Author: DestinyShiva PM
Working as a secret agent is rough. From danger, torture, and travelling the world. Then again, having an occasional and amazing one-night stand with a cute blonde isn't so bad. Until you notice they are everywhere. USUK. Co-written with Tenkuno.Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Suspense - America & England/Britain - Chapters: 5 - Words: 68,990 - Reviews: 78 - Favs: 115 - Follows: 183 - Updated: 01-18-13 - Published: 01-16-12 - id: 7748059
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Tenkuno: So, Wow. DS informs me it's been three months since our last update on this thing. I'm so sorry! The delay was really all my fault because I suck at multitasking. For all you loyal people who have actually stuck to this story, thank you and here is another chapter for your trouble.
(She lies, it's my fault. Silly university exams).
Chasing Shadows: Chapter Three
April 17th. Unknown.
She groaned softly as her eyes fluttered open only to be met with darkness. She coughed softly when she tried to take a deep breath, breathing in a lot of dust of some sort. Her head felt like it was splitting open with the headache that was pounding at her temples and in the back.
She could remember bits and pieces.
They had used a stun gun, she was pretty sure, to get her into the car without much trouble. The rest was a weird blur of being stripped and injected with things that made her feel amazing but awful after a few hours. There were other girls around her, some crying and others so strung out that you would think they were dead because of their lack of movement. But now…
She tried to move her arms to feel around where she was, but found that they restricted quite a bit. Whatever she was in was very small, apparently only just big enough for her entire body to fit inside. When she raised her arms they quickly came in contact with something stiff and hard. She could only hold back a small sob as her mind quickly figured out where she was.
She was in a box.
A box that was just big enough to squeeze her body into.
At that she let out a loud sob.
She raised shaky hands up to the ceiling of the wooden box and pressed on it best she could. It wouldn't budge, only giving a soft creak at her effort. Tears leaked from her eyes as she realized it was nailed shut as she gave another push only for it to give another soft groan but nothing else. "Oh please…" She whispered softly, begging to no one.
She tried to glance around, turning her head both ways only to be met with darkness. She knocked on the ceiling only to hear a dull thud which made her heart plummet and her sobs increase. She was under the ground already, surrounded by the earth. "Oh, God… Please… Someone." She continued to whisper as she turned every way she could to make more room even though she knew that was logically impossible.
She pounded on the ceiling again, this time with as much force as she could. "Someone! Help!" She screamed loudly praying that anyone would hear her even through the dirt on top of her. She continued to pound and scream until she became light headed, her limbs starting to grow heavy. Her body telling her to sleep as the last bits of air started to fade. She gave one last feeble scream as she laid her hands back down at her sides.
Her world went black as she closed her eyes and slept.
He felt slightly sick as Doctor Honda pulled back the white sheet, showing her still form to them. Alfred bowed his head and said a soft prayer under his breath for the dead body, not caring if the girl wasn't religious. Dr. Honda let him as he patiently waited for the blonde to finish paying his respects before he moved the sheet further down, keeping the girl's top covered with a small white sheet.
When Alfred was finished he lifted his head up with a deep sigh and nodded to the small Asian man on the other side of the table. "Alright, Kiku. Give me the details."
Kiku smiled sadly and nodded as he gently picked up the girls arm and showed it to Alfred, pressing his finger against the awful blue and black spots on her inner arm. "She was a user, or more likely they made her a user. I found a lot of PCP and cocaine in her system which suggested that she was not really in her right mind for most of the time." Alfred sighed as his eyes moved from the girl's dark bruises to her face.
"She's very pretty." Kiku commented when he noticed Alfred's gaze and quickly the American scowled.
"She was pretty, Kiku. Now she's a corpse on a table because of shitty scum." He glanced away when he heard Kiku sigh softly and move to stroke the hair out of her face. "So, I'm guessing an overdose was the cause of death?" Alfred asked softly as he tried to control his urge to hit something or someone. When he saw Kiku shake his head he frowned and looked back down at the girl's body.
Kiku hummed softly in agreement and nodded his head. "Yes and no. She didn't die from too many drugs. During the autopsy it showed that a lack of oxygen going to her brain was the cause of her death."
Kiku sighed and raised his head, beautiful dark brown eyes meeting blue. "She suffocated… I believe she was buried alive."
Kiku jumped when the American slammed his fist down on the metal table, causing a few things to shake and rattle at the harsh impact. "Fuck!" Alfred yelled and glared down at the girl's still form. "Those shit heads aren't human!" He yelled as his glare moved over to rest on Kiku to which the Japanese man quickly tried to calm his friend.
"Alfred, please." He warned.
Alfred glare softened slightly and he moved to rub his face roughly. "I'm sorry…it's just…"
"I know. It bothers me as well."
Alfred sighed and shoved his hands into his slacks pockets. "Well, at least we have something now to tell her parents." He groaned loudly and moved to scratch his head. "That will be a great conversation." Blue eyes watched the corpse for a few more minutes before they glanced over at his friend. "So, are we still on for tonight? Maybe this time you'll actually get a phone number."
He gave a weak grin when the small dark haired man frowned at him and covered up the body. "I don't want to go out to meet women, and even if I did I wouldn't take a woman who gives me her phone number on a bar napkin. Seems very undignified."
Alfred smiled. "Only to you, Kiku."
April 17th. Aeroplane, flight 352.
"Would you like anything to drink? Teas, Coffees, juice?" A lovely air hostess said as she pushed her tangerine face into their row of seats. The man next to him and nearby the window, overlooking almost comical whiteness (it was as if whoever was drawing life had decided that since they were in the air, they needn't do the background for them. It was quite odd to see), declined. When it came to him, jammed in the middle of two men – that was a first - he nodded and accepted a cup of tea to finish the last hour or so of his journey with. The man to his other side frowned as Arthur guided the cup down, past his net book and into his own vicinity.
Sip. Bland. When he was bombarded with a few packs of sugar, they went straight in. Weak but sweet would do. This was hardly a holiday.
It was a shame that he had to keep a low profile and had been stuffed away, apparently strategically, into economy class instead of business class like usual. It meant that he had less room to outstretch and he could potentially get away with organising some of his work. Of course, with two men either side of him he would not risk letting them see anything. He was already in a dangerous game.
Pressing back against the headrest - one of the men stirred, because it rocked his seat a little. Stop mentally arguing with him. If they cared so much about their so-called privacy, why would they pick that seat? - Arthur thought back to that morning. Far as he was concerned, it was just another great leap backwards. It couldn't have gone more wrong.
Earlier that morning. Puteaux, France.
He had stirred in the bed a few times, unable to find a comfortable position. Arthur's lower body stung from the movement. Where previously it was warm beside him, now it greeted him with a cool feeling. Without opening his eyes, he lazily reached down and tugged the sheets back over his naked body a little more. He noticed then that there was a huge spot next to him in the bed that was missing the tell-tale substance of another person, and it made him groan.
All he could think was 'damn' it - this is going to be the second time recently that I wake up alone after sex, isn't it?'.
When he opened his eyes, he was met with a pleasant morning light. Orange-red colours were painted onto the white sheets, pouring in from the outside. Arthur rubbed the blurriness out of his eyes and looked towards the windows. It seemed that for once, he had not been abandoned. Francis was on the balcony, puffing a late post-coital cigarette. The sun bloomed like a red flower over Paris, the apparent 'city of love', spreading colourful rays all throughout the sky. It must have been early.
Arthur scoffed and curled up in bed a little bit more, trying to deny that soon, he had to get back to work. The bed was comfortable enough to absorb him. Why fill his mind with anything else over that relaxation, and silly proverbs? 'Red sky at night, Shepherd's delight. Red sky in the morning, Shepherd's warning'.
