Black Tie Affair

by Togepilover.

I do not own the WildC.A.T.s, Grifter, Zealot, Marlowe, Halo, elevators, overused plotlines involving a ball or formal dance, the concept of UST, or octopi. I do own a crappy computer and waayyy too many comic books. Trust me, neither of them are worth much, so don't bother suing me. The WildC.A.T.S belong to DC Comics and Jim Lee. This would take place approximately the same time frame as Voodoo/Zealot Skin Trade…WS continuity stopped making sense years ago so just enjoy this for what it is…candy for the mind, not food for thought.

"Why the Hell are we doing this again?" the Grifter grunted as he attempted to tie his bow tie.

"Calm down, Cole. The Lord Emp requires us to be his bodyguards as he has sent Spartan out on other duties. We cannot leave him unguarded. He is far too important to the Daemonite war," Zealot said as she finished tying the bow tie Cole had given up on.

"You could have abbreviated all of that, Z. 'Because he's the one who pays our bills' would have sufficed. The little midget can't go anywhere without an entourage, can he?"

"It would be unwise to leave him vulnerable considering he cannot tap into his powers at this time. We wouldn't want him to go and get killed. It would be too tragic to end up in the unemployment line after getting used to the luxuries our lives afford us now." Grifter raised an eyebrow. Zealot did not tend to joke very often. She smoothed her hand over his freshly shaven cheek as she spoke. "You always did look good in a tux, Cole."

"You don't look so bad yourself, Z," he said drinking in her tightly-fitted attire. "Who's going to protect you?" If Zealot ever had blushed in her life it would have been at that moment.

"I'm pretty sure I can handle that on my own. This party is simply a corporate schmoozing event. There is little risk. Are you ready ?"

"As I'm ever going to be," he said as he pulled his tuxedo jacket on. "God, I hate these monkey suits and corporate types. I'm not sure which I despise more."

"Well you will have ample time to figure that out. Of that I am sure," Zealot replied.

They ran into the little imp on the elevator. Both Grifter and Zealot towered over him. Of course Spartan was even taller than either of them. "Ready for the fun to start, you two?" he asked with a smile, knowing both despised these types of gatherings.

"Can't wait, boss. This is open bar, right?" Cole asked as he lit a cigarette in the elevator. Zealot glared at the offending action but he ignored her.

"Of course. Why do you think I go to these things? It's top shelf all the way too. The movers and shakers of the business world aren't going to have anything less."

"Well, I guess there is an upside to this, besides seeing my favorite lady in a dress," he said flirtatiously looking in Zealot's direction. His eyes traveled over her appreciatively.

"I'd humble you for your words, Grifter, but my hair probably wouldn't stay put in this ridiculous fashion. It is your good fortune that I do not have time to re-do it."

"Women," Grifter remarked making eye contact with Marlowe once again.

They arrived at a generic, yet posh looking hotel ballroom. Zealot had morphed amazingly to a ladylike creature that hadn't even given the death glare to the men ogling her as they walked. They cut an odd scene. Grifter and Zealot being true soldiers were finding it difficult to follow behind Emp with anything less than a focused swagger. They were primarily a deterrent. No one was likely to mess with the pair, and anyone in their company, partly due to their unquestionable efficiency at killing people and partially because of their questionable sanity. Zealot took her duty seriously and shadowed the midget's every move. As Marlowe started to make the acquaintance of some of the ladies at this function he had to pull Grifter aside.

"Grifter, you gotta do something for me."

"Anything for you, boss, " Cole Cash replied with a pronounced amount of boredom.

"You gotta distract Zealot. I have no fear of any assassins getting close to me. Unfortunately I don't see anyone else getting close to me either, catch my drift?"

"You want to get laid, so I have to distract Zealot from her effort to protect your ass. You realize I try to get Zealot's attention on a fairly constant basis and it usually doesn't work?"

"I'm well aware. Get some punch in her. Maybe it'll loosen her up. Show her a good I can have a good time." Zealot eyed them suspiciously from an inaudible distance.

"I'll do my best. Go get 'em." Grifter downed what was left of his drink and strolled over to Zealot as Marlowe returned to a bevy of beauties on the dance floor. "Come on, Z," he said sweeping her into his arms. "You haven't given me the pleasure of a dance."

"We are working. This is-"

"Zealot, he's right over there. Relax. Everyone has seen us. No one is going to do anything to him. We're here, let's make the best of it."

Zealot still watched Marlowe over her shoulder yet she let him take the lead on the dance floor. "I don't let my guard down."

"I know. I worry about you. You used to have fun once in a while. I don't see that anymore."

"We are in a crucial time in the Daemonite war."

"And you have allies. It's not just your fight. The forces against the Daemonites is stronger than it's ever been. You can relax every once in a while. You've always been wound pretty tight, but lately…geezus Z, you need to relax every once in a while."

"Perhaps you are right. The war may be lost if we let our guard down, but with the increase of the organization of the Kherubim and half-breeds I have more reason to breathe than in the past."

"Allies are a good thing to have."

"I recall a time I thought you were the only ally I needed." She looked into his eyes and he reached for her cheek.

"I still think that…all of the time. You are still the most beautiful woman I have ever met, Zealot," he said as he rubbed his thumb over her cheek. The mood was getting intense. He could feel his heart beating in his ears. She was looking at him in a way that she hadn't in years. Her blue eyes were staring deep without flinching.

