“…alright,” Nino sighed, dropping his cash on the table and tugging his coat around his shoulders. “If that’s what you want then that’s that I guess.”
“Thank you,” Adrien said, downing the rest of his wine before standing up.
“You good to get home?” Nino asked as the pair of them stepped out into the chilly night air. “Or did those two moscatos wipe you out?”
“Haha,” Adrien said dryly. “Make fun of my taste in wine all you want-”
“Oh I will,” Nino assured him.
“-I like the way it tastes,” Adrien shrugged.
“You are such a model,” Nino said, rolling his eyes as he pulled Adrien into a brief hug. “Take care.”
“Same time next week,” Adrien said with a small wave over his shoulder, disappearing into the crowd towards his townhouse at the end of the row.
Nino watched him go for a few moments before taking out his phone, glancing at the text from an unfamiliar number on the screen with a small smirk.
[Cygne Club. 9:30. Heist on.]
“I didn’t think you would come.”
Nino stared grimly into his drink as he dimly registered someone sliding into the seat beside him, the dull lull of jazz and chatter enveloping the only pair still sitting at the bar on a Wednesday night.
“I almost didn’t,” Nino said as gravely as he could manage. “How did you get my number?”
“Friend of a friend…but then again a friend of a friend is why I’m here,” Alya said as the bartender placed a cosmopolitan down in front of her without a prompt. “…you remembered.”
“It’s all you ever drank,” Nino said, staring at Alya’s cool reflection across the bar. “Hard to forget something like that, isn’t it?”
“You forgot to tell me you were back in Paris,” Alya said, taking a small sip of her drink and leaning on the bar.
“I didn’t forget,” Nino said, taking a swig of his drink with a small grimace. “I knew what you would say if I did.”
“So you know what I’m going to say now,” Alya countered.
“And I think you should now know that my answer’s still no,” Nino said.
“Now you know,” Nino said, glancing at her out of the corner of his eye.
“That’s quitter talk,” Alya said with a stern glare.
“Well I’m a quitter,” Nino said with a shrug.
“People like us don’t quit, Nino; we get soft or we stay sharp,” Alya said, regarding him over the rim of her glass.
“I’ve been out of the game for almost eight years now,” Nino said, looking away bitterly. “Ever since…”
“You still think about it…don’t you?” Alya said, tapping her nails against the bar. “Our biggest failure…it keeps you up at night, doesn’t it?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Nino said, biting his lip.
“The biggest job we ever had; the only one that ever mattered,” Alya said, staring off into space with an almost dreamlike expression. “Years of our lives spent in pursuit of a goal that was snatched away from us at the last minute.”
“I…I moved on,” Nino said, grinding his teeth.
“You moved away,” Alya said.
“Damnit, woman, you know what I had to do,” Nino said, resisting an urge to bang his fist on the bar. “We both did what we had to to survive after that.”
“I know,” Alya said, laying a hand on Nino’s forearm. “I had my work; you had yours. We both found other jobs and pretended to live like all the other people in the world but you can’t deny who you are, Nino!”
“Like hell I can’t,” Nino hissed.
“Once a matchmaker, always a matchmaker,” Alya said, slamming her fist on the bar before shooting an apologetic glance at the startled bartender.
“…I haven’t meddled in anyone’s love life in years though,” Nino sighed, swirling his Coke around in the glass. “Not since-”
“I know,” Alya said, rubbing her eyes under her glasses. “We…we got so close…but that wrinkly son of a bitch Gabriel had to ruin everything by taking Adrien to Japan, didn’t he?”
“I’ll never forgive him for that,” Nino said darkly.
“That is why he,” Alya said, tossing her hair for effect. “Is in hell now where he belongs…but we are still here…and we have a chance to complete our unfinished masterpiece.”
“I said I was through!” Nino said, slamming his fist on the bar before mouthing a sorry at the bartender.
“Don’t you lie to me!” Alya hissed, jabbing a finger at Nino. “You saw him at dinner; don’t tell me you didn’t feel the urge like I did. You’ve always felt it; it’s a part of who you are man!”
Nino rose from his seat, turning away and staring out the window as Alya laid a hand on his shoulder.
“You know they need us,” Alya said gravely.
“…I know,” Nino said softly.
“And you know why they need us,” Alya said, forcing him to turn back and look at her. “Say it…say it out loud…”
“It’s…it’s because they’re idiots,” Nino said, clenching his teeth.
“Big idiots,” Alya said fiercely.
“Huge idiots,” Nino said.
“She said she just wanted to be friend with him but I know when she wants a guy,” Alya said, clenching her fist.
“And he said he didn’t want her but couldn’t shut up about her during dinner,” Nino said, eyes burning.
“Don’t you see?” Alya said, tilting Nino’s chin until he looked down at her. “Fate has led us both here to finish what we couldn’t all those years ago…we have a second chance. We are doing God’s work.”
“By convincing our friends to have extremely kinky sex with one another,” Nino said.
“Exactly,” Alya said. “This is a gift wrapped in leather harnesses and I will be damned if I let this opportunity pass me by again…but I can’t do this alone. I’m gonna need a right hand man.”
“I…I don’t know if I can,” Nino said, glancing away.
“You are the only man who can,” Alya insisted. “If not us…who? If not now…when?”
Nino made a great show of struggling with Alya’s words, turning back and downing the rest of his drink.
“Alright,” Nino said after a moment, turning back to Alya with a small smile. “One last ride.”
“One last job,” Alya said. “Let’s finish what we started.”
They held a resolute glare for a few moments, lips twitching before bursting into identical peals of laughter.
“Missed you, Césaire,” Nino said after a moment, realizing his hand was still lingering on Alya’s.
“You know it’s bad form to flirt with your partner while on a job,” Alya snickered, rocking back and forth a little.
“But when has that ever stopped us?” Nino said.
“Point,” Alya shrugged. “So…any ideas?”
“A few,” Nino said, tilting his head back and forth. “But…I think we should start with Operation Escaping Cougar.”
“Operation Escaping Cougar?” Alya said, trying to remember the codenames she and Nino had devised when they were trying to get Adrien and Marinette together in high school. “What do you…oh…oh no…”
“Oh yes,” Nino cackled. “We’re in it to win it now…time to let the cat out of the bag.”