Francis stubbed the cigarette on the railing before he turned back to walk into the room. "Good morning, mon petit lapin. Did you sleep well?" He asked casually, his skin cold from just wearing a pair of pants outside. Francis sat down on the bed and moved close to Arthur, bringing him close so he could kiss the Briton on the forehead. "You are not as out of practice as I thought you would be."
"As well as I could sleep when I'm in the middle of here," Arthur complained. He was quite verbal in voicing his 'dislike' of France, though every so often he always exhibited qualities that indicated that a dislike for the place was not entirely what was on his mind. To Arthur's displeasure, Paris was a much more beautiful and ornate place than London. He frowned. "Just what does that mean?"
Francis smirked as he let his fingers slid down Arthur's bare spine, tickling the small of the Briton's back softly. "I am only saying that I know besides me you haven't had much luck in the chambre à coucher." He pulled Arthur so that he was flush against him, Arthur's bare legs rubbing against his soft dress pants.
He was pushed away - or at least his chest was, as Arthur's hands had jammed in-between them and intercepted the closeness. Those thick brows of his were tightened in annoyance. "Oh, as if! I'll let you know that you are not the only person I have slept with recently."
"Oh really?" Francis asked as a light blond eyebrow rose in disbelief. "And just who exactly was stupid enough to get close to prickly cacti like you? Did you grumble and order him around during love-making like you're oh-so good at doing with me."
Arthur pulled away from Francis and huffed, crossing his arms. "Please! He was perfect. He made love to me in a way that was perfect, Francis. I barely needed to instruct him at all. And he was gorgeous too. A stunner of a man..." He thought back to that rough stallion, those cheeky smiles, and those firm taut muscles. He was not even just amazing when they had sex. When they had their evening together the night before, Arthur found he was funny, intelligent, and ambitious. Perhaps a little ridiculous at times through his enthusiasm for stupid things, but that was strangely endearing.
Francis rolled his eyes as he let his hands move over Arthur's furry eyebrows softly. "Oh really? So, why is he not here right now with you in Paris?" The French man smirked as he tilted Arthur's face up so he could look into those bright green eyes. "I'm pretty sure he's not here, seeing as this is your hotel room and there is no one in here but you and moi." He licked at the tip of Arthur's nose teasingly.
"Shut up," Arthur growled at him, wiping away the wet patch on his nose and twisting around so Francis would stop fondling his face as if it was his. It was like this every time they got together. It was like Francis expected him to be the only man to ever grace Arthur's life. Well, perhaps previously that was true. "I met him on the job in Italy. He took me out, and we made love on the last night before I had to leave. You know my job. It couldn't last even if I wanted it to."
Francis hummed quietly already bored with Arthur's problems. He sat up quickly as he pulled his long hair into a low ponytail, moving to scratch his soft beard. "Shall we get something to eat, love?" He asked offhandedly as he reached over, grinning as he plucked Arthur's briefs up off the end of the bed. "Who knows, maybe we can find you a nice little Italian place."
"No, no, Francis, I must be off. I'm meant to be following a lead, Francis. I don't have time for all of this. Last night was a fluke, you know that," Arthur sighed. He reached over and grabbed his underwear before stretching his legs and putting them on. "My laptop. It's on the—the thing..." he waved his hand more-or-less towards the desk. "I need you to help me translate something."
Francis sighed and muttered something in French before he walked over to the small net book on the desk and sat down gracefully. "Let's see... What is your password, Peu cher?" He asked as the screen lit up and asked for Arthur's password.
"Oh, for God's sakes... Give it here," Arthur mumbled, reaching for the laptop but refusing to get out of bed himself. When Francis gave him the computer, he typed in his password and found the IM conversation he needed Francis to translate. He then span the laptop around. "Read that, and tell me what it says."
Francis moved to take a sip of the espresso he'd ordered while Arthur was still asleep and moved over to sit on the bed softly. Blue eyes skimmed the writing that was presented to him as he took another small sip, before he chuckled lowly. "Ahh... Spelling mistakes are often very amusing." He continued to read, blonde eyebrow cocking every now and then at something he read.
"Oi, where did you throw my trousers last night? I can't see them," Arthur commented as he leant over the edge of the bed and glanced around like a meerkat in the savannah. He ducked his head and found them underneath the bed. No need to question how they got there. Withdrawing them out, he thought back to work matters. It would be helpful if Francis was not treating this like a piece of good literature. "Don't just read it; tell me what he's saying."
Light blue eyes rolled but he did as he was told. "It's not much. Actually I don't believe they are even French, because if they were they would have to be seven or mentally handicapped." He frowned as he pointed to a line in the e-mail and tapped his finger against the screen. Their French was just as imperfect as Arthur's. "He uses the male usage of the word when it should be the female one all the time." He moved to sip his drink gingerly again before telling Arthur what he really wanted to know. "Apparently he found a girl in Greece and has decided to go to Moscow. Not much else is said about it, he just writes that he hopes the person is doing well and that he will visit soon."
Arthur scowled. Something about that obviously did not quite add up. Why was this person speaking in broken French and going to Moscow? It was peculiar. As he shimmied himself into his trousers, the Briton tried to leant in and read what was on the screen - as if he could shed any more light than Francis already had. "That sounds incredibly shifty. Maybe he's Eastern European and talking to a French colleague? Is it formal, informal?" If he was from Eastern Europe, it might mean he was connected to the other Eastern European Arthur had a script for.
"It is not formal. Rather personal sounding, unless they are more free with their affection over there than here. Which I highly doubt," Francis huffed as he took another sip of his drink.
"Informal, I see," Arthur at least knew enough about French to know the significance. He sat on the bed and thought about what direction he needed to go. His boss wanted him to report back on his findings, so he would have to organise a statement. Hopefully they would hook him up with some reliable intelligence in Eastern Europe – he really did not like the idea of running about like a wild goose through multiple countries. "That really does not help. But at least the search is narrowing down."
Francis nodded and placed his cup down on the table before he pushed Arthur's laptop off the bed with a loud thud, the small net book meeting the plush carpet as the light haired blonde pinned the Briton down on the bed and nuzzled his neck. "There, I have done what you asked. Now reward me." He smiled widely as a finger trailed down Arthur's cheek.
"Nh?" Arthur stared up at the Frenchman that had clambered on top of him. His brow furrowed and he told himself internally that this was ridiculous - he did not care about Francis in a committed, relationship sense. But he still found himself leaning up and pressing their lips together for a moment. It was not magic. He did not want to let Francis whisk him into a world of their own and let him distract Arthur for another few minutes. No.
He briefly remembered the one that did. The one that made him fail his mission, but made him not regret it in the least.
Back on the plane, Arthur reminisced about his contact to MI6 after Francis had gone. They had told him to go to the South East of Europe first and work his way up. Bothersome at the least. It would likely take him several days to find someone viable to translate – especially if the subject of debate was potentially about the safety of this government official's daughter. Frankly, he scarcely knew why they were bothering to make him do this all. Whether it was murder, trafficking, or regular kidnap, it was highly unlikely that she was alive by now. Poor girl. He wouldn't wish any of those on anyone.
Arthur stared back out of the window as he leant backwards in his chair, musing about it as he tenderly drank his cup of vaguely tea-flavoured water.
July 4th. Jacksonville, Texas.
Alfred sighed quietly as he leaned against the wall and took a sip of his beer. He watched his mother's side of the family mingle happily while the kids ran around with poppers, making the dogs bark loudly.
Everything was happy and fine.
So why did he feel so awful?
"Hey, why such a long face at our birthday party?" A voice came from beside him.
