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Neither One Of Us Runs For Cover

Chapter Text

Another day, another bomb threat, and another suit ruined by dog hair.

It’s official, Mega. Curt thought to himself as he picked up the lint roller yet again. You’re in a rut.

That day’s mission- if it could be called a mission- brought a sense of deja vu with it. Curt Mega, and the rest of the Secret Service Canine Unit, had received a report of suspicious activity. This time it was at a train station, but the unit had been called to airports, schools, casinos, and just about every Congressman’s home. This morning the van ride smelled a little less disgusting than usual, and Curt worried he was beginning to get used to the smell of dog. Or maybe it was the fact that the window was rolled down so that Digs, the massive German Shepard assigned to Curt, could stick her head out the window.

When they reached their destination, all of the men would leash up their dogs and enter the critical site. And Curt would watch Digs put her pointy-nose to the ground and sniff up and the down the track. They didn’t find anything, which wasn’t unusual. The dogs had only detected the smell of drugs twice since Curt started there, and both times the whole unit went out to celebrate after. Curt sipped from a bourbon in the corner of the table all night, taking part in playful arguments over which dog had barked first. It was fun and yet still horribly boring.

It was this boredom that forced Curt to plan an escape route. He gave Digs an extra pat on the head before leaving her in the kennel that day. The shepard just licked his hand, unaware that it might be the last time. Curt left the kennel triumphantly, but found himself wishing he had Digs with him as he strolled into his boss’s office. He needed all the support he could get with what he was about to request.

“I want a transfer.”

Cynthia looked up, barely visible behind the cloud of smoke she’d just breathed out. “Me too, but the position was already filled by that jackass Eisenhower.”

Another one of Cynthia’s great jokes that left Curt unsure if he was supposed to laugh. He just sat down in the chair across from her and continued his plea. “I can’t do canine anymore. I’m, um, I’m allergic to dogs.”

“You’re allergic to dogs?”

“Yes.”

“It’s been three months and you just fucking realized you’re allergic to dogs? Maybe you should stay out of the field.”

“Cynthia, I know I screwed up, and I’m sorry, but I didn’t join the secret service to do some summer dogwalking job. Do you really want me holding a leash for the rest of my career?”

Cynthia laughed humorlessly and pointed her cigarette at him. “Let’s get one thing straight, Mega. You are not holding any leash. This department change is me putting you on a leash after that Copenhagen disaster. If your buddy Carvour didn’t leave a fake German passport in his jacket, we’d be at war with all those Hans Christian Andersens. Do you understand me?”

Curt knew she wouldn’t be happy, but he was somehow never prepared for whatever Cynthia threw at him. He tried to just focus on whatever references she was making, and the intonation of her voice, like he was listening to someone talk on the radio. Then he realized whatever she said had ended in a question, and he nodded.

Maybe nodding hadn’t been the right thing to do. Cynthia took another drag of her cigarette, face still unhappy. “And yet, you’re still in my office.”

“Right, I’ll see myself out.” Curt got up and brushed more fur off his jacket, heading towards the door. But before he could put his hand on the knob, the sound of Cynthia chair’s swiveling in his direction interrupted him.

“Mega, we have been picking up signals on that first bug in Bella Manor. You clearly have the right instincts, and maybe you can handle more than just following Scooby Doo around.”

Curt let himself smile before he turned around to reply, face neutral.

“Thank you.”

Cynthia was already fishing through some documents on her desk. “So, let’s see if we can waste your talents elsewhere.” She stamped something in red ink on the top of some paper and then folded it up. “How does... paperwork sound?”

Terrible. “Sounds great.”

“Then I’ll put in your transfer request. But if you come in here in three months to tell me you’re allergic to ink, we’re gonna have a problem.”

And now, after two months of paperwork, Curt found himself in a different kind of rut. The kind of rut that makes routine maddening and any action that isn’t life-threatening like watching paint dry. His days consisted of filling out reports on other, luckier, agents and their great accomplishments. While they were blowing up buildings, he was filling in the hole they left.

But in some ways, life still remained exciting for Curt. He had a brief flirtation going with a man in the mailroom. Not just any man. Michael from the mailroom. He was loud and liked baseball and always smelled like he’d just taken a shower. Unfortunately, these were the only details Curt had been able to gather through their conversations over coffee. Yet he found himself falling anyway. He started to get hungrier, or maybe he realized how hungry he'd been this whole time, and with that hunger came boldness. One Monday he reached out and patted the other man’s hand. Not only did Michael not shrink away from the contact, the following morning he placed his hand over Curt’s and pressed down right before they parted.

Curt sat there in the break room for another few minutes, not moving his hand from the table. He stared at his own knuckles, the light brush of hair over them, the birthmark near his wrist, and wondered what was so special about this hand, that someone else had decided to touch it.

And then he thought, Holy shit, I need to get laid, and drained the rest of his coffee.

He had yet to meet that need, but other developments occurred, all of them confined to their time at work. Michael from the mailroom became Mikey from the mailroom, and babe when they had the room to themselves, and then became the fascination of Curt’s workday. Curt slipped into old habits, and began to think of the whole thing like a mission that only he had the notes for. He would shave every morning and wear a suit that had been washed enough times over to lose the smell of dog, smirking in the mirror afterwards like he’d picked out the perfect disguise. He would read the baseball section of the newspaper like it was enemy blueprints. He learned to be in the right place at the right time, to post up in the break room just after nine. Or to stand by the printer during the mail run every day.

Perhaps the element that felt the most like a mission was the high stakes. Curt had to be sneaky, because he knew his job, or even his life, was at risk. Curt didn’t consider that Michael might also recognize those stakes until the day he stopped by Curt’s desk, the usual paperwork he was passing on absent from his hands. He was uncharacteristically quiet, hands in his pockets instead of enthusiastically waving hello.

“Hey, Curt.”

Curt took a deep breath like the ones he'd used to take before storming into a warehouse, and tried to be charming. “Something wrong, babe? Did the Mets lose again?”

“I can’t risk my job for a little bit of fun, alright?” Michael said abruptly. He stuffed his hands in his pockets.

“Oh.”

“I just, I can’t lose this job.” Michael repeated.

“I understand.” Curt said, because he did understand, because he was living it too. He’d open his newspaper to the baseball section, but that didn’t mean he missed the headlines about mass layoffs of “suspect” government employees and the “homosexual blackmailing” that the Reds were apparently up to. It wasn’t a good time for someone to be touching his hand in public.

It was Curt’s hand unconsciously twitching at the memory of being held that snapped him back into reality. Michael was still there, and he was still talking.

“So you won’t tell anyone?”

Somehow mistrust that hurt worse than being dumped. Curt ran a hand through his hair. “Jesus, Mikey, I’m not going to-”

“And that’s just another thing, I’ve been thinking, and I think maybe you should just call me Michael from now on.”

“Okay.” Curt said. He blinked a few times and then looked back up. “Goodbye, Michael.”

“See you, Curt.”

So much for an office fling. Curt had thought. And as soon as he realized that “a fling” to him these days meant someone just touching his hand, he was already scrambling for a drink.

“I’m fine,” he assured Barb a few minutes later when she caught him drinking at his desk. And for good measure, he added, “Fuck Eisenhower.”

Barb had clanked her coffee mug against his flask. “Yeah, fuck Eisenhower!”

Curt laughed then because he knew she didn’t fully understand, and then cried later, alone, because no one could fully understand. The rejection hurt but failing his “mission” stung him deeper. Sure, Michael had been fun to talk to. But it was the moments he wasn’t there that mattered more to Curt. The space labelled “Michael” in his head that all of his negative thoughts were forced to edge around, or be kicked out all together. Now that space was just a dot, and work was boring again, and nothing mattered.

When Curt was called into Cynthia’s office the next day, the misery (or the hangover) must’ve shown on his face, because his superior immediately commented on it.

“Mega, you look dead. Is paperwork really that bad?”

“Yes.” Curt replied flatly.

“Well, you’re in luck. I might not be ready to give you a second chance, but someone across the pond is. A request for your presence in some mission overseas just came in. All the information is in here.” She tossed a manilla envelope into his lap. Curt clutched it to his chest instantly.

“Oh my god, thank you, Cynthia. Thank you-”

Cynthia blew smoke in his face and Curt recoiled. “Jesus, stop making that horrible sound.”

Curt coughed weakly. “Thanking you?”

“Yes, that. I think I’m allergic to it. Now get out of my office before I tell Her Majesty you can’t make the flight.”

Curt didn’t need to be dismissed twice. He realized while walking down the hallway that this was probably the first time he’d left Cynthia’s office with a grin on his face. Despite his relief, he was still nervous as he sat down at his desk and opened the envelope. After how this last “mission” with Michael had gone, he was clearly out of practice.

But the chance to return to what he was meant to do was intoxicating. And, he thought wistfully as he skimmed over the name Owen Carvour in the briefing, he always did work better with a partner.

Chapter Text

How do you do?” No, that’s too formal. Maybe I’ll nod and say “sup?”. Play it cool. Or maybe just a handshake will do- no, just a look will say everything I need to say. What do I need to say? Curt’s mind was hard at work as he stared blankly at the wall, fingers fidgeting with an invisible-ink pen. Maybe I’ll just talk about the mission. Not even say the word “hi”.

Suddenly, someone shook a bottle of pills loudly in his periphery. Curt snapped his head around. The hand grasping the bottle, of course, belonged to Barb, who had been walking Curt through his mission toolkit before his thoughts had drifted to seeing Owen again.

“Are you even paying attention?” Barb said. “This stuff could save your life, you know.”

Curt cleared his throat and straightened up in his chair. “Yeah, yeah, I was listening.”

“As I was saying, inside of this bottle-” Barb gave it another aggressive shake.

“You don’t have to-” Curt said, but he was cut off by her doing it again before tossing it in the duffel bag.

“Inside is a batch of specially-designed sleeping pills that can be swallowed whole with water or ground up into a powder. You only get five of them, so you need to use them sparingly, okay?”

Curt smiled. Barb was always looking out for him. “I appreciate the concern, Barb, but trust me- I sleep like a baby.”

Barb rolled her eyes. “Only you could brag about sleeping.”

“Ouch.”

“-But anyway, they’re not for you, they’re for anyone you need to knock out without giving them brain damage.”

As Barb continued talking, Curt noticed a white bottle on the lab table, an item that stood out among the various technology. He picked it up. “What about this? Is there a knife hidden in here?” He shook it and heard something vaguely liquid move about. “Or liquor?”

“No, that’s just sunscreen.” Barb grabbed the bottle out of his hand and tossed into the duffel bag. “Which you’ll be needing plenty of in Monaco. Ugh, Monaco. Just saying it out loud makes me jealous!”

“Don’t worry, I won’t be spending too much time on the beach.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about,” Barb said. “There’s rumors around the lab about this top secret submarine under construction in Monte Carlo, and I would love to get my hands all over that project.”

As Barb starting to talk more in-depth about the submarine, Curt found his mind drifting away yet again. What I need to say is, I’ m sorry things got so weird last time. I missed doing this with you. Wait, I shouldn’t apologize. It was all his fault anyway. Better to not mention it at all.

Barb loudly zipping the duffel bag up snapped Curt out of his haze. He would have tried to play it off like he was listening, but Barb was clearly onto him, crossing her arms over her chest in annoyance.

“Cheese and crackers, what is with you today? You don’t normally find everything this boring.”

“I’m not bored! I’m just... I don’t know. My head is in a million different places.”

Barb’s posture relaxed and she leaned towards him across the table. “Is something wrong?”

Curt wasn’t sure why, but when he saw the way Barb was looking at him, eyes soft despite her clear annoyance, he felt like being honest. “I’m nervous about seeing Owen again. It’s been a while since I’ve worked with a partner that wasn’t a dog.”

Barb nodded in understanding before replying. “If it helps, you won’t be seeing him right away.”

“Huh?”

