Agent 250 had to admit he looked good in the charcoal coloured tailored suit. 300 certainly had a flair for clothing and the older man was really beginning to appreciate the little things in life like this that made his boyfriend happy.
The navy blue of the tie and pocket-handkerchief made his grey hair a dignified silver and brought out a dazzling shade of blue in his blue-grey eyes. He looked suave and sophisticated, like a real life James Bond, the cut of the suit accentuating his figure yet softening some of his gruff exterior.
As he looked up into the mirror to adjust his collar, he caught Agent 300 peering around the bedroom door, a mischievous grin on his face. His own suit a deep grey-almost black with a black, grey and red tartan tie. (Worn, no doubt to piqué someone's Scots fetish). He wore a waistcoat in a lighter grey and had yet to put on his jacket.
"I told you that color would work, Tiger. See, even you agree, you're preening like a peacock," he teased.
Agent 250 smiled and quickly looked away from the mirror, trying to hide his blush. "Well, I think you could pick almost anything and make it look good. You have a gift," he said softly.
"It's not so hard when you have a great figure to design for," he said walking up to 250 and hugging him from behind. He nuzzled his nose into the side if the older man's neck and inhaled deeply. "Ah laird, ye smell wicked, too."
250 tilted his head to the side until it touched 300's. "If you keep this up, we're going to miss our reservations, and I know how hard you had to work to get them."
A new restaurant had opened in town, called Rhapsody in Blue and the agents were looking forward to dining there. It was co-owned by a famous billionaire playboy and a mysterious silent partner and everyone who was anyone wanted to get in during the opening week. You had to know someone who knew someone to even get the number for the reservations line. 300 had spent a week working as private security in order to get the number and several days afterwards trying to get through to the service taking reservations.
The restaurant had an extensive vintage wine cellar and an in-house brewery which produced a European style beer which was only sold in the establishment. Both men were looking forward to sampling some of the beverages before their dinner. There was also an exclusive smoking room which was rumored to have Cuban cigars, and 250 wanted to try one before they left.
300 reluctantly agreed to continue his ablutions and headed to his half of the bathroom to tidy up.
Once the men had finished dressing they locked up the house and headed out to the carport. They had almost forty-five minutes before their reservation, but they wanted to arrive early to make sure they got valet parking and could have drinks in the bar before being seated.
As the men approached the car, 300 stopped for a moment and patted down his pockets.
"Damn, I forgot something. I'll be back in a tic."
250 nodded and unlocked the car. He checked the rearview mirror to see when 300 was in the house then he reached over to the glove box and pulled out a medium-sized envelope and put it in his jacket's inner pocket. He planned on presenting it to 300 later in the evening.
Neither man had mentioned it out loud, but it had been one year since Gyldensted had shot him in order to force a decision. Unfortunately things didn't turn out the way the Dane had imagined, and the two agents had been together ever since. After six months, they started living together and 250 was the happiest he had ever been.
He thought back through the last year. There had been a few learning curves and some personal changes that had occurred for both men. Agent 300 was learning to let go of his lady-killer persona and had relaxed to the point of speaking with his natural Scottish accent around the house. He occasionally helped with housework without too much prompting and was a bit of a lazy bum over the weekends when they weren't on assignment. On those days he could be found on the couch reading the newspaper or even an overly action packed spy novel.
250 had learned to trust his new partner around Niels and beautiful women. He was less insecure that the younger man was going to leave him for someone else. He had even stopped apologizing to God and occasionally threw him an unexpected "Thanks" now and then. He still blushed furiously when 300 was being cute, or dense or...well he blushed most of the time. The man was perfect and 250 felt particularly lucky that Niels Gyldensted was a bad shot.
There was only one thing in their relationship that 250 felt needed to change. Neither man had actually said " I love you" to the other. Of course, they said things like that when making love or hanging up on the phone, but it was always done casually, more as an expected phrase than an actual declaration. Tonight he would change that. It was time to take this to another level.
Knowing how much the younger man liked to flirt and be flirted with, 250 had been taking voice and etiquette lessons from the Section M trainer and could probably hold his own with the young man without becoming a blushing, stuttering mess. He planned to surprise his partner by being the perfect Bond-like gentleman once they hit the restaurant, declaring his undying love for him over a over-priced dessert.
While Agent 250 was plotting in the car, 300 was in the bedroom rooting around in his gun locker for a small box. He found it and straightened its tartan plaid bow and stuffed it in his waistcoat pocket. He put his room back in order, walked by a mirror to make sure he was impeccable and secured the house again.
Once he got back in the car, the two took off for the restaurant, making small talk about work and the latest workplace romances.
The parking lot was packed and there were a few off duty police officers in the area directing traffic. 250 smoothly tucked his Mercedes-Benz SLK350 into the valet queue and waited for the attendant to take the car to the valet parking area. As soon as he had passed off his keys and received his ticket, he met up with 300 by the entrance. The two walked into the building arm in arm and when they reached the check-in podium they were advised that their seating had been delayed for 20 minutes. The Maitre'd apologized profusely and offered the men complimentary drinks for the delay. Both men shrugged and opted for a small table in the lounge to have a few drinks. Time wasn't an issue to either of them.