Alfred blinked as he turned to look at his older brother. He let a small smile form on his lips before he shrugged and took another sip of his beer. "I dunno. I just can't get in the partying mood, ya know?" He gave a pleading look when Matt shot him a frown and gripped his shoulder.
"Alfred. Everyone is here to celebrate our birthdays. The least you could do is be social with our family."
Alfred glared at his brother, but he knew he was right.
"Fine." He grumbled as he headed into the crowd. He chatted with his uncle and aunts for awhile before his grandmother came to give him one of her normal wet cheek kisses. After about an hour of socializing, Alfred moved back into the house, moving into the kitchen where it was surprisingly the quietest in the whole house. Good. He needed another beer.
"Oh Honey, why are you in here and not socializing with all of your guests? Did you come to keep me company?" A tall, blonde, woman with a thick Texan drawl said as she wandered over to the oven, checking briefly that her appetisers were cooking best as they could be. She opened the oven and a warm waft of pastry scents floated out.
The blonde male about jumped a foot in the air as he clutched at his heart. She had come out of nowhere! "Jesus Christ, Ma! You almost gave me a freaking heart attack!" He exclaimed as he leaned back against the counter, trying to get his heart to stop pounding. "You're lucky I'm not packing today." He joked slightly, them both knowing he would never shoot his own mother. He glanced over at the counter and swiped at one of his Mom's freshly cooked pigs in a blanket and popped it into his mouth.
While chewing he answered her question. "I dunno. I just don't feel like being out there with everyone."
The woman smacked his hand as a punishment for stealing one of her appetisers. "Don't you 'Jesus' me in that tone of voice, young man! Hands off those pigs before I cook your fingers too!"
She slotted her oven gloves over her hands. As she brought the tray out and fiddled with flipping the food so that each piece could bake evenly, she could not help notice the dreary expression on the young American's face. "I know that unhappy face. It's not usual to look like that when it's your birthday, now is it? So why are you looking like the sun fell down, darlin'?"
Alfred pouted at her slap to his hand but he didn't retort, he just leaned against the counter and shrugged. "I don't know..." He glanced out the window as he watched Kate cling to her father's leg so Matt would have to walk with her on it. He smiled slightly and turned his attention back to his mother. "I think I'm letting work get to me. Too many murders, kidnappings and such. It's kinda hard to be happy after seeing all that." He bit his lip as he glanced down at the linoleum covered floor.
She sighed and nodded. "I don't know about all that political mumbo jumbo as much as you do, dear, you know that," she responded before tucking the food back into the oven for another few minutes. With a look outside into the sun and the celebration, she found herself smiling. Perhaps she lived a simple life, but it was the life for her. But not for her son. "I'm sorry you feel that way, but surely there's something to smile about, ain't there?"
Alfred thought for a moment. Something to smile about?
Straw colored blonde hair.
Alfred's cheeks warmed as a large smile spread across his face, his heart starting to beat a little fast as he remembered his time in Italy. "Well...Yeah. I guess there are some things." He wondered what it would have been like if he had given Arthur his number, maybe had a few dates and such. Maybe Arthur would have wanted to come to his birthday party? Alfred quickly shook his head at those thoughts. He was being silly. He was still a widower for God's sake. How could he just forget about Jasmina like that?
But... still. It was nice to imagine. "Yeah. There are some things."
"If I know my son, and I do, I would know that look. You're thinking of someone aren't you? A girl is it?" His mother asked him as she took off her oven gloves and turned to look at her son, studying Alfred's reactions. She still remembered the dopey and pleased expression he wore when he first brought that Moroccan beauty to meet her. My, hadn't she been a beaut. It was such a shame. "It's a lil' bit early, but Heaven knows that Jasmina would want you to be happy, bless her soul."
Alfred blushed and quickly reverted back to his teenage years as he waved his mother off. "Mom! No!" The tall blonde quickly turned to grab a beer from the fridge and moved away from his mother. "Come on, you know me. Jas is my girl." He nodded, more trying to convince himself that he wasn't crushing on some random British fling in front of his mother. "She'll always be my girl. You know that." He opened the beer with a soft pop and took a gulp from it.
"Alfred," The older woman sighed and folded her arms, leaning against the countertop. She looked at him thoughtfully, deciding what she wanted to say before she came out with it. "Honey, I know it's a moral dilemma and I'm not sayin' I understand, cause my ex-spouse bailed on me but he's still around. But you are young, Alfred. I've got twenty some years on you. You really want to live through however long on your own, sunshine? We loved Jasmina, God bless her, but you should think about the future."
Alfred frowned when he heard his mom call their dad her ex- 'spouse', she wouldn't even use the word husband or 'Your Dad'. But he sighed as he took another sip of his beer debating whether or not he should tell his mother about Arthur, if that was really even his name. "What... What if you missed your chance to move on? What if that was your one chance and you let it slip by?"
The elder was sharp enough to understand almost immediately what that meant. She took a deep breath, exhaling loudly through her nose. "You didn't get her number, did ya Honey?" His Mother asked knowingly. She wandered over to him and gave her son a hug, tugging him into her warm arms. "I'm sorry, my baby. Did you wanna talk about it?"
Alfred smiled slightly then shook his head. "No, I'm fine. Just... wish I would have gotten their number or e-mail or something." He smiled slightly as he remembered how fiery and snappish Arthur was but also how soft the man could be. He was full of contradictions and Alfred loved that about him. "They were British you know? Said 'bloody', 'bollocks' and everything."
"British? Oh it figures that you'll get another foreigner. You're a man of the world, aren't you, sugar?" She chuckled before letting him go and patting him on his back. The smile she gave him was warm and reassuring. "What else is she like?"
Alfred blinked and then chuckled softly, his mother knew that he went for both teams but she had always hoped that he would end up with a woman. Which is why she thanked God and everything above when he married Jasmina. But now... Well, it wasn't like he was going to see Arthur again so any chance of him meeting Alfred's mother was farfetched.
He didn't mind fibbing a bit.
"Well, she was real skinny, only about five, five." He put his hand up to his chest to show where Arthur had come up to on him, or this imaginary adaptation, at least. "She was super pale with a few freckles on her face which in all honesty was pretty adorable, huge green eyes which were just crazy. I mean if you could see them, Mom, you would just be amazed. Her hair was light blonde and cropped short, kind of with a shaggy bed head look which was really hot." Alfred blinked then blushed when he realized he had just admitted something was sexy in front of his mother. "Erm... Yeah. So, she was real cool."
Oblivious to the extent to which Alfred lied, his mother gave him a beaming smile to show him how proud of him she was, and how glad that he was doing well. "Well, she sounds like a darling. Shame I couldn't get to meet her," she replied, before she raised the plate of pigs in blankets and offered him one more before they would be taken outside. When he took one, she pushed the plate into his hands. "See? Everything is good. You know how proud we are of you. Now go outside and have some sun. Enjoy it before you go back to work, Hun."
He couldn't help but beam at his mother and wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug until Mattie came in and told Alfred to get outside.
It was starting to get dark, and it was the fourth of July.
Time for Alfred's favourite part.
July 7th. Tallinn, Estonia.
It had taken Arthur several exhausting months to build up information in the East. Unlike with the translation for the script from French into English, like Francis had transliterated for him, he had no knowledge of Eastern European languages personally at all. It would have taken him weeks to identify which country, exactly, the script had come from - let alone how useful it was at all. It could turn out that the potential lead had been pointing in the opposite direction he wanted to go all of this time. Not to mention, he had to gather intelligence on the people that he got to translate the script. Were they trustable? Could he rely on them to explain to him what it said truthfully?
After a gruelling few weeks, in which Arthur became more desperate and bored of touring Eastern Europe - hopping from one country to another every five or six days - he was finally put in contact with a confirmed reliable source in Estonia. The source had supposedly been influential for the UK during the Cold War, feeding information from inside the Soviet Union. It was a relief for Arthur to finally not have to shadow a person for days before finally contacting them to have it revealed that all that had been a bloody waste of time.