“You and Agent Carvour are both going to Monaco, but for the first few weeks of the mission you’ll just be communicating your status to each other over telecom. That’s why I swapped out your watch for one with a broader connection. Didn’t you read that part of the case notes?”

“Uh, I must’ve just missed that part.” Curt tried to hide the strange feeling of disappointment rising in his chest. He turned his attention back to the woman across from him. “Thanks for everything, Barb. I’ll call you if I see a periscope.”

After leaving (not without receiving a hug, of course) the rest of Curt’s day flew by in a haze of travel. He was almost asleep in the backseat of his taxi when they pulled up outside the royal palace in Monaco. He thanked the driver in broken French and tipped with a peppermint candy he’d saved from the flight, a cheap move that was met with a scowl from the other man.

Curt stepped out of the taxi and heard it speed away behind him. Once the smell of gasoline had faded, his lungs were left with just the hot and odor-less air typical to the area. The Prince’s Palace of Monaco towered in front of him against the dark, cloudless sky. Only a few lights were on inside, a reminder of how late Curt was entering. He tightened his grip on his duffel bag and headed up the palace steps.

Once he’d gotten past the barrage of guards checking his passport and belongings, Curt was finally inside the palace lobby. It was eerily empty, the marble floors perfectly polished and reflecting a few chandeliers that were still shining at this hour. The air inside was much cooler and Curt became aware of the sweat drying under his arms and on his hands. He started to wipe his hands on his suit pants when a short man approached from one of the hallways.

“I see our American friend finally made his appearance.” The man said with a thick French accent. He extended his hand the two shared a weak handshake. “I'm Richard, counsel to the prince."

“Special Agent Curt Mega, at your service.”

“Very nice to meet you, thank you so much for traveling all this way. Let me take you to the one who’s service you are really in- an American like yourself.” Richard started to walk in the direction of the hallway he’d just come from and Curt quickly followed his path. “I’m sure you’ve seen some of Kelly Grace’s movies, no?”

“Of course, she’s a real star.” Curt said. “And about to be a real princess... so I hear.”

“You have heard correctly.” Richard stopped outside an ornate wooden door and knocked on it twice. “But perhaps it’s better that you hear it from the lady herself.”

Richard opened the door and Curt walked in, unsure of where his eyes should go first. The bedroom was huge and lit only by candlelight, crests from royal families that he hadn’t bothered to memorize decorated each of the four walls. And sitting on the bed was film star Kelly Grace, in the flesh (and a silk nightgown).

“Ms. Grace.” Curt said after he heard Richard close the door behind him. “I’m Special Agent Curt Mega, at your service. And, uh, I’m a big fan.”

Kelly extended her hand and Curt shook it before nervously planting a kiss to her cold knuckles.

“Nice to meet you, Curt.” She said in a voice that Curt recognized from the silver screen. “I normally meet my fans under better circumstances.”

“And what circumstances are we in right now?”

Kelly shrugged, the fabric of her nightgown pinching with the motion. “I’m sure you’ve heard if you’re here.”

“I could use a refresher.” Curt said and smiled, and was relieved when Kelly smiled back.

“Since word got out about my courtship with the prince of this beautiful country, I’ve been hiding out from all the noise in this palace. But I received the most terrifying call the other day, and nobody around here can tell me what’s going on.”

“Tell me more about this phone call.”

“It was from a man, at least it was either a man or some kind of beast- a deep voice with an American accent. And he told me that if I don’t stay away from Monaco and the prince, something terrible is going to happen to me.” Kelly’s voice shook with fear at the end of her sentence. “This palace has a private line, no one with ill intentions should be able to get through. And yet...”

“Don’t worry, Ms. Grace. Now that I’m here, that landline is the only thing he’ll be getting through, because he’s not making it inside this palace.”

“I hope you’re right, Clint.” Kelly said, and Curt would’ve corrected her if Richard hadn’t opened the door at that very moment.

“Mr. Mega, your room is ready.”

Curt said goodbye to Kelly and followed Richard down yet another creeping hallway, to a much smaller bedroom on the other side of the palace.

“Be up early,” Richard said. “The prince will need to speak to you as soon as he’s back.”

“Who knew I’d be so popula-” Curt began, but the door had already closed. He flopped down on his bed, turning his wrist towards his face to check the time.

Oh shit. His watch. He was supposed to check in with Owen his first night there. He punched the buttons on the side, feeling his palms become sweaty again despite the cool room. It’s late, he probably won’t even pick up.

But the line on the other side crackled to life, and Curt let go of a breath he’d been holding for 5 months and spoke.

“Hey, Owen.”

Chapter Text

Curt nearly jumped out of his skin when a voice with a heavy Russian accent replied instead of the one he was expecting.

“Curt Mega, your partner’s position has been compromised by our forces.” The voice crackled through. “If you want to leave Monaco alive, you’ll have to comply with our demands.”

“Who the hell are you?” Curt immediately switched gears, hand going to the gun in his pocket despite knowing whoever was talking was miles away. He relaxed his grip when he heard a familiar laugh on the line. Of course.

While Curt got his bearings back, he continued to listen as Owen continued in the fake accent. “My first demand is a message for your Supreme Leader Eisenhower. Tell him that he can suck Russia’s-”

“Damn it, Carvour, I know it’s you.”

He heard Owen laugh again, louder, and rolled his eyes.

“Sorry for the scare, old boy. I just couldn’t resist.” Owen said. “But I’m happy to hear you’re sharp as ever.”

“You know, I sure as hell didn’t miss that shoddy accent.” Curt said.

“Oof, careful with my ego. You’re know you’re only on this case because of me.”

Although Curt had suspected Owen had something to do with him being called back to the field, the confirmation was nice to hear.

“So that’s why you asked M16 to let me tag along,” Curt joked, getting up to pace around the room while he talked. “To practice your Russian impression?”

“Partially.”

Curt leaned towards his watch again to make another joke, but he heard Owen start to talk again and stayed quiet.

“But also my agency needed to charm Ms. Grace while I deal with all the muck, and I may have suggested she’d be comfortable with another American. Have you made her acquaintance yet?”

“We talked a bit."

“And how is she, behind the scenes?”

Curt cracked a smile at how eager Owen sounded. He decided to lean into the energy the conversation was bringing him, feeling his confidence grow. “Owen Carvour, are you a fan? I didn’t know you had time to watch movies.”

“Everyone’s a fan of her, I don’t have any shame in agreeing with them. Now, do share your impression of her.”

Curt paused for a moment to think. Even if he’d only been on the call for a few minutes, the visit to Kelly Grace felt like hours ago. He finally replied with, “Her hands are cold.”

“Hopefully her feet aren’t cold as well,” Owen shot back quickly, and Curt swore he could hear a smile in his voice. “I’ve been escorting her husband-to-be all over France this week and he can’t go a minute without talking about his little...” His voice changed to an impression of a French accent that was noticeably better than the Russian one, “Ma chérie pour toute la vie.”

Curt wasn’t going to attempt to translate what Owen had said, but his mind drifted to the scandalous headlines he’d seen about the prince’s relationship. “So, they’re really in love then? It’s not all for show?”

“So quick to gossip. I thought we were spies, not washwomen?”

Curt frowned. He’d somehow forgotten how Owen seemed to have a pre-prepared remark for anything he said. “It’s in America’s best interest they stay together so yeah, I’m willing to gossip.”

“To answer your question, the prince seems to think they’re really in love. I suppose we’ll have a front row seat to find out if that’s enough for her.” Owen crackled out for a moment after speaking, and Curt only heard coughing on the line.

“Owen?”

“Still here.”

“Are you smoking right now?”

“I see you’re still observant,” Owen said after another muffled cough. “A man’s gotta have his vices, but you know that. I’m sure you had a drink or five on the flight over.”

Curt didn’t want to bring up Copenhagen, but the desire to snap back with something overweighed his common sense. “Last time we worked together, I remember you having more vices than just cigarettes.” He bit the inside of his cheek immediately after and waited for a response.

Luckily, Owen's reply sounded playful instead of offended. “You can rest knowing The Secret Service has banned me from all ‘recreational seduction’ for the time being.”

“Wow, they had to invent a whole new term for you?” Curt said. He heard Owen start to reply, but his attention was pulled away by the sound of a scream.

“Shit, I gotta go.” Curt ended the call before Owen could reply and raced out the door into the dark hallway.

Step one, he thought. Reunite with your partner. Step two, continue being the greatest spy in the world.

He threw open the door to Kelly Grace’s room, determined to make good on the second point.

Chapter Text

Thankless fucking job, Curt thought as he removed the mix of dirt, blood and wet grass off his face with a few strokes of a washrag.

The night couldn't have gone better, but it was still demanding. Once he’d arrived at the scene of the crime (Kelly Grace’s bedroom), Curt had been welcomed by the sight of a floor covered in one hundred tiny pieces of glass. Through frightened sobs, Kelly explained that a brick had come hurtling through her window the moment she turned out the light. There was a piece of paper tied around the brick, a message scrawled messily in what Curt recognized to be French but couldn’t translate.

“I can’t read this, Ms. Grace.” He had admitted immediately, feeling his cheeks flush. “But I know what I can do. Catch the son of a bitch who did this.”

And he’d caught someone, all right, after ten minutes of pursuing a shadowy figure a guard had spotted tearing through the palace grounds. Curt nearly slipped as he tackled the figure, who appeared to be a scrawny man of average height, brought them both tumbling to the ground.

“I’m CIA, don’t move.” He said in between attempts to catch his breath, and felt the other man stop struggling underneath him. The darkness filled with the sound of voices and once Curt realized they were surrounded by guards, he could safely scramble to his feet and pull the suspect up with him.

“Got our guy,” Curt grunted. “Let's make sure we keep him.”

And now, Curt was cleaning up in one of the palace’s many washrooms, cursing his thankless job. He turned his gaze up from the marble sink to take a long look at himself in the mirror. He didn't feel like himself, and he wanted to make sure he still looked like himself. And he did, just a rougher version than usual.

His eyes were bloodshot, still not totally recovered from the scotch he’d tossed back on the plane, a thoughtless action which made him wince to remember now. He saw blood on his lips, which triggered a twin realization that his mouth tasted like blood. He must’ve bitten his tongue. When had he bitten his tongue? He spat a hot glob of blood into the sink, feeling gross, and rinsed his face with water once more before stepping out.

And now it was showtime. Or rather, interrogation time. Curt made his way down to the basement, trying to remember the way he usually did this part. Unfortunately, his most vivid interrogation memories were less focused on the methods and more focused on his partner. Owen, who would pull his hair out of his eyes so he could stare down the target while he sweet talked the answers out of them. Owen, who would look over his shoulder at Curt and remark “Take a look at this poor sap, love, who had misfortune of crossing our path today,” as if there wasn’t a terrified third party watching them. Owen, who spoke softly but commanded the room.

If Owen spoke softly, then Curt carried the big stick for both of them. During interrogations he was often there to look intimidating and inflict a little “motivation” if necessary. The latter action was the one that troubled Curt. Although he had used just about every tactic for getting missions done, he had never fully embraced inflicting pain on his own.

But that was before. Before Owen, who seemed to know just when to coax out that side of him, and more importantly, when to pull it back, with a whisper of “Good job baring those teeth, you were right on cue,” and a clap on the back.

You don’t need Owen. Curt reminded himself as he entered the makeshift interrogation room, flanked by a guard. You can be scary all on your own.

He sat down across from the man he’d tackled, who was looking less like a mysterious figure and more like a person you’d pass on the street. He was wearing dark, simple clothes that covered up a small stature. His eyes were open but looking down, locked on the area on the ground right between his feet.

Curt coughed before speaking, noticing the other man didn’t react at all to the noise. “Remember me? Let’s chat.” He uncrossed his arms on his chest and breathed deep, trying to will a little bit of charm out of himself despite the situation.

There was no response, so he spoke again. “Let’s make this easy, okay? I just need to know your name.”

