What did tie us together, me and George and Lockwood? Was it just our skills and our daring and how much we'd accomplished for such a small and unorthodox agency? For all of our little stumbles, burning down houses and killing clients, I didn't think we were better than Kipps and his Fittes team - I knew it in my bones. I'd just as soon give up being an agent as wear a maroon or mustard blazer.

That first real night together, sitting in the lamplit library after after handling our initial case as a team, Lockwood told me that we'd be one of the best agencies in London. And I'd believed him. Within just a few hours of meeting him, I'd shared his dream.

Now that I was beginning to understand my own Talent, and learn how to motivate the perpetually snarky but potentially invaluable skull, I was even more certain that we had a chance to do things no other agency could.

We were far from perfect, of course. George was a klutz and had all the personal appeal of rancid milk, except that on most days rancid milk smelled better. He was insensitive, often inert, and stubborn. And he made terrible jokes when he was nervous. I also had my flaws, I knew: a quick temper; a propensity to act, occasionally, without completely considering all possible ramifications; perhaps a tendency to keep my own counsel at times. While Lockwood...

Lockwood. If I were truly honest with myself, how much of my loyalty to the agency was due to our accomplishments and potential - and how much was due to Lockwood's leadership? His unflappable charm, his radiant smiles, his boundless self-confidence...the agency could never have survived had any other agent been at the helm. He evaded DEPRAC and wooed clients with equal aplomb. His literal and figurative sure-footnedness was the reason that I - well, we - George and I - were so fiercely devoted to Lockwood & Co.

That was loyalty, then. What about affection?

I had been standing at the sink, mechanically doing dishes while considering the question Lockwood posed. Suddenly I realized he was standing beside me. It was the wood smoke that I noticed - wood smoke and leather and pine and oranges, the fragrance from Jayne's shop. Of course that explained its familiarity: it was the way Lockwood smelled.

Funny how something can be quite quite literally under your nose and still you overlook it.

"You seem pretty far away, Luce. Thinking about home?" His voice was quiet.

"Home?" I was puzzled, briefly. "Oh, you mean childhood. No. No, I agree with you, the past is done. What matters is what we can do now." I dried off the last plate; Lockwood took it from me and stowed it in the cupboard. "I was just wondering...something you said..." My voice trailed off.

"I know. You were thinking about us, what we can do together." He was smiling, his eyes sparkling. "You were thinking about the future of Lockwood & Co."

"Oh...right. Uh no, actually. I was just wondering...something you said last night. Who is Angelica Holt?"

"Angelica Holt? Of course, indeed, last night's case. Frankly, I have no earthly idea. Saw her name on all that artwork and figured the client was pretty proud of her, at least." He picked a knife from the chopping block and turned back to the table, where George was sketching (lazily) but actively, hungrily eyeing the cake.

"Back off, George. It's time to get my party underway!" Turning to me he said, "Most adults aren't very realistic, you know. They're happier that way. Not like us - we have to have our eyes open, see the world as it is. Clients - grown-ups - we have to treat them with kid gloves, sometimes."

"Don't look so shocked Lucy," scoffed George. "Feet of clay and all that. I figured out a long time ago that Lockwood makes up half of what he says."

Lockwood brandished the knife like a rapier. "Knave! Varlet! You dare impugn my honor! No cake for you!"

We all laughed.