Yes, he was bitter. He really did not understand why his bosses did not send someone to help.
He sat in front of the address he had been given with an envelope in his hand. It had a name on it written in shaky Estonian, because Arthur was never too certain with foreign languages. There were some weird accents on it, and he found himself getting worried that the flicks were pointing in the wrong direction – oh, he was not a linguist. As he shimmied his bottom on the perished wooden bench, Arthur wondered if this 'Red-fox to Grey-Squirrel' routine would work at all. A foreigner sat on a bench outside a certain address with an envelope in his hands, no matter how you looked at it, was bloody shifty.
"C-Come on... come on," Arthur urged, glancing around quietly to see whether there was anyone in sight. It was not horrendously cold, but Arthur still found it somewhat unpleasant.
A few people walked by the Briton, barely glancing at him as they made their way to wherever they were headed. The wind picked up slightly and caused Arthur's hair to blow up and to the side, making the man's bed head look even worse. As he quickly moved to fix it he could hear the soft creak of the bench as someone sat down next to him.
The man was dressed in a simple dress shirt and jacket, jeans that were worn, frayed and had holes at the knees. His hair was a dirty blonde that was cut in a simple hair style, his bangs hanging just above his eyes while a pair of glasses rested gently on the bridge of his nose. He moved to scratch softly at his jaw before he cleared his throat and shifted the messenger bag he had been carrying onto his lap.
Arthur waited for a few minutes, as he had been instructed, before he gave in. They were wasting time, and Arthur was frankly bored of doing that already. He turned towards his informant and sighed. "I'm not going to bother with these encoded replies bollocks, because frankly I don't care if 'the koala is in the tree' or if your day has been a very exact degree of splendiferous. You wouldn't happen to be Eduard von Bock, would you?"
When he realised what the other looked like, Arthur's heart stilled for a moment and he held his breath. The blue-green eyes, blond hair, and silver glasses distracted him. A warm, fickle feeling erupted in his stomach, and it took for him to notice that this person was significantly less muscular in the chest and shoulder region than that person had been before it would settle down. He swallowed and looked away.
The other's eyes glanced slightly up towards the sky, as if he was trying to decide if it was going to rain or not. The man then smiled and turned to Arthur as he held out his hand for it to be shaken. "Yes. I'm Eduard... but please just call me Ed. I enjoy it more than my full name." His eyes roamed over Arthur for a bit as he nodded. "And you must be Mr. Kirkland?"
Taking his hand and shaking it, Arthur noticed that Eduard had more than subtle softness to him in the form of polite mannerisms. Arthur had always found Nordics very agreeable, and he knew that Estonians fancied themselves to be considered one with Scandinavia more than the Baltics. It was certainly evidence in their behaviours. Either way, he always enjoyed a person with appropriate mannerisms.
"It's a pleasure to meet you. My name is Arthur. I believe this is meant to be yours?" Arthur gave the other the envelope. He had been told by a higher-up that it was a cheque for Mr. Von Bock, for his services in their mission and to assure his assistance in the future. Looking over Eduard, Arthur gave an exhaling laugh. "It's odd. When they told me that you helped the UK in the Cold War, I had expected someone much older. Were you even born?"
Ed smiled warmly as he took the envelope, putting it in his bag without looking if it was the correct amount. That would be rude. He laughed very softly and shook his head, eyes moving to glance down at the dirt under the bench. "No, erm. My mother was. Rather, she was carrying while she served. Carrying me actually which is why she likes to say I helped as well."
Arthur smiled. "Thought so. I wouldn't have reckoned you were older than I am, and I was born in the eighties," he explained. It was nice to see that he came from a family background that was reliable too. But enough fannying around. Now it was time for business. He cleared his throat. "Would you like to do this here, or, is there somewhere inside...?"
Ed smiled as he looked up at the building Arthur was referring to and shook his head with a small chuckle. "Oh, well. If we wanted to go in that house we sure could, though I don't know how well the owners would take it." He stood up as he slung his messenger bag over his shoulder and waited for Arthur to do the same. "I know a small restaurant we can talk at though? How does that sound?"
Arthur blinked for a second, before he forced himself to look away. For some reason, he was reminded of Alfred again and his insistence towards them having a date on that evening, many months ago. Why, several months down the line, was he still thinking of the same man and his irresistible, platinum white smile? Nevertheless, why did Eduard have to look so like him? Smaller, but similar.
It was quite obviously not an invitation for a date, though Arthur's heart seemed to like to pretend temporarily that it was - until he forced logic into the matter. The likelihood he had strolled onto another gay male that just so happened to look like the one that got away, and was loyal to the British government, was so incredibly slim. Be still, his beating heart.
"Er, right," he picked up his laptop bag and smiled weakly at the other. "It might be a bit hard to get privacy, though?"
Ed shook his head and started walking away at a slow pace, giving Arthur time to catch up with him if needed. "No, not many people are interested in other people's business here unless it's something very interesting indeed. We should find a place that has wireless internet, that way if we need to look up something on my laptop we can." He patted his bag softly, almost lovingly as he glanced back at the Briton. "Coming?"
Hurrying, he caught up the pace. From walking alongside the other, Arthur noticed that they were not too far off the same height. Arthur forced himself not to think aesthetically, and to have his mind focused on his job. Ever since Alfred had happened, he had been jumpy with other men. It was like his heart wished for someone, somewhere, to form replacement for the best man he had ever had and his biggest mistake.
"So what do you do? Other than be intelligence for some foreign government occasionally, of course. You don't feel guilty for perhaps disobeying your government, do you?" Arthur asked, quizzing him for further information.
A small smile was in place on Ed's face as they continued down the road, his hand resting protectively on his small cloth bag. "I'm an IT consultant. I travel around a lot and work with all kinds of people." He shrugged his shoulders slightly and laughed. "Though it's not as wonderful as it sounds. There are a lot of silly people out there, hard to deal with. One man actually didn't know his monitor had been unplugged the entire time."
He moved around a corner and after a few more steps they were there. When Ed had said it was small, he wasn't kidding. There were only about seven tables in the entire restaurant and only two waiters for the whole thing. Ed waved his arm and they were quickly seated at a window table, the sun setting slowly. "And you, Mr. Kirkland?"
Arthur was stunned how close the restaurant was. In reality, it was far more of a café - though he did find himself annoyed to see that shelter was so close by. Why had he been instructed to meet in such an odd, outdoors place? Perhaps because it had been off of a main road – more privacy. He placed his laptop bag on the top of the table, drawing the sleek net book out. "Been working for, er, where I work, for several years now. I was in the more... ah, domestic branch, but then I had a disagreement with my ex-partner. We split up and I wanted to be out of the country as much as possible to get away."
From MI5 to MI6. All because of a silly feud with the first love of his life. Seemed ridiculous now that he thought about it. He wondered how they were now.
"Ah, I'm sorry to hear that." Ed admitted quietly as he got his own laptop out, an old grey HP. As he set it up the light blonde ordered him and Arthur something warm to drink and some hot rye bread with whipped butter. "I hope you like chocolate coffee. It's wonderful." When his computer dinged softly he smiled and nodded completely ready.
The Briton responded with a small, considerate smile. However he did not have the heart to tell the Estonian that he really did not care for coffee. He placed it on the other side of him, as Arthur booted his computer up. "Thank you. Now, let me explain the situation. As they might have told you, I acquired a script from an internet café in Greece. I need you to translate it for me as best as you can, or at least point out if there is anything out of the ordinary. A girl was kidnapped hours after being in the café, so I need to know whether this person was involved."
