Disclaimer: None of the characters in this story belong to me. I have no idea who they do belong to because I just saw the movie yesterday. But it's definitely not me. Also: here be slash.

One Hundred Proof
by Maya Tawi


Celebration time.

"Hey!" Dino shouted over the din, waving his arm high in the air. "Ay! Camarera!" Across the table, two of the men were pouring the good scotch down the throat of the third. The injured one. Who, by now, certainly looked to be feeling no pain. A local band was playing and singing raucously on stage, girls in short dresses were flouncing around in time to the music, and everyone at the table was laughing and joking at the tops of their collective lungs.

Terry Thorne watched it all from what seemed thousands of kilometers away.

The waitress finally made her way to their table and took the orders for more drinks. Terry just stared at the half-empty shot glass in front of him with a curious disinterest. The pale liquid glimmered almost mockingly in the low light, daring him to lighten up. As Dino might say. Drink up, he told himself, we won. Then, Funny how winning feels a hell of a lot like being the wrong guy in any given place at what would always be the wrong time.

And then, How did you think it was going to end?

Terry had always liked his job. Lots of travel, personal interaction, meeting new people and getting shot at by them every month or so. And the pay, of course, was fantastic.

He'd tried not to consider that a truly satisfying life might include another person. Someone who'd actually stick around.

Dino's hand on his shoulder and voice in his ear dragged him away from his thoughts. "You may as well drink it," the American yelled, in his accent with just enough unfamiliar inflection to it that Terry suspected he wasn't quite so Johnny Appleseed as he seemed to be. "It's not getting any better."

Terry waited perhaps a beat too long before answering. "You take it, mate. I think the worm's grown teeth."

"If I had no taste at all, I'd say that's what gives it the bite."

"That's just-"

"Of course, I didn't actually say it."

Terry smiled faintly. "You'd need no taste to down this."

Dino shrugged, grabbed the shot glass, and tossed back the tequila in one loud gulp, worm and all. "Pass the scotch!" he bellowed across the table. "We'll drink to my bravery!"

"Course we will."

The American grabbed two new glasses and deftly filled them up a third of the way. "We'll drink to us," he said, more seriously this time. "To winning, to partners, and to kicking ass."

"And to money in the Caymans," Terry finished obediently, with another half smile. They clinked their glasses together and Terry drank, relaxing almost immediately as he felt the burn hit his throat.

Then Dino said, "So how's the brooding working out for you?"

Some scotch went down the wrong way, hitting his windpipe and travelling up into his sinuses. Terry spluttered, coughing and grabbing at his nose.

"Hey, watch it!" one of the other men yelled. "That's the expensive shit!"

Terry shot the man what he hoped was a singularly expressive glare. Beside him, Dino was snickering in a particularly unbecoming manner. "Very funny," he muttered.

"My kingdom for a video camera," Dino retorted, still smirking.

"I think my nose is melting."

"Anything'd improve that face." He paused for a beat, then added, "But seriously, folks. Is this going to be a problem for you? I mean, you are gonna get over her, right?"

Terry drained the last of his scotch and stood. "There's nothing to get over."

"Right," Dino said, leaning back in his chair and folding his arms behind his head. "And I'm really a nice guy who's going to leave the subject alone now, just out of the kindness of my heart."

"Oh, you have one then, do you?" And then, just because it was such a perfect exit line, Terry lowered his head and pushed his way through the crowd and out the door.

The night outside was no less stifling than in, heat and humidity settling on him like a thick wet blanket, even though the sun had set hours ago. The air had the perfumed scent of tropical lands.

He leaned back against the gritty stucco of the building and closed his eyes, imagining he was still in Alice's house. Could still smell Alice's hair.

He knew Dino would follow, and he didn't have to wait long; a moment later the American emerged from the crowd inside the door, looking only mildly annoyed. Terry exhaled slowly and looked away.

"I don't really want to talk about it," he said evenly, as soon as he knew Dino was within earshot. "I'd just like to brood, as you put it, for one night at least."

There was a rustle of leaves and clothing, and then a presence as Dino leaned back against the wall next to him. "Just answer me this," Dino said. "Why her?"

"Would you like a pie chart?"