They were seated quickly in the rear of the lounge, close enough to the bar to get someone's attention, but far enough away from the speakers so that a conversation could still be heard.
A waitress arrived within moments and handed the men large leather-bound menus and assured them that anything they ordered in the lounge that evening was on the house for the inconvenience.
After taking several minutes to review the extensive wine list, 300 decided to order a bottle of 2003 Charmes-Chambertin from Domaine Geantet-Pansiot. It was a spicy,smoky Pinot Noir he had tried once during an investigation and he wanted to try it again. Besides, he had a bit of celebrating to do tonight and decided that he should toast with something pleasing to the palate.
He wasn't sure if 250 remembered or not but this evening was the one year anniversary of their officially becoming a couple. Niels had thought to separate the two of them, but in turn had only made the young agent realize how much he cared for the older man. One of his fondest memories was when 250 had woken up for the first time in the hospital and blushed when he realized the younger man was holding his hand, keeping vigil while he recovered. 300 loved making 250 blush, It was a thrill to make such a rugged and dangerous man go rosy cheeked with an errant phrase or muttered word in brogue.
He snapped out of his reverie and looked across the table to see 250 staring at him. "What's up, Tiger?" he asked, cocking an eyebrow.
"Nothing, fancy pants. I just love to see you so intensely concentrated that you missed every word I just said."
"I suppose you'll have to tell me again, then. Won't you?"
"Absolutely not. You'll just have to find out later" joked 250, a sexy smirk on his face.
The waitress returned to take their orders. 300 requested the sommelier to fetch his bottle of wine and ordered an appetizer of beluga caviar with toast points. 250 ordered the in-house doppelbock and a glass of iced water. He threw a smouldering grin at the waitress followed by a flirtatious wink that promised everything, but meant nothing.
300 caught the gesture and felt a rush of jealousy. When the hell did he get so good at that? he wondered. Usually that's my thing...
"You're doing it again."
"I'm sorry, once again please?"
"You're lost in your own head tonight. I just wanted to know what you thought of the menu so far." 250 flipped through to the end of his menu.
"Oh, yes, well, it's very posh. But, I haven't really looked beyond the drinks and starters." He raised his own menu, intending to look at it again. As he opened the menu he glanced across the table at a small movement 250 had made.
250 closed his own menu and looked up at 300 again, a lopsided grin on his face. He rested his chin on his right hand "There isn't a single thing on the menu I want" He stared directly into 300's eyes and pulled at his bottom lip with his teeth. He let it slowly return to its resting place, his eyes maintaining contact with the younger man's the entire time.
300 felt hot and squirmy. What the hell?This man is sex on wheels tonight, I think it's time to turn this back around to my advantage. He felt flushed and let out a quiet breath.Closing his menu, he placed it on the table in front of him and leaned forward, deliberately placing his elbows on the menu and steepling his hands under his chin. He slowly lifted his eyes up and met 250's gaze with a half-lidded grin. Two could play at this game.
"How about now? See anything you want?"
The older man's eyes twinkled for a moment, but he didn't rise to 300's baiting. Instead he picked up his menu and leafed through it again. "I do seem to recall something that caught my eye," he winked and leafed back through the menu.
300 was genuinely bemused at his boyfriend's flirting. It had greatly improved and it seemed that he could keep up with the same well-trained agents of Section M at this point. Maybe some of the conversations they had finally sunk in. 300 felt a bit of pride in his partner and his eventual ability to adapt. He wouldn't mind having a bit more flirtation at home that wasn't initiated by himself either.
He decided to make sure their flirtations remained at a simmer for the rest of the evening, If the last five minutes was anything to judge by, tonight was going to be a bit...intense.
He picked up his menu again and gave the older agent a wicked smile.
He was about to speak again when the waitress returned with their appetizer and 250's dopplebock.
A moment later, the sommelier came around and offered 300 the bottle of Charmes-Chambertin. He took the proffered bottle and after reviewing the label he handed it back and gave the sommelier a curt nod. The sommelier proceeded to uncork the bottle and presented 300 with the cork. This again was reviewed and met with a curt nod. A small sample of wine was poured into an elegant glass and 300 picked it up, swirled the contents around for a few seconds and raised the glass to his nose. He gave the wine a small sniff and then a larger more audible one. A smile crinkled on his lips and he took a small sip. As he moved the glass away from his face and back towards the table, his eyes fluttered shut and he again gave another nod, this time with a smile. The sommelier poured a fuller glass, placed the bottle in a chilled container on the table and left the men alone with their drinks.
250 raised his pilsner glass towards his partner. 300 lifted his and as they clinked their glasses together, 300 said, "To Niels, for bringing us together."
"Yes," said 250 softly, "to Niels."
They sat in silence for several minutes enjoying their drinks. 300 had poured himself another glass of the wine and 250 had signalled the waitress for another beer. They nibbled on the toast points smeared with caviar and made small talk until the beer arrived.
"Why did you toast him, of all people?" asked 250 softly.
"I don't know. For some reason it felt right to acknowledge his part in making this happen for us, Who knows how long we would have tiptoed around our feelings if it weren't for him."
250 looked at him fondly.