Ed nodded and typed a few things into his laptop before he glanced up at Arthur's face, nodding. "Do we know what kind of language I am translating or will I be figuring that out as well?" He thanked the waiter when he gave them some bread and butter and some pickled meat.
Arthur raised an eyebrow at their 'treats'. He opted for some of the bread and butter, without going near the whiffy meat. He was not much of a culinary critic, nor very culturally adventurous. What the English had adopted was best for him. "I'm not terribly sure. I don't even know if it's Eastern European by now. I'm half afraid it might be from a wider scope. Shows you not to presume, doesn't it? Next I know, it'll turn out Kazakhstan... -i? -ian?"
Ed waited for a few moments, then glanced to the side and cleared his throat. "Ahh... do you have the note I can look at, or—?" He wasn't given anything prior to the meeting; he had only been told that a UK official needed help with translating.
Turning back to his laptop, Arthur opened up the file that the Grecian at the café had given him. Up popped an IM chat script in a language that Arthur had no chance in deciphering by himself. Even several weeks with Google translate would not work – not that that would ever be a reliable source. "The language is a mystery to me, let alone what it says." He pushed his laptop around for Eduard to read.
The Estonian yawned quietly and covered his mouth before he shifted to get a better look at the screen. He fixed his glasses a bit and frowned as he glanced over the foreign words, mouthing the words as he read them. He took a sip of his coffee and wiped his upper lip as he frowned, moving to press his finger against the screen. "I see..." Ed nodded and then turned to Arthur. "Well, it is Lithuanian. No doubt there."
Arthur let out a loud exclamation, rolling his eyes. "Finally, someone tells me! You have no idea how long it has taken for me to find out," he pushed back into the seat and shook his head, grabbing another piece of bread. He hesitated before he bit into it. "Anything else would be helpful."
Ed nodded and looked through it, frowning slightly when words that he didn't understand were used so he quickly ran a check through his computer. "The man or woman writing this letter seems to be very professional. It seems almost as if they are writing to their boss or higher up. They talk about an exchange made in Greece and that the meeting with 'The General' will go as planned." Ed glanced up at Arthur. "The General? Does that mean anything to you?"
A flag in Arthur's mind instantly flashed red, warning sirens filling him and tossing everything else out of his consciousness. Arthur's eyebrow cocked. Finally, they were onto something. Something highly suspicious.
"The General? No. I've never heard of someone calling themselves that," Arthur said, before he delved into an internal conversation. General Who? No, let's push away the Doctor Who comparisons. General who? A Political figure? A military general? Either way, a character that was not part of the government in one way or another would sound suspicious with a title like that. He would have to investigate Lithuania more carefully.
"Is there anything else? Any indicators at all?"
Ed glanced back at his computer and continued reading and translating, until he found something of interest. "Oh. Umm... They talk about a certain event happening soon. I believe it's in Moscow. A charity of sorts?" Ed continued to read and then started pulling up other windows on his computer and typing them in. He bit his lip slightly and frowned when his glasses slid down his nose, using his fingers to push them back up he smiled when he apparently found something.
"Ahh, The World's Elite Charity ball. Give back to the Children." He turned his screens around to show Arthur. There was the website for the event, showing many of the richest people in the world giving over large checks to charities around the world. "This year's theme is helping develop schools in third world countries..." Ed muttered then pointed to a small section at the bottom. "Invite only of course. Can't have just anybody around the worlds best, I guess."
Arthur's heart swelled at that news. Someone amongst those people was likely to be in shifty business. Finally, he was getting to the best stuff. He clasped his hands together and beamed. "Brilliant. That's brilliant!" He exclaimed. Head office would be pleased to hear it. With that knowledge, Arthur hopped off of his chair and leant in, looking at the date. The event was for a few weeks time. That was perfect. Not to mention, Francis had linked the other male from the café to Moscow – the story was adding up. He had something! "We've got a few weeks to organise the cover story, gain some connections, and get myself an invitation. Oh my God, that is too perfect. Thank you," he said as an after-thought.
Ed smiled widely and nodded, laughing softly when the people in the restaurant gave them an odd look due to Arthur's excitement. "You are welcome, Mr. Kirkland." He quickly copied the websites URL to an e-mail and sent it to the e-mail Arthur had supplied to him before they had met. Ed closed his laptop with a soft click and put the old thing back into his bag, before turning to Arthur happily. "Shall we eat now?"
Arthur started to tuck his net book away as well, sliding her into her sleeve and depositing it safely bag in his bag. He had a lead. An actual lead. A lead that was not a waste of time. Christ, the amount of times he wanted to give up on his translation project and investigate other means was astounding. Yet it had paid off. It had actually paid off.
Eduard's question bought him a bit back to reality. He looked at him in confusion, before he realised that he was being very rude indeed. He had literally wanted to jump out of the café and go straight onto his next investigation - and going undercover, which was certainly the fun bit. He had always been a good actor. Though sadly, he had a host to comply with. He took his seat again and smiled loosely. "Excuse me, perhaps I got carried away."
The rest of lunch was pleasant, but Arthur was simply buzzing to return to his work. His boss would be very proud of him for finally finding a valuable lead like this.
He was back on track.
July 27th. ?, the United States.
As he browsed through Facebook on his phone, Alfred couldn't help but snicker at a comment Mattie and one of his old high school friends made on a picture he had posted a few weeks ago. When he felt curious brown eyes on him he quickly pressed the cancel button and slipped the I-phone back into his pocket.
"Do you always browse the internet when you are supposed to be working?" The owner of the brown eyes asked in a light, soft almost French sounding accent. Alfred snorted as he glanced over at his companion in the room, his chair sitting right next to hers as they waited for their instructions for their newest assignment.
She was beautiful.
He tried to keep his eyes to her round, tanned face, but she made it very hard for him when she kept crossing and uncrossing those long thin legs in that stupid skirt she insisted was modest. He noticed that instead of her trademark low pigtails, she had opted to put her long hair into a loose fishtail braid which made her look much less like a child. It also didn't help that she had actually put in effort today and used make up, which made her wide brown eyes look even wider and more pronounced.
Too bad he couldn't see her past the friend zone.
Attraction was one thing. Romantic feelings were something completely different.
"Well, we aren't exactly working. We are waiting for Federal Agent Brody to arrive, so there." He stuck out his tongue and grinned when she sighed but a small smile quirked up on her lips. Alfred shifted in his seat again before leaning his head towards her, chuckling when she leaned away best she could while looking sceptical. "So, what have you been up to, Chell?"
"It's Angelique Michelle. You know that, Alfred."
He made a face at the name and shook his head. "Nah, that name sounds too prim and bitchy for you." He ignored her offended huff as he continued. "You're more of a Chelly or Angie. You pick." He smiled at her charmingly as she frowned at him, clearly displeased with both of the choices he had given her.
"And if I don't like either name?" She asked, trying to hide the fact she was enjoying their little banter with a weak glare. Alfred just shrugged and picked at a piece of lint on his suit.
"Then I get to pick and I will pick the worst, babyish sounding name you could ever think of." He waggled his brows at her before she sighed and rolled her eyes.
"Fine, fine. I pick Angie then. It sounds far better than Chelly."
Alfred smiled widely and reached over to tug at her braid softly, causing her to smack at his hand lightly. "Then, Angie it is."
They both shared a small smile before the door opened and in walked a frustrated Agent Brody. The two watched as the man grumbled and stalked over to his desk angrily, pushing papers into different drawers and removing any clutter. "Sorry, I was late. My five year old thought it would be a good idea to touch the hot stove when his mother and I told him specifically not to."