"Hey kids, we're taking this party upstairs. Is that all right? I'm paying you overtime by now." They sprang back from each other quickly to look at Marlowe. He was accompanied by two very pretty, drunken gold diggers teetering in high heeled shoes.

"I've been in some pretty shady situations. I've killed for questionable reasons for my country, seduced women for information, and threatened innocent bystanders to keep quiet…yet for some reason I haven't felt this dirty until this moment," Cole Cash said dramatically as he leaned against the hotel room door smoking a cigarette. Zealot was a short distance away. Her hair was starting to fall from it's elaborate up-do.

"I would have to agree with you that I feel like this duty is not one fit for a Majestrix of the Coda."

"You can go on home if you want…but if I have to listen to the noises coming out of that room alone I will probably shoot myself before the night is over."

"What's wrong, Cole? Has it been too long since you have experienced the pleasures of the flesh?" she said coyly.

"It's not that. It's the mental vision of long legs and arms and that little fucker who signs our paychecks. I don't even want to know what is going on in there. He is one depraved midget. I know this for a fact. I don't care if the Coda, the Troika, Helspont, and Pike all broke in there through the window for him right now. I won't go in. Some things you just can't un-see." They both visibly cringed as thumping intensified. "I bet it looks like an octopus eating something with all of those limbs flailing…like something you see on National Geographic." His observation seemed to be primarily rhetorical.

Zealot looked at him quizzically. "I'd rather not picture it. It's after two…will we even make it back to HALO tonight?"

"Maybe.. maybe not…depends on how drunk the little man is. We've done late nights before. Hopefully he will give us tomorrow off then." Cole sunk to the floor and leaned against the wall by the door. He took a flask from his breast pocket and took a quick sip off of it. "Next time we are sending Reno and Pris if Spartan's out."

"I would have no issue spreading these duties around," Zealot said as she folded her legs and sat on the floor with Grifter. Her long hair had started to work itself out of the up-do. Long strands fell stray across her shoulder and back with the ends resting on the floor. "It's not a total loss. I..I had a good time tonight…with you."

"Really? I had a good time with you too. We never have any fun anymore, just the two of us."

"I know, I just..I'm afraid sometimes," Zealot said as she averted her gaze.

"Of what? You are the most fearless person I have ever met."

She met his eyes again. "Of falling for you again, of finding my devotion to you is greater than my devotion to the war. I'm afraid if I open myself to you I will be hurt or I will hurt you. I have been a warrior alone all of my life. Sometimes..when I'm with you…I don't want to be alone anymore."

"Z…the only constant in my life for so long was change. When you found me I had no one I could trust. I had no one to turn to. You came into my life and suddenly someone wanted to use me for good. You taught me to find the strength in myself. You gave me my life back…and all I wanted was a life with you in it. And know that you are no longer alone. The team always has your back, and you know, no matter what, I'll never be far behind you." A rather large, sudden thump ruined the tender moment. Each looked away. The silence was thick with tension. The former Majestrix was uncomfortable with this much talk of emotions and feelings.

It seemed strange in a way that Grifter had always been the sensitive one in their partnership. For several minutes they sat there without saying a word. Each just sat there lost in thought. An unspoken boundary had been crossed. Now there was little chance of going back. Neither knew what the other truly wanted. Each of them seemed unsure of what they themselves wanted. Their introspection was interrupted as Jacob Marlowe walked out of the hotel room straightening his tie.

"Well, that was fun. Ready to go home, kids?" he asked. Each of them got up from the carpeting.

"Sure thing, boss," Grifter said trying to sound casual though it was obvious he was in distress.

The ride home in the limo was a lot quieter than the ride there had been. Marlowe was tired and leaning back against the upholstery. Zealot just looked out the window, hands folded in her lap. Grifter tried not to look at Zealot but found his eyes kept wandering towards her. Whatever was going on between the two of them now he was sure it wouldn't be resolved tonight.

The three walked silently into the HALO building elevator. They had come back via the parking garage underground. Zealot was starting to fidget. She was eager to get out of her formal clothing. Grifter thought it better not to even think down that route. He was looking forward to ditching his tux. Jacob had bid them goodnight at his floor. He was practically asleep as he trudged out towards his suite. The two former lovers were alone in the elevator together for what seemed like forever, yet was really only 30 seconds. As the elevator reached their floor Zealot resisted the urge to bolt out. She maintained her calm demeanor, briskly exiting towards the door to her quarters. Grifter followed her.

"Goodnight, Cole," she said with little emotion as she reached for the door knob.

"Z, wait," Grifter said putting his hand over hers. It was a lot bigger than hers…funny, she had never noticed until this moment. "I just wanted to say, I'd..well..I would like to…if you want…let's go do something together, just us, soon."

"I suppose…"

"Don't go half-ass on me with this, Z. I know we are going through one of those phases of drifting apart. I don't want it to be like that anymore. We've gone through this before. We can do something casual, fun..just us. We can go to the shooting range. I know you love that. Or something else, one of those fancy restaurants with real cloth napkins and heavy silverware...I just don't want things to go where they've been going. I don't know what new direction I want, I just know it's not the one we are heading in."

"Okay, I consent to your offer. I will see you tomorrow night."

"Tomorrow it is then. Goodnight, Zealot."

"Goodnight, Cole." As her door closed for the first time in a long time Cole Cash felt hopeful.