"Are you sure of this, Poirot?" I asked my friend anxiously as he caught up his hat and stick and prepared to leave.

"Very, mon ami," he replied. I turned anxiously from my spot at the window and walked over to him.

"But surely it's too dangerous to go, let alone go by yourself! At least-"

"No, Hastings," Poirot announced sadly. "We have discussed this, and you will not be coming with me. It is for that very reason, the danger, that I want you here, safe. It is only I, Hercule Poirot, who can weather this and escape unscathed. Comprends?

"I wish I didn't, Poirot. I wish I didn't," I answered bitterly. I knew the danger he was facing better than anyone (excepting the man himself), and I knew that the murderer was not to be trifled with. The fact that Poirot had agreed to a meeting in the first place seemed madness to me, but Poirot had his methods, his precious psychology to puzzle over, and woe be to anyone who tried to wheedle answers out of him before he was ready.

After my harsh words I could not look Poirot in the eye. We stood there, Poirot with his hand on the doorknob and I slightly to the left, my body half turned away for a long moment. Then the moment was over, and with a quiet,

"Au revoir, mon ami," Poirot turned the knob and left.

I stood there several seconds, agonizing. My friend's sudden absence and my churlish refusal to say goodbye suddenly struck me as obscenely childish.

I whirled on my heel and hastily threw open the door, hoping to catch my friend in time

"Wait!" I cried upon seeing him halfway down the hall. He turned at the sound of my voice and I dashed over to him. Standing facing one another in that hall, I suddenly felt quite foolish once again. Thankfully, Poirot saved me from speech.

"Not about to let me go without saying goodbye, are you, my Hastings?" Poirot said softly, a murmur of playfulness hiding in his tone.

"Of course not, old boy," I said, quite relieved. A smile broke out over my face and an answering expression stole over Poirot's. For once, I allowed him to embrace me in thoroughly Continental fashion. I dare say we lingered in one another's embrace for longer than was strictly prudent, but there was no one around to comment. Finally I stepped back, and felt immediately colder without his touch.

"This is goodbye, then?" I asked quietly.

"Oui, mon ami," Poirot said. Yet neither of us moved. I was extremely reluctant to part company from my friend and leave him to go into this perilous situation alone and unaccompanied. Poirot seemed similarly tethered to the carpet by reluctance.

"Poirot…" I began, unsure of what to say. He raised his green eyes to mine. "Be safe," I managed. He merely nodded.

"Goodbye, mon cher," he said again.

"Goodbye, Poirot," I returned, the words seeming oddly final on my lips. I hoped to God they were not.

At the end of the hallway Poirot turned. I do not think he expected me to be standing there still, but I was. He lifted a hand in a small wave, which I returned. With that, he rounded the corner and was gone.

I lingered another few minutes before I went back inside, snatches of feelings flittering through my mind: Poirot's green eyes, the words "mon cher," the feeling of his embrace… I hope to God he would return safely so I could experience them once again.

~Fin~