"And what precisely are your feelings? I know we're together and we definitely have something good going on, but you've never said exactly how you feel. What you feel," 250 dipped his head. "I'd like to hear you say it."
300 paled and gulped audibly, "I...I..."
They were interrupted by a noise from the table beside them, the sound of a chair being pushed away from a table and being turned around. "Oh yes, 300, please do tell. This is getting quite interesting."
Both men looked over to see Niels Gyldensted perched on the edge of the leather and teak chair, his elbows on his knees and an expectant look on his face. "Also, I quite appreciated the toast, it was a nice sentiment."
300 sighed and hid his face in his hands. 250 glared at Gyldensted and fisted his napkin in rage.
"Fuck off, Gyldensted," snapped 250.
"Please Niels,not now. Not tonight," 300 said pleadingly.
"Oh, why not my dear Agent 300? After all that work you did for me to get you in here tonight, I think I'm entitled to a little show. Or at least a different one." Niels winked seductively at 300.
"What are you talking about Gyldensted? What work? He did private duty security for the number and he made his own reservation."
Niels' trademark smile graced his face. He looked at 250, and sat back upright in his chair,
"Oh dear, 300," he crooned, "didn't you tell him? Let's just say I got to see exactly why you like him so much, He is quite the sight when he's sweaty and out of breath, isn't he?"
"Stop it, Niels."
"That's not what you said last time I saw you. You were quite enthusiastic for me to continue, you practically begged me." Niels moved his chair closer to 300. "You know I can't help myself when it comes to you."
250 turned red, his left eye began to twitch. He looked across the table to 300, who had ducked his head, his eyes downcast.
"Tell me this is one of Gyldensted's sick games and he doesn't mean what he's implying."
"I'm not implying anything Agent 250. I did in fact see your partner mostly undressed and sweaty he was quite happy about it at the time. As a matter of fact, I was pretty satisfied as well...and when he really gets worked up, that accent!" Niels proceeded to fan himself with a menu from the table.
300 jumped up from the table, knocking it slightly forward and tipping over the bottle of Charmes-Chambertin, its contents staining the crisp white tablecloth a deep crimson.
"Niels, stop it, please! You know it wasn't like that, so stop egging him on. I know you don't like him, but this is cruel. Even for you."
A wicked grin enveloped Niels' face. "Actually McDowell, what's cruel, is that you led him to believe you were doing private security when you really came to me to ask for help and you accepted my price. You just can't let go of your super secret agent persona long enough to be truthful to your partner. If anything, he should be grateful that he learned the truth before this,” Niels gestured at the table, ”goes any further."
250 stood up, finished up his dopplebock and slammed the pilsner glass down on the table. He wobbled a little as the two beers were high in alcohol content and he had partaken on a mostly empty stomach.
"There had better be a very good explanation for what you were doing with Gyldensted, dearest, because I'm pretty sure this makes strike three." He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the envelope he had tucked away earlier in the evening, He tossed it onto the table in 300's direction.
" I meant to give this to you later over dessert. I haven't forgotten what today is, and I'm pretty sure you haven't either."
He ran his fingers through his hair and buttoned his jacket.
"I was going to tell you everything you mean to me tonight...that...that I love you. But I think that'll have to wait for a bit, perhaps. I can't deal with this at the moment. Not as long as he's around," He flicked his head towards Niels.
"I'll be home later, but you should stay in the den tonight."he said, looking at 300. A spark of anger burned in his blue-grey eyes.
250 turned to Niels and growled "Gyldensted, for your sake, I hope this is all a misunderstanding, or that glass eye will be the least of your worries." He pushed in his chair and stepped around to the far side of the table away from Niels.
300 reached out for the older man as he passed but 250 shrugged out of reach and headed towards the exit.
"Wait, please, this isn't how it seems!"
It was too late, He was gone.
250 made it all the way out to the valet stand before he realized he had left the claim ticket with 300 for safekeeping. Shrugging, he turned left out of the covered pull through and kept walking, choosing the path of least resistance. It was a quarter to ten, and the parking lot was still abuzz with onlookers and frazzled patrons.
This will make it easier to leave without being followed he thought. Not that he believed 300 would at this point. He would either be hashing things out with Gyldensted or making plans to go home with him.
No,he thought, that wasn't fair. 300 was far too upset to be in league with the Dane.
All 250 really knew at the moment was that he needed to get away from the restaurant, and Gyldensted before he lost his temper and did something regrettable.
Like yell at the man he loves.
"Oh God. What have I done?"he said out loud to himself. He shook his head briefly, the doppelbocks were fuzzing his thought process and making him emotional. He was sure there was a logical explanation for what Gyldensted had said, and a good reason for 300 to keep the true reason behind obtaining the reservation number a secret but he couldn't think straight around Gyldensted. The Danish bastard spoke in half-truths which could be construed in any number of ways. Why he had chosen the worse case scenario was beyond him.
Perhaps the situation had upset him so much because he had kept several important things from 300 as well, and it gnawed at him on a personal level.
He sighed and made his way out of the parking lot and onto the sidewalk.
After a few feet he stopped and took out his cell and punched in a few numbers. The code notified the switchboard at the Agency that he was on blackout and he would be untraceable until a recovery code was entered. He didn't want 300 finding him just yet. He had some serious thinking to do first.
