel like it is for a long time. Even later, it’ll always haunt you a little if you don’t think you did everything you could to keep him safe.”

Her arms dropped to her side as she looked back and forth between Tim and Lucy, half looking like she wanted to cut and run out the third-story window behind her. Finally, she took a deep breath.

 

Aphrodite. That was the name of Kostou’s yacht. A yacht being kept in the Graycroft Piers left of the hotel. A yacht that Dimitri was in charge of the keys to. The plan was for Adira to meet him at nightfall, and the sun was setting by the time they talked to her. They didn’t have much time. 

Nyla was already waiting for Tim and Lucy at the dock, with the same two accompanying officers from earlier. “Hey,” Lucy greeted. “Are more coming?”

“Yeah, the whole team is on their way. Are you sure he’s in there?”

Tim nodded. “This is the time Adira was supposed to meet him. He’ll be in there waiting with the drive.”

“I’ll go alone,” Lucy announced, earning a look from Tim. “I’ll get the USB and Dimitri off the boat alive.”

“Like hell,” Tim interjected. “You’re not going alone. He has the high ground and he could be armed.”

“He is armed. He’s terrified, and he doesn’t need any more pressure on him than necessary.”

“Chen,” he warned sternly, but Lucy could hear the pleading in his voice. 

“I’ll be fine,” she promised, mostly to herself. 

Tim looked at Nyla for agreement, but Nyla knew that once Lucy set a goal out loud, it was as good as done. 

“Bradford, wait with me.” Nyla walked, waiting for Tim to follow, but he still didn’t want to budge. 

He grappled with the decision, finally narrowing his eyes and faintly shaking his head. “Stick a fist straight up in the air if he reaches for his weapon. We can see it from here.”

She nodded, but she had already mentally refused to let anyone else die tonight if she could help it at all. Finally, Tim headed to follow Nyla. They headed to some bushes on the sidewalk, within vision and shooting distance of the boat, but definitely not hearing distance. 

Lucy was on her own now, with one chance to get this right. 

Slowly, she walked onto the dock next to the yacht, peering into it, knowing Dimitri was in the cabin. She knocked three times on the outside of the boat, then waited for the light in the cabin to turn on, whistling the first five main notes of Ride of the Valkyries. Their code.

The door opened, and she heard Dimitri’s footsteps headed up the stairs to the cabin. “Adira!” he shouted. “I thought you weren’t com-”

He stopped at the sight of Lucy, but there was no anger in his face. Surprised, afraid but not angry. 

“Expecting someone else, huh?” Lucy greeted.

“I… I didn’t think you’d still be alive.” He looked her over, his hand slowly moved to his hip. Lucy kept her clenched fist at her side, knowing the moment she reached for her gun, at least one of them would be dead in seconds. “Where’s Adira?”

“Not coming.”

He frowned at this news. “No… no, she’s coming, she’s just… running late. She’s running late.” His hand tangled in his curly hair as the reality of his situation set in. “I’ll wait for her.”

“Dimitri, where’s the drive?”

He looked up at her with remorse in his eyes, and as his hand came down from his hair, the light caught it, and Lucy could see that it was covered in blood. Only one?

“I’m sorry,” he said sincerely.

“For what?” Lucy asked. “Kostou? I wasn’t his biggest fan either.”

“I needed his attention off me to do what I needed to do, so… I told him you weren’t in love. He’s obsessed with love because he’s never had it himself, so I knew that lying about love would be the greatest offense you could commit to him.” He wiped a tear forming in his eye. “I… I know that you know love. You know love the way my Adira and I know love. I’m sorry that I tried to kill the same love that makes my life worth living.”

Lucy paused, registering the information. She and Tim’s covers hadn’t faltered, their “love” was convincing to everyone, including two people obsessed with love in their own ways. The only people they couldn’t convince were each other.

“Who’s on the drive, Dimitri?” Lucy said, taking a step closer to the boat. “What was so important that you turned on Kostou?”

Dimitri wiped more tears coming out. “My sister.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister.”

“Me either… she only worked for Kostou for a year. She was his pilot, she… she didn’t know who he was. She just knew he was a rich man whose private jet she flew. When she found out what he did….” He looked around as if the words he was looking for were visible somewhere on the boat. “I didn’t find out who she was until she’d quit. He acted like he was fine with her leaving, but…” His sentence trailed off.

“But he put her on the list,” Lucy finished.

He paused before nodding.

“Dimitri, being a pilot isn’t illegal. If you give us the drive, she can go into Witness Protection. She’ll be safe.” He shook his head, not trusting that the government could protect her. “We can tell her who you are, what you did for her.”

His lip trembled. “And Adira?”

“Adira is safe. She’s waiting for you.”

