The colors were too bright, the sounds were too loud, but it was a wedding, goddammit, and Curt was going to have a good time.
Running into his boss at the reception put a slight hitch in that plan. He’d barely recognized Cynthia Houston in the fancy dress she was wearing, her hair curled instead of its usual straight bob. She had abandoned a conversation with a “Duke of Somewhere” to greet Curt, leaving the mystery man still choking on laughter from her spot-on Prince Raimey impression.
“Cynthia, what are you doing here?” Curt said as she pulled him through the crowd of dancing and chit-chatting to a slightly less populated area.
“This job is already killing me, why not use it to get an invite to the wedding and schmoozing event of the century?” Cynthia said, and then looked Curt up and down, eyes lingering on his tux jacket disapprovingly. “Didn’t your mother teach you not to wear white to a wedding?”
“I’m a friend of the bride.” Curt said.
Cynthia rolled her eyes. “If you’re done jerking yourself off, I’d love to hear how the mission went. I can only read so many tabloids before the urge to put my cigarette out on them takes over.”
“I mean, the guy we were protecting turned out to be digging his own grave with that gambling crap, so it could’ve gone better.”
“You better keep your lips zipped on that, by the way.” Cynthia said. “As far as anyone knows, the Prince is a hapless bystander. Which he might as well be, if he really bet his country’s top secret documents on a fucking game of blackjack.”
“That’s not the full truth.” Curt said, having investigated enough to know that although Raimey had been blackmailed with his father’s gambling debt, he had continued to seek out the criminal world after the the debt was paid.
“Who cares about the truth? You were here to make sure no one got their brains blown out before the wedding. And look!” Cynthia raised her arms up to gesture at the festivities around them. “You did your job, kid. Don’t overthink it.”
Curt opened his mouth to respond, but the way Cynthia’s eyes darted to something over his shoulder told him they weren’t alone. He turned around to see Owen, who had spotted a friend across the room after the ceremony and quickly disappeared from Curt’s side. He smelled more strongly of smoke and champagne than earlier, but he was still the same Owen, cleaned up all too nice and rubbing idly at the slightly-sunburnt skin on his nose.
Cynthia was clearly happy to see the Owen as well, but whether she was excited by his presence or the opportunity to deliver a biting line was ambiguous.
“Well, if it isn’t the spy that fucked and fucked up.”
Curt barked out a laugh and covered it up with a cough, ignoring the glare he got from Owen. He’d forgotten how great Cynthia was when her annoyance wasn’t directed at him. Meanwhile, Owen’s tone remained polite as he continued his greeting.
“Lovely to see you too, Cynthia. May I have a word?” He eyes flicked over towards Curt. “A confidential one.”
“How about a dance?” Cynthia extended her hand. “Those legs look like they could be useful on the floor.”
Owen snatched her hand in a quick motion, and Curt pondered for the first time if Owen was a good waltzer. “It would be my pleasure.”
“But watch it, Carvour,” Cynthia said as Owen led her away. “If you step on my toes, you’re finished.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, love.”
Curt retreated to one corner of the room, leaning up against a pillar to watch the surreal sight of Owen twirling Cynthia around. He meant to humor an attempt at lip reading but that proved to be futile, as it didn’t take long for the two familiar heads to get lost in the crowd. Curt was alone once again, free to get lost in his thoughts. He decided to ponder on Cynthia’s question: how had the mission gone? With a mind slowed by drinking and the distracting environment, he managed to pull up a few memories of the last week that answered the question with a resounding “just fine”.
Remembering the way everything turned out brought a smirk to Curt’s face. The image of the black eye Richard was now sporting came to his mind, clear as day. The bruise was a leftover from the fight that had apparently broke out on the train back to Monaco. As the story was dictated to Curt, discussion of American politics led to a very heated debate, and Raymond had broken out of his hand cuffs and managed to land a few blows on the counsel before the guards took him down. Curt had laughed sharply when he heard the news, out of amusement and out of surprise. Who could’ve known that Raymond was passionately against Executive Order 10450? Who could’ve guessed the universe worked in such unusual ways?