250 continued to walk further into the city, the fresh air and distance from the restaurant helping to clear his mind.
Back at the restaurant, Niels grinned triumphantly at 250's departure. He got up from his table and seated himself across from 300, who had slumped back down into his his chair, one hand over his eyes and the other hand was fisted on the table.
Niels helped himself to a toast point and reached out to grab the envelope 250 tossed on the table as he left. 300's hand darted out and snatched the envelope from Niels' fingers. He straightened it out reverently and wiped a bit of the spilled wine from it. He fell back into his chair and looked at Niels despondently.
"Why Niels? Why do you have to fuck with everyone? I thought we were past revenge at this point."
Niels reached forward again and touched his fingers to the agent's. 300 jerked his hand back, a look of disgust crossing his face.
"This was business, not personal. In my line of work, everything comes with a price, 300. I agreed to get you into this restaurant tonight, and you agreed to reorganize the files for my offices and improve my security forces. This was our mutual agreement, and we both carried out our parts.”
Niels sat back in the chair and crossed his legs at the ankles."You have my thanks, by the way. I had Drew try to climb up into the ventilation system, and let me say your ideas were flawless. Poor man didn't know what hit him." He shook his head, a silent laugh shaking his thin frame."Which brings us back to the matter at hand. My price changed and I may have...neglected to tell you of the new arrangement," Niels chuckled at himself.
"My new price is getting you and that idiot American apart. You and I have unfinished business and he's in our way. Or was. I doubt he'll be back now. Strike three, was it?"
Niel's reached for another toast point. "I told him once he would die of an old broken heart, and it looks like I may be right"
300 seemed to snap out of his lethargy at those last words. He reached forward and grabbed the glass of ice water 250 had been sipping and dashed it in Niels' face. He glared at Niels, his soft brogue cutting through the surprised gasps of the onlookers in the lounge.
"You and I have NOTHING Niels. Nothing. You are an assignment, nothing more, nothing less.
You know what you do have? You have a family of your own, people who love you. What the hell do you want with me? I'm not a plaything for you to use when you're bored with playing house with Duncan, Natalie and Elliott. Don't I get my own chance at being happy?"
Niels grabbed a napkin off the table and dabbed at his face. He looked at the Scotsman and smirked.
"Didn't we have fun together before 250 arrived?"
"You know what Niels? Before 250 got assigned as my partner, I was so close to just throwing everything I had worked for away. For you, of all people. I spent my nights with beautiful women,women who would have done anything I asked of them, and all I could think of was you in their place.I made myself sick by thinking I was broken. I went back to Scotland for a while, because my life here felt like a lie. Everyone seemed to know what was going on with me, except for me. I didn't realize it at the time, but all of their comments eventually made sense." 300 sat up straighter in his chair.
"Here I was, a suave secret agent, and all I could think of was being with a man. The enemy no less. Do you know what that does to a man? To have everything you based yourself off of erased by a few words and some flirting?" He shook his head as if trying to loosen his thoughts.
"When I was in Scotland, I had a long conversation with my sister. She helped me to see that it was okay. I could still be the manly secret agent and want men or women and it wasn't wrong or a lie. The only lie was me telling myself that I couldn't be that way because of my job. So I came home. I did my assignments, I still took the ladies home, I thought about YOU while I was with them and I let your flirting go. I just let it roll off of me and I could deal with it. Because you're a job, Niels. You're the bad guy and I'm the good guy." His hand reached out to stroke the envelope on the table. A wistful expression graced his face.
"And you know what? That "idiot American" was the one who really taught me to be myself again. Not the confused agent with a smart comeback and an escape plan, but the man underneath it all. He helped me see through the lies I set up for myself and all I want to do for the rest of forever is show him who I really am. He's happy just being with me. No walls, not bravado, no half-truths. I can separate myself from my work persona now and I'm happy. Honestly happy and you've just destroyed it all Niels."
300 scrubbed at his cheek,eventually resting his head in his hand.
"Come now, don't think on it like that. I thought we had something special. You can be happy again in time. We'll go away for a while. Denmark is quite lovely this time of year."
"Niels, you don't get it. I don't think you ever will,” 300 said resignedly. “You don't know what love is. Everyone you know is just an asset or a possession or a toy. That man loves me. All of me and for no reason other than me being who I am. And you ruined it. Ruined me."
300 pulled forward out of his chair and straightened his tie. He reached for his wallet, removed a few bills and left fifty dollars on the table for the waitress and sommelier.
"I'm leaving, maybe I can catch up with him and fix this. But do yourself a favor, Niels. If he's really left me over this, don't contact me again. Ever. Don't toy with me like you do with Thomas, because that night, I could have easily killed you. Hell, maybe I should have, but you have a family... people who need you. I couldn't take you away from them, but I won't make that mistake a second time."
300 buttoned his jacket and turned to leave.
"Wait," said Niels, his voice soft, "you forgot this". He pushed the cream-colored envelope towards 300 who took it and placed it in his jacket pocket. 300 walked away from the table and didn't turn back.