A hopeful smile tugged at his lips, before quickly fading. He took a deep breath. “Kostou’s head is in the cabin.” He retrieved a small object from his pocket with his bloody hand before throwing it over, and the object landed at Lucy’s feet. The drive. “The password is Romanatos96. Capital ‘R’. Protect everyone on that list. Even with Kostou gone, people will still be after them.”

Lucy reached for her cuffs, but her hands shot out in front of her when she saw Dimitri connect the barrel of his gun to his temple. “WAIT!” she cried. “Just wait!”

Dimitri chuckled, his grip on the gun tightening. “For what? To go to jail?” His finger slid around the trigger, ready to pull. “My abuser is dead, my sister is safe. I’ve done what I had to do.”

He raised his elbow for a better angle, squeezing his eyes shut as he braced for the blast. Lucy scrambled to fulfill her promise that he’d survive the night.

“I do know love!” she shouted. “I know love and I know that if the one I love left me this way, it would shatter me! Do you really want to do that to Adira?!” His grip on his gun remained tight, his eyes squeezed, but his lip was trembling. “You said that I know love the way you do, and you’re right. Adira isn’t here to tell you, but I am. I know that no matter what you did, she loves you.”

His eyes opened, causing tears to spill out. “I can’t be with her. I’ll go to jail!”

“Right now, she’s not worried about you being with her, she’s worried about you being alive! She loves you, and that doesn’t change whether she can be with you or not.”

He blinked through spilling tears. “If I live… I’ll do life. She’ll be stuck visiting me for the rest of our lives. I want her to live, not… I love her too much to make her wait for a life she’ll never have.”

“Today… you made sure I remembered what it felt like to not know if the one I loved was dead or alive. To not know whether I’d ever see him again.” Lucy recalled the basement from that day, remembered how she had to suppress the fear of not knowing if Tim was alive or not in order to function. She remembered his quarantine, the distant memory of not knowing if her TO would make it back from the other side of that door. She remembered every time she heard “Officer down” on her radio coming from a scene she knew he had responded to. That was the feeling she now summoned in full now for someone else’s benefit. “It took over my brain. My body. I couldn’t close my eyes because all I’d see was him. I imagined my life without the possibility of ever seeing him again, and it was enough to drive me crazy. And that’s how Adira feels right now. I didn’t lie to you when I said she was waiting for you. The future, your future together, if you even have one, all of that is secondary to her right now. All she’s thinking about right now is seeing you alive one more time.” Lucy took two more steps toward the boat as she saw Dimitri’s grip on his gun loosen. “Will you let her see you one more time? Doesn’t she deserve for you to give her that?”

Dimitri gripped his gun one last time, causing Lucy’s breath to hitch in her throat, before he dropped the gun with a heavy sigh, making his way toward the ladder to get off of the boat.

Nyla, Tim, and the rest of the team came out from the bushes. Nyla and her team made their way to Dimitri to arrest him, but Tim headed straight to Lucy. “You okay?”

She nodded but wasn’t completely sure if “yes” was the truth. 

“You did it. Just like you said you would,” he praised.

We did it.”

He softly smiled, and Lucy realized she forgot to tell Dimitri the most important part. When Adira saw him smile again, all that worrying would be worth it for her.

“So what did you tell him to get him to put his gun down?” he asked.

She shrugged. “Just doing my job.”

 

First thing was showers. After showers, two long separate video calls with Grey.

“Well, you finished your operation a day early,” he told Lucy near the end of their call. “Take the day, tell Bradford to do the same. Come back to town and just take the day to unwind. Back to patrol on Tuesday.”

“Yes, sir.” 

“And good job. Both of you.”

Lucy smiled at the computer. “Thank you, sir.” He hung up and Lucy handed the computer back to Nyla. “So now what?”

Nyla exited out of the video chat program and closed all the computer windows. “Now, we go home. And I have a day free to bug my daughter any way I please.”

“I don’t know if I can just ‘unwind’ that easily.”

“Sure you can,” Nyla assured. “You can unwind knowing you saved the lives of everyone on that list and more.”

Lucy stood up from the table, stretching her legs. “I’ll tell you what I could use right now: a long nap.”

“Well, you can always nap on the way back. That’s an hour and a half of sleep while Bradford drives.”

“Wait, I’m… I’m riding back with Tim, too?”

Nyla looked at her like it was obvious. “Yeah? My van is full and Motor Transportation needs their car back.”

“Cool,” Lucy said, nodding, planning to knock out the moment she sat in her seat. 

 

Packing was quiet. They went over details from the case, complained about paperwork, no conversation they wouldn’t have with anyone else. 

