Gay Apparel?…Not That There's Anything Wrong With That!
Season 2 AU: Ian's not insane and Irons is still alive
A Blue Raven/Cyn Tolram Production- Irons and Nottingham entertain New York City for Christmas, against their will. Discover why they're forced to don their gay apparel at a Vorschlag Charity Ball. With the NYPD serving as security detail, Sara detects her desperate need for comfortable shoes.
Personal Note (from Cyn): Blue and I wrote this story together, rotating our writing every 400 words or so. It was a tag team approach…and fun. Trying to set each other up, we would leave the story at an awkward moment, hoping to trip up the next writer. It ended up pretty seamless…since we are both sick individuals. Happy Holidays!
Personal Note (from Blue) :Yeah, we are pretty sick, aren't we? Great minds think alike. Blue is very glad that Cyn talked her into this. Blue is also glad that Kameka has a sick enough mind to give her the image of Ian in green tights to play with. Peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, and here comes the sun!
Gay Apparel?…Not That There's Anything Wrong With That!
"Is it just me or do these Christmas parties get a little more annoying every year?" Sara asked Danny with a sigh, helping herself to a glass of eggnog. Someone had spiked it heavily, she noted. Shaking her head, she poured herself another glass.
Danny nodded in agreement. "Pretty much, Pez. Don't know why Joe forces us all to come year after year."
"Because he's Joe." She smiled. "Ah, well. 'Tis the season. At least someone spiked the eggnog this year."
"Really?" Danny grabbed a glass. Abruptly, his eyes went wide and he shook his head.
Sara turned to see what had caused this reaction and stifled a laugh. Jake McCarty had just arrived, wearing a Santa hat. "Rookie?"
Jake smiled and waved, joining them. "Hey, guys!" he greeted them cheerfully.
Sara shook her head. Figured he would be one of those guys to actually enjoy the season.
"Hey, Sara, Danny. Nice hat, Jake," Vicky laughed, joining them.
Sara turned to face her. "Gabe?" she asked, startled as she recognized Vicky's date.
Gabe Bowman smiled and nodded, waving to everyone. Sara noted, with no real surprise, that his shirt loudly proclaimed 'be naughty, save Santa a trip'. "Hey, chief."
"You two know each other?" Sara asked.
Gabe nodded. "Vic here shares my interest in ancient embalming techniques."
Vicky smiled and nodded. "Gabe's gotten me some great discounts. And he got me a complete set of Coptic jars for Christmas!"
"Yule," Gabe corrected her.
"Whatever." She rolled her eyes. "Hey, you guys going to that Vorschlag charity ball?" she asked.
Danny nodded with a scowl. "Yeah. Security. You? I heard tickets were impossible to get."
"Not if you've got connections." Vicky smiled at Gabe who shrugged and nodded. "Tell them, Gabriel," she urged, grinning.
"Aw, come on, Vic!" he protested. At her look he shrugged and glanced at the three cops, his gaze finally settling on Sara. He smiled slyly. "Word has it that Irons is going to put in an appearance as the guy in the red suit."
"Fitting," Sara remarked drolly. "I always knew he was evil."
"Santa," Gabe clarified, grinning at the looks on their faces. "Oh, it gets even better. He doesn't want his personal security sticking out, so he's got them all dressing up as elves."
"All of them?" Sara repeated, closing her eyes and savoring the mental image of Ian Nottingham in green tights.
"Yeah, all of them. I didn't even think Ian Naughty or Nice had anything in his closet other than black." Gabriel smirked, catching a quick peek at Jake, his eyes trailing up at the sight of that damned red hat on his head. "You got to be pretty secure to wear that, McCarty. Most heterosexual men wouldn't get near it."
"How would you know anything about heterosexual men, Bowman?" Jake taunted.
"Oh, I could have something to offer on Gabe's behalf, Jake." Vic piped up with a devilish grin on her face. "I've seen Gabriel's Yule Log…on more than one occasion."
Gabriel's face turned red, even in the low light. His shy smile got lost in the laughter.
Jake slipped the ridiculous hat off his head, quietly. Raising his glass, he proposed a toast. "Well, here's to donning our gay apparel...Fa, La, La, La, La…La, La, La, La."
The shot of Goldschlager burned Sara's throat as the sweet concoction slid passed her lips. With Danny offering to be the designated driver for the evening, she was enjoying the freedom to imbibe.
"Irons as Santa." She laughed. "Those kids are gonna need therapy for years. Can't you just see him giving out all his worthless Worldcom and Enron stocks as presents to the kiddies."
"I hear he's gonna be honoring Trent Lott as Humanitarian Of The Year." Danny snickered. "Of course, it might be just a rumor."
