Author's note: Hello! Stopping by with the usual... Will, Grell, Alan, Eric and Ronald do not belong to me. (The others do.)
You may notice that this same story was up a while ago before it disappeared. I removed it to make some necessary revisons! I'm happy to say that those are finished and the story is officially done.
Please enjoy and review with your thoughts and comments!
The wine was lined up, kitchen staff on track, tables set- and still, there was a strong sense of disorder in the room. Ronald had his collar down, he'd straightened his tie, and wasn't troubling anybody too much. Grell was nowhere to be seen. The floor-to ceiling windows were opened halfway, letting in both a new spring breeze and the orange glow of the setting sun. It was a clear day, which was lucky; the room looked best in the sunset. I had spent the entire night getting rid of any work that would be hanging over my head otherwise for the event. So where is this feeling coming from?
I needed to get rid of that, too. There was no reason for nervousness. More so, there was no room for it. There was only one occasion for which this Quartz room was used: the Mars anniversary, yet another traditional day of slacking spent celebrating one single month of flawless soul collection. I despised that day; it encouraged disruption and, for goodness' sake, celebration of perfection was asinine. Perfection should be expected- honestly.
In an emergency, however, the room was made presentable. This was one of those emergencies.
As much as it pains me to say it, we were visited that night by the division executive, Jacob Fitzpatrick. Apparently someone had tipped him off to our constant lack of organization and efficiency, which wasn't an uncommon rumour so I'm surprised it took him that long to take action. He requested to visit and survey the state of things here in the London branch. He didn't really care about us, I'm sure, but an obligation to your work is one that should be followed. And so it was up to me, William T. Spears, to once again pick up the slack of everyone else and cover for them.
For having only two nights' notice, the Quartz room looked as close as it ever would to a room that had weeks of presentation effort put in. I checked my watch; 7:47. Fitzpatrick had walked in a quarter hour before and went to do his own thing, as if on autopilot. I hadn't seen him since, amongst the crowd of Shinigami. He was always like that. Even I hadn't the nerve to question him.
There was also another reaper missing from the scene. The Quartz room was red and silver so I was afraid he would blend in too much for notice. Grell. Who knows what he was wearing if he really was there, eluding my eye… a red ball gown. Fishnets. A fishnet ball gown. Some ten-pound hairpiece… and I was starting to get nervous again; the whole point of the evening was to feign, if not show, our flawless clockwork of a branch. A big theatre performance of glory and unity. Something to make Fitzpatrick believe that those rumors were just that- rumors, untrue in every sense. But in a single second, Grell- his clothes, his demeanor- could ruin everything.
My fists clenched. Suddenly I was searching frantically for him in the crowd. Without even being present, he still disturbed my peace! Maybe he wasn't there. Maybe I should close the door-
I jerked to attention.
Fitzpatrick swung by casually. "This is a nice get-together. Makes me wonder if it's not some stage."
I must have looked about to vomit. He laughed at me.
"I'm only joking. Everything seems in top form." He scanned around the room and smiled faintly. "You actually have some more… unique members here compared to other branches we've visited. Some of them, you know, are awfully unfriendly."
I exhaled. To be honest, Fitzpatrick confused us and I wasn't sure if I liked him. Supposedly he hammered down on every last reaper who showed signs of disorganization. It had been said he gave no mercy to anything that showed the slightest asymmetry- and that might be a bit of a pun, since he had cream-blonde hair with a single violet streak. Executives were allowed to customize their appearance with no repercussions.
As it were, maybe he was growing bored of mediocrity. How convenient for us.
His dusky eyes roamed around the audience still. He never really looked at me. "…I have noticed that your women are dressed simply too. That's nice…" He said this with a slight twinge. "…For the unity, you know. In fact, you can hardly tell some of them from the men."
I took a mental note of this. It was obvious he didn't like it. I never would have noticed since none of the men in our branch seemed to care anyway. There were plenty of off-the-clock romantic scandals, none of which I had ever been able to confront. It wasn't worth it, really. He was correct about their dress; the ladies were in simple, long black gowns and had the option of a white sweater.
"Perhaps that could be changed," I said. My voice sounded strained from not being used yet all night.
"Mmm." He nodded and flitted from one reaper to the next. The displeasure on his face grew each time, and for a moment I was afraid we would truly be in trouble. Because of the women's dresses. Which I had carefully planned to be completely foolproof.
"You do have a certain eye for simplicity. I don't see one speck of color in any of their outfits."
"And you made them all wear their glasses?"
"It's as if the room completely plays down all of them. I don't see one speck of color here."
"You mentioned that, sir, but because of-"
"I'm not asking you to make them into carnival creatures. Just allow them a little more freedom with— Ohhhh, hello. What do we have here?"
After countless criticisms in quick succession, I hadn't lifted my eyes from the floor. He was looking somewhere in the middle of the crowd; from where I stood I saw a groove cut into it, heads all facing one central point. I couldn't rise any higher to see what that was.