250 was getting tired. He was slightly drunk and walking in this weather had aggravated his knee. Really, all of his scars hurt but his knee was the worst. The shrapnel shifted sometimes and made him wish he had lost the limb completely instead of having to suffer through almost constant pain. The humidity wasn't helping either. He had already taken off his jacket and rolled his sleeves up to the elbow. 300 would have scolded him for creasing the tailored shirt if he were there.
250 knew that this could all be resolved, it just required a serious conversation and a few guilty admissions on his part. He knew that 300 once had a thing for Niels when they had first been assigned as partners, but that crush had diminished in time as they had grown closer as partners, then as friends. Niels was just winding him up and using his own insecurities against him and it hurt. It almost hurt as badly as when he confessed his sexuality to Irene and effectively ended their marriage.
If he didn't find 300 and apologize for his behavior he might just end up with that old broken heart. He would never love again if this ended. He didn't have the strength for it any more.
Looking back, he wished he had grabbed the envelope before storming off. He had spent several months working on collecting its contents and didn't want anything to be misconstrued without being there for a personal explanation.
250 had made a secret trip to Scotland to speak with 300's parents about marrying the younger man. The family, with the exception of Mary and Timothy were surprised to find that the male McDowell twin was in a relationship with a man, but once they heard 250 talking about their romance, everyone fell in line and provided their blessings. He left Scotland feeling confident about his choice to propose. He still wanted to, of course, but he wasn't sure if he could repair the damage that was done this evening.
It had been 250's intention to give 300 the envelope with dessert and ask him informally to marry him. He didn't have a ring, as he wasn't sure it was a good idea for an agent to wear one anyway. It telegraphed that he was vulnerable and there was someone who could be used against him. If 300 asked, though, he had found an inconspicuous band at a gallery in Glasgow before he had left. All he had to do was call Mary and the ring would be his.
He wrung the jacket in his hands. He wished 300 was there. He needed the young man's steadfastness at that moment.
"You'll be okay you know, he loves you" said God.
250 stopped walking and looked up. He had passed the downtown area and was now in the older part of the city near the university.
"I'm sure I'll be okay, but will WE be okay?"
"I work in mysterious ways, or so I've heard." God chuckled briefly then went silent.
250 could tell the conversation was over and continued his walk. His knee was on fire now and he needed to take a break. He heard the strains of Louis Armstrong being played from about a block up, so he decided to wait at whichever bar was playing it until he felt more rested. Then he'd head home and fix his family.
300 walked out of the lounge with as much dignity as he could muster. His tried to keep his face blank as most of the other patrons had taken to staring at him anticipating further entertainment for the evening. He had made it as far as the maitre'd podium before he was stopped by the host.
"Mr. Gyldensted wanted me to remind you that you and your friend have open seating on the VIP list, if you wanted to come back another night to visit the dining room."
"Mr. Gyldensted? Niels Gyldensted? What does he have to do with VIP privileges?"
"Oh, didn't you know? He's the other part owner. You've been on the VIP list since we were in soft opening stage"
300 grimaced and walked out the door without another word to the host. He hadn't planned on ever returning to the restaurant so he wasn't worried about being rude, despite his good manners.
Once he was outside, he noticed there was a change in the weather and the air had turned warm and humid. He knew if 250 was still outdoors his scars would be more painful than usual. Changes in weather always did that to him.
He went around to the covered parking and redeemed his ticket for the valet. Once he had his car, he pulled around to the far side of the parking lot and tried calling 250. He dialed into the Agency and was told Agent 250 was in blackout. He wasn't surprised, he would have done the same.
300 called their house, but no one answered. Not that he expected 250 to pick up or actually be there this soon, but it was something to do and it kept his mind off worrying if only for a moment.
He wheeled out of the parking lot and took the sleek black roadster to the left. He knew that most agents, when given the opportunity went to the left when driving as it was the less common direction to go and afforded a better opportunity to lose a tail. He drove under the speed limit keeping an eye out for the older man, but failed to find him after fifteen minutes.
He couldn't have gotten too far, he only had a twenty minute head start on me.
He cruised up the main drag of the city, then doubled back to check several of the side streets in the area. Finding nothing, he drove out of the downtown area and headed towards the older collegiate area. After another ten minutes he hit a particularly bad pothole, and the car pulled to the right. He heard the tell-tale thumping of a flat tire and slowed the vehicle. Cursing, he pulled into the closest parking spot and paid the meter.
He knelt and checked the tire. It was completely shredded. Not the usual damage you'd find on a tire from a pothole, he thought.
Not wanting to damage his newest suit,or really admit that he wasn't good at auto repairs he called the Agency and requested an automotive team to aid with the replacement. They quoted him an hour and 300 rolled his eyes. The blue collar men of the Agency never did work quickly.
He figured he would walk around for a while and see if he could find his partner while he waited for the automotive team. He turned to the left, but felt an odd tingling in his head after a few steps, so he turned around and walked to the right and was rewarded with the words, "He's not too far, now. Don't worry... he's okay and he still loves you." 300 looked around but didn't see anyone.
He paused a moment and closed his eyes. He knew that 250 sometimes spoke with God. Really spoke with him, not just one sided rhetoric. 250 mentioned it once, and when 300 seemed unimpressed they never spoke of it again.
