“Have you totally lost your mind?”
“Well,” Face pretended to consider the question. “I don’t think so. Of course, I guess you can’t rule it out completely, all things considered. Stir-crazy I most definitely am.”
“Yeah, but the opera?” Frankie said, ignoring that probably too familiar complaint.
“Yes, the opera. Why not?”
Though he knew they couldn’t be overheard, Frankie still glanced around before answering. “Temple, could you get any gayer?”
“Yes,” Face said, smiling at him. He hadn’t felt this good in a long time. He wasn’t absolutely certain, but he thought he might be happy. “Yes, Franklin, I think I could. And will with the slightest encouragement.”
“Oh, no, you don’t.” Frankie backed away down the hall, dark eyes wide and hands raised. “You know Johnny and BA will back in a half an hour, or less. Probably less.”
“Enough time,” Face said suggestively, though he didn’t move.
“No quickies “
“Only longies?” Face grinned.
Frankie shook his head, smiling back, teeth white in his cinnamon face. “How many movies did you guys watch, anyway?”
“You have no idea how useful a really strange movie, especially a comedy, can be when you’ve got someone like Murdock to keep amused,” Face said.
As he usually did when the topic was Murdock, especially Murdock of years past, Frankie didn’t answer that right away. But today Face didn’t give him time to carefully prepare an answer; he didn’t really want to talk about Murdock, carefully or otherwise. “I haven’t actually noticed you being against quickies, you know.”
“I’m not,” Frankie protested. “Not, you know, like a rule or anything. Just, not when Johnny might be back sooner than he said.”
“You do have a point,” Face conceded. And it was a good point. He didn’t want to find out what Hannibal would do, that old-school career army officer, because there was no way it would be good. Frankie apparently read his body language well enough to catch the change (well, that was no surprise) and he came back to join Face in leaning on the banister at the head of the stairs. Face felt the warmth of his body, welcoming like a banked fire on a hearth. Even a false opportunity for sex, and he’d never really thought it might happen this afternoon, keyed him up, made him feel really alive. He was capable of actually enjoyed prolonging it before the conclusion came. Besides, even if he’d pushed and he could have, could have done it right there in five minutes that wasn’t the way he wanted it now. His heightened senses took in every detail of his lover the scent of Old Spice and Vitalis and Frankie after running like crazy all over the estate for Hannibal all morning and the tang of the oil from his equipment and the guns they’d just finished cleaning, a scent Face would have known in a blackout in a bakery; the explosive color of him blue-black hair, jade shirt, white teeth, cinnamon skin; the lean responsive body and elegant, skilled hands and he sighed internally. A quickie because they couldn’t hold back was one thing, but under pressure of discovery? No.
Besides, Frankie was well and truly scared of Hannibal, the way you can only be scared of someone when you want desperately to impress that someone and don’t think you are, or ever can. Face’s mood shifted a little; there was no use denying that Frankie was out of his depth and living in fear if by now just as background noise and had been since they had come into his life. And it was easy to say they hadn’t meant it and that in fact it wasn’t them but Stockwell and that Frankie’s fear was mostly of him, but it remained true that Frankie was always just a little bit afraid and wasn’t meant by God to live like that. It filled Face with desire, not just for Frankie but on his account, desire to protect him, get between him and whatever was after him. It made Face patient he could be patient when the reward at the end of the wait was big enough. He could wear Stockwell’s yoke and trust Hannibal to get them out of the cage. He could wait he could stand the leash shortened again after that shooting in September, the additional missions and the constant chafing of his collar take it instead of slipping loose and running, for Frankie’s sake. For Frankie.