"By Irons' standards, Lott is a humanitarian." Sara scoffed. "I hear Lott's favorite song is White Christmas." Their groans could be heard across the room.
"Hey Vic. If you're going to the charity gig, that means we get to dress up in girlie dresses. Even if I have to work security, they want us to blend in, dress like everyone else. Don't know if I remember how to walk in heels anymore." Sara puzzled.
"Yeah, it's getting harder to find a sequins gun harness suitable for evening wear." Vic asked, knitting her brow in mock cynicism. "I wonder if Joan Rivers can give us a few pointers."
'Well, I'm looking forward to seeing both of you in girlie clothes. That's all I gotta say." Gabe chuckled. "But seeing Nottingham looking like Robin Hood is gonna scar me for life."
With the help of Goldschlager, Sara was really beginning to enjoy the start of the holiday season. She just hoped seeing Vorschlag's version of Santa and his merry elves wouldn't forever taint her opinion of the holiday. With the Vorschlag Charity Ball on her radar for tomorrow, she was relieved to be on security duty.
The distraction would be welcomed. Even if she was forced to wear a dress.
"I didn't know Pez owned any dresses," Jake muttered to Danny, straightening his tie and frowning. Times like this, he missed California and its far more relaxed fashion standards.
Danny grinned and shook his head. "She's got a cute little black leather number." He shook his head as the rookie's eyes lit up. "Where is she anyway?"
"Right there…" Jake breathed, staring in awe as Sara walked in wearing a long red evening gown. "Wow!"
Danny was inclined to agree with Jake's assessment. The clingy red gown had him wondering where Sara was keeping her gun this year, but she was absolutely stunning. He was just reaching this conclusion and admiring the view when Sara stumbled.
"So much for Vicky's crash-course in how to walk in these things," she grumbled as Danny reached out to steady her. "Men have it easy."
"At least you don't have to wear a noose," Jake scoffed. Under Sara's glare and realizing that he was going to get no help from Danny, he quickly made his way to the refreshment table.
Sara watched him go, shaking her head. "I almost feel sorry for him at times." At Danny's raised eyebrow, she shrugged. "I said almost."
Danny laughed and shook his head. "That dress looks great on you, Sara. Matches your bracelet," he observed, too busy examining the gown to see Sara wince and glare down at the amulet.
"I'm coordinated?" she joked. "Someone had better call hell and tell them to turn down the AC."
Danny laughed. "Speaking of coordinated, if you keep walking like that and people are going to think you've had too much 'nog'," he pointed out.
"Well, I'm sorry. You try walking in these damned things! My feet are already killing me."
Danny gave her a sympathetic look, then smiled and looked her up and down again.
"You'd better not be checking me out, Woo," she warned, rolling her eyes in annoyance.
"I'm not. I've just got an idea. Come here." He gently caught her arm and pulled her behind one of the marble columns that surrounded the ballroom. "Give them to me," he ordered, holding out his hand. At her look, he smiled. "You're tall enough that, and the dress is more than long enough. No one's going to notice."
She planted a quick kiss on his mouth and handed over the shoes. "Love you, partner."
He grinned and placed them in the shadows between the wall and the pillar. "Don't think anyone will notice them here."
Smiling gratefully at the best partner any woman was ever likely to be blessed with, she followed him onto the dance floor.
Sara had always been nervous on the dance floor, but Danny made it look easy. As closely as he resembled the style and grace of Fred Astaire, Sara was no comparison to Ginger Rogers. Not even the Witchblade gave her skill in that department. Without the guest of honor Kenneth Irons in the room, Danny and Sara indulged in one dance. For a moment, they could pretend to be partygoers. Their security duties could be put on hold.
As the song ended, Danny led Sara from the dance floor.
Gabriel Bowman and Vicky Po joined them near the entrance to the grand ballroom. Sara had never seen Gabriel look so handsome in his tuxedo. Rather than a traditional cummerbund, he chose a burgundy paisley silk vest. The conventional black bow tie was discarded for a long silk tie matching the color of his vest. She could have eaten him with a very small spoon, she thought. But she would leave that honor to her friend Vic. In an elegant black dress, Vicky looked tall and statuesque. Her short hair combed sleek against her head, she resembled a fashion model. Her coroner duds were long gone.
"God, you two look great." Sara smirked. "You clean up real nice."
Before Gabriel and Vicky could return the compliment, the foursome was interrupted. The lights dimmed. The room was a buzz with anticipation. It was time for them to get to work. The guest of honor was about to make his appearance.