Deciding now wasn't the time to postulate the existence of God, he uttered a quick "Thanks," and continued walking to the right.
He made it a block up before he heard soft jazz music and knew he was in the right area. He crossed the street and made his way to the club. Maisie's, he recalled. It had been a long time retreat for the older crowd in the city and it made sense that his boyfriend would have taken refuge there.
The club was one of the older buildings in the city. Wrought iron bars covered in ivy graced large bay windows out front. The entrance door was lined with old stained glass removed from a demolished church and many of the seats inside were converted pews that had also been recovered from the church.
It was cozy inside the bar. Well polished wood gleamed in the empty spots that weren't covered in old album covers and signed photographs of jazz singers from bygone eras.
300 paid his cover at the lobby and made his way inside. All the tables in the front and sides were filled as a live band was in the process of starting up, but there were a few places left at the bar.
He ordered a San Pellegrino from the bartender and left a generous tip. After scouting out the room for entrances and exits, he caught sight of a tall,silver-haired man who had taken up a place at the far side of the bar. 250 had removed his jacket and rolled up his sleeves as the evening was humid and the club doubly so. 300 made a tsking sound and walked over the the bar, shaking his head at the sight of the rumpled suit.
250 had his back to the bar and was facing the small dance floor and the stage beyond it. The band was picking up, playing some old instrumental jazz standards and 250 was slightly swaying to the melody that was being played at the moment.
300 took the open spot to 250's right, leaning up against the bar himself, not yet making eye contact. He listened to the music for a moment and took a sip of his water, the coolness relieving some of the humidity in the room.
"Hi," he said softly.
"Hey," was his response.
"I..." 300 began.
"Not yet," said 250.
They stood in silence for several more minutes, listening to the music. 250's swaying became more pronounced as the music picked up. His eyes were closed and 300 could hear him humming along with the song.
In a spur of the moment decision, he grabbed 250's hand and pulled him to the crowded dance floor. The older man protested weakly, but gave in as the younger man took a spot on the edge of the floor, not relinquishing the firm grip on his hand.
250 sighed and maneuvered himself into position for one of the more elegant dances 300 had taught him, but 300 knocked his hand away and moved up and took the position of the swaying embrace that 250 said he preferred when he used to dance with Irene.
250 looked surprised, but said nothing as the two began to dance slowly together.
They remained in the embrace until the song finished. 300 pulled back to say something but 250 pulled him tighter as the opening notes of a familiar song began to fill the room.
Their clasped hands were caught between their bodies and 250 placed his free arm possessively at 300's back. 250 moved his head down to the younger man's ear and with a raspy voice began to sing in time with the music.
My love has come along
My lonely days over
And life is like a song"
300 could feel tears forming in the corners of his eyes and gripped 250 tighter. He knew then that all was forgiven and they would be alright. Glancing upward, he said another quiet 'Thank You' as the song continued.
"I found a dream
That I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill
To press my cheek to
A thrill that I have never known"
He saw the future at that moment. Their nuptials, the honeymoon, leaving the Agency for safer positions as security consultants. Adopting a child because 250 was great with kids and he always got a wistful look in his eyes when they watched Wendy for Thomas and Irene. Growing older and more in love with each passing day. He gasped with surprise from the beauty of the moment and realized that 250 had teared up as well.
250 loosened his grip and looked directly into the Scot's eyes as he sang the last of the song to him.
Oh and then the spell was cast
And here we are in heaven
For you are mine at last"
300 did smile at that moment, and the radiance on his face caused 250 to smile softly as well.
250 slid his hands up to cup 300's face and he used his thumbs to wipe away some of the fresh tears that had started to fall from the corners of 300's eyes. 300 blinked several times and pulled 250 closer to him. They kissed as the song ended and they stepped off the dance floor hand in hand.
Since the band had started up a few tables had opened up throughout the bar. The couple chose one near the back and sat across from each other, hands still joined together.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, still not knowing what to say or how to react to the events of the evening. There was a magic that crackled in the air between them since their dance and they were tentative to break its spell.
A waitress came by and 250 ordered them both bottled waters, 300 nodded his approval and they waited for their drinks to arrive before speaking as if by some silent agreement.
"You two looked really good together out there," said the waitress, blushing as she returned to the table. "Anyone could see how much you love each other and I think its adorable." Both men stammered a quick word of thanks and the waitress left to tend to her other tables.
After several minutes of holding hands and staring at each other, 300 broke the silence.
"May I go first?" he asked. "I want to make sure you understand everything"
"Only if you'll accept my apologies for being a stubborn old ass." He scratched at a spot on his neck and looked embarrassed.
"You're not an ass, stubborn, yes, but an ass...never." 300 gripped 250's hand tighter.
"But I am old, then?" 250 stared down at the table.
"Stop being silly. You know I love you just the way you are"
"Do you?" 250 looked up again and caught 300's eyes.
"More than anything."
250 smiled and then blushed. "I love you too, you know."
"I know. A friend of yours told me so before I found you here."
"No one knew I was here. I'm on blackout," 250 looked puzzled.
300 gazed upwards, "That friend." He pointed with his free hand to the ceiling.