I have a lot of family, Frankie had said once on a late night, but they’re not rich, you know? Face could guess, being an Angeleno himself. They couldn’t all of them together keep him where he needs to be. And if they say he never earned it, that he has to pay back the last ten years... His voice had faltered and stopped, but Face hadn’t needed the rest of the sentence. Martín Santana’s life was in Stockwell’s hand: the man could bankrupt the family, take their money the way he’d frozen and then taken Frankie’s bank account, throw a veteran onto the mercy of the chronically underfunded and overcrowded county. But Face could get around that if Hannibal couldn’t; financially he could now. He had a lot squirreled away and unlike squirrels he’d chosen a place where what you’d tucked away bred more. The day would come when Frankie would be ready to hear him, when he’d be able to say, “We can take care of him, we don’t have to stay and take this.” The day would come… but it wasn’t here now. So Face just leaned over and nudged Frankie with his shoulder, and even if Hannibal had been there and looked up the stairs at that moment he would have seen nothing, just a companionable, unexceptionable touch; the contact shock that ran through them both was invisible to anyone else. He held the contact for just a moment, and then nudged again and said, “So, what about it?”
“What’s wrong with opera?”
“Besides it’s being a red flag the size of one of those giant ones they have at the Pentagon?”
“Besides that, because I have that covered.”
Frankie cut those dark eyes at him but didn’t ask; he was trainable, Hannibal had said once, and it was true. “It’s the theater. I’m not a theater guy. And it’s singing lots of and lots of screeching in Italian which I don’t even understand. And the singers are all fat.”
“They are not all fat. Tonight they aren’t fat.”
“That’s not my most important objection, Temple, though I can see how it might have seemed like that to you.”
“If the shoe fits,” Frankie grinned.
“I’m ignoring that. Tonight it’s not theater; it’s not the real opera,” Face said.
“What is it, then?”
“Concert opera. All the music, none of the staging.”
“So screeching in Italian?”
“Singing. And this one’s in French.”
“Well, I don’t know French either.”
“You don’t have to. You can read the libretto or just listen. Anyway, it has the most beautiful duet ever. Of all time.”
“Yeah?” Frankie sounded skeptical. “Better than ‘Islands in the Stream’?”
Face opened his mouth and then reconsidered. That was probably a joke, but if it wasn’t he didn’t want to know. “Yes,” he said baldly. “For one thing, it’s two women. They’re singing about drifting down a river in a boat, surrounded by flowers.” Frankie hiked an eyebrow. “It’s beautiful,” Face repeated, and then looking into Frankie’s eyes he said, with what he knew but didn’t care was a Saigon accent, “Dôme épais le jasmin à la rose s'assemble, rive en fleur, frais matin, nous appellent ensemble. Ah! glissons en suivant le courant fuyant dan l'onde frémissante. D'une main nonchalante gagons le bord, où l'oiseau chante. Dôme épais, blanc jasmin, nous appellent ensemble! ” He caught his breath and repeated the last line softly. “Dôme épais, blanc jasmin, nous appellent ensemble! ”
“I,” said Frankie patiently, “don't know any French.”
Face paused. “Let's see... The dense canopy of jasmine together with roses, the flowers on the riverbank and the fresh morning together call us. Ah, let us glide, drifting on the current, on the shimmering waves. With a careless hand let us touch the bank where the birds sing. The dense canopy and the white jasmine together call us.”
“That is nice … but you never just translated that in your head.”
“I do speak French.”
“I guess you do… but I still don’t.”
“Look, Frankie, just come. Just do it for me.”
Frankie cocked his head. He was going to give in eventually, Face knew. He wasn’t sure if Frankie did yet, though. “For you?” Frankie said as if considering it carefully. “You told me to stop spoiling you “
“And now you decide to listen?”
“ so what’s in it for me?”
“You’ll love it. Okay, look: if you don’t love it I’ll never ask you to go again. And if you really, really hate it we can leave in the intermission. The second intermission,” he added hastily. “I’m not missing the Bell Song.”
“If I hate it you won’t ask me to do it again? That’s not a real big incentive, there, Temple.”
He did know, Face decided. Not that it mattered or, rather, it did but he didn’t mind. It was good for Frankie to at least pretend he didn’t always just give in. “What’s in it for you is the Watergate.”