Alfred and Angie remained quiet as they watched the man fluster around for a few more minutes before finally getting settled. He took a few sips of the coffee that had been waiting for him and then relaxed back into his office chair before glancing at the two in his office, and smiled slightly. "Agent Jones, Miss Laroche." He nodded to both of them as he said their names and picked up a stack of papers and read them over.
"Ahh… The banquet mission. Right." He placed the papers down and took another sip of his coffee before he began. "So, Miss Laroche. You are aware of Agent Jones findings when it comes to the abduction cases correct?"
Angie gave a quick nod and shifted as she moved to pull her own reports from her bag she had brought. "Yes. Mr. Jones as briefed me a bit on his findings in Germany as well as in Paris, France." She leafed through her documents before she stopped on a page and read through it then nodded turning back to look at agent Brody. "But, I really can't do much, what with Mr. Jones having killed our only known suspect."
Alfred frowned as he shot a glare at Angie. God. He makes one mistake and everyone is on his back, he even had to have a leave of absence due to the incident in Norway. At least it had finally forced him to stop working and go spend time with his family over his birthday, but he was still a bit sore about it. Alfred met Brody's eyes for a minute before the man questioned Angie again. "And in your expert opinion, Alfred Jones is ready to go back into the field?"
"I'm right here."
Two pairs of brown eyes watched him before they moved back to the subject.
"Yes. Mr. Jones does show remorse for his actions."
"Not for killing the bastard."
Angie ignored Alfred's commentary. "He knows he did wrong by the agency and hurt the chances of solving a very important case. But, after several sessions with Mr. Jones I see him as no longer a threat to this case, nor the mission that you have planned for him." She cleared her throat to show she was done and folded the papers in half, almost as in a nervous habit. Brody watched the two of them for a minute before nodding and picking up a pen that had been lying on his desk. "If the shrink says it's alright, then I will have to go on that."
Alfred smirked when Angie made a face at her profession and job title being belittled with that word and he shifted up in his seat. "Great. So, what's the news? Where am I going?"
Alfred frowned when he heard her speak up and he gave Brody a pleading look. "Does she really have to come?" He ignored Angie's squawk at his question and he saw out of the corner of his eye her hand twitch in an effort to refrain from hitting him. "I mean she's not even an agent. She has no training or anything, what if we get in trouble?"
His shoulders slumped when he saw Brody shake his head at Alfred's logic. "Agent Jones, this is a mission where there really should not be any trouble to get into. It is an information gathering type and unless you plan to run in and shoot everyone that looks suspicious, I highly doubt there will be any trouble."
"It's final, agent Jones. Now, do you want to know the details or am I going to have to find another more willing agent?"
Alfred glared at the two of them in silence before he huffed and slumped in his chair. "Whatever." He muttered as Angie smiled and turned to Brody.
"So, what are our code names?" She chuckled slightly and Alfred just rolled his eyes muttering that they were called aliases. Brody smiled slightly at Angie and passed out a packet of papers to them.
"The banquet will be held in Moscow. It is a Charity ball, so formal dress is not optional." They ignored Alfred's whine. "Jones, we will have to rent you a tux and Miss. Laroche we will have to find you a suitable gown for the role you will be playing. If the information Alfred gathered is correct, there will also be an auctioning of girls behind the scenes. That is why I need you two to scout out the area and mingle, see who knows what."
"That's disgusting." Angie whispered.
Brody nodded at her statement but continued. "Alfred, you will be going as Mr. Anthony Pierce. You will be a wealthy heir to very old money on your mother's side, while you work as a lawyer for a firm. You went to Princeton and have a huge love for lacrosse."
"And Angelique, you will be going as Mrs. Julie Pierce. Anthony's loving wife and college sweet-heart. You two met at Princeton while Julie was studying psychology. You married two years after graduating and are now trying to have children. Julie likes to spend her time with charity work and also enjoys gardening when she's not working at her office. Any questions or concerns?"
"I can't grow a thing, sir."
"And I hate lacrosse."
July 28th. Moscow, Russia.
Honestly, Arthur was in his element. There was nothing Arthur loved more than wearing a tuxedo. He was the type, admittedly, to look in the mirror to admire his handiwork occasionally - something gave him tremendous pride in looking his best. Right now, he was in a black suit with a black bow tie. His usually unruly hair had been thoroughly combed and slicked back. It made him quite handsome, if he did not say so. Everyone was allowed to have vain moments where they think 'gosh, yes, I am actually quite attractive'. This was his.
The Briton smiled at a lady that had been eyeing him up, especially since he was alone. He felt like such a stud, such an attraction. By the very virtue of his presence here, he was rich too. The ball was for sizeable donations to charity after all. He was a rich, young bachelor. Oh, it was a treat to play.
Harry Taylor was his name. He was a graduate from Cambridge University, and he had come from a rich heritage. His life was of the silver spoon, having gone to Eton College and born as an upperclassman. He believed that the protection of the environment and the royal family were the most important things a respectful British person should care about, and he had a fond love of golf. He also had two corgis called Champagne and Rosé. He drove a Prius, and was an engineer himself. His riches were mostly inherited.
Put simply, he was almost everything he despised or thought pompous, and it made him so happy. Because he loved that he could overdo his accent or act like he was better than everyone else, just for his character to sink in. He was the perfect stereotype. Didn't it just make his heart swell? It amused him secretly every time he spoke in his deliberately chosen, posh and condescending tone.
He swiped a glass of champagne from one of the wandering waiters, scanning the room for targets. He had to find out who was the boss of this place. Who was the General...?
As Arthur glanced around, his green orbs were pulled in by a pair of bright violet eyes and a kind smile that for some reason made Arthur feel welcome but also uneasy. The man was tall. So tall that he easily towered over the brunette waiter that passed by him and he easily grabbed a flute of champagne from the man's tray without disrupting anything.
The man made his way towards Arthur, stark white hair moving into his eyes slightly and he walked. He was dressed impeccably well; his tux crisp and neat with the small black bow tie tied neat and snug around his neck. "Hullo." He greeted Arthur, his accent thick and obviously Russian. "My name is Ivan Braginski." He offered a large hand. "And you?"
Arthur smiled as he was approached by a random gentleman who had realised that he was alone, clearly. He regarded the splendidly dressed sir with an obligatory look, as if evaluating whether he was worth speaking to - he loved playing this stuck-up character. He finally held his own hand out and they shook firmly. The Russian's hand was quite a lot larger than his own. "Charmed," Arthur said before he placed a hand on his chest and introduced himself. "Harry Taylor. Your name is Braginski—does that mean that this is your event? This is lovely, I must admit."
There came that same charming but oddly creepy smile again as he shifted a bit closer to Arthur so that he could give the group next to them more room. "Ah, yes. Hello, Mr. Taylor." He took a small sip of his drink and his right eye twitched so slightly it might as well not have happened. "Mmm... I do not like champagne. Always seem more of a woman's drink. I'm impressed you noticed my name, many people hear only come to say they were here and did a good deed."
"Ah, perhaps then I am far more well informed," Arthur offered before he took a wealthy amount of the drink himself. Just enough to seem sociable. He had to make sure he did not over consume, in case he got intoxicated - which everyone that had ever worked with him knew was a bad thing. He was the sort to blurt out thoughts and secrets when under the influence. "It's a good motive too. Though I can't help be curious—Is this for the cause, or is it for the business opportunity?" He smiled through the glass.
Ivan raised a pale eyebrow and glanced down at the small Briton, a small smile tugging at his lips. "My goodness, Mr. Taylor. You seem to think I am some kind of heartless billionaire with only a care for image and my business." He snapped his fingers at a waiter and quickly ordered straight vodka before turning back to Arthur. "Though I would be lying if I said this wasn't completely for the press. And yourself, Mr. Taylor? Are you here just to give poor children a school or is it because of the group picture we will be taking later for the entire world to see?"
