6

Disclaimer: All Equalizer characters belong to Universal. I'm
borrowing them for a while; no infringement is
intended, and no profit is being made. Song lyrics borrowed,
certainly don't want to upset Eric Clapton

Wonderful Tonight

He looked at his watch and pulled tiredly at his collar. His bow tie hung loosely around his neck and his sleeves were rolled up to his elbows. He had been at his desk since the previous morning, trying to salvage an operation in Tunisia that had gone south. The phone rang and he picked it up out of reflex.

"Control," he answered tiredly.

"You sound awful." Jem Patton remarked.

"Thanks, where are you?" Control asked, with a smile, picturing her face, framed by her long honey-blond hair.

"I'm on the Acela. I should be in New York at about nine." Jem replied.

"Maybe I'll be finished here by that time." Control said, sighing.

"Control, don't forget, we have to go to Harrison's party tonight." Jem reminded him.

"Oh, I did completely forget." Control said, leaning back in his chair.

"You promised. We don't have to stay long, but we have to make an appearance." Jem said.

"For you, I will do this. Now I have to go back to work." Control said.

"All work and no play, Control…." Jem teased.

"See you tonight," Control replied.

"Bye, see you soon." Jem answered.

"Bye," Control said, hanging up the phone.

Jem got out of the elevator and walked silently on the thick carpet to the office. It was nine-thirty and very few offices were occupied. Throwing caution to the wind, she walked in without knocking. Control was deep in thought, hunched over his desk, reading a report. Despite the good ventilation system, the room smelled of burnt coffee and cigars. Jem closed the door behind her and walked to his desk.

"I've come to take you out of this place." She said with mock seriousness.

Control looked up quickly, removed his glasses and leaned back in his chair, rolling a pencil between his fingers.

"Oh, you have, have you?" he said, trying to contain a smile.

She walked around the desk and turned his chair towards her, standing between his legs. She leaned over and kissed him, letting her hair cascade over his face. He groaned, feeling her slight weight on his aching body.

"Seriously, let's go. We'll go back to the apartment, freshen up, and we should be at the party by eleven." Jem said, drawing him to his feet.

Control looked at the mounds of work on his desk and then to Jem. She was right, of course; diminishing returns. He reached for his glasses and folded them, looking for his case. Jem held out his jacket. He stood, pushing his sleeves down, and put on his jacket, placing his glasses in the case he found in his pocket. He put his lighter in his pocket and followed her to the door.

They remained silent in the elevator on their way to the garage. Control had forgone his driver, enjoying just a bit of freedom; driving a car himself. Jem looked at him, his jacket hung loosely on his shoulders and his normally grey colour seemed worse. His voice had sounded lower and rougher than when they had spoken earlier. He just needed some time away from the office, she decided.

Walking out of the elevator, Control removed a remote control from his pocket and punched in the eleven digit key code for his Peugeot. He walked to the passenger side and opened the door for her. Jem walked in front of him, put her hand to his face and kissed him softly, before getting into the car. He chuckled, walked around the car, and got in on the driver's side. Starting the car, he eased it out of the parking space and headed downtown. Thirty minutes later, Control parked the car and they headed up the stairs to their apartment.

Control opened the door and allowed Jem to walk in first. He followed slowly, and locked the front door. Tossing his keys into the silver bowl on the table in the foyer, he followed her into the apartment.

"I'm feeling pretty good, but you, my love, need a shower. That ought to perk you up a bit." Jem said, turning the lights on in the bedroom.

"Sounds fair enough. What's the dress code?" Control asked.

"Suit, no tie, just casual," Jem said, helping him off with his jacket

She touched his shoulders and he flinched involuntarily.

"Wow, are you tight!" Jem remarked.

"I bet you say that to all the guys," Control said, turning around to look at her.

"Shower, the sooner we go the sooner we return. Jem said.

"Yes, madam." Control replied.

He kicked off his loafers and the rest of his clothes while Jem stood in the closet, choosing a dark blue suit, and striped shirt. She heard the shower turn on and then the uninterrupted sound of the water hitting his back as he got under the spray of water.

It's late in the evening

She's wondering what clothes to wear

She puts on her make up

And brushes her long blonde hair

And then she asks me,

Do I look alright?

And I say yes, you look wonderful tonight.

She turned her attention to selecting a simple black dress that showed her legs. The back was low and the front had more than a hint of cleavage. She took off her clothes and slid into the tight-fitting dress. Standing in front of the bureau mirror, she combed her hair. Jem heard the shower turn off and Control walked in with a towel around his waist. He walked up behind her,

sliding his right arm around her waist. He pushed her hair aside and kissed her neck.

"Baby, you look wonderful tonight." Control said, softly.

"Thank you," Jem purred.