Frankie blinked. “Watergate?”
“The Kennedy Center is right next to the Watergate, and we have a reservation.”
Frankie had started to grin halfway through Face’s answer. It had been a while since they had been able to get over to the Eastern Shore. Stockwell had had them out on three missions in a row before Christmas, Face not going until the fourth of them, and three more since then, and the Team had been back in Virginia for no more than a couple of days running over that whole time. Hannibal had put his foot down and said they needed a rest, but he’d kept them busy himself the last week and it was only today that he’d agreed to slack off. Not that Face had started it and certainly not that Frankie had. No, it had been BA who had said, “No.”
“What?” Hannibal had said.
“You heard me; I said ‘No’. You workin’ us too hard, Hannibal. We ain’t in the field now, ain’t no need for us to do like this. No more. We need a break.” BA had shifted his weight and planted himself solidly. “I ain’t kiddin’, Hannibal. No more.”
Hannibal had stared at him, and then glanced at the other two. Face had been glad to be supporting BA instead of broaching the subject himself; Hannibal would most likely have started asking him about his health, and while it was true that he wasn’t back where he had been, he was more than making do. Only the occasional handful of aspirin needed… He’d given the colonel one of his best obviously insincere smiles and said, “Don’t look at me, Hannibal. Although, in a remarkable display of synergy, or synchronicity, or synsomething, I do happen to have something I could do tonight.”
Hannibal had looked at Frankie, who’d straightened up a bit and looked back. Face could feel him ready to answer back if Hannibal said anything that was Frankie all over, never defending himself but going to the wall (metaphorically) for others. Hannibal had maybe felt it too, he was an observant man; he had just turned back to Face and said, dryly, “Sin has a great deal to do with it, I’m sure.”
Face had grinned jauntily and Hannibal had given in. “All right I admit a few days off won’t kill us. But you know you’re not going anywhere for long “
“Be back by the morning.”
“ or alone.”
“Don’t worry, Mom. Frankie’s coming with.”
“That doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence, Lieutenant.”
But that had been your basic Hannibal taking back the situation. He was a colonel, not a tyrant, and though he liked to be in charge he did know how to back off the requisite amount when he’d pushed too far. It was one of the reasons he’d kept them together as long as he had. One last set of tasks clean-up from the last few days and then they were free.
And now Frankie was smiling that smile that set Face’s nerves singing, and it was all he could do to just stand there and finish talking. “ we have a reservation.”
“Reservation?” Frankie said. “Nice… so do we really have to go to the opera?”
Face fought the reflexive ‘no’ to a standstill. He wouldn’t have called himself an opera buff, but he liked French, and he loved ‘Lakmé’ and Frankie did in fact get his way a lot of the time the house on the Eastern Shore, for instance… “Yes. Don’t you want to see the Kennedy Center? I mean, you were almost named after him.”
“Is there an FDR Center? We could go there.”
“Come on, Frankie; you’ll like it. And if you don’t ”
“Psych!” Frankie laughed. Face wanted to be angry, if only at himself, but instead he found himself laughing, too. “I’ll go.” He raised a finger. “This time.”
“You’ll like it.”
“You say that often enough you might convince me. But we’ll see.” They stood a moment in silence, just looking at each other, before Frankie took a breath and straightened. “I’m gonna go finish counting those squibs and fuzes so if I’m not done when Johnny gets back I’m at least working on it. You might want to clean up that gun room.”
“Yeah,” Face said, but he stayed where he was, watching Frankie go down the stairs, until the other man was out of sight, before sighing and going back to the gun room. Working quickly and carefully, he packed up all of the guns but the sleek silvery Mauser in their cases and stacked them in their closet. Then he stood, staring at the Mauser on the table for a few moments. A deep breath blown out, and he gave in to the urge.