Sara and Danny took their positions near the stage, along the curtained entrances on either side. She could feel Nottingham. He was in the building. The blade swirled red, warming on her wrist, whenever he was close at hand. She found her eyes searching for him. She could not fathom how he would ever be convinced to go along with Irons' little charade. No Way!
A hand gripped her arm, pulling her behind the drape. She fell into his strong embrace. Her mouth dropped as she feasted her eyes on Ian Christian Nottingham. Her self-proclaimed protector was holding her red shoes in his hand. And he was not happy.
"I assume these are yours. If I have to dress in this ridiculous outfit, then you are must make the sacrifice to wear these." A grimace took firm hold of his face. "Pain, Sara. Sometimes obligations are excruciatingly difficult!"
Sara had to bite her lip to keep from laughing…at his expense.
That bastard Irons had actually made him do it! Green tights, a red sleeveless vest, a hat that ended in a curl with a bell on the end, even green silk slippers with curly toes. Never a camera around when you need one.
Ian colored at her obvious attempts to contain her laughter. At least she was trying to, he reflected, supposing he should be gratified by the fact. Tights. Green tights. His father was obviously quite angry with him over something and this was his way of retaliating. He patiently waited for her to compose herself, pleased when it did not take her nearly as long as it had taken his Vorschlag security team.
Irons had gone as red in the face as jolly old Saint Nick himself and had quit the room. Ian had no idea how his father was going to contain himself during the event itself, without the luxury of leaving. Laughing in public could ruin his image. Ian allowed himself a bitter smile at that thought, proffering the shoes again.
"Duty, Lady Sara. Image. Obligations. Excruciatingly difficult," he repeated, shaking his head.
Sara bit back a hundred sarcastic comments as she accepted the shoes. She could always ditch them again later, when he was not looking. It was a struggle, but she even managed to avoid innocently inquiring about the unavailability of black tights. She had to admit that, goofy or not, the ensemble looked good on him. Those bare arms alone were worth the price of admission, even if she doubted that many elves had dragon tattoos. The skin-tight nature of the stockings and the upper portion of his vest also told her that his arms were not the only part of him that was built. It was a shame his tunic reached to mid-thigh, she reflected, coloring a bit.
She dropped into a crouch on the floor, tugging her shoes on and only trying to look under the tunic once. She was proud of her restraint. Until she caught herself trying to remember if she had seen any mistletoe around.
"If you can wear that, I can wear these," she said, shaking her head and rising. Knowing that the Irons/Nottingham dynamic was probably best left unexplored, she did not bother asking how Irons had forced him into wearing the outfit. Instead, she settled for, "What did you do to piss him off anyway?"
"You might find this hard to believe, Sara, but it seems father is a bit of a sadist."
Nottingham had started down the road to a lie, trying to avoid her question. By the raised eyebrow that had become her signature, he knew she was not buying it. He crossed his arms in front of his chest, scowling as he shook his head. His little green and red hat tinkled as the bell reminded him his attire was not made for stealth.
"I had taken the wolfhounds for a walk on the grounds. They needed exercise." He paused, hoping she would let him off easy. No such luck! Her cynical expression suggested that Sara was a bit of a sadist as well. "It seems one of them had gotten a little too much exercise, choosing a rather amorous form of self-expression on the French Ambassador's leg."
"And he blamed you for that? Have you taken up animal husbandry as a specialty, Nottingham?" Sara teased unmercifully. "What? Assassinations are a little slow this time of year?"
"Actually, the French Ambassador was quite pleased. He asked for the dog to be put into his care while he was at the estate."
Sara burst out laughing, totally grossed out by the image that conjured up.
"Of course, father would not permit it." He fought hard to suppress a smile. "I don't think the Ambassador was current on all his shots." The little bell on his hat jingled once more.
"With that kind of material, Nottingham, you could take your act on the road."
As Sara was struggling to regain her self-composure, Nottingham took a moment to memorize every nuance of her body in that glorious red gown. He would have preferred to have the privilege of helping her out of it, and into his arms. But he would settle for the treat to his senses. Her pale skin was luminous, looking very much like velvet. With his blasted gloves, he would not be able to test that hypothesis. Her body was scented with an intoxicating and alluring perfume. And as for taste, well…
"And how is fair Sara, this evening? Have you been naughty or nice?"
They both turned at the sound of Irons' voice. With his words a bit slurred, it was the only part of him that remained recognizable. His steely blue eyes stared out from under the white wig and beard. But the smell of alcohol on his breath was undeniable.
"Well, I'll be damned! No matter how much you beg, Santa, I'm not sitting on your lap." Sara had only one question for him.
"How the hell did you get rooked into doing this, Kenny?"
