Miss Lemon smiled again as she pulled on her coat. Poirot held the door open for her.
"Goodnight, Mister Poirot. I must say, that was an absolutely splendid meal."
"Thank you, Miss Lemon, Your are too kind. Bonne Nuit."
She nodded and bid goodnight to Hastings, who was in his usual place hovering good naturedly by Poirot's shoulder. A soft click of the latch left the two men alone in Poirot's flat.
Hastings strolled leisurely back to sitting room while Poirot started to collect the plates from the table.
"Poirot, do mind if I switch on the wireless?"
"No, non, mon ami, do as you please."
Poirot was quite happy with himself tonight, Hasting mused. Not much of a surprise, after the clever conclusion of especially confounding case, the conclusion of a very well cooked blanquette de veau prepared by the detective himself, and a few glasses of chilled white wine. It always pleased Hastings, immensely, to observe him in such a cheery mood, even if it did often lead Poirot to a bit of boastful behavior.
He fiddled with the radio dial, swirling his own glass of wine in one hand-not his usual choice of drink but it was an exceptionally nice chardonnay Poirot had picked out and it seemed well suited the evening as well as their earlier meal. With a fondness he watched the detective bustle around clearing the table in the adjacent room, and settled on a slow, languid jazz tune he had never heard before. The music filled the flat, soothing and tender like the warm summer night's air. Unbeknownst to Hastings, Poirot was tapping his foot faintly on the kitchen's tile floor in beat with the music.
"Here, let me help you with that, old chap."
Before Poirot could protest Hastings had folded his blazer over the back of a chair, rolled up his shirt sleeves and began to work on scrubbing the dirty dishes, relegating Poirot to dry them with the dishtowel and place them in the drying rack, not before handing some of them back to Hastings to re-scrub, per his perfectionist standards of course.
When they were nearly finished with the dishes,the jazz song faded into a static-y almost-silence followed by the radio announcer's silky dulcet tones; "-up next, a recent hit by Fred Astaire, accompanied by the Nathaniel Shilkret Orchestra...'The Way You Look Tonight' ".
The tune was familiar to him, hadn't it just been use in a picture, he might have thought to himself. Absentmindedly, Hastings began to sing along with the radio.
Softly, gingerly at first, he began to croon...
"Some day, when I'm awfully low...when the world is cold...I will feel a glow, just thinking of you..."
He drained the empty sink and mopped up a bit of water on the counter with a spare dishrag before he caught Poirot's eye, noticing his amused expression. He hadn't realized he had been singing aloud.
"Ah, Hastings, do not stop yourself on my account. I do not think think Poirot has told you this before, but you do have a very agreeable singing voice, my friend." an impish smile tugged at the corner of his mouth.
"Oh, well, thank you," Hastings blubbered, not sure why he felt so unduly embarrassed. He cast his eyes down for a second as if studying the scuffs on his wingtips. "I don't, that is, I don't think i know the rest of the song..." his usually steady voice trailed off into a mumble.
Poirot, responded with nonchalant, almost half-shrug, and continued to clear the counter, putting away various foodstuffs. It was Hastings' turn to grin when he heard Poirot humming as he worked.
Poirot looked just about finished with the kitchen when Hastings struck up the nerve to ask what he really want to ask.
'Yes?" he turned back towards his friend, he had been on his way out the door into the sitting room, and found himself nearly nose to nose (or more accurately nose to chest) with Hastings.
"I was wondering if you'd like to dance?"
His stomach dropped as soon as the words had tumbled out of his mouth. Why on earth had he asked that? If only he had been a bit more sober. Or less painfully in love with his (male) best friend.
He had really screwed it up now.
Hopefully, he prayed, Poirot would just brush it off as foolishness. Whisk it away with a stray gesture of the hand and a muttered Gallic phrase. In England, at the very least. men just didn't dance with each other, as far as he knew.
His request was met with the last response he had expected.
"It would be a pleasure, mon ami." Poirot was practically beaming.
