If the Occasion Calls for It
by Valerie Vancollie
valeriev84 at hotmail dot com
Spoilers: Man Hunt
Note: This fic was written for the Billy Cooper het/slash (I chose het) round at Numb3rs Write-Off, an LJ community. I was a member of Team Schmoop and choose the word prompt 'jaded.'
William Edmund Cooper, despite all else, had been raised to be a proper and well-behaved gentleman when the occasion called for it. His interpretation of said situations, however, differed tragically from that of his mother and elder sisters to their eternal consternation and dismay. The fact of the matter was, though, that he knew how to be both cultured and charming when he wished to be and tonight he was pulling all the stops.
Natalia Sidorova was more than worth it. She was as different from the women Coop normally dated as was possible. Hence he had gone all out, ordering tickets to an opera he otherwise wouldn't be caught dead attending. He'd even dressed up for the occasion and made sure to turn up at her door with a bouquet of her favorite flowers.
"Your seat," Coop said gallantly as he waved off the waiter and pulled out her chair for her, gracing her with his best smile.
"Thank you, Billy," Natalia replied as she sat down and he pushed in her chair before taking his own.
"Good evening, my name is Robert and I shall be your waiter this evening," a young, dark haired man dressed in an elegant suit introduced himself as he stepped up the table. "Here are your menus; the evening's specials can be found at the back. Is there anything I can get for you to drink or would you prefer to look at the menu first?"
"We'd like to look at the menu, please," Coop replied, glancing at Natalia.
"As you wish," Robert replied, giving a graceful half bow before stepping away.
"What did you think of the opera?" Natalia asked as she glanced at the menu.
"It was," Coop began, frantically searching his memory for any of the words used in the pamphlets he'd looked at ahead of time, "entrancing."
"It has been far too long since I attended a performance, I miss it," Natalia continued before looking up. "Thank you for taking me, Billy."
"From the way your face lit up when you mentioned it before, I knew you would enjoy it," Coop replied with a smile before he glanced down at his menu.
"Oh, this is going to be difficult. There are so many options that sound good."
"Would you like a starter? Or would you rather save room for dessert?" Coop inquired. "Or both?"
"I'd prefer to only have dessert. I've heard the tiramisu here is to die for."
"Really? Well, dessert it is then."
The moment they closed their menus, the waiter reappeared at their table.
"Can I take your orders?"
"I'd like the clam linguini, please," Natalia said before she handed him the menu.
"I'll have the salmon fillet with shrimp and spinach pasta," Coop supplied when the waiter turned to face him. "And a bottle of French Sancerre."
"Certainly, Sir," Robert replied, taking his menu. "No starters this evening?"
"No, thank you."
"I find it quite amazing that I've lived here for four years and only recently heard of this place while you've hardly been here all of two months and yet you know of it. How is that?"
"My mother used to complain that I thought with my stomach."
"You couldn't tell it by looking at you," Natalia said, smiling seductively before she stopped as Robert reappeared with the wine.
Coop frowned at him as the man opened the bottle and poured a little into his glass. Tasting it, he nodded his approval and waited for the waiter to fill both their glasses and vanish once more.
"So you go out of your way to know where the good restaurants are?"
"Yes. Whenever I know my job will take me somewhere new, I ask for recommendations as well as looking in guide books," Coop replied. "Surely you know of some good ones in Moscow."
"That depends on what you like."
"You don't think I'd like traditional Russian cuisine?"
"No, you strike me as too much of an all American cowboy underneath that polished exterior of yours," Natalia stated, sipping her wine; her eyes sparkling.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?"
"That remains to be seen," Natalia teased, lifting an eyebrow and causing Coop to laugh aloud.
He was at once amazed at her open and carefree nature. It wasn't often that he came across either quality, not given the nature of his work, and it struck him suddenly how shocking it was to see them in her. Had he really become that jaded that he had come to expect every new person he interacted with to be nefarious?
Natalia smiled at him before her gaze slid past him as their waiter appeared once more with their meals.
"Clam linguini," Robert said as he placed a plate before Natalia. "And salmon. Would either of you care for some parmesan?"
"I'm good," Coop stated.
"Enjoy your meal," Robert said after he topped up both of their glasses.
"Is your salmon good, Billy?" Natalia asked once they'd both started their dinner.
"Yes, very," Coop replied, spearing a shrimp and adding some salmon, spinach and pasta. "Here, try some."