The suspect barked something back in French. Curt stared at him blankly before turning his head to a guard. “Did you catch that?”

“It’s not something I should repeat.” The guard said. Curt shook his head in exasperation, but turned his attention back towards the suspect.

“So, you don't have a name. Can I call you Halte?” Curt said. “Since that’s what you kept yelling when I caught you.”

“Halte” simply glared back. Curt realized there were tear streaks in the dried mud on his face,  revealing sun-reddened skin, and tried to ignore the guilty feeling that came up in response. Instead, he got up, shoving his chair back so it made a clattering noise, and grabbed Halte by the collar.

“I wanna help you, Halte, but you’re making this hard.” He said, delivering a quick slap to that muddy face. The movement was fluid, easy, rehearsed. He’d done it a thousand times. “So just tell me why you were sneaking around with a brick at two in the morning, because I know you weren’t renovating the damn place!”

He paused for a moment as the guard repeated what he’d just said in French, and watched Halte’s eyes widen  with understanding afterwards. Still, the man stayed quiet, shaking his head as much as he could with his collar yanked up.

“Maybe I haven’t made it clear just how much deep shit you’re in, Halte.” Curt grabbed Halte’s right hand, starting to twist his fingers with force. He wasn’t planning on breaking anything yet, just implying enough risk to scare his suspect into talking.

But as he tightened his hand with roughness around the other man’s hand, he suddenly remembered the gentle touch that Michael had extended to that same area not long before. Not just remembered, but felt it- the kind of touch he craved, and so rarely got- and suddenly the whole situation felt wrong. He was alone, and tired, and scared, and out of practice and out of his fucking depth.

He dropped Halte’s hand immediately and took a deep breath, not even bothering to notice how anyone in the room reacted. He needed an out. And as if God had heard his prayers from all the way in that basement in Monaco, another guard entered the room and called his name.

“Agent Mega,” The guard repeated once Curt turned to face him. “There’s someone on the phone asking for you.”

"I'll be back," Curt managed to choke out to Halte, and left the room with the kind of hurry he usually reserved for burning buildings.  He hustled up the basement steps, feeling a lot weaker than when he had descended, and by the time he pressed the phone to his ear he was still biting back a wave of nausea.

Chapter Text

Owen was calling, because of course Owen was calling, as he seemed to possess a sixth sense for when Curt was weak. His voice sounded cheery and all-too loud and only added to the pain that was starting to blossom between Curt’s eyes.

“Salut, Curt Mega! With the night I heard you’re having, I thought you could use a break from holding that watch up to your face.”

“Hey.” Why aren’t you here?  was what Curt wanted to ask, but he settled for, “Where are you calling from?”

“Don’t concern yourself with me, you’ve got far bigger problems. A little birdie told me something about bricks going through windows. Is that something you were you planning on sharing with me?”

“Yeah, the brick.” Curt swallowed, his throat feeling tense from a placeless anxiety. “I spotted some shady character sneaking around the palace, but I neutralized him before he could damage anything other than a window.”

“That’s my boy. Have you gotten anything out of him?”

Nope. “I think I’m getting somewhere, but there’s a language barrier. The guards are taking care of him as we speak.”

“Good, good, very good.” Owen took a sharp breath on the line. “...Did you try roughing him up?”

“I was until this phone call.” Curt didn’t feel like mentioning that he was grateful for the interruption.

“I’m sorry to hear that.” Owen said, and then the line went quiet for just a beat too long. Curt was just about to ask if he was still there when Owen’s voice came back, sounding more hushed than before. “Anyway, Curt, the interrogation. Could you be a little more specific about your methods?”

Curt frowned, confused at the question. “Am I in trouble, Agent?”

Owen answered quickly, nearly cutting off the last word Curt spoke. “Of course not, old bo-”

“Then can you let up on the questions? I mean, Christ. I feel like I’m on the stand.”

“I was curious,” Owen’s gentle reply came after a moment of silence. “Apologies if I touched a nerve.”

Curt smoothed his spare hand over his face and sighed heavily, making sure the sound was into the phone so Owen would know exactly how exhausted he was. “I’m having a rough night, you said it yourself. Can you just tell me about where you are?”

“C’mon, I hardly see why that matters-”

“I just, I don’t want to think about where I am right now.” Curt said, hoping the less-than-ideal connection would disguise the shakiness in his voice.

“Alright then, I suppose I can’t argue with that.” Owen said. Curt couldn’t help cracking a smile at the phrase, as if Owen had ever heard a sentence he couldn’t argue with. “Let’s see... well, I’m at a payphone somewhere in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. I was supposed to be en route with Prince Raimey by now, but since things heated up, he’s just been lying low. And since I go where he goes, I’m lying low as well.”

Curt nodded out of habit, although he was well aware that the other man couldn’t see him. “The prince. Is he good company?”

“Eh. He’s a job.” Curt swore he could hear Owen shrug over the phone. “But he’s nothing if not generous. There was this watch that caught my eye in a storefont, nothing fancy, but I have pretty specific tastes-”

“Sure.”

“And wouldn’t you know it, he gave me that same watch as a gift later. And for dinner, he ordered me this plate of cuisses de grenouille- sorry. I meant-”

“Frog legs, I know. You know, you’re not the only one who’s picked up some French.”

Curt’s annoyance must have been clear in his voice, because Owen waited a moment before finally responding with a chiding tone. “Don’t be so jealous, Mega. Gifts and flattery only get so far with me.”

The pain between Curt's eyes reached a throbbing high. “I’m not jealous of him. I mean, of course I’m jealous of him, because he’s richer than god, but that’s not what I meant. If anything, I’m jealous of you.”

“I see.”

“So excuse me for being pissed that while you’re enjoying your little rich kid vacation, I’m trapped here breaking fingers.”

Owen responded without letting even a beat sneak by in between. “Rich or not, Curt, it’s all blokes over here. At least you’re trapped with a beautiful woman.”

“Yeah.” Curt said, mouth dry. He shrugged his head. “Which reminds me, I should probably be talking to her. She probably wants to thank me for saving her life.”

Curt hung up before Owen could respond, suddenly aware of the fact that the entire conversation had been overheard by the guard standing watch behind him. Oh well, he thought, he had no more shame left to spare anymore. And it was with this attitude that he headed towards the one, the only, Kelly Grace's room.

Chapter Text

“What the hell do you mean he’s gone?” Curt found himself yelling. On his way out of the room towards Kelly Grace’s quarters, he’d been interrupted by a guard with some very bad news.

“The police took him, Mr. Mega.” The guard said, matter of factly. “This case falls to them first, not international forces.”

Curt kicked a chair and immediately yelped. He gathered himself together quickly and spoke, noticing his voice was starting to lack energy. “I can’t afford to lose custody. This is an important job.”

The guard blinked back and mumbled something in French.

Curt narrowed his eyes. None of the words sounded familiar but he didn’t have a good feeling about their meaning. “What was that? What did you say?”

The guard replied so quietly it could’ve been a cough that Curt misheard. “Nothing.”

“Forget it.” Curt said, pushing into the other man. “Let me pass, I have a woman to see about a brick.”

When Curt walked into Kelly Grace’s room (after a gentle knock, of course) she was smoking a cigarette and blowing the smoke out of the hole in her window. She was wearing long, white gloves that went almost up to her elbows. She had silent tears trailing down her face.

“Bad timing?” Curt said. The actress looked up, surprised, and then wiped her face with a handkerchief that seemed to come from nowhere.

“The agent who saved my life can stop by any time he wants.” Kelly said with a polite smile. “Sit, please?”

Curt silently sat in the plush chair across from her, glancing down at his feet at the clearly dusted floor. “So, they cleaned up all the glass?”

Kelly laughed hoarsely. “I cleaned up the glass. I wasn’t going to have anyone wasting their time over a broken window when there was some... dangerous person out there.”

“You should’ve told someone.” Curt said, horrified by the image of the woman in front of him picking individuals pieces of glass off the ground. “A woman- I mean, a lady like you shouldn’t have to-”

“Stop.”

Curt stopped.

“Listen, Curt, You’re a sweetie, but enough with the ‘ladies should’ stuff. You don’t think I get that from directors all day?”

“I’m sorry.”

“The only thing a lady shouldn’t do is sit around helpless when her life is in danger.” She crossed her arms on her chest, the still-lit cigarette dangling precariously from one gloved hand on top.

“Hey.” Curt said firmly, and waited until she was looking at him to continue. “Your life isn’t in danger, not with me around.”

Kelly took another hit and the smell of smoke became stronger. She blew it out the window and said, “You were right down the hall earlier and that guy still decided to come by with a brick.”

Curt sighed. “I was hired because I’m a secret agent, Ms. Grace, not a psychic. But either way, you need to trust me. It’s for your own good too.”

Kelly finally unfolded her arms, but her expression remained hard to read. “I find it hard to trust people I know nothing about.” She sighed, and then said, “And don’t try to change me, because I’ve always been this way.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” Curt replied nervously. “Um, what do you need to know?”

“Anything at all would be a good start.”

“Oh. Okay, well, my name is-

“I know your name, I know your job title, that’s not what I want. What’s going on inside that cute little head? Or better yet,” She stuck her cigarette in his direction and Curt flinched out of habit. “That heart.”

“Damn, you’re good.” Curt said, rubbing the side of his “cute little head” self-consciously. “I, uh, don’t know what to say."

"Anything, darling."

"Well, I think airplanes are a little overrated. I think it’s really hot in Monaco... I think I was a lot less sweaty before I got here.”

“And what were you doing before you got here?”

“...Packing my bags to come here.”

“In your life, Mr. Mega.”

“I got you. Uh, being sad, mostly.”

Kelly nodded once in return, but didn’t speak.

“And bored!” Curt added nervously. “Can’t believe I almost forgot being bored.”

Kelly cracked a small smile at his words but her intense stare didn’t waver. “What were you sad about?”

“I got dumped.” Curt said, thinking of Michael for the second time that hour, something he hoped was not the beginning of a worrying pattern. “Kind of. I guess it wasn’t much of a relationship... it’s dumb. All we did was hold hands.”

“Curt, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from acting, it’s that sometime it’s the smallest touches that mean the most.”

“I guess, I just feel bad. I couldn’t even tell him-” And then Curt paused. Say her. Cough and say her instead, dumbass. His brain screamed, and yet he stayed silent. “Sorry.” He said, quietly, wiping his suddenly sweaty palms on his pants.

To his surprise, Kelly took his hand in hers and squeezed it. The silk gloves felt smooth on his hot skin. “Curt, it’s okay. I’ve dated quite a few men... like you, if that’s what you meant.”

Curt just nodded and squeezed back, his face on fire. He blinked back tears that had somehow been triggered by Kelly’s words, and the focus on his eyes made the heaviness of his eyelids suddenly apparent. Before he realized it, he was yawning.

Kelly squeezed his hand once more before pouring away. “You look exhausted. Weren’t you on a plane earlier today?”

Curt glanced down at his watch, saw the time, and laughed out of exasperation. “Yeah, yesterday at this point.”

“Lay down on my bed.”

“I could never-”

“I’m not sleeping in here tonight anyway and it’s much more comfortable than wherever they shoved you. Come on, bed.”

Curt was genuinely tired, so he finally laid down on his back on Kelly’s bed, closing his eyes. He heard the click of a lighter and smelled smoke, and smiled a bit realizing Kelly must’ve started another cigarette. At least she would be busy for a while, maybe too busy to ask him more questions. He didn’t need to make an even bigger fool of himself tonight.

But a question of his own wouldn’t leave his mind. “What was written on that brick, anyway?”

“I’m so glad you asked because it’s insane. Stay away from the water. The water? What could that mean?”

“No idea,” Curt mumbled. “Do you go to the beach often?”

“Now that I think of it, we will be using the pier for...” Kelly paused. “Oh, I shouldn’t say. But I will! That’s where the wedding will be.”

