Epilogue: The Start of Something Excellent

Two Years Later

There is a house in New Orleans/They call the rising sun/And it's been the ruin of many a poor boy/And God, I know, I'm one…

With a low groan Lawrence Mundy Jr. slammed his hand down on top of the radio-alarm clock Lizzie had gotten him for Christmas.

He hated that bloody song.

Pink light peeked in through the window of the Mundymobile Mark II. A little after dawn. Lawrence pressed a hand to his scruffy cheek and sighed, trying for the life of him to remember why he'd felt the need to set the alarm for so fucking early in the morning. He cast his eyes around Mundymobile Mark II—it was larger and more spacious than the last one, and thus looking around took longer—and finally his gaze fell on the folded-up letter on the table.

Lawrence grinned lazily at the letter from across the van. Now he remembered. Slowly he clambered out of the Murphy bed. He was growing stiffer, and every now and then a stinging pain in his joints seized him up. But only every now and then. Until such time as he couldn't move anymore, he would keep going.

The Australium Outback greeted him warmly, as it had every morning for last six weeks. His sojourns out into the wild, too, were growing shorter. But that had little to do with his achy joints. Lawrence was finding, more and more, that prolonged solitude just didn't hold the same comfort for him anymore. Not when he had so many people to come back to. Not when he had a mailbox full of letters from Blake and Scout and Ivan, as well as postcards from Tavish and Dell and Irene. He'd kept up steady correspondence with all of them these past two years, happy to hear about their latest exploits. Every once in a while Blake would swing by to see him, whole and happy and looking, to Lawrence's annoyance, very much like an adult. Blake seemed to get taller every time Lawrence saw him. Or maybe he was just finally standing straight up.

There was only one person Lawrence had not heard from. And it ached, sometimes, when there was no letter in the mail or when the French accent he caught in the street belonged to some tourist. But most of the time Lawrence was contented. He would be back. He had promised.

He collapsed down beside the cold remains of last night's fire with a cup of coffee, enjoying the sensation of the rising sun on his old bones. The world was quiet, save for the occasional trill of a bird in the brush. Quiet and perfect and empty, a beautiful, endless expanse all for him—

crunch.

Lawrence's heart skipped a beat. He didn't turn around. Instead he grinned into his coffee cup, taking another sip before causally announcing: "Your shoes still squeak."

"They do not."

"Yeah, they do. Bloody hell, spook, when are ya gonna learn? Fancy Italian leather ain't no good in these parts. Who ya gonna impress, the 'roos? Ya need a good pair of boots and some nice warm socks."

"What, to match yours? Eugh. I'll take my chances. One of us 'as to represent civilization, after all."

Heart fit to burst, Lawrence stood and turned.

Philippe Vidal looked…healthy. He was still skinny as a stick, but the face looking back at him did not belong to a skull. He had filled out, the hard lines around his cheekbones and mouth easing. Gone were the deep purple circles under his eyes. Gone was the flaky red skin, so irritated by the constant pressure of a mask in desert heat. The scars had faded to white lines, barely noticeable against his smooth, tanned skin. His gray-blue eyes shone bright. And he had hair; a fluffy mop of black hair streaked with silver, small sideburns running down each side of his face to end in a fine point.

Philippe stood still as Lawrence looked him up and down. Finally Lawrence's grin widened. "Ya look good."

"Good?" Philippe arched an eyebrow. "After two years that's all you 'ave to say to me?"

"Oh? What would ya prefer?" Lawrence began to tick off fingers. "Ya look dashing, handsome, devilish, a right charmin' rogue—"

"Thank you very much, Lawrence. Altogether the words I was looking for were 'I missed you'—"

The rest of his scolding was cut short as Lawrence grabbed him into a bear hug, nearly taking Philippe clean off his feet. Philippe rolled his eyes good-naturedly before giving Lawrence a firm squeeze in return. "I missed you as well, Lawrence."

When they finally pulled back Lawrence gestured to the remains of his fire. "Hungry? I can fire something up. Got eggs, toast, bacon—"

Philippe waved a hand around. "No bacon, please." Unconsciously he reached up and tugged at a chain around his neck.

Lawrence grinned. "You got it."

The sun was well and high into the sky before Philippe finally set his plate aside. He stared into the crackling fire for a moment, thoughtful. His grip on his cup of coffee tightened. "Lawrence."

"Hmm?"

"I trust you know why I'm 'ere."

"Ya missed my sterlin' company?"

A corner of Philippe's mouth twitched upwards. "The other reason I'm 'ere."

Lawrence gave him a sidelong look. "Yer letter was a bit cryptic. Somethin' to do with Pauling, yeah?"

"Oui, Philippe nodded. "She 'ired me to track down the technological remnants of a lost great empire."

Lawrence blinked. Frowned. "New Zealand."

"Two for two, well done."

"New Zealand is a bloody myth! It sank beneath the waves, mate, never to be heard from again! It's impossible!" Lawrence said the words, but he only half-meant them. He was working hard to suppress a smile.

"Well then," Philippe said with a grin, "who better to try and find it than we who seem dead-set on doing the impossible?"

Lawrence considered him over the rim of his mug. His bright blue eyes were shining. "We can't do it alone."

"Non," Philippe agreed. He reached into his pocket, produced a list of addresses for Lawrence to examine. "I was thinking it might be prudent to put together a team. We'll need a demolitions expert, an international agent, a heavy weapons expert, a scout, a pyromaniac, and an engineer…or two. But I thought it best to try to recruit a sniper first. They're notoriously fickle fellows, I've 'eard."

"Aye," Lawrence replied. His heart pounded in his chest as he looked the list over. "Almost as bad as spies." He handed the list back to Philippe. "All right, ya sold me. I'll be wantin' half my paycheck in advance, though."

"Understandable." Philippe got to his feet and waited for Lawrence to follow suit. Only then he stuck his hand out for Lawrence to shake. "Welcome aboard, Lawrence Mundy, Junior."

Lawrence slipped his calloused palm into Philippe's and gripped it tightly. They shook on it. And for a moment—just one moment—the universe shifted. Some last, lost puzzle piece finally slipped into place. The world around them shone brighter, hotter, louder than ever before. For one moment, they were the greatest men who had ever lived. For one golden moment, the world was theirs.

The spell shattered when they broke away. Philippe flexed his hand, finally feeling that everything was as it should have been all this time.

"So," Lawrence tucked his hands into his pockets. "When do we start?"

Philippe grinned widely as he looked back to him. "We just did."

THE END