Instead of taking the fork from him, Natalia leaned forwards and took the offered food, her eyes never leaving his as her tongue swiped out to catch the drop of sauce left behind on the fork.
"Mmm," Natalia said appreciatively. "You're right, a perfect choice."
"Y-yes," Coop replied, shifting slightly. "Yours?"
"Also an excellent choice. Would you like to try some?"
"Please," Coop said, taking the proffered fork despite her pout. "Clams aren't my favorite, but they are definitely worth it when prepared like this."
"I'm glad you approve," Natalia teased.
"Bon appetite," Coop replied, knowing his pronunciation was horrible, but she seemed to appreciate the sentiment nonetheless.
They both turned their attention back to their food as a comfortable silence fell between them.
"So, do you know of any other hidden gems in the area?" Natalia finally questioned.
"Perhaps," Coop replied with a smile.
"You'll just have to wait and see, won't you?"
"And what if I were to tell you I'm very bad at waiting? Always have been in fact."
"Well, then," Coop started, tilting his head and looking at her consideringly. "Perhaps I could be... persuaded to tell you."
"Oh, I see, persuaded. And what would it take to persuade you, Mr. Cooper?"
"I don't know. Why don't you give it your best shot and I'll let you know if it worked," Coop responded, drawing a startled laugh from her.
"Nice try, Billy. How about I trade you the information for the names of good restaurants in the surrounding few states."
"And why would I be interested in that?"
"Well, you're the one who said that while you're now stationed here, you'd still have to travel quite a bit," Natalia said. "Given that you work for a regional office, that means you'll be traveling around the Southwest."
"Perhaps I already know all of the good ones."
"Friends and guide books."
"And you trust those silly books?"
"Some of them. And I've been to some of these states before. Like I know there is an excellent, authentic Chinese restaurant in Albuquerque, a great French one in Colorado Springs and an absolutely horrible Moroccan one in Phoenix."
"Moroccan in Phoenix?" Natalia repeated, surprised. "Surely you don't mean Saffron? I've heard it's excellent."
"Really? Was this recent? And is the source reliable?" Coop questioned, lowering his fork. "It's been a while since I've been there myself; the place might have changed. Maybe there's a new chef. Personally I couldn't see how the old one could have lasted."
"Yes, quite recent and the source is very reliable."
"Huh. Maybe if I'm there, I'll drop by again. Although, given how bad it was before, I'm not sure I want to take the risk."
"Do you trust my judgment?"
"Do you judge my taste?" Natalia repeated. "I'm going to Phoenix next week and I'm meeting an old family friend at Saffron."
"Of course I trust your taste," Coop replied, looking directly at her even as he followed the movements of the waiter behind her as he reappeared in his line of vision and rubbed his right eyebrow. That was the signal. "This friend of yours, that would be Konstantin Golovko, right?"
"What?" Natalia demanded, her head snapping up, shock etched into her features before they became suddenly blank and her eyes hardened.
Perhaps he hadn't been overly jaded to be so surprised about her earlier openness. It seemed she could be just as controlled as the criminals he saw everyday if she wanted to be.
"Konstantin Golovko, he's an old friend of your family, isn't he, Natalia?" Coop pressed, standing as she got to her feet. "Involved in the family business too."
"Who the hell are you?" Natalia demanded, her small hands clenching into fists as her face contorted in anger.
"Special Agent Billy Cooper, FBI."
"Why you good for nothing," Natalia began, moving forwards before thinking the better of it, seeing as they were already attracting the attention of other couples despite the space and privacy afforded each table. "You'll pay for this!"
"You'll have no time for anything but considering the past where you're going," a voice declared, coming up behind her.
"What?" Natalia demanded as she started to turn to face the waiter who'd served them, only to be stopped by his hands on her arms. "And who the hell are you?"
"Natalia, meet my partner, Special Agent Don Eppes," Coop supplied.
"You're under arrest," Don declared as she seemed stunned by the sudden turn of events.
"On what charges?"
"Aiding and abetting a known fugitive," Don stated as he snapped his handcuffs around one slender wrist before securing her second hand. "Conspiring to help him flee the country."
"Your brother, Sergei Sidorov."
"I haven't seen or-"
"Don't bother, we already have proof. We just needed to know where Golovko would be," Coop stated, tugging the tie he was wearing off and loosening his collar in relief. He may have been raised to dress the occasion, but that didn't mean he had to like it.
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