Control walked to the bed and dropped the towel. He dressed as quickly as his sore muscles would allow. Brushing back his hair with his hands, he then bent down to slip his feet into socks and then loafers. Reaching into his jacket pocket he retrieved his lighter and opened the desktop humidor to select a cigar for the evening.

"Okay, I'm ready." Control said.

Jem finished her modest makeup and walked up to him.

"I do love you. Thanks for doing this tonight." Jem said, standing on her toes to kiss him.

He responded, kissing her deeply. He could stay like this forever, he decided. It was effortless and that's what he wanted. They broke and Jem picked up an emerald green shawl and a clutch as they headed for the door. Control took his keys and they walked into the hallway, locking the door behind him. They walked down the stairs and got back into the car. She turned on the CD player and looked at his face when Muddy Waters voice and guitar came through the speakers. He looked more relaxed than he did before his shower, but he also looked exhausted. She reached over and lightly stroked his cheek. He took her hand in his and kissed it, before returning both hands to the wheel.

The Harrisons lived in a duplex apartment on the upper west side. They had arranged for valet parking for the seventy five or so guests. Control drove up and the doorman opened Jem's door, Control gave his keys to the valet and escorted Jem to the elevators. There was a man in the lobby who checked their names off a list before allowing them to go upstairs.

We go to a party

And everyone turns to see

This beautiful lady, that's walking around with me.

And then she asks me, Do you feel alright?

And I say, yes I feel wonderful tonight.

They could hear the band as the elevator approached their floor. Jem walked into the apartment, Control on her right. They looked around the room to see who they knew. Control felt pride, noting the men's unabashed looks of lust and approval at Jem.

"Would you like a drink?" Control asked.

"Yes, please," Jem replied, following him to the bar.

Control looked at the top-shelf selection and smirked.

"Maker's on the rocks with a splash." Control requested.

"Yes, sir, and for you, Madame?" The bartender asked, preparing Control's drink.

"Bourbon? This is new. What happened to scotch? Are you feeling all right?" Jem asked, looking at Control.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just nostalgic, I suppose. I spoke to an old friend of mine from the old days. He reminded me of our hell-raising days at the Academy. Anyway, I've smoked enough cigars in the last week to make up for not drinking scotch." Control explained, not truly looking at her face but some point above it.

Jem looked at him and was about to question him but decided this was not the place.

"Beefeater martini, please." Jem commanded.

"Yes ma'am." The bartender replied.

They took their drinks and walked by the dining room, which had been transformed into a dance floor. They continued to the terrace and stepped out into the cool autumn night. The city was clear and there were only four other people in sight on the terrace

Control turned to face her and raised his glass.

"Here's to you. Thanks for saving me tonight. Your parents were right. You are a diamond in the rough; and I do love you." Control, said, reaching for her face kissing her passionately.

"And I love you," she replied softly.

They looked at each other and it spoke volumes

"Ah, here you are," Geoff Harrison said, loudly.

His ruddy face had a sheen of perspiration on it as he made his way towards them.

"Hello, Geoff,"Jem said, offering her cheek.

Geoff kissed her cheek and then stood back.

"And who is this, then? I'm Geoff Harrison, your host." Geoff said, sizing up this older man with the dark blue eyes.

"Philip, Philip Samuelson." Control said, reaching out his hand.

"Good to meet you, Philip. Are you an antiques dealer as well?" Geoff asked, lighting up a cigarette.

"No, I'm a bookkeeper for the Federal Reserve. You know: number crunching." Control said, sipping his cocktail.

"Well, that's boring! I must get back to my other guests. Good to meet you. Terrific to see you again Jem." Geoff said, taking her hand and kissing it.

They watched him leave. Control put his drink down and lit a cigar. As he was putting it to his mouth, Jem reached up and took it from his hand. She put the cigar to her mouth and took a deep drag from it. She returned the cigar to Control who took a much needed hit and exhaled slowly.

"Art dealer, eh?" Control asked, finishing his drink.

"Philip, the bean counter," Jem offered with a grin.

"Yeah, I figured he'd buy that." Control said.

"He's not as dumb as he looks. He's a corporate raider. I met him working on that job in Basel last year. It's just that when he's had a few drinks he becomes sloppy." Jem commented.

"So I noticed. May I have this dance?" Control asked.

"Love to," Jem replied, finishing her drink.

He put his hand to the small of her back, softly directing her inside and towards the dance floor. He took one last hit on his cigar before resting it on an ashtray and gathering her in his arms. Their bodies touched, and he planted kisses in her hair and on her forehead.

"You're grinning like an idiot." Jem remarked.

"Sorry, it's not often I get to dance with my girl." He sighed and held her closer.

The song ended but melded into another slow song, so they stayed on the dance floor in their warm little world.

"May I cut in?" Geoff Harrison asked, tapping Control on the shoulder.

They stopped dancing and Control gave him a hard stare.

