"Who you been talking to?"
So here you are: you, Mike, and a gun between you two. Not quite how you planned this day to go when you rolled out of bed this morning. Probably not what Mike intended either, but it is how it is.
You're sure Mike's a good agent. Smart, observant, ambitious. Can talk his way out of a bad situation. Excellent marksmanship.
Problem is, kid can't lie for shit. When you told him that in Graceland, the lies are your life, what you meant was the lies will save your life. You all rely on lies to survive, but it's a different matter entirely when you're the one being lied to.
Once, you can forgive, if not forget, because you all got secrets, things in your life and in your past you're reluctant to share. ("D.C. one minute, the next you got sand in your shoes. No idea why?" "No, sir.") Twice, you'll get suspicious. ("Normal shrink B.S. … they want to make it a weekly thing.")
Third time, you're done taking this shit. ("So who were you calling back at the hot dog stand anyway?" "Oh, just messages.")
That's three strikes, and that's why Mike has a gun pointed at the back of his head now. You watch him freeze up at the sound of the safety going off, notice his body tense, the line of his shoulders becoming rigid.
"I—" he begins, and you cut him off before he can feed you another half-baked story, pile up lie after lie until it all collapses onto itself and buries him under it.
"You're a shitty liar, Mike, so if I were you I'd think very hard about the answer you gonna give me."
He hesitates, and you don't have to see his face to know that his expression is probably flashing from panicked to frustrated to resigned. He's clever enough to know that he can't be caught in another lie, especially not if he is who you think he is, if he believes you're dangerous and out of control, with a loaded weapon trained on him.
"My FBI handler."
The truth, for once. Just enough of it not to be outright damning, unless you were already onto him.
Unfortunately for him, you are.
"Who are you investigating?" you ask. Expect some bullshit answer. Lauren, he's going to say, because she's the obvious choice with her quick temper and her involvement with Donnie, the butchered job with the Russians. Charlie, if Mike is daring.
What you don't expect is for him to duck his head and chuckle, quietly and devoid of humor. He lowers his arms, like he doesn't care if you'll pull the trigger, or thinks he knows that you won't, and then he turns around to face you, looking you straight in the eye.
"Who do you think, sir?" he asks, inflection on the address, making it sound like a challenge, and you can almost respect him for having the balls not to try and deny it or evade the question.
You can almost respect him for it, but that doesn't mean that you lower the gun because you still want some answers and you don't trust him to offer them voluntarily. "So, what's the operative? Get close to me, try to find out if I'm dirty?"
"Pretty much. Win your trust, become your friend, keep an eye on you. They haven't given me any specifics yet." You watch him intently, looking for any sign that he's lying. But there's no indication that he's anything but honest, not like before. He has his tells, and by now you know them all. You remember thinking, just last week when you first realized that he was talking out of his ass, that you'd have to teach him to hide them. Being caught in a lie by the wrong person at the wrong time seems is the fastest way to get killed, in your line of work. Now, though, you're not sure if Mike is going to be around for long enough for it to matter.
"Win my trust, huh? And how were you going to do that?"
"I haven't worked that part out yet, sir." His lips twitch. "You don't happen to have any advice for me how to proceed, as my mentor?"
Smartass. You snort, amused despite yourself at the kid's cockiness. "Yeah, I think that ship has pretty much sailed. Unless coming clean about your assignment was part of your plan. Which I'm pretty sure the FBI isn't going to approve of."
"They didn't give me any instructions how I was supposed to go about it, sir," he tells you, and for a moment you wonder if he really thinks he can use this confession and still complete his assignment. If maybe he isn't that bad a liar after all and this was his underhanded plan all along. As plans go, it would be pretty ingenious. Then again, if it was about getting you to trust him, the smartest thing to do would have been to come to you unprompted, rather than wait until you have him at gunpoint.
"Skip the 'sir', Mike. You're investigating me and I'm holding a gun to your head. I think we're past the formalities."
"You're not going to shoot me."
The absolute certainty in his voice takes you by surprise, baffles you as much as it annoys you "Oh yeah? How do you know that?"
Your gun arm straightens, as if to prove a point, but Mike remains unruffled, no sign of fear in his eyes.
He shrugs. "Look, I'm not saying that I've got you all figured out, because I haven't. I don't know if you're dirty, or if you've just seen too much shit go down to always go by the book. But you saved my life the other week, and you pretty much put your job on the line for it. We both know that you didn't see the gun, and you had to know that all I had to do was turn you in, and you still took the shot. And I've seen you with the others. You care, more than you let on. So, yeah, I know that you weren't going to shoot me."
"That's a hell of a lot of faith in someone you don't trust."
Doesn't change the fact that he's right. You're not going to shoot him. Were never going to shoot him, because even if you like to skirt the line between what's legal and what isn't, you're not that kind of person.
His eyes stay on you as he watches you putting the gun away. Ironically, he almost seems more nervous now than he was when you had it pointed at him, all that cocky confidence suddenly gone. Uncertainty in his voice when he asks, "What now?"
"Now we go in there and catch our guy." You flash a grin at him that you know is anything but kind. "Still trust me to have your back?"
There's a moment of hesitation and you can see him pondering the question, the same way he did earlier, and that's good because it means he's actually thinking about it rather than just giving a knee-jerk response. It also means that the chance that his answer is going to be the truth is distinctly higher.
"With this? Yes, sir."
That's good enough for now.
You'll have to figure out the rest later, see if he's still going to be honest with you when there's no gun between you, when you've traded the shadows for a more domestic setting. See if you can manage to figure out a balance between trust and suspicion, tell him enough that he might appreciate your point and come around without really giving him anything that could be used against you. It sounds like more trouble than it's worth, but since you're not going to shoot him, the alternative would be to send him home disgraced, his cover blown, and you're surprisingly reluctant to do that to him.
Sometimes, the lies are essential because the truths are too uncomfortable to face. Truth is, you like the kid. He challenges you, he gets a rise out of you, and occasionally, he surprises you, which is hard enough these days, and you kind of want to keep him around.
Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. All you gotta do now is figure out which one Mike is.