Lucy looked around the room as she left, mentally bidding the fancy lamps, phenomenal showerhead, and cloudlike bed goodbye. After one final ride in the newly debugged elevator, she gazed around the gorgeous, ornate hotel lobby one more time, waving goodbye to the desk manager, who she hoped had no bad feelings toward them.

The sunshine of the parking lot felt sweeter than usual, and she imagined she was feeling the freedom she’d earned on her skin. She was proud of herself. Of both of them.

Tim unlocked the car doors and threw his duffel bag in the back. After setting her suitcase down next to his, Lucy climbed into the front passenger seat, expecting him to get in. She looked over and saw he was leaning frontward against the driver-side window, blocking the sunlight. She opened her door and stepped out to find him bowing his head over the hood of the car, fiddling with the keys, in thought. 

“Tim?” she asked.

“I meant it.” 

“What?”

He looked up from the car at her. “I meant what I said to you. Yes, I used code to let them know about the drive in case we didn’t make it, but I meant every word I said.”

“Tim-” she tried to interject, but he wouldn’t let her.

“The opp is over now. No codes, no bugs, no covers. It’s just you and me. And I can’t get into this car with you and drive another hour and a half in silence if we both have anything to say at all.”

“Okay, so why have you been avoiding me for weeks? Why can’t you even tell me why you never tried for another date?”

“I did tell you! I told you in the basement!”

She didn’t answer, taking a second to remember. 

“Lucy, for a year, I was more comfortable around you than anyone else, and I never looked into why you were the only person who made me feel that way. And then I realized, and it turned my world on its head. I thought it would go away on its own and it got worse. I thought it was ridiculous, and then you said yes to a date. And then we went and… it was everything I knew it would be.”

Lucy’s breath hitched. This whole time she’d thought she’d done something wrong and she didn’t even matter enough to him to tell her what it was. 

“But then, I got scared,” he continued, making his way around the hood of the car, closer. “Everything good in my life has gone to hell at one point or another, and you’d become the best thing in recent memory without even trying. So I basically ran in the other direction, and I sent this to hell myself. And for that, I’m sorry.”

Lucy blinked away tears threatening to form, determined to keep her eyes clear. “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because this weekend, I got a taste of life with you. I held your hand, I danced with you. I got to feel you clinging to me in your sleep. Those were real things that happened.” Lucy stared at the ground, and when she did, she saw his shoes take three more steps in her direction. She raised her chin and her breath caught again at having him so close. “And I saw how much I hurt you. How much I kept hurting you. And I need you to know now that you are my dream, you have been for months.”

“But it doesn’t have to be a dream!” she exclaimed, finally taking a step toward him. “It never had to be a dream, I… I just wanted to be with you!”

Tim blinked at her admission, as if, after all they’d been through, he had any right to be shocked.“But what if it’s just for now?” he finally asked. “What if we get our hopes up and I let you down?”

“Tim… the only way you can let me down is by knowing what you want and not even trying to have it.” 

He took a breath, registering her demand. 

“And so what if it doesn’t work out down the line? Are you really going to not let yourself be happy now because there’s a chance we might not, what, be together forever?” She took another step toward him, now just a foot away. “We are cops. Anything could happen to us at any point, and if we go out, we wanna go out knowing we took the leap, right?” She took a breath. “And plus,” she finished. “I have a feeling that if we gave this thing an honest try, we might be in it for the long haul.”

His eyebrows shot up, hope dancing in his eyes. “You think so?”

She smiled, reaching up to his cheek. “In the basement, you said that you didn’t think I’d want you how you are, or you didn’t ‘trust’ me to. Is that true?”

He reached up to his face to hold her hand there. “I’m trying not to let it be.”

She stroked his jaw, cherishing the feeling of the stubble scratching her thumb. “Good. We’ll build trust together.”

Her eyes flicked to his mouth and that was the green light he needed. In less than a second, he’d crashed his lips into hers, his hands pulling her face closer to his. She moved her hand from his cheek to his neck, using the other hand to steady herself against the car. He kissed her deeper, pushing her backward, so he could turn her to press back against the passenger seat window, still kissing her like the world was about to end.

She pulled his waist to her, then back to his head, incapable of getting enough of him. Free to be his, finally believing he could be hers. 

He broke the kiss for air, bringing a needy noise from her since breathing was currently not a priority for her. He chuckled lowly, bowing his forehead to touch hers.

“It is an hour and a half drive back home,” he complained. 

“I mean… we finished the operation a day early,” she answered, running her fingers over the short hairs on the back of his neck. “So we don’t technically have to leave until tomorrow....”

He brought his head up to look at her, leaning his hand against the roof of the car behind her, eyebrows raised. “So what are you suggesting, Mrs. Morse?”

She got on her toes to whisper into his ear, “I think you should get the bags from the backseat.”