He glanced out the window, checking that the van wasn’t coming up the drive, and then picked up the Mauser. He ejected the magazine and pulled the slide to verify that no round was chambered before going into the hallway, Mauser in his hand. Moving silently, as if his life depended on it, he cat-footed down the hallway to the big office. He paused by the door, and then spun inside, pistol raised, and put a phantom bullet through the equally phantom man seated at the desk. He walked over and pointing the Mauser at the floor he pulled the trigger three more times. “Bang, you’re dead, General,” he whispered, almost able to see the blood on the hardwood floor, the shattered head and the limp body.
Safe for another month, he thought, as usual not quite sure if he meant Stockwell or himself. But it didn’t really matter which, did it? Only that he was going to be able to resist the urge to punch Stockwell in the face for a while. That was the important thing. He grinned and walked back to the gun room, whistling softly. Dôme épais le jasmin…
Tonight was going to be wonderful.
Frankie had not wanted to wear his tux. “You said it wasn’t real opera.”
“It’s still the Kennedy Center. And anyway, why buy one if you’re not going to wear it?”
Frankie had given him a jaundiced look. “I didn’t buy it. You did.”
“You were there.” But Face had pushed him, he knew that. They’d been in the store picking up a shirt, and Face had said something about Frankie getting one, and Frankie had said, “I don’t have a tux to wear it with.”
“You had one in Monte Carlo.”
“That was Stockwell’s. Like everything else.”
The edge of bitterness at the end of that had jolted an answer from Face that he might not have said a few months earlier and the funny thing was, it was before he’d been shot, before he’d been swept off his feet by the tidal force of Frankie’s love. Even so, even just a team-mate, he’d said, “You don’t belong to Stockwell. You never did.”
Frankie had just laughed a little and shaken his head, and ended up with a tux. Face remembered waiting for him to come out of the fitting and realizing, with a grin he kept hidden, that Stéphane behind the counter was clearly gearing up to put Frankie into one of his gay romance novels oh, be honest with yourself, Templeton, you, too, the rich guy rescuing the cabana boy or chauffeur from a fate worse than death in Monte Carlo or some such. He made a mental note to see if he could find out if Stéphane had ever written it and repeated, “It’s the Kennedy Center. Wear it you know you look good in it.”
He did, too. He looked best in those vivid colors he loved colors Face would never be caught dead in if he had the choice but the black and white that washed Face out (though he’d never wear a damned pastel tux) looked very good indeed on Frankie’s warm skin. And it was the Kennedy Center. Face checked his reflection and tweaked his tie a couple of millimeters to the left and then went downstairs.
Hannibal was in the den flipping through the channels. Vegging in front of mindless television was how Hannibal rested cigar, whisky, and cars blowing up and he was in Nirvana. It never lasted long, but it was nice while it did. Whatever BA wanted to do tonight, he should be able to. Write his mother, most likely, Face thought. He glanced at his watch, and thought about going after Frankie. Then he realized the choppy sound of channels changing had stopped. He looked up to see Hannibal standing in the walkthrough with an eyebrow raised.
“I have to revise my opinion of where you two are going,” Hannibal said.
“Where did you think? The Block? Or DC’s equivalent?”
“Pretty much.” Hannibal glanced at the stairs; Frankie had showed up. If possible, Hannibal’s eyebrow went higher. “Both of you?”
“Don’t start, Hannibal,” Face said. “That’s what ‘not alone’ and ‘coming with’ mean.”
“Good point. So, where are you boys off to? First night? Debutante ball?”
Frankie was halfway down the stairs; out of the corner of his eye Face saw the Hispanic man freeze. He said it anyway. “Kennedy Center. Opera concert.”
“Why?” Hannibal asked. “I’ve never known you to go for opera. Musicals, yes “
“Ah, but Hannibal, you should hear this soprano.”
“Hear her?” Frankie interrupted them. “You told me I should see her.” He trotted down the rest of the way.
Face grinned. Nice improv, he thought. But time to stop this before it went too far especially as BA had just come in, quiet and with a little worry scowl. Time to reassure everyone. “You’re missing the point,” he said with exaggerated patience. “Who goes to operas?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “Women and gay men.”
