You say, "I can't believe you lied to a dying man about your point of origin."
He laughs and tells you, "Et tu."
It's not the only lie he's ever told, but somehow, this one feels personal.
You agree to work with him again, of course. The quantum mirror is still his idea, but you know he needs you to complete the project, to make it work. You sometimes wonder if that's all you are to him, the means to an end, but then you'll catch him look at you and you know you're wrong.
"There's a saying, you know," he says. The two of you are sitting in his office. It reminds you of Cambridge, even though Cambridge is quite a while ago, and far from here. "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."
"Claptrap," you say and he laughs.
Maybe it's the alcohol that's put you in a good mood, not inclined to hold grudges over the past or the future or anything in between.
Maybe that's why, when he kisses you, you kiss him back.
He hired you a hooker one time, and now, feeling him move against you, inside you, you wonder if maybe that meant something other than what you think it did. He made light of it after, and then he made you a prisoner and had you tortured, so maybe it's not you, it's him.
You lie in bed together afterward, not quite snuggling, but still like two people who are lovers, who will do this again.
You say, "Would this be a good time to ask you to stop?"
He says, "Stop what? This?" His hands are on your body again, moving - mapping, you think. Trying to find all your weak spots, all the places where you can be hurt, coaxed, pressured.
It doesn't take a quantum mirror to perfectly get to know another single human being. It only takes time, and unless something happens, unless one of you decides to be honest after all, you and he will have all the time you could need.
He's a mnemonic. He remembers everything. (Granted, so do you.)
"The quantum mirror," you say, not willing to be distracted. "Can't you just give it up?"
"After everything I've done?" His voice sounds incredulous, almost hurt. "After all the sacrifices I've made?"
"What sacrifices would those be? You killing a lot of people? That's not a sacrifice. That's murder."
"Pot calling the kettle, don't you think?" he says. You told him about Richard Lisle. You told him about everything. It seemed a good idea at the time. You didn't know, then, what he'd do with the story of your lives.
"Let's not argue," you say, wishing you hadn't started it. Wishing you'd kept your hands off of him, or his hands off of you. He wouldn't have forced the issue, you don't think. It wouldn't have fitted with his self-image and maybe, just maybe, he'd have felt bad about it, too.
"I need you," he tells you. "I can't do this without you."
You want to believe. All good relationships are built on trust, belief and lies.
He's brilliant. That's not a lie. You watch him work his way through a problem, or just sit there, thinking, considering, viewing the problem from all angles, and you want to ask him why he even feels the need for a quantum mirror. Why share with humanity what could be his and yours alone?
He's never struck you as particularly concerned with the fate of humanity at large. Individual people - rarely, and some of that is only a performance, you think, a show he puts on for the audience's sake, whoever they may be.
You think it shouldn't matter to you that he still seems to want your approval, your affection, your presence, but it does. You toy with the idea of killing yourself to slow him down, or threaten to kill yourself unless he stops, but these aren't realistic plans. These are the desperate measures of a desperate man, and you're not quite there yet.
Besides, if you're not there at the end, when he finishes the project, who will be there to stop him? Who will be there when the world ends and he needs someone to save him, to tell him it wasn't his fault, honestly, no one could have seen this coming?
You imagine the conversation will go something like this:
HE: This is my fault.
YOU: Yes. But at least your intentions were good. Next time, maybe you'll actually listen to me?
HE: This is your fault.
YOU: What? No, it's not.
HE: Do you really want to spend our last moments alive arguing?
YOU: Well, I'm not sure we have time for anything else, but I'm open to other ideas.
HE: This is our fault. We did this.
YOU: Bah. Who wants to live forever anyway?
(You do. He does. The rest of humanity might very well sign up, too, if given half a chance, even though it's not really living forever so much as living again and again and again, and you try to imagine a world where everyone is born knowing their past and their future and the manner of their death.)
You say, "Are you ever going to tell me the truth?"
He says, "Are you?"
You say, "Last time I did, you ended up writing a book."
He says, "I needed to get the Club off my back. You understand, don't you?"
You say, "I understand that there's a lot of people out there who think killing me will stop the end of the world from happening quite so soon."
He smiles. "Not as many as there once were. See? I've thought about everything. Simply stick with me, and I'll keep you safe. I promise."
You believe him. You love him. You know he could burn down the world and everything in it, and it wouldn't change anything about your feelings. It wouldn't change anything about what actions you would take in your next life - because you've already tried and failed, so now you can rest easy, knowing there's nothing you can do other than try to enjoy yourself.
As long as he's there with you, you don't need to try very hard.
He kisses you. "My dear Vincent."