'Maybe they did things a bit different on the continent...' Hastings tried to puzzle out in his head, 'like that whole "faire la bise" business?'
Before he could come to a conclusion, Poirot had placed a hands lightly on Hasting's upper arm and had the other extended for him to grasp. After a second of hesitation he took it.
He never would have believed it in a million years, but here he was, dancing the foxtrot with Hercule Poirot.
He did his best to mirror Poirot's neat precise steps as they moved about the kitchen, he felt almost too awkward to look at Poirot, mostly keeping his eyes on the patent leather shoes gliding across the tiles. It shouldn't have surprised him much that Poirot had immediately decided that he was going to be the one to lead. He chuckled, and felt Poirot move his arm from his arm to his flank.
He glanced back up to Poirot, who was smiling at him with his usual grin, that is to say, like the cat who ate the canary.
"Hastings, my friend, I must say you are a better dance partner than I would have expected."
"Oh, uh, thank you, Poirot."
Just as he gotten comfortable, the song ended and faded into a short silence, and was then replaced by the beginning strains of a quick, lively tango.
'Damn it all' thought Hastings, They surely weren't going to continue dancing to this. Reluctantly he broke his embrace with the detective.
"You do not wish to dance anymore?"
"Well I doubt you would want to dance the tango with me Poirot, surely..."
"Non, non, non, au contraire, mon ami! Did you not know that the tango, it was originally practiced by two gentlemen dancing with one another?"
"Really? Is that true?"
"Mais oui! It is said that Tango was born in the brothels of Buenos Aires, when many settlers were first arriving in the Argentine, and of course the majority of these were young men looking for work. And in the brothels of course, with many potential clients and few, ah, working women, shall I say, there would be many men waiting. And often times these establishments would entertain these men with live music...Indeed in a poor village it might be the only establishment that regularly had a live band to dance to. And also, the very strict customs concerning dancing with young ladies meant that it was often necessary for the men to practice together in order to be good enough to dance with the women. And voila, this is the development of the tango."
"Oh my, a rather raunchy origin, one might say. I'm none too surprised I haven't come across this in any of the books I've read on the subject of the Argentine...Nonetheless, Poirot, I wouldn't know the first thing about dancing the tango."
"Alors, let Poirot be your guide."
Before he could possibly protest, Poirot had his left hand raised, and wrapped his right around Hastings placing his hand on Hasting's back.
"Just mirror my posture...yes, just like that," Poirot instructed, "and straighten your back, you must maintain perfect posture!"
"Alright, alright then." Hastings adjusted himself.
"Bon. Now the rhythm, it is like this: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow."
"I think you've lost me..."
"Hastings," he rolled his eyes, "never mind, just do the reverse of what I do."
He followed Poirot, stepping backward with his right foot, then his left, back again with his right foot, then to the left with his left, with his feet together, moving right to meet left. They moved in a counter-clockwise circle across the small kitchen. He tried to relax, letting the beat of the music carry him.
"You know, I think I'm beginning to get the hang of this, Poirot."
"Well, my friend, there is a bit more to the tango then just these steps, but I do agree."
It was only gradually that Hastings became aware of how close they really were, chests almost touching, his hand clasped so firmly in Poirot's. He couldn't believe how strangely intimate the moment felt, odd yet so comfortable with Poirot...Poirot's own odd tendencies had a way of making this feel almost mundane, instead of something that polite society would most definitely frown upon. Was this just another of the strange Belgian's idiosyncrasies, or was this a sign that the little man possibly returned Hastings's more than friendly feelings? Hastings tried not to let the curiosity show upon his face. He tried to distract himself by keeping up the conversation.
"A bit more to it, eh? So what other steps could you teach me?"
"You may want to hold on a bit tightly."
Suddenly, to his surprise, he felt himself literally swept off his feet, as Poirot expertly dipped him. He blinked, speechless, as Poirot held him suspended a foot or two above the floor, before pulling him back up and into a long overdue kiss.
The radio played on in the background, the music now forgotten. Hastings couldn't believe it had taken him so long to ask Hercule Poirot to dance.