“And which are you?” Hannibal asked pointedly.
“Women and gay men,” Face repeated. “Which means the audience is full of women. Without their husbands, boyfriends, whatever. Watching an incredibly romantic story with music that does things to them. Good things. Hannibal, let me tell you, it’s not that hard to find someone in the intermission and it’s better with two. That way we spend the last act, me in her seat with her friend, her in mine, with mine,” he gestured at Frankie, who grinned his obnoxious teeth-flashing grin, “and we all adjourn afterwards for a very pleasant evening. It never fails.”
BA shook his head, his chains rustling with his disapproval, but he didn’t say anything except, “You best be careful.”
“I always am. Well, careful enough,” he added.
“Is it worth it?” Hannibal asked, but not seriously.
“How can you ask?” Face rejoined. “Besides, it’s not like we have a lot of opportunities this is the first time in weeks we’ve had a chance to even get out on the town.”
“I suppose so.”
Face looked at Hannibal, and then did something he hated doing. He tossed the Vette’s keys to Frankie, who, though clearly not expecting them, still managed to catch them. “Go start the car, would you?”
“Sure, Face,” Frankie said. “But hurry it would be such a shame if we were late and they wouldn’t let us in.”
After the door closed behind Frankie, Hannibal said, “He doesn’t sound thrilled.”
“You know him, Hannibal. He doesn’t even like musical theater.”
“You watch yourself, you hear me? You’re rusty and he’s still not sharp.”
Face was as serious when he answered as Hannibal had become. “I’m okay, Hannibal. So’s he. It’s not the first time we’ve gone out, after all, and we’ll be back in the morning.”
Hannibal held his gaze for a long moment, his eyes concerned. Then he nodded. “Go, enjoy yourselves, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.”
“Don’t worry. I’m not looking for any excitement.” He grinned at the colonel. “Just some fun. Before I go crazy.”
“I know. Be careful.”
“We will be.” He turned and met BA’s level stare. “You have something to add?”
“No.” His lips twitched, and then yielded to a full smile. “You be all right Frankie keeps his eyes open.”
“And I don’t? Don’t answer that.”
BA did anyway. “You keep ’em open, but you watch the wrong things. Frankie’s still nervous all the time he watchin’ everything. You just pay attention to him and you be all right.”
“We’re just going to the opera!” Face felt it was time to complain. “I was shot more than four months ago! You guys took me to El Salvador. And Italy. Where, let me remind you, I saved your butts.” He wasn’t going to point out that Hannibal had had kittens, according to Murdock, the whole time Face and Frankie had been gone. “If we can run around in El Salvador, we can go out in DC.”
“That doesn’t necessarily follow,” Hannibal said, but he was done. “I’m not going to apologize for worrying.”
“I’m not asking you to. I’m just ” But the hell of it was, he couldn’t finish that sentence. He wasn’t totally sure what he was thinking, and he was sure he didn’t want to say it if the words would come. The balance had been upset badly enough over the past year and a half by things outside anyone’s control; no need to deliberately stir up emotions. “Going,” he settled on. “Good night.”
“Have fun,” Hannibal said, already turning back to the den.
BA said only, “Good night, Faceman.” There was such an undercurrent of warmth in his voice that Face nearly asked him what was up, but then the big man added, “You be late if you don’t leave now.”
And that was too true to do anything about. After his insistence that Frankie go, he couldn’t let them be late. But as soon as he walked outside he forgot everything else. The February evening was already dark, but merely cool, and Frankie had left the top down on the Vette when he’d brought it around. He was leaning against the fender, a long slash of angular black against the bone-white convertible whose red stripe was drained into near-black by the night, white shirtfront bright between the jacket and his dark face. Amazing how such a colorless palette could lift his heart, Face thought. Chiaroscuro meant clear and obscure, he remembered from twenty years ago; but there was nothing obscure here to someone who had the key.