"What? Oh!" he paused a moment. "Wait, you heard him?"
"Clear as day. He said you were nearby and you still loved me.I think he may have also given your car a flat to point me in the right direction."
"He did say he worked in mysterious ways." 250 laughed. "That poor car. Those were brand new tires."
"The Agency mechanics are on their way to change the flat. I didn't want to muss the new suit"
"Of course not, you're too pretty to change a tire" smirked the older man.
"I'll have you know I can in fact change a tire, pretty or not." joked 300.
They both laughed and the tension from earlier seemed to drain from the area and the two men were back to their easy banter.
"Did you know that Niels is the mysterious part owner of Rhapsody, and we've been on the VIP list since before it opened?"
"Somehow I'm not surprised. I can't believe he made you work for him to get a reservation. What exactly did he have you do, anyway?
"I re-organized his filing system and upgraded his security measures in the warehouse. The idiot doesn't know it yet, but I worked in some fail safes for you in case you wanted to get in and out unseen."
"That's brilliant! Bet he didn't expect that." 250 glowed with pride at his boyfriend’s cleverness.
"So, he wasn't exactly lying about seeing me half-dressed and sweaty, those ventilation crawl ways are miserably hot. Remember that bruise I had on my back? I got it from falling through one of the ceiling tiles in Niels' office. That's probably why Niels said what he said about me being worked up. I think I put her Majestie's sailors to shame that day"
250 rolled his eyes. "I think I will shoot out his other eye, just for putting us through that."
He looked down at the table and began to fidget with the coaster his drink was on. "I'm so sorry I didn't give you a chance to explain. Gyldensted just knows how to push my buttons and I couldn't think straight and you know how he is when he thinks he has the upper hand. He's relentless and everything he says sounds like the truth."
"I know. I hope this isn't strike three, after all," 300 said softly.
"Of course not. Strikes one and two don't really exist anymore either. Time served for good behaviour, you know."
300 beamed 250 a dazzling smile. "I was worried. I had so many plans for this evening, and I'm happy I can still keep them."
250 leaned forward and licked his lips. "Plans? Such as..?"
"Well, I had hoped this would go a little differently, but here goes."
300 stood up. He adjusted his cufflinks, straightened his tie and bent down to dust the knees of his pants off. He reached into his waistcoat and brought out the tartan bowed box he had placed there earlier in the evening. He then positioned himself at the edge of the table, half sitting, half leaning in front of 250.
250 watched 300's every movement, his eyes wide and a blush forming on his cheeks.
"Wait. Please, just for a moment. The envelope. Do you have it?"
300 stilled for a second and slowly reached into his pocket. He withdrew the envelope and handed it to 250. 250 thanked him and quickly opened the envelope. He pulled out a separate, smaller envelope and set it on the table in. He looked back up to 300. "Go on," he urged.
"Two years ago, the Agency saw fit to assign me a partner. At first, I have to admit, I didn't want one. I was doing fine with Gyldensted and the Cliffs and Thomas helped out where he could with some of his old intel. I didn't want to admit it to anyone, especially myself, that Niels was getting to me. I don't think it would have taken much more to have me on his side.
I think Boss saw I was in trouble and insisted I have someone work with me. To save me from myself. So, we got assigned together and at first I was unsure of you. All I had heard about you was that you had been moved out of Section S and didn't have any of the social skills we have down in Section M. We met, I thought you were an okay sort of bloke who had a problem with personal space, but okay,nonetheless."
250 smiled and looked at a point slightly over 300's head, knowing eye contact would set off another bout of blushing.
"Over the months we worked together, I decided I liked having a partner. It was the day you came to rescue me from Niels, really, that confirmed it. You freed me, then you had the nerve to challenge Niels and threaten his whole family. Not many people are brave enough to do that around here. Not without getting some sort of payback from Niels. From that point on, I saw you in a different light.”
"I wanted to be around you, be your friend. You seemed so lonely and out of place most of the time, and If I could get you to smile, even just once for the day, I felt like I accomplished something." 300 beamed him another huge smile and the older agent gave a shy smile in return.
"Then one day, I'm not sure when, I realized I was in love with you. I was pretty sure you felt the same way too, but I was scared to admit it to someone else, let alone myself. The crush I had on Niels was gone. All I could think about was being with you and making you happy and all of the other things I had prided myself on in the past seemed so insignificant. The women, the money, the possessions. None of it mattered any longer. I could tell you saw the real me and I wanted you to see it all. I think it was the day I tried to teach you how to dance, now that I think about it. Then, somehow before I got the nerve to tell you, Niels got hold of you and changed everything."
250's hand absently touched his shirt over the scar on his stomach. He looked up and their eyes met again. 300 looked devastated.
"I wanted to kill him, Tiger. Hell, I wanted to take out his whole family. I finally saw what you meant when you threatened him that day. Family is important and you'll do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Thankfully, I was able to keep myself under control and did just enough damage to get you out of there alive.”
“Those two days in the hospital were the worst. I'd never been so scared in my life. The thought of losing you before you knew how I felt, it was horrible. I decided then, to show you I loved you, even if I couldn't say it just yet."
250 reached over and took 300's hand and gave it a quick squeeze.