Speaking of Raymond, Curt was still reeling from interrogating him with Owen. The interrogation itself was smooth, Owen was as quick with his words as ever and Curt was the image of an agent to not be trifled with, stripping down to his undershirt at Owen’s request to show off the muscle he was “working with”.
No, there was nothing wrong with the interrogation. It was a moment that happened afterwards that troubled Curt. He remembered standing in the basement with Owen, left alone after the Monacan police had taken their suspects away, the agents trading a mutual buzzing energy in the form of compliments on each other’s interrogation performance. Owen likened their joint technique to a two-headed dragon, a description so flowery that Curt couldn’t help but snort. (Thinking about the metaphor since, he had come to find it kind of comforting).
And Curt had leaned in, intending to come back with a line about his head being the smarter one, when he’d realized how close their faces were. It would’ve been a frighteningly easy task to close the gap. Easy enough that Owen must’ve known, judging from the way his mouth parted slightly when their eyes met. It was all very exciting. But they were professionals, so Curt excused himself to a midnight run on the palace grounds, and then collapsed in his bed, too exhausted to remember what he’d once wanted more than breathing.
A tap on his shoulder brought him out of his thoughts. He peaked around the pillar to see Kelly Grace, the Princess of Monaco, shining in green-and-white hues in her third outfit change of the night.
“How’d you sneak away?” He said. "Everyone is here to see you."
“Smoke bombs.” She said in a tone that Curt didn’t know whether to take seriously, as he wouldn’t put a move like that past the actress.
“Stay safe, okay?” He cut to the chase, knowing they wouldn’t have much time alone. “With the prince. Don’t let him bet your marriage certificate away.”
Kelly played with the pearls on her necklace with a gloved hand. “Thanks for saving him, Curt. I know I might seem like a fool to still go through with this but- it’s just-”
“I understand,” Curt said, but Kelly continued.
“He’s the man I love. Things that scare me and all.”
Curt nodded, that sentence making him sad in a way he could only comfortably blame on drinking, and then changed the subject. “Beautiful ceremony. I’m glad I was on the guest list, along with, I guess, everyone who lives here.”
“Maybe I could make an appearance at your wedding some day.” Kelly said, and smiled, and Curt smiled back, wondering if she knew the sad truth that there would probably not be a wedding for him, at least not to someone he’d prefer, or if she was just that optimistic.
“Maybe.” He replied. “You’re a gem, Kelly.”
Kelly planted a quick kiss to his cheek. “Thanks for everything, Curt Mega.” And then just as she’d appeared, she had gone.
Curt went to get another drink when he saw Cynthia out of the corner of his eye, talking with a few people who must’ve been important since she was just nodding politely rather than commanding the conversation. Curt reasoned that if Cynthia was done dancing, Owen must be too. It took about ten minutes but Curt tracked Owen down, sitting at one of many long tables in the ballroom. The first thing Curt noticed as he took a seat next to his partner is that he looked uncomfortable, his face in an queasy frown.
“Dizzy from keeping up with Cynthia?”
“Just remembering- hic- why I don’t drink champagne.” Owen answered, and took a sip from his glass, an action that left his lips stained red with the liquid inside. “So in my infinite wisdom, I’m switching to wine.”
“You should have another slice of cake. Soak some of that alcohol up.” Curt nodded towards the plates of pre-cut slices in front of them. They had shared a piece earlier that Owen ended up eating most of, Curt having ruined his appetite by picking the grapes out of several fruit plates during the best man’s speech.
“Further proof that you’re the devil on my shoulder, Mega.” Owen said. “This suit is tight as it is-”
Curt interrupted before his cheeks could blush any more. “When’s the next time you’re going to have wedding cake? Especially royal wedding cake?” He didn’t need to be reminded of Owen’s suit, a simple and monochrome number with a brooch shaped like a beetle fastened to his coat. Maybe it felt tight to be wearing it, but from Curt’s perspective it was a perfect fit, and the fact that Owen had his shirt open scandalously low on his chest to take some strain off the buttons was just a cherry on top.
Owen shook his head with a weary laugh, but he reached for a plate anyway. After a few bites in silence, he looked at Curt with an amused expression and pointed to his own cheek.