Frankie straightened and started to move around to the passenger side, but Face waved him back, going around the back of the car himself. “No. You drive.”
“I just… I just want to watch you drive,” Face said.
Frankie shrugged and got in. He turned the key, but didn’t put the car in gear. “Seatbelt, Temple,” he said.
“You know I hate this,” Face grumbled comfortably as he buckled the belt. “Wrinkling my jacket…”
“When I drive, you wear it,” Frankie said, backing the car into a three-point turn and sending it down the drive.
“When you make it that easy, there’s no point in even saying anything,” Face said.
Frankie laughed, slowed the car as he went through the gate, and then headed towards DC. Face did watch him drive; one of his symptoms was that he liked to watch Frankie do anything, and he’d always enjoyed watching anyone do something they did well. So this was a pleasure two ways, three if you counted the thoughts spawned by Frankie’s hand on the gearshift. C'est l'heure où je te vois sourire, l'heure bénie où je puis lire dans le coeur toujours fermé de Lakmé! The words came to his mind. This is the time when I see your smile, the time when I can read the secrets always hidden in your heart…
Almost, he hoped that they were late.
The wind skirled off the Potomac, crisp with the still-young winter. The stars shone down out of the clear night sky, reflecting off the dark river water. The dark shape of Theodore Roosevelt Island bulked to their left, but the comforting lights of the federal district and the Mall were to their right, with George Washington University and the World Bank and IMF further off in that direction. Crisp, clear – and February, after all. Face dug his hands into his pockets, hunching his shoulders. “We should have taken a cab.”
“We could have,” Frankie pointed out. “You’re the one who said it was just a third of mile.”
“I am freezing.”
“It’s not that cold.”
“Cold is relative and I’m freezing.”
“Do you want to go back and get a cab?”
“No,” Face said, appalled at the notion. “We’re more than half way. I don’t want to go back. I’m just telling you I’m freezing. We should have taken a cab.”
“Oh.” Frankie paused. “Well, you’re right, it is cold. Colder than I thought it would be. A cab would have been smart.”
“Yes, it would have,” Face agreed.
“The climate here is abysmal. It must be in the forties or lower.” Frankie blew on his hands.
Face had to smile. The first time Frankie had joined in his bitching it had taken him aback, but now he liked it. He remembered Frankie threatening to shove him into the shower in Monte Carlo ‘before you catch your death’. The rest of the team took care of him when he was hurt they’d hovered after he was shot, until he’d driven them away with his foul moods but Frankie took care of him before he needed it. And he didn’t just let him bitch, he agreed with it when he could. He didn’t always when Hannibal was around; in fact, he didn’t always when they were alone, but that was okay, too. Face didn’t want to be constantly catered to. But sometimes, that was nice.
He turned around, walking backwards. “Just one more reason to hate the East Coast.”
“Like I need another one. Don’t trip over that.”
Face turned around again quickly and avoided the whatever it was in the dark he couldn’t be certain and he had no desire to explore. “You liked it, didn’t you?”
“I hate to say yes.”
“I knew you would.”
“But it was certainly a depressing story, Temple.”
He had to laugh. “That’s what opera is like; you don’t go for the story, you go for the music. It’s not the fat lady singing that tells you it’s over, it’s half the cast dying, usually at the hands of the other half damn that wind.” He turned his collar up, hunching his shoulders again. “Why did you listen to me?”
“You want me to stop?” Even in the darkness Frankie’s smile was bright.
“Hell, no. Just get better judgment than I have.”
“I might manage that… Hey, we’re here.”
“Thank God. I need to warm up.”
“I think we can manage that. Here, hold still a minute.” Frankie stopped them in the shadow of the Watergate and smoothed Face’s collar back into place.
“Thanks… How’s my hair?” That was half a question about his appearance who wants to walk into the Watergate disheveled? and half a request for what he immediately got: Frankie raised a hand to Face’s hair, putting to rights what damage the wind had done. Face enjoyed the soft touch of fingers in his hair, and then, “Better?” he asked after a moment.