"I'm just trying to understand something. You came back to do this for free, on your own time, when you had what, two, three assignments waiting in the wings? And then you decide you're in love with her-"

"I never said that."

"-and you work your ass off and nearly get killed just to get her back with her husband, and they ride off into the sunset together and leave you here with me."

"You're right. She really is a vicious one."

"What I'm asking," Dino said patiently, "is what's so special about this one? I'm betting she's not the first hot one you've worked with before. So what made her different? Or do you get this way with all your lady clients?"

Terry sighed again. "She's... I don't know," he said finally. "We spent so much time together, just us, without the usual hangers-on. And she's tough, and smart, and capable, and she loves with every single cell of her body. With all her soul."

"And you want someone like her."

"Yes, well, the thing about people is that there's only ever one of them. Including you, much to the relief of the world at-"

"No," Dino interrupted, "I mean, you want what she represents. Someone who can keep up with you, and give you someone to come home to."

"I'll get a cat."

"Don't bullshit me, man," Dino said, so vehemently that Terry, surprised, turned around to look at him. The American's eyes were uncharacteristically quiet and solemn. After a moment, Terry smiled weakly.

"That's exactly what she said."

"Good for her. I can see right through you, Terry. You think I don't go through the same thing myself? You think I don't think, every once in a while, 'Gosh, I'm tired of all this guns and violence bullshit, I want someone who'll fuck me without charging me for it'?" Terry snickered despite himself, and Dino continued, "You make a choice, pal. You choose between having someone and living this life. And be honest with yourself, now- if you left this, you'd never be happy without it."

"Oh, I don't know," Terry said. "It might be nice to go a whole week without bleeding."

"We'll find that out when we're counting our money together. It'll take months, man. We'll be fucking magnates. We're that good."

Terry shook his head, minutely, contemplatively. "I've nothing to show for myself. I have a son I never see, an ex-wife who never wants to talk to me, and the one time I meet someone I'd be willing to make an effort for, of course she's already very happily married."

Dino fixed him with a long, slow look. "And because of you," he said quietly, "she's still happily married. Because of you, hundreds of people right now are with loved ones that would otherwise be dead. Don't ever think we don't leave our mark, man. We're the ones that make things happen. And in the end, we're going down in a blaze of glory."

"I'd prefer not to go down at all."

"It beats the shit out of liver failure. Besides...." And then Dino moved closer, so close that Terry could feel the heat coming off of his body, could feel his breath, warm and damp and smelling of twelve-year-old scotch. So close that Terry could see the little flecks of gold in the American's suddenly very large, very dark eyes. He felt his heartbeat quicken, felt his breathing grow shallow.

"Besides," Dino said, in a voice so low he had to strain to hear, "you've got me."

The corners of his mouth quirked up. "Not if I'm in London and you're in New York."

"We'll always have the Caymans-"

"Yeah, yeah, while we're counting our money."

"Something else to look forward to."

"It's been a long time," Terry said softly.

Dino smirked. "It's grown."

Terry just stared at him for a moment. Then they both burst out laughing, doubling over and clutching on to each other for support, and the mood passed. All of a sudden, the air felt lighter.

"So," Dino said a few moments later, still chuckling as he straightened. He nodded towards the door. "Care to join the party?"

Terry shook his head. "I'll make it a night, thanks. But I will take that scotch with me."

"Hey, if you can wrestle it from the other guys, you deserve it."

Dino threw his arm over Terry's shoulder, and the warmth and weight of it was like curling up against somebody at two in the morning after sex. Alice's features were growing blurry in his mind. Maybe that was for the best.

As they made their way back through the crowded restaurant, Dino said, "I still can't believe you jumped out of that fucking cake, man."

"All worth it to see the look on your face."

"You didn't have to do it naked."

"You'd do it too for an extra hundred bucks."

"They paid you?"

Terry grinned, a real grin this time. "What, you didn't think I actually liked you, did you?"

Dino aimed a punch at him, none too gently, and he ducked and made a mad dash for the scotch. A perfectly coordinated chorus of outrage went up all around the table. When he looked back, Dino was surrounded by a crowd of eager patrons, yelling something about placing bets. Terry rolled his eyes and was immediately tackled from behind.

They'd always have the Caymans.

Email: mayatawi@populli.net

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