"I'm here to make a... worthwhile investment. I do wonder if you could help me with that, Mr. Braginski," Arthur said, classically over-pronouncing his words to make himself sound like how broadcasters pronounced the Queen's English back in the day. His accent rolled off of the tongue. Shooting a knowing glance over his shoulder, Arthur tried to see what Ivan's reaction to that was.
Give us a clue, Ivan. Who is the General?
"Please, call me Harry," Arthur insisted.
Violet eyes watched him with curiosity, but stopped when the waiter came back with a clear glass filled to the brim with ice and vodka. He thanked the nameless waiter and took a sip of the liquid, smiling when it burned his throat and made his stomach cold. "Well, Harry. How much are you willing to donate? Remember, four grand in your English pounds will get your name in a wing of a school."
Arthur drunk another sizeable amount of his drink, before he gave a smirk that only a privileged, well brought-up male could pull off without intentionally being ironic. He shuffled his bow tie till he was sure it was suitably straight. "I've got enough. Several thousand - hundred thousand - that I'm willing to give away. Well, I say give away - but I like something to show for it." He glanced back at Ivan. "Charity is one thing, but you couldn't point me towards another way to spend it... could you?"
He gave a dirty smile which slowly worked its way over his face - an indication to let Ivan know he had heard something. He prayed internally for this not to backfire.
Ivan tilted his head at the Briton's words and looked over at him, white brow furrowed as if he didn't quite understand what the man was implying. "Ahhh... I'm sorry. I do not catch your meaning." He said quietly, no more smile on his face as he turned to look at Arthur fully. "Please explain."
Arthur opened his mouth to further hint at what he meant - it was a delicate business. If Ivan was innocent, then he would be shocked if he mentioned too much about the women. But he needed Ivan to also twig onto what he was talking about. Difficult.
But then Arthur and the Russian were jolted out of their own conversation when a young man laughed loudly a few feet over. Ivan glanced over, a tired look coming onto his face as he watched the group of people laugh along with the young man, but it was the man's laugh reached over everyone else's. "Mmm. Americans."
His speech was interrupted before it began. At Ivan's comment, Arthur turned his head to see that the laughter was about. He froze, pupils dilating in shock. That couldn't be.
There stood the man that had left him back in Italy. The same man who had imprinted completely onto Arthur for the past couple of months and made the Briton never forget his time down in the Mediterranean. The one who had gotten away was standing only eight feet away, decked in a black Gucci Brera suit that fitted him perfectly along with a pair of fine leather black shoes that shone brightly. His hair was smoothed back neatly, only a few stray pieces moving to frame his round but defined face.
Blue eyes shone brightly as he cracked another joke that had the others around him tittering softly while he himself laughed loudly. He was taller than Arthur remembered, but no less beautiful.
To say that Arthur was astounded was an understatement. To be accurate, Arthur gawped. His mouth lingered open as he stared at the man that he had been longing for all this time - the man that he slept with Francis to forget, or when meeting Eduard. The one he had always had on the back of his mind. Suddenly he was whipped back into his life, and in the most shocking of places. That suit—that laughter, God had he missed that laughter. He looked rich. Richer than Arthur had thought back in Italy. Had Alfred been rich all of this time?
His heart sunk as he realised that he could not let Alfred see him, whatever the cost. He had a persona to fill. He had to make Ivan believe he was someone that he was not—a task that was not easy when someone else already knew his name and knew his face. It was hopeless almost as soon as the joy began.
Ivan glanced down at his shorter companion's face and frowned slightly, sipping his vodka again before tilting his head to enquire about the Briton's well being. "Are you alright, Harry? You seem... bothered." He asked quietly, eyes scanning over the pale cheeks and look of horror in Arthur's eyes. Violet eyes moved to scan over the crowd that Arthur had glanced at, trying to see what could have made the man next to him started to fret. "Someone you know over there?"
A person walked in front of him and blocked his view, which is why Arthur realised that he needed to focus. He looked back and noticed Ivan staring at him. This was not good - talk about being inconspicuous. "I-I... no, no, I thought I saw someone I knew but apparently not," Arthur said in an awkward tone, trying to keep his posh-end accent while he was genuinely distressed.
That had been Alfred. His Alfred. His bloody Alfred. The Alfred that he slept with. That gorgeous man had been inside of him. He forgot how gorgeous he was. That didn't matter. He was here. He was here, here, here when he was. As an alias.
Arthur gave Ivan a curious look, and tried to hide his panic. He had a half smile on his face which twitched slightly, showing just how forced it was. Should he abort the mission and run? But when would he have another opportunity like this? Maybe Alfred would never notice him - there were a lot of people attending. "Excuse me. Ex-partner, actually, hence my worry. B-Back to business?"
Ivan studied Arthur for a few more minutes before he shrugged and continued to small talk with the slim Briton as if that weird episode had never happened, but light eyes kept watch at the group Arthur had been gawking at. They laughed again before the blonde with bright blue eyes excused himself, leaning down to whisper something in his companion's ear, wife maybe, and moved to go get something to drink.
The Russian smiled softly and raised a hand. "Pierce." He called over the crowd, a few people giving him unamused looks at his loud voice but quickly going back to their mingling. Blue eyes turned to see Ivan and a smile grew on his face until they moved to look at the Briton next to him. Two times that night Ivan saw men look as if they had seen a ghost... it made him feel oddly happy. "Come over, I wish you to meet my friend."
He grinned when he watch the American look like a deer caught in the head lights, he could actually see the thought of running go through that pretty head before the blonde smiled widely and made his way over. "H-Hey, guys. What's up?" Ivan inwardly chuckled when he heard the quiver in the man's voice.
If Alfred's mind was not filled with a long string plethora of swear words, then Arthur's certainly was. His cover was broken and he should have ran. He was tempted to excuse himself - but where would that get him? Certainly not closer to solving this case.
Arthur tried to dignify himself. He shook his head and tried desperately to regain a stoic expression - stony-faced and straight-backed, open body language. He tried to relieve the fright in his eyes, but they only got wider as Alfred came closer. It was him. Every last detail the same - the man that had kissed him, made love to him, ruined the mission in Italy, ruined enjoying having sex with Francis, plagued him in Estonia, and...
In fact, come to think of it - he had been thinking that Alfred had been everywhere. He had constantly thought about that beautiful bastard. So what was the likelihood that they were not coincidence? Arthur took a half step backwards as he realised that he had been trying to shake a shadow off of his tail for weeks.
Someone had been following him around, and now he had been haunted by what might as well have been a ghost. Arthur forced himself to recall the location of his gun and where the knife was strapped on his leg. Ankle, to be precise.
What if he had been horrendously stupid indeed?
Arthur extended a hand out for the American to shake, forcing another smile. It was firmer this time, but only because Arthur was stiff with - frankly - fear. Alfred, if that was his real name, could administer a drug to kill him easily. One swift move. People around them would never even know. He should have ran. Why didn't he run? He was such an idiot. "Good day. Harry Taylor, pleasure to meet you," he announced.
For the longest time the American just stared at the hand Arthur presented to him, before reaching up slowly and gripping it almost painfully tight with his own cold and sweaty palm. "Nice to meet you... Harry." He said carefully, his cheeks flushing a bit before he forced himself into a face splitting grin, it being so wide the other two could almost see the first of his molars. "It's very nice to meet you, Harry." He repeated this time with a bit more confidence. Alfred felt like he was going to throw up.
"The name's Anthony Pierce."