Curt sat straight up. “Wedding? I didn’t even know you guys were engaged.”

“It’s a secret.” Kelly said, and took another drag.

"A secret." Curt repeated quietly.

Kelly blew her smoke out the window before turning to him again. “So, we're even now.”

Curt’s cheeks flushed a bit remembering what Kelly knew about him. “Yeah.”

There was a moment of silence in the room.

Kelly's voice rang through the small space again, voice clear and airy. “Curt, if you can get me out of this whole mess alive, then I promise you’re invited to the wedding.”

“Damn right, I’ll be there.” Curt laughed. “You’ll need security.”

Kelly shook her head. “Not as security, as my guest.”

Curt laid back down on his bed, musing over whether or not it was a good choice to respond with a one-liner. Finally, the joke won out, and he replied.

“Only if you invite some of your exes.”

Kelly’s surprised laugh in return rewarded the decision, and Curt closed his eyes again with a smile, marveling at how he could feel so safe despite everything that had happened.

Chapter Text

Curt had fallen asleep with his shirt still buttoned up and had dreamed of dazzle camouflage. He dreamed of countershading and disruptive coloration. He dreamed of behemoth-sized boats painted with intersecting lines, constantly shifting when viewed through binoculars. He dreamed of gross misinterpretations of the enemy’s speed and direction, of cannonballs fired at the wrong deck. And he dreamed about going down with the vessel, inhaling water that didn’t seem to drown him, and feeling left at the bottom of the ocean without a clue.

He woke up in Kelly Grace’s empty bedroom that smelled slightly of tobacco to a call buzzing through on his watch. He scrambled to answer it without speaking, and the second the call picked up he heard Owen’s voice.

“Just making sure you’re awake. You won’t want to miss when breakfast is served there, trust me.”

The line was dead before Curt could reply. He frowned but was grateful to have a break from the demands of socializing. Now free to concentrate on his surroundings, he blinked back the glare of the sun shining through the jagged hole in the window. In the harsh light the ornate decorations surrounding him looked particularly gaudy, the room’s jewel-tone color scheme in full display. But it was better than any number of the cheap hotels he was used to being shoved into on missions.

In the private shower attached to his own bedroom, Curt washed away the memories of the patterned ships from his dreams and the dirt, sweat and everything else making his skin feel hot and sticky. He stopped in the mirror afterwards to inspect his stubble and decided on having a quick shave, during which he called Owen. He was surprised (but not too surprised) that the call was picked up immediately.

“Owen.”

“Curt. To what do I owe the pleasure of a call back?”

“I just wanted you to know, I lost custody of that bastard before I could get any more answers out of him. He’s probably in some cell in Monte Carlo by now.”

“So I heard.”

“...Are you mad?”

Que sera sera, my boy. I trust that you tried to keep him, but as we both know, the police have a way of butting in where they don’t belong.”

“Speaking of, uh, speaking French, there’s another thing. There was a cryptic message attached to the brick.”

“Hm?”

Stay away from the water. Do you know what that means?”

“I don’t have the foggiest idea.”

“Then what are we going to do?”

“Well, I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually follow advice that’s thrown through a window.”

Throughout the morning they traded quick calls and quips. They never said hello, just the sound of the call connecting, and never said goodbye, just the click of the call hanging up. But it felt casual and comfortable to Curt. In fact, it was almost like having Owen there. Almost. Gone were the smiles and glares shot across the room, the handshakes and hand motions, and all the physical complexities of being in the same space as Owen. It was all stripped away, save for a steady drip of banter localized to Curt’s wrist.

“You were right, Carvour-”

“There’s a sentence I don’t hear enough.”

“I’d say it more if it were true.”

“Ha.”

“Anyway, the breakfast here is great.”

“Good to hear. But how about you call me back when you’re done chewing?”

“Deal.”

After breakfast, Curt headed out onto the palace moors to see if there was any water around the message could’ve been referring to. The search revealed nothing of note, except that the morning dew was deciding to linger far into the afternoon and made the grass alarmingly slippery.

“My shoes are caked in mud.”

“You were the one who said you missed field work.”

“I wish you were here so you could see me flipping you off.”

“Why don’t you paint me a picture of it?”

“Okay, well, it’s my hand, the one that I normally hold my gun with... and then one of my fingers is up...”

“Pray tell, which finger?”

“The middle one. And it’s directed at you.”

“You have such a way with words.”

His next assignment was sitting at a desk in a closet the size of a small room, screening all of Kelly Grace’s phone calls. The actress was calling some of her international friends with wedding invitations, and Curt was to listen to each call in it’s entirety in case there was another phone threat incident. After chatting with the Empress of Iran for over an hour, Kelly had hung up for a while to presumably take a break and Curt took the chance to make a call of his own.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

“You mean what did I want to be? I’m all grown up, Mega.”

“Could’ve fooled me.”

“For your sake, I’ll pretend I didn’t hear that.”

“Just fess up. I know you’re avoiding the question.”

Once phone call duty was done for the day, Curt began to wander through the palace, under the guise of investigating but with the secret mission of snooping. He ended up in the wing on the other side from his room, far from any guards or staff. There was a library with ceiling-high shelves filled with books. He flipped through an atlas idly for a bit, tracing his hand across the map of Monaco, imagining himself in the middle of the huge map below his finger.

“I just don’t understand why you need to know. If you could enlighten me on why, I’d be happy to discuss it.”

“Because I’m bored, and because it’s fun. C’mon! Think of it like we’re practicing small talk.”

“My small talk doesn’t need any practicing-”

Owen.”

“Fine. I’ll say it, but only if you answer too.”

“Alright, on the count of three? What we wanted to be when we were kids?”

Curt went past several rooms that seemed to function as storage for statues and other ancient relics- or at least he assumed they were ancient, given the amount of cobwebs that had built up. Finally he reached a large, dimly-lit room with marble floors and newspapers scattered on the ground.

“Sure. One.”

“Two.”

“Three.”

“Veterinarian.”

“God himself.”

It was then that the sound of a “squawk” brought Curt’s hand to his gun out of instinct.

“Freeze!” He shouted, and found a moment later that he was aiming his gun at a red parrot.

“Owen, guess what I found."

"A clue?"

"No. It says squawk, and hopefully other things, and it’s in a cage in the corner.”

“You found a parrot?”

“Yeah, and it scared the shit out of me- are you still there?”

“Sorry, I just had to explain to someone that although a parrot of my own would be lovely, I could simply not accept the gift.”

Wow.”

Then, suddenly, Curt was aware he and the parrot weren’t the only living beings in the room. He swung around, hand easing inside of his pocket towards his gun, but the sight of a familiar counsel to the prince stopped him.

“Oh, Richard, right? You scared me.”

“I see you’ve met Darcy.” Richard gestured towards the parrot. “She’s a sweet thing but she has a nasty side. Watch out.”

“I’ll be staying far away from her, don’t worry. In fact, I should be leaving now-”

Curt tried to walk past Richard, but the shorter man grabbed his non-watched wrist and held him in place. “We need to talk.”

“Let go of me first.”

Richard obliged, and Curt crossed his arms over his chest defensively.

“What’s this all about?”

“Last night.” Richard said. “You ought to be careful with what you say, Agent Curt Mega. The walls in this palace are thin if you know how to listen.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Curt said after what felt like too long.

“The lady may be sympathetic to men of your persuasion, but I knew there was something off about you. I’m not going to cause any trouble-”

“Good.”

“But you better be careful, Mr. Mega.”

And then Richard was gone, footsteps hurrying out of the room quickly. Even Darcy remained silent, picking at her food. Curt stared down at his feet in shock. Then he looked at his watch, which was indicating he was still on call, just that Owen had been muted. He pressed the button to turn off mute for a moment, heard nothing but empty air on the other end, and then hung up for the last time that day.

Chapter Text

FROM THE DESK OF CURT MEGA - NOTES FROM THE MONACO MISSION

DAY TWO 7:45 P.M.

A confidential piece of information about Agent Curt Mega may have fallen into the wrong hands. The counsel to the prince should be watched out for at all times.

DAY THREE 9:00 A.M.

Agent Curt Mega identified gun shots from the left wing of the palace upon waking. He bravely ventured out and discovered the source to be the palace’s parrot, Darcy.

DAY THREE 5:00 P.M.

Phone call screenings conducted by Agent Curt Mega revealed no threatening behavior except The Queen of The Netherlands asking if she can wear white to the wedding.

DAY FOUR 12:00 A.M.

Gunshots again, parrot again. Agent Curt Mega is going to sleep.

DAY FIVE 8:00 A.M.

Agent Curt Mega will be accompanying Kelly Grace on the train to Paris. No suspicious activity observed yet.

“Well?” Kelly Grace piped up from her seat on the other side of the train-car.

“What?” Curt said, looking up from his notebook. He noticed the actress across from him was sitting unnaturally stiff.

“Are you almost done drawing me?” Kelly said, and batted her eyes expectedly in a silly manner that Curt would have smiled at if not for his complete confusion.

“Huh?” Curt said. “I’ve been taking case notes.”

Kelly flopped back against her seat with a somehow-still-elegant huff. “I’ve just been posing for nothing?”

“Shit, I’m sorry, I can still draw you-” Curt said, flipping to another page.

“Forget it, darling. So many people draw my portrait nowadays that I just snap into action when the pen and paper comes out.”

“If it helps, I’m not very good at drawing.”

I’m good at drawing, ma’m.” The guard next to Curt said, speaking for what he could’ve swore was the first time that trip.

Kelly waved her hand. “No worries, both of you. We’re almost to Paris anyway. Let’s all just enjoy the beautiful view.”

After almost nine hours on the train with Kelly Grace, a quiet guard, and an even quieter Richard, Curt was starting to get a touch of cabin fever. He’d already enjoyed the “beautiful view” for what felt like years, so much that it was starting to feel like the “boring view”.

Still, he would prefer staying on the train eternally than stepping off at their destination, a confidential meeting in Paris with Prince Raimey. And where Raimey was, Owen would be. In the flesh. Not just a rambling voice on the phone. Or, as it had sounded in the last week, a cold and professional voice on the phone.

Curt sighed thinking about the state of their calls now. Something had changed, and he’d narrowed it down to two options. It could be the typical Carvour response to closeness, always pulling away just as Curt found his footing with their dynamic. Or maybe he’d overheard enough from the Richard conversation to draw the logical conclusions and become uncomfortable with their partnership. Curt tried to ignore the second idea, but it stubbornly stuck around, usually surfacing to torment him at bedtime.

The whole situation reminded him of what Michael had said, a conversation that felt like lifetimes ago and still stung like yesterday. I can’t lose this job. Curt had understood the feeling then. But the stakes hadn’t felt truly real until Monaco happened, and now two, possibly three, people had found out his secret. Two practical strangers knowing his secret for sure was scary enough, but it was the idea of his partner even possibly knowing that made him toss and turn at night.

The guard sitting next to Curt interrupted his thoughts with an elbow to the waist.

“Excuse me?” Curt blurted instinctively.

The guard looked back at him with no trace of apology on her face. “Can I have a piece of paper?”

“Uh. Sure.” Curt tore a sheet from his notebook and handed it over.

The guard looked down at the paper, shoved her other hand in her pocket and came out with it empty, and then tapped Curt on the shoulder.

“Can I borrow your pen?”

“You gonna take my wallet too while you’re at it?” Curt snapped.

“Mr. Mega, play nice.” Kelly projected her voice despite being only a foot away, and Curt stiffened at the sound. “Yeva has been a loyal guard to me for several weeks, and I trust her completely. If she needs a pen, she will get a pen.”

“Sorry.” Curt said, feeling his cheeks get red with embarrassment and frustration. He handed the pen over without speaking.