Fitzpatrick started in without another word, and I felt obliged to follow. His presence parted everyone and within the minute, the sea of black opened up to one pearl, standing in the middle. One pearl in an expensive dress that I had not given the okay to, hair pulled up in a flowered tie which I had specifically prohibited.
The executive seemed utterly enraptured, though. He approached and felt the dress's material, studied the hair arrangement, like he was looking at a quality doll for the first time.
Ronald and a new transfer freshman, Jeeves, were shuffling nervously next to me.
I leaned in. "What is going on here?"
"We have no idea, Mister Spears, sir." Ronald chewed the tip of a gloved finger. "We were all just arguing about it. We tried to explain how an outfit like that can get us into big trouble. You know that mischief-maker won't hear any of it."
"Mischief," I repeated. "This could cost us our entire-!"
"William!" Fitzpatrick shouted, silencing the murmurs. "I had no idea! I think I understand now. You had everyone else dress in such bland uniforms and circle around the most gorgeous lady here, dressed so exquisitely, like a main attraction- for me to find, I suppose. She's a real gem of a doll. How neat! How clever!"
Everyone was stunned into silence.
We all knew better.
The doll smiled brightly. "Actually, Jacob, this had nothing to do with you."
Fitzpatrick grinned naïvely. "Excuse me?"
"This is how I normally dress, sir. Nobody ever told me we had anything planned. I had no intention of impressing you…"
Giggling bubbled up from the crowd. The executive was quiet. I, on the other hand, had just found my voice, and strode up front.
"That is ENOUGH, all of you! There's nothing to see here. Go back on your way. And Mister Fitzpatrick, please come with me."
The little doll started to follow, dress trailing behind. I snapped violently. "Not you."
I was still quaking with anger as soon as we got back into our secluded corner. I hated that feeling. It was always caused by that idiotic louse. I knew it. I KNEW something would go wrong. There's only so much I can do for this branch. Maybe it should be shut down after all.
I started. "Yes, sir."
"That wonderful lady- I guess I embarrassed myself by assuming this was planned. I do apologize and I hope you won't punish the lady for telling only the truth. It was my fault. However, the dress in your branch, in that case, is still awful. You did say you would work to change it?"
"Absolutely," I said quickly. Maybe this could be salvaged.
"Letting you off with a warning is the easy way to go."
"I would appreciate that very much, sir. We… well, rather, I do work hard to-"
"I understand how hard you work, William," he interrupted. "Therefore I think it would be a shame to cause you any trouble. But in return, I would like to ask a little favor of you."
A favor? I couldn't even imagine what Fitzpatrick would want that we could possibly provide. Anything we might offer, he could easily get himself. Perhaps he wanted the Quartz room.
"Would you let me take that lady… with me?"
I spluttered. "…With you? To the executive offices?" There was no way that could happen. If that happened, who knows what might occur. Fitzpatrick was no less than handsome. He was also no less than professional. And after coming that far, narrowly escaping so many trenches that would mean an end to our branch employees forever, there was no way we could afford to let some stupid little creature like that go with Fitzpatrick and mess it all up.
I decided the truth would hurt less than an unwanted discovery would.
"I-I'm so very sorry to disappoint you, sir; let me apologize in advance, too, for this, but… you really don't want anything like that to happen."
He seemed confused. "You mean I won't want her to come back with me? Is there a problem with this?" His face fell a little. "She's not… with you, is she?"
It took all of me to keep from making a face. "Absolutely not. You see, the problem is that she is not a woman."
He uttered a laugh without smiling. "…She's not a woman? So then…"
As if on cue, the object in question strolled up, nearly tripping a girl on that obnoxious red train. "Hellooooooooo, Jacob."
"Grell, I demanded that you stay with the others. We are having a private conversation."
He scoffed with a thousand sharp teeth. "Even after I carefully pick this out to make sure you won't get angry, you're still not pleased. You're a tough one, William."
"A-are you two close?" Fitzpatrick asked, shifting nervously.
Grell waved a red gloved hand. "Unfortunately, no, not really. I'm sorry if I make you uncomfortable by being so informal, Jacob. I like to really engage those that I find…" He somehow got Fitzpatrick to lock eyes with him. "…Handsome."
A slight pink crept up to the executive's face.
"That's enough, Sutcliff." My teeth felt gritted permanently.
He brushed me off. "Jacob, might I interest you in something? I didn't see you get a drink. I might recommend the red wine." He gestured gently. "It's funny, actually. This room, the food, with raspberry and red sauce, and the drinks- if you really think about it, everything that has the colour red is unanimously seen as… delicious."
"That will be ENOUGH, Grell!"
I couldn't take one more word. The pest was smiling like the devil incarnate, Fitzpatrick was laughing incredibly nervously, and that red strapless dress hanging on by some strange means since Grell had NO chest pushed me over the edge. Right in front of my eyes, everything was being torn to pieces. I had to do something. Anything.