"Ian, get me another drink," he ordered brusquely.
There was no way he was going to be able to make it through this nightmare of an evening without a little more liquid fortification. As Ian brushed past him to get the drink, the bells on his shoes and hat jingled. Irons leaned against the wall, his entire body shaking with laughter. Ian's expression became pained and he gratefully put as much distance as possible between Irons and himself in his quest to find another drink for Irons.
He walked past a pair of his security personnel, whispering with their heads together. They fell silent as he passed. Ian stopped, spun on his slipper-clad heel and glared at them. Both went pale.
"Johnson. Davis. I know you both have a job to be doing." Ian growled at them for good measure before stalking off.
Davis inhaled deeply, weaving on his feet. "Shit, and I thought that man was scary in black…"
Johnson shook his head. "Man's always scary, Davis. Welcome to Vorschlag."
Davis rolled his eyes. "Come on. Let's finish securing the stage before Irons shows up."
"Unless I'm mistaken, he already has." He nodded towards where Irons was standing in a dark alcove, talking to a gorgeous brunette in a red gown. She seemed riveted. "He's at it early."
Sara was indeed transfixed by Irons' drunken and somewhat meandering dialog. "Whoa, back up. How did you piss off the Indian Prime Minister again?"
"Does it matter? The point is that I've managed to alienate both the Indians and the Pakistanis in the past month." Irons groaned, nodding absently to Ian as he appeared with a fresh drink. "I mean, it is going to take some massive contribution to placate them…"
"And the Santa suit enters into this because?" Sara asked, raising an eyebrow.
Irons threw back his drink and tossed the glass into the corner where it shattered. Shaking his head, he staggered off.
Ian shook his head. "The Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President put their heads together."
"I thought they hated each other."
"Not as much as they hate my father, it seems," Ian told her with a faint smile. "They settled on this as suitably ironic and equally embarrassing. Then they threatened to go elsewhere with their business if he didn't cooperate."
Sara's eyebrow ascended a little more. "How much business."
"Thirteen trillion, combined."
Sara blinked. "That's a lot."
"Allow me to clarify. Thirteen trillion a quarter. And most of that under the table and tax-free. Rather substantial dent in father's annual income."
Personally, he hoped that they withdrew their business anyway, but he was not about to say so out loud. He frowned as a voice came over his ear-piece.
"I must go now. Merry Christmas, Lady Sara."
Sara walked out to her station, nodding to her partner Danny. With a faint knowing smile from his handsome Asian face, she could tell her wanted to know where she'd been. He would have to wait until they were off the clock, and preferably at a bar.
The festivities were well underway. The master of ceremonies was about to introduce the celebrity Santa. Small children dressed in their Christmas clothes were lined up, ready to sit on Santa's lap, and receive a token gift from the jolly fellow.
Tonight, Santa was as jolly as she'd ever seen him.
As the stage lights dimmed, with spotlights searching the room for the mystery Santa, the children grew more excited, squealing whenever the colored lights found them. Just behind the curtain, Sara could hear two very familiar voices.
"Detective McCarty. You look very handsome tonight."
There was no mistaking Irons' voice, even behind the thick white beard. She could hear him punctuate his sentences by spitting the little ticklish white fibers from his mouth.
"Thanks, Mr. Irons. Just keep your hands to yourself. Okay, pal?"
Sara knew that Jake had been assigned as the NYPD liaison to Irons' personal security. It appeared Jake would have his hands full, or perhaps Irons would be the one with his hands full of McCarty.
Nottingham was next to speak. She knew he was close at hand, hearing the tinkle of his now familiar shoes and hat.
"Detective? We were told you would bend over backwards to service Mr. Irons' needs. He handpicked you for this assignment." Sara could hear the smile in his voice. He was definitely having fun with Jake. "Take one for the team."
Danny caught Sara almost doubled over with laughter. He was definitely on the wrong side of the stage.
Irons spoke again. "Detective? Why don't we just slip out of here? Find that nice Bowman lad, and I'll show you both a little Piece on Earth."
"I'm not looking for any piece of you, Irons. Except maybe you keeping your trap shut." Jake was beginning to lose it. So much for goodwill to all men! She smirked.
"And this year's mystery Santa is none other than Mr. Kenneth Irons, head of Vorschlag Industries." The applause was almost deafening, but not enough to drown out Jake yelp as Irons grabbed his ass as he stepped onto the stage.
Barely able to stand, with a jingling Nottingham at his side, Irons began his impromptu speech to the children and socialites of New York.
"Citizens of New York and of the world, welcome!" he began cheerfully, miraculously managing to keep the worst of the slurring from his voice.