The guard he now knew as Yeva balanced the paper on top of her knee and began to scribble furiously. Curt turned his head to Kelly, who twirling an unlit cigarette between her fingers absentmindedly, and then to Richard, who had looked up from his book after Kelly spoke up and was now looking in Curt’s direction. Curt suddenly realized he was crossing his legs, felt his blush deepen, and adjusted into a more masculine sitting position. Richard’s gaze flicked away from him with an amused expression, his eyes looking unnaturally buggy behind his reading glasses.

Fucking Richard. The counsel to the prince remained another issue. He had been nothing but polite and accommodating since the confrontation, but Curt could no longer feel relaxed in his presence. And unfortunately, his presence had been very hard to escape. He hung around Kelly Grace like a wisp of smoke with a receding hairline, and even during the train ride kept to her side. Over the last nine hours, he would whisper something to her in French occasionally or point to something cool out the window Curt never seemed to look in time to catch.

Fucking asshole. Fucking bug-eyed asshole with a stupid beard. Curt concentrated on the words with a force, hoping they would somehow project themselves into Richard’s thoughts. He really needed to talk to Barb about inventing something that could do that. If the little psychic experiment worked, then Richard showed no reaction to it, nose already back in the novel he’d been stuck to all day.

Suddenly, Curt realized someone was touching him. He looked to his left, catching Yeva halfway through slipping the pen back into his pocket.

“Sorry, sir, I didn’t want to bother you.”

“It’s fine, just- fuck, give me that.” Curt snatched the pen and shoved it all the way inside of his other pant pocket, far away from his neighbor’s reach. The train was to pull into the Gare Du Nord station in twenty minutes, so there was no use on working on case notes anymore. It was time to sit back and watch as the view outside changed from a blur of nature, to farmland, and finally to the unmistakeable cityscape of Paris.

Exactly twenty five minutes later, Curt was looking out the window of taxi, leg bouncing up and down with a nervous energy. He noticed the car passed by where he knew they’d be staying that night, a lucrative piece of property that Kelly owned in the city, and turned down a dark and curving road instead.

“We’re going straight to the meeting?” He asked to no one in particular.

Out of the three other people in the taxi, Kelly was the only one with an answer. “Of course, Mr. Mega. This is a very important occasion. And I miss him, my fiancee... it’s as if absence has made my heart grow fonder.”

Curt ran a hand through his hair blindly, attempting to smooth down any stray hairs, and wondered what absence had done to Owen’s heart.

Chapter Text

The restaurant was simpler than Curt expected. It was down the block from a much busier stretch of restaurants and bars, a small square-shaped building tucked behind a sidewalk that desperately need construction.

Yeva and Curt entered first to scope it out. Inside there was no one but one server who said nothing, just raised his hand in greeting and then ducked into the kitchen. While Yeva followed him to check the back of house, Curt did a quick sweep behind the bar. His eyes lingered on a bottle of whiskey. The neck of the bottle would fit perfectly in his hand, he reasoned, and it would help his nerves. Hell, he deserved a drink after everything that had happened. He was pulled away from acting on his desire to take a swig by the sound of Yeva’s voice.

“What do you think the wedding will be like?”

“You know about the engagement too?” He said. “Kelly- I mean, Ms. Grace, said it was a secret.”

Yeva laughed. “Hmph. More like an open secret.”

Curt smiled politely in response, but his mind was tugged towards worry by the concept. Open secrets. He couldn’t help but remember that night in Kelly’s room, when she had said “we’re even”, and then he thought about his secret, and then he regretted leaving that whiskey untouched.

The regret only grew as the number of people in restaurant started to grow. Signaled by Yeva to come in, Kelly Grace and Richard entered, making small talk about the decor. Only a few minutes later, Kelly spotted something out the window and jumped to her feet.

“My love is here!” Kelly shrieked, the harsh sound still somehow sounding pleasing to the ear, and ran up to open the door. Curt and Yeva hung back by the table in the center of the room, Yeva staying for what Curt could assume was security purposes and Curt staying out for fear of crumbling to dust if he moved.

A man entered, and Curt recognized him as Prince Raimey immediately, having become familiar with his image from both files on international politics and gossip magazines. He was a tan, average-looking man with a pencil-thin mustache on his upper lip who stood taller than anyone else in the room. He leaned down to press a kiss to Kelly’s head and then one on her lips, the gesture performed very gently as if he had learned how to not smear her lipstick.

Curt was so busy watching the embrace that he didn’t even notice someone else had slipped inside until Kelly pulled away and there, standing in between the couple with a hand ready to extend to the actress, was Owen.

He looked good, but Curt already knew he would look good. Still, he felt his heart rate increase to an embarrassing speed when he saw his partner. The details of Owen’s appearance came to him in a wild order as his Curt let his eyes dart from Owen’s hair, cut slightly shorter than their last mission, to the pack of Imperial cigarettes shoved in awkwardly his breast pocket, to the new color in his cheeks and skin from the sun. He was wearing a tight white shirt, the top few bottoms undone to reveal what Curt hoped was a little bit of chest hair and not just a shadow.

Owen had yet to even look in Curt’s direction, still shaking hands with Kelly Grace. He was always good at giving people, especially beautiful women, his full attention. Curt felt the pit of his stomach sink as he watched Richard approach from where he had been hovering in the corner to greet the new arrivals.

“Mr. Carvour, this is my counsel and friend, Richard Laurent.” The prince said, thankfully loud enough for Curt to hear, and then gestured towards Owen. “Richard, je vous présente Owen Carvour.”

Special Agent Owen Carvour.” Owen said, grabbing Richard’s hand for a shake that looked unnecessarily aggressive. “Trained in ballistics and intimidation.”

Curt didn’t get to spectate for long, because the pair made their way over to the table soon enough and Kelly took the chance to introduce him and Raimey formally.

“This is Special Agent Curt Mega, darling.” Kelly said. “Curt, this is the love of my life who just happens to be the prince of Monaco.”

“Nice to meet you.” Curt said, taking the prince’s hand. It was warm and their handshake last only a moment before Raimey pulled away to pat Owen on the shoulder.

“Your partner here has said good things about you, Curt Mega. I hope they’re all true.” Raimey replied. With that prompt, Owen finally met Curt’s eyes, but didn’t speak, just nodded his head quickly.

Curt felt himself tugged in two polar opposite urges- to both run into the other man’s arms and run far away. In the end, he did neither, just nodded politely and took a seat across the table. The rest of the group followed suit.

“Why are we here?” Richard said, taking a seat on the other side of Raimey. “Ms. Grace was not very forthcoming.”

All heads at the table turned to Kelly, who seemed more than comfortable with the attention. “To borrow a word from my fiancee’s beautiful language, we need to have a rendezvous and make sure we’re all on the same page.”

“I agree completely, my love. We aren’t on the same page.” Raimey said. “I think you should be somewhere safer than that dangerous palace. Let me make a few calls and find-”

“We’ve been over this, honey.” Kelly said. “I’m not leaving. I can handle myself just fine, and I have a very special agent on my side.” She patted Curt’s arm at the end of her sentence.

Curt cleared his throat before speaking. “Ms. Grace is right. She’s perfectly safe at the palace, there hasn’t been another phone threat all week.”

“But there have been other threats, correct?” Owen said. Since it was the first time he had addressed Curt directly, Curt supposed it as much of a “hello” as anything and turned his head to respond, but Owen was already looking at Richard, who was starting to talk.

“That parrot of yours has been making some awfully strange noises, sir.” He said. “Ask the agent.”

Kelly answered instead of Curt. “I love the thing but it’s ruining my life and my sleep. Who would sell you a parrot that makes gunshot noises instead of asking for a cracker?”

Whatever Raimey’s answer was going to be was interrupted by Owen clearing his throat.

“If you will excuse me for a moment, I’m going to have a smoke.” Owen rose to his feet abruptly. “Agent Mega, care to join me?”

Curt stared back at him, surprised to be addressed directly.

“Come join me.” Owen said, this time the phrasing less like a question and more like a command.

The authoritative tone was enough to snap Curt out of his silence. After the last week, Owen was just going to order him to talk to him? Screw that.

He couldn’t help the smug tone of voice as he replied. “I don’t smoke.”

“Suit yourself.” Owen smiled politely for a beat, an expression that didn’t reach his eyes. Then his face fell neutral again and he shuffled out of the restaurant, tugging at the cigarettes in his pocket.

Richard said something in French to Raimey, and Raimey shrugged in return before whispering back.

Curt instinctively looked over to Kelly, and she must’ve understood his confusion because she whispered a translation immediately. “Richard said that your friend is an odd bird.”

“Oh,” Curt said, and then laughed. For once he agreed with Richard. “Yeah, he is.”

An odd bird, Curt was still thinking when Owen walked back in and called the server over to order some wine, requesting “the reddest they had”. He was still thinking odd bird as Owen received the glass of wine and didn’t even take a sip, just glanced around the table. And he was still thinking about the phrase when Owen looked him straight in the eye, picked up the glass, gave it a bit of a jerk with his wrist, and flung the contents onto Curt’s lap. After that, the only thing Curt was thinking was bastard.

“I am so, so sorry.” Owen said in a tone that sounded genuine enough to piss Curt off further. He immediately stood up and walked over to stand behind Curt. “Here, old chap, let me help you clean off. Up we go.”

Curt felt Owen’s warm hands on his shoulders, tugging him up, and got to his feet with a sigh. The movement made the wine drip even further down on his pants and he tried to walk as naturally as possible as he followed Owen out of the room. Before Curt realized they were headed to the men’s bathroom, Owen was already pulling him inside.

“Congratulations, jackass, you got me alone.” Curt said once the door was closed behind them.

Owen didn’t answer, busy ducking his head into each stall.

“Well? What’s so important?” Curt said louder. Owen hustled back over to Curt, leaning against the wall next to him.

“Coast is clear,” Owen panted. Curt must’ve not looked impressed with the answer, because the next words out of Owen’s mouth were, “Oh, get that sour look off your face. We needed to talk and you were being stubborn, as usual.”

“Stubborn.” Curt repeated, dumbfounded. “You spilled wine in my lap.”

“Just what was I supposed to do, slip you a note like a schoolboy?” Owen hissed. “You would barely look at me.”

“Yeah, well, you barely talk to me!” Curt said, cringing once heard his own voice echo off the walls of the small room.

Owen didn’t seem phased at all by his outburst. “I talk to you every day. That’s the whole point of this mission, if you’ve been paying attention.”

“You talk, but you don’t say anything. Not anymore. And I don’t know what I did, but to be honest, it’s pissing me off.”

“Alright, then stay pissed. I’ve been busy.”

“So am I-”

“Not busy enough, apparently, if you have all this time to worry about me.” Owen pinched the bridge of his nose. “Look, we don’t have time for this. I’m sorry for stepping on your damn tail. But I’m talking to you now, like I’ve been trying to talk to you all night, if you’d just hear me out.”

“Okay.” Curt said, and he meant it. It was okay. Owen hadn’t looked away from him since finishing his sentence, and the warmth of the man’s full attention felt itchy in a way that was blissfully familiar. “What’s going on?”

“Hm, how about you tell me? Since you seem to be quite the mind reader all of a sudden.” Owen said, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning up against the sink.

“I think...” Curt started, and then stopped to consider his response very carefully. He wasn’t a mind reader, but he did know Owen. Had known him. Something in between that. And in the past he had gambled on him and Owen being on the same page, but would that work now? After so many months and miles between them? Fuck it, he had to say something soon, Owen had already raised an eyebrow. “I think you’re like me.” He finished.

Owen opened his mouth with what was sure to be a biting comeback, but Curt interrupted him by raising a hand. “Wait. I think you’re like me because you’re also bored out of your mind here.”

Owen raised both eyebrows in surprise. His expression relaxed and he uncrossed his arms, flicking an imaginary piece of lint off his shirt. “Lucky guess.”

“It’s not luck, Carvour. I know you. I know you’re sick of playing chaperone for these royal assholes. You want some real action, right? Like the kind we used to do best.”