No it wasn't, Arthur evaluated. The look Alfred had given him when he had told him his name and the one he gave now did not add up. The American must have recognised him too. Or he should, considering he stuck his bloody cock up him. What game was he playing at? Arthur pulled his hand back quite sharply, afraid of being stabbed with a needle with a life-taking drug. Or would it be chloroform? Would they torture him for information?
"...Good, that's good. Er, so, Anthony," Arthur begun awkwardly, glancing at Ivan uncertainly as well. How was he meant to back out of this one? The fluid in his champagne glass started disappearing quickly. "What is it that you do?"
Ivan watched the two interact with amusement as he drank his vodka. These two obviously knew each other, they were doing such a bad job at hiding it, but why? Violet eyes moved to the American when Arthur had asked him that question and he smiled softly. "Yes, do tell. I am sorry but I have forgotten what you told me."
Alfred glanced at Ivan with a worried look before he turned back to Arthur and laughed softly, his voice shaking again. "Oh, I'm a lawyer. Like my dad, ya know. Family business and such." He waved his arm in the air like it was obvious that's what he was but was didn't want to talk about it anymore. "What about you, Harry? Or do you like to be called Mr. Taylor?" There was a small smirk on his lips now, determination set in those blue eyes.
"Harry is fine," Arthur said, curling his lips into a stern smile. He could hear his heart beginning to race, accelerating quickly. The thumping was audible in his ears. His arms came around the back of him, resting on the curve down his hips. "My business portfolio is quite wide, actually. I have a share in the property markets from my dear Father, bless his soul. I head another engineering firm. Personally, however, I specialise in Logistics."
That's funny, Alfred thought, 'cause in Italy you told me you were a fashion designer.
Alfred pressed his lips together, not letting his thoughts slip past his lips and his feelings towards the small Briton in front of his were becoming a huge swirling mass of anger, lust and hurt. "That's nice. Honestly when I see you engineers at work and hear you start talking I get lost." He gave a charming smile and tapped his head softly. "All law up here you know? No real room for science and such."
Alfred tilted his head towards the Russian when Ivan asked him a few questions and he answered happily, then glanced at the silver watch on his wrist and smiled. "Wow. I'm sorry guys; I really need my smoke now. I didn't have one all day since my wife hates the habit." Alfred slipped a hand into his pocket and fingered the box of cigarettes he had bought before the event in-case anyone that might know something needed a smoke break. "Care to join me, you two?"
He watched as Ivan shook his head and gave Alfred a small smile. "No, I do not smoke, I told you earlier." Alfred laughed softly and nodded.
"Of course, of course. I forgot." No he didn't. Blue eyes slid over towards Arthur. "What about you, Harry?"
Alfred has a wife? Arthur gulped and looked at his ring finger. The band on his finger shone brightly in the well-lit room. A lump formed in his throat. Even if Alfred was not here to kill him, even if he was innocent - he had a wife? He was married? Maybe that was why Italy happened. What if he had been anxious about getting married? He ran off to another country to have sex with an unsuspecting but nonetheless willing Brit to solidify his mind on whether or not to go through with it. He caved in and got married. God, was that why?
He felt sick.
With those striking blue eyes upon him, Arthur could barely look away. He had dreamt about those eyes. They haunted him every time he had quiet time to himself. They interfered with his personal life and with work - and now, they were either going to flip his shit or cause him a great deal of trouble. Arthur did not smoke, but he sighed and nodded. "Yes, of course, I'll come with you. You don't mind, do you Ivan?"
Ivan shook his head and finished his drink, taking a step back from the two as he smiled that warm haunting smile. "No, no. Please, who am I to deny two men their simple pleasures?" He told them he would see them later that night and moved to find another drink.
Alfred turned to Arthur and smiled. "Meet you in the Garden outside? I have to go talk to someone quickly." His blue eyes twinkled as he turned, not even waiting for Arthur's response, and moved back over to the lovely tanned woman in the red form fitting dress. He leaned over and whispered something softly in her ear, her eyes moving quickly to look into his as she grabbed his hand and gave it a soft squeeze.
Alfred smiled down at her and kissed her forehead, whispering something again.
The Briton had stopped and started staring. It was a good thing that Ivan had already moved on, because his behaviour was certainly suspicious. Devastated eyes watched the scene, landing on the woman. She was beautiful. Not of the typical descent he would link to organised crime or for shadowing a person - but maybe that was precisely the plan. They could get someone indescribable and mostly invisible to stalk his every move.
Or maybe she genuinely was Alfred's beautiful wife, which he cheated on with him. Or some other combination to that effect.
Either way, his romantic wish that maybe - just maybe - Alfred and he would meet again and begin a whirlwind romance was already ripped and in tatters. Arthur sighed and thought about his options. First, he could escape and risk being stalked still and eventually killed. Or he could stay, have his heart ripped out and also have an even higher percentage of being killed.
Well, he figured he might as well learn the truth. He moved in the direction of the door to the Garden swiftly, dodging the people in the crowd. He would not look back at Alfred and that beautiful woman. To think that all this time he might have been lusting after someone that was taken.
(Oh. Who was he to talk about 'cheating'?).
It was actually quite beautiful out tonight. It was warm enough that a person would only need a thin jacket to keep perfectly warm. The garden was quite amazing, it had many different varieties of flowers and trees that it almost looked like a small atrium while small lights had been strung up on the bushes and tree branches to give it a sort of fair-tale like look.
Arthur stood quietly, looking as if he hadn't a care in the world as he stared up at the twinkling stars above. But inside he was a nervous wreck that was ready to strike at anything that even showed a tiny sliver of threat. His head jerked and he glanced to his left when he heard the bushes behind him rustle, his hand twitching to reach for his firearm.
He was about to call out before something big and heavy slammed into him, knocking him over while the object—No, person—landed on top of him and pinned him expertly, forearm pressed against the Briton's slim throat holding him down expertly.
As the pressure was exerted down firmly on his throat, Arthur's eyes widened and he stared up at the assailant. It was lucky that no one could see them from here. He could scarcely believe it, but it seemed he was right. Alfred was trying to kill him. Alfred, or Anthony, or whoever the Hell he was. He opened his mouth to object - to say something of worth before Alfred could get the chance to complete a finishing blow - but nothing but air and a slight hiss came out.
Then he realised where his arm was. It was trapped beneath his body. An idea sprung into existence at the back of Arthur's head.
Blue eyes glared down at him coldly, but inside the American was screaming at himself and everyone else in the world. "Alright. Just who the fuck are you and what are you doing here?" He growled softly into Arthur's face, teeth baring slightly as he pressed his arm harder against the Briton's throat squeezing Arthur against the ground and himself. "Have you been following me? Cause don't think I haven't seen you." If Arthur had been following him this whole time, it now made perfect sense and he wasn't going crazy.
It was difficult to speak when Alfred was pressing down on his throat, but Arthur managed to rasp something out - out of pure objection to what Alfred was saying. "Follow you? You're the one that's been following me! France, Hungary, Greece, fucking all around Eastern Europe? Who the Hell do you work for? Is it the Russian?" Arthur growled through almost gritted teeth.
His fingers dipped into the back of his jacket, in-between it and his trousers. He touched something metallic.
There was an unexpected movement, and something with a rounded tip was pushing up against Alfred's rib - jabbing painfully on purpose. Blue eyes widened as a smirk started to form its way upon Arthur's handsome face as he fingered the trigger. He had the upper-hand. "...Check. See? You can't fool MI6."
Once again, let me empathise – we're very devious writers. What seems to be may not be at all. Or is it?
Plenty of clues for the future here. No idea when the next chapter will appear though – Tenkuno is actually visiting me in England for the next few weeks, too. I'd say not June, but early July (my birthday maybe? Exciting).
Tenkuno: I'll be in England! Yay!
Either way, hope you've enjoyed it.
- Tenkuno and DS.