I shoved Grell a safe distance away and got close to his face, something I avoid doing at all costs. The over-friendliness that constantly emanated from him was too overwhelming. Plus he smelled like some flower I didn't recognize; it was making me sick. "What are you doing? How could you talk to him that way?"
"Ahh, Will, you're too close." He giggled stupidly. "I'm sorry, but nothing you do ever seems to go well. I thought I could help out."
"By seducing him? Why do you think that will work on every man we need a good opinion out of? You are not some forbidden fruit. You're acting silly, and you need to go somewhere out of sight this very minute so I can salvage what you've thrown out the window."
Grell looked livid then, but frankly, I didn't care. I was glancing between him and Fitzpatrick, trying to gauge his mental state.
"Fine," the redhead snapped. "That's so like you. Don't come bitching to me when it turns out I saved your arse in the end."
He fled, and I returned to the executive, who seemed to have calmed down. "I'm so sorry about him. We've been trying to get him on track for years and he simply does not comply with any rule..."
"It's fine," Fitzpatrick said. "Really. Getting back to what we said before, he's a male?"
"It's unbelievable, I know."
"But he acts like a woman."
"It's appalling, sir. I know."
"It's really not that much of a concern to me."
"I know, and I'm sorry for— I beg your pardon?"
He avoided my gaze. "Can he still come with me?"
"Come with you? Meaning… you still want him to come back to the branch with you?" My true thoughts came flooding out. "Need I remind you that you just saw how he acts. That won't change. It will completely stain our reputation— sir, it will stain yours, too. He's like that twenty-four seven. He might dress a similar way. And he was not joking around with you. He literally has no filter."
"That's fine. If you're that concerned I'll make sure that your branch suffers none because of him. Are you rejecting my request?" The way he stared was accusing. "It sounds like you really do not want him to go."
I shook my head lightly. "No, sir. If you want him… please take him."
"You won't mind?"
My smile was forced. "Of course not. We really, really don't mind."
"Fine, then. The deal is done. Have him pack enough for a few days-"
"I hope you have a big enough vehicle to carry all that luggage, sir."
"-and I'll be waiting at my office on Sunday. Have him take the North train at midnight tomorrow. See you then."
Without another word, he disappeared out the front exit.
Grell was all too delighted to hear that he'd possibly done something right. After about twenty minutes of uncut bragging about how much he'd proved me wrong, I finally got him upstairs to his room. Jeeves wouldn't let him go without an escort, since he appeared too drunk to get himself home properly.
"I tooooold you, I toooooold you!" He laughed heartily. "Now you feel stupid, and that's great. You don't get proven wrong enough, especially not by me."
"Point made, Grell. Go sleep, get your things and be at the station by twelve tomorrow night."
"Come with me."
I did a double-take. "Ahh, no. This is your project."
"I know. At least guide me to the station. As you can see-" He tried to twirl but it just looked like flailing. "-I don't hardly know my way."
"I'll get you a map."
"I can't read maps."
"Stop joking around."
"I'm really hopeless, Will." He faked a pout. His dress began to slip.
"Yes, that's true. You're a mess. Go clean up."
A small laugh rang out as he waltzed a few steps inside the pitch-black room. "Mmm, I will. Do you want to come with?"
Honestly, this was growing old quickly. "You do not amuse me in the slightest."
"Maybe not." He crept back over to me and dragged his hand down my vest- something he did at least once a week. "You seem to be the only one I have yet to amuse."
"You know better than anyone that you're all talk. It's almost humorous how much of your history is talk."
He didn't like hearing that, and his hand retreated. "Oh, fine. Beeee that way. I'll see you tomorrow."
It was shocking how quickly he gave up and slammed the door. Usually it took far longer than that. I must have hit a nerve, which was no qualm with me. The sooner he was gone, the better.
In truth I didn't want him to go, as Fitzpatrick had said. Even if our reputation was protected, the idea of him going with that man… what did he want, anyway? Saying he didn't mind that such a beautiful doll was really a man, no matter how effeminate- there was something wrong with that. Who knew what Grell would do, after what he had said that night?
Though I'd said otherwise, I wasn't sure how many of the rumors concerning him were true- I was too busy to care- but he had kissed me once, when he got promoted back to his original level after being demoted to an assistant, with a little of my help. He was sweet about it for around three seconds; I didn't really mind. But there was nobody in my office at the time so he got carried away before I even got my train of thought back, getting dangerously close to slipping tongue into the kiss.
There was no way I allowed that, but thinking about it that night, the frustration built up. If that was how he expressed a simple thank you, I couldn't imagine what might happen when he spent time with the executive who, apparently, "didn't mind" that such a "beautiful doll" was… Grell. Hadn't I warned him?
The entire way back to my room, I fought with the thoughts that he might try something unthinkable, and that for some reason, I really did not want that to happen.
Maybe I should escort him after all.