“We did have a certain skill for getting into trouble.” Owen said, a wistful look in his eyes.

“And getting out of it,” Curt said, confidence rising as he sensed Owen coming around.

“Yes, yes, that too.” Owen said. “But that’s still not why I needed to talk to you.”

“Then spit it out, c’mon.”

“I think there’s something else going on here.” Owen stepped closer to Curt as he spoke, and Curt took a step backwards and felt his back touch the wall. “I can’t say much now... I don’t have all of the pieces yet. But I have a strong lead. There’s a casino here Raimey keeps bringing up, saying he wants to bring his belle there to meet all of his gambling friends. I’m going to bring the topic up at the table, but I need you to be on my side. I need you to convince Ms. Grace it’s worth her time. Do you trust me, Curt?”

“To the end.” Curt said, and shocked himself with how much he meant it. And although he tried to swallow the feeling, he knew that he’d mean it forever, even after the hundredth cup of wine was dropped in his lap.

“Good.” Owen said, his expression a strange mix that Curt interpreted as a little uncomfortable, a little flattered. He pulled away and Curt could finally breathe again. “Then it’s showtime.”

“Showtime” ended up being a dramatic choice of words for what actually happened. Once they were back at the table and the conversation was beginning to naturally wind down, Owen suddenly spoke up.

“Are you staying in Paris after this, Ms. Grace?”

Kelly flipped her hair, looked at Raimey, who responded with a shrug, and then turned back to Owen to reply. “Perhaps another night or two. I don’t mind the vacation after the week I’ve been having.”

“Maybe you and Raimey could spend some time together.” Curt said, and saw Owen nod in approval out of the corner of his eye. “It’s the city of love, after all.”

Raimey piped up from across the table. “Agent Mega is right, mon amour. In fact...” He looked at Owen. “I have the perfect place in mind.”

With the meeting over and the agreement for the group to meet up at the casino tomorrow in place, Kelly and Raimey shared a goodbye ritual that seemed to last forever and involved a lot of kissing. Meanwhile, Curt and Owen hovered on their respective sides of the couple in silence. Curt turned his head away to look at Owen and realized Owen was already staring at him.

“Bit of a cold night, eh?” Owen said, stuffing his hands even further in his pockets.

Curt nodded back, but he felt a bit strange about it. Owen rarely talked about the weather, he always had something to say. Was he nervous?

The emotion seemed too human for the puzzle-in-the-shape-of-a-man in front of him to possess, but hell, Curt was nervous. Why wouldn’t Owen be? Curt bet on them being on the same page again and quietly extended his hand. Owen caught on quick, immediately grabbing Curt’s wrist and shaking it with an uncharacteristic desperation. The contact seemed to break the spell they were both under, and the sound of the people talking around them faded from Curt’s ears.

“So...” Curt began, unsure of what he was even going to say.

Thankfully, Owen continued for him. “So, I’ll see you soon.”

“I guess you will, Agent Carvour.” Curt said, stressing the title just enough before releasing his grip on Owen’s arm. He felt brave enough in that moment to bring up the past, but it was Owen’s reaction that would show whether or not time had truly buried the hatchet.

“Oh.” Owen said. Curt just stared at his mouth as it formed the word, trying to commit the shape to memory. He flicked his eyes back to up to meet Owen’s as the other man finally got his wits together. “Oh, Mega. You dog. You haven’t changed a bit.” After that sentence, his dumbfounded expression finally pulled into a grin and he laughed.

Curt laughed back, mostly out of relief. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing, love.” Owen had a wild glint in his eye that might have scared Curt in Copenhagen, or Berlin, or anywhere else they’d been before, but it was just exciting now. “I just realized we’re going to have a lot of fun.”

Chapter Text

Before the fun started, there was an entire day of uneventful muck in between. Kelly Grace’s Paris apartment was nice, and the cuisine was nice, and Curt enjoyed himself just fine, but he didn’t want nice. He wanted the kind of danger Owen had talked about last night, and he wanted to be in that damn casino when it happened.

After an afternoon of trailing behind Kelly Grace as she ran errands, which included a visit to the tailor’s, an appearance on a local radio show, and a long stint in a phone booth while she called a friend in Italy, Curt’s wish finally came true.

“I’ve booked the casino’s nicest suite for me and Prince Raimey, of course. My dearest Yeva will be on the fourth floor, she deserves a nice view after that lovely portrait she drew of me on the train. Richard is going to be down the hall from us in case he comes up with some great counsel in the middle of the night.” Kelly listed off their sleeping arrangements as the taxi pulled up to the casino. “And Curt, you’ll be on the second floor. I decided to put you in a room next to your friend.”

“Huh?” Curt snapped out of his window-gazing. “Friend?”

“Agent Carvour, of course.” Kelly said. “The two of you need to make up after that awful wine accident last night.”

“Yeah, accident.” Curt said, still a little sore about his pants being ruined. “Thanks for thinking of me.”

After completing the check-in process, hopefully the last boring thing Curt would participate in that night, Kelly and Raimey had reunited, Yeva had went along with them for security, and Richard had fucked off somewhere. Curt excused himself to his room, but it was Owen’s room he wanted to spend more time in. He decided to indulge in that urge after putting his things away.

Curt’s fist hesitated before finally knocking on the door, an action his inner monologue was more than happy to taunt him with. C’mon, you’ve broken into dictator’s hotel rooms and this scares you? It’s just Owen.

The door opened almost immediately after he knocked, and the air that came out of the room was thick and smelled of bar soap. And then Owen was there, leaning against the doorframe, arms folded over his bare chest.

It’s just Owen, wearing nothing but a towel.

Maybe Curt would’ve preferred a dictator.

“If now’s a bad time, I can come back-” Curt said, snapping his eyes up to lock straight on the other man’s face.

Owen shook his head. “Nonsense, we have a lot of catching up to do. Come in.” He opened the door wider, gesturing for Curt to come closer.

Curt lingered awkwardly for a moment after entering, taking in the area. It looked the same as his room but with the familiar Owen items- guns, knives, a few wrinkled polos, his signature comb, and more- strewn on every available surface.

“Go ahead and take a seat,” Owen said. “I’ll be right out in something more proper.”

Curt sat down awkwardly on Owen’s bed. The other man disappeared into his bathroom for a moment and Curt was relieved to have a break from trying not to look at him. Now that he could actually think, a joke came to his mind.

“Hey, what if I was a KGB assassin and you’d answered the door in that?” Curt called out.

The bathroom light clicked off and Owen walked out wearing pants, with the towel draped around his still-bare shoulders. If he’d been amused by Curt’s comment, it didn’t show on his face, which remained frustratingly neutral.

“I know your knock, Curt. We haven’t been apart for that long.”

Curt didn’t reply, caught off guard by the persisting lack of shirt. He found himself staring, not out of attraction but horror as at he noticed the pattern of crisscrossed cuts on the other man’s chest and stomach. They looked too fresh to have been there five months ago but not quite fresh enough that they had been acquired on this mission. For the first time, Curt wondered about where Owen had been in their time apart. He hadn’t bothered to ask during any of their phone calls.

If Curt had been looking at Owen’s face, he might’ve noticed the other man’s smirk at catching him sooner. “Distracted by something, agent?”

Fuck. “Uh, nothing. Sorry.”

“No need to be shy. Field work can be dangerous without a partner, as you can see.” Owen gestured to his torso, and then leaned down to open a drawer.

Curt cleared his throat and looked away until he was sure Owen had slipped a shirt on. “So, they haven’t just been giving you desk work?”

“No, no, not at all. If you can believe it, I was actually stationed in your neck of the woods.”

Curt paused for a moment to figure out what he meant. “No way, America?”

“The very same.”

Curt took a moment to process the answer before asking another question. “...Where?”

“Las Vegas.” The name sounded funny in Owen’s accent.

“Oh shit!” Curt said. “What’s happening in Las Vegas?”

“Nothing, if I did my job right.” Owen winked and flopped into the chair next to his bed, idly polishing a knife.

“How did it go? Other than, uhh...” Curt moved his hand vaguely above his own chest, then felt embarrassed to acknowledge the wounds again. “You look good, is what I mean. I hope the States treated you well.”

“Mhm, too well even.” Owen said wistfully, eyes still on his weapon. “According to my last physical, I put on more than a stone during that mission. But that’s American portions for you, eh?”

Curt didn’t bother making the conversion of stones into pounds, but the sentence brought a blush to his face. The tightness of Owen’s shirt now and last night suddenly made sense, as he had been wearing an older garment on a newly filled-out chest. He remembered shaking Owen’s wrist and feeling the slight layer of muscle on his previously bone-thin arms. Sitting in front of him now, Owen looked handsome, not just boyishly handsome. Healthy and solid and just a bit softer. Thank god for American portions.

Then he realized Owen was looking at him blankly, waiting for a response.

“You look good.” Curt just repeated himself with a wince.

Owen didn’t seem to mind the second compliment. “Don’t stroke my ego too much, Mega.” He said with a quick wipe of the blade. “I’ll be insufferable.”

“Maybe I missed you being insufferable.” Curt said. He knew he was walking a careful line of too honest because of the quizzical look Owen gave him, but he kept going anyway. “Maybe I missed all of it.”

“Seems like someone’s feeling sentimental.” Owen said. “Are you scared about getting your hands dirty today?”

“Of course not!” Curt said with genuine offense in his voice. “Just excited- and-”

Owen raised a hand up and Curt fell silent. “No need to explain, Curt, I missed it too. Which is I want to get started right now.”

He got up from the chair and walked over to the closet, pulling on a dark jacket over the shirt he was wearing. He then made his way to the dresser and began to stuff things in his pockets, hiding his gun in the inside lining of his jacket like usual. Curt watched the whole process before realizing he should probably stand up too.

Without another word they walked out of the hotel room, which Owen locked with a mechanical swiftness. It wasn’t until they were in the elevator that Curt finally thought of something to say.

“Earlier. I saw a strange mark. How’d you get that?”

“You’re going to have to be more specific, love.” Owen said, the last word making Curt’s ears perk up. “My body has plenty of those at the moment.”

“Right,” Curt said, embarrassed. “I meant the one on your hip. Almost, uh, looked like teeth.”

“Ah.” Owen said, and then laughed to himself. “Dog bite.”

Curt laughed too, although he wasn’t sure why. “Of course, I don’t know what I was think-”

The elevator doors opened and Owen brushed past Curt, interrupting him in the process. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Mega.”

A thousand objections came to Curt’s mind but he cleared them away and followed Owen into the casino.

It was an impressive place, dazzling chandeliers on the ceiling, a bright red carpet on the floor, and the sound of live music drifting through the air. Curt was starstruck enough by the decor that it took him a moment to realize something was off.

“This joint is pretty empty.” He mumbled to Owen. “Why would a prince hang out here?”

“If he’s smart, he’ll hang around here because it’s empty.” Owen said. “And if that’s true is exactly what I’m going to figure out tonight.”

We’re going to figure out, you mean.”

Owen rolled his eyes. “I haven’t forgotten we’re partners, Cu-”

Someone else yelled out Curt’s name before he could finish. “Curt!” Curt turned around to see Kelly running over across the casino.

“Hey, Mrs. Gra-” Owen started, but she pressed her gloved hand to his mouth.

“I need a moment with just Curt.”

Owen bowed out silently, leaving Curt and a very frazzled Kelly alone.

“What’s going on?”

He’s here.” Kelly said.

“Hey, hey, calm down.” Curt put a hand on her shoulder, and he couldn’t help but notice the velvet of her dress was even softer than it looked. “Who’s here?”

“The man on the phone. He’s in the back room, right now, playing poker with my fiancee like they’re old friends.”

The implications of that fact flooded Curt’s mind immediately but he shook them away. No need to jump the gun. “Are you sure it’s him?”

“I recognized his voice immediately and had to find you. He’s the only American in there.”

