Author's note: This ficlit, which takes place about a year or so after the events in "99 Loses CONTROL" was highly inspired by the Casino Night Zone in Sonic the Hedgehog 2. This serves as a tie-in to a future fic I'll be writing. References to characters from other fandoms are intentional, and Coppermine's presence is the idea of LuckyLadybug. As always, the characters aren't mine, and the story is.
Sound and activity filled the room as gamblers and croupiers exchanged words, but the tall, brunet man was barely aware of any of it. He sat at a seat by the bar, watching the action, but at the same time, seeing nothing.
"Mr. Royal?" the bartender asked him. "Can I get you anything?"
"Non…" the man replied, as he gazed around his casino. The lights outside, the glowing heart of Las Vegas, gleamed through the windows. It would have been a picture-perfect scenario… except something was missing.
It wasn't the number of employees; after fleeing his casino in San Jirman, he had to rebuild from the ground up, and this time he had hired employees who would know nothing about his past or his present with KAOS. They followed his orders, regardless of what they were. A couple suspected that they were taking part in something underhanded, and they were right; Victor Royal was a crook—still unreformed, but somehow able to make a home for a new casino in Las Vegas. One of them, a young man named Pete Coppermine, came forward with his suspicions and insisted that he, personally, would not be forced to do anything illegal. Royal took one look at the oddly-outfitted young man and granted him his wish. The man worked in the casino as a player of some newfangled, but insanely popular, monster-summoning card game which Royal didn't bother to try to understand; his employee never lost, so as long as the casino managed to take in money, Royal was content in letting Coppermine continue with whatever he desired.
Money… It wasn't the money; Royal had regained his lost funds and was drawing in profits (some ill-gotten, while some obtained fairly). Much of Royal's family inheritance had been untouched for years; corruption had seemed to run in his family; his grandfather and great-uncle had amassed much wealth after a series of crimes and underhanded dealings. The Vicomte de Chagny demanded their surrender and put out a warrant for their arrest, but the brothers, utterly defiant, attempted to break into the Chagny manor to plunder it and perhaps bring harm the occupants in retaliation. They never succeeded; rumor had it that a friend of the Chagnys intervened, and Royal's great-uncle was found bound hand and foot with a lasso on the Manor grounds and subsequently spent the rest of his life in prison. Royal's grandfather fled to San Jirman with all of their money, speaking until his dying day about being attacked by "a man without half a face."
It wasn't success… It wasn't fame… It wasn't eluding his pursuers as his grandfather did… They were not what Victor Royal lacked. No… He realized what he missed as he gaze happened upon a young woman sitting at the bar, only a few feet away. She was dressed in red from head to toe—a red fedora rested on her brunet hair.
Royal turned away, unable to look at the woman. Brunet women always brought back the memory of her. Yes, she was what he was missing. He knew her as Susan Hilton, though he did not know that it wasn't her true name. Indeed, her true name was, perhaps, a closely-guarded secret. Even the other who clearly adored her as much as Royal did called her "99."
She… No, they were the reasons why Royal had fled from San Jirman. He had proposed to her… she had said yes… And that fool… He had to show up and ruin everything!
"A curse upon you, Maxwell Smart…" Royal hissed under his breath. He had not wanted to accept it, but he had thought he had seen something in the girl's eyes when she realized that Smart had come after her. It was a look that made it seem as though that a part of her heart was with Smart… a part of her heart that Royal would not be able to reach. He had brushed the thought aside, even letting Smart stay on the island. That was until Smart found out about Royal's ties to KAOS, and Royal, in return, found out about their ties to CONTROL. Everything had gone out the window then… The girl he loved was one he should hate, but he did not want it that way. Perhaps he could convince her to defect… Perhaps he still had one more chance…
On principle, of course, he told his right-hand man that he would deal with both of them, but the thought never did leave his mind of trying to sway the girl's will one last time. But… the poker game… the attack… her tears… how she cried for Smart when she thought him to be dead… That was when Royal realized that the girl's heart was no longer his.
Smart was alive, of course, and Royal chose to flee. A smirk was on his face as he retreated from the irked agent, masking the true pain he felt in his heart. Royal found refuge at various KAOS hideouts as he devised what to do next. For months, he wondered what became of the girl he had loved so much. He had thought this aloud one day, in earshot of another KAOS agent by the name of Siegfried, who then proceeded to give him the answer he had dreaded to hear.
"What? You haven't heard…?" the sandy-haired man had asked. "Maxwell Smart and the Cookie tied the knot. Isn't that right, Shtarker?"
And Shtarker had nodded, and had begun to relay the tale of how the Smarts ended up on Schwartz's Island, but escaped from KAOS for the umpteenth time.
But Royal hadn't really been listening. He had only been able to register what Siegfried had just told him.
She married him. She actually married him. I am not surprised, and yet… I am stunned…
Maxwell Smart had bested him again.
Royal snapped back to reality as the sound of a screeching eagle made him start from his reverie. Coppermine was in the middle of a game of those odd monster cards, and his opponent—a rather young man—had somehow brought forth a realistic hologram of an eagle with wings studded with blue gemstones.
"Jumpy, aren't you…?" the brunet woman in red asked, with a smirk.
Royal glared at her for a moment, trying to get lost again in his own thoughts, dreaming of a world where the girl he loved had married him, not Maxwell Smart. But what sort of world would that be? Would she have truly left CONTROL? Would he have ended up leaving KAOS? And would Maxwell Smart's shadow forever be over them, regardless of how things had turned out?
…And Royal had to wonder if he was a looming shadow over the Smarts' marriage. It was a satisfying thought, even if a highly far-fetched one. She would not have regretted choosing Smart over Royal. But… if they ever happened to cross paths again… was there a way he could make her realize what she threw away when she cast him aside?
He almost wished that he could see her again… if only for that reason. If he could get her to doubt her decision, it would be worth the pain of seeing her again. All he wanted was a chance to plant a seed in her head and hope that it grew… without Maxwell Smart bringing in the plant killer.
Absently, Royal withdrew his wallet from his pocket. Her picture was still in there; he hadn't been able to bring himself to discard it. On days such as this, when memories of her refused to go away, he would just look at the picture, and tonight he did so.
"Where are you? Are you happy… with him…?" he murmured, quietly. The woman in red at the bar was now watching with interest, but Royal ignored her.
Royal's thoughts were temporarily jarred by loud talking near Coppermine's area of the casino. The boy he had been challenging had lost, and was paying the money he had bet in the beginning. The Cobalt Eagle was still there; he had not been the reason for the boy's loss. No, the eagle managed to escape the enemy…
…Just like Maxwell Smart did—just like he always seemed to…
Royal's fist slammed down on the bar. It wasn't fair… all of his memories of her would be forever shadowed by the knowledge that he lost to Maxwell Smart.
"Temper, temper…" the woman in red chided, softly. There was the hint of a snicker in her voice; she was enjoying this. She was not like 99… Agent 99 cared for others; she had cared for Royal, and deeply. He was not going to forget that anytime soon.
He looked away. It wasn't like him to brood about his long-lost love like this; something was making her image stay in his mind. And if it was some sort of sign… a premonition that he might meet her again, and soon…
A smile worked its way across his face. This time, if they did meet, things would be different. He was going to be the winner this time, not Maxwell Smart.
Royal snapped back to awareness yet again as he heard a yelp, followed by a cascade of coins. The boy who had just lost at cards had headed to the phone booth to make a call, and a hoard of coins fell from the change return slot into his bewildered hands as he lifted the handset off of the phone.
The casino owner winced as the boy eagerly began to count his money. He had been meaning to get those phones fixed for the longest time…