"Come on, Philip, stop being so damned selfish." Geoff chided.

"It's okay, Philip; I'll catch up to you in a few minutes." Jem said, trying to prevent an altercation.

Control bowed to her and backed off. As he walked off of the dance floor, he heard Harrison's booming voice. .

"Where did you meet him, Jem? One of your antiques has more personality."

He retrieved his Cuban cigar and relit it. Control walked out into the hall and then to the bar. The headache that he had carefully kept at bay for the last almost thirty-six hours had come back with a vengeance.

"Maker's with a splash. Could you put that in a larger glass, please?" Control asked, feeling the utter fatigue that poured over him.

He puffed on the cigar carefully; filling his mouth with smoke, holding it as long as possible, feeling the slight buzz that it afforded him. He took the glass offered to him and walked back to the terrace. He stood in a dark corner, trading between his cigar and the bourbon to fight the headache that was threatening to become a migraine. Finally, he sat down on a wooden bench, put his elbows on his knees and lowered his head, thinking that that might help. He listened to the blood rush in his head and tried to float.

After two dances, Jem expertly evaded Geoff's mighty advances by pleading a full bladder, and left him on the dance floor. She went to the bathroom and washed her face with cold water, checking herself in the mirror quickly, she walked out in search of her missing date. It wasn't long before she was on the terrace. She sensed that he was near but didn't see him.

"Ah, come on Control, where are you?" She said quietly.

"Here, I'm here," Control answered, softly.

Jem turned toward the voice, seeing now the edge of his shoe in the dim light of the terrace. She walked to him, crouching down and touching his face with her hands.

"Hey, what's up?" Jem asked.

Control took a measured breath and said, "Headache, maybe a migraine."

"I'm sorry, sweetheart. Let's get out of here and get you home." Jem said, standing.

Jem reached her hand to him and, taking it, he stood slowly. He squeezed her hand tightly, unknowingly transferring some of his pain to her. She took the cigar from his free hand and put it in the nearest ashtray. She put her arm around his waist as he put his over her shoulders and they walked slowly back into the party and towards the front door. Thankfully, they missed a last chance meeting with Geoff and walked into the elevator. Control closed his eyes for a moment as another wave of pain washed over him. Jem drew him closer, trying to help in any way she could. They arrived on the ground floor and Control gave the valet his ticket. Two minutes later, the Peugeot rolled up and the valet got out of the car. Control escorted Jem to the driver's seat and shut the door.

It's time to go home now

And I've got an aching head

So I give her the car keys

And she helps me to bed

And then I tell her

As I turn out the light

I say, my darling,

You were wonderful tonight.

He walked stiffly back to the passenger side and got in. The valet shut the door and Jem drove off. She turned on Muddy Waters at a low volume, stealing looks at Control, who had shut his eyes, leaning his head back on the headrest, and crossed his arms. It was late but it still took Jem twenty minutes to drive home. She pulled into the garage and parked. Turning off the engine, Jem looked at Control. She got out of the car and walked to the passenger side, opening the door.

"We're home, love." Jem said, softly.

Control opened his eyes and looked at her. The pain was so evident that she reached out to him, in spite of the fact that she knew it might hurt. He flinched at her touch but acquiesced and allowed her to help him out of the car. He stood slowly, holding on to the car for support, squinting against the glare of the fluorescent lights. She shut the door and locked it with the remote before joining him to walk to the stairwell. They walked slowly, like the lovers that they were, arms around each other. Control reached into his pocket to retrieve the house keys. He handed them to her and closed his eyes again.

"We'll be home soon, love." Jem whispered, squeezing him gently.

"Yeah, I'm almost home," he repeated, taking a deep breath.

The walk up the two flights of stairs was almost too much for him. They stood on the landing as he caught his breath before walking the last thirty feet to the apartment. Jem opened the door as Control put his hand against the wall to hold himself in place. Jem walked into the apartment and turned on one light in the kitchen, which cast a pale shadow into the living room. Control walked in and didn't stop until he reached the darkened bedroom. Jem walked into the bathroom and retrieved two of his migraine pills and a glass of water. Control stood with his hands on the bureau, incapable of movement.

"Here's your meds." Jem said, putting the pills in his hand.

Control put them to his mouth tossed his head back and swallowed. Jem handed him the glass of water, but he wouldn't take it. She knew she had little time before the combination of the medicine and the migraine would render him unconscious.

"Please, let me help you out of your suit." Jem suggested.

Control nodded slightly as she began to undress him. He walked to the bedside when she got him to his shorts and carefully eased himself into bed. She reached out to turn off the light when his hand stopped her.

"In case I don't remember any of this tomorrow, thanks for everything, babe. You were wonderful tonight." Control said, drifting into the abyss.

"I love you, too." Jem said, kissing his forehead before she went to undress for the night.