“Then we’ll be equally matched.” Curt said, the nonsensical logic of the line seeming to bring Kelly some peace. “Go find Yeva and go somewhere safe, okay? I’ll take care of it.”

“Good idea. I’ll have her draw me again.”

Kelly always managed to surprise him. “S-sure. Do that.”

“Good luck, Curt.”

Curt found Owen lingering a few tables away and explained the situation to him, and the two headed towards the back room Kelly had referred to. Instead of a door it had a large black curtain that they pulled aside to enter, and the light that shone in revealed four men sitting around a table.

There was Raimey, of course, sitting with perfect posture on one end of the table. Across from him, three shady characters were huddled close together. The man in the middle had light, thin hair and a scar across his cheek, and on either side of him were two nearly identical brunette men wearing all black.

“Carvour!” Raimey exclaimed. “I was hoping you’d show up.”

“I love a good card game.” Owen said, pulling up a seat next to the prince. Curt followed suit and sat down next to Owen, catching the tail end of his conversation with the prince.

“You’re not wearing the jacket I got you.”

“It was fur and it’s hot as hell in here, monsieur.” Owen said. He nodded towards the three strangers. “Who’re your friends?”

“That would be, uh, Slam, was it?” Raimey said, and the man in black on the left raised his hand. “His brother Charlie and Raymond Sy-”

“No need for last names, let’s just get this game started.” The man with the scar interrupted. Curt noted that he was American and fought back the urge to draw his gun. “And deal in Pretty and Handsome too.” Raymond finished, nodding towards the agents.

“What are we playing?” Owen asked just as Curt burst out with a question of his own: “Who’s who?”

“The game is blackjack.” Raymond said. He glanced towards Curt. “And I’ll let you two figure that out.”

Raimey didn’t look ready to play. “You brought what I wanted, correct?”

“It’s in Slam’s bag.” Raymond said nonchalantly. “But I think I’ve changed my mind.”

Raimey’s eyes widened in surprise. “You promised-”

“I made those promises before I read the tabloids, Raimey. Specifically the ones about gunshot noises coming from your big fancy castle. Sounds like someone is flapping her beak.”

“I know what you’re saying and the answer is no.” Raimey said.

“How do you mean?” Owen interjected.

“I want the bird back.” Raymond said, ignoring him. “I can’t take the chance.”

“That’s where you got the parrot? This guy?” Curt couldn’t help but blurt out. This time, Raymond paid attention.

“Damn right. Raimey told me he was going to get Darcy stuffed and keep her on his bookshelf.” He glared at the prince. “Instead, he keeps her alive- not part of the deal- and lets her have a room to herself.” Raymond said. “She hasn’t been talking to you, has she?”

“Not at all.” Curt said, putting his hands up.

“Good.” Raymond said. “If you’re lucky, she never will. And if your employer is smart, he’ll remember what I know about his father and deal us in already.”

“Forget it. She’s much happier with me. You should see her plumage-”

“Christ, I don’t care about her feathers! You think I care about a parrot I was willing to lose in a poker game? I just care about that stupid tape recorder mouth on her.”

“So I show up here for a game you don’t  want to play, and now you don’t even care about the parrot anymore. Maybe I should just leave.” Raimey said.

“Hang on, wait.” Curt said impulsively. Everyone at the table turned to look at him.

Curt had been meaning to speak up for a while, every since he noticed the redness around Raymond’s nose and the impulsive tapping of his bony fingers on the table. He had began to form a hypothesis, and from that hypothesis sprang a plan, and then a sentence came to his mind, something that could change everything if he said it right. He took a deep breath. No time for rehearsals.

“I’ve got a bet for you.”

“Why should I take it? I’m sitting at the table with royalty, and you’re what- a security guard? A male model?”

“I’m an American.” Curt emphasized the word. “Hear me out.”

Raymond narrowed his eyes. “Alright, Uncle Sam. I’m listening.”

“You’ve been over here for a while, huh? Bet there’s some things back home you miss.”

“I don’t miss that fucking president.” Raymond grumbled.

“Oh, to hell with that guy.” Curt said. “But there’s gotta be something you miss. Burgers? Fries? Sports. You watch any sports?”

Raymond looked suspicious, but he answered anyway. “Baseball.”

Perfect. Curt had never been more grateful for having a crush on a baseball fan in his life, as the information he’d picked up from conversations with Michael came back to him. “How about those Mets, huh?”

“Fuck the Mets. I prefer the Yankees.”

“I hear you, I hear you. Five World Series in a row isn’t anything to sneeze at. Plus the arm on that Mickey Mantel? Unmatched.”

“Guess you know your stuff. Look, anyone who can talk ball has a seat at my poker table.” Raymond said. Curt’s victory was cut short, however, when he turned his head to the prince. “But if your boy wants to play a game over a fucking cheeseburger, Raimey, I’m out.” Raymond said.

Curt clenched his jaw. Time to pull out all the stops.

“I’m talking about good-old fashioned American blow.”

Curt could see Owen stiffen out of the corner of his eye, but he didn’t let the reaction get to him. He kept his gaze on Raymond steady and confident.

“The stuff over here isn’t as pure, you know?” He continued. “They get it from somewhere up in the mountains and it freezes and re-freezes one hundred times before it goes up your nose. But in America?” Curt gestured to Owen’s and Raimey’s confused faces. “These other guys don’t understand what they’re missing. But if you don’t want to miss out anymore, I’ve got some in my pocket right now.”

“Alright. You have my interest. But what do you get out of this? If you can possibly beat me.”

“I keep my stuff to myself, and you give me as much money as I spent on it.” Curt said. “I’m sure that’s nothing for a man like you.”

“...You’re lucky I’m dry right now.” Raymond said after a tense moment of silence. “Deal me in, Charlie.”

After the first few hands, Curt was regretting his plan to lose on purpose, because he’d won a fair amount of times. Meanwhile, Owen sat beside him, as silent as a ghost. It was unnerving but Curt couldn’t help but be glad for one less distraction.

When they were on the last hand, Curt purposefully gave up any attempt at a poker face. His hand being this bad wasn’t something he could’ve.

“Fold.” He said. “I’m busted.”

Raymond laughed gleefully at the victory. “Pay up, then.”

Curt took the bottle of sleeping pills out of his pocket. He was grateful for all the nights of boredom at the palace, as they had given him plenty of time to decide to grind up the pills into a fine powder.

“Why’s it in a bottle?” Slam spoke up. “Doesn’t look like any cocaine I’ve ever seen.”

Curt glared at him. “You think I’m going to keep it in a bottle marked ‘for fun’? I just slapped a sleeping pills label on it.”

“Yeah, shut up, Slam.” Raymond said. He took the bottle from Curt’s hands and sprinkled it out on the table, separating the powder into into lines with the side of a card. And then he rolled up that same card and inhaled a line of it deeply. Curt just watched and prayed that the pills would work the same no matter how they went in someone’s system.

“God, it burns.” Raymond said, hand going up to his nose. “You aren’t fucking with me, are you?”

“The good stuff is supposed to burn.” Curt said quickly. “Just close your eyes and take a deep breath.”

Raymond followed the advice, but his eyes stayed closed afterwards and his body slackened dramatically, finally slumping onto the table.

“Curt.” Owen said, quietly, like a warning. Curt didn’t know what to do, so he just reached a hand over to squeeze the other man’s knee in a gesture he hoped would be read as “I’ve got this.”

“Raymond?” Charlie shook his friend’s limp body and then whipped his head up to bark in Curt’s direction. “You killed him!”

Curt jumped to his feet. “I didn’t do shit to him. He’s sleeping. Which makes him the lucky one out of you three.”

For a moment everyone around the table was still, and then chaos broke out. As Curt leaped to his feet to tackle Charlie, he was vaguely aware of Raimey yelling something in French, but the sound was lost as adrenaline took over. He managed to hit the man on the head with the back of his pistol, sending stumbling sideways, and then both of them fell on the ground.

“Curt!” Owen yelled. Curt looked over to see his partner, smiling despite a split lip, toss a pair of handcuffs at him.

Once both conscious men were handcuffed, Curt could finally take a breather.

“Thanks for helping me get this.” Raimey said, pulling a blueprint out of Slam’s bag. In the dim light, Curt could see the outlines of a very familiar aquatic vessel.

Submarines, I should’ve known.” Curt said to himself, and spit some blood on the carpet. “Barb is always right.”

A bit of time later, Yeva, Richard, and the three men were going back to the palace on a heavily guarded train, while Kelly and Raimey were going to somewhere “safe and close until the morning”. And Curt and Owen were assigned to stay at the casino that night, as Kelly reasoned, “somebody had to make sure no one came back for revenge.”

After waving at Kelly as her taxi pulled away, Curt looked over to Owen.

“Did I do good?” He asked, jokingly. He already knew the answer.

“Great.” Owen said. “Those pills were a real riot, were you planning that the whole time?”

“Of course.” Curt lied, but was distracted by something on Owen’s mouth.

Without thinking, he licked his thumb and ran it across Owen’s lip, wiping off a little bit of blood that remained there from the fight. He felt Owen’s hot breath on his hand during the motion and it was enough to sent a shiver up his spine.

“Drinks?” Owen said when he pulled his hand away.

“I need a shower.” Curt replied, because he did.

After a shower which left his mind blissfully blank, Curt returned to the first floor of the casino. He found Owen without even having to use his tracker, the man was sitting at the bar, jotting something down on a notepad.

He wordlessly took the seat next to Owen. When Owen looked at him and smiled in greeting, the adrenaline from the mission came back in full force. Curt flagged down the bartender immediately, craving something to take the edge off.

“Whiskey for myself and uh-” He glanced at Owen.

“Martini.”

“A martini for the gentleman.” He finished. Owen continued writing until the bartender returned with their drinks about a minute later, and only then did he close his notepad and make eye contact with Curt.

“Don’t spill this one on me.” Curt said.

“Don’t worry.” Owen replied, and took a long sip. “I’m not cruel enough to ruin another pair of your trousers, seeing as you’ll need something to wear to the wedding.”

“The wedding?”

“Raimey and Ms. Grace.” Owen said matter-of-factly. “They’re trying to stay ahead of the bad press by moving their nuptials up a week.”

“Do you think it’ll work?”

“Of course it will.” Owen said bitterly. “Everybody loves a wedding.”

“Are you going to go?”

“When I said everybody I was including myself. And besides all that, this is history in the making. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Owen finished. “God. I can’t believe I’m drinking with you again after the fool I made of myself last time.”

“Copenhagen?” Curt said. The name felt funny in his mouth. “You were a bit of a cheap date.”

Owen raised his eyebrow at the phrasing but didn’t say anything. “I held my liquor just fine. I just know I divulged some, delicate, I suppose, information.”

Curt waved his hand casually. “It’s all in the past. But it’s good that you don’t want to repeat yourself. You could’ve gotten yourself into trouble.”

“How do you mean?” Owen asked, and Curt swallowed another sip nervously. He hadn’t expected Owen to press the issue.

Curt shrugged. “All I’m saying is, you should watch yourself.”

Owen narrowed his eyes. “I don’t follow.”

“It’s just... going around, talking like that.” Curt thought about how Owen’s lip had felt under his thumb, how his wrist had felt in his grip, and he leaned closer. “A guy could get ideas.”

“Oh?” Owen practically purred the word. “And what kind of ideas did it give you, Curt?”

“That you try to be professional, but you’ve got a nasty chick habit.” A small feeling of victory spread in Curt’s chest as Owen’s smug smile faded. “And I think your agency agrees with me, seeing as they made you hang it up.”

Owen pulled back after that, reaching for his glass only to find it empty. “I’m a spy, Curt, not a priest. And nice try, talking me down like you did to Raymond back there. Tactics like that are useless with me.”

“No idea what you’re talking about.” Curt said genuinely. “Let me buy you another drink.”

“I like the sound of that a lot more.” Owen said. And Curt bought him quite a few drinks, and bought himself even more, and as the evening went on their tense moment was forgotten.