“I see you got a signature from Ms. Grace.”
Curt touched his face, feeling the waxy residue of lipstick that Kelly had left behind. “How did you-”
“That looks like the shade she was wearing, no?” Owen said, and waved his hand as if in thought. “A sort of plum red.”
Curt grabbed a napkin off the table to clean up but Owen stopped him, simply raising his hand up in a “halt” gesture rather than grabbing at Curt’s. (Hand-touching was on their on their list of behavior to refrain from, lest any wires get crossed). “Ne pas, agent. It’s, erm, good for your cover.”
“You’re right.” Curt said. “Maybe I’ll flag her down, see if she can give you one too.”
“No need,” Owen said. “If anyone was suspicious at the long cigarette break I took with Ms. Grace’s ex-lover, my dance with your boss cleared that up.”
“The two of you together makes me nervous,” Curt said, and then for clarity, added, “Cynthia.”
“Why? I quite like a conversationalist that can keep up with me. She’s a very smart woman, Curt.”
“So everyone keeps telling me. Still doesn’t explain why you needed to whisk her away.”
“Well.” Owen said, stabbing a bit of icing with his fork. “I may have submitted a request for backup on my next mission, and I just wanted to follow up. Make sure you were the one who got assigned.”
“That’s sweet of you, Carvour, but you know that’s not a guarantee.” Curt said.
“My request has very specific qualifications.” Owen said. Curt was about to ask him to elaborate, but he kept on talking after a moment, eyes darting up to the ceiling like he was remembering something. “Fluent in English, proficient with firearms, resistant to interrogation. Familiar with KGB tactics. A hand-to-hand fighter. Someone stubborn, quick on his feet-”
“Something borrowed, something new, yeah, yeah. I think I know how this goes.” Curt continued for him, a jab that left Owen giggling.
“Let me finish. Someone fit.” Owen said, and then grinned wider at Curt like he’d gotten away with something. Those type of jokes had peppered themselves into their conversations since the incident and the resolution last week, nervously delivered and never really that funny. But it felt good to talk about it, Curt reasoned. Owen may have preferred walking on eggshells, but Curt had long grown tired of pulling the shards out. And since they were being honest, it was fair to respond with an honest question.
“So that’s why you needed to talk to Cynthia? Because you want to go on another mission with me?”
“Is it that terribly obvious?” Owen replied, voice soft.
“No one is ever that excited to see Cynthia unless they’re attempting to assassinate her.” Curt joked.
Unfortunately, Owen didn’t seem amused. “Lower your voice, Curt. There’s enough world leaders here to make people wary of that word, it’d be like yelling fire in a theater.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.” Curt snapped back, a little too humorless. He saw Owen stiffen and take a quick sip of wine, so he took a second to breathe and reset his tone. You’re friends, Mega. Don’t be so intense. “So, this new mission. Where are we heading?”
Owen leaned in to whisper the name in Curt’s ear, an action that was deeply unnecessary but brought chills across Curt’s skin anyway. “Stalingrad.”
Curt pulled back and crossed his arms over his chest. “Russia's a dangerous place.”
“So you can understand why I need backup.” Owen said. Curt found himself mentally replacing the word backup with you, relished in the feeling it gave him, and then shook the thought out of his mind. Owen was looking at him, waiting for an answer. So Curt gave him one.
“Well, it’s not the honeymoon I imagined.”
Owen laughed into his glass before dipping the rest of the contents down his throat. “After all this, I’d say it’s the one we deserve.”
“I’ll drink to that.”
They drank to that, and drank to love and marriage and parrots and happy endings, and if they ended up a bit too close on the dance floor later, well, that was between the two men and the entire population of Monaco. The crowd created a comfortable sense of anonymity, a realization Curt mumbled into Owen’s shoulder during one of his last non-blurry memories from the night, “C’mon, no one’s looking anyway. No need to hide.”
Owen responded by taking Curt’s hand and twirling him around, a motion that sent the world spinning off its hinges. Afterwards, Curt was anchored by one feeling- Owen pulling him up and cupping a warm hand to his cheek, thumb tracing where the lipstick stain was still visible, before finally replying.