"Which brings me to the point of this long-winded speech. Family. I know you said you're just an old family man and you don't have the energy for games." 300 moved forward and got down on one knee. "So. No more games. Just you and me for the rest of forever. What do you say? Marry me?"
He looked expectantly at 250 and offered him the box. 250 reached forward with a trembling hand and took the small box from the Scotsman. He slid the ribbon off and nestled inside the box was a ring. It was a plain silver band with a darker band circling its middle. He allowed 300 to slide it on his finger.
"Yes. Yes, I'll marry you."
300 let out a whoop of glee and jumped back to his feet, pulling 250 back up with him for a kiss. "I love yeh, always will" he whispered in brogue. They embraced for a moment, and 250 pushed 300 back for a step.
250 laughed. "I love you too. I think you should look at this before you get any more excited, though." He nudged the light pink envelope on the table.
300 picked up the envelope and tore it open. He pulled out a small stack of letters and started to read them, one by one. After he got through the third one, he looked up at 300, confusion showing on his face.
"These are all from my family, congratulating us on our engagement. How did you do this?" He continued to thumb through the notes, stopping when he reached his twin's letter.
"Remember when I went to Helsinki for that weapons conference? I took a few extra days and went to Glasgow and met your family. I, umm...I snagged Mary's number from your phone and she helped to arrange everything. I spent a few days getting to know everyone and then I asked your parents for permission to marry you and they said yes, only you've beaten me to it. They all wrote you these letters so you would know that they're okay with everything and they love you."
250 handed 300 the larger envelope. 300 looked surprised as he flicked through its contents.
"I always knew I was a little slow on the uptake, but this is amazing. A whole month paid leave, and tickets to Glasgow? How did you get a marriage license without me being there?"
"You're not the only smooth talker around here anymore. A smile and a wink can get you pretty far with a lonely desk clerk, you know."
"I did notice you were pretty suave earlier. I like it, you'll be nigh unstoppable with that and a great suit."
"I have plenty of hidden talents. I'm not just a stealth monster, you know."
300 stifled a giggle. "Irene said something similar when I spoke with her and asked her permission to marry you, since you don't have any other family around. I can't say Britney was thrilled, though."
"You asked Irene?"
"Well, it only seems fair now since you've outed me to my family" 300 said jokingly.
"Besides, Mary will probably be thrilled to be in the wedding. She always wanted a sister to be a bridesmaid for."
"Aww, you don't want Britney as bridesmaid anymore? She'll be so disappointed."
"Keep that up and she won't be the only one in the family who bites."
"I thought you said that was forgiven and forgotten."
"It was, but sometimes I like the sympathy snuggles,” 300 pouted.
"Hold on. Let me remember how this goes," 250 cleared his throat and in a passable brogue said, "Ah, poor wee lamb."
300 looked dumbfounded for a moment and broke out into gales of laughter. "Who taught you that? It was Uncle Fergus, wasn't it? You sound just like him!"
"Aye, he taught me that and he said I should tell you this next time we were alone," he said still in brogue.
250 leaned forwards and whispered into 300's ear.
300's eyes grew large and a blush rose to his cheeks. He glanced covertly to the left and right and he reached into his pocket and threw a few dollars on the table. Grabbing 250's hand he pulled the older man to his feet and towards the door.
His eyes twinkled and he threw 250 a saucy wink. "You're on!"
Six months had passed since the incident at Rhapsody in Blue which had cemented the agent's relationship. The restaurant wasn't doing well as an “anonymous” tip had been called in that it was being used as a front for laundering money. Niels had been placed under FBI surveillance and his court time kept him busy and out of the agent's way,much to their pleasure.
With their newly found free time, the two men decided to travel over long weekends. Their first trip was to Scotland for a long overdue family reunion. 250 had been stuck in a state of perpetual blush as 300's brogue flowed easily among the tight knit clan. The overabundance of kilts didn't hurt either.
They wound up driving into Glasgow one afternoon to pick up the ring that 250 had placed a deposit on earlier in the year during his last trip. Both men wore their rings proudly and often held hands just to feel the rings against each other's skin.
When they finally returned home days later, laden with homemade shortbread and family keepsakes, they sat down and began to make some serious plans.
Afterall, they did have a future to prepare for.
Bank accounts were consolidated, and a financial advisor was consulted to help grow the agent's savings into a substantial nest egg for when they retired from the Agency. If they chose, they could retire early and open up an independent consulting firm and live comfortably well into their later years.
Later on that week, they hired a real estate agent to list 300's condo and 250's house and they looked for a comfy home to call their own. They found a small three bedroom bungalow located a few minutes away from Maisie's in the college district, not too far from work, or family. They fell in love with it and put in an offer without being shown any other properties.
They were moved in within a matter of days. After one particularly exhausting day moving in new furniture, they climbed into bed, weary, but happy. 250 turned off the lights and 300 snuggled into his side. "I love you,Tiger" he murmured sleepily. 250 pulled him closer and rolled onto his side holding the younger man tightly. "I love you."
They fell asleep in each other's arms and all was right with the world.
All characters are © Humon.
"At Last" lyrics © Mack Gordon and Harry Warren,1941