“Well, here’s my stop.” Owen said jokingly as they arrived outside of his room. Curt leaned a little against the doorframe and watched Owen dig through his pockets. The world was a little blurry but Owen was in full, overwhelming detail, from his messy hair to his untied tie to his flushed cheeks.

“Something else you needed, Curt?” Owen asked, snapping Curt out of his daydream. How long had he been staring?

“Yeah, sorry. I mean, no. I should get to bed.”

He was about to go and do just that when he noticed Owen was replying.

“Actually, there’s something I need from you. It seems I’ve I lost my key. Can you let me in through our shared door?”

Curt was drunk enough to find the situation funny instead of just mundane, and barked out a laugh. “Guess you’re not always one step ahead.” He teased, and Owen just shushed him as they entered his room.

Once both men were inside, Curt couldn’t relax. His room was cool but the air between them felt like the sky before a storm, hot and thick and tense.

“Looks just the same as mine.” Owen remarked, as if to fill the air.

“Yeah.” Curt said. He stood there, hands in his pockets.

“Don’t stop getting ready for bed on my account,” Owen said without meeting his eyes.

“Okay.” Curt replied, aware of how awkward it sounded. He shrugged his suit jacket off and tossed it on the bed and then started unbuttoning his shirt. Owen was looking at him with eyes glassy from drinking, casually, as if hovering around a zoo exhibit. Curt couldn’t help but feel self-conscious as he undid each button, as if the perfectly normal gesture contained a new meaning. As if he was showing off.

For reasons Curt would never understand, Owen waited until Curt had completely lost his button-up before going in the direction of the door.

“God, it’s late. I’m gonna turn in for the night-”

“Hey, hey- Owen, don’t.”

Owen swung around, swaying a bit once he reached his new position. “Yes?”

“I mean...” Curt felt embarrassed. He also felt horny. But mostly, he felt drunk and way too sober all at once. “D’you want to stay?”

To Curt’s surprise, Owen didn’t seem uncomfortable with the question. He stepped forward until there was a friendly distant between them, but he was still closer to Curt than the door.

“And what would I be staying for?” The question was innocent enough. Curt didn’t have a plan for this kind of response. His mind buzzed with a million blunt and explicit possibilities, but in the end he settled on mumbling out an apology.

“Sorry. I, uh. I don’t know. It’s dumb.”

He couldn’t meet Owen’s gaze, but he could feel his cheeks reddening at the sensation of being watched. When he looked up, the door was closing and Owen was gone.

He sat down on the bed, cursing his stupidity, when his wrist watch started to buzz. Somehow, he knew who it was right away.

“Hello?” He said, picking up the call.

“I think we got on a little better this way, huh?” Owen said. Curt could hear his voice gently on the other side of the wall, and he settled down into his bed.

“Yeah, I guess.” Curt couldn’t help the snort that came out of him, and he heard Owen hum in agreement on the line.

His instincts flared, clearly having figured out something before he mind could catch up. This was new territory. Hang up. It was late, late enough that the night felt like a dream, the kind of late hour where dangerous things happened, and he knew that, but something kept him on the line.

“Curt, I need to ask you something.”

“Shoot.”

“I might be wrong. And if I am, you can hang up or tell me off or what have you. But there’s a... signal I’ve been getting from you. If you’re not sending it, just say the word. But I have a feeling you know exactly what I’m talking about.”

Curt didn’t say anything, his other hand still hovering above the watch. But even though he was scared to death, he didn’t hang up.

“You still there, Curt?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Owen said, and laughed lightly. Or nervously. “All the excitement today has left me with something I need to take care of, and I’d very much like to stay on the line with you.” He cleared his throat. “Do you know what I-”

“Yes.” Curt said, grateful that one word could function as both an answer and permission.

There were no words exchanged afterwards. Based on the sounds coming from his side of the call, Owen was clearly busy, and Curt didn’t dare speak, or even move, for fear of breaking whatever spell they had to be under.

Even though the idea pained him to think about, Curt couldn’t help but muse on what someone listening in would make of the call. They would have been privy to the sound of heavy breathing and not much else.

It wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t even the kind of situation that would normally arouse Curt. He much preferred visual stimuli, direct declarations of desire and something to touch beside himself. But he’d been in a desert of sorts for so long with his partner that the phone call felt like a full glass of water. Curt’s entire body buzzed like a wire every time he heard a hitch in Owen’s breath. Was he naked, or did have a hand shoved down his boxers? Grinding into his mattress? Was he using lotion or his own spit? Were the lights on or off? How red was his face? Did he have his non-dominant hand pressing on his throat while he worked, or was he too busy holding his wrist up so Curt could hear everything? Did he care about what Curt felt? Was he thinking about him, or some woman, or Elise, or nothing at all? His mind raced but couldn’t conjure up a single answer, leaving his imagination frustratingly blank.

When Owen moaned during what had to be the finale, Curt could hear the sound on the line and through the wall. Shameless. He bit his tongue until he tasted blood, one part of him wanting to memorize the sound and the other wanting to scream in his pillow until it was over.

“Thank you.” Owen said afterwards the same way he’d thank Curt for making him a coffee or picking an especially hard lock. For some reason that hint of normalcy made Curt’s face impossibly redder, the final confirmation that the last ten minutes of noises had come out of his partner’s mouth and no one else’s. “I hope I haven’t made a fool of myself.”

“Not any more than usual.” Curt said. “Night.” He ended the call before either of them could say anything more.

For the rest of the night Curt lay awake on top of his sheets, burning up for Owen until the sun rose over Paris.

Chapter Text

It was seven in the morning when Curt finally accepted he wasn’t going to sleep. And he wasn’t going to get off either, that much was certain, given the massive amount of guilt he felt every time his hand drifted towards his waistband.

After a few minutes of deliberating, he knew what he had to do. Maybe it was the whiskey still in his system giving him bravery, or the complete lack of sleep making him brainless, but he was going to talk to Owen. A knock on their shared door brought no response, meaning Owen was either sleeping (likely) or gone (even more likely).

With a gradually increasing heart rate, Curt tried the knob cautiously and found that the door was still unlocked. A sloppy move on a secret agent’s part, but then again Owen had made plenty of sloppy moves last night.

Pushing through the door, Curt’s eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room. He could hear Owen snoring softly in his sleep, and looking at him on the bed- shirtless, limbs strewn in a position that couldn’t possibly be comfortable, eyes closed tightly- his heart sunk. There was still time to turn back. Time to put it all behind him. But Curt bit back the desire to leave with a strong force. Somebody had to do something if they were going to leave Monaco with hearts and dignity intact.

“Owen.” He said cautiously, but it wasn’t enough to wake Owen. With a frustrated groan, Curt sat down on the bed and touched Owen’s shoulder- warmer - and gave it a gentle shake.

Owen jerked awake immediately. “Christ!”

“Not quite. Good morning.”

“Curt?” He said, rubbing his eyes, and then repeated the name. “Curt. What are you doing here?” After a beat, he blinked a few more times and attempted to brush the hair out of his face. “Oh, I see. Here to finish the job, are we?”

Owen’s sleepy flirting was endearing, but Curt tried his best to keep his expression neutral. “Hardly. Put on a shirt, we need to talk.”

Talk? What time is it?”

“Carvour, shirt.”

Curt was impressed at how quickly Owen responded to the command despite the early hour and the hangover he definitely had. It took only a minute for the other agent to scramble out of bed and pull on a shirt (inside out, but Curt wasn’t going to bother telling him) and sit down on the bed.

In the meantime, Curt had flicked on the lamp, and the new light revealed Owen clear as day- mouth in a grumpy line, eyes wet from sleep, and fingers nervously gripping the sheets. It was hard to imagine the man in front of him had been making those sounds just a few hours ago. Better not to imagine it at all, then.

“I suppose this is the part,” Owen said, and then cleared his throat. “This is the part where you tell me that we need to take some time away from each other. Maybe permanently, this time, eh?”

“I’m not running away.” Like you did, Curt thought, but didn’t dare say. He needed Owen to trust him. “I just want you to tell me what’s going on.”

“Nothing.” Owen said without missing a beat.

“Is it something you’re scared to say?” Curt tried again.

Mega.”

Curt felt the sheet they were sitting on shifting underneath him, and realized that Owen’s fingers were twisting the fabric even harder, and his eyes were wide. Terrified. And he knew what he needed to say.

“Owen, listen. I’m not going to tell anyone, alright?” Curt said, suppressing the urge to take Owen’s hand in his own. More mixed signals were the last thing they needed right now. “It’s my secret too.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Owen said, but his voice was flat, lacking the energy he usually denied things with.

“I know you were listening that day. When Richard and I were talking, you were on call with me.”

“So I was right.” Owen said quietly.

“Right about what?” Curt said. After Owen remained quiet, he pressed again. “Owen.”

Owen’s shoulders relaxed and he took a deep breath. “First of all, Richard’s a cock.” He said, and Curt nodded in agreement. “When he was giving you that little speech, I kept waiting for you to tell him to stuff it. I mean, you’re the Curt Mega, you don’t back down from anyone. It didn’t make any damn sense. But after thinking it through, I figured it out. I supposed you must be scared of something... the same thing I’m scared of.”

Curt nodded again, slower. “It’s okay.”

“Just tell me I’m not going mad, alright? Everything you’ve been doing, it just seemed... I mean,  buying me drinks, and- just, look.” Owen ran his thumb on his own lip the same way Curt had done the day before. Curt’s heart dropped as he recognized the motion, but he stayed quiet. Owen was still talking, face getting red. “You, you wanted to- you wanted me.”

This was a delicate situation, and Curt had to be delicate. After a moment of thinking, he finally replied with, “You’re my type.”

Owen smiled for the first time during their conversation. “Right. So it’s out there, then. You said it, and you damn well heard how I felt. What’re we going to do now?”

Curt hadn’t walked into the room with an answer for that, so he took another moment of silence to think, during which Owen watched him with an unnerving stare.

“Stick together.” Curt finally managed. And once he said it out loud, he realized that had to be the answer. He continued more confidently. “I mean, think about it. What are the odds that we work so well together and that we’re both g-”

“Don’t say it.” Owen interrupted without making eye contact. “Not yet.”

“...That we both have a secret.” Curt substituted. “So what? We’re great at keeping secrets. We should just do what we do in the field, you know, what we do best.”

“Like a mission.” Owen said, energy creeping back into his voice.

“Exactly! Watch each other’s backs. Make sure nobody blows our cover.”

“Alright. I can do that.” Owen said after a pause. “If you’re willing to trust me after... well. Copenhagen. Last night. Today." His face fell. "Oh god, Curt, I'm-”

“Hey." Curt interrupted him. "You’re not the only one who’s done stupid shit trying to figure himself out. Just don’t- please don’t run any more experiments on me. This is hard enough, we need to be on the same side.”

Owen nodded furiously. “No more tricks, Mega. I swear.”

“Good.” Curt said. Feeling the conversation was reaching its natural end, he drummed his fingers on his knees, looking around the room as if there would be something more important in the corner than the man in front of him. Owen clearing his throat with a soft cough brought his attention back.

“So where does this leave us?” Owen asked after Curt met his eyes.

“...Friends?” Curt said, and smiled at hearing the word come out of his mouth. After a beat, Owen extended his hand with a smile of his own.

Partners.” He replied. And Curt grabbed his wrist, gave it a shake, and then pulled his partner into a hug.

Owen’s fingers tracing on Curt’s back during their embrace, and the resulting shiver that went through Curt’s body in response, was a foreboding reminder that just friends wasn’t going to be easy. But the two of them had never backed down from a challenge, Curt reasoned to himself, and the natural way they folded into each other had to count for something. When he pulled back and saw Owen, his best friend, vulnerable and bulletproof and somehow brand new, the answer rang clear. It counted for everything.

Chapter Text

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.

Who’s hiding?”