Jake joined Sara and Danny, his eyes wide and his face pale. "Man, that guy is messed up."
Sara grinned. "Come on, Rookie. It's not his fault you look so hot in a tux…"
Jake's face relaxed and he smiled. "I do?"
A passing elf stopped, grinning at him. She nodded. "The Detective's right. You definitely look hot in a tux."
"Why thank you, Miss…" Jake smiled at the pretty, petite little blonde.
"Harrison. Please, call me Annie." She smiled up at him. "You look like you could use a drink. Come on. Johnson's got a bottle behind stage." Taking his arm, she ushered him behind the curtain again.
"Wasn't there a huge sprig of mistletoe back there, too?" Danny asked Sara quietly.
She grinned and nodded. "Yeah. Think we should point out that he's on duty?"
"I think he just spent five minutes with Irons groping him and deserves to get a little hammered."
"You're a good man, partner," Sara told him. Her jaw dropped as she became aware of what Irons was saying.
"So Atal and Pervez decided to withdraw every last one of their contracts with Vorschlag Industries unless I--"
"Father," Ian hissed, gaping and shaking his head. "This is not the speech you had prepared."
"No shit, Sherlock!" Irons announced loudly enough for everyone in the ballroom to hear. "I may have to do it, but I don't have to like it," he slurred.
Ian blinked. "Father?"
Irons swayed on his feet, sending half the plainclothes NYPD and all the elves scuttling towards the stage. In those ridiculous heels, Sara tripped and landed in a heap on the floor. As Danny helped her to her feet, several elves carried an unconscious Irons off stage. Ian barked orders to the others to confiscate every camera in the room, then jumped easily off the stage as the elves went to work and approached them.
"Are you hurt?" he asked gently, smiling when Sara shook her head. "Detective Woo, I would appreciate it if you could direct Mr. Irons' removal from this location."
"Yeah, sure. Sara, you sure you're okay?"
She nodded. "Slightly bruised tailbone. The bruise to my pride is worse. See you tomorrow, partner."
Danny patted her shoulder gently and walked off.
Ian noticed a bruise rapidly forming on her elbow. "Come on, I'll get you some ice for that," he offered gently, taking her arm.
"Well, you can dress the girl up, but you can't take her out…anywhere." Sara hobbled along, with Nottingham supporting her elbow.
"I'd like to be the judge of that." He spoke softly. "If you'll do me the honor?"
She almost didn't hear him. Was he asking her out? After she had just made an ass of herself in front of all New York society circles? She peered at him, the question mark practically emblazoned across her forehead. A slow grin emerged on his face. She almost collapsed once more, more of a weak-kneed response to his smile.
"What? Now?" She asked, dumbfounded he would want to be seen with her.
"Well, actually… I feel the need to burn this outfit. Would you help me?" He grinned. They had found their way to the kitchen in the hotel. Nottingham had bagged some ice and was holding it to Sara's elbow. When she found him staring at her, she felt a little self-conscience.
"What's wrong? Do I have spinach in my teeth? A wad of pigs-in-a-blanket lodged somewhere?" Sara had always felt uncomfortable whenever he looked into her eyes. He was so beautiful. Her cheeks flushed hot.
"No. You always look beautiful to me, but tonight…"
It was as if time stood still at that moment. Amidst all the chaos in the kitchen and on the ballroom floor, Nottingham was flirting with her. And in this light, she could see the love in his eyes. Even while wearing his ridiculous outfit.
Sara gently touched his lips with her fingers. "Hold that thought, Ian. Because I'm gonna want to hear it…at my place." She winked. "I think I can help you out of that outfit, too."
They strolled out of the hotel, arm in arm. Sara had borrowed Ian's little bell slippers. They poked out from under her red gown. He held her dress shoes in his hand. They were not his size.
As they jingled out of sight, into the darkness, they could hear Irons being carried from the hotel.
"Merry Christmas to All! And to all a good night!" Kenny screamed at the top of his lungs. "And don't let the French Ambassador play fetch with your dog…"
Irons laughed hysterically. "Hey…Where's Jake and Gabriel? I was supposed to give them a ride home." He snorted. "A ride…yeah right!"
Epilog Footnote: Of course, Gabe was successful in sneaking out the only photo of the event, selling it anonymously on E-Bay. It was said to be a photo of Sara in the midst of her pratfall, grabbing Irons' Santa pants, pulling them down around his ankles. Of course, that could just be a rumor. In any event, He and Vicky Po are sunning themselves somewhere in the Bahamas.
Merry Christmas and Bright Solstice to you all!
Cyn Tolram and Blue Raven