Frankie stepped back. “Perfect.” He jerked his head towards the entrance. “Come on, Temple; we have a room waiting. Let’s go.”
“A suite? Isn’t that a bit extravagant?”
Face shrugged as he climbed up the steps to the main door. “Not if Hannibal should call.”
“Does he know we’re here?”
Face almost laughed out loud at Frankie’s tone. “No. As it turned out, I didn’t have to tell him.” He opened the door, holding it for Frankie.
“Well, that’s a relief.” Frankie headed for the elevator as Face fished the key out of his pocket. They had the car to themselves and Frankie added, as the doors closed behind them and Face pushed the button, “I am surprised though.”
“He never even asked,” Face said. “That wasn’t what was worrying him. He’s just not sure I’m ready to be out “
“With me?” Frankie sounded resigned.
“No,” Face said. “Or not really. Without him.” He put his hand on Frankie’s arm. “He doesn’t trust me not to get shot, that’s all.”
“At the opera?”
Face shrugged. “Well, that’s Hannibal. Anyway, it’s just because we had those little problems in Italy, got separated. He’s a mother hen, worse than BA. But,” he paused as the door opened; once he was sure the hallway was empty he finished, “he’s okay with it.”
“With the opera and picking up women.”
“Well, of course,” said Face. “I haven’t actually lost my mind, regardless of what you might be thinking.”
He opened the door to the suite and went in, looking around appreciatively. After a minute he realized he hadn’t heard the door shut. He turned around. “Frankie?”
The other man shook himself slightly and shut the door.
“It’s just I don’t suppose he expected you to get shot going out to dinner that night, either.”
“Nobody expected that, including me. And it wasn’t your fault and Hannibal knows it. It didn’t even come up.”
“I know.” Frankie visibly shook it off or at least decided not to talk about it. “As long as you didn’t tell him where we are.”
“Of course I didn’t,” Face said, walking over to him. “But listen to me, Franklin: I’m glad it happened.”
Frankie looked at him quizzically. “Are you sure you haven’t lost your mind?”
“If I hadn’t been shot, everything would be different. No, listen. Maybe not everything, you’re right but I wouldn’t be here. Or if I was it would be with someone meaningless, and I would be, essentially, alone.” He touched Frankie’s cheek. “Because the only reason you ever said anything to me was that I got shot. And you know how much I hate to be alone. I know you do.”
Frankie’s dark eyes warmed with his smile. “I do.”
He did. Face remembered that day not quite half a year ago. Don't be scared, Temple. And don't be lonely. Let me stop you being lonely. Let me do that much...You don't have to be lonely. I'm here. “Yes,” he whispered. “You are.”
Frankie turned his head under Face’s hand and kissed its palm, and then gently bit a finger. Face pulled him closer, hooking his finger behind his teeth to pull him down for a kiss.
He lost track of how long they stood there, hands under jackets on each other’s bodies, undoing studs and pushing shirts aside for lips and tongue between kisses. Nor was he sure when they made their blind way to one of the bedrooms, shedding jacket and ties on the way. Thought was no longer involved.
After, Face sighed deeply and reached for the blanket, managing to pull it over them without moving too much, or making Frankie move at all. He snuggled closer underneath it, and Frankie tightened his arm around Face’s ribs. “Go on to sleep, Temple,” he murmured drowsily.
Face listened to Frankie’s heartbeat under his ear, and let his breathing drift into synchrony with his lover’s. Delibes’s opera did indeed have a sad, even tragic, ending, no doubt, but the music was just the opposite. But for a change, the aria running through his mind was not Dôme épais le jasmin, but Gérald’s last act aria. It was true that in the context of the opera it was deeply ironic and even depressing, but it was still beautiful, and its words out of context fit Face’s current mood like nothing he’d heard in years. He closed his eyes and let himself fall.
Qu'autour de moi tout sombre, Je ne veux pas une ombre. Everything around me is dark, but I see no shadow.
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